Sunday, December 31, 2006


'06 has been a good year all around. My writing continues to snowball towards bigger and better markets. Overall, not too shabby even though I only left the country once for less than a week.

In March at the Erma Bombeck conference in Dayton I made the contact that would eventually lead to my being published in the Christian Science Monitor. The great thing about having been published in the CSM is that everybody has heard of it. Now when I send a query letter to an editor it doesn't look like I'm making up publications. The Key West City Paper, the Daily Advocate, The Hub, yeah - no one had ever heard of 'em.

The CSM experience also led to a staff writing position at Glucose that lasted 3 months until the magazine went under. An editor at the Wold Vision Radio Program saw one of my pieces in the CSM and had me record a piece on soccer in Honduras. The piece has yet to air, but I'll keep you posted.

From '05 to '06 I tripled my writing work and pay. I'm hoping to have the same thing happen in '07.

I also met Dave Barry, sailed on a Tall Ship, hiked 30 miles in 100 degree temperatures, contributed to Transitions Abroad, caught 3 grapes in my mouth at one time, hugged my dogs 19,234 times, helped my parents with the headaches that come with building a new truss plant, gave one commencement speech to fifth graders and one keynote speech at a National Honor Society induction, and, I better not forget this one... got engaged!

2006 won't be easily forgotten.

Friday, December 29, 2006

An Esquire Revolution

Chuck Klosterman of Esquire doesn’t want to overthrow the government. But he applied his witty gray matter to the subject and came to the conclusion that it’s not possible here in the USA. Why? Because Americans have to pay mortgages, car payments, and because we’re not a country of stone throwers.

Read: You Say You Sant a Revolution

Memorial for Laura Gainey

I got an email from one of the former crew members of the Picton Castle asking if they could use my More on Laura post for their website memorial. I was honored to contribute.

My post is one of many. There are poems, messages from friends, and notes from sailors. I've pasted one of my favorites below. It was written my Kjetil Dimmen from Norway who I featured in my story about the Picton Castle.

We who go to sea, whether to sustain or families or sustain our souls, know all too well the risks involved. One step beyond the safety of our home at sea lies the relentless, unforgiving ocean. No amount of training and preparation can completely safeguard against the whim of the elements.

Yet we do not fear.When at rest, we are secure in the knowledge that our shipmates are using every ounce of skill, determination and energy to keep us safe.Just as we, come the turn of the watch, do the same for them.

This forms a trust so implicit, so complete, that it can probably never be understood by anyone outside of our family at sea.The bonds of friendship forged from this trust are of a kind that neither time nor distance can hope to sever.Not even death.

The time has come for us to take the deck.Rest now, Laura, it is well deserved.Watch below.

Kjetil Dimmen, WV4

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Always home for Christmas

Christmas is the one time of year that I truly don’t want to be anywhere but Ohio.

The only time I came close to missing a Christmas in Ohio was on my first major trip after college. And while I’ll always remember an open air Christmas buffet in Paris, complete with warm cider wine and lots of meat and potatoes, there’s no place like home for the holidays.

I surprised Annie, my ever-so patient girlfriend / now fiancée, on December 23rd of 2001 by stepping out from behind a tree at her grandmother’s house. She was with her mom, dad, and sister. They thought I was some loon, poised to attack, that had wondered over from the nearby trailer park.

Her sister cried.

Annie, well she didn’t react much at all. She was either stunned or indifferent. I like to think the first. She thought I was spending the holidays with friends in Switzerland. It’s strange when a person who you think about on a more than regular basis, and you know them to be an ocean away, is suddenly transported 1,000’s of miles to your grandma’s house. So, stunned she must have been. And rightfully so, I hadn't had a haircut in over 5 months.

Besides friends and family there are other things that make Christmas in Ohio great, like stuff I get and dogs. This pic combines both. It was taken with my new Canon 24-105mm lens I got for Christmas.

Ain’t Zoe adorable? And yes, she is that skinny.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Infected Mouse Brains: they're good for ya!

From the CDC’s page on Japanese Encephalitis:

An inactivated JE vaccine produced from infected mouse brains has been licensed for use in the U.S. civilian population since 1992.

I need to get the vaccine for my upcoming trip. I hope that as I’m being injected, I don’t find myself in the middle of an explosion involving gamma-rays, like this dude did…

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Warning: The World is dangerours

Today I’ve been researching vaccinations that I need to get on the CDC’s travel site and travel warnings that might be of some concern to me on the State department’s travel site. No surprises on the vaccine front. But there was a state department alert that struck me as rather odd:

Worldwide Caution Public Announcement

Apparently, the world is littered with anti-American terrorists looking to mow down tourist with reckless abandon. Al-Qa’ida gets a shout out and the recent London plane scare is referenced along with bombings in Pakistan, Thailand, Egypt, New Delhi, to name a few.

I’m all for informing people that the chances of bad stuff happening in certain areas of the world are higher, but to issue a worldwide warning seems a bit ridiculous. If you are a person that wasn’t aware that people occasionally do bad stuff to other people then maybe this warning is very insightful.

But I think we all get that already.

Cross the Panama Canal

My 2005 trip to Central America was supposed to end with a hike from the Pacific to the Atlantic. Unfortunately, my trip got cut short and this still remains on my to-do list.

Until then, thanks to the wonders of You Tube and time lapse videography, you can cross between the Earth’s largest bodies of water without so much as a single mosquito bite. I first saw this on Vagablogging, author Rolf Potts's website.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Walden meets Wal-Mart

Arizona State is launching a School of Sustainability, the first of its kind. It’s big -- millions of dollars. It even includes a Decision Theater -- some type of 3D hologram future predictor that kind of sounds like the room the X-men train in.

I was reading about this in today’s Christian Science Monitor with interest when I was floored by this sentence: “The university is attracting donors and business people, including heiress Julie Ann Wrigley and Rob Walton, chairman of Wal-Mart, who last month agreed to chair the board of ASU's Institute of Sustainability.”

Walton of Wal-Mart as the chairman of the board of the Institute of Sustainability? Somewhere Walden of Walden is rolling over in his grave.

I don’t want to enter a debate here if Wal-Mart is good or Evil? I know they sell the most blood diamonds, employ cheap labor at home and overseas, and drive small companies out of business. But I would have trouble bemoaning these not-so-good things to someone from small town USA who makes $5.15/hour at the local 711 and Wal-Mart is the only game in town.

So, on this issue I’ll plead moral neutrality. What got me about this story is that most hard core, and even not-so-hardcore, environmentalists hate Wal-Mart (the whole Wal-Mart is the devil thing) and I just can’t imagine Walton of Wal-Mart being received with much less than an environmentally-friendly, organic lynching.

(Note: On google images I searched for “Wal-Mart devil” and up popped this photo promoting an anti-Wal-mart movie showing on the campus of Arizona State. How ironic is that?)

I hope things work out. I think that it is in our best interest if people with good ideas and the Earth’s interests in mind hang out with billionaires.

