Almost Wordless Wednesday: The Seasons





Spring has come once again to the Nantahala Gorge in western North Carolina. The trees are green, the river is flowing high, wildflowers are blooming on the hills and along the roadside. The days are sunny and warm and the nights are clear and crisp.

I've decided I'm finally going to purchase a road bike that can also be used for light off-road biking. It's time to get serious about that extra layer of insulation around my belly, and time to really save some dollars at the pump. I figure my new bike will pay for itself by the end of the season when leaves fall and ice threatens to coat the road again. There's a season for everything: new life, growth, travel... and this spring and summer and fall, with gas prices heading towards the stratosphere, is the season of the bike.

Thanks for reading.

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Action Alert: Yazoo Pumps Project


The fate of the proposed Yazoo Pumps project lies in the hands of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but their decision to veto it hinges on the actions of individuals like you.

An EPA veto would put an end to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ plan to build the world’s largest hydraulic pumping plant in one of the most sparsely populated regions in the state of Mississippi. In a throwback to another era and contrary to federal policy, the Corps would use the Yazoo Pumps to drain wetlands so agribusiness can intensify production to reap more farm subsidy payments.

The Yazoo Pumps Project would:
  • Waste $220 million in taxpayer money

  • Drain and damage more than 200,000 acres of wetlands in the heart of the Mississippi River flyway

  • Ruin some of the richest natural resources in the nation
The final comment period ends next Monday, May 5. This is your last chance to tell the EPA to dump the Yazoo Pumps once and for all. More than 2,000 eRiver advocates have already taken action. This is a great start, but to finally put an end to this project, we need to generate more than twice that number. Please help us reach that goal.

Please tell the EPA that you support a veto of the Yazoo Pumps.

To find out more about the Yazoo Pumps Project, please visit:
Thanks for reading.

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Man's Best Friend

A dog is truly a man's best friend.

If you don't believe it, just try this experiment:

Put your dog and your wife in the trunk of the car for an hour.
When you open the trunk, who is really happy to see you?

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The Prayer by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli

Some of you have asked for it, so here it is.

Have a great Monday, and thanks for reading.

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Monday Morning Sports Brief


Good's the sports news important to me this Monday morning:

  • At the Whitewater Slalom Olympic Trials in Charlotte, North Carolina, current or former Nantahala Outdoor Center employees took one giant step towards making the Olympic team in this event and competing at the Beijing Olympics: Pablo McCandless made the Olympic Team for Chile, Tad Dennis made the US Team in OC-1, and Zuzana Vanha has the #1 spot on the US Olympic team all but locked up.

  • The Detroit Red Wings are up 2-0 in their second round series versus the Colorado Avalanche

  • The Detroit Pistons beat the 76ers and evened their first round playoff series at two games a piece

  • Rafael Nadal defeated Roger Federer 7-5, 7-5 Sunday to win the Monte Carlo Masters for a fourth consecutive year.

  • Kristi Yamaguchi will attempt to stay atop the Dancing With the Stars Leader Board tonight at 8:00 pm.

Thanks for reading.

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Sunday Morning Prayer

I pray you'll be our eyes, and watch us where we go.
And help us to be wise in times when we don't know
Let this be our prayer, when we lose our way
Lead us to the place, guide us with your grace
To a place where we'll be safe
-- from The Prayer by Celine Dion & Andrea Bocelli


It never ceases to amaze me how simple, and yet elegant and to the point, popular music can be. In just four minutes, an unpretentious collection of a few notes and words can bring a tear to the eye, inspire hope, comfort and cheer. I'm 100% certain that's why music is used to such great effect in every church, temple and mosque in the world and is an integral part of every worship service, no matter what your faith may be.

The 2008 Presidential Election Cycle was supposed to be about our prayers: solutions to the terrorist threat and an end of war in Iraq; solutions to our weakening economy; solutions to the health care crisis that is crippling families; solutions to predatory lending and the home mortgage collapse; solutions to a failed energy policy, or lack thereof by our present administration; solutions to violence and random shootings in our public schools and on our college and university campuses; solutions to failed trade and immigration policies...the list goes on and on.

By any standard, no matter what your politics are, it's hard to conclude otherwise than that the Bush administration has been one of fear, lies, war, a loss of life for Americans and nationals of other countries and a black eye for the United States in terms of our standing in the global community. 2008 was supposed to change all that. 2008 was going to be the year of hope and inspiration. 2008 was going to be the year where the first woman had a real chance to win the Presidency of the United States. 2008 was going to be the year when the first black man had a real chance to win the Presidency of the United States. 2008 was going to be the year when a real man of honor, a war hero who tells it like it is no matter what the political fallout, had a real chance to win the Presidency of the United States. 2008 was going to be the year of three truly amazing candidates, all worthy of the Presidency, all committed to end business as usual in Washington, all committed to conduct their campaigns with honor and respect and dignity worthy of the highest elected office in the land.

So What Happened?

Despite all the hope and all the firsts and all the inspirational speeches, somewhere along the way, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain realized what Time Magazine put on it's May 5th Cover: There Can Only Be One.


After all the talk, after all the promises, the 2008 Election Cycle has become more insidious and deceitful and divisive than any Presidential Election has ever been, and this is why:

1. The Democrats are divided like they never have been around race, class, and education.

The media has not stated this yet, so I will. 90% of the voting black electorate is supporting Barack Obama. This is wrong. It's not wrong because Barack Obama is not deserving of African American support. He is. It's wrong because no candidate for the office of President, not even George Washington, has ever received 90% support. No bill in congress, no township election, no vote for where to hold a family reunion EVER receives 90% support. It's hard enough to reach a 2/3 or 66% majority. That's why to overturn a Presidential Veto or to pass a constitutional amendment, a 2/3 majority is key to getting that hard-sought after and improbable result. But in every primary election since South Carolina, Barack Obama has received 90% or greater support from African Americans. There is only one inescapable conclusion here with these numbers, and that is that Barack Obama is receiving this overwhelming and unprecedented support ONLY because he's black. And that reason is just as wrong as a reason can be to vote for or against someone, and is just as racist as the white population's irrational fears or suspicions of African Americans, the white population's perpetuation of African American stereotypes, and the perpetuation of the continuing racial divide in this country that Barack Obama spoke so eloquently about not that long ago.

