June 30, 2008

Told ya so...

A few days back, I posted about our trip to the Canyon and mentioned that we saw an NPR guy on mule up near the top of Bright Angel trail.

Well, Achilles3 came though and sent me the link to NPR story that they were recording when we saw the man just under the rim. Turns out it was just posted this morning.

Thanks, man, for the help in hunting it down.

Kneel before Zod

It's easy to look back at the era of McCarthyism with disdain and wonder how one man's crusade could have to thoroughly and entirely have taken over our nation, and - more relevantly - to believe that such a paranoia could never take hold again.

The Girl is moving jobs and will find herself in a new school system this when August rolls around. In the process of filling out her various papers regarding health insurance, employement history, and - I was pretty surprised to find - her loyalty oath.

Ok, it's not quite a loyalty oath in perfect definition as she wasn't pleding loyalty and fealty to the US or Ohio or even to her new school system, but it certainly was a sizable document - technically called a Declaration Regarding Material Assistance/Nonassistance to a Terrorist Organization. It asks her to answer these simple yes-or-no questions:
  1. Are you a member of an organization on the U.S. Department of State Terrorist Exclusion List?
  2. Have you used any position of prominence you have with any country to persuade others to support an organization on the U.S. Department of State Terrorist Exclusion List?
  3. Have you knowingly solicited funds or other things of value for an organization on the U.S. Department of State Terrorist Exclusion List?
  4. Have you solicited any individual for membership in an organization on the U.S. Department of State Terrorist Exclusion List?
  5. Have you committed an act that you know, or reasonably should have known, affords "material support or resources" to an organization on the U.S. Department of State Terrorist Exclusion List?
  6. Have you hired or compensated a person you knew to be a member of an organization on the U.S. Department of State Terrorist Exclusion List or a person you knew to be engaged in planning, assisting, or carrying out an act of terrorism?
Oh, if you were curious about the U.S. Department of State Terrorist Exclusion List, you can get the entire list as a pdf here, or you can skim the list here:
U.S. Department of State List of Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations...
  1. Abu Nidal Organization (ANO)
  2. Abu Sayyaf Group
  3. Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade
  4. Ansar al-Islam
  5. Armed Islamic Group (GIA)
  6. Asbat al-Ansar
  7. Aum Shinrikyo
  8. Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA)
  9. Communist Party of the Philippines/New People's Army (CPP/NPA)
  10. Continuity Irish Republican Army
  11. Gama’a al-Islamiyya (Islamic Group)
  12. HAMAS (Islamic Resistance Movement)
  13. Harakat ul-Mujahidin (HUM)
  14. Hizballah (Party of God)
  15. Islamic Jihad Group
  16. Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU)
  17. Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM) (Army of Mohammed)
  18. Jemaah Islamiya organization (JI)
  19. al-Jihad (Egyptian Islamic Jihad)
  20. Kahane Chai (Kach)
  21. Kongra-Gel (KGK, formerly Kurdistan Workers' Party, PKK, KADEK)
  22. Lashkar-e Tayyiba (LT) (Army of the Righteous)
  23. Lashkar i Jhangvi
  24. Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)
  25. Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG)
  26. Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM)
  27. Mujahedin-e Khalq Organization (MEK)
  28. National Liberation Army (ELN)
  29. Palestine Liberation Front (PLF)
  30. Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ)
  31. Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLF)
  32. PFLP-General Command (PFLP-GC)
  33. al-Qa’ida
  34. Real IRA
  35. Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC)
  36. Revolutionary Nuclei (formerly ELA)
  37. Revolutionary Organization 17 November
  38. Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP/C)
  39. Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC)
  40. Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso, SL)
  41. Tanzim Qa'idat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn (QJBR) (al-Qaida in Iraq) (formerly Jama'at al-Tawhid wa'al-Jihad, JTJ, al-Zarqawi Network)
  42. United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC)
U.S. Department of State Terrorist Exclusion List
  1. 1. Afghan Support Committee (a.k.a. Ahya ul Turas; a.k.a. Jamiat Ayat-ur-Rhas al Islamia; a.k.a. Jamiat Ihya ul Turath al Islamia; a.k.a. Lajnat el Masa Eidatul Afghania)
  2. Al Taqwa Trade, Property and Industry Company Ltd. (f.k.a. Al Taqwa Trade, Property and Industry; f.k.a. Al Taqwa Trade, Property and Industry Establishment; f.k.a. Himmat Establishment; a.k.a. Waldenberg, AG)
  3. Al-Hamati Sweets Bakeries
  4. Al-Ittihad al-Islami (AIAI)
  5. Al-Manar
  6. Al-Ma’unah
  7. Al-Nur Honey Center
  8. Al-Rashid Trust
  9. Al-Shifa Honey Press for Industry and Commerce
  10. Al-Wafa al-Igatha al-Islamia (a.k.a. Wafa Humanitarian Organization; a.k.a. Al Wafa; a.k.a. Al Wafa Organization)
  11. Alex Boncayao Brigade (ABB)
  12. Anarchist Faction for Overthrow
  13. Army for the Liberation of Rwanda (ALIR) (a.k.a. Interahamwe, Former Armed Forces (EX-FAR))
  14. Asbat al-Ansar
  15. Babbar Khalsa International
  16. Bank Al Taqwa Ltd. (a.k.a. Al Taqwa Bank; a.k.a. Bank Al Taqwa)
  17. Black Star
  18. Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (a.k.a. CPN(M); a.k.a. the United Revolutionary People’s Council, a.k.a. the People’s Liberation Army of Nepal)
  19. Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA) (a.k.a. Continuity Army Council)
  20. Darkazanli Company
