Monday, May 24, 2010

Six Flags Great Adventure

The funny thing about buying tickets is that they were much cheaper to buy online. There were no cutoff dates or limitations so I am not quite sure why they had such a large discount ($40 total saved) just to have shorter lines to get in. I wasn't going to complain though since it allowed us to get tickets, parking, and meal vouchers for cheaper than we could have bought them at the park.
Upon arriving, the first ride that we saw didn't have a line so why not go on it. We both had been to Six Flags Magic Mountain and some of the rides were the same but the Harry Houdini ride was not one of them. It had a similar start as the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland where there is a recorded voice telling a story as the room fills. Growing up around Disneyland and Magic Mountain I had listened to these recorded scripts for as long as I could remember so it was a new experience to hear everyone else talking along with the recording but I had no idea what it would say next.
The newest, biggest, fastest ride in the park was Kingdom Ka. We were there early enough that we walked right up to the individual lines for each seat. Because of this we decided to go for the very front. We were the first people in line when there was a malfunction and they had to check over the whole roller coaster. We didn't want to leave so ended up waiting for around an hour. I think it was actually worth it. Basically it shoots the train straight up a vertical track, turns around and then straight back down until terminal volocity speed is hit. At this point both L.'s and my eyelids were flapping in the wind which made for a weird sensation. I gotta say I don't remember the last time I felt any sense of fear on a roller coaster but I felt it cresting the top of the track and heading straight down from so high. Skull mountain was pretty crappy dark ride but I am guessing this was one of the original rides so in those terms the props were pretty good. Bizarro was supposedly a repainted older roller coaster (Medusa) but since I hadn't been on it, it was new to me. Superman was quite fun and it did a good job of swooping.
Lunch was interesing since we had to use our food vouchers. Because of the discount it made our lunch about the same price as a lunch at a Mall and the quality of deep fried fast food. The problem we had was finding the right restaurant that would honor the coupons. From there we went right back to the roller coasters.
Since I grew up with Six Flags Magic Mountain and was very familiar with the rides there going on the same (or similarly engineered) rides made me feel like we were back in California a little. I knew it wasn't exactly the same but "Runaway Mine Train" felt like Gold Rusher. The Great American Scream Machine was the same as Viper so it brought back memories. "Batman - The Ride" felt the same as, well, Batman. Nitro reminded me of Riddler's revenge but with the smoothness of Goliath. Batman - Dark Knight was a crappy ride that felt like it was a compact carnival roller coaster (It actually felt like they used the track from "Flashback") - jerky and tight turns but it was in all in the dark so you could not even prepare for it. The one kind of ride that we didn't have any desire to ride was the wooden rollercoasters. I have just had to much whiplash to want to go on any more.
For the drive home I knew there was a way to drive home without crossing over into New York and also not go way out of our way. Our GPS was no help since it would always suggest crossing over the George Washington Bridge even though it always has at least an hour of traffic on it. We found the right road (It is the last off ramp before the bridge) and it was hidden so it explains why it is so hard to find.

Friday, May 21, 2010

facebook and privacy

Right now there have been a lot talk about privacy because facebook recently changed their privacy policy and made most things public. I feel pretty strong about this since the problems are not obvious. (Not to mention that the CEO of facebook had private pictures exposed which he didn't want to be since they were quickly hidden.) To add to this the CEO of Google recently said "There is no need for privacy for anyone that has nothing to hide." I find this shocking since, of course, he keeps his life pretty private. So it obvious that they do not practice what they preach.
Both companies use the argument of don't put it on the Internet if you don't want everyone to see it. The problem being that both companies make their profit by people putting to much information on the Internet so I feel they are disingenuous since they want to keep track of as much info as everyone as possible.
The real problem is with more and more life being lived online. Unlike real life past actions on the Internet sticks with you forever. Luckily my childhood is pre Internet but kids growing up right now can have their childhood haunt them. (And yes every child does stupid stuff that they learn from.) Even adults have changing opinion over the years. Having every opinion tied back to you could cause problems later (and is the reason why a lot of stuff and names are vague here.)
Using information from the Internet can create new types of theft too. Most cell phone cameras post GPS locations of the photo taken. with websites like flickr having image recognition all a burglar has to do is search for what they want on flickr, take the GPS coordinates from the picture, wait until the person posts on foursquare that they are away from home then stop by their house. Other people might just want to track when the parents are out but the kids are home. As someone that works with trying to advance technology every day I know this seem hypocritical but I just don't think that society is able to keep up with how the Internet is changing social interaction.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Turkish baths

