Dec 30, 2010

My New Career: Cover Model

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The periodical is not exactly Vogue (or even People) but I can hold my head high and proudly announce that my ugly mug has made the cover of at least one magazine.

I was contacted by an editor of Obesity: A Research Journal for an upcoming issue dedicated to sleep apnea. The editors had scoured the Internet looking for a photograph they could use of a patient wired for a sleep study, and they came across a blog post last year in which I discussed my own sleep study experience. We negotiated the terms (admittedly light years away from the sort of cash commanded by supermodels) and voila! Instant cover model status for yours truly.

Though I am about 20 pounds overweight today, at the time of the photo I was only about 10 pounds beyond my ideal weight. Luckily, the upward angle of the self-held camera made me look considerably pudgier, but a 2010 photo of me would be much more appropriate in terms of heftiness than this image.

And to those who chuckle and scoff: exactly how many covers has your face graced? I thought so.

Dec 28, 2010

The Quote Shelf

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Medieval text with Latin script A frequent feature on this site; feel free to comment on the quote or to supply a competing quote.

Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels - men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.

-- Dwight D. Eisenhower

Dec 23, 2010

Film Review: The Fighter

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Paramount Pictures, 2010
Directed by David O. Russell


I reluctantly agreed to go to the movies the other day, and my less-than-enthusiastic attitude had nothing to do with David O. Russell's The Fighter. I was simply in a rotten mood and would have preferred to wallow in my self-pity for a few hours.

Thus, the fact that I actually enjoyed The Fighter says something about the quality of this film.

Mark Wahlberg stars in the true story of "Irish" Micky Ward, a blue collar boxer from the town of Lowell Massachusetts who achieved a measure of fame (and a few titles) in his thirties, an age when many fighters are trending down in their careers. This is one of the better roles that Wahlberg has ever appeared in, and I have since discarded my formerly dismissive attitude toward Wahlberg's acting abilities: Wahlberg was convincing, and he showed significant talent at developing a nuanced character.

Yet what most engrossed me was the portrayal by Christian Bale of Ward's older brother, Dicky Eklund. Bales must have lost 30 pounds in getting ready to play the crack-addicted Dicky, and the drug-induced insanity of Dicky was almost frightening in its stark reality.

The Fighter is not a pretty film, nor is it a sentimental heart-tugging piece of maudlin film making. You will cheer at times, and at others you will cringe at the harsh depictions of life on the meanest East Coast streets you might imagine. Ultimately you will walk away with a much greater understanding of the seamy world of professional boxing, and the cinematic ride is much more enjoyable than watching one of the cartoon-esque Rocky installments.

Dec 22, 2010

Rapid Rhetoric: TINTINNABULATE

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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 or phrase I came across that I have never previously used.

tintinnabulate (tin-tin-AH-byoo-layt) v. to ring; to sound like a small bell; to make a tinkling sound, like the chime of bells.

I knew that this word was somehow related to bells, as I recognized the Latin root word tintinnabulum ("bell"). I came across the word tintinnabulate in an 1874 collection of the works of John Ruskin:
Which indeed it is; and travellers are always greatly amused at being allowed to ring this bell; but it never occurs to them to ask how it came to be ringable:—how that tintinnabulate roof differs from the dome of the Pantheon, expands into the dome of Florence, or declines into the whispering gallery of St. Paul's.
Here, though, Ruskin used the word tintinnabulate as an adjective, whereas modern writers would be more likely to use the adjectival forms tintinnabular or tintinnabulous.

And no: you may not ring my bell.

Dec 16, 2010

Unhappy Clown

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I came across this photograph in a collection that my 93-year-old grandfather recently dusted off for us. In this 1968 image I have been dressed up for Halloween, and it is clear that I was unhappy about the choice of costume.

Or unhappy about something.

I was a rather difficult child for my parents to raise, as my interests were quirky. I loved collecting rocks and conducting quasi-scientific experiments, activities for which I found few fellow participants in the blue collar Detroit neighborhoods in which I grew up. I suspect that this particular Halloween I wanted to get dressed up as an astronaut or something equally geeky, and that the costume my mom lovingly designed was utterly deplorable to me.

I think I was well into my teen years before I started learning the value of interpersonal relationships, as well as the need to make at least something of an effort to fit in. Some folks go through their early years being outcasts on the basis of social rejection, but for the first 12 or 13 years of my life I had little use for other people, and I almost willingly chose isolation over engaging in activities that did not appeal to me.

This was less of a built-in rebelliousness and more of a stubborn willfulness to follow my internal agendas. I still have some of this streak, but I think I am better at going along with the group in social settings than I used to be, and my wife knows how to subtly encourage me toward social interaction whenever I gravitate toward my metaphorical island of isolation.

But I'll be damned if I will ever wear a clown costume again. Sorry, Ma.

Dec 14, 2010

Facts I Learned From Grading College World History Exams Today

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As a college history instructor, I come into contact with all sorts of desperate attempts by students to accumulate enough points to achieve a desired grade in my classes. While grading final exams today I came across enough nuggets of dubious wisdom to create a blog post.

Truth be told, I could probably write a book with this funny stuff, but I would likely get sued for royalties.

Anyways, on with the lowlights:

1. The short term cause of the breakup of the Soviet Union was the way the Soviet Union betrayed everyone.

2. Killing fields - important because you couldn't step foot in them, if you were caught in it you had to be ready or you were instantly killed. The field was full of war all the time.

3. Vietnamization: Where Vietnam people changed. The people changed the outlook on where they lived. It went from everyone trying to kill each other to the people actually getting along.