  21. Dhamat Houmet Daawa Salafia (a.k.a. Group Protectors of Salafist Preaching; a.k.a. Houmat Ed Daawa Es Salifiya; a.k.a. Katibat El Ahoual; a.k.a. Protectors of the Salafist Predication; a.k.a. El-Ahoual Battalion; a.k.a. Katibat El Ahouel; a.k.a. Houmate Ed-Daawa Es-Salafia; a.k.a. the Horror Squadron; a.k.a. Djamaat Houmat Eddawa Essalafia; a.k.a. Djamaatt Houmat Ed Daawa Es Salafiya; a.k.a. Salafist Call Protectors; a.k.a. Djamaat Houmat Ed Daawa Es Salafiya; a.k.a. Houmate el Da’awaa es-Salafiyya; a.k.a. Protectors of the Salafist Call; a.k.a. Houmat ed-Daaoua es-Salafia; a.k.a. Group of Supporters of the Salafiste Trend; a.k.a. Group of Supporters of the Salafist Trend)
  22. Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement (a.k.a. Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party; a.k.a. ETIM; a.k.a. ETIP)
  23. First of October Antifascist Resistance Group (GRAPO) (a.k.a. Grupo de Resistencia Anti-Fascista Premero De Octubre)
  24. Harakat ul Jihad i Islami (HUJI)
  25. International Sikh Youth Federation
  26. Islamic Army of Aden
  27. Islamic Renewal and Reform Organization
  28. Jamiat al-Ta’awun al-Islamiyya
  29. Jamiat ul-Mujahideen (JUM)
  30. Japanese Red Army (JRA)
  31. Jaysh-e-Mohammed
  32. Jayshullah
  33. Jerusalem Warriors
  34. Lashkar-e-Tayyiba (LET) (a.k.a. Army of the Righteous)
  35. Libyan Islamic Fighting Group
  36. Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF)
  37. Makhtab al-Khidmat
  38. Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (a.k.a. GICM; a.k.a. Groupe Islamique Combattant Marocain)
  39. Nada Management Organization (f.k.a. Al Taqwa Management Organization SA)
  40. New People’s Army (NPA)
  41. Orange Volunteers (OV)
  42. People Against Gangsterism and Drugs (PAGAD)
  43. Red Brigades-Combatant Communist Party (BR-PCC)
  44. Red Hand Defenders (RHD)
  45. Revival of Islamic Heritage Society (Pakistan and Afghanistan offices -- Kuwait office not designated) (a.k.a. Jamia Ihya ul Turath; a.k.a. Jamiat Ihia Al- Turath Al-Islamiya; a.k.a. Revival of Islamic Society Heritage on the African Continent)
  46. Revolutionary Proletarian Nucleus
  47. Revolutionary United Front (RUF)
  48. Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC)
  49. The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF)
  50. The Islamic International Brigade (a.k.a. International Battalion, a.k.a. Islamic Peacekeeping International Brigade, a.k.a. Peacekeeping Battalion, a.k.a. The International Brigade, a.k.a. The Islamic Peacekeeping Army, a.k.a. The Islamic Peacekeeping Brigade)
  51. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)
  52. The Pentagon Gang
  53. The Riyadus-Salikhin Reconnaissance and Sabotage Battalion of Chechen Martyrs (a.k.a. Riyadus-Salikhin Reconnaissance and Sabotage Battalion, a.k.a. Riyadh-as-Saliheen, a.k.a. the Sabotage and Military Surveillance Group of the Riyadh al-Salihin Martyrs, a.k.a. Riyadus Salikhin Reconnaissance and Sabotage Battalion of Shahids (Martyrs))
  54. The Special Purpose Islamic Regiment (a.k.a. the Islamic Special Purpose Regiment, a.k.a. the al-Jihad-Fisi-Sabililah Special Islamic Regiment, a.k.a. Islamic Regiment of Special Meaning)
  55. Tunisian Combat Group (a.k.a. GCT, a.k.a. Groupe Combattant Tunisien, a.k.a. Jama’a Combattante Tunisien, a.k.a. JCT; a.k.a. Tunisian Combatant Group)
  56. Turkish Hizballah
  57. Ulster Defense Association (a.k.a. Ulster Freedom Fighters)
  58. Ummah Tameer E-Nau (UTN) (a.k.a. Foundation for Construction; a.k.a. Nation Building; a.k.a. Reconstruction Foundation; a.k.a. Reconstruction of the Islamic Community; a.k.a. Reconstruction of the Muslim Ummah; a.k.a. Ummah Tameer I-Nau; a.k.a. Ummah Tameer E-Nau; a.k.a. Ummah Tameer-I-Pau)
  59. Youssef M. Nada & Co. Gesellschaft M.B.H.
U.S. Treasury Department’s Designated Charities and Potential Fundraising Front Organizations for FTOs
  1. Makhtab al-Khidamat / Al Kifah (formerly U.S.-based, Pakistan)
  2. Al Rashid Trust (Pakistan)
  3. WAFA Humanitarian Organization (Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates)
  4. Rabita Trust (Pakistan)
  5. Ummah Tameer E-Nau (Pakistan)
  6. Revival of Islamic Heritage Society - Pakistan and Afghanistan Branches (Kuwait, Afghanistan, Pakistan)
  7. Afghan Support Committee (Afghanistan, Pakistan)
  8. Al Haramain Foundation (Indonesia, Kenya, Pakistan, Tanzania, Bosnia, Somalia, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Albania, Ethiopia, Netherlands, Comoros Islands, and United States branches)
  9. Aid Organization of the Ulema (Pakistan)
  10. Global Relief Foundation (United States)
  11. Benevolence International Foundation (United States):
  12. Benevolence International Fund (Canada)
  13. Bosanska Idealna Futura (Bosnia)
  14. Stichting Benevolence International Nederland (Netherlands)
  15. Lajnat al Daawa al Islamiyya (Kuwait, Pakistan, Afghanistan)
  16. Al Akhtar Trust (Pakistan)
  17. Taibah International (Bosnia)
  18. Al Haramain & Al Masjed Al Aqsa Charity Foundation (Bosnia)
  19. Al Furqan (Bosnia)
  20. Islamic African Relief Agency (IARA) / Islamic Relief Agency (ISRA) (Sudan, United States and 40 other branches throughout the world)
  21. The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (United States)
  22. Al Aqsa Foundation (United States, Europe, Pakistan, Yemen, South Africa)
  23. Commité de Bienfaisance et de Secours aux Palestiniens (France)
  24. Association de Secours Palestinien (Switzerland)
  25. Interpal (Palestinian Relief & Development Fund) (United Kingdom)
  26. Palestinian Association in Austria (Austria)
  27. Sanibil Association for Relief and Development (Lebanon)
  28. Elehssan Society (Palestinian territories)
  29. Aleph (Aum Shinrikyo/Aum Supreme Truth)
  30. Rabbi Meir David Kahane Memorial Fund (Kahane Chai and Kach) American Friends of the United Yeshiva (Kahane Chai and Kach) American Friends of Yeshivat Rav Meir (Kahane Chai and Kach) Friends of the Jewish Idea Yeshiva (Kahane Chai and Kach)
  31. Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association (Real IRA)
  32. Socorro Popular Del Peru/People’s Aid of Peru (Sendero Luminoso/Shining Path)
That's a huge list; we clearly are making a number of enemies around the world.

