Saturday, 30 July 2011

Books I Want to Get

As usual, People Magazine has found a couple of interesting books...

The first one is Inside Scientology, an exposé on what has to be one of the most screwed up ideas of a "religion" to pass muster in who knows how long. L. Ron Hubbard made up this wacky system and then made tons of money on the nutters who actually believed this stuff! I've read bits and pieces on this and really, I want to read this book, since it (hopefully) fills in the gaps about this weirdness and exposes all the fake information that people buy into (and "buying" is the operative word) in the hopes that the government will finally succeed in shutting this cult down. (It is misleading to call it a religion, since it is not mono- or polytheistic; how can it be a religion without a God or Gods/Goddesses?)

The other book that looks interesting is Bed. This is about a man whose brother has taken to his bed two decades ago, has ballooned up to 1,400lbs and won't - or can't - get up. That's a bit of food (or a whole lotta food) for thought, isn't it? I'm curious to read it and find out what happens. It also got high ratings. I've had some great success with well-received books in this magazine.

Here's an article on the book Inside Scientology:

'On Tuesday, we sat down with Janet Reitman, author of the terrific new book Inside Scientology: The Story of America's Most Secretive Religion, which is just hitting bookstores and will be released officially in July.

Inside Scientology is a masterful telling of Scientology's history, from L. Ron Hubbard's pulp fiction career in the 1930s to events happening just last year as an Independence movement splits with current Scientology leader David Miscavige. Along the way, Reitman brilliantly focuses on individuals like Jeff Hawkins and Nancy Many and Lisa McPherson to help us understand the appeal of Hubbard and his "technology," as well as the controversies that have rocked the organization over many decades.

We wanted to know: who is Janet Reitman, and how did she put together such an amazing book?

"I was your typical struggling freelancer for years and years," she says while we're sitting in the conference room at a warren of small offices in DUMBO. She'd even interned at the Voice, she let me know. But it was international reporting that she was determined to do after finishing Columbia University's journalism graduate program in 1992. That eventually took her to Rolling Stone, which sent her to Iraq for most of 2004. After 8 months covering the war, she says her editors wanted to find something else for her to do in 2005.

"Tom Cruise was jumping all over couches, right?" she says with a laugh. "I think my editors had wanted to do something on Scientology for a long time. I was basically the 'Iraq War girl' at that point and they were concerned that I was incredibly burnt, that I would get PTSD, that I needed something else to do. So my editor pitched this to me. 'You'll embed with them. Why don't you write them a letter saying you'd like to embed with the Church of Scientology.' Of course the church said no."

What she did instead is how her book starts, she points out. "I went to the New York org [on 46th St.]...I was basically myself. I think I switched the spelling of my last name by one letter. And I told them I was a creative writer, that I had just finished graduate work at Columbia (which I had, but it was ten years before). I told just a couple of fibs about my circumstances. I did tell them about my boyfriend -- I mean, I didn't tell them his name, but I was pretty honest. I told them I wanted to quit smoking and was stressed in general.

"That was my first experience. And I came back from that first day going, 'What's wrong with this group? I'm not seeing anything that wrong. It worked.' So that made me think, this shit works on me and I'm a really skeptical person, then what's the deal?

"After a couple of days I went through an incredibly exhausting orientation lecture with a guy, it was just me and him in a room. He started telling me all about what Scientology is, all the terminology. All the specific L. Ron Hubbard things about engrams. Some of it sounded pretty existential. I asked him if he'd read any existential philosophers, which of course he hadn't read. It became more and more obvious that if you go to college and study liberal arts you will quickly realize that this is something that's based on lots of different things, and has been disproved in so many ways. And some aspects of it are sort of blatant lies. Like psychiatrists being behind the Holocaust. You know, there are just certain blatant omissions of fact. But if you're someone who doesn't have that kind of education, it sounds so plausible, it sounds really smart.

"The people I met in Scientology, these are smart people. They have to be able to read these books. They are not easy books. These are not dolts. They just haven't had the advantages that some of us have."

After her experience at the New York org, Reitman traveled to Clearwater, Florida, the church's spiritual headquarters, where members travel for high-level training. "It's a bubble. It's a parallel universe," she says, talking about the way Scientologists separate themselves from the rest of society while living inside it. "They seem completely secular and normal. In Clearwater they're the wealthy Scientologists who show up to do their upper-level courses. They don't look like people in a cult. They look like people you would see every day."

Reitman went on several tours of Scientology facilities at Clearwater and says she worked hard to get the church's point of view on various matters. In all, she worked nine months on her story for Rolling Stone. Then, in January 2006, just before publication, she sent a list of additional questions to Mike Rinder, who at that time was the church's chief spokesman (he left Scientology the following year and has since become an important critic of the church).

Reitman says Rinder "freaked out" when he received Reitman's list of questions, telling her that she hadn't properly received Scientology's side of the story. So Rolling Stone flew her out for a three-day trip to California.

"I got a three-day trip with Mike Rinder and Tommy Davis, and it was the most extraordinary experience. That was my unique access, and it informed my book. I went out for them basically to spin me. But part of their spinning is to exhaust you, to get you there at 8 in the morning and keep you with them until 8 at night, or 10 at night, when you're jet-lagged from your trip."

Rinder and Davis took her to Scientology's secretive desert base near Hemet, to a prominent Scientology school, and to Scientology's anti-psychiatry front group, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights and other places. Throughout her tours, she says she kept peppering Rinder with difficult questions, and she says he gave "uncensored" responses. "You got the feeling that he was burning to tell more than he could. I have great respect for him," she says. "Mike Rinder informed every page that portrayed the Scientology point of view in my story," she says.

The story was a big hit for the magazine, and her agent told Reitman that multiple publishers were interested in its potential as a book. She wrote a proposal, and it sold immediately. I asked her why publishers might be more interested now in a book on Scientology.

Reitman thought her unprecedented access had helped her sell her book, but that publishers could also see how things had changed in the media's treatment of Scientology. "Tom Cruise was out of control. Because he had become such big news...the whole thing was so weird, it fascinated people. And I think that publishers, I guess, felt that the interest was there," she says.

But Reitman's primary interest wasn't Scientology's celebrities. She wanted to write a book that would capture what L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology had meant to the religion's more prosaic members, to get their point of view and not just rehash the church's many controversies.

"The best lesson that I was ever taught at Rolling Stone by Jann Wenner was to cut out any prejudicial language from anything I wrote, because the material itself is so rich, let it speak for itself. I carried that lesson with me," she says. Despite striving for that objectivity, however, she doesn't know that Scientologists themselves will get to see that she made that effort.

"I don't know if they're going to be able to read the book at all," she says. But it was still important to her not to dismiss their way of thinking. "Scientology is different things to different people. There are people I've met for whom this stuff has worked. Like Natalie Walet. Natalie grew up in the church. She has her own mind. She's going to law school, that's just fantastic. For her this stuff works. I'm not going to judge that. I'm not a religious person myself, but I've certainly met people who believe that the rapture will happen. Who am I to judge what they believe in?"

In particular, she found young people in Scientology amazing to talk to. "Scientology kids are really remarkable," she says. If they are raised somewhat in a bubble, they impressed her with how focused they are and how well they present themselves. "Most kids are not able to communicate or be present with you in a conversation in the way Scientology kids are." On the other hand: "I meet these kids who are so bright and so together, and yet they couldn't name the two houses of Congress. Their education had been so deficient. What a tragedy."

