Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Just Days until the Olympics

On Friday, the London 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony will be in full swing. Which means, it's time for me to choose a sport or two so that in a months time I can tick off one of the items from my 2012 List - to follow an Olympic 2012 sport über religiously... a sport that I honestly don't care about right now.

Surprisingly for someone as indecisive as myself, I do have the sport I'm going to follow picked already - and there I was thinking I might have to pick one out of a hat. After chatting about it with Norngirl and my sister-in-law, it was decided the main sport of the summer is going to be:

*Drum roll please*

Synchronised Swimming!

A sport that perfectly fits the bill - I know nothing of the rules and until now, it's something I truly didn't care about and something I've never bothered to watch.

My current understanding of synchronised swimming (before I read the wiki page I just linked to there anyway) is that groups of people hold their breath underwater whilst 'dancing' with their limbs to make pretty patterns set to music. People holding their breath for a long time is impressive but it's not quite free diving, I'm sure I'll appreciate the skill required but will I care? I'm soon going to find out and the Olympics coverage is going to be my guide of sorts.

After just checking the scheduling for when the events are happening and it is quickly apparent that it's only a women's sport at the Olympics, with just 2 events - the Women's Team event and Women's Duet.

The schedule (according to the BBC site) is as follows:

5th-7th August - Women's Duets Event

5th: Qualification technical routine 3pm-4.50pm
6th: Qualification free routine 3pm-5.25pm
7th: Women's Duets Finals 3pm-4.13pm (seems a bit precise)

9th-10th August Women's Teams Event

9th: Final Technical routine 3pm-3.50pm
10th: Final Free routine 3pm-3.59pm

So a couple of problems there - first is that it seems these are very short events and awkwardly timed for watching live given we'll be at work at the time. The second is that the events only run for a few hours spread over a few days.

With these problems in mind, we'll have to hope that TiVo can record whichever of the BBC Olympic channels will likely be showing it at the time or that there might be highlights, extended highlights or full coverage on demand somewhere. I've also decdided to closely follow a 2nd sport closely.

This other sport is going to be Handball. I picked it because it runs from the practically the start of the Olympics for a long time, the best part of 3 weeks. I think it might be interesting to try and see what the millions of fans in Europe like about this game.

I hope by following these sports and keeping up with others that I might get into the traditional spirit of the Olympics because so far I've not been impressed by the build up to it all.

The Olympic flame came to Belfast but we had other things on whilst it was in town.
There has been a lot of doom and gloom in the press (sometimes I do wonder if they're all manic depressive or believe the populous are) though rightly so in some cases - such as the case of the private security company who are still trying to keep their 57 million management fee even though they 'failed to manage' to the point the army have had to be called in. On TV, the ads from 'official sponsors' have been driving me to shout at the TV screen, each brand seemingly trying to outdo each other in making any tenuous link to sport that they can.

Putting aside all that and then some, hopefully the Olympics will go well and we can enjoy the occasion for the sport.

I best get reading up the likes of this guide from the BBC site.

Come on team GB and Northern Ireland... flail? throw? lob? swim? tread-water? your way to gold!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Dusk on Top of the Rock

Back in February we decided to visit the Top of the Rock - the observation deck of the GE building at the Rockefeller Center. The first time we were in New York City we visited the Empire State building, so this time we planned to give the Top of the Rock a try. For although the top of the Rock isn't as high as the viewing areas at the top of the Empire State building, being further uptown does give it different views. Views that include a better view of Central Park.

View of Central Park from the Top of the Rock

As well as views of the Empire State building itself.

Empire State Building at Dusk

I have to admit, once we bought our ticket and had made it through security, we only took a quick glance around the information, history on the walls and the videos you can watch - we decided to breeze through it to make sure we were at the top for sunset but there was a lot of information about the construction and history of Rockefeller Center and the GE building. To get a sense of scale, here are a few photos of the GE Building (the top of which is 'the Top of the Rock') which I took earlier in the week that we were there.

GE building at the Rockefeller Center

GE sky scraper at the Rockefeller Center

Ice Skaters at the Rockefeller Center

So we were soon at the lifts (aka Elevators). It may just have been the time of day or it may be the lifts are just speedy but there was a very short queue for the lifts to reach the observation decks. As we waited in the short line, the guy managing the lifts was friendly and chatting to everyone, it was quite relaxed and it wasn't long before we were being hauled skyward. The lift was awesome! Unlike the Empire State Building's lifts, this one has a transparent roof with a projector and lights - so you can see where you're heading - it's as close as I think I'll ever get to be in Willy Wonka's great glass elevator. So as you're lifted up the remainder of the 70 floors, you get a fancy light show that looms towards you. It was also cool on the way down being able to see how far you've descended!

