Meme: 100 Life Experiences

Copying this Brain-Cleansing Meme from the Urban Pantheist.

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity (of course I suppose this depends on how strictly I define “afford”)
7. Been to Disneyland
8. Climbed a mountain (several in the Appalachian chain and one in the Dolomites)
9. Held a praying mantis (I was always told not to touch them because they’re endangered and the state insect of Connecticut)
10. Sang a solo
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea (does a ferry boat in Boston Harbor count?)
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables (helped my mother and sister with a kitchen garden)
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France (I even have a photo)
20. Slept on an overnight train (on Amtrak which isn’t so romantic, nor did I have a bed.  I’ve also slept on daytime trains and nodded off on the T)
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice (photos & stories)
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise (again, in Boston Harbor)
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person (one of those places that exceeded expectations)
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors (I’ve been to the Bronx & Brooklyn)
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language (ha!  might try to learn sign language w/ my son)
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelos David
41. Sung karaoke
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance (was the first person to ride in a new ambulance to boot)
47. Had your portrait painted (my mother did a picture of my sister & I sleeping on a car trip in Ireland)
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris (with pictures to prove it)
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling (only snorkeling)
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie (although people were convinced it was me and not Jack Lord)
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business (lawnmower to the stars.  Well, one star)
58. Taken a martial arts class (if tai chi counts)
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London (I did see the Horseguards, but not the Buckingham Palace guards)
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper
85. Read the entire Bible
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life
90. Sat on a jury
91. Met someone famous (a few famous folks, most recently Martin Sheen who wiped a booger off my son’s nose)
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee
100. Read an entire book in one day (many children’s books, plus I think I read Jurassic Park in one toilet visit)

Beer Review: Hofbräu Dunkel

Here’s a beer that had me singing “In München steht ein Hofbräuhaus.”

Beer: Hofbräu Dunkel
Brewer: Hofbräu München
Source: 12 Fl. Oz. Bottle
Rating: *** (7.8 of 10)

Comment:  Hard to believe that it’s been five years since I visited Munich and I’m still trying to recapture beer nirvana here at home.  This dark beer has a nice chestnut color and a thick head like sea foam.  The aroma gives off a sweet, caramel scent.  The taste is more bitter though with a roasted flavor and a strong aftertaste.  After a few sips the head is still fairly thick and leaves behind some Brussels Lace.  Not bad!

Book Review: Trawler by Redmond O’Hanlon

Trawler (2003) by Redmond O’Hanlon is one of those books where a novice goes on board a commercial fishing boat to see how hard life is for the trawlermen and finds it hard in ways one never imagined.  No big surprise there, but what O’Hanlon does in this book is write almost entirely in dialogue rather than description.  This means that O’Hanlon either brought on board a recording device or has a photographic memory for conversation.  Either way it’s remarkable considering that O’Hanlon spends much of the journey seasick, sleep-deprived, and unable to stay on his feet as the trawler Norlantean heads into a Force 12 hurricane.

Much of O’Hanlon’s conversation is with Luke the marine biologist conducting field studies on board the trawler.  But there is also the captain Jason, revered by his crew, and cast of tough fishermen, sometimes tight-lipped and sometimes revelatory in an almost hallucinatory way.  The discussion varies from oceanography to ichthyology, superstition and religion, masculinity to mortality, and sometimes just plain crudity.  O’Hanlon seems to make a pest of himself and gets a good bit of jibing in return.

This book not quite what I’d imagined it would be but it’s a good, solid book.

Here are some better reviews than mine:

Author O’Hanlon, Redmond, 1947-
Title Trawler / Redmond O’Hanlon.
Publication Info. New York : Vintage Books, 2006..
Edition 1st Vintage Departures ed.
Description 339 p., [8] p. of plates : ill., map ; 21 cm.

Meme: Dewey Decimal Classification Name, plus Blog Analyzers

Via Phil Bradley, a quiz to convert your name into a Dewey Decimal Classification class.

Liam Sullivan’s Dewey Decimal Section: 002 The book

000 Computer Science, Information & General Works

Encyclopedias, magazines, journals and books with quotations.

What it says about you:
You are very informative and up to date. You’re working on living in the here and now, not the past. You go through a lot of changes. When you make a decision you can be very sure of yourself, maybe even stubborn, but your friends appreciate your honesty and resolve.

Find your Dewey Decimal Section at

As an extra added bonus to this rather lazy post, Random Musings from the Desert posts links to various blog analyzers!

According to Typealyzer, this blog is:

ENTP – The Visionaries
The charming and trend savvy type. They are especially attuned to the big picture and anticipate trends. They often have sophisticated language skills and come across as witty and social. At the end of the day, however, they are pragmatic decision makers and have a good analytical abilitity.

