Athena Scalzi

Day Two In Atlanta

Athena ScalziFirst off, thank you to everyone that commented on my first day post that recommended me places to check out, welcomed me to the city, or just said they enjoyed the post. I especially appreciate y’all saying that I’m good at this whole travel writing thing, it means a lot to me!

So, I was planning to start day two of my vacation with brunch, but the place I went to (Atlanta Breakfast Club) was far too crowded and loud for my enjoyment, so I went across the street to the aquarium, which was where I was planning to go after eating, anyways.

The aquarium was the thing I was most excited for on this trip. However, I didn’t really have a very good time.

Upon entering, it was immediately cool and dark, and there was a huge wall of moon jelly fish leading up to the ticket scanning machines. I love jellyfish, and moon jellies are by far one of the best types, so I was instantly happy to see them. There was a sign next to the tank with a QR code that said you could donate and name a jellyfish! I was super excited about this opportunity, but upon opening the link, the only option is to donate $50 to name one. I thought that that was a little more than I wanted to spend, considering the tickets to get in are about $40.

Moving on, after you scan your ticket and walk through the little gate thing, you will be standing in the central lobby area. Everything in the aquarium is like a branch that loops and comes back to this central part.

I took some pretty not good photos, so I’ll tell you a bit about what you see here. Like I said, each section goes away from the main area, and then loops back to it. Here we have “River Scouts”, “Dolphin Coast”, and “Cold Water Quest”. In the first photo, there’s the cafeteria called “Cafe Aquaria”, and another exhibit section called “Ocean Voyage”. Not pictured are two sections called “Predators of the Deep”, and “Tropic” something. Also a gift shop called “Sunken Treasures” or something corny like that.

I decided to get overpriced food from the cafe first, since I hadn’t eaten before coming, and ended up getting a corndog and cotton candy mini melts. It was about ten dollars.

And talk about southern hospitality, look at all the sauces they gave me!

I don’t even like yellow mustard.

The cafeteria was crowded, and I decided to sit in the upstairs seating in hopes that it would be a little quieter.

After finishing, I went to the section right next to it, “Ocean Voyage”, and was met with this sixty foot long tank:

This was obviously the main attraction of the exhibit, so people were swarming it like they were never gonna see a fish again in their lives. Besides the variety of fish you see here, there were sting-rays, manta-rays, and most interestingly, a whale shark. It was huge, and the star of the show. Everyone got riled up when it swam into view, only to disappear just as quickly.

That was pretty much all there was to see in that section, so I moved on to “River Scouts”.

Here we had tiny tank after tiny tank of small fish. Honestly, the only exciting thing to see in this area were the otters. And since that was the case, everyone was so crowded around the glass that you wouldn’t be able to see them unless you shoved your way to the front. Which, I didn’t, so I only caught a glimpse of them when someone would move to leave, only to be instantly replaced by someone else gunning for the spot. (This ended up being a common thing throughout the day.)

It was definitely an underwhelming section, so I moved on to the one next to it, “Dolphin Coast”. At the entrance of this section, there’s a staircase upwards, and two escalators that both go down. I thought that to be an odd choice, especially considering there are so many people with strollers. After heading up the stairs, there was a long corridor with screens, all displaying grainy ass videos of dolphins. I was beginning to be convinced that there were no actual dolphins here, only screens of them, when I finally reached a tank with a little viewing area that everyone was pressed up against.

Lo and behold, dolphins in a depressingly small tank. The viewing window was pretty pathetic, you could barely see anything, and there were signs everywhere promoting the dolphin shows. Basically, if you really want to see the dolphins, you have to go to a show. “Dolphin Coast” ended up being supremely underwhelming, as well.

I went back down the long corridor, down the escalator, and into “Cold Water Quest”. Now here was a cool exhibit. There were tons of freaky looking creatures in darkly lit tanks, like Japanese spider-crabs and sea dragons.

I really wish I had some photos of any of these things for y’all, but it’s so hard to get a shot with everyone being so close to the glass that their breathing fogs it up. Plus the glare and reflections on the glass was so bad that I couldn’t really take a photo even if the place wasn’t filled to the brim with people and strollers. God, it’s so hard to move around so many strollers all the time. They’re so big, and the areas are so small. Sheesh.

