Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I admire good photographers.

I am always amazed at the way a photographer can see a scene differently than you or I would and then capture it on film. We have a lot of great photography books at my library and I peruse a lot of photographer's web sites. Most of them are OK, but every once in a while I will come across something that totally takes my breath away.

It's the same way with the pictures I take. Almost all of my photographs I find to be barely passable. Sometimes I get so frustrated with my inability to capture a "perfect" shot, that I will quit taking pictures for a few weeks. Every so often, however, I will see a scene that I just know will come out great on film. It might only happen in one out of one hundred or one out of two hundred pictures, but that one shot is what I strive for.

I also admire good authors.

I think it takes a real talent to be able to write a book- fiction or non-fiction. It's hard enough for me to write a few coherent paragraphs on this blog. I can't imagine the abilities it takes to write a complete book.

Anyway, I often wondered how to combine photography with books. I have tried my hand at taking a few photographs in a Yale library. It's called the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and, if you've never been there, I recommend it. They have a six-story glassed central tower that holds 180,000 volumes and then there are over 600,000 books in the underground stacks. The walls are made of thin blocks of marble that let light shine through. Click here for a great online tour. The best part is that they let anyone in the building to look around. Of course, they won't let you near the books but the building is absolutely amazing.

My photos in the library weren't so hot but I've found one web site that has some fabulous library pictures. They are from a book by Candida Hofer simply titled Libraries. Click on the sample picture below to look at some more of the photographs and get more information.

Monday, January 29, 2007

You Don't Know Jack

When my sister was in high school, we would play the computer game You Don't Know Jack every time I would visit. We were addicted and the battles would be pretty heated.

If you've never heard of the game, you race against each other to be the first to answer a series of questions on a subject you choose. The game is "hosted" by a character named Cookie (or is it Kookie?) who taunts you repeated while you are playing. It really is funny and sometimes borders on being R-rated.

Anyway, I recently found an online version that posts a new sample game every day. I'm getting pretty good at it. Give it a try:


Saturday, January 27, 2007

Tax Time at the Library

Tax-time is not the time to be working in a library.

Somehow libraries have become the local IRS branch office. We get in boxes and boxes of tax forms every week and, from the beginning of January, people swarm over these forms. Very few of the patrons know what forms they need so they grab at least two of every one (and there are dozens of different forms). Of course, all of these forms are available for printing on the IRS website but that would be too easy.

It's more than 2-1/2 months until taxes are due (I should know as I am one of those people who wait until the last couple of days). Already the patrons are stressed over their taxes and these forms and I have been bombarded with questions. And it's only going to get worse. The tension rises exponentially as we get closer to April 15th.

Sometimes I want to laugh at these people and their questions. I want to tell them, "I'm single, no kids, and rent. I file my taxes online in about 45 minutes without even knowing what form I'm using. How am I going to help you?"
I bite my tongue, however. It's not the patrons' fault, really. Our tax system is so out of control and totally disconnected from reality that I can't blame people for their difficulties and confusion.

I wonder why more people can't see the benefits of a flat tax. You make more money, you pay more tax. You make less money, you pay less in taxes. Sure, it would be a radical change but how can it be worse that what we have now.

Anyway, I read (what I at first thought) was
an interesting article about a couple in New Hampshire who haven't paid taxes in ten years. Ed and Elaine Brown don't believe the tax laws apply to them because they are not residents of "Washington, D.C., or other federal territories and that Supreme Court precedent had found that labor was not taxable."

before picture

They sent letters to the IRS requesting clarification of the tax laws and received no reply. So, after a decade of not filing taxes, they were tried in a federal court. They also chose not to hire an attorney, instead relying on the counsel of friends.

The story got a little more interesting when it stated that Mr. Brown is a leader in a national group called the Constitution Rangers of the Continental Congress of 1777. The original article only said that the group "protects the Constitution."

On January 18th, the couple was convicted of 17 felonies and will be sentenced on April 24th (April 15th would have been too ironic).

Here is where this tale starts taking a bad turn. According to this Fox News story, Ed Brown has said, "The verdict is in. I can guarantee you that all hell's going to break loose."

What does he mean by that statement? Well, it turns out the Browns live in a large, cement-walled house featuring a watchtower with 360 degree views of his 110 wooded acres of property. Brown claims the house is capable of generating its own electricity. He and about 25 heavily-armed supporters are preparing for a siege.

