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Winter Safety in Alaska: Don’t Make a Second Mistake

Alaska winter

When I first moved to Alaska, it was summer, and summers in Alaska are glorious – absolutely beautiful. However, I was warned. Winter is coming. If you want to survive Alaska and remain a resident for longer than a season or two, you need to find an activity that you can do during the winter months. This meant not only having the right clothing to go outside, but having the right clothing that would be good for staying outside for prolonged periods. The other important piece of information I was given about living in Alaska is that it usually isn’t the first mistake that kills you; it’s the mistakes that follow through poor decision making.

There are a lot of winter activities that people can engage in: skiing, cross country skiing, skijoring, snowshoeing, ice skating, and more. Trekking through the winter wonderland that Alaska becomes is amazing in its own right, as long as you can stay warm. Fortunately, I had a friend who introduced me to geocaching.

Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunt. Geocachers hide ammo cans or Tupperware, mark the coordinates and publish those at geocaching.com. Other cachers seek those boxes. They sign the log book, trade items, and enjoy the wonderful outdoors.

My friend and I had one rule about winter geocaching. If the temperature was lower than 10 degrees Fahrenheit, we stayed at home. Living in Anchorage the weather was relatively temperate, so those 10-degree days were fewer and farther between than some places inland.

One Saturday, early in winter, the temperature pushed up to 10 degrees, and we got our gear together. We chose our destination, got our warm clothes on and headed out to the car. I wore plastic pants to keep melting snow from making my pants wet. They had buttons so that I could reach into my pants pockets if I had to.

We went into the park hiked around and came to a stream. It wasn’t completely frozen over. There was ice on top, but the stream moved beneath. We could walk to the bridge, but it was far away and I was cold. More importantly, the arrow pointed right across the stream. I convinced my friend that we could cross using the branch that hung below the water. It would just be a short jump. He made it. I didn’t.

I fell through the ice. The stream ran into my plastic pants and into my shoes. I had wool on, so I thought I should be okay. My friend knew better. With the cache just feet away, I thought we should go get it. He said no. We were going to go get a pizza and go home. It wouldn’t look good for a director of health and safety (my job title at the time) to get hypothermia or frostbite because he was too dumb not to make the second mistake.

He was right. Getting wet wasn’t really an immediate issue. Staying out there would’ve created a bigger problem. So, we went back home. I took a warm shower and changed into dry clothes and then we ate pizza. Geocaching was one of two activities that I engaged in to make it through the winter. Subscribe to this blog and don’t miss when I post about the next one.

In Alaska, you may have to know how to protect yourself against long, dark winters and cold weather, but you do not have to know how to protect yourself against penguins, because there are no penguins in Alaska. I know because I wrote the book. Preorder the eBook on Amazon or preorder a hard copy coloring book here at penguinate.com.

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Moose Safety in Alaska: Don’t Pet the Moose.

Moose

I stepped out of my apartment door on the ground level and my breath misted as I bent down to pick up the Sunday paper. I stood up and about ten feet away from me was a moose. “Good morning, Mr. Moose,” I said and backed slowly into the apartment closing the door.

A lot of people are under the misconception that bears are the most dangerous animal in Alaska. The thing is bears are predictable. You can predict what a bear is going to do based on the circumstances. If you’re running, the bear will chase you; it’s predatory instinct. If a black bear attacks, it’s intending to eat you. If a grizzly attacks, it’s most likely protecting something, usually cubs, sometimes food or territory. Bears mostly avoid people, so as long as you don’t surprise them, you can keep yourself safe – for the most part.

Moose, on the other hand, are unpredictable. Moose are huge, so they don’t perceive threats the same way we would. In fact, it often seems that moose are unaware of people. Tourists will pet them on the nose, and nothing will happen. These tourists are stupid. A moose may not perceive a threat when a person approaches. It may not perceive a threat when the person reaches his or her hand out to touch the moose. It may not even perceive a threat when the person touches it. When the person turns his or her back, the moose could perceive a threat and attack. A moose can kick a wolf dead. So, while they look like big, dumb cows, they are the most dangerous animal in Alaska.

Protecting yourself from moose means just staying away from them. Even if they just get startled and trample you, they can cause serious injuries. Moose are wild animals and not meant to be petted. Admire their magnificence from afar, but if you see a couple of moose on a trail turn around and go back the way you came. Moose are docile until the moment they are not, and no one can say when that moment is.

