Thursday, May 29, 2008

Messages From Another Life

Each day, I receive special invitations through email to visit certain sites and events in the popular virtual world called Second Life. I don't linger there often, but I do enjoy a diversionary trip there from time to time with my avatar, Newt Riederer. These email invitations are a form of poetry to me.


Newt Riederer

Group Notice From: 01 Hifeng

05-31 1:00pm SLT

Journey to the ultimate depths of the ocean and experience the Abyss, an exhibition of the planet's oceans which combines art, science, and education. The museum features a historical overview of the exploration of Earth's oceans, educational displays on the diversity of sea life and the effects of humankind on the ocean ecosystem, and a unique underwater tunnel walking tour. The depths are waiting for you to explore!


Group Notice From: 01 Hifeng

Sun, May 25, 4pm – 5pm SLT
IBM 10

"Phylogeny" is a new original ballet that was shown in RL. It is the beginning of time. We see beings fly and soar in the air. We see another set of beings crawl and tumble on the ground. They are not animals, but humans. Then, as their dance and the mysterious music continues, those in the air become dragons, and those on the ground become bears. Who has evolved from whom? A different view of who was first and phylogeny -- the development of the species.


Group Notice From: Bjorlyn Loon

Open attached notecard!

Museum of Robots in Second Life announces the 'Build-a-Robot' Competition, and invites all residents to participate. All entrants receive a merchandise prize, with an additional 30,000 L$ cash prize pool awarded to the top 10 winners. Our definition of 'robot' is unlimited: any design that you think can be called a robot is acceptable.

*Bjorlyn salutes TR Amat, lol*


Group Notice From: 01 Hifeng

Commonwealth 8am slt
La Reve 1pm slt
Mexico Chichen Itza 5pm sl

1000 virtual monarch butterflies will be released atClowey Greenwood's BIOME sim. In RL, people catch these beautiful butterflies very carefully in order to tag and study them. In SL, you can catch them too, migrating on their way over three days, across 7 sims to Mexico. Inside some of these virtual beauties, you will find special edition Ode jewelry by renowned SL designer, Random Calliope

In case of any problems IM Bjorlyn Loon


Group Notice From: Bjorlyn Loon

MMC island launches into space with a special music performance by Cypress Rosewood. The legendary SL space musician performs his musical magic with flutes, guitars and synthesizers throughout the SL world and is a metamedia treat to see live, in concert. Join us on a special orbital venue at 2PM SLT at MMC for a night out of this world.

Click the orbiting Earth for info and a free gift!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

Day is done
Gone the sun
From the lakes
From the hills
From the sky All is well,
safely rest.
God is nigh.
Fading light Dims the sight
And a star Gems the sky,
Gleaning bright From afar,
Drawing nigh,
Falls the night.
Thanks and praise,
For our days,
Neath the sun,
Neath the stars,
Neath the sky,
As we go,
This we know,
God is nigh.

One of my favorite books to read to kids is The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White. By far, Mr. White, a career newspaperman, is much more famous for the book, Charlotte's Web. But The Trumpet of the Swan is a story built around morality and service.

Louis the Swan, our hero, was born without a voice, and he spent his life repaying debts his father incurred to give him a voice. At one point in the story, Louis the Swan, a counselor at Camp Kooskooskoos, plays Taps for the young campers. As the young scouts settle into their beds under the wheeling stars, Louis captures the silence as he plays Taps on his trumpet.

These days, Taps is played over 5,000 times a year at Arlington Cemetery.

Throughout history, many have sacrificed for our country.

American Revolution: 4,435
War of 1812: 2,260
Mexican War: 1,733
Civil War: 497, 732
Spanish-American War: 385
World War I: 53,402
World War II: 291,557
Korean Conflict: 33,741
Vietnam War: 47,424
Desert Storm/Shield/First Gulf War: 147
Afghanistan: 497
Iraq: 4,082

Multiply the number of deaths by three and you get an idea of how many have had their lives irrevocably changed by war.

