Unusual learning from lockdown

Till few months back, humankind believed that they were apex species to rule the world. They mold, tear, clawed and mauled the earth anyway they see fit for their survival. There were talks of sixth extinction but always as part of movie fantasy. It took 4-5 months for virus to bring all those fantasies crashing down to ground of reality and make people realize that they are much closer to the edge then anticipated. One little push and…….

Still life always goes on…..

In this grim period of lock-down, you might be doing all you can to survive as human; social distancing is one of them. And our evolutionary history says that once humans developed their keen sense of socializing, they went far ahead then their ape-competitors. Large groups leaving in harmony was acting agent to allow development of unique kind of weapon called brain. Once cognitive ability expanded like bamboo shoots*, one evolutionary advantage led to others. Take example of cooking. Theory is, once our ancestors who are more akin to apes then homo sapiens sapiens started cooking, they did not require large jawline to chew tough meat and roots. Hence size of the jaws reduced which in turn led to increased cranium that can house large brain; and much larger brainpower. Super fast forwarding to current time, novel corona virus has ironically pressed the ultimate pain point: social bondage. When corona forcing people worldwide to distance themselves from each other and countries worldwide enforcing lock-down and home quarantine, at some places it seems some people are reverting back to their ape-minded psychology, not following lock-down and all. It’s paradox. More we socialize, more human we are or is it the other way around ?

*Scientific fact: Some species of bamboo can grow 910 mm (36 inch) within 24 hours. 

Pondering alone during quarantine had brought some weird sparks for this off the track post. Below are few phenomenon that is scantly or closely related to current COVID-19 situation; somewhat weird, somewhat novel but mostly fun.

Power of exponential

This is for all those who could not comprehend what damage their “insignificant” roaming can cause to all others (especially ticking time bomb of a country in current situation called India)

Now hypothetical example: During quarantine situation, Mr A was in badly need of smoking. He had been careful enough to procure enough stock of his favorite brand of smokes that can last for month or two but forgot all about matchsticks. Mr. A knew that neighbor Mr. B had ample stock of matchboxes. He asked to pass on single matchstick to Mr. B. Given the exploitative circumstances, Mr. B asked 25$ for single matchstick. Mr. A infuriated but complied. While paying for single matchstick Mr. A came up with proposal that Mr. A shall give 25$ everyday to Mr. B as payment of matchstick but Mr. B should give double matchsticks then previous day till month lasts or pay equal amounts to matchsticks. Mr. B had 10$ matchbox having 100 matchstick. And he had many more such matchboxes. He quickly agreed considering simple math that he is getting 25$ for 0.1$ matchstick. What he didn’t know was the power of exponential. After 15 days of such arrangement, Mr A was happy smoker and Mr B was out of all his stock. And as per arrangement, paying price of matchstick to Mr. A that was much larger then he anticipated. You can see below table what went wrong in mere 15 days.

This is exponential growth. Think what could be the scenario at end of quarantined month. Mr. B had to sell his property to pay debt of matchstick. Now think that this is how infection spreads. What I showed is infection spread for single thread exponentially. Each new infected person also have his/her own exponent formula of spreading the infection. Even though some of the numbers died in between, what you deal with is staggering statistics after just 15 days.

So next time you think to wander off for no good reason, think twice of exponential formula.

Occam’s Razor

I believe conspiracy theorists are like those fresh science initiates who have just experienced microscope and observed their first single celled organism. Next, they want everything around them to be observed under microscopic lens. For fun, for fancy or just for curiosity, they keep introducing their microscopic analysis and ideas everywhere.

Is novel corona natural or lab-produced ? is this pandemic part of plan of economic dominance ? Is it to show off the superpower nation how much they are actually in control ? Let conspiracy theories fly. It’s always soothing to have such grand theories. Such theories give psychological “full-stop” to nagging stress inducing unanswered questions and hence our mind leaned towards accepting them.

Occam’s razor stats that if you are presented with multiple theories, weed out the extraneous possibilities using imaginary razor. What simplest solution left is mostly the correct one. This theory was proposed by scholastic philosopher William of Ockham. So think about Occam’s razor next time you press “forward” on online social groups about some crazy but “foolproof” conspiracy theory.

Birding

Technical term used to describe bird watching is called Birding. As a fun side note: male genders of the homo sapiens sapiens species are naturally proficient in birding. The fact is, here birds are classified as female gender of same species and not actual birds. They can accomplish this activity effortlessly ( and sometimes with considerable efforts) at malls, parks, library, colleges, beaches (most likely location of high frequency activity) and all places where opportunity arises. In this tough time of isolation, how the male community coping without “birding” is subject of whole new research and analysis. For time being , enjoy real bird watching instead.

