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.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

K-Stan: Ever Wonder?

I think someone slipped something in my Cheerios this morning while I was watching CNN.

Soledad segued to commercial and then the hallucination began. A vast plain fades into a festival, the festival fades into white slopes, the white slopes fade into two men worshipping at the foot of a mosque, etc, etc. This all hints at a place full of culture and begging to be explored.

“Huh, looks nice I wouldn’t mind going there. Where is there?”

Then the TV reads- Kazakhstan: Ever wonder?

My spoon stops just short of my lips. Milk funnels down the butt of my chin.

I can honestly say I’ve never wondered about Kazakhstan. But now I kinda am.

Some Kazakh Facts courtesy of wikipedia and wikitravel:

* K is the 9th largest country and is roughly the same size as all of W. Europe.

* Kazakhstan possesses the Soviet equivalent to the United States' Cape Canaveral, where the Soviet Union launched its version of the space shuttle and the well-known space station Mir.

And you couldn’t even spell the countries name. Shame on you.

Wait, before you book that ticket to the Kazakh capital of…(hold on let me look it up)…Astana. Hold that thought. Astana? Am I the only one that has never heard of Astana? Anyhow, before you book that flight to Astana you may want to consider Wikitravels intro to K-stan:

Its lack of significant historical sites and endless featureless steppe have put many off Kazakhstan, but many are captivated by the emptiness and mystery of this goliath state.

Sounds magical doesn’t it? A regular land of wonder. I think K-stan may want to rethink their motto. I’m thinking…

Kazakhstan: Where the hell am I?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Surviving a Plane Crash

By now you’ve probably seen NY Times reporter Joe Sharkey on TV or read his story about surviving a mid-air collision and an emergency landing into the Amazon jungle. It would be an understatement to say flying at 37,000’ and colliding with another plane above the Amazon - of all places - is bad luck. In Ohio we’d probably call it piss poor luck.

The 737 that collided with Joe’s plane went down killing 155 people. Joe survived without a scratch. In Ohio we’d call that gosh darn’d good luck. But surviving a plane crash takes a lot less luck than you think.

Most people believe that if they're in a plane crash their time is up. In fact the truth is surprisingly different. In the US alone, between 1983 and 2000, there were 568 plane crashes. Out of the collective 53,487 people onboard, 51,207 survived. The advances in science and technology now mean over 90% of plane crashes have survivors.

I stumbled upon both of these stories on World Hum, one of my favorite blogs (I’ve added a permanent link). WorldHum in their own words: World Hum is dedicated to exploring travel in all its facets: how it changes us, how it changes the way we see the world, and finally, how travel itself is changing the world.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006


I’m working on another letter for Casa Guatemala. This one is trying to get donations to send their older students to boarding schools. To brief me on the situation, Angie, the orphanage’s director, sent me a few pics.

I recognized a few faces from my trip last year, but what really stood out was all of the posing going on. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me? When I think of orphans in places like Guatemala, I usually don’t think “High Fashion.” But put a camera in front of girls like these and look out because here comes the steely, ice cold stairs, and the perfect premeditated hand placement.

It just goes to show that a teenage girl is a teenage girl regardless if she is wearing Gap or hand-me-downs from some relief organization.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Writerly Stuff

Ahh, the business of writing - driving authors to alcoholism and suicide since papyrus.

I enjoy reading about the struggles and triumphs of other writers, so I decided I would start relating some of my own…


In the last two months I’ve written two publications into obscurity: The Hub Weekly of Champaign Illinois, and Glucose Magazine.

I contributed Travelin’ Light to the Hub for about a year and the column was well received. In fact, one Hub reader who has a winter home in New Zealand, after reading a piece I wrote about New Zealand, even offered me a place to stay on NZ’s South Island. He seemed like a nice enough fella, but I think he was looking for a house/pool boy…(wink, wink)… if you get what I mean. He even sent me pics - an awesome place on a cliff above a beach with perfect kayaking and sailing below. The place is almost on the level of coolness that I would consider life as house/pool boy. Almost.

Glucose Magazine was the most regular paying writing gig that I’ve ever had. They paid me to explore Ohio. The one thing that surprised me most was that there are actually places in Ohio worth exploring. For Glucose, I interviewed people about Bigfoot in southern Ohio, climbed a 90’ mast on a tall ship while sailing on Lake Huron, hiked, kayaked, and other things of this sort. I am a believer that adventure is a state of mind that is not limited to individuals that live in cool States (CA, CO, WA). I thought the idea of Glucose could be replicated in other boring states such as, Indiana, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, etc., and maybe it could have been, if anyone would have ever sold any ads.

You know a magazine is not doing well when most of the ads in the magazine are ads about the magazine. I’m not sure Glucose had one salesperson out beating the bushes. Glucose was a good idea poorly executed.

The writing was excellent, of course.


I really don’t have a voice for the radio; some have told me that I sound like Matthew McConaughey and others Joe Dirt. I’ve got a bit of a nasal draw. But this weekend I recorded a piece for the World Vision Report radio program about playing soccer in a remote Honduran village (I'll post a link when there is one).

I think it went well, but I never thought I would need to do so many other things besides talk into a microphone. The engineer bailed on the appointment and I was left with a nice lady who didn’t know jack about recording. The World Vision editor called to listen and the “nice lady” wasn’t able to tap my editor into the microphone so I had to hold a phone to my ear as I talked. She couldn’t even find a stand to set my story on, so with my other hand I had to hold up my story to read. Apparently, if I looked down to talk my voice would sound even worse.

I don’t want to come across as a radio diva, but the next studio is going to have to meet some of my demands to have the pleasure of taping my nasal twang. Things like: 5 bowls of Skittles sorted by color – the purple ones to be individually hand washed and wrapped in Hershey Kiss foil; which leads us to…unwrapped Hershey Kisses; 4 bottles of FlavorSplash bottled water; two jugglers; one sword swallower; a reading stand; a nice lady that knows what the heck she is doing; and James Earl Jones to read my story.

What can I say? Me and my posse have needs.