Tuesday, September 30, 2008


I love going into brick and mortar bookstores. Shopping online is incredibly convenient, but it just isn't the same as walking into a store full of shelves and almost endless amounts of reading material. One of the things I'm looking forward to on our camping trip to North Carolina is going into the TWO privately owned bookstores in the town of Waynesville. Cindy and I love walking through their shelves and displays and finding some treasure to read.

But now shopping online can be close to shopping in a real bookstore with Zoomii.

You can take a stroll through virtual bookshelves at Zoomii Books. Zoomii is basically a bookstore-like front-end interface to Amazon’s book database, Zoomii displays covers, scaled to size, of the top-ranked 25,000 books on virtual bookshelves. Clicking a book cover brings up the detailed information about it. You can search by title, genre or keyword. Currently, Zoomii is only available for the U.S. and Canadian Amazon stores.

Take a stroll through Zoomii and see what you think.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Iowa State Fair 2008

I finally waded through the hundreds of photos I took at the 2008 Iowa State Fair back on August 9th and have posted the best of the bunch on Flickr.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Iowa Truth In Advertising

Welcome to Readlyn, Iowa, a small town of 857 friendly people...and one old grump.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Disasters, The Economy, Politics & The World

Just a few stray thoughts to sort of "clean out" the dustbin of my mind. Thanks for indulging me.

My friend Denise is down in Texas helping in the aftermath of Ike. Working 12 hours a day and driving an additional hour each way to get to your work site is difficult enough; being sick on top of that makes things even harder. Hope she feels better soon

Up here in Iowa one of my co-workers had to go home when she came down with strep throat. Another one is currently on the job with bronchitis and a sinus infection. I'm told that in another office in Iowa there is a "creeping crud" going through the entire office, which is not a rare occurrence. I've had it happen in offices I've been in before. One person gets sick and then it just passes around to everyone until it comes back to the person who originally had it and had recovered but gets sick again and it starts its circuit all over again.

Another co-worker whose home on Galveston was destroyed while she was here in Iowa left to go home this past Wednesday and see just how much there might be that can be recovered. Judging from the photos we've all seen, I have to sadly think that there won't be much.

Between natural disasters and the economy, 2008 has not been a good year for America.

Like most people, I think, this whole bailout issue leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Still, I'm not sure we're left with much choice if we don't want an even worse domino effect to take place. I woke up Thursday morning to find that my main bank had collapsed and been purchased overnight. My deposits are safe, but I still had to fight the urge to go move what I had there into another bank I use. There are plenty of people who did not fight that urge and watching them on TV was reminiscent of watching old footage of bank runs in the 1930's. These types of actions lead to even worse scenarios and create a panic effect, and panic is the last thing we need right now.

Speaking of panic...

I watched the Presidential debate last night. Nothing that was said made a difference in how I plan to vote. There were no spectacular gaffes or knockouts, other than McCain's mispronunciation of the Pakistan president's name and what has become his SOP of misrepresenting statements by Obama, but we're all used to that by now. He also completely ignored the moderator's repeated entreaties for each candidate to address the other and not the camera; it was as if he almost absolutely refused to acknowledge that Obama was there. Obama's tendency to give thought to his answers (NOT a bad thing) showed up less, meaning he was prepared for most questions and issues that came up (and cognizant of the time restraints on answering), but he still seemed tentative at times. I would have liked to have seen him be more forceful in his rebuttals to McCain's misrepresentations, but I've read that he is desperately trying to avoid looking like "an angry black man" to skittish white voters. Funny how McCain can be a grumpy old white man, but Obama can't appear to be an angry black man. I hope by the time my grandson is an adult we will be past these silly racial issues. I tend to think that backers of each candidate will feel their man did the best, but obviously the real question will be how undecided voters viewed the whole thing and if they are swayed yet toward any particular candidate/philosophy.

This is, in the scope of the whole thing, a very small matter but one of the many things that irritated me throughout the debate was McCain's pronunciation of "Taliban." He kept saying "Towel ee ban", which made me think of the Day-o song chorus:

Come mister tally man, tally me banana,
Daylight come and me wanna go home,
Come mister tally man, tally me banana,
Daylight come and me wanna go home.

