Puerto Rico Children’s Museum No Place for Kids

We took a trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico last week and we saw a bunch of newsworthy things that really rocked the boat of our ability to take the cake. We’ll cover all of them in uncomfortable detail in coming weeks, but first I have to point out the horrible travesty on child-named attractions that is the Puerto Rico Children’s Museum. All I can say is that it’s no place for kids.

Museo Del Nino, Puerto Rico... No place to take your kids.
Museo Del Nino, Puerto Rico… No place to take your kids.

We’d setup our visit about a week in advance and we were pretty excited to see this, the only place in San Juan Puerto Rico dedicated entirely to children. We’d read some pretty okay things and the price looked good, but when we got there it all fell apart.

They weren’t expecting us, despite our confirmation from the government tourism agency, but that’s not normally a real problem. We’ve had that experience before, where we weren’t expected despite preparations, but these guys took the ignorance to some really extreme kind of new, unbelievable level.

We spent a good half-hour in the lobby, waiting for the chaperone to check out our credentials and permit us inside. We weren’t there for a traditional day of play, but rather an abridged 20-30 minute version in which we’d check out half of everything half of once to take a bunch of pictures and formulate our review.

They denied us entry, stating that they would permit us entry if we had called, but that we’d have to pay $31 to come in and perform our review… Please bear in mind that there were no children in attendance when we arrived and equally zero when we left discouraged and crying more than 30-minutes later.

The $31 for admission was more than 50% higher than what any of the four Puerto Rican guidebooks told us it would cost, even though the exhibits were unchanged since they were written.

During our painful wait, Brendan had to take a bathroom break, which happened to be upstairs. That meant he got a chance to take a full, though unsanctioned trip through the entire “museum.” The place is roughly the size of a convenience store, though spanning two floors. Worse still, most of the “fun” is supposed to come from interaction with other kids, of which there were none despite the place having been open for two hours already.

pr-childrens-museum2Left – This picture was taken in the lobby, which was about as far as we ever got in this place. It’s a shame because it seems like at least a three-star place, but with five-star prices, who will ever know?

After Brendan got a full (though unofficial) tour of the place, the ultimatum was set. We could pay $31 for 20-30 minutes of conspicuously lonely play or we could pass on the whole thing, despite a hurricane brewing outside and an obvious lack of grounds to dismiss us.

They checked out our credentials on the spot, and confirmed that we’d published more than 1,200 articles, including reviews from Canada, China, San Francisco, and other places. They told us plainly that it wasn’t a problem with our credentials, but just that no one had called in advance, even though we gave them the name of our contact, who inconveniently could not be reached at the time. So it wasn’t that we weren’t real or that we were trying to get something undue for free, it was that our person hadn’t talked to the right member of their staff of right persons… call me a child, but that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.

The place was empty, it’s not like we were putting anyone out by our attendance. Further, we left without paying for admission, so it’s not like there was an opportunity cost. How come me, as a three-year-old, can see the plain logic in what these people, at ages presumably older than three, could not? Have I been taking my crazy pills again?

In Spanish it’s called the “Museo Del Niño Puerto Rico,” but anyhow you slice this acrid bud, this rose don’t smell nothing but sour.

We had endured enough such problems with Puerto Rico tourist attractions by this point so the last thing we were going to do was pay them an exorbitant amount of money to bring them promotion. We left.

It boiled down to a decision by our onsite liaison to deny us admission even to take pictures and write a review. As we were leaving into torrential rain with my brother Brendan in play-deprived tears, daddy said to the man, “You realize that if we leave now, this is going to be the review.”

He said that he understood and that we should only report our experiences exactly as they took place… This from a guy working at a Children’s Museum with his lower lip pierced and his hair gelled like a Hollywood B-movie actor.

So that, unfortunately, is our review. The place is the size of a convenience store, there are painfully few kids there (if any), and it costs five-times as much as the nearby historic landmark El Morro, which offers hours of enjoyment, countless exhibits, entertaining films, remarkable history, and doesn’t go out of their way to insure that kids have the worst possible time imaginable.