Mirror mirror on the mountain

Winter in Ohio sucks. I’ve always felt that way. The sun disappears for months. The land is so flat that snow-sports other than angel making are basically impossible. I dislike the season so much that I wrote this in one of my Travelin’ Light columns a few years ago:

The wind howls, blasting tiny ice pellets against my window. It’s 7 AM, but it is pitch-black outside. I roll out from beneath the covers and plant my left foot onto the floor, the cold floor. The blood retreats from my toes. My right foot protests as I do the same with it. Seven more steps and I am in the bathroom squinting at myself in the mirror. I have a reflection, but it is “vampyric”- pale, bloodless, and horrifying. My skin itches and my knuckles bleed. Each arm is tattooed with the word “DRY” that I etched with my fingernail two days before. It’s winter in Ohio.

It’s depressing, but I’ve always taken some consolation that surely somewhere there is a village that sits in the shadow of a cliff and never sees the sun.

There is. At least there used to be.

The town of Viganella, in the shadow of the Alps, sits at a base of such a cliff. For 800 years the village went without direct sunlight from November 11th to February 2nd. Until now.

The mayor of the village has installed a mirror atop a nearby mountain that is angled to shine light on the town square. It measures 26 feet by 15 feet. The story is practically a fairytale. Read: Mirror mirror on the mountain please let the sun shine on our fountain.

In the history of politics, filled with smoke and mirrors, this may be the first time that a politician has used an actual mirror. Ingenious. If the governor of Ohio built a system of mirrors that brought us Caribbean sunshine during the winter months, I would vote for him. I wouldn’t care what his politics were.

As winter days go, today seems pretty sunny. I think I’ll bundle-up and go outside to give my dogs a hug. Because, as the villagers of Viganella know, when the sun is a shining you should go out and warm your nose in it.

Monday, December 18, 2006

All I want for Christmas

Dear Santa,

I’m a simple man and there is not much I require for Christmas this year. But if you can find it in your heart to gift me with the following, I’ll believe in you always (note: some of these things may not be very Santa-like and somewhat illegal, but you’re above the law doggonit. You make reindeer fly; the law can’t touch you.)

I would like a knee defender for Christmas so I can avoid encounters like the one I had with the wart-ridden diamond banshee on my flight to St. Thomas. According to their website the knee defender will “help me defend the space I need when confronted by a faceless, determined seat recliner who doesn't care how long my legs are or about anything else that might be "back there".”

Instead of coal this year, would it be possible for you to leave a lump of steaming crap in the wart-ridden diamond banshee’s stocking?

Also, if the wart-ridden diamond banshee happens to be stepping out to her shed where she keeps the souls of children that she feasts upon and you happen to be passing-by, could you have Rudolph, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Donder, Blitzen, Cupid and Comet trample her into itty-bitty bits?



PS - I’ve been very good this year.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Please keep your seat back in its upright position or I'll write a scathing post on my blog about your overall ugliness as a person

I was minding my own business -- hands in lap, halo floating somewhere between the crown of my head and the reading light -- when she tried to recline. My knees resisted. She began to rock against the seat, hitting my knees with all the force she could muster.

“Ouch!” I said.

She turned around. She was short. Her face was covered in warts. She was soaked in diamonds and had a piercing I-get-everything-that-I-want Jersey accent.

“What? Is there something wrong with my seat?” She said.

“Yeah, it is banging into my knees.” I said.

“What am I supposed to do, be uncomfortable the entire flight?” She said.

Like people that eat at fast food restaurants and leave their trash on the table, this lady is what’s wrong with our world. It didn’t cross her mind that anything but her own comfortableness was at stake. That someone with a 34” inseam and a bum ankle might need a little space too.

30 minutes went by until she tried again. My guard was down and she succeeded.

Ever so politely I tapped her on the shoulder, “Excuse me mam, could you please put your seat forward a little?”

That’s when the yelling began. Hers not mine. Passengers within a 3 row radius turned to see her, steam coming out of her ears, drool dripping from her fangs.

“If you wanted more space you should have paid for first class.” She said at a banshee level of volume.
For a moment I considered stooping to her level, but decided to look around at my fellow passengers stunned at her loss of cool. I sat back and listened to the whispers, content with the fact that she was a bitch. And everyone knew it.

Your source for info on the irrepressible nature of monkeys

Touron Talk covers a wide range of subjects including travel security and cartoon underwear, Hulk Hogan, farting on planes, etc. I get a big kick out of seeing what google searches point to the site.

Today some troubled soul from Bosnia stumbled here after searching for:

“and the nature of monkey was irrepressible”

Touron Talk was the 3rd hit. Maybe after this post, TT will be the #1 place for people to turn to after encountering the disorderly ways of monkeys.

A guy can dream, can’t he?

Thursday, December 14, 2006


You did it for Peace. You did it because at the time you thought you were Elvis. You did it because you love Smurfs. Heck, you even did it when you were feeling a little horny.

Why not once more for big JC?

Taken in the Indiana countryside by Annie. Thanks for humoring me.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Thoughts on Laura & the Picton Castle

The Picton Castle never found Laura. They searched the waters long after hope for “small miracles” had faded. Now they continue on their sail to the Caribbean where they will continue to “live Laura’s dream.”

I first learned of this tragedy on my flight home from St. Thomas. And ever since, I’ve been following it closely. Initially I didn’t place Laura’s name and figured that the missing sailor was some newbie. When I saw her pic it hit me. I knew her.

She had a tattoo on her left shoulder of a tall ship – a silhouette. There was a red dot on one of the sails. I had no idea what the red dot was, but I was always curious about it - curious enough to steal glances, but never curious enough to ask.

Dimples dotted her smile.

Her hair was shorter than mine.

I didn’t know that her father was hockey hall of famer, and GM of the Canadiens, Bob Gainey. I haven’t read a story about her disappearance without the mention of this and it kind of burns me. They all read: “The daughter of Bob Gainey, hockey hall of famer…” To me she was just Laura. I didn’t know her last name. I had never heard of her father. Referring to her as “Bob Gainey’s” daughter makes her seems like she was a vulnerable little girl. She wasn’t. In fact, I’m pretty sure that if it came down to it, she could’ve whooped me.

In some of the reports I’ve read, experts are calling out for an investigation. But neither the Canadian nor the US governments can investigate because the Picton Castle is registered in the Cook Islands. These same experts did not expect one to be launched, but the Cook Islands just announced that they will be carrying out an investigation.

It’s not uncommon to have ships registered with a country far away from its homeport. This is the MO for about every cruise ship. Capt. Moreland the Captain of the PC says that the reason the ship is registered in the Cook Islands is to make it easier to employ sailors from all over the world, not to skirt regulations or safety procedures.

Being on a boat is dangerous. This is nothing new. It is especially dangerous when you are on a ship that requires you to work 10 stories above the deck on a rope ladder. It’s what made sailing on the Picton Castle such an experience.

I hope the investigation is carried out thoroughly to the satisfaction of all and that the PC can continue to do what it does. Because, as I mention in the conclusion of my story on the PC:

The Picton Castle haunts the dreams of those who know her. But even if they never see her again, they will find comfort and joy in the knowledge that somewhere out there, on Earth’s great waterways, she is afloat. That someone is on watch from her decks. Someone is aloft, greasing her masts.

My heart goes out to Laura’s family and the crew of the PC.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Sailor lost at sea

This summer I spent a week sailing with the Picton Castle from Cleveland, Ohio to Bay City, Michigan. Sailing and living like they did in the days of yore was an unforgettable experience. I wrote about the trip for the now belly-up Glucose Magazine.

