Inching Along

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I saw this story on Yahoo and thought it was worth a post with the NCAA final four coming up this weekend. Diana Inch, a librarian from Salem, Oregon was the only one out of 3 million entrants to correctly pick the Final Four teams in this years tournament.

Hard to believe considering VCU had to win one of the play in games to even make it into the tournament. If you read the article there was a method to her madness.

She used the Cats & Dogs mascot approach to fill out her brackets, along with her favorite numbers 7 & 11 (I bet she is a craps player) and she favored some states over others based on the people she has met in her lifetime. You can see her bracket at the bottom of the article which includes some of the other upsets she picked.

This reminded me so much of our neighborhood football pool years ago when our sister Cathy would pick the NFL football games based on what city she would rather go shopping in and she would win more often then not.

So keep this in mind next year when you fill out your brackets and enjoy the games this weekend – by the way Diana picked Connecticut to win it all !

Eurotrip 2011: The Journey to Palermo

Traveling is never as easy as you think it will be. While planning my trip on my laptop at home, I imagined that my journey from Athens to Palermo, Sicily, would consist of a night on a ferry and two moderately long train rides. I expected it to take about a day. Instead, it took more than two days – the longest duration of travel I’ve endured in my life.

The day before leaving Athens, I learned that no train goes directly from there to Patras, due to cuts made by the bankrupt Greek government. To travel between the two cities by train requires a few transfers. Despite this, I decided to take a train rather than a bus, thanks to bad memories from a Greyhound trip I took a few years ago. I activated my Eurail pass and got a ticket. At the time of my train’s departure, however, two trains arrived on opposite sides of the platform, and not knowing which one I was supposed to take (my ticket didn’t specify), I went back into the station and reserved a bus ticket for a few hours later (thanks to my Eurail pass, all the tickets were free). I was worried that I would miss the ferry, but the actually-very-comfortable bus ride took only three hours, getting me to Patras with time to spare.

The ferry arrived in Bari at 11 AM, two and a half hours later than it was supposed to. After finding the train station there, I learned that Bari is not a well-connected city in the Italian train network. The earliest I could get to Palermo was 10:40 AM the next morning, after taking an intercity train to Bonaventi, a regional train all the way up to Naples, and, finally, another intercity train to Palermo. I had a reservation at a hostel in Palermo for that night, so this news frustrated me. Instead of sleeping on a mattress, I had to spend my night sitting down in a tiny compartment with four other guys. We all agreed to lay our feet on the seats across from us, and the guy across from me, who looked like Kurt Vonnegut, put his pillow on my foot.

The journey wasn’t all disappointment and frustration, though. While traveling from Bonaventi to Naples, a group of Italian girls practiced their English with me. Before getting off the train, they gave me a memento to remember them by: a bracelet with images of Mary and Jesus. They asked for a memento from me, so I gave them the book I had just finished. Later, they friended me on facebook.

On the train to Palermo I was in the same car as a fellow American backpacker and recent college graduate named Bryanna. Her trip thus far was remarkably similar to mine: she started in Istanbul, went to Athens, spent time on a Greek island (Corfu), and was heading to Palermo. She decided to upgrade to a sleeper car, but we pledged to be friends in Palermo.

My trip also included the “pleasure” of a two and a half hour layover in Naples. As soon as I walked out of the train station there, I could tell that the city had major problems. There were mountains of garbage everywhere (according to Bryanna, there’s some sort of dispute over who should clean it up), and the buildings – which are actually beautiful, architecturally – were smeared with graffiti. The traffic around the Piazza Garibaldi was ferocious, even by Italian standards. Someone needs to clean up that city.

Bryanna decided to stay at the same hostel as me because she didn’t have a reservation anywhere. After arriving in Palermo, we spent four hours finding the place, which was on the outskirts of the city. We misunderstood the woman at the information desk outside the station; when she said the hostel was an hour-long bus ride away, we thought she said it was an hour-long walk away, so we tried to walk there, thinking it would be a nice introduction to the city. A few sweaty hours later, we realized our mistake. After making many inquiries and committing many more errors, we found the right bus. We arrived at the hostel in the early afternoon.

