31 August 2006

Holy Cow

I finished Holy Cow: An Indian Adventure last night and wanted to share my thoughts on it. (I don't get to do this much since my pleasure reading has been embarrassingly minimal this year). I found this blog entry and accompanying comments on it this morning. I like the idea of this Lehigh professor using it in his classroom.
I enjoyed learning a bit about this diverse country that I would love to visit. The people, the religions, and the coutry varies so widely, it would be wonderful to have two years like the author did to travel and take it all in.

Labor Day Music

One year ago, I was anxiously awaiting my new iPod. At a picnic in the park, completed with Hy-Vee fried chicken, homebase surprised me with a fun little idea. She had collected everyone's favorite song at the moment, written them on a slip of paper and I had to decide which tune belonged to which person. It was lots of fun and then she gave me a few dollars to go buy and download the songs I didn't already have from iTunes. I did and made a Labor Day Faves playlist. That playlist looks like this:

Somebody Told Me by The Killers (NTW)
Danny Boy by Bing Crosby (homebase)
City of Blinding Lights by U2 (schulerin)
So Yesterday by Hilary Duff (emily)
He Went to Paris by Jimmy Buffet (stoppable)
La La by Ashlee Simpson (ellen ellen)
I Always Get What I Want by Avril Lavigne (the brig)
Purpose by 311 (caboose)

[Sadly, when I suffered my accidental iPod wipe, I lost La La. I'll have to remember to go buy it.]

What I would like to do is this: put together a 2006 version of this playlist. Maybe make it an annual thing. So please be thinking of what your current favorite song is and be ready to share it this Labor Day. I will then add the '06's to the '05's and maybe make some CD's.

30 August 2006

Name that Flag

I was laying on my bed reading the other night and I started looking at the two large wall maps that adorn my walls, a very nice Christmas present from Stoppable's family. Along the bottom of the world map are the flags of all the countries. I started thinking how much fun that geography quiz website I found was for everyone and I wondered if there were flag identification sites along those same lines. Here are three that I found:

Games for the Brain
This one shows you the flag and gives you 4 countries to choose from.
There is a timer but it doesn't effect the points awarded. If you choose incorrectly, it displays the correct country & flag, along with the mistaken country you chose and its flag, a nice feature.

Flag Game
This one was my favorite and seemed the most educational. You get 10 minutes to work through 15 flags. You have to choose for a list of all countries but you can get a variety of hints (capital, map, currency, neighbors or anthem.) And if you get one right, you get a chance at a 50 point bonus question. Correct answer is +150, each clue is -20 & so is a wrong answer. Very fun. Maybe some Labor Day competition? The only negative, which might make it too easy, is that you can't focus in on one geographic area or continent.

Martin Purchase
This one is slow loading and pretty basic. You are shown a flag and choose from a list of all countries. The scroll bar is on the right and pretty rudimentary. After five incorrect choices, you are given a hint of the country's first letter. This site is not recommended.

From the mouth of babes...

Last Saturday, Dara & I took dlg's children to the Henry Doorly Zoo as part of her family get-together weekend. Midway through our inspection of the zoo exhibits, we were taking a short respite and several members of our party were recharging with pop and popcorn. I was relaxing by the sea lion exhibit, talking with Anna, the youngest of the siblings, when she said, Yeah, and they are very good swimmers. They don't even have to hold their noses!" I enjoyed her fresh insight and agreed about their immpressive aquatic prowess.

28 August 2006

Police record for making the sign of the cross?

