Friday, May 30, 2008

10 Classic Books That Have Been Banned

Mental Floss, one of my favorite sites to visit daily, has a list of 10 Classic Books That Have Been Banned, including where and why. My only quibble is whether a book published 15 years ago (The Giver by Lois Lowry and the only one on the list that I haven't read yet) should be considered a "classic." Of course some might say the same about a kid's book like The Lorax, but there's no doubt that anything by Dr. Seuss qualifies as a classic. Here's the list:

1. The Call of the Wild by Jack London was banned in Yugoslavia and Italy and was burned by Nazis.
2. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck was banned in many places across the U.S., but was particularly banned in California because the book depicted the state badly.
3. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss has been banned across the U.S. for it’s allegorical political commentary.
4. Ulysses by James Joyce was banned for sexual content. The ban was overturned in a court case called the United States vs. One Book Called Ulysses.
5. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque was banned in Nazi Germany for insulting the Wehrmacht.
6. Animal Farm by George Orwell was delayed in the U.K. because of its anti-Stalin theme. It was confiscated in Germany by Allied troops, banned in Yugoslavia in 1946, banned in Kenya in 1991 and banned in the United Arab Emirates in 2002.
7. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner was banned in Kentucky because it was "anti-Christian" and contained bad language.
8. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell was banned in South Africa in 1955 for using the world "Black" in the title.
9. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger was banned in lots of places across the U.S. because the character exhibited "inappropriate" behavior, plus bad language and sexual content.
10. The Giver by Lois Lowry was banned in a few states including California and Kentucky for addressing issues such as euthanasia.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Mikey's Award Ceremony

Yesterday morning I was up early and out the door by 6:45 to drive up to see Mikey receive some awards from his school. Ann has most of the details on her blog.

I am so proud of Mikey. Despite his difficulties, he is incredibly smart; a fact he demonstrated by winning awards in Reading, Math and Spelling. He and I kept smiling and waving at each other during the ceremony. I love that little guy SO much. And he made the day for Cindy (who couldn't be there because she was working) by saying, "I like seeing you Granddad, but I wanted to see Grandma Cindy with you."

Mikey's dad Jason was kind enough to use my video camera to tape the ceremony while I took pictures with the still camera. Those pictures are here and I'll try to get the video edited and uploaded over the next few days.

Congratulations Mikey! You've had a great year in First Grade.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

"It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's...Zengrrl!"

A week ago today my brother and I met to visit our mom. Mark and I hadn't seen each other in about 18 months, I think, when he was in Orlando for a job interview and I picked him up at the airport. The drive between OIA and downtown Orlando was all the time we had together for that visit, so it was nice to get to spend a few hours together last Tuesday, visiting our mom and catching up on each other's lives.

While we were driving to the store to buy a new mouse for our mom's computer, my Blackberry buzzed on my hip, indicating I had received an SMS message from someone. When I pulled up the message it was a photo of the Superman statue in Metropolis, Illinois and text that read, "It's a bird...It's a plane...It's a 30ft tall concrete Superman! @ Metropolis, IL - detour just for you, Jeff." from my friend Zengrrl who was driving down to Orlando from Wisconsin and made the side trip to take photos of the self-proclaimed "Hometown of Superman" because she knows what a fan I am of The Last Son of Krypton.

One day I've GOT to visit Metropolis, preferably during one of their Annual Superman Celebrations.

Thanks for being so SUPER Zengrrl!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Books And Bookshelves

If there is something Cindy and I share an immense love for (besides each other, of course) it's books and reading.

In our living room is a floor-to-ceiling bookcase covering an entire wall that we built ourselves a few years ago. We drew up plans, bought the lumber, cut it, stained it, sealed it, constructed it and attached it to the wall. It's beautiful and one of the things that make it beautiful is that we worked on it together. It is filled with hardback books belonging to both of us. When we sell this place and move in about two years, that bookcase will be the one thing in this house that I will hate leaving behind.

My office has three tall bookshelves filled to overflowing with books that are just mine. In the hallway outside my office is another bookcase filled with my books.

Cindy's office also has three tall bookshelves filled with just her books.

In our bedroom, we each have a tall bookcase on our respective sides of the room. Both are filled with out favorite paperback books (mine are generally science fiction while hers are generally romance) and we both have boxes of books that are packed away. It should be no surprise then that our plans for our new home in NC will include built-in bookcases in the living room and at least two walls (if not three) of bookshelves in my writing den.

All of which brings me to this article I found on the Internet entitled, "20 Unusually Brilliant Bookcase and Bookshelf Designs: Creative, Modular and Unique Furniture" on the WebUrbanist site. This stairway bookcase is especially cool to me. I'd probably be hard pressed to make it completely up or down the steps without stopping to pull out a tome or two.

