Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Magic Kingdom Disney World 2018

Since we were in Orlando, naturally we had to go to a mega-theme park. We chose the Magic Kingdom at Disney World.

We parked at the lot and made the long trip to get to the actual park.

Walking in from the car

Getting on the ferryboat

Finally almost in the park

We headed for the Dwarves Minecart ride. On the way we saw some people getting married at the park! The bride came in on a horse-drawn carriage. We didn't wait around to catch to bouquet.

A wedding!

The honeymoon suite?

When we got to the line for the Minecart, it was a ninety minute wait. We decided to ditch that and go to It's a Small World After All, to the chagrin of Grandpa. We enjoyed the relaxing ride and the needling of the elder.

Small World entrance

We hiked past Pinocchio's village and got on the short line for the Haunted Mansion.

Quaint German-looking area?

We tried to downplay the scariness of the ride for our three-year old. Happily, the decorations along the line helped sell the fun of the place.

A tomb for Jacob 

This organ only plays Toccata and Fugue in D Minor

Exterior of the mansion

The young one rode with me and did enjoy the spooky hi-jinks. He especially like the ghostly birthday party and wanted to blow out the candles on the table.

We continued on to Mickey's Philharmagic, a 4D movie that was back by the Small World ride. It was the first time our young one actually wore the glasses for a 3D movie. He was appropriately amazed.

Posters on the way in to the show

Ready to watch

We then headed back past the Haunted Mansion (we did a lot of backtracking that day) to Tom Sawyer's Island. We had fun exploring the various caves and playgrounds on the island. And getting Grandpa almost lost in one of the caves.

Tom Sawyer Island

Walking to the windmill

About to explore a cave

Only one of us came out?!?

Playground up on the hill

Ringing the bell

We had a nice view back to the Haunted Mansion with its extra-long line.

Good thing we went earlier!

The island has a fence for whitewashing just like in the novel. We had to explain the scene to our older kids. They were interested and enjoyed posing for a picture.

The funnest job ever

After that, Granny and our young one split off to do the under-5 appropriate activities. They visited Minnie Mouse and Donald Duck and rode a bunch of rides in Fantasyland.

Cheesy posing with a mouse in the background

On a ride

The rides in the park do have Fastpass lines, where visitors can sign up earlier in the day to get on more quickly. The older kids, parents, and Grandpa headed over to Big Thunder Mountain, where the regular line was ninety-five minutes long. Our Fastpass line was only thirty minutes (which still felt like a lot). The older kids enjoyed the ride very much.

A tale of two lines

We explored the park more after the ride. We chose to skip the Splash Mountain ride (also over an hour long wait without a Fastpass). My wife had read about A Pirate's Adventure, an interactive scavenger hunt in Adventureland (where the Pirates of the Caribbean ride is located). We found the building where they gave us an orientation. My daughter used her park access card as our key. She swiped it next to a screen and we were given our first assignment. We picked the proper map out of the selection of five and headed in search of our first clue.

A Pirate's Adventure HQ

Getting a map

The map helped us search for certain locations where we could hold my daughter's card over a symbol and then the something in the area would activate. We'd get some story and a new clue for another location on the map.

Finding the right cabinet in one of the shops

One of the spots had an ingredient we needed to fight a bad guy. The ingredient was snake venom. To our surprise, a basket opened and a snake popped out, spitting water on us! We actually enjoyed some cool water on a hot day.

The snake spits venom on us!

Closeup of the snake

Other interactive exhibits were cleverly blended into the scenery, so the rest of the park patrons had no idea what we were doing.

A talking skull

A talking statue

Having not got enough refreshing venom spit on us, we stopped for some ice cream at one of the Adventureland shops. I had a pineapple juice with ice cream on top that was luscious. Then we were back on the case, searching out more clues.


After completing one map, we had the option of going on another mission to collect more treasures. The kids were super-enthusiastic so we continued on through three more maps.

A talking pearl?!?

The symbol for the next clue

A really hard-to-spot symbol for another clue

One extra-fun bit of interaction was when our card set off a canon. The shot woke up an underwater pirate skeleton, who rose up and told us where to go next.


Dead man does tell a tale

After completing the fourth map, we unlocked the big prize that finished the game for us. The kids were a little disappointed not to do the extra map. The nice lady at the map building used her park card to override the system and assign us the final map. We took it home as a souvenir when we were done.