His wife is out on bail but is barred by court order from returning to her house. She has also said, "It's not in my mind-set or my character. I have no intention of returning as long as he's there."

after picture

So Ed Brown is set to wait out the federal agents, who he expects will swarm his house soon. "Live free or die," he said, quoting General John Stark and his state's motto. "What else can I say?"

Somebody needs to take a stand against the ever-invasive strength of our federal government and simplify our tax system but I don't think Ed Brown is the guy to do it. Unfortunately, I don't think this story is going to have a positive ending. If anyone hears any further news, please let me know.

Update #1: I just found this video from a hokey local TV station in Vermont. The interview is lame but you get to see Ed Brown's house and hear him in his own words.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Grammer, uh, I mean Grammar!

I have a BA degree in English from the University of Connecticut.

It's sort of funny how I came to major in English. When I was in high school, I remember my class took one of these tests that are supposed to guide you into choosing a career path that matches your skills. Mine revealed that I should study math or engineering. What?! Math? I mean, I grasped the concepts in my math classes and always received good grades, but I couldn't imagine anything more boring than working with mathematics for the rest of my life. Plus, how was I supposed to know what I wanted to do with my life- I was only 16 years old.

So, when I started at UConn, I just randomly took classes (trying to avoid math at all costs). My sophomore year I was forced to plan a scholarly direction and declare a major. At this point, I had spent far more time elevating UConn to one of Playboy's top-ten party schools than improving my own GPA. I figured the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences was the direction I should take.

I went to a few meetings with the different departments but, when I went to the English Department, I was sold! I walked in to the English Department's lounge for an informational meeting and they had four huge couches arranged in a circle. I took a seat and looked around the room and. . . I was the only guy there! That's right, I was surrounded by women and they were all good-looking! I knew I had found my major.

Of course, it wasn't all roses! I always enjoyed books and liked to read (I did end up working in a library, after all), but these girls loved books. I mean, sometimes it was scary. I spent many classes with them where they would spend the whole hour arguing over the meaning an author was striving to convey in a single sentence of a book. Finally, when I couldn't take any more, I would blurt out, "Maybe the author had no hidden meaning in this line! Maybe he had a deadline with a publisher and he just wrote this sentence so he could get on to the next one, finish the book, then get paid!"

Obviously, my love life at UConn did not revolve around the girls in my English classes!

What I did take from my classes was a belief in the importance of being able to write clearly, concisely, and without (many?) grammatical errors. To this day, I can spot a misspelling or punctuation error a mile away.

After college, when I hit the working world, I was appalled at how many co-workers (especially supervisors) could not write a proper memo. Emails were even worse. I don't understand why, but many people believe you can throw all the rules of English out the window when writing an email. Most people don't even keep their spell checker on! I kept a huge file that had copies of all the ridiculous errors I received via email or memo.

Thanks to the internet, I've discovered I'm not alone in my disgust at lack of interest in following the rules of grammar. A few sites have collected pictures of obvious mistakes right out in the open for everyone to see. Click on the links below:

Apostrophe Catastrophe- It's an epidemic

Apostrophe Abuse

The Apostrophe Protection Society

Grammar Cop- Apostrophe Mug Shot Gallery

It's An Epidemic!

Literally, A Web Log

I hope you enjoy these and, if you find any mistakes in my blog, here's my email. Be kind, please.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Pay Phone Mania

We had a guy at the library today using the pay phone.

When I say using the pay phone today, I mean all day- morning, afternoon, and night. He was going through some sort of break-up with a wife or girlfriend whom he loves very much. I know that because I heard him say it at least 20 times to different people on the pay phone. And I wasn't eavesdropping; he was talking in a voice that could be easily heard by everyone.

He had papers spread out around him which I assume were letters or emails from the lost girlfriend/wife. He read all of them to everyone. And over and over he said, "I'm not going to talk to her. No, I'm not going to call her."

He was told five minutes before 9:00 that we were closing and he would have to get off the phone. At nine, I went up to him and told him that the library was closed and what do I hear him saying into the receiver? "I love you. I care about you. I'm worried about you." He was talking to the girl he told everyone all night that he wasn't going to talk to! And this isn't some love-blind teenager- he was at least in his 40's.