When you go to Alaska, you don’t have to worry about protecting yourself from penguins. There are no penguins in Alaska. I wrote the book on it; available for preorder at Amazon.com as an eBookor as a coloring book on penguinate.com. Preorder yours today.

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Disney Crowd Survival Guide: Quick Tips

Main Street USA Christmas

For those who don’t want to read the long version, here are the quick tips for dealing with crowds at Disneyland:

  • Put down the phone!
  • Step to the side.
  • Don’t spread out.
  • Find the empty areas:
    • Sneak peeks at Tomorrowland
    • Movie theater on Main Street, U.S.A.
    • Critter Country
    • Tomorrowland Skyline Terrace
    • Former boat dock near the Matterhorn
  • Say “Excuse me.”
  • Say “I’m sorry.”
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Eat something.
  • Be patient.

Click if you want the longer version. Click for more on Disneyland.

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The Disneyland Crowd Survival Guide

Partners statue in Disneyland

Disneyland attendance keeps going up, and even with increased prices and annual pass block out dates, there’s just no sign of attendance really slowing. It used to be that cast and fans could count on a slow down during the school year; that’s no longer the case. (Check out “Cleaning the Kingdom” to see how the expanded programs have affected maintenance.) With the slow periods getting shorter and farther between, it pays to be prepared with a plan for dealing with the crowds.

Aside from the increasing popularity of the park and its newest additions (Galaxy’s Edge, anyone?) bringing in more people, the individuals in the crowd are taking up more space. Americans are getting larger. Guests are using more wheelchairs and ECVs, and strollers now come in double-wide or double-long versions. All of this results in greater difficulties in maneuvering and the greater likelihood that you will run into someone.

The first thing to remember is that EVERYONE(!) is trying to do the same thing you are, and they have the same over-arching goals – have fun and get away from the cares of the world. They may have different smaller goals, like see all the characters or ride Haunted Mansion 999 times, but in essence, they are you and vice versa. No one is actively trying to keep you from accomplishing your goals.

You WILL run into someone. Someone will also run into you. How you and the other person react to the situation can make all the difference to improving the experience or causing an issue and not letting anyone have any fun. Disneyland is full of distractions: lights, details, characters, the castle… the list is long and diverse. Throw in a heaping helping of smart phones, texts and selfies while walking or driving a wheel chair, ECV or stroller, and you have a recipe for disaster and possibly dangerous collisions, especially as night falls and people become more tired lowering their reaction times.

Fortunately, most of the time, people bumping into one another won’t result in injury. A step on the back heel that causes a bruise may be painful and result in a “flat tire” or a blown-out flip flop. However, as long as no one gets truly hurt, there’s no need for throwing shade or exchanging dirty looks – even if the other person doesn’t apologize. When you take on an attitude of animosity toward someone or toward his or her actions, you hurt yourself and your ability to have fun far more than you hurt the other person. Walk it off, and like Elsa, let it go. (Easier said than done if you’re tired, hot and/or hungry.)

When a stroller or wheel chair are involved, the pain can be greater, but it’s the ECVs that can wreak the most havoc. If you’re in charge of maneuvering any of these vehicles, pay attention. You must actively scan more than the immediate foreground because people who are walking will believe they can cut in front of you. They will overestimate their abilities, and you will hit them. Some people in front of you may change their mind and come to a sudden stop, you must be prepared for this, or you will run into them. (It happened to me.)  If you’re in an ECV, this could mean a trip to the hospital for the person you hit.

Regardless of how you’re getting around the park, put away the distractions. Do not text, call, iPad, iPhone, App, use an etch-a-sketch, read a paperback or anything else while you’re moving. Simply walk or navigate your vehicle and that’s it. If you’re doing it right, it will take all of your awareness and leave no room for the latest cat video on your social media feed. (If it’s that important, you’re friends will tag you, and it will be there when you get back online at your next stop.) Only use your electronic devices when you are stopped and to the side of the street or walking area away from the intersection or any openings.

There are times when you will want to stop in the middle of the street. DON’T. Unless you’re trying to get a scenic shot of the castle, somewhere in the middle of Main Street, U.S.A., do not stop in the middle of any walking area. Move to the side and let those behind you continue on unimpeded. Do not stop in entryways or on ramps.

Families will want to spread out and walk side by side. A group of six people quickly becomes a wall that blocks everyone else from getting where they want to go, especially when the children are holding the parents’ hands and running out to as far as the parent’s arms will extend. If possible, walk like the animals of Noah’s ark, 2 by 2, to allow others to pass.

