1968 vs. 2008: Where Have We Gone Wrong?

Ah, what a difference 40 short years makes...and people wonder why our country is so screwed up.


Scenario 1: Jack goes quail hunting before school, pulls into school parking lot with shotgun in gun rack.

1968 - Vice principal comes over to look at Jack's shotgun. He goes to his own car and gets his shotgun to show Jack.

2008 - School goes into lock-down, and FBI is called. Jack is hauled off to jail and never sees his truck or gun again. Counselors called in for traumatized students and teachers.

Scenario 2: Johnny and Mark get into a fist fight after school.

1968 - Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up best riends.

2008 - Police called. SWAT team arrives. Johnny and Mark are arrested and charged with assault. Both are expelled even though Johnny started it.

Scenario 3 : Jeffrey won't be still in class, disrupts other students.

1968 - Jeffrey sent to office and given a good paddling by the Principal. He returns to class, sits still, and does not disrupt class again.

2008 - Jeffrey is diagnosed with A. D. D. and given huge doses of Ritalin. Becomes a zombie. School gets extra money from State because Jeffrey has a learning disability.

Scenario 4: Billy breaks a window in his neighbor's car and his dad gives him a whipping with his belt.

1968 - Billy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college, and becomes a successful businessman.

2008 - Billy's dad is arrested for child abuse. Billy is placed in foster care and joins a gang. State psychologist convinces Billy's sister that she remembers being abused herself, and their dad goes to prison. Billy's Mom has affair with psychologist.

Scenario 5: Mark has a headache and brings some aspirin to school.

1968 - Mark takes aspirin in lunchroom and headache goes away.

2008 - Police called. Mark is expelled from school for drug violations. Car is searched for drugs and weapons.

Scenario 6: Pedro fails English in high school.

1968 - Pedro goes to summer school, passes English, goes to college.

2008 - Pedro's cause is taken up by state. Newspaper articles appear nationally explaining that teaching English as a requirement for graduation is racist. ACLU files class action lawsuit against state school system and Pedro's English teacher. English banned from core curriculum. Pedro is given a diploma anyway but ends up mowing lawns for a living because he cannot speak English.

Scenario 7: Johnny takes apart leftover firecrackers from 4th of July, puts them in a model airplane paint bottle, blows up a fire ant hill.

1968 - Ants die.

2008 - Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, Homeland Security, and FBI called. Johnny is charged with domestic terrorism. The FBI investigates parents; siblings are removed from home; computers are confiscated. Johnny's dad goes on Terror Watch List and is never allowed to fly again.

Scenario 8: Johnny falls while running during recess and scrapes his knee. He is found crying by his teacher who hugs him to comfort him.

1968 - In a short time, Johnny feels better and goes on playing.

2008 - Teacher is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her job. She faces three years in state prison. Johnny undergoes five years of therapy.


While the above scenarios came to me in one of those famous email forwards meant to make me laugh, I think that there are important lessons to be learned here. As a society I really believe we have become overly paternalistic, overly fearful, and highly over-reactive. Some things are just part of growing up. Sometimes all there is to an incident is just what's on face with no darker meaning underneath. Sometimes a spade is just a spade.

While these changes over the last 40 years have taken place rather slowly over time, I think what this forwarded email dramatically points out is how far overboard we have gone without even recognizing it. Like the images in this post illustrate: back in 1968 Americans felt empowered to take action and speak up; in 2008, Americans need assistance in just figuring out how to vote. My how far we have fallen.

I'd really be interested in what every one else thinks on this topic.

UPDATE 7/1/08
Thanks for all your comments everyone. It really seems like we're all feeling pretty much the same way. I'd like to refer you to the following post: Sniffer Dogs Offend UK Muslims by my friend Jan Williams at the Poodle and Dog Blog, where after reading this latest absurdity, I responded:
OK, it's time for society to lay down the law. This is where it all has to stop. It's time to return to a culture of personal responsibility instead of finger pointing (do you hear me the jack*ss who spilled hot coffee on yourself and then sued McDonald's?), a culture where police are allowed to do their jobs without someone yelling brutality or throwing the constitution at them, where doctors can practice medicine without having to do 5 million tests to protect them from Malpractice and then patients going to seek their fifth opinion, and most importantly, a culture where teachers and adults and camp counselors and clergy can put an arm around a crying kid's shoulder and not have to fear being labeled a sexual predator and child molestor.

It's all about balance and moderation and warmth and personal responsibility and what's important in living a safe and secure and happy life.

Yes, everyone has rights and freedoms and privileges. But those rights and freedoms and privileges have to be balanced with societal needs and doing the right thing.

By all means, prosecute the bullies disguised as police officers. Incarcerate the sexual predators. Sue the pants off doctors that are incompetent. But come on people, stop the insanity!

For a religious group to say they're not going to let dogs sniff them in the course of a search to keep a plane or a building from being blown up by a terroist, all I have to say is: it's the world you helped create, so you can accept the consequences of a search.

Have a great day, Jan!

Now, if we're all in agreement that we've gone off course somewhat, what do we have to do to turn things around?

Thanks for reading.

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Comment Rush at EntreCard

EntreCard is doing an amazing thing, and it is happening right now! In order to bring attention to some of the smaller blogs out there, EntreCard is featuring a blog post on a semi-regular basis that appeals rather widely to just about anyone no matter what their blogging interests are. The object is to find a post that appeals broadly, highlight it on EntreCard, and encourage everyone to go to that post, read it, and leave a quality comment. This way the smaller but nevertheless content-rich blogs out there can get some awesome publicity and perhaps find some new readers in the process.


The first post selected for the Comment Rush is Music and Driving by my friend Ken Armstrong. I recently awarded Ken with an Arte y Pico award for his awesome blog with outstanding humor in his writing and I encouraged everyone to visit his blog. Ken is a great guy, very friendly, and with one of the really greatest ability to turn a humorous phrase I have discovered since I started blogging.

I'm proud of Ken, and am glad that Graham at EntreCard, along with Phirate and the Moderators have seen fit to recognize him in this way.

Music and Driving is a post that won't take you long to read, but I guarantee that it will take you back, perhaps a long way back. Please visit Ken now and leave a comment about his post. It's a great read and definitely worth your time.

Thanks for reading.

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Finding Your Way Around the Championships

Two-Time Wimbledon Champion Venus Williams

As any tennis lover knows, today is the Middle Sunday of the fortnight known as the Championships of Wimbledon. True to form, the first week of the Championships has been not only exciting, but in some ways shocking in that so many of the top seeds have fallen. But two of America's favorites, Venus and Serena Williams are still in it and are doing just fine, thank you very much, on their own.

Having just been named to the United States Olympic Team, both Serena and Venus are on a roll--and Venus has just set a record clocking the fastest women's serve ever at the All England Club at 127 mph!

Some of my friends are actually heading to Wimbledon tomorrow in the hopes of seeing Venus and Serena play each other in the final--which remains a real possibility. However, my friends are so geographically dyslexic, I know they're going to need help in finding their way to the stadium.

Fortunately for them, Britain has it's own online directory equivalent to America's 411 or Switchboard: We Love Local. Using We Love Local, my friends will be able to discover hotels, restaurants, bars, dry cleaners, museums, train stations, coffee houses, gift shops and more not just around Wimbledon, but throughout Britain so they'll be able to get information about unplanned side trips.

The We Love Local Website is really easy to use. Just like the yellow pages online, you type in the kind of business you're looking for, you type in the city you hope to find one in, and the website displays businesses matching your search on a Google Map.

I've recommended that my friends visit Glasgow in Scotland. I've always wanted to go to Glasgow, well at least since 1980 when Glasgow was mentioned in ABBA's Super Trouper. And using We Love Local, I found a really interesting hotel in seconds called "The Piper's Tryst." If nothing else, it's an interesting name and the hotel probably offers a different hotel experience than your usual Holiday Inn Express.

