Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Favorite Quote #11

"I don't think there is such a thing as a bad book for children."

                                       -Neil Gaiman

Friday, November 15, 2013

Would You Recognize A Serial Killer In Your Hometown?

"The Frozen Ground" - based on a true story. 

  I generally like to blog about happy things and fun things, but this topic was just too creepy to pass up. I work part-time at a bookstore in Arkansas, and, on Halloween, a lady asked me to help her find a book about a serial killer in Alaska. "I used to live there," she said, referring to Anchorage, Alaska, where she and her husband both worked in the 80's. The real-life serial killer, Robert Hansen, had also lived there.
   "He had a building away from his house where he tortured and raped girls," said Kay Houser, the nice lady at the bookstore. "He told his wife and kids it was for taxidermy and to never go out there," said Houser. 
   Robert Hansen had previously been thought of as a "community-minded person" who was involved with the local Boy Scouts and who ran a local bakery in Anchorage. "I ate at his bakery every day," said Houser, who, like everyone else, had no clue what this man was doing in his spare time. 
   "That was a shock," she said. "I could not believe it." 
   Lionsgate just released a movie about Hansen earlier this year called "The Frozen Ground." It stars Nicholas Cage as the chief investigator and John Cusack as the killer. 
   For more than a decade, Hansen preyed on young women who were prostitutes. Houser said everyone knew women were disappearing in Anchorage, and they were told to stick together in groups. She had no idea that the culprit was the owner of her favorite bakery. 
   Hansen eventually got caught because one of his victims ran away as he was trying to get her into his private airplane. According to the movie, Hansen would take the girls up in his plane and fly to a remote area of Alaska, then shoot the girl as she tried to run away. 11 bodies have been found, although Hansen has confessed to murdering 17 women. He also confessed to kidnapping and raping 30 more women, although authorities believe there were many more. 
   Hansen is currently in prison, serving out his 461-years-plus-life sentence. He is not eligible for parole. 
   There are more details about the story here: Robert Hansen_Alaska Serial Killer

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

File These Under "Awesome"

A Few More Of My Favorite Things

   It took me a LONG time to find a moisturizer I really liked, and here it is! Kiehl's Ultra Facial Oil-Free Lotion - it is not greasy, it will not make you break out, and it works ALL DAY LONG. I buy two bottles at a time just so I won't ever run out. 
   I just recently watched the entire Jacques Cousteau Odyssey series, and I was horrified to hear that one of his sons died in a plane crash while this program was still filming. What a heartbreak. All of the episodes are worth watching, and I just wrote a blog about my favorite two episodes in the post below. 
   You can't go wrong with a Leinenkugel beer! I've been a fan of the "Summer Shandy" lemon-flavored beer for years, and now they have "Orange Shandy."  It is light and delicious with the just the right amount of orangeness. Thank you, Leinenkugel!

Best Episodes Of "The Jacques Cousteau Odyssey"