But sailing in living like they did in the days of yore also comes with the risks from the days of yore. This past Friday Laura Gainey was swept overboard by a rogue wave while on watch. The ship was 400 miles off the coast of Cape Cod. Despite search efforts coordinated by the Coast Guard, Gainey has not been found. The Coast Guard has called off the search, but the crew of the Picton Castle has vowed to continue, hoping for a “small miracle.”

I took this picture of Laura while sailing on the PC this summer. She’s working. She’s smiling. She’s sailing.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

C-ya next Tuesday

I’m off to St. Thomas tomorrow for a wedding.

I hope to do some freediving, but I busted my ankle two weeks ago and I'm not sure if I've got much of a kick right now. It's still kind of gross and painful. See...

I may be forced to just float and look at the colorful fish. Or lounge while someone brings me a fruity cocktail as I enjoy views like this...

Jealous much?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Anyone for Kabbadi?

One more reason why I’m super excited about my upcoming trip - Kabbadi.

Kabbadi is the national sport of Bangladesh. It’s a hybrid between Red Rover Red Rover, tag, and goold ol' fashioned wrastlin'. Players where socks and underwear - sometime boxers, sometimes briefs. Players in the roll of Red Rover must not take in a single breath and, to prove it, chant “kabbadi-kabbadi” repeatedly.

Tomorrow at the Asian Games -- which is really today with the time difference – the gold medal match will be held between India and Pakistan. Bangladesh will play for the bronze. Better luck next time Bangladesh.

I know you want to learn more about Kabbadi so here you go.

I like to set pre-trip goals and one of these goals is definitely playing in a game of Kabbai. I’m already practicing: kabaddi-kabaddi-kabaddi-kabaddi-kabaddi-kabaddi-kabaddi-kabaddi-kabaddi-kabaddi-kabaddi-kabaddi-kabaddi-kabadiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii………………

Monday, December 04, 2006

Hesitation Point

I started dating Annie, a sophomore, when I was a senior in high school.

I graduated and went to Miami University. Two years later Annie, my girlfriend of three years, graduated and went to Wilmington College.

After graduating college I went on an around-the-world trip. I returned days before Christmas, surprising Annie, my girlfriend of 5 years.

I worked in Key West as a dive instructor for 6 months. I called Annie, my girlfriend of 6 years, often. She was studying at Wilmington College. I took off work to see her perform as a dolphin trainer at Six Flags in Ohio.

I spent two months in New Zealand. I returned in time to have Thanksgiving dinner with Annie, my girlfriend of 7 years.

I returned to my job in Key West. I took off work to see Annie, my girlfriend of 7 ½ years graduate college.

Annie, my girlfriend of 8 years, and I moved to North Carolina. She was a nanny. I was an aspiring writer and a smiling retail face.

Annie, my girlfriend of 9 years, and I left North Carolina. She got a job in Muncie, Indiana. I went to Central America.

This weekend, standing on a wooded-ridge in southern Indiana known as Hesitation Point, Annie, my girlfriend of 10 years, agreed to marry me.

Annie, my fiancée of one day, and me on Hesitation Point.

Never in the history of vagabonding writers has a vagabonding writer been privilege to such patience and support.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Coasters this year's must have holiday gifts

Coasters are so in this year. At least I hope so.

Chances are, if you are on my Christmas list, you are getting some coasters. Lucky you. They are not your average ordinary everyday coasters, no, not by any means. They are Kelsey’s Customized Coasters that combine your love for travel and protecting your furniture from sweat rings.

I spent a large portion of my day yesterday designing gifts for family and friends at my online store, Touron Attire. This is the whole reason I made the store in the first place. It’s not to make any money. After today’s purchase, largely consisting of coasters, in fact, I am about $300 in the hole.

All items are listed at the base price. So if you want to buy something, I make nothing. Truly, I don’t want to enter the novelty T-shirt business. It seems like a sleazy business to me. No one should ever make money off of shirts such as “Farting is just another way to say I love you.”

As for coasters…the coaster industry – if there is a coaster industry – seems much more appealing.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I'm Kelsey and I will be your boring speaker today

I was the guest speaker at my old high school yesterday during their National Honor Society induction ceremony. The Mississinawa Valley NHS now – after the ceremony – consists of an entire 5 people. All girls.

I remember sitting through these things as a student. I wasn’t in the NHS, but the entire high school is forced to sit through the ceremony. The speakers I remember always seemed to be local business professionals – “Please help me in welcoming Jim from The Old Farmer’s Bank.” Staying awake was difficult.

When I was asked to talk, I told myself that I would not be that boring old guy at the podium droning on about the importance of something that no one would find important. I thought that I had worked up a fun talk and for some reason I pictured the kids rolling in laughter and hanging on every word. But once the talk started it didn’t take long to realize that in fact, I was that old guy and there was going to be no rolling or hanging. Well maybe some hanging, but in the “out to dry” sense.

Let’s just say that when you lead with a story about being de-pantsed and then follow it up with a memory of your gym teacher taking a wiffle ball to the groin, you hope for some laughs. When you get none, it’s a little unexpected and a bit uncomfortable.

I even talked about my encounter with a deadly poisonous snake and I only saw one person scoot to the edge of their seat, but he flicked somebody in the ear and then nestled back into lifeless mode.

I think I delivered my prepared talk well and I like to blame the silence of the 300 teens on the fact that they are lifeless, heartless, half-developed people who are too cool to laugh. But you know, maybe I wasn’t any good.

Believe it or not I did enjoy giving the speech. Some laughs would have been good, but I had some stuff to say and I said it, which is always kind of nice.

I’ll record the speech as a podcast in the near future so you can judge for yourself on its quality or lack thereof. Until then I’ve posted the outline below:
NHS Speech

A) It’s great to be here. I’ve got a lot of memories in this gym. There I…
…helped install this gym floor
…broke my foot
…I won some spelling bees. 3 in a row I know; it’s impressive. I peaked early. It’s all been down hill from there.
…playing wiffle ball I watched with interest as Mr. Griffis take a line drive to the…well, you get the idea.

B) What I do…travel & write

I’ve been a lot of places and people think I must know things. I expect that’s why I was asked here today. Well, the truth is there are a lot of things I don’t know. For instance…

3. What I don’t know & What I think I might know
- Fractions
o I have a confession…I can’t do fractions multiply, divide, add, subtract. What to do? Cross multiply, common denominator. I can’t remember. I have to think of pizza. Now if I have 4/59ths of a pizza and I want to add 8/73rds of a pizza to it. I’m sure all of you (stands) know how to do ‘em. And you all here on the floor better know how to do ‘em. Can we get some fraction tests down here.
- Burritos
o I don’t even know how to eat. I thought I did, but I don’t. Tell the Guatemalan Burrito Story.

4. I guess I’m supposed to talk about things I know, which actually isn’t a whole lot. But there are a few things…

Things I think I might know:
A. Snakes are scary. Snakes like puppy dogs. Especially poisonous ones sitting beside you in a canoe.
Read Midnight in the Jungle

B. The next think I know. Is never ever ever pee on flowing lava. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. Just don’t do it.

C. Don’t be too practical. We, who go to school in a middle of a cornfield (or was it beans this year?), we are often too practical.
When I was in school there were only about 5 occupations that could work towards: Lawyer, teacher, Dr., Nurse, business. That’s it. There’s nothing wrong with any of these professions; they’re just not for me.