Anyways, every exhibit was pretty quick, once you could find a clear path through the crowd, so I was already moving on to “Predators of the Deep”. This section was basically just one big shark tank with several viewing windows throughout the wall. I was starting to get really tired of everyone basically smushing themselves against the glass, and then screaming “there it is!” whenever they saw an inkling of a fish. I like aquariums for the dark, quiet, atmosphere. They always seem like such peaceful places, but I guess anything can become unpeaceful when you get enough people in an area.

After the sharks, there was another beautiful wall of jellyfish, and it was the loudest, most impossible to get through area I’d been in all day. There were blockades of strollers, people having conversations louder than you have to talk at a rave, kids banging on the glass, and tons of blinding flash photography despite all the signs saying not to do that.

Right next to it was a smaller window of white-spotted jellyfish. So small that only one person could view it at a time. So I waited as patiently as I could for a chance to look, but every time the person in front of me would leave, someone would shove their way in front of me before I had time to fill the space. I got so fed-up of people cutting and being inconsiderate. It was hard to believe that other adults could be so rude.

I was definitely having sensory overload after that, so I headed to the gift shop to check the fuck outta the aquarium. The line was a mile long, and everything was overpriced, but I got a plushie, so it was all worth it in the end.

This is Percy:

I also got this bag of chocolate covered pretzels, but upon opening was disappointed to see that there’s a completely unnecessary divider in the plastic to intentionally cut down on the amount of pretzels they give you:

All in all, I would say if you have any problem at all with crowds, or noise, or claustrophobia, do not go to the aquarium. I have never encountered so many rude, inconsiderate people with rude, loud kids to match. I don’t really blame kids for being kids, but I do have an issue when kids do things like bang on glass, scream, run around and bump into strangers, and the parents do nothing to stop them.

Also, practically all the exhibits were underwhelming because there was a lot of “pay-to-play” action going on. It felt like you had to cough up cash at basically every turn. Speaking of which, after I purchased my items from the gift shop, I noticed they didn’t put my items in a bag (which normally isn’t an issue but I was going to be walking back to the hotel after so I didn’t want to carry them), so I asked for one and they said they don’t have bags, but you can purchase a five dollar reusable tote if you want. Sheesh.

I would say that I did have a positive experience at the aquarium, but just barely. Like it was negative a lot of the time, and almost enough to make me regret going, but I did see some cool fish, and got a stuffed animal, so whatevs.

After decompressing at the hotel for a couple hours, it was time to go to dinner. This was the one dinner this trip I had a reservation for, and have been looking forward to since I decided to come to Atlanta in the first place.

I went to the Sundial, which is on the 71st/72nd story of the Westin Hotel, and I definitely think I had dinner with a view.

The menu was fairly small, but had seafood, steak, chicken, lamb, a porkchop, and a vegetarian option of gnocchi, so there’s certainly something for everyone.

I decided to start with a peach lemonade.

They also brought out some fresh bread that was quite soft and fluffy, with whipped butter.

I totally filled up on bread before the appetizer even came, but I have no regrets.

I ended up getting the wagyu as the starter.

It was so tasty. The meat was super tender, and the contrast between the softness of the meat and the crunch of the flaky sea salt was superb. The cilantro sauce was light, bright, and had a slight kick to it. I absolutely loved this appetizer and would totally recommend it to anyone who loves a good steak.

For the entree, I knew the salmon was the right call for me.

While the salmon was perfectly cooked and moist, the risotto was more on the meh side than the delicious side, though I can’t say I’ve ever really been the biggest fan of risotto, so maybe I’m not the best person to judge it. As for the asparagus, I think a few more pieces would’ve been nice, but the pieces I did get were tender and juicy. It was definitely an enjoyable dish, but I think I liked the appetizer better. I ended up getting a box because I just had to get dessert.

As many of you know, I am on a quest for the world’s greatest crème brûlée, so this was an obvious choice for me.

This crème brûlée was certainly good, and I thoroughly enjoyed it, but it was not the best in the world, so my search continues. This one in particular was lacking in that perfect crystalline top layer. As you can see, it has some, but it was rather sparse. So much so in fact, there was no cracking when I tapped it with my spoon because there was so much space in between each section of burnt sugar. The berries were really fresh, though!

I would love to go back to the Sundial sometime, it’s been the best part of Atlanta so far.