Also key to maintaining the book's objective view was choosing the right people to interview and portray. "I made a huge point of looking for people -- it was a very arduous task to do this," she says. "What I wanted to avoid were the people who were very outspoken, the well-known critics. They'd been smeared by the church because they had an axe to grind. I wanted to find people who didn't have an axe to grind."

But just finding people wasn't enough -- she was determined to have them on the record. "I used this argument with them: you have power in numbers. If you all come out and use your names, they can't come after you. But if you do this silently, then they can intimidate you and no one will come to your defense because no one knows who you are."

Reitman's book does strive to get the church's point of view, as well as its critics. But she doesn't hold back on reports of the abuse of church members, and I asked her about that.

"Abuse to me is psychological abuse. The abuse of always feeling that Big Brother is watching you. Of not knowing who to trust. That your thoughts could be used against you," she says.

On the one hand, Reitman is somewhat skeptical that Scientology leader David Miscavige has been physically abusive with his employees. "I can't tell you whether he hit people or not. I don't know. I don't know the man. To me he sounds like the worst CEO ever."

On the other hand, Reitman doesn't doubt that Sea Org members -- the most hardcore church workers who are paid little and sign billion-year contracts -- are being forced to have abortions. "You're sending people to get abortions at a Planned Parenthood clinic and you're making sure they tell people that they're indigent so they basically don't have to pay for it. And meanwhile this is largely against these women's will. And then they're not allowed to inform their husbands and they can't share this experience whether this is something wanted or something they didn't want."

And one case of abuse stands out the most, Reitman says. "What happened to Lisa McPherson and the psychological imprisonment that her caretakers were in. That to me is the most stunning abuse."

McPherson plays a central role in Reitman's book, her story spanning four chapters as Reitman traces her journey from an incredibly enthusiastic member of Scientology to her 1995 death at the church's Fort Harrison Hotel in Clearwater.

I asked her why, 16 years later, McPherson's death is still such a central part of the Scientology story.

"Because nothing changes in Scientology," she answered. "The fundamental problem is that this is a fundamentalist religion. Miscavige is a fundamentalist leader.

"This is a global spiritual corporation that has been branded a religion in the U.S. and a couple of other countries. In other countries, in Germany, they're not a religion. In Israel they're not a religion. In Israel they're actually a self-help group. And they have been given advice over the years that if they were to rebrand as self-help, they would do much better. And they haven't done that. This is all during the David Miscavige period."

Rather than evolve, in other words, Scientology chooses to remain static. "Their mindset is that anything L. Ron Hubbard said or wrote is 'Source,' it's doctrine. This is literal. And as long as they have this literal interpretation of everything, [something like the McPherson incident] could happen again."

But Reitman says Lisa McPherson's journey has another lesson as well. McPherson had been traumatized by a bad marriage, and she turned to Scientology for self-help, for betterment in her life. And initially, she got it.

"This idea of self-help and self-betterment is as relevant today as ever," she says. "L. Ron Hubbard was the first Oprah. He was! This guy who promised that he had this way that he said was scientific and it works, and you'll feel better and live better and you will succeed. That promise is the most American promise there is. And it doesn't change today, in a recession with people losing their jobs. I think Scientology could at once be incredibly appealing and yet also be a little out of people's reach because of its prices."

Reitman notes that we're in another period in which the public is frustrated and yearning for something better. It's a time when Scientology should be thriving. But without Hubbard's ability to seize the latest trends in society, it seems stagnant.

"L. Ron Hubbard positioned Scientology as an alternative to psychiatry when people were desperately in need of psychological help during the Cold War. The '60s come along, kids are rebelling, they're looking to end the war, and right there in Dianetics it says this is a way to prevent nuclear war. He figures out a way to make this a much cooler, less fringy Hare Krishna and much more appealing to more mainstream kids. In the '70s he quickly taps into the fact that people are more visual, he does all these visual aids. They very quickly responded to people rebelling against drugs. They tapped into the recovery movement and the self-help movement, and the professional-development movement. Then L. Ron Hubbard died. That was the problem."

But didn't Hubbard also, along with his charisma and creativity, put into Scientology some of its most damaging elements, like Fair Game and Disconnection?

"That was his Achilles Heel. He was paranoid. He had deep anxieties. He wanted to be king of his world, and he had to create a paramilitary society from that. And he was probably unaware that from that comes Lord of the Flies."

Today, without Hubbard's guidance, the church is failing to adapt under leader David Miscavige, she says.

"His biggest problem is that he grew up within the church, he has very little experience in the outside world...Hubbard understood that people have deep interests and that those interests change...David Miscavige, from inside the bubble that he lives in, he looks out and he sees that the American culture is obsessed with celebrities. That this is what matters to us. In reality, for as celebrity-obsessed as our culture is, no one joins a religion because Tom Cruise is a member."

Cruise, in fact, did a lot of damage when he suddenly became vocal about Scientology in 2005. "I think all these celebrities realize that what Tom Cruise did was bad for his career and they can't be like that. Even Kirstie Alley, and even Jenna Elfman, who was crazy gung-ho for a while, have taken a step back...I think they see this isn't good for their careers."

If the celebrities are being more cautious, it's fascinating to see the new "Independent Scientology" movement flourishing as former high-level members like Marty Rathbun rebel against Miscavige's rule.

"Scientology is a very doctrinaire church, way beyond Catholicism. I mean a really all-encompassing, all-demanding, highly judgmental, cripplingly controlling, organization. And these Independents are saying, 'Fuck the organization, we're just going to go do this on our own, we're going to pay a lot less money for it because really, this stuff should be free. And we're going to live better lives.

"To me, that's really religion. If you can just seek to better your life and the lives of those around you, without taking advantage of those around you, more power to you."

Like me, Reitman is fascinated with Rathbun's blog, where he defies Miscavige's rule and attracts more and more Independents.

"I think Marty is so threatening to Miscavige because he's like a Martin Luther. He's saying, look, there's an alternative way."

And as for Scientology itself, under Miscavige?

"I think they're going to have to change or die."


Sadness and Fear in Norway

Just when something positive and happy occurs, halfway around the world, something tragic happened.

On 22 July, some madman armed to the teeth, bombed the Prime Minister's building in Oslo, then showed up at a camp in Utøya, a small island in the Tyrifjorden Lake in Norway that had 600 Norwegian kids there and shot at least 68 (dead) and injured many more. The shooter, Anders Behring Breivik, is a rabidly conservative, anti-immigration activist. He opened fire on children... to what end? How is this going to fix or solve anything? Why do people think violence is the answer to anything? I'm terribly disappointed in the human race sometimes. This is one of those times.

I don't know what the Norwegian government will do with this nutter, but I hope they will at the very least lock him up and throw away the key. What insane thinking was going on inside this man to perpetrate such heinous crimes? And killing kids? What possible positive outcome can that have?

My thoughts go out to all the people in Norway who lost someone in this horrible incident. Clearly the United States isn't the only country to have its share of crazy, violent people who really believe that opening fire on innocent people will effect some kind of political change.

Hooray for New York and Passing Same-Sex Marriage!

I'm delighted and happy to know that finally people can get married in New York no matter what gender the bride and groom, bride and bride or groom and groom (or however one wishes to phrase it) may be! Finally, a state that understands and bestowed its blessings on all couples.

It has only taken far too long for this to happen.

California, which appeared to be a modern and open-minded state, began granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples in June 2008 and then repealed that in November 2008, thanks to Proposition 8, which labeled marriage as a union between one man and one woman. I used to think highly of the state of California until that happened. How stupid is that?