But what the hell do those six questions - or those three long lists - have to do with The Girl's ability to recommend a good piece of fiction to a fifth grader? To help a third grader use Google to look something up? To put together a lesson on how to use a table of contents? Or even to put together a PowerPoint on the rules of the library?

Does the State of Ohio think that she's going to pull the little children aside and say "now, biographies are shelved just after the 900's, Allah is the greatest, glory be to Allah, praise be to Allah, there is no god but Allah, kill the infidel"...or "well, if you liked that, you might try to Captain Underpants series, and remember that the English should be killed if they won't leave Northern Ireland"?

No, there is absolutely no way that any of those questions have any bearing upon her job performance, and there is no reason that they should be asked of new hires for every licensed job in Ohio; every person seeking "employment with the State, any instrumentality of the State, or any political subdivision of the State"; or anyone "entering into any contract to conduct business or provide funding [to] the state, any instrumentality of the state and any political subdivision of the state". (check the reference here).

None whatsoever.

And merely asking them undermines our freedoms - the freedom of speech, the freedom of organization, the freedom of free association.

Inch by inch, nibble by nibble, these are being slowly taken away from us in the name of protection, under the guise of keeping us safe from the destructive hordes that would otherwise threaten our way of life, have their bearded ways with every mother and daughter in the country, and even spit out our apple pie.

Even if you think that such questions are innocuous, because they're not asking for loyalty to the state, take a look at the oath that every California state employee - including professors at state universities - is required to pledge:
I, ____________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties upon which I am about to enter.
The oath also carries legal weight - check the California constitution for reference. They even have laws about signing and not believing the oath - check here.

People have even been fired because they added in the word nonviolent before the phrase about "defend[ing] the Contitution of the United States...against all enemies, foreign and domestic" - source here.

We are living in a time when many of our leaders - President, legislators, governors, and local leaders - are choosing to favor safety over freedom. I will, however, always choose freedom over safety, and I agree with Benjamin Franklin to the Pennsylvania Assembly:
They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

And I think I bought a raffle ticket from #30 on that last list a while back. I'm thinking perhaps I should be more careful in the future, but he said I could win a trip to Las Vegas. Who knew?

June 29, 2008

The Boss

Bruce Springsteen...just because...


"The River"

"Cadillac Ranch"

"Born to Run"

"Glory Days"

"Because the Night"

"Secret Garden"

an interesting "Star Spangled Banner"

...in High Fidelity

...and finally a live tribute to Tim Russert...

...Bruce Springsteen...sort of...

And if you want to see most of his videos, they're not embedable, so you'd have to check out his channel...including the one I'd say is his best...

June 28, 2008

Put 'em all together, and whatta ya get?

Thank heaven for Wikipedia, as ever so often I should say it...

I got a bee in my bonnet to make this week's Seeqpod list out as supergroups, and there were a whole bunch of them listed over there.

I took only the ones that I considered to be the truest examples, and here's what you get. Anybody got any other really strong cases from the list or otherwise?

The groups that best fit the definition got two tracks, the others one.

SeeqPod - Playable Search

June 27, 2008

Not Wanted

Just a heads up...I saw Wanted today and wanted to make sure that you didn't waste your money...




Two images for today

It's really odd to be sent a link to an image of The Pater Familias turned into some form of political cartoon. I know the background of the image comments - he's been fighting development of a piece of property behind his house, and apparently one of the council members is the sister of the proposed developer - but it's amazing to me to think that anybody else, even the folks in The Hometown, would think the event importent enough to turn it into some sort of cartoon. Thanks to CoachSullivan for pointint out the image and its source blog that I'll certainly be paying attention to from here on.

And I love this comic...love it...and I still love the source commercial...

June 26, 2008

So, here's the dealio, yo

Because I know you want to know every little thing that happened to me over these past couple of weeks that I've been absently posting for you...

And if you don't care, you can just come back tomorrow...when the real posts will resume...

On the way out, we broke in to stayed out The Girl's aunt's house in Edmond, OK - a 'burb of OKC. Nothing thrilling there other than some pointless driving around trying to find a Panera so we could use their free wi-fi and pick up some dinner.

There was a lunch stop in Amarillo so we could get the first of many fresh tortillas - and green-chile-cooked-pork - on the trip, then onward to Albuquerque for dinner at the Frontier.

Very tasty, cheap dinner complete with more green chiles. We wandered the Nob Hill section of Albuquerque and stopped in the next morning at the farmer's market - no chile powder or cumin just yet, however, so onward to Flagstaff after a stop at Earl's in Gallup.

Yes, food was a bit of a constant on the trip. It's the southwest, and, as Bowling for Soup says, "the Mexican food sucks north of [there] anyway".

From Albuquerquequeque, we headed on to Flagstaff to camp for a night in the hills outside town, in the shadown of Sunset Crater that thankfully hasn't erupted since around 1065. Good times in Flag as we really dug the climate and the whole vibe of the college town meshed with the hiker/biker groove.

--- warning, the next part is a fairly detailed summary of our Canyon hike...if you want less detail, skip down to when you see this kind of note again... ---

Camped the next night at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and set the alarm for 3:30am so we could be on the trail at first light (4:30am). We loaded up the packs and headed over a very windy rim of the Canyon and down the South Kaibab (click here for a well-done virtual hike)...

