Thursday, August 31, 2006

Lifestraw, a straw that doesn't suck

From a recent story of mine about playing soccer in Honduras:

Kyle and I grew up playing soccer in a small league in Ohio. We wore shin-guards, had matching uniforms, and were treated to little plastic barrels of sugary fruit drinks whether we won or lost.

The kids of Mocorón, on the other hand wear shirts given to them by relief organizations. One shirt says, “Benton High School Class of ’95,” another has a dancing Snoopy on it. None of them know who Snoopy is. As for refreshments, the kids drink the river water by the handful.

Over 1 billion people in the world don’t have access to clean water. There are a lot of grizzly stats that drive this home, including how many children are estimated to die a day because of this, but I won’t mention them here. The Lifestraw could provide an economic and practical answer to this problem.

Got a muddy bog filled with swimming parasites? Stick the Lifestraw in and start drinking. How cool is this thing?

Lifestraw's mission: Sharing a passion to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of ‘reducing by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water’ by the year 2015, we recognize the immense sense of urgency.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Nepali claims to be World's Smallest Boy

Khagendra Thapa Magar is a little boy with big aspirations - he wants to be in the Guinness Book of World Records. Thapa, at 20 inches tall and weighing in at 10 lbs, claims to be the world’s smallest boy.

Currently Guinness doesn’t have a Smallest Boy Category, but they are considering it. Thapa says that his nearest competition is some kid who is 25 inches tall.

Some thoughts:

Thapa will probably never be able to be a laborer of any kind so he needs to cash in on his lack of height why he can. But what happens if he hits a growth spurt? Legendary Bulls’ small forward Scottie Pippen grew something like 7 inches between his freshmen and sophomore years of college. 7 inches would put Thapa over 2 feet, and, once you are over 2 feet you’re just a real short dude.

What are the parameters of the Smallest Boy Category? An age needs to be defined here. What if the boy who Thapa says to be his nearest competitor at 25 inches is 17 years-old? Thapa could grow 5 inches in 3 years. It could happen.

How did Thapa, a boy of little resources living in Nepal, learn about the kid who is 25 inches tall? Is there some type of 3’ and under convention held each year in Kathmandu?

If Thapa learned English he could makes loads of money in Hollywood. Think of the success of Verve Villechaize, aka Tattoo, and the guy who played mini-me, not to mention the lollipop gang trio. Thapa is shorter than all of them so his earning potential must be greater. Plus...

Monday, August 28, 2006

Ted Kooser

I must admit, since high school I’ve been a little turned off by poetry. It has always seemed to be either a lot of flowery fluff or extremely high brow. Like if I read it I had two choices: skip through the garden naked and free, or, slobber all over my uncomprehending, oafish self. So, for these reasons I just don’t. Until now…

I’m happy to say that I checked out my first book of poetry from the library since…well, I’ve never checked out a book of poetry. This is truly a testament to the wonderful words of Ted Kooser THE Poet Laureate from 2004-2006. The position is appointed by the library of congress and was once held by a fella named Robert Frost. Poets Laureate are the superheroes of poetdom. Here’s what Wikipedia knows about ‘em.

He spoke at the writers' conference I attended this past weekend in Columbus and he won me over fast with poems like The Urine Specimen. Here, have a sample:

…You know that just outside a nurse
is waiting to cool it into a gel
and slice it onto a microscope slide
for the doctor, who in it will read your future,
wringing his hands. You lift the chalice and toast
the long life of your friend there in the mirror,
who wanly smile, but does not drink to you.

After the talk I found myself sitting in an easy chair next to Ted. I read the paper and he was flipping through a book. I didn’t want to bother him, but took the opportunity to strike up a conversation after another pesky conference-goer hit him up for an autograph and then left. Ted and I talked for a good half-hour. We talked about football and poetry and everything in between. Ted bemoaned the proficiency testing in schools and how they’ve killed poetry (poetry isn’t on the tests, but fractions are). And how he just heard that similar tests may soon carry over into college. He also offered the following wisdom:

“There is no better way to spend 6 minutes than talking with your grandmother.”

The cool thing is that Ted is just like me and you. I bet he’s never written a poem in his life while sitting at a coffee house, but I bet he’s written books of them sitting on the steps of the barn. Here’s his bio from his website (note: he sold life insurance for 30 some years):
Ted Kooser is a poet and essayist, a professor of English at The University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and most recently, The United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. His writing is known for its clarity, precision and accessibility. He worked for many years in the life insurance business, retiring in 1999 as a vice president. He and his wife, Kathleen Rutledge, editor of The Lincoln Journal Star, live on an acreage near the village of Garland, Nebraska. He has a son, Jeff, and a granddaughter, Margaret.
See I told ya! Just like me and you. One heck of a guy.