But New York has turned around and made it possible for couples - regardless of same-sex or not - to take vows, walk down the aisle, or whatever they wish in order to legalise their union. And I say, "Yahoo! for New York and same-sex couples!" I have always felt very strongly for this and it is none of the public's business if two men, two women or one man and woman wish to be married. People should be allowed to married. Any details after that are just gravy!

So People Magazine had an article this week in it entitled "Just MARRIED" about couples who went straightaway to the state on 24 July and said, "Please marry us!" We have Rhonda Otten and Debra Curtis, Stephanie Spahr and Theresa LaFroscia, Paul Sibley-Schreiber and Mark Sibley-Screiber, Cerrone Lundy and Richard Lundy, Da'onna Johnson and Amanda Johnson, Stephen Dimmick and Jonathan South who all tied the knot that day; and then those saving the date: Dana LePage and Cynthia Stallard, Daniel O'Donnell and John Banta, Melissa Howard and Danna Davis, Malcolm Haris and K. Tyson Perez and then, the most adorable couple, Richard Dorr, age 84 and John Mace, age 91, who have been together for six decades! And these are two cutest, sweetest men here. CONGRATULATIONS!

I love New York. I'm proud to have been born there. I just hope I live to see the other 44 states change their policies to allow same-sex marriage. Currently, only Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont and the District of Columbia legally allow same-sex marriages, but I have to believe that some day the other 44 states will eventually recognise human rights above all else,and not just rights for those who fit within the "socially accepted norm" or whatever dopiness that currently runs the majority.

It really does not affect anyone else what one or many couples do - so what if two women or two men want to get married? Are they traipsing all over your rights to marry someone of the opposite gender? I think not. Let it go. You don't have to do it, you don't have to like it; but you don't need to butt into another person's business to not support it, either. Live and let live. Learn to be a better, more tolerant person. Try it, at least - you may be missing out on a lot of great friendships by being so closed to other people.

And so again, I say proudly and loudly, "Hooray for New York!"

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Amy Winehouse Dead at Age 27

A friend of mine put up a post on his site:

Posted by in Celebrities, Memorial, Mind Boggling

Any time a celebrity dies at a young age, over-enthusiastic fans come crawling out of the woodwork with their “only the good die young” platitudes.

Over the past few days, since police discovered the body of singer Amy Winehouse inside her London home, fans have been tweeting about her now being an “official” part of the “Forever 27 Club.”

That dubious honor goes to those troubled celebrities who happened to die at age 27. According to some tweets, those celebrities include Kurt Cobain, Brian Jones, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.

One can argue about the relative talent of those people compared to Winehouse. In most cases, I suspect Winehouse would come up short hands down. But that’s beside the point.

Just as it’s beside the point that they all happened to die at age 27.

People who have substance abuse issues — and we don’t yet know if that’s specifically what resulted in Winehouse’s death — often shorten their lives.

But we all have to die at some age. And here’s a news flash: no matter what age we’ve reached when we die, we will be the same age that someone famous will have died. If we’re lucky, we’ll be part of the “Forever 100” club.

But celebrating someone’s death by grouping them with other people who died at the same age is ridiculous. Burning out your own candle at such an early age — if that’s what happened — isn’t something to celebrate; it’s just stupid."

And I answered (or commented):

"Wow... I knew Amy Winehouse was in trouble, and I'd honestly thought she would have been dead long before now, but it certainly isn't a surprise that she is now deceased. She's been careening down that road a very, very long time. It seems like years that I've been wondering who'll be dead first - Lindsey Lohan or Amy Winehouse. Guess we know the answer to that one.

Sad? Yes. Drugs or not, it is always a pity to see a life ruined or completely destroyed by age 27. The cause doesn't matter. Unlike most EMTs, I try to stay away from the attitude that one less drug addict is fine (from death). One less drug addict IS fine - provided it is because they turned their lives around, got help, wanted to get clean. Amy Winehouse was clearly not ready for that. And she struck me forcibly as someone who would not reach that point first. I get that vibe from Lindsey Lohan, too. Paris Hilton is stupid enough that she seems to have nine lives, although it would not be the end of the world if she had to spend one or two of those lives in jail...

I wonder, too, if our tendency (by "our", I mean the local constabulary) to let famous people off when they should go to jail for the same things the common masses go in for isn't really contributing to this early demise. Maybe if Lindsey Lohan went into a real jail, with the common masses, instead of having a private room in a "facility" that was much more tame than the county lock-up, she would really have learned something. Same for Paris Hilton, who only served one sentence several years ago and wasn't jailed for the latest display of idiocy - she was pulled over; cops searched her bag and found (can you believe it?) cocaine. First she said it wasn't her bag then she said that wasn't coke, it was (get ready) chewing gum. REALLY? Throw her lily white butt in the hoosegow! Don't even debate it!

Hard to know where this goes wrong, but it seems to me we are contributing to it rather than trying to fix it."

I suppose it is the American Way to let famous people off the hook for what seem like minor infractions. But no one's ever learned a lesson from getting free passes for carrying drugs, whether it is enough for personal use or on that line that may make it "possession with intent to sell". Definitely this did not help Amy Winehouse, who was a train wreck looking for a place to happen. Did we do her any favours? Did Great Britain do her any favours? Not likely. She's a big name (with big hair) and she is now a big dead name with big dead hair.

Food for thought.

Monday, 25 July 2011

A Fun Day in the City

Luis and I determined that we really want to see Cirque du Soleil's Zarkana. So even though I was up and got very little sleep last night, we were up and out of the house by 1000 heading to Hoboken to part in one of the many Park & Ride buildings that festoon the lower road (two below and parallel to Washington Avenue) to take the Path train.

To give you an idea how long it has been since I've been in NYC, I had no idea that the cost of the Path train has gone up to $1.75 for a one-way ticket. I still thought it was $1.50 - duh! But the Path trains run the same as always - every fifteen minutes on the quarter-hour mark. The trains are kept quite well and there's a telly screen with no sound that is clear made for this - it had local news, weather seven-day forecasts and little tidbits that are printed and scrambled words and such. It was not at all crowded going in (I was confident that few people had any great desire to be traipsing about the hotter-than-hot confines of New York on a day where the temperature was expected to 100°F and be broiled alive. Luis was sure that it was just too early for people to be heading in. I love that man. How long has he lived in New Jersey, but has all these bizarre misconceptions about the human race...?

When we got off the Path train on 33rd, it was akin to walking into a blast furnace. Working on coke in the mines of Pennsylvania or Manchester (England) would have been cooler. That was around 1140... not promising.

Rather than walk and potentially miss out on the tickets at TKTS, we grabbed a cab and arrived there safe and sound (which is saying something in a New York city cab, as they train in how-to-terrorise-your-passenger-in-just-five-minutes driving. This man drove very reasonably and did not try to drag the trip on for more money. So I paid the $4.15 toll plus a three dollar tip. He was so nice!

We got to TKTS right away and stood on line for all of 30 seconds. We went to the window and asked about the cost of good tickets to see Zarkana - normally $150 per person, there were two tickets for Aisle F in the center of theatre for the bargain basement price of $74 per person. We did not even debate it! That was far too good a deal not to take. We grabbed them and I stored them in my bag.

I was starving and I know Luis was hungry, so we wandered over three blocks to the restaurant district and looked at the various menus posted. We mulled over Italian, German, French, Brazilian and various other food types and different countries' offerings and settled on Spanish food at a place called Tratas (I think that was the name). It had all kinds of yummy things on the menu, and one jumped out at me - too good to pass up.

