Mar 31, 2010

Doggies in the Window

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Pictured on your left are three of the canine residents of Château Brooks. They are looking out the window at me as I returned home after running errands.

Unfortunately, I did not get a decent image of all five dogs in one window, as either a) some dogs were in motion while others sat; or b) they appeared in both windows at the same time.

And yes: I normally keep the windows lowered to a crack, and this photo was somewhat staged as I opened the windows further to catch a better view of their faces. Make sure you alert the Academy Award people of my ineffective mise-en-scène techniques.

On Playing Hooky for a Few Hours

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Internet Explorer error message Left: Internet Explorer error message

After waking this morning I went to check my email and noticed that the mail website would not work, and joining the mail website was my primary work platform. After a few minutes of refreshing, reloading, and clearing various caches, I decided I would wait out what appeared to be a significant outage.

Perhaps the temporary down time was a mixed blessing, though: I woke up in a groggy state of mind not particularly conducive to writing, thinking, or grading. I then spent the next few hours in a state of not-work, or at least not-work-work.

I cleaned up the yard, finished the dishes, threw some laundry in the washer, played with the dogs, and even killed time reading while in the hammock. Instead of my normal anxiety when the Internet is down, I worked on a variety of nagging chores that in their own way cluttered my mind.

And when normalcy returned to the Web, my morning ended up being much more productive than it looked to be when the Web sat silent.

Mar 30, 2010

First Crocus of Spring

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First crocus of the spring, a striped purple crocus flower with a yellow stamenThe other day I documented the first flower of spring in my backyard, which was a purple violet. Today I noticed the first crocus to bloom in my yard, a single striped purple flower with a bright yellow stamen.

I have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of the croci (or is it crocuses) since last fall, when I planted over a hundred of these bulbs.I opted to follow my wife's suggestion, which was to spread the crocus bulbs around the yard in a randomized pattern. I previously wanted to bunch the bulbs in geometric rows and recognizable patterns, but I lost that landscaping debate.

Now I just have to cross my fingers and hope that the crocus blossoms are hardy enough to withstand the force associated with the running feet of canines.

Mar 29, 2010

Local Business Profile: Auto Connection

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Living as I do in the middle of the American Rust Belt, whenever possible I like to patronize and promote local businesses. "Local Business Profile" is an occasional feature on this site in which I use this blog to highlight quality Toledo-area businesses. Have a suggestion for a future profile? Email me at mebrook@bgsu.edu .

I have been a regular customer at Toledo's Auto Connection for the better part of two decades now. The company has four Toledo-area locations and specializes in mufflers, brakes, and suspension work.

Originally I started using Auto Connection's location at Sylvania and Douglas out of convenience, as my old business office was right across the street at DeVeaux Village. Yet quickly I learned that the folks who run Auto Connection are honest business operators, and I exclusively take my cars to them for exhaust work because I know they will not rip me off. Between the money saved at a quality repair shop like Auto Connection and the cash one could save from shopping for cheap car insurance, a person could sock away quite a chunk of savings.

One time I drove up a car with an exhaust that sounded as loud as a diesel semi-trailer, and I expected to spend $150 or so on a new exhaust system. Instead, the manager explained that I really only needed a doughnut gasket, and after a mere 20 minutes and $20 I was back on the road.

I would bet that the counterman at one of the national chains would not have hesitated to sell me a tail pipe and muffler that I did not need. However, the guys at Auto Connection have always demonstrated a willingness to keep the costs down and bank instead on repeat business, which is probably why they have been around for so many decades.

I know that I have referred many friends and family members to Auto Connection, and if you are in need of quality exhaust, brake, or suspension work, look no further than the Auto Connection.

Oh, and I just returned from yet another positive experience with Auto Connection today, which is what prompted me to write this post. Excellent work, men!

Quick Plug: The Fresh Air Fund

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I recently became acquainted with a non-profit group called The Fresh Air Fund, which is a not-for-profit agency that has been active since 1877. Since the group's inception over 1.7 million children have received assistance, and approximately 10,000 New York City children each year enjoy the various free Fresh Air Fund programs.

The group depends on tax-deductible donations, so if you can spare a few dollars in this cash-tight economy, please consider helping out The Fresh Air Fund with a donation to further the mission of providing inner-city children with a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Follow this link to learn how to become a host family and welcome a child into your home.

Mar 28, 2010

"Enter the Sandman": Smooth Jazz Version

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I came across an intriguing mashup/rearrangement of the Metallica song "Enter the Sandman" on Youtube created by Los Angeles musician and composer Andy Rehfeldt. The concert video in question retains Mettalica lead singer James Hetfield's vocals, but Rehfedlt replaced the metal with a smooth jazz arrangement that is both hilarious and, well, musically compelling:



Rehfeldt has a number of other unexpected rearrangements on his YouTube site, including a death metal rendition of "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong and a reggae version of "Detroit Rock City" by Kiss that are worth your time, unless you would rather spend your free moments surfing the Internet for industrial supplies.

Your choice, Bubba.

Mar 27, 2010

Spring's First Flower

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I came across the purple violet in the image while beginning the spring cleanup of my yard. I transplanted this flower last year, and it was a dying remnant of a small flower display someone gave my wife at school. I knew that violets were perennial flowers, but I did not hold out hope that the formerly spindly plant would survive a harsh Ohio winter.

Yet the plant pushed right through a layer of dead leaves and branches to be the first flower in my yard, and it appears that there will be at least four other blossoms to join it in the coming days.

There is an metaphor here waiting to be put into words about perseverance and spring blossoms, but I have more work to accomplish (not involving a life insurance online quote) while the sun still shines.

Mar 26, 2010

On Moving a Mountain of Dirt

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Large pile of topsoil, pile of dirt In the past few years my gardening and landscaping efforts at Château Brooks found me raiding underused portions on my one-third acre of urban paradise for topsoil. This year I decided that I no longer wished to shuffle dirt around my yard, and I ordered four cubic yards of topsoil from Dennis Topsoil and Gardenland on Dorr Street.

The truck delivered the fresh topsoil in a speedy fashion yesterday, though I neglected to consider the effects of an inch and a half of rain on the weight of the topsoil I wanted to spread in various gardens and low spots in my yard. I think I only moved six wheelbarrow loads full of mud yesterday before giving up.

The sun returned today and after teaching I plowed into my work (pun intended) with renewed vigor. I estimate I have moved about 1-1/2 cubic yards of topsoil around my property, and it is amazing for me to look upon the cache of soil I still have left.

