Wednesday, December 15, 2010

One of Iowa's finest...

One of Iowa's finest goes home...

" 'He was the best pitcher I ever faced,' Ted Williams once told me. 'He was the hardest thrower I ever faced, and he had the best curveball. I hit him pretty good, but he was great.' "

--Tim Kurkjian at sports.espn.go

Photo credit:

This is too soon following the recent loss of Ron Santo. Another legend of the game gone from our lives and from baseball.

Rest easy Mr. Feller, rest easy my friend.


China: Portrait of a People

Her people number over 1.3 billion of every five humans lives here. Fifty-six distinct ethnic groups are spread patchwork-like across the thirty-three provinces of the fourth-largest country in the world. From subtropical jungles to seemingly endless deserts, from Mount Everest to the border of frozen Russian Siberia, the people of China are as diverse as its landscapes and climates.

After two years of living in China, on the Yellow River Delta and in the capital of Beijing, photojournalist Tom Carter felt he was missing "a connection with its people." So he challenged himself to journey through all the provinces of China and "find out all (he) could about the Chinese themselves."

Photo credit: Blacksmith Books @

"Tramping" across China by any means of transportation available, including walking, Carter claims to have "(visited) more than one third of China's cities and villages." That seems a bit exaggerated ...but perhaps there are far fewer villages and small cities than I realize.

Read the rest of my thoughts about China: Portrait of a People
at Epinions dot com.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Lest we forget...


"Yesterday, December 7, 1941 a date which will live in infamy the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.


With confidence in our armed forces with the unbounded determination of our people we will gain the inevitable triumph so help us God.

I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7, a state of war has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.

Photo Source: The Big Picture,


Friday, December 3, 2010

A sad day in Wrigleyville...


Photo credit: flickr user wfbakker2 via Wikimedia Commons

Rest easy Mr. Santo, rest easy my friend.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bird ... Power, grace, beauty...

It is said that if birds knew what they were doing ...they would fall from the sky like rocks. That they do not is a tribute to the efficiency of intelligent design or evolution ...take your pick.

Photo credit: gaetanlee via Wikimedia Commons


Continuing in the vein of 'capturing nature' comes Andrew Zuckerman with his signature white backgrounds, and his skill in capturing the beauty and essence of his subjects. While Audubon seemed to want to educate his viewers about lands and animals previously unseen, Zuckerman seems to want to wow today's jaded viewer with the power and beauty of the animals alone.

Bird is a coffee-table book featuring his artistic photographs of dozens of bird species. While Zuckerman has tackled other subjects in other books, his topic here is the beauty and diversity of birds.

Read the rest of my review at Epinions dot com. (...and trust me, you will find no 'rubber duckies' in this excellent coffee-table book..!!)


Saturday, November 20, 2010


Sometimes someone on the Intertubes gets it exactly right.

Gate Rape

November 19, 2010 Urban Word of the Day

The TSA airport screening procedure.

My sister got gate raped at LAX.

Kon Tiki got it right and s/he made it 'short-n-sweet' to match the attention span of the average net-surfer.

Ya gotta strike while the iron is hot and match the mood of your readers. The topic may be dead in a week ( I doubt it... ) but for now it is the perfect Intertubes posting.

Nice job Kon Tiki and urban dictionary.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Going to space..!!

Technology today continues to amaze.

I mean, when you or I or any group can (with enough planning and preparation) send a video camera into space and return it safely (hopefully..!!) to Earth ...well, what is not possible..?!?

Too cool.

Homemade Spacecraft from Luke Geissbuhler on Vimeo.

Make sure you check the perpetrators homepage at Brooklyn Space Program dot org for more information and views of the flight.

Too cool . . .wait; I already said that.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Obama polarizing..?? Never..!!

Question: How do you feel about President Barack Obama's performance this past year?

That poll question I recently found online. The results are what caught my attention.


Impressed. I knew I was right to vote for him.

Satisfied. He's doing his job.

