Thursday, May 31, 2012

Sky Tree VS the Stratosphere

(Tokyo Sky Tree. Image info can be found here.)

The Tokyo Skytree, found in Japan, opened to the public last week on May 22, 2012.  It's the tallest tower in the world, with the observation deck situated about 1500 ft in the sky, and the second tallest structure.  When I found out about the Skytree tower, I immediately thought of the Stratosphere in Las Vegas.  

 (Las Vegas Stratosphere.  Image info can be found here.)

Why?  Because when I visited the Stratosphere last month, I couldn't get over how many Japanese were there.  I've been to Las Vegas many, many times, but never had I seen so many Japanese.  My brother, who has visited the Stratosphere many times, and speaks strong conversational Japanese, told me that each time he's visited the tower, he's seen the same amount of visitors from Japan.

(View from the top.)

I asked him why he thinks there are so many visitors to the Stratosphere, and he thinks it's truly because they love heights, the challenge, and facing their fears.   Facing Fears is right!  When Mom and I were driving into Las Vegas, we found out that Steven had decided that he was going to jump off the Stratosphere, and even had an appointed time.  We were driving as fast as was legally possible to get there on time.

Then we got another call, and my brother told me that instead of jumping, we could do the rides on top instead, if I was up to it.  The pit in my stomach dropped!  And I immediately started feeling ill.  I asked him to let me think about it.  When I got there, I was standing on the observation deck, about 855 ft, looking over the city and feeling sick.  I couldn't even get right up to the glass.  Instead I leaned on wooden supports as I tried to overcome vertigo.

The next day I walked around.  Ate at Serendipity 3, visited the Bellagio and other classy casinos.  I even was in a test audience for a TV pilot and tested different types of orange juice.  And through it all the Stratosphere haunted me.  At moments feeling brave, at other times feeling waves of terror pore over me.

So that night I found myself at the base of the Stratosphere, contemplating my fate, and decided that I really didn't want to live a life of regrets.  I bought the ticket and went up.  There are three rides: The Big Shot, the highest thrill ride in the world standing at 1.081 feet, Insanity at 900 ft, and X-Scream at 866 ft.  Big Shot shoots you up into the air, and it was my favorite.
I rode it at least 4 times (each time facing a different direction.  My second favorite was Insanity.  You sit in a chair as they, all eight chairs face each other, as they they move the seats to hang suspected over 900 ft, and then you spin.  I didn't like the spinning part, but after getting over the pit in the stomach, I really enjoyed looking straight down at moving cars and tiny buildings.  It's like a grown up Peter Pan ride.

My least favorite ride was X-Scream.  It-Freaked-Me-OUT!!!!  Oh my, just thinking about it makes me ill.  It's an 866 ft. teeter-totter.  They shift the car to the back of the 69 ft. straight track, point the track towards the ground, shoot you forward, stop abruptly, move you back, and you spend the whole ride doing just that.  I spent the whole time in a full panic attack (at least it felt like one), complete with hyperventilating.  I'm surprised I didn't pass out.    

I was that scared.  My brother actually enjoyed it.

Do something fun today!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Historical Snapshots

I first wrote about my new postcard obsession with a post about postcrossings.  A link to that blog post can be found here.  Since then I have received a total of 46 postcards from 23 different countries. 

I now have a new type of postcards I want to start collection: Vintage Postcards.  My Mom discovered the most wonderful Etsy shop last week called Agnes of Bohemia.  Chantal, who owns the store, has been collecting vintage postcards and stamps for some time.  When I saw the postcard pictured above I knew I had to get it.  It's dated July 2. 1907 and is from Boston Massachusetts.  The side of the card reads:

"Here's where I spend considerable time going to and fro. 
My fellas left for (W?) this morning so I'm dining in town tonight,
 frugally and without company. Sent this fine weather."  

One of my Grandfathers was born in Boston in the 1930's, and my Great-Grandparents were married in Boston in the late 1800's.  It's amazing to think that these are the sights that my ancestors saw.

I also received two more postcards.  

This is a postcards sent in 1944 of a Garden in New Orleans.  

This postcard was sent in 1946 of a highway in Virginia. I love the little Model T on the side of the road.

Her Etsy store is worth a peek.

Have a Fantastic Day!!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Behind the Scenes of our First Cover Song

Steven and I practicing

Last week Steven and I, of Cerulean Jade, put up on Youtube our very first cover song:  Mindy Gledhill, "All about your Heart."  We had been talking for some time about doing a cover song, and I honestly was a bit nervous, but it's been great practice and a lot of fun.