In no uncertain terms should anyone ever take their kids to the Puerto Rico Children’s Museum. It’s a waste of time, a waste of money and they don’t give the first rat’s batooty about kids. Period and done.

Above - The lobby makes the place look pretty spectacular, but the lobby accounts for roughly 25% of the total museum floor, so if you just check out that part and leave, you're getting like an $8 value.
Above – The lobby makes the place look pretty spectacular, but the lobby accounts for roughly 25% of the total museum floor, so if you just check out that part and leave, you’re getting like an $8 value.

 

Botanists Shocked by Porcupine Tree Discovery

I’ve established my reputation as a discoverer over the past few years to the point where there’s plainly no need to defend myself any further, so when I discovered this latest thing, the Caribbean Porcupine Tree, I expected immediate acceptance and recognition, but it seems those so-called “botanists” are an elitist group, somehow deferring instead to their “existing record of known plants.”
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Once a week or so, whilst out seeking adventure, I’m able to persuade my handlers to take me to a place I know and love. It’s called Gaby’s World, and it offers more than just good prices on tasty, authentic, Puerto Rican fare, this place has pony rides too.

Anyhow, as we rolled in one day, fresh in anticipation of nasty weather (hurricane weather, truly), I spotted something so unique I had to brand it afresh and label it for my own. This, I do truly call, the “Porcupine Tree.”

I’ve seen cacti a plenty, and trees more wild than you could ever imagine, but I’d never seen a tree that was also as prickly and waterlogged as a porcupine.

I promptly documented and reported my discovery, only to be told by the so-called powers-that-be that this was not a new species of plant, but an old and well documented one.

Well excuse me a minute, but I’m the guy that discovered balance, observed the global warming trend and wrote veritable tomes on the many-splendored benefits of bologna within the household. I’m credited with first discovering the first known case of the minimum security Christmas tree as well as the mid-August Christmas phenomenon, so I think I know a bit about these things.

The tree is taller than tall (much bigger than a person and about as tall as a building) and it’s a freaking porcupine already. What more do you people want from me?

Help me stop these “botanistas” in their tracks. I’m the one who discovered this plain, ordinary, everyday plant living outside of a popular restaurant, surely I deserve to be credited thusly. Oh, and by the way, in case you’re curious, it really was me who called it the “Porcupine Tree” and not an elder, handler or some other sort of parental-typed associate who was just tying to make me look more clever than I am.

That was all me, folks, and it’s my discovery.

Above - Here is the plant so elusive, even botanists insist I'm crazy.
Above – Here is the plant so elusive, even botanists insist I’m crazy.

 

Baby Pony Silent, Technically a Little Horse

We had our third shot at giving our local Puerto Rican hotspot a chance the other day and it went pretty well. We once again enjoyed fine food and a good half-hour on the playground, but this time we upped the auntie’s ante and partook of the diminutive equine staff on hand and enjoyed ourselves a rousing round of pony rides to boot, despite our wearing sandals.

He isn`t sick, he
He isn`t sick, he

There’s a restaurant located on the outskirts of Yauco, Puerto Rico, called Gaby’s World. Never mind that they borrow the Disney World font on all their signage and that the place is nothing like anything Disney, but pay attention instead to what they do have. They boast an assortment of little horses, at least one of whom is so silent you have to wonder if he isn’t a little hoarse… horse? Same thing I think.

We enjoyed our lunch, ate ourselves to capacity and played ourselves just about silly on the playground adjacent when we found ourselves looking for just a little bit more than any restaurant is traditionally willing to offer. No, the after-dinner mints weren’t enough this time around, we wanted a real batch of fun, and we found it in tiny horses.

Once we’d partaken of the fine fun that unequivocally is “the pony rides,” we were invited by Gaby’s World heir apparent Gaby III to get up close and personal with one of the restauranch’s stars of tomorrow. On the surface he may appear to be a baby pony, but he’s much more than that; he’s mangy.

The pony track was pretty quiet since rides only run a few minutes apart so we got to cross the path and meet the future pony celebrity just after his nap.