Yet, we got there during siesta time, so we couldn’t get through the gate. While we were waiting, a big group of Italian high schoolers arrived. When the gates opened, they ditched us in line at the check-in desk, in true Italian fashion (I will outline the good qualities of the Italians in a later post).

I learned some lessons from this travel experience. First: leave plenty of flexibility in your travel schedule to allow yourself to make mistakes. I thought I had left myself flexibility, but it was not nearly enough. Second: stay a long time in each place you visit – I suggest a week – rather than moving around a lot, to avoid the stress of traveling altogether. You get a deeper experience in each city that way, anyways.

Eurotrip 2011:  Santorini and Athens

Eurotrip 2011:  Athens

Eurotrip 2011:  Istanbul

Eyelid Woman And Unnecessary Surgeries Gone Bad

From New Jersey comes the unhappy story of a woman whose plastic surgery left her unable to fully close her eyes.  She went in to fix “bumps on her eyelids” left by an earlier cosmetic procedure and was left with her current condition.   So, she’s suing the surgeon.  It turns out that she has had multiple procedures in the past — indeed, one of her allegations is that the surgeon, having learned of her many prior cosmetic activities, should have concluded that she was a poor candidate for the surgery and cautioned her accordingly.

The woman’s story highlights some of the issues about elective surgeries in America.  Why do we have so many men and women who are willingly going under the knife for augmentation of various facial and body parts?  Why wasn’t Eyelid Woman satisfied with her face as it originally was?  Why did she find the bumps on her eyelids so disturbing that she felt compelled to pay thousands of dollars to deal with them?  Vanity has always been a part of the human condition, but there apparently is some dark current in American society that has kicked simple vanity into overdrive to the point where some people are engaged in a relentless effort to achieve and maintain what they believe to be an ideal, youthful appearance.

The risks of a bad result from cosmetic surgery are significant.  You may end up with a grotesque result, like Eyelid Woman or “celebrities” whose faces look like Roman death masks.  But you also may suffer even more severe consequences.  Anyone who receives anesthesia for a surgical procedure runs a risk that was not exist otherwise.  If your surgery requires hospitalization, you may fall prey to the various forms of bacteria that are often found in hospitals.  And if you experience one of those bad results, you may need health care for a real condition like a heart attack or a raging staph infection — not just a fleeting concern about whether a few eyelid bumps from your last cosmetic treatment are detracting from your otherwise flawless appearance.

Urban Legend

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I am not sure if the Webnerhouse blog has ever participated in rumor or speculation, but last week while watching the OSU basketball game on Friday I heard that a friend of mine knew for a fact that Urban Meyer, Florida’s ex-coach had purchased a house in Upper Arlington.

His moving here probably isn’t much of a stretch as Coach Meyer is a native of Ohio and an alumnus of the University of Cincinnati. His first collegiate coaching opportunity was for two years as a graduate assistant here at Ohio State. I have tried to verify his buying a house here through my friend who sells a lot of real estate in Upper Arlington, but with no luck.

This rumor is an interesting one none the less as additional information surfaced last week that Coach Tressel forwarded the dreaded e-mail he received last year to Terrell Pryor’s mentor in Pennsylvania. So much for the confidentiality excuse he used in the press conference.

I typically give people the benefit of the doubt, but what bothers me is that Tressel knowingly signed a piece of paper in December stating he knew nothing about tattoo parlor situation when he did. One would think that his efforts to not come totally clean will cause the NCAA to come down harder on Ohio State than initially anticipated.

Recently Coach Tressel has been saying he is sorry for not knowing what course of action he was to take with the e-mail, yet he forwarded the e-mail on to Pryor’s confidante. Maybe I am being to hard on the guy, but the I didn’t know what to do excuse he has been using is wearing thin with me and makes me think that his resignation or his ouster may be in order.

Ohio State’s reputation has been tarnished and is taking a beating on the internet – O lie O and O$U to name a few. Of course 80% of the Buckeye faithful are still behind coach Tressel, but for how long if the school is placed on probation for a year or two with no bowl eligibility.

No one knows how this whole thing will play out, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a coach that knows how to beat Southeastern Conference teams for a change ?

Farewell To The Beemer

Cars, like people, deserve a proper retirement send-off.  Today we bid adieu to Kish’s little blue BMW station wagon.

