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February 14, 2008

Wisp Mountain Cross-Country All-Season Coaster Ride

Can your roller coaster do that?

Didn't think so.

It's located on Wisp Mountain in McHenry, Maryland.

Elissa Leibowitz Poma's story in yesterday's Washington Post has more, and follows.

    Track Star: Wisp's All-Season Coaster

    The banana-colored car careened on an angle around the first curve of the outdoor mountain coaster track on Maryland's Wisp Mountain, and I momentarily forgot something important: I'm afraid of heights. My cheeks were flushed, but not because of nervousness. I heard myself shriek, but not from fear. I gripped the hand brakes tightly, but my knuckles didn't turn white. The ride was exhilarating, actually.

    Until I looked down.

    Bad move.

    Twenty feet below was a snowy and icy expanse of sloping mountain, separated from the coaster track by a chain-link-fence-like barrier. Above me, snowboarders and skiers made the slow climb up the mountain on a ski lift, their skis and boots dangling right over my head.

    Just as quickly as the pang hit, though, my stomach left my throat, the acrophobic moment passed and I found myself getting into the two corkscrew turns that came next. I even released the brakes a little more. That's living on the edge.

    Thrill seekers probably will find Wisp Resort's year-round mountain coaster tame. After all, it's suitable for riders age 3 and older, so how hard-core could it be? But it's not often you find an outdoor roller coaster open during wintry months, and in such a lovely setting. In fact, there are only three other mountain coasters in the United States, with this one, near Deep Creek Lake in Garrett County, Md., the closest to the Washington area. (It's a three-hour drive from downtown D.C.) Taking the quick coaster ride is a nice break from more strenuous ski resort pursuits, especially for children and non-skiers.

    But it's not entirely mild. Releasing your brakes all the way, you could reach speeds of up to 26 mph. I probably didn't go that fast, even during my second, more daring ride, but I sped up enough that the stinging wind whipped the tears right from my eyes.

    The course runs 4,800 feet and is billed as a cross between an alpine slide and a roller coaster. The 52 independent cars look like the go-carts you'd find at an amusement park, except there are no foot pedals. Two spring-loaded hand controls are positioned on each side of your legs. Pull them back to brake, and push down to release.

    During the first part of the ride, you sit back and enjoy the view as your car is pulled up 1,300 feet. Daredevils, take note: The tow seems to take forever. Even I wanted more speed than that.

    During my second trip, I wasn't as impatient. The surroundings were peaceful and worth soaking in. Snowboarders swooshed around a curve on the Boulder Ski Trail below. Melting ice dripped from the branches of trees. Skiers on the lift that runs parallel to the coaster chatted quietly with their seatmates. I stretched as far as my seat belt would allow to take in the valley view behind me.

    As soon as I passed the shingled shack at the top of the mountain, gravity took over. I slowly started descending, picking up momentum with each turn, forgetting how cold my feet were. I became bolder, releasing the brake a little more with each turn. I heeded the caution lights. And then, in a flash, it was over.

    In total, the ride took about six minutes. It can be as short as four minutes or as long as eight, depending on the speed of the person in front of you. Is the coaster alone worth the three-hour drive to Wisp Resort? Probably not. The price (starting at $9.50 for one ride) seems steep, and if you're stuck behind someone pokey, it's no fun at all.

    But if you're at the resort for an afternoon of skiing, snowboarding or snow tubing, or if you're not much into athletic pursuits, the mountain coaster is one cool ride.

    Just don't look down.


    Tips for Riding the Coaster

    On the weekends, go in the morning, when the ride opens. Most people are on the slopes then, and the lines are shorter. On a recent Saturday, we waited less than five minutes, vs. 30 minutes in the late afternoon.... Avoid getting behind a gaggle of children, who tend to go slower than teens and adults. On our second ride, six tweeners created a logjam, clearly disappointing the people behind them.... Lean into the curves to make them feel faster. Your seat belt will hold you tight.

February 14, 2008 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Photochromic Safety Glasses


From the website:

    Sunrise Safety Glasses

    The right protection indoors or out

    It’s a pain, switching between safety glasses and sunglasses when your work takes you indoors and out, all day long.

    These glasses are photochromic — clear when you’re inside, turning dark when you’re outside, to cut the glare and protect your eyes from harmful UV rays.

    Flexing spring temples, rubber-tipped bows and flexible nosepad for all-day comfort.

    Tough, with rugged wire frames and shatterproof polycarbonate lenses.

    Meets or exceed ANSI Z87.1 standards for impact resistance.

    Microfiber storage bag doubles as a lens cleaner.




February 14, 2008 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Treedolist.com — 'This is a hierarchical organiser for tasks, notes, lists, weblinks and RSS feeds'


From the website:

    What is Treedolist?

    You can store tasks, lists, weblinks, notes, RSS feeds and more.

    You can manipulate your tree in a simple, intuitive interface with drag-and-drop or keyboard shortcuts.

    You can categorise items in your tree by due date or urgency.

    You can share single items or whole branches of your tree with your friends.


TechnoDolts™ will please move on, nothing to see here.

Everyone else, have fun.

Why does the diagram up top remind me of of the one below?


Must be the color scheme.

February 14, 2008 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

DurtBagz — 'über lame and super awesome'


I like it.

All manner of strange and wonderful bags.

And if you don't like what's on the menu, you can create your own.


I'm gonna steal their copywriter as soon as I can come up with an irresistible pay package.

Real soon now.



February 14, 2008 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Why the hardest part of exercising is getting started


The graphic above, which accompanied Howard Schneider's January 29, 2008 Washington Post Health section weekly column entitled "The Misfits," says it all.*

If for some reason you find it doesn't, read the column, which appears below.