But wait, it gets better. He hung up the phone, was picking up his collection of letters, and says to me, "Major business dealings in Boston." He expected me to believe he was conducting some big financial transaction! I just said, "Sounds like it," as I practically pushed him out the door.

So I got home and just wanted to unwind and forget about the day. Maybe there's something on TV. I flip it on and instantly realize what a mistake that was. Every channel was covering the President's State of the Union address. I mean every channel! Even the Spanish channels had it on (although I liked the translation better than hearing the President).

Seeing the State of the Union address (not watching it, just seeing it for a second before turning off the TV), reminded me of a couple of funny George Bush videos I've seen recently.

Enjoy:


And if you've ever wondered who is responsible for coaching the President in his speeches and appearances, here you are:


Monday, January 22, 2007

They Are Everywhere

I thought the guy on this video was one of the stupidest people I've ever seen:


Then I was thinking to my self that the video is probably made-up. I mean, could that guy really be that stupid?

Maybe the guy who lets his 18 year-old girlfriend do burnouts in his 800 horsepower Corvette is the stupidest (especially if he films it for everyone to see). She sounds like she knows what she is doing- until the car starts moving:




But then I saw this video of a guy robbing a liquor store. It doesn't go too well. Now, definitely, I've seen the stupidest of all:



What's wrong with these people?

I think it all comes down to parental supervision- or lack thereof. These people probably never had anyone to knock them back in line when they screwed up.

What they need is a strong father figure. You know, someone like
Red Forman from That 70's Show:


I think everyone sees a little bit of their own dad in Red's tirades! Some of his other great quotes:


Without rules, we all might as well be up in a tree flinging our crap at each other.

[to Eric] So, this is how an engaged high school dumbass with no car, no job, and no money trims the hedges.

Red Forman: Do you know why Tiny Tim walked with a crutch?
Eric: Because he had a smart mouth?
Red Forman: That's right.

Son, you don't have bad luck. The reason bad things happen to you? is because you're a dumbass.

[Eric catches his parents having sex, and they find out]
Kitty Forman: Red, say something.
Red Forman: It's more fun than it looks.

We're all gonna go to church and we're gonna have a damn nice Sunday.

Eric: [badly hungover] My head hurts.
Red Forman: That's your brain trying to comprehend its own stupidity.

When used separately, women and alcohol can be a lot of fun. But if you mix them, they can turn you into a dumbass.

Bob Pinciotti: You know Red, that hurts.
Red Forman: So does a swift kick in the ass.
Bob Pinciotti: You know, Red, a kick in the ass isn't the solution to everything.
Red Forman: I'm afraid I'm gonna have to disagree with that, Bob.

Red Forman: [to Fez] Hey, Ali Baba. Close Sesame.

If you ever do anything like that again, I will kick your ass so hard, your nose will bleed.

Once again, an open bar spells disaster for the Foreman family.

Dear Lord, would it kill you to give the Packers a winning season? Oh, and uh, watch over my loving family, blah blah blah...

Eric: I believe that everyone's political opinion is valid, and worth hearing.
Red Forman: Well that's perfect Eric. Use that line when you run for Miss America.

Kitty, I've got two stages: anger, and drinking.

Damn kids today. They wouldn't know responsibility if it walked up and bit them in the ass.

Eric, I thought I told you to wash up for dinner. I know, it's difficult to hear with your head up your ass.

I've been working since I was sixteen. I fought two in wars. Hell, I've killed people. I'm not saying that I didn't enjoy it...

I like the sound of a beer church.

Son, you don't have bad luck. The reason that bad things happen to you is because you're a dumbass.

Good night, sleep tight, and don't let the bedbugs put their foot in your ass.

Yeah, and if a frog had wings, he wouldn't bump his ass when he hops.

[Red on young people]
Red Forman: Get a job, HA. It's just party all night, dance all day, and sex
everywhere in between.


Red Forman: I'm glad he's in prison for bribery. People like him give a bad name to Republicans.

Eric: Yeah, all the honest ones, like Richard Nixon.
[Everybody moves away from Eric]
Red Forman: What did you just say?
Eric:
Uhh... I said Nixon was framed, and Kennedy was a commie?

Red Forman: Damn right.

Red Forman: So, you mean, we met by you bumping into my ass?
Kitty Forman: I guess so.
Red Forman: Ok, but if Eric asks, I punched out a marine, defending your honor.
Kitty Forman: And, I wasn't drunk, I was reading for the blind.
Red Forman: Deal.

