Sunday, February 26, 2006

February Getaway in Pictures

February is the type of month that just demands a getaway. So when I saw a great deal on a Whale Watching package in Virginia Beach, I snatched it up, and Jeff and I headed down there over President’s Day weekend.

We started the trip with a stop at the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, where I was eaten by a shark.

After the shark spit me out, we checked into our hotel, which was oceanfront at the end of the boardwalk. We had dinner later that night at a very scrumptious seafood restaurant called Tautogs. Jeff then proceeded to beat me twice in Yahtzee while we watched the Olympics.

The next morning we gamely went for a walk on the beach. The sun was deceptive, and it was actually pretty cold, as can be ascertained from Jeff’s grimace.

Along the boardwalk, we enjoyed the bench dedicated to the memory of Dickie Pooh.

After watching 3-d Sharks at the IMAX (I really had to restrain myself to keep from trying to reach out and touch them), we found out our whale watching trip was cancelled due to the wind. So we headed down the beach, first stopping at this statue of Neptune.

We then proceeded to check out an old lighthouse and the site of one of the first landings on American soil.

First Landing State Park was just around the bend, so we stopped there and took a hike along the Bald Cypress Trail, which made me think we were in the Deep South and not Virginia.

We warmed up as we drove to the other end of the beach to the Back Bay Nature Reserve. There we hiked along the dunes and watched the sunset over the bay.

We had a hard time finding a place to eat that night, as it seems everywhere we wanted to go was closed on Sunday night, but we found a great Vietnamese Place and then returned to the hotel. The next morning we were up bright and early for our rescheduled Whale Watching Trip.

We didn’t see much of anything the first hour. But the second hour, we spotted a humpback whale that hung with us for the rest of the trip. (Yes, that black spot is a whale – I was too busy checking him out to take photos).

After checking out of the hotel, we headed back towards D.C., but made two stops to take advantage of our National Parks pass. We had a tour of the Siege Lines at Yorktown. Then I met Pocahontas at Jamestown.

Before making it home, we stopped for dinner. Jeff had a craving for Chicken and Dumplings, so we went to Cracker Barrel, where I had a lucky find.

Although we would have preferred slightly warmer temperatures, we had a good time. Now where should we go in March?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Guess I Won't Quit My Job

Today is a sad day. I just learned that all of the calls for Amazing Race 10 have gone out, and Jeff and I weren't called.

In case you weren't aware, Jeff and I filled in the applications and made a video in the hopes of getting on next season's Race. We're both big fans, and we both think we have what it takes to win the race - and make good television in the process. We brought up every hook we could think of - being newlyweds, Jeff being a national champion baseball player, spending more than half of our relationship on separate continents - but I guess the Race wasn't looking for any of that.

Or they realized we would totally kick every other team's butt on every single leg, thus making the Race not all that exciting. Yeah, it must have been that.

And while we both knew the chances of us getting a call back weren't that much better than us winning the lottery (which we're also sad about), I still felt a glimmer of hope every time my phone rang, especially at times when I usually don't get many calls. And even knowing our chances, I still secretly thought that we were perhaps just interesting enough to get called for a semi-final interview, where we would obviously wow them and make it on to the finals and then the show. But, alas, no.

So now, being completely addicted and determined to get on the show, I'm gearing up for the applications for Amazing Race 11. I need a new partner, however, since you can only apply once with the same teammate. Anyone interested?

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Winter Olympics 2006

At some point almost every night, Jeff and I watch a bit of the Olympics. Most of the time we find ourselves either marveling that the sport we're watching is considered an Olympic sport or wondering just exactly how whatever sport we're watching works.