Then, in what my friend Michelle twittered to me as the "McCain hooked-on-phonics osmosis" effect, Obama used the same incorrect pronunciation, but thankfully only one time.

For the record, here's the link to Dictionary.com with the pronunciation guide for Taliban and, for those who don't know what that is or how to read it, they even have an audio example.

The shine has quickly worn off of McCain's VP choice, Sarah Palin. When I heard McCain wanted to postpone last night's debate and reschedule it in place of next week's Vice-Presidential candidate debate, I could not help but think the ENTIRE reason he was postponing last night's was so that Palin would not have to participate in next week's debate against Biden. Her interviews with Charles Gibson and Katie Couric were train wrecks. She doesn't take questions from reporters when she makes an appearance (sometimes the campaign even tries to ban reporters as it did when she was at the UN), won't release her financial statement until AFTER the election and she declined to join Biden in responding to questions from reporters and offering an appraisal of last night's debate when it was over. Instead, Rudy Giuliani stepped in to substitute. She has been kept on such a tight leash by the McCain campaign that, whether she is or not, it makes it seem that she is totally out of her league on this national political stage.

Even conservatives that hailed her as an inspired choice are rethinking this move by McCain and supposedly so are those within the inner circle who are frantic that she cannot present an informed picture to voters. Now I can't help but wonder if the maverick will regretfully accept his running mate's resignation from the platform in the next few days and choose a new one, rendering next week's scheduled VP debate a moot point. Unlikely, I know, but so was asking to delay last night's debate.

News came this morning that Paul Newman had passed away at the age of 83 after his battle with cancer. I don't know what he was like personally, but he was a good actor and a great philanthropist. And he made a damn good salad dressing.

Yesterday, three Chinese Taikonauts lifted off into space and today one of them performed a 20-minute spacewalk. This might be an event to raise our admiration of the Chinese...if it wasn't for the high probability that they accomplished it by stealing US technology. Added to the fact that the Chinese government already had a news article prepared, including conversational quotes by the Taikonauts during the liftoff, BEFORE the rocket even lifted off and you can see how this whole thing is as scripted as a Hollywood movie.

Hey, thanks for letting me get those thoughts out of my head and into digital print and thanks for reading. My head is much clearer now.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Going Home In 2 Weeks

Two weeks from today I'll be flying home for a break. I'll arrive Friday in the early afternoon and Saturday I'll get our camping gear down from the attic so that Cindy and I can drive to Maggie Valley on Sunday for a week of camping in the mountains of North Carolina. I hope it is as relaxing as our last trip there in May was, because I could sure use the down time.

Plus, we just ordered a larger 3-season tent to keep us comfortable and warm in the forecast 30 degree nights. The last time we were in the mountains in October (a few years ago), our small, cheap tent was flooded by ice cold rain and sleet that came in from Tennessee over the Smokies. Had it not been for Cindy's mom and dad being there with their A-line trailer, we would have had to pack up and head for a hotel or home. The tent we used this past May was more for a backpacker and, when sitting outside in the evening under our canopy, we were exposed to a huge number of myriad kinds of bugs that are attracted to city people when they visit. This new tent has a room for sleeping, a room for dining or storage and a screen room for enjoying the evening without unwanted company. Plus we can sit in chairs inside the tent or screen room and I can even stand inside without hunkering down like Igor. It should be nice.

As of today, I'm expecting to be back here in Iowa on Friday, October 24th but that could change at any point over the next two weeks or even during the 2 weeks while I am home, so we'll see what happens.

I'll be perfectly honest; winter in Iowa does not appeal to me. However, I don't have much of a say in the matter. Of course, I could say "No thanks" but that leaves a bad taste in the mouths of those who assign these trips (or those who request you because you have skills and talent they can put to use) and anyway you are only allowed a certain number of those kind of responses before they decide to ignore your availability.