Apart from mother nature, one other community that got unexpected advantage of corona virus was animals and birds. Once humans out of the picture, they got more fearless and roaming around in streets. Best time to do birding. There are two types of bird watching: 1. Just watch for fun 2. Watch and study. Later activity has heavy handed label called Ornithology. Lately, I am so much fascinated with the former that while everyone concerned about daily needs, I was calmly stocking up bird feeder grain sacks during my necessitated superstore visit. Luckily, I am situated at the corner of community where lake meets few trees. We have secured one bird feeder on the tree right across our living room window. And (more luckily) USA has not driven away it’s birds due to too much human intervention. As if mourning doves, finches, red winged black bird, Robins, starlings, cardinals, sparrows, chickadees and various other varieties feasting on bird feeder are not enough, since last few weeks, we saw majestic bald eagle swooping past close to lake for fresh catch right across our balcony. And sometimes we see egrets actively catching the fish or herons resting meditatively with all glamour of Himalayan yogi at edge of the lake. So next time, if environment permits, indulge at one of the soothing (and scientific) stress reducer activity before raising your anxiety watching the same news telecast.

Why birds were happy every time bond utters his signature introduction: " my name is Bond, James Bond." ?                                                   
Here's why: Fictional superspy James bond was created by WW2 naval intelligence officer Ian Fleming. He was fan of bird watching and he adopted name of famous American ornithologist for his main character; James Bond. 

Travelog: Washington DC, Day 1

Last year’s “big bonanza” travel of Bahamas and Florida had overshadowed my four day “little” stint of a visit to capital of United States; The District. It’s about 9 hour drive from Indianapolis as per Google maps. More than political fulcrum of United States, DC had a lot of tourist places to visit apart from towering European-styled edifices served to government purposes. It’s central park design, dotted with attraction in and around it, with signature Washington monument fronting the large fountain area and sprawling park, had lot of influence from similar design of Paris with its world-known tower. What could be better utilization of quarantine time than reminiscing on memoirs of past travels which is the utmost scarcity now at the time of writing due to COVID-19 (and be done with the Travel-log).

Our four day sojourn had to have two stale days of driving ( Indianapolis to Washington DC and back) until you heat it up a little bit with in-between small detours. On the way to DC, we found ours in the name of the palace of gold which is also famously known as new Vrindaban in west Virginia.

History narrates the expulsion of temples pioneer “swami” from well-known ISKCON and re-admittance again in 1998. Most of the aesthetic is if not as good as ISKCON-signatured temples all round the world then almost similar to it. Wide open green pastures dotted with calm lotus covered lakes were more of the visiting plus points for me who was not much interested in its spiritual aspect (or any of other such places). Temple also had well-maintained flower garden and terraces with nice vistas.

New Vrindaban was still nice detour considering the fact that we just wanted something in the way to spend 2-3 hours so that the day can be happily sacrificed with useful conscience. When we reached late night at DC and settled down, we were never wise enough to fathom what was it meant to be tired when it comes to spending two days in DC.

Happiness in time of COVID-19

I have always been fascinated of enigma called virus. It’s the only entity which can not only keep leash to most evolved but at the same time environmentally arrogant species of this earth but also bring it down to its most ancient form of living; survival. Virus can not only grind the so called humankind’s ego of supreme ruler to mother nature with one swift slap to smithereens but at the same time make them whizzing and choking without an iota of leeway. Virus is the most profound paradox of all time, amalgamation of two most philosophical extremities, life and death. It is classified as living and dead or not both. For me, it’s more complicated than quantum. It’s still the mystery how single-minded nature of virus to make copies of itself  has brought down the apex species of all in terms of intelligence, us humans. Is virus the nature’s answer to our brutal stubborn existentialism ?

Amidst havoc of novel Corona virus and COVID-19 where whole world got self-arrested at home and other isolation wards, initiation of the blog seems more somber and depressing. When everything seems to plummeting down to darkness of uncertainty, let me shine few sparks of navigational light that if not completely root out the pandemic, at least give chance of waiting it out while following social distancing and self-isolation.

Gamer’s paradise

When whole world is suffering from social distancing, gamer community for sure is delighted with opportunity given to spend more time at their gaming machines. It’s time to clear out that back-log. And being gamer myself, I know every gamer has back-log.