So African Americans are supporting Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton is resorting to 3:00 AM television ads pandering to the fears of White Americans and winning the working class vote/blue collar/high school graduate vote by convincing this segment of the Democratic Party that she is the one that is listening to them and standing up for them and their needs. By doing so, Hillary Clinton is not only perpetuating the racial divide in this country, but she is also perpetuating the divide between the college educated and those that are not; she is perpetuating the divide between the working classes and the professional class, and she is perpetuating the divide between the young who are inspired by Barack Obama and the old who are suspicious of him and opposed to change. While not racism per se, this might as well be because it has the same effect of pitting one class of Americans against another--not in any kind of civil fight, but in terms of preying on one group's fears and insecurities--which is what's at the heart of racial and religious intolerance.


2. The Republicans, while they have picked their presumptive nominee, are not embracing John McCain by any standard of measurement. The bastion of conservatism, Anne Coulter, went on record saying that if John McCain became the Republican's nominee, she would vote for Hillary Clinton. Is this just rhetoric? I don't think so. Most Republicans really do not like John McCain. He's a maverick. He says what he thinks. His patriotism is unassailable. And yet, why did he only receive 70% of the vote in the Pennsylvania Primary after every other candidate had withdrawn from the race?

There are many reasons. The religious right doesn't trust McCain. They fear he won't advocate for a Constitutional Amendment to end abortion and to prohibit gay marriage, which as I know everyone remembers, were the major issues in the 2004 Presidential Election. Also, John McCain has tried to distance himself from President Bush, whom the party conservatives still love, but whom the Reagan Democrats can't stand. Recently, John McCain has moved more towards the center of the party rather than remain on the leftist fringes of it in attempts to gain the support of the entire party; but at the same time, he's risking the compromise of what makes him most appealing as a candidate: his straight talk, his maverick nature, his honor, and even his fearlessness in following his own convictions--even to the point of proclaiming his well-documented love for the Swedish Supergroup ABBA. Let's face it, few straight men are willing to go that far and do that.

So what do we have brewing in this 2008 Presidential Election cycle? We have a lose-lose-lose-lose situation that needs to be corrected, and quickly.

  • Barack Obama can't win. If he wins the Democratic Nomination, he won't win the General Election. Hillary Clinton has done her work well. The inescapable soundbite from her will be "John McCain is more qualified to be President on Day 1 than Barack Obama." Hillary's supporters will agree, and will vote for McCain, giving him the Reagan Democrat vote necessary for McCain to win.

  • Hillary Clinton can't win. If she wins the Democratic Nomination, she will have done so by a brokered Democratic National Convention in which Super Delegates and back-room smoke and mirror tactics will make her victorious. This will so alienate the African American voting population and first time young voters who are inspired by Barack Obama that a very large percentage will be completely turned off of politics and possibly become so jaded that they'll never take a chance and support another candidate again. And what's worse, many will not vote in the General Election and abdicate their role in voting for President of the United States.

  • John McCain can't win. In doing what's necessary to keep the votes of the ultra-conservative right of the Republican Party--which he'll need to win the Presidency, he'll compromise his own values and lose the qualities that make him appealing as a legitamate candidate who can truly end business as usual in Washington.

  • The American People can't win. No matter who becomes President, there will be a very large segment of the Voting Public that will feel cheated and betrayed and disenfranchised--and I'm not even talking about Michigan and Florida. And there's a very real possibility that unless Barack Obama wins the Presidency, this country could see race riots every bit as ugly as what transpired in Detroit in 1967 or in Los Angeles after Rodney King was brutalized by the police.

Deep down inside, I'm confident that what every American wants is just a fair shot and a deck not stacked against them as they pursue their own visions of happiness and the American Dream. What we all want out of our leaders, especially our President, is that he or she will help us to be wise in times when we don't know, and lead us to a place where we'll be safe: from violence, from economic hardship, from war and natural disasters, from racial and religious intolerance.

This Sunday Morning, that's my prayer. This Sunday Morning, I pray that Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain could be inspired by one four-minute song and start making some decisions that have nothing to do with personal ambition, but rather the welfare of the American People: White, African American, and Hispanic; Republican and Democrat; Christian, Muslim and Jew; rich and poor.

Thanks for reading.

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Desperate Blogging with Blog Traffic Sites


My dear friend Bree over at Roxiticus Desperate Housewives has tagged me with the "Complaint Meme." I really don't have anything to complain about because I'm such a happy and well-adjusted guy. However, as you learned earlier this week in my post on Edvard Munch's The Scream a good scream can be a cathartic cure of existential angst. But I digress.

I've belonged to several Blog Traffic Sites designed to increase traffic to bloggers. However, I have never seen so much complaining about a site as I have hear on EntreCard, and I've only been on EntreCard for a couple weeks. First there was the complaining about the change in the point system, and then there was the complaining about the placing of the EntreCard widget on the blog, and then there was complaining that while EntreCard does increase traffic to a site, it really doesn't generate that many regular readers as Desperate Bloggers just "Drop 'N Go."

My response, everyone, is please, just give it a rest. Seriously.

These Blog Traffic sites are FREE. These Blog Traffic Sites generate traffic. They are also fun. In the two weeks I've been a member of EntreCard, my Alexa Rank has gone up from 16 million to 3 million. Not that I care, I'm not blogging to make money. But EntreCard works. But do I really expect that all members who find my site are going to become regular readers? Well no!

The truth of the matter is, I drop n run. But while the site is loading and while I'm searching for an EntreCard, I come across some blogs over and over again. In just the few seconds it takes for me to scroll, I can read a headline. I can look at a graphic. If something attracts my attention, I'll stop and read. If it doesn't or if the site is not updated often, I just drop my card and move on. I think most people pretty much do the same. This doesn't mean a blog traffic site doesn't work, it means your content isn't as appealing to the entire blogosphere as you thought it was. So don't blame the Blog Traffic sites bringing traffic to your site.

Personally, in two weeks, I've found about 20 blogs I read regularly now and I've made some new friends and a couple of really good friends. This stuff takes time. It takes work, and you have to comment and build relationships with other bloggers. No blog traffic site is a miracle cure. If you want traffic, you have to take time to interact with other bloggers and build a critical mass. If you're willing to do that, that all these Blog Traffic Sites are 100% successful as the TOOLS they are intended to be.

Thanks for reading.

And now, to fulfil the Meme:

Complainer's Corner

  1. Compose a "Complaint (serious, funny, or even a blatantly obvious add for your own site.)
  2. Choose a graphic from HERE or HERE or use your own. (Any standard graphic format can be used, including a "gif".)
  3. You can either place your "Complaint" into a graphic using a graphics program of your choice, or place your "Complaint" as a caption to the graphic, your choice. BE CREATIVE! A graphic is requested but not mandatory. I will post just the "Complaint" if you wish.
  4. Send your "Complaint" to the following email address: Complain(at)ComplainComplainComplain(dot)com or Post your complaint on your site and email me the link.
    On emailed statements, please include:
    1. Your Complaint (unless it is embedded in the graphic)
    2. Creative title to your complaint
    3. Graphic (if you have one) as an attachment
    4. Your Site name (Anonymous will be be accepted)
    5. Your site's URL
    6. Country / State / City where you reside (just the country will be okay)
Your "Complaint" will have its own URL with a direct link back to your site, if you have one. It will be indexed on my sidebar by date, number, subject and your site name/your name/or Anonymous. Send in as many complaints as you'd like. If you choose to remain anonymous, no identifying information will EVER be disclosed to anyone.