When you go to restaurants in New York, there are two key things: the store front, the valuable real estate, is the tiniest part of the eatery, and the actual eating area is a little wider, but very long and narrow in general. The other thing I noticed is that it would fail the marble test immediately. (The marble test is something experienced house-hunters like me use to see how even a floor is. If the marble, upon hitting the floor, immediately begins rolling away, the floor has a grade to it - something you most certainly do NOT want. If it doesn't then the structural integrity of the floor is at least sound. Or it hasn't settled.) But the restaurant is charming with lovely decor and excellent service. I suspect few properties could pass the marble test, anyway. In NYC you takes what you can gets!

So I ordered the insulata (salad in Spanish) which was mixed field greens with a nice tangy orange dressing; then shrimp in garlic sauce - yum! Luis ordered all appetizers: ham, called jarmon which put me more in mind of prosciutto - dark and marbled with fat; fried potatoes that looked a lot like large flat potato chips and stuffed Portobello mushrooms. The ham was delicious as well it should be - I've never seen such an expensive appetizer! But it was very, very good. We really enjoyed our meals and had a great time just chatting and eating. I had a cup of tea for dessert and told Luis I wanted to find an ice cream shoppe to have dessert - the only items the restaurant offered was flan, vanilla ice cream and rice pudding - none of which I care for. I'm sure that they wouldn't have rainbow jimmies for the ice cream as well.

We left there around 1315 and headed back to the Avenues of the Americas to find the Rockefeller Center to see Zarkana. We got there right on time. We overshot the theatre from poor directions someone gave us and had to backtrack a couple of blocks. We got in and stopped for a bottle of water each and headed to our seats.

An interesting thing about the temperature... when we walked in from the heat sink that the outside was, it was shockingly cool - maybe 80°. It felt amazing, and who cares about the 20-plus degree difference? It was so wonderful. But by the time we were creeping up on the intermission, the heat in the theatre was enough that my eyes were slamming shut. It was an incredible show and I hate admitting that, but it had nothing to do with the show, it was just too hot in there and heat puts me to sleep.

During the intermission Luis went to get more cold water and I fiddled around with the booklet, then took a couple of images of the theatre. When Luis returned he had four bottles of water, but what a huge difference they made! At first I wondered why he'd gotten so much water, but then after I'd put my drink mixes in, I stuck one down my shirt and kept the other in my lap and whew! it cooled me right down. (Betsy and I did that at the last concert, on Thursday night. We took a walk around to say hi to the guys from Car 69 [the heavy rescue guys] and the police hanging out at this event and the water there really acts well as a coolant.) I stayed awake and sprightly through the second half.

You know, I know they all say no photography of any kind at these shows (they said that, too, when Greg and I saw Rammstein at the Izod Stadium) but the fact is, I see people using their cell phones and getting away with it all the time. The next time the hell with the rules - I could have gotten some really wonderful shots of this and Rammstein back in May and I didn't. But if everyone else can do, why not?

I will at some point go online and download all the music from this show - yahoo!

We got out of the show by 1600, and then I had to use the loo. Standard bulls*t: the mens line zips right along and the women's line, although it moved along faster than I'd have thought, moves at a snail's pace comparatively speaking. I was tempted to use the mens loo, but if it was mostly urinals it would not have been worth it (in any sense) so I just had to suck it up and wait. However, the bathrooms far exceeded what I thought they'd be like - immaculately clean, with automated flushing and plastic seat covers! The toilet paper was the usual let-down - super thin one ply sheets (I never understand how any place uses cheap, crappy toilet paper - it just means I have to use almost three times are much to make sure my fingers don't tear right through it. What a waste). The sinks were good, instant hot water and fully stocked with soap, but the second I let go of the handles for the water - zip! - it was off. The warm air jets, however, were a total loss - cool, weak jets of air did not do a thing to dry my hands off.

I realise I said the bathrooms exceeded what I'd been thinking they'd be like and it is true, they did. I may have noticed some negatives, but the word immaculate is the key. No one wants to sit down if the loos are dirty and smelly. Despite the number of people who made it in prior to me, it smelled fine and was very clean. The plastic covers that automatically changed when I stood up was really the most impressive thing. They clearly did not mind spending money where it really counted!

We stopped at the candy vendor and I got some Willy Wonka candy (irresistible!) and Luis bought me a Nerds pillow (it's really cute, although it was highway robbery to pay $24.00 for it). Then I got a shirt from Zarkana and we headed back out into the blast furnace of the outdoors. Fortunately the sun was no longer beating down in between the skyscrapers, so at least we did not have that to deal with and we were both quite red from the morning's walking. We stopped at a Good Humor ice cream truck and each got a cone - Luis had vanilla ice cream with peanuts and I had my chocolate ice cream with rainbow jimmies. We started heading toward the 33rd Street Path Train station and just meandered along, me taking pictures along the way. The two parks were really nice and the buildings looked really neat. I took one picture of the National Debt (which goes up about $10,000 every 30 seconds or so - yikes!) right over the sign for the company in that building - the Internal Revenue Service... heh, heh, heh...

On our back, we passed - until Luis went back - a store full of soaps, shampoos, conditioners and bath bombs. The display here looks like confections, doesn't it? Nope, not so. At least, I wouldn't recommend eating them! These are soap bars, believe or not. I love these. Luis got me a bunch when he traveled to Chicago last. I love them!

As we continued our walk, there was this interesting sight: a layout of the southern hemisphere of the earth with Antarctica as the center, and the northern hemisphere, with the Arctic as the center. And there on the walk above, where we were, was an inscribed bit:

The Earth-world: The Continents are almost connected: They appear as a single island within a surrounding ocean.

The Ocean-world: The oceans surround Antarctica as a single body of water and are framed by the continents.

I love that kind of stuff! Astronomy, plate tectonics, scientific information about the earth, or - as in this case - a different way of looking at the familiar Terra we know and live on. Pretty cool, huh? I enjoyed this thoroughly.
We made it back to the mall that the 33rd Street station sits under, by which time I was limping from the nice blister that was under the ball of my left foot. We walked around the mall for about ten minutes to take advantage of the air conditioning to sort of recharge the batteries before heading down to the Path train. It was just as well. While it was cooler underground, it was still too hot and the air had helped. We missed the train back by just moments and the 15-minute wait for the next one seemed long. By then my right foot was starting on its blister... but as I said to Luis, this was a small price to pay for such a wonderful trip!

I had originally wanted to stop off at Christopher Street on our way home, so I could stop in at the McNulty's Tea Shoppe and then the crystal/jewelry stores, but by then we were both whipped and so we just bailed and went straight to Hoboken. We staggered back to his vehicle and were so happy when we got in! Who knew so simple a thing could feel that good. I took my sandals off and plugged in my iPod and we headed home.

All in all, a wonderful day out!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Time of the Season - The Zombies

t's the time of the season
When the love runs high
In this time, give it to me easy
And let me try
With pleasured hands

To take you and the sun to
Promised lands
To show you every one
It's the time of the season for loving

What's your name?
(What's your name?)
Who's your daddy?
(Who's your daddy? He rich?)
Is he rich like me?

Has he taken
(Has he taken)
Any time
(Any time to show)
To show you what you need to live?
Tell it to me slowly
Tell you what?
I really want to know
It's the time of the season for loving

What's your name?
(What's your name?)
Who's your daddy?
(Who's your daddy? He rich?)
Is he rich like me?