    Warm-Up Advice From an Ancient Master

    We've all heard Confucius's aphorism about the journey of a thousand miles. What I want to know is: Did he actually ever try taking that first step?

    Because, boy, is it a doozy. You're sluggish, struggling for breath, and wondering whether you should grow a goatee and handlebars and take up a life of contemplation. You tell yourself that things will be better a little ways down the road, but it's a hard sell.

    Let me see if I can make it easier. I have had more than one workout spoiled by the agony of those first few minutes (starting out too fast, and feeling lousy for the duration), which made me want to understand more about what's happening inside the body during that time. It turns out that all those lectures about warming up — from Coach Blunderbuss in phys ed class to the peppy hecklers at the local gym — have a point, though the usual okay-let's-get-your-body-ready-to-move mantra doesn't quite capture the story.

    A lot happens when you move from rest to sustained motion, whether you are starting out on a run, riding a bike or trekking up a hill. Until that start-up process is complete, whatever you're doing is going to feel labored.

    At rest, your body devotes its attention to the parts that need it: the brain and other critical organs like the kidney and liver. The muscles pretty much get ignored, shut off from all but a trickle of blood.

    As movement increases, capillaries leading to the muscles start to open and carry the blood where it is suddenly demanded. Your heart begins not just beating faster to accommodate, but also increasing — perhaps as much as doubling — the amount of blood it pushes out with each beat. The muscles become a sort of pump to help this happen: The contractions that lead to motion also help push blood back to the heart through the veins.

    A slight, perhaps one-degree rise in internal temperature, meanwhile, helps further a series of chemical reactions in which your body cycles through different methods of producing energy.

    I won't try to describe the whole process. I can't even spell all the words. But here's the gist:

    The substance that allows your muscles to contract is called adenosine triphosphate, or ATP. Your body has several ways to synthesize it using such materials as creatine, lactic acid, glycogen and a bunch of enzymes, all present in the body. A couple of those methods can be tapped quickly to support an increase in activity — when you pop up the stairs from the company lunchroom, for example, or run a sprint.

    However, those initial energy sources can keep pace for only the first few minutes. After that, the body turns to its real energy powerhouse: aerobic glycolysis, a process in which glucose (the basic sugar that the body uses for fuel) is broken down with the aid of oxygen to produce ATP. It's a very productive system, by some estimates yielding 30 or more molecules of ATP for each molecule of glucose. That's why it can sustain all those crazy bouts on the elliptical, not to mention a marathon run.

    But it takes time to stoke up. In the interim, we suffer.

    "[The process] is physiological, but it becomes a psychological issue," said Walt Thompson, a professor of kinesiology and health at Georgia State University in Atlanta. "The first half-mile [of a run] is like, 'I am going to quit.'... But I know exactly where I am going to feel better."

    Carla Sottovia, an exercise physiologist and assistant fitness director at the Cooper Fitness Center in Texas, said those first few minutes of exercise amount to a state of oxygen deprivation, with the body struggling to keep up with the suddenly increased demand, then finally reaching a steady, sustainable state.

    It's a feeling that can be particularly discouraging for beginners, mistaken as a sign of being out of shape (only partially true) instead of understood as a manageable transition into exercise.

    "The first minutes you may be out of breath, you don't feel you have a normal rhythm, you are actually in oxygen deficit," Sottovia said.

    The trick, of course, is warming up, giving your body a chance to prime itself before the real work begins.

    It doesn't much matter what you do. You can dedicate time and specific exercises to the process — sets of jumping jacks or push-ups, an easy ride on the stationary bike — or you can simply begin your workout at an intensity light enough that the body's energy systems never fall behind.

    The pace might seem ridiculously slow. But that first step, and the second, will come a whole lot easier. And as Confucius said: "To learn and to practice what is learned time and again is pleasure, is it not?"


*The legend for the graphic up top reads, "When the muscles are inactive, as little as 15% of the blood circulating through veins and arteries is used to support them, with the bulk focused on the brain, kidneys, liver and other vital organs. During exercise, the ratio reverses. A network of capillaries opens and blood starts flowing to skeletal muscle. The chart shows the distribution of cardiac output at rest and during exercise."

An idle (literally) thought: It would be advantageous (and quite profitable) if someone could figure out a way to shift the blood flow distribution in a lazy individual like me to exercise mode through some sort of mechanical (or virtual) intervention, instead of my having to rely on (mostly futile) daily attempts to overcome my physical inertia by will power.

The trick is to make it more uncomfortable — both mentally and physically — not to exercise than to get up and moving.

There's a bookofjoe MoneyMaker™ if ever there was one.

February 14, 2008 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

What is it?


Answer here this time tomorrow.

February 14, 2008 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack

Starbucks iPhone Hack: QuickOrder — 'Get your coffee fix, fast!'


"iPhone/iPod Touch application that allows users


to purchase their favorite Starbucks drink without waiting in line."

[via Mark Bean]

February 14, 2008 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Toe Flexers — 21st-Century Brass Knuckles?


The way I see it, what with the growing popularity of Thai boxing and various other martial arts involving all four extremities, a reiteration of this product in metal might just be the new new thing.

From the website:

Toe Flexers

Toe Flexers give you stronger, healthier, more beautiful feet in just 10 minutes a day!

Long a dancer's secret, now you can benefit from this unique exercise device.


Wear the comfy pair while relaxing, watching TV or even napping — the Achilles tendons are stretched to relieve the discomfort of hammertoes, bunions and other foot maladies.

As circulation and flexibility improve, foot pain is lessened.

Includes exercise chart.

Wait a minute... what's that music I'm hearing?

$12.98 a pair.

February 14, 2008 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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