The only downside to my decision to have the dump truck driver deposit the topsoil near the street was an absent-minded (or malicious) city trash truck driver. The clown drove right through the dirt pile, spreading dirt approximately the next 30 feet away from the pile. The more I think about it the more I think the plowing was intentional, though of course I would be unable to prove such a claim.

I ended up spending almost as much time sweeping up the still-heavy splattered topsoil-mud mixture as I did actually moving the dirt to useful places. Still, it was excellent exercise: a hearty blend of aerobic workout and weight-lifting that gave me a sense of physical tiredness I have not experienced in over a month, since the last heavy snowfall.

There is also something satisfying about working hard in dirt, something both primordial and visceral. Now, I am not ready to walk away from academia, mind you, especially since it took me almost decade to get where I am today, but I always enjoy getting my hands dirty with the patch of land I call my property.

Quirky Websites: I Park Like an Idiot

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The Quirky Website of the Week is a semi-regular feature on this site. Feel free to recommend other quirky websites in the Comments section.

I laughed out loud for the first time today (yes, one of those days) when I clicked on a link that a blog reader sent me. The site in question is IParkLikeanIdiot.com, and the designers have two purposes in mind: documenting egregious violations of vehicular decorum and hilarious vigilantism.

Visitors can purchases stacks of "I Park Like an Idiot" bumper stickers, and then when they see someone in fact parking like an idiot, place a bright yellow bumper sticker on the offending vehicle. Intrepid vigilantes then take photos of the idiot drivers and submit the images to the website for posting.

Here is an image of the bumper sticker:

Left: "I Park Line an Idiot" bumper stickers

People who cannot seem to park within the designated lines have long been a source of frustration to me, especially in lots where parking is already at a premium, like the University of Toledo. I remember a motorist a few months ago who managed to take up three spaces with a minivan with some idiotic parking, an act that almost screamed: "I am FAR more important than anyone else in this lot."

A pox on thee, oh self-centered knave.

Anyways, do not mention this website should you be sued by a yuppie for adhesive damage to his Lexus, but enjoy yourself if you decide to engage in a bit of vehicular karma.

Mar 25, 2010

On Automatic Weapons and Political Ads

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Left: Jesse Kelly for Congress ad; click for larger version

My eye caught this banner advertisement this morning for the Jesse Kelly for Congress campaign. What intrigued me was not the fact that this United States Marine Corps combat veteran played up his military record, but rather that this advertisement featured Kelly posing with an automatic weapon.

The weapon appears to be an assault rifle, perhaps an M4 carbine or an M16A2 assault rifle. Ostensibly this is an image from Kelly's tour of duty in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Kelly is challenging Arizona Democrat Gabrielle Giffords from the U.S. House of Representatives. His platform is fairly typical for GOP candidates this year: against the recently passed health care bill, for smaller government, supports the overseas wars, for a double border fence with Mexico, and pro-life.

A scan of Google Images resulted in another Kelly advertisement with his rifle:

Left: Jesse Kelly for Congress ad; click for larger version

Clearly Kelly wants to promote the idea of the "warrior in Congress" that his advertisements reinforce. Setting aside the militancy in the ads, I have been scratching my head trying to think of another example of a political advertisement that featured a candidate with some form of weaponry. Theodore Roosevelt and his "Big Stick" comes to mind, but after this I am drawing a blank (pun intended).

I am not inclined to suggest that in this political environment a gun-waving strategy would hurt, though I have some reservations about whether this is a responsible ad (note to driveby posters: I am pro-Second Amendment, so do not start with the "typical liberal" rants). I am rather curious if this is an aberration, a long-standing tradition, or a new trend in which we will see many more arms-bearing political candidates.

If you think of any examples, please post them in the Comments section, and add an image link if you do find some.

Mar 24, 2010

Wikipedia Down? Say It Ain't So!

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Having some quick questions regarding abolitionist Theodore Dwight Weld, I surfed over to Wikipedia for a brief refresher. Unfortunately, for the past 45 minutes I have been unable to access this page or, for that matter, any page on Wikipedia. Luckily for me there exists an excellent page on this radical abolitionist at Ohio History Central.

As an academic I find the site to be quite useful for preliminary research into a topic, and some pages have excellent bibliographies. However, Wikipedia is rife with vandalism and misinformation, and some pages read as though they were composed by an eight-year-old immigrant. I caution every college class I teach not to trust Wikipedia as a definitive source, and never to cite the site, Yet every semester more than a handful of students dutifully provide citations to Wikipedia pages in their papers.

Yet the stability of the site and its ability to deliver content have never been issues for me. I am thus puzzled at what appears to be a significant outage at Wikipedia, and I trust that the Wiki-techs will fix the problem in short order.

Update, 1:53 PM EST:

We are now into Hour Two of the Great Wikipedia Meltdown, and the front page of the site is accessible:

However, none of the graphics load, all the links are dead, and every page I try to visit returns an error message. This is obviously a larger issue than insufficient server capabilities, as I would be getting intermittent access to the site.

As it stands, Wikipedia is momentarily dead, and I have yet to see word of this in the blogosphere.

Update, 2:01 PM:

The social networking news website Mashable is the first major site to report the Great Wikipedia Meltdown. Like me, everyone on the site is in the dark, though the site reports a few users can still access Wikipedia.

Update, 2:05PM EST:

The social networking site Twitter has quite a few tweets about Wikipedia crashing. The site is till down on my end, reverting back to the aforementioned Red X version with dead links.

Update, 2:11 PM EST:

The Huffington Post located a Wikipedia Tweet that offered the following explanation for the prolonged Wikipedia outage:
Due to an overheating problem in our European data center many of our servers turned off to protect themselves. As this impacted all Wikipedia and other projects access from European users, we were forced to move all user traffic to our Florida cluster, for which we have a standard quick failover procedure in place, that changes our DNS entries.

However, shortly after we did this failover switch, it turned out that this failover mechanism was now broken, causing the DNS resolution of Wikimedia sites to stop working globally. This problem was quickly resolved, but unfortunately it may take up to an hour before access is restored for everyone, due to caching effects.
On my end the outage has been at least 90 minutes, though it may have been longer than this.

Update, 2:18 PM EST:

On a related note, the Wikipedia outage has been a boon for my website:

In the past hour this website's traffic zoomed from about 50 readers to over 1200, and at the time of this post the site had over 500 people from around the world reading this post. Too bad I do not participate in any advertising programs that raise fees based on traffic, though I strongly encourage all new site vistors to use the Amazon links on the right sidebar and make purchases.