[to Eric] Happy Birthday. You know, the lawn's not gonna cut itself.

[Red watches Tv]
Red Forman: Aw, Gilligan screwed it up. Why don't they just kill him?

You know all that rent money you've been giving us? I've been putting it all in a bank account for your college fees... or bail.

Kitty Forman: I want to have a baby.
Red Forman: You still got Eric. He's kinda like a baby. I can make him cry if you
want to.


Red Forman: [to Eric] This is the worst thing you've ever done.
Bob Pinciotti: [to Donna] You too.
Red Forman: You're gonna drive Donna home, and then you're gonna wait for me.
That's an order.

Bob Pinciotti: Ditto... Aww, come here. I can't stay mad at you with that cute face.
[hugs her; Eric looks at Red with open arms]

Red Forman: Get your ugly ass in the car.

Kitty Forman: You know, maybe Eric's test score is a blessing. It will be a good
story when he's a senator.

Red Forman: Senator? The word you're looking for is JANITOR.

Bob Pinciotti: You're my best friend!
Red: No I'm not!

[At Breakfast]
Eric: Hey, leggo my Eggo.
Red Forman: Hey, leggo my foot in your ass.

Is that kid from not America still here?

Bob's always upset. He's a little girl in big boy pants.

What the hell kind of a world are we living in? 'Hey, let's date other people.' 'Hey, let's date other people, but ditch them and do it in a car.' In my day, we called them degenerates, and we STONED them.

[on taking care of Red's parking ticket]
Nina: I can't take care of this. You were parked in a fire zone.
Red Forman: I was buying some milk.
Nina: But what if there was a fire?
Red Forman: Then I'd pour my milk on it.

I'm... sorry that I took your money out of your little box, when I feed you and clothe you and put a roof over your head. Sorrrrry.

Yeah, you can't compete with those damn foreign imports. You know, if I had seen this coming, I would've shot a little straighter during the war.

Earl, I didn't make you too dumb to flip burgers. It's God fault.

[seeing Donna and Eric cavorting on the kitchen table]
Red: Damn it. That's where I eat dinner.

Well, I'd like to help, but not as much as I'd like not to.

Steven, you're 18 now. It's time to start being a man. And the first rule to being a man is you gotta spend your life doing crap you don't wanna do.

Hey, I go to church... just not during televised sporting events.

[on Kitty's new health food diet] Oh, come on! This isn't food! This is what food eats!

Kitty Forman: Here you are, Red. Breakfast, egg whites only.
Red Forman: But the yellow part's the baby bird. That's the part I want to eat!

Steven, I've come to think of you as a son. So I want to give you some honest, heart-felt advice. Get your head out of your ass.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Ledyard High School Winter Concert

I was dragged to a high school instrumental concert on Friday night.

Actually, I wasn't totally dragged because we were going out to dinner first at
Valentino's in Ledyard. All it takes is the promise of good food and I'll pretty much follow anyone anywhere.

Really, though, classical music isn't my thing. I grew up with two younger brothers that played piano, sax, trombone, recorder, anything they could get their hands on. And my dad was a classical music nut, who would stop at
Cutler's Record Shop in New Haven at least once a week to pick up the newest releases from composers who had been dead for hundreds of years. Years ago, long before I-Pods and even shelf-top stereos, when he listened to a classical music record, the whole family listened to a classical music record.

Anyway, enough about me and my tough, classical-music-filled childhood.

A bunch of us from the library went to see
Ledyard High School Music's Winter Concert. A Library Aide named Josh is an expert with percussion instruments, and Friday night was his debut directing the band for two pieces.

Even though we barely made it to the school in time (sorry, Jayne, I had to say it!), we got decent seats and settled in. Let me tell you, from the first piece, I was totally impressed by Josh and the whole band. They played all different types of music, from classical to jazz to Christmas music and everything sounded great.



As impressive as the band was, Josh stood out above everyone else. I've always heard from his family how talented he is but now I've seen it first hand. He had many solos during the show, but the highlight was when he conducted the whole band. He stood up in front of everyone and, with a confidence that belied his years, led his classmates in two pieces. He really seemed like he belonged there.

I really enjoyed the night and, with a few more years of therapy, I may actually start to appreciate some classical music.