On Memorial Day 2008, I'm playing Taps in my mind for those who have given so much. As with Louis, there is a debt that must be repaid.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


I would like to take a moment to express my profound regret if the previous blog entry made anyone feel upset or uncomfortable.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

This I Believe

This I Believe

I’ve been listening to NPR shows for most of my life, and you would be hard pressed to find a bigger fan of such shows as Wait Wait… Don’t tell Me, Car Talk, and Thistle and Shamrock. I enjoy listening to the NPR talk shows like Talk of the Nation and The Diane Rehm Show. Yet despite all of the positive attributes of all the NPR shows, there is one spot on one show that I simply can’t stand. It’s called This I Believe.

This I Believe is a joint program between Atlantic Public Media, This I Believe Inc, and NPR. Each Sunday on Weekend Edition Sunday, a new This I Believe essay is narrated for us. Often the essay’s stray into the land of blind pretentiousness. This week’s essay, I Am Evolution, was more annoying than average and ends with this admonition,

So I believe evolution.
I feel it. I breathe it. I listen to evolution, I observe it and I do evolution. I write, study, analyze, scrutinize and collect evolution. I am evolution.

In America, people are free to believe what they wish to believe, and Holly Dunsworth is no different. Like her, I believe in evolution. Like her, I believe the evidence is overwhelming. However, unlike her, I have not become evolution. I do evolve, but I have not evolved into evolution.

So I’d like to take a few moments of your time to share with you what I believe.

I Am Better Than You

I know something that you don’t know. In fact, I know many things about which you haven’t a clue. You see, I am better than you.

I was born almost 48 years ago, and even at birth I knew more than other babies. I knew not only how to suckle but how to attain climatic suckling pleasure by swishing the soft folds of my blanket “bah” between my thumb and forefinger while I drank bottles of milk. No other babies knew that. I did. I knew more than them.

Later, when I was six years old, I learned that you can't use left-handed scissors when you are right-handed. Further, I came to know where golf balls hid and where certain turtles slept on rocks beside lakes. Oh, yes I knew more than that other kids my age.

I know things. Things that others call trivial, I call base. People who don’t know things blindly dismiss what they can’t fathom as trivia. I was on Klassroom Kwiz. While others got onto the show because they earned fantastic grades, I never bothered with those. Instead, I earned my way on by “surprisingly” doing well on a trivia test. Again, people who don’t know, trivialize trivia.

When I tell a story, it’s a story that must be heard. When I drive my car, my mission is more important that yours because it’s mine. That's why I use my bright lights at night no matter where I'm going because my errand takes precedence. I seek shortcuts, because shortcuts free me from interacting with lesser people. When I used to smoke, I'd toss my butts. They'd just clutter my car if I used the ashtray. When approaching a yield sign, I go. People must clear away from me.

I am a fascinating person while you have social flaws. I love with a rare passion. I laugh with gusto. I walk with anointed purpose.

You don’t know all that I know. You don’t hold a candle to me. I am knowledge. I drink it. I breathe it. I just know it. I am singularly important. Without the slightest doubt, I know that I am better than you. That’s what I believe…and that’s the truth.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Golden Compass

The Golden Comapss came out on DVD last week, and I finally made myself see it. The movie is based on the first book in Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy. The book in America is called, "The Golden Compass" while in the UK it's known as "Northern Lights." Interestingly, Pullman refers to the trilogy as "The Golden Compasses." What follows is my impression of the movie.

The Golden Compass

An Impression

I suppose it would have been hard to please me with any adaptation of the movie since I've read the series many times. However, I don't think I'm being a book snob here.

There was a line in one of the The Lord of the Rings movies when Legolas turns to the Dwarf after observing (along with the audience) an obvious feint by the goblin forces and says, "It's a diversion." Well, the audience sort of already knew that. Across movie theaters, audience members could be heard responding, "No, duh!" or just laughing out-right.

The Golden Compass suffers from weak dialog like that. It seemed that the people in charge of making the picture felt the need to quickly get the audience up to speed on the basic plot by spooning it to us. It was almost as if they were saying, "These people are good. These people are bad. These people are witches. These people have daemons. These bears have armor. The monkey is creepy."

On top of the simplistic dialog, the screenplay takes the basic plot and jumbles it all up for no apparent reason. Whole chunks of the story are roughly spliced into completely different parts of the movie with little rhyme or reason. Why does the bear go fight for his land before the children are rescued? By taking that course, he runs twice as far, not that distance seemed to matter. It was almost as if the screen writer did it because, well, it could be done.

