Saturday, July 26, 2008

What Musical Instrument Should You Play?

I ran across this website full of little quizzes. I love these things. I guess it reminds me of the quizzes that the women's magazines used to have-- years ago when I used to read those magazines. Anyway, I took the "What Musical Instrument Should You Play?" quizz. The answer: accordion. Ironically, I learned to play the accordion when I was in the third grade.

You Should Play the Accordion

You are eccentric, funky, wacky... definitely one of a kind.

People have trouble putting you in any one particular category. You definitely have your own thing going on.

You are a born entertainer. No wonder you'd be perfect as an one man (or one woman) band.

Your musical influences likely cross all genres - and blend together in a very unusual way.

While you are definitely offbeat, you also enjoy tradition and influences from the past.

It's just your style to take an old fashioned instrument like the accordion and make it uniquely yours.

Your dominant personality characteristic: your total lack of inhibition

Your secondary personality characteristic: your interest in obscure activities and subjects

Friday, July 25, 2008

Central Arts Gallery Opening: Life on the Edge Exhibit

The Life on the Edge Exhibit will open at the Central Arts Gallery on Saturday, July 26, 2008. My photograph "Braodway: On the Edge of Fame" (above) will be included in the exhibit. Centrals Arts is at 274 E. Congress St. in Tucson. The free opening reception is 6-9 pm.

Central Arts Gallery is a cooperative arts project featuring the work of more than 40 Tucson artists and is a member of the Central Tucson Gallery Association.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

John McCain and the Internets

The New York Times recently interviewed John McCain at length about different issues, including what kind of conservative he is, what kind of Christian he is (who cares about these two points?), the current banking crisis, the Internet, and many other topics.

I was taken aback by McCain's comments about the Internet. Clearly, this guy is not qualified to be president in the age of rapidly expanding technology. Other people show him websites. He's LEARNING to go online himself. And he doesn't use e-mail. Here is an exerpt from the interview. The whole transcript is linked above.

"Q: What websites if any do you look at regularly?

"Mr. McCain: Brooke and Mark show me Drudge, obviously, everybody watches, for better or for worse, Drudge. Sometimes I look at Politico. Sometimes RealPolitics, sometimes.

"(Mrs. McCain and Ms. Buchanan both interject: “Meagan’s blog!”)

"Mr. McCain: Excuse me, Meagan’s blog. And we also look at the blogs from Michael and from you that may not be in the newspaper, that are just part of your blog.

"Q: But do you go on line for yourself?

"Mr. McCain: They go on for me. I am learning to get online myself, and I will have that down fairly soon, getting on myself. I don’t expect to be a great communicator, I don’t expect to set up my own blog, but I am becoming computer literate to the point where I can get the information that I need – including going to my daughter’s blog first, before anything else.

"Q: Do you use a blackberry or email?

"Mr. McCain: No

"Mark Salter: He uses a BlackBerry, just ours.

"Mr. McCain: I use the Blackberry, but I don’t e-mail, I’ve never felt the particular need to e-mail. I read e-mails all the time, but the communications that I have with my friends and staff are oral and done with my cell phone. I have the luxury of being in contact with them literally all the time. We now have a phone on the plane that is usable on the plane, so I just never really felt a need to do it. But I do – could I just say, really – I understand the impact of blogs on American politics today and political campaigns. I understand that. And I understand that something appears on one blog, can ricochet all around and get into the evening news, the front page of The New York Times. So, I do pay attention to the blogs. And I am not in any way unappreciative of the impact that they have on entire campaigns and world opinion."

I don't believe anyone can truly understand the scope and power of the Internet and related technologies if they have never surfed around and discovered it for themselves. McCain's statement is almost as scary as W's reference to his familiarity with "the Internets" several years ago. How can this man lead us into the future?

Update: Several other bloggers have had fun with this issue and commented. Here are a few links.

Back from the Dead...More or Less
McCain Discovers the Internet, Fire and the Wheel
My Mom is Better than John McCain

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Ghost Bikes: A New Twist on the Roadside Shrine

Dangerous intersections across the southwestern United States and Mexico often are adorned with roadside shrines marking someone's passing. Around Tucson, a unique type of roadside shrine has now appeared-- Ghost Bikes, white bicycles that mark locations where cyclists were struck and killed.

As an avid cyclist and an occasional bicycle commuter, I think the ghost bikes are a poignant reminder to motorists and cyclists alike; we all can be more careful and respectful of each other on the road.