And I am torn. I enjoy the chance to help those who have experienced disasters and the traveling (not the getting there, but the being there, lol) involved in assisting them, getting to see different parts of the country. I always learn something during my travels about the parts of the country I'm in. But there are lots of things I'm missing that I would also enjoy getting to do and if I were home I could. I missed a certain convention in California in July and one in Orlando that same month and two blog conferences in Orlando this month.

There is a writer's conference in Orlando I would love to attend in November and a certain convention in Orlando later this month and in November that would be fun. If I'm home, I'll be able to give some attention to those parts of my life that interest me as well. Not to mention, of course, time with my wife and family.

But if the opportunity to work is presented, I just cannot turn it down so, as mentioned above, we'll see what happens. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to that break in a couple of weeks.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Cedar Falls Metal Sculpture

A few weeks ago I was walking through downtown Cedar Falls with 2 of my co-workers before a city council meeting when we came across this street display of metal sculpture. I didn't have my Nikon, so I had to settle for snapping these three quick shots with my cellphone camera. I thought they were very cute.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

National Punctuation Day

Today is National Punctuation Day and I thank the grammar gods for it. You should too! Otherwise, there would be many times that the true meaning of our words would be obscured or confused.

Take a punctuation mark to lunch today!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

National Dog Week

This week, September 22-28, is National Dog Week (the site hasn't been updated in 2 - 3 years, for some reason).

Here's a picture of our dog, Wolf.

Do something special for your doggie this week. They are, after all, man's (in the generic sense) best friend.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Jennifer or Bailey?

Sunday evening I was writing and working on some projects in the hotel room while the TV was on and WGN was airing a "WKRP" marathon. I love WKRP and the only thing that has really kept me from purchasing the series on DVD is that I worry the "emotional feeling" of certain scenes may be different since the producers of the DVD were not able to secure usage rights to a lot of the original songs used in various episodes when it was broadcast.

Although I'm sure that part of my attraction to WKRP was the fact that at one point in my life I almost pursued a career as a radio DJ/personality (ultimately deciding that broadcast school was too expensive and the job assignments too unpredictable unless you were a top talent), the most fundamental reason was that the cast worked so well together on screen with the great material the writers gave them. It was an extremely well-presented and balanced ensemble show.

But the inevitable comparisons between the show's two regular female leads has always been present in the form of the "Who would you choose" question; Jennifer or Bailey? Much like the Betty or Veronica, Wilma or Betty, Gwen or MJ, Ginger or MaryAnn, Jeannie or Jeannie and Samantha or Serena questions borne of other TV shows or comic books, the Jennifer or Bailey question sought to draw out a distinction among male (usually, though I'd be just as interested in hearing those of females) viewers over their preference.

There is no question that Loni Anderson as receptionist Jennifer Marlowe was a glamorous portrayal. She was the personification of the kind of woman most men, unless they were possessed of a large amount of self-confidence, would be afraid to approach and yet would desire. However, one tiny bit of attention from her would cause them to fall all over themselves to please her. One of my favorite lines of Jennifer's was when she said to DJ Johnny Fever, "I never loan money to men. It's makes them feel weak." LOL, men always felt weak around Jennifer. But the refreshing thing about Jennifer is that she was not just another dumb blonde bimbo, despite her looks. She was smart, witty, always on top of situations in the station, and she had her boundaries. Nobody pushed her around or got the best of her.

Jan Smithers as the intern/gopher Bailey Quarters (who eventually rose to news broadcaster) was more like the girl next door. Her natural, fresh-faced beauty and her character's wide-eyed innocence and naivete was balanced out by her determination to make it in the broadcasting business, especially in the back offices where it was a man's world. Though the writers tried to mute that fresh-faced beauty with large, owlish horn-rimmed glasses and clothes that detracted from her shapely figure (and to offer a contrast to Jennifer Marlowe's clothes which emphasized her hourglass figure), they were completely unsuccessful. Bailey was the best of both worlds. She was approachable in ways Jennifer could never be and the kind of person you could get a bottle of beer with at the local dive or take out for an eight-course meal at a five-star restaurant, and she would fit into either situation.