I met him, petted him, and even gave him a hug. Dominic did the same, but his hug quickly became a chokehold, so it was fortunate that the youngest Gaby (of namesake Gaby’s World) was on hand to horse whisper him unto continued placidity.

All things said and done, we not only got our pony rides, but got to meet a little horse who isn’t destined for the glue factory despite being a little hoarse. I discredit the strangle-hold of my junior brother-writer for that, but either way, it was a great experience all around.

For more information about Gaby’s World, check out our previous article on the topic, and please to enjoy the benefit you freely receive.

Above - As he's prepped for our introduction, you can see that he isn't sick at all, he's just a little horse.
Above – As he’s prepped for our introduction, you can see that he isn’t sick at all, he’s just a little horse.
Above - I'm not sure what's made him a little horse, but whatever it is surely can't be helped by a good choking from the likes of my brother Dominic.
Above – I’m not sure what’s made him a little horse, but whatever it is surely can’t be helped by a good choking from the likes of my brother Dominic.

 

Waterproof Sunscreen Ineffective Against Crying

When selecting a brand, type and configuration of sunscreen, it’s important to bear in mind your needs, lifestyle and personal habits. For us, it was easy to choose a high SPF rating, opt for the waterproof, and go with a trusted name brand. What I didn’t take into account was my personal propensity for crying, and none of the brands had anything to protect me from that.

As you can see, the area where you rub your eyes from tears or salty water can become burnt, once the sunscreen is wiped away.
As you can see, the area where you rub your eyes from tears or salty water can become burnt, once the sunscreen is wiped away.

We bought two brands of sunscreen. We got Banana Boat as well as the generic brand sold by Walgreens. The Walgreens kind, though a buck cheaper, honestly doesn’t protect the way Banana Boat does, which was a little surprising. First lesson, don’t be cheap with yourself when it comes to protecting from skin cancer. The buck you save may be more powerful than the buck of a horse.

We went out to the beach slathered up head to toe with the good stuff and it worked like a charm. Though by charm, as if to extend the animal metaphor, I mean it ultimately bit me like a snake.

I was offered a free “water flight” which I though would be fun, but ultimately resulted in the daddy dunking me in the water in lieu of a nice soft landing. I don’t much care for water in my eyes, so I let my subtle dissatisfaction be known by crying myself hoarse and rubbing the salty sea water (in vain) from eyes.

Therein lies the rub. I mean it literally; the rub lies in the rub. I rubbed the sunscreen off my face, specifically in the place where I do my crying. And when I say it “lies” in the rub, I don’t mean that I’m lying, because the pictures I present as evidence don’t lie.

So I rubbed the tears and sunscreen away and, in the ensuing couples of dozens of minutes, burnt my precious face to look like some kind of sad, sunburnt clown.

Not so awesome if you’re me, and I know you’re not, but I am so I’m justified in my complaint.

Thing is, if you want to make a quick million overnight, don’t try to reinvent the wheel (the octagon is already pretty effective already), but instead modify the formulas that exist and come up with a sunblock that is resistant to cry-faced rubbing. That’s all you need to do.

You know my baby-faced face of a preschooler is going to suffer an ounce or pound of beating from the sun, and you know that if I need a waterproof variety it means I’ll get my face wet. Do the math here; I need it to protect me from the ensuing sadness that invariably is the saltwater in my eyes.

So for now I get to look like a strange mime or something. If only science was smarter than kids. Oh the world in which my own kids may live. I envy them for it, I think.

Above - Here you can see my unusual burn, which only came to pass after I'd wiped away the sunscreen in a general crying motion.
Above – Here you can see my unusual burn, which only came to pass after I’d wiped away the sunscreen in a general crying motion.

 

Puerto Rican Restaurant Boasts Playground, Pony Rides

Just off Highway-2 in the south of Puerto Rico (about twenty minutes west of Ponce) is the sort of restaurant you read about. I know I read about it on roadside signs in a good 30-mile radius, so when I had the chance to dine at Gaby’s World, I jumped all over it and was rewarded in ways no restaurant has ever even tried.