Surprisingly, I didn't hear about this last spring when the incident occured, but it has been under investigation for six months (evidently, they are either very thorough or very slow in Scotland) and this week the police has given a formal caution to Artur Boruc. Boruc is the goalkeeper for Glasgow Celtic, and also the starter for the Polish international team. The formal caution is used to avoid prosecution. What did the young Pole do to merit this action, which will be on his permanent record? He made the sign of the cross at the start of the second half of the Old Firm match last February. [The "Old Firm" is the name given to Celtic & Rangers, by far the two largest clubs in Scottish football. Their rivalry has a long history plagued by sectarianism.]
Since I did not see the gesture of this Catholic blessing himself, which is pretty common in football across the globe, I can not comment as to whether it was a routine thing for him or if it was done to incite the Rangers supporters. Either way, I can't believe that it was worthy of a police investigation and charges. Players have flipped off the crowd, shown them the "V" (in the UK, very much like our middle finger), spit on fans and done all sorts of incendiary post-goal celebrations. I've never heard of police charges for their behavior.
The Catholic Church of Scotland has been quick to condem the police for their actions. I, personally, am just stunned that they would even think to legally investigate the action. If he had flipped off the Rangers section or grabbed his crotch, I would bet that no police action would've been taken and he would've probably just been suspended for a few games.
It is incredible to think that for making that blessing you could be seen as causing harm to someone.

#11 stars as GW rolls

Congrats to Abba Greenleaf on being selected to the All-Tournament team for this past weekend's performance at the D.C. Challenge. Her GW Colonials notched three victories & no losses to win the inaugural tournament, defeating cross-town rivals George Mason, American Univ, and Georgetown. Her picture accompanies the lead story on GW's volleyball page.
Way to go Abba!!! Good Luck this weekend at the GW Invitational.

25 August 2006

Colbert's Green Screen Challenge

I saw the episode with Colbert doing the lightsaber skills in front of a green screen. This story from the Sun-Times has some comment by Colbert on a recent episode that I missed where he challenges he viewers to send in their creations and "make him look heroic". I will definitely be going to youtube.com to check out what people are coming up with. Stephen Colbert and YouTube, making this world a better place.

24 August 2006

What Fossil Fuel Shortage?


Caboose and I were sitting around a couple nights ago and having some laughs talking about how we can't stand Hummers or the eco-ignoramuses that drive them. He made a funny comment from the Hummer-owner's standpoint about crapping on the earth pretty much. That got me thinking and so I verbally described this logo that I have assembled and we both thought it would be great vigilante fun to go around and stick them on Hummers. I would probably stick them on the spare tire out of respect for their property, but caboose is pretty militant, so I bet he'd slap it right on the back window or something. Anyways, the logo combines three of our bigger pet peeves, Hummers, 'Calvin pissing' stickers, and eco-irresponsiblity.
Print out as many as you please on sticker paper, then meet us behind the parking booth on 5th Ave. Bring flashlight, water, emergency rations, pantyhose/balaclava, disposable camera, fake ID, flare gun, rubber chicken, celeriac, and synchronized watches.

Run, Forrest!!

I heard a piece on NPR on this guy a while back and then this morning I saw this article on CNN.com. I agree that the human body is capable of a lot, but just as important would be the conditioning of the human mind. It is good that he has a meaningful, strong cause that is motivating him. He did all 50 states, and actually 51 marathons (two in one day!). Oh, and he logged a PR (personal record) on the last one. Why not!
His blog his interesting and gives a more detailed version of his craziness. He ran the Iowa marathon on no sleep!

Pluto on the hot seat

I'm not a big fan of astronomy, but I found this article to be rather amusing, if not a little interesting. In particular I loved this sentence, "That prompted some galactic grumbling from astronomers who began openly attacking Pluto's planethood." I'm sure those astronomers will be on pins and needles until 2015 when they get some hard evidence.

23 August 2006

Mathletes Unite!

An easier math problem than the Poincare conjecture....
(courtesy of Gapers Block, Fuel section)

1
11
21
1211
111221

anyone know the next line(s)?

Rose of Tralee

Yesterday was the final of the annual Rose of Tralee festival in Ireland. The winning Rose was Kathryn Feeney of Queensland, Australia (her Irish heritage is from Co. Offaly). In the first years, each Rose had to be a native of Tralee, that was relaxed to include all of Co. Kerry, and then in 1967 to "Irish birth or ancestory". Wikipedia is quick to point out there there is no swimwear component of the pagent. It focuses on which girl most typifies the qualities listed in the song, "The Rose of Tralee", namely 'lovely and fair' and 'truth in her eyes'.

