Monday, 30 August 2010

Thorpe Park

August 28 - August 29

Saturday, Steve and I went to Thorpe Park. First we went to Waterloo Station and got on the National Rail toward Staines. I saw an interesting looking building as the train left the station, which I Wikipedia-ed and found that it was Strata SE1 (informally known as The Razor).
We got to the park a little bit early so we were forced to wait in a fairly long line to get tickets. Once inside, the first coaster we went for was called Stealth, which I will describe later. On the way, we crossed a bridge and got a very pretty view.
Then we saw one of those raft rides that huge splashes, only this splash was huger than any I (or you) have ever seen. The water from this splash could be felt over a football field away. Anyway, we got to Stealth and it was closed down. Next we headed to Nemesis Inferno. Nemesis Inferno was an inverted coaster that could best be described as short but sweet.
Then we headed to Colossus, a steel coaster with 10 INVERSIONS, five of which are barrel rolls, four of which are consecutive. Now, I have had a pulled neck muscle for about 10 days at this point so this ride BEAT THE CRAP OUT OF ME. That being said, it was a very fun ride.
Oh, I'm sorry. Do I have 10 INVERSIONS?
"Do a barrel roll!" - Peppy
Next we went to Saw: The Ride, which was themed to the movie Saw. In the line, I got so bored that I started taking pictures of the ominous Saw sky. I think the mood speaks for itself.
 In terms of theming, this ride could not be beat. There were torture contraptions all over the place. There was a corpse, and during the ride, you get a blood splatter on you (or Steve did anyway). This wound up being my second favorite ride of the day.
His most dastardly plot yet.

Next we went on The Slammer, which was one of the most extreme flat rides I had ever been on. It was essentially a double-sided fly swatter. This ride was excellent except that when you I went backwards and ended up on my back, I felt kind of sick. Anyway, in case you are having a hard time picturing this contraption, here it is.
It's like swatting at the floor with a fly attached to the swatter.
We then noticed that Stealth was open and headed toward it. We ended up in a huge line (after waiting 2 hours, we realized we could have done the single rider line in about 10 minutes), though it provided for interesting sites. I should mention that there were gardens and green spaces all over the park, even in the queue for this primarily Jaws-themed ride. Stealth is a launch coaster that launches you at 80 mph, sending you upward 205 feet in the air. Then you go down and over a short hill. If think that this sounds suspiciously like Kingda Ka (same track layout, 456 feet tall, 128 mph), you are right.
FEAR 45% of Kingda Ka's height and FEAR 63% of its speed.
The queue actually took us under the track... RIGHT UNDER the track. I would never be able to get these shots in the States.
Anyway, Stealth was good but not great, definitely not worth 2 hours but definitely worth 10 minutes.

Onto my favorite ride, Rush, a screamin' swing (a really big f*ing swing). I cannot describe the feeling I get on it but it is incredible. I rode a slightly higher and better version at Cedar Point, but this is still now one of my favorite flat rides of all time. Here is what it looks like.
Wheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!! And no push required.
After Rush, we went on X:/No Way Out. That was not a typo. We think the ride is supposed to be themed to some kind of computer virus. This coaster went backwards the whole time, which made me really, really sick. It also stopped at various points and kind of jerked backward then forward (repeat a few times), which made me even sicker. I would not go on that again. I have no pictures because it was indoors and it was almost pitch black.

After this Steve and I went to a claw machine and got a Luigi for him (he needed one because they are apparently kind of uncommon in the U.S.). The battle with the claw machine was epic but we eventually won.

The next ride we went to was a kid's ride called Mr. Monkey's Banana ride. It was a swinging pirate ship ride except replace the pirate ship with a banana. It was kind of cute though.
C'mon kids. Ride Mr. Monkey's banana.
Next was a log flume, Logger's Leap, which was themed to a stereotyped Canada. You read that correctly. There was a song playing in the queue about trees and rocks. In case you think you know this song and think it is a song by The Arrogant Worms, you are wrong. This song ACTUALLY glorified trees and rocks for 4 minutes. Here are some lyrics I remember.

"Trees and rocks and rocks and trees and trees and rocks and rocks and trees..."

"Miles and miles and miles and miles of treeeeeeeees..."
"Piles and piles and piles and piles of rooooooooocks..."