And I have to point out that one of things I always appreciated from the writers was that they did not try to make the two characters compete with each other. There were never any "catty" remarks or exchanges between Jennifer and Bailey, no obvious scenes in which they tried to elevate Jennifer's glamour above Bailey's "everygirl" qualities or vice versa. In fact, they were more like sisters who loved and supported each other. They never tried to get humor by having them be mean to each other.

Thus the "Jennifer or Bailey" question has always been difficult for me because, aside from obvious physical contrasts, they weren't really all that different. They were both attractive, intelligent and had great personalities. Yes, Bailey was easier to approach, but Jennifer would let her walls down once she got to know you. Yes, Jennifer was more "savvy" about the world, but Bailey just had the innocence of youth to overcome with experience.

So, if I were not a happily married man and were forced to (reluctantly) choose between the two, my choice would have to be

Sunday, September 21, 2008

New Alaska License Tag

I did NOT make this cute graphic myself, because I know that Alaska was the 49th State admitted.

But, it's still funny.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Songs That Remind Me Of People/Times - "Paradise By The Dashboard Lights"

Have you ever had certain songs remind you of people or a time in your life because, for whatever reason, the song is so closely associated with that person and/or time?

Ok, maybe I'm the only weirdo, just indulge me.

Driving around Iowa I've had a lot of opportunities to listen to oldies stations on the radio (it seems like every city has such a station, which is great) and I found myself thinking back to times and people in my past that I associate with certain songs.

"Paradise By The Dashboard Lights" was released in 1977 by Meat Loaf on his "Bat Out of Hell" album (one of my favorite albums of all time), but it is an event that happened almost a quarter century later that forms the memory I have now every time I hear this song.

If, by some strange dissonance in the space-time continuum, you are not familiar with the song, there is an excellent explanation of the lyrics over here.

In 2000 Cindy and I attended the wedding of our friends, Jack and Marty. along with some of our mutual friends and some of Cindy's that I had only met once or twice. At the reception, where the adult beverages were flowing freely, newly-met-friend-of-Cindy's Heather Torrey and I got up, grabbed some microphones, and began to lip synch along with Meat Loaf and Ellen Foley when the DJ played "Paradise By The Dashboard Lights."

We actually made it through the entire song, doing quite well with the back and forth lyrics, I think. It seems that I have a memory of Cindy videotaping us, but I'm not sure and now I can't recall ever actually watching the antics on tape so I may be mistaken. In fact, my entire memory of the episode may be affected by the abundance of wine consumed.

Jack and Marty are still happily married, Heather and I are still friends (though by long distance as she and her husband and young daughter live in the Northeast these days), and now I can never hear "Paradise By The Dashboard Lights" without remembering the two of us pretending to be Orlando's version of Milli Vanilli.

Paradise By The Dashboard Lights lyrics.

Friday, September 19, 2008

A Sign You Won't See In Florida

Here in Iowa the air has been beginning to become a little...brisk. Communities in this area are all planning Fall Festivals and my employer provided windbreakers to those of us who came here in July and were unprepared for lows in high 30's and highs in the 60's in the middle of September.

Still, driving down a road near a small town the other day, I was surprised to see a snowmobile crossing sign had been erected and opened. That, and a local city councilman discussing the possibility of snow at Thanksgiving is making me shiver already. On top of that I was told the other day that, after my 10 day break in October to go home and camp in North Carolina, I may be brought back here for "the duration."

If so, I'm buying long underwear and thermal socks.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Palin Implicated In Bullwinkle Assassination

The possible successor to Dick Cheney is getting out ahead of the game and shooting things up before she even takes office. The full "story" is found here at Sarah Palin Kills Bullwinkle - Bambi Is Next

It's just a joke folks...seriously.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Well, They DUE Sound The Same

A small suburb of Cedar Falls has had a problem with vandalism at their local skateboard park, so the park was closed and this sign was erected.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Happy Birthday, My Love

Today is my lovely wife's birthday. By now, since I'm away in Iowa, she'll have already received my gifts and snail mail card and e-card. If I were home I'd be taking her out to a nice dinner tonight, but that will have to wait until I return.

