Posted by: vikingsinspace | April 9, 2012

VI.20.01.05. Read Medieval Britain: A Very Short Introduction

Date Accomplished: 6 June 2011

Medieval Britain VSI

This book, as the rest in this series, provides a good overview of some of the main events that took place in British History from 1066 to about 1500.  There is a lot to cover in 500 years, so while I was a little disappointed at a few things that were left out of the narrative, I should not have been too surprised.  I was a little excited to get to the latter half of the book, covering the years from about 1290 to 1500.  I have spent so much time recently between my Masters and Doctorate focusing on the history of England i the twelfth century, that I have had little chance to read about the later middle ages in England.  In addition to my interests in the twelfth century, I have always enjoyed the Hundred Years War and the reigns of Edward III and Henry V, so it was fun to read just a little bit about that time period again.

Posted by: vikingsinspace | April 2, 2012

I.2.01.01. Visit New York City

Date Accomplished: 12 August 2011

Manhatten

I’m about to move to another city, and before I actually leave where I currently am, I found the opportunity to take a quick trip to New York City.  It was completely unplanned and rather spontaneous, so I actually had little time in the city and didn’t see much.  However, I planned on this goal being accomplished if I visited the Statue of Liberty, and that was something that I did accomplish.

Statue of Liberty

I drove north up the New Jersey Turnpike with my father and we parked at Liberty State Park where we caught the Ferry to Liberty Island.  It stopped by Ellis Island first and we considered getting off there for a quick look, but decided that we had little time and had to focus on our major destinations – the Statue of Liberty being the primary destination.  unfortunately we didn’t plan far enough in advance to get tickets to climb up the statue, but we were able to at least get on the island, walk around, and get pictures from the outside.

Guggenheim Museum

After visiting Liberty island, we got back to our car and drove into Manhattan.  In Friday evening rush hour.  Aside from a crash blocking the Holland tunnel, it was actually a fairly easy drive.  We were trying to get to the Guggenheim Museum, and unfortunately were working with an inadequate map (which didn’t show which direction the one-way roads went).  This got us turned around near central park where we ended up driving through the park to get to the Museum, which was closing soon after we got there.  So, we couldn’t see anything in the museum, but we essentially went there to see the building itself.

George Washington Bridge

Afterwards, my father had a friend with a shop on Broadway downtown, so we drove down 5th Avenue to reach the cross street we needed to turn on.  After visiting with the friend, we left the city for the night.  As we were leaving to go back south the next morning, we decided to head back into the city for a quick drive around to just see a few more things from the car.  We couldn’t see a whole lot, but we did drive by Ground Zero and saw the new building that is being erected to replace the Twin Towers.  All in all, it was a fun and quick trip, but I didn’t get to see nearly enough of New York.  This has certainly prepared me for a second trip, but that will have to wait for another time.

Posted by: vikingsinspace | March 26, 2012

VI.20.01.04. Read The Norman Conquest: A Very Short Introduction

Date Accomplished: 24 May 2011

Norman Conquest VSI

George Garnett offers an interesting overview of the Norman Conquest.  This little volume offers some of his own theories behind the major changes that the Normans implemented after 1066 and gives adequate evidence to support his claims.  I can imagine it would be a little difficult for someone to follow who wasn’t already familiar with many of the people, places and books which much of the historical arguments surrounding the Conquest are concerned.  For those who are acquainted with the background history, this is an easy and entertaining refresher with many new ideas.  I particularly enjoyed the chapter on Romanesque Architecture which is an aspect I had always known and thought about, but never bother to explore in any depth.  My own interest in the Conquest has always been the lead up to the events of 1066, and unfortunately this book covers very little on that subject.  It is about the immediate aftermath, but very well done nonetheless.

