February 28, 2006

American Idol - 10 Women

I took notes so I'm a little more organized this week. I offer a break down of the show contestant by contestant. Aside from a couple of standouts, the judges consistently said the women chose the wrong songs.

Catherine McPhee - good training, nice voice, decent performance. Good enough to keep her in the competition.

Kinnik Sky - She sang a country song, dressed like a cowgirl. Eh. I predict she'll be the 8th one eliminated after making it to the final 12. She'll probably have a good career as a backup singer. On the plus side, she is very pretty and her first name is a palindrome.

Lisa Tucker - the judges can't believe she's 16 years old. I do. She's been performing since she's a kid so it's not surprising that when she sings she sounds very polished. She's an excellent performer and will make it to the final four.

Melissa McGhee - she brought it. She was great. She sang a Reba McIntyre song about phones or something but she did it well. I'm not the biggest country music fan. If anyone can beat Paris Bennett, it's Ms. McGhee.

Heather Cox - she sang a Mariah Carey song and didn't do such a great job. I think she might be a little bit crazy. She may be going home Thursday night.

Brenna Gethers - what was she thinking? She sang a terrible arrangement of Last Dance and didn't even come close to sounding anything like Donna Sommers. She's yet another singer, who sang a song because she it was something she enjoyed singing as a little girl. For something who has been singing since a young age, she sure did suck. If you've been singing since you're a little girl, you should sound like Paris or Lisa Tucker. I think she maybe the other one going home tomorrow night.

Paris Bennett - she hammed it up a little bit and sang Wind Beneath My Wings. It was a truly boring performance. What is this? Star Search? She made a bad song choice and that's what the judges told her. She won't make that mistake again. I still predict she'll win.

Ayla - the Senator's daughter with the basketball scholarship and great pipes. I missed that performance because I had to tape the opening of the Amazing Race for someone. I don't really feel like I missed anything because I'm not really a fan of hers. No offense Ayla. I went to High School with 10 girls like you in the '80's and I'm not that into the over-achieving off-spring of workaholic politicians.

Kelly Pickler - Jeez Louise. I've gotten so many hits becuase of this woman - about 100 in 10 minutes. She is SOOOOOO popular and I understand why. She's really sweet. And it's refreshing to see someone who hasn't been polishing their image for the last five years. She is the exact opposite of somone like ACE what's his face, the good looking 25 year old from LA. You could tell all he's been doing since he got to LA is work on his image and he's soooo boring.

She admitted that since being in LA she's tried her first spinach salad, which is amazing. I would think that even in North Carolina, one could find a popular leafy green like spinach - but she's playing the country bumpkin card so I'll let it go for now.

Mandisa - she's a power singer who also picked the wrong song but sang it really well.

All these women with great voices keep playing it safe when all we want them to do is belt one out for us. That's what we want to hear - big voices singing big songs.

If the contestants are googling themselves and come across this site please sing a song for all of us who wish we could sing but can't. I'd love to be able to belt something out - in tune - for that one guy in the back of theater - but I only have a one octave range and I have trouble singing in key.

So belt one out for me next week. Please.

Unnatural Death

Just so you don't think I sit around, night and day staring at television like a lobotomy victim, I've been known to read a book every now and then.

Last week, I finished Unnatural Death:Confessions of a Medical Examiner by Michael Baden. You might recognize that name from the HBO program Autopsy. That's his show.

Before shows like Law & Order and CSI grabbed hold of the imaginations of television audiences, people satisfied their crime scene curiosity with books written by experts in the field of criminal investigation. Profilers, detectives, forensic anthropologists and pathologists alike wrote books for audiences that were just dying to know what happens during a criminal investigation.

In the book he shares some interesting cases.

The most important case he discusses is the Kennedy Assassination but Kennedy's story is too involved to neatly sum up for the sake of this post.

He talks about the Preppie murder case where he found the evidence that supported Chambers claim of accidental death by rough sex play.

He talks about the sad case of Marybeth Tinning, who kept giving birth to and then murdering her babies - killing 9 children in total before authorities started an official investigation.

He shares the information he found during an investigation he conducted for Attica investigators after the prison riots (which began on my fourth birthday in 1971), that helped to establish who killed who.

He talks about the politics of being a Medical Investigator in New York City from 1978 to 1979 and how he sued Mayor Koch for wrongful dismissal (leaving out that he didn't win the suit).

And much to my delight, he talks about his experience as an expert witness for the defense at the very famous Claus von Bulow trial. (Did he or didn't give his wife an injection of insulin? According to Baden, the medical evidence did not support the prosecution's theory that Claus was responsible).

Baden gives you enough information to support his claims for each case. And in some cases, to question the meaning of truth and what truth means to different people.

Unnatural Death also argues in favor of employing more qualified personnel to conduct proper medical examinations. According to Baden, one of the biggest hinderances to successfully finding the truth of a criminal case is the sloppy work of an inexperienced or unqualified medical examiner. That was 20 years ago. I'm not sure what the situation is now.

It's a good read.

February 27, 2006

Flavor of Love - New York v. Pumkin

Before you say anything, I already know that Pumkin is spelled incorrectly but that's how the producer's of Flavor of Love decided to spell her nickname - most likely for the sake of cuteness.

But Ms. Pumkin wasn't acting all that cute in last night's episode. Pumkin (whose real name is Brooke) was not one of the final two to receive a clock and immediately after being eliminated called out the crazy woman named New York. This led to a heated face-in-face argument which culminated with Pumkin spitting at New York. She spit at New York. Spit at her. Spit. Yuck!! And the producer's totally got into it by adding sound effects like roaring and whimpering when New York lunged at Pumkin grabbing at her hair and then finally pushing her into a nearby camera. Pumkin ran out but Flav stopped New York from chasing after her and "whooping her bleep".