As the sheriff at Radiator Springs says, “Whoa! Slow down. You aren’t racing, yet.” Great words for getting around Disneyland. SLOW DOWN! Rushing from attraction to attraction will lead to more accidents, and you’ll get tired more quickly. Pace yourself. Take in everything Disneyland has to offer by walking at a comfortable pace. This may seem like a contradictory recommendation, but slowing down allows you to be more predictable, which allows others to make better decisions. It also gives you more time to compensate for the other people on the route while mitigating possible damage from collisions and cluing you into the things that others may miss in their headlong search for the next great attraction.

The two most important words for anyone trying to get through a crowd are “Excuse me.” Don’t try to wheel your vehicle or self around a group that may or may not know you’re there. (They don’t know you’re there even if they all looked at you and wished you a merry unbirthday.) Your ECV horn is also useless. People don’t listen to electronic noises anymore (even if it’s their ring tone). There are a lot of other sounds competing for attention, and horns get lost in the cacophony. Slow down, say “Excuse me” and wait for them to move. If there’s nowhere for anyone to go, don’t bull your way through, just go slower.

The second most important words are “I’m sorry.” Sure, you can shorten it to “sorry,” but the “I’m” takes responsibility for the mistake. Far too few people are willing to take responsibility in the real world, don’t be that person in Disneyland. Even if it’s not your mistake, a well-placed “I’m sorry” can defuse a situation that may otherwise go sideways. Do not assign blame! “I honked, and you didn’t move” is no excuse for running into someone. Acknowledge the mistake and apologize. (This is not legal advice; it’s human decency advice.) If someone bumps into you, there usually isn’t any malice or intent in it. Even if there is, you shouldn’t let it get to you and ruin your vacation.

For those who get annoyed with crowds, it’s important to schedule time to get away. This may mean going back to the hotel and enjoying the room, a nap or the pool. It could mean visiting a less crowded space in the park, like near the Wishing Well or the former boat ramp across from the Matterhorn on the “it’s a small world” side. Critter Country has expanded its Hungry Bear Restaurant footprint and, when it gets colder, it benefits from fewer people riding Splash Mountain.  The movie sneak peeks also tend to be less crowded places, especially when a film has already debuted. Check out the cartoons on Main Street, U.S.A. Do some shopping earlier in the day. Or just grab something to eat at one of the upscale restaurants (as long as you’ve booked a reservation). Some tours offer special parade seating, and the Tomorrowland Skyline Terrace, a dining option for the fireworks, is a great place to get away from the crowds.

People can be one of the joys of going to Disneyland. With the right attitude, good people watching skills, an increase in patience and a plan, your Disneyland trip will be even more amazing. Click for more on Disneyland. Check out the quick tips for crowd management. Leave a comment if you have any advice on dealing with the crowds when you’re at Disneyland.

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Photos from Pixar Pier at Disney California Adventure

Pixar Pier sign

The Disneyland Resort is still trying to figure out what it needs to do to get more people flowing into its second gate: Disney California Adventure. Retheming Pixar Pier is the start of the Disney Company’s ambitious plans. However, it does nothing to change the equation on a higher level. Pixar Pier is laid out the same way. With the only space left to occupy being the place where the old Maliboomer used to be, it’s hard to see anything drawing more than Toy Story Midway Mania does now. The Incredicoaster did have a long wait on a night when there was no “World of Color.” Gone are the days of 20 minutes to get on the only inverted loop in the Disneyland Resort.

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Fantasmic! at the River Belle Terrace

Everyone loves Fantsmic! Water, video projected on water, fire, fireworks, special effects, magic, and a catchy tune make this one of the most popular attractions at Disneyland. Even after more than 25 years, people stake out their seats early and cause traffic problems on the Rivers of America to see Mickey’s imagination run wild as he faces off against some of Disney’s scariest villains.

More colorful than years before, Fantasmic! 2018 features new segments and a tighter script (especially the Jack Sparrow segment). While Mickey and the Sword of Truth no longer face Maleficent in dragon form (instead, he vanquishes her as the sorcerer’s apprentice), the whole show is well-produced and choreographed.

The best seats in the house (of the mouse) aren’t necessarily in the front at the edge of the Rivers of America where spectators are likely to get wet. Instead, the River Belle Terrace offers an elevated view above the crowds and away from the water. This dining package includes a lanyard and a menu full of great food to choose from. Better, you don’t have to stake out your seats because you’ve reserved them far in advance.

