Friday, January 29, 2010

Burning Man

The best way I can describe Burning Man is that it’s like a combination between Las Vegas and Woodstock. And the saying, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” applies directly to this situation as well. What happens at Burning Man is mainly up to those who attend, though the event has ten core principles everyone must follow:

1. Inclusion- Anyone who can afford a ticket can come.
2. Gifting- Rather than using any currency, participants are encouraged to partake in a gift economy or sort of potlatch.
3. Decommodification- No money transactions are allowed except for a few vendors, purchasing fuel, or donating to the select charities.
4. Self-reliance- With the event’s remote surroundings, attendees are responsible for their own subsistence.
5. Self-expression- This is accomplished through art and various projects. Clothing is optional and public nudity is common.
6. Communal effort
7. Civic responsibility- Everyone is part of a civil society in which laws are obeyed.
8. “Leave no Trace”- Attendants strive to leave the area in better condition than when they left it.
9. Participation
10. Immediacy- Participants are encouraged to be active in the festivities and explore those around them as well as their inner selves.

Held in the Black Rock Desert, a dried out lake bed, the proceedings start on the Monday before and end on the American Labor Day. While in 2008 it was estimated that 49,600 people attended, this craze-fest originally began as a bonfire ritual on the summer solstice in 1986. Creators Larry Harvey, Jerry James, and a few friends met on Baker Beach in San Francisco to burn a 9 foot tall wooden man and smaller wooden dog.

Black Rock City is the temporary area built for the festival. After the event is closed, about 90% will be destroyed where it lies. Interestingly enough, most of the city’s layout and infrastructure is created by the Public Works Department. The developed portion of the city is arranged in a series of concentric streets in an arc composing two-thirds of 1.5 mile diameter circle. In the center stands the tall man waiting to be burned on the last night.

If you would like to see a list of events sponsored by the Burning Man Regional Network in your area, click here.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Pat's vs Geno's

There’s a war going down in Philadelphia. While this area may hold rank as the “City of Brotherly Love”, there’s an underlying struggle waiting to break forth unto the national scene. Or perhaps, it already has.

Although not associated with inventing much in the world of food, there’s one tasty delight that bares the city’s name proudly; the Philly Cheesesteak. And two long time rivals claim to have the best in town.

For those of you who’ve never had a cheesesteak sandwich before let me break it down for you. You have your thinly sliced pieces of steak covered in melted cheese in a roll (That’s it.). Philadelphians Pat and Harry Oliveri are often credited with creating the sandwich when they started serving chopped-up steak on hoagie rolls in the early 1930s. The item became so popular that Pat opened his own restaurant still operating today as Pat’s King of Steaks. Yet his supremacy was soon challenged.

In 1966, Philadelphian Joe Vento opened Geno’s Steaks specializing in the now popular cheesesteak sandwich. The two restaurants are located right across from each other at the intersection of 9th Street and Passyunk Avenue. While the two eateries have similar menus, there methods of production vary. Pat’s chops up its meat, Geno’s does not. Also, Pat’s sandwiches noticeably contain more meat and use melted Cheez Wiz, while Geno’s sandwich meat is tenderer and uses generic cheese.

Did you know?- Geno’s claims to sell up to 4,500 sandwiches daily!

I want to know…If you’ve had a cheesesteak sandwich from both of these venues, which one is better and why? Leave a comment below.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Siberian huskies

With my mother operating a dog training business, I have slowly been transformed into a dog-lover. At the moment, our family has five dogs; four border collies (Xena, Rambo, Spice, and Thriller) and one bi-black sheltie (Whip). Currently, she picks dogs that will hopefully be good at the dog sport ‘agility’. Our dogs are considered work animals and this idea has led me to decide that if I ever get a dog it would be one with a working-class origin. And while I am against the domestication of animals as pets, when I break down and get a puppy for myself, there’s no doubt it’ll be a Siberian husky.

A medium sized working breed, originating out of eastern Siberia, this class of Husky is easily recognized by their thickly-furred double coat, sickle tail, erect triangular ears, and distinct markings. They are active, energetic, and extremely resilient to the cold. The breed was imported to Alaska during the Nome Gold Rush to be used as sled dogs but is now mostly seen as family pets and show-dogs. They can come in any color and can grow to be 60 pounds.

Did you know?- On February 3, 1925, Gunnar Kaasen was first in the 1925 run to Nome to deliver diphtheria serum from Nenana over 600 miles away. This group effort comprised of several sled dog teams and mushers inspired the creating of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race which reenacts that faithful run. In honor of this lead dog, a bronze statue was erected at Central Park in New York City. On it is inscribed:
Dedicated to the indomitable spirit of the sled dogs that relayed antitoxin six hundred miles over rough ice, across treacherous waters, through Arctic blizzards from Nenana to the relief of a stricken Nome in the winter of 1925. Endurance--fidelity--intelligence

In 1930, the last Siberians were exported as the Soviet Union closed the land’s borders to external trade.

Did you know?- In 1933, Navy Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd brought about 50 Siberian Huskies with him on an expedition around the 16,000-mile coast of Antarctica. Labeled ‘Operation Highjump’, the journey proved the worth of the Siberian husky due to its compact size and greater speeds.