:-}

Update, 2:31 PM EST:

Wikipedia is still down on my end (almost two hours now), and the blogosphere is beginning to reflect that this is not just an English language problem for the technicians at Wikipedia. The crash appears to be global in nature and involves many Wikipedia language sites. Conspiracy theorists are starting to claim that this is a hacker-based DNS attack on Wikipedia, but there appears to be no evidence yet for such a claim.

Update, 2:41 PM EST:

WPTV is the first traditional media outlet to report the Wikipedia outage, but they have no more information than anyone else.

Update, 2:47 PM EST:

Wikipedia is still down here in Toledo, OH, and now the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph suggests that the Wikipedia outage may be related to a server cooling failure. The paper provides no evidence for the claim, so this appears to be just speculative reporting at the moment.

Update, 3:01 PM ETS:

I can now access (albeit slowly) individual Wikipedia pages, but images show up blank with the dreaded Red X. This suggests that Wikipedia Commons and/or Wikimedia continue to be offline.

Update, 3:31 PM EST:

I am still experiencing intermittent outages on Wikipedia, though about half of my attempts to connect to a page fail. There are still no images available on the site, and the formatting is out of kilter. So far few media sites have picked up this story, though CNN's science and tech blog reported the news that Wikipedia is offline.

Oh, and to the naysayers: approximately 80 percent of Google's traffic winds up at Wikipedia, and most of Wikipedia's pages wind up in the top 10 on Google searches. While you may be chuckling at geeks like me, the many millions of daily Wikipedia visitors are quite perturbed.

Update, 4:06 PM EST:

We are now into Hour Four of the Great Wikipedia Meltdown, and all websites related to the Wikimedia Foundation are down on my end:

Left: all Wikimedia sites down at 4:00 PM EST

I spent a few minutes trying out all Wikimedia sites, and none of them work. Wikipedia's Twitter page offers a cheery spin, claiming that "we're back," but as far as I can tell Wikipedia is DOA for now. The Twitter page did add that "there still may be some glitches as the data center in Amsterdam is still overheated."

Glitches=site crash. Gotcha!

Update, 4:31 PM EST:

Wikipedia pages once again load without pictures on about half of my attempts to connect with the site, and DNS errors pop up on the other half of my clicks. Most of the other Wikimedia sites are still down on my end. Interestingly, a number of Facebook posters put forth the idea that China is behind the Wikipedia crash, but I have difficulty buying the latest conspiracy theory behind the outage.

This reminds me of a student in one of my classes two years ago who insisted that the presence of poisonous chemicals on toys imported from China was not accidental, but rather a deliberate plot by the Chinese government to slowly kill off U.S. citizens.

There is paranoid, and then there is downright loony, and I think the Chinese are too busy producing inexpensive consumer products and repressing their own citizens to worry about Wikipedia.

Update, 5:03 PM EST:

Most Wikimedia sites now load properly on the first try, though load speed is definitely on the slow side. I received DNS errors on Wikiquote and Wikibooks twice, and I loaded a few Wikipedia pages with Red Xs instead of images, but the crash seems to be over. Total outage time seems to be in the 4-1/2 hour range in this region.

Mar 23, 2010

Quirky Websites: ASCII Text Generator

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The Quirky Website of the Week is a semi-regular feature on this site. Feel free to recommend other quirky websites in the Comments section.

Admittedly the concept of ASCII art and text designs appeals to a particular class of techno-geek, and I am guilty as charged, even though the number of occasions where I could actually use ASCII text images is fairly limited. Still, if you find yourself in need of ASCII text drawings, check out the ASCII Text Generator.

Impress your friends and coworkers with your mastery of ASCII art using the generator, or at least verify your status as a card-carrying geek.

Mar 22, 2010

Thoughts on an Assignment for a College World War II Class

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Over the past year I have been developing and refining a project for a World War II class that I teach. The assignment is a five-page paper in which students interview someone alive during the Second World War (civilian or military) and they then develop a narrative paper incorporating quotes and outside research.

Part of the reason I developed this assignment likely reflects my work over the years in journalism, which is sometimes described as "the first draft of history." Since most of the students have little experience in the process of interviewing, I provide them with a series of questions to help them plan for the interview:

• What were you doing during the war (military service, civilian job, school)?
• (For civilians) What were some of the restrictions and shortages you faced? In what ways did you contribute to the war effort?
• (For veterans) Where were you stationed? Did you serve in a combat role? How did combat affect you?
• What do you most want people to know about World War II?
• What would you have changed about your war experience if you could?
• Did you have doubts that your side (Axis, Allies) would succeed in winning the war?
• What mistakes do you think the military made (if any) during World War II?
• Do you think the war could have been prevented?
• What changed and/or what was different after the war?
• Do you remember any wartime propaganda? Do you recall any propaganda that could be considered racist or demeaning to ethnic groups?
• What do you think is the biggest misconception about the Second World War?
• Do you remember any anti-war protesters? If so, how were they treated, and what were your opinions about them?
• Do you think the Second World War was worth the human costs?
• What important questions did I forget to ask you? Are there other details you’d like to share?

I created this assignment because it is fairly difficult to plagiarize or cheat on an interview paper. If a student faked having an interview subject, the student would still have to think about what life would have been like during the war. Moreover, if a student tried to mine the myriad World War II interviews available online, the software would quickly detect any plagiarism.

Yet there is a much more compelling reason that this assignment works well, and that is that the students overwhelmingly like the process. Every semester I get a lot of positive feedback such as "I thought this assignment would be boring, but I really enjoyed talking with Person X." Mind you, this sort of comment typically originates with average or below average students, the sort of people who are less inclined to like much of anything about college writing.

Then there are the moments when the paper becomes something much larger. Students have written afterward to tell me how much the process of talking with an elderly neighbor or relative brought them much closer together, and how the insights of these folks helped them make connections to history that they never thought were possible. One student recently offered the following observations about the experience of interviewing an elderly relative:
My son is 6, and his grandfather is 83, so there is a chance he could lose his grandfather while he is still young. I thought the tapes of the interview would make a great gift for my boy later in life. I ended this interview and then let him tell the story of his service in Korea and how he met his late wife, which I think is priceless for my son since his grandmother died 14 years before he was born.
I was blown away reading this statement: I never expected that the assignment could have such far-reaching effects. If you teach the history of World War II (or for that matter, any aspect of contemporary history), consider the possibilities inherent in historical interviews. There are, of course, some bureaucratic hurdles to navigate regarding human subjects research, but the end result is a project that will likely leave lasting impressions with your students.