I forgot my Nikon at home but did take some videos with my pocket camera. Some of the highlights are below, and I did post all of them on YouTube. If you want to see more, double click on any of the videos and, when the new page opens, click on "More from this user:"















Everyone enjoyed the night. Well, almost everyone:

Flashback

I had a flashback recently.

I remembered a story I had written for school when I was a kid. I must have been in 3rd or 4th grade. When you're that age your parents (hopefully) love all of your accomplishments and tell/show everyone about it. It was like that with this story. It was the talk of the town; every visitor and relative had to read my creation.

It was a pretty good idea for a story I came up with. A guy is riding on a space ship when it hits some piece of space debris and he is tossed out an access hatch. He is all alone in the empty blackness of space. No sound, no movement, the only thing he can see is a little piece of dust on the inside of his helmet. He realizes at that moment that he is like that speck of dust- an almost impossibly small human lost in the vast universe. He begins to think of his girlfriend he will leave behind. He was planning on asking her to marry him when he returned from his trip.

Now, of course, being a little kid, this story has to have a happy ending. He knows that his only hope to be saved is if the pilot, his long-time best friend and the most accomplished pilot he's ever seen, realizes that he is missing and performs a "perfect circle" with the space craft. If the pilot can circle the craft exactly, he will end up back at the collision point and be able to save the lost spaceman.

Anyway, the spaceman is found when the pilot circles back (the only pilot capable of performing such a precise maneuver) and sees him floating in space. The spaceman is saved, returns back to earth, and proposes to his girlfriend. When she is given the engagement ring, she exclaims, "It's beautiful. A perfect circle." And there was the name of the story: The Perfect Circle.

Looking back on this, I must have plagiarized this story somehow. I really find it difficult to believe I came up with this on my own. I read a lot when I was a kid and I probably read something that gave me this "perfect circle" idea. Well, if I did steal it, I got away with it then and haven't been busted yet!

So, why did I suddenly remember this story after 30 years?

I found a video about a guy named Alexander Overwijk who draws circles. Actually, he is the world freehand circle drawing champion. He draws a perfectly round, one-meter circle in less that a second. The video is taken in a classroom and provides a little bit of humor when he is loosening up in front of the kids.

And, of course, the video ends with him stating, "A perfect circle."


Thursday, January 18, 2007

Jet-Man


Pictured above is the "Jet-Man."

His name is Yves Rossy and he is from Switzerland. It sounds like he is a somewhat famous (and mostly crazy) stuntman. As you can probably figure out from the picture and his nickname, he has developed a set of wings he straps on his back powered by two jet engines.

He jumps out of a plane (my dad would say a "perfectly good" airplane), sails for short time before pulling open his wings and firing up the jet. It takes about 30 seconds for the engines to "stabilize" before he can fly- kind of. His website says he has flown with "even a little climb rate." I think that's a nice way of saying he is hurtling towards the ground most of the time.

Anyway, I have to give him credit for pulling it off (and getting sponsors to help his pay for it!). I especially like the contrail behind him as he "flies":

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Swarming Starlings

Who wants some history?

OK, my co-worker with the bruised tail-bone, I know how you love my history lessons!

Do you know why we have
starlings in the United States?

They occur naturally only in Europe, Africa, and Asia but were introduced here in the 1890's. A man named Eugene Schieffelin released 80 starlings in Central Park in 1890 and 40 more birds in 1891. He belonged to the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society and the New York Zoological Society.

Schieffelin also was part of a group called the Acclimation Society of North America. Their misguided goal was to share plants and animals with all parts of the world. From this idea, Sheiffelin set his own agenda: he was determined to introduce
every bird mentioned in the plays of Shakespeare to the United States.

Because Shakespeare mentioned the starling in King Henry IV Part 1, he brought some of the birds over from England. From that small batch released in New York City, their numbers have grown to over 200 million. Their spread have come at the expense of native birds such as the bluebird and woodpeckers. Luckily, Schieffelin's attempts to bring bullfinches, chaffinches, nightingales, and skylarks to this country were not successful.

Starlings are strong fliers and are often seen in huge flocks. See the interesting videos below:







Finally, starlings are also known for the ability to mimic the sounds around them, from human voices to car alarms. If you can stick with the following video until the end, you'll be rewarded with a little bit of humor.



Sunday, January 14, 2007

21st Birthday

Today is my sister's 21st birthday.