At the Top you have an indoor area and a couple of outdoor areas on different levels.

Top of the Rock snapshot

We started off by heading up to the top to take in the view. It was kind of windy up there on the day we went and so it was quite a challenge to take some steady shots of the skyline.

Looking downtown in Manhattan

On the day we were there, being February and all, the wind-chill factor meant it was icy cold on the very top level. This was fine whilst the sun was out but as the sun set, it suddenly became apparently that in retrospect I should have brought gloves with me as I soon couldn't feel my fingers very well. It wasn't as grand a sunset as that we were lucky enough to see from the Empire State Building a couple of years back but it was still very pretty.

Dusk on Top of the Rock

Though far away, you can see the Statue of Liberty in the distance to the South.

Statue of Liberty seen from the Top of the Rock

The urban sprawl of Brooklyn in the distance to the East.

Brooklyn from Top of the Rock

And the more industrial areas of New Jersey to the West.

Sun shining down on New Jersey

New York is awesomely picturesque as an urban scene. One of the best photo opportunities of being at the top of the rock is the almost uninterrupted view of Central Park but on this day, although mild at street level, up there, something like 250m up, it was rather chilly. We soon saw the results of that cold air meeting warm as some big dark clouds loomed from the North that quickly enveloped Central Park.

Snow storm approaching down the Hudson river

As the clouds got closer, darkness fell and the city began to light up.

New York just before the lights come on

Besides the views there is also a shop and an awesome room containing some more flashy lights which we hung around in to keep warm whilst the rest of the city lit up.

Empire State and reflected lights

As the snow swirled around in the wind, the Empire State Building was illuminated - it was a sight that my photo below really didn't do justice.

Snow and night fall on Manhattan

Eventually we had to get a move on to head for food so got back in the lift and made our way back down to Earth but it had been well worth the entrance fee. I think if we were to choose between the Empire State and the Top of the Rock observation decks again (Both being must do's but for the sake of choosing one for a repeat visit) I'd probably pick the Top of the Rock.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Visiting the Winter Brooklyn Flea

On Saturday 11th February we wandered from our hotel down to the Skylight One Hanson building which this year was the winter location of the Brooklyn flea market.

Brooklyn Flea at Skylight One Hanson Building

In some ways it really wasn't my thing, I was curious as to what was going to be on offer but it was kind of dull for someone who doesn't like shopping, but in other ways it was still worth going to.

Skylight One Hanson used to be a bank and wandering around an ornate old bank and it's vaults was something I don't get to do very often - in fact this the first time I'd done that ever.

Skylight One Hanson Building in Brooklyn

In regards to the flea market part of it I think this whole thing would have been more fun outdoors and in summer. Perhaps on a bigger scale, like it is said to be in summer, and with more food on offer to choose from and with stalls maybe a little less focused on a profit margin - it was advertised as a flea market after all and not an antiques fair - or was it? I think that's maybe where I could be confused?
On the day we went there were only a few food stalls and lots of bric-a-brac and craft stalls. Granted there were plenty of awesome items and kooky objects but nothing I could see I think I'd have too much trouble finding online if I ever needed such a thing and for the most part, online could be a lot cheaper.

I guess the fun for people is to browse through the objects and being able to take it home there and then but to be honest at the prices I saw, thrift store shopping is much more fun - mainly because because I can afford to buy things there. Some of the craft objects were nice to look at, like the homemade jewellery which we bought for our friend for her birthday.

As I mentioned at the start, the most fun part of this experience for me was wandering around the building. The stalls were set out in the main hall but also in the side rooms, on the balcony and even down the stairs in the big vaults.

Bank Vault

I've never had the opportunity to wander around the entirety of a bank before. Especially one that must have been quite the sight in it's heyday given all the fancy decorations.

Light and décore at Skylight One Hanson Building

Mosaic in Skylight One Hanson Building

It was a fun novelty but I don't think I'd be back to the winter flea, it's maybe one I'll leave to financially better-off enthusiasts, but I'd be more than willing to give the summer flea/smorgasbord a try!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

A Check up on The 2012 List

To try and get myself back into the blogging swing I thought I'd start with a little self reflection on the year so far and how my hopes for the year are going. The non-italics are the list from January's 'The 2012 List' post and the text in italics the update on how it's gone so far.

The 2012 List Modelled by Sweep


Stay alive (so far so good)
- Still in existence and as confused as usual!