Mar 20, 2010

On Technology and the Pizza Industry

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Left: screen shot of the Marco's Pizza online order and delivery module

Yesterday evening I was the only human in the house, and I decided to splurge and order a pizza to be delivered. Given the fact this was a Friday in Lent, I acted as an observant Catholic and ordered a veggie pizza from Marco's Pizza here in Toledo.

I also took advantage for the first time of the company's online ordering system, which allows customers to enter all the information for their orders. The system also has an interesting function that provides a real-time overview of the status of the customer's order, and I amused myself by obsessively checking the elapsed time and the stage at which the order was in ("Ordered," "Making," "Driving," or "Delivered").

For those of you unfamiliar with me, I was in the pizza business for about 25 years before transitioning to a new career in academia. For most of the decade of the 1990s I was a franchisee for Little Caesars Pizza, and I know enough about the pizza industry to fill a book.

A task, by the way, I might one day pursue, but I digress.

I was something of a technological renegade as a business owner, and I joined a small group of franchisees who understood how technology could revolutionize the business. We worked with a software developer to design the first store-level computer system, which offered order entry, inventory control, timeclock functions, and customer database. Unfortunately, we also incurred the ill will of our franchisor, and my support of this and other "unofficial" corporate tools put me in a negative light with the Little Caesars corporate types. Eventually when out financial position took a turn for the worse the franchisor smelled blood in the water and made us unpalatable offers we couldn't refuse, but this is how the business world works, kiddies.

Getting back to Marco's Pizza, I liked the way the system allowed me to provide specific delivery details for my house, which has an address on one street but faces a cross street. Delivery personnel always struggle to find the place, and last night the pleasant young woman who delivered my pizza showed up with a piping hot circle of deliciousness in 24 minutes.

Not too shabby, and yes: the tip reflected my status as a satisfied customer.

Mar 19, 2010

A Few Thoughts on the Health Care Reform Mania

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When I arrived home from teaching a class today I remembered my cell phone was off, and when I turned it back on the voicemail alert sounded. I listened for a few seconds to a Republican member of Congress, and when she arrived at the phrase "Democratic plan to take over the American health care system," I shut it off and deleted the message, which actually originated from a Repulican National Committee phone system in Washington, DC.

Yes, friends, it is official: I no longer care about the debate.

The unabashedly partisan rhetoric from both sides has worn down my desire to pay attention to this issue. By my halfhearted count I have received four robo-calls, deleted eight spam emails, and viewed dozens of television ads in the past week on this topic. I am simply tired of listening to and reading the endless barrage of blatantly misleading nonsense related to the health care reform legislation.

If people question portions of the package, they are heartless thugs who want to see babies die from a lack of medical care, and of course anyone who supports this health care reform package is either a dirty Red or a willing dupe.

You know the political drill.

Left: salacious headline from the Drudge Report (click for larger image)

One of the funnier attempts to spread disinformation about the health care reform package popped up on the Drudge Report yesterday. Matt Drudge linked to a story about how Walgreens stores in the state of Washington will no longer accept new state Medicaid patients on April 1, and the fear-laden hyperlinked title tried to imply that this is the first falling domino in what will be the collapse of the entire U.S. health care system:

"IT'S STARTING: REGIONAL WALGREEN"S SAYS 'NO NEW MEDICAID'"

Uh, Matt Drudge? The Walgreens Corporation is no stranger to the game of redlining pharmacy customers, and their refusal to honor insurance coverage extends into the private sector. The company refused to accept two private insurance plans I have used in the past few years, both of which were prominent insurance companies. My son's medicine would have cost $350 a month at Walgreens, which would not accept my insurance, or $51 a month at Rite Aid, which gladly accepted my insurance.

The Walgreens corporate strategy has nothing to do with the current health care reform debate, and I might argue that it is reflective of the type of problems President Obama and the Democrats claim they will fix.

That is, if I actually cared any more about this debate.

And really: I have listened to hundreds and perhaps thousands of politicians predict the worst sorts of doomsday scenarios in my lifetime, none of which ever materialized. Democratic politicians and union leaders predicted planes would crash en masse after Reagan fired the PATCO air traffic controllers in 1981, and they claimed that children and the elderly would starve to death when he cut social spending.

And don't even get me started about the insane predictions by the far right of the endless waves of bloodthirsty Islamic jihadists who were supposed to attack America and force our women to wear burqas if Barack Obama became president. So far we have seen an underwear bomber with a bad case of adult acne plus a few lone domestic lunatics carrying out bloody attacks, but still no sign of the Islamist apocalypse that the fringe right promised.

If the Democratic reform plan turns out to be a legislative dud, it will be jettisoned faster than a pack of rabid dogs on a blind cat with three legs. The country will not sink into a socialist dictatorship, nor will thousands of employers close their doors and ship 10 million jobs overseas (not that this has not already happened, by the way, but work with me). If the Democrats indeed screw up the American health care system worse than it already is, the voters are smart enough to send their asses packing.

And if the Dems happen to get something right? Hallelujah. Meanwhile, I am going for a nice healthy walk to take some pictures of the spring plants poking through the soil, and I will probably dust off the hammock to soak up some late afternoon sunshine.

If anything happens that is not drenched with partisan bullshit, email me: I turned my phone off.

Mar 18, 2010

Rapid Rhetoric: ZEIGARNIK

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Raphael's depiction of Plato defining the difference between true and false rhetoric This is an irregular feature - both in frequency and oddness - dedicated to a word I came across that I have never previously used.

zeigarnik (ZAYE-gahr-nick) n. a psychological tendency to remember an uncompleted task instead of a completed task.

The Zeigarnik effect is named for Soviet psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik, who first described this psychological phenomenon in a 1927 doctoral thesis. Zeigarnik observed that restaurant servers tend to remember a patron's order only as long as the order is being processed, and that they quickly forget what a customer ordered after the meal has been served. Zeigarnik's work has significant applications to the study of short-term memory, and if my own memory had not started its middle-aged entry into forgetfullness, I might have been able to supply some sage observations from my many years in the restaurant business. Maybe a dose of BSN Cell Mass is in order.

A blogger with the pseudonym Mr. Article Marketing suggested that the Zeigarnik effect can be used in writing blog posts. His ideas also resonate with some writing tricks I have learned over the years, including the use of effective hooks and the inclusion of rhetoric that encourages the reader to anticipate what lies ahead.

