Monthly Archives: May 2010

Feeling Hot Hot Hot!

Here I am in Sunny Florida, Having a great time.

I’ve always been a bit dismissive of the Disney Theme parks before. Why would anyone want to spend so much money wandering around a glorified Alton Towers?

I can safely say I was wrong, Alton Towers is nothing like Disney, and I don’t just mean you can’t compare them, they are totally different. Alton Towers is lots of rides all crammed in, each one promising more thrills than the last, this one will spin you round, that one will turn you upside down, the next one will turn you inside out. And once you’ve done that you can pay £10 for a soggy burger and a bag of chips and do it all again ;o)

Disney is nothing like that, The whole park is an experience not just the attractions, in fact it starts before then, how they manage to find bus drivers with the patience of saints, a sense of humour, and generous enough to hand out random toys to the kids is a marvel in itself. So an air conditioned bus from the Hotel to the gates of the parks…20-30 minutes. Hardly any queues. and as soon as you get in you can tell the whole thing has been thought out, and I don’t just mean to take your money off you.

In the whole time I’ve been in the parks I have only paid for food and an occasional toy. The food was not vastly overpriced, and was very good, I can safely say the burger I had from a little stall in Hollywood Studios put the efforts of British fast food places to shame. The Sesame Chicken Salad I had in Epcot was delicious, and the pulled BBQ pork sandwich and Taco salad we had in Magic Kingdom were divine.

On the subject of toys though……this is where it could be an issue. Yes, most rides do empty out into a shop of some sort, and there are things for sale everywhere, so it is to be expected that the boys will be “I want, I want…” and there will be demands for things…..well yes and no. The boys did want everything, but they were also so entertained with playing with everything in the shops, chasing characters around and generally being in awe of everything that they were easily distracted and only when they were waiting around for the parade and fireworks, or on the way out of the parks did they become obsessive.

I was surprised at the rides as well, here was I prepared for a multitude of spin you round, throw you about, flip you over things, but no. It’s all about the experience. The wildest things I went on were Splash Mountain (a log flume with a 50 ft drop) and Soarin’ (a “flight” simulator where you are hoisted into the air and then “flown” through various scenes accompanied by the smells…very impressive) both of these rides I was accompanying a 4 year old….so not exactly uberviolent, but very awe inspiring.

I caught the evening parade and fireworks in Magic Kingdom, and also the firework and laser show in Epcot, both very impressive, but wow, some people take Disney far too seriously.

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Men in Uniform and Crabs!

Yesterday we visited the quaint little town of Annapolis in Maryland. Some of you would recognise it from various films as it is where the Naval Academy is based, so Needless to say there is  a high proportion of young men walking around the streets in their Navy White Uniforms. It was a nice relaxed day, we sat on a dock of the bay, watched the tide roll away. then we watched the ships roll in, and also watched them toll away again…all with chilled beer and sunshine.

After wiping the drool from Marie’s chin, we set off for a little place called Cantlers. To say it would be hard to find if you didn’t know where it was is an understatement. It would be impossible. It’s tucked away at the end of a dead-end backstreet, which itself is off another backstreet. But we found it….and it was busy. We waited over an hour for a table outside, drinking chilled corona served with a slice of lime…..in a can…odd. When we finally got to sit down….wow. We started with a hald pound of Jumbo Shrimp….that was 6 of them, they were huge and delicious.

The the main reason we were there…..a dozen large Blue Crabs, freshly steamed. I’ve never eaten crab like that before, so it was an education, but I soon developed a knack of twisting legs, snapping shells, hammering claws and gouging meat. They were delicious, but I have to say a lot of effort for not much meat. You don’t eat crab like that because you are hungry, it’s a fun thing to do in the sun with a chilled beer. It’s a new skill I have learned, and one I think I will never forget, just hope I get to show it off at some point.

The journey home was pretty quiet, a moment of hilarity as we stopped for gas right next to a Dunkin Donuts….and who should be stood outside? yep, a cop…in fact there were five of them in there, oh the irony.