Non-gamer have best excuse to get into the best way of entertaining social-distancing medium called gaming. If it’s too much for solo runs, try co-ops and online arena. Its ripe time for soothers and simulators like Stardew valley, The sims, Democracy, Farming simulator, Truck simulator or anything which fancy you. Do not try anything as depressing as plague Inc. or other end of the world scenario games.

Gaming is not confided to only digital. Take out your board-games. Become the true dungeon master again. Teach the D&D rules to grandpa and grandma (or vice versa). Gather your party and have some family board-gaming fun.

Clear out the wardrobe

This basically more applicable to women but I don’t want to sound like a generalization fool and hence men can also indulge into it if they want to. Try to sort out which apparel is old enough to replace. Make good note of it. Once crisis is over, you want to run right away to nearby mall to replenish the stock. Try out each apparel. You’ll surprise yourself with findings of some old stowed away “negligee”.

Exercise

No, gym is shut-off, hence the privilege of body. Time to take this excuse and have nice food to exercise your mouth and salivating glands. You can retain your conscience and indulge in that nice home-made chocolate cake also.

Bake/cook/lie down

Eating and sleeping is the most basic requirement of body. It’s ancestral DNA had lost its effect with advancements of daily grinding work to earn and with evolution of capitalism. With economical system down with no other option left but to wait out COVID-19, this is best time to revert back to primal instinct. Don’t rush out for special baking ingredients. Try to utilize available resources. Learn new recipe and give it a try. There is ample time for repairing the botch-up.

Read, Read and Read

Readers are another community other than gamer who are delighted to clear all their reading shelves classified as backlog. Or give another go at one of the classics that their reading mind were always pushing them to do since they read them first time.

Pick up new hobby

You know you always wanted to start that hobby which was buried within farthest corners of your mind since childhood. This is the best time to revert back to old hobbies in new manner or just start something fresh. Dust off the canvas and make room for easel. Open the physical or digital diary and start giving the shape to story you always wanted to tell. Read articles around the world that don’t have Corona at it’s centerpiece. Learn something new such as Golden ratio in nature or Neutrino identification projects around

Contemplate and coffee

Brew yourself the best black coffee, get your most comfortable recliner outside (with isolation in practice) and while warming sip of the coffee bring Yogic calmness to your mind, gazing at the stars, try to find answer of the universe or question your life. Best time to contemplate on life and best way to make it bigger and better the next time you are on daily routine.

“Witching” my way through

For more than 300 hours of my life, I was not myself, I was transformed into someone fantastical, someone inexplicable but mesmerizing, someone hated by the masses but unavoidable, someone who could chug vials of potions that were life-threatening for simpler folks like beer mugs in Oktoberfest, someone who was charmed by blood curdling cries in the darkness of woods to explore further, someone who could take snide remarks with equally appropriate gold coins, someone who never wasted single opportunity to wallow in fornication. I was the white wolf, Geralt of Rivia, the eponymous Witcher. And accompanying me in my epic quest, my utterly faithful quadruple companion, my stallion; Roche.

First Witcher

My love of “witchering” was fated to die early as if following one of the dark Witcher quest-lines while I was getting hold of complex battle system (2 swords and 3 stances and than skill tree of each combination) of first witcher game. But somehow (witcher quest-line analogy still holds) I persevere and became master of my craft. Andrzej sapkowski’s books might have entombed to limited geography and audience if, at time small but confident and quality Polish game developers had not excavated it to its current glory. It was the uplift well deserved for sapkowski’s genre-defining flavor on dark fantasy.

Second Witcher

First witcher game was sleeper hit. Not due to unusual RPG elements but for capturing weirdness of the world truthfully in game format. If witcher 1 was true in its sense of showcasing the mystic world, Witcher 2 has unfurled other equally engaging aspect of the same world;politics, royal and otherwise. Witcher 2 also introduced true “consequences” of your decision making as Geralt of Rivia in the form of gut-punching mid-game decision which can change the whole course of play for third act. CD Project Red was on top of his game. Witcher 2 improved over it’s predecessor in every sense except game length. Writing was blooming, characters were played out like reading sapkowski’s books, monsters were well-established, combat improved a lot and even RPG elements getting into grooves with right amount of challenge and various witcher development path on RPG tree.