How did that happen? It seems like just yesterday she was a little munchkin! Now she is in college and 21.

I remember when she was born and her face was all blotchy and her hair was sticking up all over the place. I thought to myself, "Man, I'll be 32 when she learns how to drive!"

I don't remember thinking, "I'll be 37 when she can go to the bar with me!"

Actually, when I was in my early 20's I used to take her to bars with me. I would make plans with my friends and then remember that I had babysitting duty that night. So, she would accompany me. She would always protest going to bars; I had to tell her it was a restaurant we were going to. We would get in there, she would look around and say something like, "I know this is a bar. There are no little-people here," or, "B-A-R. That spells bar. This IS a bar!"

So, I'm picking her up in a little while and we are heading to my dad's for a little party. Then, against my better judgement, we're going to have to head out for a drink.

Now, remember Mary, know when to say when. Or you might end up like this:


or this:


Happy Birthday!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

A Post For Jacob


When I was a kid, I was obsessed with cars and motorcycles.

It started before I was born. Really. While she was pregnant with me, my mom drove a
'69 Nova SuperSport with a 350 CI engine. From what I've always heard, pregnancy caused her to become a much-more aggressive driver. She would get very upset if someone tried to get in front of her, and do whatever she could to be first through an intersection. Do you remember The French Connection car chase in New York City? Well, she drove those same streets.

Because I was riding "shotgun" during these drives, I totally believe that's where the obsession came from. You know how babies are comforted by the sound of their mothers' heartbeat? Well, I think the heartbeat I heard was the rumble of the engine. It's still my favorite sound!

When I was a few years old, my dad and I would ride his Triumph motorcycle every evening after work. I couldn't wait for him to come home so we could head out on the bike. We had matching Bell helmets and I would ride on the gas tank and be his official turn signal operator.

It only got worse when I was a teenager. All I read and talked about was cars. I subscribed to Car and Driver, MotorTrend and Road & Track. I memorized the specs for every car every year: horsepower, torque, 0 - 60 times, gas mileage, every little trim detail- I mean everything. I harassed my dad constantly about which car he should buy, which options, what color. I was relentless.

Anyway, as crazy as I was (am?) about cars, my nephew Jacob is just as obsessed with dinosaurs. He is five years old and is the world's foremost
dinosaur expert. I know, a lot of kids know a lot about dinosaurs. I see them at the library all the time and some of them are pretty knowledgeable.

But they don't compare to Jacob. He knows the scientific name of every dinosaur, what they looked like, what they ate, how they protected themselves, where they lived, and on and on and on. If you have a dinosaur question, Jacob is the one to go to for the answer. His days are filled with dinosaurs. If there is something he doesn't know, he will ask and ask until he finds the information he is looking for.

Well, this post is for Jacob.

Currently in Australia, a $12 million show called Walking with Dinosaurs just opened, based on the BBC television series of the same name. There are 15 life-sized dinosaurs in the exhibit including a Tyrannosaurus-Rex. These aren't just stationary models, they move and sound just like the real thing. See the videos below. You'll be amazed.








Their website doesn't give any clue as to whether the exhibition will travel outside Australia or not (how do you pack up 15 life-sized dinosaurs?). If it ever comes to the United States, Jacob and I are going no matter where it is.

I'll drive!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

To Watch or Not To Watch

I can't remember the last time I watched a speech by President Bush. Do I really want to? I guess it's not really nessessary as all of the media outlets have already summed up everything he is going to say.

How 'bout this: the UConn men play Marquette tonight at 7:00. If UConn wins, I might be able to stomach a half hour of the President. If they lose, forget it. I'll catch the highlights (lowlights) tomorrow.

Stephen Colbert of the Colbert Report had some words of advice for Bush on last night's show. Have a look:



Sorry, nothing much else is going on here. I just need to make it through two more days at the library and then the 3-day weekend is here!

Here's some humor to pass the time:

Funny Bud Light commercial


Here's a radio station prank call (kinda mean, but . . ):


And, finally, have you seen any good windmill punches lately? They used to popular in grade school and it looks like they are making a come-back in professional soccer!


the windmill:

Monday, January 08, 2007

"Stupid Idiots!"

I used two words over and over today at work: "idiot" and "stupid."