Pleased. But he could definitely do better.
XXXXX ...5%

On the fence. It's too early in the term to tell.
X ...1%

Unimpressed. But I think I can expect something more from him
X ...1%

Unsatisfied. He can't seem to do his job.
XXXXXX ...6%

Annoyed. I didn't vote for him, and look what he's doing to my country

Or, just looking at a 'graphical' representation, 'great job' to 'horrible job':


No, there is no polarization there at all..!!

Two out of five peeps think he is doing a great job.
Two out of five peeps think he is doing a horrible job.

And those poor wishy-washy basterds in the middle...


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Smurfs vs Obama

One of the features I really like about the Mozilla Firefox browser is the auto-spellcheck function. It is nice to see misspelled words politely underlined in red to let you know something is amiss.

But I do find some of its idiosyncrasies (Firefox spellcheck used right there..!!) to be amusing.

Photo credit: Mary Shaw

Photo credit:

The Firefox spell-check function will offer the correct spelling of 'Smurfs' . . .but not 'Obama'..??

They cannot 'push' the spelling of Obama into their online spellcheck dictionary..??

Too funny.


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Solar Eclipse, July 11, 2010

I had heard a while ago that a solar eclipse was soon to be visible somewhere in the southern hemisphere. I had no idea where and really paid little attention to its arrival as I knew I would not be able to see it.


Thanks to the power of the Intertubes I was alerted at an online forum about a live-streaming site where the solar eclipse could be viewed in the south Pacific.

Apparently sponsored by Wakayama University of Japan, the feed was available on the website.

Truly amazing. Here is a screen shot that I captured near what appears to be total eclipse:

Amazing, especially to watch it live, to see the shakiness of the camera, the clouds in the atmosphere sliding past the ongoing eclipse see it live from halfway around the world. Simply amazing.

You can visit shadowandsubstance dot com to see an animation of the sunlight and the shadow of the moon interacting on the surface of the Earth. Very cool.

Techdreams dot org has another animated video up as well. Plus, it is a NASA video, your tax dollars at work.

You know me, I am always up for a geeky astronomy post and links.


Thursday, July 8, 2010

So close far.


Photo credit: The Big Picture,, June 30, 2010

A young woman lies on the grave of an American soldier killed in Afghanistan.

Sister, girlfriend, fiance, wife, stranger..?? Who knows.

Perhaps only in sleep, in the darkness of a daydream with eyes closed, perhaps only there does the sun really shine.

Incredible picture, incredibly sad.

Faces of the Fallen, The Washington Post
Lance Cpl. Noah M. Pier


Monday, July 5, 2010

Earth Abides


A recent post by a blogger I consider an online-friend made me think to share my thoughts about the novel Earth Abides by George R. Stewart.

Earth Abides is an old novel. Written in 1949 it is one of the first post-apocalyptic novels. Fresh on the heels of WW II and at the beginning of the Cold War, Earth Abides addresses the idea of a pandemic wiping mankind from the earth as easily as sweeping ants off a picnic table.

The copy of Earth Abides (penned in 1949 by George R. Stewart) that I am reading must be thirty years old, if a day. The pages are definitely not acid-free. Yellowing, browning at the edges, corners flaking, many are loosely held in the book. Large sections are broken away from the spine. Great care must be taken to keep it all together, all in order. To maintain it as a 'readable' book.

A quick estimate suggests a total word count of perhaps a hundred thousand words for Earth Abides. Losing one page from my worn copy would make it worthless for resell. Losing ten pages would make it useless even for someone very familiar with the story.

Now imagine every word gone, but one. What value would this book have now? Imagine the book on your nightstand. Every word gone. Save one. What value would that lone word still retain?


Earth Abides is a story that rings very plausible. It is the story of a small group of survivors pushing back the darkness that threatens their small community. It teases us with the hope for a rebirth of 'civilization' and all the monumental achievements of man that represent that civilization. But it leaves us with the thought that civilization might simply be the caring and bonding of individuals together in common effort to preserve the human family.


Read the rest of my review at Epinions dot com.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Separated at birth..??