   I asked my school's library to order all of The Jacques Cousteau Odyssey DVDs, and they did! Although there are only twelve shows in the series, they are quite interesting and worth watching. My favorite two are "Calypso's Search for the Britannic" (episode 7) and "The Warm-Blooded Sea: Mammals of the Deep" (episode 12). 
   The Britannic - which was larger than the mighty Titanic - was a hospital ship that sank from an unidentified explosion on November 21, 1916. Cousteau actually met with a handful of survivors from the Britannic, and they told him about their experience during the disaster. Apparently there was some mystery as to how a torpedo or a mine could take down an "unsinkable" ship. "There was a big bump...and the ship sort of rose up and came down again," said one survivor. While the ship was sinking, the engines were still running, and so, unfortunately, were the propellers. Some of the life boats were drawn into the massive turning blades. "I saw one lifeboat getting cut up. So I saw arms and legs go up there," said another survivor whose boat managed to slide past the whirling metal. "They never had any chance..." said another man. 
   Most of the survivors (eight were present at dinner with Mr. Cousteau, although more than 1000 survived) believed the boat had been torpedoed. One survivor was convinced that they had been attacked with a torpedo because he had seen a submarine on the previous voyage. The Britannic was clearly marked as a hospital ship, so it should not have been a threat to anyone. 
   Cousteau and his crew decided to travel to the Aegean Sea to visit the sleeping Britannic with their diving saucer and diving team. They also invited 86-year-old Sheila Macbeth Mitchell, a surviving nurse from the ship. She said she felt "10 years younger" after returning to the Britannic after 70 years. 
   The divers could only spend 15 minutes at a time exploring the ship because it is nearly 400 feet down. 
   Cousteau believed that the hull damage was much more extensive than what could have been cause by a single torpedo or mine, and he brought up chunks of burned coal from the ship's innards. The log from a German U-boat reported seeing a hospital ship in the Kea Channel and left it "unharmed", but they had already set out mines. Based on the evidence, the mighty Britannic most likely struck a mine, and the first explosion caught the coal dust on fire and caused a much larger, secondary explosion. 
  No weapons were detected in the storage areas of the ship. It was truly on a mercy mission. And thankfully, all of the hospital beds were empty when she sank. Mitchell said the boat went straight down into the water, "like a good dive. And everybody's heart was in their mouths."
   In episode 4 - "The Warm-Blooded Sea: Mammals of the Deep," there is amazing footage and sound recordings of whales, sea otters, sea cows, arctic seals, killer whales, and dolphins. I was particularly amazed by the footage of a dolphin named Dolly who had previously been trained by the U.S. Navy for reconnaissance missions. After 8 years of military training, Dolly was deemed "incorrigible" by the Navy and was released into the wild. Five days after her release, Dolly showed up in the aquatic backyard of a family named the Asburys. The mother, Jean, "adopted" Dolly. The dolphin seemed to thrive off of Jean's mothering, perhaps in part due to the harsh treatment she received during her military training. The Navy had learned of Dolly's whereabouts and confessed that, at times, Dolly wasn't fed if she did not perform her duties to their satisfaction. 
   The episode ends with images of baby seals in Canada. The pups have long been prized for their white fur, and the Canadian government would issue standard-size clubs so hunters would hopefully kill the seals before skinning them. (Yuck, guys, YUCK.) The show ends with this thought: "Perhaps the mammal that is most unpredictable, incomprehensible, and inexplicable is the human being." 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Sandra Bullock Shines in "Gravity" (SPOILER ALERT!)

Sandra Bullock plays astronaut Ryan Stone in Alfonso Cuaron's sci-fi thriller Gravity.

   I have a new favorite movie! As soon as I heard Sandra Bullock and George Clooney were going to be astronauts in this flick about a space walk gone wrong, I knew it was a must-see. Bullock blew the ceiling out of this one. WOW. Her acting has never been better or more emotional. She makes a very convincing and brilliant astronaut. When the film opens, Dr. Stone (Bullock) is strapped into the Space Shuttle arm and is obviously motion-sick. As she struggles to restore some damaged software on a space telescope, you instantly sympathize with her and hope she doesn't vomit in her space helmet. Matt Kowalski (Clooney) is coaching her along when they get a ground alert from none other than Ed Harris. Harris played in Apollo 13 as legendary NASA Flight Director Gene Kranz (1995) and as John Glenn in The Right Stuff (1983.) This was not Clooney's first time in space, either (Solaris, 2002.) However, most of the movie focuses on Stone and her fight for survival from one major disaster to the next.  
   Apparently the role of Dr. Ryan Stone had been written for Angelina Jolie. And then it was offered to a handful of other actresses before Bullock signed on. What luck we had with Ms. Bullock! I can't imagine anyone else portraying such a likable, emotionally-damaged woman with enough intelligence and grit to live through a seemingly impossible scenario. Go see it!! You'll want to become an astronaut. 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Because There Aren't Enough Pictures Of Children Hugging Fish

I don't know who this little girl is, but I LOVE this picture! Thank you, whoever took this picture of their kid and posted it online. I hope you don't mind that I put it here. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Few Words From My Friend Darrell Hodges....

Darrell Hodges

   Once upon a time, I worked for the same college newspaper as Darrell Hodges. He was the Lifestyles and Entertainment Editor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, and I was the Science and Technology Editor. I feel like his brief commentary below is nothing less than poetry.

   "Our society's craven urge to engage in 'slut shaming' says a lot more about us than it does about those who it deems in need of a scarlet letter.

   "Prior to Super Bowl XXXVIII, Janet Jackson had 24 top ten singles and 10 number one songs; after February of 2004 she never had another top ten single, much less a number one song. As for Justin Timberlake, the man who put malfunction in 'wardrobe malfunction,' his career continued on its meteoric rise as if nothing had happened, and he's as popular as ever today.

   "For all the talk of Miley Cyrus, there's been next to no discussion of accountability with regard to twerkee Robin Thicke. Thicke is married and nearly twice Cyrus' age. As Morrissey once sang, 'You could've said no if you wanted could've walked away, couldn't you?'

