Wednesday, November 30, 2005
It was a chilly morning when we laded in Paris, but no worse than the weather we had left behind in Detroit 9 hours prior. Some people had warned us about traveling on the day before Thanksgiving; widely know as the busiest travel day of the year. Apparently, nobody travels internationally that day, as the international terminal was a ghost town, and everything was a breeze.
Now in Charles De Gaulle airport, we were hustled past customs agents who barely glanced at us before waiving us through (I would later see that the security was much tighter to enter the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay than it was to enter France in the first place) and on to a train terminal.
After buying train passes for 5 days (thankfully in a transaction performed entirely in English, too tired and confused for a complicated French conversation just yet), and desperately needing a smoke, we stopped in at a fast food stand in the airports train terminal. Just to have a place to site down, I bought a couple of Cokes. At about €5 each, or $6, Coke is twice as expensive as wine. This would be the last day on the trip when I would buy any beverage without alcohol, with the exception of coffee.
Into the city, into the underground
Once we were on the train, we rode through the outskirts of Paris (yep, all those places filled with fire damage and graffiti that were part of our news the last few days) while a woman sang “Those were the days” en francais, before passing a cup around. I have to say that French panhandlers work for their money!
Our first experience with a Metro station was Chatelet. Chatelet is one of the more massive stations in the city, because almost all of the train lines intersect there. Switching train lines here was a complex procedure that required dragging our luggage along with a heavy flow of people who were intent on getting somewhere fast, all the while navigating by reading signs that were not in our first language. It was not something I want to do again, but we survived.
After switching trains, we go off at a Metro stop a block form our hotel. Our hotel, Le Grand Hotel Des Gobelins, was a nice little old hotel. The rooms were small but nice, we had our own bathroom, and the staff was friendly and spoke English very well.
Walking, walking, walking
After dropping everything off, we started walking. We would walk a lot over the week, but for our first day we decided to take it easy and just walk to the Seine.
First we walked a few blocks, and looking at my map, I realized we were walking the wrong way (when you travel from place to place underground, it’s easy to lose your bearings); once this was corrected, we wandered to the Seine, and into the Bastille neighborhood, and to a café for jambon et fromage, a ham and cheese sandwich on a baguette that is the cheapest item on many menus, but really good. We would have these almost every day as well. We also had un pichet au vin, house wine served up in small pitchers. Wine was the cheapest thing to drink anywhere, but I wasn’t complaining.
Cafes are social places in the city that are often frequented by regulars. It’s a lot like your neighborhood bar or diner, with the additions of dogs, who are welcome in bars restaurants, stores, etc. This café in particular had a customer with a golden retriever who took a liking to me, and sat with her head in my lap for a half hour. What better warm reception could one get in Paris?
Like I said, we had decided to take it easy our first night, we just took the train to the Eiffel Tower, and were there when they lit it up. When they light up the Eiffel Tower, it’s one of the most godawfully painfully gaudy things you’ll ever see, like a giant epileptic disco ball over the city. The tourists cheer as it’s lit up, and for cheering they all deserve to be put into seizures. That being said, we stood and laughed at it for quite some time.
Nicole at the Eiffel Tower, fortunately/unfortunately after the spastic lights were turned off (Sorry about the quality, but she's the professional photographer, not me! They do get better as we go, though!).
After watching this monstrosity for a few, we decided to continue our laidback evening by walking a few more miles, all the way to the Arc de Triomphe and down the Avenue des Champs-Elysees in a rainstorm.
Once we were thoroughly soaked and miserable (but still in Paris!), we went back to the hotel, dried off, cleaned up, and went to a little restaurant called Au Bon Coin, which our concierge at the hotel had recommended. We had escargots, I had duck, Nicole had lamb, and we had crème brulee, as well as the requisite wine and espresso. It was wonderful. Everything was also served with pommes frites, or French fries. Even though the French like to point out that French fries are not French, they serve them with everything, even in gourmet restaurants. And they are good, better than any fries here. While we did not confirm this, we suspect that the reason is that they are cooked in animal fat, not vegetable oil.
Restaurants in France are generally intimate spaces, which means they are small. But they try to use all of the available space, as many restaurants are really only big enough for about seven to 10 tables. You can get a table for two, but it’s six inches from the next table. It was something we actually got used to very quickly.
One more observation before I conclude my recap of Day One: French people are very nice when you make the effort to speak French. Everyone treated us very well, and most people spoke enough English that they met me halfway, and we got through the exchange. I did however see some ugly Americans who started every exchange with a person by loudly asking “DO YOU SPEAK ENGLISH?” These are the people who were treated rudely; but they deserved it. Everyone I dealt with was very patient with my basic French, and very accommodating.
This concludes Day One. Check back soon for Day Two! We’ll see if I get quite so detailed next time. What do you think; was this too much detail?
Onward to Day Two...
Wednesday, November 23, 2005
You need to drive down the expressway really fast, playing Andrew WK really loud, and do air guitar along with the rhythm guitar.
Make sure you only do the rhythm guitar and not the lead guitar. In the shape you’re in, trying to mimic the lead guitar is not a wise idea. It could be dangerous.
