Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Royal Wedding: Brits rather unenthused

I was doing my daily search on Time magazine's website,, and I found this article about the royal wedding.  Since I've posted a few articles about the wedding, this might be of interest to you.  I have to think there are probably few of us Americans who actually care about some royal wedding that's not even happening in our country.  I am not a royal diehard, but I find their lifestyle interesting.  It's the historical aspect, I suppose.  Anyway, since the royal wedding affects Britain, don't you think the Brits would care a little bit about it?  Well, according to this article, apparently not.  There is a small percentage of Brits that are going all-out for the wedding, including tea parties to watch the television coverage of the wedding-- cakes will be served, a prize for best "fancy hat" awarded and "gossiping will be mandatory," but generally, like Americans, the Brits are just sick of hearing about it.  In fact, Alex Smith, 56, "a gruff, lifelong fisherman and acquaintance of Stewart's, has no such activities in mind. "There's na a thing in the world I'd like to do less than watch that rubbish," he says in a booming Scottish brogue. "This country needs to get a grip.""

Another interesting piece of information is that even though the Brits have different views on "the entertainment value" of the royal wedding, most of them agree on one thing:  the monarchy is nothing to get excited about. Most Brits are indifferent about the monarchy itself; the royal wedding is merely considered an entertaining event or a nuisance, but very rarely considered a serious political event. offers a few statistics:  "In a recent poll of 2,000 British adults, 35% said they planned to watch the wedding on television; the same proportion intends to ignore proceedings, and the rest had no specific plans. A separate poll found that 79% of Brits — including those who will watch the event — were either "largely indifferent" or "couldn't care less" about the royal wedding. And although women were twice as likely as men to have made arrangements to watch the wedding, Stewart says many see it as nothing more than an excuse to throw a party."

Jean Stewart is a 62-year-old retired restaurateur comments in
"It's just a bit of frivolity and fun," Stewart explains. "I don't think anyone takes it seriously."

The article continues,

"Well, some do. Republic, a 12,000-strong lobby group that advocates replacing the Queen with an elected head of state, has been pushing its agenda hard in the run-up to the wedding. The group wishes to see the Queen stripped of her remaining "prerogative powers," such as the need for parliamentary bills to have her formal assent before they become law, and her ability to disband the British Parliament and the legislatures of several Commonwealth countries, which her acting Governor General in Australia did in 1975.

"It's the best time for us because the wedding draws attention to the monarchy, and the truth is that people in Britain aren't in love with the monarchy. A majority don't hold strong feelings either way, and they can be convinced," says Graham Smith, the campaign manager for Republic.

Maybe, but Brits have a habit of hiding their passion behind a facade of indifference; in the buildup to the Queen's Golden Jubilee celebration in 2002, which marked 50 years of her reign, commentators speculated that the monarchy had lost touch with Brits following the death of Princess Diana in 1997, but then 1 million people showed up for the celebration. And whatever the polls say, London officials anticipate that hundreds of thousands will line the royal-wedding route in the capital; thousands of street parties have also been planned around the country."

Read the rest at,8599,2067262-2,00.html.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Next on the Movie-To-See List? Rio.

I LOVE movies.  Seriously.  I do.  I practically collect them, and I buy pretty much every single one that I even remotely liked.  I just recently posted about Hop, the Easter movie.  Now I want to tell you about Rio, a movie from the creators of Ice Age.  It's next on my list of movies-to-see.  Because I don't know much about it yet, obviously, because I haven't seen it, I'm going to give you the story as written on the official Rio site, along with a link to my favorite Rio trailer.  Get out to the theater to see it!  I will, too!

"From the makers of the hit Ice Age series comes RIO, a comedy adventure about taking a walk on the wild side.  Blu is a domesticated Macaw who never learned to fly, living a comfortable life with his owner and best friend Linda in the small town of Moose Lake, Minnesota.  Blu and Linda think he's the last of his kind, but when they learn about another Macaw who lives in Rio de Janeiro, they head to the faraway and exotic land to find Jewel, Blu's female counterpart.  Not long after they arrive, Blu and Jewel are kidnapped by a group of bungling animal smugglers.  With the help of street smart Jewel, and a group of wise-cracking, smooth-talking city birds, Blu escapes.  Now, with his new friends by his side, Blu will have to find the courage to learn to fly, thwart the kidnappers who are hot on their trail, and return to Linda, the best friend a bird ever had."

Sounds good, right?  I think so. too.  Here's the link to my favorite Rio commercial:

HOP on Over to the Theater

It's almost Easter, and one of the world's most popular movies commemorates that fact. I'm talking about Hop, the movie starring James Marsden and the voice of Russell Brand.  Hop combines live action with state-of-the-art animation.  The movie is about a teenage bunny, E.B., who is destined to be the Easter Bunny (his father is the current Easter Bunny, and is about to "retire").  On the eve of taking over the business, E.B. runs away to Hollywood, where he plans to become a famous drummer.  He encounters Fred (James Marsden), an out-of-work slacker with his own lofty goals, who accidentally hits E.B. with his car.  Feigning injury, E.B. manipulates Fred into providing him shelter, and Fred finds himself with the world's worst house guest.

File:Hop2011Poster.jpgAfter E.B. causes trouble for Fred, Fred attempts to abandon E.B. in the wilderness, all to no avail.  E.B. claims to be the Easter Bunny, whom Fred saw in action when he was a child.  To summarize, Fred and E.B. strike a deal:  If Fred helps E.B. get to the 'Hoff Knows Talent' show, E.B. will leave Fred alone for good.  Needless to say, that doesn't work out so well, especially after E.B. finds out that his father has sent the ninja royal guard, known as the Pink Berets, after him.  Essentially, Fred and E.B. are stuck together until they eventually end up back on Easter Island, which is E.B.'s home.