I don't have any pictures of the ride but there was a fun challenge on it (prompted by a sign): see how many bears (fake) you can find. We found 2.

For the end of the day, Steve rode Colossus again (I sat out because of my neck). Then he rode The Slammer again (I sat out because it made me sick). Finally we both rode Rush again (I enjoyed it more than him).

We exited the park and passed over that bridge again, so I looked at the other side.
Afterward we got on the train and set off. When coming into the station, we saw the top of the London Eye was glowing. So we went to check it out.
Sunday was exceptionally disappointing. We went to the Notting Hill Carnival, only to find that it was basically a giant block party... for hundreds of blocks. I'll summarize Sunday with this.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

The Phallus, The Balls, and The Espresso Machine (Week 1)

August 23 - August 26

After observing the title, before you ask, no kinds of activities involving the human-versions of the title's components occurred this week (by that I mean yes, I am not talking about human balls or a human phallus). Class dominated my time this week, but let me establish one thing: here is my classroom...
My classroom is better than your classroom.
Yes, I have class everyday in a room with freakin' chandeliers. Just look at this ceiling.
This classroom is an ADD nightmare.
And in case you are wondering what the outside looks like (you probably aren't), here it is.

Monday dealt mostly with syllabi. We had senior design, which scares the crap out of me. Yes, even the syllabus scares the crap out of me. That was pretty much it for that day (don't worry it gets better tomorrow).

On Tuesday, our first class, theater, was at 9:00 AM and sounds fantastic, we get to go see a play virtually once a week, and most of the plays are contemporary, which is good news for me, because I tend to dislike the older plays. The came lunch, which was cool because a got to see the student lounge, which rules. The have so many good movies... on VHS, but that's okay. VHS never hurt anybody, even thought I probably won't have time to watch a single one. Next class was Pillars of a Global Society, which, if I can be honest, does not sound like it is going to agree with me. I'm just saying. Lunch, view movie selection, head to next class, which is... oh great... Pillars of a Global Society. However, this class we got to go on a field trip through Soho.

We were given little headsets so that we could hear our professor as he guided us through. Throughout the whole trip, my headset kept making this horrible scratchy, static sound that were LOUD AS HELL. I took my earphones off for half of the trip. As I figured out 3 minutes before the tour ended, my shirt had been repeatedly cranking the volume all the way up (since the transmitter was on my belt buckle). We reached Carneby Street, which you apparent MUST have heard of if you are above the age of 50. We were assured that in the 60's this was simply THE place to be, but...

... I'm just not seeing it.
Finally we got to the heart of the field trip, the Broad Street Pump...'s replica... that's not in the right spot. I am downplaying how cool it was to finally be at the site where the 1854 cholera outbreak started. After reading about this thing in 3 DIFFERENT NOVELS, it was actually pretty cool to just see it. There was small problem with the replica (besides being 20 feet displaced from the original, which is forgivable)...
... the Brits just have this penchant for sitting on EVERYTHING.
We also got to see the John Snow pub, which is named after the man who first postulated that cholera was waterborne and who single-handedly, through investigative brilliance and dogged determination, solved the case of the 1854 cholera outbreak. There is now a pub 50 feet or so from the pump replica in honor of Dr. John Snow. I should mention that Snow was most certainly in no way heavily assisted by Reverend Henry Whitehead's discovery of how the cholera got into the well...
... which is why Henry Whitehead doesn't get a pub...
... though to be fair, John Snow is a much better name for a pub.
That was the end of our tour. On the way back I ran into a tall building that I'm pretty sure has no significance.
 Then we got to see (from a distance) the BT Tower.
What the hell are those circle things?
That night, Steve, Michelle, and I were in the common room and just SO tired. We got to that giggly-tired stage and Michelle mentioned something about a homeopathic hospital nearby, and for some reason I heard homophobic hospital, which didn't seem to make any sense. Anyway, seconds later as I am reading my London: Free & Dirt Cheap book, I open up to the index and the first thing I read about is a bar called Balls Brothers. Granted we are collage kids and thus immature, something about the homophobia and the homeopathy and the Balls Brothers just made us all crack up. I did not put this paragraph here for no reason.