Maybe it is just me. Anyone else see a resemblance..??





SNL alumnus Jon Lovitz ... and ... Supremes nominee Elena Kagan

Am I nuts ... or do they look alike..??


Thursday, June 3, 2010

I am bored...

I am bored...

So I downloaded some recent photos and will share.

I know, I know: how exciting...


Let's roll..!!


Oooooh..!! Shiny..!!


Too bright, my eyes hurt..!!


...round and round and round we go.


The big yellow ball 'shadows' the big red ball...


You surely have figured out where we were early that morning...


Monday, May 31, 2010

Honoring Those Who Serve...

Disagreement, conflict, strife, war: by any name it seems to be a fatal flaw of the human condition.

Man is a creature who relishes the control of his surroundings, his lands, all the bounty of nature that lies before him. When others seek (or even seem to desire) to deprive him of any of his power and control . . .well, all hell breaks loose.

It is depressing that conflict and war seem to drive the expansion of human progress and civilization (if it can really be called that when applied to war) more than any other factor.

When people come together in communities and begin to specialize and divide labors among themselves ... always has evolved a warrior class. Some have been comprised of permanent warriors. Others have depended on farmers and laborers laying down their plows and tools and picking up the weapons of the day when called to do so.

Where there is conflict, battle, war ... there is always service, honor, valor, injury, and death. Today, in The United States, we honor those who have served ...and especially those who "gave the last full measure of devotion" they possessed in service to their country.

Save the debates about 'right vs wrong' and 'just vs unjust'. Instead, today, pause to remember and honor those who answered when called and served without reservation.

The Ken Burns' epic production of The Civil War includes a brief segment that shares the thoughts of a Union soldier as he writes home to his beloved wife in the days before battle. His profound and emotional thoughts and words are always moving to me, particularly on Memorial Day:

I also offer today the saddest piece of music I have ever heard. A piece occasionally used for military and other funerals. Anyone who can remain unmoved as they listen must surely have a heart and soul of stone:

A brief thought, a brief tribute, a brief prayer for all who serve and have serve ... and for all those who gave their all so we might indeed remember to this day.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

The end of the world as we know it...

On this date it was the end of the world as they knew it.

For on this date in 1453 the city of Constantinople fell after a siege by forces led by Sultan Mehmed II.

Some historians use this date as the endpoint for the Middle Ages and credit the fall of Constantinople and its reverberations throughout medieval Europe as an important stimulus for the beginning of the period known as the Renaissance.

Just goes to show you that every culture and every civilization has had its own dark days.


Sources:, Fall_of_Constantinople

Monday, May 17, 2010

BFFs before BFF was cool...

Do you remember your best friends from elementary school ...middle school ...high school..?? Have you kept in touch with them..?? Or have you drifted apart over the years, finding your own way in the wide, wide world..??

As a 'features' writer for The Wall Street Journal (given the "freedom (to) tend to the hearts of our readers" ...yes, even despicable robber-baron-zombie readers of The WSJ have 'hearts') Jeffrey Zaslow first learned of 'the girls from Ames' in an email response to a column about women's friendships.

Several years later Zaslow began to consider writing "a non-fiction narrative—the biography of a friendship meticulously reported—(that) could be a meaningful document for female readers." Apart from that altruistic motive, he hoped working on the project "would help me understand my daughters, my wife and the other women in my life."

Image source: photoxpress dot com

To be honest, I was reluctant to start reading The Girls from Ames. Despite it being a local story I was not sure I would find it interesting. I only began reading when I realized the book was due back to the library. By the time I had read a few pages of the Introduction I was hooked. When I tried to renew it ...its waiting list had grown to seventeen patrons..!!

Weeks later (after I had finally checked it out again) I began to read and appreciate the depth of the story he tells. I had no doubt Zaslow would expertly tell the story of eleven girls/women and their sustained, shared relationships over several decades. I had previously read a similar 'life story' written by him (The Last Lecture, coauthored with Randy Pausch, link below) and had been impressed with his ability to weave an entertaining, emotional, and definitely worth reading story.