In any case, when traveling in Britain, there's a new website out there to help you find what you're looking for. We Love Local is easy to use, comprehensive, and should be the first place you go online prior to your visit, or in the case of my friends, after they arrive--because I have no doubt that shortly after their plane lands at Heathrow, they'll quickly become lost and need a most reliable guide.




In the regular course of life I probably would not have met Matt. And since he spends a lot of time on the river, I know that we would not have run into another in the midst of our hobbies....but because we enjoy and are open to the perspectives, outlook and life meanderings of others, here in cyberspace is where we got the opportunity to meet, share and visit. What a world!
--Sheila from Black Tennis Pros

We all have circles we revolve in, but unlike the nearly concentric orbits in which the planets revolve around the sun, they are far from orderly. Therein lies the interesting.

Sheila. Taylor Mali. Me. Gabriela Sabatini. Four individuals. It is a most improbable event indeed that the four of us would ever sit down at a table together and discuss the career of Former U.S. Open Champion Gabriela Sabatini. And yet, today, or tomorrow, at least three out of the four of us will have read these words because today, or tomorrow, at least three of our circles will intersect.

Sheila is mostly correct. Like asteroids in orbits that cross the Earth's as they orbit the sun, in the course of regular life, the Earth and the asteroid probably will not meet--at least I hope they won't because such a meeting would be cataclysmic for both us and the asteroid. More importantly, us. But our circles intersect all the time. And every now and then, one, two, or three or more of us will be in the exact same place at the exact same time. That event is a point of intersection.


Today, Sheila will visit this blog because I left a comment on her blog indicating that recently I've been thinking about the blogosphere and that my thoughts echo hers as quoted above, and she commented that she is interested in what I have to say. Today, or tomorrow, Taylor Mali will visit this blog because today I will send him an email letting him know I'm quoting his work in this blog post and linking to his website.

Now who is Taylor Mali, you ask?

Well that's an interesting story. In short, Taylor Mali is a teacher and a poet, wouldn't you know it? As well as an advocate for analytical and critical thinking skills, creativity, and unique and strong voices. Back in the early 1990s when I was coaching high school debate in suburban Detroit, Michigan; one of the other coaches in my circle, Steve Marsh, invited me to attend a Poetry Slam competition that he was hosting and competing in at the Heidleberg in Ann Arbor. Taylor Mali was one of the competitors, and if my memory serves me correctly, Taylor led his team to victory that night performing his poem Labeling Keys below. The video performance of the poem is 3:30 long, and very worth your time to watch--not the least of which for his creative way of including Gabriela Sabatini in the poem.

Taylor Mali performing Labeling Keys

At the event in Ann Arbor I purchased a couple of Taylor's books of poetry, he signed them, and I emailed him a couple times. But then I stopped being a debate coach and gradually stopped revolving in that circle as my love of whitewater rafting was born in 1996 and I started revolving faster and faster in whitewater boating circles. The funny thing is, about a year ago on a whitewater forum called BoaterTalk, a kayaker from Washington D.C. had recently discovered poetry slams and posted a question asking if any other boater had heard of poetry slams. Of course, I had, so I looked up poetry slams on the internet. There's now a national organization and guess who its Executive Director is? Steve Marsh. Then I Googled Taylor Mali and found quite a lot of info and quickly discovered that Mr. Mali was doing quite well for himself. So I posted on BoaterTalk with how to contact the
National Poetry Slam
organization and I emailed Taylor with a quick note inquiring about his recent published works--which I still need to order--and just casually mentioned how the circle had come around again in another intersection.

I hope you enjoyed Labeling Keys, but if you didn't have time to watch Taylor performing it, I hope you'll read the following poem that should ring true for every blogger circling around in the blogosphere by Teacher and Poet Taylor Mali:

Totally like whatever, you know?
By Taylor Mali

In case you hadn't noticed,
it has somehow become uncool
to sound like you know what you're talking about?
Or believe strongly in what you're saying?
Invisible question marks and parenthetical (you know?)'s
have been attaching themselves to the ends of our sentences?
Even when those sentences aren't, like, questions? You know?

Declarative sentences - so-called
because they used to, like, DECLARE things to be true
as opposed to other things which were, like, not -
have been infected by a totally hip
and tragically cool interrogative tone? You know?
Like, don't think I'm uncool just because I've noticed this;
this is just like the word on the street, you know?
It's like what I've heard?
I have nothing personally invested in my own opinions, okay?
I'm just inviting you to join me in my uncertainty?

What has happened to our conviction?
Where are the limbs out on which we once walked?
Have they been, like, chopped down
with the rest of the rain forest?
Or do we have, like, nothing to say?
Has society become so, like, totally . . .
I mean absolutely . . . You know?
That we've just gotten to the point where it's just, like . . .

And so actually our disarticulation . . . ness
is just a clever sort of . . . thing
to disguise the fact that we've become
the most aggressively inarticulate generation
to come along since . . .
you know, a long, long time ago!

I entreat you, I implore you, I exhort you,
I challenge you: To speak with conviction.
To say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks
the determination with which you believe it.
Because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker,
it is not enough these days to simply QUESTION AUTHORITY.
You have to speak with it, too.


Each of us is at the center of our own world. But our worlds are revolving in circles that intersect with other circles, and in those intersections is where we meet other people, other bloggers, and yes, even a poet such as Taylor Mali and perhaps a champion tennis player such as Gabriela Sabatini--whom Sheila, Taylor, and I have seen play tennis and discussed her game from time to time in our own circles which today, or tomorrow, will intersect here on MTMD.

Love Is a Circle (Circles) by The Captain and Tennille

If you have time, please scroll through the following fascinating information about circles from Wikipedia. Or if you don't please scroll through to the bottom anyway.

What is a circle?
are simple shapes of Euclidean geometry consisting of those points in a plane which are at a constant distance, called the radius, from a fixed point, called the center. A circle with center A is sometimes denoted by the symbol A.

A chord of a circle is a line segment whose both endpoints lie on the circle. A diameter is a chord passing through the center. The length of a diameter is twice the radius. A diameter is the largest chord in a circle.

Circles are simple closed curves which divide the plane into an interior and an exterior. The circumference of a circle is the perimeter of the circle, and the interior of the circle is called a disk. An arc is any connected part of a circle.

A circle is a special ellipse in which the two foci are coincident. Circles are conic sections attained when a right circular cone is intersected with a plane perpendicular to the axis of the cone.

A circle of infinite radius is considered to be a straight line.

Mrs. Miniver's Problem
Mrs. Miniver's problem is a geometry problem about circles. Given a circle A, find a circle B such that the area of the intersection of A and B is equal to the area of the symmetric difference of A and B (the sum of the area of A − B and the area of B − A).

The problem derives from "A Country House Visit", one of Jan Struther's newspaper articles featuring her character Mrs. Miniver. According to the story:

She saw every relationship as a pair of intersecting circles. It would seem at first glance that the more they overlapped the better the relationship; but this is not so. Beyond a certain point the law of diminishing returns sets in, and there are not enough private resources left on either side to enrich the life that is shared. Probably perfection is reached when the area of the two outer crescents, added together, is exactly equal to that of the leaf-shaped piece in the middle. On paper there must be some neat mathematical formula for arriving at this; in life, none.

Alan Wachtel writes of the problem:

It seems that certain mathematicians took this literary challenge literally, and Fadiman follows it with an excerpt from "Ingenious Mathematical Problems and Methods," by L. A. Graham, who had evidently posed the problem in a mathematics journal. Graham gives a solution by William W. Johnson of Cleveland for the general case of unequal circles. The analysis isn't difficult, but the resulting transcendental equation is messy and can't be solved exactly. When the circles are of equal size, the equation is much simpler, but it still can be solved only approximately.

