Tuesday, August 14, 2012

G Forces and their Effects on Me

This Saturday I went to Valleyfair as part of a bachelor party (Congratulations Lenny and Kacie!) and, as is expected, went on roller coasters. I had never been on a roller coaster before. Yes, at the ripe age of twenty-two (twenty-three if you're including the stuff with the lasers in '04) I had never ridden a roller coaster. And we went on nearly every one offered at Valleyfair.

And so, in convenient bite-sized fashion, I will recount to you the experiences I had in chronological order.


Steel Venom:

It's like a big squished "U"
I was nervous, it's true. Having never been on anything more exciting than a commercial jet, going on this ride wasn't very high up on my doings list. Picture to the right:

That's it?! Is that legal? That's like Roller Coaster Tycoon when you jack up the launch speed and it explodes in mid-air! No!

Yes. I rode it. But wait, there's more. You get launched...launched...out of the platform at seventy-five miles an hour! I'm not comfortable driving that fast! And what's more, this is how you sit:
It demands a sacrifice of shoe

Luckily, I was able to retain my footwear, and, after crossing myself, got into the small bucket seat. This was after waiting in line for twenty minutes, watching the ride happen over and over again above my head. During that time I was warned by our friend Mike that, at the height of it's fourth time in the air, the ride suspends for a half-second, and that we should tilt our pelvises away from the front to...protect ourselves.

I've gotten in the seat and strapped in, wondering what the ruling is for using duct tape. The aforementioned marriage-man Lenny is next to me. He is sympathetic of my worry, and tells me everything is all right. After waiting for a few minutes so that the man in the chair in front of Lenny exits (He was too big to be safely restrained) I hear a countdown.

"The ride will launch in two, one,"

After a brief blip of worry entitled "What Happened to Three?" the ride took off at seventy-five miles an hour, straight forward and then up, spiraling clockwise. Had my eyes been open, I would have seen nothing but sky and clouds. Then the ride shot back down and flew past the station, and rocketed back up, this time with us looking straight down. Shortly after that, I found myself streaming past the station again, cheeks flapping. The ride went higher up and twisted more than it had the first time, something I hadn't noticed while safely watching it from the ground. At the tiny point in time that the ride wasn't moving, a man two chairs ahead of me yelled, quite clearly: "Holy Balls!" Then the ride fell down and rose at the end again, forcibly making me envision my certain mortality.

At this point Lenny reminds me to "prepare myself," and the I do so as the ride halts, ever so subtly. In which I mean everybody jerks forward in their seats with an almighty cry. I managed to keep myself from bruising, and again the ride is rushing for the ground, curving into the station and past once more. Since I have been yelling the entire time, I find it appropriate to pause at the top of the last height, say in a casual voice: "I agree with your earlier statement" to the man two seats ahead of me, and resume screaming.

We finally drift into the station. Lenny and I both have problems freeing ourselves from the chair. I, because the world spins and throbs, and Lenny because he is laughing from what I said high in the air.

I had survived, and kept multiple parts of me from ejecting anything.


Power Tower:

I had been on this one before, and I had enjoyed it. We waited in line for quite some time, and then strapped ourselves in. We were riding the red car, which meant we would winch to the top of the tower and then free fall for 250 feet. There is also a blue car, which simply jettisons you up, and then allows you to drift back down.

So we went on that, and it was fun.


Wild Thing:

This one made me even more nervous than Steel Venom. It has a top speed of 74 MPH, and over a mile of track. The first hill is over two hundred feet high. And it only has lap bars, so the relative safety I felt was less than Steel Venom.

It's tall, and it's fast, and there was an accident once and even though nobody got hurt I am not going on that! I thought, moments before getting on it. I sat next to Mike, who had ridden it at least a dozen times.

Getting brought up the hill by the chain was the worst. Oh, and the first drop. And the subsequent drops. And the turns (Just before the first turn I heard myself yell "No! Not turning!"). The tunnel was pretty scary too. There is a camera in the tunnel that snaps your photo, which you can buy for the measly price of ten dollars.

So, after stumbling off of this ride, which I have to admit I don't fully remember, we went to the photo booth to wait for the other two, who were forced to ride in the train behind us. We took a look at the photo and suddenly I was glad that I had ridden it. Mike, who as I mentioned before had ridden it many times, was winking, and pointing both index fingers at the camera, creating a Fonzesque aura of ease and comfort. I, on the other hand, was bending the metal lap bar between my hands, and my face looked like it had been made of dough and rolled by an overzealous baker, forming it into a mocking farce of sanity.

The Wave:

We broke for lunch, and then got back into the swing of things by going on The Wave, which Lenny had never been on and we prefaced for him with "You'll get wet, but not too wet." Apparently we are liars. It's a little log ride with a dozen passengers in its one log, and has only one drop. When the log hits the bottom, it also hits a pool of water that splashes.
It splashes a lot. The water is chemically designed to be attracted to dry things. As the car came around the second and final corner into the station, we were soaked and shivering.