I also played the superhero part quite nicely too. As we were driving up the shore side road, the car in front of us slowed to a crawl and then swerve across lanes to avoid something large in the right hand lane…..turns out it was a turtle. We couldn’t leave it there to get squished, so I dived out and raced over to it whilst Andy held up traffic. Now I’ve never seen a turtle up close before, but I’ve seen a few on TV programmes…so as I approached I recognised the long tail and point beak. It wasn’t just any turtle, it was a Snapping Turtle, a moment’s hesitation on my part as I try to remember how I’d seen people pick them up, and what would be the safest way to shift it….meh, I can grow another finger if needs be. I grabbed it either side of the back of its shelf, hoisted it into the air and made my way quickly to the verge……and they do snap…..and they have long necks. He didn’t get me, but wow those jaws look powerful…the ungrateful swine. Surprisingly, as I was returning to the car, one of the overtaking vehicles slowed right down and actually shouted “thank you” to me, I had a lovely little warm feeling inside.

Food glorious food….

I am sat here typing this as any other option would involve standing up….and that just isn’t possible right now 😉

I have officially eaten too much.

Before I go to explain my current predicament, let me tell you about last night. Upon arriving in DC and fighting our way thorough traffic (ok so the taxi driver did that we sat and talked) we got home, freshened up and then headed out for a bite to eat. We strolled to a tiny little place in Alexandria called Hanks Oyster Bar, you can guess from the name what the speciality is.

I have eaten oysters before….at Scarborough, fresh caught north sea oysters. I like them, the texture is a bit slimy, but they taste like the sea smells….and I don’t mean like a rancid cess pool with sewage and crap floating in it 😉

On the board are listed 6 different kinds of oysters, which I know nothing about. So a phone call is put in to the local expert, the list recited and selections made. Andy was not having the oysters (wuss) quoting something about salty snot, but myself and Marie opted for 4 each, 2 Maple Point and 2 Cape May Oysters (I hope I have those right) which would represent oysters from each side of the US.  A couple of plates of shell on shrimp were ordered too and a nice pinot grigo to wash it down. When the food arrived it was pleasantly surprised, the shrimp were the size of your finger and there was loads of them, the oysters….mmmm…served on a bed of ice, 4 each side. I dug into said salty snot, selecting the one closest to me and swallowing it down. It was nice, and tasted different to how I remember the north sea ones tasting, it had more of a clean taste, but with slightly earthy tones. Then I tried one of the others, it tasted great if slightly saltier than the first one, I was surprised that what is  essentially the same creature can taste so different based on where it grew. When you think about it, it’s obvious that the composition of the water the oyster is found in will affect the characteristics of its flavour….but I’m pretty sure the oyster doesn’t see it that way. Alas Marie was not a fan of these ones so I had to work my way through 5 in total (what a shame) and given the number it meant I could try different sauces and see how the tastes compared. All in all they were excellent. Then of course there were the delicious juicy shrimp to finish off as well. mmmmm I was certainly a happy chappy as we strolled home last night.

So onto why I am finding it hard to move. As a birthday celebration I was taken  to a little place in DC called Fogo de Chao, a nice little Brazilian restaurant…with a little twist.

We sat at a table with curious little mats on, ordered a bottle of wine and then proceeded to the salad bar, I was advised not to load up my plate,but I figured a few olives, a bit of cheese, slice of bread and some lettuce…be fine.

So far so normal, things get a little weird when you want to order some meat though, none of this browsing a menu and selecting animal, cut and how you like it cooked. Remember the little mats I mentioned earlier…..one side is red, one side is green. As soon as you turn the mat to green a man appears at your side with a huge lump of meat on a sword and asks you how you like it cooked, he the slices a slab of said meat off for you.

At this point I can imagine people looking a little confused maybe even horrified, pictures of dodgy Donner kebab meat springing to mind, nothing could be further from the truth. Imagine taking a prime cut of sirloin, skewering it with a sword and then flame grilling it to perfection and then letting you select which bit of the meat you want……mmmmmmm

This doesn’t happen once though, oh no. So long as your little card is on green you will be approached by a number of men proffering their meat sword to you. Today I ate 4 different types of sirloin steak, a chicken leg, a chicken medallion wrapped in bacon, an absolutely gorgeous sausage, some lamb, and my favourite, 2 fillet mignon wrapped in bacon. Alas I had to leave some things as I was stuffed, when they took my plate away it still had a few olives, a bit of cheese,a  slice of bread and some lettuce on it.