In my own life I know that the Zeigarnik effect is part of my daily life, but I suspect that this has much to do with latent obsessive-compulsive tendencies. If I have unfinished business - especially things like dirty dishes or a trash can that needs to be emptied - it is difficult for me to concentrate on more important tasks.

There: I just proved I am not an OCD personality, since I did not argue that clean dishes and an empty trash can are the most important tasks of the day.

Mar 17, 2010

Executive Dog

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Foster dog named Shadow, a terrier mix with Planned Pethood Pictured on your left is Shadow, a 4-1/2-year-old terrier mix we are fostering who was surrendered by his elderly former owner after her living circumstances changed. Shadow is a quiet and friendly little dog who quickly warms up to new people, and I profiled this handsome fellow in an earlier post.

He cracked me up a few minutes ago after I left my work area to knock out the dinner dishes. I returned to find Shadow sitting in my chair and looking back at me as if to say: "What - you weren't using the damned thing!"

As you might imagine, Shadow has completely become relaxed in his foster home, and he no longer exhibits a fearful demeanor. He follows me around the house the entire day, and it is clear that this is a loyal little dog who just loves being around people. I hope that he finds a forever home soon because I am quite fond of this lovable guy.

If I may say so, Shadow is the perfect little companion: he is housebroken, calm, and hilarious. He is fine around children, cats, and other dogs, and he is easily one of the coolest foster dogs we have ever rescued.

To learn more about adopting Shadow, or if you want to financially contribute to Planned Pethood's mission to rescue dogs and cats in Northwest Ohio, visit the Planned Pethood website for more information.

Early Spring and Outdoor Desserts

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My wife and I took a few minutes to enjoy the unseasonably warm spring temperatures this evening to sit out on the deck and enjoy our desserts. She sampled a turtle cake drenched in dark chocolate, while I devoured in about 30 seconds an oversized Bavarian cream puff.

This was not quite as pleasant as eating Key lime pie at an oceanfront restaurant in West Palm Beach, but it was close enough to perfection for me.

At first I grumbled at the idea, as I am under the gun with a bunch of work-related projects that are starting to pile up, but after taking five minutes to enjoy the sunshine, sugar, and company, I realized that life is too short to miss out on outdoor desserts, and I did not spend a second thinking about diet pills.

And the work is still here.

Mar 16, 2010

Cover Songs that are as Good as or Better than the Original Versions

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I gritted my teeth this morning and listened to about 30 seconds of Uncle Kracker butchering Dobie Gray's "Drift Away" before deciding that turning off my radio was better than listening to an aural abomination of this magnitude (yes, I know that the then 63-year-old Gray had a cameo in the song, but this cover is still awful).

I decided to spend some time focusing on the metaphorical glass being half-full: that is, to think of cover songs that matched or exceeded the original versions in quality.

Listed below are some of my favorite cover songs and the reasons why I think they stand out as exemplary covers. Feel free to chime in with your votes for excellent covers or to dispute my choices. You can also offer examples of really lousy covers for consideration, as I plan to do a followup to this post with the world's worst covers.

  • The Who, "Summertime Blues" (originally recorded by Eddie Cochran). The original version is catchy and melodic, and I still crank Eddie Cochran on the rare occasion that I hear his version on the radio. The Who, however, elevate this song to a completely different universe, and the Live at Leeds version would blow holes in your speakers even without Townshend's Marshall stacks.


  • Elvis Costello, "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, And Understanding?" (originally recorded by Nick Lowe and Brinsley Schwarz). The music in original song is not all that different from Elvis Costello's version, but the difference between the laid-back, wry vocals of Nick Lowe and the impassioned ferocity of an angry Elvis Costello is like that between Donovan and Howlin' Wolf. I still get goosebumps when I hear Elvis blast out the final chorus.


  • Jimi Hendrix, "All Along The Watchtower" (originally recorded by Bob Dylan). Admittedly I was about 30 years old before I listened to the Dylan version, so my assessment should be viewed within this context. Still, the version by Hendrix borders on the mystical, given the fact that Jimi was light years ahead of his contemporaries in technique and sound.


  • The Byrds, "Mr. Tambourine Man" (originally recorded by Bob Dylan). Once again Dylan gets the short end of the musical stick, and his understated, almost scornful rendition of the song falls short of the soaring majesty of the lead vocals of Roger McGuinn and those astonishingly beautiful Byrds harmonies.


  • Muse, "House of the Rising Sun" (a traditional folk song made famous by The Animals). I have to admit I was dubious about this cover, as vintage Eric Burdon makes for powerful music, but the Muse version of the song is creepy, bombastic, and surprisingly effective in its raw gut-level emotions.


  • Creedence Clearwater Revival, "I Put a Spell on You" (originally recorded by Screamin' Jay Hawkins). The version by Screamin' Jay Hawkins is quite influential in its horror-show-meets-rock-and-roll ethos, and no doubt future theatrical fright-rockers like Alice Cooper and Ozzy Osbourne owe a debt of gratitude to Jay. CCR's version, though, strips away the campy ghoulishness in favor of a gut-wrenching performance that sounds like a demented stalker, and in this way it might be more frightening than the original. Besides, John Fogerty's blistering, soulful guitar solos far outpace the rather workmanlike musicianship of the original.


  • Led Zeppelin, "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You" (traditional folk song originally recorded by Joan Baez). Yes, Joan Baez is a folk legend, and her version of the song has a certain beauty of its own, but the desperate pathos created by Robert Plant's vocals separates the two songs. Add to this Jimmy Page's blend of acoustic and electric guitar work and you wind up with a version far superior to the original.


  • Rage Against The Machine, "Kick Out the Jams" (originally recorded by the MC5). There is probably one band on the entire planet with the moxie and attitude who could do justice to the epic MC5 signature song, and luckily for us RATM was up to the task. Like the original, the Rage version is best experienced live, as in this YouTube clip of RATM covering the "Kick Out the Jams."

  • Talking Heads, "Take Me To The River" (originally recorded by Al Green). Now, don't get me wrong: I am a huge Al Green fan, and the Reverend Al's soulful tenor can make even ho-hum songs come alive. Yet David Byrne and the Talking Heads created a cover version that sounds equally endearing and psychotic, and they turned this tune into one of their own signature songs.
  • Mar 15, 2010

    Detroit Metro's Cell Phone Lots

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    While driving eastbound on Eureka Road past Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DTW) the other day I came across a sign that initially did not make sense to me. I snapped a picture with my camera and went about my business, waiting until today to research what exactly constitutes a cell phone lot.