(Of course, at this point, the sun went behind clouds and was never seen again.)

Bonus! The wave also hits the bridge that is used to exit the ride, so when we left, Mike and I waited on the bridge to experience it once more. It was like getting punched by Triton.

It's orange now


This one was fun, and it's the only ride we went on twice. You get in a standard car with shoulder harness, get winched up, and then go upside-down. I knew this in advance, and was able to prepare by taking my glasses off and putting them in my wet pants pocket. As we climbed the one and only hill, I turned to my right and said "Mike, I gotta say, I'm not excited about going upside-down." Of course by then there was little I could do.

The ride is short, but exciting. Being upside down isn't too bad really. It goes like this: "I am right side up. Now I am upside down. Now I am right side up again." That's really how it feels, especially going as fast as we were. There are a couple of corkscrews later on and it's different, but not by much. Then it's like this: "I seem to be spinning, but it's all right."

I had my eyes closed the entire time the first time we rode it, which was par for the course at that point, and so the second time we went on it I kept them open the entire time, save occasional blinking.


Mad Mouse:

A weird little compact coaster was next. We- wait.

Oops. Hold on



Before the Mad Mouse we went on this little gray water slide on a rubber tube. I can't remember the name of it, but I do remember that the tubes had a 350 lb max weight, so we had to jigger the four of us to get both groups under that limit. We got wet, more wet than we thought we would get, again. It was standard.


Mad Mouse:

Grrr squeak.
For real this time. It's a small, squished roller coaster that has individual cars of four people each. The cars look like mice, and have hydraulics that slightly lift one side or the other, depending on what corner you go around. It was called "The Ride not to go on when you have Mono." And that is because of the bar on your lap. It crushes your intestines. They aren't going anywhere, people, it's all right. See all those turns at the top of the ride? Those are 180 degree, hairpin turns, and because of those turns we all staggered out of the ride, groaning. My legs hurt for two days.

It isn't the craziest ride, but it's built for smaller people. It's marketed as a family coaster for small child-types, and that was most of the line. But we endured the scrutiny of eight-year olds and rode it anyway. It probably looked pretty funny seeing us big guys (+ Lenny) squished in there.



You're a loose cannon, Roller Coaster.
This one was nuts. Crazy nuts. It took thirty minutes to finally get in the car, and from then on it was three thousand, one hundred and thirteen feet of nuts. It's a wooden roller coaster, and the very first thing that happens is the roller coaster says "You know those other roller coasters? I'm not like that!"

After getting pulled by a chain up a hundred feet, it starts to drop. But then, it turns! In the middle of the first drop! You get hit by so many G's you look like the recipient of a Green Bay Packer blitz.

But it was fun! I was turned into a little boy who last his blankie by the sight of it, but had a ton of crazy, screaming fun.


Thunder Rapids:

This was kind of a waste of time. We got in line and waited way longer than we thought we would. As the name suggests, water is involved. We had a backpack with us the entire time, and couldn't stash it anywhere for this ride, which we had been able to do at every other ride before or after, so the most exciting part of this ride was passing the bag back and forth so it didn't get wet. I got hurt by the seat belt twice on the same hand, and we exited not feeling very excited. There was also no thunder.

Oh, b.t.w., Valleyfair uses a park rating system 1-5. A one would be the kidding train that puffs around the park, and a five would be Steel Venom or the Wild Thing. Both Thunder Rapids and Renegade were fours. We did not agree.


This one had a very short line, which was good because we didn't have to wait long, and bad because before I had a chance to decide if I wanted to go on it, I was already strapped in.

This one's kind of abusive. You get knocked around a lot and turned at absurd angles to the ground, nearly dumped out of your seat fifty feet above the ground and knocked side to side by the turns. While on the ride it thought it was crazy not to have guard rails, but now I realize that's kind of stupid.

At the end of the ride, I tapped on the shoulder in front of me, which belonged to a girl. I said. "Having become very familiar with it, I can say you have very nice hair." Then I got out. Mike suspects she was in middle school and thought I was a creepy guy, but I stand by my statement, mostly because her hair was in my face during the entire ride.


Xtreme Swing:

This one is not a roller coaster. I think Satan built it. It looks like two oil derricks connected at the top and turned into swings. It supports forty people at once, ten on each side of each swing. Then the swings start to alternate going one way, and then the other.  The swings go higher and higher until they go beyond level with each other, as illustrated to the right.

There isn't a shoulder harness, just a plastic lap bar. I didn't know what to grip onto, but I tried my darnedest.

Before every ride at Valleyfair, attendants make sure you are buckled in properly. When a guy came to check my seatbelt, I thanked him, for keeping me safe. Lenny commented that I was probably the only person to do that all day.

They keep me from dying, so it's only fair.