   "Alas, things are no different in the political realm, as men like Bill Clinton, David Vitter, and Mark Sanford have proven, political viability (if not outright rehabilitation of one's reputation) has become - at least under the right circumstances - possible for male politicians. Has there been a female politician for whom the same can be said? If so, I'm not aware of her." 

Monday, August 19, 2013

My Grandma's Flowers

"Some people say a flower is just a flower. But that's not true - they bring joy and happiness."    
                                                      -Frieda Spelevoy 

This is my Gramie, Frieda Spelevoy. She will turn 97 in three days. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Gentle World of Stan Brown

I know two professional plant breeders. They are both men, and they could not possibly be more different. One of them is a University-based, many-patent holding, world-traveling businessman, and the other one is more like the legendary Johnny Appleseed. The latter is named Stan Brown, and he owns a plant nursery in Clarksville, Arkansas. Stan always has time for his customers. He can answer nearly any question about any plant, and I have never seen him in a hurry. I visited Stan recently on an outing to purchase catnip and lemongrass plants for my homemade bug repellent experiments. While we were talking in the main greenhouse, I watched him feed his pet turtles that are living in a large tub full of aquatic plants. Stan helped me find the plants I needed as we casually strolled through another large greenhouse full of beautiful, wonderful-smelling things. He showed me the red crepe myrtle shrubs he bred. "You can leave two things (after you die)," he told me. "One is your kids. The a nice plant."
Stan Brown and his red crepe myrtles. At Blossomberry's in Clarksville, AR. 

Favorite Quote #10

"Show a girl a pioneering hero - Sylvia Plath, Dorothy Parker, Frida Kahlo, Cleopatra, Boudicca, Joan of Arc - and you also, more often than not, show a girl a woman who was eventually crushed."

                                   -Caitlin Moran, "How To Be A Woman"

Friday, June 14, 2013

My Letter To Senator Carl Levin

   I am posting this e-mail I sent to Senator Carl Levin because I am angry about his recent action in the Senate to disarm a bill concerning sexual assaults in the U.S. military. Sexual assaults are quite common in our armed forces. I know something about this. They are also rarely prosecuted. The military strives hard to keep a squeaky-clean image. Legal issues are traditionally handled in-house and are therefore pretty darn easy to hide from the public. Other Senators (namely Kirsten Gillibrand) have recently proposed to have military sexual assault cases handled by a source independent of the military chain of command. This was a great idea, squashed this week by Senator Levin who moved to add an "extra review step" within the chain of command. (Watch the documentary "The Invisible War" by Kirby Dick for more insight on how sexual assaults in the military are generally handled.) 

Senator Levin,

   I am just disgusted with your movement to add an extra "in-house" review step in the prosecution of military sexual assault cases instead of allowing an independent source to handle them. I've read your statements on your website, and I just read your USA Today article. You have no idea how far you've set back the struggle for justice that victims in our military are fighting for. Try to imagine a young woman (or man) being assaulted at boot camp or overseas on active duty. This is a HUMILIATING one wants to run forward and tell their commanding officer that they've been raped or abused. You say that if the commanding officer decides not to prosecute, then a "higher-level review" is required along with an “automatic review” done by a service secretary if the commanding officer overrules his legal advisors.  One of the major issues we are having is that the cases are not reaching the legal advisors.  Who exactly is going to oversee and enforce these extra steps? Is it up to the victim to make sure this happens? Is the victim going to have to set up yet another humiliating meeting to tell the higher-level officer and the secretary all about the rape? The more hurdles you put in front of a victim, the less likely they will be able to jump over them. You either have no concept of what it is like to be a victim of sexual assault, or you just don't care. Either way, you have done a MAJOR disservice to thousands of people serving in our armed forces. You say this is not a “matter of siding with high-ranking  generals over victims,” but YES, Senator Levin, that is exactly what you have done! This issue will not go away. It will come up again in the future, and in the meantime, how many of our service people will suffer without justice because of your extremely poor decision? Try again, Senator Levin. Try harder. We need a leader here, not another little boy in the boys’ club. 

      Jennifer Lewter

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others

Turn Right When You See The Dead Fish Heads...
   I realize this picture is kind of gross, but it was too funny not to share. A fisherman near Hartman, Arkansas likes to hang his huge catfish heads outside on a fence where by-passers can gawk at them. One of our students who recently returned from the Gulf Coast decided to add his own trophy to the collection. Do you think anyone will notice?