Brendan likes the food at Gaby`s World so much, he asks for it by name at least twice a week.
Brendan likes the food at Gaby`s World so much, he asks for it by name at least twice a week.

First thing was the restaurant, which is so good I’ve asked for it by name, and we go out there maybe once a week. They’ve got authentic, fresh, Puerto Rican food ranging from stewed beef to roast chicken (though the Can-Can Pork Chops are famous, and were invented in Yauco, where the place calls home).

The French fries are the best we’ve had in Puerto Rico, but I eat myself silly on the rice and beans, to the dismay of my roommates.

Weekdays from 11:00am to 8:00pm (which is open to close) they have a lunch special menu starting at about $4. For this you get an entrée, small salad, rice & beans, plus your choice of fried plantanes (yummy, but odd), sweet plantains (yummy, but the unforgiving texture of a slug), or French Fries (my favorite).

But that’s just the food. Now let’s talk about the ambiance, because that is as unforgettable as you could imagine.

They have a playground that puts almost all others to shame. It’s made up of mostly backyard-style plastic toys, like little houses and slides, but there has to be two dozen different ones. There’s a stage and many covered areas so you could throw a corporate event or wedding there, if you were so inclined. Don’t expect the million dollar stuff you see at a city park, but then again, it’s Puerto Rico, so don’t expect to see those things at the city park either.

The terrain is sloped and the ground is natural so watch your footing, but don’t be surprised if you have just about the whole place to yourself.

Playground at Gabys World
Above – This is just a glimpse of the expansive playground available adjacent to Gaby’s World restaurant.

But hold on to your butt because there’s more, and it’s the sort of more that justifies making this article twice as long as it would be otherwise.

Gaby’s World has pony rides, and real horseback riding too. The 204-acre property allows ample room for a large pony track, the sort of thing that takes maybe ten-minutes to walk around a space big enough you can’t see the start of it from the halfway point and the price is less than you pay anywhere else. Basically it’s a value I’ve never seen anywhere else. Not at the zoo, not at the fair, and certainly not at the circus.

If you’re up for more, they have half-hour, hour and longer horseback rides, all with an attendant to guide you along the path, so even an amateur can do it.

Dominic getting ready for a pony ride
Above – Whether you like good food, a great playground, or a pony of diminutive stature, you can surely see the benefit of a restaurant such as this.

The hundred-plus horses are only available weekends during off-peak seasons, so check them out online at GabysWorldPR.com to confirm current schedule and rates.

They’re easy to find. Take Highway-2 to Yauco (the first Yauco exit traveling from Ponce), and turn right. You’ll find the entrance within about a half mile. Oh, and we met both Gaby Jr. (the owner, manager) and his son, Gaby III. Good people all around. You’ll find them on site more often than not, so it’s a hands-on business.

If only more restaurants had pony rides, maybe I’d go to those places too.

I love riding ponies
Above – I’m not one to wear my heart on my sleeve, but rather somewhere more exposed than that. As such, the joy you see all plastered about my giddy mug is real and cemented my love for this place.

 

Arecibo Radio Dish Must Get Like a Billion Channels

When traveling through the parts of Puerto Rico that are not the capital city of San Juan there are many “must see” attractions, but there are only two that really take whatever cake it is that people love so much. One is the caves at Camuy, but the one that’s just about as popular is the radio observatory at Arecibo. I’ve seen satellite dishes before, but this one must get, like, a billion channels.

That`s the dish that can pickup channels as far away as deep, deep space.
That`s the dish that can pickup channels as far away as deep, deep space.

Some people have those small dishes that pick up modern satellite TV, and some have much bigger dishes that pick up even more channels than that. I’ve even seen houses with several dishes ranging in size from modest to outrageous. What I’ve never seen before is anything even close to this.

Turns out it’s because it’s the only one that comes anywhere close to it and it almost feels like they’re showing off or something.