Moments before this big confrontation, Flav told Pumkin (Brooke) that she was being eliminated because she didn't tell him about her time spent in front of the cameras on Blind Date and several other shows on which she'd appeared. He found out about her TV appearances in the worst possible way. The hook of last night's episode - Flav met the parents of the remaining contestants. At the end of Pumkin's time, Flav asked Brooke's mother how she felt about her daughter doing a show like Flavor of Love and her mother replied that she was used to it by now because of all the shows her daughter's been on.

So, when she was eliminated Flavor Flav said he wasn't looking for someone who is fake. When Brooke heard that, she yelled something about New York being an actress and called her out as the ultimate fake which led to the argument which led to the spitting which led to the pushing which led to the dramatic momentum that carried through the rest of the show.

But New York was really egging her on. . .she kept saying "BYE BYE PUMKIN. JUST KEEP WALKING PUMKIN." in an antogonizing and F*** you kind of way. Pumkin was pushed into a confrontation because New York was behaving like a sore winner in a display of very poor sportsmanship.

Flavor of Love - Meet the Parents

(To see who Flav chose and for a complete recap of the final episode click here)

As mentioned previously, the main focus of Episode 8 was for Flavor to meet the parents of the three remaining contestants. Hoopz and Pumkin both had parents that seemed pretty real. New York?s parents seemed incompatible and may have even been actors hired by New York to play her parents.

The first one up was Pumkin, aka Brooke whose mother resembled how Brooke may look 23 years from now. Although she was friendly and polite to Flav, you could tell she wasn't entirely proud of her daughter. They all seemed to get along very well at the beauty salon where Flav treated the mother/daughter team to manicures and pedicures. There was a little tension and some obvious embarrassment being emoted which is probably why Brooke's mom sabotaged her by telling Flav how much Brooke likes to appear on game shows and reality shows. When Brooke's mom let that slip, you could see that Flav was disappointed and later in the show, it was the reason he cited for not choosing her. Apparently, in a previous episode she had a chance to come clean about appearing on Blind Date, when it was discovered another contestant had appeared on that show.

Nicole Alexander aka Hoopz went with Flav and her mom to medieval Times - the restaurant where you eat with your hands and watch people joust like knights. Flav wore his most ridiculous outfit on this outing - crown, robe and scepter. During their meal, one of the wait staff approached Flav and informed him that he was to be knighted - which he was - Sir Flav-A-Lot. In the car on the way home, Nicole's mother was flirting with Flav. You could tell from Nicole's comments and her demeanor that her mother does this a lot - going after Nicole's boyfriends. But it helped to make a good impression on Flav and is probably the reason why Hoopz was the first one chosen to get a clock in the elimination ceremony.

Perhaps the most interesting parental encounter was when Flav met the parents of the woman known as New York. Her real name is Tiffany Patterson. Through out the previous 7 episodes of Flavor of Love you could tell that there is something not quite right about Tiffany Patterson. Every episode she becomes increasingly jealous of the other women vying for Flav's affections. Every episode she declares herself the only one for Flav with absolute confidence and every episode she confesses to the television audience that her bags are packed because she's not sure in what direction Flav's heart is pointing.

I wasn't surprised to see her mother acting hostile toward New York. Tiffany behaves like someone who hasn't gotten enough love from the people who take care of her. Throughout their visit, Mrs. Patterson was picking at Tiffany's appearance and taste in men, not giving a flying f*** whether or not she embarrassed her needy and desperate daughter. She walked through Flav's house and criticized his taste in art (which really does need criticizing).

Flav tried to impress her uptight parents. Although he planned a tennis outing to get on their good side, it didn't work. His outfit was too much for Tiffanny's mother. Actually, his outfit was pretty awful. A do-rag, baggy tennis whites and a freakin' clock. While Tiffany was sitting with her mother, her mother couldn't stop trashing Flav. She told Tiffany under no circumstances was she to marry Flav.

While Tiffany's mother was torturing her with derisive put downs, Flav and her father played tennis - a game that Flav had never before played. The two of them got along fine.

Tiffany was very upset by the end of the visit and her mother succeeded in driving her further into his arms.

February 26, 2006

Don Knotts - Dead at 81

Don Knotts died. He was 81 years old at the time of his passing.

My earliest recollection of seeing Don Knotts on screen was in the Disney film, The Apple Dumpling Gang of 1975 in which he shared top billing with Tim Conway. It may even have been one of the first movies I'd seen in a theater.

Gosh. As much as I remember seeing him in that movie, I hardly remember the movie itself. My only specific memory is of him wearing suspenders, standing in a mine with dirt on his face. Other big actors starring in that film were Harry Morgan, Colonel Potter from M*A*S*H and Bill Bixby - the greatest actor who ever lived.

Don Knotts was a funny guy. He was another one of those great character actors that used his seemingly negative traits - knobby knees, buggy eyes, squeeky voice - and turned them into advantages in a long and busy acting career. He was funny and lovable and any time I saw him working on TV it always made me happy to see him working.

Everybody pretty much loves Don Knotts. I don't know anybody that doesn't. How could you not like him? He was great!!

He even had his own website where he took the time to acknowlege his fans and share himself with people and casting directors I guess. On the site, he listed his resume and links to fan sites. It's a pretty good resource if you're interested in learning more about him.

February 25, 2006

South Dakota Blues

The Roe v. Wade decision took a kick in the nuts this week as South Dakota legislators voted YES, ALL THUMBS UP against all kinds of abortions, except for the ones performed as an emergency measure to save a woman's life. We knew this was going to happen. The recent appointments of Alito and Roberts to the Supreme Court gives pro-lifers hope that Roe v. Wade will be overturned. State by state the decision is going to be overturned until 10 years from now, the Supreme Court will be faced to decide again on whether or not it is within a woman's rights to choose what she wants to do with her body.

It seems like I'm tying together a lot of different ideas. I guess I understand what's going on better than I can explain it.