The Girl set off at a pace a little faster than mine, and I let her take the lead as the chilly winds blew us down from the 6000-ft-high South Rim down to the 2000-ft-high Colorado River in the Granite Gorge. By the first rest stop, our paces were about in step, and we'd been passed a couple of number of times by speedier hikers, and my right knee was starting to feel a bit pained. Luckily, I remembered to switch up which foot you step down with, and the pain disappeared pretty quickly.

By the second rest-stop (4.4 miles to Tip Off) it was about 8:00am, and the 60-degree temperatures we'd started the hike with were now up to about 90, and we each had forty or so pounds on our back. We were eager for any shade that we could find, and we had reversed our paces as I now set off in lead.

The trail is amazingly well marked, having been built from old miners' trails by the CCC in the 1930's, but the constant downward march can be hard on every part of your legs. After another mile or two, The Girl was lagging seriously behind, and I was stopping pretty frequently to make sure that she was still back there. As we rounded into the sun time and time again, she was flagging badly, and finally admitted such when we could see the first suspension bridge across the river.

She was talking about leaving her pack behind and coming back for it after she felt better, and she later admitted to me that she'd been getting dizzy and nauseous and had stopped sweating - in spite of the fact that we'd both headed over the Rim with about four liters of water and gatorade and plenty of snacks for the full hike.

We took more frequent breaks, and I kept trying to make sure she was okay, and once we made it across the bridge...

...she went another few hundred yards and set down to drop her pack. We were by then about half a mile from the campground, and she was clearly in a bad way. I picked up her pack and lead her into the campground, guiding her directly into the cold stream to regain her senses.

In all honesty, I knew she wasn't too far gone because she was still lucid, but she clearly was in no shape to do any more hiking that day - or as I was starting to understand, to complete the rest of the six-day rim-to-rim-and-back trip we had planned. So I left her in the chilly water of Bright Angel creek - the most wonderful part of the Bright Angel campground, honestly - and went to get things set for the day's and night's camping. It was, by that point, 10am, and the thermometer at the campgrounds was already registering triple digits. By mid-afternoon, the same thermometer - admittedly in the sun - was reading 130, and the one just behind the bulletin board in the shade was 110.

Good times.

Oh, and the water main bringing water to the campground from near the North Rim had broken the day before, so fresh water was being limited.

I'm glad The Girl had remembered to bring her Aqua Mira drops, because we spent the day drinking creek water and chilling our legs in the water.

It's admittedly, a little sparse at the bottom of the Canyon with about twenty-five camping sites - all filled for most of the summer - and Phantom Ranch with its canteen selling cold drinks and a bit of time under the swamp cooler, but it's an amazing place, a gorgeous, lush, green oasis in the middle of a Canyon that is amazingly hot all summer long.

After The Girl had recovered herself a bit, we went to speak to the rangers about modifying our trip, changing our reservation plans from five more days across (with three more camping nights) to one more night and a broken-up trip back to the South Rim. Once we explained that we hadn't been trying to do a rim-to-rim-and-back in a day (something that apparently crazy people do really attempt to do in one day - the ranger spoke of a man who knocked on his door at 2am the previous morning 3/4 of the way done with the 44-miles in 24-hours, rim-to-rim-and-back insanity), he helped us out by getting our reservations switched to Indian Garden for the next night meaning that the six days of hiking (7, 7, 7, 7, 7, and 9 miles each day) would become three days of hiking (7, 4.6, 4.5 miles, instead).

At the crack of dawn the next day, we set out again, headed this time up the Bright Angel trail (the same guy does a great virtual tour of this trail, too) toward Indian Garden. Most of the day's 4.5 miles was spent in shade as the deep Canyon doesn't get the full brunt of the sun until after we'd stopped hiking
for the day, and the trail crosses a small creek a half dozen times before the campground, giving us ample opportunity to dunk our hats and bandanas to cool off.

The girl and I got into Indian Garden sometime around 10am again - heading up always takes longer than heading down and much of the first part of the trail is nothing but beach sand - and looked around for a similar creek to the one at Bright Angel campground. The creek at Indian Garden, however, was fairly well dried up, and we had to find a way to entertain ourselves among the dry, still Canyon air - at least only up to about 95 degrees in the shade this time as we were partway back up to the South Rim.

The girl took a fitful nap, worked a few of her Sudokus, and read a bit. I started and finished a book (review forthcoming another day), worked some Sodokus, played solitaire, and won nine of our eleven hands of Gin.

Time was passed, an early evening was turned in - the sun goes down in the Canyon around 8:30, but I was mostly sacked out around 7 or so, trying to get some shut eye in spite of stillness and heat.

Up before the crack of dawn again, we headed up the last four and a half miles to the South Rim (still following the virtual tour, of course - including amazing photo of the trail from above, a view we never got to see as we didn't head out to another vantage point once we crested the Rim again)

Started in shade again, but we quickly found the sun and headed up the longest, hardest set of switchbacks that I know of on in the Canyon (or anywhere else, though my experiences are somewhat limited). Once the sun hits, it beats down upon you, and the mules pass by kicking up the dust. It's a rough finish to the hike, but there are some impressive views and sights along the way, including a fairly close encounter (probably about thirty feet away) with a condor sitting along the ledge...

Apparently the California Condor was reintroduced into the Canyon a decade and a half ago. The site of the huge bird sitting there and - even more impressively - soaring in the final red rocked climb up the trail was a nice reward for all our hard work.

By the time we finally made it through the tunnel and back to the South Rim, we were whupped though our calves had finally loosened up. We had been doing the hiker shuffle our last couple of mornings before the legs loosened up.

Just before the tunnel, we managed to see an NPR reporter carrying a recorder and boom mike on a mule taping a story. No luck in finding the

We ambled our way back to the rental car and drove to Mather Campground for a warm shower ($2 for eight minutes - can't be beaten after the long hike), a visit to the gift shop, a stop for q-tips and ibuprofin at the general store, and a lunch of chicken pot pie and lemon cake (on my part).

--- Quick summary...Karlen didn't do well in the heat...we hiked down in one day and changed the six-day hike into a three day hike, taking two days to get back up to the South Rim... ---

Ten miles from the South Rim Village to the North Rim Lodge as the crow flies...twenty-one miles of hiking...or the route that we ended up taking that afternoon - 215 miles and five hours of driving around to see the North Rim which is amazingly gorgeous.