Friday, May 17, 2013

SPOILER ALERT! "Star Trek: Into Darkness" Review

Spock (left) and Kirk (right) detain super-human Khan (center) on the Enterprise briefly.

   What can I say? They butchered a classic. For those of us old enough to remember and cherish Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, this one, at least in parts, was a disgrace. When the original dying Spock (Leonard Nimoy) and Kirk (William Shatner) sat on the floor with their hands touching either side of the containment glass, we were devastated. We had seen the friendship of Spock and Kirk develop and blossom during nearly 20 years of television and the first Star Trek movie.  With the new Spock (Zachary Quinto) and Kirk (Chris Pine), the scene was nearly replicated but with the roles reversed: Kirk sat dying in the radiation room while Spock lamented on the outside. It did NOT work! The original death scene is one of the most poignant and famous in the Star Trek franchise ("The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one"), and this time it felt so misplaced I literally couldn't watch it. Quinto and Pine are so new to us (their characters hated each other early in the last movie), we did not have time to respect or love their friendship like we did with Nimoy and Shatner. Hearing Quinto scream the infamous "KKKKKHHHHHAAAAAAAANNNNNNN!" in anguish was borderline humorous. It just did not work. 

   With that said, Benedict Cumberbatch makes a damn good villain! He lacks the smokin' hot charisma displayed by ever-smooth Ricardo Montalban, the original Khan Noonien Singh. 

The Original Khan (Ricardo Montalban)
Montalban's Khan had no trouble throwing a pretty woman to the ground ("The Space Seed," the original Star Trek television series), but the icy new Cumberbatch Khan also hits the woman and then stomps on her leg with the apparent intent to break it. Then our new Khan crushes Admiral Marcus' head between his palms while Marcus' daughter (the little lady who just got stomped on) shrieks in terror.  (WOW - I bet Lt. McGivers from the original series would NOT have gone to play house on Ceti Alpha V with this creep!)
The New Khan (Benedict Cumberbatch)

   So is this new Star Trek movie worth seeing? Yes, of course it is. The special effects are amazing; going to warp has never been more exciting. Seeing Uhura (Zoe Saldana) carefully walk towards and speak Klingon to a gang of well-armored and highly agitated Klingon warriors was a welcomed first for her traditionally-chairfast character. (The new Klingons are scary as hell, by the way! This was the first time I've seen one with pale blue eyes.) I also enjoyed one of the early scenes with Spock in the volcano as lava erupts and sprays around him. A very nice homage to the traditional meaning of the word Vulcan (Roman god of fire.) There is also a new starship introduced here - a much larger, 3 times faster, black military ship that nearly destroys the Enterprise. Now we know what Into Darkness means - the Starfleet mission to explore space and new civilizations is now turning into a darker, sadder, military delegation. The scene in Admiral Marcus' office of a line-up of models showing the progression of flight from the Wright Brothers' airplane all the way through the (hypothetical) Enterprise spaceships was a really nice touch. Kudos, guys! 

   Leonard Nimoy makes a very brief but well appreciated appearance in this movie as well. I will always be happy to see our original Spock spouting words of wisdom in these "rebooted" versions. 

   And it's good to know we'll be seeing more of Khan in the future. They kept him alive, in a cryogenic tube. That was probably a mistake. 

   Oh! My Father would have been pleased to see that J.J. Abrams left out his camera lens-flare signature this time. Or at least I didn't notice it. Guys, please work on some original story lines before you tap into old Star Trek gold. We want to be fans of the reboot, but you can't steal the crown jewels without earning them first. 
   UPDATE: 6-14-2013   I saw the movie again, and it is LOADED with Abrams' lens-flaring!! I really didn't notice it the first time. (Must not be that bad of a movie if I was that engrossed in it... :)

Monday, April 29, 2013

Patient Number 5,896

My family and I had to let go of someone we loved last week. Taking him off life support was somewhat like putting your favorite cat or dog to sleep, except much worse.

This was my father.