The South Dakota courts make exception for women who need abortions to save their lives. But how do you define what saves a life? A 14-year-old whose parents consent to let her have an abortion because they want her to have a shot at future personal and academic success could have her life if she has that abortion. A single woman in her 40's who became pregnant as a result of a violent rape could benefit greatly from not having to deal with the birth of a constant reminder of something she wants to forget. A young couple in their 20's, just starting out shouldn't have to be burdened with something they cant' afford and are not ready for.

And what about the children born into situations where the parents either aren't ready or don't want them. Advocates who speak out against abortion say that child abuse should not be blamed on children being born into shitty situations. Granted I'm simplifying their argument but hey. . .that's how I understand it.

There are not enough good people in the world to adopt and care for the unwanted children that will be forced to live in cruel circumstances as a result of a complete ban on abortion.

Oh . . . and don't get me started on the safety issue. Women will be forced to use unconventional and medically unsound alternatives to carrying an unwanted child to term. Suicide. Dirty doctors. Poisoning themselves with homeopathic medicines meant to induce "spontaneous abortions."

And then there is the class issue. Rich women who could afford to go to countries where abortion is not illegal and still safe will fly off to get their procedures while poor and middle class women will have to use the methods described above.

Argh. What is wrong with the pro-lifers? I am pro-life and pro-abortion so there. I believe in quality of life and helping others to improve the quality of their lives. And sometimes an abortion can do that.

February 24, 2006

Blase Friday

Fourth day of a four day work week.
Feels good.
Last night, I watched teenagers on ice (according to my friend D) aka Women's Olympic Figure Skating. You really are watching teenagers for the most part.

They were fun to watch. I'm impressed by people who can glide on ice. It's something I've never been able to do. The ability to rollerskate or ice skate has always been just out of my grasp. I can almost do either as long as I'm holding on to the wall of the rink.

I always want the Russians to win in Olympic ice skating events. Why? Because whenever the producers of the Olympics run those short bios on the skaters, the Russians always have the saddest and most compelling stories. Last night was no exception. The 27-year old gold medalist hopeful whose name and photo I will post later had a story that had me on the verge of tears. The short film they showed, included photos of the skater with her mother while her voice was played over the images telling the story of how her mother is dying and in need of a new kidney. A previous kidney transplant had failed. Then the film cuts to a silhouette of the Russian skater in her dark apartment, sitting by a window bathed in hopeful morning sunlight. We learn that she suffers from Vasculitis - which means her blood vessels swell, a very painful condition - and that she continued skating against the advice of her doctors.

Now, I'm not going to say that she deserves to win more than anyone else. The Japanses skater that won was beautiful and skated a perfect program - she deserved to win. I'm just saying that these stories always make me wish the Russian skaters finish first.

February 23, 2006

Morning Commute - NYC

This morning's commute was long and tedious - as usual.

I stood on the platform and let a train pass for being too crowded, then waited 10 more minutes for an emptier car. While I was waiting the platform filled up again and I realized that I'd just better get on the next train no matter how many people were piled on to the platform with me.

When my W train stopped to open its doors for me and the other waiting passengers, a man of both tall and wide stature was standing in the path of the oncoming foot traffic. After two seconds, this big oaf realized his enormous body was preventing the ebb and flow of disgruntled commuters and he moved out of the way. We piled on in a collective sigh.

A quick scan of the car revealed that the empty seats that I'd seen through the door before entering the train were quicly filled by my more aggressive co-travellers so I latched on to a nearby pole with my free hand and with the other sipped my coffee. Looking around the train, I spotted a creature I see practically every morning - a woman putting on makeup. I am always amazed by this behavior and once I've spotted a woman doing this, I can usually be caught staring at her unblinkingly.

I couldn't stop watching. The train was going from station to station, shaking and lurking back and forth. With a steady hand she curled her eyelashes with one of those strange contraptions that look similar to scissors. With all the movement from the train, I thought for sure she was going to yank out all of her lashes, but she didn't. She held firm and curled them expertly. I thought for sure the mascara was going to end up all of her face but she held that mascara wand firmly and lengthened her lashes with ease. She then applied blush and eye shadow.

It was fascinating.

February 22, 2006

American Idol - The Boys

Night 2 of American Idol.

12 male singers competed for America's votes. 11 were good.

One stood out as just plain bad.

Bobby Bennett sang Copa Cabana by Barry Manilow and somehow screwed it up. This is a song that people know note for note yet somehow he missed every note. When Simon Cowell dared to express the opinion that Bobby's performance was no good, he got some shit for it. Randy and Paula gave him a hard time and Seacrest demanded that Simon give Bobby constructive criticism but he didn't. He said that it would require a longer conversation than he had time for to set Bobby Bennett straight. You may not like everything Simon says but you have to admire him for sticking by what he says.

I agree that Simon could go a little easier on the contestants but if you're on American Idol: Season 5, you know by now that he is very hard to impress. That's what makes his compliments so amazing.

He told Elliot Yamin that he had the best voice of all the guys who have competed on the show to date. That means something. It's not fair when there are people on the show who are really great for the judges to treat everybody the same, especially when they have raw natural talent like Elliot (right) and the next American Idol, Paris Bennett (see previous post).

My prediction is that the final two standing will be Taylor Hicks and Paris Bennett

Paris Bennett is the Next American Idol

I've spent some time here talking about Kellie Pickler because she impresses me. Her life has been hard and yet somehow she has remained strong enough to keep her self-esteem in tact, so much so, that not only is she competing on American Idol but has already done a circuit of talent shows and beauty contests to help get ahead in entertainment - or so I've read. Who even knows if what I read is accurate? But if what I read is true, she is a special person who knows the meaning of hard work and deserves a shot at Idolhood as much as anyone else who made it through.

But I don't think she's going to win. She'll make it to the final 6, but she's not going to win.