Last night was my wife’s birthday. We went out to eat at Union Street. When we were leaving a homeless woman came up to me. I usually walk right on past the homeless as they ask for money. It’s a well-known scam in Detroit that some homeless people make more than I do, and many are not even homeless. This woman, however, simply said, “please sir, I’m very hungry.”
So I gave her my leftover carryout.
With a soft and simple, “God bless you, sir,” she took the food and walked around the corner to eat meatloaf, mashed potatoes and lobster fettuccini.
It felt really good. I know it will taste a lot better to her than it would to me.
Heading to Paris in a few hours. Talk to you all on Tuesday.
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
Last night’s Redwings game was the most upsetting, frightening sporting event I’ve ever watched, and it had nothing to do with the actual play.
We were watching the game over pizza and Guinness at Rosie O’Grady’s in Ferndale, when, midway through the first period, with the Predators up 1-0, play stopped. The camera panned to the Redwings bench, where all I , the viewer, could see was chaos.
Players were yelling and were circled around paramedics. You couldn’t see who they were working on, but you could see that he had a red jersey on. And you could see that they were performing CPR.
The commentators were unsure of what happened, and were unwilling to announce the player’s name until they had confirmation. As they speculated over what had happened (Was he speared with a stick? Did he take a puck to the throat?), the paramedics continued to work, and Brendan Shanahan helped a young girl across the ice as they wheeled the player back to the locker room on a stretcher. The entire crowd at Joe Louis was silent, and the cameras showed the worried faces of the fans in the stadium.
Eventually the announcement was made: Jiri Fischer, our 25-year-old powerful defenseman, had a seizure. And just slumped over. And his heart stopped. He was conscious and responsive as they sent him to Detroit Receiving, but it was really scary.
It’s not something you think about when you’re watching a sporting event. In hockey, people get checked, they get cut, they get stitches. Occasionally someone gets really hurt, like when a puck to the chest stopped Chris Pronger’s heart a few years ago, or when an eye injury ended Yzerman’s season, and nearly his career, last year. There are all of these concerns that the players deal with and try not to think of; the last thing they’re considering is that their own health (and Fischer did have a heart abnormality) could be the one to put them on the stretcher.
So, I’m wishing Fischer a solid recovery, and I hope that he’ll be back on the ice soon. As my wife said last night, it would have almost been better had this been a puck or stick injury, because a seizure could point to a serious condition that could end his career.
Link to News Story
Monday, November 21, 2005
Pat Robertson, while appearing to pray on the 700 Club, flashed the Official Secret Devil Sign.
This hand signal, known (sic) arond the world as shorthand for "Hail Satan" confirms the allegiance of Covert Satanist Pat Robertson, also known as a 33rd degree Mason and notorious proponent of the Satanic agenda for Planet Earth.
It remains to be seen if his public display of Satanism will affect his popularity among his followers, as they often seem to be playing for both sides themselves.
I’m leaving for Paris on Wednesday.
The chaos and the car burning have pretty much ceased. Now we’re dealing with train strikes.
The rail went on strike today. The Metro will go on strike on Wednesday. They report that they are only 24-hour strikes (link), so keep your fingers crossed that things will be running smoothly when we get there.
I apologize for the sparseness of posts for the next few days. I will do my best to post often until we leave, but this blog is not the first and foremost in my brain right now.
I just realized that post #100 on my blog quietly came and went. No fanfare, just some words...
Saturday, November 19, 2005
I heard on the news that when the sun set on Barrow, Alaska last night, that was all the sun they get for the next 66 days.
I couldn't handle that. At least we have sun to go along with our cold here.
Like today. It's cold, but it's sunny. And I know that the sun will continue to come up.
It's just the cold I could do without.
Oh well, it’s better than having ants eat your eyeball.
Friday, November 18, 2005
Just when you think it's an ordinary day, events take place that shake the very foundations of your beliefs. For example, I didn't think pigs could talk. I was apparently wrong.
Here is a pig that talks, in a sassy French accent, even!
The pig, named Mouse, says “hello,” and it really sounds like hello! She can’t say anything else, but come on, she’s a pig. I mean seriously, how much do you people want? Jeez.
From the story:
Pig expert Dr Kate Breuer said Mouse’s “talking” may be due to an odd-shaped voicebox. She said: “I’ve never heard of anything like it. People say pigs are intelligent enough to do some things. But I’ve no idea how she’d generate this.”Here’s the real question, then. What the hell does one do to become a “pig expert”?
Does it pay well? I would hope not, if all you have to do when you’re a “pig expert” is walk around making noncommittal comments like that one. Seriously, where are the real "pig experts" when you need them?
Link to story
Link to audio of Mouse saying “hello”
Ok, here’s one more reason to not rush into the Christmas season: Christmas lights cause cancer.
The wires on Christmas lights are coated with PVC to make them flexible. That coating likely contains lead. Lead has been known to cause cancer and birth defects.
Of course, this is the same coating found on every other cord and cable (including the Halloween lights) you handle every day (Responsible journalism? Not exactly.), but why maximize the exposure by decorating for Christmas already?
I went to the midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire last night. It rocked.
I promised Writer Mom that I wouldn’t give anything away, so I will give a brief and non-detailed review.
It was, by far, the best Harry Potter film thus far. I’m not sure if this is simply because it’s darker, and that adds more depth to the film, or that this time was the best visualization of the world of Harry Potter and Hogwarts yet.