 At the funeral, my cousin Wendell told me that it will be the hardest thing I'll ever have to do. I believe him for two reasons: 1) He's older than me, and 2) He's a minister. I do not think this was his first removing-someone-from-life-support experience.
  There are a few things I wish I could change about the events that occurred during my father's 17-day hospital stay. Having him walk away from his ordeal would of course be at the top of my list. Number Two would be having him sent back to the Huntsville Hospital Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) instead of the Huntsville Hospital Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU.) The nurses Dad had in MICU were phenomenal. He commented on how sharp they were. These people were really taking care of him, and I could tell how much he appreciated it. He talked about them using their first names. He spoke of them as though they were his new friends. He gradually showed enough improvement that he was put in a regular hospital room (out of intensive care) for a while. I don't really know what happened next. I don't think the medical staff could give a good explanation, either. Dad looked to me like he was on the mend. He had asked me to go buy him an iPad and some pens and notepads. He wanted to write stuff down. He had plans. He was alert and witty because he was fully oxygenated. But then he started crashing again, and he was put in SICU because there weren't any beds open with his old friends in MICU. He needed oxygen, he needed vasoconstrictors to keep his blood pressure up, he had a blood clot in his leg, he was retaining fluid, he was having seizures...

Jesus. CHRIST. I couldn't sleep that night. And I didn't really want to. I was scared he would be gone when I woke up. I flew back to Huntsville. By the time I was allowed in to see him again, I found my Dad tied to a bed in SICU, looking all bruised and discolored, swollen and puffy, mildly sedated and on a ventilator.

The next saddest thing I've ever seen in my life was my Mom walking into her house with baggies full of Dad's spare clothes, his glasses, his new iPad that he never used, his little TV radio that he had to have on his bedside tray.

I keep getting angry when I think about some of the medical personnel in SICU. Do you know how I found out they had given up on my Dad? I could tell by the way they talking in front of him. They weren't talking to him, they were talking about him as though he wasn't there. But he was there. He was awake. I knew he could hear them. He couldn't say anything back because he had a ventilator tube down his throat and his hands were tied to the bed rails. Dad's new day nurse and kidney doctor were displaying the same level of psycho-social competence as someone who decides to dump his girlfriend by changing his Facebook status to "single."

I was in that room, cheering for my Dad every time I was allowed to see him. I was bragging about the baby steps of progress I thought he was making, and those inglorious bastards had already determined that patient number 5,896 was doomed but did not take the time to tell his family.

 I feel like an asshole, friends. I lied to my Daddy while he was on his deathbed.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Can't Wait! Star Trek: Into Darkness

All we need now is the same advertising stunt done over the Golden Gate Bridge. That is where Starfleet Academy will be located, after all.  :)

Movie release date: May 17, 2013

Sunday, March 24, 2013


   What do you do when you hear your cousin is getting married down in sunny Cancun? You buy tickets, of course, especially since your very favorite cousin is planning to go and you've never been to Cancun. (At least I haven't.) My family said they were using the site to plan their trip, so that's what I used, too. I'm always a little nervous about using a new travel site, but I was pleased to see that you could break your trip package down into two payments. AND, you could also buy insurance in case you get sick or become unable to travel for some reason. So I put down the first payment of $600 or so, and I bought the insurance. I called my cousins to tell them the good news. And that's when they told me that the wedding had been called off. 