Wednesday, my favorite day of this school week, started out with art and architecture. After talking about some administrative business (syllabus, etc.) for like 10 minutes, we decided to go on a field trip for the next 2.5 hours. We went to The City of London, which is an approximate square mile of London that is significant because it represents the core of historical London for a LONG time. It is now the modern financial district, which means there were lots of buildings to see.

First, we saw the Lloyd's Building, which looks ridiculous. The building was designed by architect Richard Rogers, who thought that this inside-out style would be the future of architecture. Never mind that all the exposed pipes and ducts make the build SUPER-inefficient. However, I personally think it is kind of cool looking.
Pictured: the future of architecture
However, disgruntled locals who do not share my correct opinion hate this building. The think it is an eyesore. To emphasis their viewpoint, they nicknamed the building The Espresso Machine.

Next we got to see one of my favorite buildings in terms of aesthetics and function. Designed primarily by architect Norman Foster, 30 St. Mary Axe (also known as The Gherkin or the Swiss Re Building) is in my opinion, one of prettiest modern buildings, and it is very environmentally friendly, using about half the energy of other buildings that are the same size. However, I cannot do it justice with just words, but I really only got two good shots of it. Here they are.
While much a higher percentage of people are pleased with the Gherkin than the Lloyd's Building, there are still some dissenters. They refer to the building as The Crystal Phallus, a clever and witty pun on The Crystal Palace. This picture from the Internet will let you see the building in its entirety, and it will also highlight my problem with the nickname of The Crystal Phallus...
... never mind. It clearly looks like a penis (there is even a clearly defined head).
Finally, after looking at 30 St. Mary Axe, Steve taps me on the shoulders and points, and what do I see?
You can't be serious.
The next portion of the trip was much faster paced, so w did not stay anywhere too long. We continued from a more historical perspective, touring the city and discussing the importance of all the sites in relation to way back when. First, we traveled through more of the financial area.
Within it were the Royal exchange and a statue of an engineer, James Henry Greathead, who made it possible to dig deeper for the Underground.
Then we looked at some Roman ruins, namely a road and the remains of the wall that once surrounded London.
This is better than most of the roads near my home.
I was particularly impressed with the wall until I found one small anachronism...
... an f*ing I-beam in the middle of the wall.
Next on our trip, we went to a small, inconspicuous park called Postman's Park. It was beautiful and had this wall with little plaques honoring heroic, self-sacrificing deeds (which means if you are on the wall, you are dead). One of our friends in the program kept saying that a movie had a scene at this park. More specifically, "It's that movie with that guy! No you guys are getting it, it's THAT MOVIE with THAT GUY!" Repeat that about six times to get the full effect. By the end, he had pinned down the movie to be Closer with Clive Owen, Julia Roberts, Jude Law, and Natalie Portman. Whether or not he is right, I don't know. Anyway, here are some pictures.
 The last stop on the trip was to... wait, what the-
AH! William Wallace insists that I remind you that we passed his plaque. He also says he knows that before the plaque, I passed the Old Bailey, symbol of justice, and did not share the picture with you. He says I should, and since I value my life, I will do that.
Mr. Wallace, can you tell Hugo Weaving to leave it alone?
As I was saying, the final stop on the trip was MY church, Saint Bartholomew's Church. It was an absolutely beautiful church that was kind of a hodgepodge of different styles because different sections of the church were built in different times. Apparently, the church is used very often in films, the only example I remember the church dude mention was the recent Sherlock Holmes movie (with Downey Jr.). Again, no amount of describing will do it justice so I will get right to the pictures.
My church is better than your church.
From there we headed home and braced for tomorrow.

Tomorrow came. Theater class was first, and we discussed Into the Woods. It was very interesting to see on how many levels Into the Woods works. It also made me feel kind of dumb. Anyway, Pillars was next and we went though a brief flyby of London's history. Lunch. Head to class. Then I find out we have yet another field trip, and at this point I am just exhausted. Oh well, no use complaining. We went to see the Museum of London, which focuses on the history of London from several thousand years ago to the present day. We also had an assignment to do, which made the experience a little less enjoyable than it could have been. Overall I thought the Museum was fascinating. Here are all the pictures I took.
There will be rap songs about this car.

Friday I did not do anything. I mean this completely literally.

I am cutting this post short here because the weekend was very eventful. I will post about it soon.