The kids are growing up, and there is more depth to their performances, and the ancillary characters are well-portrayed. The arrival of the students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang to kick off the tournament are some great cinematic eye-candy, Brendan Gleeson brings depth to the character of “Mad Eye” Moody, and Ralp Fiennes gives us a great performance as Lord Voldemort.
Look for an appearance from an all-star band. It was supposed to be the Weird Sisters, but the band now appears as an nameless entity after a Canandian band with the same name threatened to get the film banned in Canada (and themselves lynched by Canadian Potterheads). The band includes Jarvis Cocker of Pulp, and Jonny Greenwood and Phil Selway from Radiohead. The end result is a rocking band which will make the soundtrack worth owning. It also opens the viewer up to the true magic of the world of Harry Potter; it’s a world where Radiohead never existed, and Thom Yorke’s whiny voice never happened.
Link to official site
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Coffee, it would seem, is really good for you. Except when it isn’t.
I got to thinking about this last night when I was reading an article in Outside magazine that was talking about a study on coffee. For years, some athletes and trainers have insisted that the diuretic properties of coffee can lead to dehydration before a workout. I never let this deter me, as I would be a mess if I tried to ride a mountain bike trail in the morning without the benefits of caffeine on my reflexes.
Now, a study has come out that says it’s OK to have some coffee before a workout; coffee is no more of a diuretic than water. So coffee is good for you.
While there have been several studies done that show caffeine is a mild diuretic, there is no evidence that exercise, when combined with the consumption of caffeine or caffeinated beverages, will result in chronic dehydration, and this is contrary to the advice of most exercise physiologists, physicians and dietitians.
Unless you’re pregnant. If you’re pregnant, drinking more than three cups a day can double your risk of miscarriage. So coffee is bad for you, especially for women.
The results seem to show an increased risk of foetal death from increased coffee consumption in pregnancy. Pregnant women may want to review the amount of coffee they drink.
Unless you’re a women who worries about high blood pressure. Studies now show that women who drink four or more cups of coffee a day are less likely to develop high blood pressure than women who don’t. Coffee is good for you, especially for women.
There was even some evidence [that] women who drank lots of coffee - four or more daily cups of regular or decaf - faced a slightly lower risk for developing high blood pressure than those who drank little or none.
Unless you drink decaf. Apparently, it’s not the caffeine that’s bad for you. Drinking decaf can lead to a rise in harmful cholesterol, and cause heart disease. So, coffee is bad for you, especially if you drink decaf.
Contrary to what people have thought for many years, I believe it's not caffeinated but decaffeinated coffee that might promote heart disease risk factors.
Unless you want to boost anti-oxidants. Studies are now showing that all coffee, including decaf, is our number one source of anti-oxidants, which can fight cancer and diabetes. It’s not necessarily the best source, but it is high enough in anti-oxidants that it’s where we get most of ours. So coffee is good for you.
All coffee, whether a shot of espresso, a paper cup of Colombian laced with half-and-half, or an after-dinner decaf, is rich in anti-oxidants, which are also found in vegetables, fruits, tea and red wine.
What gives? Coffee, like alcohol, has been praised and vilified by various scientific studies forever. Why can’t we make up our mind?
Is it economic? It could be; coffee is the second-most traded commodity in the world, after oil. Over six million metric tons of coffee are produced each year. If it was truly found to be bad, it could be devastating to the industry. I mean, look how everyone quit smoking when it was discovered to bad, and the way we all stopped driving when we realized how we were polluting the environment.
Is it the fun police? Hot coffee was created by the Arabs in 1,000AD. When it reached Rome, the Catholic Church denounced it as the devil’s drink, Satan’s gift to the Moslem infidels. It wasn’t until Pope Clement VIII tasted coffee in the late 1500’s that it was decided to be too good to be bad. The Pope blessed the coffee, and it was then approved. Perhaps bastions of Christianity still frown upon coffee, and would like to cleanse their congregations of it. Stranger things have happened.
Regardless of the reasons, and regardless of whether coffee is good or bad for you, one thing is true; coffee tastes good. It makes me feel good. I have a cup every morning during the week, and half a pot each morning on the weekend. This won’t stop, regardless of what the next new study says.
In fact, all this talk of coffee makes me want to go find another cup right now.
The fun facts on the history of coffee came from here.
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
I don't like snow.
Remind me why I live here again? Yesterday we were pounded with rain that flooded the streets. Last night, the wind howled so loudly that it was difficult to sleep. Today, it's snow.
I'm not a fan of the cold weather, and if it weren't for Julie and her Punk Fitness class, I would have no physical activity during the cold season at all.
Incidentally, Julie cancelled Punk Fitness last night. She had a flat tire, and wasn't going to mess with it on a rainy night. So she got to fix it in the snow instead.
I hate cold weather. It's like it has frozen my brain as well. I don't even have any ideas or desire to post today. So this is what you get.
On a lighter note, there is only one week until I leave for Paris. That's good.
I also want to give a shout out to my girl Harriet on her birthday. Harriet is 175 years old, and currently lives in the Australia Zoo, which is owned and operated by none other than Steve "The Crocodile Hunter" Irwin.