Posted by: vikingsinspace | March 19, 2012

VII.12. Find the Courage to go on an Upside-down Roller-coaster

Date Accomplished: 3 Sept. 2011

The Dreaded Upside-Down Roller-Coaster

I’m not much of a thrill seeker, as I think is evident by many of my goals.  I never really enjoyed going to amusement parks as a kid, and disliked going on many of the rides I did go on (one I remember distinctly was a mini enclosed ferris wheel – I was the only person on it and decided halfway through the ride I felt trapped – I screamed at the conductor to let me off but he would’t stop the ride…  I don’t remember how old I was, but I was quite young).  Despite this, I usually enjoy roller-coasters, but could never find the courage to go on a coaster that went upside-down.

The Entrance

At the time I accomplished this goal, I had just moved to Virginia, and my girlfriend came down to see me over the Labour Day Weekend.  One of the things we opted to do was go to Busch Gardens, and I decided this would be the time I would get myself on an upside-down roller-coaster.  I knew I was going to be nervous, so to work my way up, we started by going through a couple of simple log rides, and the one coaster in the park that didn’t go upside-down: Apollo’s Chariot.

Map of the Loch Ness Monster Coaster

I felt pretty good after going o Apollo’s Chariot, but after having a look at the other coasters in the park, I wasn’t sure what I would handle best.  Most of the coasters are newer ones where the occupants’ feet dangle from the car, and I knew I would’t like that – I have always hated ski lifts for that very reason.  I do much better with heights if I have something under my feet.  So, we opted to ride The Loch Ness Monster – one of the oldest coasters in the park, but apparently considered a classic.

The Loch Ness Monster is 13 stories tall and reaches speeds of 60 mph, during which the coaster goes upside-down twice.  I was nervous as hell waiting in line.  Luckily, we didn’t have to wait long, so I wasn’t dwelling on it too much.  I found the ride to be surprisingly smooth – and I didn’t really notice when I went upside down.  I knew the upside-down part was coming, but the quickness of the car and the restraints I was put under kept me looking ahead and the loops just kind of went by without incident.  I was still a little shaky afterwards, so I opted not to go on any of the other upside-down coasters, but it was still a good day and a little personal triumph for me facing a stupid little fear.

Posted by: vikingsinspace | March 12, 2012

VI.24. Read The Mark of Zorro

Date Accomplished: 3 July 2011

The Mark of Zorro

I needed a good book to read for a long flight that didn’t require my taking notes (such as my Sabatini, Pratchett and Medieval books do) so I opted for a book on my list that wouldn’t require much thought: The Mark of Zorro by Johnston McCulley.  I have enjoyed the swashbuckling type novels for some time, but my real interest in reading The Mark of Zorro came from my enjoyment of the Zorro television show produced by Disney in the 1950s.  I was introduced to the show by my girlfriend, and the two of us would watch an episode or two every night together (it was one of the rare television shows that we both liked).

The book itself was originally entitled The Curse of Capistrano when it was published in serial form.  The title was changed to match the first Zorro film, The Mark of Zorro staring Douglas Fairbanks and based off the book.  I need not bore you with any more details, as there is an excellent introduction in the Penguin edition which provides all the background material on the book and character of Zorro.

Guy Williams as Zorro

The book itself is an easy and entertaining read.  I think a part of it was ruined for me since I already knew the identity of Zorro through the television series.  The book leads up to Zorro revealing his identity at the end as one of the other characters in the novel, and while it may have been more enjoyable not knowing Zorro’s identity to begin with, I’m sure the astute reader would have figured it out without difficulty.

I was also surprised to find that the novel was not so much about Spanish-California “Robin Hood” type character, but was really the story of three different men (Zorro, Captain Ramón, and Don Diego Vega) and their attempts at courting the Seniorita Lolita.  This did not detract from the novel at all, but simply gave a romantic character to Zorro that is somewhat lacking (by necessity) in the Disney television series.  Despite this, there is still plenty of sword play and adventure to make it a fun and exciting novel.  I’d hate for my thoughts here to be taken as criticisms; they are really more surprises.  McCulley wrote many more Zorro stories after this one, and I may be tempted to read the some day, but for now, I have enjoyed this one, and must move on to other things.

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