So how did we find this song?  Well, I'm a little embarrassed to admit it, but I found the song when I was searching through Hunger Game fan videos.  I had just finished the book and wanted some back ground music to take it all in, when this video, entitled Katniss and Peeta, popped up.  The song enchanted me, and I couldn't get it out of my head.  

Unfortunately this version of the song isn't available for purchase, at least at all the online places I looked, though the upbeat version she did is available on iTunes and amazon.

Filming the cover song seemed to be a little more difficult then the audio, but only because we spent a few days trying to get the lighting and camera positions right.  There was a lot of trial and error.  We spent several hours recording video on one of the first days, only to find that the memory card was corrupt and the video unusable. So we used another camera, only it kept shutting off every twelve minutes, sometimes in the middle of a take.  But once we figured out what was happening, it wasn't a problem.

Overall I think the song and video turned out well.  So here it is, our first cover!  Enjoy:0)


Friday, May 25, 2012

365 Day Photo challenge: Days 73-77

(Day 73 of the 365 day photo challenge 3/15/2012)

This site, which is located next to Utah Valley University, shows a smidgen of the crazy construction that's taking place near I-15.  They're making an underground walkway to make it safer for students to cross the street to Wal-mart, at least that's what it seems.  Even now, late in May, there's still a lot of crazy construction going on, though the walkway is now finished.   

(Day 74 of the 365 day photo challenge)

My Mom's B-day cake.  It's funny, when she and Dad bought it she thought is was an interesting looking cake.  I thought the same thing, wondering why there was a funny looking yellow flower on top.  It just wasn't pretty.  But right before the candles were placed on top, we both realized, at the same time, "It's a pot of gold!"  And it all made sense.

(Day 75 of the 365 day photo challenge)

At Provo town mall.  I was there with my Mom and Grandma doing girlie stuff, mainly getting free fragrance samples from Sephora.  You get three free samples each visit, and I'm more then willing to take advantage of the opportunity.  The carousal is located in the food court area.

(Day 76 of the 365 day photo challenge)

Silly photo, but these are tinker bell balloons!  My little niece is obsessed over three things: Tinker Bell, Balloons, and bubbles.  Actually, I think she loves all things round, including drawing circles, which she still loves to do.  Anyway, she was going to town with these, and it was quite cute.  

(Day 77 of the 365 day photo challenge)

This picture was taken just past midnight.  I don't think it clearly captors the phenomenon, but it was so bright outside!  It's still something I'm getting used to living here in Utah.  It's so bright it's as light as the early morning sunrise. 

Have a great day,

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Avengers: Statistical Awesomeness. My review.

 Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars (Because it's awesome!)

So the question is, at this point, who hasn't seen this movie?  And, after answering that question, was there anyone who didn't end up loving the movie after watching the Avengers?  That would be the anomaly.  

The simple fact that I saw the movie twice proves how much I'm a fan.  My brother, Steven, has now seen it at least four times, and with how much the movie has grossed financially it proves that many others are repeat costumers as well.

To give you an idea, this is how the three Marvels, and one DC, movies performed in 2011.  Thor made $65,723,338 opening weekend, $181,030,624 domestic, and $449,326,618 worldwide.  Captain America made $65,058,524 opening weekend,  $176,654,505  domestic, and $368,608,363 worldwide.  X-Men: First Class made  $55,101,604 opening, $146,408,305 domestic, and $353,624,124 worldwide.  While the Green Lantern, the lone DC movie release last year, made $53,174,303 opening, $116,601,172 domestic, and $219,851,172 worldwide.

Clearly the opening for Green Lantern was on par with X-Men, only word of mouth was not as strong, resulting in an overall poor gross.  Now the Dark Knight, a DC Universe film, which had the strongest overall superhero gross up till now made $158,411,483 opening weekend, $533,345,358 domestically, and $1,001,921,825 worldwide.

How did The Avengers compare?  So far, with only three weeks into the domestic (U.S.A) release the movie has broken all sorts of records. (Worldwide territories opened in Australia, France, the Philippines, and New Zealand two weeks before the US; and in England, Germany, Brazil, Mexico, and India a week before the US release, which helped contribute to the buzz).  The movies opening domestic gross was $207,438,708, $468,271,215 overall domestic, and $1,191,571,215 worldwide.  And the movie is far from leaving theaters.

Sorry, movie stats make me geeky excited.  Further proof that I'm a cinephile.