The meat was cooked beautifully, all so tender and moist, and there was no end to it. Of course none of us can move now, so it will be an afternoon of rest and relaxation. At least until it’s time to go to the pub 😉

My morning…additional

Hmph, What is the point of having allocated seating if they don’t honour it?

I booked seat 5C for this mornings flight, thats the closest to the front I could get. I like sitting at the front, it means you get there sooner…..but BMI had a few problems this morning. So all reservations were “lost” so even though I  turned up, checked in and confirmed my seat….I didn’t get it, instead I was lumped to the back of the plane, it was a window seat and the person next to me didn’t turn up so it wasn’t too bad, but still, I wanted my nice seat. They also said that I hadn’t checked in for my Virgin flight, even though I was clutching a boarding pass in my hand at the time.

The flight was uneventful, we taxied, we took off, we flew for a bit and then we anded and taxied for a bit more. It always amusses me that as soon as the plane comes to a stop people dive out of their seats and grab their hand luggage….and then stand there like a lemon for 10 minutes waiting for the ground crew to secure everything and get the gate in place.

Anyway, we all disembarked, like rats in a maze we were funneled through narrower and narrower passages heading for the ultimate nirvarna known as… Flight Connections which is a little space with loads of check in desks. I made my way to the Virgin one, slightly concerned with the BMI reps claims, and sure enough, yes I’d checked in, and yes my bag was already winging it’s was towards the plane. Phew

So now I’m sat in the departure lounge of Heathrow T3, I have to say it’s nicer than Manchester, and it has one big advantage..It has a Yo Sushi. If you’ve read my previous blog you will know I am a fan of Yo Sushi and all it’s raw fish treats, so I thought, what the hell, I’m on holiday. I am now stuffed on raw tuna, salmon, yellowfin and rather large quantities of rice and wasabi….I pity the other passengers on the plane.

I love the idea of putting power points for the public in these places, I can sit here charging my mac so it will last longer on the plane….I would love to be able to charge my Ipod too, but as I only have to USB ports and the Dongle I’m using is stupidly wide I can’t plug both in at once.

I would also like to know who invented the seating for airports? It’s designed to look a little comfy if nothing else, and when you first sit down…it is comfy for a little while. Then things settle, the fat on your arse spreads a little, the muscles relax and take on the shape of the seat and you end up with the bones of your arse almost resting on solid something (currently wood effect something) I believe it’s a cunning ploy to make the seating seem inviting but make sure you don’t sit there too long 😦

There was an interesting scene in security. WHen you land at Heathrow and you are connecting to another flight you have to go through security again, even though you have had no access to the outside world. Didn’t bother me, I had it all sorted, although I did set off the Archways of Doom this time, even though I had nothing different on me, although I do believe he set it off deliberatley so he could talk about my tattoo. Anyway, I digress. In front of me there was an American lady (from Chicago to be precise…I can’t be any more precise on the lady bit though, sorry) she wore contact lenses, I know this because she had bought some contact lens solution from the chemist at Manchester airport departure lounge. She had also opened the sealed box to check if it was ok. Herin lies the rub… the bottle was 500ml, currently you’re not allowed to take anything more than 100ml in your hand luggage, I was entertained for more than a few minutes by the arguement that ensued. “but I bought it in the airport” “current legislation clearly states…” “They’ve let me do it before..” In the end the supervisor came and took her away so they could carry on scanning everyone else. oooo flight been called. I’m offski 😉

My morning

So here I am sat at the airport, coffee beside me, surrounded by people in various states of excitement…I even heard one girl actually go “Squeeeee”…I can do nothing until my flight is boarding, there is free internet and the coffee is good.