So if you're in the neighborhood, stop in and wish the old girl a happy birthday. You'll swear she doesn't look a day over 150.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
That being said, occasionally I come across things that make me happy, if not proud, to be American.
At least in America, one can recover from surgery peacefully in the hospital without worrying about whether ants are going to eat your eyeball.
In India, nurses told a diabetic woman recovering from surgery that the pain she was feeling was natural as she recovered from infection. Her family removed the bandages the next day and discovered that ants had been “nibbling” on the lady’s eye.
The hospital’s statement?
It’s not uncommon for ants to attack diabetic patients.So tonight, as you reflect on the day, or while you’re watching the news, fuming over the idiocy of the GW Bush administration, repeat this phrase to yourself at least once:
Oh well, it’s better than having ants eat your eyeball.As for me, I think this may be my new mantra.
I just read today that Marla Streb is pregnant!
For those of you who are not into mountain biking, Marla Streb (or “my girlfriend”, as my wife likes to call her) is only like the most amazing woman pro downhill racer ever!
In addition to all her titles (VeloNews lists nine NORBA downhill victories, two single-speed cross-country world titles and a World Cup downhill), she has written a book, "Downhill: The Life Story of a Gravity Goddess", and been featured riding down a bobsled track in the IMAX movie “Top Speed”.
To top it all off, she took place in the “Hell Ride” this year. “Hell Ride” was a contest with simple rules:
Her baby is due in April. Hell Ride was in August. You do the math, and realize how hardcore she is.
1. A guy and a girl won the chance to race in Hell Ride.
2. In Hell Ride, the two riders had to ride with Marla Streb and Mark Weir, and keep up.
3. The ride lasted for 12 hours, over 14,000 feet of climbing in sweltering heat.
4. If you kept up, you got to keep the bike. If not, no bike.
I entered the contest; even though I had no chance in hell of finishing, I wanted to meet Marla Streb (In a cruel twist of fate, she had been the featured speaker at the Michigan Mountain Bike Association annual meeting, just months before I joined that organization).
At any rate, as I wrap up my moment of hero worship, I want to extend a heartfelt congratulations to someone I consider one of the most amazing athletes today, and further boggle everyone’s minds by mentioning that Marla is planning on returning to racing next year as well.
Hard frickin’ core.
Link to news story
Link to Marla Streb’s blog
Link to Marla Streb’s site
Monday, November 14, 2005
When we go to a film, nine times out of 10 we choose the Emagine. It’s not for it’s seats, sound or movie offerings. The Emagine is like every other multi-screen mega-cinema in the Metro Detroit area, except for one thing – they have a bar in there.
There is nothing like watching a movie with a cocktail or a large draft beer in your cup holder. And, with the price of theater concessions being what they are, alcohol is not much more then a fountain soda.
It surprises me that more places don’t cater to drinking patrons; it would generate more revenue and make your visit more interesting. Imagine if you were allowed to have a few drinks at the zoo, or at your local historical museum. It could make things much more interesting. And wouldn’t the edge be taken off of parent teacher conferences if you were allowed to do a tequila slammer with your kid’s math teacher?
Well, the latest alcohol-serving venue owes its existence to the Irish. A nursing home in Dublin has added its own pub – right on the premises.
Imagine if you, in your older years, were to end up in a nursing home. You don’t get around so well, but all of your friends are there. Wouldn’t being able to wander down for a pint make things a little more fun? That’s the idea here, where they believe the pub improves the quality of life, and actually extends the lives of the residents. From the article:
“We would say the whole social aspect of life does extend the years -- it means the patients aren’t bored to death,” Rose Mooney, assistant director of nursing told Reuters.Also, wouldn’t it make you feel better about having an elderly relative in a home, knowing they had these facilities? And it would feel less uncomfortable to visit grandpa in the pub for a beer than sitting in the common room of a nursing home.
I think this is a great idea. I hope it catches on in the states, and if the time comes, my kids let me live out my golden years in a place like this, where everybody knows my name, even after I've forgotten it.
Link to story, originally found on Fark.
Last night accidentally ended up being Thanksgiving at our house. With Paris coming up, we are not going out to eat (to save money). So we went grocery shopping. While at Kroger, on the hunt for a good comfort food dinner, and discussing that we would be in Paris on Thanksgiving, we ended up making Thanksgiving early.
We brined the hens first, too. If you never tried brining a bird before roasting it, I have to say that I am now a staunch advocate of the process!
Our 2005 Thanksgiving menu
Rock Cornish game hens, stuffed with garlic mashed potatoes
Acorn squash, baked in maple syrup
OK, it's not really the massive spread that makes up most Thanksgiving meals, but it was just the two of us, and we are usually lucky if our meals consist of more than one dish. Counting the potatoes, this had three!
We also had a great bottle of sparkling dry riesling from Shady Lane vineyards, located in Zilla's neck of the woods.
I realize it's been a while since I updated my list of blogs I frequent, so I wanted to give a shoutout to these guys, and I will be updating my sidebar soon:
These guys help me get through the day.
When I was in high school, before the advent of the Interweb, my friends and I put out a zine. For those of you too young to remember, a zine is an honest flesh and blood magazine, presented in a format that isn't hampered by things like production values, content editors, or common sense.