    It turns out that a cell phone lot is a place somewhat removed from the busy areas of the airport where people can wait until the party they want to pick up is ready and at the curb outside the terminal. This innovation seems focused on two goals: the reduction of congestion and increased terminal security.

    Thus, you can sit in your car and listen to music while waiting for flight arrivals, while Homeland Security types have fewer vehicles to scrutinize. Of course, people sitting at the unattended cell phone lot needs to be cognizant of personal safety while they ponder, say, the purchase of a safe fat burner, but I suppose one could get mugged just about anywhere these days.

    Mar 13, 2010

    On Crumbling Michigan Bridges and Curious Solutions

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    Left: Planks of plywood and chunks of concrete; click picture for larger image

    (Romulus, MI) While stuck in traffic on Interstate 275 yesterday, our car crept past a curious site underneath an overpass for Pennsylvania Road. Bridges in the area are undergoing some repair work, but this particular bridge appears to be shedding significant amounts of concrete.

    In response to the falling chunks of bridge, employees of the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) designed a rather low-tech temporary solution. The safety device they built consists of two 4' x 8' sections of plywood supported by some anchored 2" x 4" boards.

    Now, admittedly I am not a structural or civil engineer, so this fix might indeed be standard operating procedure. However, given the news of other bridges in the area being shut down due to safety concerns, I was a bit wary of the idea that mere pieces of plywood were all that stood between my vehicle and the falling chunks of concrete, like trying to produce high-end catalog printing with a couple of Crayola crayons and a ruler.

    Any civil engineers in the audience - or anyone who plays a civil engineer on television - is welcome to weigh in with an opinion in the Comments section to either put us civilians at ease or cause us to avoid driving under Michigan overpasses.

    Mar 12, 2010

    On Sanitary Sewers, Ungodly Noises, and Angry Rats

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    After an hour of grousing about the 120-decibel roaring emanating from a truck owned by DownUnder Municipal Services, I decided to venture out and see what the hell the ruckus was all about.

    After all, a person can only stew and grumble for so long in one place before it is useful to seek another place suitable for stewing and grumbling, and it was evident that my efforts to edit a pair of articles I plan to submit to an academic journal would be fruitless in the cacophony.

    The company specializes in the cleaning of storm and sanitary sewers, and it appears that my house happened to be in close proximity to some sort of sanitary sewer-related backup. I took the liberty of inspecting the progress while the truck left to refill its water tanks at a nearby fire hydrant.

    By the way: I think the term "sanitary sewer" is an oxymoron, as these sewage disposal lines are anything BUT sanitary.

    As a kid growing up in Detroit I would not have even hesitated to climb down into a sewer like this, and one time my friend Tim Wagner and I walked through the storm sewer under Ford Road from the Rouge River all the way to the Southfield Freeway. It was only when we encountered an angry rat that we scampered all the way back to our subterranean entry point at the storm sewer's outlet into the Rouge.

    In retrospect, it is amazing I managed to survive childhood, given the amount of time I spent hoisting sewer lids and crawling around in places just oozing with bacteria and viruses.

    Speaking of rats, the other day my 19-year-old son told me that he managed to disentangle one of our Puggles from a "baby possum" that the dog cornered and caught. He proudly led me to the new city trash can in our driveway, whereupon I opened the lid and came eye-to-eye with the largest brown rat I have ever seen staring back at me.

    Well, since the blasted rodent was already dead, "staring" is a rhetorical stretch, but I am sure you know what I mean.

    As I composed this post a nagging thought dawned on me: what if the backup and/or cleanout process caused my basement to flood? I paused from writing to run downstairs to discover that, no, flooding did not occur at Château Brooks, and the only item running out of control was my paranoid imagination.

    A relief, that.

    Laugh of the Week

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    A hat tip to Karl Rundgren for linking to this cynically hilarious video from The Onion. I cannot remember the last time I laughed this hard, but I should add that the video has some salty language and is not safe for work or the ears of small children.


    Breaking News: Some Bullshit Happening Somewhere

    Mar 11, 2010

    On Heavenly News and Near Misses

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    Now, I have nothing against folks who follow the Christian faith tradition known as Jehovah's Witnesses, but I have to admit I am less than excited to see their members going door-to-door in my neighborhood. I am not the kind of person who pulls the drapes and hides when unexpected visitors show up, and I feel an obligation to at least answer the door and tell them "no thanks." This usually means an extended conversation with people who I doubt will succeed in changing my fairly entrenched views of God.

    That, plus my dogs bark like pagan fools at the sight of well-dressed proselytizers with pamphlets.

    Thus I was glad to see the latest edition of The Watchtower on my front porch, as this meant that I dodged (at least for today) the efforts of local Jehovah's Witnesses to convert me. I figured that in return I ought to at least peruse the magazine the Witnesses left for me.

    I learned that - according to The Watchtower - Christians are no longer obligated to keep the Sabbath, that true Christians are politically neutral, and that true Christians do not participate in wars. I also learned that Jehovah's Witnesses have little use for the Holy Trinity, that only 144,000 true believers will go to Heaven, and that John the Baptist is not among those who will be in Heaven.

    I also learned via a color illustration that Heaven looks kind of like an African safari, with smiling people paddling canoes among pink flamingos, grazing zebras, and sleepy lions that seem not to notice the bountiful prey around them. Hey - I like this vision of Heaven a lot better than some of the fire-and-brimstone visions of the afterlife some sects push.

    Mar 10, 2010

    On JihadJane, Homegrown Terror, and Virtual Surrealism

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    Screen shot of deleted MySpace page for Jihad JaneScreen shot of deleted MySpace page for Jihad Jane

    I have been reading with a substantial degree of bewilderment the wire stories about Colleen Renee LaRose, also known as JihadJane and Fatima LaRose, the Pennsylvania woman accused of participating ina plot to kill Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks. It seems Vilks unleashed a firestorm of protest in the Islamic world when he drew a picture of the prophet Muhammad in the likeness of a roundabout dog, which was an urban art fad in Sweden for some time.

    LaRose, 46, is charged with attempted murder, conspiracy to provide support to terrorists, making false statements, and attempted identity theft for her alleged role in the plot.

    The MySpace page of Colleen Larose, since deleted but available via archives, is a part of the government's case. There are messages (also deleted and currently unavailable from archives) that allegedly demonstrate LaRose's willingness to participate in the scheme with her co-conspirators. LaRose also posted at least one YouTube video about how she was "desperate to do something to help." The federal indictment of LaRose contains dozens of examples of electronic messages between JihadJane and her alleged co-conspirators.