Has he taken
(Has he taken)
Any time
(Any time to show)
To show
To show you what you need to live?
Tell it to me slowly
Tell you what?
I really want to know
It's the time of the season for loving

The Story

All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I've been
And how I got to where I am

But these stories don't mean anything
When you've got no one to tell them to
It's true... I was made for you

I climbed across the mountain tops
Swam all across the ocean blue
I crossed all the lines and I broke all the rules

But baby I broke them all for you
Because even when I was flat broke
You made me feel like a million bucks
You do
I was made for you

You see the smile that's on my mouth
It's hiding the words that don't come out
And all of my friends who think that I'm blessed
They don't know my head is a mess

No, they don't know who I really am
And they don't know what
I've been through like you do
And I was made for you...

All of these lines across my face
Tell you the story of who I am
So many stories of where I've been
And how I got to where I am

But these stories don't mean anything
When you've got no one to tell them to
It's true... I was made for you

Rammstein - Jump (German/English)

Auf einer Brücke ziemlich hoch
Hält ein Mann die Arme auf
Da steht er nun und zögert noch
Die Menschen strömen gleich zuhauf
Auch ich lass mir das nicht entgehen
Das will ich aus der Nähe sehen
Ich stell mich in die erste Reihe
und schreie

Der Mann will von der Brücke steigen
Die Menschen fangen an zu hassen
Bilden einen dichten Reigen
Und wollen ihn nicht nach unten lassen
So steigt er noch mal nach oben
Und der Mob fängt an zu toben
Sie wollen seine Innereien
Und schreien

Erlöse mich
Enttäusch mich nicht
Spring für mich
Spring ins Licht

Jetzt fängt der Mann zu weinen an
Heimlich schiebt sich eine Wolke
fragt sich Was hab ich getan
vor die Sonne es wird kalt
Ich wollte nur zur Aussicht gehen
die Menschen laufen aus den Reihen
und in den Abendhimmel sehen
Und sie schreien


Sie schreien
Erlöse mich
Enttäusch mich nicht
Spring für mich
Spring ins Licht

Heimlich schiebt sich eine Wolke
vor die Sonne es wird kalt
Doch tausend Sonnen brennen nur für dich
Ich schleich mich heimlich auf die Brücke
Tret ihm von hinten in den Rücken
Erlöse ihn von dieser Schmach
und schrei ihm nach


Erlöse dich
Enttäusch mich nicht
Spring für mich
Enttäusch mich nicht


On a bridge, quite high
A man holds his arms open
There he stands and still hesitates
Right away the people swarm in droves

I won't miss out on it either
I want to see it up close
I get into the first row
And scream

The man wants to climb from the bridge
The people begin to hate
They form a dense crowd
And don't want to let him down
So he climbs back up
And the mob begins to rage
They want his innards
And scream

Redeem me
Don't disappoint me
Jump for me
Jump into the light

Now the man begins to cry
A cloud moves in secret
Asking himself what have I done
in front of the sun, it gets cold
I just wanted to see the view
the people break ranks
and look into the evening sky
And they scream


They scream
Redeem me
Don't disappoint me
Jump for me
Jump into the light

A cloud moves in secret
in front of the sun, it gets cold
But a thousand suns burn just for you
I creep onto the bridge in secret
and kick him in the back from behind
I redeem him from this shame
and I scream to him


Redeem yourself
Don't disappoint me
Jump for me
Don't disappoint me

La Soledad

Viniste a mi

Como poesia en la cancion


Un nuevo mundo de pasion


Sin egoismo y sin razon

Mas sin saber

Que era el amor

Yo protegi mi corazon

El sol se fue

Y yo cantando tu cancion

La soledad

Se aduena de toda emocion


Si el miedo robo mi ilusion

Viniste a mi

No supe amar

Y solo queda esta cancion

Viniste a mi

Como poesia en la cancion


Un nuevo mundo de pasion


Sin egoismo y sin razon

Mas sin saber

Que era el amor

Yo protegi mi corazon

El sol se fue

Y yo cantando tu cancion

La soledad

Se aduena de toda emocion


Si el miedo robo mi ilusion

Viniste a mi

No supe amar

Y solo queda esta cancion


You came to me as poetry comes in song
and you showed me a new world of passion.
You loved me without conditions or reason
while I ignorant of the meaning of love protected my heart.

The sun has gone and now I sing of you
this solitude consumes me.
Forgive me if I was stolen away by fear.
You came to me I did not know how to love
all that is left is this song.

Moon Over Bourbon Street

There's a moon over Bourbon Street tonight
I see faces as they pass beneath the pale lamplight
I've no choice but to follow that call
The bright lights, the people, and the moon and all

I pray everyday to be strong
For I know what I do must be wrong
Oh you'll never see my shade or hear the sound of my feet
While there's a moon over Bourbon Street

It was many years ago that I became what I am
I was trapped in this life like an innocent lamb
Now I can only show my face at noon
And you'll only see me walking by the light of the moon

The brim of my hat hides the eye of a beast
I've the face of a sinner but the hands of a priest
Oh you'll never see my shade or hear the sound of my feet
While there's a moon over Bourbon Street

She walks everyday through the streets of New Orleans
She's innocent and young from a family of means
I have stood many times outside her window at night
To struggle with my instinct in the pale moon light

How could I be this way when I pray to God above
I must love what I destroy and destroy the thing I love
Oh you'll never see my shade or hear the sound of my feet
While there's a moon over Bourbon Street

Sting - Dream of the Blue Turtles - 1985

Damned Don't Cry

Traveling with no destination
No place to go.
Nameless towns with faceless people
No place I know
Time to close my mind and drift off to other scenes

Lose myself in glossy pages dull magazines.
Moments pass by oh so slowly
Makes me lonely too

Twisting street lights in the darkness makes me lonely too.
The damned don't cry - no
The damned don't cry
Curling smoke climbs upward slowly past my troubling face

I see myself in rain soaked windows in a different place.
Single heartbeats in the dim lights makes me lonely too

Hearing sounds of celebrations makes me lonely too.
The damned don't cry - no
The damned don't cry.
The damned don't cry
Damned don't cry
Damned don't cry

Haunted... When the Minutes Drag

The word that would best describe this feeling
Would be haunted
I touch the clothes you left behind
That still retain your shape and lines
Still haunted
I trace the outline of your eyes
We're in the mirror hypnotized
I'm haunted
I find a solitary hair
Gone and still I reminisce
I'm haunted

Haunted by your soul
Haunted by your hair
Haunted by your clothes
Haunted by your eyes

By your soul, by your hair
By your clothes, by your eyes
By your voice, by your smile
By your mouth, by your soul
By your hair, by your clothes
By your eyes, by your voice
By your smile, by your mouth
By your soul

HAUNTED (haunted)

This is for when you feel happy
And this is for when you feel sad
And this is for when you feel...

OOOOH when the minutes drag
OOOOH when the minutes drag

And this is for the tears that won't dry
And this is for a bright blue sky
And this is for when you feel...
And this is for when you feel...

OOOOH when the minutes drag
OOOOH when the minutes drag

So this is for when you're feeling happy again
And this is for when you're feeling sad
And this is for when you feel...

OOOOH when the minutes drag
OOOOH when the minutes drag

HAUNTED (haunted)
When the minutes drag
HAUNTED (haunted)
When the minutes drag


By Love & Rockets

You Ain't Got No Ice Cream...

[01] How have you celebrated National Ice Cream Month?

