Thursday, September 28, 2006

Have a holly-jolly Ramadan

Happy Ramadan! Or is it Merry Ramadan? How about Happy Holiday for you PC folks out there?

Ramadan started September 23rd so I’m a bit late with my Ramadan well wishes, but as they say رمضان رمض رمضان!!

Wikipedia on Ramadan:

Muslims believe that during Ramadan, the revelation of the Qur'an to the Prophet Muhammad began. The entire month is spent fasting from dawn to dusk. The first day of the next month is spent in great celebrations and rejoicings and is observed as the ‘Festival of Breaking Fast’ or `Eid ul-Fitr. Allah (God) commands Muslims to fast just as Christians and Jews were instructed to fast by their respective prophets, examples being the practices of Lent or Yom Kippur.

I was in Kosovo and Bosnia during Ramadan a few years ago. When the sun went down a canon went off and prayers would begin to spill from speakers atop minarets. Depending on were you were you could hear several different half sung, half wailed prayers. Then the streets would come alive with people and shops that were closed would open.

One evening back at my hotel in Prishtina, shortly after the call to prayer, the kitchen sizzled with food and conversation. After a day of fasting it was time for some feasting. I turned in early, but it was hard to sleep. Feasting entails a lot more than not eating. No sex during the day either, which apparently was a big deal for the occupants of the rooms above and on both sides of me. First there was the noisy, over-dramatic hay rompin’ upstairs, then to the room on my left, then to the room on the right. The weird thing was that through the pillow wrapped around my head it sounded like the same starlet in each room. Eventually, I cranked up the BBC World News on the TV and fell asleep.

Looking back at the experience I can’t help but wonder if it was a hotel or a brothel.

I really need to forge some PG Ramadan memories to bump out the X-rated ones. It’s on my understand-other-cultures-through-travel to do list.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I am Superman

I took the superhero test. As it turns out, I am most like Superman. Actually, it was a tie between Superman and Supergirl. I can't help but think this was a result of my answer to the question "Do you wear thongs?" Thongs are flip-flops right? Of course neither Superman or Supergirl wear flip-flops...huh...maybe I should take the test again.

Oh, well...

In Honduras last summer I was Batman (scroll down to 7/11)

My test Results:

Green Lantern
Wonder Woman
The Flash
Iron Man
You are mild-mannered, good,
strong and you love to help others.

Click here to take the "Which Superhero are you?" quiz...

Monday, September 25, 2006

Premature Pull Cord

This is what it looks like when a first time skydiver full of nervous energy accidentally grabs the pull cord of his instructor.

Watch the video – Premature Pull Cord. It features my buddy Justin on his first jump. Not only is it funny to see the incident, but it’s a pretty cool video in general.

As for the incident and the reaction…

If Justin’s instructor had not been leaning against the co-pilot seat, the plane would have filled with parachute, which would have been bad. To make matters worse, the gutted plane had openings in its side that could have sucked the shoot and Justin’s instructor through the fuselage.

So that’s why, when the incident occurred, the occupants of the plane collectively crapped their pants.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Lost Summers and Lightning Bugs

I wore jeans yesterday for the first time in months. Kind of depressing. I recently wrote an essay about lost summers and lightning bugs. Have a sample:

I can’t help but smile when I see lightning bugs.

I remember being barefoot and shirtless scattering across the yard with the other kids, arms outstretched, legs pumping, hands ready to snap shut gently, my focus shifting from one pulse of light to the next. Caution had to be taken to avoid tripping over the balls, bats, rackets, and lawn darts, left over from a successful day of play. Saplings that we had nursed through the dry summer and parents in lawn chairs provided their own unique challenges.

There was always that moment of questioning, Do I have more than air? Then it would happen -- yellow light filling the spaces between my fingers. A miracle!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Kosovo meets the Beach Boys

Bermuda…Bahama…come on pretty mama…Key Largo…Montego…baby why don’t we go down to…


You just gotta watch this video of troops perfoming “Kosovo” to the music of the Beach Boys’ Kokomo.

I was in Kosovo in 2003 and it’s far less sunny than this sun-bleached rhythm would lead you to believe - especially in October - which makes this rendition so incredibly enjoyable. It does a great job of summing up the frustration of the locals who don’t want the UN to be there and the UN soldiers who, in fact, would prefer to be somewhere else.