Within months of entering service, they discovered that Mercury rotates much faster than previously thought. They’ve discovered the presence of super-fast pulsars, and they’re the number one site for the detection of near-earth meteors and other such things that could play out like in the movie Armageddon.

arecibo2Left – Near the bottom of the hill is a learning-type play area, complete with an exhibit that I can’t even pretend to understand… That’s a stretch even for me, because I can pretend to understand an awful lot of things.

Still, the site is more famous for having a cameo in the 1996 blockbuster “Contact” starring Jody Foster and Matthew McConaughey, and also the James Bond film Goldeneye (to a lesser extent). Despite its fame, it is in danger of closing down in the next couple years due to lack of funding.

Funding is critical, since the most important thing when showing off how many channels you get, is actually receiving those channels. Even though it’s a small part of what they do there, the radio observatory gathers data for SETI, which is a noble, fascinating program that looks for radio and television channels from space aliens.

How cool would that be? Can you imagine the wealth of knowledge we could gain simply by watching the late night infomercials from a superior race of intelligent aliens? If you think what you see on QVC is an item you can’t live without, imagine that it was on a version of QVC run by a race with a million more years of technology. That wouldn’t just slice, dice and julienne-cut your fries, it would probably also cure what ails you, improve your self esteem and make you more attractive to the opposite sex all at once.

What price could you put on that?

And this is to say nothing of what we could learn about social behaviors from sitcoms or what we could learn about criminal justice from an interstellar version of “Cops” or “True Crime Stories.” And if you want to get crazy, imagine what their “X-Files” must be like. I wonder if they feature crazy creatures made out of meat who bear a striking resemblance to humans.

arecibo-wide1
Above – They have a telescope there, as if you’d need one to see the massive, 80-acre dish that’s right in front you. It’s like they’re bragging about it, really.

If you’re in San Juan, you can find a number of tour groups that take daily tours out to both the caves of Camuy as well as the radio dish at Arecibo. The admission charge is minimal and there is a world-class, two-story visitor center with more information than you’ll take the time to enjoy, which means you’re getting more value than your money knows it is worth. Silly money, what does it know?

The observatory is open daily during peak seasons, and Wednesday through Sunday the rest of the year. For hours, current rates and all the information you could hope for, check them out online at www.naic.edu. And if you’re a member of the congressional finance committee — and I’ll admit that isn’t our biggest demographic — please bear in mind that if they don’t get their funding, more than 90% of the world’s capacity to detect potential collisions will be gone without an alternative on the horizon. The human race not going extinct seems like a pretty noble cause to me, but time and funding (or the lack thereof ) will be the ultimate judge on that front.

Above - Since we're journalists, we got a chance to go around and check out some behind-the-scenes parts of the radio telescope installation, such as this... did I say radio telescope? I meant satellite dish.
Above – Since we’re journalists, we got a chance to go around and check out some behind-the-scenes parts of the radio telescope installation, such as this… did I say radio telescope? I meant satellite dish.

 

Over-Promising Junior Editor Found Lounging at Café

It was over two weeks ago when I was browsing the congealed tubes of the internet that I read a news report that was most disturbing to me. I saw an article on the daily, syndicated parenting advice column Perplexing Times, which read that the publication schedule was being increased by 40%. On the surface it doesn’t sound bad, but I happen to be the editor-in-chief so I was alarmed and dismayed by this claim.

This is the guy who made the unbelievable, and later proven unbased, promise of more publication.
This is the guy who made the unbelievable, and later proven unbased, promise of more publication.

A critic could point out that I should have been able to head something like that off before it went to print since, ostensibly, I’m the one in charge of it all, but I was busy relaxing and unwinding myself and I missed the story when it first hit the system.

Turns out the culprit is an employee of our firm, the newest and youngest one at that, and he had no authority to say such things without my prior approval. Of course, being as busy as I am visiting tourist hot spots and playing at an unbelievable number of playgrounds, I simply approved the article without asking anyone to first read it to me.

I did assign a staff member to fact-check the article, only to later find out that having Dominic do it meant that he both wrote and fact-checked the article. Oops!