While Fred and E.B. are gallivanting around Los Angeles,  Easter Chick Carlos and his music-obsessed assistant, Phil, plot an overthrow of the "government" against the Easter Bunny to take over the Easter organization.  At the end of the story, E.B., Fred, and the Easter Bunny all come together to rescue each other and stop Carlos from taking over Easter Island.

This movie was the cutest one I've ever seen.  Complete with amazing drum solos (all by E.B., of course), catchy music, and Russell Brand's awesome voice (and accent), Hop was a great investment of my time and money.  I will definitely be buying it when it comes out on DVD.  Just like Christmas movies get you in the feel-good mood for Christmas, this movie gets you all pumped up for Easter!

Watch the trailer here:

Monuments Every American Should See

I'm a history buff; there's no doubt about it. I long to see the world's every nook and cranny before I die.  I found this article while browsing on  It talks about awe-inspiring American monuments, where they are, and why you should see them.  The article ranks the "country’s most epic buildings, monuments, and engineering feats, with advice for navigating them smarter, better, and with fewer crowds."  So grab a pen and pencil, mister, 'cause you'll want to write these down! I did!

Golden Gate Bridge- San Francisco, CA

Once the world's longest suspension bridge,
the 1.7-mile Golden Gate has since been
surpassed in size-but not in beauty.

Photo: Christian Mehlführer/Wikipedia Commons

Once the world's longest suspension bridge, the 1.7-mile Golden Gate has since been surpassed in size-but not in beauty. Hundreds of people walk the span from San Francisco to Sausalito each day, so you'll want to plan wisely. Bypass the two-hour meters at the overcrowded main lot off S.F.'s Merchant Road in favor of ample free parking at Crissy Field Center ( There, fair-trade coffee awaits at the Warming Hut Café & Bookstore, a whitewashed shed near the shore that's the perfect place to fuel up for the gentle, half-mile Bay Trail to the bridge. The Golden Gate's best-kept secret: Although it's closed to pedestrians after sunset, gates are opened for star-gazing cyclists.

Hoover Dam- Boulder City, NV

The Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge
The now completed Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge
 (aka the Mike O'Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge)
 stands 890 feet above the Colorado River.
The shot was taken from the
Hoover Dam the day after the
"Bridging America" event.
Photo: sankefisch/Wikimedia Commons

It's never been easier to visit this 75-year-old colossus, which provides 20 million residents of California, Nevada, and Arizona with water and 1.3 million with hydroelectricity. Some new engineering is now helping the flow of the near-million annual visitors: a four-lane, 1,900-foot-long Hoover Dam bypass bridge. This bridge is the second-highest in the nation, perched at almost 900 feet above the rushing Colorado River. Avoid the intense summer heat (as high as 110 degrees) by planning your visit during January or February, when temperatures hover in the low 60s. But be sure to arrive by 3 p.m. to tour the dam itself; visitors aren't allowed to the top of the facility after dark, which comes as early as 4:30 p.m. during that time of year.

Hollywood Walk of Fame- Los Angeles, CA

Kodak Theater on Hollywood Boulevard, Los Angeles
It may look tame here, but come Oscar night,
the Kodak Theater on Hollywood Boulevard
plays host to the biggest event in Tinseltown.
Photo: David Iliff/Wikipedia Commons

Each year, another 20 to 30 luminaries are added to the more than 2,400 celebrities already immortalized in pink terrazzo along Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street. The Official Hollywood Walk of Fame iPhone app tells you exactly where to find Bette Davis, the Beatles, and both Harrison Fords (the other one was a silent film star). Parking in Hollywood is notoriously challenging, so this is a rare moment when L.A.'s subway comes in handy: The Red Line, which runs between North Hollywood and Down-town, stops at Hollywood and Vine; riders can leave their cars at one of the 1,500-plus free parking spots available at the North Hollywood and Universal City stops at the line's western end.

Mount Rushmore- Keystone, SD

Mount Rushmore, in western South Dakota
Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt
 are here, immortalized, both in stone and
American history.
Photo: NPS/Wikimedia Commons

You can't actually clamber over the presidents' heads like Cary Grant in North by Northwest. But the 500-foot-tall Mount Rushmore and the surrounding national forest still pack plenty of cinematic punch, thanks to the spiraling bridges, rock tunnels, and pinnacles of granite that line scenic Highway 89 north of Custer. There's no fee to see the busts (sculpted by 400 men), other than an $11 parking permit that, once paid, is good for the calendar year. Don't miss the equally epic Crazy Horse Memorial, slated to be the world's largest cliff carving, just 15 miles away.

French Quarter- New Orleans, LA

New Orleans' Jackson Square
Jackson Square—once named Place d'Armes, but
renamed for Battle of New Orleans's Andrew Jackson—
is a French Quarter destination for culture,
 lined with museums, shops, restaurants, and galleries.
Photo: vxla/Flickr/Wikipedia Commons

Everyone knows about the delights of New Orleans in the spring, when Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest turn the 70-block antebellum French Quarter into a rollicking 24-hour party, but an off-season visit delivers far more value. Hotels are a particular bargain during the summer months, when venerable institutions such as the 125-year-old Hotel Monteleone, a favorite haunt of Tennessee Williams, slashes its rates from the Mardi Gras high of $179 down to just $129. The deals don't stop there: The city was named the country's most affordable dining destination last November by Zagat Survey. And as part of an initiative by Coolinary New Orleans, more than 30 ritzy Quarter restaurants such as Antoine's offer three-course lunches for $20 during August and September.