In the case of two circles of equal size, the ratio of the distance between their centers and their radius is often quoted as approximately 0.807946. However, that actually describes the case when the three areas each are of equal size. The solution for the problem as stated in the story ("when the area of the two outer crescents, added together, is exactly equal to that of the leaf-shaped piece in the middle") is approximately 0.529864.

History of the Circle
Early science, particularly geometry and astronomy/astrology, was connected to the divine for most medieval scholars. Notice, even, the circular shape of the halo. The compass in this 13th century manuscript is a symbol of God's act of Creation, as many believed that there was something intrinsically "divine" or "perfect" that could be found in circles. The circle has been known since before the beginning of recorded history. It is the basis for the wheel which, with related inventions such as gears, makes much of modern civilization possible. In mathematics, the study of the circle has helped inspire the development of geometry and calculus. Some highlights in the history of the circle are:

1700BC - The Rhind papyrus gives a method to find the area of a circular field. The result corresponds to 256/81 as an approximate value of π.
300BC - Book 3 of Euclid's Elements deals with the properties of circles.
1880 - Lindemann proves that π is transcendental, effectively settling the millennia old problem of squaring the circle.

Properties of a Circle
The circle is the shape with the largest area for a given length of perimeter.
The circle is a highly symmetric shape: every line through the center forms a line of reflection symmetry and it has rotational symmetry around the center for every angle.
All circles are similar.
A circle's circumference and radius are proportional,
The area enclosed and the square of its radius are proportional.
The constants of proportionality are 2π and π, respectively.
The circle centered at the origin with radius 1 is called the unit circle.
Through any three points, not all on the same line, there lies a unique circle. In Cartesian coordinates, it is possible to give explicit formulae for the coordinates of the center of the circle and the radius in terms of the coordinates of the three given points.

Great Circle
A great circle divides the sphere in two equal hemispheres. A great circle is a circle on the surface of a sphere that has the same circumference as the sphere, dividing the sphere into two equal hemispheres. Equivalently, a great circle on a sphere is a circle on the sphere's surface whose center is the same as the center of the sphere. A great circle is the intersection of a sphere with a plane going through its center. A great circle is the largest circle that can be drawn on a given sphere.

Great circles serve as the analog of "straight lines" in spherical geometry.

The great circle on the spherical surface is the path with the smallest curvature, and, hence, an arc is the shortest path between two points on the surface. The distance between any two points on a sphere is known as the great-circle distance. The great-circle route is the shortest path between two points on a sphere; however, if one were to travel along such a route, it would be difficult to manually steer as the heading would constantly be changing (except in the case of due north, south, or along the equator). Thus, Great Circle routes are often broken into a series of shorter Rhumb lines which allow the use of constant headings between waypoints along the Great Circle.

When long distance aviation or nautical routes are drawn on a flat map (for instance, the Mercator projection), they often look curved. This is because they lie on great circles. A route that would look like a straight line on the map would actually be longer.

On the Earth, the meridians are on great circles, and the equator is a great circle. Other lines of latitude are not great circles, because they are smaller than the equator; their centers are not at the center of the Earth -- they are small circles instead. Great circles on Earth are roughly 40,000 km in length, though the Earth is not a perfect sphere; for instance, the equator is 40,075 km.

Some examples of great circles on the celestial sphere include the horizon (in the astronomical sense), the celestial equator, and the ecliptic.

Great circle routes are used by ships and aircraft where currents and winds are not a significant factor. For aircraft traveling westerly between continents in the northern hemisphere these paths will extend northward near or into the arctic region, while easterly flights will often fly a more southerly track to take advantage of the jet stream. The area of a great circle is a quarter of the surface area of the sphere it belongs to.

When a circle's diameter is 1, its circumference is π, or:
ζ(3) – √2 – √3 – √5 – φ – α – e – π – δ
Binary 11.00100100001111110110…
Decimal 3.14159265358979323846…
Hexadecimal 3.243F6A8885A308D31319…

Pi or π is a mathematical constant which represents the ratio of any circle's circumference to its diameter in Euclidean geometry, which is the same as the ratio of a circle's area to the square of its radius. It is approximately equal to 3.14159. Pi is one of the most important mathematical constants: many formulae from mathematics, science, and engineering involve π.

Pi is an irrational number, which means that it cannot be expressed as a fraction m/n, where m and n are integers. Consequently its decimal representation never ends or repeats. Beyond being irrational, it is a transcendental number, which means that no finite sequence of algebraic operations on integers (powers, roots, sums, etc.) could ever produce it. Throughout the history of mathematics, much effort has been made to determine π more accurately and understand its nature; fascination with the number has even carried over into culture at large.

The Greek letter π, often spelled out pi in text, was adopted for the number from the Greek word for perimeter "περίμετρος", probably by William Jones in 1706, and popularized by Leonhard Euler some years later. The constant is occasionally also referred to as the circular constant, Archimedes' constant (not to be confused with an Archimedes number), or Ludolph's number.

Circumference = π × diameter. In Euclidean plane geometry, π is defined as the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter.

Note that the ratio c/d does not depend on the size of the circle. For example, if a circle has twice the diameter d of another circle it will also have twice the circumference c, preserving the ratio c/d. This fact is a consequence of the similarity of all circles.

Area of the circle = π × area of the shaded square. Alternatively π can be also defined as the ratio of a circle's area (A) to the area of a square whose side is equal to the radius

The constant π is an irrational number; that is, it cannot be written as the ratio of two integers. This was proven in 1761 by Johann Heinrich Lambert. In the 20th century, proofs were found that require no prerequisite knowledge beyond integral calculus.

The numerical value of π truncated to 50 decimal places is:

3.14159 26535 89793 23846 26433 83279 50288 41971 69399 37510

While the value of pi has been computed to more than a trillion digits, elementary applications, such as calculating the circumference of a circle, will rarely require more than a dozen decimal places. For example, a value truncated to 11 decimal places is accurate enough to calculate the circumference of the earth with a precision of a millimeter, and one truncated to 39 decimal places is sufficient to compute the circumference of any circle that fits in the observable universe to a precision comparable to the size of a hydrogen atom.

Because π is an irrational number, its decimal expansion never ends and does not repeat. This infinite sequence of digits has fascinated mathematicians and laymen alike, and much effort over the last few centuries has been put into computing more digits and investigating the number's properties. Despite much analytical work, and supercomputer calculations that have determined over 1 trillion digits of π, no simple pattern in the digits has ever been found. Digits of π are available on many web pages, and there is software for calculating π to billions of digits on any personal computer.

Calculating π
π can be empirically estimated by drawing a large circle, then measuring its diameter and circumference and dividing the circumference by the diameter.

π can also be calculated using purely mathematical methods. Most formulas used for calculating the value of π have desirable mathematical properties, but are difficult to understand without a background in trigonometry and calculus.

Full Circle

Note: Taylor Mali said this morning: You are doing the type of work I whole heartedly support.

Note: If you like this post, please take a moment and vote for it on Yearblook

Note: On July 7, 2008, this post was honored with a PlotDog Press WOOF Contest Award.

Thanks for reading.

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Personal Movie Trivia Meme


Just like a personal pan pizza, but not quite as filling, I was just tagged with the Personal Movie Trivia Meme by The Fearless Blog.

The rules are simple:
1) Cut and paste the following questions.
2) Answer the questions.
3) Tag everyone--so everyone reading this post, consider yourself tagged! That means you too, Ken. Henson, feel free to substitute this tag with the "Top 10 Favorite Animated Movie Tag". (If anyone else wants to substitute this tag with the "Top 10 Favorite Animated Movie Tag", just post a list of your Top 10 Favorite Animated Movies AND a reason why it's on your list.