I’m reading Ted’s poetry, you should too.

Friday, August 25, 2006


On 8/11 I posted about the age of the Earth. I mention a relevant story that I had written, but I forgot to post the link. Here you go:

I'm at a writers' conference in Columbus. I had lunch next to a lady who just published her first book. For Game of My Life Lauara Lenese interviewed ex-OSU football players on the best games of their career. It drops in 3 days, just in time for football season.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Before & After the Mast

Before & After the Mast of the Picton Castle
(for Glucose Magazine 8/06)
By Kelsey Timmerman
Go Here for more photos

The journalist, ten stories off the deck of the ship, is standing on the yardarm of the uppermost sail, the royal sail. A layer of grease covers his hands disguising white knuckles. His right leg has gone into full Elvis mode – all shook-up. He turns to Shackle for guidance.

“Squat down…put your right foot here…grab there.” Shackle calls out the foot and handholds like the spinner in some high-stakes game of Twister. The journalist is lost in concentration. Shackle’s job is clear: he's got a mast to grease and a journalist to keep alive.

In May of 2005 Kjetil Dimmen, aka Shackle, was driving a cab in Norway, his homeland. He had been working as a cabbie for the previous ten years until a television show altered his course. The Travel Channel’s Tall Ship Chronicles followed the barque Picton Castle, a classic square-rigged deep-sea sailing ship, on an around-the-world voyage. Within two weeks, Shackle was in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, the home port of the Picton Castle, loading it for its next around the world adventure.

Now, a year later with a world voyage under his belt, Shackle is one of the more experienced crew members. He is participating in the ASTA Great Lakes Tall Ships Challenge®, a traveling parade of sailing ships visiting ports such as Cleveland, Green Bay, Toronto, and Chicago.

Lost amid the ship’s sail rigging, the journalist and Shackle slap grease on the wood mast and spread out a thin layer with their hands. Far below, the noon-to-four watch is hard at work painting, steering the teak wheel at the helm, and standing lookout on her elevated bow.

Andrea Deyling, an assistant engineer from Cleveland, sweats away in the belly of the ship monitoring the 690-horse power diesel slogging through Lake Huron. She steps back to the galley for a drink of water and a cool breeze. “It’s like 103 degrees in there.” She’s sweaty. She’s greasy. Her feet are ink black.

She assumed the Great Lakes would be a bit of let-down after the exotic excitement of the circumnavigation, but she was wrong. “I’m totally surprised at how much I’ve enjoyed the trip on the Great Lakes.” Last night with the rest of the crew she marveled at the anchorage in Put-in-Bay -- sunset, islands, backflips and belly-smackers off the bowsprit, warm clear water, and warm clear laughter. “I keep having to remind myself that I’m in the Great Lakes.”

Shackle and the journalist have worked their way down the main mast and are now sitting on the yardarm of the next highest sail, the topgallant. They stare off into the cool blue waters of Lake Huron. Empty horizon occupies two-thirds of their 360-degree view. Michigan accounts for the rest. They’re not the only ones taking a break. Charlie Janowski, 63, of Cleveland sits on the cargo hold amidships in his painting bibs preparing for his shift. Charlie saw the Picton Castle at the Cleveland festival and was instantly smitten. “I always wanted to be on ship like this. This is a once in a lifetime experience.”

Trainees pay about $100/day to live, work, and learn on the Picton Castle. Charlie built a deck for his 88-year-old widowed neighbor, and when she learned of his desire to sail on the ship she, along with another friend of Charlie’s in his debt, paid his passage.

Admittedly, Charlie isn’t as young as he once was or as in good shape, but that didn’t stop him from going aloft on the foremast to help unfurl the sails. Forty feet off the deck, Charlie balanced on a shaky thin foot rope. Those who watched Charlie go aloft were inspired. Charlie got the job done. You can bet that Charlie always gets the job done.

“I was hoping I didn’t fail and look like a fool to the young guys. This is a lot of work and a lot of fun.”

When Charlie doesn’t smile his face looks tired. He hasn’t stopped smiling since stepping aboard the Picton Castle.

The Picton Castle, originally a fishing trawler, was built in 1928 and operated off the coast of Wales. In World War II she was a mine sweeper. In 1996 Captain Daniel Moreland refitted her with a clipper bow and three masts and began operating her as an around-the-world sail training ship. “We’re not trying to be old fashioned. We’re interested in the tradition of sailing ships.”

Many of the other Tall Ships participating in the traveling festival are merely floating museums and tour boats. The Picton Castle is much more. Today she is the only square-rigged ship circling the world trading goods and training sailors. The Picton Castle preserves more than the memory of the age of sail. She preserves the lifestyle itself. The exploration. The adventure. The freedom.