Las Vegas Strip- Las Vegas, NV

The Strip in Las Vegas
A view of the strip at sunset. This may be the only city
 in the world where can you find a permanent circus,
 an indoor sky, and a slice of the Roman Empire.
Photo: Pedro Szekely/Flickr

Where else in the world can you find a permanent circus, an indoor sky, and a slice of the Roman Empire? Strip's north end debuted its SkyJump attraction, the highest "controlled free fall" in the world. (Think skydiving with a cable instead of a parachute.) Brave souls, who pay $100 for the privilege, can make the 108-story leap as late as 2 a.m. on weekends, when all the glittering lights amp up the drama.

Gateway Arch- St. Louis, MO

Gateway Arch in St. Louis
Towering over the St. Louis skyline, the
Gateway Arch's impressive stature
packs an even bigger punch as it lights
up the night sky.
Photo: Daniel Schwen/Wikimedia Commons

Some Americans might be surprised to discover that the country's tallest man-made monument isn't the Statue of Liberty (305 feet) or the Washington Monument (555 feet)-it's St. Louis's Gateway Arch, a 630-foot wonder with vertigo-inducing views of paddle-wheel boats steaming down the Mississippi. Two tram services carry the 4 million annual visitors on four-minute rides to the top. Architecture buffs opt for the north leg, which features an exhibit on the arch's construction, while armchair historians make for the south leg, which focuses on 19th-century life along the St. Louis waterfront. Either way, you'll want to avoid gusty days, as the arch's apex can sway up to 18 inches.

Grand Canyon Skywalk
Grand Canyon Skywalk
Photo: John Burcham/Corbis
Grand Canyon Skywalk- Tusayan, AZ

This gravity-defying glass bridge, perched 4,000 feet above the floor of the Grand Canyon, on its western rim, has hosted more than 250,000 visitors a year since it opened four years ago-and the knee-buckling privilege doesn't come cheap. The only way to access the Skywalk is via Grand Canyon West, a tourist area run by the Hualapai tribe on land located outside the Grand Canyon National Park. The most affordable ticket option is the Legacy Gold package, an all-day pass that includes a meal, a tour, and tribal demonstrations along with the Skywalk ticket.

"Cloud Gate" in Millennium Park.
Photo: Bob Krist/Corbis

Millennium Park- Chicago, IL

This 24.5-acre park in the heart of downtown Chicago opened in 2004, and is a wonderland of cutting-edge architecture and design. Playful, family-friendly, and free attractions include the Cloud Gate sculpture, which reflects the downtown skyline and visitors' faces like a series of fun-house mirrors, and Crown Fountain, a multimedia installation that pairs splash-worthy sprays of water with 50-foot-tall video portraits.

The Statue of Liberty watches over New York Harbor
Ellis Island served as the entry point for
 millions of immigrating families—
and modern American families still pass
 through here today to learn about them.
Photo: Derek Jensen/Wikimedia Commons

Statue of Liberty- New York, NY

Lady Liberty's crown, which reopened after an eight-year hiatus in 2009, is scheduled to close again in November (along with the rest of the statue) for at least a year's worth of safety upgrades, so act fast to see the famous 125-year-old French gift from the inside. As you exit the ferry at Liberty Island, you'll need to purchase a Crown Visit wristband at the information center. The only thing you're allowed to take inside is a camera. Even cell phones and wallets are no-gos, so travel light and bring two singles to feed the three-hour lockers where you'll stash your goods. (There's no change machine, and to complicate the matter further, only singles and dollar coins are accepted). One wardrobe must: shoes with good grip. Descending the crown's 354 steps can be a slippery affair.

And there you have it!  Start packing those bags!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Straightening Hair Bad for Your Health

Out with the curly, and in with the straight.  Straight hair seems to be all the rage in the hairstyle department nowadays, and women are going to great lengths to get it.  Even risking their health.  The recently popular form of straightening hair, known as the Brazilian Blowout, is apparently bad for your health.  According to, "the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a hazard alert on April 11 warning hair salon owners and workers about potential exposure to formaldehyde from using some hair smoothing and straightening products, including the Brazilian Blowout brand. (Formaldehyde helps bind keratin to hair, straightening it.)"

OSHA, responding to complaints from workers, "found evidence of dangerously high levels of formaldehyde in the air of salons using these hair-straightening products — even though the products are often listed as 'formaldehyde free.' The agency also found evidence of allergic reactions by workers and clients to the products, including nosebleeds and eye irritation."
"OSHA recommends that salon owners use products that do not contain formaldehyde, methylene glycol, formalin, methylene oxide, paraform, formic aldehyde, methanal, oxomethane, oxymethylene or Chemical Abstract Service Number 50-00-0. But that won't always be easy for workers — personal care products sold to salons and other professional hair-care services aren't always required to list their ingredients. 'Workers may not even know what's in the products they're using,' says Alexandra Gorman Scranton, director of science and research at Women's Voices for the Earth and a co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics."

Apparently looking good isn't always as great as it seems.  As someone with curly hair and a greater desire to sleep in in the mornings instead of waking up to look good, I say it's not worth it.  Your health is much too valuable to put at risk just because you want your hair straightened for a couple of hours.

Critic Claims Gone with the Wind is Not a Romance

Critic John Cloud recently wrote an essay in Time magazine, stating that, generally, Gone with the Wind is "still mistaken for a romance.  It's actually a gritty eulogy."

