Firsts – Live One
Embodying new lifestyles and experiences.

Mar
10

Like most boys during the 90s, I too was into skateboarding for a short period.  It probably started when I received a Sony Playstation for my birthday along with my first game, Tony Hawk Pro Skateboarding.  Soon thinking that I could catch 30 feet of air off a half-pipe and the only consequence of falling was a little blood, I bought my first skateboard.  And I’m still not surprised when after a week or so of attempting ollies, I had had enough. 

Through my teenage years, I experimented with other alternative, freestyle sports such as BMX and rollerblading, but none of them stuck.  The urge to give skateboarding another go surfaces every now and then when guys pass me on their long-boards on campus.  But I’ve come to think that the skateboard’s possibilities are too small.  What I mean is that while I was growing up, the board stayed the same size and eventually it felt like I was playing with a dinky, little toy.  Plus, I live in Northwest Ohio where there’s no elevation change once so ever.  If I wanted to get back on a board, I’d need something that could take some abuse; something that could go on and offroad.  Yet when I first saw a picture of a mountainboard, I thought there was no way I was getting on one.

As I hinted at, mountainboards can handle a wide variety of terrain including: boardercross tracks, slopestyle parks, grass hills, gravel roads, BMX and mountain bike trails, and even ski resorts.  Of course, they can also be seen with skateboarders on the city streets and at local skate parks.

The first mountain board, termed an ‘All Terrain Dirtboard’, was patented by Morton Hellig of England in 1989.  His company, Supercrusier Inc., was the first to produce the board on a wide scale.  It wasn’t until 1992 that the sport began to acquire buzz in the United States where three snowboarders from northern California (one of whom, Jason Lee, would end up coining the term ‘mountainboard’) were looking for an alternative option to snowboarding in the summer.  They would soon find one of the sports main producers, Mountain Board Sports (MSB), in 1993.

The deck of a mountainboard is typically 90-110 cm (35-43 inches) long and made from laminated wood pressed into shape using a similar process as in the construction of snowboards.  The boards have variable characteristics that can be made to suite the rider such as flex, weight, shape, length, and tip angle.

Its wheels are connected to the deck in one of two methods: skate or channel trucks.  Skate trucks are almost identical in design to their skateboard counterparts, just much bigger.  While channel trucks are more common and offer steering that is cushioned by shocks and springs.

channel trucks

There are five different types of bindings:

  • Snowboard
  • Ratchet-strap
  • Velcro
  • Bar-bindings
  • Heelstraps

The board’s rims are made from plastic or metal fitted with pneumatic tires ranging in size from 8-13 inches (20-33 cm).  The tires come in varying thicknesses and treads to suit the terrain.  Also, some boards are fixed with brakes although they are generally reserved for professional riders who compete in longer runs.  When they are added, they are normally attached to both front wheels rather than the rears to increase braking efficiency and reduce the risk of the wheel lockage.

Did you know?- It has been found that the 8 inch wheel is the perfect size for freestyling, while 9-10 inch wheels are reserved for events where speed and greater stability are favored.  They are operated by a hand lever in one of three different designs:

  • Drum brakes
  • Hydraulic rim/disc brakes
  • V mounted brakes (set up similar to standard bicycle brakes)

Since you’re going down hills of dirt and not snow, you should wear a good amount of protective gear.  The following is list of everything you should wear:

  • Helmet
  • Wrtistguards
  • Elbow and knee pads
  • Padded shorts
  • Body armor

Four event categories:

  • Downhill (DH)/Big Mountain- Timed, single man descents on long courses (+1 Km)
  • Boardercross (BoardeX, BX)- Two to four man racing on a specifically designed track.
  • Freestyle (FS)
    • Slopestyle
    • Big Air
    • Skate Park/Jib
  • Freeriding (FR)- Non competitive over natural terrain.

dirtsurfer

A similar activity is dirtsurfing, an Australian board sport defined as ‘inline boarding’.  Composed of an aluminum tubular frame, composite deck, and two 16/20 inch BMX wheels, this extreme sport replicates snowboarding even better.  You can view this company’s patented products at their official website, dirtsurfer.com.

If you’re interested in getting started in this sport but not sure where to begin, click here to see MBS’s board selection guide which will help you choose a board based on what competition styles you’re most interested in.  After that you can visit mbs.com or groundindustries.com and search through their many models.