And NOW, with no further ado....

1) List one movie that made you laugh:
A) There's Something About Mary. I couldn't stop laughing. By the end of the movie I think I broke a rib.

2) List one movie that made you cry:
A) Titanic. Okay, so I'm a hopeless romantic. Or maybe I'm just in touch with my feminine side and am MAN enough to admit it. But I saw Titanic 11 times in the theater and cried like a baby the first 6 times. Tears poured down, but I managed to contain the sobbing so nobody else heard my crying. (If there's enough response to this comment, maybe I'll make a post and reveal the entire story. No promises though.)

3) Name one movie you loved when you were a child:
A) Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I always wanted to win one of those golden tickets.

4) List one movie you've seen more than once:
A) Other than the aforementioned Titanic? Kill Bill Vols. 1 & 2. By far, the Kill Bills are the movie(s) I've seen more than any other. Probably 10 dozen times if you count all the times I just kept hitting play on my DVD player after I fell asleep watching them at 2 in the morning, waking up again, and pressing play. I can quote both those movies almost word for word. They were so innovative, so poetic--even in their violence, extremely well-written, and well-acted. A lot of our television advertising, movie previews, and live professional sporting events all have music from the Kill Bill soundtracks. And Kill Bill was even parodied a bit in Shrek III.

5) One movie you loved, but were embarrassed to admit it:
A) Other than the aforementioned Titanic? Actually, I'm not embarrassed to admit I loved Titanic. I'm just a bit embarrassed to admit I cried during Titanic. Six Times! But I'm man enough to admit it, remember that Roxy. Anyway, I suppose I'm a bit embarrassed to admit I loved Two of a Kind. No, John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John did not strike lightning twice in this really horrible movie. But I loved it anyway because I love Olivia Newton-John, Scatman Crothers, Charles Durning, Beatrice Straight and Gene Hackman. I mean really, with a cast like that, could the movie really be bad? YEP! But it had an awesome soundtrack, two truly good scenes, and it was a nice, fun escape movie. Now, notice I didn't mention Xanadu!

6) One movie you hated:
A) Romance and Cigarettes. Kate Winslet is probably my favorite actress. She's amazingly versatile, brilliant in everything she does, and she lights up all screens, especially when she's playing a bit of a villianess, as she did brilliantly in Quills. But this movie was just so awful I actually walked out halfway through, and I think I've only done that 3 times in my life. And with the other two it wasn't the movie's fault--one time my mother was sick, the second time was after a friend's medical emergency.

7) List one movie that scared you:
A) Aliens. Long story. Short answer. Ask Ken Armstrong at Ken's Writing Stuff.

8) List one movie that bored you:
A) How 'bout two? Out of Africa and The English Patient. Can you say: OVER-RATED?

9) List one movie that made you happy:
A) Muriel's Wedding, although this answer will probably be quickly replaced by Mamma Mia! when it comes out July 18th. Honestly, how can any movie that revolves around ABBA music NOT make you happy?

10) List one movie that made you miserable:
A) Other than the aforementioned Titanic? Probably I'd have to say Sweeney Todd. Johnny Depp was great. Helena Bonham Carter was great. The whole cast was great. But uplifting material, this was not. And even though there were moments when the dark side of me came out and I chuckled, this was just a sad tale, and all of the characters met tragic ends. Leaving the theater we just weren't exactly feeling uplifted, you know?

11) List one movie you thought would be great, but it wasn’t:
A) Pirates of the Carribean: At World's End. I thought it was the worst of the three. I was hoping for the best, convinced it would redeem Dead Man's Chest. But it didn't. Honorable Mention: Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. To this day, I can't watch the Pod Race without falling asleep....Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Jar Jar Binks remains the worst character ever invented for a motion picture.

12) List one movie you weren't brave enough to see:
A) I'll name two: 9/11 and World Trade Center. I want to see these movies, but nowhere near enough time has passed.

13) List one movie character you've fallen in love with:
A) Rose Dewitt Bukater from Titanic. I swear, if Rose were real, I'd follow her to the ends of the earth in the hopes of marrying her. This character is my archetype love interest: Flaming red hair, intelligent, sassy, independent, adventurous, my equal and match.

That's all folks! Once again, everyone is tagged!

Thanks for reading.

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Almost Wordless Wednesday: Norway Maple Trees

Norway Maple Leaves

Norway Maple Buds

The Crimson King Variety of the Norway Maple

Color Progression of a Norway Maple Leaf Changing in Autumn

Norway Maple Tree in Autumn

Three months after I was born, my parents moved us from Northwest Detroit to the suburb of Oak Park. It was March, 1965. Later that spring, my mother noticed a lot of maple seedlings in our yard. She carefully replanted the seedlings in pots, and that summer planted the strongest seedling in the yard. "That is your tree," she told me when I was old enough to help her water plants in the yard a few years later. "I planted that tree for you right after you were born," she said.

From that time forward, I took care of that tree and always made sure it was watered and fertilized, and it grew strong and fast. Five years later, we moved from the house in Oak Park to the suburb of West Bloomfield, but this Maple was my tree. We were NOT going to leave it behind. So my father dug it out of the ground. It was a strong tree, about three feet high with a trunk about an inch think. We planted that tree in the backyard of our new home, along with a more mature Crimson King Maple that was about ten feet tall my father bought from the Nursery, and a few other trees and shrubs.

Well I continued to take care of my Norway Maple Tree. I made sure it was always watered, and it continued to grow. I broke my heart when my parents were divorced and we had to sell the house in 1978. This time, we couldn't take the tree with us. In 1978, only 13 years later, this Norway Maple Tree was 25 feet high, and it's canopy of leaves contained a volume as large as half of our two-story house. It dwarfed every other tree on the lot, including the Crimson King varietal that had a 7 foot head start on it.

Today, 43 years later, that Norway Maple is three times as high as our old house, which probably makes it 75 feet tall, and if it were laid out on the ground, it would take up the entire backyard, easily covering more volume than the house. It's that big. And it's that strong. And it's still my tree.

Below are some facts about Norway Maples from Wikipedia. I recommend growing them from seed in Potting Soil for the first three years. Water them well, and they will become the tallest, strongest, most beautiful trees in your yard.

Acer platanoides (Norway Maple) is a species of maple native to eastern and central Europe and southwest Asia, from France east to Russia, north to southern Scandinavia and southeast to northern Iran.

The Norway Maple is a deciduous tree growing 50-100 feet tall with a trunk up to 5 feet in diameter with a broad, rounded crown. The bark is grey-brown and shallowly grooved; unlike many other maples, mature trees do not tend to develop a shaggy bark. The shoots are green at first, soon becoming pale brown; the winter buds are shiny red-brown. The autumn colour is usually yellow, occasionally orange-red. The flowers are in corymbs of 15–30 together, yellow to yellow-green with five sepals and five petals 3–4 mm long; flowering occurs in early spring before the new leaves emerge. The fruit is a double samara with two winged seeds, the seeds are disc-shaped, strongly flattened, 10–15 mm across and 3 mm thick. The wings are 3–5 cm long, widely spread, approaching a 180° angle. It typically produces a large quantity of viable seeds. It is not particularly a long-lived tree, with a maximum age of around 250 years.

The Norway Maple is a member of the section Platanoidea Pax, characterised by flattened, disc-shaped seeds and the shoots and leaves containing milky sap. Other related species in this section incluse Acer campestre (Field Maple), Acer cappadocicum (Cappadocian Maple), Acer lobelii (Lobel's Maple), and Acer truncatum (Shandong Maple). From Field Maple, Norway Maple is distinguished by its larger leaves with pointed, not blunt, lobes, and from the other species by the presence of one or more teeth on all of the lobes.

