Monday, October 31, 2005

Happy Halloween!

The newspapers have been full of the usual pre-Halloween articles lately: everything from parties, to the history of Halloween, to Fundamentalists proclaiming that all Halloween-related activities are Satanic.

The Fundamentalists need to get a grip. Halloween traditions are based on the pre-Christian harvest traditions of the people we now call the Celts. Apparently Fundamentalists think anything that happened before Christ was the same worshipping Satan. They ignore the fact that pre-Christians and modern pagans (Wiccans) simply want to worship the Creator through nature, much as Native Americans do, which is compatible with Christian beliefs and sure isn't the same as worshiping Satan. I wonder if those who claim Halloween is Satanic also celebrate Christmas? Don't tell them, but many of our Christmas customs are from the Celts, the same people who brought us Halloween.

In Mexico, this holiday is called The Day of the Dead. It's similar to our Memorial Day and at a much more appropriate time of year. Fall, with its change from summer's bounty to winter's severity, long nights, and a new year is a time for closure, remembrance, and celebration.

I feel sorry for anyone whose beliefs prevent them from having fun on Halloween. I have many happy memories of trick-or-treating and watching my dad dressing up like a hunchback scarecrow to scare the kids who came trick-or-treating at our house. The kids loved it and so did we! What could be more fun than being scared while you are actually perfectly safe? I think on some level, Halloween teaches kids how to deal with fear in a safe environment.

Tonight while the religious right scorns our devil-worshipping activities, I'll be handing out candy to adorable kids in cute costumes, and remembering my dad and all fun the we had.

Happy Halloween!

Here are some fun Halloween links:


Halloween on the Net

Halloween Online

You can find lots more via Google.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Big Brother is Watching!

I've been looking at my new site meter and I am amazed at what I can learn about those who visit my blog. I can tell what kind of hardware and software they are using, their ISP, and their geographic location. How scary! I knew this stuff was easy to track on the Internet, I just didn't realize how easy.

I'm also surprised at the number of people who visit my blog. People I don't even know have stopped to visit! Apparently I'm not a typical blog reader; I only read blogs of people I know (so far). I find it a little weird to think that someone I don't know -- on the other side of the planet! -- is reading my silly little musings.

Welcome to my little world... stop by any time.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

New Hit Counter

One of my students, Amanda, showed my how to make my hit counter ignore my computer. Thanks, Amanda! I guestimated on the number of hits (not counting my own) and re-set my counter. Today it re-started at 150.

If you're interested, I'm using Site Meter and recommend it. It will do statistics, track where visitors came from, e-mail stats to you, etc. Best of all, it's free!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Traverse City

My husband and I spent the weekend in Traverse City enjoying the fall colors. If you've never been to TC, you are missing a treat. Yes, the outskirts look like every other overgrown mall you've ever seen, but the downtown is terrific! It's several blocks of turn-of-the century buildings with a variety of shops, several art galleries, and lots of restaurants, all on Grand Traverse Bay. There are two bays, actually, separated by a peninsula, East Bay and West Bay. We stayed at the Pointes North Inn on the East Bay.

One nice thing about Pointes North Inn is that all rooms face the bay. Our room was on the first floor and the beach was just a few steps from our porch. There are lots of seagulls, ducks, and swans on the beach and they aren't afraid of people. The hotel forbids feeding them. Don't worry, though. Judging by their size, they are not starving.

Speaking of food, Friday night we ate at Mountain Jack's on the East Bay Harbor Marina. From our table we could look out over the marina and see Salmon jumping in the water. Our waiter told us the marina was seeded with about 200 Salmon, so they always have fish there to watch. Very cool!

Saturday we had breakfast pasties at Cousin Jenny's. It's a nice little British-looking cafe that specializes in pasties. They don't have a web site but are mentioned in this article: Delightful Delectables. We didn't realize they are closed on Sunday so we were not able to bring home pasties to fill our freezer. For everyone who is not from Michigan: pasties, pronounced "pass-tees," are the local version of Cornish meat pies, filled with steak, potatoes, and rutabagas. They are especially tasty with brown gravy!

After enjoying the fall colors Saturday, we ate dinner at Amicale, a French cafe. They don't have a web site, but that's probably because they are too busy creating fabulous food (a new menu every season, apparently). They are usually very busy, so while waiting for our table we took advantage of the free wireless Internet at Horizon Books, one of our favorite bookstores just a couple of doors away from Amicale, and checked our e-mail on Roger's laptop. He even posted to his blog! It was the first time I've ever checked my e-mail on a wireless network via a wireless laptop (literally: no power cord or mouse)! I felt so technologically savvy.

The only downside to an otherwise wonderful weekend was the inevitable traffic backup on I-75 south on the way home. We got off at West Branch and made our way back to M-15. Usually taking the old roads is about as fast as the expressway, but this time it took us an extra two hours to get home, probably because of the back up and heavy traffic.

