Sunday, August 31, 2008

Road trip

For Labor Day we both were caught up on our work so we decided to hit the road to see some family. We just happened to end up that the maintainance schedules for both our cars for major checkups so both were in good condition but nothing beats driving with the top down so the taking the Miata won out.
We actually left on Wednesday night after taking a nap. This means we got to my sister's house in the middle of the night. I really hate showing up at night but L. was down to the wire on finishing paperwork so we got off later then planned. This was the second time I got to see my 3 year old nephew and he remembered me so was quickly attacking me to play. I have been working out a lot so I no longer had pain in my back and hip so it was really fun being able to wrestle and swing him around. It kept catching me off guard though. My sister and I got some good time in talking which is what seems like what visiting is for. Since this was an unreported vacation for both of us I called in for a meeting and no one was the wiser. (I really like jobs that care about output more then hours.)
From my sister's house we headed further south to North Carolina to visit my brother. Now my brother is a staunch conservative. (He listens to Rush Limbaugh, feels Fox News isn't conservative enough, and has given me books on proof of how liberal the media is.) We disagree on most issues but have had a good relationship based on being able to debate anything with the knowledge that we are not going to change the other person's mind. With his views on a smaller less interfering government I was actually interested to get his views of President Bush which really hasn't done either. (He thinks Bush is a good President that helped the U.S. economy and security. No, I don't understand it so I am left with more questions then when I visited.) L. doesn't want to get involved with the debates so we also finally saw "Kung-Fu Panda" which because of the trip to Europe we ended up missing. But mainly we enjoyed visiting with the whole family.
We then crossed North Carolina to visit L's cousin. He is a mechanic for NASCAR so he took us on a tour of all the garages of the major racing teams. It's funny, I just always assumed that the different teams were spread out over the country. I am sure anyone really into racing would consider it sacrilege that I was in Mooresville, "Race City, USA" without knowing even this basic fact.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Biking through NYC

Something they are trying new this year in NYC was to close off Park Ave from central park to Brooklyn bridge on a few Saturday mornings to allow people walk and ride bikes. Of course I couldn't pass up the opportunity so we got our folding bikes and met up with some friends at the Brooklyn bridge.
Anyone that has not rode a bike on a deserted city street is really missing something. The tall buildings provide shade and it's the perfect speed to enjoy the sights without being so slow as to make it boring. Apparently they were letting people borrow bikes for free but the line was long so I am glad we had our own.
The weather was perfect and the buildings provided shade. We maneuvered around each other as the conversation changed. Since Park Ave. was closed the block of street leading up to it was really unusable too so people were using the side streets for tennis or exercise classes. When we reached Grand Central Station we got to ride on the bridge that goes through the building. (Which is nice since trying to drive and enjoy the sights just is not possible in that area of town.)
When we reached central park we just kept riding and had reached the top and started heading south before I realized how far we had gone. Some of the people were tired so we laid in the grass and talked until some friends we had met earlier caught up. We bought lunch from a local grocery store and enjoyed it in the park. We finished the loop for central park and decided to ride the path next to the Hudson river. (Fairly new path that you don't have to worry about cross traffic.) By the time we reached 14th St. it was 3PM and the other people were tired so we decided to call it a day.
I would have to say, riding through NYC when it is uncrowded is so much more preferable to the subway but for normal days I would take the subway for safety reasons.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Disconnected from Society

While living in Oregon we had no TV. We sold it because it took up to much space and really we knew it would only be distracter from what we were really there for. Since moving to New York we have bought a new TV. But we bought more as a computer monitor and to watch movies, we have successfully not got back into the habit of watching TV. (Well not entirely true, but the shows we do watch such as "The Daily Show" are downloaded off the Internet.) This means we do not watch commercials. With both of us living less then 4 miles from work there really isn't a chance for that many radio commercials, and I haven't read newspapers in more than 10 years. Also, in the interest of security I have installed ad blocking software on both of our laptops so all the news we read on the internet is ad free. (Yes, websites are not always sure who they sell advertising space to and sometimes it is exploits.)
So this has lead to a real disconnect with what other people seem to already know. New movies just seem to appear in the theater, bands release albums, and movie stars check in and out of rehab; all with little knowledge or regard from me. However, I am bothered by a hard time finding local events. People talk about TV shows events and not only do I not know the current plot line, I hadn't heard of the show. While I feel no need to turn on the TV to do some commercial surfing I do find it funny how much commercials and media have become a part of our life.
This really hit home with the Olympics being on right now. I admit that I have lost interest in the Olympics when I saw first hand the corruption of the Olympic committee for the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics and then again when we were visiting China in 2001 before they had announced who was to be awarded the 2008 Olympics but they had already started to build the now famous stadium. Personally, I don't think it was worth the lives of people that froze over the last few winters because of the ban on coal burning for a quick fix to try to cut down on pollution. I think it might be worth something if it shined some light on the government but the IOC's blind eye to the government about-face on censorship and protests shows little hope for that (more corruption I'm sure). Now before I get off my soap box, the reality is that I have always been a believer in playing sports instead of watching them. So most likely that is the real reason for my discontent. I have always bristled at people people referring to "their" team. (No, you just pay them for expensive merchandise with their logo. As far as I know only the Green bay Packers can be "their" team because people own shares for them.) I just don't get the concept of the taking credit for other's work just because you watched. Be it "our team won" or "we won so many medals" it was them, you sat on the couch.
I have watched some of the Olympics while at the gym. I found it funny that when I was a kid it used to be all about the competition between USSR's and USA. Now it is all about China medals vs. USA and who has the most gold. The media always has to have a rivalry and it's funny that China's attempt at displaying their arrival as a world power might end up planting them in the psyche of Americans as the enemy.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

