"You Say 'Torino' and I Say 'Turin'..."

I saw an article in yesterday's newspaper about the lighting of the torch for the upcoming Winter Olympic games in Turin, Italy. One fun factoid: The latest incarnation of the torch was designed by engineers from Fiat and Ferrari. And it shows; it looks so aerodynamic that the runner carrying it would gain a little speed. A picture showed the Greek Olympian who is the first torchbearer, and his uniform had the logo for "Torino 2006."

That got me to thinking: There are a lot of cities in Italy that call themselves something other than what we English-speakers call them. Torino, for instance, is our Turin. Similarly, such cities as Roma, Venezia, Milano, Napoli and Firenze are known to us as Rome, Venice, Milan, Naples and Florence, respectively. Doesn't that seem a little strange? Now, there are certain other foreign cities whose names are different in the English-speaking world, such as Moscow and Munich and Athens, but it's not a wholesale thing like it seems to be in Italy.

Then remember how the Chinese changed their transliteration system several years back and all of a sudden, Peking became Beijing and most other Chinese names became unrecognizable. I think they did it just to cause confusion in the West. You cannot get "Beijing duck" or find a "Beijingese" dog, however. Anyway, the point of all this is that the Chinese said, "We want you to spell our language like THIS," and by golly, we did! Apparently the Italians don't have that much pull with us, which isn't really fair considering all the of the great contributions they've made to American cuisine.


Happy Thanksgiving!

May your turkey be moist and your weather be dry. Or your martinis, whichever is applicable.

I kinda-sorta promised some pictures the other day. Some of you may have already seen these. If not, enjoy!


Buddha Boy?

One of the quirkiest stories I've read lately, via the London Telegraph:

Pilgrims flock to see 'Buddha boy' said to have fasted six months

Thousands of pilgrims are pouring into the dense jungle of southern Nepal to worship a 15-year-old boy who has been hailed as a new Buddha.

Devotees claim that Ram Bomjon, who is silently meditating beneath a tree, has not eaten or drunk anything since he sat down at his chosen spot six months ago.


Witnesses say they have seen light emanating from the teenager's forehead.


The popularity of the phenomenon is partly because it resembles an episode in the life of the historical Buddha, who was born 160 miles away around 543 BC. The Buddha achieved enlightenment when he meditated beneath a sacred pipal tree for 49 days.

Ram Bomjon is also sitting beneath a pipal tree, in the same posture as the Buddha is depicted, but his vigil has already taken longer.

Ram's mother, who is called Maya Devi, like the Buddha's mother, admits to anxiety, particularly at meal times. But she tells herself: "God took him to the forest and I have faith that God will feed him."


The fervour increased last week when a snake is said to have bitten Ram, and a curtain was drawn around him.

After five days it was opened and he spoke. "Tell the people not to call me a Buddha. I don't have the Buddha's energy. I am at the level of rinpoche [lesser divinity].

"A snake bit me but I do not need treatment. I need six years of deep meditation."

I like the part about how his mother's name is the same as the Buddha's mother's was. How conveeeeeeenient!
My guess is that somebody is sneaking him food and drink at night.
I imagine the start of all of this was something like, "Well, I'm not into this whole 'school' thing and none of the Bhindaputra sisters will go out with me, so I guess I'll try this 'enlightenment' thing and see if I can start my own religion. It worked for guys like Buddha and Mohammed, although not so well for that Jesus guy."
Somewhere in America, Mary Christ is telling her son Jesus (named after her uncle Jesus Sanchez) that it's time to stop hanging out with those loser friends of his and get a real job...


Busy Week

My mom visited me down in Florida this week. We got a chance to spend a lot of time together on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, as well as yesterday. We were outdoors quite a bit and saw some really interesting things. I may post some small pictures later on.

On Friday morning, we went out to Sanibel Island. First we tried to visit the Ding Darling wildlife refuge, but they were closed because it was a federal holiday. I think they may also normally be closed on Fridays anyway, so it was poor planning on my part. However, it turned out pretty well because the Indigo Trail (for hiking/biking) was open. It is a two-mile long trail and it doesn't loop around, so you have to walk two miles out and two miles back. We were well-prepared to be outdoors, with plenty of sunscreen and broad-brimmed straw hats.

About a quarter-mile down the trail, there was a sudden flurry of feathers exploding across the path right in front of us, and a red-shouldered hawk flew past in a blur and lighted atop a nearby palm tree, no more than ten feet away from me. He was a very fierce-looking bird. I snapped several pictures of him with my digital camera, one of which came out so well that I'm currently using it for my desktop wallpaper. At about the half-mile mark, we spotted our first alligator. He was about twenty feet off the path, basking in the sun along the water's edge. He was perhaps five feet long. A couple walking behind us with a baby stroller took one look at Mr. Gator and decided that they weren't going any further. We, however, continued on.

We had been impressed with the small alligator until we saw the larger one at about the one-mile mark. He was perhaps seven or eight feet long, and was sitting at the water's edge facing the path, again about twenty feet or so away. His mouth was gaping wide open, and he showed off an evil-looking set of jagged teeth. My digital camera was very busy as I shot several pictures of him from various angles, including one with full digital zoom in which he took up the full picture frame from elbow to elbow. I sent that pic out to many of my friends, along with one of the red-shouldered hawk.

