30 November 2006

Happy Birthday Mark Twain

In school I wasn't a big Mark Twain fan. I didn't really identify with naughty adolescent boys, Tom and Huck. I've since I've changed my mind. I really think the intro for school kids should be something that grabs their attention -- his sharp wit! (Maybe there is sharp wit in the Tom and Huck stories but I didn't get it at the time. Neither did my classmates.)

In the great book Letters of the Century, there is a complaint letter from Twain to New York Western Union. He describes the telegraph service in York Harbor, Maine "the worst in the world except that Boston." He is referring to a telegram that he received too late to act:
The head corpse [throughout the letter referred to as h.c.] in the New York Harbor office sent me that telegram altho (1) he knew it would reach me too late to be of any value; (2) also, that he was going to send it to me by his boy; (3) that the boy would not take the trolley and come the 2 miles in 12 minutes, but would walk; (4) that he would be two hours and a quarter on the road; (5) and that he would collect 25 cents for transportation, for a telegram which the h.c. knew to be worthless before he started it.
And later,
The boy brought the telegram. It was bald-headed with age, but still legible.
I loved his book, A Tramp Abroad, about his travels in Germany and Switzerland in the late 1800s. It's an interesting travelogue and hilarious. It contains the famous The Awful German Language which is quite hilarious but kind of painful to read.

Here, in celebration of his 171st birthday, are a few more lovely quotes.
A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.

A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.

A person with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.

Man was made at the end of the week's work when God was tired.

There is no distinctly American criminal class - except Congress.

Return to your seat please

BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese airline has calculated that it takes a liter of fuel to flush the toilet at 30,000 feet and is urging passengers to go to the bathroom before they board.

As Chinese airlines come under increasing pressure to cut fuel expenditures, China Southern's latest strategy is to encourage passengers "to spend their pennies before boarding the aircraft," Xinhua news agency reported Thursday.

"The energy used in one flush is enough for an economical car to run at least 10 kilometers," Captain Liu Zhiyuan, who flies regularly between Hangzhou and Beijing, was quoted as saying.

I guess my day isn't so bad

Feeling sorry for yourself? Had a bad day? At least an alligator didn't have you in its mouth.

MIAMI (Reuters) - Florida sheriff's deputies jumped into a dark lake and pulled a naked man from the jaws of an alligator early on Wednesday, authorities said…

Four deputies waded through waist-deep mud, wrestled the man free and pulled him about 40 yards (meters) back to shore to a waiting ambulance, Judd said.

"He was totally naked," Judd said of the victim, identified as 45-year-old Adrian Apgar.

"He admitted that he'd been smoking crack cocaine. But still, it's a human life," Judd said at a news conference. "Our deputies don't ask questions, they respond and they save people."

How does one get oneself, naked no less, into the mouth of an alligator? Neighbors heard him screaming about 4 a.m. (see complete story). Maybe the time explains it.

27 November 2006

Belated Thanksgiving message

From my coach's weekly e-mail (Judy Panek).
What an abundance of Abundance!

The delicious food, the warm traditions of Thanksgiving, the love of family and friends.

The comforts of a warm home, the safety and freedom of a great country - and peace.

Peace of heart, peace of place, peace of soul.

Let's give thanks.

For all we have, for all we experience, for all we dream about. For our visions - colorful and daring.

For all the challenges- let's be grateful.

For our Master teachers who won't let us off the hook!

For people who push our buttons which reminds us of our humanity and the road still needing to be travelled.

Let's give thanks - for the abundance of Abundance.

May you feel it, experience it, cherish it.

26 November 2006

City views from the turn of the last century

I learned of Geo.de on Julia's blog. It looks like such an interesting magazine. Much more fun to practice my language skills on than the news.

On the Geo site there's a great series of city views, like this one, from the turn of the last century. I just love the old postcard-like pictures. I wonder if my memories will soon look like these photos -- perfectly colored and ethereal.