   I called cheapcarribean immediately to see if I could get a refund. I told them the wedding had been canceled, and they said "the insurance doesn't cover that." If I had been sick, I would have to get an actual doctor's note for them. Things started getting fuzzy here. I began to lose my temper, I'm afraid. I was promised a credit voucher for $596.25, after they knocked off a fee of $50.  I was told I had to use the voucher within one year of the date it was issued, and I couldn't use it on a cruise. The employee I spoke to said he was "pretty sure" I could use the travel voucher for airline flights within the continental U.S., but it would have to be with the same airline I had originally booked with. Well, okay, I could probably work with this. I printed out my voucher and taped it to my bedroom wall.
   Months later, I decided to plan a trip with my favorite cousin Beth. (No weddings this time.) It took several weeks for us to finally decide on Vancouver, Canada as our destination. Neither of us had been before, and we both had heard great things about the city. We decided to fly into Seattle and then drive across the border. 
   I spoke to four different cheapcarribean representatives before I got this to work for me. At first they couldn't understand why I had a "cheapcaribbean" credit voucher since I had canceled my trip within 24-hours of booking it; I should've had an American Airlines voucher. All of the flight prices they were giving me for Seattle for my needed time frame were more than $1000. Holy crap! I've never flown in the U.S. for more than $600. I went straight to the American Airlines website myself and found acceptable tickets for right under $600. I called cheapcarribbean back and told them to book it for me. The rep informed that I could only use a certain percentage of my voucher for an airline flight. "I haven't heard this before," I snapped at her. She was the fourth or fifth person I had talked to, and that really was news to me. She put me on hold and then came back. "Nevermind," she said, and she booked my flight with another $15 charge on it.
    Hopefully I was done with cheapcarribean. I'm not sure I'll be so quick to go to a destination wedding again, or do business with a company that has the word "cheap" in their name.
   It came time to fly to Seattle, and, I missed my flight out of Little Rock. After packing up, watering plants, feeding cats, doing laundry, all the little things you need to do before you leave your house for a while, (and we had to stop and get gas on the way to the airport), I arrived at the check-in terminal approximately 26 minutes before departure. I was not allowed on the airplane. "If you didn't have a bag to check, we'd let you on," said the very young and very new American Airlines representative. It was Saturday evening and the place was dead. This was the last flight out of Little Rock for the night. The next flight was at 6:15 am the next morning, and it was booked. My cousin was already in Seattle waiting for me. "Why don't you let me go and send my bag later?" I asked. "TSA won't let us do that anymore," he said. I was starting to lose my temper again. This airport was tiny. No one was in line to go through security. I should've been able to zip right through. The boy called his supervisor so I could talk to him. His supervisor said he would talk to me when he got done upstairs. *After* the plane leaves. I was furious. Once upon I time I would fly somewhere every week for my job. Airlines usually work hard to make sure you don't miss a flight. I have gotten to a gate 15 minutes before departure and still made the flight. Now they have new rules. I was told the computer "locks you out" 30 minutes before a flight. 
   I was assigned standby tickets and told to come back the next morning to see if I could get on the 6:15 am flight in case someone didn't show up. I had hope that this would work, since 5:15 is a ridiculous time for anyone to be up and functional, so I figured someone would miss their flight. And that's exactly what happened. I spent the night at the airport. On the cold, hard floor, with construction going on through the whole night. I didn't sleep, actually. I lay there, on a spot of red carpet, huddled with my fleece jacket around my head. There were padded benches downstairs, but there is also a singing Coke machine right next to them. Jeez! The bright overhead lights were on the whole night. It was horrible. 
   Around 5:00 am, I went to the American Airlines terminal to check in my luggage. The same supervisor was there from the night before. He did not make eye contact with me. I paid $25 to check my one bag. I went upstairs to my gate and waited. There was a large group of scuba divers who were going on a trip together. Two other men from their group tried to check in less than 30 minutes before take-off. They were cut off, just like I was. "They're going to miss some dives," I heard their dive instructor say. He spoke to several different airport employees to try and get them on. He was not successful. And THAT'S how I got a seat on a full plane to Seattle. One man's ruined vacation is another woman's seat to salvation.
   It was not a direct flight - I had a short layover in Dallas. I had to do the standby thing again, and thankfully someone missed their time window or else I would've had another fun evening at an airport. 
   I landed in Seattle, and my sweet cousin Beth picked me up. We ate dinner at a nearby restaurant then headed for the border.  We stopped at a Cabela's on the way out of town. There are no Cabela's where I live, so it was fun to see all of the stuffed animals on display. They had huge fish tanks with bass, crappie, and sturgeon (see photo below.) 
A living fossil - the Sturgeon
To be continued.....

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Favorite Quote #9

          "The needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few,           or the one."                                                   -Spock and Kirk, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Monday, January 28, 2013

"I Saw a Bigfoot!"

The Spillway at Robbers Cave State Park in Oklahoma

   Late one night in the early 90's, bored teenagers Jason Collins and Andy Holdsclaw drove to a state park just north of Wilburton, Oklahoma. These boys had no idea what they were about to see. 
   Collins remembers pulling his 1986 Pontiac TransAm up near the spillway to take a look around. "We got out (of the car) at the same time," said Collins. "We walked over to the ledge near the spillway and Andy yelled, 'LOOK!' I looked down and saw a hairy, taller-than-human thing sitting in the middle of the creek next to the spillway.
   "It looked up at us as if it was startled and it started to run," said Collins. It ran upright, very quickly, over slippery, uneven rocks. "When have you ever seen a bear run on its hind legs over slippery rocks without falling?" asked Collins. It also looked more human than bear "because of the shoulders," explained Collins.
   The boys ran back to the car and tried to think logically about what they just saw. Since they were in a campground area, they thought maybe someone was camping nearby and decided to take a dip in the creek. "We went everywhere that we could think of inside the park and couldn't find a single camper. So we left for home," said Collins.
   At the time, Collins did not tell anyone about the incident. "My friend Andy was so scared when he told his mom." She called the rangers' office and asked if there had been any reports of a Bigfoot. The officer she spoke to said it might have been an escaped convict from the McAlester prison. "He said he would check into it and within a few hours he called her back and said there were no reports of anyone escaping," said Collins. 
   In preparation for this interview (January 2013), Collins called Robbers Cave Park Ranger William Hahn who has worked at the park for more than a year. Hahn said that no one has ever reported seeing a Bigfoot inside the park. He did not think it would have been an escaped prisoner, either. Hahn worked at the McAlester prison for nearly 10 years and said 90 percent of escaped prisoners "usually go home, not to a state park to hide." He also mentioned a rumor that a bear lives near the spillway, although he has never seen it. 
    "I cannot be more serious about what I am about to say, and to this day if you asked me, 'Did you see a Bigfoot?' - I would say 'Yes,'" said Collins. 