Along the way, we stopped off at Grandview Point...and Desert View...

...and saw the old Navajo Bridge, the only driveable crossing of the Colorado River - just down from Lee's Ferry - for hundreds of miles...

We hung out at the North Rim for a night, staying just outside the park at the Kaibab Lodge where we managed a phenomenal dinner of raindbow trout with grilled shrimp, maple glazed carrots, and cheese tortellini (I know, three days of granola bars, beef jerky, ramen, and instant spuds made me hungry), and the sunset from the back porch of the North Rim Lodge.

It's amazing how much different the North and South Rims feel, the North being so much less travelled, so much calmer, absolutely wonderful. If ever you get the chance to head out to the Canyon, make sure to get around and enjoy the North Rim. Well worth the extra drive.

Okay, quick hitters for the rest of the way homeward - 'cause it's late, and I'm about to run out of the day.

One night in Flagstaff where we realized that a town of 50K isn't quite as lively as we had previously imagined and where we got kind of annoyed that the hotel was going to charge an extra $50 a night on top of their weekend rate because the Pride in the Pines festival was in town...spent the last part of the evening in their library looking up places to stay and eat in Santa Fe...

Two nights and most of three days in Santa Fe...stayed at the St Francis a block or so off of the Plaza...pretty much just walked around for the few days and enjoyed the heck out of being clean and back in civilization with a real bed again...ate amazing food (Maria's NM Kitchen, Tortilla Flats, Railyard) and some decent food (Cafe Paris, Cafe Pasqual's, Zia's)...

Back to Albequirky to spend a night with The Girl's cousin and his reasonably new wife...

Back to Edmond where The Girl's aunt and uncle were in town this time...they took us down to see the Oklahoma City Federal Building memorial at sunset...

And thirteen final hours of driving back to the Queen City...

More for later...we listened to Middlesex, War of the Worlds, and The Yiddish Policemen's Union...

For now, though, I'm thinking that's long enough...

June 25, 2008

And like the swallows, I have returned

Regular posting will resume tomorrow with a summary of the vacation.

'Til then, please enjoy...

June 23, 2008

Like that Dylan biopic from last year

The things that caught my attention before I headed on vacation...as I should've been readying myself for the vacation stuff...

June 22, 2008

The way to middle class America's heart...

...is to rework a pop song that they remember fondlybut to make it sound really different so we they think they're hearing new levels of complexity and depth in the song writing.

Guaranteed hits, folks...like a frickin' factory...

Like "Pour Some Sugar on Me" - one of the most vapid, catchy, openly-about-sex songs ever...

Or "Hey Ya" done slowly and acoustically...

How about "Gimme Shelter" withall sorts of extra emotion suggesting depth that I never got from the original..."thank you..."

Probably my favorite of the list, but clearly guilty..."In Your Eyes"...

Apparently Mr. Hedges is very guilty of this phenomenon..."Love Bizarre"...

...and "She Drives Me Crazy"...

Even big artists are sometimes guilty..."Wonderwall"...

Sometimes an artist will rip themselves off in this way..."Layla"...

This might be a little less culpible because I think lots of folks missed the message the first time around..."Born in the USA"...

Sometimes the song doesn't even have to be very old to get this treatment..."Crazy"...

With an even egregious but sadly non-embedable version here...

And finally, "Billie Jean"...

June 21, 2008

June 18, 2008

Which graduation is right?

We're a few weeks past PHS's 2008 graduation, and I think now I'm ready to talk about what went down.

We sent about four hundred members of the Class of '08 across the stage at Cintas Center and handed each of them a diploma cover - to be filled in after the ceremony. There were a number of black-robed folks up on stage to escort them along - school board members, principals, central office folks, counselors - and the graduates were then ushered on along and down the steps on the far side of the stage.

I took up my usual and awesome vantage point right at the stairs up onto the stage, keeping the timing right, pausing the grads for a moment before they headed up, reminding them to spit out any gum so they'd look right in their picture, congratulating nearly all of them, and generally making small talk to calm the last minute nerves of - especially - the girls who chose to wear the high heels for the first time ever.

Everything was note perfect from the time they gathered at PHS, loaded the busses bound for Cintas, lined up in the small gym, headed to their seats, and stepped toward the stage.

And that's where the heart attacks started...

"The Princeton Way" of graduating is a rather formal affair. The students are arrayed in alternating rows of red and white with the top students, foreign exchangers, and senior a capella folks up front. We get a couple of none-too-thrilling speaches, and the grads head to the stage.

Their names are read, the live video of the ceremony is shown (now with their names below them in the shot) on the scoreboard up in the rafters, they shake a couple of hands, and head onward. Applause is - according to the principal's request prior to the ceremony - to be held until the final graduate's diploma holder is handed out. No one graduate is to be celebrated individually. Family and friends are not to single out any one over the others.

This year, however...

We got students throwing down their mortarboards (never knew why it was called that, huh), whipping their dreadlocks around, stomping across the stage, dancing, shaking, opening their arms to the heavens, and generally doing a lot more celebrating individually than communally, no matter the gentle hands of administrators trying to usher them along. We got parents - honestly no worse than in the few years past - who set off air horns, clapped and cheered, and yelled - some during the initial processional, some as their graduates crossed the stages, some during the speaches.

And then we got principals and teachers talking afterwards about how to fix the problem...how to make sure that doesn't happen again next year.

We'll give 'em community service hours if they demonstrate like that.

We'll make them pick up their diploma a month later if their parents carry on like that.

We'll warn them in advance of their punishment.

We'll make the parents sign a behavior contract are else they don't walk.

We'll limit the number of tickets so they don't just hand out tickets to any fool in our hallways.

And I'm a little bothered by that.

My dad and mom both graduated from high school before I did, and my sister was certainly headed that way when I matriculated from good ol' NAHS. Heck, Dad had even checked off the whole college degree thing - with a bonus masters, too. (Mom's college experiences apparently involved drifiting off each spring so she could play Dylan songs in the sunshine. Not exactly a plan for getting handed a sheepskin.) They didn't scream my name when I shook hands back as part of the class of nine-two.