If you are looking for nice place to vacation that's not too far away, I heartily recommend Traverse City. Just avoid I-75 if you possibly can.

Friday, October 21, 2005


Since August two people I know in their early 40s have died from massive heart failure.

Even if you never go to the doctor, make an appointment for a check up. Your odds of dying young from an undiagnosed medical condition are probably pretty low, but why take a chance? Do it for the sake everyone who cares about you -- and that's more people than you think. Trust me.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Say Good-Bye to Scotty

Actor James Doohan, best known for his role as Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott on Star Trek, died in July. He had a full, adventurous real life and was loved by many fans. He received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame earlier this year. Photo and obituary courtesy of Star

Trivia: In addition to playing Scotty, Jimmy did many voice-overs in the original Star Trek series and in the movies. According to the Internet Movie Database, he also created the first Klingon dialog in Star Trek: the Motion Picture. His words were later expanded into a full language by others. In Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home Scotty gave a 20th century engineer the formula for transparent aluminum, something the military is working on. :)

Next month, as he requested, part of his ashes will be launched into space. Fans may send tributes (by Nov. 15, 500 word maximum) which will be "digitized" and put in the canister with his ashes. The canister will remain in orbit for about 10 years, then burn up in the atmosphere on re-entry. This is a nice, but puzzling, idea. What could I possibly say to someone I admire but never met?

My Favorite Scotty Quotes (non-Trek fans might want to skip this part):
  • It's green. (Original series episode "By Any Other Name" and Next Generation episode "Relics" too drunk to identify liquor by its name)
  • I can't change the laws of physics. I've got to have thirty minutes. (Original series episode "The Naked Time")
  • Laddie...don't you think you should...rephrase that? (Original series episode "The Trouble With Tribbles" right before he beats up a Klingon for insulting the Enterprise, not for insulting Capt. Kirk.)
  • Captain, the engines can't take any more! (Pick any episode)
  • McCoy: I'm a Doctor, not an engineer.
    Scotty: Now you're an engineer. (Original series episode "Mirror, Mirror")
  • Scotty: I find it hard to believe I've traveled millions of miles...
    McCoy: ...thousands...
    Scotty: ...thousands of miles for an invited tour... only to be forgotten
    McCoy: Don't lose yourself in the role (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)
  • Hello, computer. (Speaking to an Apple mouse in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)
  • Admiral, there be whales here! (Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home)
  • What are ya standin' there for? Da ya not know a jailbreak when ya see one? (Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, rescuing Kirk and Spock)
  • Are ya daft, lad?! How long will it really take you to fix it? (Next Generation episode "Relics," to engineer Geordi LaForge who does not share Scotty's reputation as a miracle-worker)
  • NCC-1701. No bloody A, B, C, or D. (Next Generation episode "Relics," yelling at the Enterprise-D's holodeck computer as he programs it to show the original Enterprise)
Godspeed, Jimmy. Our thoughts and prayers are with you as you boldly go into the undiscovered country. Give our best to Gene and De. Thank you for your brave service in WWII and the many happy memories you gave us as Scotty!


Psuedo-related news Scotty would approve of: According to Sky and Telescope: Now through mid-November, Mars is closer and appears larger in a telescope than it will again until 2018! The so-called Red Planet (actually bright yellow) blazes high in the east by late evening, awaiting your telescope. It's 20 arcseconds wide, larger than it almost ever appears. A full guide to this Mars apparition, including a surface-feature map, is in the September Sky and Telescope, page 67. More about Mars

Monday, October 17, 2005

Oh Happy Day!

At long last, the overnight temperature dropped to freezing! It was two weeks later than usual, but a killing frost means an end to ragweed, bane of allergy sufferers. Hoo-ray! At last:
  • I can turn off my central air conditioning (i.e., my friend the big pollen filter) and open the windows
  • I'll be able to walk in the park and breathe through my nose at the same time
  • My chances for sinus infections will decrease
As an added benefit, I'll have beautiful fall colors to enjoy... just in time for a trip to Traverse City this coming weekend.

I'm doing my happy dance!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Blog Advice from Hugh Hewitt

I recently read the book Blog by conservative blogger Hugh Hewitt. It's an interesting examination of blogs and how they are changing business and politics. My favorite part of the book was his advice for bloggers.
The key rules of success and significance are these:
  • Post often.
  • Link freely.
  • Be generous in praise and attribution.
  • Don't be long-winded too often, if at all. Brevity is the soul of blogging when you are getting started.
  • Paragraphs are your friend.
  • Profanity loses audiences.
  • Avoid feuds and flame wars.
  • At least at the start, skip the comments sections. You end up with the problem of nuts if you are any good.
  • Keep the title short and easy to remember so that it is easy to recall and type into the space at the top of the page. (Hewitt Blog 151-152).
It's good advice for bloggers and other writers, but I wonder how many people actually know this or do it? I recomend this book for anyone who is interested in blogs, whether they blog or not!