Paris Bennett will win. At 17 years old, her natural talent and obvious training put her in front of everyone else. She is going to win on the basis of her young and bubbly personality and sheer talent. I can tell you right now that she is going to be the judge's favorite because two of the three judges (Simon and Randy) recognize, reward and celebrate talent and training.

She'll get lots of votes because she's that good. Kids will relate to her more so than Pickler whose life has been hard beyond an average teenager's comprehension - an absentee mother and convicted drug addict father, practically an orphan, she was raised by her grandparetns.

Paris Bennett seems like a regular teenager, oozing with talent, but still a regular kid.

So there you have it. Paris Bennett is going to be this year's American Idol.

Talk amongst yourselves.

February 21, 2006

New Addition

Jon and I splurged this weekend and bought ourselves a new flat screen monitor. The SONY SDM-HS75P/B to be exact - 17 inches of heaven. The quality of our lives has been improved greatly by this sleek new addition to our office. Jon's monitor was dying. He bought it in 1995 which means he got almost 11 years of use out of it. It was a good monitor but it was enormous and took up about 1/3 of our desk's workspace. It was so big we couldn't even fit our keyboard and the monitor together in a comfortable manner, but now. Oh boy. Everything fits and the desk looks so much neater.

February 20, 2006

The Time Traveler's Wife

While I was on vacation. I read The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger, a wonderful book about a marriage between two special people. One has a metaphysical genetic disorder that sends him traveling up and down his timeline. The other sits around and waits for him. I've long been a fan of sci-fiction, particularly the kind that addresses the mind blowing issue of time travel. And who doesn't like a good love story. Audrey Niffenegger found a way to combine these two classic literary themes into one extremely original romance novel.

It's hard to write something original. There are only so many themes writers can apply to their works which is why so many books we read seem either comfortable and familiar or boring and trite. When an author can find an original way to relay a classic theme, it's refreshing and in the case of the Time Traveler's Wife, enjoyable.

Ms. Niffenegger likens time travel to a disease of the brain like Epilepsy. According the rules of the book, there are people in the world who have CDD - Chronic Displacement Disorder. In times of stress, their brains create an involuntary response and send unwitting sufferers to various points on their timeline. In the book, the sufferers can only travel through time as they have lived it or will live it.

Henry first meets his wife Clare when she's six years old and he's in his 30's. She's a little a girl playing by a stream when a naked man appears before her. He asks her for a towel so he can cover himself up (this isn't a Lolita story although Niffenegger does refer back to Humbert's character a few times) and Clare's life is never the same.
I don't want to give anything more away because that would ruin the experience and the book is experiential. There are many surprises, twists and turns.

I will say this. I like the author's approach for telling her story. She uses the voices of her main characters, Clare and Henry, alternating between them to describeevents and advance the story.

I did a search for the book and author to see what links I could give readers.

I found this one, that uses the prologue in the review. Once I read the prologue I was hooked. So if you want to get flavor the book I recommend you visit this review at ABOUT.

I also found the author's website, which still seems to be under construction. She's not just an author. She's an interdisciplinary artist and professor of art. I'm looking forward to seeing how the website develops. It already looks interesting.

She has an entry in Wikipedia.

And finally, if you want to buy the book, here is a link for Amazon.com.

February 19, 2006

Flavor of Love

It was a complete surprise when Flavor Flav chose New York over Goldie in tonight's elimination ceremony. Of all the contestants, Goldie was the closest to being a genuine person. She seemed like the woman who was behaving the most as herself. She's not a stripper, model or actress and being on the show seemed to come second to being chosen by Flav as the last Hoe standing.

I was surprised because the woman he chose instead of her, New York, comes off as being very unstable and not very pleasant. She refers to Flav as "my man" and claims to already be in love with him.

In the previous episode, Brigitte Nielsen (in an attempt to squeeze the last drops of exposure out of her weird comeback thanks to VH1's Celebreality programming), gave the 6 remaining women a lie detector test to help Flav figure out who is and isn't being honest with him. Goldie was the only one who finished as 100% honest. The others all lied about something. Now, I know that's not really an indicator of anything, except to help make my point that Goldie was a genuine and real person.

She also happens to be the heaviest of all the contestants and the least polished when it comes to personal presentation. I don't hold either of those points against her, in fact, I appreciate her realness - her Mother Earth qualities. But I also know how men are.

I was hopeful when in tonight's episode Flav chose Goldie over New York to join him in an overnight one-on-one date that he might actually be looking to choose someone for their personality over their looks.

But the fact that he chose the easy-to- look at but difficult-to-tolerate New York over the sweet down-to- earth Goldie proves a point that I made when I first started writing about this show; that Flavor Flav is not really interested in finding a woman to settle down with but just to fuck around with.

With that thought in mind, he probably did Goldie a favor because as much fun as she is, she is the marrying kind more than any other contestant on that show and doesn't deserve to be led around for a month just to be dumped in favor of Flavor Flav's next flavor of the month.


That pile of steam back there is actually the geysir that started it all. It's been dormant for 25 years. For a while, park officials were putting in a mixture of soap and baking soda or something to feign eruptions but realizing this may not have been the best thing for the environment, they stopped. So now it's just a bubbling pit of the clearest water you'll ever see.

The Original

Geysir, Iceland

In some parts of Geysir it was like we were looking at the surface of Mars. The red soil is beautiful and makes me want to grow potatoes.
Walking on Mars
Walking on MarsWalking on Mars

And here are some more shots from the surrounding area.
Geysir Scape
Geysir Scape 2
Geysir Scape

February 18, 2006

A Geysir Named Strokkur

The only non-dormant geysir at Geysir is Strokkur. It erupts every 5 minutes and then 2 or 3 times in a row. Here it is looking like a regular piece of real estate.
Strokkur Geysir

Just before Strokkur is about to erupt an enormous turquoise bubble rises to the surface.
Strokkur Closeup

And then the rush of water starts to break through.