Guidance counselor didn’t tell me I could be a vagabonding travel bum
If you want to design video games or clothes do it. Nothing is out of the realm of the impossible just be practical about it. Find out what it takes to reach that goal – what classes, what experience - and start working towards it. Don’t let it be something that you will look back on and wish you would have pursued.
I met Ted Kooser, the National Poet Laureate, at a Conference a few months ago. For those who don’t know what a Poet Laureate is or does don’t feel bad I didn’t know either until I was sitting beside him and asked “What do you do?”
Fewer things less practical than writing, especially poetry.
Ted is a practical guy and has worked as a insurance salesman in Nebraska for 30 years. Is he an insurance salesman? No he’s a poet.
- Ted was practical, he had a real paying job, but not too practical.

Don’t be too practical
Be grateful for education: I know it’s a lot to ask, being grateful that you are in school today, but you should be.
We avg. 12 years of schooling. The world avg. is 6 yrs.

ii. 781 Million Illiterate people in the world
1. 2x’s the pop of the USA

Poor countries best bang for buck
Win over children
Ex. Of children not able to answer the question “What do you want to be when you grow up.” It’s a question they’ve never been asked before. They don’t have an answer for it. If you can’t see beyond food and shelter, clothing and poverity
We all want to be something
i. At first I wanted to be an astronaut that did construction on the moon. Which actually, I’m still holding out for. It is. I even had this silver space man suit. There is too much heavy lifting in construction here on Earth, but on the moon, lumber and even steel is really light, “Oh, what’s that you need a 2X4, here you go…”
ii. Then NBA b-ball player
1. 5’11”. Slow. Can’t jump. Wasn’t meant to be.
iii. Now an author
iv. If I walked around here and asked you want you want to be when you grow up

These people (the members of the NHS) up here are taking advantage of their education and I’m sure many of you out there are too.

Take advantage of your education and never stop learning. There are a lot of things I’m sure you don’t know. We all have our own “fraction” and “burrito” issues. This is what I love about what I do. I get to learn about places, peoples, and ways of life. I can’t get enough of it. Once you find whatever it inspires you won’t be able to get enough of it either.

Conclusion: To recap: Snakes are scary, never you-know-what on flowing lava, don’t be too practical, don’t take your education for granted, take advantage of it.


Monday, November 27, 2006

Reality Tours

(yep, the photo has nothing to do with the Reality Tours that I'm talking about - and in fact, just might be the exact opposite. A kind of Bizarro World Reality Tour. But it was the first thing that popped up in Google Images so I thought: What the hey. Why should I be the only guy in blogger-land to not have a pic of Jessica Simpson on my Website?)
Where would you like to go?

How about to the heart of issues such as, Peace & Justice in Ireland, Sustainable development in Tanzania, the Amazon addiction to oil, fair trade in Nicaragua?

Yeah, doesn’t sound like much fun does it? But if you’re the type that likes their vacations more interesting and enlightening than drunken, sunny, and relaxing, you may want to check out the Reality Tours offered by Global Exchange.

What is a reality tour. I’ll let Global Exchange tell ya:

Reality Tours offer participants an opportunity to journey to other countries to examine a situation firsthand. This gives the individual the chance to understand the issues beyond what is communicated by the mass media. By joining us on one of these delegations, a participant will have the chance to learn about unfamiliar cultures, meet with people from various walks of life, and establish meaningful relationships with people from other countries. Most significantly, Reality Tours endow participants with a new vantage point from which to view and affect US foreign policy. We hope to also prompt participants to examine related issues in their own community and society.

I guess I would consider my upcoming trip a reality tour. I’m currently lining up local contacts to educate me on things. But will my tour “endow (this) participant with a new vantage point from which to view and affect US foreign policy.”? Who knows? I don’t see me influencing foreign policy all that much. But I hope to better understand the people and places I visit. Is that enough?

My self-guided reality tours may be somewhat foolish since I fly blind (read: don’t know what the heck I’m doing). For those who aren’t so foolish, joining a “delegation” through Global Exchange will likely yield an unforgettable experience all the same.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Congrats to all of my fellow Americans. The results are in and we are the most unfriendly country in the world, at least so says the 2,011 travelers interviewed in this survey.

Screw ‘em, that’s what I say! We’re unfriendly and have the right to bear arms.

According to a Reuters report of the survey, our incoming tourist numbers are down 1% since 2000, which equals about “$12.3 billion in additional spending, 150,000 additional U.S. jobs, $3.3 billion in additional payroll and $2.1 billion in additional taxes.”

The results show that Spain and France are the friendliest countries, which makes me think that “friendliness” make be directly proportional to a countries number of topless beaches.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Adventures in Local Journalism

Journalism school isn’t required. Spelling is a plus, but not required. Somewhere among the jumbled sentence structure and changing tenses is the truth. Maybe.

Sometimes my local paper (circulation less than 10,000) makes me laugh or just pisses me off. But rarely does a single story do both.

This particular story is about a young fella who went to a party and ended up falling off a bridge. He doesn’t remember any of it. No one does. It happened. It’s tragic and the newspaper’s assistant editor managed to butcher the story. Some unedited quotes from this less than stellar piece of journalism:

“Miniard’s body was reportedly found underneath the bridge in that hamlet.”

“Miniard’s body!?” The dude isn’t dead. He is still in his body. His body wasn’t found, he was. And yep, no one around here has ever read Hamlet, but we live in quaint enough gatherings of houses that we have actual hamlets.

Quoting the boys mother: “He had a bleed on the brain.”

Is this what the mother actually said or is this poor spelling? Even if the mother said this I don’t think it would be a unethical to help her out a little so she doesn’t look like an idiot. Or better yet, to avoid the ethics question, leave it out altogether.

In additions to his bleed on the brain, “He had lots of trauma to the left side of his head, his left arm was broken, the left wing on his pelvis snapped and a couple of ribs were broken. There was a break/fracture to the lower back and his spleen and pancreas were severed. That around the left eye was broken, and he had a head injury in his left temperal and peripheral lobe. He had no other bruises or scratches."

It pains me not to correct the above paragraph and, in fact, I have double checked my duplication to ensure that it appears exactly as written. Despite the incomplete sentences and bad spellings, this passage is completely ridiculous from a logic stand point. Come on, basically this guy just broke his entire body. We know because you went to great efforts to tell us. Do you really need to end the paragraph with “He had no other bruises or scratches.”?

“At one point he had 37 people in the waiting room (which just happens to be a few more than the population of the hamlet). His ex-girlfriends and their boyfriends were there.”

Ex-girlfriends? This cracks me up and makes up for all of the other irksome nonsense in the story.

This kind of thing does not regularly happen in our area. Here this journalist is sitting on top of the biggest story since the Great Corn Blight of ’84 and she has completely and utterly screwed the pooch and everything else that is bad to screw.

But you can bet that I’ll pick up the paper again today looking for more things to make me laugh and more things to piss me off. Because the truth is, I enjoy both.

Monday, November 20, 2006


I like to think that my degree in Anthropology has paid off during my travels. Honestly, what avenue of study could be more appropriate for becoming a professional traveler? Well, maybe this one…

studying to become a Jedi at the Star Wars Academy in Romania.

