Tuesday, January 29, 2008

New York Part III

Broadway!! That's right folks we're went to Broadway and saw the Lion King. I mentioned in my first post that we had gotten really great seats and I can't impress how awesome they truly were for our budget. Sure we were on the top level but not in the very back. We were exactly in the middle with no heads bothering us. It was amazing and the show rocked. So where to begin...

It grabs you from the very beginning and never lets you go. You're hooked from the first African musical note. It's based on the movie, and they do a great job of keeping all the scences in there while still adding a few to enhance it. The costumes were great. Having people dress up as lions, and hyennas, and cats is often difficult to do and can look foolish. Not these folks. They pulled it off and made you wanting more. The two children deserve props too. They acted and sang wonderfully and really made you feel for the characters. The music too grabbed and never was cheezy or over the top. But what really made this show was the roots displayed. The movie is based in the African savannah and the musical keeps it. Jimbays and other african drums were a core piece of the orchestra. Tribal dancing was performed in beautiful increments and splendor and you really felt the African roots, the heartache, the life, the joys emitinating. I know my friends who have been to Africa would love it. It truly was remarkable.

After the LK (Lion King) we saw Times Square at night. We had seen it before during the day and I got a few, well timed shots of the advertisment for my favorite tv show in the world... LOST. However, I soon came to realize that the best way to view Times Square is at night. It's all lit up in a way I've never seen before. You're surrounded on all sides by neon blinking lights. These lights light up signs for all the broadway shows along with buildings, advertisments, and anything else you can imagine. I also finally understood that Times Square is divided into two sides, the streets split it. I never got that from tv. In order to fully grasp the design of the square you have to do a complete circle, which I did. There were lights everywhere and noises and people and really showed me that this city does not ever truly sleep. Street vendors wer out, tours were taking place and life was seen. It was a great time, until we saw the temperature and realized it was a freezing good time.

So we decided to head back to the hotel, a little earlier than planned up still definitely necessary due to the coldness. However, on the way back we saw Radio City Music Hall. This is home of the famous rockettes, and although we couldn't go inside I was still able to see the building where it all goes down. Lion King, Times Square and the Rockettes, what a nice way to end a Sunday.

Wait... there's more. Monday rolled around and we were leaving that night to head back to DC so we decided to visit one more place... Chinatown. For some reason I was under the delusional idea that somewhere in Chinatown there was this golden archway and a famous dragon hotel, or something. Sadly, we never found it, if it even exists. We did see some of Chinatown which is just an area filled with asian shops, restaurants and culture. It is definitely in more of the residential heart of NY and was nice to see that side to the big apple. Granted it still holds lots of tourists but the effect is still not quite the same. It's more welcoming, friendly and enchanting. Vendors there come at you from all sides asking you if you want handbags, or jewelry or shoes. (No, we didn't buy anything, but it made me smile all the same). So eventhough there's no golden archway that I found, nor fish market, which we asked direcitons for, it's still a great place to visit.

So after three days of trecking all over lower Manhattan we sat in a coffeeshop for a few hours trying to get warm and awaiting our bus ride home. It was a great trip and one I'll gladly do again.

New York Part II

So after a rather longer delay than I had initially planned here's the second part of my New York trip. Recap: part one talked about how inexpensively we got to New York. Now you'll get to hear all about it.

We arrived on Manhattan island at the Penn Station subway stop, so around 34th street, which is in heart of the hustle and bustle of New York. It is surrounded by shops, tourist places, restaurants, billboards, and neon blinking lights. So we hop off and begin our trek to the hotel. We decided to walk because it's a good way to view the city and view it we did. Not only did we realize our hotel was in a prime spot, near all the major sites of Manhattan while being in a residential sector, this entire area was primed. I walked past huge buildings all with different types of architecure. Some had lots of levels and some were mostly residental. Most of them contained some sort of shop on the bottom, or bank, or food place. You could see bits of the old city mixed in with the new. Commericalation mixed in with serenity. I soaked it all in.

After this initial stroll we headed down to see the Statue of Liberty, or as Sarah so fondly calls her, "the lady with the torch." We had decided earlier that we would not visit Ellis Islang because it costs to visit and we were trying to keep costs low. However, native New Yorkers, and those who have visited lots, know there's another good way to view the statue for free... via the Staten Island ferry. So we took the metro down to the ferry, hopped on and watched as it went past the lady with the torch. I got multiple pics of her and the city skyline itself, for you see a great view of NYC as you cross over to Staten Island. I saw many different boats out on the Hudson and we passed Ellis Island. It was nice to see the beacon of hope up close and to really realize that my ancestors passed through those same waters a long time ago.