They enjoy work that lets them use their cleverness, great communication skills and knack for new exciting ventures. They have to look out not to become quitters, since they easily get bored when the creative exciting start-up phase is over.

I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs test myself and always come out INFP, so my blog is more extroverted than I am.  Of course that text above is rather laughable.

GenderAnalyzer says:

We think is written by a man (73%)

Must be all the stuff I write about beer, baseball, farts, films with lots of ‘splosions, and nekkid jello wrestling.

Finally, the analyzer I fear the most, The Blog Readability Test:

blog readability test

TV Reviews


With a little Googlin’, I found one more blog analysis tool, How Much is Your Blog Worth?

My blog is worth $7,903.56.
How much is your blog worth?

That’s what I get for a high school education.



I remember being seven years old when the realization came to me that in just…three…years I would be ten and I’d be so old and wouldn’t be able to play and have fun anymore.  It’s good to get one’s midlife crisis out of the way early because now that I’m five times seven I’m much more relaxed.  And I have fun and play too.

Book Review: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

I’ve been wanting to read Middlesex (2002) by Jeffrey Eugenides since its release six years ago.  The title attracted me because I then lived in Middlesex County, but this book is not set in Massachusetts but in Michigan.  And the Middlesex of the title refers to the address of the narrator/protagonist Calliope “Cal” Stephanides’ childhood home and more wistfully to the fact that Cal is an intersexed person.  Cal was raised as a girl due to the outward appearance of femininity because of 5-alpha reductase deficiency only to discover his real biological sex as a teenager.

As a memoir-style, Eugenides’ narrative goes back further than “I was born” and traces the life of Cal’s genes back three generations.  Using a unique “first-person omniscient” narrative voice, Cal tells of her grandparents’ incestuos relationship, escape war-torn Turkey, and settlement in Prohibition-Era Detroit.  Next, there’s the story of Cal’s parents, first cousins, and their unlikely romance.  Finally  there’s Calliope’s own story.  The result is an epic, multigenerational tale of an eccentric and oddly endearing Greek-American family whose fates closesly mirror the city of Detroit.  In this novel are recounted the Burning of Smyrna and the Detroit Riots of 1968, the birth of the Nation of Islam and the pursuit of the American dream.

I enjoyed this novel immensely, the narrative voice very engaging and amusing, especially as read by Kristoffer Tabori.

Author Eugenides, Jeffrey.
Title Middlesex [sound recording] / Jeffrey Eugenides.
Publication Info. New York, NY : Audio Renaissance, p2002.
Edition Unabridged.
Description 17 sound discs (ca. 21 hrs.) : digital ; 4 3/4 in.

Book Review: Where’s my jetpack? : a guide to the amazing science fiction future that never arrived by Daniel H. Wilson

We live in the 21st-Century, that magical century heralded in the past century as The Future, yet The Future has been somewhat disappointing. Where’s my jetpack? : a guide to the amazing science fiction future that never arrived (2007) by Daniel H. Wilson recounts all the great inventions promised to an eager public by science fiction, comic books, World’s Fairs, and documentaries that seemingly have never come to pass.  Wilson goes through several of these fantastic devices and describes what advances have actually been made and tells how several of them actually exist.  Albeit in less than fantastic guises or far to expensive/exclusive for the general populace.  Here are some of my favorites:

  • The jetpack, which works, just not for very long due to fuel limitations.
  • The zeppelin which once sailed elegantly through the sky until the Hindenberg disaster, but may be making a return.
  • Teleportation which is possible with particles if not with human beings.
  • Underwater hotels: one exists but it’s not very luxurious.  More luxurious hotels are in the works.
  • Anti-Sleeping pills are available under the brand name Provigil (I’m tempted to get a prescription).
  • The Space Elevator is theoretically possible and Wilson suggests we submit our plans to the Spaceward Foundation and win a prize (Hey, there’s a space elevator blog too!).
  • And a Moon Colony?  It’s in the works!

This is a fun little book with a good mix of science and humor that will appeal to anyone’s inner geek.

Author Wilson, Daniel H. (Daniel Howard), 1978-
Title Where’s my jetpack? : a guide to the amazing science fiction future that never arrived / Daniel H. Wilson ; illustrated by Richard Horne.
Publication Info. New York : Bloomsbury USA : Distributed to the trade by Holtzbrinck Publishers, c2007.
Edition 1st U.S. ed.
Description 192 p. : ill. ; 20 cm.

Book Review: The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation. Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves by M.T. Anderson

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation. Volume II: The Kingdom on the Waves (2008) by M.T. Anderson continues and completes the young adult Revolutionary War saga.  I read the first volume, The Pox Party, earlier this year and it was by far one of my favorite books of the year so far.  This volume picks up with Octavian escaping a death sentence and with his tutor Dr. Trefusis make it into besieged Boston.  There he is a violinist performing to entertain the British regulars.  Octavian yearns for something more and answers the call of Virginia governor Lord Dunmore who has created a Royal Ethiopian regiment for slaves of rebellious masters willing to take up arms to put down the rebellion in exchange for their freedom.