Further down the path, we saw many bees buzzing around a tree. We figured that their hive was probably within it, and that the tree was probably filled with honey. We decided not to try to find out for sure, though. At the two-mile mark of the trail, there is a small dike road that takes off at a right angle and links up with the road that drivers use to drive through the preserve. There was a wooden pavilion along the water, and we went under its welcome shade and looked around the area. After we'd been there for perhaps ten minutes, all of a sudden a mother raccoon came walking along the water's edge, with four or five baby raccoons trailing along behind her. I snapped several pictures of them, although they moved so quickly that I didn't have the opportunity to zoom in on them.

After we made our way back along the trail, we went out to lunch at the Mucky Duck on Captiva, then went back down to Sanibel to Bowman's Beach for some shelling and a little beach time.

Saturday, we went to Fort Myers Beach to the Sand Sculpting competition. It was really interesting to watch the professional sand sculptors at work. Not only does it require artistic talent, but also an ability to figure out what the sand's qualities are and what they will allow you to do with the sand. We had some lunch, then watched the sand sculptors in action for awhile longer, then made our way back to Fort Myers. We had passed a fruit stand on the trolley ride back from the beach, and watermelon sounded good, so we got a quarter-melon at Winn-Dixie and had some of that when we got back. Then, we went out and played miniature golf. I was extremely rusty, and Mom beat me the first game. I shot something like a 56 on a par 42 course. Bad. Very bad. Not to make excuses, but I made the mistake of dragging my digital camera a long, so I had to juggle a camera, cell phone, putter, ball, scorecard and pencil. I was somewhat distracted and I didn't play well. After the first game, I put the camera back in the car, then we had a rematch. I played much better the second game, shooting a two-over-par 44 the second time around, including THREE holes-in-one. After that, we went to Smoky Bones Barbecue (a sports bar on US 41) for some barbecue. I had the pulled pork while Mom went for some ribs.

Sunday, we went out to Six Mile Cypress Slough and walked the boardwalk through there. We saw some wildlife, including an otter, turtles, some anhingas (long-necked birds whose feathers aren't water resistant, so they stand with their wings extended to dry them out), a little blue heron, more hawks (at a distance), and some strange bird up in a tree that Mom thought was a night heron. I got some nice pictures of the Slough. My favorite was of the light shining through the trees directly onto a strap fern growing on a fallen tree. The light shifted almost as soon as I took the picture, but I managed to capture it at just the right time. After the Slough, my mom was in the mood for seafood. We tried a couple of the local seafood restaurants, but found that they didn't open until 4 p.m. We ended up having lunch at Hops instead.

Mom visited friends up in North Port on Monday and Tuesday, then we got back together yesterday. We had lunch with my ex, who always was on good terms with Mom, and then Mom and I drove down to Naples to visit a couple of her friends from her condo in Michigan. We had a nice visit with them, then I drove Mom to the airport for her flight home.

It was really nice to have Mom down here to visit me.


Story of the Week: When Lesbian Cheerleaders Attack!

Here's a story with a little bit of everything: Sex! Violence! Cheerleaders! What more could you want? From Tampa Bay's Channel 10 Sports (pictures on link):

Police: Cheerleaders arrested at Tampa bar

Tampa, Florida – Two Carolina Panther cheerleaders spent the night in jail after a rough night in Channelside. The Panthers were in town to play the Bucs Sunday afternoon.

Witnesses say Angela Keathley and Renee Thomas were engaged in some type of sexual activity inside a bathroom stall at Banana Joe's around 2:20 am Sunday. Another woman waiting to use the bathroom got into an argument with the pair. Police say Thomas punched the woman in the face. When Thomas was arrested, she gave police the name of another Panthers cheerleader.

Thomas could face additional charges for lying to police, once they confirm her identity.

Keathley was charged with disorderly conduct and obstructing or opposing an officer, while Thomas was charged with one count of battery.

The two women were taken to Hillsborough County jail, where they both bonded out later Sunday morning.

They are, of course, former cheerleaders now, as the team has kicked them off the squad for conduct detrimental to the team. The whole thing sounds like the plot to a bad late-night weekend Cinemax movie, doesn't it?


New and (Not) Improved

Change is not always good. When I came back from vacation this week, I was told by my regular partner that "they" had changed the computer operating system for all of our machines, and now they didn't run as well. I'm not sure how much of it was due to software problems and how much was due to a bad sensor in the reader, but the machine was jamming every whipstitch for about two days, until they fixed the sensor yesterday. It's still running rough, though, and there's a bearing squealing in protest that's ready to go at any time.

Another change: They got rid of all of our CRT monitors and replaced them with flat-panel LCD monitors. Now, a flat panel monitor is a thing of beauty, as long as you're right in front of it. However, if you try to view it at an angle, you quickly lose the ability to see it. With the old CRTs, we could turn the monitor at an angle so both the person feeding the machine and the person sweeping it could both see the monitor, which was convenient. Not any more. New, not improved.

It's been a generally trying week so far at work. I've felt like a fish swimming upstream the entire time. Some weeks are like that.