I want to know…While I think mountainboards are perfectly designed for freestyle and racing purposes, what about traversing mixed terrain?  I can envision that the majority of kids who buy a mountainboard will only be able to use it in their back woods.  And if you don’t have a special course to ride on, what’s the point in having a fancy suspension system that will just get banged to pieces? 

Be Unlimited mountainboard

Through some research I found an alternatively designed mountain board called Be Unlimited made by an old company called Beyond Boards.  It’s unique in that the trucks are placed on top of the deck making the transition from one terrain to another (let’s say rock to grass) much easier.  I believe the company no longer exists so the only place I could find one is RIGHT HERE.

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Mar
08

There are not many displays in war I find glorious.  Sure there are certain battles that I find interesting from a tactical standpoint, but I don’t see much heroicness in the sacrificing of lives due to a deficiency of communication.  In America, the most pointless war to beseech our homeland was our only Civil War.  It’s easy to become caught up in the facts when you’re learning about past conflicts in history class, but when you really think about it there’s nothing more pointless than brothers killing one another. 

A significant event in the war’s outcome was the Battle of Gettysburg, what many acclaim to be the beginning of the South’s decline.  This three day exchange was the bloodiest campaign of the war resulting in each side losing a total of 46,000-51,000 men.  Below you can see how many men each commanding officer had at their disposal before the battle.

Robert E. Lee (CONFEDERACY)- 71,699

George G. Meade (UNION)- 93,921

Today Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is just a small town with a permanent population of 7,500, although the number becomes a lot larger if tourists are taken into consideration.  Back in 1786, when tavern owner Samuel Gettys founded the city, there wasn’t much around.  Now there’s history waiting to be discovered by visitors behind every corner.

Gettysburg College

One such place is Gettysburg College created in 1832.  A private, four-year, liberal arts school, the college only enrolls only 2,600 students.  Another attraction is the Dobbin House Tavern, the town’s oldest standing building constructed in 1776.  Through the centuries, the Dobbin House has been a main stop on the Underground Railroad and also served as a makeshift hospital during the war.  These instances have earned the restaurant a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Since being recognized on a wide scale, much of the tavern has been converted into a gift shop and is also home to a large Civil War diorama.  To bring its diners back to an earlier time, the restaurants only light comes from candles, while the staff serves traditional food while dressed in original wartime attire.

Did you know?- Before becoming a famous military general and U.S. president, Dwight D. Eisenhower lived a quiet life in Gettysburg.  After World War II, Eisenhower returned to the city to retire.  It would also be where he would recover from his surprise heart attack in 1955.  During these years he became involved with the local college and even spent time serving on the Board of Trustees.  Eventually an office was named after the president where it is documented that Eisenhower wrote his memoirs.

Despite the for mentioned attractions, the majority of tourists are drawn to Gettysburg’s bloody history.  Growing in popularity are local ghost tours where visitors explore places reported to be haunted by soldiers yet to leave this realm.  And of course there’s the annual reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg which replicates the entire three day skirmish.  And there is Gettysburg National Military Park which contains actual weaponry and paraphernalia from the battle.

And during your visit you decide there’s too much to see in one day, why not spend a night at the Gettysburg Hotel.  Now technically serving as a Best Western branch, the building was constructed in 1797 and continues to hold a certain allure to passionate couples.

Gettysburg Hotel

For those out there who thought this post would be a recount of the battle, you’re not out of luck.  While whole books and movies have been dedicated to the Battle of Gettysburg, I will only recite what in my mind is the most famous occurrence of the battle, Pickett’s Charge. 

It began on the third day, July 3, where fighting resumed on Culp’s Hill.  Cavalry battles erupted to the east and south.  At around 1 p.m., 150-170 Confederate cannons began bombarding Union soldiers with artillery fire, spending nearly all of their ammunition.  Soon afterwards, 80 Union cannons returned fire. With the Army of Northern Virginia nearly depleted of ammunition, 12,500 men situated in Spangler’s Woods began their march into the hailstorm of cannonballs.  Those left standing would end up having hiked the ¾ mile (1.2 Km) to Cemetery Ridge.  You can watch part 1 of a 5 part series documenting the vicious attack below.