There are other designs as well. Go take a look and see what you like.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Fun With The Grandkids

On Wednesday, May 14th Cindy and I picked up Mikey and Heather and took them to lunch and then over to Universal Studios' Islands of Adventure. Our original plan was to spend the afternoon in the park, but just as we stepped through the entrance we got a call regarding a family emergency. We took a few minutes to run over to where Spider-Man normally appears in the hopes of giving Mikey a quick visit with the Webslinger, since he had been looking forward to this outing for several days. We were fortunate that we arrived during one the scheduled appearances, so we were able to get several photos of both Mikey and Heather with Spider-Man before leaving.

Mikey and Heather spent the night with us (lots of wrestling on the bed and granddad being a "monster" kept them laughing and screaming, but wore granddad out long before they got tired) and we got up Thursday and went to Walt Disney World for a day of fun.

We started out in Animal Kingdom, going on the safari ride and encountering 2 baby giraffes that wanted to "play" by running around and between the jeeps while out on the savannah. That was a real kick for everyone. Afterward, we tried to see the gorillas, but they were all hiding. We stopped for a few minutes to enjoy some popcorn and cool liquid refreshment, only to be harassed by an experienced duck who did his/her best to beg every piece of popcorn we had. I took Heather to see the interactive "It's Tough to be a Bug" show (I took Mikey a couple of years back but the sensory overload nature of the show was not something he enjoyed) while Cindy took Mikey around a couple of exhibits. Heather laughed and cried, so it was a toss-up as to whether she liked all of the show.

Then we drove over to the "new" Disney Hollywood Studios (formerly Disney-MGM Studios) so Mikey could see the Power Rangers. We got there early and a street performance of "High School Musical" had Heather dancing around. As her mom is fond of saying, she's such a girl, lol. Mikey, on the other hand, just sat there looking bored waiting for the Rangers to appear. When they did appear we got in line for an autograph and photos with his favorite (at the moment) the White Ranger. We tried to get the same from the Red Power Ranger, but the lines were too long and all the rangers left before he could see the Red one. Next time, we'll get in the Red Power Ranger's line first. Pictures of the Disney visit are here.

We had a lot of fun with Mikey and Heather and hope that over the Summer I'll be home some and we can do it again.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Return Of The Fedora

Tomorrow is the premiere of the latest (and probably last) Indiana Jones movie. Cindy and I, along with Amber and Shawn, are planning to attend the 8:15pm showing at Waterford Lakes. I believe this is the most expensive theater in Orlando (not counting Downtown Disney's AMC theater), but it is a nice facility and its close to our place.

I've been wanting to buy an "Indiana Jones-style" fedora for years and have come close several times to actually purchasing one, but this Wired Commentary made me face the REAL reason I've never been able to bring myself to buy one to wear. I think we all have this fantasy that our mind tries to convince us is true; if I wear a cape, I'll be like Superman; if I, I'll be like Captain Kirk; and if I wear a fedora, I'll be like Indiana Jones. Well, I would be if he were old, fat and gray-haired.

There is a scathing negative review over at Ain't It Cool News (beware, there are spoilers) and a spoiler-free positive review up on Den of Geek. I did have to laugh at this forum comment (among hundreds) over at Slashdot:

"The opening scene is a total heart attack. Indy barely escapes a huge stone ball despite being slowed by his walker. He pulls his colostomy bag out of the way just in time. It was a real heart pounding experience. But that was easily fixed with an emergency room visit and some clot-busting drugs."

Of course, none of this, good, bad or indifferent, would stop me from going to see The Crystal Skull on opening day, just like I did when I went to see Iron Man on its opening day before leaving Baton Rouge 3 weeks ago.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Paddle Faster, I Think I Hear Banjo Music III

Thursday we drove by Cold Mountain on the way to the Pisgah Inn, a beautiful lodge and restaurant at the base of Mount Pisgah, for lunch. We were able to get a table by the large window that looks out on several nearby mountains and valleys, and the view was spectacular. Some pictures are here. After lunch we drove into the Pisgah National Forest and hiked up to Slick Rock Falls. Even though it was a treacherous, strenuous and dangerous hike of one-tenth of a mile, we arrived at the falls safely and took pictures that are here. On the way out of the Forest, we stopped at Looking Glass Falls and pictures of that are here.

Friday we drove 32 miles from the campsite to the Biltmore Estate just outside of Asheville, touring the gardens, parts of the ancestral home and enjoying a delicious lunch at the Estate's Stable Cafe. Lots of pictures here from that delightful day trip, but unfortunately none from inside the house because they don't allow photography of the interior.