The corn chowder is spicy, warm, and tasty. It hits the right spot during a cool winter evening in Frontierland, and it fills the belly and soul with goodness. The tater tots are spiced to be addictive. (As someone who isn’t a huge tater tot fan, I couldn’t get enough of them and found myself popping them in my mouth even after I was full.) The beef brisket was good, too. The showstopper, however, was the Maleficent dessert: chocolate and spice in a raspberry sauce makes it amazing.

The tables may be a little wobbly, and the seating area doesn’t have any heating elements, but the views are positively Fantasmic! And Early show viewers can stay to see the fireworks form the comfort of their table on the River Belle Terrace. Check out my Disneyland page.

From the 2017 show
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Disney Magic: Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean Changes More Than the Red-Head

While everyone has focused on the controversial change to the iconic auction scene on Disneyland’s Pirates of the Caribbean, people have missed a subtler and more astounding addition to the classic attraction. In the cave as guests transfer between the world of the dead into the world of the living pirates, a skeleton holds treasure while hanging from a rope above a living octopus. Barbossa’s assault on the Spanish fort can be heard in the background as the guest’s ship glides by the skeleton.

But wait, it’s no longer a skeleton. The figure has transformed into a full-blooded pirate with flesh and hair! The effect may be simple to create, the result is still astounding. It was so surprising that I had to ride twice to make sure I saw what I did and other members of my party didn’t see it the first time either. So, while Scarlett, who is available as a funny, powerful face character in New Orleans Square, gets all the glamour, this other more low-key addition to Pirates of the Caribbean proves that Disney can still make magic!

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Controversial Disney: Pirates of the Caribbean’s Scarlett

The Pirates of the Caribbean auction scene, as presented in 2018, shows Scarlett going head-to-head with the Auctioneer in a sales pitch of sorts. The Auctioneer is trying to sell off Tiny’s egg-laying hens while Scarlett is trying to sell her rum. The pirates who are bidding want nothing to do with the egg-layers, but the Auctioneer refuses to give way and allow Scarlett to auction off the rum. This scene replaces the infamous “Take a Wench for a Bride” scene where the Auctioneer was attempting to auction off the overweight Tiny while Scarlett showed off her gams and the men in the audience shouted, “We wants the red-head,” as well as other more derogatory comments directed at Tiny.

This isn’t the first change that Pirates of the Caribbean has gone through. In 1997, the pirates stopped chasing women and started chasing food. Captain Jack Sparrow and his friends were added to the attraction in 2006 and beyond.

Those who deride the change in the auction scene as pandering to the political correctness miss the point of Disneyland entirely. Walt Disney, a man who had his fingers on the pulse of American culture for three decades, said that as long as there was imagination left in the world, Disneyland would never be completed. The same holds true for its attractions.

Walt Disney’s first goal was to entertain and make people happy. Pirates of the Caribbean was never about historical accuracy, or even, edutainment. Instead, it was about helping people be happier and allowing them to explore an extremely sanitized version of an historic population – pirates.

Those who wish to teach their children about the realities of pirating and a pirate’s life can use the Pirates of the Caribbean as a starting point. They can address the inaccuracy of pirates as depicted in movies and other forms of entertainment and how media affects the way people view those that came before. Pirates and their lives weren’t clean, friendly or fighting for justice. As the song says, they pillaged and plundered and rifled and looted; they kidnapped and ravaged and never gave a hoot about it.  So, for those who choose to go that route with their children, “properly warned ye be, says I, arrrr.”

Before shouting for the red-head, check out the new version and see if it fits the story line better. There is no slippery slope here. It’s just a chance to keep the ride fresh and accommodate the changes in American society and culture. Keep your ruddy hands inboard and embrace the magic of the new version. (And if you’re still concerned about the sanitized version of the pirates ride, do some research to see what Walt said about scalps in front of the Indian Village in Frontierland.)

Check out our penguins paying tribute to 50 years of Pirates of the Caribbean!

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Scenic photos from our Oahu trip 2018

Surfing Statue in Oahu

Check out these Oahu links for more about our trip to Hawaii.

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Photos from the Pacific Aviation Museum at Pearl Harbor

The Pacific Aviation Museum's Disney Connection

Check out this article on Pearl Harbor. Check out these links on Oahu.