The good news is that I truly outdid myself this year. The bad news is that I had to take them down after only two days. I had more people come screaming up to my house than ever. Great stories. But two things made me take it down. First, the cops advised me that it would cause traffic accidents as they almost wrecked when they drove by. Second, a 55 year old lady grabbed the ladder and almost killed herself putting it against my house and didn't realize it was fake until she climbed to the top (she was not happy). She was one of many people who attempted to do that.
My yard couldn't take it either. I have more than a few tire tracks where people literally drove up my yard.
I think I made him too real this time . But it was fun while it lasted.
The Wet Side of the Moon
Moffett Field, Calif.
PICTURE a habitat atop a hill in warm sunlight on the edge of a crater near the south pole of the Moon. There are metal ores in the rocks nearby and ice in the shadows of the crater below. Solar arrays are set up on the regolith that covers the Moon’s surface. Humans live in sealed, cave-like lava tubes, protected from solar flares and sustained by large surface greenhouses. Imagine the Moon as the first self-sustainable human settlement away from Earth and a high-speed transportation hub for the solar system.
We can finally begin to think seriously about establishing such a self-sufficient home on the Moon because last week, NASA announced that it had discovered large quantities of water there.
While we have known for decades that the Moon had all the raw chemicals necessary for sustaining life, we believed they were trapped in rocks and thus difficult to extract. The discovery of plentiful lunar water is of tremendous importance to humanity and our long-term survival.
There have been 73 missions, manned and unmanned, to the Moon, and understanding its chemical composition, particularly finding water, has always been a priority. So why haven’t we seen significant amounts of water until now?
The answer lies in the Moon’s rotation. Unlike Earth, which rotates on a significant tilt to the Sun, the Moon is barely tilted at all. At the poles, some hills remain in permanent sunlight while some troughs are always in shadow. When water lands in sunny spots, perhaps carried by comets or asteroids, the water transforms directly into gas; if it lands in shadow, the water freezes and can remain indefinitely. The lack of light explains why spectrometers — instruments that can be used for remote water detection but rely on reflected light to do so — never picked up on the water.
This changed last month, when NASA shot a satellite into a permanently shadowed region on the Moon’s surface, throwing a plume of material containing water up out of the shadow.
From the perspective of human space exploration, that water is the most important scientific discovery since the ’60s. We can drink it, grow food with it and breathe it — by separating the oxygen from the hydrogen through a process called electrolysis. These elements can even be used to fuel rocket engines. (Discovering water on Mars was not quite as significant because the major hurdle to establishing permanent settlements there is the eight-month journey.)
Creating a permanent lunar habitat is important primarily for our species’ survival. Humanity needs more than one home because, with all our eggs in one basket, we are at risk of low-probability but high-consequence catastrophes like asteroid strikes, nuclear war or bioterrorism.
But it would also lead to valuable technological and other advancements. Consider the side-effects of the Apollo program: it drove the development of small computers, doubled the number of doctoral students in science and math in about a decade and marked a new stage in relations between the Americans and Soviets.
Imagine what we could learn from living on the Moon permanently. On its far side, shielded from the Earth’s radio noise, there is a quiet zone perfect for radio astronomy — which allows us to see objects we can’t from Earth. Out of necessity we could develop bacteria to extract resources directly from the regolith — a useful technology for Earth as well. And an international venture could open a new era of global cooperation.
Almost as surprising as NASA’s announcement is the lack of attention it has received. Thirty years ago, a development like this would have been heralded as one of humanity’s greatest discoveries. Perhaps the indifference is partly because of the disappointment of astronomers, amateur and professional, who tried to watch NASA’s October blast through their telescopes, but couldn’t see the plume. Or perhaps it’s a symptom of our age, that the problems that bedevil us on Earth limit our interest in other worlds — just when we need them (and the inspiration they offer) most.
William S. Marshall is a staff scientist with the Universities Space Research Association based at the NASA Ames Research Center.
First They Killed My Father selected as a 2009 "Outstanding Book for College Bound" by American Library Association. A Teacher Guide, produced by Collin College, to accompany FTCMF is available upon request.
Schools that have chosen Lucky Child or FTKMF for community reads include:
Saint Michael's College
"There can be absolutely no question about the innate power of [Ung's] story, the passion with which she tells it, or its enduring importance." - Washington Post Book World
For updated information and postings on Cambodia www.loungung.com
Phnom Penh Post
Cleveland Public Library
Loung Ung: Author, Lecturer, Activist November 2009 Newsletter
Loung returns to Cambodia
Last February, I sat in the courtroom, mere feet from the accused (a guy by the name of Duch, who was the director of S-21, a torture center now turned ito Cambodia Genocide Museum. Duch was responsible for the deaths of over 14,000 people). I walked into the courtroom with many emotions, and the fear that no one cares nor believed us.