You are encouraged to post the "Complaint" on your own site and please copy the following statement at the end of your post, if you would be so kind. This does come with a generous helping of "link-love," and tagging is completely optional.

*Start Copy*
In order to be able to achieve and maintain happiness we need to, actively, be able to do two things:
  1. Complain and then let go (Dump the baggage, the roadblocks to happiness.)
  2. Express Gratitude (The open expression of gratitude promotes happiness.)
After all everyone has something to be grateful for and/or something to complain about. If you would like to participate, please follow the appropriate link and do so: "Are You Grateful?", "Complain Complain Complain."

Contributors to
"Are You Grateful?" & "Complain Complain Complain.": 1-Attitude, the Ultimate Power 2-Max 3-DianaCA's Metamorphoses 4-Mental Poo 5-My Thoughts 6-Baba Doodlius 7-Wake Up America 8-Life is a Roller Coaster 9-Life is Beautiful 10-pinay mommy's love blog 11-My Happiness Haven 12-And Life Goes On for a Filipino Mom 13-Blessed Sanctuary 14-Expressions And Thoughts 15-Memories by Jenn 16-Reminiscence of My Adventures 17-In the Life of Mne 18-Juliana's Lair 19-Pinay Wahm 20-Lucid Creativity 21-Winged Words 22-Irresistible Fascinations 23-A Little Time 24-See Me For What You Will 25-Greatest Reviews 26-ETC ATBP 27-Gandacious 28-We Are Family 29-Journey to this thing called LIFE 32-BaReFooTeD Me 33-Uncomplicated 34-Points of View 35-Pride & Prejudice 36-Colorful World 37-Nora's Notes 38-A Daily Walk With Bill & Gina 39-Strange but True 40-Everything Under The Sun ( Beth Rebokon ) 41-Kaleidoscope 42-Fil-Oz Blog 43-By Osc@r Luiz 44-Comedy Plus 45-Blogging by Sandee 46-Soul Meets World 47-Mae's Memoirs 48-Beyond the Rave Reality 49-Amori, poesie, arte, chat by Hanna 50-Attached at the Hip 51-Carver's Sight or is that Site? 52-Empress Reviews 53-Simple Pleasures In My Heart 54-Lourdes' mia 55-A Grateful Heart 56-Majorsleepyhead 57-Scrappy n Happy in Ohio 58-CHOC MINT GIRL 59-Extraordinary Things 60-ZOOROPAZOO 61-BeNolSatuEm 62-As The World Turns 63-Your Caring Angels 64-Life Is Wonderful To Know Everyday 65-Sugar Magnolias 66-Little Peanut 67-Creative In Me 68-Me and Mine 69-Pea in a Pod 70-the diary of the Pink & Brown Wedding 71-good thoughts, good trades, good life 72-My Blog - all things me 73-Rainbows 74-Little Corner of Mine 75-Me, Myself and I 76-My Planet Purple 77-Amel's Realm 78-A Handful of Surprises 79-A Detour 80-Something Purple 81-Vanity Kit 82-Are You Grateful? 83-A Simple Life 84-BlogTips.Com 85-Balitang Kalye 86-Mariuca 87-Emila Yusof 88-A Total Blog 89-My Life in this Wonderful World 90-MommyAllehs 91-Things That Suck 92-A Mother's Stuff 93-Princess Vien 94-My Inner Thoughts Revealed 95-Roxiticus Desperate Housewives 96-Apples Of The Eyes 97-Nita's Random Thoughts 98-Nita's Corner 99-Thomas Digital Services 100-A Mother's Thoughts 101-YOU

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The Falls by Joyce Carol Oates

Who knows what directions are lives will take? Who knows what events will transform and shape our lives into versions of ourselves we never thought possible? And who knows what forces are out there that move us forward and drive us inexorably to the precipice of the most profound decisions that will either save us or damn us (or perhaps both) for all time?

Such is the power of The Falls, in which the Niagara River, its rapids, its whirlpools, and its mighty Horseshoe, Bridal, and American Falls, is a constant underpinning current of the narrative, and perhaps, even a character in its own right.

"You realize that the speed, the proplulsion, has nothing to do with you. It is something happening to you."

Oates is dead on in her description of what happens when you're in the Niagara River and you pass the Deadline. You are caught up in something that is happening to you. I don't know if Joyce Carol Oates has ever gone whitewater rafting, but I raft Class IV and V rivers about thirty days a year. I'll never forget my first experience out of the raft right at the Deadline of Class V Insignificant. Insignificant is a misnomer. There is absolutely nothing insignificant about Insignificant.

The naming of Insignificant is legendary. Early explorers of the Gauley River simply arrived at this point below a long rapid of rushing water, house-size rocks, violently crashing five-foot waves, sudden ledge drops, holes and nasty pourovers and proclaimed: “there’s nothing significant above this point.” Even to this day, with all the advancements in whitewater equipment, and clothing, and protective gear; and with the increasingly capable and experienced guides and outfitters who run the Gauley so routinely that many of the most formidable rapids that were once considered unrunable have been downgraded from “dare-devil and life-threatening” to “experts only” to “advanced” to “intermediate” levels of difficulty; Insignificant remains categorized as a true “experts only” Class V rapid.

To put the significance of Insignificant in perspective for those of you who have never gone whitewater rafting or kayaking, a typical exchange between a guide and rafters after cleaning Insignificant might go something like this:

“Wow! That was awesome! What class was that?” Asks the adrenalinized rafter.
“That was a true Class V,” answers the bemused guide, who has been asked this question a thousand times in the last two weeks.
“That was a Class V? Wow! Is there anything bigger?”
“Oh yeah, there are lots of rapids that are bigger, longer, steeper, more dangerous.”
“Really? Have you rafted any of them?” Asks the wide-eyed rafter.
“A few,” the guide answers coyly.
“Have you ever fallen out?” Asks another rafter, a little shaken by Insignificant.
“Oh yeah, I’ve had my share of nasty swims.”
The rafters remain silent, presumably contemplating what a swim of Insignificant might have been like if one of them had fallen out of the raft.
“But Insignificant isn’t the most difficult rapid we’ll see today,” the guide says. “There’s still Pillow Rock, Lost Paddle, Iron Ring, and Sweet’s Falls.”
“Are they bigger than Insignificant?” Asks the timid rafter, now certain that he’s in way over his head.
“Not necessarily bigger,” answers the guide. “Lost Paddle is longer and more dangerous with more undercut rocks. Pillow Rock is bigger in every way, but safer. Iron Ring is short, fast, and steep; and Sweet’s Falls is the highest.”
“And…they’re all Class V?”
“Actually, only Lost Paddle is still a Class V. The other have been downgraded to Class IV+.”
“My God!” exclaims a fourth rafter. What would a Class VI be like?”
The guide takes a long pause and makes eye contact with each rafter in the raft. “Niagara Falls,” answers the guide with a sly grin.
The raft goes silent.
“Paddle forward!” Commands the guide.