The dog’s coat is comprised of two layers: a dense undercoat and a longer topcoat of short, straight guard hairs. With this combination, the breed is able to withstand temperatures as low as −60 °C (-76° F). They are quite affectionate with people, but extremely independent and stubborn and get bored easily. So while they’re not suited to live in an apartment, if you have lots of wide open space and time to play, the two of you will form a loving relationship.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cooper's Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake

There is a lot of worthless crap out there, and I’m not just talking about the Snuggie. There may be hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of what basically is a backwards robe sold in the U.S. But this latest installment of infomercial fever is absolutely absurd.

Now don’t get me wrong, if the product truly produces the results you see on the commercial, it’s a great idea. I can just see thousands of people getting this to lose their neck fat rather than trying to look younger. (You may have gotten rid of that double chin but your muffin top isn’t that easy on the eyes either.) Perhaps the only thing more stupid would be chasing a block of cheese down a 45° hill…WHAT?

The Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake is an event held every year on the Spring Bank Holiday at Cooper’s Hill near Gloucester, England. The event is basically what I described; a round block of cheese is released from the top of a hill as contestants race after it. The first person to cross the finish line at the bottom wins the event along with the block of cheese. Though competitors are aiming to catch the cheese, since it has a one second head start and reaches speeds up to 70 mph (112 Km/h), anyone trying is out of luck.

While the origin of the event is unclear, people believe the festivity may date back to Roman times. The cheese itself is not bought at the local market but is a block of Double Gloucester, a hard cheese made named after the nearly extinct breed of cow its milk comes from. Since 1988, the cheese has been supplied by local cheesemaker Diana Smart.

the 'Cheese Master'

Did you know?- With the introduction of rationing in World War II, the race used a wooden replica with a hollow in the center where a smaller piece of cheese was placed from 1941 to 1954.

The fun part of these races is waiting for someone to injure themselves which doesn’t take long. Afflictions range from sprained ankles to broken bones to concussions. The large numbers of injuries have made the local first aid service, St. John Ambulance, a regular in attendance along with a volunteer rescue group that carries those who don’t reach the bottom.

Due to its growing popularity, more than one race is held to accommodate all contestants. In 2005, one race had to be delayed because all the ambulances were transporting casualties from the previous run to the hospital.

I want to know…If you could chase anything down a hill what would it be? Leave a comment below.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Cedar Point

There are a lot of events that lead me to the lifestyle I’ve chosen. But as far as my need for adventure, there is one happening that clearly started it all. It was a trip I took to Cedar Point junior year of high school that put the wheels in motion for what I must honestly say has been an almost spiritual experience.

Cedar Point is a 364-acre amusement park located in Sandusky, Ohio on a little peninsula jutting into Lake Erie. But saying Cedar Point is merely an amusement park does not do it justice. It holds the record for most roller coasters (17) and as of 2008 has 75 rides which is more than anywhere else in the world. The area also consists of a mile long beach, an outdoor and indoor waterpark (Soak City and Castaway Bay respectively), two marinas, and Challenge Park; a fun center which contains activities like go-kart racing and miniature golf.

Did you know?- Cedar Point has been voted “Best Amusement Park in the World” by Amusement Today for the past eleven years!

Opened in 1870, the park is the second oldest in North America. During the 1860s the peninsula’s indigenous landscape was replaced with housings for four artillery pieces to guard access to the Confederate POW camp on nearby Johnson’s Island. After the Civil War, the area returned to use as a public picnic area until Louis Zistel, a German immigrant, bought the land.

While I could fill an entire book describing every turn on every ride, I’ve selected the three most popular rides to wet your whistle.

#3- Raptor

Opened in 1994, the Raptor was the first steel inverted roller coaster to incorporate a “cobra role” in its design. While the Golden Ticket Awards rewarded it at 22nd place for best steel coaster in the world for 2009, this ride is too nostalgic to pass up.


• 137 feet high
• 57 mph max speed
• 119 foot drop
• 100 foot loop
• 2 cobra rolls
• Zero-g roll
• 2 corkscrews

#2- Millenium Force

Longest steel coaster in the United States coming in at 6,595 feet. The Millenium Force has been ranked number one in Amuesment Today five times since 2001, and has never been lower than 2nd since opening in 2000.

Did you know?- After 2007, the Millenium Force had given out more than 12 million rides!


• 310 feet high
• 300 foot drop
• 93 mph max speed

#1- Top Thrill Dragster

Opened in 2003, Top Thrill Dragster is a steel, hydraulically-launched roller coaster coming in at 420 feet tall. The tallest in the world, it has only been surpassed in speed by Kingda Ka at Six Flags Resort. This ride accelerates you to 120 mph in only 3.8 seconds!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Overlook Hotel

If you love reading novels, you no doubt like a good thriller every now and then. And there’s no one better at writing thrillers than the king of scary, Stephen King. (See what I did there, I made a joke.) You may have read some of his later works like the Cell series, but if you’re a true fan you’ve read the book that put him on the map; The Shining. And if you want to understand the insane and demented that is his book, you need to visit the place that inspired King’s greatest work.