Here is the rest of that photo sequence. You can't tell from the photo but that's 15 - 20 feet high and the fountain can blow as high as 35 feet.
Strokkur After

February 16, 2006

Howling Wind

I´m in the lobby of the Hotel Klopp in the heart of Reykjavik listening to the wind howling. Right now, with wind chill, it´s about 11 degrees. I just checked the forecast and they are expecting snow and a high of 26. That´s bad news because today is the day we go horseback riding and then to the famous Blue Lagoon for the warm, healing waters - outside.

Two days ago we took a tour of the Ring Road. We saw an incredible crater lake, a tremendous waterfall, geysirs including the original Geysir that gave geysirs their name, and the original location of the Viking Parliament which has to be the MOST beautiful place on earth.

Tuesday night, we were in the mood for seafood, so we went to a place recommended by the woman at the front desk. The specials included PUFFIN as an appetizer. Yes. That cute little bird is a staple in the Icelandic diet. We didn´t order it. Not because the idea was so offensive to us but because it was just TOO expensive. This coutnry is outlandishly expensive.

For dinner, Jon had the cod (I made this a new paragraph because I don´t want the following to lose it´s impact among a bunch of words) and I had the whale meat in pepper sauce. When I asked the waitress if the whale meat was fishy, she replied that it was more like steak and then I thought 'Of course. It´s a mammal.' and what a tasty mammal it was. Yummers. It was delicious. So delicious. Whale is so popular here, you can buy it in the supermarket. If you ever come to Iceland, definitely try the whale. You can´t get it anywhere else.

Oh. . .yesterday. We played tourguide to ourselves. We visited two museums and we saw the Volcano Show which will I will write about seperately once I process the experience.

February 15, 2006

The Golden Circle

Our Ring Road tour, the Golden Circle, was amazing. We saw really pretty stuff. The air is so fresh here and I am so bedazzled by beauty that I am incapable of writing another word.

February 14, 2006

Happy Valentine´s Day from Reykjavik

Happy Valentine´s Day!!

Jon and I finally made it to Reykjavik yesterday, 6 hours later than originally scheduled.

While we are so happy our flight wasn´t cancelled, due to snowy conditions at the airport, only one runway was open - meaning we idled on the runway for about 5 hours before taking off. There were so many planes waiting to land that we had to wait for them to land before we could leave. So, the planes were alternated - two or three would land and then two would take off.

But that´s okay. . .because our plane did leave and we arrived to mild weather. It´s not that cold here. As a matter of fact, I learned from one of the residents that it hasn´t snowed here in five years - except for the mountains.

The first thing we did was get something to eat because we were starving. We found a quaint vegetarian restaurant with three items on the menu - all good.

Then I took a nap while Jon went to the Icelandic tourist center to pick up our tourist cards. With those we have unlimited access to museum, the busses, the municipal pools. While I was napping Jon also visited the Culture House which houses the oldest manuscripts on Iceland and he spoke with someone who could trace their ancestry back to the beginning of Iceland´s history. Turns out, because the population is small (about 290,000) that almost everyone here can trace their family back to the roots. The geneologies are old and constant.

In the evening we went to Laugardalslaug and enjoyed the municipal outdoor geothermally heated pools. It was pretty cool. Yes. We were outside in our bathing suits in freezing cold weather yet once you entered that water, you were in good shape.

Today we´re taking a tour of part of the Ring Road. It should be exciting - full of beautiful volcanicly formed landscapes, waterfalls and geysers.

February 12, 2006

Blizzard 2006

We all now how excited weather forecasters get when there's even a suggestion of drama in the weather, which is why I always listen to weather forecasts with a healthy dose of skepticism. Well imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning and the predictions of a blizzard were not false. This is the view from our kitchen window.

Our first concern was whether or not our flight was still on for Iceland. We won't know that until around 3pm. My cousin Sandra (maid of honor at our wedding) called me while we were searching for any information at all on our flight. She suggested that we call our car service to make sure they have a car available. When I did I found out they are closed. Panic set in. How were we going to get the airport?

Not to worry. We called SKYLINE (Gotham Limousine service) and arranged a car. Whew. They are my new favorite people. We booked that baby 3 hours in advance. And I've used them before. They are as reliable as the Pope's stance against birth control.

We have an evening flight so we're pretty sure that there should be no problems - maybe only a slight delay. Posted by Picasa

February 11, 2006

Word Cloud

Word Cloud

Make your own word cloud here.

Subway Offensive

Sometimes I write about how upset I get at other people's behavior in the subway. It's not just because I feel like a misanthrope a lot of the time when around strangers. People do really behave badly. And I'm sure most don't even know when they are participating in very bad behavior.

The N/R/W subway line was running slowly this week so I had ample opportunity to photography my fellow riders. This woman wins the award for most offensive subway behavior. Note her body position. She is sitting on an angle so her shoulder is actually taking space from the woman to her left. Her bags are everywhere.

Her knapsack is again invading the space of the woman on her left. Her shopping bag is hanging so far to the right that the man to her right has to shift his knees uncomfortably to keep from getting hit. Her coffee looks like it could spell at any moment. And she's reading so she can pretend to be oblivious to her obnoxious subway etiquette. I'm just glad I wasn't sitting next to her. I would have said excuse enough times to get her to put that book away, put her bags on the floor and sit in an upright, space conserving position.

Maybe some of you laugh at my entries about the rude behavior of NYC subway riders but it's not funny. This rude behavior lends to a poor quality of life experienced by those of who have to use the subway to get to and from work. It's tiring to always have to sit in a crooked position to accomodate the rude f***ers who think they are invisible and can't be seen or felt by those around them.

Won't you help in my campaign for better subway etiquette? Please be considerate of the people sitting around you.