An example of a sport that would fit into Category A is Snowboard Cross. So baseball and softball aren't good enough for the Olympics but Snowboard Cross is? In case you haven't watched, Snowboard Cross is an event where 4 snowboarders at a time race down a track, all the while trying to cut each other off and knock each other out of the race. It's kind of like Motorcross on a Snowboard. It's slightly interesting at moments, but it's really not a very noble or grand sport. It also doesn't have that thrill of racing where one competitor beats another by a hundredth of a second. In fact, in most races, at least one or two of the competitors were knocked off the course and out of the race well before the midpoint of the course. It's totally X-Games material, and I'm not quite sure how it became or why it's considered an Olympic sport. (The showboating that cost Jacobellis the gold is a pretty good example of how X-Games it is.)

An example of a sport that would fit into Category B is Ice Dancing. No one really seems to know exactly how Ice Dancing is scored. Scott Hamill, a former iceskater, even admitted that he had no clue how it worked. The only things we figured out for certain was that unison is good and hand-holds are just too easy. I'm not sure what other types of holds there are and why they are better, but I did hear over and over that teams just weren't of that high caliber when they kept using hand-holds. Whatever. I have no idea. But we won a silver medal in it, so yay for us.

There are plenty of other sports that fall into one or both of these categories. Curling (aka shuffleboard on ice), for instance. Seriously, this is an Olympic Sport? It doesn't seem very athletic to me at all. In fact, I think anyone dedicated enough could probably become a good curler. I don't think that's true of most sports where natural ability plays a big part. In curling, I think it's all about being bored enough to continuously do that over and over until you're good at it. And what's up with Nordic Combined? Why are ski jumping and cross country skiing paired together to make up a sport? It's like they didn't have enough events, so they paired up two completely random ones and called it a new one. Why not combine platform diving and marathon running for the Summer Games? Just weird.

I'm not at all surprised that the Games aren't getting very good ratings. They're really not very exciting. All the athletes I heard about pre-Olympics seem to be pretty overrated (Bode Miller, for example), and none of the events really command your attention. We just watch it for the simply job of marveling over the ridiculousness of it. Go USA!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

How Much More Romantic Can You Get

If you live in one of the following cities - Chicago, Cincinnati, Columbus, Detroit, Indianapolis, LOUISVILLE, Minneapolis, Nashville, Northeast Ohio, New Jersey, New York, or St. Louis - I've got the perfect idea for a Valentine Day date for you.

Go to White Castle!

No, seriously, go to White Castle. On Valentine's Day between 5pm and 8pm at participating White Castles in the cities I mentioned above you can have a slider by cande light. You also get hostess seating and a server. How freaking awesome is that? I so wish I lived in one of those cities, because that it what Jeff and I would be doing. And I'd totally get all dressed up for it.

You have to make a reservation to participate and you can find more info at .
Mark, Mom, Dad, Matthew, someone I know living in one of these cities. Please, please, please go and take pictures for me.

It would definitely be a Valentine's Day for the history books.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Kentucky's Abortion Bill

The Kentucky legislature is considering a bill that would outlaw abortion in all cases except when the woman's life is in danger. This means that if a woman were raped and became pregnant, she would have to have the child. This means that a woman who became pregnant through incest would have to have the child. This means that even more children would come into this world unwanted and unlikely to be properly cared for.

Except this bill, if passed into law, would mean nothing because of the Supreme Court's decision in Roe versus Wade. No state can override this decision.

The bill, however, is meant to cause the Supreme Court to reconsider Roe v Wade. It's a political ploy. It's forcing the issue. It's an attempt to overturn Roe v Wade, now that Bush has been able to add two strong conservative voices to the Court.

To me, abortion is a necessary evil. Ideally, I would like to live in a world where abortion is unnecessary. Where every child was born to a woman who wanted that child and where every woman who wanted a child was able to have one. Unfortunately, that is not the reality of our world. Unfortunately, rape, incest, and abusive relationships exist. Unfortunately, women who cannot support a child or have no interest in a child or will not take care of a child or will perhaps even harm or kill their child, get pregnant. Sometimes tragic circumstances lead to pregnancy; sometimes stupid circumstances.