The Girls from Ames shares the interconnected stories of eleven childhood friends who blended stronger and weaker friendships between individual girls into a 'circle of friends' and a collective friendship that has endured for decades.


Read the rest of my review at Epinions dot com.


Friday, May 7, 2010

Free Hugs...

Yes . . .I am way behind the curve on this one.

But I still like the idea, the video, the music.

Hate me if you must . . .though I would prefer a hug. ...:minism:...


Monday, May 3, 2010

Chattanooga Choo Choo

Going old school here. When music had form, function, and was actually performed rather than 'produced'.


Saturday, March 20, 2010

My desktop, March 20, 2010...


It has been a while since I shared a desktop view. Not that I imagine my reader or three are continually checking for the next one. My hit counter would certainly not indicate they are.

This one continues my theme of 'space' pictures. Is there really anything more beautiful, challenging, or exciting than the idea of exploring and living in space..?? Not for me.

This selection is from APOD, posted February 16, 2010:

What's that approaching? Astronauts on board the International Space Station first saw it far in the distance. Soon it enlarged to become a dark silhouette. As it came even closer, the silhouette appeared to be a spaceship. Finally, at just past 11 pm (CST) last Tuesday, the object, revealed to be the Space Shuttle Endeavour, docked as expected with the Earth-orbiting space station. Pictured above, Endeavour was imaged near Earth's horizon as it approached, where several layers of the Earth's atmosphere were visible. (continued at the APOD page.)

I think the idea of having something beautiful on one's desktop is a good idea. If it can not be my beautiful family . . .the beauty of space will be a close second choice.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Onion bullsh!t...


A little off color for me . . .but too funny (and true) to resist sharing.

Breaking News: Some Bullshit Happening Somewhere

"I'm just some phucking guy."

Too funny.


Monday, March 1, 2010

OnlineTaxRevolt dot com

Look at your pay stub. Not your 'take home' pay amount. But your total earnings before any taxes are taken out. Now add in another 7-plus percent taxes paid by your employer.

Imagine getting all that gross income. Imagine not having to worry about 'net' income ever again. Except for the deductions you choose to make.

Look at your tax return as you prepare it this spring. Not at the $200 or $2000 you might get back. Instead look at the thousands of dollars they take from you. Every day, every week, every month, every year.

It is time to tell them no more. It is time to remind them they work for you not you for them.

It is time for you to educate yourself about the true cost of our current tax system and the inequities and outrageous impact it has on every citizen of the country.

Image source: Zzyzx11 via Creative Commons license

Visit Online Tax Revolt dot com and join up. Sure it is a superficial, silly effort ...perhaps in the end meaning nothing.

But ya gotta start somewhere.

Just like Peter Finch in the old school film Network some point you have to get up, go to the window and shout:


It is time people. Let's stop the nonsense.


Monday, February 22, 2010

one in 1.75 Billion...

A recent online solicitation I received:

"WIN $5,000 A WEEK for Life!"

Geezus..!! Where do I go to sign-up..!?!

Of course, once I check it out a little more thoroughly ...this missive from Publishers Clearing House ...once I check it out thoroughly I see the odds of winning are "1 in 1,750,000,000"..!! One in one point 75 Billion..!! And I thought the Powerball lottery odds were long..!!

Lets see, what is the current world population ...sleeper runs off to 'Google it'. Hmmm, just over 6.8 billion peeps, number courtesy of your tax dollars.

So if aliens were to swoop down and abduct 4 random earthlings from the entire world's population . . .that would be about my odds of being implanted with an anal probe. Or of winning the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes. Ha. Like that is gonna happen

Image source: Clinton Steeds via Creative Commons license

Hey, did you hear that..?!? Strange lights and noises outside my bedroom window ...I better go investigate. Well soon as I complete my Publishers Clearing House entry..!!


Friday, February 12, 2010

' Say what..?!? ' Number 5


It has been more than a while since I have posted one of these 'unique phrases' posts. I would like to think I have a ton of new and entertaining phrases to share.