And third incarnation

Then came Witcher 3: wild hunt. Witcher 3 was perfect amalgamation of both the previous Witchers with abundance amounts of quality improvements. Super massive world was choke-full of Witcher quests and adventures. And have I mentioned that it was one of the most beautiful also. It was common day for Witcher (and me as player) to bask in majestically scattered crimson sunrise before pursuing yesterday’s nagging quest on other side of the hill or sometimes other end of the map. But worries are not for the transport but to transpire the truth at the end when faithful Roach is your companion. Journey was constantly interrupted while passing through lush jungle/rolling meadows/ bustling villages/ sprawling towns/ ice-caped mountains/ brooding caverns/ and much much more. Each location brimming with more quests and in turn more riches. If lucky enough not to reach designated place in time or hit one of the many jubilant town taverns, you might witness eye-popping display of crimson and pink shades mixed with magenta as part of digital sunset. And if you are luckier than lucky, you will end up spending night at alluring adult love house with silken robes and more silky arms. No tidings. No attachment. You start the next day with unattended quest of the previous day again. I was so enamored by Witcher 3’s world that I obsessed myself to never use fast travel option ( except only when cut scene compelled me). Always travelling with Roche or on foot.

Quest-line of Witcher 3 were so ingeniously designed that simple fetch or kill quests could sometimes tumble into something totally bizarre. And sometimes it might just prod those unexplored territory of darkest mind. Writing is top-notch. Characterization is heavy and appropriate. Sense of humor is dry and fitting to Witcher world ( New Netflix series on the Witcher has failed to attain this one specific aspect for sure)

Now that Netflix has already released the season 1 of this very compelling world at the time of writing, people might notice the Witcher more. CD Project Red is not going to make further Witcher games for now. So us fans have nothing but the series to rely on. Though Netflix series is promising enough, it has way more to catch up. And sometimes watching can not evoke the same character play and interaction as games. Especially, how you replicate the joy of playing Gwent !!!

Travelog: Orlando and Bahamas, Day 7, Disney World, Magical Kingdom

Magic is the word

After the action packed day at Universal, last day was dedicated to more serene and magical vibrations while visiting Magical Kingdom, one of the four offering from Disney World.

Why Magical kingdom?

Disney castle has been symbolized everywhere representing Disney. Fireworks at the castle can imprint lasting impression on anyone who has witnessed the event for ones’ lifetime. We just want to have that impression. And what other better way to impress (in today’s social upmanship world) others than flaunting photos in front of Disney Castle.

Appreciative management was on show by Disney park management right from the start of parking your vehicle at abundance of parking lots via careful guidance to transport to main entrance via local rail system to ease of entry through plethora of turnstiles and ticketing booths considering mass of other visitors doing the same. Exquisitely maintained.

Things to do: If you can afford to secure the stay at one of the expensive Disney resort then it will be whole different level of magical experience waiting for you. Disney resorts have all Disney-themed restaurants and special digital Disney pass for quick scan. Also try to utilize Disney transport, which is aplenty and matching all your timing needs. 

Main Street U.S.A.

Entering to Magical Kingdom had that feeling of experiencing something out of normal reality, something magical, surreal and equally beautiful. We were entertained by frequent ongoing music and dance show by peculiarly attired dance group. Music was soothing to ears and vibration in the air was eclectic and electrifying. Though main Street was bustling with elegantly posing visitors from various countries, you could get fulfilling glimpses of Disney castle standing at the end of the street. My vivid memory of main street still comprises of raised smartphone and DSLRs flashing everywhere around while passing the main thoroughfare, like everyone fighting to take their digital piece of castle. Once we had our own digital thirst quenched satisfactorily, we paid our attention towards massive various sections devoted to various rides.

Tomorrowland

Magical kingdom is laid out with Disney castle as center of attraction. All other various sections are accessible from circular center as well as interconnected. We first visited Tomorrowland, just because it was first starting from the right (and also boasting futuristic design). Tomorrowland had some nice rides based on, as it’s name suggests, Disney’s idea of tomorrow.

Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress: Nice sit-back and enjoy kind of carousal theater show. Attention to details was evident. We noticed minor malfunction due to which we need to go through some part of show twice.

Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin: Ride with mounted laser guns (available for each rider) to hit “zerg” targets. It was fun but somehow feedback for laser hit was not proper. I was not sure if hit is encountered or not.

We missed out on couple of good rides in this section due to ignorance to fast pass. And here comes the most important “things to” section.