They didn't even scream or yell when I got my Wabash diploma - and that one really was printed on sheepskin. Admittedly, Mom tried to embarass me a different way, but that's a tale for another day.

Stay on topic, man...

When I was a high school freshman, my dad sat me down - probably at Mom's insistance, I know the man - and asked me what my goals were for the next four years. Did I want to try for valedictorian? Did I want to get straight A's? What did I want to accomplish?

Nope, none of those. I told him I figured I'd do well enough, but straight A's and the #1 ranking weren't important to me. (I finished #5, right behind Lexi Shallers, not that I'm bitter...) I guessed I wanted to make the radio staff so I could be on air (two years, lots of hours on air, thank you very much).

Did I at least want to graduate and head to college, he asked?

Well, yeah. I thought that was assumed...my flip answer.

In my head, not graduating from high school wasn't an option. I was at least going to get that far and was pretty sure I was going to graduate from college, too.

So there was no reason to whoop and holler for me.


And I feel almost condescending in saying this...

Not every one of the students who went through commencement on June 2nd at Cintas knew they were going to graduate.

Not every one of them could have been so casual with saying that they were going to get a high school diploma.

Not every one of their parents had one, not every one of their siblings had one.

Getting that diploma is a big deal for some of them, something to be celebrated for the years of hard work and struggle, for the acknowledgement by the massive institution of PHS that they accomplished something.

And I'm kind of thinking that they deserve a chance to celebrate, a moment to bask in their glory.

Sure, there's a part of me that wonders just how ready they are for the real world, how good a job we've done in preparing them - particularly some of our graduates who just scraped through with low graduation test scores, low grades, and just few enough discipline issues to make it onto that stage...

But how can we congratulate them but ask them not to celebrate?

How can we please the half (probably more, maybe 2/3rd) of the crowd who still wants that calm, dignified ceremony while still allowing the students to celebrate their moment?

Maybe we need to have a mock ceremony in which we show them what is and what isn't appropriate...but who's to make that decision, draw that line?

Is it okay for a kid to wave to the crowd?

To whoop once?

To cry?

To blow a kiss toward her family?

To blow a kiss toward heaven?

To stomp once?


Add in a holler of yes?

I have no idea...I know it wasn't what I was going to do, but that doesn't mean much, and lord knows I'm far from the final arbiter.

And just when have things gotten so far out of hand that the principal really does step forward and do as he and his predecessers have threatened and shut down a graduation? Is it worth killing the ceremony for four hundred graduates and a few thousand friends and family just because a dozen people aren't behaving the way we want them to - not the right way, I won't go that far?

What if it's thirty people whooping and hollering?

What if every fifth graduate moonwalks across the stage?

Every other?

And would that be wrong if they did?

I don't, by the way, honestly have any clue how to solve this or even if it needs solving.

Your opinions are, as always, welcome.

June 17, 2008

And more from li'l Niki...

I've mentioned Niki Huey before. She's a former student who headed west after graduation to work in modeling and film, appearing in a number of print ad campaigns, one atrocious movie, and now she's in an NKOTB video.

I get that a job's a job, but holy schnikies, she's probably about twenty-two years old, and she's playing the part of girlfriend to thirty-nine year-old Donnie Wahlberg. That's gotta be a little creepy for her.

But congrats for her rising profile. Hopefully she'll keep getting more and more high profile jobs.

June 16, 2008

Shut up already!

Boomer-era classic rock is not just music but a life force. As a member of Generation X, I should know -- I've been strong-armed into an appreciation of '60s and '70s pop culture my whole life.
I know this year is an important anniversery of the events that totally formed who you and all your stinkin' fellow baby boomer buttmunches.

I know that RFK inspired you and would've been like the greatest president ever, but he didn't actually do anything other than give some apparently good speaches.

I know that 1968 was the high-water mark, but every generation has its own wave.

You don't hear the Greatest Generation telling us everytime it's the 60th anniversery of every stupid Frank Capra movie, but you won't shut up about the anniversery of Rosemary's Baby and how much The Graduate just captured exactly how you felt back then.

Shut up, already!

June 15, 2008

Ok, I lied

One more week, folks...since I'm currently somewhere in the Grand Canyon...

Just ever knew what they were going to do...

They just might break out the classic head rusher gag...

Or just hit us with a stereotypical cop...

Sure, we loved them, but we weren't clutish...

Even the between-sketch clips were entertaining...

There was that one time a woman actually showed up on the show...

Or the time the reminisced...

They were clearly destined for the top...

They didn't even feel restricted enough to stick to comedy purely in English...

They tried all the creative possibilities...

In the end, however, the trappers just might have been my all-time favorite...

June 14, 2008

A royal pain

Actually, I rather enjoyed putting today's seeqpod list together...commoners need not apply...

SeeqPod - Playable Search

June 13, 2008

In honor of the possibility of Anchorman 2

My favorite Will Ferrell movies:
  1. Stranger Than Fiction
  2. Anchorman
  3. Zoolander
  4. Talladega Nights
  5. Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back
  6. Honorable mention: Elf, Austin Powers, Wedding Crashers
My favorite Christina Applegate movies:
  • Sorry, I've apparently only seen two of her movies, so we'll move along
My favorite Paul Rudd movies:
  1. Anchorman
  2. Romeo + Juliet
  3. Clueless
  4. Knocked Up
  5. The 40 Year Old Virgin - hated it
  6. Honorable mention: The Shape of Things, not because I've seen it but because I read the plot once and have been utterly fascinated ever since
My favorite Steve Carell movies:
  1. Anchorman
  2. Bruce Almighty
  3. The 40 Year Old Virgin - have I mentioned that I hated this?
  4. Little Miss Sunshine - hated it even more
  5. Seriously? I've only seen four of his films? Amazing...
My favorite David Koechner movies:
  1. Thank You For Smoking - best film in today's top fives
  2. Man on the Moon
  3. Anchorman
  4. Talladega Nights
  5. Wag the Dog
  6. Dishonorable mention: Balls of Fury - wow, was that horrible...A Guy Thing - possibly worse than Balls of Fury...The 40 Year Old Virgin - last time, I promise, but blech
My favorite Fred Willard movies:
  1. This is Spinal Tap
  2. Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle
  3. Best in Show
  4. A Mighty Wind - It's growing on me...kinda sweet.
  5. Anchorman
  6. Honorable mention: Waiting for Guffman, Austin Powers...this is clearly not a man destined for leading man roles

June 12, 2008

Coloring my opinion

Sure, color does make up a big part of our world, so it's probably important enough for an encyclopedia article, but Wikipedia's entry on colors links to a list of colors which just proves yet again that Wikipedia is either the most impressive collection of knowledge our species has ever gathered or a giant mess of minutia that has so much crap as to be effectively useless.