22 August 2006

Letzigrund

I thought this article about the closing and ominent demolition of a old football stadium in Zurich, Switzerland was interesting and fun. I love the idea about the organization opening it to their fans and the public and letting them take a memento of the 80+ year old stadium. And well done on recycling the seats to some smaller local clubs and the PA system to a local theater.

I just wanted to share this picture because I was impressed with the vertical leaping ability on display. The caption on it said the player (Kevin Davies of Tottenham Spurs) was 'rising like a salmon'. HA!

1 Year

Today marks one year since I returned to work for the insurance co. Oh, how time flies... September 1 I will be credited back with the years of service from my first stint here, so I will pass the five year mark. I wonder what sort of wonderful gift the company will present me with?!? More importantly, I've got 4 1/2 months until I take my leave of absence and do my student teaching!!!

Devon Street in the Times

An interesting article on some differences between the Pakistani immigrants experiences and situation in the UK vs the US. And it talks quite a bit about my favorite Sunday lunch spot in Chicago, Devon Street!

15 August 2006

Macaca

Bigotry, racially insensitivity, and small-mindedness are traits that, while definitely not exclusive to Repubulicans or Southerners, they seem to do their best in providing their fair share of them.
Beyond this particular instance, I agree with the article about the mushrooming prevelance of YouTube. I've wondered in the past about the effect of the ever-present media and the accessability of it all with the internet and cable news. Some of our best leaders may not have been elected in these kind of circumstances. Our society is so concerned and interested with their personal lives, it often overshadows their professional virtues (or lack thereof).

The Iowa State Fair

The Iowa State Fair. There's something about it, that even if you don't want to go in particular, you end up there. It is such a fun time. I went last night to check out the Halo Pottery booth and take in some of the stimuli overload that is the world's largest fair. I walked by the butter cow and the butter superman and some other butter guy celebrating his 60th anniversary of something. I think once you've seen the butter cow, it isn't nearly as cool the following years. I wasted no time in heading over to the livestock barns. First up was the cattle barn. I checked out some of the pens and then went and gawked at the Big Bull. It's name was Blackie and it tipped the scales at 3020 lbs. It was MASSIVE. Still in awe, I ambled my way nextdoor to the pork barn. It also had the 'Avenue of Breeds' or something like that. There were all sorts of chickens, rabbits, miniature donkeys, and llamas, but the most impressive had to be the elk. It stood several heads higher than me and the rack on it was incredible. The most unsettling animal would undoubtably go to the ostrich. I couldn't believe how big it was. Again, it was probably a foot or two taller than me and its head came out over the fence and he was just stare at you. Everyone gave it a healthy distance. I snapped an excellent pic of it on my phone, which I later accidentally deleted. Keeping an eye on Mr. Ostrich, I retreated and made my way to the judging pen. I watched a couple groups of pigs being judged and it took me back to the days of the Fremont County Fair and hanging out with friends as they showed their animals. The uniform of blue jeans, white t-shirt, brown boots has not changed. Nor has the smell of wood-shaving bedding, hay, and manure. One thing that has changed is there was a kid sitting just outside the pen at the judges table with a laptop and he was inputting the results as fast as they were coming in.
My most memorable spectacle from this year's fair was this: I was distgusted and intrigued when I saw one young farmboy, probably ~16, literally take matters into his own hands when his pig (sorry, commercial gilt) took a runny poop in the middle of the judging process. Now, as the ~15 pigs and their show-ers are out there for ~15 minutes while the judge makes his determination, some pigs do have to releive themselves in either or both fashion. All the show'ers carry a bristle brush in their back pocket and some use that to brush off any mess on the hind end after such an event. This particular boy did that (and then wiped the brush on his jeans) but must have not been happy with the job it did because he then bare-handed wiped away the remaining feces. After seeing that kind of dedication to his craft, I had to stick around and see how he would fare. Unfortunately the stinky hand was all for naught, as he ended up getting eighth place (just not enough size throughout frame, according to the judge). I also enjoyed listening to the judges comments and would try and see if I could see what he saw, "legs well suituated in the cornes, the hind quarters just sitting a little too low, really exhibiting some nice length of frame, great overall weight just a well muscled animal, the freshness of her look, an awkwardness in her walk through the front legs). For the most part I was unsuccessful.
My food sampling was not very extensive this year. I tried a deep-fried snickers for the first (and last) time. I thought it was gross.
I spent most of the rest of my time at the Halo Pottery tent, where business could have been better, but she was able to do several demonstrations on her wheel that were very well attended and enjoyed.