Just another example of how frustrating international peacekeeping can be. If you like the song and its theme you should check out the movie No Man’s Land.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Interesting Fact

The US spends more than any other nation on healthcare and yet we rank 42nd in infant mortality.
*** I plan to comment further, but I'm crunched for time at the moment. Check back late tonight or early tomorrow for an update.***
Update: Really I don’t have much to add. I won’t even pretend to be smart enough to fashion a guess as to why this is. Go HERE to see the complete list.

The US infant mortality rate is 6.50 deaths/1,000 live births.

Cuba has a smaller IMR than we do. A real head scratcher.

Singapore has the best at 2.29, which leads me to believe that a small IMR may have something to do with not spitting or chewing gum, or even, perhaps, the usage of caning as punishment.

Why IMR is important according to Wikipedia:

The infant mortality rate correlates very strongly with and is among the best predictors of state failure.[1] IMR is also a useful indicator of a country's level of health or development, and is a component of the physical quality of life index .

Monday, September 18, 2006

Signspotting with Doug Lansky

Doug Lansky has made a career out of being the Whacky Sign guy. While browsing the bookstore this weekend I stumbled across his latest book, Signspotting. It’s definitely worth a look and would be a great replacement for that five year old Reader’s Digest on the back of your toilet.
I guess I don't really have an eye for whacky signspotting on my travels. I can't think of any to relate here.

Go, now! Look at funny signs HERE.

Doug on Doug and how you can be a part of his Signspotting exploits:

What started as an unhealthy fascination with quirky signs in 1992 during a two-and-a-half year round-the-world journey metastasized into a nationally syndicated newspaper feature in 2000 and Lonely Planet book in the fall of 2005.
With new signs going up every day, the only way to keep track of them is with an army of travel photographers - in short, you. So, the next time you find yourself scratching your head or chuckling at a sign, please snap a picture and send it in. But before you do, please take a moment to look through the submission tips so you can maximize your chance of winning $50 or even the Round-The-World ticket.
Thanks! Look forward to seeing your photos.
Doug Lansky, Photo Editor

Friday, September 15, 2006

Goodbye Key West, Hello Ohio

(My crumbling KW license that wasn't supposed to expire until 2009. Doubt it would have made it)
I’ve been on the lamb for awhile, riding the high of eluding the law with my crumbling Key West license. I have lived at 3 different addresses and in two different states with my 1401 Petronia St. license. At one point, I was living in North Carolina, driving a truck with Ohio plates, and carrying a Florida license. Ah, the life of an outlaw.

If a trooper pulled me over I was going to plead ignorance and that I had been experiencing a bout of serial homelessness for the last 4 years.

There are no good reasons that I didn’t update my license with the various moves, but here’s a list of some bad ones:

1. I could get 50 cents off my favorite pizza place in Key West when I visit
2. I could save a lot of $ on a Florida fishing license if I went to the Keys spearfishing
3. Key West, FL sounds a lot cooler than Ansonia, OH

Now, I’m officially a resident of Ohio, no one offers discounts for that.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Warped World

Know what’s great? Smart people and their mathematics.

Somewhere some smart person is plugging away at his unbalanced multi-linear differential equation (if there is such a thing), thinking up something that will make the rest of us scratch our heads and say “Cool,” at which point we’ll scratch our butt and continue with our own research – determining which nostril we can shoot Skittles farther with (have you noticed that the purple one’s seem to travel farther…me too…for the good of all mankind we should combine our research efforts).

The Worldmapper Project must have a lot of smart people working on it because their maps are super cool. Here’s what they’ve done in their own words (I’m too dumb to explain it):

The maps…are equal area cartograms, otherwise known as density-equalising maps. The cartogram re-sizes each territory according to the variable being mapped.

Here are two examples:
Toy Exports or We don't like to share

Toy imports or Gimme

I’ll talk more about the toy imbalance in a future post. Back to the maps or cartograms, if you like…

The best part is not only do you learn about the world, you can laugh at puckered continents and swollen countries. I searched their site for awhile and have yet to find a map that had anything to do with Skittles or nostrils.
The work of smart people is never done.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Scalzi on bacon on cats

I love cats. I love bacon. But I have never found a way to enjoy them at the same time.

Science-fiction writer John Scalzi, who hails from my neck of nowhere in Ohio, has discovered how to link the two – tape.