Well sure . . .I would like to say that...


As always, these are simply short phrases that I have encountered while reading on the web. They either strike me by their 'musical sound' or their discordant cacophony. As always, the artificial arbiter I use for this 'unique' label is, of course, the ubiquitous Google dot com.

What defines my 'unique phrases'..?? Generally they are two or three words with a handful or less of distinct 'Google hits'. They also have to have been used intentionally, in some unique (there is that word again) way that communicates an idea in a novel manner. Kinda like pornography: hard to define ...but you know it when you see it.

You would think with all the millions of monkeys, like you and I, pounding on all our keyboards out here on the web ... you would think everything that could be said would have already been said. But not true ... thank gawd.

Unique two word phrases are worth more than three or four word phrases to me. I mean, obviously the more words you start stringing together the more likely you are to craft a new phrase. But much longer than four just gets silly ... so I try to notice and identify only two-, three-, and four-word phrases. Think of it as gold, silver, and bronze medal-worthy.

Anyway, enough explanation. Let's see what we got this time...

Unique phrases I have crafted or discovered:

One unique result found for "homosexual yard sale"
A phrase used by an Epinions user while reviewing the novel The Time Traveler's Wife. Is a puzzler to me how a 'yard sale' could be 'homosexual'. But there it is.

No results found for "veiled linear veneer"
A phrase thrown out in a longish message board thread: "So I think this whole thread is much more cyclical in nature than its rather thinly veiled linear veneer would have one believe."

To this day I have no idea what they meant, in the context of the thread. But it sounds good.

Four unique results for "drowsily sunny"
A writer on Epinions was thinking of warm summer days while reviewing Henry and Mudge in the Green Time.

"But reading the drowsily sunny Henry and Mudge in the Green Time made me long just a little for warm summer days with shorts and bare feet, with picnics and hoses."

Sure evokes time and setting for me.

A unique find of "nobly ignoble trickster"
If you were to try to identify a fictional character that phrase might describe . . .well, Robin Hood seems as good a match as might be made. 'Nobly ignoble' has more than a few Google hits. But pairing it with 'trickster' is unique phrasing of the highest order.

Anyway, there is the next installment of my little web reading-n-writing obsession. Hopefully I will not be so late with the next 'unique phrases' post.

Hey, if you have any examples of your own please share them in a comment..!!


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

How to write a love letter...

A review I wrote a couple of years ago on Epinions.

Somehow, it seems appropriate right now, given the season...

Other People's Love Letters: 150 Letters You Were Never Meant to See

OK, OK. I confess. This book is not really about 'how to write a love letter'. I am just shamelessly throwing myself at the web search engine spiders.

Perhaps my sticky net caught you also my dear reader. If it did perhaps you are searching for the perfect words to reveal your heart's anguished desire to claim that of another. If you are on such a mission ...I envy you.

I envy you that feeling of your bursting heart that has so muddled your thoughts that you are having trouble embellishing 'I love you..!!' When perhaps that is all your desired one really needs to read ...and to hear.

Image source: Wikimedia Commons

Other People's Love Letters: 150 Letters You Were Never Meant to See
are the random samplings of love letters collected from ordinary people with ordinary lives yet extraordinary loves. We all know that no flame burns as hot as the one in our own heart. We all know that no pain stabs as cruelly as that felt in our own broken heart. Luckily many of us are driven to tell each other just that. Just as luckily, we often find the written word an empowering way to 'speak our heart'.

Those extremes, and every feeling in between, are captured between the covers of this book. Editor Bill Shapiro first read a love letter not meant for his eyes when ...



Read the rest at the review page on Epinions dot com.


Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Snowman

Like a carefully arranged photo album, the pictures of The Snowman share one special day, and night, of one little boy. We know nothing about him, neither his name nor where he lives. We only know this special day is cold and snowy.

