Monday, April 25, 2011

Hootie and the blowfish

Hootie & the Blowfish is an American rock band that enjoyed widespread popularity in the second half of the 1990s. They were originally formed in 1986 at the University of South Carolina by Darius Rucker, Dean Felber, Jim Sonefeld, and Mark Bryan. The band has recorded seven studio albums to date, and has charted sixteen singles on various Billboard singles charts. Their 1994 debut album, Cracked Rear View, is currently the 15th best-selling album of all time in the US, going platinum 16 times.

The idea for the band came about when Mr. Bryan heard Mr. Rucker singing in the shower at the dorm room they shared at the University, and was impressed by his singing ability. The band got its name due to the fact that one of Rucker’s college choir classmates wore round glasses, and had a round face, giving him an owl-like appearance similar to the picture below:

Although a number of their songs are familiar to us, the one below is the one that is the most recognized:

Hold my hand

The picture above, as well as the other pictures of me on this page, was taken by one of my co-workers, who recently added the FatBooth app to her iPhone. After seeing the picture, I did a little thinking:

Who else would be a good candidate for the blowfish (or blowhard) nickname? The first name that came to mind was Newt Gingrich, whose bombastic theatrics add another dimension to his round faced appearance

The political arena certainly has no shortage of men with large egos, so there’s no question that you’d also have to include the guy pictured below:

My choice in the entertainment industry might surprise you ...

since the whole world seems to be gaga over the lady pictured below:

Since the topic of music has been brought up, I should mention to you that one of my favorite groups is Pink Floyd.

Another Brick in The Wall

If the above picture offends you, or you’re not fond of the group's music, let me offer my heartfelt apology.

Since the Blackhawks are still in the hunt for the Stanley Cup, my pick in the sports category would by Hawks coach Joel Quenneville

You’ll be happy to know ...

that I decided to stay away from religious leaders, but the guy pictured below would surely qualify

If you think of anyone else that makes you angry ...

let me know, and I’ll add them to the list.

All this thought this late in the evening is causing me to feel a little sleepy ...

so I think I’ll bring this topic to a close.

Friday, April 22, 2011

How drinking led to texting

Today, it seems like text messaging has been around forever. Truth be told, though, texting is a fairly recent phenomena. The first SMS (short message service) began in 1993, but texting really didn’t become popular until 2001, when text capable cell phones were introduced. Text messaging is most popular in Asia, especially in China. In 2007, 700 million text messages were sent between Chinese cell phone users, which is actually far LESS than the number of texts sent in the United States. In May of 2010, it was reported that 72% of adult Americans sent and received test messages. At the end of 2009, 286 million cell phone users (out of a total population of a little more than 300,000,000 people) were sending an average of 152.7 billion text messages PER MONTH.

Makes you want to LOL, doesn't it?

Cell phones were first introduced in 1973. As of today’s date, it seems like everyone on the planet has their own cell phone, or access to one. China alone has over 300,000,000.

It may surprise you to know that “text messaging” has been around much longer than the either the cell phone or the “land line” that was patented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876. To be totally accurate, Mr. Bell wasn’t the first person to invent the telephone as we know it, since an Italian man named Antonio Meucci constructed the first working acoustic telephone way back in 1834.

In 1836, American artist Samuel F.B. Morse, American physicist Joseph Henry, and a man named Alfred Vail invented the electric telegraph system., but it wasn’t used commercially until 1844. In spite of the proliferation of the internet and the telephone, the telegraph is still being used today. Over the years, the basic system has been refined. In recent years, operators have started to add the common text message abbreviations (such as LOL) to speed up the process. The official speed record for traditional Morse code typing was set in Australia in 1939, a blistering 75.2 words per minute.

What brought this topic to mind is a bottle of Australian Shiraz that I recently purchased from a local wine store. On the cover was a label that looked like this

- -..

The wine was produced by Henry’s Drive Vignerons to honor the Morse Codian fraternity in Australia. Since I’ve never studied Morse Code, I used the website below to help me translate the label.

how do you read Morse Code?

The confusing combination of dots and dashes shown about spells out “Shiraz”. Just as Google Translate has allowed me to publish articles in Gaelic, French, Mandarin, and Arabic, the website immediately above can be used to translate entire paragraphs into Morse Code. The paragraph about the wine is translated like this:

- .... . .-- .. -. . .-- .- ... .--. .-. --- -.. ..- -.-. . -.. -... -.-- .... . -. .-. -.-- ... -.. .-. .. ...- . ...- .. --. -. . .-. --- -. ... - --- .... --- -. --- .-. - .... . -- --- .-. ... . -.-. --- -.. .. .- -. ..-. .-. .- - . .-. -. .. - -.-- .. -. .- ..- ... - .-. .- .-.. .. .- .-.-.- ... .. -. -.-. . .. ...- . -. . ...- . .-. ... - ..- -.. .. . -.. -- --- .-. ... . -.-. --- -.. . --..-- .. ..- ... . -.. - .... . .-- . -... ... .. - . -... . .-.. --- .-- - --- .... . .-.. .--. -- . - .-. .- -. ... .-.. .- - . - .... . .-.. .- -... . .-..