I looked around at the full courtroom, heartened to see the tremendous turn out of both local and international journalists, and the cambodian public. Behind me, twenty monks in bright saffron robes sat; their faces quiet as if in a trance of peaceful meditation. Near them, a group of twenty-nine university students in uniforms read the tribunal information packages. I asked them if they believed what they heard.
"Not at first," Rachna, an 18 year-old math student replied. "the stories were too horrible. But then, I kept reading the stories in the papers, hearing it on radios, and seeing it on television news." She paused, looked at me. Then she said, "All these people are telling the same horrific stories of what happened to them and their families. I thought to myself - it's not possible that all of them could be lying. So I now believe." To borrow an expression from Ms. Oprah, I had my "aha" moment then.
In a few days, I will return to Cambodia, my thirtieth plus trip back. I will again sit in the courtroom to witness the tribunal, and visit family and friends. I will also visit Khien Khleang Rebabilitation Center (a program of Veterans International-Cambodia), a charitable program I've been involved in since 1997. I'm so thrilled that our program, which started as a non profit organization, today has assisted over 16,000 Cambodians to walk, farm, work, and have mobility.
For more information on KR tribunal -- Newshour with Jim Lehrer Khmer Rouge Torture Chief Apologizes During Tribunal with Ray Suarez and guest Loung Ung and Gregory Stanton.
Loung Ung selected for NACA Showcase
National Association for Campus Activities (NACA) will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2010. Loung Ung is honored to share this experience as a speaker at the “Lecture Showcase”. For more information on Lecture Series by Loung Ung, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
PEPY to Cycle in Cambodia to support rural school programs.
Loung Ung Joins PEPY to Cycle in Cambodia in December of 2009. PEPY Tours combine adventure travel with hands-on volunteer project.
A man had 50 yard line tickets for a NEW ORLEANS SAINTS game. As he sits down, a man comes down and asks if anyone is sitting in the seat next to him.
"No," he says, "The seat is empty."
"This is incredible," said the man. "Who in their right mind would have a seat like this for the NEW ORLEANS SAINTS, the biggest sporting event in the world, and not use it?"
He says, "Well, actually, the seat belongs to me. I was supposed to come with my wife, but she passed away. This is the first SAINTS game we haven't been to together since we got married in 1987."
"Oh ... I'm sorry to hear that... That's terrible. But couldn't you find someone else, a friend or relative, or even a neighbor to take the seat?".
The man shakes his head. "No they're all at the funeral!"
GEAUX SAINTS! WHO DAT . . . 12-0 who dat we dat nation !
|Issue Date: July 2006, Posted On: 9/26/2006 |
From Hartford, With Love
By F. Paul Pacult
Ask 100 legal-age American consumers where Smirnoff, the world’s biggest selling brand of vodka, is made and the heavy betting is on the majority of respondents replying with something akin to, “Well, it’s got to be Russia, right? Aren’t most top-drawer vodkas made either in Russia or Poland?”
It’s true that oceans of vodka are produced in Russia, former Soviet-bloc nations such as Estonia, Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine, and Eastern European countries like Poland and the Czech Republic. However, vodka comprises 25 percent of the distilled spirits sold worldwide, and its increasing global consumption has forced wider production. Long gone are the days when premium vodka was only a product of Russian or Eastern European origin. Other major vodka-producing nations now include all Scandinavian countries, France, Holland, Scotland, Italy, Ireland, England, Germany, Canada and the United States.
In fact, Smirnoff, our brand in question, has been distilled in Hartford, Connecticut, since the 1930s. Smirnoff started out as a Czarist-era, 19th-century Russian vodka and was known by the name “Smirnov” after its founder, Piotr Arsenyevitch Smirnov. The upheaval caused by the Russian Revolution in 1917 and subsequent fading family fortunes shifted the vodka to France, where in the 1920s the name was altered to Smirnoff. That’s when entrepreneur Rudolph Kunnett and John Martin, the president of then-drinks giant Heublein, introduced the brand to the United States.
The well-established cultural identifications with Poland and especially Russia were so strong after World War II when vodka gained traction in the United States, that it makes complete sense for marketers to have capitalized on that perception. Besides, from the demise of Prohibition through the early 1950s, vodka was popular in America solely within the Russian and Eastern European immigrant communities of the major Midwestern and northeastern cities. As vodka sales multiplied from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, Smirnoff competitors appeared sporting names with decidedly Eastern European/Russian rings to them: Popov, Nikolai, Vladimir, Kamchatka, Natasha, Tvarski, Korski, Karkov, Rikaloff, Ruble and Kimnoff.