Sometimes it's hard to put into words what someone means to you in your life, but as I write and tell Cindy often, "I am SO fortunate to have you in my life." Every day, I am thankful that we met, fell in love and are trying to build a life and future together.

La breithe sona duit!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Toilet Paper On The Restaurant Table

Last week I had to drive to a town about 2 hours from my office for an evening City Council/Town Hall meeting. As I arrived in the town it was close to dinner time so I asked my GPS to tell me what restaurants were in the area and it identified a Chinese restaurant about a half mile ahead of me.

It turned out not to be a REAL Chinese restaurant, but more like a fast food Chinese restaurant. However two things came into play here:

1. I LOVE Chinese food, especially Sweet & Sour Chicken, Fried Rice and an Egg Roll.

2. I didn't have time to look for another place and still make the meeting.

So I placed my order at the counter and the young lady told me she would bring my food out to my table. I walked into the dining room and sat at the first empty table I found.

And saw this.

My first thought was, "Is this what they use for napkins?" but a quick glance at other tables revealed no rolls of toilet paper. One can only imagine WHY a partial roll of toilet paper would be on a restaurant's dining room table. Did someone bring their own special brand with them? Did someone bring it out of the restroom for some reason? Did someone have a really bad runny nose and no tissues?

After I got over my shock and snapped the above picture with my cellphone camera, I moved to another restroom...uh I mean table to eat my dinner.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Songs That Remind Me Of People/Times - "Puff, The Magic Dragon"

Have you ever had certain songs remind you of people or a time in your life because, for whatever reason, the song is so closely associated with that person and/or time?

Ok, maybe I'm the only weirdo, just indulge me.

Driving around Iowa I've had a lot of opportunities to listen to oldies stations on the radio (it seems like every city has such a station, which is great) and I found myself thinking back to times and people in my past that I associate with certain songs.

I was 8 years old when Peter, Paul and Mary released "Puff, The Magic Dragon" in 1963. The first time I heard it I was sitting at the dining room table of our home in Hialeah at night, probably doing homework or reading when this song caught my attention.

Listening to the beginning of the song I was all smiles. What little boy wouldn't want to play and have adventures with a dragon? This was a great song! I would make this song the national anthem, it's so great!! My imagination conjured up scenes of ME on Puff's tail, making pirates afraid and meeting kings and princes. I was sailing through the water with Puff, playing and splashing while he roared and shot fire out of his mouth.

But then I heard the words,

"A dragon lives forever but not so little boys
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys.
One grey night it happened, Jackie paper came no more
And puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar."

and at 8 years of age I misunderstood and thought that little Jackie Paper had died, somehow ignoring the reference to making way for other toys. I remember my eyes filled with tears as I thought of Puff, who lived forever, losing his friend to death and I felt so devastated at the loss that I could not help but weep. Even worse, it seemed that because his friend was gone, Puff could not bring himself to live any longer either and "...sadly slipped into his cave!"

Shortly after that (and ever since), I came to realize that little Jackie Paper grew up and that his friend was mourning the loss of his childhood. It might be one of the reasons I've always tried to keep my inner child alive; because I didn't want Puff to slip silently into his cave and "die." Reason, logic and growing up made me understand the story that was being told and to understand its message of childhood lost. But still, driving down the dark, lonely roads of Iowa this past Wednesday on my way back to my hotel, I found my eyes welling up with tears as I listened to the song and was taken right back to that night and the sadness I felt. It's funny how some thoughts, feelings or incidents stay right with you as if they just happened, instead of 45 years ago.

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,
Little Jackie Paper loved that rascal Puff,
And brought him strings and sealing wax and other fancy stuff. oh

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee.

Together they would travel on a boat with billowed sail
Jackie kept a lookout perched on Puff's gigantic tail,
Noble kings and princes would bow whene'er they came,
Pirate ships would lower their flag when Puff roared out his name. oh!

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee.

A dragon lives forever but not so little boys
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys.
One grey night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more
And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.

His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain,
Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane.
Without his life-long friend, Puff could not be brave,
So Puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave. oh!

Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee,
Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee.