February 10, 2006

The Phallological Museum of Iceland

I was very disappointed to discover that the Phallological Museum is only open from May to September. I guess we'll have to find something else to do our first day there. (sniff).

Worst Cold Ever - Progress

The worst cold I've ever had has turned into a mild annoyance.

My nasal passages, once clogged, are now clear of any blockages. My sore throat has been completely eradicated. My ears are no longer achy or itchy. While my eyes no longer suffer from the conjuctivitis affliction, my sinuses are still applying pressure causing burning and tiredness. The sinus discomfort is my only complaint - that and fatigue. My usual 8 - 9 hours are not proving to be enough sleep. 11 - 12 hours would probably do the trick.

I'm glad my cold went away because Jon and I are going away to Iceland on Sunday for four days. Sinus infections and airplanes don't go well together.

In Iceland we plan on touring the town of Geysir, the Ring Road, the Blue Lagoon and maybe we'll get to visit the Icelandic Phallological Museum.

February 09, 2006

Kelly Pickler


Kelly Pickler, the very popular American Idol contestant, is soooooo popular . . .

(roll tape of studio audience in the style of Match Game 76)

. . .she is so popular, that she already has a BLANK.

a) record deal with EMI
b) Line of clothing at WalMart
c) Fan site

If you said c) Fan site - you are correct!!

February 08, 2006

American Idol - Season 5

Tonight's episode showed the beginning of Hollywood week for the 160 or so contestants who made it to Hollywood. The auditions continued. Each of the contestants sang one of 12 songs to see who would move even further into the competition.

Boy. Those producers sure know how to get to me. There is this one contestant whose story really pulls my heart strings. Kelly Pickler. Her voice has a lot of polish so I doubt she's been singing to only chickens all her life. She's a sweet young woman who has been raised by her grandfather because her mother bailed on her when she was little and her father's in jail. Naturally, she's a small town girl with a big, big heart. And when the judges told her after her initial audition that she was going to Hollywood, I cried right along with her. Well, tonight she did really well and she's moving on to the next round.

Then there is Taylor Hicks. There is something original and interesting about him. He's an older guy - well older by the competition's standard. He's in his late 20's and went grey as a teenager. I googled him and was somewhat surprised to see that he's already got a website and a little bit of a singing career going already; not that it matters. All you need to know is that his voice is fantastic. It's deep and raspy and soulful and when he sings, he exudes quiet confidence. I really hope he makes it through to the competition because he's a pleasure to listen to.

Worst Cold Ever - Progress

I finished my five day protocol of antibiotics and I couldn't tell you if they were working or not. There is some improvement in that my sore throat is gone and my left ear is no longer ringing - but the ole sinus cavities are still full of whatever it is that has been making me so uncomfortable since last Wednesday. I spoke with the doctor. He seemed satisfied with these small improvements and suggested that I wait until 10 days after the first day of antibiotics to see how I feel. If there is no further improvement, he said we'll test for allergies or some other cause for my discomfort.

February 07, 2006

The Half-Ton Man - Update

A little while ago, I wrote in passing about Patrick Deuel. He had been given the nickname half-ton man because when emergency workers found him trapped under his own weight in his home in South Dakota, he weighed over 1000 pounds. He had been bed ridden for year.

I learned about Patrick Deuel in a special program on obesity on the Discovery Health channel. The program picked up his story at his rescue and followed him through his first big initial weight loss.

When his ambulance got him to the hospital, doctors found his heart was starting to fail due to his great weight and came up with a plan to help him lose a lot of weigh fast. They had to wait to give him gastric bypass surgery because even though he was so heavy he was malnourished and not healthy enough to undergo the strain of the procedure. So instead they put him on a restricted diet and exercise plan. He lost over 500 pounds before they deemed him healthy enough to undergo the surgery. When they were operating on him they found a hernia the size of a watermelon. His health problems were numerous.

Anyway, the surgery was a success and as of January 2006, he weighs 471 pounds, less than half of what he weighed before being brought to the hospital in Sioux Falls.

Well. . . it's been hard finding updates on Patrick Deuel. One article I found is no longer posted, another I found isn't linkable because you need to subscription to the newspaper's website. But, I did find a good and thorough write up at CalorieLab Calorie Counter News .

Here I learned that Mr. Deuel had been scheduled for surgery as recently as January 26, 2006 to have 100 pounds of excess skin removed - something CalorieLab called his pannus, an apron of flesh that hangs down to one's knees. Turns out he wasn't able to have the surgery because he had a cold and his surgeons didn't want to take a chance that he wasn't healthy enough.

Whether or not he's had the surgery - I'm not sure. That is the most recent update I could find.

If you are interesting in watching the half-ton man, the Discovery Health Channel is re-running the original special on February 26.

February 06, 2006

Monday Morning - Meh

Monday morning. I'm going back to work after a four-day weekend essentially, except it was no ordinary four-day weekend. I was sick every day. And though I am feeling better today, I'm still not 100%. My sinuses are still congested although they no longer feel infected, so that's a good sign. And my pink eye has clear up which is an excellent sign- no matter really because I still have to use the eyedrops until tomorrow.

I have started coughing but it's more like hacking because the cough is still dry.

And I'm just tired. Wiped out. This sinus infection is kicking my butt. I feel like I could sleep another 5 hours.

Yesterday I woke up at 10:50 am which means I had an uninterrupted 11 hours of sleep. That was the first time in a week that I'd slept like that. Unfortunately last night, my sleep was interrupted - by discomfort.

Let's see if I can put in a full day of work.

February 05, 2006

Extra Large Super Bowl

Madden is commenting colorfully on Super Bowl XL. Just before the end of the third quarter he started repeating the word Bootleg over and over and over again to communicate to us the plays being used by Seattle. The other phrase he kept repeating was Gadget Play. I wonder if he's taking medicine for this disorder which I'll call Color Commentary Repetition Syndrome.