4. Ayatollah Khomeini: Was a Soviet leader who replaced Nikita Khruschev. Ayatollah made the first republic party.

5. Karol Wojtyla: Was a king of Iran before the revolution who spent a lot of money on unnecessary gala parties and on secret police.

6. Le Duan was a Communist of the Vietnam War, and a lot of people part of the war knew who he was. Le Duan was arrested by the French and taken to jail during the years 1955-1975.

7. The Vietnam War itself was between the Northside of Vietnam and the Red, White, and Blue beautiful United States of America. People were loosing [sic] their family and friends to this war left and right. April 1 of 1975 is when the war really started. Or you could say the first fired shots gets [sic] popped off.

8. The Soviet Union and the United Stats [sic] of America fought against each other in the "Cold War," they were rivals until the end of WWI. After WWI the Rusian [sic] Empire grew a revolution to kill the Royal Family. After they were killed Russia was under the rule of Stallin [sic].

9. [Short term causes of the breakup of the Soviet Union] There were a shortage of food, supplies, and plant detilization [sic] that killed alot of people. The citizens of the Soviet Union wanted to turn to capitalization for their country.

10. The 1954 battle in which the Vietminh defeated the French was better known by name the First Intifada.

12. The Soviet leader who came to power in 1985 was named Mikhail Grovenstock.

Dec 11, 2010

Dogs Round a Fireplace

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We added a gas fireplace to our home last year, and the occupants of the house who are most enthusiastic about the acquisition are the canines. When we fire up the gas jets the dogs almost immediately gravitate to positions near the warm hearth.

There are occasionally turf battles over the best spots, but the 35,000 BTU fireplace kicks off enough heat that even the most determined pooches can only sit in front of it for 20-30 minutes before they start to pant and move away. Interestingly, our furnace rarely kicks on when we have the fireplace going, and our gas usage actually dropped last year, since we can set the thermostat low and only heat the rooms where we are most active.

Dec 8, 2010

Bombed Japanese Radio Station: Peleliu, 1945

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I have been looking through my grandfather's collection of old photographs in recent weeks, and I never cease to be amazed at the amount of history he has witnessed in his 93 years on the planet.

My grandfather served in World War II as a SeaBee on the Pacific island of Peleliu a few arriving a few months after the Battle of Peleliu. Pictured on your left is an image he took with a Brownie camera in early 1945 of a building that once housed Japanese radio operations for the island of Peleliu.

The pockmarked scene looks positively desolate, even for being a casualty of war. My grandfather told me that every week or so another Japanese soldier would be discovered on the island, continuing to hide and hold out hope until the end that the Japanese would eventually prevail against the Americans. Of course, with radio communications being severed to the Japanese imperial military command, these lone soldiers had no way of knowing that the war was mere months away from being over.

Dec 4, 2010

New Wheels

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Pictured on your left is my 1995 Hyundai, an extremely dependable vehicle I purchased a few years ago for the almost-criminal price of $700. Over the past few years I have sunk very little into this vehicle, and since it has just over 100,000 miles, I figured that an investment in new wheels and tires would be worthwhile.

The rusted steel wheels that came with the vehicle were increasingly difficult to balance, and I also grew tired of pumping up the tires every few days, as tire sealant only goes so far with pitted and dented wheels.

Yet what really surprised me was not the smooth ride on the new wheels and tires, but how good this car looks without four rusted steel wheels. I almost did not recognize the car when I picked it up from the tire store.

I also had the tire guys go to a 14-inch rim over the 13-inch wheels that came with the original vehicle. This was in part due to the fact that the 13-inch OEM wheels are scarce, and frankly a bit more expensive than the 14-inch wheels that were modified for my car.

Anyways, I look forward to a smoother ride and fewer chuckles from some of my new car-obsessed friends: this car looks pretty damned sharp for a 15-year-old machine.

Dec 3, 2010

Navy SeaBee Daredevil: World War II

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I have been spending quite a bit of extra time with my 93-year-old grandfather in the two years, and my wife and I visit him every week. Pictured on your left is a somewhat blurry image of my grandfather as a younger man during the Second World War.

He served in World War II as a SeaBee on the Pacific island of Peleliu a few arriving a few months after the Battle of Peleliu. In the image my grandfather is engaging in some hijinks with fellow SeaBees, and they were trying to get the military Jeep to go airborne on a small hill on the rocky beaches of Peleliu.

On an island with no women, scarce alcohol, and little in the way of entertainment (not to mention encountering the occasional solitary Japanese soldier who had refused to surrender), you take advantage of any opportunity for amusement that presents itself.

My grandfather's primary role was as a vehicle mechanic, so I suppose he could justify such tomfoolery as a "road test" of a vehicle sent in for repairs. He also has some funny stories about "borrowing" a steamroller that he fixed to tool around the island with his buddies.

Dec 1, 2010

First Snow

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Nothing puts an exclamation mark on the change of seasons in quite the same manner as the first arrival of snow each winter. Folks in Northwest Ohio received a brief dusting of snowflakes today, and though fall and spring are my favorite seasons, I do look forward to the occasional accumulation of snow.

The dogs seemed a bit surprised to see the fluffy white stuff on the ground today, and they are about equally split between the frolickers and the finicky canines. Two of the dogs rather gingerly wandered out, while the two Puggles (Eddie Haskell and Chauncey Gardner) romped in the light snow like polar bears.

Me? I had to dig up the window scraper and drive a bit more slowly to work, though I allowed myself a few moments to feel a few melting snowflakes on my face, drifting back for a moment to a time when snow could mean a snow day, with limitless possibilities and a break from the school day routine.

Reality quickly returned, however, and it is back to work for me.