Saturday, April 13, 2013

Busch Gardens: Behind the Scenes

Alex had two weeks off for Spring Break this year so we decided to spend a few days in the Tampa area. My husband flew up on Saturday night to pick us up from our cruise Sunday morning.

The Detroit Lions train in Tampa during the spring, so we went for a game that afternoon. It was St Patrick's Day and, when these guys were raking the dirt, they started dancing to YMCA!

The next day, we headed to Busch Gardens. I think we saw this cute little
squirrel where we stopped to have breakfast.

They make a little feather "animal" for the cheetah to chase using feathers from the park.

At this point, she was turning around! What a stop!

And, after playing, she got to enjoy a drink... but she's ever watchful!

Alex and her dad rode a lot of rides and I rode a few, too. I love the speed setting on my camera!
It got both the cheetah shots and this fast-moving roller coaster shot!
They are the 3rd from the back row.

Another of their rides. Alex LOVES these rides that just keep dropping you, though
she found lots of roller coasters to love at Busch Gardens!

Next, it was time for our behind-the-scenes orangutan and tiger private tour.
What an incredible experience! It was just the 3 of us with a guide for 1.5 hours....

Going "behind-the-scenes" into the Orangutan House...

With the orangutans, we got to see how they train them with simple hand signals. Most of the training is so they will present various body parts for medical exams. Even a female orangutan is (if I'm remembering correctly) 4 times stronger than a human, so they really need their cooperation!

Here I am giving the signal for the orangutan to put his ear to the glass. We did these exercises with two orangutans and then got to feed them through the tube there under my elbow.
We just dropped in pieces of fruit!

And here is one of the trainers with their "smartest" orangutan. He's having her present
her belly where they can do things like use a stethoscope or an ultrasound!
She even did a cartwheel and a handstand at Alex's command!

Next we visited the tiger house...

This tiger was working on a retrieval command. There was a large stick in the water and he was supposed to jump in and get it. He preferred using his paws to try to get it to come to the side!

And this tiger needed its blood drawn. The lady near the head was feeding "meatballs" to the tiger to keep him occupied. The two ladies at the tail were trying to draw blood from the tail... the safest place to draw from! Unfortunately, they weren't able to get any blood at this time, but they didn't want to tire the tiger so they would try again later.

And, here I am using a bouy-on-a-stick to show this tiger where to put her head. This is also a training so they can observe various parts of the tiger's body for medical purposes.

And, our last stop was to go out in public to feed the 3 tigers on display. Alex chose a white tiger and was inside the glass area. She had a little tube she would drop the meatballs into - just like we did with the orangutans. My husband had a similar set-up.

But me? I was on a bridge and had to throw the meatballs over the moat and onto a little rocky ledge where my tiger was. I'm really not a good throw, but I made it to the tiger every time!!! There were about a dozen meatballs, and on the next-to-last one, the tiger tried to catch it in his mouth. So, I decided to aim for his mouth with the last meatball... and we did it!!! He caught it in his mouth!!

When we got back to our hotel for the night, we saw this cute little guy hanging out by the trash bin.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Guns of Lexington

I've been watching a lecture video series by Dr J Rufus Fears on YouTube. It is called "The Story of Freedom". I have been learning so much and wanted to record some of that on my blog both for my own review and perhaps others would enjoy my insight, links, or even the original video.

The first video is titled "The Guns of Lexington" and covers some of the early events in the Revolutionary War. From my notes and put in my own words...
On April 19th, 1775, the British elite were stationed in Boston. A rebellion was starting and Governor Sir Thomas Gage was under orders to put down the rebellion. He was given a two-part mission: to arrest John Hancock and Samuel Adams (in Lexington) and to capture some of the weapons the colonists were stockpiling.
Marching under Sir Francis Smith, about 700 Red Coats sat out in the middle of the night on a 20 mile march. There were two locations where they knew weapons were being stored - Wooster and Concord. If they were going to go to Wooster, they would travel the entire way by land. But, if they were going to Concord, they would launch boats and travel part of the way by sea. Thus, the famous saying "One if by land; two if by sea." And, they went by sea... towards Concord.
Now, these colonsits were British subjects! But, cannons were weapons of mass destruction and there was no need to be in possession of them... except for war! As the Red Coats approached, they expected to see dark, sleeping villages. Instead, they were greeted in Lexington by 77 colonists who had been warned (becaues of spies like Paul Revere and Samuel Adams) that "the British are coming!" This was at about 4:30 in the morning, and as the 700 British soldiers faced the 77 colonists, a colonist leader (Parker) said "Stand your ground! Don't fight unless fired upon! But, if they want to have a war, let it begin here." Then, someone, no one knows who or on which side, fired "the shot heard round the world."
Eight colonists, British subjects, were killed! The Red Coats headed down the road towards Concord. Now, they needed to find cannons to justify the spilling of British blood! While they leave 98 British to dismantle the Old North Bridge, the rest march into Concord and search for weapons. But, they've been removed and so they can't find any!
By noon, hundreds of minutemen from nearby towns arrive. They start shooting at and killing the British soldiers who begin a retreat to Boston. Even though the Red Coats receive backups near Lexington, the colonists continue to follow them all the way to Boston... shooting and killing... They are now a force about 16,000 colonists strong.
When the Red Coats reach Boston, the minutemen surround them and put them under siege. A British General, William Howe, decides he needs to get some cannons on top of some of the hills in Boston so he can fire down on the colonists surrounding the city. But, during the night, the colonists take Bunker Hill and Breeds Hill.