Speaking of distance, the whole movie suffered from compressed distances. Everything seemed to happen within a few feet from everything else. Instead of

at the great distances explained in the book. Iorek can zip from the torture station to Svalbard and back in a blink of an eye. In fact after he battled the "King" and defeats him, he picks up Lyra and heads right back to the torture station. Another Legolas moment.

So many things were written out of the movie. I wish they had spent more time developing the delicate position Lyra was in when she came to the torture station and how she escaped. Most of all, I missed seeing the cliff-ghasts, horrible bat-like creatures that smelled death in life.

The final insult was the ending. The movie just sort of stopped about 80 pages from the end of the book...before the climatic final scene. Again, there seems to be no reason for it. The movie wasn't especially long, so that couldn't have been the reason. Instead of excitement, peril, and doom all rolled into one riveting scene, all we get are two dopey-eyed kids looking lovingly into each others' eyes for no apparent reason.

The Golden Compass was a disappointing movie, a shame really for the book is an incredible read.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Four Things

Okay…now I never do this, but this little e-mail chain intrigued me. So I’ve jumped in and involved you, too.

Four things about me that you may or may not have known, (or don't want to

know, lol) in no particular order.

Instructions on bottom of page

Four jobs I have had in my life:

1. Paper Carrier (Roanoke World-News) before it merged with The Roanoke Times Fall Winter Spring 1972-1973.

2. Member of the Rock crew with the Youth Conservation Corps (Dave Trumbower was my crew leader) Summer of 1977

3. Weight Guesser at Lakeside Amusement Park, Salem VA. I eventually worked my way up to Games Supervisor. Got paid $3.50 an hour just before I was fired. The boss thought I pilfered $1000 of “seed money.” The real thief was the boss’ son, who used it to purchase drugs. Summers of 1978-1982

4. Lifeguard at Graves Mountain Lodge in Syria, VA. Heavenly scenery plus I got all the homestyle food I wanted every day. Summer of 1983

5. Video store clerk…I used to take one or two movies home to watch after work every evening. This was a second job I did in the evenings after teaching. I took the job to help out my ex-principal who left education to start his business in 1985. I worked there on and off for about three years in the early to mid-1990’s…oops that’s five jobs.

6. Museum Exhibit Designer: My wife and I worked at the Kern County Museum and Pioneer Village back in the summer of 1985. We designed and produced exhibits for the museum. Our feature exhibit was entitled “Motoring Through Kern County in the 1920’s.”

7. Swim team coach: My wife and Coached a local recreation team one summer in Greene County (1986)…shoot that’s more than 4 again.

Four movies I would watch over and over:

Hmmm…I can’t think of any…just kidding

1. Shawshank Redemption: Red's the man.

2. Noises Off! (Carol Burnett, Chris Reeves, John Ritter, Michael Caine…hilarious)

3. The Big Lebowski

4. Last of the Mohicans

5. The Mission…shoot that’s five again.

Four places I have lived:

1. Roanoke,VA: Three different addresses-Off Cove Road near Countryside, LaBelview in Bonsack and North lakes near Northside High)

2. Blacksburg,VA- VT

3 Stanardsville,VA: Three different addresses- In the back of Waverly Parker’s lawyer’s office (The receptionist was hot for me J) with a cold draft that blew through the fire trap apartment (first year teachers didn’t get much $$$ back then), Mickey Cox’s dairy farm in a fly and mouse infested trailer by the milking parlor, and a beautiful ranch house just through the woods from the first fairway at Greene Hills Golf Course.

4. Inside my head.

Four TV Shows that I watch:

1. Lost

2. 24 (if it ever returns)

3. Countdown with Keith Olbermann

4. South Park-a most inspired show.

Four places I have been:

I’ve been a lot of places…

1. Mossyrock, Washington: nestled between Mt Ranier and Mt St Helens. One of the most beautiful places I know.

2. Lexington, Kentucky: A beautiful city where my sister lives. We love to visit and go see the horse farms.

3. Acadia National Park, Maine: Crisp day, crisp ocean. Lobster pots. Stunning view from Cadillac Mountain.

4. Glacier National Park, Montana: The most beautiful place on Earth.

5. North Haven, New York: Home of my grandparents. Now home of two of my aunts and many cousins. So many wonderful memories of family gatherings, fishing, swimming at East Hampton, digging for clams.