The majority of the book is in the form of Octavian’s diary (interspersed with a few letters written by other actors in this drama).  He describes the hope and optimism of slaves gaining freedom and learning to fight.  His reunion and developing relationship with the older, wiser slave Pro Bono. He tells the stories of his fellow slaves and how they made their escape.  He describes in grim detail the loss of Norfolk and the plague of smallpox the decimates the regiment.  Eventually Octavian’s spirit is all but crushed and he comes to the conclusion that Dunmore has no desire to free slaves other than for tactical purposes.

I have to admit that this book dragged at times.  There was too much verisimilitude in a day-to-day diary of the mundane life of a foot soldier.  I also admit that with the reality of Octavian’s life already established in the previous volume that it loses the unique science fiction edge and reads more like a straight-forward historical novel.  The novel does follow real historical events and recreates them in an admirable way.  Yet, and it may just be due to flashbacks of working at Colonial Williamsburg, I had trouble getting into this book.  If you enjoyed the first volume as I did, I would definitely recommend completing Octavian’s story.

Author Anderson, M. T.
Title The astonishing life of Octavian Nothing, traitor to the nation. v. #2 The kingdom on the waves / taken from accounts by his own hand and other sundry sources ; collected by M.T. Anderson of Boston.
Publication Info. Cambridge, Mass. : Candlewick Press, 2008.
Edition 1st ed.
Description 561 p. : maps ; 24 cm.

Book Review: The Devil We Know by Robert Baer

I listened to the audiobook of The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower (2008) by Robert Baer and I can tell you right now that this isn’t going to be a good review because this book presents such a different understanding of Iran than any other perspective I’ve ever encountered.  Here are the highlights as I understand them:

  • Americans and the West in general have a distorted view of Iran and especially of what Iran wants.
  • Iran is a country that is trying to modernize, participates widely in the internet, and even watches a lot of American television.  They are not like some other Islamic states trying to return to pre-modern times.
  • Iranians desire empire and wish to be recognized as a major player in Middle East politics, perhaps even a superpower.
  • We should not be scared that Iran will build and use nuclear weapons nor that they desire some nihilistic destruction of the west. What Iran actually really does do and what they’re capable of is actually more unsettling if unnoticed by the West.  Iran succeeds through asymetrical tactics and weapons
  • Through proxy wars, Iran has carried out their quest for imperialism throughout the Mid East.  Baer asserts that through Hezbollah, Iran won the first military conflict against Israel in 2000.  Through cunning and strategy Iran has achieved many military goals and won over the support many Muslims even Sunnis & Arabs who traditionally are at odds with the Shiite & Persian Iran.
  • Nations the US currently allies with are weak (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE) or not really states at all just strong armies (Pakistan).  Plus the oil fields in Saudi Arabia are emptying out and Iran’s hegemony has them in position to control the oil supply for the future.
  • In general, Shiite Iran is hierarchical, commands come only from leaders with extensive religious trading, and they carry out their campaigns with specific goals and targets in mind.  Sunni Arabs are not hierarchical, leaders with no religious training give out commands (such as Osama bin Laden), and carry out attacks for slaughter’s sake alone.  Western governments have successfully negotiated peace with Iran because they can not only find someone to negotiate with but because they are open to negotiation.
  • Continuing on the present course will require a huge outlay of money and military force to either contain Iran in a 30+ year Cold War or to actually engage them in battle.  In addition to losing many lives and bankrupting the country, Iran would shut off our supply of oil. Baer does not believe the US populace would stand for any of this.
  • In the end Baer gives several reccomendations for the US to bury it’s pride and recognize Iran as a major power, grant them a role in restoring order to Iraq, and allow nations artificially created after WWI (such as Iraq and Pakistan) to be disolved into smaller states.  Baer believes this realpolitik approach to Iran’s de facto superpower status is are only sensible option.

I obviously know only a little about Iran and the Mid East in general, and Baer seems to be stacking the deck to support his thesis and has certain obvious prejudices (especially against Sunnis/Arabs.  Yet its a compelling argument, and a very nuanced understanding of today’s Iran.  It’s not likely that American politicians will follow any of these suggestions, and perhaps with good reason.  Still it’s an eye-opening account that challenges the accepted wisdom.

Some professional reviews:

Author Baer, Robert.
Title The devil we know [sound recording] : [dealing with the new Iranian superpower] / Robert Baer.
Publication Info. Westminster, Md. : Books on Tape, p2008.
Edition Unabridged.
Description 8 sound discs (ca. 74 min. each) : digital ; 4 3/4 in.