New York Renaissance Faire

Growing up in California, every summer you would hear about the Renaissance Faire on the radio. Now that we are living in New York it was weird to hear the same ad until I looked up the website and saw it was the same company that puts on the show in California, then packs it up and does the same thing in New York. I had never been to one and thought what the heck. It was kids get in free weekend so we brought two of L.'s cousins with us that were right at the age that they should find it fun.
When we got there we were surprised at how permanent all the buildings were. I guess I was expecting a lot of fake facades but they had built a whole village (It goes on for a month so I guess it is kind of required.) We got there when they opened so everyone was still congregated at the entrance. It was a little overwhelming with everyone giving their opening spiel. I'm sure it is similar to what it was like with the street merchants but we were happy to get past them and wander the more empty areas. We enjoyed talking with a black smith then watched the opening parade and Queen's morning address. It started what I think was the most interesting part of the whole thing. There were shows throughout the day but they all shared the same storyline so for instance, the person set free at the queens address begs to be in the afternoon jousting match which makes the sheriff angry and he attempts a coup at a human chess game later in the day, the rest of the time the sheriff and his men were wandering the streets looking for Robin hood.
So besides being able to watch the shows like jousting and chainsaw juggling (I know very renaissance, but he was a good comedian and our young cousin convinced us to go to his second show so he could see the water balloons and explosives.) there was also interactive things to do such as a maze and being able to swing all the real types of swords. I threw hatchets, one of the kids threw knives, the other darts, and we all tried to shoot arrows.
So all the activities were reasonable, usually $2 per activity. The food and drinks however made it easy to burn through money fast. I guess we are just not used to paying for others. The thing that did bother me though was the all the people talking with the fake British accent. To me fake accents are like fake tans, they make you seem muddled and annoyingly pretentious. I understand that this is some people's hobby and what they live for but there seems like there is a line between fan and obsessed. We heard that one couple had just spent $900 on clothes while there to get the right look. I guess to each their own. I guess I spend that much on all my hobbies combined each year.
It was huge and we ended up staying there for 6 hours and I don't feel like we were dragging at any time, but by the end our cousins were tired and fell asleep on the way home.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Visiting Playland

My wife and I had a strict rule. Friday night is our date night. It allows us in our mind to procrastinate anything we have to get done for the weekend. The problem being to try to come up with new ideas so we don't get stuck in the rut of just going to dinner and a movie.
This night my wife came up with the idea and we ended up going to Playland! There seem to be amusement parks like this everywhere. It's the county fair or street carnival that decided everything was to hard to pack up so they just stayed where they were. Entrance is free and you just pay for the rides; similar to what I am sure the "E" ticket was like at Disneyland. The funny thing is that when we moved here I saw Playland bumper stickers on all the cars. In California there is a company that makes playground equipment with the same name and logo. I had just assumed they had a factory out here too with a lot of enthusiastic employees.
We both have had a hankering for riding a roller coaster so we bought a $30 pass which allowed us 5 rides each. The house of mirrors ended up being a dud but the "Flying Witch" spook house was sufficiently corny to leave us laughing and confused about some of the hydraulic mannequins. The roller coasters were better. We got to go on a metal one that flipped up upside down in loops and an old wooden roller coaster that we just happened to go on at the right time to see the fireworks while riding. (For a small amusement park they had a surprisingly long firework show.) I would recommend watching a firework show from a roller coaster to everyone but it seems like it would take to much planning to do non-randomly. I even convinced her to go on a spinning ride and she didn't get sick. (She took dramamine before coming and I think that it helped that it was totally inclosed so everything she saw was spinning as well.)
Of course in the interest of having the full experience we had to have funnel cake and cotton candy. (we kept calling it sugar floss because of Tivoli Gardens.) We took our picture in the photo booth which really seemed silly since we both have camera phones but the pictures came out pretty good. She won at Skee-ball but I won at Whack-a-mole so I got to keep my manly pride by presenting her with a cheap stuffed animal. All in all, a fun date. I am sure we got some strange looks for acting like kids but that is the fun part.