Gone with the Wind was published in the summer of 1936 and hit the markets at $3, the equivalent of $50 today, and sold a million copies by Christmas.  It now ranks among the best-selling books ever published in English.  Gone with the Wind continues to "transcend criticism, like Star Wars or Lady Gaga, while never losing its relevance."  Apparently, Cloud had a great-great-grandfather that fought in the Civil War and got so hungry after the journey home from Appomattox that he "ate hulls from an old pea patch and promptly vomited."  He goes on to say that hunger is a constant theme in the novel, and that Southerners' humiliation at having lost the war was compounded by the knowledge that they never had a chance and the reckoning that came after. 

Cloud cites Eric Foner's A Short History of Reconstruction, in which he so obviously states that "more than a quarter-million men were dead, and many cities and villages lay in near total ruin.  The region had even lost nearly a third of its horses."  In order to rebuild, the government needed to rely on taxes, but there was nothing left to tax except the ground itself.  Cloud states that most people see Gone with the Wind as a romance novel, but the "force" that drives Scarlett O'Hara the most is having to pay the property taxes on Tara.  She steals her sister's businessman fiance, robs a man she shoots in the face, and runs a mill that sells wood at "punishing" prices to former friends, all to accomplish the huge feat of paying property taxes.  Cloud then goes on to say that the South's aversion to taxes has never quite abated, despite the infinitely dismal public schools and almost "nonexistent safety net."

Cloud claims that Gone with the Wind also helps explain why the South sends so many of its sons and daughters to fight wars.  Essentially, he writes that in the South, the hotheads (the ones all geared up for war) usually prevail.  He states that the novel is not really a tale of North vs. South, but more of an old South vs. new.  Ashley represents the old; he "was born of a line of men who used their leisure for thinking, not doing, for spinning brightly colored dreams."  Scarlett, however, is "diamond hard." 

He ends the essay saying, "with its loving descriptions of organdy and horsemanship, Gone with the Wind seems genteel, but it is actually an unrelenting tale of how honor gives in to greed.  Mitchell knew that loss was as tragic and inevitable as the South's self-imposed despoiling."

All that being said, I agree with him.  I have read Gone with the Wind and seen the movie, and I believe that the novel is much more than just a love story.  Mitchell, however inexperienced, wrote a compelling story that drew millions of people in.  There is much more beneath the surface, though, and I find Cloud's take on it greatly interesting.

Student Robbed of Valedictorian Honor

Here we are, it's April, and seniors across America are gearing up to graduate high school.  For some seniors out there, being valedictorian is a great honor, and achieving it is no small feat.  For ABC News' Person of the Week, Fannetta Nelson Gordon, it was going to highlight her family's success.  Gordon, a black senior at a Westinghouse High School in Pittsburgh in 1936, was supposed to be the valedictorian of her class.  She was following in her sister's footsteps, who had graduated as the school's first black valedictorian two years earlier.  However, school leaders, specifically the principal, did not want two black valedictorians so close together.  The principal ordered Fanetta's teachers to cut her grades, and she fell from first in the class to fourth.  One of her music teachers changed her grade from an A to a B.  Fannetta was an extremely talented musician, according to friends and family.

Despite losing the honor of being valedictorian, Fannetta went on to earn two master's degrees and taught high school German.  According to her older sister, Sophia, Fannetta never forgot about that changed grade.  "She was heartbroken. She never got over it," says Sophia.

Fannetta died three years ago, and her family became even more determined to set the record straight.  Now, 75 years later, the school has given Fannetta the honor she deserved.  Sophia accepted the honor in place of Fannetta. There will be two valedictorians at Westinghouse High this year.  One of them is named Fannetta.

However sad this story may be, it's great to see that she's getting the honor she deserved.  It's a shame that it took them three years after her death to finally give her the recognition she earned.  It's a shame that it took them 75 years.  It's a shame that she didn't get the honor when she earned it, when it would have made the most difference to her.

  This is a bittersweet story, but it has a happy ending, so all is well.

Mortgage? Get It Paid For!

This photo was digitally made;
no homes have been painted yet.

Don't want to pay your mortgage anymore?  Turn your house into a billboard!  A new advertising firm Adzookie says it will pay the house owner's mortgage every month for as long as the home stays painted.  Adzookie recently launched the offer on its website, and they had more than 1,000 applications by noon the same day, according to  One was even from a church.  This simply underscores just how much homeowners are struggling to pay their mortgages.  Adzookie intends to paint its logo and social media icons onto participating homes. Houses must remain painted for at least three months, and the agreement may be extended up to one year.  Painting is expected to begin in a few weeks.  Adzookie CEO Romeo Mendoza hopes "buzz" about the program will publicize his company.  Let's not forget about the house-size ads, of course.  Mendoza started the company 16 months ago and has been running it on his own funds since.

Wondering what Adzookie is?  Well, it is a mobile ad network that places local businesses' ads for free if they, in exchange, allow ads to be placed on their own mobile sites. Ads can also be purchased for about $1 a day.  The company currently employs just eight people, but Mendoza said he is looking to raise more money and expand his business.  The home billboard scheme could raise the company's profile -- but Mendoza doesn't expect too many homes to obtain the subsidized deal. His budget for the entire program is $100,000, and he expects to spend about $8,000 per house on the painting alone.  At the end of the agreement, Adzookie will paint the house back to its original colors. Leases and rentals aren't allowed, nor are homes in cities with bylaws that would prohibit the bright painting.

So there you have it.  Can't afford your mortgage?  Get your house painted.  The world just gets crazier and crazier.  It's great.

Oh, Women.