10 August 2006

Good Morning Tatoo!

I don't really know where to start with this story. It was in the Sun-Times, but is a Des Moines story. A painkiller and a sleeping pill to sleep at 20 years old? And was the boyfriend a tatoo artist with a tatoo gun ready and waiting beside the bed? This sounds odd to me. Her comments are hilarious, "At least he didn't flub it up." and "I'm just not going to see him again." Good choice.

1st time on the gridiron

It would be a big challenge to get a football program going from scratch. The lack of experience would be tough to counter. But as the one coach points out, it would nice to have a group of players that are just excited to be playing! I'd expect simple offenses and simple defenses, at least the first couple weeks. Hopefully they've had the summer to work on learning their plays and figuring things out.

Mac vs Windows

I think the new Mac OS 10.5 sounds pretty outstanding. I'd love to give a Mac a test drive for a week or so. I definately hope that my next computer will be a Mac, albeit probably a year or two away.

Butter Cow

Here's the inside scoop on the most famous attraction at the world's largest state fair. I believe I also saw the tiger and Tiger as well as the Harley. It is a big year, as a new lady is in charge of the cow for the first time in over 40 years. Pretty fun article. I was one of the confused public she refers to that thinks the cow is solid butter. That would be structurally impossible, she is quick to point out. So if you find yourself at the fair, don't leave without checking it out!

08 August 2006

Penguin Sorrow

Aaggh, this is too sad, but strange enough that I had to share. As if their lives in captivity weren't bad enough. If I were that motorist, I don't know if I could live, knowing the penguinslaughter I had commited. Feed Paddy, my green penguin an extra fish today for his lost brothers.

07 August 2006

Vacation in Prairie du Chien?