L. was already in the city for a conference so I decided to come down so we could do something. We decided since we had not been to the Whitney museum to go there. It has more "out there" modern art than even MOMA has. After that on a whim we bought swimsuits at Daffys to go to the Turkish baths. After we changed and been in a few of the different steam rooms and saunas one of employees pushed thier services and we decided to go with the oak leaf massage that was more like a beating. After streching all your muscles they use a soapy wad of leaves bound together to whack against all of your skin to open your pores. It felt good, but the main reason we decided to do it was as a one time thing.
Some of the other interesting things they have are a shower in one of the saunas. The shock between hot and cold felt good. But the most shocking was in the hottest room (The Russian Room). There was a large stone basin with a constant flow of cold water and buckets. A cold bucket of water over the head feels amazing in the heat. My favorite steam room had eucalyptus oil added to the steam. It felt like it opened my whole chest. There was a cold pool to wade in. As hot as the saunas and steam rooms were the shock of the cold pool was even more shocking and I could only wade in a couple of times.
When we left the warm spring air felt like it was blowing right through us. We walked over to St. Marks and found a Thai restaurant with fresh veggies and meat. After all the sweating the fresh food tasted just like what we needed.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ship Graveyard

I had read all about this ship graveyard through some website that covered all the abandoned buildings of New York City. Something about it interested me. I was able to find pictures everywhere of these old army boats that were bought to be dismantled for scrap but had sunk into the mud enough for it not to be profitable. Now it was to expensive to tow away so it was an attraction to kayakers since the junk yard wouldn't let pedestrians through the gate.
As long as we stayed in our kayaks we were in the Hudson river and therefore not trespassing. Since this is the closest to legal problems I've ever been for a kayaking trip I wanted to make sure to research everything. I researched the perfect launching site, just across the river where it would be easy to put into the water. I mapped the tide so that it would carry us there as it went out and carry us home as the tide came in. I looked on satellite pictures on Google Maps to get the lay of the land. I looked up all the ships number on wikipedia so that I knew a little history of how each of the ships ended up there.
That day it was pretty windy but I was excited and had paddled on windier so I didn't think to much of it. My co-worker was very much more a beginner paddler. I got blown across river once out in river. The land on the New Jersey side had shielded just how strong the wind really was. At first my friend got stuck in the middle of the river which isn't good because it was only a matter of time before a barge came through. Then when we got blown across the river he didn't know how to keep his distance from a fence surrounding the old landfill and got pinned about against it by the wind. He just used his arms to pull himself along the barrier fence with me yelling (and I guess him not hearing) that he would tire himself out faster that way. When we got to the ships he was exhausted but it was low tide exactly as I had planned. The problem with that was that all the water was gone and the ships were sitting in mud.
We tied off the kayaks to an exposed ship spar and went for a walk across the mud. We took some pictures and found how to tell the difference between soft and hard mud but not before my friend had sunk up to point that his legs no longer showed. He said he was to tired to paddle back across in the wind. so we carried his kayak up through trees and reeds, past the landfill to the road. (I was actually familiar with which road it was because I studied the satellite pictures of it while looking for a launch site.
With him waiting in the woods by the road I headed back out on the other kayak to cross the river. I paddled as hard as I could and when I got to the half way point across I looked up stream and saw a huge barge coming right for me. I knew that if I headed back then I would have a hard time to get enough strength to head back out. So I gave it all I had and got to the other side of the river past the safety of an old pier before the barge passed.
I tied my mud covered kayak to the top of the car and drove across the bridge to staten island and found my friend waiting all from memory of studying the maps. (I had left him with my iPhone since he hadn't brought his phone and his phone in the car didn't have a GPS built in.) On the drive home we disagreed about how much our live were really in perl. I feel like even writing down this story it seems a little over exaggerated, but my friend felt his life was in danger. I just know that no matter how much you plan paying attention to the current weather and tide is more important than what you planned.
The real kicker was that I got sick. I broke out in rashes that I can only guess are from no-see-um bites. I find this more distressing than anything since I really don't find the Hudson river to clean (I made sure to shower well when I got home.) but also we were paddling and walking through the mud next to an old landfill so those bugs had to be carrying to extra chemicals when they bit my legs. The weird part is that my friend didn't get a bite on him but I had splotches all up both my legs. Maybe the mud helped disguise his legs to the insects.