And just for the record, it's NOT a song about smoking pot.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Iowa Weather

Driving through Iowa on Tuesday I watched this wicked looking cloud form.

It looks like a tornado forming doesn't it? But it was just a massive shelf of clouds and the perspective of distance made it look like a funnel. These clouds were part of a front that arrived here and have been giving me sinus headaches for the past few days.

Friday, September 12, 2008

When Superman Flies

Over at Mental Floss (one of my favorite sites) they have a caption contest up for the cartoon below.

Go check out the ten finalist entries and vote for your favorite.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Remembering 09/11/01

I hope that you'll take the time today to stop for a few moments to remember those who perished, and their friends and family members.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


I used to do Bookcrossing in another online life, but I have gone over a year here on my own site without setting up a new Bookcrossing identity attached to my own name. I've still released books in the wild during my days on the road, but without the Bookcrossing label or tracking code to follow where my little babies may have traveled. After a while I realized I missed checking to see where in the world they would find themselves.

So a few days ago, as I found myself nearing the end of a disappointing paperback novel, I decided to start a new Bookcrossing account under my own name and begin releasing again with the almost finished book. I finished it Saturday night (I REALLY should have stopped in the middle as I was tempted to do, but I slogged my way through to the end) and Sunday I opened the new account with it as my first entry. Sunday afternoon I made my way to the (not) bustling College Square Mall near my hotel and, after a reconnaissance stroll, found a spot to release it into the wild.

By the way, for those wondering why I would release a book I found unsatisfying; everyone is different. A book I may feel is the greatest literary work of all time may be the worst piece of trash you've ever read, and vice versa. To each his or her own.

Now I'm working on another paperback novel that someone gave me. As soon as I finish this one, I'll be releasing it as well.

If you haven't tried Bookcrossing yet, you should give it a shot. It's a fun way, at the very least, to spread your love of reading and enjoy the experience of tracking where your book goes.

Click on the new button over on the right-hand column to sign up.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Seen In Iowa II

Driving down the road, this is what I see. Each of those tires is bigger than the car I'm driving!!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Seen In Iowa

When you travel in Iowa and drive through their small towns, these are the kinds of things you see.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

John McCain, "The Mavrick"

During the Republican National Convention last week, this sign was being waved by an obviously ardent supporter

In the course of his speech Senator McCain exhorted Republicans to, "Teach an illiterate adult to read."

And to spell John, and to spell.

Full Circle...Sort Of

A year ago this month I was in Rochester, MN as a result of floods in that area of the "Land of 10,000 Lakes" State. While there I listened to radio station 105.3 Y105.

Friday I was driving in the vicinity of Clear Lake, Iowa and channel surfing the radio when all of the sudden I heard the call letters of "Y105 in Rochester" radio station. I enjoyed the music until I drove out of range, which, as it turns out, must have pretty strong. Upon returning to my hotel that night I did a quick check and discovered I was about 90 miles away from Rochester and Y105.

If I had driven for about an hour and a half in a northeasterly direction, I could have been right back where I was a year ago.

Full circle...sort of.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Iowa Wind Farms

One of the startling things you see when you first arrive in Iowa (if you're from someplace like the Southeastern US where these are few and far between, if they exist at all) is a wind farm.

You expect to see a corn farm, soybean farm, or dairy farm; but who has a wind farm? Actually, all of the above kinds of farmers have wind farms. They install these behemoths right in the midst of those fields and let the wind generate electrical power for their farms and local electric companies.

The first time I saw one was from quite a few miles away (the land is mostly flat here and you can see across that flat expanse very well) while driving down the Interstate. Even from a distance they can be mesmerizing. The next time I saw them I was driving right next to the field they were in. Up close they look positively alien, evoking a feeling of some kind of otherworldly invasion. If they suddenly sprouted mechanical legs and began striding across the corn fields firing laser-death beams, it would seem perfectly in tune with the atmosphere they engender.

That doesn't seem to come through in the photographs, perhaps because the motion of the blades turning isn't captured in the pictures. When you're standing there watching them rotate silently, it is a completely different feeling that just doesn't come across in pictures. Still, they're awesome to see in any format.