Things to do: Activate your fast pass as soon as possible. There are kiosks everywhere. Fast pass is nothing but time bound fast access to any fast pass enabled ride throughout the park. Download Disney App and manage fast pass on the go if you don't want any kiosk hunting. 
Things to remember: you can only activate 3 concurrent fast passes. So make sure you prioritize your rides well in advance. Fast pass can actually save lot of time considering the "biased" nature of queue moving. 
Disney vs. Universal: Universal trumped Disney in aspect of wait time considerably. Might be due to large foot falls at Disney but still if you don't have fast pass at Disney you are doomed to wait more than whatever wait time they displayed. Which was not the case with Universal. 

Fantasyland

It was huge having most of the Magical kingdom attractions. Though most of rides had mass appeal, we tried to avoid rides specially designed for kids.

“it’s a small world” : Disney rides are more about attention to details. This ride could be the winner when it comes to detailing of all other rides. Slow moving boat won’t do any justice for viewers to observe exquisitely crafted mini worlds. All different parts of world had specific color scheme.

Under the sea- Journey of The Little Mermaid: Fast pass activated ride for us which was not available due to technical glitch at availed time slot (and hence one lost Fastpass option). It might seem nit-picking from me but when you are spending more than $120 per person, these kind of small hindrances add up frustration. Next time, we arrived at the ride and it was working fine so we had our fill of sugar-coated trademark Disney princess moments.

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train: One of the many good coaster ride. High in demand and even during the evening (we rode it around 10:00 at night), there was 45 minutes waiting time.

Disney vs. Universal: I must say though that all the waiting time in most of the rides had been compensated with mini games or interesting views. At the same time it was not as captivating as Universal. 

Liberty Square:

Haunted Mansion: Only attraction we attended out of three (apart from restaurants and caf├ęs). Not scary but some of the practical special effects of ghosts were really impressive.

Frontierland

Home to the two most satisfying rides in Magical Kingdom.

Splash Mountain: splash was not as steep as we experienced at one of the similar Universal ride but setting again was too good to be true. Nice little touches here and there had some intriguing story weaved through whole ride. With Disney there was never “just the ride” but whole lot of backdrop and storytelling.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad: Another very best effort at setting up the backdrop of mine town and then rolling via coaster through volcanic mountains. This ride is also very good fast pass candidate.

Adventureland

Where we spent most of our Disney-time.

Swiss Family Treehouse: Visit artificial tree-house with peculiar arrangements of the various rooms. It’s not ride but kind of an attraction.

Jungle Cruise: Based on one of the famous Disney jungle cruise adventures, ride comprises of boat ride passing through dense jungle while you as a spectator witness various deep forest animals and unknown dangers. Our boat guide was superbly witty and had some great sense of humor. All in all, it was fun ride.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Again attention to detail was exceptional along with underlying story element moving with your carriage ride. Still it was short in duration as well as on expectation.

A Pirate’s Adventure – Treasures of the Seven Seas: One of the most captivating adventure of Magic Kingdom had no boat, ride, coaster or any other moving part except yourself. It was basically well conceived treasure hunt. Small antique shop was issuing atypical parchment with poetic clues which you as a treasure hunter has to identify. Its easy and basically boils down to finding special object embedded into real world of Adventureland and activating the actions by pressing your Disney card. Some of the interactions were cleverly hidden in shops and nearby nooks and cranny. All you need is energy and strength to scamper around all of the Adventureland.

Jungle Navigation Co. LTD Skipper Canteen: Though named as canteen, restaurant was serving delicious South american, African and Asian flavors of food that is also bit upstate in terms of pricing. It was our lunch choice.

This concludes my long narrative of competitively long travel.

Date of visit: 13-Apr-2019

Previously on Carnival cruise and Bahamas and Universal Studio: Day 1Day 2Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day6

Horror Hound weekend ,IN 2019

Micheal Myers was intently searching for its next prey. Throngs of passerby had not amused themselves much to his presence which was making him uneasy. He was fiddling silently inside his faded off-white coveralls with his butcher knife. His almost whitewashed “skin” mask was betraying any emotions he might have shown otherwise. Just then he stood motionless, eyeing someone who was mirroring him not in action but in appearance also. His “mirror-image” had all matching traits,; same face mask, same coverall, same gait, same stature, even same butcher knife which they were brandishing now to everyone’s surprise. Just one thing was out of sync. Replica Michael Mayer was having reduced size, like some kid. For few tense moments, both Michael Myers, one full size, one small, stared each other from behind their same skin masks, accessing each-other, contemplating threat, before moving on to their own way for everyone’s chagrin.

Abundance of Michael Myers
My favorite part of Silent Hill (The Game)

This was Horror Hound weekend.