File:The death of general warren at the battle of bunker hill.jpg
The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker's Hill, June 17,1775 by John Trumbull at Boston Museum of Fine Arts(from Wikipedia)
Twenty two hundred Red Coats march up the hill in rows of three. Knowing the colonists weapons will shoot farther than the Red Coats, Prescott (a colonist) says "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes!" The British in their formations are heavily attacked. They make several charges and eventually take off their heavy red coats. They have some cannons, but they have the wrong sized cannonballs! Eventually, though, the colonists run out of ammunition. Half of the British soldiers are dead or wounded.
Meanwhile, the Continental Congress is meeting in Philadelphia. They have decided that they are at war and need troops and a leader. On July 1, 1775, General George Washington takes command of the troops under an elm tree in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Now, the colonists are at war with the British.
Other resources:
  • A poem by Emerson (1803-1882) coins the phrase "the shot heard round the world" and is sung at the Concord Monument on July 4, 1837
  • "America: The Story of US" has a 12 minute clip about Lexington & Concord
  • Liberty's Kids has an episode called "The Shot Heard Round the World"
  • Johnny Tremain, both the book (which I haven't read) and the movie (which I watched last week on Amazon Instant Video) are about these events & more
  • Visit the Paul Revere Heritage site to read Longfellow's "Midnight Ride" poem and learn about some of the myths from this poem

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Learning JavaScript at Khan Academy

I have been working with Khan Academy for the past few weeks, and yesterday discovered that they also have a computer programming course! My first introduction to computers was in high school - on computers that just had black screens and green lettering. And, we learned some programming in BASIC. I've wanted to learn to do a little programming, and now I can! For free!

This was my first creation. There was already a green turtle on the screen. I worked on making him rainbow colored, moving him to the left of the screen, and moving his eyes, head, tail, arms & legs.
Then, I made Kirby! This was from scratch!!! Of course, it is just a bunch of ovals with coloring, but it was still an accomplishment!
Next, I made my punk dude. For this one, I manipulated a face that was already there. I moved the arms to be ears, changed the color, added a neck and shirt, and added hair! Oh, and I learned how to make a colored background... and went back and added colored background to the other images.
This guy was from scratch! I was learning about points & lines.
And, my Pac-Man. For this program, I was learning how to set up variables. So, on these dots, if I increase the size of one, they both increase! I'm having so much fun! My next lesson is to set up a program where all of the pieces are attached and move as one piece. I'm thinking of a teddy bear...

One more... Ms Pac-Man!!!

Wet & Rainy Roatan (Honduras)

When we woke up on the morning of our excursion to Roatan, an island of Honduras, we were thrilled to see the rain forest! And, both of our days in Mexico had been very flat. So, seeing the lush hills was quite a site! We were ready for our day... of ziplining & then playing with some monkeys!

After a lengthy checking in process, we headed up the hillside. And, once again, it started raining. We were sad to see the poverty that was so abundant. But, the people we passed seemed very happy.

There were different types of tours which were in line to go down the multiple ziplines. Our group was the very last one. And, by now, it was raining pretty hard. Alex and others were getting quite cold. There were more than 100 people in front of us as we waited to start our journey down. But, in the end, the cold & rain got too much for us and we asked for a bus back to the starting point.

That was quite a disappointment! The day before was supposed to be our first zipline experience, and we hadn't even made it to our port. And now, we missed our second chance! We were dropped off under a large pavillion and started to dry off and warm up.

At first we were just going to go back to the ship. But, the rain quit for awhile and then we just had sprinkles off and on. So, we decided to go and see the monkeys!

We were at a place called Gumbalimba Park. I didn't realize we would go on a tour and see a lot more than monkeys! We walked through the rain forest and saw hummingbirds, and waterfalls, & then arrived at the Insectarium. This little cave had a nice assortment of insect displays and insect facts.

Then we went into another cave where there were murals on the walls telling the history of Roatan. And, in the middle, was this relief map of the island. You can see Gumbalimba Park (in yellow) on the far west of the map. And, on the south side, a little to the right of the middle of this photo, you can see Mahogany Bay where our ship made port. The history of the island was very interesting complete with invaders, pirates, and buried gold!

Next, we headed to a rope bridge to cross over to the monkeys. As we started across, we saw 3 iguanas! They were quite large and all lying on branches sunning, I guess. I was thrilled to see them!

And, we could hear... and then SEE... scarlet macaws flying through the sky!

Time to cross Pirate Bridge... 5 people at a time!

I walked with one hand on the rope and the other taking photos. Near the end of the bridge the planks were farther apart and I'm glad I noticed before I had a problem!

On the other side of the bridge are the macaws. There are scarlet macaws and military macaws (which are green with blue tails). A man was holding this scarlet macaw and would let you take photos with it on your shoulder or on your arm.

My turn!

 We were warned that, with the rain, the monkeys might not come out. But, after we were there 5-10 minutes, someone saw a monkey coming through the trees! We were told she was the alpha monkey and that all others would follow her. (I think there were about 13 in the group.) And, the alpha had a baby!!! Can you see it's little hand?!?

 With a little encouragement, the monkeys would jump on our shoulders... or heads! The mommy with her baby jumped on me!!! It was such a neat feeling!!!

 And then the mommy was coaxed onto Alex's shoulder with a little drink.

 We were told not to bring anything, or even wear glasses, because the monkeys would steal things and take them up to the trees to play with. As you can see, this little monkey stole someones Gatorade. I'm sure it isn't the best thing for a monkey to drink, but he sure did look funny! He would drink some - and spill a lot! And, then he'd wipe his face on the tree. When he was done, he just dropped the bottle down on the forest floor!

 We left down a different path and I got a photo of the Pirate Bridge we'd crossed earlier.

 Alex and her friends in our beautiful yellow raincoats as we walked back to the pavillion.
It's time to leave the RAIN FOREST!
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