Yes. Jon, my husband, and I are watching Super Bowl XL and it's quite an exciting game. It seems like the referees are favoring Pittsburgh. One of Pittsburgh's players ran 75 yards on an intercepted pass breaking some kind of record. Don't ask me which one - I only know enough about football to enjoy a game without actually knowing the statistics.

The commercials - well a few stand out. I always like the CareerBuilder.com commercials because they use chimpanzees in comical situations so tonight was no different. CareerBuilder.com's first commercial was my favorite. Chimpanzees dressed as office workers are having a celebration because sales are up or so they think. The human employee stops the celebration to point out that their sales graph is sideways and that indeed sales were down. When he does the that, the camera cuts to the boss monkey who is lighting his cigar with dollar bills. That's just funny. Then another monkey turns the chart around so they can continue their celebration. In the second, the guy tells a woman on the phone that he works for a bunch of monkeys. She replies, "That's okay. I work for a bunch of jack asses." Cut to her and a long shot of the office reveals that indeed, she is working with donkeys dressed as office employees. That's good stuff. No one uses chimpanzees anymore. No one. I applaud CareerBuilder.com for using chimpanzees dressed as people.

The only other commercial I liked was the one for Budweiser featuring the Clydesdale horses. In this commercial, a Clydesdale colt is looking in his parent's barn at their accomplishments as being part of the Budweiser Clydesdale team. He is inspired to take the reigns and start pulling the Budweiser cart on his own. At first he can't do it and then all of a sudden the cart budges and the camera reveals that his proud Clydesdale parents are secretly pushing the cart from behind. I found that one very touching.

The commercials that bored me were the movie promos (yawn); and the other Budweiser commercials (blah).

However the one for the new Hummer was just disturbing. In it, a giant robot and a giant monster stop their city wide distruction to fall in love and have a baby. The baby they produce is the new Hummer 3 - the little monster. Very disturbing.

Betty Friedan - Al Lewis

Betty Friedan is dead. She lived for 85 years and then she died. While she was living she wrote the Feminine Mystique and started the National Organization for Women and now men and women in their 20's and 30's are so confused about gender roles, they don't know whether to wind their asses or scratch their watches. Every day I read several accounts on people's random blogs kept by both men and women about the difficulties and confusion of dating. I believe that a lot of the confusion about how to behave on dates comes from changes in the culture resulting from the feminist movement of the 60's and 70's. Don't get me started. This is an obit post- not a social psychology post.

Grandpa Al Lewis also died - Grandpa because he played Grandpa on The Munsters - a TV show about a fake monster family - perhaps you've heard of it. About 10 years ago, I had a friend that lived on Roosevelt Island where Al Lewis was living. He used to go out every day and talk to people on the island and acted like the local celebrity that he was - very outgoing, very friendly. His nickname was "The Mayor of Roosevelt Island." Capitalizing on his fame, he ran for NY Governor in 1998.

I'm not sure how old he was when he died. According to some accounts he was in his mid-90's while according to others, he died in his early 80's. Now, if you've seen him - he looked like he was in his mid 90's for the last 15 years or so. So, I don't know who to believe. If you look at his bio on the official Munsters website he was born in 1910 but his kid says he was born in the 1920's. If you're like me, you've seen old people of all ranges. He definitely looked like he was in his 90's.

February 03, 2006

Muslim World Just Hysterical Over Cartoon

I'm very proud of Jon because the above headline is the headline he wrote for a story that is one of the more frightening in today's news. Apparently Muslim groups the world over are calling for an apology from a Danish newspaper for running some political cartoons portraying Muhammad in a controversial light, including the on the left. Apparently, Muslims worldwide have been called to boycott any and all products that come from Denmark until this Danish newspaper makes some kind of statement expressing regret and apologizing for offending the higher sensibilities of the Muslim community. Apparently MUSLIMS are forbidden to depict Muhammad in any way. Much like Jewish people are not allowed to depict God in any way. It's the same precept. But I don't know a lot of Jewish people who riot when God is depicted in renaissance paintings or in movies like OH GOD or graffiti on the subway. It's understood that if you do not want to depict God in any way, shape or form, then it is your choice not to. But if someone else wants to . . . so be it.

Basically, Muslims are being asked worldwide to speak out against the freedom of speech. The same freedom that many Muslims take advantage of to criticize Europe, America and anyone else's culture that is offensive to the orthodox Muslim way of life.

Now. . . granted, the above image is controversial. It shows a man - not necessarily Muhammad - wearing a bomb in his turban. Clearly, the cartoonist is criticizing violent Muslims. I understand that all Muslims are not violent . . . but lately there have been, on a global level, a lot of violent incidents either caused by or involving Muslims committing violence in the name of their religion.

What really scares me is that this Danish newspaper is going to be intimidated into making a statement against running these images. What's ironic is that we've all seen footage of radical Muslims burning Western icons in effigy in small radical pockets in the world. If these radicals can burn effigies of President Clinton and President Bush, I don't see why a Muslim leader can't be drawn in a way that suggests that Muslims are violent. To the right are Pakistani Muslims burning the American flag. That's offensive to me. I'm not boycotting all products from Pakistan or refusing to patronize Pakistani owned newspaper stands or refusing to eat in Pakistani restaurants because NOT ALL PAKISTANIS feel this way.

Here is a link to an article that displays all of the images.

Here is a link to the BBC's article, which not surprisingly expresses regret for featuring the pictures in an editorial about the story. They won't even use the word terrorist when referring to Muslims who blow things up in the name of causing terror.

Emperor of the Death Cheese Bus

Okay. This is weird. This 38-year-old bus driver got into trouble for creating a small subculture on his bus. He ranked the children in 12 categories that ranged from "Lord- Apprentice of the Emperor" to "Sped - which stood for special ed." On the "Death Cheese Bus", every day the children would recite the rules of the bus and the higher ranking students would help control the lower ranking or non-ranked ones.