GO HERE to see what lengths a SciFi writer is willing to go, to not finish his book. Sometimes writers will do anything (blogging) but sit down at the computer and get some work done.

Somebody call PETA!

Scalzi is supposed to be putting the finishing touches on the third and final book of his trilogy. If you are hankerin’ for a hunkerin’ of space warfare, you should check out the first in the trilogy, Old Man’s War.

Here’s the opening for OMW:

John Perry did two things on his seventy-fifth birthday. First he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the army.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Killer Hooch

(Kaiser and Domingo playing on the beach)

In Nicaragua 35 people died and 600 are ill because of some poorly mixed moonshine. The moonshiners responsible for the deadly brew were trying to give their booze some punch with industrial strength alcohol.

This bit of news could be painted in a humorous light, and I’m sure it will, but it really is awful. Read more about it HERE.

I don’t drink often, but I can honestly say I have fond memories of drinking cheap and yummy Nicaraguan rum with Nicaraguans. When I heard the news, I immediately thought of the friends I made over a small bottle of Flor de Cana rum.

Here, have a sample (from a recent column):

Soon the four of us are sitting beneath the shade of a tree near the water’s edge. We chat about our lives and worlds. Domingo, a former cruise ship waiter, and Wycliffe, an aspiring baker, are lifelong friends who have brought Kaiser, Wycliffe’s son, to the beach to play.

Wycliffe pulls out a small bottle of rum and Domingo twists open a bottle of Coca-Cola. They have a rapidly melting chunk of ice wrapped in a plastic bag and pound it against a nearby rock. Splashes of Rum and Coke are poured over ice into two Styrofoam instant noodle cups.

While we talk, Kaiser digs in the sand, occasionally, stopping to bring us sand dollars.

Totally unexpected, a little grit of sand, lightly rolling surf, on an isolated beach in Nicaragua with two buddies and a child building cities from sand and imagination – it’s how all rum and cokes should be served.

I’m not sure about travel changing a fella, but it sure does put real faces to half-inch news blurbs.
I wonder if I would have taken a comedic crack at the Killer Hooch story if I had never been to Nicaragua?

Monday, September 11, 2006

The events I read about on Sept. 12th

I’ve never felt more American than I did 5 years ago, reading September 12th's morning paper on a newsstand’s step in Sydney Australia.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Mile-high club

Membership fee to the Mile-High Club now only $299!

Today’s USA Today features an interview with a pilot in Atlanta who takes willing couples to 5,280 feet for one hour of fooling around. This Bob Smith, owner of Mile High Atlanta, is like no other Bob Smith you’ve ever met. He has taken his Piper Cherokee 6 and pimped it out with a bed in the back.

My favorite quote of Smith’s:

“It’s not against FAA rules to join the mile-high club.”

This story is a must read, if only for the chance to think-up juvenile, eye-rolling, innuendos. I’ll give you a couple flying terms to get your wheels turning:

Turbulence. Cockpit. Yoke. You get the idea.

(I apologize for this in advance) Kinda puts a whole new meaning to the movie title “Snakes on a Plane.”
Can you come up with anything cheesier?

In a completely unrelated event, although somewhat freakishly coincidental, it turns out I’ll be flying in my father’s Cherokee 6 tonight with my parents and my girlfriend Annie to Kentucky to go waterskiing. It’s likely that we will never reach an altitude higher than 5,280, but if we do, you can bet that there is a better chance of me jumping out of the plane than any hanky panky going on.

To learn more about the Mile High Club, you big freaking Perve you, visit the Club’s official website.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Mustard-snorting leads to mind-blowing idea

At Wrigley our seats “weren’t bad.” Of course, this means that there were few worse. Out in foul territory in left field, I could spit over my left shoulder and hit T-shirt hawkers stalking the street outside the stadium.

Unlike most entertainment/sports venues the seats at Wrigley aren’t turned toward the action. Ours faced the outfield seats. By the end of the game my neck was sore from trying to follow the on field action.

Discomfort and laziness runs a close second to drug-induced mind frenzy when it comes to producing great ideas. So, either there was something in the Wrigley mustard or our stiff necks spurred a sudden wave of creativity.

The idea…

Rotating stadium seating

Say goodbye to “weren’t bad” seats. Everyone enjoys a little sun and a little shade. Everyone gets a chance in right field to catch a Bonds homer. All fans are equal, horizontally speaking as the stands rotate around the playing field.