I was totally stuffed after dinner, so I went back to the hotel and fell asleep almost immediately! This second night indicated the halfway mark of my trip! Let’s hope the third day is totally bangin’.



New Books and ARCs, 8/5/22

Here we are in August, with a new stack of books and ARCs that have come to the Scalzi Compound! What here would you like to take into the dog days of summer? Share in the comments!

— JS

Big Idea

The Big Idea: Jason Sizemore

Apex Magazine is running a Kickstarter to help fund their new year of publication, and editor Jason Sizemore asked if he could borrow the Big Idea stage here to talk about his publishing company, and the concept of fandoms in the current era. Here he is!


I have a hot take to share with you. Are you ready?

This whole pandemic thing is a drag.

Shocking information, I know. Naturally, I’m being facetious, but the first step in overcoming a problem is acknowledging the problem. The fact is, for many, the pandemic has taken a bite out of our mental stamina. We’re constantly facing questions regarding personal and family safety. Should I go out? Will engaging in social activity be beneficial enough to offset the possibility of contacting COVID-19?

This is where online fandom can be a lifesaver. There is no replacing in-personal interaction, but online engagement can be a social bridge until you are comfortable and safe enough to participate in public events and activities. We’ve seen this through the rise of virtual events, online reading and writing groups, and Zoom, Discord, and Slack becoming a part of our daily lives.

Personally, online engagement has been an important part of my mental health. Sometime ago, I joined a Discord server for Hearthstone. Using Discord reminded me of the fun I had in my post-college days of goofing around on IRC. I eventually decided to create a server specifically for Apex Books and Apex Magazine. The community we’ve built on our Discord server has been an endless source of delight and fun. We have in-jokes. We play games. There are writing sprints. Arguments about how gross (or tasty, I guess) black licorice can be. My online friends do a lot to help my brain stay even-keeled.

While I won’t claim that online fandom engagement is a substitute for in-person socializing, I do believe it has helped me not be so reliant on public social exposure. It extends the time I can endure between activities.

Recently, the need to see others created a stressful situation. I had an opportunity to attend a local writing convention. I knew attending would be a great boost to morale. It was also a chance for professional development. But the news was filled with reports of yet another highly contagious variant spreading its way across the country.

I decided to chance it.

The convention was fun, of course. It felt great being with friends and colleagues. Leaving Sunday evening, my spirits were soaring. I was confident I had made the right decision. Then the day after, I received a message notifying me someone I had interacted with at the convention had tested positive for COVID. On Tuesday, one of my friends I had spent much time with that weekend was positive. Queue the worrying about every cough, body pain, and sniffle. The concern grew worse as more attendees reporting coming down with COVID. Ultimately, I avoided it, but I probably added to the grey in my beard from the stress.

I think about how stressed I felt the whole week after the convention. It’s made me think long and hard about attending ChiCon 8 in September. Every day, the mental calculus spins my head. The week of stress has also made me thankful for my online friends and communities.

Whether you’re into Hearthstone, Apex Magazine, or something mega-popular such as K-Pop, don’t be afraid to jump into online fandom. Many genre publications run Patreon accounts that offer Discord server access. SFWA has long had online forums and the organization just recently started a Discord server. You’ll find that your fandom commonality becomes secondary to the importance of the social engagement offered by the community. Like in-person socializing, once in a while you’ll encounter a toxic individual. Thankfully, they are few and far between and most online interactions are lovely.

If you’re looking for a place to chill, come hang with me and hundreds of others on the Apex Books and Magazine Discord server. A great way to do that is to join our Patreon or with an Apex Magazine subscription.

Most conveniently, we’re currently running a Kickstarter to help fund our 2023 publishing year. Backing the Kickstarter at any level grants you access to our community. You’ll also receive some wonderful exclusive rewards such as free original fiction, a one-page RPG scenario, and alien head swag!

Camaraderie. Award-worthy fiction. Alien head cocktail coasters. What more could you ever want?


House For Sale in Bradford

Not the one we live in, but one that we own. We bought this house for Krissy’s mother several years ago and in the time since upgraded it rather considerably, including building a garage and a lovely pergola in the back yard. We recently moved Krissy’s mom to a newer, ranch-style house, so this one with all its improvements is back on the market as of this very morning. Here’s the actual listing. Please note that if you live in a coastal state, you may grind your teeth at the pricing. Welcome to small town Midwest house prices!

— JS

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