Then in the 1970s came the classy, up-market imports supported by clever advertising: Stolichnaya from Russia and Absolut from Sweden. With the emergence of these two stylish brands, the spirits industry landscape forever changed. In 2005, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), vodka accounted for 27 percent of all spirits sales in the United States, with the largest gains seen in the high-end (up 7.5 percent) and superpremium (up a remarkable 23 percent) categories.
Yet for all the marketing efforts to align with vodka-making countries from the Old World, many contemporary American distillers believe that the new vodkas produced in the United States need not hitch their images to the nations that invented this most popular spirit. Such is the case with the exciting breed of high-end premium and superpremium native vodkas that sell for $30–35 per bottle.
A Matter of Style
I asked some of the best vodka distillers and marketers what they thought about the matter of style. Miles Karakasevic, owner and master distiller at Domaine Charbay Distillery in Napa Valley, said this: “We at Charbay emphasize the grain fragrance [and] smoothness with fullness on the palate as essential characteristics of the ‘American-style vodka’…[This style is] tailor-made for the rigors of being blended into numerous cocktails, on the rocks, or shaken into a martini, but not necessarily for drinking cold, straight, down the hatch, [as is] the classic European fashion.”
Anyone who has sniffed and tasted Karakasevic’s assertive and intense Charbay Vodka will immediately understand the point he made. If anything, Charbay’s bold yet elegant character is a cross between the heartiness of Eastern European vodka and the finesse exhibited by Scandinavian vodkas, thereby creating an exciting hybrid style that can be described as American or even Californian. Also, bear in mind that approximately 90 percent of vodka poured in America ends up in cocktails, so distillers are virtually required to take that application into account. By stark comparison, over 90 percent of vodka in Russia and Eastern Europe is consumed straight up.
Kevin Egan, vice president of 21st Century Spirits, markets Blue Ice Vodka, which is produced from Idaho russet potatoes. Egan largely agrees with Karakasevic on the issue of an American style. “American producers have historically produced vodkas that were not competitive quality-wise with European brands. Now, small distillers are creating quality American vodka of equal and/or better taste and quality when compared to European vodkas. The new American vodkas are eclectic, very distinctive and complex,” says Egan.
Uniqueness in any spirit can frequently be traced back to the environment in which production occurs or to the materials of a particular location. Certainly, single malt Scotch whiskies can reflect their place of origin. The same holds true for Cognacs that hail exclusively from one of the six demarcated growing districts, most notably, Grande Champagne and Borderies. Even with a fundamentally neutral spirit like vodka, it is possible for the place of origin or base material to shine through in the final product if the vodka is produced on a small scale.
Duncan Holaday is the president of Duncan’s Spirits in Vermont. Holaday produces vodka using raw materials like the sap of maple trees. “A real artisanal vodka is rooted in a particular place, with distinctive water, sugar and traditions,” says Holaday. Vermont Spirits Gold, for example, is unique because of the ecology of northern New England, the tradition of maple sugaring and excellent water. It is American because it’s made in this small part of America. It is unique because it brings out the character of its substrate, maple sugar.”
But not everyone in the American distilling industry ascribes to the idea of an emerging authentic American vodka style—not just yet, anyway. Mark Brown is the president and CEO of Sazerac Company, which owns and operates the fabled Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky. Brown’s distillery produces Rain Vodka from American organic corn. When asked if a distinct American style is emerging, Brown replied, “The short answer is generally ‘no, but it needs to.’ In the case of Rain, we’ve managed to achieve a very distinctive taste/aroma profile…because it retains a substantial amount of the original grain’s—white organic corn’s—character both in taste and smell. We’ve found that some consumers really like it and others really dislike it. On balance, we are pleased to have taken the risk.”
It’s refreshing to me as a journalist and highly beneficial for consumers that visionary distillers like Mark Brown (Rain), Miles Karakasevic (Charbay), Jorg Rupf (Hangar One), Duncan Holaday (Vermont), Burt Beveridge (Tito’s Handmade) and Pat Couteaux (Shakers), aren’t afraid to take a chance on a cutting-edge concept, even when they acknowledge the possibility that some consumers won’t care for the final product. That’s how a whole category advances and evolves. That’s how distillers and the public both learn about what works and what doesn’t in a category of spirits. Most importantly, that’s how the products with genuine quality rise to the top as benchmarks.