Read 1 whole actual, real, in paper, page turning, proper book (seriously that number isn't a typo, I read a grand total of 0 books in 2011)
- Ashamedly the current tally of books read is still 0. In my defence I totally forgot about it, I do read often but just not holding a book.

Try to find/get/make a job I would enjoy doing (a long shot but it won't happen unless I try).
- If I'm being honest this one took a back burner and fizzled out so I need to re-ignite it.

Try again at learning to separate the stress of work from home (if possible).
- Doing better! Still room for improvement but much less stressed this year compared to last.

Follow 1 Olympic 2012 sport über religiously. Has to be a sport that I honestly don't care about right now. For no reason whatsoever really except for a bit of fun. If anyone would like to join me feel free to volunteer and suggest the sport.
- Post to follow soon outlining my plans for this one!
Don't allow Clothes Mountain (the pile of washing in our bedroom) to rear its voluminous crumpled head again. This has been a success but Norngirl and moving house have been the main help to this - we now have space to do some housework.

Not get my hopes up with Euro 2012.
- Succeeded with style, I was optimistic that we'd do better than expected but knew we'd be long shots to even go close. I had England reaching the Semi Finals in the prediction game and they were a penalty shoot-out away from that guestimate.

Make at least a small positive difference to something worthwhile.
- The worthwhile part I should really have qualified a little better, but yeah, I think I have in some shape or form.

Risk it for a chocolate biscuit and do a few more things on the spur of the moment and procrastinate less
- Hard to say really, we've done a lot of random things this year but most have been us reacting to situations rather than the other way around. Still, moving into a house the day after seeing it for the first time and meeting people you know from the internet from another country probably count right? Maybe still room for improvement on both, especially the procrastination.

Finances allowing:

Visit 5 cities/major towns that I have never been to before.
- 3/5 so far (Washington DC, Boston & Eniskillen)

Visit 1 new country.
- Sadly, situations outside our control and finances aren't likely to let this happen.

Visit my family at least twice.
- This is planned to happen but will be weather dependant (0/2 so far this year though).

Attend 3 or more comedy gigs
- 1/3 so far, Sarah Millican was very funny, but no more comedy show tickets yet booked.

Attend at least 10 ice hockey matches.
- 7/10: 3 NHL games (BOS at WSH, WSH at NYR, NYR at BOS) and 4 EIHL games (BGvsNP, BGvsSS x 2, BGvsDS)

Watch 20 films I've never seen before
- 22/20 and probably more to add - So far: Fools Rush In, Role Models, New in Town, The Graduate, Casablanca, Premonition, Mystic River, The Muppets, Alien Autopsy, The Inbetweeners, Super 8, Glee, The Skin I Live In, The Big Lebowski, Men In Black 3, To Kill a Mockingbird, Le Orme, Some Like it Hot, Goodfellas, All the President's Men, She's Too Young, Titanic (1953) all seen for the first time.

Don't leave the entirety of Christmas shopping until December.
- Haven't started yet, maybe it's time! Too soon?

Possibly move house.
- Done.


Spend even less time playing games on the net.
- I've picked up the bad habit of playing Bejewelled Blitz but it's a game that is much easier to pull yourself away from, though it is highly addictive - damn it!

Do a spring clean of my Google Reader.
- Yup, did that and I do read everything on there now, maybe went a bit far though and could do to find some nice blogs to add.

Spend more time commenting on the blogs I enjoy reading.
- Like my own blog, I've been neglecting others, I do read all the blogs I follow still but like posting to my own, I've become even worse with my time. Must try harder!

Spend less time pointlessly commenting on political blogs where everyone has their minds made up anyway no matter what you say.
- The good news with the general lack of posting to any blog including my own is that I've not replied to one political blog since - every cloud! :)

Find at least 3 new blogs to follow properly - like I would those on my blog list to the bottom left of this page (if you're reading this and have any good suggestions please do add them in the comments).
- Still a to do but it's tricky to find quality blogs as the ones at the top of listings are just often those best at SEO, often the best blogs are the ones you don't look for but rather the ones you stumble on whilst looking for something else.

Be more sociable (if it's not going to make my brain hurt)
- I didn't try too hard but even just not being reluctant to be sociable seemed to help - we even made some new friends - must try to keep that up.

Take even more photos.
- Sadly this has gone the other way, whilst I took more than ever on our vacation, during a regular week I've been taking less.

Disclaimer section of the 2012 list:

Try to do all this whilst not injuring Norngirl mentally or physically (she can be judge and jury at the end of the year).
- Other than being perplexed at my reluctance to read books, apparently it's a case of so far so good according to Norngirl.


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