One of the most amazing things about wind farms came to light during the weather forecast section of a news broadcast one night right after I arrived. The meteorologist showed a radar shot of Iowa and was talking about how clear it was...except for a section that looked like a massive system sitting over part of the state. He very casually said, "Oh and don't worry about that big spot there, it's just a false echo created by the wind farms in the area and all the movement of those turbine blades."


Iowa has 600 wind turbines that generate enough electricity to power 140,000 homes and the turbines around here are 240 feet tall.

This might give you a better idea of the size of these things.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Songs That Remind Me Of People/Times - "Louie Louie"

Have you ever had certain songs remind you of people or a time in your life because, for whatever reason, the song is so closely associated with that person and/or time?

Ok, maybe I'm the only weirdo, just indulge me.

Driving around Iowa I've had a lot of opportunities to listen to oldies stations on the radio (it seems like every city has such a station, which is great) and I found myself thinking back to times and people in my past that I associate with certain songs.

Jonathan Flores and I met in 1963, the year "Louie Louie" was released by The Kingsmen, in the third grade when he moved into the area with his newly divorced mom and his little sister. We were the best of friends through the summer after sixth grade, before we each went off to different junior high schools. But for those 3 1/2 years we were Batman and Robin, The Green Hornet and Kato, The Lone Ranger and Tonto, and all three of the Musketeers rolled into two. Every day after school we were at each others house; on the weekends we alternated spending Friday and Saturday nights at each others house and during the summers we built tree houses, designed secret forts and rode our bikes all over the part of Hialeah we lived in, sometime venturing outside that area without telling our parents (as boys are wont to do) and enjoying the kinds of adventures that boys create in their minds (with the help of TV shows and comic books). We flirted (though we had no idea that's what we were doing) with the same girls and fought other boys. We were both very smart, but I was smarter. I was the biggest, but Jonathan was the good-looking one. Years later, when remembering him, I would realize he looked like a young, dark-haired Marlon Brando. Of course the girls knew that all along.

In the sixth grade, we were the only two sixth grade boys (Barbara Zembach or Zemback and a girl who was killed in a car accident later in high school were the only sixth grade girls) in a special advanced class (I told you we were smart, lol) of 10 students. The others were 3 students from the fifth grade and 3 students from the fourth grade. The school administration had no spare classroom for us, so we were sent to a nearby elementary school made up of black students. I think that experience served to shape my thinking about the evil of racial discrimination in the years to come. We were the only 10 white students (well, one of the fifth graders was Asian) in a school of black students. WE were the minority and we saw every day how it felt to BE the minority. The first few days we were there, there were fights. We were jumped walking to school, during school and walking home from school. Jonathan and I could handle ourselves and had kicked some ass, but the girls and younger ones were hurt a few times when walking home after school, so Jonathan and I devised a plan. Every morning the 10 of us met several blocks from the school and walked to it together and every afternoon we walked home together. While walking in the area around the school We were in a line with myself in the front (I was the biggest, remember?), Jonathan at the back and everyone else safely between us. After trying us a couple of times and failing, the other kids pretty much stopped bothering us physically. But they were always mouthing off to us and making threats.

When the school administration finally figured out what was going on, they decided it would be better for us to return to our own school. With no rooms available, they set up a classroom for us on the stage in the cafeteria and kept the curtains closed. Whenever there was an event that needed to be held on the stage, we had to push our desks and classroom equipment off into the wings where it could not be seen.

It was one of those events on the stage that will forever make me think of Jonathan when I hear "Louis Louie."

Toward the end of the year in sixth grade we had a lot of special things happening to celebrate our "graduation" to junior high school. One of those events was a talent contest and, never liking to be in the spotlight, I shied away from participating. But Jonathan had no such compunctions. These were the years when rock and roll was everywhere. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and many, many others filled the AM radio dial. Jonathan gathered some of our friends who could play guitar and drums, formed a small band with himself as lead singer and set to practicing. None of them were great musicians and Jonathan, while the best singer of them all, was not a really good singer. But it was fun. By the time the contest rolled around the group had decided that the song they did the best job performing was "Louie Louie." I remember Jonathan had slicked his jet black hair back except for a curl that fell across his forehead and wore a tight shirt that he unbuttoned, tight jeans and "Beatle boots."