So get this.  Major General Maggie Woodward (Major General!!!) ruled the skies over Libya from her base in Germany, making her accomplishments another first for women in combat.  How cool is that?  Pretty cool, if you ask me.  Anyway, I'll give you the summary of the article from Time magazine.  Here goes.

Here's the mission, named Operation Odyssey Dawn:  destroy as much of Gaddafi's (ruler of Libya) military and combat equipment as possible, specifically airplanes and jets and fighters.  In order to do this (from Germany, I might add), Woodward "flashed orders to pilots and skippers from the Great Plains to the Dolomites.  She scrambled U.S. warplanes from Italy's Aviano air base and ordered them to attack targets deep inside Libya.  She dispatched secret orders to Marine amphibious ships in the Mediterranean, instructing their chopper crews when and where to stage for pilot search and rescue.  She ordered electronic-countermeasures aircraft to broadcast radio messages encouraging Gaddafi's troops to mutiny.  She sent B-2 bombers from their base in Missouri to destroy Libyan aircraft on the ground near Misratah.  A week later, she dialed up a pair of B-1 bombers from South Dakota- which overcame a thick blanket of new snow, glare ice, and freezing fog-- to attack nearly 100 targets scattered across the North African desert." 

This was the first time the "Reagan-era" B-1s had ever struck overseas targets from their U.S. base.  This was also the first time in U.S. history that a woman commanded a military air campaign.  Talk. About. Amazing.  As a once wanna-be pilot, I was totally pumped about this article.  Women rule the world!  Okay, maybe not really, but I like the sound of that.  Oh, and did I mention that she also stopped Gaddafi's tanks from entering a rebel-held city?  Well, she did.  Took her 12 hours to do it, but she did it, baby, with F-15Es to boot.  She's probably my new hero, if I ever had one before.  I hope to hear more about her, and I'll probably Google her, too.  She's one of a kind, that's for sure.  I'll leave you with her official bio from

Maj. Gen. Margaret H. Woodward is Commander, 17th Air Force and U.S. Air Forces Africa, Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The command serves as the Air Component for U.S. Africa Command and has responsibility for all Air Force activities in the Africa theater spanning 53 countries, 11 million square miles and more than 900 million people.

General Woodward entered the Air Force in 1983 as a graduate of Arizona State University, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in aerospace engineering. Her career includes a variety of operational and staff positions, including command at the squadron, group and wing levels. She flew and commanded in operations Just Cause, Northern Watch, Southern Watch, Allied Force, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.  The general served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense as the Director of Protocol and military assistant, and she was the Deputy Director for Colonel Matters, Air Force Senior Leader Management Office, Washington, D.C. Prior to her current assignment, General Woodward was Vice Commander, 18th Air Force, at Scott Air Force Base, Ill.

General Woodward is a command pilot with more than 3,800 hours in the C-40, KC-135, C-37, T-38 and T-37.

Yeah.  She's that awesome.

Gitmo Trial for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

So, I took this class called Famous Trials last year.  Obviously, we studied famous trials.  Among a bunch of really interesting trials such as the Charles Manson trial, John Hinckley Jr., and the Salem Witch trials, we studied a guy named Zacarias Moussaoui, one of the terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks.  Of course we went even further to study the guys behind 9/11, not just the ones that carried it out.  Just so happens Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was one of them.

It was announced earlier in the year that he would stand trial for his alleged planning of the surprise attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.  That's great, right?  Well, not so much.  The Obama Administration went so far as to announce that it would hold the trials in a courthouse near Ground Zero in lower Manhattan.  Why is this bad, you may ask?  Because the guys responsible for killing some 3,000 Americans was going to get a fair, civilian trial.  First, they're most certainly not civilians of the U.S., and they committed atrocious acts of war.  That should've earned them a nice big Gitmo trial (consists of detention in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and trial by military authorities).  The good news is that it has been announced, in the most significant policy reversal in the fight against terrorism, that the Obama Administration has decided to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four others accused of planning 9/11 in a military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay.  This is because in December, Congress blocked funds to prosecute the suspects in civilian courts, which forced the White House to try them at the military base that President Obama pledged to close down, a feat he has yet to accomplish.

All I can say is... booya, Congress!

Japan: How Unfortunate Events are Wrecking Their Economy

Japan is the world's third largest economy, and the damage done to their economy is all but equal to the horrifying death toll resulting from last month's earthquake and tsunami.  Early signs suggest that the disaster could throw Japan into another recession.  Last month, the Markit/JMMA (a purchasing manager's index that measures the robustness of manufacturing) showed that Japan suffered the greatest one-month plunge in the entire survery's history.  According to, a research firm known as Capital Economics predicts that Japan's economy will contract 1.4% in 2011.  On a brighter note, the impact on the global economy might be limited, since Japan exports to the rest of the world more than it imports from it.  However, the more significant aftershocks could take place later, if the earthquake significantly "worsens the country's feeble national finances."  Japan's debt is at about 200% of GDP, which is the highest in the rich world.  The cost of reconstruction and possible delays in budget cutting could potentially 'shake' their country right into another debt crisis.

Although I do not have much knowledge of Japan and how greatly their economy affects ours, I must say that any sort of national crisis for them would damage our economy at least a small amount.  Also, I feel bad for them and their situation right now, and I'm sure a great number of people are doing their part to help.  Even the U.S.  And where was everyone else when Hurricane Katrina hit America?  Nowhere to be found.  But that's okay, we'll pick up the damage for everyone else, cause that's just how we are.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Rebel Leaders at a Glance

So, if you have any form of a life outside of your Xbox or latest reading material (that doesn't include the news), you've more than likely heard about all the uproar that's going on in Libya right now.  Up until recently, I've kept a "loose" eye on the situation in Africa, but haven't watched it closely.  I've decided it's time to get smart.  About the news, that is.  So, I did some research on the issue, specifically because everybody is talking about it, and I'd like to know what they're saying.