22 November 2006

Church rant

I find a bad sermon on Christmas, Easter or Thanksgiving, or at a wedding or funeral, particularly egregious. There are all sorts of people at church at those times who wouldn't be there any other time. A lousy sermon will pretty much clinch it that they won't come back.

Today was such a day. The sermon at the church I was visiting was a fictional story about some of the Israelites after they left Egypt. Not as bad as the stories about the fictional teenager, Donald, that I've heard at this church. But it was rather incoherent and sophomoric. To top it off, the pastor admitted that he had preached this sermon six years before. Please. Don't tell people that you've put no work into it. About five minutes into the sermon I pulled out the hymnal and started reading some Psalms. Much more enlightening, and coherent, than the sermon.

19 November 2006

Pushing the mind

I read about a person who travels a lot who, in an effort to keep pushing his mind, picks up a magazine at the airport news agent before each flight. What makes this interesting, however, is that he picks up a magazine that he would never think of reading. We all gravitate to what we like and understand. And there are things that we have no interest in. His argument is that by reading things he'd never think of reading, he pushes his mind in new directions and often gets ideas that would have likely never surfaced.

I really like this idea. Yesterday at the library I picked up an assortment of such magazines. I couldn't yet get myself to pick up Road and Track or Motor Trend. My list:
  • Kiplinger's -- eyes glaze over. Involves math, shudder.
  • Backpacker -- about backpacking, hiking and camping. I hate camping.
  • Discover -- about science, technology and the future. I quickly glaze over and find so much of it uninteresting. I do find some easy-to-understand stuff interesting.
  • Scientific American -- see above.
  • Dog Fancy -- I love dogs but this magazine always struck me, due to the use of the word "fancy," as too foo-foo, too "let's put the dog in clothes!"
But first, I need to go through the pile of paper on my desk.

World design

World Design: The Best in Classic and Contemporary Furniture, Fashion, Graphics, and More is a taste treat for the eyes.

I was particularly taken by the chairs. Like Eero Aarnio's ball chair which looks so cozy but at over $1,000 I think I'll pass.

And there others that look incredibly uncomfortable like Mario Botta's Quarta and Stiletto's Consumer's Rest (aka shopping cart).

17 November 2006

How children learn

"Not every kid needs to go to college." Them's fightin' words! Earlier this work on Midday Mel Levine, a neuroscientist at the University of North Carolina and the author of All Kinds of Minds, said that and many other provocative things.

He believes we should celebrate all kinds of minds. Work on children's strengths, don't continually press them to excel in things they aren't inherently good at or have a passion for. He doesn't say that if you don't like math or you're not good at it you should skip it. But he believes our education system isn't well tailored to the way many kids' brains work. He also rails against memorizing route material.

It's a fascinating, thought-provoking and often funny speech. Makes me want to be a neuroscientist!

Listen to the speech here. Click on "listen to the call-in show, even though it's not a call-in. The speech starts about a minute into it but is supreme awesomeness. He starts out by talking about how most kids don't know what the words in the pledge of allegiance means.

Great tools available at All Kinds of Minds.

Pink Floyd

I've really been enjoying Pink Floyd lately. The music on many of the songs is incredibly beautiful. I'm particularly liking "High Hopes" (see video below).

I remember driving cross country with one of my brothers and my parents. He had "The Wall," on his Walkman. I was bored with my selection so I tried that. I only knew their song "Money" and I hated that. I was astounded by the musicality, the beautiful strings, etc. After listening to "Comfortably Numb" I turned to Steve and said, "This music is quite beautiful. I love the strings!" His look was priceless. I got the crickets.

12 November 2006

Paper, rock, scissors

Who knew? On Morning Edition last week Steve Inskeep talked to Jason Simmons, who will be competing at the Paper, Rock, Scissors championship. Funny interview.

World RPS Society, Serving the Needs of Decision Makers Since 1918.

Cats in sinks

One of the very cool women in my book club told me about this site after I told her how her cat had followed me into the bathroom. Apparently, the cat was waiting for me to turn on the water so she could play in it.