Photo credit: Arizona Daily Star.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Travel Trials and Tribulations

I haven't flown anywhere since my trip to Colombia last winter, but I have been browsing around looking for deals on future trips to visit relatives and friends. I was surprised how many flights listed overnight connections. For example, I wanted to go to Mazatlan this spring. Several American Airlines trips included an overnight stay in Dallas: Tucson to Dallas one day, Dallas to a variety of locations in Mexico the next day. Basically, these flights took longer than driving to Mazatlan!!!! Oy.

With gas prices continuing to climb, I see this situation only getting worse in the future. Recently, the Tucson airport announced dramatic cutbacks in direct flights out of Tucson beginning this fall.

To combat these inconveniences, consumers and entrepreneurs are getting creative. One company is marketing a Mini Motel one-person tent for stranded travelers. I wish I had had one of these a few years when I was stranded in the Washington National Airport. I found out that my flight had been canceled around 11 p.m.; my new flight was early-- 5 or 6 a.m. I thought it was silly to find a hotel for a just few hours. Little did I know how noisy and uncomfortable the night would be. Airports no longer allow passengers to sleep in the carpeted gate areas. The airline gave me back my luggage and made me (and several other poor souls) go outside of the secure area. There were no comfortable chairs; no chairs that faced each other (so I could prop my feet up); no movable furniture; no carpet; no couches. Plus all night long the cleaning crew drove a HUGE, incredibly loud floor polishing machine back and forth the length of the terminal. The stranded tried hard to snooze, but it was really tough.

Now that airlines are trying to actually sell trips with planned overnight stays, I wonder if airport sleeping has improved. Obviously, we all can't afford to reserve hotel rooms. Maybe I'll buy a Mini Motel.

Photo credit: The New York Times

Sacred Datura: 2008 Update

My huge Sacred Datura plant from last season is back this year-- along with several offspring around the front yard. The original plant had a blooming season this spring, looked a little sad during the high heat in June, but now is popping back with the wonderful rain we have been having. It looks as if it will have another blooming season soon. The offspring were too small to bloom earlier, but look great now. Something is chewing on them here and there, but I haven't spotted any horned worms. (See the 2007 photos and posts about my infestation.)

When looking around the Internet this morning for other Sacred Datura posts and articles. I found this interesting MMWR from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A woman prepared hamburgers and sprinkled in some Datura seeds. She realized her mistake and removed the seeds. She and her husband ate the burgers. Read the story to find out what happened. (Hint: She should have thrown out the burger meat.)

Also, here are some beautiful pictures of purple Sacred Datura.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Dancing and Dementia: Dance as if No One Is Watching

It's pretty obvious that I am a dancing nut, but that is not why I entitled this post "Dancing and Dementia." I have always been a dancer-- even as a little kid. My parents met on a blind date at a dance!

Amidst all of the bad news about war, poverty, and high gas prices, today's NY Times has a blog about the benefits of dancing, "Dance Even if No One Is Watching". The author refers to a YouTube video of Matt Harding doing a goofy dance at different locations worldwide. The locations range from the spectacular to the mundane. Along the way, many different types of people join him in the goofy dance. For me, the video shows the universal appeal of dancing and music.

In addition to plugging the video, the author gives several health benefits of dancing, including a 2003 New England Journal of Medicine article that reported reduced dementia among older people who danced. Here is a similar article on the benefits of dancing from Psychology Today Healing Arts blog.

When I go dancing, there are almost always more women than men on the dance floor. Obesity, depression, high blood pressure, and now dementia can be prevented (or at least reduced) with dancing. What more reason do you need to start dancing, guys?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Modern Love

Obviously, if you have been reading my blog, you know that I am a regular reader of the New York Times. Although I occasionally disagree with some of the columnists, I think that the online Times is a great mix of hard news and entertainment features. In my opinion, one of the more entertaining columns is Modern Love.

This column does not appear daily; in fact, it seems to appear randomly. The other day I searched the NYT site to see if there had been any recent stories. I found several new Modern Love articles including a series written by college students who entered a NYT contest. The Times wanted to learn about Modern Love on college campuses. What's ironic to me is how applicable they are to me, a woman of a certain age. I have linked to four winning student entries here.

"Want to Be My Boyfriend? Please Define" This article is the winner of the NYT Modern Love college author contest. The author is a very articulate co-ed who tries to define dating, hooking up, and relationship expectations.