At the customs check: You wave your hand, “These aren’t the undeclared goods you are looking for.”

Pickpockets will fear your lightsaber.

Your travel agent will advise you: "Fear leads to Anger. Anger leads to Hate. Hate leads to flying standby."

The Star Wars Academy is the kind of quirky thing that I love to write about on my travels. You can bet your hairy butt Chewy that if I make it back to Romania I'll be stopping in for a visit.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Manners in Bangladesh

From the Lonely Planet Bangladesh guidebook:

“…eating in the proper Bengali fashion involves disregarding everything you’ve ever been taught about table manners. Do slurp, do burp and, above all, do play with your food.”

What no farting at the table?

Friday, November 17, 2006

In Transitions Abroad

I have a piece on volunteering at Casa Guatemala in the Nov/Dec issue of Transitions Abroad. TA is a handsome glossy chalk-a-block full of content. I’m not just saying that. You can go page after page without running into an ad. Good for the reader, not so good for the writer – the pay ain’t great. Even so, I’m happy to be a part of this issue.

The issue is titled the Responsible Travel Issue, which almost makes me feel like I’m something greater than a culture trippin’ Touron. Almost.

Here’s a passage from the Editor’s letter:

Travel has the potential to bring much-needed economic benefits to developing countries and to foster cross-cultural awareness, dialogue, and understanding—all of which make for the conditions of world peace.

I’m just doing my part to promote world peace. I also fight crime, rescue kittens from trees, and help old ladies cross the street. My Karma cup runneth over.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Wiki Faux Pas

Are you trying to blend in? Not break any social rules, customs, or niceties? Well, good luck with that. To help you out, here’s a list of faux pas from Wikipedia.

Items of note:

- In Malaysia pointing with your forefinger is considered impolite (especially when pointing at people). Instead, a closed fist held sideways (thumb at the top) with the thumb pointing the direction is used.

I thought politicians only did this.

- In Australia requesting items like a fanny pack in Australia can be considered obscene due to the usage of "fanny" as referring to a woman's genitalia. Bumbag is an acceptable local variation.

- In Bangladesh closing one's eyes during a meal is said to invite demonic possession of the hosts.

- Germany has 37 points of politeness!

- In Nicaragua calling someone a "cochón"(homosexual), when you really want to buy a "colchón" (mattress).

I can’t tell you how many times this happened to me when I was traveling in Nicaragua last year. Very embarrassing. Almost as uncomfortable as hauling the mattress around the country.
Just to show you how useful this list is, here’s what it has for the United States:

- It is considered impolite to ask a woman how old she is or inquire about her weight.

- Emitting any powerful odor or smell, whether due to lack of hygiene, diet, or applied perfumes, can be considered a violation of others' personal space. The application of perfume or cologne may be considered embarrassingly overdone if their scent is detectable beyond the close personal proximity of the wearer. In recent years the smell of smoke from the use of tobacco products has also become socially unacceptable, except in areas specifically designated for smoking.

And here I’ve been walking around smelling from “lack of hygiene” asking women, “How much you weigh baby?” Oops. I'm a heathen in my own country.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Where the Hell is Matt?

I've heard of Matt and his dancing, but I just watched his video for the first time. Awesome. Almost touching. It makes me want to write sappy stuff, but don't worry, I won't.
I blame the music. If the music was funny music instead of inspiring, maybe I would want to write funny stuff. Anyhow, watch the video.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Are you and Ugly American: Part 3 of 10

Budget Travel’s tips to avoid being a jerk abroad:

Use Clear English

Why I’m apparently an Ugly American:

When it comes to trying to communicate with non-English speakers, my options are limited. Thank the satellites floating in space, everyone knows a little English. At least I like to thank so.

How my communication cookie crumbles:

"I speak good English as Second Language. I think. I try no conjugate verbs so other persons who no speak English much, understand. Yes?"

No? Let me see how I can put this.

"I speak (with one hand I motion like a puppet, with the other I point to my mouth) good (thumbs-up, big smile) English as second (hold up two fingers) language. I think (point to head). I try no conjugate verbs (scratch my head as I search for the proper way to mime this and find none) so other persons (point to puzzled listener) who no Speak English much (again, with the puppet hand and pointing to my head), understand (hold up hands in questions and give big smile)? Yes?"

No? You still don’t understand. Let me try again.

I repeat the phrase complete with eccentric sign language except this time I speak with a strange accented staccato, which even an English speaker would not likely comprehend.


I give an I’m-a-big-idiot smile and dismiss myself from the situation.

I may look and sound like a fool, but am I ugly for it? Now, before anyone gets their knickers in a twist, I don’t think that everyone should speak English. I usually try to work in as much of the local language as I know, which is often slim to none.

It’s kind of pathetic - I spent 16 years in school and speak only one language. I’ve hung out with people who have had next to no schooling that carry on conversations in 4 different languages. This happened when I was in Nicaragua trying to get on the lobster boat. Some of the sailors spoke English, Spanish, Creole, and Moskito.

With that being said, I have been in few situations where I wasn’t able to communicate with someone regardless of how little English they understood and how little of their language I understood. In Bosnia I once went on a hike with a guy who Spoke Albanian and no English. We communicated through a pocket-size Enlish/Albanian dictionary. When I think back to the hike, I remember whole conversations not frustrations from the lack of a shared language.

Who needs words anyhow?

Monday, November 13, 2006


I thought Kevin Costner’s sailboat in Waterworld was cool, but check this out…

The l’Hydroptere Greek for “Marine Wing” or English for “l’Water Peter” crossed the English Channel in record time with an average speed of 38 MPH. With 12 knots of wind, the hull, flying on a hydrofoil, is 4 feet out of the water and the crew 15 feet.

Definitely wouldn’t want to go overboard off of this one.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Jingle These

I’m spending the day researching my upcoming trip to Bangladesh. Why Bangladesh?

This is why…

That’s where my underwear were made. You got a better reason to go?

How bitter can a guy get?

I’ll let you be the judge.

To set the mood: I had spent over 2 weeks in Puerto Cabezas talking with sailors, captains, the Coast Guard, and immigration officers trying to finagle my way onto a lobster diving boat. When the night finally came the boat owner, Alberto Wu, told me I wouldn’t be going. This after I had spoken with him several times before and after he had watched me haul my gear onto his boat. If he would have shared this bit of info a week earlier, I could have made other arrangements.

What follows is word for bitter-dripping word out of my journal:

I sat on the toilet naked, my head in my hands sweaty from a long day at the dock. I pulled at my hair for lack of, and inability, to do anything better. I sat like that for 15 minutes, which is an awful long time to sit on a toilet and do nothing.

I thought how I was going to tell-off Alberto Wu. There was going to be a lot of vulgarity and hatred. Then I decided I would try an underhand “Killing with kindness attack.”

Here’s what I’d say to Wu through one of his henchman: “Tell Mr. Wu that I appreciated the dignity, the respect, and, most of all, the courtesy with which I was treated. And that I look forward to sharing his many fine qualities with my many readers (what’s a little exaggeration; as far as he knows I write for TIME) in the USA.”

