Monday, November 29, 2010

The End Of The Road.... Trip!

1480 Miles (2383 Km's) later and the trip has ended... 12 hours later (due to some roadwork in Mississippi) and with a seriously numb derriere! You were good to me Atlanta, and I like you a lot!

One bad move though... in Alabama, Vangie and Shannon convinced me to try boiled peanuts... Oh dear...

Boiling peanuts has been a folk cultural practice in the south of the US since the 19th century, where they were originally called goober peas. In late August, when the peanut crops would come in, unsold and surplus peanuts would be prepared in a boiling, and extended families and neighbors would gather to share conversation and food. Like a fish fry, peanut boils have been organizing principles for social gatherings. Like okra, black-eyed peas, collard greens and pork barbecue, boiled peanuts are symbols of southern culture and cuisine. I am sure it is quite the festive occasion when done at home at home...

Not so much when you try it in a rural Alabama semi Stuckys gas station... It must have been festering in that crock pot for days...

It was a brown murky floating mess. When the lady behind the counter overheard us, she got in on the conversation and promptly offered me one... then a customer cooed, "Oh his first boiled peanut, how cute...." Ugh, I gently scooped one out and tried to dry it as much as possible in my paper serviette. Thankfully the lady behind the counter warned me it will be hot and that I should wait for it to cool a bit.

I felt the bile rise from that wet peanut shell smell and I kept wondering how long has that been cooking in that pot! Outside I gingerly cracked the shell open and popped one of the peanuts in my mouth. It did not even touch the palate of my mouth before I spat it out. NASTY. Like a soggy piece of nasty cardboard. Shannon and Vangie both cracked up laughing and so did the occupants in the car next to us which turned out to be the customer from the shop!

Nope, lesson learned and the good folks in the south can keep their boiled peanuts to themselves!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Exploring Atlanta - CNN Center and the World of Coca Cola

This morning, after my free yummy breakfast (why does it taste better when it is free?) I headed out to the CNN Center in downtown Atlanta. The CNN Center is the world headquarters of the Cable News Network (CNN). The main newsrooms and studios for several of CNN's news channels are located in the building. The facility's commercial office space is occupied entirely by CNN and its parent company, Turner Broadcasting System, a division of Time Warner.

Cable News Network (CNN) is a U.S. cable news channel founded in 1980 by Ted Turner. Upon its launch, CNN was the first channel to provide 24-hour television news coverage, and the first all-news television channel in the United States. While the news channel has numerous affiliates, CNN primarily broadcasts from its headquarters at the CNN Center in Atlanta, the Time Warner Center in New York City, and studios in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles. CNN is owned by parent company Time Warner, and the U.S. news channel is a division of the Turner Broadcasting System. CNN is sometimes referred to as CNN/U.S. to distinguish the American channel from its international counterpart, CNN International. As of August 2010, CNN is available in over 100 million U.S. households. Broadcast coverage extends to over 890,000 American hotel rooms, and the U.S broadcast is also shown in Canada. Globally, CNN programming airs through CNN International, which can be seen by viewers in over 212 countries and territories. It was quite a fascinating look behind the scenes and the inner workings of gathering and producing the news.
Just down the road is The World of Coca-Cola which is a permanent exhibition featuring the history of The Coca-Cola Company and its well-known advertising as well as a host of entertainment areas and attractions. Guests can sample 64 products offered by The Coca-Cola Company worldwide in the Taste It! exhibit, including most of the products offered in the United States. One room with a giant Coca-Cola contour bottle features only products that include the name "Coca-Cola" or a variation in their titles, including Coca-Cola Classic, Diet Coke, and most currently-available variations on the original formula (including Coca-Cola Vanilla, Coca-Cola Zero, Coca-Cola Cherry, and others). There is also a Coca-Cola Freestyle self-serve machine, which can dispense a guest's choice of over 100 carbonated and non-carbonated beverages produced by the company.
What a cool experience. I think I like Atlanta very much!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Exploring Atlanta - Georgia Aquarium and the HIGH Museum of Art

After an exceptionally good lay in, it was off to the Georgia Aquarium, the world's largest aquarium with more than 8.5 million US gallons (31,000 m³) of marine and fresh water housing more than 100,000 animals of 500 different species. The aquarium's notable specimens include four young whale sharks, including Alice and Trixie, two beluga whales named Beethoven and Maris and four manta rays Nandi, Tallulah, Billi and the fourth was recently added.