We cranked out one of these things once a month, focusing on punk and heavy metal music. We had about 50 readers, and the thing ate up money in printing costs and postage. But we did get a ton of free records and cassettes out of it.
Now we have blogs. This is like the zine, except it's slicker and less expensive. I also like to think that over the years I have refined my skills as well. I have more than 50 people who read it, and they are more intelligent and interesting than our former metalhead readership. And it's more interactive; we comment on one another's sites, and we all read each other's opinions.
Again, it's like a real magazine, except it doesn't rely on production schedules or the need to cater to advertisers.
If this is the future, I like it.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
So I went biking instead.
Sunday, I managed to get some of the stuff done. I put all the patio cushions in the basement, and covered the patio furniture with tarps.
These were tarps that were in the back of my shed. As I pulled the last tarp out to cover up the patio chairs, I saw movement against the wall, behind a rake, under where the tarp I had just grabbed had been sitting.
This guy was sleeping in my shed, under the tarp.
The last time I looked, he was still in there. I hope he leaves tonight. Anyway, he was next to my lawnmower and rakes, so at least I have an excuse for not doing the rest of the yard work.
Remember, I am not an artist, but here it is.
Know what it is? It's my bike. It's also an exercise in perspective. If you haven't figured it out, picture yourself laying on the floor, head on towards the bike, like it's about to run over your head.
There you go.
Friday, November 11, 2005
Depending on which “source” you consult, the average person eats 10-12 whole spiders a year, and some two to three pounds of miscellaneous spider parts. I’ve come to terms with this. Let’s move on.
Do you know how many dead baby turtles you drink each year? None.
Unless you drink Folgers coffee, that is.
An Iowa woman found a baby turtle in her bag of Folgers freeze-dried coffee. I guess that's kind of the opposite of espresso, huh?
The best part?
Morris said she already had been making coffee from the same package for a month before the discovery.If you’re skeeved out by that, then you should also know that a representative with the company said that, since many Folgers plants are in New Orleans, the little guy could be from the flooding due to Hurricane Katrina. Also from the article:
"It makes you think ... it is not just Folgers, it could be anything that is packed on the coast or any place with the hurricane trouble and flood trouble," she said.What’s next? Snakes in my Zapp’s potato chips? Baby Alligators in my bottles of Turbodog? This warrants further investigation.
It could also be a wakeup call to the woman; switch brands. Folgers makes nasty coffee, anyway.
If you’re a paranoid psychotic, as many of the people who seem to read this site are (you know who you are!), then this is some news that is of the utmost importance to you.
You know those aluminum foil helmets you’re wearing around the house? They’re not working. In fact, they are making things worse.
Engineers at MIT performed a study on multiple types of foil helmets, prized and recommended for blocking radio signals that the government may be directing at you in order to read your thoughts or directly control you, depending on who you ask.
The foil hats actually serve to amplify the signals, especially in frequency ranges used by the government. From the study:
It requires no stretch of the imagination to conclude that the current helmet craze is likely to have been propagated by the Government, possibly with the involvement of the FCC. We hope this report will encourage the paranoid community to develop improved helmet designs to avoid falling prey to these shortcomings.So what’s next? Lead helmets would probably cause undue neck strain and back problems, so I’m leaving it up to you guys to figure out a proper protective covering to block out these frequencies.
The findings of the study are published here, and a related news story can be found here.
A golden retriever puppy born last week in Northern California came out more green than gold. How punk rock is that?
The puppy, named Wasabi, was green at birth, but apparently this has nothing to do with the mother being made of cheap gold (Gold? Golden retriever? Cheap gold turns your finger… oh, forget it). Veterinarians say this is possible if the placenta, which is green, rubs off on the puppy during birth.
The article doesn’t mention if the puppy will be green forever. We can only hope so.
It also fails to mention how much funnier this would be if the puppy were an Irish setter.
I always wondered if we could get some designer dogs done up in different colors. A plaid puppy perhaps? I’m also surprised evolution never created plaid or floral print puppies. Plaid and floral prints would probably help them blend into furniture and drapes, ensuring the survival of the domestic dog.
There are a few more photos at the Link.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
Paris is now less than two weeks away, and I am getting very excited. I am practicing my French (three years of high school French comes back surprisingly quickly, even if that was well over 10 years ago), reading guidebooks and planning our itinerary.
Some of my friends have asked me if I’m worried about the unrest. I’m really not; all of the rioting so far has been taking place well out into the suburbs, and the only time I will even see any of the results will be on the train into and out of the city. Even this is reported as safe; while trains have had rocks thrown at them, this has been late at night; we’ll be traveling through those areas during the day.
I haven’t even looked into postponing the trip; there’s no use in living in fear, or you’ll never go anywhere. There are dangerous neighborhoods in Detroit that are closer to my house than we’ll be to the disturbances in Paris. I drive through neighborhoods on the way to work that I know not to stop in. In a metropolitan area, it stands to reason that threatening situations could exist near you. You don’t let it worry you.
And I think the final factor in the equation is that I consider myself a Detroiter. That doesn’t make me a badass, or someone who thinks he can go anywhere and be fine because he’s a Detroiter, or even that it gives me any special amount of street cred, although it has. (The best way to shut down a Carolina Redneck who sneers, “Y’all ain’t from ‘round here” is to reply, calmly “No, I’m from Detroit.” That smoothes things out real quick.)