Hundreds of people, young and old, from all across the globe count themselves in the growing fraternity of her crew. They’ve hauled on sheets, tightened braces, taken their turn at the helm, done the dishes, and washed her decks. Under the guidance of Captain Moreland, the crew of the Picton Castle has circled the globe four times and helped her get where she is today.

One of the hardest tasks that falls upon the tanned shoulders of crew members is saying goodbye.

Andrea will be leaving the ship in Chicago to work for a few months saving up money so she can rejoin the ship for its upcoming eight-month sail in the Caribbean. After 13 months of living on the ship, she hasn’t had enough.

Charlie is leaving the ship in Bay City, Michigan, but hopes to return. “I wanna bring my son with me.”

Shackle left the ship for a short time once already, “When I got back onto the ship in Panama, it felt like coming home. It still does.” He’ll be leaving the ship at the end of the summer to return to Norway. He’s not sure how, but he wants to return to the ship. Minus all the pilfering and pillaging, he’s a pirate 200 years too late.

The journalist?

He got his story. Days after his departure from the ship in Bay City his hands still have splinters from the ship’s main mast. He can’t stop thinking about the starry night in Lake Huron. How he seemed to float before the ship as he looked back at her from the bowsprit. How the sails, lit by the stars, stretched up into distant galaxies. How the wind buzzed through the rigging, hummed across the 12,450 square-feet of sails and listed the ship to her starboard side. Is there anything more magical than a 500-ton object moving along in the silence of night in the open water? It’s almost enough to make a journalist put away his compound sentences and learn his knots.

Memories last longer than splinters. 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.

For more info visit

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


10 years of college. 3 Bachelor degrees. 1 Master's. PhD pending...

And Kyle still can't remember to take the truck keys out of his pocket before skiing. We were lucky he didn't lose them in this crash. We would have been stranded in Kentucky.

Monday, August 21, 2006

In your face waterskiing

It's not easy to look cool while waterskiing. This weekend at Lake Cumberland (Kentucky) my brother, Kyle, and his BFF, Tim, tried their best.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


Snakes on a Plane, please. Try snakes in a dugout canoe. Now, that's exciting. Listen to the story behind the cartoons as featured on my podcast The Traveling Touron. Cartoons by Geoff Hassing.

Friday, August 18, 2006

A writer's eye

I observed two details the other day that will probably never find there way into any of my writings, but are worth sharing all the same:

Portsmouth, Ohio - I stopped at a Podunk gas station to grab a Powerade. I handed the overweight store clerk a $5-bill. She checked it with a marker to make sure it wasn’t counterfeit.

“You get a lot of counterfeit 5’s around here?” I asked.

She nods and hands me my change.

This small detail sums up Portsmouth, a depressed town on the banks of the Ohio, better than any description of its streets, storefronts, or residents. It almost makes me want to write an entire story about Portsmouth just so I could build on it.

A fella in a T-shirt driving a shiny black, stretch-limo on the interstate.

His story begs to be written.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Jill Carroll in the Christian Science Monitor

Read the Christian Science Monitor’s special feature Hostage: The Jill Caroll Story. The feature will run 12 days and is currently in day 5. It’s scary. It’s creepy. It’s enlightening.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Frogger Indian Style

Jail? Community Service? A ticket? Come on Justice System! Let’s try to have little fun!

In India speeding truck drivers aren’t given warnings or fines. They are sentenced to 1 KM of hoppin’ like a frog along the side of the road while holding their ears and hollering the name of their favorite political leader.

There are so many questions to ask here. For instance, “Why?” comes to mind. Most of all I wonder how the police determine who you support politically.

I heard about this on the radio and then found this article via Google.

Punishment by humiliation? I like it. It works too. My 4th grade teacher made the class troublemaker stand on a chair and we all shouted at him how awful he was. He’s now in a band call “Everybody Else Wins” and seems to be fully rehabilitated.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Go deep, see stars

“I was just a guy tied to a rope,” said Navy diver Daniel P. Jackson after being the first diver to reach 2,000’ deep.

“At 2,000 feet, I had topside turn off all the lights, and it was like a star show. The phosphorescence that was naturally in the water and in most of the sea life down there started to glow," Jackson said. "When I started to travel back up, all the lights looked like a shower of stars going down… It was the best ride in the world.”

The ocean at its deepest is about 36,000’; I guess there are plenty of places left to explore. Read the Navy’s coverage of the dive here. The group discussion is also worth a visit. There are some nice debates on the necessity of having a human go to such great depths instead of robots.