Just the other day someone told me that they have to leave the toilet seat down otherwise their cat gets into the toilet. I thought cats hated water.

Go to cats in sinks and click on "Show me another cat in a sink." You can also upload your own cat-in-sink photos.

10 November 2006

Beware the milky pirate

My friend Sandy told me about this weirdly funny video. It's unexplainable. You'll just have to take a look.

08 November 2006

Endlich! (Finally!)

Goodbye Donald Rumsfeld. Hooray! The Defense Secretary, one of the architects of the disaster in Iraq, resigned today. However, his replacement, Robert Gates, used to be the former head of the CIA. Great.

Democrats took control of the House and the Senate is about split between Democrats and Republicans. Maybe something can get done now. Some highs and lows from yesterday's voting:
  • High -- South Dakota struck down the ban on abortion.
  • Low -- Wisconsin approved a measure to amend the state Constitution to prohibit same-sex unions. Aren't constitutions designed to protect rights, not restrict them?
  • Low -- Minnesota is stuck with the passive aggressive Tim Pawlenty for another four years. He of "I don't raise taxes." However, your taxes go up because he cuts funding to cities to balance the budget. He didn't raise taxes but he did.
  • High -- Minnesota is finally sending its first woman to the U.S. Senate: Amy Klobuchar.
  • High -- Nancy Pelosi, a real fighter, will likely be the first woman leader of the House of Representatives.
  • High -- Minnesota is sending Keith Ellison, a big fighter for the poor, to Washington. He will be the first Muslim in Congress!

Sanders Says

Tim Sanders has a great post on the importance of down time. The voice of reason and successful business speaks. Being a workaholic isn't helpful! A preview (highlighting is mine):
Don't check your email this weekend

Unless you are on a project that REQUIRES your digital availability tomorrow or Sunday, blow off email.

It can wait until Monday.

Let the laptop sit in your briedcase, unopened.

If you fully commit your off time to being off, you'll find more energy on Monday -- and everybody will get more quality and quantity from you too.

Grand Poobah explained

I was jokingly referring to a colleague as Grand Poobah the other day and wondered, where did that come from?

Grand Poobah is a term that originates from Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado. In this operetta, the haughty character Pooh-Bah holds numerous exalted offices, including Lord Chief Justice, Master of the Buckhounds, Lord High Auditor, Groom of the Back Stairs, and Lord High Everything Else. The name has come to be used as a mocking title for someone self-important or high-ranking and who exhibits an inflated self-regard.

I used to work in a consulting firm. This word, in its mocking form, would fit many of the partners there. Some were a particularly weird combo -- inflated self-regard with an insatiable need for attention and acceptance. It could be tiring.

03 November 2006

Strauss on the brain

For some reason, unknown to my conscious mind, the song going through my head this morning is Emperor Waltz by Johann Strauss. I haven't heard it in ages but it's there in all it's waltzy beauty, a beautifully accompanying my work.

02 November 2006


I'm not a big fan of poetry. It is often very inaccessible to me. But Billy Collins I like! Thanks to EclectChick for introducing me to this former poet laureate. His poem, "The Dead," is just wonderful. You can hear it read on EclectChick's blog entry for Oct. 31. "Another Reason Why I Don't Keep a Gun in the House" is also quite lovely and very funny.

01 November 2006


What a fun Halloween! I took two of my nieces trick-or-treating. It was horribly cold and windy but they didn't mind. They got a huge candy haul. When I was little you'd get one, maybe two, pieces at each house. Not so anymore. They would get wads of candy at each house.

My witch's hat wouldn't stay on because of the wind so I wore a stocking cap instead. I didn't look much like a witch then so I said I worked at the Starbucks in Uptown. You can only see one of the girls here. The other one is too easily identifiable in her princess costume (the Web sometimes attracts too many freaks for full identification of children).

Sophie had many little hands touching her and urging her to her tricks. And of course, there was Billy. It's like a World Wrestling Federation match when Billy and Sophie get together. It's all in fun but they can sound quite ferocious. It used to scare the kids but now they yell "dog fight!"