After pondering our nation’s place in the international vodka pecking order, I’m now convinced that it’s immaterial whether American vodkas develop a distinctive style. What’s so intriguing about the scores of vodkas being produced in the United States right now is their stunningly wide array of qualities, personalities and virtues. Hangar One Vodka is totally different from Shakers Rye Vodka, which is completely different from Skyy 90 Vodka, which is miles apart from Tito’s Handmade that inhabits another planet far from Smirnoff and on and on.
Egan called the new generation of American vodkas “eclectic.” Maybe that’s the description that they rightfully deserve and perhaps that’s the status that will propel them forward. Perhaps vodka of no particular style is the most suitable way to go. After all, America is the ultimate international arena where all social and cultural levels shine. Why not the United States of Vodka?
More accurately the title is Ten Foods, Drinks, and Destinations to Try Before You Die. I don’t presume that you are about to die, but let’s consider our mortality with a generous measure of humor. As Marcus Aurelius said, “Death smiles at us all. What can a man do, but smile back?” Or, as Seneca said, “Bibamus. Moriendum est,” “Dying is unavoidable. So let’s go get wasted.” A Christmas Bucket List!
I’ve had one shot. In a New York scotch bar. $30. Which is overpriced. A fifth of 25-year-old Macallan will run you about $600, but if you ever taste it, you’ll want more, never mind the price. It’s like drinking a campfire that hugs you and wants to be your friend.
If you want scenery, I recommend Loch Morlich in winter. It’s southeast of Aviemore. Snowy, with plenty of shallow streams to listen to (where do you think the distilleries bottle their whiskys?).
It has nothing to do with the clap. It is also called Plum Duff, and it is a dessert pudding with dried currants, custard, and rum. In the best restaurants, they add a generous douse of your favorite rum on top. As Robert Newton’s Long John Silver says, “That be what gives it the flavor! Ha haargh!”
Churrasco is no one dish, but a particularly Brazilian and Argentinian style of serving meat. These two countries are internationally known for great steaks, but have equally great pork, lamb, mutton, chicken and seafood. Some restaurants serve all you can eat, sliced fresh off the grill, along with corn, rice, and fresh fruits, especially mangoes. Belem is nicknamed “City of the Mango Trees.”
If you’ve always wanted to see the Amazon Jungle but don’t want to get eaten when you go into it, Belem is perfect. It is on the coast, but only 20 to 30 miles inland, you can charter cheap ferries down the Para and Tocantins Rivers. They are not technically tributaries of the Amazon River, but they are part of its estuary, and with just a short jaunt in a schooner, you can see all the jungle you ever wanted.
And you can’t imagine how deep, dark, and wild it is. Familiar with the Goliath Bird-eating Spider? You can see them climbing the trees at the edge of the water, from 50 feet away.
You can be assured of seeing the Amazon macaw, one of the most famous parrots in the world. Flocks of them flying over the rivers all the time, from jungle to jungle.
Pizza was invented in Napoli (Naples), by the poor class who had money only for bread dough, tomatoes, and cheese. So they put it all together and baked it.
Today, the most traditional pizza in America is still in New York City, but if you want it truly traditional, Napoli is the only choice. Any quaint, family-owned-and-operated restaurant in the city will serve you pizza to die for.
The reason pizza is the best in Napoli is because the tomatoes are San Marzano, grown on the south slopes of Vesuvius, in extremely fertile, volcanic soil, and the mozzarella cheese is made from the milk of the Campanian water buffalo, or “Mozzarella di Bufala Campana.”
How do you make pizza better? A view of Mount Vesuvius.
The Greeks know how to have fun, and if you can’t decide which you like more, mountains or a beach, just settle for both. Photographers have noted that they rarely employ their polarizing filters to enhance the colors of their photographs in the Aegean Sea. The ocean is nowhere bluer than it is around Greece. The woods and hills have their colors, and you’ll need sunglasses to handle them.
Lamb roasted on a spit outside is a Grecian tradition, and you haven’t lived until you’ve tried it cooked by Grecian grandmothers. It is typically rubbed with apples several times during cooking, and served with ghanoush, vegetable-stuffed grape leaves, Greek red wine, and homemade baklava (not that junk you’ve eaten in most American restaurants). There are plenty of quaint beachfront restaurants in Stavros, in the shadow of the Akrotirian mountains. You’re free to climb them and see the ruins of the 5th or 6th Century Catholic monastery founded by St. John the Hermit.