When Jonathan started singing and gyrating like Elvis, the girls went wild. They screamed like he was Paul McCartney and I expected to see training bras flying though the air at any moment. It was, in a life of too few such things for him, a very special moment for my friend.

When we started going to different junior high schools in the seventh grade we still stayed in touch, but we were never as close as we had been before and by the time we were in the eighth grade our contact was almost non-existent. New schools, new people and new interests served to accomplish what had seemed impossible a few scant years earlier. The Dynamic Duo had faded into memory.

In the eleventh grade I called Jonathan one day to see how he was doing. A day or so later he drove over to my house with a friend of his named Rocky and we talked and tried to catch up. He was about to drop out of school to work full time and his life seemed to center around drinking, drugs and girls. Rocky did not seem to be the best influence on him and he gave me a bad feeling. Still, it was good to see my old friend and we promised we would stay in touch and get together again.

It was a promise that would not be kept because it was the last time I saw Jonathan alive.

A couple of months later I was driving to pick up my girlfriend on a Saturday morning when a radio news broadcast mentioned a shooting the night before and I had to pull off the road to pull myself together after I heard the announcer say, "...killed was Jonathan Flores, 17...". In a drug deal gone bad, He and Rocky had been shot in an alley in Coral Gables. Jonathan was dead, killed by a bullet to his heart. Rocky was in the hospital with bullet wounds.

I went to the hospital and Rocky told me what had happened. He and Jonathan and a couple of girls were in the car at a stop light when a two guys walked up and asked them if they wanted to buy some drugs. They parked the car on the street, left the girls in it and followed the guys into the alley where it turned out the guys, who pulled guns, just wanted to steal their money. Jonathan hit the one closest to him and turned and ran but the other one shot him in the back, the bullet piercing his heart. The ME said he was dead before he hit the ground. I truly hope it was that fast for him and that he didn't suffer. Rocky was shot in the arm and leg before both guys ran away.

It was difficult for me not to beat the crap out of him as he laid there in the hospital bed, and that was probably the only reason I didn't. Right or wrong, I blamed him for the death of my friend.

But whenever I hear "Louie Louie", I see Jonathan on stage, singing, smiling and having fun. And I smile a bittersweet smile at the memory.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

"Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White" III

Ok, the answer to the question in this post and this post is that "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White" is the title of the number one song in the U.S.A. on the day I was born, according to Billboard magazine.

Go take a look and see what song was number one on the day you were born.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

THE Greatest Sports Movie Of All Time

I got back to the hotel last night after attending a (thankfully) brief city council meeting in a town about 30 minutes from here and as I started channel-surfing I happened upon THE Greatest Sports Movie Of All Time on the Movieplex channel.

Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper star as the coach with a problematic past and his recovering alcoholic assistant who take a 1952 Indiana high school basketball team to the state championship playoff in "Hoosiers", THE Greatest Sports Movie Of All Time!

I'm not even a rabid basketball fan, but then again "Hoosiers" is more than a basketball-themed movie. In the end, it is the quintessential story of overcoming monumental odds, both personally and professionally, to achieve a goal. Every writer and wannabe-writer recognizes the plot device. But the cast of this movie work together to deliver the most heart-tugging, feel good, have-you-on-your-feet-cheering sports-themed movie I have ever seen. Thus, in my opinion, THE Greatest Sports Movie Of All Time.

What's yours?

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Iowa Barn

This barn that I came across in North Central Iowa made me think of the episode of the old Green Acres TV series where Oliver tried painting the barn...only to see the paint soak right into the wood and disappear.

I think that is what would happen if someone applied a coat, or two or thirty, of paint to this barn.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Labor Day/Moving Day

In addition to being Labor Day (although I'll be at the office as usual) it is also moving day for me. I'll be changing hotels and will be going to one closer to the office.

Everyone be safe and enjoy the time off from work if you're fortunate enough to enjoy the holiday.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...