Our last map

Treasures we brought home (apparently we missed getting one card)

At this point, it was almost time for our Fastpass to Space Mountain, the famous roller-coaster in the dark located in Tomorrowland. While in Tomorrowland, we saw Edna from The Incredibles (obviously trying to sell Incredibles 2 which was theaters).

Too hot to walk around in that costume?

We rode the Peoplemover and then went on to Space Mountain. With our Fastpass, the ninety-minute line was only eight minutes for us.

With Grandpa on the Peoplemover

Our photo from riding Spacemountain

The kids enjoyed the ride. We thought about seeing a show in Tomorrowland but all the lines were too long. Granny had taken our youngest earlier but hadn't made it quite out of the park. We called her to come back with the car and take us all home. On the way out, we picked up some more cards for the Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom game, which is much like A Pirate's Adventure. We didn't actually play it but will definitely next time.

A bunch of our cards

Monday, July 30, 2018

Escapology--Mansion Murder

During our Orlando trip, we tried out an escape room for the first time as a family (I had done some stripped down versions of escape rooms at the Dice Tower Convention 2018). We went to a place called Escapology which had several different rooms available. We signed up ahead of time so we knew which room we'd escape from and what time to show up. Being early risers, we went for a 9:30 a.m. challenge.

The venue

Before going into the room

The folks inside were very nice. They encouraged us to use the bathroom since we'd be locked in for an hour. The place also has a bunch of puzzles in the lobby and riddles on the bathroom walls. I figured out some of the riddles while the kids played a maze puzzle.

A warm-up puzzle

For our escape room, we signed up for Mansion Murder. We played as the grandson of the ninth earl of Kildemorie who is celebrating New Year's Eve 1999 at the remote Kildemorie estate. Grandpa is killed and naturally we are the prime suspect as the sole male descendant. Of course we are innocent but only have an hour to prove it. The first room had all sorts of puzzles and some features that maybe were or maybe were not part of the game. After solving a couple of puzzles, one of the walls opened up and there was another room inside! We had another round of puzzles to solve, sometimes using stuff from the first room.

Occasionally we'd have trouble with a puzzle. One of the pictures on the wall was actually a screen which showed our timer and how many hints we had left (we start with three free hints; others cost two minutes). Occasionally the game master Mina (who was watching us through some cameras) gave us free hints when she saw us struggling. The game is designed for six to eight adults to play, so we probably didn't have as much brain power as a typical group. She helped a lot and we unlocked the door with barely a minute left!

Back in the lobby we were treated to water and a fun photo op.

Custom water bottle

Our successful team

We treated ourselves to lunch out at Miller's Ale House. We bought a pretzel appetizer since we love them so much. We were not disappointed.

Yummy pretzel

I was a little disappointed in the beer selection. They had maybe ten taps which were all big name, national brews. I had a Yuengling.

One of the sides of coleslaw had a bit of the plastic cabbage bag still in it! The manager came and apologized profusely. He gave us the meal free and also a free Captain Jack Ice Cream Cake. The cake was awesome and made up for the poor beer selection.

Captain Jack's Ice Cream Cake

As a family, we loved doing the escape room and are on the lookout for other ones near us.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Book Review: Trinity by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm

Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb written and illustrated by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm

America's development of the atomic bomb during World War II hardly seems like the sort of topic for a graphic novel. The science is a bit deep and the politics is a lot more complicated than people usually want to get into. So how well does this graphic novel tell the story?

The book sticks to the history (and has an extensive reading list at the back). The treatment is neither comic nor sensationalistic. After a quick review of scientific research into radioactivity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the author describes the political situation during World War II. Many scientists were worried that Germany would develop "the bomb" before any of the Allies. Such a weapon would have unimaginable power and probably guarantee victory to whomever built it first. So the race was on. The story goes through the development of the bomb and the first uses against Japan. The description of the impact on Hiroshima and Nagasaki is particularly harrowing--showing both the initial devastation and the lingering effects of radioactive poisoning on the populace. The aftermath is also described, including the nuclear arms race and America's preparation for possible attack (including Duck and Cover drills).

This book isn't the sort of introduction appropriate for little kids. It is valuable for teens and adults. I learned new things about the war and the Manhattan Project. I don't think the book is comprehensive but it is an excellent starting point for learning more.

Highly recommended.