I admit it. I wasn’t ready the first time I rafted the Gauley. I was overweight. I was relatively inexperienced, having rafted only two previous times on Class III and IV rivers. But at least I thought I knew what I was getting into. I read books on river hydraulics, I learned the names of all the rapids on the Gauley, I learned what the hazards on the river were and what to do if I found myself out of the raft and heading towards one of them.

The day of my first Gauley adventure dawned cold, overcast, and with the threat of rain. It was forty-two degrees outside and the water temperature was only forty-eight. Wet suits, thermal underwear, wool hats and socks were all required. I felt apprehensive, but believed I was ready. I even had a carabiner clipped to my life jacket to clip onto a throw-rope if I found myself in a life-threatening situation. It’s laughable to me now. In a life-threatening situation, a carabiner is pretty useless and downright life-threatening in its own right if you clip on to a throw rope. But I still carry that gold carabiner with me on every rafting trip. It’s my security blanket. It’s my good luck charm. It’s the repository for my confidence while I’m on the water. Hey, if you think it’s funny, check out some hockey player superstitions.

As it turned out, only two of the seven other rafters in my raft had ever rafted before. I was the experienced one. Kristina had rafted with Joey Anderson, our guide, the previous weekend on the Gauley. My friend Matt had rafted in Colorado once, although not a river this difficult. The other five yahoos had never rafted before, but they were determined to go whitewater rafting, and they were determined to raft the best there was. Lucky me.

We got in the raft and Joey had us practice our paddling strokes. If we were going to make it down the river without flipping or any other serious incident, we had to learn to paddle together as a team. Unfortunately, the tiny fifty-plus year-old woman in front of me didn’t know her left from her right, nor forward from backward. So when Joey called “all forward.” She paddled backward—or at least she attempted to paddle backward. Her paddle barely scratched the surface of the water, not helping propel or control the raft at all.

The woman in front of her got nervous and froze when a command was called, afraid of screwing up. So when Joey called a command, she hesitated so long her strokes were always out of sync with the rest of the raft. She would hit her paddle against the guy’s in front of her or the frail fifty year-old woman in front of me, further hampering the movement of the raft and making Joey’s job of guiding more difficult.

The man in the front on the left of the boat proclaimed himself to be an experienced expert rafter. He proved himself to be nothing but hot air in the first warm-up rapid when he extended his paddle and pushed off rocks that passed by or kept paddling when Joey called for a stop. You might think pushing off rocks makes sense, but in rafting, sometimes rocks are used as aids in maneuvering. Instead of helping the raft, this guy was constantly pushing us out of the line we needed to be on to negotiate the oncoming rapids or turns.

The woman behind this man, while full of bravado and excitement on the bus to the put-in, quickly became an irritating whiner after the first warm-up rapid; incessantly complaining: “It’s cold…I’m so cold. These waves are so big! We’re all going to die, aren’t we? I don’t want to die!”

I kid you not. A whitewater river isn’t like an interstate highway. You can’t exactly stop at the next exit and get off at the mall. I turned around and looked at Joey and Kristina. We didn’t say anything. We just locked eyes with each other. We knew we were fucked.

Setting up for Insignificant, Joey told us the line we would take through the rapid. Joey told us about the undercut rock on the right, that if we fell in, we needed to swim away from the rock. Joey told us how important it was for us all to paddle together. This was a major Class V, and we needed to listen and respond to his commands. Joey told us to brace in and make sure we stayed in the raft. It was going to be bumpy at the top of the rapid, and no matter what , do not fall out at the top of the rapid. Alright, here we go. Paddle forward!

I responded and leaned forward to dig my paddle into the water. Unfortunately, the woman in front of me extended her paddle backward and fouled her paddle in mine. It’s the process of digging into the water that actually keeps you in the raft while you paddle. My paddle never touched the water. All my weight and strength I intended to use to move the raft forward went into a great big air stroke. It doesn’t matter what your intentions are if you violate a law of physics. In this court, I was guilty and I was going in. At the top of Insignificant.

Time froze instantly as the intense cold of the water penetrated my wetsuit, paddling jacket, and thermal underwear. Surprisingly, there was no fear. There was no conscious thought. No thinking: “Oh shit! I’m going to die.” No thinking: “Swim away from the rock!” No thinking: “Hang on to your paddle,” or “swim to the raft!” All there was was a feeling of intense cold, a moment of shock, and then a flood of adrenaline and warmth as my body shifted into survival high gear. And then, just perception and reaction as the primitive portions of my brain that act on instinct alone took over.

I remember every indelible moment as if my eyes, ears, and skin suddenly became digital recorders. I remember the bubbles in the gray-green water. Rising to the surface, gasping for breath in the trough of a wave just before its crystal tentacles crashed over me and dragged me under again. The feel of a rock lightly brushing the soles of my shoes before the bottom fell out and I tumbled over into deep water and then popped up to the surface again—just in time to catch a breath and close my mouth before a towering five-foot wave crashed over me and ran up my nostrils, popping up again, spitting out water, taking another quick breath, another monster wave…. And then the voice shouting: “Swim to the raft! Swim to the raft!”

Consciousness returned like a fog burning off, but all my strength had been sucked out of me by the cold water and my body’s struggle to stay alive. I extended my paddle shaft towards the raft and immediately was surprised I was still holding on to it. Cruelly, the other rafters couldn’t figure out it would be helpful to grasp my paddle and pull me towards the raft. Instead, they extended their paddle blades once they realized I was there, but which are impossible to grab hold of. Finally I slipped towards the back of the raft and Kristina and Joey grabbed my life jacket. As we reached the calm pool below Insignificant and I was no more at the mercy of the ender waves, I let go of my paddle and Joey was able to pull me back into the raft.