My mom hated both of them. When I was a teenager, these were my two favorite words. I thought I knew everything, and everyone was either "stupid" or "an idiot" to me. It's been about 20 years, but I can still hear my mom telling me how having that kind of attitude is no way to go through life.

This morning, one of my co-workers and I had to let off some steam regarding the work ethic (or more correctly, the absence of work ethic) of some other employees at the library. It started off fairly innocently but I realized that, by the time 5:00 o'clock rolled around, I really was consumed with this negativity.

And my mom was right. Complaining that others are "stupid" doesn't solve anything. It not only brings me down, it also projects a negative aura that affects everyone in my department. I really need to try to have a more positive attitude.

Now, Mom, if you can read this, before you get too excited that I am admitting you were right, there are a lot of idiots in the world. Thanks to the internet, I have proof. Just watch the following:









Oh, and one more thing. I was ironing my shirt a little while ago while thinking about "stupid" people. I guess I wasn't paying attention because (and this is the truth!), instead of reaching for the handle, I actually grabbed the hot (um, burning hot) side of the iron.

There should really be some kind of guard on there or a maybe a warning label! Who makes these things so dangerous?

Idiots.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

FOOTBALL!

Today is going to be a great football Sunday. Especially because I missed most of the football on Saturday and both UConn basketball teams lost, this better be a great day! The Jets play at the Patriots and then the Giants are at the Eagles.


Now, I know a Giant can rip an Eagle out of the sky and kill it, but I'm still confused when it comes to a Jet. Can a Jet kill a Patriot? I mean, is the Jet armed? Does it matter- what is a Patriot's musket going to do against a Jet?


Sorry, the above paragraph is an inside joke. But today's games do give me an excuse to post some football related stuff.

I'm a big fan of bad weather football and I hate the
domed stadiums. I know some people think wet, muddy, or even snowy conditions reduce the excitement and cause the teams to throw the passing game out the window, but what other sport continues to play in such bad conditions? I'm a huge baseball fan but they cancel some games over the threat of rain. It's part of the allure of football- they play in the elements (except in Indianapolis, Detroit, Minnesota, Atlanta, New Orleans, St. Louis, Seattle, and kinda Dallas). In most of my memories of great games in the past, the weather was involved somehow.

Anyway, there's not much I can do about it. It's probably going to be in the 50's in both of today's games. And at least I'm not alone in wishing for a little bad weather. The sports blog
10 Cent Freeze Pops feels the same way I do.

Finally, here's my favorite football video of all time. It's a "greatest hits" video starring
Jack Lambert of the Steelers. Yeah, I know, the Steelers aren't doing anything this post season except looking for a new head coach, but this video sums up a lot of why I like football.






Oh, and one last thing: GO JETS!


Friday, January 05, 2007

Rainy Day Steamed Cheeseburgers

Yesterday I worked. The weather was beautiful- clear skies, temperature in the 50's.

Tomorrow is my Saturday to work (the one out of six I work). The weather is supposed to be even nicer with highs in the lower 60's.

Today was my day off. It rained all day.

Granted it was in the 50's, which is pretty rare in Connecticut in January. I checked- the average high is in the 30's this time of year.

So, what to do with my day off? I didn't want to waste a warm winter's day inside. Outdoor activities were out (or is it in?) with the wet weather. No hiking. No picture taking. No kayaking with the kayak I still haven't bought.

A while back, I read a book I totally loved named Two for the Road by
Jane and Michael Stern. They live in Connecticut but travelled throughout America discovering new eateries before finally exploring some of the restaurants in their home state. One of their discoveries was a little place called Ted's Restaurant in Meriden and their relatively famous steamed cheeseburgers.

The story goes that steamed food became popular in the 1920's because people believed steaming to be healthier than frying food. Apparently, the town of Meriden holds the claim to inventing the steamed cheeseburger around the same time. In a few places in and around Meriden, it's done the same way today as it was then. They put meat and cheddar cheese in separate little trays and place them inside a metal steam box. In a few minutes, the meat is done and the thick, syrupy cheese is poured over it.

So today I decided to take a ride up to Ted's. After a few side trips along the way, I arrived at Ted's about 1:00 o'clock.

When I pulled up to the place, it was tiny. The building is ridiculously small and there is no parking lot- you have to find a spot on the street. I opened the door and was shocked. With the name Ted's Restaurant, I assumed a place with tables and waitresses. Nope. There were a few booths and about seven counter stools where you sit elbow-to-elbow. This place makes a college dorm room look spacious. There was also a line of people getting to-go orders.

