It’s a Weird World After All

PMWWWEC_MainImageAugust 26, 2016 – Are you the ultimate theme park connoisseur?

If you’ve been to Disney World more than 10 times you probably think you are. You may also want to seek help for your addiction and admit it’s time to broaden your horizons before you plan your next theme park excursion.

In honor of Labor Day approaching faster than the Rock and Roll Roller Coaster, here are 10 Bizarre Theme Parks from Around the World courtesy of listverse.com, the people who love compiling lists as much as I love reading them. Between the 10 stages of hell, a Japanese prison, the crucifixion and war mongering, there is something for the entire family.

Wonder Woman

2nd-day---Towards-Serthi3April 27, 2015 — Earlier this year, I had an opportunity to interview a colleague for a feature story in our company newsletter. Her name is Aparna Choudhury, and she worked at the office in Pune, India. She has since left the company, but I believe she’d be happy to know I decided to share her story with a wider audience.

Aparna trains as a long distance marathon runner, and is one of the few women in all of India, and the world, who has tackled this challenge. She’s also been the subject of a documentary film, which she discusses in the interview below:

Aparna’s story is special because she’s strong and inspirational, but also because shares her story with women across her country to empower them. She does this, she explained during the interview, because even though women have equal rights and have held high offices including president and prime minister, there can be challenges for women in India. Here is part of my conversation with Aparna:

2nd-day---Towards-Serthi2Aparna, you hold a special record for female runners in India. Can you tell me about that?

I have two records currently: the first Indian woman to do a 100-mile run (Bhatti Lakes, Faridabad, India, October 2011) and a 135-mile run (Uttarkashi, India, September 2012).

The first record happened by accident. I was supposed to crew for another runner who failed to call back until the last moment, so I got tired of waiting and decided to participate myself. There were seven participants and I was one of the four finishers. For the 135-mile run, we were three participants at the start line, and two finished including me. (Pictured above: Aparna taking a break during one of her marathons.)

Those long distances would take several hours by car. How long does it take to complete a 135-mile marathon by foot?

It takes forever. Actually, it took 45 hours and 27 minutes to finish. Breaks are few, but the clock still ticks during rest periods. It began raining during my event and for reasons that are still not clear, I crawled under a Jeep to nap. The water started running under the car though, so I got up. Even eating is done while walking so as not to use up time. Once the miles start adding up, the number of breaks increase as the body starts looking for the smallest of excuses to sit down. Sometimes the mind knows that you’re just wasting time, but the body refuses to get up.

e2b161d3e3466b4eafd622a32b7420b7_largeYou’ve also been featured in a documentary about female long distance runners. How did that come about?

I ran in a 222km run (approximately 138 miles) in Leh, Ladakh (India), which was at an altitude of 11000-17700 feet. The race is by invitation only, and I was the first Indian to be invited. The field consisted of seven participants, including two women. I met Rebecca Byerly, a journalist and runner, and the other woman during this race. She explained she was filming a documentary and the idea was to capture two essential ingredients: Women and Mountains, and display the stories to high school students in the U.S. (Pictured above: Aparna with Rebecca Byerly).

Rebecca and I were disqualified from the race because of not clearing the cut-off set for first 48kms, as we took six minutes extra to reach the checkpoint. I decided to carry on and finish the race on my own as it didn’t make sense for me to go all the way to Leh and  not finish. I knew I was capable of doing the full 222kms at that height. In the end, it added another flavor to the documentary, as it now also displays how to keep on going despite all odds.

15The documentary, ‘Women of the Mountain’ is a feature-length film told through six women: three who run the world’s longest ultra-marathons through the world’s highest mountain ranges, and three who live in those rugged terrains. From the Himalayas to the Alps to the Sierra Nevada, it tells the stories of resilient women from around the world, and shows how they rise above the challenges of age, culture, gender or any parameters society sets for them.

What motivates a person to be a long distance runner?

A curiosity to go that extra mile to see if it’s doable, to explore new places and to keep fit.

What was the longest marathon you’ve ever participated in?

It was a single stage event, the La Ultra 2013, a multi-day run spread across six days. The 330kms (approximately 205 miles) from Dandi to Sabarmati, Gujarat, India traced Gandhi’s footsteps in his ‘Salt March’, where he had walked in a non-violent protest against the British rule.

Describe the process of training for a marathon?