I collapsed on the floor of the raft, panting hard, completely out of breath. Joey asked if I were alright. I couldn’t talk, so I nodded. My glasses were still on, and much to my disbelief, I didn’t even get a scratch. Joey told me I had just missed the undercut rock. I was informed by a guide in another boat that I had been swept over the nasty pourover—where my feet had brushed against the rock—and that the other guides thought I would be trapped in the nasty hole below the pourover. And I was informed that I did a good job of swimming towards the raft and that everyone was amazed that I hung onto my paddle. I don’t even remember trying to swim. Chalk one up for primal instincts.

After a few moments rest while pulled over against the river bank, Joey helped me back to my seat. I put my arm around his back and then resumed paddling. Over the next twenty minutes while I slowly recovered and we headed towards Pillow Rock I didn’t get worried or scared, but instead I realized that I now had a glimmer of understanding of what being an animal must be like—without conscious thought, just possessing instinct, perception, and reaction. A lion stalking its prey does not think about how good a zebra would taste for dinner. A lion perceives hunger, lies in wait, and reacts to a zebra passing by; not thinking about the hunt, but rather just acting on instinct and learned behavior to make the kill.

Deep down inside, I realized that with conscious thought or not, human beings are animals that evolved in the wild. We might sit in front of computer screens and televisions in our climate-controlled offices and homes, but we aren’t meant to. We are meant to be physically active and to run and to hunt and to interact with our environment—not to stalk cold cuts in a deli. I’m not saying that I would choose a wild existence. But swimming Insignificant—or rather, being swept helplessly down the rapid like a lifeless twig—was the most primal, powerful, and humbling experience of my life. And I have never felt more alive than in that eternity of battling for survival—which as the VCR proves conclusively, lasted a mere twenty-two seconds.

And I also realized, probably for the first time, how fragile my life was. A few feet left or right, an instant sooner or later, and I could have crashed into a rock, been forced under an undercut and drowned, been trapped and recirculated in a hole like a sock in a washing machine’s spin cycle or like a piece of paper being flushed down a toilet. Swimming a Class V rapid is merely a euphemism. No one swims a Class V rapid. You are swept to wherever the river wants to take you. Insignificant is most definitely a misnomer. Next to the power of Insignificant, I was about as strong, or important in the general scheme of things, as a speck of dust.

Now multiply that by a thousand and you have the Niagara River and The Falls. Joyce Carol Oates is masterful in capturing the allure of the river and its ironclad grip on the psyches of those who visit it or who live in close proximity to it, in retelling its most famous myths and legends, in revealing its many layers and secrets, and its greatest horrors in the best tradition of on the scene eye-witness reporting. And that is actually a theme or a device Oates has turned to repeatedly in her writing. In We Were The Mulvaneys one of the sons was a newspaper reporter. In The Falls, newspapers report the vigil of Ariah Littrell waiting for Gilbert Erskine's body to float to the surface and create the legend of the Widow Bride of the Falls. Later, as Ariah's oldest son Chandler tries to talk an old acquaintance from school out of a gruesome murder, the eyewitness account mirrors CNN and network on-the-scene footage. And finally, old newspapers are the key to unlocking the past by recounting the day-to-day history of Dirk Burnaby's crusade in taking on the Love Canal case--an event that just happened to him, but which swept him away to his death as inexorably as crossing the Deadline of the Niagara River.

The basic structure of The Falls is very much a reporting of profound events and sometimes impulsive decisions that shape the lives of the Burnaby family in ways none of them ever imagined nor believed was possible:

--On his honeymoon, Gilbert Erskine throws himself into the Niagara River within 24 hours of their marriage.
--Ariah Littrell begins a stoic vigil, during which she is transformed into the legendary Widow Bride of the Falls.
--The manager of the hotel the Erskines were staying at in Niagara Falls calls his friend, respected lawyer and playboy Dirk Burnaby to come to his aid to help deal with the situation of the widowed bride.
--Over seven days Burnaby becomes smitten with Ariah.
--Erskine's body is recovered and every tiny detail is revealed. Ariah returns to Troy, New York.
--Burnaby impulsively drives to Troy to woo her, impulsively stopping to franticly pick up wildflowers to present to Ariah.
--Ariah unexpectedly transforms from a frigid bride to a sex addict in Burnaby's arms.
--Against all odds and while almost being shunned by both their families, the newlywed Burnaby's begin a family all their own.
--Burnaby encounters Nina Olshaker, takes up her cause and transforms himself from a good ole boy prosperous attorney to a pro bono pariah launching the first major class action lawsuit in the nation's history--to the detriment of his family's financial health, his professional reputation and ultimately his life.
--On the night before his marriage, Royall Burnaby has sex with a lady in black in a cemetary and comes to the realization that he can not get married.

None of these major events are directions any of the characters would have ever forseen their lives would take. All of the decisions made by the characters completely altered their lives. But none of these events or decisions were really deliberate or rational. The events just happened and the characters were swept helplessly along for the ride, like a log, or a body, or a rafter in the powerful current of the Niagara River. Just like the families that were victims of Love Canal.

Of course, while newspaper reporting can be informative, it is rarely art. The power of Joyce Carol Oates is her magnificent prose and her ability to create and draw characters like no other. As events happen to all of the characters of The Falls and their lives transform, Oates gets into each character's head and draws out every nuance of their thoughts and feelings. Their hopes, their dreams, their fears, their grief, their triumphs, their failures, their secrets, and how all of these things weigh upon their minds, the decisions they must make, and the paths that their lives must take.

As readers, we are swept along for the ride with no clue where Oates is going. As in a Class V Rapid, we go to wherever Oates wants to take us. And at the end of every hundred pages or so there is a penetrating insight--if we are paying close enough attention.

If you have been reading my blog, you know that while on my way to Denali on January 19th, 2006, driving south from Fairbanks, I was in a rollover car accident. It was an event that just happened right out of the blue, and it started my head spinning. When you survive something like that without a scratch, you think a lot about God and "what ifs." If you are injured in something like that or worse, if you injure someone else, it can really work you over emotionally and lead to self-destructive habits. I believe the lesson, or real insight, of The Falls is that when events happen that dramatically change our lives, there are times when we are caught up in the event and that we literally risk the danger of being swept away. Our saving grace comes when we realize that we are not prisoners of events that just happen to us, like a rollover car accident or falling out of a raft in a very bad place. After swimming Insignificant, instead of being fearful and afraid of whitewater rivers and adventure, I embraced rafting, and through rafting, life itself. In The Falls, Ariah's and Dirk's children are being swept away by the secrets of their past. It's only after Royall starts investigating the events surrounding his father's death and confronting the past Ariah has shielded them from since childhood that the Burnaby family can escape from a series of events that has swept them along like a log in the river since a distant Burnaby ancestor plunged to his death while walking a tight rope over Niagara Falls. It's only then that the process of redemption can begin, and the Burnaby family can fulfill the promise of their lives. It really is a lesson for us all.