The creature was seen near these rocks at the bottom of the spillway, located a few miles north of Wilburton, Oklahoma.

      Blogger's Note:  I took an astronomy class with Jason Collins in 2012 when he originally told me this story. He was the first person I have ever met who believes he may have seen a sasquatch. I begged him to do this interview.  -J.L.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

My Father's Trip to Israel

The City of Jerusalem

   When I was in high school, my Father traveled to Israel. His trip was not any sort of personal spiritual pilgrimage, though. He was a radio officer in the U.S. Merchant Marines, and he was simply on a cargo ship making a routine stop to drop off some grain. 
   I remember how impressed he was with the people and things he saw in Israel. I took note of this because my Father is not easily impressed by much of anything. Among his trinkets that he always brought back to Tennessee from his long voyages, he also came home with a handful of little silver crucifixes that he had dipped in the Jordan River. He gave one to each of us and to some of our neighbors, too.
   I asked him to share his personal log with me. Here are the highlights from his trip, starting on New Years' Day in 1992:

01-01-92 Wednesday

   Jim and I earned our pay today. We had to send the
ships payroll report to headquarters. What a pain. 4
pages of numbers. Also learned how to send telephone
telegrams (TEXTEL). We are about 1/3 of the way to
   Supposed to get there late on the 14th. Ship feels
like a ship today,lots of pitch and roll. Not bad,
just different.

01-02-92 Thursday

   Sea fairly rough today. Ship rolls constantly. 
Tiresome, but tolerable.
   Stood normal watch, sent 5 telegrams. Clock 
advanced another hour. Now 4 hrs ahead of Tennessee.

01-03-92 Friday

   Smack in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Ship 
still flopping around like a fish out of water; 
really wears on you. Passed a sail boat this
afternoon. First thing except clouds and water I've
seen in three or four days. Weather still nice. Water
still pretty, but mean. Washed clothes.

01-04-92 Saturday
   Still rolling. Stood normal watch, sent 4
telegrams. Finally got about 2 hours sleep, extremely
weird dream.

01-05-92 Sunday

   Normal watch. Rolling seems a little less severe 
today. Maybe just getting used to it. Supposed to hit
rougher weather in another day or so when we get near
the coast of Africa. About 10 more days to Haifa.
   Clock up another hour, now 5 hrs ahead of

01-06-92 Monday

   Normal watch, sent 5 telegrams. Still rolling 
along. Cloudy and beginning to rain a little this
evening. Pretty good case of homesickness today.

01-07-92 Tuesday

   Normal watch. Sea a little smoother today. Called
home after last watch.
   Worked on radio log program. Clock up again, now
6 hrs ahead of Tennessee.

01-08-92 Wednesday

   Normal watch. Weather foggy, can't see much of
anything. Supposed to reach the Strait of Gibraltar
tomorrow at midnight. Washed clothes again, must 
bring more socks next time.

01-09-92 Thursday

   Normal watch. Passed through Strait of Gibraltar
around 9:00pm this evening. Lots of lights on both
sides. Hope we pass in the daytime on the way back. 
We are now in the Mediterranean Sea. Weather has 
improved,smooth sailing for now.

01-10-92 Friday

   Normal watch. Advanced clock again, now 7 hrs
ahead of Tennessee. Weather is a little cool, but
nice. We are sailing about 6 miles off the African
coast. Passed the city of Algers around 11:pm. Should
arrive in Haifa around noon on Wednesday the 15th.

01-11-92 Saturday

   Normal watch except for the overtime pay, because 
its Saturday. Weather is still good. Thought I was 
dead when I woke this morning. Dreamed I started 
shaking and couldn't stop. It got worse and worse 
until I knew I would explode. Then I woke and
realized it was the vibrations from the engine.
Probably had something to do with the 4 english
muffins with grape jelly I ate at 3:00 am.