Told without words, dozens of smaller and larger pictures tell the story of the creation of 'the snowman' and his interactions with the young boy as he comes to life. The previous reviewer described the artwork as "crayon-brushed" while I might describe them as chalk-drawn. Regardless, they are soft, warm, and inviting and easily flow together to tell the story.

Our young man wakens to a fresh and still falling snowstorm and hurries outside to build a snowman. Rather than a typical '3-ball' snowman, this snowman is piled high with arms carved into his sides. The obligatory pieces of coal, scarf and hat, and other household items complete his form.

That evening the young boy awakens from his sleep (or is he dreaming..??) and goes outside to find his snowman doffing his cap and shaking the boy's hand. His arms work..!! He has legs..!!

Our new friends proceed to explore the house, the world, of the little boy. A pet cat, TV, lights, stairs, clothes, hot water, the flames of a stove, a skateboard and many more household items are all shared with the snowman. The joy of the snowman climbing into a deep chest freezer in the garage is a favorite pic of mine. What could be more natural for a snowman..?!?

As if to repay the boy for sharing the delights of his human world, the snowman takes the boy flying into the winter sky. Yes, a snowman can fly did not know this..??

Read the rest of my review of The Snowman at the review page at


Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Lovely Bones

No. Not a review of the recently released film. But my thoughts about the novel on which the film is based.

The Lovely Bones does not waste your time. Seventeen words into the story you learn of the ultimate horror:

"My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name Susie.
I was fourteen when I was murdered on December 6, 1973.

By the end of this first chapter Susie Salmon is dead and you know the murderer.

I can tell you this 'spoiler', author Alice Sebold can write this 'spoiler', because The Lovely Bones is so much more about the loss of a loved daughter, sister, friend than it is about 'who-done-it'. So much more about everyday moments of grief that erode the strong foundations of a family, moments of grief that break the strong bond between husband and wife, moments of grief that fracture the the strong love of a mother for her children. The Lovely Bones is so much more about budding youth and innocence lost than it is about police, chase, clues, law-and-order.

Lured, raped, murdered, dismembered, hidden . . .perhaps never to be found, Susie narrates this tale from the safe, comforting confines of her heaven. Did you know everyone has their own 'personal' heaven? Susie's heaven is the imagined environs of a High School campus that the earth-bound—the murdered—Susie will never know. She shares her heaven with others, their heavenly desires intersecting with hers. Music, playful dogs, peppermint ice cream, glorious sunsets fill her heaven. From the gazebo of her heaven ("our neighbors, the O'Dwyers, had had a gazebo. I had grown up jealous for one") she watches the earthly world she will never walk again.

Read the rest of my review of The Lovely Bones at my review page at


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Do the Right Thing...

They are the hot topics of today: the economy, health care, the war on terror, energy, taxes. They were hot topics in the last presidential election cycle; Nostradamus is not needed to predict they will remain hot topics for many years, and many elections, to come.

Mike Huckabee, former Baptist pastor and Republican Governor of the Democrat-controlled state of Arkansas, shares his thoughts on these topics and more in Do the Right Thing: Inside the Movement That's Bringing Common Sense Back to America. As the book is subtitled, he shares his view from inside the movement and from his perspective as a past candidate for the highest office in the land.

There have been other calls for 'common sense' in government: the seminal call of Thomas Paine in 1776 in his pamphlet Common Sense,

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

... the liberal views of Dr. John Ekerd found in A Return to Common Sense, and the conservative rantings of Glenn Beck in his Common Sense: ... book.

The thing about common sense is is not so common, a thought attributed to many over the years, Sun Tzu, Euripedes, and Voltaire among them. This tasks the reader of any tome calling for 'common sense' to measure the validity of the author's plea and motivation.

Mike Huckabee roots his call to "do the right thing" in his experiences during the 2008 Republican presidential primary campaign. In a long and winding tale that is at times biographical, at times a travelogue, at times a 'psychology 101' tome, and at times history lesson he never leaves his reader lost or bored.


Read the rest of my review of Do the Right Thing: Inside the Movement That's Bringing Common Sense Back to America at my review page at