So what did I think of the movie?  I thought it was brilliant.  Sure, it's not a super intense intellectual fare, but a masterfully crafted Summer flick filled with humor, great characters, action, and excitement.  I was worried that the movie would fill too crowded, with all the superheros and villains needing screen time, but the writing, direction, and editing was so perfect that every plot was nicely balanced. I really enjoyed the scenes that involved Iron Man and Pepper Potts.  Gwyneth Paltrow doesn't have a lot of screen time, but her character was memorable.  And the movie also explored Black Widows past and character a little more; she's interesting and deserves her own movie.  Joss Whedon, of Serenity/Firefly fame, sure knows how to work with strong female characters.

And I hope that everyone who saw the film took the time to stay till the very, very end.  With both showings I attended, I was amazed how many people got up and left!  They missed the best part.

The summer isn't over.  The Spider Man reboot is scheduled for July 3.  And the Dark Knight Rises is opening July 20th.  Every cinema geek will be watching the stats on this one.  With the amazing financial success The Avengers has been, and the records The Dark Knight broke when it came out, is there a chance that the final Batman movie in Christopher Nolan's Batman Trilogy will outstrip the Avengers?  It will be exciting.

With the success of The Avengers, Iron Man 3, coming out next year, just got a $60 million production boost, bringing the total costs to around $200 million.  Also coming out next year is the second Thor movie.  Oh, you want to hear an exciting movie season?  2013, Thanksgiving/Christmas, you have Thor 2, Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and The Hobbit: Part 2 all being released.  That's going to be fun.  Captain America 2 is coming out Spring 2014.

The Avengers is coming out on DVD/Blu-ray September 25th, and is packed with extra features including director commentary, blooper reel, and deleted scenes.   

Ah!  Now that I've geeked you all out,
Have a great day!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Eclipsing the Sun

(Taken on 05-20-2012 at 7:32 pm MST.  Direct picture of the sun.
The Solar flair is the eclipse)

I grew up loving space.  It might have something to do with Star Trek and watching the Next Generation every Sunday with my family.  My Dad was always aware of space events we could watch.  Some days it was as simple as stepping outside to watch the international space station pass overhead.  There were many times, in the wee early hours or late at night, when I would climb into a van with my brothers, Mom, and Dad to drive into the California Sierra Neveda foot hills and watch a meteor shower. 

The Solar Eclipse that happened last Sunday, May 20th, was all over the news last week, but we weren't planning on taking a trip to see the full eclipse until my Dad noticed, while analyzing a map, that Highway 56, west of Cedar City UT, for about 15 miles, ran dead center down the eclipses path.  Being in the middle of the path meant being able to see the annular solar eclipse in full glory.

When there is a total eclipse the Moon, which is very close to the Earth, completely covers the Sun.  Apparently it gets dark enough in mid day that you're able to see stars come out.  With an annular eclipse the Moon is further away from the Earth, so that it doesn't completely cover the Sun, leaving a "ring of fire" around the edges of the Moon. 

It was thrilling going down Highway 56 and seeing clusters of cars gathering in random spots off the road to watch the eclipse.  I got a bit telescope envy as we drove by camps of enthusiastic science geeks.  We thought a lot of people were going to visit the National Parks, but it was fun seeing how many other people had our same idea. 

There are many ways to observe an eclipse.  Wielding glass #14 can be used, unfortunately our wielding glass was #10, but we were still able to see the sun with a bright green hue.  In the picture above my Dad and brother made this pin-hole camera, allowing us to watch the eclipse shine on paper (and seeing some giant sun spots at the same time).

This is my brother, Steven, showing how far the Moon had past over the Sun.  This picture was taken at 7:07 pm.

The eclipses lasted about 4 minutes, starting at 7:32 and ending at 7:36 pm.  This was taken at 7:34.  We met someone who came prepared.  He bought extra paper sun glasses, and I was lucky enough to get one.  Here I took a picture with the camera looking through the glasses.  The blue on the bottom is actually from the paper. 

The picture above is what the sun looked like at 7:35 pm.  Below is the sun, looking through binoculars and the sun glasses,  at 7:46 pm. 

I'm so glad I went!  It didn't get as dark as I thought it would; the light around us took on a darken blue tint.  On  Aug. 21, 2017 there is going to be a total eclipse.  Many states, including Idaho and Wyoming, are going to be in the center of that path.  I'm going!  There's also going to be a total eclipse over northern Utah August 12, 2045.  There's another annular eclipse scheduled for Oct. 14, 2023.

Have a great rest of the day,