Before, during and after supper, as you will be eating with friendly strangers, locals and tourists, you’ll be encouraged to drink ouzo, a Greek liquor that tastes like aniseed. Then you can join everyone in a dance around the fire on the beach in the sirtaki, the famous dance at the end of Zorba the Greek, with Anthony Quinn, which was filmed in Stavros.
Just paying the bills...
Vienna is world famous for its desserts, and sachertorte, at the Sacher Hotel, is world famous among the world famous desserts. It is dry chocolate cake, with apricot jam between layers, and dark chocolate icing on the top and sides. The only place outside Vienna where you can find it is a Sacher shop in Bolzano, Italy.
It is served with whipped, heavy cream, which balances its dry flavor. While you’re there, pay your respects to Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Strauss, et al. at the Central Cemetery. Mozart is buried somewhere in St. Marx Cemetery, but has a monument near Beethoven and Schubert’s graves.
Go see an opera or a symphony. Beethoven’s Ninth, or Mozart’s “Don Giovanni.”
Germany has its fair share of a claim to the world’s wines. Trockenbeerenauslese is extraordinarily sweet, white wine, with so much sugar in it that it’s syrupy. If you’ve had a taste of bad wine and lost your liking for it, this will get you back on track.
It is expensive, but can have as much as 300 grams of sugar per bottle, which will give you diabetes if you want it to. Alcohol content is therefore quite low as wines go, which means you can drink quite a lot before you get drunk. It makes a great dessert in itself, and goes very well with a local pretzel, a fresh, big one, with salt to cut the wine’s sweetness.
And if you’re looking for grand scenery, the Bavarian Alps might give you diabetes, too. Try the Black Forest, for starters.
Perhaps you aren’t as big a fan of mountains as you are of the tropics. Harbor Island is world famous for its pink-sand beaches, and Dunmore Town caters to tourists with outstanding seafood restaurants.
Have your fruit of the sea brought out to you on the beach in the late afternoon, and the sunset will be behind you, over the palm and coconut trees. There is a lot of quartz in the sand, and the sunlight makes it glow, lighter where it’s dry, and darker in the surf.
If you’re lucky, the wild horses will walk up out of the surf and give you a sniff.
At least one supper you eat should have the greatest wine in the world. Domaine de la Romanee-Conti is a very small vineyard, only 4 acres, and only produces about 5,000 bottles a year, but those 5,000 have a taste beyond comprehension.
Rather than try to describe the taste, since I haven’t had any, suffice to say, a very good vintage will be 20 to 30 years old and cost about $900 a glass. Or about $3,600 a bottle. Some vintages have sold at auction for $14,000 a bottle.
If you have the money, you have to try it. I prefer natural scenery with my suppers, but if you prefer art, Paris is a given. Plenty of restaurants there serve Romanee-Conti. Or you could go southeast to Grenoble, find a great restaurant, then hike into the Chartreuse Mountains. Spectacular.
For good and all, now and forever, the greatest spaghetti in the world is in Italy, and the finest restaurants are in Bologna. Its nickname is “di Grassa,” “Bologna the Fat.”
Sure, the Chinese invented the noodles, but tomato sauces are expressly Italian. New York City ain’t got nothin’ on Bologna.
I’ve been there, I’ve had several spaghetti recipes, but the best by far, you will find at Clorofilla, Strada Maggiore, 64, 40125 Bologna, Bologne. It’s almost as good as my recipe.
Bologna is a magnificently beautiful city, and not far north of some good mountain vistas. Or you could take a leisurely drive over the Appennines to Firenze (Florence) and see the original Statue of David, among other works of art.
While you’re in Bologna or Florence, be sure to catch Verdi’s Requiem Mass. When you leave, you’ll go to confession, I ain’t kiddin’ ya.
One afternoon a lawyer was riding in his limousine when he Saw two men along the roadside eating grass.
Disturbed, he ordered his driver to stop and he got out to Investigate.
He asked one man, 'Why are you eating grass?'
'We don't have any money for food,' the poor Man replied. 'We have to eat grass.'
'Well, then, you can come with me to my house and I'll feed you,' the lawyer said.
'But sir, I have a wife and two children with me. They Are over there, under that tree.'
'Bring them along,' the lawyer replied.
Turning to the other poor man he stated, 'You come with us also.'
The second man, in a pitiful voice, then said, 'But Sir, I also have a wife and SIX children with me!'
'Bring them all, as well,' the lawyer answered.
They all entered the car, which was no easy task, even for a car as large as the limousine was.
Once underway, one of the poor fellows turned to the lawyer And said, 'Sir, you are too kind.'
'Thank you for taking all of us with you.'
The lawyer replied, 'Glad to do it.
You'll really love my place.
The grass is almost a foot high.'