I’m all for it. Sometimes our quests for new horizons may not result in direct scientific advances, but the research and development of the projects do. Think Tang, the Space Pen, and astronaut ice cream. What would we have to stuff in our Christmas Stockings if not for the space program?
A big thanks to my buddy Stinger, a fellow narc-o-holic, for emailing me this news release.

Friday, August 11, 2006

The Age of Earth

I heard an interesting stat the other day on NPR.

48% of Americans believe Earth is less than 10,000 years old.

I have not confirmed the figure. By not doing so I leave myself with a glimmer of hope that it is false and that we Americans aren’t as stubborn-minded and foolish as this percentage implies. 10,000 years ago is nothing, geologically speaking. I’ve skipped rocks that are older than 10,000 years old.

I suspect that religion may be a factor here. But anyone who actually believes Earth to be so young is blinded by more than faith. Whoever you believe created the world, I can assure you that he/she/it/they did it a way long time ago (~4.5 billion years ago).

To help put the geologic timescale in perspective here is a column I wrote a while back:

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Bigfoot lives in OHIO! As you can tell from this picture.

You may have trouble making him out in the photos because Bigfeet tend to blend in with their natural surroundings. I had trouble at first too. And then I banged my head against the desk five times and could see him clearly standing behind the truck.

This Bigfoot photograph was taken by Dallas Gilbert of the Ohio Bigfoot Search Club. Dallas and his Bigfoot researchin’ buddy Wayne Burton are among the exclusive few who are able to see the Big Ape without resorting to the sudden pre-inflicting head trauma method (SPHTM).

I learned of the Ohio Bigfoot Search Club while interviewing the park staff last week at the Shawnee State Park near Portsmouth, Ohio. I asked them if there were any local legends and out they came with one of the big 3 (Nessie, UFO’s, Bigfoot). They were all smiles. It seemed to me that Dallas Gilbert was a bigger legend – albeit, living legend in these parts - than Bigfoot himself.

You should definitely check out the website of the OBSC. There is some very insightful information that addresses the much discussed debate on how to prove Bigfoot exists. You’ll be happy to learn that the OBSC is of the “No Kill” school of thought. The OBSC in their own words:

The Ohio Bigfoot Search Group Club takes their own stance in these bewildering days for credible eye witnesses that are trying to prove to the world that Bigfoot does indeed exist. We are of the NO KILL school of thought. We do not want to see a Bigfoot brought in to be dissected at some scientist's leisure. Therefore, we are going to continue as we have over the last six years, and that is to continue our pursuit of obtaining photographic evidence of the Ohio Bigfoot's existence. It is our sincere hope that soon we can ask the State of Ohio and these United States for protection of "OUR" Great Apes!

Bewildering days indeed.

Now, bang your head on the desk five times and check out more photos of Bigfoot in Ohio.

Still not a believer? Purchase Mr. Gilbert’s one-of-a-kind CD – a definitive collection of evidence that Bigfoot exists (WARNING: MAY CAUSE EXTREME LACK OF CONSCIOUSNESS).

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

...gonna need a bigger boat...

I just learned to roll a kayak last week. How comfortable am I with my roll? If I was this fella, I would be doing some serious puckering if I saw any rogue waves heading my direction. I don’t think my roll is oh-my-gosh-I-better-roll-this-puppy-over-fast-in-order-to-not-get-eaten-by-a-great-white good, yet.

This pic is a reminder to practice.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Crazy Hot Hiking

I picked the hottest week of the summer to go hiking.

On Tuesday I hiked 10 miles on a trail in Tar Hallow State Forest that hadn’t been hiked in quite awhile. I could tell because the spider webs hanging across the trail were so thick I could hear them snap when I walked through them.

On Wednesday I hiked 25 miles in Shawnee State Forest. I didn’t intend on doing this. Kinda stupid really with the heat index pushing 105 degrees. The original plan was to hike 12 miles and then camp. I got to the camp at about 3. It was down in a buggy breezeless ravine. After three hours of rest, I was bored and sweaty and opted to hike the remainder of the trail. Overall it was a quite a challenge fighting dehydration, nausea, and at times (and you know this ain’t good) goosebumps. I think I was a wee bit delirious too. For instance, if you look closely at the picture above, I’m holding a small jar of Vaseline. I’m still not sure why.

Friday, August 04, 2006

My latest Podcast

You’ve waited with bated breath for over one month. Like a junkie you’ve dreamt of your next fix. The wait is over! Junkies here’s your junk…

The latest Traveling Touron Podcast

Or go to the Traveling Touron’s homepage to get more Traveling Touron than you ever thought you needed.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Touron Bliss

Only The Great Touron King could attain this level of transcendent joy from a desktop travel calendar. ~Submitted by Kyle, GTK's big brother