It is also frequently confused with the more distantly related Acer saccharum (Sugar Maple). Sugar Maple is easy to identify by clear sap in the petiole (Norway Maple has white sap). The tips of the points on Norway Maple leaves reduce to a fine "hair", while the tips of the points on Sugar Maple leaves are on close inspection rounded. On mature trees, Sugar Maple bark is more shaggy, while Norway Maple bark has small, often criss-crossing grooves. While the shape and angle of leaf lobes vary somewhat within all Maple species, the leaf lobes of Norway Maple tend to have a more triangular shape, in contrast to the more squarish lobes often seen on Sugar Maples. The seeds of Sugar Maple are globose, while Norway Maple seeds are flattened. Sugar Maple usually has a brighter orange autumn colour, whereas Norway Maple is usually yellow, although some of the red-leaved cultivars appear more orange. The tree tends to leaf out earlier than most maples and holds its leaves somewhat longer in autumn.

The wood is hard, yellowish-white to pale reddish, with the heartwood not distinct; it is used for furniture and turnery. Many cultivars have been selected, with distinctive leaf shape or coloration such as the dark purple of 'Crimson King' and 'Schwedleri', the variegated leaves of 'Drummondii' and 'Emerald Queen', and the deeply divided, feathery leaves of 'Dissectum' and 'Lorbergii'. The purple-foliage cultivars have orange to red autumn colour. 'Columnare' is selected for its narrow upright growth.

It has been widely introduced into cultivation in other areas, including western Europe northwest of its native range. It grows north of the Arctic Circle at Tromsø, Norway. In North America, it is grown as a street and shade tree. It is favoured due to its tolerance of poor, compacted soils and urban pollution. As a result of these characteristics, Norway Maple is displacing locally native hardwoods in some parts of North America and is considered invasive in some states, but is still widely used for urban plantings in many areas.

Thanks for reading.

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Arte y Pico #2!


This just in: Buddy from Buddy's Fitness News has awarded me with a second esteemed “Arte y Pico" Award. This award was created as part of a tag initiative from the “Arte y Pico" Blog, where you pass along the compliment to other bloggers, and lately, this award has taken EntreCard by storm with so many excellent blogs being honored, and some of us even being honored multiple times.


This is the second award that MTMD has received, and I'm just as blown away by the honor--and really even more surprised. I just wanted you all to know, since many of us have been discussing this, that since I just got off the river, I'll be attending the awards ceremony in IR River Guide Shorts, Teva Sandals and my NOC Staff PFD.

The way this award works is that you have to pick 5 blogs that you find deserving of this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also for contributing to the blogging community, no matter what language.

--Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.

--Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.

--The Award-winner and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of the "Arte y Pico" blog so everyone will know the origin of this award. Here it is: http://arteypico.blogspot.com/.

After much thoughtful consideration, the second five I have chosen for this award are listed below, in no particular order, with the reasons why I chose them:

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1) Ride to Remedy: Courtney Benefiel is one of the most inspiring bloggers I've ever come across. I first discovered her blog after she commented on my Almost Wordless Wednesday post on Socorro, New Mexico. Courtney is a diabetic, and her life and blog are about living with diabetes and overcoming its hardships. Courtney rides a road bike in Tour de Cures as she raises awareness and dollars in an effort to find a cure. Courtney is one of the most heroic bloggers out there, is an amazing human being, and her blog content will certainly inspire you, and thus she embodies what all recipients of the Arte y Pico Award hope to do.

2) Adopted Jane has a very beautiful and unique blog template, and I'm passing this award to her for the quirky creativity and dark beauty of her site. But there's much more here than a blog that's beautiful to behold. Jane's posts focus on issues of being an adopted child. Children being raised without parents, or those who have been orphaned due to tragedy, are emotional topics. Adopted Jane is all about raw emotion, which I really respect since I write with my heart on my sleeve as well. But there is power in Jane's candor, and her writing is raw--like an onion after the first cut. She will make you cry. And if those tears motivate just one person to take action on behalf of an orphaned child, then her blog will truly be honored.

3) Tricia's Musings: Tricia has been a blogging friend of mine since I started blogging. I took about 18 months off of blogging, but when I came back, I discovered that Tricia's blog had matured and truly become a presence in the blogosphere. Her posts are a mixed bag of random happenings in her life, beautiful photography of her garden, interesting personal anecdotes and informative articles. Tricia has perfected the balancing act between personal diary, news, photography, and paid for posting and advertising. Holding it all together is a pleasant and functional template. Tricia's readers are legion, and if you haven't yet discovered her blog and become a fan, I hope now you'll take a look.

4) Black Tennis Pro's. Sheila's blog, devoted to comprehensive coverage of the Black Tennis Scene is among the finest works of journalistic blogging and sports reporting I have ever seen. A recent interview she did for her "Coaches Corner" Column of her blog was picked up and published by the Chicago Sun Times. This is the blog that fills in all the information that our International Media conveniently overlook; and if you are a fan of tennis, you owe it to yourself to visit this blog on a daily basis, get the latest audio update from Sheila herself, and really enjoy the comprehensive coverage.

5) First Door on the Left. First Door on the Left is a political blog that is heavily opinionated and ultra-left wing. It is one of the finest blogs of its kind I have ever come across. While my views are more moderate than this blog, the zeal and dedication and unfaltering point of view of the writing and the articles and the humor that's demonstrated by the weekly political cartoon roundup present a fantastic information resource for debate and ultimately understanding of the state of politics in this country. Finding current, focused political discussion beyond the typical "Jerry, Jerry, he's my man, if he can't do it noone can!" superficiality that is out there in our news reports and all over the internet is rare, and for that reason alone, this blog is to be treasured.

Please, click the links above. Read these blogs. Then come back to MTMD and let me know what you think.

Thanks for reading.

MTMD: The Widget

Now you can keep up with all the news of MTMD right from your own blog or website! Just add the NEW MTMD Widget to your sidebar and you'll always be up-to-date with the current posts and images from MTMD.

Just click on the link, grab the code, and paste. It's that easy.

Once you add MTMD to your sidebar, let me know and I'll write a review post of your site and add your site permanently to my blogroll.

Thanks for reading.

It's Here: Summer Sweeps Around the World

New River Bridge Sunset Fog in Gorge
New River Gorge Bridge at Sunset from Above

The day my readers have been anticipating has finally arrived! At last, it's June 20th! Yeahhhh! What is significant about June 20th, you're asking? Well, I'll tell you:

1) Today, at 11:59 PM, it officially becomes summer! That's right, the summer solstice is sweeping around the globe at this very minute! Over on the western side of the International Date Line (in the Eastern Hemisphere (isn't that confusing?), summer is moving westward past New Zealand and Australia (where it's actually winter now, for even more confusion). But here in the North, it's summer! It's on the move. It's coming!

New River Bridge Sunset
New River Gorge Bridge Sunset from the River

2) In honor of the change of seasons, I have switched my header and footer graphics. The header is now the full summer image, and I'm offering my readers a CONTEST! The first reader that figures out what river is pictured in the header wins a $50 Gift Certificate to the Restaurant or Online Store of your choice. You win it, you pick it! The footer has also changed, it's autumn, to reflect the flow of the seasons down the page. In 90 days, it becomes a full-fledged header of it's own, and then you'll get a glimpse of winter and the most awe-inspiring header of them all, to appear on MTMD in just 180 days.

New River Bridge Daylight Millers Folly
New River Bridge from the River at Day

3) And most significantly for me, it's the weekend. Tonight I head up to West Virginia for my first rafting trip on the New River since last fall! I've been rafting since 1996, and although I have worked for a rafting company for the last year and a half here in the mountains of North Carolina, my whitewater home is still on the New and Gauley Rivers southern West Virginia. Can anyone sing me a chorus of Country Roads?