I tend to run regularly, and cover 40-45 miles per week when not training for an ultra. During my training months, I increase the weekly mileage to at least 80% of the race distance. What I have observed is ultras are more mental than physical, so I try to prepare myself in that aspect more. I run continuous loops of 5kms to prepare myself mentally for the long hours and monotony. (Pictured above: cooling off during the run).

What do you think about when you run?

Mostly its random thoughts, funny conversations or scenes from movies. Sometimes I start day dreaming and build hypothetical situations where I’m always the hero. In the beginning, I think about the distance and keep on calculating the pace in my mind. Towards the middle, I think I won’t ever do another long distance race again and towards the end, I think of the food and bed that awaits me.

Athletes are typically superstitious. Do you have any rituals that you follow?

No rituals, but I have a green long-sleeved t-shirt that I carry with me on all my ultra runs.

Who is your role model and how does he or she inspire you?

Bruce Lee. I have also trained in Taekwondo and have achieved the red belt with black stripe, which is one short of the black belt. Bruce Lee inspires me the most for various reasons, the most important being he followed a philosophy of lifelong learning and not putting limits on anything. I try to emulate him.

Philly ranks #3 on best places to visit list

phillyJanuary 12, 2015 – Philadelphia is a great city.

I know it, and maybe you know it too, but my home city gets a bad rap when it comes to reputation.

True Philadelphians, however, know the real deal; We’re not that dangerous, as Philly ranks #60 out of 100 on the most dangerous cities in the U.S., which is not great, but not that bad ether for a big east coast city. Hey, 59 other cities are far more dangerous.

When it comes to sports, don’t even get me started on what they say about the City of Brotherly Love. We know it’s ridiculous, and that the #1 story the media states time and time again is nearly 50 years old and blown way out of proportion. Still, some of us appreciate that reputation because we want our competition to be afraid to play in our fair city.

Now, the New York Times, the newspaper published in the city that probably gives us the most grief, has named their 52 places to visit in 2015, and Philly ranks #3, after Milan, Italy and Cuba. The newspaper states that Dilworth Park, the Delaware waterfront, and the Spruce Street Harbor Park are some of the main reasons, but let’s not forget the city’s fascinating history.

Congratulations, Philly! You deserve it.

Philadelphia’s Japanese House and Garden

June 2, 2014 – Yesterday’s spectacular weather was perfect for a late spring stroll through Fairmount Park, and a visit to the Japanese House and Garden.

Shofuso, also known as Japanese House and Garden, is a traditional 17th century-style Japanese house and garden located in Philadelphia’s West Fairmount Park.

Shofuso, also known as Japanese House and Garden, is a traditional 17th century-style Japanese house and garden located in Philadelphia’s West Fairmount Park.

The house was built in Japan in 1953 (a gift from Japan to America) and exhibited in the courtyard at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It was moved to Philadelphia in 1958.

The house was built in Japan in 1953 (a gift from Japan to America) and exhibited in the courtyard at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It was moved to Philadelphia in 1958.

Shofuso was modeled after a famous guesthouse in the city of Otsu, built in 1601.

Shofuso was modeled after a famous guesthouse in the city of Otsu, built in 1601.

The Journal of Japanese Gardening named Shofuso the third-ranked Japanese garden out of more than 300 Japanese gardens in North America.

The Journal of Japanese Gardening named Shofuso the third-ranked Japanese garden out of more than 300 Japanese gardens in North America.

Over the years, Shofuso fell into disrepair due to lack of maintenance. In 1975, Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo contacted the Consulate General of Japan in New York to inquire about the possibility restoring Shofuso for the 1976 Bicentennial Celebration. The Japan-America Society raised funds a complete major restoration of the house and garden in June 1976.

In the early 1970s, Shofuso fell into disrepair due to lack of maintenance. The Japan-America Society raised funds a complete major restoration of the house and garden in June 1976, just in time for the Bicentennial.

To continue preservation and maintenance of Shofuso, a non-profit organization, the Friends of the Japanese House & Garden was incorporated in February 1982.

To continue preservation and maintenance of Shofuso, a non-profit organization, the Friends of the Japanese House & Garden was formed in February 1982.