We’ve had the blue Beemer for nine years and put on more than 100,000 miles.  The car has patiently endured paint splashes, clipped side-view mirrors, fender benders, coffee spills, and lots of dog hair.  It has borne us to and from faraway places, lugging loads of happy people, dozing dogs, suitcases, paintings, and stray furnishings.  It has delivered reasonably good mileage.  And it has continued to serve for years after it was paid off, requiring only periodic maintenance in order to provide the essential of reliable daily transportation. It has become a kind of member of the family.

But to every thing there is a season, and for the little blue Beemer the season of change came when the alternator gave up the ghost on I-77 and had to be replaced.  The worm of doubt about its continuing reliability was introduced, and with that its hour of career change inevitably drew nearer.  So today we trade it in for a new Acura mini-SUV, but we thank the BMW for its years of faithful service and wish it the best in its future endeavors.

And now, we’d like to present it with this plaque and a gift certificate to Jiffy Lube.

Four Years Later, The Feds Fine Virginia Tech

Four years ago, in April 2007, Virginia Tech experienced the deadliest school killings in American history.  Gunman Cho Seung-Hui shot more than 40 people, killing 32.  The rampage began when he shot two students in a dormitory.  Two hours and 15 minutes later, the University sent out an email advising that there had been a shooting on campus.  A few minutes after that, Cho resurfaced and began a bloody massacre that resulted in most of the student deaths.

Now, four years later, the federal Department of Education has advised Virginia Tech that it will be fined for violation of the Clery Act, a federal law that requires timely reporting of crimes on campus.  The amount of the fine is a paltry $55,000 — the maximum permitted under the law — although the Department of Education letter to the school helpfully says that “Virginia Tech’s violations warrant a fine far in excess of what is currently permissible under the statute.”  Virginia Tech could have been stripped of some of the $98 million in federal student aid it receives, but the Department of Education decided not to take that step.  Virginia Tech has said it will appeal the decision.

Does anyone else find this situation farcical?  A horrific tragedy occurs, 32 people are killed, and four years later the federal government levies a $55,000 fine?  The whole situation is so ludicrous it seems like an insulting joke.  If it takes the feds four years to fine Virginia Tech such a paltry sum for such a colossal loss of life, what is the point of having a federal role at all?  And really, what is the federal interest in crimes committed on a college campus?  That some of the students who were shot down will be unable to repay their federally guaranteed student loans?

This is another example of the absurdity of the federal government’s continuing intrusion into all facets of American life.  The response to most criminal acts, like Cho’s rampage, should be a matter for state law and state courts.  There is no need for a federal role — and certainly not when the federal government moves with such leaden speed, and assesses such a ridiculous fine for such carnage.  Does anyone doubt that the amount spent on the federal investigation into the Virginia Tech shootings far outstrips the negligible $55,000 fine?

 

Whistling, In The Graveyard

When was the last time you hear someone whistle a tune? Doesn’t it seem like whistling has become much less common than it used to be?

I’m a whistler.  When I walk the halls at work, I often unconsciously whistle an off-key rendition of a snippet from Swan Lake.  It’s something I’ve done for years, and I’m not sure why.  The whistling is rare enough, apparently, that people at work comment on it.  It’s been a long time since I’ve heard someone else — a co-worker, or a kid in the neighborhood — whistle something.

Why does whistling seem to have one foot in the grave?  Is it because you have to practice to become a halfway decent whistler?  Or is it because there is no point in learning to whistle a tune when you can walk around all day listening to an iPod?

The heyday of whistling probably was the ’50s and ’60s.  In those days, there were popular TV shows where the theme song was whistled, like the jaunty intro to The Andy Griffith Show or the lonesome-sounding intro to Lassie.  And why was the intro to Lassie so sad-sounding, anyway?  You’d think a show about a kid and his dog would be more upbeat.  Of course, the fact that Lassie was constantly saving Timmy from an abandoned well or catching some escaped convict lurking in the neighborhood may have affected the theme-whistler’s mood.  Perhaps another reason people have stopped whistling is that it brings back disturbing memories of June Lockhart trying to interpret the precise meaning of Lassie’s barks so that she could promptly solve the latest crisis.