    It is obvious that LaRose approached her activity with a level of earnestness, as she even traveled to Sweden as part of her preliminary planning for the alleged plot. Yet I somehow cannot take seriously the threat in this case, even with what appears to be clearcut rhetoric about intent to kill.

    Former neighbors of LaRose in Pennsburg were equally puzzled. One woman described how she used to do laundry with LaRose in the apartment building's laundry room, observing that the terror suspect "looked like an everyday housewife."

    Mug shot of Colleen LaRoseLeft: mug shot of Colleen LaRose

    My gut reaction is that this is a person filled with a measure of religious and ideological zealotry who lived in an online fantasy world, and who probably did not have the temerity to actually carry out the plot. At some point, however, this obsession with Lars Vilks morphed into actions that can quite easily - and legally - be interpreted as terrorism, and at this point it looks like this woman will be serving many years in prison.

    After all, websites such as MySpace, Facebook, and YouTube are hardly the most secure means of transmitting details of terror plots. I think the only way LaRose could have been more obvious about her intentions would be through the purchase of a billboard next to her house with a large arrow and text that reads "TERRORIST HERE."

    "Unsophisticated," "ignorant," and "buffoonish" are the three words that first come to mind when I think of Colleen LaRose. Unfortunately, her clown-like efforts at global jihad will probably send this would-be terrorist away for a long, long time.

    Mar 9, 2010

    Meet Shadow, a Rescue Terrier

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    Pictured on your left is Shadow, a 4-1/2-year-old terrier mix we are fostering who was surrendered by his elderly former owner after her living circumstances changed. Shadow is a quiet and friendly little dog who takes a few hours to warm up to new people.

    Shadow would probably thrive best in a house with a lower amount of activity, as he is easily startled by loud noises and sudden movement. When frightened he cowers and shakes, but he does not snap or bite. Shadow appears to be a dog who would make a loyal companion for his next owner, and he would be easy to integrate into his new home.

    Shadow seems to be housebroken, and he gets along well with the other dogs in the house. He tends to be more of a follower than a leader, and Shadow has not shown any aggressiveness toward the other dogs.

    To learn more about adopting Shadow, or if you want to financially contribute to Planned Pethood's mission to rescue dogs and cats in Northwest Ohio, visit the Planned Pethood website for more information.

    Mar 8, 2010

    Sunset at 6:45 pm - Spring Must Be Getting Close

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    The sunsets the last few evenings have been quite eye-catching, and it dawned on me (pun intended) that the sun is starting to set at a significantly later time the last week or two. This should not be surprising given the fact that the vernal equinox is scheduled to arrive on March 20 at 1:32 PM EDT, but I remain a bit caught off guard at the rapidity with which winter seems to be disappearing.

    Not disappointed, mind you, just surprised.

    I have been noticing the gradual receding of the 25 inches of snow that fell in Northwest Ohio during the month of February. On my daily walks around the neighborhood I have been hearing an increasing number of songbirds, and a number of trees are sprouting leaf buds - both sure signs that winter's days are dwindling to a handful.

    I suspect that snowflakes will yet accumulate before winter officially ends, but their presence will no doubt be fleeting as average temperatures continue to rise. Even as I write this short post at 7:00 pm, my exterior temperature gauge is still at 49.4 degrees Fahrenheit, and the temperature outside my house today broke the 57 degree mark.

    Welcome, spring.

    Mar 7, 2010

    On Habitual Behaviors and the Making of Paths

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    I let my dogs outside today to run around in the early March thaw and watched them follow their usual routes to investigate our one-third acre of urban paradise. Two of these paths are bee-line to the corners of the yard, as if the dogs were market-fearing investors running to the safety of gold coins, while several demonstrate predictable paths to favorite bathroom spots or known squirrel hangouts.

    This reminded me of a story I heard from a person at the University of Toledo who taught for several decades and whose institutional memory I trust. This professor recalled that when the university was planning the construction of pedestrian footpaths across the middle of campus they studied the winter path patterns created by students as they cut across what would later be the Centennial Mall. The paths were then built according to the results of the snow-study (I think the Geography department was involved, and Wikipedia offers the same history).

    In recent years I have begun the process of incorporating canine traffic patterns in my gardening. One of the changes I made was moving all garden plants back at least a foot from any fence, as the dogs tend to kill all plant life along the fence with their frantic running whenever they see a passing dog walker or an insolent feline traveler. I might one day create some backyard walkways with wood chips or compost that reflect dog travel patterns, thus reconfiguring the yard in a way that beautifies what might otherwise be seen as a casualty of pet ownership.

    If you can't beat 'em, mulch 'em. Something like that.

    Brief Comments Interruption

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    This blog is currently being attacked by either a spambot or a really persistent idiot from China. I'll turn the comments back on in an hour or so, but I am inundated with deleting several dozen spam comments and I am irritated by watching the inbox fill up with more messages from this jackass from IP address 114.40.179.xxx originating from HiNet Chunghwa Telecom Co., Ltd.

    Mar 6, 2010

    Venerable Poplar on the Edge of Spring

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    The 130-foot poplar tree pictured on your left stands at the back of my grandfather's property at the house he has lived in for about 70 years. He said that the tree long predates his presence on the property, and I suspect based on the circumference of the tree's massive trunk that it must be at least 150 years old.

    For perspective, that would be a tree dating back to the American Civil War or longer.

    This tree has always been the tallest tree in the vicinity, and for me this particular poplar is like an immutable life monument. As a child I played baseball and football in what my grandparents called the "back forty," and the tree never seemed to change in appearance, though its growth certainly continued over the past four decades of my life.

    My 93-year-old grandfather is by comparison a mere infant, and this tree has been alive for something like 29 presidential administrations or more. Barring a lightning strike or some other unforeseen event, such as the discovery of diamonds under its roots, this poplar might live another century or more, as the oldest poplar in North America is between 350 and 400 years old. My own grandchildren might some day drive by this property and gaze up at the tall polar tree that towers over all other nearby life forms.

    Another spring season is almost here, and already this poplar's buds are beginning to emerge. Though an older tree, there is no sign that this timbered warrior is slowing down, and I experience a sense of sublime wonder while standing underneath its limbs.

    Mar 5, 2010

    When Puppies Attack

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    Interesting YouTube find about a puppy and its vicious attack upon an unsuspecting dandelion. The video is worth the 1:12 of your life, at least unless you are Donald Trump or someone else who earns over a million dollars an hour:

    Mar 4, 2010

    On Public Figures, Online Presences, and Privacy Choices

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    When I started working as a journalist about seven years ago I entered the field with little thought about protecting my identity and privacy. There were two aims that motivated me - getting published and getting paid - and the thought that my writing might piss off people did not enter into my thinking.