I celebrated it with a chocolate ice cream fix yesterday!

[02] Have your got a favorite ice cream

Who doesn't? Pistachio is the best!

[03] Have you got a least favorite flavor?

Yes. Vanilla. Yawn....

[04] Where do you prefer to get your ice cream fix?

I love to go to either Lake Hiawatha Dairy or Maggie Moos.

[05] Do you have a nice memory associated with ice cream?

I suppose so, but I can't think of one specifically.

Sunday Stealing - 24 July 2011

The Twenty-Fiver Meme

Welcome back to Sunday Stealing which originated on WTIT: The Blog authored by Bud Weiser. Here we will steal all types of memes from every corner of the blogosphere. Our promise to you is that we will work hard to find the most interesting and intelligent memes. You may have heard of the expression, “honor amongst thieves”. In that age-old tradition, we also have our rules. First, we always credit the blog that we stole it from and we will “fess up” to the blog owner where we stole the meme. We also provide a link to the victim's post. (It's our way of saying "Thanks!") We do sometimes edit the original meme, usually to make it more relevant to our global players, to challenge our players, sometimes to select that meme's best questions, or simply to make it less repetitive from either this new meme or recently asked questions from a prior featured meme. Let's go!!!

Today we ripped off a blogger named Reyna Elena from the blog of Reyna Elena Dot Com. She states that she was tagged thanks to Moderately Confused Pinay. But, it was probably stolen there as well. So, of course, that will be as far as we go. Tracing back our theft's thieves might take some time. Take the time to comment on other player's posts. It's a great way to make new friends! Link back to us at Sunday Stealing!

Sunday Stealing: The Twenty-Fiver Meme

Cheers to all of us thieves!

1. Tell us about something that made you laugh last night. Oh, my... we were standing outside, watching this transformer burning with District 4, and we were joking about roasting marshmallows over the fire under the transformer that was burning the dried grass on the ground. That was a lot of fun.

2. What were you doing at 8 PM last night? I was putting together the numbers for the July calls to date.

3. What were you doing 30 minutes ago? Blogging.

4. What happened to you in 2006? (Feel free to republish an old post from '06.) Good gods. That was five years ago! I began working permanently at Baltusrol, I was not yet diagnosed with DM II and I was riding on Thursday nights.

5. What was the last thing you said out loud? Damn! Why isn't this working?! (I was trying to capture the crescent Moon on camera.)

6. How many beverages did you have today? Yikes... many bottles of water...

7. What color is your hairbrush? Um... burgundy and black.

8. What was the last thing you paid for? Our ice cream yesterday.

9. Where were you last night? Out on a fire standby - watching the transform burn. We were waiting for it to go BOOM! but it never did. Rats!

10. What color is your front door? Sort of a dirty white. The original white with some layer of dirt...

11. Where do you keep your change? In a jar that reads "Ashes of Former Employees" on it. HR humour...

12. What’s the weather like today? Hot, hot, hot and... sunny. And hot.

13. What’s the best ice-cream flavor? Pistachio!

14. What excites you? This isn't that kind of blog. I can't type what I'm thinking...

15. Do you want to cut your hair? Well, it needs a cut and colour, but no, I'm actually letting it grow in.

16. Are you over the age of 35? Yes, I'm 43 - I'll be 44 in January.

17. Do you talk a lot? A fair amount. But my crew doesn't call me Motor Mouth...

18. Do you watch Franklin and Bash? I gave it a try and hated it. However, I highly recommend Suits, which airs on the same channel on Thursday nights.

19. Do you know anyone named Steven? I know several, including one Stevan.

20. Do you make up your own words? No, I have Luis and my father for that!

21. Are you a jealous person? No, not even a little. It is a wasteful emotion.

22. What does the last text message you received say? I don't receive text messages.

23. Where’s the next place you’re going to? The ocean this coming week.

24. Who’s the rudest person in your life? Um... I don't know. I don't hang out with rude people.

25. Are you crushing on anyone that you shouldn't be? Usually... ;) He knows who he is...

Thank you for playing this week on Sunday Stealing! Please leave a comment or link when you have posted. Feel free to stop back and visit other player’s posts. Have a great week. See you next Sunday!

Sunday Seven - Episode #299

I really hope you played last week’s edition of the Sunday Seven, but if you didn’t, that’s okay.

Last week, I asked you to list seven things you were grateful for that week. It’s often easy to come up with a handful of things that you’re grateful for. But what if you had to come up with more than a handful?

Are you really aware of how much you have to be thankful for?

This week’s question requires an adjustment in your mindset depending on whether you played last week. If you answered last week’s question, then you must list seven things you didn’t list last week.

If you didn’t play last week, make yourself a list of seven things, then take a few moments and make another list of seven. That second set will be harder…and that’s the point. Give me items 8-14 on your list.

That’s this week’s challenge!

Oh, that's not fair! You saw that comment and did this! Yikes.

1. Vacation time (more than I could possibly know what to do with) so Luis and I can travel

2. Thai food restaurant across the street for dinner

3. My cats - the best company in the world and fur for days when I feel down

4. My iPod - music to sooth the savage breast (you didn't really think it was to "sooth the savage beast, did you?)

5. The day in NYC, hot though it was!

6. Thunderstorms to cool off the 100°F temperatures

7. Still very grateful to be here and enjoying life! And to Aetna, for shipping (finally!) my meds so I can do so.

For Sunday Seven #300, let's do something else, ha, ha!

Bringing Out the Worst in Me...

This is a string of comments from Facebook.

Admittedly, I could have ignored the narrow-minded Mr. Botes, who horned into a conversation that was not meant for him. But he did and true to form, it brought out the worst side of me. But really - if you insist on just using quotes to argue, well, broaden your horizons. Either use your own words or engage in some quotes outside of one source to make your point. There are so many excellent quotes out there from Ben Franklin to Erma Bombeck and beyond!
"Darren Johnston
Bothered and wanting to know the truth

Aislínge Kellogg de Gómez The truth is that man really did go to the Moon and it is not a conspiracy theory. Or wasn't that what you meant?

Darren Johnston hehe

Jaco Botes The Truth is known as the Word of God

Aislínge Kellogg de Gómez Uh, okay. The truth is that the Universe is predicated on the Goldilocks Paradigm - that there is a specific balance that needs to be maintained. Otherwise entropy takes over.

Jaco Botes Deuteronomy 13:3
Psalm 52:3

Aislínge Kellogg de Gómez Well, I suppose it is all how you see God, you know? I find God is in the details - in the science and it's quite wonderful when seen that way.

Jaco Botes I'll respond with
Romans 12:11, "Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord."

Aislínge Kellogg de Gómez Should I mention that I'm a Wiccan? Or would this be a bad time? I think that a world with so much variation and differences is something to celebrate. All of it. We all see God as we wish. I see that bigger force in sunrises, sunsets, astronomy, the night skies - those things speak to me more than books do - and I am mad about books, too!

Jaco Botes You may 'see that bigger force IN ...' but I see the bigger force behind all of it- Romans 1:20
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

Darren Johnston yoh guys

Aislínge Kellogg de Gómez I can't resist arguing. It

Aislínge Kellogg de Gómez is in my nature, as well you know!

Jaco Botes So, since you're mad about books, take this- also from a wonderful book. Philippians 2:14
Do everything without grumbling or arguing.