I think that being a Detroiter, and in fact probably being from any major city, makes you more aware of your surroundings. When you’re in a metropolitan area where people are stacked on top of one another, you’re better able to feel out any situation, and decide immediately if you don’t want to be there. I am originally from a rural area, but I think I have picked up this skill when I moved to the city. My brother has never lived in the city, and he is usually quite oblivious to situations.
Is it a survival skill? I think so. I think it’s something one needs to develop in order to make it in congested areas. Awareness of one’s surroundings is important.
When we were in New Orleans, stumbling drunkenly from bar to bar around the French Quarter, we accidentally walked out of the touristy area. Within 100 yards, we realized that things were very uncomfortable, and people were staring (even though we were wearing feather boas, that's pretty standard for the French Quarter), it was painfully obvious we didn't want to be where we were, and we promptly turned around and walked back in to a better area.
Conversely, when we were in London, we followed a friend’s recommendation to check out a particular neighborhood. When we got there, it was obvious it was a poor rough neighborhood. Buildings were boarded up, and graffiti was everywhere. But the people on the street were genuinely friendly, the food was excellent, and the Guinness was cheap. We didn’t feel unsafe, and we had a great night.
I think that says it all about being from the city; it doesn’t make you tougher than anyone else, it does let you know when you’re somewhere you shouldn’t be, or when an area is safer than it looks.
So we’re going to Paris. We’re going a bit cautiously; the U.S. Embassy will have our itinerary and information in case anything happens, but I am more concerned about being able to order a glass of wine without looking like an ass than being swept up in civil unrest.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Team Angry Monkey HQ at the finish line
Team Angry Monkey's gear piling up next to the beer cooler at the finish line
Researchers in Edinburgh have discovered that having parasitic worms in your body may actually be beneficial.
Regions of the world with high rates of parasitic infection also have low rates of allergies and asthma. A link has now been discovered. A child infected with certain parasites may have no adverse symptoms, but their bodies will be producing beneficial T cells that prevent asthma and allergic reactions.
From the article:
Without parasites, some people might be overly vulnerable to immune problems, so good hygiene may be partly responsible for the spike in asthma in developed countries.This may lead to the discovery of drugs that can fight asthma and allergies by mimicking the body's response to parasitic worms.
Until the, you apparently have the option of not washing your hands and drinking from mud puddles in order to pick up one of these invaders, or you can just keep Claritin and an inhaler handy.
If you want to learn more about parasites and the fun things they can do to your body, be sure to check out the Parasite Pals Super Fun Site, which has fun cartoons, information and resources to buy merchandise featuring all of your favorite Parasite Pals!
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Two scientists at the University of Columbia have just released the findings of their latest study. The results of this study are likely to surprise hillbilly high-schoolers across the country.
Cowtipping is just a myth.
Even though it's something you probably have heard about people engaging in when you were a teen, physics prove it's simply impossible to push over a cow.
According to the facts, it would require five people to overpower the mass of a cow. Two may be able to do it; but only if they were strong and fast, and the cow the did not react at all. This is highly unlikely, as cow is a living, breathing animal that is not going to stand still while you push at it.
Cows, it's also noted, do not sleep soundly while standing, and will hear anyone trying to sneak up on them, especially due to the primary attribute of cowtippers, which they also point out:
Most of these ‘athletes’ are intoxicated.
What are these country kids supposed to do for fun now?
Check out the article. It has a great graphic explaining the physics behind cowtipping as well. Link
The drive up was relatively uneventful. The caravan hit the road three hours later than anticipated, but that’s not uncommon with this bunch. One member of the team was arrested on the way to meet up, but we were able to bail her out of jail in time to head out (or maybe she simply got pulled over and got a ticket; that was a few days ago and it’s hard to remember).
After registering and checking into the hotel, we made our way to Minerva’s for a carb-loaded dinner and a just enough alcohol to make everyone sleepy.
Race day was cool and cloudy, and spirits were high as we met at Dunkin’ Donuts for breakfast and headed to the starting line.
With 2,000 riders in attendance, the excitement level was high in the parking lot where we got ready to race towards a destination 27 miles and a few hours away.
Yours truly and my wife as we prepped for the race
Mike and Erika (yes, that’s the famous Erika of Plastic Tacos) who were half of our support crew
The lovely ladies of Team Angry Monkey!
The course was hard and sloppy, and 1-2 miles longer than last year. The hills were intense. I fell a few times, I think all of us did.
But we all finished (I was 15 minutes worse than last year, but again I’m happy to have done it.), and I have to say that there was no prettier sight than seeing the support crew at the end with fresh clothes, my jacket, and a cooler full of Labatt Blue at the finish line.
Two more racers, Justin and Chad, at the finish (that shell-shocked look is pretty typical at the finish, even before the cooler full of beer was opened)
Kristen and Adam at the finish (note the plastic cups, also known as the universal sign that you are drinking in public)
After the race, we were once again off and running. There was no time to rest, it was time for food and beer.
The official Team Angry Monkey after-party was an exclusive event held at a very private club known as Room 332. Mark, in the top right corner was responsible for that banner, as well as being one quarter of the support crew.