Prospect of 2019 Halloween brought with it one of the special weekend to Indianapolis; Horror Hound weekend. If

– you belong to those who binge watch Saw series so that next time you visit any tool-shed, your mind churn out devilish ideas about “game you want to play”

– you belong to slasher lover group who even after watching countless same slasher movies, keep visualizing how effectively slash someone else yourself

– you love to gobble up your Stephan king, Dean Koontz, Nick Cutter, Lovecraft, Koji Suzuki, Joe Hill and many more till you drop dead out of hunger as you forgotten to eat

– Fear makes you more aware of life and hence psychologically more attracted towards horror than other emotion.

– Or just simple everyday person loving horror themed everything

Then Horror Hound weekend is for you. And only for people your kind.

Presence of Pennywise was mandatory
Creepy, Gross, Nightmarish….. was norm

Basically Horror Hound weekend was event much like “comic-con” but everything related to horror. Vendors selling abundant amounts of horror themed masks, t-shirts, books, movies and other merchandise were impressive. Cos-play was usual and bursting with enthusiasm for the penchant of being authentic and realistic. Entire convention hall was giving feeling of some slasher/exploitation/splatter movie set. Decapitated known monsters heads were eyeing everyone keenly along with their unknown, emerged from Lovecraftian mythos abyssal.

There was no place for cute and innocence. All teddy bears in horror form.

One of the delightful highlight of the Horror Hound was showing of short and full feature length horror movies from emergent creators throughout whole weekend. Visitors not attending the shows could quenched their blood-lust from various vendors selling the accomplished collection of 70, 80 and 90s grind-house and B-movies (in unrated quality).

Most appeasing feat of Horror Hound weekend was it’s stellar cast of celebrities. Even though you were not planning to spend something on close counters and photo-ops, placement of each celebrity was such that you could easily get the full glimpses of them, sitting or roaming around freely, without any hindrance. Special guests had famous names such as Patrick Wilson (Conjuring, In the tall grass, Watchmen…), still heart throbbing Carla Gugino ( Gerald’s Game, Spy Kids, Sin city and many more), Malin Akerman (Watchmen, Rampage), Neve Campbell (Scream movie series, Wild things), Radha Mitchell (Silent Hill, Pitch Black and many more), Robin Tunney ( End of Days, Prison Break), The “Jigsaw” Tobin Bell (Saw series), Jackie Earle Haley (Rorschach from movie Watchmen), Lin Shaye (Insidious series), Jennifer Carpenter (Dexter), Rose McGowan (Scream, Planet Terror), David Arquette (Scream series) and lots of other famous members from from horror media. 

All in all, it was fun day other than regular conventions. 

Date of Visit: 07-Sep-2019

All types of creepy clowns

Travelog: Orlando and Bahamas, Day 6, Universal studio

To go or not to go…

When you have only 2 days to spend in Orlando with mind-numbing options to choose from, “to be or not to be” became stale and all you want your Shakespearean mind to ponder on “where to go and where not to go” with ease and also without soliloquy.

In short, I had to choose from 2 amusement theme parks of Universal ( Island of adventure and Universal studio), 1 water park of Universal (Volcano Bay), 4 theme parks of Disney (Magical kingdom, Animal kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood studios), 2 water parks of Disney world ( Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard beach) along with sea world, Discovery cove, LEGOLand and much much more.

It was obvious I had to plan again if I want to cover everything what Orlando, FL had on offer. Major dilemma was which park to visit; either Universal or Disney world. And again which among them. I choose to ride on both camels; against advisory, however uncomfortable it sounds.

Things to do (mandatory): Check your interest. All the details of the rides along with you-tube videos available on web. Most types of good rides are split in terms of Universal studio and Island of adventure. You can also do both in one day with single-minded obsession, if you can conjure up enough energy and stamina.

I choose to do only one park per day. First was Island of adventure from Universal. In terms of theme of rides, Universal studio and Island of adventure has some differences but core mechanics are almost same e.g. Spider man and MIB ride are different but both share same digital core “fun”.

Monetary note: Based on day of visit, daily ticket fare can vary buy still expect around $130-150 per park per person.
Things to remember: Most hotels nearby provides shuttle services to both Universal studio and Disney world. It is advisable to utilize them. Traffic could become one of the energy draining factor.

As shown in below map, Island of adventure divided into various sections, each having unique theme. Let’s see what was hit and what missed section-wise.

Entrance

Island of adventure is adorned with peppy and colorful adventure theme such as 80’s and 90’s Spielberg movies. Most of them also had in-built shops and restaurants apart from beautifully decorated facade.