Did I mention how fat he is? He is the fattest man in town. The sailors just call him plain “Gordo.” I like to call him “Gordo Alberto” or “Fat Albert.” He’s a strongly proportioned fat man. His legs seem to be of a relatively normal shape. Everything is standard up from the feet until you hit the waist. There on up the fatness explodes. It’s almost like someone set a barrel on 2 sticks and filled it with fat and stink. Rolls go all the way around, one on top of the other until they finally stack up to form Wu’s torso. On top of the barrel his head sits like a gallon jug. 2 sticks, a gusseted barrel, and a jug of milk, that’s the profile we’re working with here. His face is roughly rectangular, but rounded by fat courtesy of one large extra chin and a square-topped haircut.


That's how bitter.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Ellis Road

On Ellis Road I…


Chased birds.

Was in a car crash.

Was sprayed by a skunk.

Invented skateboard/skiing behind a bike with a ski rope.

Learned to ride a bike.

Crashed a bike.

Lost dogs.

Was pushed in a wheelchair by my run-crazy mom.

Learned to drive.

Rode the mower to the neighbors.

Hit a brand spankin’ new white Cadillac with a juicy red tomato.

Had ants in my pants.

All of these things and more.

Norway and Iceland might be the best places to live, but life on Ellis Road wasn’t too bad.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Don't die in Adam's County

Forget Virginia and Montana. The results for the Adams Country Coroner race are in…

Clevenger-Democrat-for-County-Coroner won with 57% of the vote, despite his ridiculous campaign signs and all of Touron Nation actively smearing his name.

I feel powerless. I tried to reach out and help the uninformed Adams countians (who I’ve never met) make a wise choice for dead-person-identifier and they chose to ignore me. But hey, if they think colored chalk makes a good coroner, so be it. Don’t come crying to me when you die and your chalk outline is pink and your hips look big and someone drew a smiley face on it and added both male and female anatomy to it.

I tried.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Gore Vidal on Americans on Italians

Author Gore Vidal on the average American's knowledge of Italians (as heard on the Bob Edward’s show):

“(Americans) don’t know Michelangelo from pizza.”

The Race for Life & Death in Indiana

I just stumbled upon an article in the Muncie Star Press about the heated Coroner’s race in Adam’s County, Indiana. It turns out the challenger of Clevenger-Democrat-for-County-Coroner has a name -- Michael Seidle.

In the past 6 months Indiana’s standards for coroners have been revealed as somewhat suspect. Consider the crash on I-69 involving two Taylor University students. One died. One lived. The coroner identified the one living as the one dead. Oops. Although, Clevenger-Democrat-for-County-Coroner had nothing to do with this, it’s obvious that the people of Adam’s County (whoever they are, I don’t know any) are ready for a change.

Besides, as the Star Press says, “Practically anyone can be elected to the office.”

Seidle has a website and blog, which is something I really look for in a dead-person-identifier. He also has a killer slogan: “Put a little life back in the coroner’s office.”

Take that Clevenger-Democrat-for-County-Coroner!

While other forms of media provide you with the latest in the who-cares congressional elections, Touron Talk brings you the race for Life & Death. What could be more important?
We'll keep you posted.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Land of Democracy

The Romans or Greeks – or some other peoples that wore togas – may have invented democracy, but we here in the USA have taken it to a whole ‘nother level. Right?

Let’s have a look at the numbers.

The % of voting age people that voted in last election (from the most recent reported figures by the International Institute of Democracy and Electoral Assistance):

Kazakhstan - 71%

Islamic Republic of Iran – 76%

Venezuela – 48%

Uganda – 74%

Germany – 75%

Russia – 68%

The United State of America (World War liberator, communist butt-kicker, home of Superman and Captain America) – 47%

OK. Maybe we aren't the badasses of democracy that we thought we were, but at least we've got this guy on our side...

Friday, November 03, 2006

Coming to a village near you...

Imagine walking into a village. Africa, Central America, it doesn’t matter just as long as it’s remote.

You probably got there by following some pot-holed dirt road. You saw a car, but it was broken down and holes were rusted in the side. There are no power lines in sight. Tonight’s dinner runs amok clucking or mooing.

You approach a building made of corrugated metal and spare 2x4’s. You hear kids chattering about as kids do. It must be a school. You peak in the window. And this is where things get real creapy…

Every kid pecks away at a laptop.

Yves Behar is designing a $100 laptop for countries to buy by the millions to give to school children. The goal - “One Laptop per Child.” Read about the project in Wired magazine.

What would this mean?

Worst case - Cultures are squashed as the children of the world become addicted to online poker.

Best case - World Peace as the children of the world obtain online degrees as pharmaceutical assistants from the University of Phoenix.

I think this is an awesome idea and I hope it comes about. It would be interesting to see how it influences cultures and international politics.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

GAGgle Images

See the post beneath this one? The one with the pic of the bus? I didn't take the pic, but used Google images, as I often do, to find one that related to my posting.
Google Images is a great tool, but it sometimes makes me want to vomit on my keyboard. Such was the case as I searched for "Crowded bus" and stumbled upon an image titled "Prolapsed Uterus."
God, help me.

Are you an Ugly American? Part 2 of 10

Budget Travel’s tips to avoid being a jerk abroad:

#1 Find the local Rhythm.

Why I’m apparently an Ugly American:

On a bus in Mostar, Bosnia…

Elbows were brushed and knees were bruised, as I tried to find a place to claim as my own. Heads turned back at me, my wake of despise. Eventually I was squirted down onto the steps mid-bus.

Whew, made it, and now I’ve got this nice little spot on the steps all to myself, but when do I get off?

A few stops went by and more and more people squeezed into the bus. I’ll just step down one more step and make a little more room. The bus filled with BO and damp exhaled air.

Another stop and more people!!! Isn’t there a limit on this puppy? I’ll step down one more step.

Huh, look at that sign: Warning door hits step! I’ve been ok; I really don’t see that being a problem.

Stopped again, more people shoved into the bus. Someone call Guinness or the circus, either way we should be able to make some money off of this.

The door opened.

Ok, its opening and…ooh my foot it seems to be stuck. It doesn’t really hurt; play it off like its nothing. What is this guy doing…?

He was pushing on the door trying to free my foot. I waved him off, “It doesn’t hurt,” which it didn’t…at first. Embarrassment yielded to pain and I became panicked like an animal in a trap.

Maybe, if you push harder and I twist like this…

The man hollered to the driver.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Mummy misses Mommy

I spent my Halloween taking care of this tiny little monster who happens to be my girlfriend’s nephew.

Half mummy half 3-year-old, Jared broke his leg while fleeing the oh-so-dreaded bathtub. He flipped over the back of the couch and landed on some kind of exercise wheel. Listening to him explain the whole thing is a riot.

We played matchboxes for about 8 hours.

I spent my Halloween fearing poop. Thankfully, there was none.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Better off dead...

…than having Clevenger as Coroner!

In an effort to support Whoever-is-Running-against-Clevenger-Democrat-for-Coroner in Marion County, IN, Touron Talk presents this ridiculous campaign sign that I first wrote about a week ago.

Please note that I am not, nor do I know, any voters in Marion County. But the cause of striking down stupidity and ridiculousness must cross all political barriers.
Together we can make a difference.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The latest in Fall fashion

Got my first official Touron T-shirt in the mail yesterday from my new online store - Touron Attire. I went with the organic cotton one. Go Carbon! I have always said, the more untainted carbon in a t-shirt the better. Plus, it was made in L.A., just like the movie stars.