I grabbed the last seat at the counter (luckily right in front of the steam box!) and immediately was asked what I wanted. I looked around for menus but there's no such thing there. They have
a sign over the counter listing what's available but it basically comes down to a cheeseburger or a hot dog. I ordered a cheeseburger with onions and lettuce and the homefries with a Pepsi.

One minute later it was all served, the huge burger (about 5" high) and homefries on small, matching paper plates and the can of Pepsi with no glass. It couldn't have looked any better!

The burger was, indeed, like no other. Between the meat and the cheese it was, um, I guess the word would be oozing. I definitely needed both hands. Both the burger and the home fries tasted great.

The best part, though, was watching the burgers get made. The cook was Ted's son, Paul and running the show was Ted's nephew. He takes the orders and calls them out to Paul. Paul puts big hunks of meat and thick sticks of cheddar cheese into the little pans and keeps the steam box loaded with them. The box probably holds over 30 burgers at a time. Every time he puts one in or takes one out, the steam billows around him. When they are done, he dumps them onto waiting buns already with the toppings and the nephew grabs them to serve or wrap up. Peak lunch crowd and nobody was waiting more than a couple of minutes for their take-out orders.

After watching the show for awhile, I paid the bill ($6.25- it seemed like a bargain) and headed home. It wasn't a bad way to spend a dreary, rainy day and I certainly will be back.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

State of the Union

President Bush is set to give his annual State of the Union address on the 23rd of this month. A little history for you: the tradition started with George Washington's presidency but was discontinued in 1801 by Thomas Jefferson as too "monarchical." After that, the president sent a written address to Congress which was read by a clerk. In 1913, Woodrow Wilson re-instated the State of the Union address in its present form although some presidents have chosen to send a written address since then.

A website has compiled the text of all the
State of the Union addresses since 1790. It really gives insight in to the history of our country and what was on the minds of the people. A lot can be learned from these speeches.

So, what should we look forward to in this year's address?

The news agencies are speculating that
President Bush will address energy issues and, as last year, discuss steps that America needs to take to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

Another announcement that seems to be forthcoming at the State of the Union address is a "surge" in troop levels in Iraq. The reports are that the President will send 20,000 more troops to Iraq. This is the complete opposite of the recommondations
Iraq Study Group Report and not what the majority of Americans want.

In my opinion, very few can make a more compelling, factual, heart-felt argument than Keith Olberman does on his
Countdown show. On January 2nd, he stated his thoughts on sending more troops to Iraq in no uncertain terms. It was one of the angriest I've ever seen him.

It's in two parts. Enjoy!

Part 1:

Part 2:

Monday, January 01, 2007

2007!

Happy New Year! OK, let's get the worst out of the way- I didn't even make it 'til midnight. I was awake but had already left the party. I was home before the ball dropped. The good news, however, is I ate enough at the party so that I do not need any food for the next three days! Really. It's 10:00 the next morning and I'm still full. And I never want to see another hunk of cheese again (at least until the football playoffs party next weekend).

Everyone who came brought way too much food and, as always, the hosts had more than enough to begin with. I was worried that the cops were going to pull me over on the way home for driving under the influence of lots and lots of food. I doubt I could have gotten out of the car to perform any field sobriety tests- that's how much I ate.

Did I mention there was a lot of food?

As always, we played the game "Ain't it a shame," a New Year's Eve tradition. There were a few surprise gifts rewrapped from last year. I was very, um, excited to see the Wyler's Light lemonade mix (1 packet) and the Jewish Book of Short Stories that I thought I unloaded during last year's game. All well. I'm sure I'll see some of the same gifts next year.

Here are some pictures from the night:






It really wasn't a redneck New Year's, even though I could see you thinking that after that last photo. Just because he was drinking beer and holding a rifle while playing "Ain't it a shame," that doesn't mean ANYTHING! Now, if he goes to work with that doo-rag on his head. . . well.

That last picture reminded me of a great gun video. Watch it below and listen for my favorite line: "I'm the only one in this room, that I know of, professional enough to carry the Glock 40." That's when the fun begins (or maybe it wasn't fun for the little kids in the classroom but I'm sure the nightmares have stopped by now!).

Happy New Year!