I'm just an idea man. Someone else take rotating stadium seating and run with it. Consider the idea my gift to the world.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Wrigley Field

I went to my first game at Wrigley Field. Awesome.
Bonds eyeing #728 . The fella who caught this ball bucked the Wrigley tradition of throwing back the opponent's homerun ball and stuck it in his pocket. Luckily a kind-hearted soal two rows behind him pulled out a ball he brought and threw it onto the field. The crowd roared in approval. Of course, we wouldn't have cheered if we knew that the fella pocketed Barry's ball. I saw it on SportsCenter later that night.

Me holding the 2nd all-time leading homerun hitter in history. He's much lighter than I thought he'd be.

My brother Kyle who landed the tickets, his bud Daryl and Daryl's father in law Ken

Me in Cubbie Blue

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Croc Hunter died doing what he loved

“He had it coming,” said the expert on the Dayton, Ohio local evening news.

One would think that in Ohio there would be no experts in the deadly critter wrangling field. Sure, there is the occasional rabid raccoon or opossum, but other than that most of our creatures are of the gentle, woodland, Bambi variety. This fella is no expert. He wouldn’t know how to handle a pit viper’s scat. Why he was commenting on Steve Irwin’s being killed by a stingray is beyond me.

Anyone from this school of thought can go to Hell.
Steve Irwin is what we should all aspire to be. He shared his passion with the world. No doubt, his profession had its risk. Being poisoned, eaten, or drowned are not things that the rest of us concern ourselves with on a daily basis, but everything has its risks. Reckless behavior is taking on something beyond your training, comfort, and skill level. Reckless behavior for me is different than reckless behavior for you and vice versa.

I’m comfortable holding my breath and diving 80’ below the ocean’s surface. Most people aren’t and therefore should not try this at home.

I’m not comfortable snow skiing. If I strapped on a pair of skis, found the steepest downhill in Switzerland, and ran off the edge of a cliff to my death…I had it coming. I’m not trained to fix an electric line. If I climbed up a pole to do so and was electrocuted…I had it coming. I’m not familiar with the behavior of crocodiles. If I try to wrangle one and become eaten in the process…I had it coming.

Steve was a professional and he died doing something that he had the knowledge, experience and training to do. His death was a freak accident. I have never heard of a stingray puncturing a man’s heart with its stinger until yesterday. I would have ventured to guess that only a few people, who were very allergic to stingrays' mild toxin, had ever been killed as a direct result of a stingray.

Working for a few years as a dive instructor, I have had nothing but positive experiences with stingrays. Well, there was that one time… a student of mine did step on one and got stung in the ankle. Occurrences like that aren’t all that uncommon. He cried. Snot came out every hole in his head. He was 14. At no time was his life in danger. I’m sure he thinks it’s cool now.

In 2001 I visited Steve’s Australian Zoo. When I heard about his death I revisited my notes from the experience. Here’s a passage:

Although Steve was not there (he was in the USA on business) his character, humor, and passion could be felt throughout the park. Like everybody else, Steve’s employees thought he was crazy, but for different reasons. They recognized that his passion to educate the world about crocs, snakes, etc. was beyond normal . Last year he gave over $8 million to the Australia Zoo for renovations. That's not something a sane person would do.

A few short days after his death and Steve Irwin, “The Croc Hunter,” is being memorialized and eulogized as a great teacher, conservationist, and wildlife warrior.

He had it coming.

Friday, September 01, 2006


The US basketball team lost again! What next? Yemen dominates apple pie baking competition.

I’m really at a loss here. I did everything in my ability to push the US back to the head of the basketball world. I wrote Coach K a letter begging him to take the job, which he did. I’ve been wearing my 1992 USA basketball Dream Team I, “The only Dream Team,” shorts each day. And what happens? We lose to Greece!

I’ve been to Greece. I didn’t see one darn basketball hoop the whole time. I guarantee that Indiana alone has 1,000 times more hoops and players than the entire country of Greece. How can they beat us!

We lost 101-95.

What am I going to do? Although my jumper is sweet, my feet are slow, I’m short, my left hand could use some work, and my vertical is in single digits. I guess I’ll have to write another letter…

Dear Coach K,

You failed me! Why did you cut Bruce Bowen? Why is Shane Battier on the team? Why…? How…? Etc.