What did we learn? Well, while I felt I did pretty well overall, and finished well on my team, I finished last in my class. I don't think I'm an aggressive or fast enough rider to race sport class, and I will be demoting myself back to beginner class next year (where I would have finished comfortably in the middle of the pack). But, like last year, I was just there to do it.
Yes, we have all agreed to do it next year. I think it will be bigger and better than ever. GO GO ANGRY MONKEY!
I want to give a shout out to the members of the team – Nicole, Justin, Kavita, Maureen, Adam and Chad. Everyone worked really hard to do this race, and everyone finished. I’m really proud of all of us.
I want to give a bigger shout out to the support crew – Mike, Erika, Mark and Kristen. You guys saw us off at the starting line. Then you sat in the cold at mile 17, waving the Angry Monkey Banner, cheering all of us on as we were hitting serious fatigue and pushed us on to the finish, where you were waiting with beer and dry clothes. We never would have made it without you guys.
One more special thank you to Mark, who came up with the Angry Monkey name, designed the logo, and made the banners.
Also, I will probably have more Iceman photos to put up here later this week, as I get them.
The film essentially follows three characters as they walk through two days of disc golfing, preparing and attempting to qualify for a tournament. The film is really not about the sport; so much as it’s a character study of three people.
Most likely to avoid unnecessary exposition, each character is a bit of a stereotype. Chadken is a spoiled rich brat that you immediately learn to simultaneously hate and pity, Rene is a slightly wild, mildly trashy single mom who is trying to clean up her act, and Border is, well Border is just a drunken freak who defies description.
All of the performances were excellent, and the editing was very well done. Some of the shots, lighting and sound may have been a little rough, but no worse than many other documentaries I’ve seen, and in fact much better than many documentaries I’ve seen that had large budgets.
The lovely Ms. Erika Schultz, who portrays Rene, either pointing out that her face is on the poster, or picking her nose, at the premiere of Plastic Tacos.
As far as the film as a whole goes, it was fun, silly and light-hearted. Rene was the redeeming factor of the film (and I am not saying this just because she was played by a friend of mine). Her character was the one that elevated the film above being a simple comedy.
Her performance added an element that you could sympathize with, even as you laughed at her. She was a real person, someone who was a bit sad, and someone who was trying to move up and on. While Chadken was happy with his parents’ money, and Border was simply clueless for the most part, Rene was a character who was obviously at a point in her life where she realized she wanted more, but was unsure of what to do about it. It was a good choice by the filmmakers to portray her in this way, and the end result left you caring about, and possibly relating with, her character.
After the film, we ran outside to get a photo of Erika in front of the marquee, but due to the one-night only showing of the film, and the fact that somebody who worked at the theater was apparently trying to get out of work, it was already down. Instead, I present you with Erika, pointing out the letters that once spelled Plastic Tacos on the marquee. Ah, art can be so fleeting…
We had a great time in Traverse City, and for the most part, I have had a nice few days.
I will begin to post reports of the past few days as today goes on, but I just wanted to let you all know that I'm back.
Until you hear from me later, here's the official word on the pro finish at Iceman. Despite the course being 1-2 miles longer, a new record was set!
Thursday, November 03, 2005
The man, who pleaded guilty to stealing DVDs from a video store and resisting arrest, was caught while trying to flee. From the article:
I thought baggy pants were so 1999, but apparently they are still de rigueur for the criminally inept.
Officers spotted him in an alley, and he abandoned the bike and ran, but his pants fell to his ankles and he tripped, Ferndale Detective Sgt. Patrick Jones told The Daily Tribune of Royal Oak. "Finally, he kicked off his pants and shoes" and then jumped a fence into the backyard of a house where he was captured, Jones said.
I hope nobody was hanging out in that back yard, only to be greeted by a man with no pants or shoes hopping their fence.
I am in the midst of final preparations for Team Angry Monkey’s polar assault on Traverse City where we are taking place in Iceman. This involves collecting driving directions, tying up loose ends at work, arranging the caravan and talking trash with some fellow bikers. I may attempt another post or two today; we shall see.
Tonight, I will be attending the premiere of Plastic Tacos. I urge anyone local to check it out. I may be able to give a recap tomorrow morning, depending on the state of preparations.
Tomorrow morning, we are off to Traverse City for the race, and more importantly, the race afterparties. I might post on this Sunday or Monday morning, time permitting.
Monday, I will be attending a funeral. My great-grandfather passed away, and with him goes the last of a generation of my family.
I will return on Tuesday at the very latest, with reports on the movie and the race. So please, check back often, but don't worry if I'm not around.
Until then, Powodzenia.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
The first sentence of the story reads as follows:
Quaker Maid Meats Inc. on Tuesday said it would voluntarily recall 94,400 pounds of frozen ground beef panties that may be contaminated with E. coli.Now, I don't know if interWeb journalists are held to lower standards or have tighter deadlines, but don't they have any proofreaders over there?
And on the topic of frozen ground beef panties, does one thaw them before trying them on? Or do you slide them on while they're still frozen, all cold and slippery?
This whole thing boggles my mind.
In California, wildlife experts are puzzled about an increasing number of animal attacks. This time st’s not the random mountain lion or bear we are used to; apparently the deer are amassing their forces to crush the humans encroaching on their territory.
So far there have been two attacks against people, one fatal, and three attacks against dogs, one also fatal. But this is probably only the beginning.