"Let's Not Get to Know Each Other Better" This article by a college guy is, in some ways, the "answer song" to the post above. It reminds me of one of the running jokes on Seinfeld: Is this a date?

"My Dropout Boyfriend Kept Dropping In" I was laughing out loud while reading this article about the afraid-of-the-dark boyfriend who decides to be voluntarily homeless. This guy "didn't need" an apartment (or the expense of an apartment) because he had a girlfriend with one. It reminded me of an old beau who "didn't need a car". Yeah, right, didn't need one until he wanted to buy groceries or move. He didn't need a car-- just a girlfriend with a car.

"Instant Message, Instant Girlfriend" I thought this one was fascinating. The self-described dweeb woos women using IM and e-mail because he is uncomfortable face-to-face communication. On IM, he transformed himself from "an overweight, overdressed frog to a charming, handsome, technology-savvy prince."

I hope you enjoy these humorous but also poignant views of love and relationships.

July 15 Update: Rather than add yet another post about relationships, I decided to update my Modern Love post with a link to an article by Ben Stein in today's NYT. "Lessons in Love by Way of Economics" is thoughtful but somewhat tongue-in-cheek. It includes several pearls of wisdom including: don't buy junk bonds, do your research before investing, long-term investment pays off, and the size of your return can be directly correlated to your investment.

Image credit: New York Times

Monday, July 07, 2008

West Coast Swing Dance Convention

This past weekend I experienced an almost perfect 4th of July vacation. For those of you who think a vacation isn't perfect without a fishing pole, you may as well bail on this post right now because there were no fishing poles at the 27th Annual 4th of July West Coast Swing Dance Convention at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix.

The convention did feature two of my favorite activities-- dancing and shopping. I say it was "almost perfect" for 2 reasons: 1) it was 112 degrees Fahrenheit in Phoenix, and 2) I was a tad intimidated by the expert level of west coast swing dancing by many of the other convention attendees. Despite the oven-like heat and a few bouts of shyness, I had a great time, learned a lot, danced a lot, met new dancing friends, and was inspired to improve my west coast swing technique.

The convention is sponsored by the Greater Phoenix Swing Dance Club. They did a great job of organizing the convention, keeping everything on time, and hosting hundreds of swing dancers from all over the world. (One tiny suggestion would be a more detailed program--especially for the newbies like me.)

The Biltmore was a fantastic location. I have always wanted to see the Biltmore because I am a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright and historic architecture. It was designed by one of his students Albert Chase McArthur.
You can see the FLW design influences everywhere-- the mission style furniture, the desert earth tones, the art deco touches, the use of distinctive angular repeating patterns in the rugs, woodwork, artwork, and block. Very cool. I took TONS of pictures, which will be uploaded to my Flickr site in the near future.

The vendors at the convention were amazing. There weren't very many-- maybe 10-- but they sold everything from orthotics to rhinestone-studded bras and discounted dance shoes.
I didn't buy a rhinestone-studded bra (although one of my friends tried to talk me into it) but I did buy sexy salsa shoes, not-so-sexy orthotics (at right mine are being made), flip-flops with arch support, and 2 sparkly tops. If any of you are swing dancers, I urge you to branch out and attend convention in your area. They are load of fun and great exercise.

The Perfect Match

In astrology, your perfect match is the sun sign across from yours on the zodiac wheel. If you are a fire sign, that sign is an air sign; air feeds fire. If you are an earth sign, your perfect match is a water sign; earth and water make glorious mud.

Obviously in real life, relationships are a little more complicated. In yesterday's New York Times, Maureen Dowd contributed a story entitled "An Ideal Husband." I'm not sure why she chose to call it this, since easily it could have been entitled "An Ideal [Spouse, Husband, Wife, Significant Other, Partner, whatever]"; the advice applies to relationships, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

Much of the article is based upon common sense advice from a priest who has been counseling married couples for decades. There is nothing earth-shattering about this article, but I do think that it is good refresher information for single people who would like to be someone's significant other. The big take-home message is to really get to know someone before you become infatuated with them or before you fall in love with being in love. (In other words, fall in love with the idea of being in a couple. Women do this all the time, in my opinion.)

Crushes don't last, according to Father Pat Connor, who adds, "Infatuation trumps judgment.”

Addendum: Several New York Times readers also were moved to comment on this article. Here is a link to some interesting letters.