As fate and subsequent evidence would have it, he was totally mistaken. Shortly after his story about how we would begin publishing daily, we took a 2-week hiatus.

I could blame the hurricane (about which you’ll read soon enough) or the assorted problems we’ve had with our internet connection, battery failures, or general laziness, but I’m not going to do any of those things. Instead I’ll just apologize and promise not to make promises in the future… except for this one.

It took me a while to track him down to exact the disciplinary actions necessary, even though we share a bedroom and spend pretty much every waking and sleeping minute together. I found him at a café rousing rabble, climbing like crazy and charming the local ladies as he so often does.

He’s been issued a formal, written warning and I also took his new Buzz Lightyear toy away from him for an extended period of time. I figured that was just the sort of thing that would teach him good; of course I had to give it back after he woke up from his nap, so it wasn’t all that bad for him.

So moving forward, we promise to publish what we can when we can as the winds of fate blow and as the madness of the mood moves us. And that’s a promise you can take to the bank, even though I swore I wasn’t going to make any more promises… so maybe can you hold that one a few days before you cash it?

Above - It may just be me, but it looks like he's having way too much fun hanging out, and not giving nearly enough thought to how he should be working towards making the promise he offered become reality.
Above – It may just be me, but it looks like he’s having way too much fun hanging out, and not giving nearly enough thought to how he should be working towards making the promise he offered become reality.

 

It Takes a (Value) Village

Kids are pricey. Forget the jillion dollars it costs for birth and think instead of the clothes to wear, toys to bash, and videos to babysit. With these expenses no living human can be expected to raise a child without help from the (value) village.

Didn`t know I was pointing at the time, but check out the sign, people.
Didn`t know I was pointing at the time, but check out the sign, people.

Sometimes we need toys to replace the one’s Patrick’s torn asunder. Perhaps it’s replacement plates or spatulae for ones I’ve managed to meander to the sandbox. Maybe we just need a new nighty for that ever-expanding Mr. Dominic. Whatever it is that’s cleverly quired (or required) we know we can find it at the Village of Value.

I mostly wander the aisles exploring whatever roughly strikes my fancy while the parents peer about here and there for deals on whatever needs having. Some think thrift shopping is beneath them, but saving money is never below us, nor is wandering aisles. Fun for me, cheap for them, what’s not to like?

Not only does Value Village (aka “Savers” and “Village Les Valeurs” depending on where you live) have all kinds of cool random stuff for me but, better still is that the allowance I give my parents goes farther. Maybe you’ve never been there or not in a long time, but there’s so much great random stuff there. Movies you forgot about, Atari games, greeting cards, funny hats, kind of whatever. It’s like a cross between a store, a bazaar and a treasure hunt.

I have to go now, I’m trying to dictate this article and Dad says we have to put the pen down and check out. Yeah, well check me out, I was done anyway!

value-village-wide

 

Review: Mock Quadriplegia vs. Crawling

No one told me how much stuff there is just beyond my reach when I lay there on the floor. Oh, how much I’ve already missed in life which I may never see again. But fret not, I’ve much chaos yet to cause.

Here I can be seen taking my new crawl for a spin. It suits me well!
Here I can be seen taking my new crawl for a spin. It suits me well!

I’ve wiggled, squirmed, stretched and in many other ways managed to move myself around. But this? This is something new. This “crawling” thing I’ve heard you all speak so highly of. It’s only official for me as of the 1st of August. And now that I’ve tried it for myself, I have nothing but super chewy slobbery happy things to say about it.

So we’re hanging out, a bunch of us, my brother decides he’s going to torment me by playing with the duck puppet just out of reach. Forget that! I’ve got my new action-packed crawl! Within mere seconds I’ve got him on the run, then backed into a corner. That’s right, I’m crawling now, sucka!

So far I’ve used this newfound independence to traverse the living room. But tomorrow is a whole new day, and tomorrow I may just take the hall for a test crawl. Why not? I’m young, naïve, and have more money than I know what to do with.

If any of you are going to be out crawling later, say “Hey” to me. You’ll know where to find me. I’ll be the baby with the mean crawl going on.