A Blog about Everything

Monday, August 18, 2008

Olympic burn-out

Ten days into the Games and I've reached the stage of Olympic burn-out. It happens every four years. The first few days, I watch everything with great interest. Arm-wrestling between two countries I've never heard of before? Bring it on!! Now, I'm overwhelmed with swimming medleys, swimming relays, different swimming distances, gymmastic team medals, gymnastic individual events, gymnastic all-around, preliminary rounds, ect. And wonen's beach volleyball....how many matches of this can I watch? And why are the competitors almost naked? (Note: I have no complaints about events featuring scantily clad males). It would be better if the TV people showed all of the sports, just in shorter segments. I"d like to see some of the equestrian events, for example. But I guess because there are no semi-nude women riding horses, the TV programmers don't think it will draw audiences. Make no mistake: I have great respect for all the athletes, it's the TV schedule that I have issues with.


Saturday, August 16, 2008

I might be related to Julia Child

Or perhaps, I should say was related, as she is no longer alive.

There was a story on the NBC evening news a couple of nights ago about how the late, great gourmet chef Julia Child had been a spy for the USA during WWII. Now this story would have been of only slight interest to me, except for one thing. A photo of her original application for spy service was shown, and her name was not "Child"... it was "McWilliams". A quick Google search revealed that Child was her husband's name. The name McWilliams is somewhat unusual and also is in my family lineage not too far back. Perhaps I have some money coming from her estate?? What about family resemblance? She was 6'2" tall and an excellent cook. I'm short and can barely boil water.

When I was in Ireland, I went to a reputable source (a vendor kiosk near the Blarney Castle) and purchased a family history of the McWilliams clan. I received a family crest and scroll describing the unpronouncable Gaelic form of the name and the family origins in Northern Ireland, migration to Scotland where they rose to prominence but then were booted out after some kind of falling out with the authorities. They then returned to Northern Ireland. Some later emigrated to Australia and the US. One of the more famous descendents was economist and broadcaster David McWilliams, who in 1994 coined the term "Celtic Tiger" to describe the surging Irish economy.

On a similar line of thought: another name in my family lineage is "Irwin". Perhaps I'm related to the late Steve Irwin, crocodile hunter! Crickey!


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Overcoming a fear of heights

Warning: more vacation photos

I'm pretty much a chicken when it comes to heights. So, what do I do on vacation? Confront it head-on!
Nervously navigating a ladder at Badlands National Park.

Wondering what holds up this roadway at Yellowstone.

Getting ready to ride elevator to top of Seattle Space Needle and wondering if there were any bathrooms at the top (there were).

Taking a tour of the Grand Coulee Dam. You get in an elevator car and descend down this track to access various areas within the structure. The elevator car had glass sides so you could appreciate how far you would fall if there was a mechanical failrue. The tour guide cheerfully noted that all parts and labor for the elevator were provided by the lowest bidders.

Someone other than me para-sailing over the Puget Sound at Seattle. Now, that's just plain crazy.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

Yellowstone Park Part II

Alternative title: Wild Kingdom

Everyone who goes to Yellowstone, myself included, expects to see a bear. Early childhood spent watching cartoons of Yogi Bear at Jellystone Park imprinted this idea. Unfortunately, there are no bear photos to display. Twice we came upon traffic jams within the park. Each time , we stopped and asked what was happening. "There's a grizzly over there!!!" were the responses. The scenes were general chaos, with kids yelling and parents jockeying for the best position from which to take pictures. Each time, we were about one minute too late, as the alleged grizzly fled the area.

There was also a traffic jam caused by a herd of bison. The bison didn't flee from the people. They had no fear of anything or anyone.

The most abundant form of mammal life in the park was people. Here people wait for Old Faithful to erupt. It was competitive to get the best vantage point for photos.

This overlook from which one can view the Yellowstone River in a waterfall and a spectacular canyon would be a great spot for quiet contemplation. Except: we had to work our way through the crowd to take this photo.
I'm still glad we went, despite the crowds. The last week of July probably isn't the best time if you want peace and quiet, though.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Yellowstone Park

Alternative title: I shoulda taken an elective course in Geology.

My lack of knowledge in geology became apparent during a recent visit to Yellowstone National Park. The entire park seems to be volcanic. Hydrogen sulfide odors fill the air. Geysers spew, mud pots bubble, and hot springs boil. Do I know the definition of a fumarole? No. This may not even be spelled correctly.

Bubbling mud pot.

Warning signs tell you to stay away from the geologically active areas.

Old Faithful is right on schedule (plus or minus 10 minutes).

Thermophilic bacteria living in a hot spring. Finally, something this bio-nerd can understand.

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