We then headed off to the World Trade Center Memorial which is in that same general area. The subway station was in current repair so a shuttle took us to the site, totally free of charge, and showing us another view of NY that most tourists don't see. All of us know what happened on 9/11 and the city is still recovering from the devastation. Some of the buildings are still being reconstructed, work on the new tower memorial is comencing and the subway station there has been permantely closed. We walked past the bronzed memorial that is built into the firehouse that lost most of its crew and is located a few short feet from ground zero. Through a small hole in the fence tarp I was able to view ground zero, see the massive devastion that occurred and finally understand what I had seen on tv. It is still a very somber site and I believe always will.

We then walked the streets some more and ate and began to see the city at night. We walked up fifth avenue, the world renowned shopping district, past the largest Macy's in the world, you know... home of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade. Saw Times Square briefly all lit up (more to come on that) and up to the New York Public Library. As an avid reader I was very excited to see this place and even more so because it's the centerpiece in a great global warming movie called The Day After Tomorrow. We took some pics, saw it and realized that was getting colder by the minute, yet we had one more stop to make... Rockefeller Center. Rockefeller Center is home of NBC Today's show and also to the annual Christmas tree. It also houses an ice skating rink. S weo spent some time there. We saw the people ice skating , the flags waving and the NBC studio. We toured it to get warm, and enjoyed the scene. Finally we headed back to the hotel after being up since 5am. Boy were we ready for warmth and sleep.

Sunday morning came too soon but we were excited. We were seeing a broadway show, woohoo!! Typically it was also a very cold day with the highs in the 20's without windchill, which there were plenty of. Before the show we decided to head off and visit Grand Central Station, one of the oldest train stations in the country. It's still in use and in amazing shape and very beautiful. We saw the old time stone architecure built in here with the sweeping archways, granite walls, and sprawling concourses. There was a really good food court in the basement with an amazing assortment of foods. Also, on the main level there was a market where you could go and buy food. It had fish, fruit, veggies, breads, cheeses, danishes, etc. All fresh and all handmade. We picked up a few danishes for the bus ride home on Monday and were on our way to Broadway.

That's where I'll leave you folks for now... Broadway and the Lion King.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

New York City Part I

So this past weekend I went to New York City for the first time ever in my life. Yay! Now for those of you who live on the east coast visiting NYC is not anything new. People in this area visit it all the time because it is so easy to get to. However, for a midwestern it's exciting. Therefore, this blog will be in multiple posts because not only was the trip great but to fully understand the experience you need to understand the events beforehand.

This was a four month trip in the making. My friend Sarah and I had first talked about going in October but decided that would not work. Then we looked at going over President's Day in November. After a day of research and calling hotels this fell through as well. Now, before I go on I want to talk about the hotel search. Finding inexpensive hotels in New York is difficult when you've never been there before. Especially because the nice inexpensive ones are usually far away, like in New Jersey or Conneticut, etc. So therefore, we asked around and were given five recommendations of nice inexpensive places on Manhattan. So we called them and sadly none were available for November. We then looke up the next three day weekend and found MLK day in January. (So yes, everyone, we knew it would be cold). Then the hotel process began again and lo and behold we found one available that we both liked. It is called the Pod Hotel and is located in a great neighbor in Upper Midtown near Rockefellar Center. It is for people who are planning on not spending lots of time in the hotel, which we didn't, and is very afforable (only costing us about $120 a piece for two nights- which is a great deal for NY). This hotel is not for everyone, older adults most likely. It caters to the hip, chic younger crowd and has rooms in all sizes. Since Sarah and I were going to be there mainly to sleep the bunk bed room would suffice.

After we got the hotel taken care of we then began to look for broadway tickets. We discussed whether we wanted to see Wicked, Lion King, Stomp, or Rent. I presonally wanted to see either Wicked or Lion King. Well, Wicked tickets were definitely out of the price range so we concentrated on acquiring LK tickets instead. Well thanks to some guy on ticketmaster we got great seats for a great price. The tickets were for the Sunday matinee show and placed us in the second level, seven rows back from the ledge right smack in the center. I had no heads in the way, the people didn't look tiny and I could hear remarkably well. They were great seats and an absolutely amazing show.

So now that we had the hotel booked and Broadway ticekts we needed transportation. Well DC has several buses that run from NYC to DC for very cheap. We knew we were going to take the bus and so we needed to find the best one based on our location here in DC and to the hotel in NY. That fell to Eastern Travel Bus and we purchased our round trip ticekts for a whopping $45. That's right... 45 bucks there and back.. that's $22.50 each way... talk about cheap. Needless to say it is possible to get to have fun in NYC on a limited budget, especially if you don't go to a show, but who can pass up Broadway.

Stay tuned... next you'll hear about the trip...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

25 years and counting...

I recently celebrated a birthday, yay! I turned the grand ole age of... dun dun... 25! Woohoo!

So my friend Sarah stated that 25 was the age she always wanted to be, and so I asked her, last year when she turned it, if it was everything she thought it was. She smiled and said sure. That puzzled me for the longest time because I couldn't understand what would be so different being 25 compared to 24. Well, there are a few things...