Almost heaven,
West Virginia.
Blue Ridge Mountains
Shanandoah River.

Life is old there
older than the trees
younger than the mountains
blowing like a breeze

Country Roads
take me home
to the place
I belong.
West Virginia!
Mountain Mama.
Take me home
country roads.

All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go...oops, wrong John Denver song. Anyway, you get the idea! I'm excited!

For all my friends on EntreCard, internet access will be sketchy...I hope you don't mind too much if I don't drop on you over the weekend, I'm going to try, but I'll probably just catch a few of you.

And now, as a parting gift to give you plenty to read over the long weekend, please enjoy the following tome on the season known as summer, kicked off with the Summer Solstice:

People around the world have observed spiritual and religious seasonal days of celebration during the month of June. Most have been religious holy days which are linked in some way to the summer solstice. On this day, typically JUN-21, the daytime hours are at a maximum in the Northern hemisphere, and night time is at a minimum. It is officially the first day of summer. It is also referred to as Midsummer because it is roughly the middle of the growing season throughout much of Europe.

"Solstice" is derived from two Latin words: "sol" meaning sun, and "sistere," to cause to stand still. This is because, as the summer solstice approaches, the noonday sun rises higher and higher in the sky on each successive day. On the day of the solstice, it rises an imperceptible amount, compared to the day before. In this sense, it "stands still."

(In the southern hemisphere, the summer solstice is celebrated in December, also when the night time is at a minimum and the daytime is at a maximum. We will assume that the reader lives in the Northern hemisphere for the rest of this essay.)

People view other religions in various ways, and thus treat the celebrations of other faiths differently: For some people, religious diversity is a positive factor. They enjoy the variety of June celebrations, because it is evidence of wide range of of beliefs within our common humanity. They respect both their own religious traditions and those of other faiths for their ability to inspire people to lead more ethical lives.

Others reject the importance of all celebrations other than the holy day(s) recognized by their own religion. Some even reject their religion's traditional holy days if they are convinced that they have Pagan origins. This is a common occurrence with Easter and Christmas. Some view other religions as being inspired, controlled, or even led by Satan. Thus the solstice celebrations of other religions are rejected because they are viewed as Satanic in origin.

Why does the summer solstice happen?
The seasons of the year are caused by the 23.5º tilt of the earth's axis. Because the earth is rotating like a top or gyroscope, the North Pole points in a fixed direction continuously -- towards a point in space near the North Star. But the earth is also revolving around the sun. During half of the year, the southern hemisphere is more exposed to the sun than is the northern hemisphere. During the rest of the year, the reverse is true. At noontime in the Northern Hemisphere the sun appears high in the sky during summertime, and low during winter. The time of the year when the sun reaches its maximum elevation occurs on the summer solstice -- the day with the greatest number of daylight hours. It typically occurs on, or within a day or two of, JUN-21 -- the first day of summer. The lowest elevation occurs about DEC-21 and is the winter solstice -- the first day of winter, when the night time hours reach their maximum.

Significance of the summer solstice:
In pre-historic times, summer was a joyous time of the year for those Aboriginal people who lived in the northern latitudes. The snow had disappeared; the ground had thawed out; warm temperatures had returned; flowers were blooming; leaves had returned to the deciduous trees. Some herbs could be harvested, for medicinal and other uses. Food was easier to find. The crops had already been planted and would be harvested in the months to come. Although many months of warm/hot weather remained before the fall, they noticed that the days were beginning to shorten, so that the return of the cold season was inevitable.

The first (or only) full moon in June is called the Honey Moon. Tradition holds that this is the best time to harvest honey from the hives.

This time of year, between the planting and harvesting of the crops, was the traditional month for weddings. This is because many ancient peoples believed that the "grand [sexual] union" of the Goddess and God occurred in early May at Beltaine. Since it was unlucky to compete with the deities, many couples delayed their weddings until June. June remains a favorite month for marriage today. In some traditions, "newly wed couples were fed dishes and beverages that featured honey for the first month of their married life to encourage love and fertility. The surviving vestige of this tradition lives on in the name given to the holiday immediately after the ceremony: The Honeymoon."

Midsummer celebrations in ancient and modern times:
Most societies in the northern hemisphere, ancient and modern, have celebrated a festival on or close to Midsummer:

Ancient Celts: Druids, the priestly/professional/diplomatic corps in Celtic countries, celebrated Alban Heruin ("Light of the Shore"). It was midway between the spring Equinox (Alban Eiler; "Light of the Earth") and the fall Equinox (Alban Elfed; "Light of the Water"). "This midsummer festival celebrates the apex of Light, sometimes symbolized in the crowning of the Oak King, God of the waxing year. At his crowning, the Oak King falls to his darker aspect, the Holly King, God of the waning year..." The days following Alban Heruin form the waning part of the year because the days become shorter.

Ancient China: Their summer solstice ceremony celebrated the earth, the feminine, and the yin forces. It complemented the winter solstice which celebrated the heavens, masculinity and yang forces.

Ancient Gaul: The Midsummer celebration was called Feast of Epona, named after a mare goddess who personified fertility, sovereignty and agriculture. She was portrayed as a woman riding a mare.

Ancient Germanic, Slav and Celtic tribes in Europe: Ancient Pagans celebrated Midsummer with bonfires. "It was the night of fire festivals and of love magic, of love oracles and divination. It had to do with lovers and predictions, when pairs of lovers would jump through the luck-bringing flames..." It was believed that the crops would grow as high as the couples were able to jump. Through the fire's power, "...maidens would find out about their future husband, and spirits and demons were banished." Another function of bonfires was to generate sympathetic magic: giving a boost to the sun's energy so that it would remain potent throughout the rest of the growing season and guarantee a plentiful harvest.

Ancient Rome: The festival of Vestalia lasted from JUN-7 to JUN-15. It was held in honor of the Roman Goddess of the hearth, Vesta. Married women were able to enter the shrine of Vesta during the festival. At other times of the year, only the vestal virgins were permitted inside.

Ancient Sweden: A Midsummer tree was set up and decorated in each town. The villagers danced around it. Women and girls would customarily bathe in the local river. This was a magical ritual, intended to bring rain for the crops.

Christian countries: After the conversion of Europe to Christianity, the feast day of St. John the Baptist was set as JUN-24. It "is one of the oldest feasts, if not the oldest feast, introduced into both the Greek and Latin liturgies to honour a saint." Curiously, the feast is held on the alleged date of his birth. Other Christian saints' days are observed on the anniversary of their death. The Catholic Encyclopedia explains that St. John was "filled with the Holy Ghost even from his mother's womb...[thus his] birth...should be signalized as a day of triumph." His feast day is offset a few days after the summer solstice, just as Christmas is fixed a few days after the winter solstice. "Just as John was the forerunner to Jesus, midsummer forecasts the eventual arrival of" the winter solstice circa DEC-21.

Essenes: This was a Jewish religious group active in Palestine during the 1st century CE. It was one of about 24 Jewish groups in the country -- the only one that used a solar calendar. Other Jewish groups at the time included the Sadducees, Pharisees, Zealots, followers of John, and followers of Yeshua (Jesus).

Archaeologists have found that the largest room of the ruins at Qumran (location of the Dead Sea Scrolls) appears to be a sun temple. The room had been considered a dining room by earlier investigators, in spite of the presence of two altars at its eastern end. At the time of the summer solstice, the rays of the setting sun shine at 286 degrees along the building's longitudinal axis, and illuminate the eastern wall. The room is oriented at exactly the same angle as the Egyptian shrines dedicated to the sun. Two ancient authorities -- the historian Josephus and the philosopher Filon of Alexandria -- had written that the Essenes were sun worshipers. Until recently, their opinion had been rejected by modern historians.