Yes, there is adoption, but for many women, that's just not an option. Why not? we can ask. But the truth is that we can't know unless we walk in these women's shoes. Perhaps it's a cultural reason or a family reason or even a religious reason. And for a woman who was raped or was a victim of incest, carrying that child for 9 months, even if she were to give it up for adoption, could be, and likely is, a terrible burden and a painful reminder of a tragic event.

Should we outlaw abortion, it would not stop abortion. It would just become more dangerous. The truth is that abortion is necessary in our society. While it's nice rhetoric to say that every child conceived has the right to be born, it's better that every child be born with the right to be loved and wanted.

What our nation needs to do is step back from Roe v Wade. We need to stop arguing about whether abortion is right or wrong. What we need to do is create a society where abortion is unnecessary. Where every woman has knowledge of and access to methods to prevent unwanted pregnancies. Where rape and incest don't exist. Where women are given the support and resources to get out of bad relationships.

In a world like that, there wouldn't be as much debate over this issue. There wouldn't be as much need for abortion.

Friday, February 03, 2006

New Comments

You may notice that there are currently two comment sections at the bottom of my blog: the old one under my name and the new one next to my name. I'm thinking of introducing a new comment section, because with my current comment system, comments disappear after some unknown amount of time. (Look back into the archives and you'll see that none of my blogs have comments anymore.) I like my comments and I'd like to keep them, so I'm hoping this new system works better. So if you will, please use the comment section next to my name instead of the old one. Let me know if it doesn't work out for you, but I think I might soon switch completely to the new system. Thanks!

Really, this is all the Muslim world has to worry about?

The depiction of the prophet Mohammad in a cartoon in a Denmark newspaper has resulted in unrest throughout Muslim countries and communities. The tension was fueled when other countries throughout the European Union reprinted the cartoon in a show of support for free speech. Jeff and I talked about this issue a few weeks ago when it first surfaced, and I expressed my support for the newspaper. I still feel that way, if not even more so, today.

Denmark is a democratic country where the right to free speech is guaranteed. Political cartoons are the bastion of free speech in many democratic countries. Political, cultural, and religious leaders regularly fall under attack--often rightly so, sometimes questionably so. Those living in the countries where these cartoons are appearing have the right to read or not to read, to be amused or to be outraged. Freedom. That's how a democracy works.

Some say that the cartoons in question aren't protected under freedom of speech because they incite hate. Perhaps in some people, they do, but I don't believe that was their intent. The face Islam is showing to the world in the past few years has not been a pretty or likeable face. While there are millions of peaceful Muslims, there are also many commandeering the religion and using it to carry out violence. Many Islamic organizations (The Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Al-Quaeda, etc) are also terrorist organizations. They themselves call upon Mohammad as they carry out their murderous program and claim that this is the type of jihad that he wanted. So why then is it so wrong for a non-Muslim country to depict him that way? Double standards.

And while I understand that it is against their religion to depict Mohammad, the people who depicted him aren't Muslims, and thus aren't bound by those rules. Perhaps, it's not in good taste, but neither are the frequent depictions of Jesus in comics and cartoons. Blasphemy is against the rules of Christianity, but it still happens and it happens frequently.

The Muslim countries and communities around the world have the right to be angry. But they don't have the right to threaten to kidnap, harm, or kill others because they don't like what's in a democratic country's comics. They are also wrong in demanding that the comic strip authors and editors be put on trial. These people did not break any of the laws of the country in which they live. They simply asserted their democratic right to free speech. In Islamic countries, Muslims can enforce their will, but they cannot tell the entire world how to behave.

While I like to be hopeful about world peace and the like, I'm becoming increasingly exasperated with that part of the world. Right now, I kind of wish there was a way to just seal them off from the rest of the world and let them go about their business blowing each other up, enforcing death penalties for minor crimes, and stampeding each other during religious festivals. Not very PC of me, I know, but how I feel right now.