Thanks for reading.

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Almost Wordless Wednesday: The Scream


Edvard Munch's The Scream (Skrik, 1893) is my all time favorite piece of art, and certainly one of the world's most recognizable. Just one look and you are drawn into the fear and agony and terror on the subject's face. But while this piece of art is widely recognized, what is little known is that "The Scream" is actually a series of expressionist paintings by the Norwegian artist, depicting an agonized figure against a blood red skyline. It is said by some to symbolize the human species overwhelmed by an attack of existential angst. The landscape in the background is Oslofjord, viewed from the hill of Ekeberg, in Oslo, Norway.

The Scream has been much used in parody on everything from Shoebox Greeting Cards to fictional television and movie characters--probably most recognizably in The Simpsons and Home Alone.


Munch created several versions of The Scream in various media. The Munch Museum holds one of two painted versions of the piece and one pastel. The National Gallery of Norway holds the other painted version. A fourth version, in pastel, is owned by Norwegian billionaire Petter Olsen. Munch also created a lithograph of the image.


The Scream has been the target of several high-profile art thefts. In 1994, the version in the National Gallery was stolen. It was recovered several months later. In 2004, The Scream and Madonna (not the pop singer) were stolen from the Munch Museum. Both paintings were recovered in 2006. They had sustained some damage and are due to go back on display in May 2008, after undergoing restoration.

I have a magnet of The Scream on my refrigerator. It comes in handy. And every once in a while, when it seems like things are a little rough, it's great just to scream as loud as you can for as long as you can. That's my cure for an attack of existential angst. I always feel better after a good scream; I bet you will too.

Thanks for reading.

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The Stuff of Champions


Monday night on Dancing with the Stars Kristi Yamaguchi and Mark Ballas received their first Perfect 30 and really, for the first time, separated themselves from all the rest of the competitors this season.

Kristi and Mark have led from the start, and I don't think it's really a surprise to anybody. Kristi was expected to do well as an Olympic Figure Skating Champion. Afterall, posture, balance, athleticism and choreography are the heart and soul of both figure skating and competitive ballroom dancing. But I don't think anyone really expected how much Kristi would dominate: She's been on the top of the leader board every single week since the competition began, and no one has been able to step up and really challenge her.

Last week, Pro Football Man of the Year Jason Taylor came close. This week, Mario had his best dance of the season, but his dance was still two points behind Kristi's.

In last place, Marlee Matlin, the deaf Oscar Winning Actress is scoring a moral victory. She can't even hear the music, but is still getting sevens across the board. But everyone else, Tony winners, actresses, singers...they can't touch Kristi, and I believe it has something to do with what makes up a sports champion.

Every season, the competition on Dancing with the Stars has become more competitive. Past winners include Emmit Smith, Apolo Anton Ohno, and Helio Castrovenes. Kristi Yamaguchi seems to be next in line. All four of these DWTS winners are champions of their respective sports. In football, in short track speedskating, in race car driving--timing, precision, balance, athleticism, stamina, flexibility, posture, and what only can be described as that killer instinct that all true champions possess are key to doing well in competitive ballroom dancing, and all these former champions, along with Kristi, have brought these qualities to the ballroom. The only other element needed to win is showmanship.


Emmit, Apolo, Helio...all three needed help in this department. All three needed to come out of their introverted shells. All three needed to open up to their dance partners; and as they did so, their scores increased from week to week to week. The difference between the three of them and Kristi, however, is that Kristi had the showmanship down from the beginning.

As an Olympic and World Champion Figure Skater, Kristi made her career performing before a crowd to get those old "Artistic Impression" scores. But what the majority of those watching Dancing With the Stars don't know is that Kristi also honed these skills performing with a partner.

Almost every week, Carrie Ann Inaba or Samantha Harris asks Kristi "Are you sure you've never done this before?" And Kristi shyly demurs. And in truth, she hasn't done ballroom dancing before. But did you know that she is a two-time Pairs US Champion in Figure Skating, finishing 5th in the world twice in 1989 and 1990 and is a Former World Junior Pairs Figure Skating Champion?

It's true. Kristi Yamaguchi is one of those rare athletes that competed in multiple figure skating events. She loved singles, she loved pairs; and she was awesome in both. But in 1990, her Pairs Coach Jim Hulick died of AIDS, and without the support of her coach, she parted ways with her partner Rudy Galindo, who won the US Singles Championship in the mid 1990s. As a pair, Kristi and Rudy would have been unstoppable had they continued to develop. They were doing throws and the hardest triple jumps that were head and shoulders above their contemporaries in difficulty. But what they didn't have was the smoothness and artistry of the best pairs.

Part of the reason why was that Kristi was splitting her time between Pairs and Singles Skating, where she was ranked 4th in the U.S. behind Jill Trenary, Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan. Kristi was often advised that if she focused on singles alone, she would quickly improve and would likely be a lock for the Olympic Gold Medal. So without her long time Pairs Coach, Kristi left Pairs Skating, focused on Singles, and quickly rose to the top, winning her first World Championship in 1991 and setting herself up nicely for Olympic Glory in Albertville.

But in terms of Dancing with the Stars, I'm not sure if anyone knew about her Pairs Skating background. When it comes time to do lifts in the free dance, Kristi's got it down. She used to be thrown 25 feet across the ice in a throw-triple salchow and change positions fourtimes while Rudy held her above his head as he skated the length of an ice arena. If she can do all that on ice, what could be difficult about a ballroom?

I believe what's important however, and what we all can learn from, is that to be the best and to become a champion in anything we do, we only need to look to Kristi Yamaguchi. Focus on the goal, whether it be singles skating or ballroom dancing, dedicate yourself to your task, and no matter what adversity comes your way--whether it be overcoming a physical disability (as we learned last night that Kristi was born with clubbed feet), or mental anguish (the death of your coach and the breakup of a promising pairs team) always stay positive and keep the goal in sight.

And in Kristi's case on Dancing with the Stars, it doesn't hurt to have a lifetime of performing to draw on that she can transfer from the rink to the ballroom.

Thanks for reading.

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EntreCard Squares Available for EntreCard Bloggers

Recently I've had the pleasure of creating several EntreCard Squares for a friend, not to mention my own. It's fun, it's creative, and it's personalized. If you're looking to replace your generic black or orange-stripe entrecard, or if you're looking to update your current square with a new one, leave me a comment. I'll create a square you'll love, and maybe you'll be happy enough to send a few credits my way.