Through my research, I found that there are the Rebel forces who have disengaged themselves from their dictator leader Muammar Gaddafi, who has ruled the country for... well, a long long time.  Anyway, there are also the Gaddafi loyalists (basically, the only people left are his military, a force of about 20,000 troops).

I'd like to think that I'm doing some good by providing you with this brief information about the Libyan crisis, but I must admit that Time magazine does it best.  Here's what they have to say:  Control over a cluster of strategic oil towns seesawed between rebel fighters and troops loyal to Muammar GAddafi as the conflict bogged down into a smaller-scale war of attrition.  After the defections of key aides and generals, reports claimed that elements within the Gaddafi regime were in negotiation with European leaders over a possible cease-fire.  But Gaddafi's forces continued to shell the rebel-held city of Misratah, prompting rebel leaders to vent their frustration over NATO's perceived inaction."  Well said, don't you think?  So, I'm sure you're wondering exactly what I was after reading that.  Who are those rebel leaders?  Well, to answer your question, here are a few, with mini backgrounds provided by Time.

Ali al-Essawi:  Formerly ambassador to India, al-Essawi was one of the first prominent figures in the government to quit and join the opposition.  Since then, he's become the main foreign envoy of the rebels' Transitional National Council.
Mahmoud Gebril:  The acting Prime Minister, Gebril is a U.S.-educated academic who pushed for reform and privatization while serving as a technocrat in the Gaddafi regime.
Abdul Fatteh Younes:  One of Gaddafi's top-ranking generals and a former Interior Minister, Younes defected in February and has since spearheaded the rebel war effort.  His experience is invaluable, though some rebels resent his previous affiliation with the regime.
Khalifa Heftar:  A military commander who defected to the U.S. more than two decades ago, Heftar has returned to find himself pitted in a power struggle with Younes (mentioned above).
Mustafa Abdul Jalil:  The chairman of the TNC, Jalil is a religious conservative and a respected jurist.  He was formerly Justice Minister, in which capacity his efforts to clamp down on arbitrary arrests won the praise of foreign diplomats.  Jalil is one of the main architects of the rebel government.

Now, I hope you're a bit more educated on the who's and what's of the issue in Libya.  Keep reading for an article about the U.S.'s involvement in Libya.

New Jeans? Nope. New Genes.

Alzheimer's disease scares us all, there's no doubt about it.  In a genetic analysis of more than 50,000 people, researchers have found five new genes that may increase the risk of late-onset Alzheimer's disease.  Previously at 5, the total number of known risk genes associated with the disease is now at 10.  The recently found genes are associated with the disorder's most common form, which affects almost 50% of people over the age of 80.

Scientists are "excited", according to, because the newly found genes involve things that have been suspected of playing a role in Alzheimer's for a long time but have never been confirmed.  Such things are:  "high cholesterol, inflammation and the way cells ferry molecules around."

On a... less bright (for lack of a better word) note, the new genes together may only account for about 35% of late-onset Alzheimer's.  However, on a brighter note, these genes could provide "fresh targets" for better drugs.  As of now, the current medications can only alleviate the main symptom, memory loss.  According to scientists, it's a long way from finding a cure, but they're hoping it's a step in the right direction. 

I agree.  Whole-heartedly.  Although I have never been in contact with someone with Alzheimer's, I've watched enough TV to know what it's all about, and it's no walk in the park.  Reading this article definitely boosted my mood; it's always good to hear news like this.

Until next time.

P.S.- Told ya I'd give you more "latest and greatest" scientific findings.

Who knew?

We all know that starving yourself is not good for you.  Sometimes even over religious holidays or events.  But, according to researchers in Utah, periodic fasts may actually be good for your heart.  The study shows that a 24-hour fast can lead to favorable changes in cholesterol and blood-sugar levels, according to Time magazine.  These changes suggest that "supervised" fasting may help your ticker combat the risk for heart disease.

Careful though, even the researchers that discovered this aren't ready to stand behind it just yet.  They probably will not endorse it until further research reveals whether there is a safe way to skip calories.  Also, keep in mind that fasting triggers the stress response, so repeated periods of fasting may put an undue strain on the heart.

I just though I'd share this brief bit of information with you, simply because I thought it was interesting.  It's always nice to read of the new findings of scientists all over the world.  I hope you enjoyed!  Keep in touch for more "latest greatest" scientific findings!

Breast Cancer Revolution

As some people might say, treating cancer is a lot like shooting in the dark.  Sometimes it works.  Sometimes it doesn't.  And there's no way to predict the outcome.  This is because scientists only have a few crude ideas about how to disable cancer cells.  For the most part, the inner workings of cancer are a mystery.

But, maybe not for long.  A team of scientists from Washington University School of Medicine has just recently sequenced the entire DNA code of one type of breast-cancer tumor.  They conducted the project using sample from 50 women enrolled in some of their other studies.  Research says that all of the women had breast tumors that contained estrogen receptors, but only about half of the patients responded to drugs that supposedly targeted the receptors.  The scientists then sequenced the whole genomes of the breast cancers of all 50 women, hoping that it would give them a reason that only about half of the women responded to the drugs.