Native Americans: The Natchez tribe in the southern U.S. "worshiped the sun and believed that their ruler was descended from him. Every summer they held a first fruits ceremony." Nobody was allowed to harvest the corn until after the feast.

Males in the Hopi tribe dressed up as Kachinas - the dancing spirits of rain and fertility who were messengers between humanity and the Gods. At Midsummer, the Kachinas were believed to leave the villages to spend the next six months in the mountains, where they were believed to visit the dead underground and hold ceremonies on their behalf.

Native Americans have created countless stone structures linked to equinoxes and solstices. Many are still standing. One was called Calendar One by its modern-day discoverer. It is in a natural amphitheatre of about 20 acres in size in Vermont. From a stone enclosure in the center of the bowl, one can see a number of vertical rocks and other markers around the edge of the bowl "At the summer solstice, the sun rose at the southern peak of the east ridge and set at a notch at the southern end of the west ridge." The winter solstice and the equinoxes were similarly marked.

The Bighorn Medicine Wheel west of Sheridan, WY is perhaps the most famous of the 40 or more similar "wheels" on the high plains area of the Rocky Mountains. Mostly are located in Canada. At Bighorn, the center of a small cairn, that is external to the main wheel, lines up with the center of the wheel and the sun rising at the summer equinox. Another similar sighting cairn provides a sighting for three dawn-rising stars: Aldebaran, Rigel and Sirius. A third cairn lines up with fourth star: Fomalhaut. The term "medicine wheel" was coined by Europeans; it was a term used to describe anything native that white people didn't understand.

Neopaganism: This is a group of religions which are attempted re-constructions of ancient Pagan religions. Of these, Wicca is the most common; it is loosely based partly on ancient Celtic beliefs and practices. Wiccans recognize eight seasonal days of celebration. Four are minor sabbats and occur at the two solstices and the two equinoxes. The other are major sabbats which happen approximately halfway between an equinox and solstice. The summer solstice sabbat is often called Midsummer or Litha. Wiccans may celebrate the sabbat on the evening before, at sunrise on the morning of the solstice, or at the exact time of the astronomical event.

"Midsummer is the time when the sun reaches the peak of its power, the earth is green and holds the promise of a bountiful harvest. The Mother Goddess is viewed as heavily pregnant, and the God is at the apex of his manhood and is honored in his guise as the supreme sun." It is a time for divination and healing rituals. Divining rods and wands are traditionally cut at this time.

Prehistoric Europe: Many remains of ancient stone structures can be found throughout Europe. Some date back many millennia BCE. Many appear to have religious/astronomical purposes; others are burial tombs. These structures were built before writing was developed. One can only speculate on the significance of the summer solstice to the builders. Perhaps the most famous of these structures is Stonehenge, a megalith monument on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire. It was built in three stages, between circa 3000 and 1500 BCE. "The circular bank and ditch, double circle of 'bluestones' (spotted dolerite), and circle of sarsen stones (some with white lintels), are concentric, and the main axis is aligned on the midsummer sunrise--an orientation that was probably for ritual rather than scientific purposes.4 Four "station stones" within the monument form a rectangle whose shorter side also points in the direction of the midsummer sunrise.

Thanks for reading.

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MTMD Wins "Arte y Pico" Award!


This just in: Henson Ray from Henson's Hell and It Happened In Plainfield has awarded me with the esteemed “Arte y Pico" Award. This award was created as part of a tag initiative from the “Arte y Pico" Blog, where you pass along the compliment to other bloggers.


This is the first award that MTMD has received, and I'm blown away by the honor, bestowed upon me and my blog from my friend Henson. I just guess you like me. You really like me!

The way this award works is that you have to pick 5 blogs that you find deserving of this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also for contributing to the blogging community, no matter what language.

--Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.

--Each award winner has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.

--The Award-winner and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of the "Arte y Pico" blog so everyone will know the origin of this award. Here it is: http://arteypico.blogspot.com/.

After much thoughtful consideration, the five I have chosen for this award are listed below, in no particular order, with the reasons why I chose them:

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1) Chic & Sassy Designs: Zoe is the template artist extraordinare who creates beautiful, unique, functional and personal templates for bloggers all over the blogosphere. She's very professional, courteous, friendly, customer-service oriented, and most affordable. And she's the one who updated the look of my blog, which most likely led to this award for me in the first place. Thanks Zoe, again, you rock!

2) New York Traveler.Net, or Mrs. Mecomber to her friends, is the first blogger that welcomed me to EntreCard and wrote a recommendation for my blog. She seems to be responsible for an entire State's worth of blogs that are jammed packed with wonderful articles, humor, history, and photos. And sometime when she's not blogging, she has time to homeschool her kids and help me track down great New York Travel Links, that will be appearing in my left sidebar soon. I think Mrs. Mecomber is most worthy of this award, and is one of the friendliest personalities in the blogosphere.

3) Ken Armstrong Writing Stuff: Ken is hysterical, in an Irish sort of way. While he keeps a low profile, his work is of the highest quality, and he's probably the closest individual there is to a kindred spirit for me in the blogosphere. In fact, one day, at the exact same time, we were reading each other's blogs, thinking the exact same thing, and posting virtually the exact same comment on each other's blog. Scary. Almost "Alien"-scary. ;) If you enjoy excellent writing, and a great sense of humor, read Ken's stuff. He's awesome. And he knows obscure ABBA lyrics.

4) Amy Lilley Designs. I recently discovered Amy's blog after I advertised on her EntreCard widget and watched my day's traffic explode. I had dropped on her widget previously, but only after I stopped to really look at her blog after she generated so much traffic for me that I had to really stand up and take notice. Her work is fantastic, and I am a fan for life of her photography and her point of view. You have to check out her work.

5) Roxiticus Best Blogs. I have to say I'm a little disappointed. The first blogger that came to my mind to share this award with was Bree at Roxiticus Desperate Housewives, but Henson already beat me to the punch by awarding her this honor at the same time he awarded it to me. Oh well, all is not lost. Roxy has multiple blogs, all are amazing, unique, quirky, maybe a little bit desperate as well. Rox is also spreading the gospel of Social Spark and Pay Per Post and dishing out all the gossip from the Roxiticus Valley. She's created many communities that intersect with countless others in the Blogosphere. Rox is a great friend, always helpful, always letting me know she's there, and always quick with a sharp word if I step a little out of line. Roxy is also up for a Bloggy Award for Hottest Mommy Blogger. I'm not sure if she's going to win that one, but she's taking home the hardware tonight. Congratulations, Rox, you...er...rock!

Thanks for reading.

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Almost Wordless Wednesday: Mackinac Bridge









Over on Obscure History is a great post on The Second Narrows Bridge Collapse, and as I was reading it, I realized that one bridge that is always conspicuously missing from any Science or Discovery Channel Documentary on Suspension Bridges is The Mackinac Bridge, which is five miles long and connects the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan together. So while I know all of you are familar with what the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco looks like, I thought I'd showcase for you today pictures of my personal favorite bridge, and tell you a little bit about it.

The Mackinac Bridge (pronounced /ˈmækɨnɔː/, with a silent "c" at the end of the word), is a suspension bridge spanning the Straits of Mackinac. Envisioned since the 1880s, the bridge was completed only after many decades of struggles to begin construction. Designed by engineer David B. Steinman, the bridge (familiarly known as "Big Mac" and "Mighty Mac") connects the city of St. Ignace on the north end with the village of Mackinaw City on the south. It is the longest suspension bridge between anchorages.