01-12-92 Sunday

   Passed the Island of Sicily around supper time 
today. It looks just like Santa Barbara, only much
larger. Thousands of stucco houses and churches with
red tile roofs. Real pretty from the sea. Heard my 
first real SOS during my late watch this evening. It 
supposedly came from a ship off the coast of Malta, 
here in the Mediterranean. We weren't close enough to
respond, but I listened on all the emergency channels
for 2 hours just in case. Don't know what finally
happened, there was a lot of conversation on the
radio, but none of it in English. (Heard the first 
call in Morse code.)

01-13-92 Monday

   Normal watch. 700 miles from Haifa at noon today.
Should arrive before noon Wednesday. Clock up again, 
now 8 hrs ahead of Tennessee. Weather is brisk, but 
still nice.

01-14-92 Tuesday

   Busy watch today, sent lots of messages.

01-15-92 Wednesday

   Up at 3:00 am this morning in order to send
special arrival message to Haifa Radio. Had to send
it CW (my first morse telegram). Managed to send it
without too many mistakes. Arrived at Haifa at 11:30
am. Tied up to warf around 6:30 pm. Raining off and
on. Will wait until tomorrow to go ashore.
   Exactly 4 weeks since leaving home. Seems like 4 
01-16-92 Thursday

   Went ashore with Jim this morning. Walked around
Haifa for about 3 hrs. Place is old and crowded.
Hundreds of little hole-in-the-wall shops.
   Found post office and mailed letter. Hope it gets
home, no one there spoke English. Surprisingly,
hardly anyone speaks English, and practically all
the signs are in Hebrew. After supper, walked about
5 miles looking for a phone. Finally found one and
called home.(Naturally found it about 1/4 mile from
the ship on the way back). Captain says we will be
here until at least next Wednesday. May be able to
take a tour or two around Israel.

01-17-92 Friday

   Interesting day. Went on a tour of Northern
Israel with Jim and 4 other folks from the ship.
We went to Nazareth first and saw the family homes
of Mary and Joseph. Then we went to Cana where
Jesus performed his first miracle. I stood in the
same place where he changed the water into wine.
   Then we went to the Sea of Galilee and ate lunch
where he did his second miracle of feeding 5 thousand
people with 2 fish. Then we went to the place at the
River Jorden where he was baptized. We also visited a
local diamond factory. Northern Israel reminds you a
little of Tennessee. It has lots of hills. The ground
is even rockier. Everywhere you look, there are piles
of rock. All the houses seem to be made of concrete.
There are new houses being built all over the place.
01-18-92 Saturday

   Do-nothing day. Today is the Jewish Sabbath,
nobody does anything. I was a good little Jewish boy,
I didn't do a damn thing. Caught up on sleep.

01-19-92 Sunday

   Fascinating day. Went on another tour. This time
just me and two others.
   First we drove south down the West Bank of the
Jordan River valley. We saw Armageddon and Jerico.
As we continued south along the Jordanian border,
we saw lots of Israeli Army patrols. We drove on
into Bethlehem where we visited the Church of the
Nativity, which is built around the manger where
Christ was born. We saw the place where he was born
and the manger. Had lunch about 1/2 block from the
   Then we drove on into Jerusalem. It has to be the
most incredible city I've ever seen. It's built on
the tops of several hills. (Mount Zion is the
highest I think.) Everything is made of brown rock.
Thousands of buildings, walls and churches all
interconnected. Every square inch of space is
occupied up and down steep hills for several miles
in all directions. It's really impossible to describe
and no photograph could do it justice.
   We stopped at most of the churches built around
the 14 stations of the cross. We saw where Jesus
was crucified (I put my hand in the hole of the
rock that held up the cross he was crucified on.)
We went to his tomb and Mary's tomb. We visited
the garden where Judas betrayed him. We saw the
rock he cried blood on and the one he ascended to
heaven from. We saw so much I can't remember it all.
My friend Scotty Jones took pictures, and will give
me copies. Maybe they will help me remember more
details of this incredible place.
   We left Jerusalem around dark and drove through
Tel Aviv on the way back to Haifa. Our guide's name
was Sami. [Blogger's Note: Dad mentioned later in his
log that Sami was a professional tour guide and a
former Israeli Army officer who weighed about 250
pounds and spoke 5 or 6 languages. Dad said Sami had
never been out of Israel.] He spoke English pretty
well and explained most of the history behind
everything we saw. A very long and very good day.