It was bit itchy at first, but after one washing, it’s as comfortable as any t-shirt I own. It’s kind of an off white as some organic shirts tend to be, but it’s very fashionable as you can tell from the picture.

I’m very happy with the quality. I wish they sold for less. The shirt with standard shipping ($5) was about $21. Café press offers cheaper shirts, but I kind of feel the need to go with the environmental/social friendly organic made in the USA shirts, especially since I am currently working on a project that involves the garment industry.

The shirt gets two-thumbs up. Go get yours today. I’ll keep you updated on future Touron Attire. I've added links to both my blog and website.

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Are you an Ugly American? Part 1 of 10

From Budget Travel’s tips on how to avoid being a jerk abroad:

#1 Mind your table manners.

Why I’m apparently an Ugly American:

I’m constantly reminded of my manners, or lack thereof, when I travel. In Australia, I learned from Germans that I hold my fork like I’m trying to kill my food; in Switzerland I was told how to properly convey my eating intentions to the waiter by the placement of my utensils on the plate. Regardless, I still Cro-Magnonly grip forks as if to kill, and signal to my waiter that I am done with my meal by unbuttoning my pants.

I come from a land of “Burritos as Big as Your Head.” Where tortillas are made to stuff and roll. This is not how to eat in Honduras. If you unload the contents of your plate into a burrito, roll it into the mother of all burritos, and two-fist it into your mouth as sauce and meat falls out the bottom, people will stare. They’ll turn in their seats to watch, call their relatives to describe the scene, and snap photos with their cell phones. I learned this the hard way.

The more I learn about manners and their global variety, the more I choose to ignore them and just do what feels right, while giving a big I’m-an-idiot-heathen-and-I-know-it smile.

Overseas adoption fashionable?

Each year Americans adopt 23,000 children from overseas while 120,000 plus children in the US wait for homes. Read the story here.

I think it’s good that children from developing nations are adopted and given a chance. I know a few people who have adopted children from countries like Guatemala and China; they are great parents raising great kids.

But I’m worried that all of this adoption madness is becoming a bit too popular. Name a cooler accessory in Hollywood than Angelina Jolie’s son Maddox. Dark skinned children with light-skinned parents are IN right now. In Vogue, if you will.

I can’t think of anyone -- movie star or acquaintance -- who has adopted a child from the USA recently. It seems like the only times that you hear about US adoptions are when there is neglect involved. As if the only people who are adopting from within our country are lower class people looking for the assistance and tax breaks that comes with an orphan.

Adopting a kid from overseas is an upper class thing to do. There is a lot of money involved. Visit most developing countries travel advisory pages and you’ll find warnings about illegal adoptions. Creeps are cashing in on the black market.

All of this seems to be an ethical and moral fluster cluck.

When I travel to Cambodia this spring will someone try to sell me a kid?

Let’s say you’re Madonna. I loved you in Evita by the way. How can you walk into a village in Malawi and pick one kid out of all of them? This little dude hit the orphan’s lottery, but he’ll probably blow half is inheritance on therapy.

What do you tell your local orphan waiting for a home? Sorry, kid. You’ve been outsourced.
UPDATE: If you don't think Madonna is a good mom, just ask Ricky Martin.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Budget Travel asks: Are you an Ugly American?

Touron Talk’s official unauthorized exclusive response: UP YOURS!

Read Budget Travel’s 10 most common faux paus by traveling Americans titled, Are you an Ugly American? Starting tomorrow -- and after that whenever I feel like it – I will break down a faux paus and give examples how I have been guilty of each one.

But first a short intro to the stupid subject of Ugly America…

I’ve addressed this Ugly American thing before. In a post titled The Search for Ugly America, I wrote:

As a nation we are culturally-isolated – we border as many oceans as we do countries. Unlike Europe, where a three hour drive may take you through three countries, here in the US a three-hour drive may take you from Ohio to exotic Indiana - maybe. We aren’t used to dealing with people who don’t sound like us, who don’t use our currency, and who don’t know all of the words to “Take me out to the Ballgame.”

So, we are a bit Ugly. But the French are a bit rude, the English a bit prissy, the Aussies are drunks, the Germans are perverts, the Israelis conceited, etc. etc. As humans we can’t help but label nationalities with certain qualities even if they are wrong. This sort of prejudice is not pretty, but it exists.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Castle Dracula: Podcast

(Cartoon by Geoff Hassing)

Listen to my latest podcast HERE. I don't mean to be self-derpecating, but it just might be the goofiest/stupidest/most ridiculous Traveling Touron Episode yet - which is really saying something.


See pics from Castle Dracula HERE

Friday, October 20, 2006

I should be writing...

...but I’m designing an online store.

Touron Attire is your one-stop shop for official Touron products.

Stop rolling your eyes. I’m not trying to make any money at this thing. The store is through Café Press, which has a base price that all products must sell for. If a shop owner wants to make money they bump up the price. I’ve left all the prices at their original settings. So I’m making zilch. The cheapest shirt I designed sells for $15.99 ($21 with shipping), which seems kind of high, but it’s organic. I figure if I’m not going to try and make any loot, might as well use the highest quality T’s Café Press has available.

And no, I don’t really expect to sell anything. Mainly I’ll use the store for custom gifts, and things of that sort.

Please, don’t buy any shirts yet. Let me order one first to see the quality before you deck out your entire family in Touron Attire. I’ll keep you posted on new designs and any other store news.

Thursday, October 19, 2006



In ’04 I co-led a group of teens to Baja for a 3-week diving adventure. In between trips we went into the mountains to hang at a mango farm and help make mango jelly. We picked ‘em, peeled ‘em, squished ‘em, melted ‘em, and finally ate ‘em. By the time it got around to the eating part we were all about mangoed out.

There are few fruits out there that I know as intimately as the mango. But the mango is a complex fruit, it has many layers, almost onion-like (yeah, I know, not a fruit) really in its depth of wonders. Just the other day I learned that the mango is the most consumed fruit in the world, which inspired this fruity posting.

Do you know about the Mango?

The Mango is…
…in the same family as poison ivy and causes some people to break out.

…both Pakistan and India’s national fruit.
I love trying exotic fruits, but, I must admit, I am somewhat intimidated by them. Each fruit has a proper way of being cut and consumed. If you’re intimidated by the mango go here to learn to eat it. If you are a veteran mango eater maybe you should move on to the hedgehog cut, you know, to impress the

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Decision '06

Driving through the Indiana countryside today:

Corn fields sit half harvested, the farmers hoping for the rain to stop and the ground to dry so they can finish. It’s election season and the road is lined with “Vote for me” signs.

Wait, what did that blue one say?

2 miles go by.

Clevenger, Democrat…

A half-mile goes by.

I’ve never been through a corn maize before. I love that play on words: corn maize…shoot missed the sign again.

4 miles go by.

Clevenger, Democrat for Coroner

Are you kidding me?

A flood of coroner questions:

I never even knew that the county coroner was an elected position. Does anyone actually care what party affiliation the coroner is?

What was that drawing on the corner of the sign? What possibly could someone draw on a sign that would make me want to vote them the dead person identifier?

Do coroners have debates? “Bill, I read in the paper that your goldfish floated upside down at the top of the tank for three days before you declared it non-living. A vote for Bill is a vote for decomposing bodies stinking up the county.”