The Overlook Hotel firstly is a fictional place. Actually known as the Stanley Hotel, this renowned building is claimed to be the most popular hotel in all of the Rockies. A 138-room Georgian in Estes Park, Colorado, its construction is responsible by Freelan O. Stanley of the famous Stanley Steamer Company.

Opened in 1909, its rooms have hosted countless numbers of celebrities including the Titanic survivor Margaret Brown, John Philip Sousa, Theodore Roosevelt, and the Emperor and Empress of Japan. The Stanley Hotel is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

While still a prestigious hotel, since The Shining’s releasing it has incorporated its newfound stardom into its everyday workings. For a simple fee of $15.00 per person, a group of 25 can be guided through the building’s seasoned halls looking for remnants of a world long gone. You will even be led into the book’s acclaimed Room 217 where the novel first takes off and the core of the book’s plot was created. However, you must be 5 years of age or older to enter.

Did you know?- The hotel shows the uncut R-rated version of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining continuously on Channel 42 on guest room televisions.

The notion of the hotel being haunted is not just founded in King’s work, but in the history of the surrounding land. Stanley built his masterpiece on land purchased from the English Earl, Lord Dunraven. Dunraven came to the area in 1872 while on a hunting trip. During his stay he built a hunting lodge, cabin, and hotel for his guests. He also illegally homesteaded up to 15,000 acres in an unsuccessful attempt to create a private hunting preserve. The Earl was finally run out of the area after trying to swindle folks out of their land and money.

Throughout the hotel’s one hundred year history, many supernatural happenings have been reported. Workers and guests have commented on hearing the piano in the Ballroom being played when no one is present. Employees believe that it is Mr. Stanley’s wife playing.

Although Room 217 is thought of as the epicenter of the appearances, rooms 407 and 418 have shown the most supernatural activity. Room 407 is said to sometimes be occupied by Lord Dunraven himself. Reportedly, he likes to stand in the corner of the room near the bathroom door. While Room 418 occupants have reported seeing a man standing in their room and then running into the closet. Others have said they saw someone standing in the middle of there room and then just disappearing.

Supposedly this pictures shows a boy standing at the window when the room was vacant.

In fact, it is believed the entire 4th floor is haunted with the sound of children playing in the halls being heard on a few occasions even though there were no children present

Did you know?- The Stanley Hotel has been the scene for many a Hollywood movies, most notably as "Hotel Danbury" in my favorite comedy of all time, Dumb and Dumber.

I want to know…Do you believe in the supernatural? Or perhaps just ghosts or spirits? Leave a comment below and TRY TO KEEP RELIGION OUT OF IT!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Card Throwing

A while ago I described a method in which you could protect yourself with the ninja star. But let’s say that you want to start off with something a little less damaging. You know, perhaps something that won’t chop your finger off in the art of throwing it. Well just pull out a pack of playing cards and practice wording off your enemies.

Card throwing is the art of throwing standard playing cards. This practice finds its origins in Western stage magic as well as in Eastern martial arts legends and movies.

Did you know?- Rick Smith, Jr. holds the Guinness World Record for longest card throw at 216 feet and 4 inches, reaching a speed of 92 mph!

Earlier magicians would use thicker items known solely as throwing cards that were similar to modern business cards. Their increased mass and customized shape allowed them to be thrown farther and faster resulting in greater force upon impact. Ultimately, this allowed the performer to penetrate thick objects and put on a more entertaining show.

Word of mouth eventually led to the myth that a playing card cold kill. The theory was put to the test on the Discovery Channel’s MythBusters where the myth was busted. It was confirmed that playing cards lack enough mass to transfer sufficient energy to their targets on impact. Even when accelerated by an electric motor to over 150 mph, a card was barely capable of inflicting a paper cut.

Now that you’ve been briefed, let’s get to the fun part; throwing cards! Below I have described the two most popular throwing techniques, though there are countless variations out there.

Jay throwing technique

This technique was created by stage magician, actor, and writer Ricky Jay. His 1977 book, Cards as Weapons, showcases his technique. It involves gripping the middle of the card horizontally between the thumb and the middle finger, while the index finger rests on the corner of the card nearest the hand and away from the body.

The wrist is cocked inward at 90° then flicked briskly outward propelling the card. For distance and power, one adds motion of the forearm bending at the elbow straight outwards from a 90 degree angle simultaneous to the flicking motion of the wrist.

For a more detailed look at Jay’s method, click here to see an actual excerpt from Cards as Weapons.

Thurston grip

Howard Thurston was one of the first performers to introduce card throwing in Western stage acts. In his grip, the card is gripped between the first and second fingers, usually of the left hand. This grip is recommended for beginners because it is very consistent.

I don’t know if the video below is fake or not, but if it’s true then I’m truly afraid of someone armed with cards. Watch Ricky Jay chop a pencil in half with the flick of his wrist!

I want to know…With the invention of superheroes, there have been many villains and good-guys alike that have possessed the ability to throw seemingly ordinary objects with deadly precision. If your ability was to kill with playing cards, what would your superhero name be? Leave a comment below.