Ranking Philadelphia: A top five list

general_philadelphia-city-hall

May 16, 2014 – Philadelphia is a fine place to live, work, and play, but it takes plenty of criticism from those who may not share the love. I perused through the files of www.Ranker.com to see how my fair city stacks up against others in several categories, and here is what I discovered:

5. Philadelphia is 19th out of 64 on “America’s Coolest Cities” list.
I have visited both the #1 and #2 spots (San Francisco and New York City), and agree they have a high cool factor; however, Philadelphia is just as cool and should place higher on the list. Aside from the usual attractions that offer a great history lesson, the birthplace of America features the unusual, too. The Mutter Museum, for example, highlights a history of medicine and an interesting display of medical oddities, and Eastern State Penitentiary, the country’s first modern penitentiary may not be active – it closed in 1971 – but it is open to visitors, and it plays a huge factor in the city’s Halloween fun every year. Laurel Hill Cemetery in East Falls, the National Historic Landmark and the resting place of Titanic passengers and Civil War generals, is another must see. Additionally, filmmaker David Lynch lived in Philly in the 60s and 70s, and shot his epic “Eraserhead” here, which had a huge impact on the city. Sections of Fairmount, where he lived and filmed, are known as Eraserhood.

4. Philadelphia is 5th out of 28 of the “Best Food Cities” in the U.S.
New York, Chicago, New Orleans, and Kansas City may come before Philadelphia on this list, but #5 is respectable for the City of Brotherly Love when it comes to the best food. With several establishments from premier restaurateur Stephen Starr scattered throughout the city, Philly can hold its own in the elite and trendy restaurant category. Whether you want to grab a quick bite at the swanky Continental with two locations in center city, a cheesesteak at Tony Luke’s in South Philly, or sit down and linger over a fabulous meal at Buddakan, the city has a place for everyone. Better yet, visit Citizens Bank Park. Philly’s baseball yard was recently given the honor of the best ballpark food in the country.

3. Philadelphia is 14th out of 25 on the “Most Intelligent Cities” list.
Quite a ridiculous ranking, if you ask me. Seattle and Minneapolis are nos. 1 and 2; I have visited both cities, live in Philadelphia, and I never noticed a difference. If anything, it rains nine months out of the year in Seattle, and it is bitter cold in the winter in Minneapolis which also lasts about nine months, so resident don’t seem very intelligent living in those climates. If the rankers are basing this on top universities located in these cities, I challenge them to name one more prestigious than The University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League presence located in the heart of downtown Philadelphia. Go ahead, I dare you!

2. Philadelphia is 5th out of 14 on the “Famous Firsts in U.S. Cities”.
Cincinnati and New York City are nos. 1 and 2 for their famous firsts of ambulance services and aquariums. Philadelphia falls in at #5, which again is respectable, but when you realize that our famous first is the computer, you will likely agree we belong higher in the ranking. Sure, ambulance services are important, and aquariums are nice, but considering most homes have at least one computer and the work force could not exist without them, the computer and Philadelphia should easily take that #2 spot.

1. Philadelphia is #1 of the 27 cities with the “Worst Sports Fans”.
The city has the lazy sports media to thank for this absurd ranking, since they keep the stories alive by consistently referring to throwing snowballs at Santa in 1968, and other exaggerated occurrences. Bottom line, Philadelphia is a great sports city with passionate fans who may exercise their right to boo, but Philly is the seat of our country’s democracy, so our rights are important. Ironically, Philadelphia also lists #7 out of 30 on the cities with the “Best Sports Fans” list. I think we belong higher up on that list, too.

View the complete lists at http://www.ranker.com/review/philadelphia/1792338.

 

The Grand Central Station of Philadelphia

May 5, 2014 – Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station is a hub for Amtrak trains bound for national destinations, and for local SEPTA trains that run throughout the city and local suburbs. A unique and artistically designed building, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The ornate inside columns make one feel they are inside a museum, rather than a transportation station.

The ornate inside columns make one feel they are inside a museum, rather than a rail station.

Construction began in 1927 and the station opened in 1933, starting with two platform tracks.

Construction began in 1927 and the station opened in 1933, starting with two platform tracks.

The building's exterior has columns on the east and west sides, giving it a balance between classical and modern architectural styles.

The building’s exterior has columns on the east and west sides, giving it a balance between classical and modern architectural styles.

The coffered ceiling is painted gold, red and cream.

The coffered ceiling is painted gold, red and cream.

An archangel at the 29th Street entrance holds a dead soldier to honor Pennsylvania Railroad employees killed during WWII.

An archangel at the 29th Street entrance holds a dead soldier to honor Pennsylvania Railroad employees killed during WWII.