If you're looking for more traffic for your blog, EntreCard will help your traffic explode. EntreCard is a very helpful and friendly community interested in helping you become a more effective blogger and marketer of your blog. Many resources and tools are available on the site to help you take your blogging to the next level. But don't take my word for it, visit EntreCard now and take the quick tour. If you're serious about blogging, it will be the best five minutes you've ever spent.

Thanks for reading.

Osgood Gets Shut-out in Red Wings Victory!

UPDATE SUNDAY EVENING: The Red Wings beat Nashville 3-0 in Game 6. Chris Osgood started the game and remained perfect in goal. The Cheers have erupted: OS-GOOD! OS-GOOD!

Bring on next either the Calgary Flames or the Colorado Avalanche!

Banner 2 Banner 1 go!

Thanks for reading.

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OS-GOOD, OS-GOOD...and/or The Circle of Life


I've been reluctant to talk about my favorite team in sports: The Detroit Red Wings. As a lifelong fan, I remember going to the old Olympia Stadium as a child with my family, and more often than not, watching the Red Wings lose. That's because the last time the Detroit Red Wings contended for the Stanley Cup Championship was before I was born, in the 1950s.

All that changed when Steve Yzerman joined the team and the Red Wings slowly put the pieces together that led to their all-but dominance of the Hockey World in the 90s, culminating in back-back Stanley Cup Championships. And as the Red Wings got better and better, so did the morale of the City of Detroit and all who loved the Red Wings, and all who loved Hockey.

But all good things come to an end, and so did the career of Steve Yzerman. The thing about sports, if you stick with your team long enough, is that you'll see them when they're down, you'll see them when they're on the way up, you'll see them at the top, and you'll see them decline. So since our heady days at the top, while the Red Wings have never sunk to the depths they were in in the early 80s, they haven't quite reached the pinnacle again. But after last night's overtime 2-1 win over the Nashville Predators, I believe there's hope, and hope's name is Chris Osgood.


Chris Osgood was an integral part of that back-back Stanley Cup Championship team, but Chris Osgood's career with the Red Wings has been an up and down affair mirroring their ups and downs as a sports team. After Osgood's rookie season, management felt that the team needed a strong veteran goaltender with Stanley Cup playoff experience. In the summer of 1994, the Red Wings traded popular defenceman Steve Chiasson to the Calgary Flames for goaltender Mike Vernon, who had previously backstopped the Flames to a Stanley Cup title in 1989.

While the 1994-1995 season started late due to a lockout, Osgood found himself backing up Mike Vernon for the season. The Wings reached the 1995 Stanley Cup Finals that season, where they were swept in four games by the underdog New Jersey Devils. Osgood received significantly more playing time for the 1995-1996 season, and he led the NHL with a 2.17 GAA and 39 wins. He also finished third in shutouts (5) and was a Vezina Trophy runner-up to Jim Carey. Osgood and Vernon shared the William M. Jennings Trophy as the goaltending tandem allowing the fewest goals in the league. For his efforts Osgood was selected to the NHL All-Star Game and was also named to the post-season NHL All-Star Second Team. Osgood even added a goal to his fantastic season, becoming the second goaltender in NHL history (Ron Hextall was the first) to shoot the puck into an empty net in a game against the Hartford Whalers. Another premature playoff exit soon followed, as the top-seeded Red Wings lost in the Western Conference Finals to the Colorado Avalanche.

The next season Osgood and Vernon shared starting goaltender duties in the regular season, but when the playoffs started, virtually all the playing time went to Vernon, who ended up winning the Conn Smythe Trophy. In the end, Osgood had his name engraved on the Stanley Cup as the Red Wings swept the Philadelphia Flyers in four games to win their first Stanley Cup in 42 years.

After the Cup win in 1997, Vernon was traded to the San Jose Sharks, which made Osgood Detroit's number-one goaltender, with Kevin Hodson and Norm Maracle backing him up for the 1997–1998 season. Again, the Red Wings were able to advance to the Stanley Cup finals and defeat the Washington Capitals (in another four game sweep) to win back-to-back Stanley Cup championships.


Osgood remained the primary goaltender for Detroit until the summer of 2001, working alongside Bill Ranford, Ken Wregget, and Manny Legacé. But in the summer of 2001, the Red Wings acquired goaltender Dominik Hašek, a six-time Vezina Trophy winner, from the Buffalo Sabres. After numerous attempts to trade Osgood, the Red Wings left him unprotected in the waiver draft and he was acquired by the New York Islanders on September 28, 2001.

Hasek, or "the dominator," returned the Red Wings to the Stanley Cup Finals and they won the Championship that year. But ever since, while the Red Wings have been hovering at the top, they haven't recaptured that championship winning form. Perhaps, until now.

Dominik Hasek, one of the greatest goalies of all time, is still the number one goalie in Detroit, but he has struggled in this first-round playoff series against the Nashville Predators. While the Red Wings were up 2-1, they fell apart after Hasek let a couple goals in that resulted in a Nashville win and a 2-2 series tie. Once again, the Red Wings turned to Osgood, who have a successful stint with the St. Louis Blues, came back to the Red Wings in 2005; and after a number of years of injuries, is having one of the best seasons in his career at exactly the right time.

Last night, in one of those "Circle of Life" moments, Osgood hung tough in goal and made possible Detroit's 2-1 overtime win bringing the series to 3-2 in Detroit's favor and keeping the team's hopes of a Stanley Cup Championship alive after winning the President's Trophy as the team with the best record in Hockey in 2007-2008. The irony is, of course, that Osgood is once again the go-to man when seven years ago he was discarded by the Red Wings in favor of Dominik Hasek.

I've been reluctant to talk about the Red Wings and beat my chest with smack talk, until now. Sunday's game against Nashville will be telling, and if Detroit can win it and move on to the next round of the playoffs when the Predators have their backs against the wall, it will be a tastse very sweet: for me, for Red Wings fans, and for Chris Osgood!

I can hear the chanting at Joe Louis Arena now as if it were ten years ago and Detroit was celebrating in the euphoria of it's back-back Stanley Cup Championship: OS-GOOD! OS-GOOD! OS-GOOD!

But we got it all wrong. Osgood isn't just good, he's among the best that ever played in goal.

Thanks for reading.

UPDATE SUNDAY EVENING: The Red Wings are just three minutes away from beating Nashville 2-0 in Game 6. Chris Osgood started the game and remained perfect in goal. The Cheers have begun, and if the shutout holds and the Predators are indeed eliminated, I'm sure the cheers will erupt: OS-GOOD! OS-GOOD!

Banner 2 Banner 1 go!