The bridge opened on November 1, 1957, ending decades of the two peninsulas being solely linked by ferries. A year later, the bridge was formally dedicated as "the world's longest suspension bridge between anchorages". This designation was chosen because the bridge would not be the world's largest using another way of measuring suspension bridges, the length of the center span between the towers; at the time that title belonged to the Golden Gate Bridge, which has a longer center span. By saying "between anchorages", the bridge could be considered longer than the Golden Gate Bridge, and also longer than the suspended western section of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. (That bridge has a longer total suspension but is a double bridge with an anchorage in the middle.)

The Mackinac Bridge is the longest suspension bridge with two towers between anchorages (8,614 feet) in the Western Hemisphere. Much longer anchorage-to-anchorage spans have been built in the Eastern Hemisphere, including the Akashi-Kaikyo Bridge in Japan (12,826 feet). However, because of the long leadups to the anchorages on the Mackinac, from shoreline to shoreline it is much longer than the Akashi-Kaikyo (5 miles compared to 2.4 miles).

The length of the bridge's main span is 3,800 feet (1,158 m), which makes it the third-longest suspension span in the United States and twelfth longest worldwide.

The Algonquin Native Americans called the straits and the surrounding area "Michilimackinac," meaning "the jumping-off place" or "great road of departure." These Native Americans moved around the straits rather than crossing them. The straits were the end of the trail.

As Europeans settled in the area, the straits became an important area for trade and commerce. The clean air, abundant fish and beautiful views attracted people from all over the area to the straits. Still, the only way to cross was by ferry.

Typically, a fleet of nine ferries could carry up to 9,000 vehicles per day. Traffic backups sometimes stretched to Cheboygan, Michigan, 16 miles away from Mackinaw City. Year-round boat service across the straits had been abandoned as impractical because of the cold winters which would often freeze the water across the entire strait. Following the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883, local residents began to imagine such a structure could span the straits. In 1884, a store owner in St. Ignace published a newspaper advertisement that included a reprint of an artist's conception of the Brooklyn Bridge with the caption "Proposed bridge across the Straits of Mackinac."

The idea of the bridge was discussed in the Michigan Legislature as early as the 1880s. At the time the area was becoming a popular tourist destination, including the creation of Mackinac National Park on Mackinac Island in 1875.

Despite the perceived necessity for the bridge, several decades went by with no formal plan. In 1920, the Michigan state highway commissioner advocated the construction of a floating tunnel across the straits. At the invitation of the state legislature, C. E. Fowler of New York City put forth a plan for a long series of causeways and bridges across the straits from Cheboygan, 17 miles southeast of Mackinaw City, to St. Ignace, using Bois Blanc, Round, and Mackinac Island as intermediate steps.

In 1923, the state legislature ordered the State Highway Department to establish ferry service across the strait. More and more people used ferries to cross the straits each year, and as they did, momentum to create a bridge grew even stronger. Chase Osborn, a former governor, wrote, "Michigan is unifying itself, and a magnificent new route through Michigan to Lake Superior and the Northwest United States is developing, via the Straits of Mackinac. It cannot continue to grow as it ought with clumsy and inadequate ferries for any portion of the year."

By 1928 the ferry service had become so popular and so expensive to operate that Michigan Governor Fred Green ordered the department to study the feasibility of building a bridge across the strait. The department deemed the idea feasible, estimating the cost at 30 million dollars.

In 1934, the Michigan Legislature created the Mackinac Straits Bridge Authority of Michigan, to explore possible methods of constructing and funding the bridge. The Legislature authorized the Authority to sell bonds for the project. In the mid 1930s, the Authority twice attempted to obtain federal funds for the project but was unsuccessful, despite the endorsement of the United States Army Corps of Engineers and President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Nevertheless, between 1936 and 1940, a route was selected for the bridge and borings were made for a detailed geological study of the route.

The preliminary plans for the bridge featured a 3-lane roadway, a railroad crossing on the underdeck of the span, and a center-anchorage double-suspension bridge configuration similar to the design of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Since this would have required sinking an anchorage pier in the deepest area of the Straits, the practicality of this design may have been questionable. A causeway, approximately 4,000 feet, extending from the northern shore, was constructed with concrete road fragments from 1939-1941.

At that time, with funding for the project still uncertain, further work was put on hold because of World War II. The Authority was abolished by the state legislature in 1947 but was reauthorized three years later in 1950. In June 1950, engineers were retained for the project. Following a report by the engineers in January 1951, the state legistature authorized the sale of 85 million dollars in bonds for bridge construction on April 30, 1952. However, a weak bond market in 1953 forced a delay of over a year before the bonds could be issued.

David B. Steinman was appointed as the design engineer in January 1953. By the end of 1953, estimates and contracts had been negotiated, and construction began on May 7, 1954. The American Bridge Division of United States Steel Corporation was awarded a contract of over 44 million dollars to build the steel superstructure.

Construction took three and a half years (4 summers, no winter construction) and cost the lives of five men who worked on the bridge. It opened to traffic on schedule on November 1, 1957, and was formally dedicated on June 25, 1958. The bridge officially achieved its 100 millionth crossing exactly forty years after its dedication, on June 25, 1998. The 50th anniversary of the bridge's opening was celebrated in a ceremony hosted by the Mackinac Bridge Authority at the viewing park adjacent to the St. Ignace causeway on November 1, 2007.

The design of the Mackinac Bridge was directly influenced by the lessons of the first Tacoma Narrows Bridge, which failed in 1940 because of its instability in high winds. Three years after that disaster, Steinman had published a theoretical analysis of suspension bridge stability problems which recommended that future bridge designs include deep stiffening trusses to support the bridge deck and an open-grid roadway to reduce its wind resistance. Both of these features were incorporated into the Mackinac Bridge. The stiffening truss is open to reduce wind resistance. The road deck is shaped as an airfoil to provide lift in a cross wind, while the center two lanes are open grid to allow vertical (upward) air flow, which fairly precisely cancels the lift, making the roadway stable in design in winds up to 150 m.p.h.

The Mackinac Bridge is currently a toll bridge on Interstate 75. Prior to the coming of I-75, the bridge carried US 27. It is one of only two segments of I-75 that is tolled; the other is Alligator Alley in Florida.

The current toll is US$3.00 for automobiles and $3.50 per axle for trucks. The current Toll was increased March 1, 2008 from $2.50 US for Cars. The Mackinac Bridge Authority has proposed raising the rate to $4 for cars and $5 per axle for trucks to fund a $300 million renovation program, which would include completely replacing the bridge deck.

Every Labor Day, two of the lanes of the bridge are closed to traffic and open to walkers for the Mackinac Bridge Walk.

Painting of the bridge takes seven years, and when painting of the bridge is complete, it begins again.

Overall length shore to shore: 26,372 feet or approximately 5 miles.

Length from cable bent pier to cable bent pier: 7,400 feet.
Total width of the roadway: 54 feet
Two outside lanes: 12 feet wide each
Two inside lanes: 11 feet wide each
Center mall: 2 feet
Catwalk, curb and rail width: 3 feet on each side
Width of stiffening truss in the suspended span: 68 feet, making it wider than the roadway it supports.
Height of the roadway at mid-span: approximately 200 feet above water level.
Vertical clearance at normal temperature:
155 feet at the center of the main suspension span.
135 feet at the boundaries of the 3,000 feet wide navigation channel.
Construction cost: $99.8 million (1957 USD; adjusted for inflation, approximately $732 million, 2007 USD)
Height of towers above water: 552 feet
Max. depth of towers below water: 210 feet
Total length of wire in main cables: 42,000 miles
Total vehicle crossings, 2005: 4,236,491 (average 11,608 per day)
Speed limit: 45 mph for passenger cars, 20 mph for heavy trucks. Heavy trucks are also required to leave 500 feet spacing ahead.

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