Aislínge Kellogg de Gómez LOL. That will assuredly never happen. I have a constitutional right to complain, nag, moan, complain or (the side you haven't seen) praise, sing (pray you never hear THAT), laugh, employ great feats of Sarcasm (my second and most fluent language), give compliments and show joy in heaps.

Jaco Botes No-one's going to stop you from doing anything, do as you please- but you have been warned.

Aislínge Kellogg de Gómez Here's my quote: "I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the Saints." ~ Billy Joel

Jaco Botes Proverbs 11:22
Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion. Matthew 7:6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces." And with that I waste my time no more. May God have mercy on you.

Aislínge Kellogg de Gómez Since I believe in a much more tolerant god, I daresay he will.

Darren Johnston shit

Aislínge Kellogg de Gómez No worries, Darren, that sort of narrow-mindedness brings out the worst in me. So unoriginal."

That is the whole string. I think Mr. Botes finally realised I could keep this up for a long time and while I will sheepishly admit that I could've let this go a long time ago, I'd much rather go on. I just hate that kind of hide-bound, unoriginal, unimaginative and intolerant attitude. I have no issue with the idea that one thinks of their own religion as the correct one, but to not talk to anyone who is not a believer - or to try to turn the non-believers into believers instead of partaking in the IDIC principle (Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations) is to miss out on a lot of really great people and cultures and ways of looking at the same things you do, just not the same way.

Friday Fill-In we go!

1. Life is very good.

2. Luis is one of the best places to people watch EVER because it is interesting to see how his mind works.

3. if I was going somewhere, the one thing I have to bring is water flavour packets and my iPod.

4. Tomorrow will be here soon enough.

5. Next year, I hope I have more to do with my time.

6. This week Luis and I found the song Darling I Do by Landon Pigg and Lucy Schwartz.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to seeing Cirque du Soleil's Zarkana, tomorrow my plans include going to New York City and Sunday, I want to relax in my hammock!

Saturday 9: White Wedding

Welcome to Saturday: 9. What we've committed to our readers is that we will post 9 questions every Saturday. Sometimes the post will have a theme, and at other times the questions will be totally unrelated. Those weeks we do "random questions," so-to-speak. We encourage you to visit other participants posts and leave a comment. Because we don't have any rules, it is your choice. We hate rules. We love memes, however, and here is today's meme!

Saturday 9: White Wedding

1. Tell us about the most recent wedding you attended. Wow... who's was the most recent wedding I've attended? Oh, yes, I know! It was a coworker's wedding - mine, for a refreshing change, not one of Luis' - and it was in 2009. They were married on a boat and was wonderful - romantic, sweet and the best music!

2. Do you enjoy attending weddings, or do they bore you to tears? Most weddings do bore me to tears. What can I say? The standard, usual wedding is boring and except for the dancing, which I have to beg and plead Luis to do, is not enough. But I'm happy to say most of his coworkers are married now, so that has slowed down a lot. However, in September we have the Goldman wedding coming up. Luis' boss' daughter is getting married. Knowing the Goldmans, this will be one hell of an affair. I'll post about it once we've gone.

3. Does marriage in general make you feel confident and good inside, or skeptical? That depends entirely on the couple. Some weddings I've felt great about, such as Tom and Alayna's, Judy and Alvin's, Vicki and Mike's weddings. Others I knew would be a train wreck. And almost always, they have been. Well, not the weddings but the marriages. We are one of the longest-lasting marriages I know.

4. Do you have a photo blog? (If so, feel free to share the link with us.) Yes, well - I post a lot of images on my blog. It is not specifically a photo blog, but I take a lot of pictures.

5. Do you find yourself driving less due to the high gas prices? No, I find I'm driving less due to retirement. I do drive the ambulance, though, so I am keeping my hand in at driving my sports car and that enormous 14,000lb vehicle!

6. What's the high temperature today where you are? It was an appalling 100°F (37.7°C) - way too hot for New Jersey/New York.

7. "It's not the heat, it's the humidity." Agree, or no? Absolutely I agree with that. In Palm Springs in 1999 we were there in June and it was around 115°F (46°C) and it felt like an 80° day here - but our humidity is normally very high - somewhere in the 75 - 85% range - and out there it was maybe around 8%! It made a HUGE difference. I would drink buckets of water and the sweat just evaporated right off my skin and it felt great. Plus not once did I need to find a loo to use. The water is processed through the skin. I used to believe it wouldn't make a difference but after having been to the desert several times, I know better!

8. What's the hottest you've ever been in your life? When I had bronchitis in 2007, I had a 104°F (40°C) fever. That was misery. In terms of weather, the hottest was 127°F (52.7°C) in Las Vegas. That was a little warm, even for me.

9. Non-temperature related last question: In your opinion... who's hot? Heh, heh, heh. My husband! And that guy who is in the Old Spice Internet adverts - Isaiah Mustafa - yowza!!

Saturday Six - Episode #380

For many people, beating this ridiculous summer heat means taking the plunge in a swimming pool. So the subject of swimming is the theme of this week’s set of questions!

Thanks for stopping by!

Be sure to check back this week and click on the links of bloggers who play along in the comments below! It’s a great way to find blogs you may not have visited and to keep the conversation going!

Here are this week’s “Saturday Six” questions. Either answer the questions in a comment here, or put the answers in an entry on your blog… But don’t forget to leave a link to your blog so that everyone else can visit! Permission is not granted to copy the questions to message boards for the purpose of having members answer and play along there. Enjoy!

1. At what age (if at all) did you learn to swim? Honestly? Hell if I know. As far as I know, I've always known how to swim. I know it is not really innate knowledge, so I must've learned very young.

2. Some educators have proposed that swimming lessons be mandatory for children. Do you think this is a good idea? Absolutely. How could it not be a good idea? When we get calls for drownings, they are almost always "recovery" not rescues. That is the worst thing.

3. How often do you hang out with friends at a swimming pool? Any chance I get. Unfortunately, the local pool costs are prohibitive and my parents no longer open the pool. Ray and I used to do this every May, but between the two of us, it is more work than either of us want to do. It is a lot of heavy work to open and close the pool every season.

4. Have you ever been thrown into a pool with your clothes on? Is there anyone who hasn't been? Really? Today you could have thrown me into the various statuary with fountains and I'd have been grateful!

5. How often do you visit a beach? Well, I should be specific - I am not a beach person - I am an ocean person. Nothing sounds as boring as sitting on a beach, but I can spend hours swimming in the ocean. Or walking along the shore and jetties and taking images of the water. I love the ocean. I haven't been to the ocean in a couple of years; but we are going on Tuesday, so I will see it soon! Now that I am retired I will see it much more.

6. When were you last in a boat? Hmmmm... good question. I think in 2007 I went on a boat ride in the Mead. I had done a tour of the Hoover Dam and wanted to cool down.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Wednesday Hodge Podge

1. July 20th marks the anniversary of the first time man stood on the moon. Flash forward 42 years to July 8, 2011 which marked the start of the final Space Shuttle mission. Should we continue to explore space? Should nations devote more or fewer of their resources to exploring space? Would you want to go into space if the opportunity arose?

Of course we continue to explore space! That is what we do. Imagine if man had not gone over the next hill, had not taken to the seas looking for the Eastern Asian countries to find the New World. What I don't want is for us to go to Mars to Terra-form it. That would just be wrong.