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Coming Out of the Closet

2008 may very well be the biggest year ABBA ever had. In July, Meryl Streep stars in the Film Adaptation of the ABBA musical Mamma Mia!--which has been seen by over 30 million people worldwide and has raked in over one billion dollars.

Every where you go, ABBA is inescapable. YouTube proves it conclusively. Even watching a basketball game. Here, Gus Johnson, network sportscaster sings Dancing Queen.

Here, John McCain's Waterboarding Testimony is juxtaposed with ABBA's Waterloo:

Here, every political candidate still running for president is mashed up with ABBA's Take A Chance On Me:

And on current television shows like "The Office" and "Ugly Betty," fictional characters use ABBA as part of their plot. "The Office" recital of Take A Chance On Me has become so popular that the cast of the office felt compelled to recreate the sing-a-long at their recent convention in Scranton, PA:

And it goes beyond that. In Hollywood movies for the last 10 years, ABBA's Mamma Mia! has been featured prominently. If you have kids and you watch movies such as "Enchanted," the scene where Giselle (Amy Adams) enters our world by passing through a manhole cover into New York's Time Square has the backdrop of the "Mamma Mia!" billboard up in lights. When I saw that with my niece and nephew in the theater I laughed out loud hysterically. I thought: "Mamma Mia! Indeed!" Trust me, it's there, go turn on your DVD player and check it again.

It's time to come out of the closet everyone. You've listened to ABBA all your lives. Someone has to be driving their increasing popularity, and chances are it's you. Let's here your ABBA stories...I know you've got them. If Gus can sing Dancing Queen at a basketball game on national television, if Bono can sing Dancing Queen live on the 1992 U2 Tour:

and have the whole stadium singing along, if Mamma Mia! can suck the whole world in for two and a half hours of pure carefree escapism, you can confess as well.


Confess that you like ABBA here. Do it today. Do it now. Let's hear your stories!

ABBA Nice Day!

Thanks for reading.

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"Stop Unfair Practices in Credit Cards Act"

If you live in the United States and you don't pay off your credit cards in full every month, you are probably subject to predatory interest rates and unfair practices by the issuers of your credit cards. Abusive practices by credit card companies are widespread, well-entrenched and unlikely to end without a legislative ban.

As Chair of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan) has been working to end unfair credit card practices. This morning he testified before a House of Representatives subcommittee considering legislation to curb such practices.

The "Stop Unfair Practices in Credit Cards Act", which Senator Levin introduced in the Senate, now has ten cosponsors and has been endorsed by consumer groups, labor unions and the National Small Business Association. This bill, if passed, would:

  • Prohibit charging of interest on debt that is paid on time

  • Stop credit card issuers from charging cardholders a fee to pay their bill by Internet or by phone

  • Require payments on credit card debt to be applied first to the debts with the most expensive interest rates

  • Prohibit interest rate increases on cardholders who pay their bills on time

  • Stop credit card issuers from charging interest on their fees

  • Cap penalty interest rate increases at 7 percent in event that a cardholder misses a payment or exceeds a credit limit

  • Stop credit card issuers from hiking an interest rate and then applying the higher rates retroactively to pre-existing credit card debt

This morning Senator Levin discussed the details of the legislation as well as some of the cases of credit card abuses that the Senate investigation uncovered, and urged the House Subcommittee to move their legislation forward. You can read his full prepared testimony HERE.

The Senate investigation has resulted in some credit card issuers voluntarily changing some objectionable practices. But it is clear that strong legislation is necessary to ensure fairness for so many people who are just trying to keep up with their bills and play by the rules. Senator Levin promises to keep working to have this legislation enacted into law by Congress.

If you believe this legislation is the right way to go, I urge you to let your elected US Representatives and Senators know and ask them to support Senator Levin's Legislation.

Thanks for reading.

Million Dollar Cookie


Today, Maggie over at the blog Ramblings of Maggie, is my hero. Why is this you ask? Because Maggie posted a blog entry regarding the winner of the Pillsbury Bakeoff, and more than that, because the winner is the Peanut Butter Cookie you're staring at right now!

Ask anyone who knows me and they'll tell you I'm always on the lookout for REALLY GOOD Peanut Butter Cookies. This one just won the contest and it's creator $1,000,000, so it's probably not bad, right?

And, at my request, Maggie posted the RECIPE! I'm in heaven.

Check with me later and I'll let you know how the cookie is, but if you're like me and you love peanut butter, don't wait. Go whip up a batch yourself!

Thanks for reading.

MonDak Update: Bakken Oil Field is Legit

"The U.S. Geological Survey just published today its official results of a groundbreaking study" reports Energy and Capital.

Its report confirmed a massive oil reserve in an area the locals have nicknamed the "Bakken," which stretches across North Dakota, Montana and southeastern Saskatchewan. The new USGS study estimates a whopping 3.65 billion barrels of oil in the Bakken... but here's what they didn't mention:

The reported 3.65 billion barrels of oil mean estimate is for 'undiscovered' oil only, and doesn't include known oil, such as reserves. In fact, the study reports a 25-fold increase in the amount of oil that can be recovered... compared to the agency's estimate back in 1995.

Discovered over 50 years ago, the Bakken deposit--once impossible to extract--is now being hailed as the single largest oil find in US history. That's because, today, thanks to breakthrough drilling techniques like horizontal drilling, the Bakken's oil shales can be extracted relatively cheaply. When that happens, this light, sweet oil will cost Americans just $16 per barrel according to the report.

I think this is great news, but I'm not holding my breath on the cheap oil.

Thanks for reading.

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Olympic Architecture

Yesterday while hopping around on the Blog Promotion Widget EntreCard, I came across a blog post on David Jackson's Is A Man's World featuring the Water Cube, which is the building in Beijing built for all the swimming events in the upcoming Olympics.

For some time now, I've been fascinated with Olympic Architecture. It seems that in the last 20 years or so, cities hosting the Olympics have used the Olympic Games as an opportunity to revitalize their cities and in many ways turn them into worldclass venues. But the cities haven't been content to just build functional facilities. In the modern world, form matters just as much and the Water Cube and other buildings constructed for the Beijing Summer Games are indicative of that.

When it comes to the Olympics however, there is no structure more iconic than the Olympic Torch, and I believe the following examples illustrate how host countries are pulling out all the stops to out-do each other every two years.

Albertville Games, 1992

Atlanta Games, 1996

Nagano Games, 1998

Salt Lake City Games, 2002

Athens Games, 2004

Turin Games, 2006

This blog will look at more Olympic Architecture and delve into some of its history as the year moves on leading up to the Beijing Games in August.

Thanks for reading.

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