Prior to the invention of the telegraph, the earliest form of texting goes back to around 150 B.C. With some modern refinements, it would look like this today:

By the way, the wine was very good

Friday, April 15, 2011

Back away from that clothesline, lady

For some reason, our fondest childhood memories are about food.

In my case, my favorite dishes (made at home by my mother) were broiled cheeseburgers, tapioca pudding, Spam with cloves, cucumbers with onions, pie crust strips with jam, caramel rolls with nuts, rhubarb pie, devils food cake with thick rich chocolate frosting, and Hungarian goulash.

When I was 6, I discovered Hamm’s beer, but that’s a story for another time.

In addition to the taste of my favorite dishes, there are also fond memories of the SMELLS of my childhood - freshly baked bread, the morning cup of Folger’s coffee, and the fresh smell of clothes just off the backyard clothesline.

Today, political correctness has caused thousands of communities across the country to BAN outdoor clotheslines, because clotheslines are considered to be “unsightly, offensive, and a detriment to property values”.

what does Doonesbury have to say about that?

Since clothes dryers consume roughly 10% of a household’s total energy use, it seems entirely logical to revert back to “the old fashioned way” of drying clothes. When I lived in China, I discovered that very few people HAD clothes dryers, and virtually all the high rise apartments in Guangzhou always had undergarments flapping in the breeze on the outside balcony.

Sharon and I have been “house-sitting” for one of our neighbors just up the street while he is on a humanitarian mission in India. Since April 14th was sunny and breezy, I used his washing machine, and his OUTSIDE CLOTHES LINE to do my laundry.

Strange as it may seem, the fragrance of the clothes that I pulled off the line later on in the day was almost intoxicating because my clothes smelled THAT GOOD.

In recent years, there has been a growing trend to doing just about everything “the natural way”. As part of that trend, more and more people are “joining the fight to legalize clotheslines” (I’m not making this up.)

Believe it or not, there are people who make a living as professional clothesline installers. If you feel handy enough to try it yourself, the clip below from The Needham Channel will make it easier for you:

string ‘em up, Harry

What’s the most cost-effective way to save home energy costs and capture the benefits of solar energy?

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind

Friday, April 8, 2011

My little girl

Not long after we moved to Waukesha, Wisconsin, Brian and I joined the YMCA Indian Guides program. In addition to the twice a month meetings at the homes of the boys in the tribe, the young Guides also got to go camping in the fall and in the winter at Phantom Lake, the second oldest YMCA camp in the country (dating back to 1896).

During the fall, we would all go for hikes in the woods, and congregate around roaring bonfires in the evenings. During the winter, “snow snake” races would be held on the frozen lake, and we would watch old movies after dinners of hot dogs and beans on Saturday night.

After a few years, it became difficult for the dads in the organization to find time for leadership roles, so I eventually got elected Federation chief, and was allowed to wear a fancy feathered headdress at the fall ceremony where I, as chief Horsefeathers, got a chance to use my Toastmaster training and lead the ceremony.

In the fall of 1985, Kelly became old enough to join the Indian Princess program, and came along for the fall campout with me and Brian.

On Saturday evening, as we all sat around a campfire, my little brown-eyed girl got up from her seat on the other side of the fire, walked over to my side, put her arms around me, looked me in the eyes, and said, “daddy, I love you”.


I’ve accomplished a lot of things in my lifetime, and I’d had some wonderful travel experiences, but I’ve always felt that that moment in time would always be one of the most memorable in my life.

Little girls always seem to have a special place in their dad’s hearts, which is why a lot of grade schools have “daddy-daughter” dances when their young charges get to be 7 or 8 years old.

A few dads are able to demonstrate their affection for their daughters in more elaborate ways. Gwyneth Paltrow’s dad took her to Paris when she was about 11 years old because he wanted her to see Paris for the first time with a man who would always love her.

There are several towns in America that have been named after somebody’s daughter (one of them being the Alpine village-themed Helen, Georgia) , but the most memorable story about a town named after a daughter involves Carol Stream, Illinois, which is located 17 miles northeast of our old house in Aurora.

In the mid-1950’s, a man named Jay Stream was president of the Durable Construction Company. He had planned to build a 400 home community in Naperville, but the red tape involved in the process proved to be too frustrating for him. A sympathetic(?) clerk told him to “build his own town”, so he decided to do exactly that.

In 1957, he started to buy farmland in the unincorporated farmland outside of Wheaton, Illinois, and the first few homes were erected that spring.