2. What are three things in your freezer?
Sherbet, ice pops, ice (for my husband, not me) and ice packs for injuries.
3. If you could see any band/artist perform live tonight who would it be? It has to be someone living--no Beatles, Elvis, etc.
4. Ice-cubed or crushed? Or are you one of those people who don't like ice?
I never use ice and often don't care for cold water. I like my water room temperature. once in a great while I will take cold water. No ice in it ever, though.
5. The owner of a small restaurant outside of Pittsburgh recently announced he was banning children under six, saying they regularly disrupted other customer's meals. You can read the story here in more detail but isn't this a perfect topic to discuss in our Wednesday Hodgepodge? Have at it friends...what are your thoughts?
I think that is great. It isn't really the kids, it is usually the parents that are really creating the problems. If you want to take your kids to a restaurant, you need to actually do the right thing and discipline them appropriately and teach them how to behave in a setting like that. And it seems to almost never happen. Personally, I applaud the owner. It's good for the customers to not have to be frustrated by the bad behaviour of others' kids.
6. What was your first car? How did it come to be yours?
I had a 1977 black Camaro. It was a humungous engine car that ate fuel. It was unbelievable. It probably got five gallons to the mile, but fuel was only $o.89 a gallon then. I bought the car for $1.00 - from a friend. It was great! My-then boyfriend had borrowed it one night and it caught fire. I never really did find out what happened. I have had other sports cars and I love my current car the most, but man that was the best first car anyone could ever have.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The Ultimate Book of Top 10 Lists

There is a lot of fun, weird and interesting facts in this book. Some of it gives me the willies, some of it is fascinating, and some just funny. But as long as I'm learning something, then it is doing what I really want. So here are some interesting facts for you.

The Top Third Common Misconception:

'Hitler was an Atheist
"We were convinced that the people need and require this faith. W have, therefore, undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out."

--Adolf Hitler, Berlin, 1933

Christianity--a religion of peace and tolerance that preaches moral values and love for one's enemies. Well, clearly from a historical perspective, this has certainly not always been the case although it's not so much the religion's fault as the people who attempt to follow it. With over a billion worldwide adherents, is it really probable that everyone who considers themself a Christian is pious, holy and a moral human being?

One of the most damning criticisms of Hitler and of atheism in general is that Hitler, as an atheist, had no morals and thus could kill freely without care or feeling. Well, Hitler was certainly not an atheist, he was born a Roman Catholic, although how religious he actually was is debatable. It is clear though that Hitler was an evil man and that his religion was irrelevant to his malevolent personality.

In Mein Kampf, Hitler wrote fondly of his experiences in church festivals, and as leader of the Nazi party, he made many references to the glory of Christianity in his speeches, including making references to Jesus' death at the hands of the Jews in an attempt to rile up anti-Semitic sentiment in his mostly religious audiences. He adopted many aspects of Catholic hierarchy, liturgy and symbolism, though he was very critical of Catholicism in private. In fact, Hitler favored Protestantism, due to its being open to interpretation. He also ridiculed occultism and neo-Paganism that were relatively popular in Germany at the time.

Strangely enough, Hitler greatly admired the Muslim faith and tradition saying, "the Mohemmaden religion too would have been much more compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness?" '

I knew Hitler was not an atheist, but I didn't guess he'd been born a Roman Catholic. But malevolent people like Hitler are just as much adherents of some religion as anyone. Look at terrorists in any country. A lot of them are political but there are plenty of them in different religious groups and motivated by religious fanaticism as anything else.

The Top 4th Lesser Government of Known Forms of Government:

Plutocracy--Ruled by Wealthy
Economic inequality at its finest, the plutocracy gives power to the most wealthy. A few of the places known for their Plutocracies are ancient Greece, Carthage, Italian merchant of Florence and Venice, and Genoa. In recent times, there is no true plutocracy, although many countries are criticized for showing similar signs. Corporations raise and donate significant amounts of revenue for politicians and political parties, and use their financial power to influence favorable legislation, similar to a corporatocracy. The plutocracy is classically an oligarchy, so a handful of the wealthiest people control everything. If there is no proper form of control, the plutocracy collapses into a kleptocracy.

Pretty interesting, right?

'Top 10 Amazing and Unusual Weather Phenomena:

10 Colored Moons Due to different atmospheric issues, the moon will occaisionally appear tinged with a color, such as blue, orange, or red. Excess smoke, dust and eclipses can make the moon appear to change color.

9 St. Elmo's Fire This weather phenomena is luminous plasma that appears on fire on objects, such as the masts of ships or lightning rods, in an area that is electrically charged during a thunderstorm. This occurrence was named after St. Elmo, the patron saint of sailors.

8 Sun Pillars Sun pillars occur when the setting sun reflects off high, icy clouds at different layers. It creates a pillar of light that reaches high into the sky. It is also possible to see moon pillars.

7 Non-Aqueous Rain Rare and yet real, cases exist of rain of animals instead of water. This has occurred occasionally throughout history, from the Biblical times through recent history. Meteorologists are still unsure of the cause.

6 Virga Virga is when ice crystals in clouds fall but evaporate before hitting the ground They appear as trails from clouds reaching for the surface, sometimes giving the cloud a jellyfish-like substance.

5 Ratabatic Winds These are winds that carry dense air from a higher elevation to a lower elevation due to gravity. They are known locally as the Santa Ana (southern California), the Mistral (Mediterranean), the Bora (the Adriatic Sea), Oroshi (Japan), Pitaraq (Greenland), and the Williwaw (Tierra del Fuego). The Williwaw and winds traveling over the Antarctic are particularly hazardous, blowing over a hundred knots per hour.

4 Fire Rainbow A fire rainbow is an extremely rare phenomenon that occurs only when the sun is high allowing its light to pass through high-altitude cirrus clouds with a high content of ice crystals.

3 Green Ray As known as the green flash. This occurs very briefly before total sunset and after sunrise. It appears as a green flash above the sun that lasts very briefly, generally only a few moments. It is caused by the refraction of light in the atmosphere.

2 Ball Lightning This is a very rare phenomenon that involves ball-shaped lightning that moves much slower than normal lightning. It has been reported to be as large as eight feet in diameter and can cause great damage. There are reports of ball lightning destroying whole buildings.

1 Sprites, Jets and Elves All refer to phenomena that occur in the upper atmosphere in the regions around thunderstorms. They appear as cones, glows and discharges. They were only discovered last century, because of their appearance and their very brief lifespan (they last less than a second).'

I've only every seen the Moon change colours. Blue is rare, but orange and red is common - and not just during an eclipse, where it can range from white to blood red, but when it is first rising, the distortion from the atmosphere at the horizon turns it dark orange until it rises to a certain height. I love it. I'd like to see the rest. As it is, I do see a lot of sun and moon dogs and of course, the halo that gives away coming rain.

Number One Misconception:

'The North Pole is North and the South Pole is South Actually, in terms of physics, the North Pole (while geographically in the north) is actually a south magnetic pole, and the South Pole (geographically in the south) is a north magnetic pole. When your compass is pointing north, it is actually a south pole of Earth's magnetic field. About 780,000 years ago, this would have not been the case, as the magnetic poles of the Earth were reversed (this is called a geomagnetic reversal). Oh, and just to complicate things further, the poles drift around randomly--they are not fixed spots. This is most likely due to movements in the molten nickel-iron alloy in the Earth's core.'

I have seen a couple of documentaries on this. We are overdue for the Earth to go through another geomagnetic reversal. I hope I am alive to see this - apparently smart phones and your little Tom-Tom device that tells you where to go will cease to function correctly. Heh, heh, heh!

This is just a random sampling. I recommend getting this book for yourself. It is a huge tome with tonnes of interesting information like the above.