Mar
05

Do you believe in true evil?  That the polar opposites of right and wrong really exist?  I’d like to think I don’t; that what one perceives as wickedness is rather a lack of understanding of the world.  One of our largest physiological shortcomings is the thought that “we” are our egos; that our minds and bodies are the only things that exist.  Many have overcome this illusion: the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa, and Gandhi.  But just because we can rise above the misconception of opposites does not mean that we can obliterate what causes the pain that causes many to suffer. 

I’m not certain why, but I occasionally like to remind myself how much the world suffers; perhaps to make myself feel more humble or to remember the fragility and shortness of life.  I still feel the need to make myself aware of how good a life I have in America that everyone, even consciously, takes for granted.  And if I’m ever having a bad day, I think back to disasters like the thousands of waiting victims of Hurricane Katrina or the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centers in 2001 to bring me back to reality.  Over time, I’ve learned to forgive the people that made these things happen, but there is still one event that I continue to find hard to believe let alone accept; the Holocaust.

When I think of the Holocaust, I think of concentration camps.  And when I think of concentration camps, I think of Auschwitz, the mother of German killing farms during World War II.  Actually a grouping of 48 separate holding camps, Auschwitz was built around the Poland town of Oświęcim which was renamed after the country was seized by Germany in September of 1941. 

These encampments were settled on an area rich in natural resources.  The three main camps were Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II-Birkenau, and Auschwitz III-Monowitz, often referred to as ‘Buna’.

aerial shot of Auschwitz

Auschwitz II-Birkenau was the brain-child of Heinrich Himmler, Germany’s Minister of the Interior.  He was quoted in saying the new camp would be the center of the “final solution of the Jewish question in Europe.”  The camp’s first commanding officer, Rudolph Hoss, would later testify at the Nuremberg Trials that up to three million people had died there, around 90% of them Jews.

Did you know?- While many text books will tell you the Allies had no idea about Auschwitz during World War II, they actually did.  Witold Pilecki, a Polish Army Captain, volunteered to be inside the concentration camp to get evidence of the German’s attempted genocide.  Witold spent 945 days at Auschwitz relaying information to the Polish resistance movement which was later given to the British.  When he finally escaped in April of 1943 and filed his final report, many thought that his accounts were exaggerations and dismissed his claims.

Arbeit Macht Frei – “Work sets you free.”

While most know of the gas chambers that became signature with these camps, there were other more obscure forms of torture that you should know about.  They include:

  • Some prisoners were forced to spend nights in “standing cells”.  These were 4’ x 4’ rooms where four men would be placed inside.
  • In basements there were “starvation cells” where prisoners were placed with no food and eventually died.  There were also “dark cells” which had only a very tiny slit of a window for oxygen eventually leading to the prisoner’s suffocation.  If the process wasn’t going fast enough, an officer would occasionally place a lit candle in the cell to accelerate the process.
  • Many were subjected to having their hands handcuffed behind their backs, dislocating their shoulder joints for days.
  • Officers also removed gold teeth from the corpses of gas chamber victims which were melted down and reused.

Most people think that prisoners of concentration camps never got any rest, but that’s not absolutely true.  Occupants’ days began at 4:30 in the morning with roll call followed by 30 minutes where they were allowed to clean themselves as best they could.  Then they were led to their work station by foot wearing striped camp suits, no underwear, and wooden shoes without socks.  After a 12 hour day, prisoners were assembled for another roll call, given their daily ration of bread, and dismissed into their buildings.  Often, four people would share one bunk.

glasses of victims

On January 27, 1945, Auschwitz was finally liberated by Soviet troops, a day commemorated around the world as International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Did you know?- At the museum there is a display case about 30 meters (98 feet) long entirely filled the hair of inmates Nazis removed before and after their deaths.  Also, when the Russians arrived on site they found precisely 348,820 men’s suits and 836,255 women’s garments.

In 1947, Poland created a museum consisting of the remaining buildings inside the boundaries of Auschwitz I and II.  By 1994 the museum had seen more than 22 million visitors.  It is now believed to bring in more than 700,000 visitors annually.  If you would like to help preserve what’s left of this important historical reminder, click here to make a charitable donation.

Many movies have been made on the Holocaust since the fall of the Third Reich.  The most well known to my generation is Stephen Spielberg’s Schindler’s List.  If you haven’t seen the movie, you can watch a trailer below.