That evening, our new tent received its baptism of fire when we were hit by severe thunderstorms AND a hailstorm around 10pm and another severe thunderstorm around 11:30pm. The tent kept us warm and dry, though in the daylight of Saturday morning we could see where the rain fly fabric had been "dented" but not ripped by the hailstones, which were about the size of a dime and smaller.

Since Sunday would be another 11 hour day of driving to get back to Orlando, we spent Saturday just relaxing around the campsite. Cindy reading her Kindle and me reading, writing and going through our photos and deciding which ones would make it up to Flickr for your viewing pleasure. As night fell, we packed as much of our gear as possible into the truck so we'd have only the tent, sleeping bags and ground tarp to pack Sunday morning.

Around 3am Sunday morning severe thunderstorms arrived in the area and when the alarm went off at 6am it was still storming. We hoped to wait for it to end before exiting the tent, but you know how the sound of water running makes you have to go to the bathroom...? Yeah, so do we. At 6:30 we couldn't wait any longer so we had to try and get the bedding into the truck as quickly as possible to keep it from getting wet and then we worked in the rain to take down the tent and fold up the tarp. Can you say muddy mess?

After showering we stepped out of the building to find the rain had stopped, of course. As it turned out, we ended up leaving just 20 minutes after I had intended to leave, so that wasn't bad. We had a nice drive back to Orlando and arrived home safely about 7pm.

After not seeing each other for 6 months while I was on the road (we had about a week at Christmas time and 2 days at the end of January), Cindy and I truly enjoyed the time we were able to spend together in North Carolina. We have another week together at home and then I'll be on the "available" list to be sent back out on the road again. In the meantime I'll get to spend some time with our grandchildren, visit with friends and go to various medical appointments (three in one day!).

Oh, and the title of these last three posts? That came from a tee shirt we saw someone wearing while we were at a general store in Waynesville. It made Cindy and I both burst out laughing because the day before we had seen someone on our way to Cataloochee who looked like a "Deliverance" character and I had hummed the "Dueling Banjos" theme from the movie as we watched him.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Paddle Faster, I Think I Hear Banjo Music II

After a day of driving, we had planned to spend Monday relaxing around the campsite, but a camping stove that refused to work (resulting in granola bars for breakfast) necessitated a trip into nearby Waynesville to replace said stove. I like Waynesville. It reminds me of Mayberry, from the old Andy Griffith TV show. I mentioned that to one shopkeeper and she gave me the hairy eyeball, so I guess they don't care for the comparison, but it evokes that "small town" quality that I always imagined when I thought of Mayberry.

We came back to the campsite, had lunch and a nap, and then spent the remainder of the afternoon hiking the trails in and around the campground. Pictures are here (not of lunch and the nap, but of the trails).

Tuesday was the day to visit our property on Sheepback Mountain in Maggie Valley, North Carolina. We spent about an hour and a half there at mid-morning, walking the property and taking pictures. Cindy collected a little of the water from the creek that runs along the western edge of the property to bring back home, and we envisioned where the log cabin home would be placed and how it would be oriented on the property. We finally settled on a placement that would put Cindy's candle workshop and my writing den on the side closest to the creek, with the front outside deck and inside living room facing toward a mountain peak a few miles away. During the Spring and Summer, trees will obscure the view of that mountain but in the Fall and Winter, when there are no leaves on the trees, it will be a gorgeous sight. Pictures of the property are here.

Afterward, we met our realtor, Kelley, and our contractor, Dennis, for lunch. We agreed to meet at Maggie Valley's famous Snappy's Restaurant, but discovered they no longer open for lunch. On Kelley's recommendation we drove down the road to Nico's Cafe and enjoyed a delicious lunch as well as a chance to catch up on each other's lives and to talk a little "shop" about the planned construction of Casa de Wetherington in about a year. After lunch we all drove to a couple of log cabins, one that Dennis had just finished and one that was about a quarter completed, to get an idea of what to expect. We also looked at various plans and settled on the one we think will suit us best as a place to live for the rest of our lives.

We said our goodbyes to Kelley and Dennis, then drove over to Cherokee, NC, about 20 miles west of Maggie Valley, to visit the Museum Of The Cherokee Indian. Pictures are here. I thought the roads through and over the mountains to Cherokee were winding, steep and narrow, until we left there to drive to Cataloochee Valley, about 20 miles north of Maggie Valley, to see the daily appearance of the wild elk (which were reintroduced into the park in 2001) at sunset in part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, THEN I discovered truly winding, steep and narrow mountain roads. You drive up and over the mountains on a single lane road with hairpin turns, drop offs that descend hundreds of feet and NO guardrails. Driving up is tough on the transmission, down is equally hard on the brakes and both will test your nerves. I would not want to drive an RV or even tow a trailer on those roads, like this guy did. But it was definitely worth the drive and pictures are here.