Do they have slogans? “Your dead, vote for Ed.”

How about platforms? “I promise to use colored chalk on all dead body outlines.”

Maybe I’m underestimating whatever it is that coroners do, but the job seems pretty black and white. Pulse – Yes = “He’s alive.” Pulse – No = “He’s dead.”

6 miles pass. I approach another blue sign. In the bottom corner is a poorly drawn chalk outline with arms at awkward angles. I’m not a resident of Adams County, Indiana, but if I were, I would not vote for this joker.

Touron Talk is proud to back whoever is running against Clevenger, Democrat for Adam’s County Coroner. I think they will do a better job of identifying dead people and a way better job of tracing them. I also hear that they plan on using colored chalk.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Population 300 million

In the next day or two the USA will top the 300 million people mark. Sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? But really it’s not that bad. We’ve got plenty of room. The population density of the USA = 31 people per square-KM.

I have started to research an upcoming trip to Bangladesh, a country that has roughly half the population of the USA, but way less space. The population density of Bangladesh = 985 people per square-KM.

Some love the hustle and bustle of crowds. Me, I can stand it for a bit then my insides start to quiver, then gyrate, then shake, then scream. It’s not pleasant. Give me open sky, tall trees, and empty horizons. 300 million people or not, we still got plenty of all these in the good ole’ US of A.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Manly men or idiots?

I brag about diving in water in the low 40’s. But it’s really not something to brag about. I’ve only done it a couple of times in a stone quarry in Ohio and I think I puked after each dive (biting hard on regulator = headache = puking). There’s nothing manly about being a giant wet shaking goose pimple, upchucking in a port-a-jon.

I’ve got nothing on Dimitri Kieffer and Karl Bushby. They crossed the partly frozen Bering Strait on foot. That’s right, partly frozen; they had to swim portions of it. The expedition covered 56 miles in 14 days, which might seem a little slow if you don’t consider the swimming, -40-degree temperatures, the polar bears, and the 30-foot high ice barricades in their way.

Some of my favorite quotes from Kieffer in a short interview in the latest National Geographic Adventure:

“We swam backwards so our faces wouldn’t freeze.”

“I became more concerned with cracks than polar bears.”

Once they reached Russia from Alaska their reception was anything but warm. They were detained by Russian immigration for… 54 DAYS!

The crossing was part of Bushby’s 12-year around the world walk.

Who walks across the Bering Strait? Who walks around the world?

Man or idiot?

Friday, October 13, 2006

Luggage requirements

It should have wheels, 4 of them.

I should be able to sleep in it.

If I become stranded without food, I should be able to scrounge a meal from the chips of chips, pieces of candy, and half-empty bottles of water found within.

It should lock.

Lumbar support and cup holders are preferred.

It should be big enough to hold a kayak and small enough to take camping.

After 10’s of thousands of miles it should look and smell like it did the day I got it.

It should be fashionable. The kind that looks good on the beach or in the city.
My favorite piece of luggage, my truck. Thanks for a great 100,000 miles!

Thursday, October 12, 2006

More about the Lifestraw

I posted about the Lifestraw, a straw that doesn’t suck, in August. Here it is a month later and the NY Times is just now getting around to covering the story. I scooped ‘em. It’s obvious that the Times turns to Touron Talk when they want to take the World’s Pulse.

“What’s relevant to our readers today?” Says the cigar smoking editor.

“I don’t know,” says the fedora wearing reporter. “I only went to Journalism School at Columbia. I better check
Touron Talk written by a freelance freethinker with a degree in Anthropology and a license to dive.”

Never mind that I first read about the lifestraw in Wired magazine.

The Times article did bring up some interesting points about what the Lifestraw does not protect its suckers from:

It is less effective against viruses, which are much smaller and cause diseases like polio and hepatitis, and it wouldn’t protect American backpackers against the parasite giardia.

Nor does it filter out metals like arsenic, and it has a slight iodine aftertaste (not necessarily a bad thing in the large stretches of the globe with iodine deficiency).

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I should be writing

My has a cool tool in which you upload a headshot of yourself and it tells you what celebrities you most look like. James Cameron was my closest match followed by Haley Joel Osmond. Apparenlty I could be either in my 60's or in my 20's. My closest female match was Paz Vega who I don't really know much about, but know that if I looked like her I would spend a lot more time in my own company.
You have to establish a my heritage account to use the tool, but it's realitvely painless.

MyHeritage Celebrity Collage

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Magazine smaller than actual size (but not much)

It’s not often I get excited about contributing to small publications, but I’m thrilled to contribute my story about Castle Dracula to this months issue of Baltimore’s Valley Times. Before you go and think that my writing ego is too big for my ball cap – ooh big time writer writing for a publication beneath him – stop right there.

The Valley Times is really small. I mean it. It measures 4 ¼ inches by 5 7/8 inches. Without a doubt I’ve written for publications with smaller circulations, but nothing so pocket-sized.

If you are looking for a publication that you can slip in your back pocket and discreetly slip off to the restroom for some light reading, the Valley Times is it. It’s also great for finding some real estate in the Baltimore area. But be warned, the high prices will make you sh…, well, you get the idea.

In their own words:

The Valley Times is a monthly publication, established in 1986, available to the public at finer merchants, restaurants and business establishments throughout the Baltimore metropolitan area.

Each month we offer articles on current and upcoming local events, local history, day trips, people and places, gardening and recipes.

It’s cool publications like the VT that ya miss, living in the middle of nowhere like me. Not only is it cool, but – dare I say it – it’s kinda cute.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Nina

After I saw the Nina, I had much more respect for Christopher Columbus and his crew.

I was on assignment aboard the Picton Castle a 180-foot long, 500-ton behemoth. As part of the Great Lakes Tall Ship Festival, we sailed from Cleveland to Bay City, Michigan. Many of the crew had sailed around the world; the thought of being on the open ocean as opposed to the Great Lakes made me a little squeamish. And then I saw the Nina at just 90-feet long - a high-walled bathtub with a couple of masts and a crew of 13.

No thanks.

The replica Nina, built for the movie 1492, still sails allover to this day. Life on the original was -- shall we say -- much more interesting. For starters cows swung from the rigging.

Life on Columbus’s Nina as read on the replica Nina’s website:

Life on board the Niña in 1492 was not for the light hearted. When the Niña left on any of her three voyages to the New World, her cargo hold was full of provisions, water, armaments. There were live animals ranging from horses, cows, pigs, and chickens. The four-legged animals were suspended in slings as the rolling motion of the vessel would have easily broken their legs.

Needless to say, there was little room below decks for the 27 or so crew to sleep or cook. Cooking was done in a fire box located on decks in the bow of the ship. Sleeping was on the deck and was always uncomfortable as the ship was so loaded with cargo, her decks were always awash. A lucky few could sleep on the poop deck or find a coil of rope to sleep on to keep them off the deck a foot or so.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Morbid Inspiration

In the eyes of juries and insurance adjusters, a person who enjoys the outdoor is worth more than a person that does not.

The leaves are changing. So, get off your duff and go frolic.

To hear more on How to Increase Your Value as a Person, listen to Adam Davidson’s piece on This American Life. It’s the 3rd act, so you’ll have to FF a little, but it’s worth it. Davidson will even tell you the best way to increase your value as a person – burn.