I have been remiss in my blogging the last couple weeks. I can blame having to move into a new apartment and the end of a class session for my lack of free time. I will strive to do better. I had to take a moment to share the past weekend's events. I had planned on a short weekend vacation with homebase before she heads back to school. After a little searching and brainstorming, the Great River Road in southwestern Wisconsin seemed to be a fun new area to check out. In addition, it would be a short drive (a major plus!) and would only required one over-night. I took Friday afternoon off and headed to Iowa City, where I met up with homebase and we departed ~1:45. With a cooler of sandwiches from New Pioneer Co-op and a NY Times Crossword, we were on our way to the land of cheese. Before we knew it we were already almost to Dubuque and we made the requisite stop at the New Melleray Abbey and its Benedictine brothers. We checked out the chapel, which is very simple and earthen. It seems like it's only materials are grey stone and wood pews. Very spartan but very cool. The gift shop was average. No carmels?!? I picked up a brochure and order form for their caskets. I love their simplicity and humble beauty. Check them out here, I think #3, Simple Shaped Casket in Pine would be my pick. I also think that their pre-pay plan is quite a bargain. I can order & pay now and lock in today's price. If you think about inflation, I could be saving hundreds!
After our brief stop, we were back in the car and headed out. Not much later we were crossing the mighty Mississippi and were closing in on the first small town on the Great River Road. Keiler, WI - population 750. It seemed like a nice small town with an impressive Catholic school. The travel guide said to check out the Immaculate Conception catholic church, so we did. While nice, I would not say it was noteworthy or remarkable. Back in the car and off to Dickeyville, population 1156. The Dickeyville Grotto... 'this remarkable display has attracted visitors from all over the world for many years.' Well, these two visitors checked out through their windows as they drove through town. Next stop, Tennyson....and Potosi, they are pretty much one town. The only interesting facts so far are that this area boasted ~10,000 hand-dug lead mines that supplied nearly all of the lead shot for the Northern forces in the Civil War, and that Potosi has the world's longest main street without an intersection (three miles). It was at this point in the drive that serious doubt began to creep into the car with us. It was like this part of the country had stopped in 1965. Everything looked like it hadn't changed since then, old buildings, old cars, old beer signs, old people. No new construction, no upkeep. In the half hour or so from Cassville to prairie du Chien, homebase clearly stated that we would be invoking the "tentative" part of our earlier tentative itinerary. We stopped for dinner at the Hungry House, since it was praised in the tour book for its homemade pies and soups, as well as its fresh fried catfish. I won't go into details but the place was very similar to a larger Waterfowl Cafe in Riverton, IA. The catfish was fair and the pie was so sad looking I didn't get any. Upon leaving the restaurant, the call was made to Connie to leave the door open because we would be returning that evening.
Once we crossed the river back into Iowa, the trip to a magical and amazing turn for the better. Marquette and Macgregor were so much more developed and modern. There were lots of little shops and you could actually see the river from the highway (unlike on the Wisconsin side). We stopped at a used bookstore and homebase traded her Wisconsin travel book for a copy of Thoreau's Walden, quite a poetic transaction, I felt. We drove through Guttenberg, Millville and Luxemburg. There was so much more money in these town and countryside, it was amazing. homebase treated me to a recounting of the stories from when I was born and my first few years. I love hearing about those times that I can't remember and I really enjoyed and appreciated this time together. As we went through New Vienna, my navigator said that Dyersville was up next. My eyes lit up as I declared that we had to visit the Field of Dreams.
We did and it was AWESOME! The house, the field the corn, the bleachers...all just like it was in the movie. We got there as the sun was sitting low in the sky, basking the field its summer evening light. There were young kids on the field and older man walking along the outfield perimeter. A couple in their upper twenties pulled up the same time we did and got out with their gloves, and a bat & ball. He threw her some slow pitch style and she was hitting them out the to younger kids. They were all laughing and yelling. I thought it was just perfect. I got us both stickers that said, "Is this Heaven? No, it's Iowa." and we finished our journey back through Cascade, Monticello (hello), Mt. Vernon and Solon. We picked a variety of specialty beers at John's and shared them when we got back to the house as we all relaxed and recounted our hilarious afternoon vacation.
Saturday brought lots of fun doing the standard Iowa City events, Farmer's Market on Saturday morning, New Pioneer Co-op, Java House, prairie Lights, Cheese House, Stringtown Grocery, Kalona, cooking, etc. It was a very enjoyable day and lots of fun to catch up with everyone there.
We left Iowa City late Saturday afternoon and not more than five blocks from Connie's I got a speeding ticket for doing 35 in 25. That is always a great way to start a drive. Putting that behind me as best I could, the rest of the drive was better and we went for groceries when we got back and then for a meal at the Flying Mango (not as good as the last time I was there.)
Sunday morning we went to mass at St. John's Basilica. The mass was good and the short performance on the pipe organ afterwards was a magnificent treat. A pamphlet in the back aided us as we checked out the stained glass windows and their representation of the life of Christ and the depiction of the Book of Revelation. Great stuff and I highly recommend it (and will probably force other family members to check it out.) A bit of shopping and a meal at Champps finished the weekend and it was a wonderful one. Many thanks to my travel partner and also our hosts.

02 August 2006

Balloonists!


After seeing that there was going to a Nite-Glo last night down in Indianola and considering that my mother would be in town, of course we had to go down and check it out. Unfortunately, our luck with hot air balloons continued to be lacking. When we pulled into the grounds everyone was walking and driving in the opposite direction. When we got out and started wandering towards the site, a nice lady offered, "Too windy, it's cancelled, maybe tomorrow!" Which really was too bad, because it was a gorgeous night out. Quite a contrast to my last Indianola balloon experience when it was boiling and there was long hours of waiting for something to happen and it never did. BUT...we were lucky to witness three balloons landing in fields right along the highway on our way down. We were pulling off the highway and cutting onto gravel roads just like the other chase vehicles and spectators. It was quite fun!
After the strike out at the balloon field, we hit the A & W and ordered from the intercom and ate in the car while listening to some golden oldies and hearing mom tell about the times at the A & W in Shen. Good times. And I forget how good A & W root beer is, especially in a float. Delicious!
Well, when's the next balloon chase, and who's up for it?