I had a several levels of scream during this ride. I started with "Woo," and then moved up to "Aaa," deep and masculine. That was stripped away by looking straight down at a pond filled with lily-pads and became girlish wailing. The ride effectively made me drunk, and I think out of all of them, this is the one that I would want to ride the again the least.


As we walked through the parking lot, John, Lenny's best man, commented that statistically we are more likely to get hurt driving on the freeway than riding a roller coaster. I'll take my chances.

Congratulations again to the future Mr. and Mrs. Olson. I'll try not to bungle your wedding too badly. I'm only an usher, but still.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Magic Moms

I'm sure that Moms have super powers. Wow, it took me six tries just to write the word "powers."

For instance, this morning the resident Mom came into my room in a desperate attempt to wake me up. My comforter, a nice maroon diamond-patterned job, had over time slipped away from the front of the bed and to one side. I sometimes tried to fix it, but usually only managed to regain a few inches of ground, while feet remained in either direction. But when the Mom saw this, she grabbed it, and performed some manoeuver so complex it can only be spelled with an "o." The comforter had been put back in its proper place and I, still being inside the bed during the action, was moved somewhere just north of Chicago.

"Good morning everybuhhhhh..."

That's just one of the many skills exhibited by Moms. A low-level skill such as "Make toast w/out burning it" looks easy in practice but is hard to do, I've found out. Or maybe the "Tidy up" ability, which not only requires to be a level 12 and the proper amount of mana, but, I'm sure, time travel. The "Bottomless Bag" sounds like a handy one to have, but you have to possess an intimate knowledge of theoretical physics and Gallifreyan ancestry.

No Mom, I don't need to put on a heavier coat. It's the Volcano world Magmar.
But Moms are not without their weaknesses. Mine, for instance, has Indirectarum Givex, two made-up words that means she can't give directions to save her life. Or mine, unfortunately. She once drew a map on a scrap of paper that had north pointing down. She once told me to "turn at the Yeah Church," but the name of the church was not "Yeah," that's what a class was called that was held there. Of course I got lost. Just this past weekend she got herself lost in Wisconsin. That didn't bother my Dad very much but they still got lost, and she wrote them down herself. They both claim that it was Google's mistake, but the facts are there.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Literary Evil: No Explanation Needed

One of my first serious attempts at writing happened when I was sixteen. I don't know how I got the idea, or what it was for, but it was a little story about a group of warriors that fight the undead. It was simple, the shortest of short stories. Later on, I added more to the story. One of the characters, Weln, a mute archer, journeys alone to a nearby mountain. During that time, he remembers an event five hundred years in the past, his first encounter with the power behind the undead. At the top of the mountain, he finds his brother, the mastermind behind it. They fight, and Weln wins. They both utilize a telekinetic power granted by a purple pillar in a chamber of the mountain. The entire story is just over nine thousand words.

At one point in college I showed the story to a friend at work. After she read it, she said she didn't understand the purple pillar. Why was it there? How did it work?

But why did I need to answer those questions? To explain, let's look at some examples:

One of the most memorable evils in literature, for me, is Sauron in LOTR. At first he's a humanoid with great strength, then reduced to a lidless eye looking for jewelry. And yet the entire free world wishes to keep him from coming back to full power. He corrupts the hearts of men, twists Saruman into an instrument of evil and dries the land around him into a wasteland. But is he explained? Kind of!

He is the mightiest of the Maiar! Corrupted by the Great Enemy Morgoth in the First Age and most powerful of his lieutenants!

Which means nothing unless you read The Silmarillion, or you had access to J.R.R. Tolkien's private notes.

How does the ring hold his power? What will happen if he gets the ring? How is he just an eye on a tower? Where does his power originate? How did he see out of that helmet?

Elendil? Isildur? Hello?

Perhaps a more recent example. Stephen King's Dark Tower series is seven books long, and in typical King fashion, are a thousand pages each.

Quickly: Roland the Gunslinger tries to find the Dark Tower, the crux and structure that all worlds are based around. He wants to keep it from crumbling. It's supported, in the Universe's main world, by six infinitely old beams with the Tower at the center. The person responsible for destroying two of the beams, and nearly a third, is a man named the Crimson King. His goal is to tear down the Tower and bring about "Discordia," and rebuild the world in his image.

And again, if you only read the seven main books, you will have no idea how the Crimson King has his power, where it came from originally, what kind of creature he is, and what force he has at his disposal. But the explanation isn't needed.
Drinks are in the fridge. And try not to leave a ring on the Mantel of Darkness.

For both characters, they are the source of ultimate evil in their respective worlds, and both decry explanation. There could be some, sure, but in my opinion it would lessen the impact they have on the story. Instead of a powerful, unknown entity, that you just have to hope and pray you defeat somehow, you get a measurable quantity that you simply need to work around. It's no longer a fight against fate, but a fight against another person, even if that person is nearly nine feet tall, undead, or in command of armies.