On August 26, 1957, his teenage daughter Carol was returning from Racine, Wisconsin with some friends in a 1949 Studebaker much like the ones pictured below. While attempting to cross U.S. Highway 45 in Kenosha, their car was struck in the right rear corner, killing the 15 year old passenger that was sitting there.

Carol was ejected through the windshield, and into a utility pole. She was so badly injured that the doctors at the Kenosha hospital thought that the comatose girl would never awaken or, if she did, she would be severely handicapped.

In spite of her dire condition, the doctors felt that good news might help her to heal, so Jay Stream decided to name the new village in her honor. After four months in a coma, Carol regained consciousness. When she first learned that the village had been named for her, she thought at first that it was “odd and silly” but she quickly warmed to the idea.

Carol Stream never lived in the town that bears her name. Shortly after she recovered from the accident, she moved to Arizona with her mother as her parent’s marriage unraveled. However, she frequently participates in municipal celebrations and parades.

Carol Stream, the person, is living proof that good news can be tremendously therapeutic, and that a man’s love for his daughter is a powerful tool. Although I could say a lot more about THAT topic, I’ll let Tim McGraw have the final word:

Sunday, April 3, 2011

An accessory to murder ?

An accessory is a person who assists in the commission of a crime, but who does not actually participate in the commission of the crime as a joint principal.

It’s a term that most of us don’t think about very much, but we were all witnesses this week to a series of murders overseas that were caused by an obscure preacher in Florida.

Terry Jones, the evangelical pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center (in Gainesville, Florida) had originally planned to burn 200 copies of the Koran on the 9th anniversary of September 11th, but later decided to cancel his demonstration. However, on March 20 of 2011, he burned a single copy of the Koran at his church, with only 30 members in attendance.

News of the desecration didn’t spread for a few days, but on April 1,
the story finally reached Afghanistan. Almost immediately, a mob overran the headquarters of the United Nations in Mazar-I-Sharif, killing 12 people, 7 of whom were international staff members. The next day, 9 more people were killed, and 81 wounded, as the protests continued.

Last Saturday, President Obama described the killings as “outrageous, and an affront to human decency and dignity”. He also said that the desecration of any holy text, including the Koran, is an act of extreme intolerance and bigotry.

Since it’s not illegal to burn either the Koran or the Bible, Jones technically did not commit a crime. However, since he knew, or should have known, that his actions would have consequences in the parts of the world where the majority of the population considers the Koran to be a sacred text, it is my opinion that either the state of Florida, or an international commission, should charge him as an accessory to murder, and lock him up for a long, long time.

Inciting a riot is a federal crime that is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine. Strictly speaking, Jones didn’t DIRECTLY incite
the riots overseas, but he was most certainly the indirect cause.

I have two copies of the Koran on my bookshelf, and I wrote a 4500 word “book report” (which I titled "what Vietnam can teach us about the Koran") on the book shortly after I received my first copy. I strongly suspect that Pastor Jones hasn’t even cracked the cover. If he had, he would realize that the Koran is NOT an evil book., The INTREPRATIONS of the Koran (through Sharia law) lead to some nasty consequences, just as fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible lead to conclusions that are far removed from the message that Jesus tried to convey to us 2000 years ago.

Why should any of us care what a crazy preacher does in a small town in Florida, or that a few people get killed on the other side of the world?

The best answer that I can give you are the words uttered by Franklin Roosevelt shortly after the end of WWII:

I have visited both the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angles and the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie, Illinois.

One message that was abundantly clear after my tours was that the murder of 6,000,000 Jews occurred due to the fact that the leaders of the free world, and the sitting pope (Pius XII), did nothing to stop it.

Somewhat belatedly, the United Nations issued The Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The declaration hasn’t stopped atrocities in other countries, the most recent of which are the murder of civilians in Libya or the persecution of Baha’is in Iran, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Although Islam is the single most popular religion in the world, only 1% of the American population are considered to be followers. In spite of that small total, Muslims were the victims of 14% of the religious discrimination cases last year in federal court.

The attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 was a horrific event, but it pales in comparison to the carnage that the world’s Christians inflicted on the most advanced society in the world over a 200 year period known as “the Crusades”, which I covered in more detail in my post of June 23, 2009

The Office of the Attoney General of Florida, headed by Pam Bondi, does not institute criminal cases in the state. However, her office DOES get involved when criminal cases are are appealed in state and federal courts.

It is my fervent hope that a local prosecutor finally finds a way to bring charges against Pastor Jones. In the event that the case eventually may get to the Attorney General’s office, I am sending a copy of this article to Pam Bondi.

Since its introduction two years ago, this website has been viewed by roughly 12,000 people in some 60 or so countries, including Afghanistan. Through the magic of the internet, there’s a possibility that folks throughout the world will realize that very few of us Americans agree with Pastor Terry Jones.

As-salam wal Hub