Marvel Super Hero Island

It boasts few of the good scary rides. Superhero fans are in for a treat considering beautifully designed streets. It gave impression of being amidst fight between various marvel heroes and villains. Rides also corroborate the theme by putting g force as core entertaining mechanic. Following were major highlights….

The Incredible Hulk coaster: before you prepare yourself mentally, you are forced out at high speed, “twisted”, turned upside down, fogged and mist-sprayed without any notion of how many times.

Doctor Doom’s Fearfall: Another adult addition which can make you scream out your guts.

The Amazing Adventures of Spider-man: most unexpectedly amazing digital ride. Effects were cool and immersion was fantastic.

Things to consider: Most adult ride has conveniently placed locker system. Small lockers are free but can not hold backpacks. Big locker can cost you $2.

Toon Lagoon

Another visually arresting theme where streets are peppered with everything cartoon themed. Loved the idea of floating speech bubbles conveniently scattered for in cartoon world. Following were major highlights….

Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls: Best water based ride of the park. Period.

Comic Strip Cafe: If you are into comics and also into coffee (which I think is serene combination), it’s always treat to spend sometime, observing passers-by in the cartoon land sipping caffeine to prepare for further sections of the park.

Skull Island: Region of Kong

Only ride in the section based on digital effects has exquisite production value but not enough “wow” factor. BTW those dimly lit Kong cave and corridor where you had to spend more time waiting than been in the ride was peculiar visage in itself. This Kong is based on Peter Jackson’ King Kong.

Jurassic Park

It never gets old to be in Spielberg’s Jurassic “era”. Core element is animatronics and it pays off in more “believing” effects than its digital counterpart. Following were major highlights….

Jurassic Park River Adventure: is water based short but major ride of this section. Story telling is nicely accomplished and also had one hell of a satisfying “climax”.

Jurassic Park Discovery Center: This is more appealing to those who has Jurassic Park (1993) in their all time favorite movie list (like me). You can chomp off your food observing T-Rex skeleton replica similarly poised as was in the movie.

The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Hogsmeade

Dreams come true for Potter fans. Excellently “production designed” Potter town is clad in “snow” (even in Florida April heat) along with famous wand shop and lot many Potter tidbits.

Things to consider: Die-hard fans of Harry Potter has no other option but to buy tickets of both parks as very famous Hogwarts Express experience needs tickets of both park.

The Lost Continent

Hues of yellow dominating this more of middle-east fairy adventure styled section hosting very impressive Poseidon statue. Interactive theater style show “Poseidon’s Fury” has some good live effects (especially water tunnel) but otherwise no other special mention.

Seuss Landing

If you know Seuss, you know how pink, purple, orange, yellow and other similar kid attention grabbing colors and its various shades the section dipped in. It’s the most “sugar sweet” , candy-coated part for your child.

All in all, visiting Island of Adventure over Universal studio had never left us with feeling of “missing out” too much or kind of big mistake. It was fun and day well spent.

Date of Visit: 12-Apr-2019

Previously on Carnival cruise and Bahamas: Day 1Day 2Day 3, Day 4, Day 5

Popcon, IN, 2019

Popcon 2017 was my first “con” event in 2017 after arrival in Indianapolis, IN. It was mesmerizing. After skipping 2018 event in lieu of other travels and visits, I picked up chance to visit this year in 2019. Unfortunately, apart from some blazing exceptions, it was kind of “meh” event. Might be due to great expectations on my part, but still Popcon 2019 was like body without spirit, like beautiful visage of flower missing sweet nectar within.

Let’s take a look at good, best and ugly parts of Popcon 2019, IN.

Good

Cosplay…was again on par. Fans had clearly poured their hearts out into preparing costumes and playing the part. Some of them gone to extreme length (see below) considering the June summer heat.

Arcade and table-top Gaming: Arcade gaming had clearly saved the day for me from “deja-vu” wandering of the popcon 2019. Also presence of table-top gaming was most welcomed.

Bad

Same stores: Not much engaging stores apart from usual geeky clothing and paraphernalia. Not much variety in terms of art on display also. I also missed good comic stores.

Nothing special about special guests: It was like following the ritual to invite people related to pop culture industry without giving much thought and get it done with it just because it is ritual to invite someone at such pop culture event.

Ugly

Visible spaciousness… in any “con” events itself speak a lot. It was not like convention hall was completely empty but this year it was comparatively less foot falls than usual. Stalls were less and not much there to at-least cover up space available for use of the convention hall.