Wednesday was a day to relax some. We drove to Maggie Valley to mail out our Mother's Day cards because Cindy wanted them to have a Maggie Valley postmark, and stopped at a little used book store just outside of town (THAT is a story of its own) before returning to the campsite to read and rest the remainder of the day.

More to come, including the explanation for the title of the past two posts, in case you haven't guessed it yet.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Paddle Faster, I Think I Hear Banjo Music

Well, I have some catching up to do, don't I?

I flew into OIA on Friday, May 2nd and Cindy picked me up from the airport around 4:30pm. We stopped to get some salads to go from Chili's and then went home to "get to know each other again", if you catch my drift.

Ten minutes later we were happily eating our salads and watching TV.

Saturday we spent the day getting our camping gear out of the attic, checking to see what we needed and then stopping in at various stores to buy those things we needed. Saturday night was Amber's birthday party and I got to see several family members at the party that I hadn't seen in months.

Sunday morning we were up bright and early at 4am and on the road an hour later. Three gas stops, two meal stops and eleven hours later, we arrived at the Moonshine Creek Campground in Balsam, North Carolina. This campground is about 30 minutes from our property in Maggie Valley and is very, very nice. It has sites for tenters like Cindy and I, RV's, and cabins, along with lots of trees, creeks and short hiking trails. Much more to our liking than the first one we looked at that, while closer to Maggie Valley, was like camping on the Wal-Mart parking lot. Flat, barren of trees and laid out like a military grid. Moonshine Creek is much more natural and what we prefer. Pictures are here from our first day at the campsite.

More to come, including the explanation for the title of this post.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to my mom, my wife, my daughter, my mother-in-law and my step-daughter and mother-to-be, Amber.

Friday, May 2, 2008


Another summer day
Has come and gone away
In Paris and Rome
But I wanna go home

May be surrounded by
A million people I
Still feel all alone
I just wanna go home
Oh, I miss you, you know

And I’ve been keeping all the letters that I wrote to you
Each one a line or two
"I’m fine baby, how are you?"
Well I would send them but I know that it’s just not enough
My words were cold and flat
And you deserve more than that

Another aeroplane
Another sunny place
I’m lucky, I know
But I wanna go home
Mmmm, I’ve got to go home

Let me go home
I’m just too far from where you are
I wanna come home

And I feel just like I’m living someone else’s life
It’s like I just stepped outside
When everything was going right
And I know just why you could not
Come along with me
'Cause this was not your dream
But you always believed in me

Another winter day has come
And gone away
In even Paris and Rome
And I wanna go home
Let me go home

And I’m surrounded by
A million people I
Still feel all alone
Oh, let me go home
Oh, I miss you, you know

Let me go home
I’ve had my run
Baby, I’m done
I gotta go home
Let me go home
It will all be all right
I’ll be home tonight
I’m coming back home

Lyrics sung by Michael Buble

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Saying Goodbye To Louisiana

Today was my last day in the Baton Rouge office. I came in to find "Thank You" balloons on my desk and a nice card from everyone in my office. Throughout the day, e-mails arrived from other departments and offices asking me not to leave or wishing me well (in other words, "Can you leave as quickly as possible?") and then a nice luncheon was thrown for me and someone mentioned that they had never gathered together to do this for anyone else, so I should be flattered.

And I was.

But as I mentioned to Cindy, I would have much preferred to slip out quietly, under the radar. However, as much as I would have liked to do the "Lone Ranger" bit, I could also not be rude and ignore everyone's effort to wish me a fond farewell, so I smiled and thanked all of them for their kind words and actions.

Later in the afternoon I had to do the same thing during a managers and supervisors meeting.

Aside from missing my wife and family, I've enjoyed my six months here in Louisiana. I didn't have the free time to visit everything I would have liked to, but that's always the case when I travel somewhere for my job. Even though, in all honesty, I wasn't really welcomed by some when I first arrived, I managed to make those folks realize that I was not a threat to them. Today, that was borne out when they all expressly apologized, in writing and in person, for feeling that way in the beginning and thanked me for helping them prepare for the responsibilities their job and mission will require in the future.

Tonight, I'm going to an advanced showing of "Iron Man" since, once I get home, I won't have a chance to see it for a week after we return from camping in North Carolina. The movie was shown last night to media folks in Los Angeles and every single review has been good, so I'm especially looking forward to seeing it tonight.

Tomorrow I fly back to Orlando, arriving around 5pm local time. We'll have a very busy weekend and then leave Monday to drive up to the mountains and enjoy the great outdoors for a week. No international vacation this year, just an economical week of camping.

But, I'll still be taking lots of photos.
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