I've never heard of a deer seeking out and attacking dogs," said Todd Smith, editor-in-chief of Outdoor Life. "Most deer are deathly afraid of dogs and they're afraid of people.Is this another sign of the final days? The news is really starting to give me the impression that there are a lot of animals out there that would like to be rid of us.
But really, can you blame them?
This morning this was not the case. As my alarm kicked on, I was awakened to this:
"On the first Noel, the angels did sing..."That's right, the radio was playing Christmas music.
I didn’t complain that Christmas decorations were already for sale in the stores, it just meant that Halloween decorations were already on clearance. I didn’t mind that. But hearing Christmas songs in early November is too much!
With this in mind, I am going to do my best to post as much Halloween as possible for as long as possible. If they can start Christmas earlier, I can run Halloween later, too.
So here’s another photo from Halloween, this time of Yours Truly.
Happy Halloween, everyone!
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
Because it's so hard to let go of my favorite holiday, I want to give you one more dose of Halloween Goodness.
These are my Jack O'Lanterns, Steve, Jerry and Steve. You'll notice that Steve looks like a mental patient carved him with a spoon. That's because a squirrel ate his face.
Hope everyone had a Happy Halloween!
I think that poor spelling plagues us as a nation. Everybody has a humorous story about a poorly placed typographical error somewhere.
I was really thinking about this on my drive into work this morning. As I sat, stuck in traffic (an entirely separate issue), I was stuck for ten minutes behind a truck for a company that promised "proffesional carpet cleaning." It was a "proffesional" graphics job, too, which leads me to believe that there are company signs and letterheads out there with this same copy. Really, how "proffesional" do you think this company can be? And has anyone even pointed this out to them?
It's nationwide. In New Jersey, there was a problem with a brochure for people who wanted to order special license plates:
The toll-free number with information about handicapped or animal-friendly plates has one of the new 8-8-8 area codes, instead of the usual 1-800 numbers.When the brochure was printed with a 1-800 number instead, people trying to order license plates were calling a phone sex line. Link
A writer I work with just received an e-mail describing one cosmetic company's efforts to help fight "beast cancer."
In my day job, I am a writer and editor. Spelling is a big deal around here. Even when people do use spell check, they are not proofreading their work; I have stopped errors that, while spelled right, created a meaning that was quite the opposite of what was intended.
Nobody's perfect. I often post here, and then go back to edit and tweak the content repeatedly. I think that's the important thing that's missing; people don't always seem to care about accuracy in communication. Check it, check it again, and check it one more time. Then, go back later and check it again and see how much you have still overlooked.
What typos have you noticed in your day-to-day? Did you think they were funny? Or, like me, did they just kind of piss you off?
For our anniversary on Sunday we went to see the Rodin and Claudel show at the DIA. It was an amazing experience.
Prior to the show, I had limited knowledge of Rodin. A casting of his statue “The Thinker” has always been in front of the DIA (see my awesome photo? Thanks again to MM!), but I don’t think I ever closely looked at it. I never realized it was a depiction of Dante from what was originally going to be a larger piece based on the Gates of Hell, even though “The Divine Comedy” is one of my favorite themes in art. I never noticed how much detail was in the face either.
Prior to the show, I had no knowledge of Claudel, and yet now, with these sculptures on display, I think it easy to see she was more talented than Rodin.
It was tragic story, played out over many years. He was an established sculptor and artist who bloomed late in his life. She was a prodigy who came to work in his studio and became one of his most trusted students. They became lovers, but he refused to leave his mistress.
She was 24 years younger than he was, but she always loved him. Even after he began to steal her ideas, as was painfully obvious by the placement of their sculptures side by side, she continued to love him.
Another amazing part of the exhibition was the letters. In addition to the sculptures of these artists, there were tons of their love letters on display. There was a written “contract” from Rodin to Claudel, promising that someday he would leave his mistress and marry her; in return Claudel promised to “receive” Rodin on a predetermined schedule. Rodin never fulfilled his part of that bargain.
Claudel was not exactly the tragic character I may be presenting, either. In the letters, it was obvious she was a strong woman who tormented him as well. As their relationship deteriorated, Claudel in her bitterness lowered herself to sending Rodin obscene caricatures of him and his mistress. These were also on display, and rather humorous, but also obviously drawn by a very talented artist.
After Claudel broke away from Rodin, she enjoyed some success, but she was obviously becoming physically broken from years of carving marble (another thing I learned was that most sculptors at the time hired carvers to do the work; Claudel was an exception) and mentally unhinged as well. She ended up spending the last 30 years of her life in an asylum, placed there by her brother, Paul Claudel, who wanted her out of the public eye because she was an embarrassment.
Rodin ended up finally marrying his mistress, a few weeks before she died. He died a few months later. Their sculptures, letters and photos captured this relationship that was bittersweet and tragic.
If you can, I highly suggest you get to the DIA for this exhibition. It runs until February 5, and is the only US venue for this exhibition. Tickets were $17, but it was totally worth it; after we left, I realized the exhibit was so large it had taken us two hours to get through it, and I didn’t even notice I’d been standing that long.
I also now know that there is little reason to see the Rodin museum in Paris, as a large part of the collection is in this traveling exhibition right now.