Sure, there are the pretty standard colors like red, blue, and green - even those aren't exactly without debate - but then we get into the slightly less well-known colors like...
  • Davy's Grey - which is described as being a greeny grey colour
  • amaranth - a reddish-rose color that is a representation of the color of the flower of the amaranth plant
  • carmine - a particularly deep red color that apparently has seven different named sub-carmines
  • tenné - a "stain", a rarely used tincture, an orangish brown colour
  • zinnwaldite - a color that resembles the mineral zinnwaldite
  • gamboge - a rather transparent dark mustard yellow pigment
  • cosmic latte - the name assigned to the color of the universe, given by a team of astronomers
  • cerise - a deep to vivid purplish red
I'll admit that I guess it makes sense to have some names a little more individual than just "a deep to vivid purplish red". And if we have the names, we might as well compile them somewhere, and I guess Wikipedia is about as good a place as any for it.

Plus they also have a list of every Crayola crayon color ever.

Image courtesy of BombaCarta.

June 11, 2008

Check the 826

Head over to 826 National and read what they're all about.

Seriously, go over there and at least skim through the purpose and description of what they are and what they want to do.

If you did that, skip the indented part and read from just below that. If you're stubborn and didn't head over there, read this bit stolen word for word, letter for letter from their website:
826 National is a nonprofit tutoring, writing, and publishing organization with locations in seven cities across the country. Our goal is to assist students ages six to eighteen with their writing skills, and to help teachers get their classes excited about writing. Our work is based on the understanding that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention, and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success.

After the founding of 826 Valencia, the flagship center in San Francisco, educators around the U.S. joined in to pursue the same goals in their local communities. Now 826 Valencia also serves as the headquarters of 826 National, an umbrella organization that coordinates the adaptation of 826’s tutoring and mentorship model in other cities. Already, 826 has sister centers in New York, Los Angeles, Ann Arbor, Chicago, Seattle, and Boston. Through volunteer support, each of the seven 826 chapters provides drop-in tutoring, class field trips, writing workshops, and in-schools programs—all free of charge. 826 chapters are especially committed to supporting teachers, publishing student work, and offering services for English language learners.

Because we believe the proof is in the pudding, 826 programs almost always end with a finished product, such as a newspaper, a book, or a film. This teaching model, known as project-based learning, encourages students to collaborate and to make creative decisions, and gives them ownership over the learning process. Working toward a goal, our students are inspired to revise until their work is perfect. They leave with new skills and a newfound passion for writing. And then they come back. Each 826 chapter is a warm, welcoming place where students can get things done. Maybe they’ll produce a chapbook. Maybe they’ll make a movie, or polish a college-application essay. We offer all of our services for free serving families who could not otherwise afford the level of personalized instruction their children receive from 826.

Our corps includes thousands of enthusiastic volunteers who make this all happen. Our volunteer tutors include law professors, college students, authors, retirees, and advertising copywriters. They come from all fields, but have one thing in common: they love to help students learn. The demand for 826’s services is tremendous. At many of our centers, our field trips are fully booked almost a year in advance, and the majority of our evening and weekend workshops have waiting lists. And new teacher requests for in-school tutor support continue to pour in.
As with about half of the things that I know, NPR introduced me to the 826 project, a half dozen stores around the US that promotes writing among young people.

I dig that the writer folks are helping young people explore their creativity and become better writers.

It does make me wonder if the money couldn't be better spent helping some of the same kids to work on some of the needs a little lower on Maslow's heirarcy.

June 10, 2008

Rolling along and reading along

We're a few days into summer vacation, and I'll be leaving you guys in another couple of days. Not to worry, though, as I've got a house & dog sitter all lined up, and I've got posts ready to roll into place every day for the next few weeks. Heck, I've got the Saturday and Sunday posts ready well into July at this point.

And I've managed to consume some media, too. First out of the blocks is...

...the new DMZ collection, number four in the series of trades, Friendly Fire, somewhat based on the Haditha killings in 2005.

DMZ is outstanding, tip to tale one of the best series being run and dropped from the four color presses month in and month out:
DMZ is one of the most powerful and important comics being produced these days. Brian Wood has created an interesting and unique look at current events and has given us numerous characters for the reader to latch onto and care about. Matty Roth is a great character because she represents the common person who has not been aware of what’s going on but is slowly learning what’s important. Sure, the book has a political message, and that may not be to everyone’s taste, but the plot of the book is engaging enough that you can see it as pure fiction and still enjoy it...

DMZ really is the total package. It’s also one of the best gateway comics on the market as it’s well drawn, well written, and totally important to the times we live in. I wonder how well it will age, as so much of it is tied into current events, but I think this is one book that deserves a wider audience. It’s not the goth faux supernatural book that many people identify with Vertigo. It’s just an artist using the medium to tell a unique story. And it’s one of the books I look forward most to every month.
All true...all very true.

But I will say that this arc didn't grab me quite as much as the first three had. The tale is that Matty - our main character - is investigating an incident of true ambiguity in which the soldiers of the remaining American states fired on a group of protesters. The story is told from various points of view with each character believing their version at differing levels of certainty.

The art is solid; the story is well put together; and it just doesn't quite make the cut for me. Solidly good. Not quite solidly great. It's a seven where the rest of the run has been nines and up.

Last time at the 'bery, I screwed up and instead of hanging with the graphic novels, I got all lost and headed into the 741.5's. There I found Percy Gloom, a little slice of not so superhero comicdom.