So what can I post at 6:30 in the morning? well the drive to the airport was great, over the tops as the sun was trying to rise, passing through the clouds, hardly a car on the road and good music on the stereo. It was a good drive and seemed to be over in the blink of an eye. It actually took an hour, which is 20 minutes shorter than google maps said it would, so that’s an extra 20 minutes to keep myself busy in an airport 😉

When I was booking this sojourn I looked at various options to get myself to the airport, train, taxi, hotel for the night, car parking. There were faults with them all, a train in the morning wouldn’t get me here on time. A taxi would be ludicrously expensive, same goes for staying in an airport hotel (there was a tiny one within walking distance of the airport, but it was full) so looks like I’d be driving. When I’ve been before we used one of those offsite car parks, and I was happy with the service, but not keen on the 15 to 20 minute coach trip to get me to and from the airport. At the front of my mind is that when I land back at Manchester all I’m going to want to do is get home, and having to sit on a coach and then queue up for my car keys does not sound appealing. So I ummed and Ahhed a bit, checked various websites until one day I got bored and started exploring all the different “more expensive” options for airport parking….and I was shocked. For a mere £5 more than the normal long stay car park I could use Valet Parking. I was a bit dubious as this was working out cheaper than the onsite longstay car park within walking distance of the terminal, but i got my credit card details in there sharpish and got myself booked in.

I am now a convert. How simple is it to turn up to the airport, bypass all the queues for the carpark as you have your own lane, pull into an empty little carpark, hand your key over to a gent and set off on the 30 second hike to terminal 2? Is fecking marvelous.

Now if I was departing from terminal 2 it would be excellent….but I’m not. I’m flying from terminal 3. Which is the other side of the airport, literally (ok so I didn’t have o dodge landing planes in a Die Hard 2 style, but that would have been fun) It was a 20 minute stroll from one to the other, and would have been longer if it wasn’t for the travelators. Now those astute ones of you may be shaking your head and wandering why I booked parking at T2 rather than T3. Well as I mentioned above, I was thinking of the Journey home.I;m not going to want to hike over to T3 after a long haul flight, or sit on a coach to the offsite parking. Nope, I shall roll off the plane, out the terminal and straight into my car, nice and easy…hopefully.

Went for the self check in option at a secluded little kiosk just as you walk in the airport…no problems, went in search of the bag drop, found it easy…was a little dismayed at the queue, until I realised they were all waiting to use the check-in kiosks by the bag drop, so I managed to skip past three-quarters of the queueing people. Now I’m travelling on my own, one bag, reasonably smartly dressed (for me anyway) and the bag drop is currently overrun by a very large group of people travelling together. Looks like I may be a while,  until one of the check in ladies clambers out from behind her Premium Check in desk, undoes the barrier and tells me to come over to her desk in stead….result. Entire queue skipped.

Next step security. I have never been through security without setting some alarm off or having to have my bag opened, but I think I must be getting wise to their ways. Contact lens solution already in a clear plastic bag (when did the airports start charging for them?) Macbook easily accessible to take out the bag, belt whipped off (thankfully my trousers didn’t fall down) and pockets emptied. So all my belongings in a couple of plastic trays I stand before The Archways of Doom. I’ve been here before, I know what they do, so I steel myself as I step forward. Well aware of the demons that inhabit these machines forcing humiliation upon travellers by spotting the safety pin in the hem of your trousers, or the penny you left in your pocket and shouting out to the whole world that your are a terrorist via the medium of klaxons and a multitude of flashing lights. then you are subjected to the ritual humiliation of standing, arms akimbo, whilst some pion wafts a paddle around you before waving you on to collect your things that have been sat for the scrutiny of everyone else. This time though, something is different, I approach the Archway of Doom, and I eye the line of Netherworld denizens on the other side, I can see them weighing me up, sly movements as they signal to each other which of them gets the pleasure of my humiliation. What happened next I can scarcely believe, I can only assume that Hermes was looking down on me. I stepped forth into the Archway of Doom, and….nothing. I was slightly stunned, I could see the look of disappointment flash across the faces of the heavies but my heart filled with a renewed feeling of justice I stride straight past them, their plan foiled, my pride carries me beyond their reach and I walk over to the end of the x-ray machine to collect my stuff. Of course they win a minor victory here, as I wasn’t searched I had to wait for my trays to come through, ah well, I claim the moral victory.