Best

Space Invaders in VR: one of the best experience of Popcon 2019 was playing space invaders in VR. VR setup was done using HTC vive and powerful supporting tower with VR enabled nvidia card by provider called Spectrum VR arcade (www.spectrumvrarcade.com).

Scary

Plank VR: I tried so called “plank” experience in VR which wants you to walk on narrow plank from top story balcony of Willis tower of Chicago and jump from it once you reached the edge ( yes, jump ). VR was more realistic and immersive than expected. ’nuff said.

All in all, this year’s Popcon was routine game which failed to hit “excitement” ball out of the park. Let’s see what happen to Comic-con 2019.

Date of visit : 08-Jun-2019.

Travelog: Orlando and Bahamas, Day 5, Kennedy Space Center

“Farewell to Space”

After leisurely “bobbing” on serene Atlantic for 3 days and 4 nights on cruise Carnival, occasionally heading off to islands of Nassau and Freeport, it was time to disembark. Early morning on the last day brought not so surprising drizzle which was very much welcome anticipating hot and humid Orlando weather, and surprise in form of origami out of beach towel on Carnival deck while going for breakfast. Whole top deck benches around pool and bars were occupied with curious little “audiences”.

Things to do: Pack your belongings very much in advance and be ready for your time slot. Each deck has allotted time slot which will be announced on PA. Moving out during your time slot will reduce hustle and bustle considerably. And it is quick.
Things to remember: Double check your stateroom for any "miss-outs". Have your passport and other identity documents handy. H1B work permit visa holders must have valid stamping. Seek out any further instructions on products which needs to be declared for custom.

Once successfully re-entered on US turf, we had almost whole day ahead of us to acclimatise Orlando after sunny, sandy beaches. After nature, we decided to take it up one notch up to science and technology and space mimicking humankind history in short span by visiting Kennedy space center.

Things to do: Kennedy space center is nearby cape Canaveral port; almost 24-25 miles. Easy to pay visit before going to proper Orlando nearby all amusement parks. There are many rental car options available at port itself. Also there are shuttle services provided by nearby hotels if you have reservations. Cab options are rare and expensive.

Kennedy space center is evidently something out of some Hollywood set on space opera. Replicas of various launch rockets adorning the horizon, it also adorned various space age symbolism almost conveniently placed for photo lovers.

Monetary note: Kennedy space center will cost you around $57 per person excluding any live launch observation.
Things to do: Check out any planned launch of space X or others. It will cost extra to be spectator of such event but might worth to see the launch (and land when it's spaceX vehicle) .

Apart from various 3D shows, plethora of space vehicle replicas scattered all over, future Mars program related info-games and other paraphernalia , best part of the visit was to witness Saturn V in its original size and capacity along with its science and intricacies on display at Apollo Saturn V center. NASA’s rocket assembly building was also one of the unique attraction during the included space center bus ride.

All in all it was something which we might not see in our lifetime. And hence worth to see.

We drove through congealing traffic towards our hotel in heart of Orlando from where we planned to “launch” our next 2 day trip towards Universal studio as well as Disney.

Previously on Carnival cruise and Bahamas: Day 1Day 2Day 3, Day 4

Travelog: Orlando & Bahamas, Day 4, Freeport

Freeport island of Bahamas represents the unlikable side of otherwise dreamy summer vacation spot; industrialization. It has more of “official” feel to it. Apart from rundown hotel buildings which went bankrupt, this second largest populated island of Bahamas houses factories of oil refining, cement, salt, pharmaceutical and steel pipe manufacturing.

We have pre-booked excursion; close encounter with dolphins. Bottle-nos dolphins are very playful mammals. Though transport to the dolphin pens took almost more then an hour which consisted of first half-n-hour drive in van to designated port and then more 20-30 minutes by small motor boat, all transport paid off with ample amount of close interaction time with dolphins.

There was nothing attractive apart from excursions and few local market places. Once returned back to our cruise Carnival, we had no other option but to leisurely participate as audience to last night’s various attractions. There was pleasing farewell surprise at our daily dinner restaurant when suddenly all catering cruise staff started singing and tapping to melodious songs.

Next day early morning we had to prepare for disembarking back to Orlando. And plan judiciously for three more days in Orlando, Florida.

Things-to-do: Get everything ready at night for next day landing. Do plan out early breakfast considering your time-slot. Pay attention to public announcement to know off-loading time slot for your deck well in advance.

Previously on Carnival cruise and Bahamas: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3

Plan for remaining 3 days: Day 0