Percy's reviews, none of which I've ever read - even as I write this, are pretty solid, and they're deserved. For a guy used to the floppity, floppity trades, this slice of hardcover novelty was a serious change-up.

And I dug it.

Percy's a thoroughly depressive little man whose entire dream is to write cautionary messages and find his love love Lila without too much pain and suffering - another thing that he seems destined for. In all his brown and white goodness - check the preview here - he fights the good fights against his natural state of sadness and comes out the other side with a happy ending.

For the first half or so, it was good, nothing exciting. By the end, however, I was all smiles on my face.

Give it a chance and dig it yourself.

I'd seen the movie, and I was smack in the heart of the 741.5's when I found the hardcover version of 300 - which apparently you can totally read for free over here. So I was all in. Heck the cover alone (which I've got to the right, 'cause I'm awesome like that) had me solidly grabbed and locked down.

I'm thinking that I took things in the opposite direction by seeing the movie before reading the story, but such is the way of life. If I'd gone the right way, I might've been more impressed. The movie, however, is such a faithful adaptation of the novel - even filling in some of the details that the novel didn't originally have.

The imagery is outstanding, bloody and brilliantly colored, matching the material marvelously well where the black and white harshness of Sin City fit its material so well. Frank Miller takes a few liberties with the story, but he crafts a heck of a tale and rocks the massive pages with great visuals.

If - by some weirdo possibility - you haven't seen 300 yet, read the book first so you can appreciate the movie. If you're going the other way, it's still worth the read, but I'm guessing it won't be nearly as revelatory.

The Girl took long enough in getting a gift for her student aide that I was able to read the entirety of World War Hulk in the store, and it was a blast.

It's all old-school, sure-there's-a-reason-but-who-cares fighting between the strongest freak on the planet - amped up to his full potential and no longer the mindless brute that most of us grew up reading about - and everybody in the Marvel universe. I've not been through all the crossovers (just the X-Men one), and I can't speak to their quality, but I will say that the core title of the event is a hell of a lot of fun.

A while back, Marvel set up these events by having the Illuminati chuck Hulk into space, sending him to a planet where he'd never do any harm. They misaimed, however, and dropped him onto a gladitorial planet where he grew stronger and stronger, having to have his wits about him to survive. They then - or so Hulk thinks - blew up his shuttle, killing everyone on the planet including his wife and unborn child.

So he comes back to Earth a little angry. And, man, did I enjoy him angry.

His first stops are to gather up the Illuminati who had exiled him - Black Bolt, Tony Stark, Mr Fantastic, and Doc Strange - apparently Prof X was out of town and Namor had already ditched the buggers, so they get off nearly free. He cripples the four and sets them to gladitorial combat against each other while the world watches.

Most every Marvel hero gets a shot at stopping the Hulk but nobody is even remotely successful because they all just make Hulk angrier and stronger with each punch. Then Marvel brings in the biggest of big guns, the agoraphobic Sentry, a character with an interesting back story (originally a hoax, eventually an elephant in the Marvel room). In the end, Sentry - along with Tony Stark - knock the Hulk out once his anger subsides as he finds out that his belief that the Illuminati killed his love and child, Skaar, wasn't quite true.

Great read...loads of fun...

Last one this week was 52 Aftermath: Four Horsemen, a follow-up to the unending line of crossovers (Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, 52, World War III, next up is Countdown) in which the big three of DC - which is always interesting in that Wonder Woman's profile really is so much lower than the other two - are rising back to the leadership of the DCU.

The storyline - bringing back four villians from the 52 / World War III minis - is interesting enough, with four god-like baddies from Apocalypse brought to Earth and bent on total destruction. Of course, the holy trinity of heroes step up and, after a decent enough fight, stop the destruction.

The tale isn't disinteresting, but I don't see any sort of necessity to this mini-series. The artwork's ok, as is the story itself. The most interesting development is the continually rising profile of Oolong Island from 52's run. The creation of another nation to harbor bad guys - the role of Bialya for a decently long time before its recent wiping from the face of the Earth.

More stuff coming some other time, folks...

June 9, 2008


Last year's list of summer projects wasn't a good list as very few of the tasks were accomplished, so I'm going to simply list the activities and trips that I already have planned and that are flat out going to happen. At the end of the summer, I might list the things I've accomplished, but until then, I'm going to shut up about that.

Before the school year begins again, I'm heading to...in chronological order
  • the Grand Canyon...the Las Vegas/Chicago/train parts of the trip have been scrapped, so it's renting a car, driving to the Canyon and back via Albuquerque, NM and Norman, OK in both of which we'll be staying with parts of The Girl's family for a night each way
  • Hyde Park...for the Hyde Park Blast on June 28th...no, I'm not running it or running in it, but I am volunteering with some of my students to man a water stop...
  • The Hometown...to help out with The Pater Familias's tennis tourney and hopefully see Cold North Gamer
  • The Homestead...a week or two of R&R and bachelor fun with The Girl out in Colorado for a girls' weekend with a couple of her friends
  • Weston, FL...where I'll be suffering at the Hyatt Bonaventure for the School & Youth conference for the LLS...and a game at Pro-Player Marlins Stadium out in section 141
  • The City...to catch games at Shea and Yanqui Go Home Stadia before they get plowed into oblivion...with a side trip up to East Freetown, MA to visit a friend from high school
  • The Homestead...and homeward...
...all of that within two months...we'll be eating through gas like it's going out of style, and we'll be visiting dozens of different states...and checking three more ballparks off of the list.

And someday there will be the promised rest and relaxation of the summer, but not for a little while. 'Til then, we'll be taking advantage of the awesomeness of summer break.

June 8, 2008

Closing the trio...

And three straight weeks is as far as I'll take you...

Buddy Cole was one of their recurring characters...

As was the Chicken Lady...

And Sir Simon...

And Cabbage Head, too...

Sizzler and Sizzler took up pretty much an entire episode...

The waiter with stumps for hands, however, was a single timers...

It was a bit of a show for loners...

And for geniuses, too...

Ya just never knew what you'd get from the Kids...

Sometimes they'd just speak directly and emotionally to the audience...

Or they'd occasionally and randomly insult entire nations...

But their sketches were never mistakes...