So that’s my morning so far, sat in an airport, typing away a lengthy and probably monotonous blog entry to pass the time.

Expect more, I’ll be doing this again at Heathrow. 😉

Physics and Idiots

I’m having a problem with one of the items on my list. Number 80- Do not get frustrated with stupidity for one day. My main problem is that I drive to work, and so therefore I encounter a plethora of stupid people before I even have to deal with the great unwashed public at work.

This morning for instance, I had an encounter before I’d even got on the motorway, and it blew the challenge out of the water for today. What really got my goat was that the person in question was annoyed at me, presumably because he thought I was tailgating him, when in reality I was just trying to stop running into him, of course one he saw me so close behind him he continued to travel at a ridiculous speed until he turned off.

Now I think this person was a twat and incorrect in his response to me being right behind him and I intend to prove so using elementary physics. (here comes the science part..concentrate)

So a few things we know about this incident….

My initial velocity (us ) was 40mph, which is approximately 18 metres per second (m/s).

(I appreciate that some of you may be going glassy eyed already, feel free to skip to the conclusion marked by a red asterisk)

The “twats” (T) final velocity (vT) was 20mph, and so therefore my final velocity (vs) was the same, this is approximately 9 m/s.

It took approximately 3 seconds from T pulling out of the junction to us being almost one car doing 20mph so ts (the time for me to stop myself hitting him) = 3 seconds.

As the other car had to manoeuvre out of the junction before accelerating to vT I will take tT o be 1.5 seconds.

The distance from myself to the junction was approximately 30m.

Now don’t be alarmed, I’m going to keep this simple. As I am just proving a point there can be quite a substantial margin of error. For instance, all the above velocities, distances and timings are approximate, and I shall be assuming linear acceleration rather than progressive acceleration to avoid having to complicate things with calculus. I shall be ignoring the effects of gravity, momentum and friction, and also the gradient of the road.

I shall be simply working out a hypothetical model based on a closed frictionless system to support my theory that the gentleman in the other car is indeed a twat and should be thankful he hasn’t got a whiplash claim on his hands.

So lets see now.

I went from 40mph (18 m/s) to 20mph (9m/s) in 3 seconds.

Using the formula Acceleration = Change in velocity/time taken for that change to occur (or as=(vs – us)/ts) we can enter the above data to find my acceleration:

as = (9 – 18)/3 = -3 m/s2

and using the formula s = ut + (at2)/2 to find the distance travelled by me in that time (ss) :

ss = usts + (asts2)/2

ss = 18x3 + (-3x32)/2

ss = 54 + (-27/2) = 40.5

So assuming a linear deceleration of 3ms-2 it would take me 40.5 metres to reach a velocity of 20mph. Now as I have said before I was 30m form the junction to start with so I would have been 40.5m – 30m = 10.5m past the junction when I reached the speed the twat was going.

* Now for a very important calculation, I need to find out the distance the other car was from the junction by the time it had reached 20mph, if it is greater than 10.5m then I was indeed tailgating the other car and they are justified in their rude hand gestures and bad driving. If it is equal to or less than 10.5m then the bloke was an idiot who can’t drive and physics has proven him a twat.

I shall use the formula s=(v+u)t/2 to calculate the distance the twat travelled before reaching 20mph.

sT = ((9+0)x1.5)/2 = 6.75m

There, proven! The guy was a twat. If it weren’t for gravity, calculus, friction, my reactions and the laws of physics he would have an Aygo shaped dent in the back of his crappy old escort.

Physics has proved him to be a twat of the highest magnitude, and therefore driving for 100m at 20mph in a 40 zone because he thought I was tailgating means I am justified in ranting at him and teaching him a few hand gestures that he didn’t know before as he was totally oblivious to other road users and is a danger to himself and everyone else..

Of course I encountered more numpties on the journey, so I still wouldn’t have completed my challenge, but it feels good to be proven right.