    I also did not consider that some of these angry people might be unstable or violent.

    I wear an additional hat these days, which is that of an academic researcher and teacher. Folks in academia often choose to work from within the safe confines of a university setting, and while I used to wonder why so few academics engage in more public forums, these days I better understand this sort of decision.

    What kind of people willingly subject themselves to the personal attacks and vitriolic idiocy that sometimes accompanies work outside the university?

    Take for example the case of University of Toledo professors Dr. David Black and Dr. Oleg Smirnov, whose academic reputations were attacked by city unions via public billboards and in print before the professors fought back and successfully forced the unions to remove the defamatory signs. Hired by the city to perform revenue projections, the professors were subjected to an onslaught of politically motivated and baseless attacks before deciding to hire lawyers to end the harassment and libel.

    As a semi-public figure I have found myself on the receiving end of all sorts of harassment and threats by lunatics who happened to disagree with something I have written as a journalist or as a blogger. Neo-Nazis, union goons, and political zealots are just the tip of the metaphorical iceberg of angry idiots who think that I am some sort of enemy because my views on a given topic might disagree with theirs - even on a topic as innocuous as Franke sinks - and who will engage in cyber-terror and real-world harassment to silence you.

    At times I have toyed with returning to a completely private life. By shutting down this blog, erasing public Internet profiles, and changing my telephone number I could in a matter of months eliminate the threat of running into the rare-but-real deadly stalker types who occasionally take their anger to the level of murder. This may have been the case with the nutjob who was arrested yesterday after threatening to murder the family of Dr. Drew Pinsky.

    Even participating on local message boards and blogs can be a source of harassment to people like me who have the audacity (or naïveté) to write under their own names. On one local board several anonymous members posted all sorts of vile nonsense simply because my take on a single issue happened to disagree with theirs. One poster threatened to publish my private information that he dug up, while another accused me of brainwashing my university students because one of them happened to stick up for me in an off-topic accusation that I am some sort of Marxist educator who is poisoning the minds of the youth of America.

    Mind you: I am a pro-Second Amendment, low taxes type of person, sort of a blend between a fiscal conservative and social moderate. God forbid I should happen to be a public person who posts political sentiments farther to the political left.

    So to those of you contemplating a more public persona or an online presence using your real name: there are plenty of loons and thugs who will harass and torment you. Some of these contemptible people will also cross over to the real world and harass you in your home, at your place of employment, or even dupe government agencies into investigating you.

    Be forewarned.

    Mar 3, 2010

    Bonsai Trees and Winter

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    My bonsai plant has been looking a bit under the weather lately, so I decided to take advantage of the warmer temperatures and sunshine today by putting the little tree outside. Perhaps I was engaging in anthropomorphic wishfulness, but the plant seemed a little livelier after an hour outdoors.

    I also read that sheltering your bonsai tree from any exposure to winter conditions can result in out of season dormancy that may bring about sickly trees and even death. In fact, if you have a bonsai plant from a temperate zone no winter protection is needed for the plant until the temperature drops below 15 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Thus, I did not need to activate Plan B, which was to turn on the gas grill to provide additional heat for my spindly bonsai tree. Nor did I need to buy memory for my computer to handle the images I just processed.

    Mar 2, 2010

    A Texting While Driving Story

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    Simulated texting while driving do not try this at home kidsSimulated texting while driving - do not try this at home, kids

    While driving southbound on I-75 today on my way to my office hours at Bowling Green State University, I came upon a driver in the left lane whose behavior could best be described as "erratic." The female driver was weaving a bit in the lane and driving at varied speeds.

    70... weave... 55... weave... 70... that sort of thing.

    I finally got annoyed enough to pass her on the right side, making sure to provide a wide berth to avoid being on the receiving end of one of her swerves. As I passed I noticed that the driver's head was down and she was committing the act of texting while driving. One wonders what could possibly be so important to cause a driver to text while driving; I suspect it was some personal drama involving a significant other, but there would be irony if the driver was checking out free insurance quotes on her cell phone.

    I will save the pontificating about the dangers of this activity for another post, but I happened to catch a view of the vehicle in my rear view mirror as we approached a curve in the highway past the Luckey-Haskins exit. The driver did not notice that the road was curving, and she hit the gravel shoulder at about 65 mph.

    Lurch left. lurch right, skid left, skid right.

    I thought I was about to watch this smaller SUV go into an out-of-control roll, but the driver managed to get her vehicle straightened out at the last second. This could have been luck, skill, or divine intervention, but somehow a potentially fatal accident was avoided.

    So to you texting drivers out there: take note. This was a near miss, and I am documenting the event with the hope that just one texting driver wakes up. For the rest of us: keep your eyes open and assume the worst in every driver you encounter, as defensive paranoia while driving is still the best way to avoid accidents.

    Mar 1, 2010

    Book Review: All American All the Way - A Combat History of the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II

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    Nordyke, Phil
    2 volumes - Zenith Press, 2005


    Among the most storied of all American fighting forces are the members of the 82nd Airborne Division, an airborne infantry unit of the United States Army. Nordyke's All American All the Way - The Combat History of the 82nd Airborne Division in World War II provides a highly detailed narrative of the unit's participation in numerous campaigns in the European theater during the Second World War.

    Nordyke followed a chronological approach to the history in All American All the Way, and the author relied on the thousands of interviews he has conducted with World War II veterans to tell the story of the 82nd Airborne. Consequently, the straightforward narrative is highly engrossing and as useful for general readers as academics. Consider the visceral imagery in the following quote from Private First Class John Siam discussing the death of a fellow parachutist near the Belgian village of Trois Ponts:
    "I looked to my left and saw Gilbert on his hands and knees with blood pouring out of his mouth. He was shot through the nose, and the bullet took his teeth out and came out his ear."
    Each volume contains relevant sections of wartime photography related to the 82nd Airborne, and Nordyke included dozens of maps to assist readers who are unfamiliar with European geography. Also of value are the extensive endnotes, the three-page bibliography, and the cross-referenced index.

    I recommend this two-volume set to readers who enjoy World War II military history as well to scholars interested in the history of the 82nd Airborne. There are untold hundreds of previously unpublished quotes from retired members of the 82nd Airborne that make Nordyke's work valuable on the basis of its source value alone. The fact that Nordyke is a strong writer makes All American All the Way an important addition to any collection of literature on the Second World War.