All in all, they found that the patients' tumors contained more than 1,700 genetic mutations, most of which were unique to each woman.  The few genetic mutations shared by some women were all too familiar to the scientists and had been previously associated with cancer in other studies.  However, many mutations were new.  The team concluded that the new genetic mutations could be what caused some women to react to the drug and others not to react.  Although the genetic mutations suggest that cancer varies from person to person, a great number of the mutations were linked to the common changes seen in most tumor development.  These mutations, according to Time magazine, could eventually be used to develope "broadly useful new drugs."  In fact, there are already drugs that target six of the mutations found, and the team of scientists is eager to test them against breast cancer.

Also, a similar genetic report from dozens of tumors exists for one other cancer, and along with the new sets of reports from this team of scientists, the genomes may prove to allow doctors to finally be able to match each patient to the best possible treatment.

That was a lot of information.  I know.  Basically, a team of scientists discovered the entire DNA strand for a certain kind of tumor known to be present with breast cancer!  That's awesome!  According to the article, this revolutionary finding could lead to doctors being able to personalize cancer treatments for each person.  I imagine it will soon expand to personalizing the treatment to each person according to their DNA code.  This is exciting stuff, and I can't wait to read more articles about it, when or if they become available.  Cheers!

The Royal Wedding... Update

The Royal Wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton, set for April 29, 2011, has stirred up quite the buzz around London.  And the town is definitely cashing in on it.  Economists predicted the royal wedding would give London a business boost, and there's already a slew of products on the market that range from classy (commemorative china) to... not-so-classy (nail polish called No More Waity, Katie, and royal wedding sick bags).  According to Barbara Kahn, a marketing professor at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, there's money to be made in reference to the royal wedding, and people want to be a part of it.

The market for knockoffs of items worn by the future Princess is thriving tremendously.  In fact, within 24 hours of the engagement, the Natural Sapphire Co. began offering a copy of the famous blue engagement ring.  Their versions range from $550 to $1.5 million and the company has sold over 1,000 rings.

Even Middleton's style choices are generating excitement;  the blue Issa dress she wore to announce her engagement hit the knockoff market in record time, and only a handful were available.  One look-alike dress was produced by another company named Tesco showed up online two weeks later and sold out in one hour.  Those who wish to copy Middleton's classic style may have to wait for some time before more items like this will be released again.

Some other royal wedding products include postcards, stamps, beer tab handles, condoms, stuffed bears, plates with sarcastic sayings, blankets, and posters. 

Wow.  Talk about weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeird.  This is all a new experience for me.  I suppose the "oldies" that were around when Prince Charles and Diana married know all about what goes on when there's a royal wedding coming up.  I guess I just never realized how important the royals still are in today's society.  It's definitely eye-opening to see all of the memorabilia that's on the market right now.  I must say, however, that if I had the means to do so, I would probably buy that blue Issa dress.  It is quite elegant, and I love it.  She has impeccable style and class, and I think she will make a great princess.  Let's hope the marriage lasts.  After all, it really is romantic.

Baseball's Latest, Greatest Prodigy

He was on the cover of Sports Illustrated... as a high-schooler.  He dropped out of high-school in 10th grade, attained his GED, and fast-tracked his way to the big time.  His name is Bryce Harper and according to most baseball fans out there, he's the best dang thing since sliced bread.

Orginially from Las Vegas, Nevada, Harper is now an outfielder for the Hagerstown (or recently nicknamed Harpertown) Suns, a minor league team from Hagerstown, Maryland. He will compete in his first home game with the Suns tonight. Harper was recently selected by the Nationals as the first pick of the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft.  At 6'3", 225 pounds, swinging a 36" long bat that weighs 47 oz, Harper is the dream child of baseball.

I was walking through the YMCA (my second home, unfortunately) when I spotted a new face on the cover of a Sports Illustrated magazine.  I'm a HUGE fan of college baseball-no team in particular-and I also love high school baseball.  This kid, and I mean kid, was on the diamond, holding a baseball bat.  So I picked it up and started reading.  I found out that Harper was all the rage in the baseball community.  I was so enthralled by him and his story (his older brother Bryan also plays in the Major League) that I couldn't put it down.  I have never read a Sports Illustrated article, but this one was awesome.  I'm a big fan of Mr. Harper and I try to keep track of all of his goals, aspirations, and achievements.

Every time I happen to come across an article about him, I have to read it.  There's just something about him.  Maybe it's his story:  the prodigy that quits high school at 15 years old, gets a GED, and goes straight to the big time.  Talk about a Cinderella story.  I love it.  I'm eating it up; I'm sure a million other people are too.  It's thrilling and joyous all at the same time.  He's living his dream by playing America's favorite pasttime.  Now that's the American spirit.

Friday, April 15, 2011

American Idol: And then there were... Eight.

It looked to be a hands-down, no doubt about it kind of situation.  And then... exactly what I expected not to happen (but secretly hoped would happen) happened!  The entire nation, I'm sure, was shocked.  But I doubt I was the only one to be happy about the results, although a great number of people were "Shocked. Angry.  Had no idea what just happened."  Wanna know what I'm talking about?  That's right.  You guessed it.  American Idol.

Last week on American Idol, the theme was Rock-N-Roll Hall of Fame, and every contestant pretty much rocked the house, with the exception of Jacob Lusk, who annoys me every time he opens his big mouth, and Pia Toscano, who bores me to the point of sleep even before she gets on stage.  The night was full of random rock-n-roll singers such as Constantine Maroulis and Iggy Pop, both of which failed to even remotely interest me.  Thank goodness for DVR and the fast-forward button.