Mar
03

Touché!  Ongaurd! When I think of two dudes fighting it out with swords, I either think of Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, or two Brits fencing.  I’m not sure if that’s a normal identification process but fencing is one of the most honored forms of swordsmanship.

Man he's a sexy beast!!!

What many people don’t know is that fencing is actually a collection of sports that feature weapons such as swords, knives, pikes (long spears), bayonets, batons, and clubs.  There are three categories of competition which are featured in the Olympic Games.  They include:

  • Foil- A lightweight thrusting weapon.  Acceptable targets include the chest, torso, shoulders, and back.
  • Epee- A heavy thrusting weapon.  Any part of the body can be targeted.
  • Sabre- A cutting and thrusting weapon.  The only targets are the saddle line, which extends across the hip, as well as the head.

Rather than described the rules of each category, I’ve decided to dedicate the rest of this article to describe the foil method, which is the style most think of. 

Did you know?- Wheelchair fencing, also known as jousting, is a Paralympics sport.  Minor modifications to the rules allow disabled fencers to fence all three weapons.  Footwork is replaced by torso or arm movement, depending on the fencer’s disability. The proximity of the two fencers tends to increase the pace of bouts, which require considerable skill.

Like a lot of sports, if you’re new to watching fencing you’ll probably have no idea what’s going on.  Just as with the majority of American athletics, in fencing a winner is chosen upon a point system.  Specifically in foil, score is kept by counting the number of hits which land on the opponent’s target area.  These hits are called ‘touches’.  When a player has been struck, the judge will yell “Halt!” signaling the end of the round.  Bouts are scored to either five or fifteen touches.

Now it gets complicated….There are rules that govern the priority of a hit when opponents strike one another simultaneously.  This guideline is referred to as the “right of way.”  When a person is attacked, the opposite fencer must either avoid or defend against the attack to be awarded a touch.  If the opponent ‘parries’, or blocks, the attack, he/she has the right to ‘riposte’ or counter-attack.  Counter-attacks only score if the attacker misses.  Even if the attacker’s strike misses its target, it still takes priority over the opponent’s valid hit.

Below is a list of all the protective equipment required in professional fencing.

Did you know?- As fencers’ strikes became quicker judges were having a difficult time scoring bouts by eye.  This problem was eliminated with the invention of electric fencing equipment.  It works by sending an electric current through the sword which when striking the target area completes the circuit causing a light on the end of the sword to light up.

Fencing is a great sport to build muscle speed and hand-eye coordination.  To ensure no one gets hurt in your learning process, it’s recommended you start with a practice weapon which is considerably cheaper than electric models.  Two websites that offer practice foils starting at $25 are blade-fencing.com and shop.fencing.net.

Mar
01

WARNING: The following post is rated PG-13 and may not be suitable for children!

When you’re at a fancy restaurant, service is extremely important.  You feel you should be treated with respect and that you always “know what’s best.”  Of course, the lower the quality of the establishment, the lower the quality of service.  I don’t enjoy eating out that much because I feel guilty looking at all the young waiters hustling around doing a job you know they don’t enjoy.  Plus, whenever I go to a restaurant like Applebee’s I feel sooo white.  I think we would all like to see a waiter just let their customer(s) have it someday.   In some places, if you’re not being called a motherf***** you’re not getting what you came for.

Chicago is a city known for many historic eateries, and The Wiener’s Circle is no different.  This hot dog stand is known for its char-grilled food and verbal abuse between customers and employees.  (They also have delicious chili fries.)  Their most ordered item is the ‘chardog’ with “the works”; a grilled Vienne beef hot dog on a warm poppy seed bun topped with mustard, onions, relish, dill pickles spears, tomato slices, and sport peppers with a dash of celery salt.

The profanity exchanged between employees and customers only happens during late-weekend hours where they are often open until 5:00 a.m.  During the day it’s a typical hot dog stand but when the party crowd comes to grab a bite after the bars close, the insults start flying.

This company tradition began in the early 90s when Larry Gold, one of the owners, was dealing with an intoxicated customer who wasn’t making the ordering process any easier.  At his breaking point from the large crowd, Larry called the drunk an ass*****.  Nowadays, with the majority of staff being black and the stand being located in an upper-class white neighborhood, racist slurs often change the atmosphere from relaxed to unfriendly.

Did you know?- Some customers request a “chocolate milkshake” from one of the female employees which is a request for them to expose their breasts.