Doesn't this remind you of your biggest fear when you were a kid - that other kids were picking on you and the adults around you just didn't care? Except this is worse - in this scenario the responsible adult is encouraging the bullies instead of stopping them.

When Jon told me he was working on this story at the news desk last night, I instantly thought of the movie The Next Karate Kid - starring Hillary Swank. In that movie, Colonel Dugan played by Michael Ironside, was the gym teacher (or guidance counselor or vice principal or whatever) that he controlled the local high school (by whose authority is never quite clear) by using some of his students in a weird paramilitary group trained in the martial arts that patrolled the hallways but also wanted to get into Hillary Swank's pants. The most crushing moment of the movie is when Colonel Dugan's "soldiers" ruin the prom by bungi jumping into the gym from high up in the rafters (for no reason other than Dugan was a kill joy) and breaking the decorations upsetting the happy couples who were dreaming of maybe doing it for the first time that night.

Anyway, that's what it reminded me of.

I hope this guy serves time - at least 2 years. What he did was abusive to all the children involved.

Worst Cold Ever - cont'd

When I saw the doctor today, he said that he could tell there something wrong just by looking at me.

I was diagnosed with acute sinusitis and pink eye. Yes. Pink eye. When I woke up this morning my left eye was crusted over. It's been so long since I've had pink eye that I forgot what it's like. Can you believe it? Pink eye. I have pink eye. I had pink when I was a camp counselor the summer of 1989 and again when I came down with mono in college a couple of years later. Pink eye. I still can't believe it. I have pink eye. Weird.

The doctor prescribed Azithromyacin for my sinus infection and drops for my eyes - both with a 5 day protocol.

He also suggested I take good old fashioned Sudafed for relief which I've already done and I'm anxiously awaiting some relief from my sinagony. He also said that once the antibiotics start to kick I'll feel some relief. I couldn't tell you the last time I took antibiotics, maybe 10 years ago - maybe.

What I'm About

I found this on Finishing the Hat and thought I would give it a go. Try it yourself and see what you're all about.

Ten Top Trivia Tips about Valerie!

  1. Olympic badminton rules say that Valerie must have exactly fourteen feathers.
  2. Long ago, the people of Nicaragua believed that if they threw Valerie into a volcano it would stop erupting!
  3. In the 1600s, tobacco was frequently prescribed to treat headaches, bad breath and Valerie.
  4. Apples are covered with a thin layer of Valerie.
  5. 99 percent of the pumpkins sold in the US end up as Valerie!
  6. India tested its first nuclear Valerie in 1974!
  7. Valerie can squeeze her entire body through a hole the size of her beak.
  8. Valerieolatry is the mindless worship of Valerie!
  9. Valerie is the world's largest rodent!
  10. American Airlines saved forty thousand dollars a year by eliminating Valerie from each salad served in first class.
I am interested in - do tell me about

February 02, 2006

Worst Cold Ever

This is by far the worst cold I have ever had. I can't sleep because I can't breathe and regular medicine isn't helping. Right now, my right eye, sinus and nostril are in synchronized agony. And that's under the effect of NYQUIL which normally provides with relief.

I'm exploring new territory today. I don't know how to bounce back from this one. Here is what I've been doing to bring myself relief. I took a bath scented with lavender to help me relax.
(Of course, I couldn't really smell the lavendar but the bath was very hot and therefore relaxing.) I've been drinking Airborne Formula every three hours. I've applied Vicks Vapor Rub under my nose in the hopes that it will clear me up. (My mom used to put that on my chest when I was a litttle girl.) I also just made myself a cup of tea using about one inch of diced ginger and a couple of slices of diced clementine. The tea turned out pretty nice. I also have Robitussin DM on tap for when I start coughing later and I know it's going to be a dry cough. I just want to jump ahead to the part where it's a little loser because my throat hurts so much, I don't want to lose my voice to dry couging.

This is the MOST uncomfortable I have ever felt from a cold. I'm hoping the doctor will be able to prescribe something for me tomorrow to give me some relief because I'm not finding it on my own.

February 01, 2006

February Idol

I can't believe it's already the first day of the second month of the sixth year of the 21st century.
I woke up this morning with a sore throat, a pain in my left ear and a stuffy nose. The pressure from my sinuses has narrowed my eyes to slits and they burn. But I'm amazingly in a good mood. Calgon. Take me away!!
I watched another magnificent episode of American Idollast night. This time the judges went to Las Vegas on their neverending quest for new talent. The producers of the show usually string together clips of bad auditions and show them throughout most of the shows. Last night was no different. We were treated to a couple of nice auditions but for the most part, it was a freak show. I guess that's what the producers think America wants - to see people making fools of themselves so we can feel better about sitting on our couches living vicariously through others.

I wish they would get back to sharing the good auditions with the viewer because watching people sing badly isn't really that enjoyable. And I certainly don't relish watching people come under attack although last night Simon's rude utterances seemed limited to an occasional positive remark or simply stated dismissals.

It could be because the show has been coming under fire lately for being homophobic or anti-gay. This proves to me that the show is entirely molded by public opinion. Add this to the large number of bad auditions shown and you get what was shown last night. We'll see how it goes in Texas tonight but I have a feeling it will be the same. Simon's comments will be limited to yays or nays and most of the attitude will probably come from the wanna-be's.
My commute this morning was almost perfect. I let a train pass because it was too crowded and a less crowded one showed up seconds later. This plan sometimes backfires with another train not following for 10 or 15 minutes but this morning it went smoothly. There were plenty of seats and lots of room - which is why I was baffled when a young woman sat so close to me, her arm left arm was resting underneath my right one. I didn't feel like moving so I just sat there and stewed secretly wondering why, with all that room, she had to sit so close to me. I'll never understand why some people need to be so close to others. It makes me so nervous.