Ryan Secrest cracked his usual jokes, most of which were rather funny, and delivered the results in a 3 by 3 fashion.  There were nine contestants; three groups of three with each group containing one bottom-three-er made perfect sense.  After all was said and done, Pia Toscano, Jacob Lusk, and Stefano Langone made up the bottom three. 

Although I have no further complaint about Pia other than she is boring, I was surprised to see her in the bottom three.  Don't get me wrong.  I wanted her to go, but the chances of that seemed rather slim at this point in the game.  Apparently, America is getting sick of hearing a ballad every week.  Jacob, after his egotistic comment in which he made some remark about the only reason he would be in the bottom three is because America can't "look themselves in the mirror," was no surprise.  He deserved to be in the bottom three, not only because he said that, but because he's a church choir singer.  Not a mainstream artist.  Stefano... is a good singer.  He's got rhythm, style, and plenty of class.  He's like another Bruno Mars, who, needless to say, is a very successful artist.  I think Stefano will do well even after he gets kicked off of Idol.  Most of us have pretty much been expecting Stefano to go for the last three or four weeks, but every week he hangs on, probably by the skin of his teeth.

So... fast forward to the very end of the show, where the bottom three turns into the bottom two.  Jacob Lusk, unfortunately, was safe.  Then they were down to Pia and Stefano.  *Refer to first paragraph.*  At that point, I'll admit, I was pretty much expecting Stefano to go, simply because Pia is a great singer.  I didn't think there was any way she would go this soon.  But lo and behold, Ryan announced that Pia was going home!!!

I whooped.  I hollered.  I screamed.  I yelled.  I was excited, obviously.  Although I am not a huge fan of Stefano, I was happy that Pia was leaving.  She's so dull, and when all of the other contestants get excited, she just smiles.  She's completely void of all emotion.  It's annoying and not entertaining.  Afterall, we watch TV to be entertained, right?

Then, I was irritated.  The judges, Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, and Steven Tyler, proceeded to exclaim how awful it was that Pia was the one leaving and she shouldn't have been the one to go.  Basically, they were telling Stefano that they expected him to leave... right to his face.  Rude much?  I'm sure Stefano felt awful about the whole situation.  Jennifer made remarks such as "I'm shocked.  I'm angry.  I have no idea what just happened." Yes, it was a little bit of a surprise that Pia was leaving, but it wasn't worth all the hoopla they gave it, and Stefano probably left the stage feeling like crap.  Well, for their information, Stefano stayed on the show again this week, so he's not as awful as the judges made him out to be, obviously.

Some say that Pia got voted off because mostly girls watch the show and girls aren't going to vote for Pia.  It's not just about who watches the show and that Pia got voted off because girls aren't going to vote for her.  It's about what America likes as a whole.  And let me tell you, Pia was nothing special.  Yes, the girl could sing.  But at this point in the game, can't they all?  Yes.  And every other contestant on the show right now is just as good as Pia.  Stefano said it on this week's show:  it's all about performing, because everybody left on the show can sing.  America wants a star.  They want someone who is going to entertain them.  Pia almost never had anything exciting to say or did anything special.  Her stage presence consisted of a two foot by two foot invisible box on the stage.  She never wavered from it.  It was B-O-R-I-N-G.  Nobody wants boring.  Bottom line.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Aaaaaaaaaannndddd... Disney Does It Again!

Tangled Reviews DisneyWalt Disney Pictures has produced hundreds of epic movies that boast tales of princesses, lions, mermaids, a girl in Wonderland, race cars, and all sorts of creatures and other animated objects.  Disney's latest smash hit, Tangled, is by far, one of my favorites.  A re-vamped attempt at making Rapunzel popular, Tangled hits the spot with the perfect amount of sweet, spice, and most things nice.

Here's the review from

Walt Disney Animation once again embraces traditional "princess" fare with Tangled, a cheeky retelling of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, Rapunzel. In this more action-oriented musical comedy, Rapunzel (voiced by Mandy Moore) is a princess who was abducted as a baby and raised as a virtual prisoner in a remote castle by the evil witch, Mother Gothel (Donna Murphy). Rapunzel boasts 70 feet of magic, golden hair -- hair that keeps Mother from aging.

Having spent her entire life within the tower (with just Mother and the tiny, silent chameleon Pascal for company), Rapunzel is full of curiosity about the outside world. One day while Mother Gothel is away, Rapunzel is frightened by a surprise visitor coming through her window, the dashing, roguish bandit Flynn Rider (voiced by Chuck's Zachary Levi). Flynn is on the run from his brutish former cohorts, the Stabbington Brothers (one of whom is voiced by Ron Perlman), after escaping with a jeweled tiara they had stolen.

Following their meet-cute introduction, Rapunzel and Flynn make a deal. He will escort her through the wilderness to the kingdom, where she'll finally get to behold the annual festival of lights. (This festival, held on what is the unsuspecting Rapunzel's birthday, is in remembrance of the lost princess.) In exchange, Rapunzel will give Flynn back the stolen tiara she's hidden from him.

Rapunzel and Flynn find themselves on the run from not only the Stabbington Brothers and Mother Gothel, but also from the royal guards (and one very determined horse named Maximus) who want Flynn in custody. As Rapunzel and Flynn grow more attracted to one another, the question becomes whether Flynn will succumb to his bad boy ways and betray her trust.
As you can imagine, Disney tops the movie off with a nice, big Happy Ending.  This movie targets an audience of all ages, which contributes partially to its overall success.  Witty and charming, Tangled won my heart from the first preview.  It was released on Tuesday, March 29th.  I bought it on Saturday, April 2nd, and I've watched it five times since then.  It's only noon on Monday, April 4th.  You do the math.  And watch Tangled while you're at it!