6. Bakersfield, CA: Home of my sister-in-law. It’s a hot place, but a cool place to visit.

Some People who e-mail me regularly:

1. Cris Flippen. She sends out many emails. Some of them I actually read.

2. Deedie Kagey. ditto

3. Meg Swecker. Technology business

4. Sarah Hollett. The teacher association haunts my dreams.

Four of my favourite (apparently the creator of this exercise was British)foods:

1. Pizza

2. Key Lime Pie

3. Cheeseburger

4. Lasagna

Four places I would rather be right now:

1. Fishing on the beach Salvo, NC. I love driving out onto a remote beach in the early morning…far away from tourists or people. I like to toss a line out and hold the pole while the sun comes up over the ocean.

2. Hightop Mountain cliffs: Just south of Rt 33 in Greene/Rockingham Counties on the AT. Unparalleled view of the Shenandoah Valley near Massanutten.

3. New Zealand: I once had an e-pal (like a pen pal) back in the very early days of the Internet. Her name was Ana Ryder (I found her by searching for my last name on a Listserv). She and her family lived on a sheep farm on rolling green hills in New Zealand. I always wanted to visit. I lost track of her when she got divorced and moved to Australia.

4. 1.3 miles south on the AT from Rt 311 in Roanoke County. There’s rock outcropping that allows for an expansive view of Bradshaw Valley. I like to play my pennywhistle and harmonica there.

Four friends I think will respond:

1. Missy

2. Pam

3. Tim

4. Becky

Things I am looking forward to this year or next year:

1. My new job back in the classroom as a regular classroom teacher

2. Heading back to Maine this summer

3. My daughter’s graduation from high school

4. The first tomato of the season.

Now, here's what you're supposed to do... and please do not spoil the fun. Hit forward, delete my answers and type in your answers. Then send this to a whole bunch of people you know INCLUDING the person who sent it to you. The theory (I love theories) is that you will learn a lot of little known facts about those who know you. Remember to send it back to the person who sent it to you.

Or you can just post your response here in the comment section for this blog entry. That would be fun. I think you should do it. Right Now!

Monday, May 05, 2008



When I watched runner-up Eight Belles laying on the track right after the 2008 Kentucky Derby, all I could do was fall silent. My sister-in-law, Adrienne, uttered the exact same line she used at the beginning of the Preakness in 2006 (scroll all the way down) when Barbaro went down. “Oh my stars!” This time though, she seemed much more low-key.

NBC was covering the Kentucky Derby Saturday and still had the camera on winner, Big Ole Giant Brown Horse, when the camera panned back to the fallen filly. The camera stayed for a moment then wandered off the sad image. The announcers were silent. When the crew should have been hyping the glory of the victory, they were stunned to silence.

A few minutes later, NBC ran a replay of the gallop out as Eight Belles gradually left the frame. Just as she disappeared off the right edge of the screen with only her shadow left, the video clearly shows the jockey’s silhouetted hands fly straight out as if he suddenly found himself in the air. No commentary was needed.

Since Saturday, PETA has attempted to make a case for increasing regulations for racehorse safety. I suppose that’s understandable especially after Chelokee as well went down with injury on Friday just before the Kentucky Oaks. Chelokee is battling his injury as of this writing with a 50/50 chance of survival. However, PETA’s campaign seems ghoulish to me, a press push riding a wave of sadness.

I suppose PETA felt it needed to capitalize on the tragedy to push one of its agendas and felt that the window of opportunity was narrow. They did the same thing with the media blitz surrounding the Michael Vick dog-fighting trial. Something seems morally wrong about how they are going about their crusade. It’s like they forgot about the power of silence.

Eight Belles had a potentially brilliant career ahead of her. Yet in the end she suffered from a fragile weakness. Whether or not Eight Belles and race horses in general have been bred for speed and distance, as well as for catastrophic breakdown is a matter for debate in the future.

But for now, only silence serves the memory of Eight Belles.

[Interview with Larry Jones: Tastefully done.]