1. I am no longer in the 18-24 demographic. Which means I'm no longer considered that early young adult trying to find their way. I'm now considered that more reliable 20-something who has a job and is more settled. Hmm...

2. Cheaper car insurance, although, not so much for me since I'm a girl, and I don't have a car, but still it's a bonus.

That's about it, so see not really too much else on a purely superficial level but on a deeper level I did reflect on the first 25 years of my life. Upon reflection I did notice how different I am in almost every since of the word. I've definitely changed physically (that's a given) but also spiritually, morally and intellectually. I'm not the same person I was a few years ago or even a year ago. Sure, there's things that are the same, like being in school for roughly 21 years (that's a long time) but somethings that are different, like not really sure what I'll be doing for the next 25 years. I've been to many different places throughout this world, though not nearly as many as I'd like to have to, and hope to visit many more. I've experienced some really great stuff and some not so great stuff and had many personal issues to overcome. My family has had ups and downs and tremendous growth as well, with nieces and nephews and step-family all entering the picture. I've been in three graduations and been defined as a student for so long I'm not sure how to classify myself anymore. My faith has been tested many different times and I've done loads of soul searching. Friends have come and gone and a very special core of a few have been created (a resounding thank-you to all of you- you know who you are).

Needless to say, a lot has happened in 25 years and I know a lot will change in the next 25 and beyond. I don't know where I'll be or what I'll be doing. Family, friends, life and my faith will change. It'll be a trip.

Ethical Dilemmas

So part of my job requires me to understand the ethical implications of doing environmental research on humans. Well I must confess that I don't really know that much about ethics, in the academic sense. I've had a few classes over the years that have dealt with some of the theories, teachers and concepts. However, I've never really taken the time to understand what some of these models were actually saying or teaching. Well, due to the amount of free time that I have at work I decided that now would be a good time to do it. So I did some lovely internet researching and printed of loads of information, and boy have I been surprised.

First off, really distinguishing between what each ethical claim is stating is hard to do. Some of them are so similar that only a few things may appear different. Others seem so ludicrious that I just wonder how anyone could actually believe them. Yet, I've found most of them seem to be rooted in some sort of intellectual thinking; they are all based on ideas, concepts and beliefs of an individual, often coming to odds with religion. Several of these concepts sound wonderful to me such as natural right of all people, beneficience, respect for persons and fair justice. Who doesn't want to be treated fairly, respected no matter their status and provided with the best? Sounds great right? Then there's others that say collectivism is the true path and ambiguity is the preferred road. What? How does that work? How can promoting collectivism lead to a better society, a free society? What happened to the right to question, to wonder, to be an individual?

I've also delved into the philsophers such as John Locke, Kant, Aristole and many others. Each has their own view of morality and ethics and yet, none, are based in a world of faith. Locke, for instance, believes in the naturalistic approach to society and promotes a more tribal influence even at the expense of other weaker individuals. Immanuel Kant believes all morality can be found in logic and intelligence and Aristole, well he's great in many ways and yet wrong in so many others. Throughout all this research I kept being struck by the lack of faith displayed. Nietzche went so far as to say that God is dead. Seriously? Are we that far from the truth?

I think what really struck me is how torn I became. One part of me completely understood what they are saying and promoting. I get their theories and their basis for their proofs. I understand the intellectual consternation behind their proclimations and even agree with them on various aspects, but, yet, the faith part of me was shouting out that man is not truly capable of determining what is right and wrong. We cannot base morality, truth and goodness off of what we think. We are flawed human beings and therefore are naturally skewed. Yet, I see this happening all the time. This country, and world, is growing further from that Truth with each generation and each subsequent generation is being told to base their moral compass on what man thinks is right and true. How sad this is and look at where it's leading us.

Intelligence is a great thing to use to further question who we are and what we're here for. It helps and spurs us on to delve deeper and seek more answers, but should not be the basis for our ethics. That should come completely and fully from God. How much further are we to slide before we understand the Truth?

Take a look at your moral compass... what is itbased on?

Friday, January 4, 2008

Reasons for Resolutions

When the new year comes around many people make resolutions. Those resolutions often involve some sort of weight loss or eating less junk food. Too few of us really ever keep those resolutions past a few weeks and so I find myself thinking what really is the point of a "New Years Resolution." Why do we make one at that particular time instead of any other time? What has changed within us that will allow us to keep the particular goal?

I think we often make the resolution because it's popular and the norm. We make a statement with no intention of ever keeping it. To me that is a complete waste. Why state a goal when there is nothing in our lives that will allow us to keep the resoultion? I believe in order to truly grow as a person, to truly change, we have to be willing to change ourselves and mean it. When stating a goal, no matter how frivolus, we should want to make sure it comes true, not just stating it to be cool. Resolutions show who we are as people and what we want our character to be. Therefore, they should not be stated lightly or without any real want for change.

Look at your resolutions and see what they say about you and your intention.