Funded mostly by a $250 million donation from Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus, the aquarium was built on a 20 acre (81,000 m²) site north of Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta. Marcus credited his 60th birthday dinner at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in 1990 as among the inspirations behind his desire to build an aquarium in Atlanta. Who knew all those Home Depot sales would benefit tourists like me!

Being Black Friday, and like an idiot forgetting what it was like last year in New York, I had to line up for everything. Just when I was about to hurl a mother, kid and stroller into the nearest shark tank I took my bruised shins over to The High Museum of Art and it's Dali exhibition. The High holds more than 11,000 works of art in its permanent collection. Included in this collection are 19th and 20th century American art; European art; decorative arts; African American art; modern and contemporary art; photography and African art. Highlights of the permanent collection include works by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Claude Monet, Martin Johnson Heade, Dorothea Lange, Clarence John Laughlin, and Chuck Close.

The High places special emphasis on supporting and collecting works by Southern self-taught artists, such as Howard Finster, and includes a contextual installation of sculpture and paintings from his Paradise Gardens. The museum includes a curatorial department specifically devoted to the field of self-taught art, a distinction unique among North American museums. The High’s Media Arts department produces an annual film series and festivals of foreign, independent and classic film. Special exhibitions at the High feature strong global partnerships with other museums such as the Louvre and with the Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore and the Opificio delle pietre dure in Florence.

My focus though were on the Dali: The Late Work exhibition. Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech, Marquis of Dalí de Púbol (May 11, 1904 – January 23, 1989), commonly known as Salvador Dalí was a prominent Spanish Catalan surrealist painter born in Figueres. Dalí was a skilled draftsman, best known for the striking and bizarre images in his surrealist work. His painterly skills are often attributed to the influence of Renaissance masters. His best-known work, The Persistence of Memory, was completed in 1931. Dalí's expansive artistic repertoire includes film, sculpture, and photography, in collaboration with a range of artists in a variety of media. Dalí attributed his "love of everything that is gilded and excessive, my passion for luxury and my love of oriental clothes" to a self-styled "Arab lineage," claiming that his ancestors were descended from the Moors.   

Dalí was highly imaginative, and also had an affinity for partaking in unusual and grandiose behavior, in order to draw attention to himself. This sometimes irked those who loved his art as much as it annoyed his critics, since his eccentric manner sometimes drew more public attention than his artwork. My new favourite work is definatedly Dali Atomicus.

In 1941 Philippe Halsman met Dalí and they began to collaborate in the late 1940s. The 1948 work Dali Atomicus explores the idea of suspension, depicting three cats flying, a bucket of thrown water, and Salvador Dalí in mid air. The title of the photograph is a reference to Dalí's work Leda Atomica which can be seen in the right of the photograph behind the two cats. Halsman reported that it took 28 attempts to be satisfied with the result. Oh Shannon, I would love to do this with your three cats! All in all, a very good day exploring!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving in Atlanta - Turkey Trot

Oh boy... am I tired... from watching the Turkey Trot! Over 10,000 happy bouncy Atlantians came trotting past me and I cheered them on... Was so tiring I had to go have a sit down! A Turkey Trot is a fun run or footrace that is held on or around Thanksgiving Day in the United States. Americans anticipate indulgent Thanksgiving feasts and run in turkey trots to burn off calories before the big meal. In many parts of the United States, Turkey Trots are as associated with Thanksgiving tradition as the meal itself. Many courses used for these Thanksgiving events are run at major certified USA Track and Field road race distances between 5,000 and 42,195 meters. Turkey Trots range in size from just a few dozen runners to tens of thousands. Most Turkey Trots benefit local charities.

Tommorrow is Black Friday, traditionally the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. On this day many U.S. retailers open very early, often at 3 - 5 a.m., and offer promotional sales to kick off the shopping season.   The day's name originated in Philadelphia, where it originally was used to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic which would occur on the day after Thanksgiving. Later an alternative explanation began to be offered: that "Black Friday" indicates the period during which retailers are turning a profit, or "in the black." This was all of the 43 inserts in today's edition of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution promting tomorrow's sales. It should be called Black Tree Day!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Roadtrip So Far...

5am departure from East Texas... Atlanta bound. Shannon looks
anxious... Vangie looks comfortable and I am optimistic...

First potty break...

Just crossed the mighty Missisippi River into the state of Missisippi.
No Potty break as it is under renovation...

Picking fights in Alabama.

700 miles later we made it to Georgia... you can tell we are tired
and not so good with the view finder anymore...
Okay, so we drove past the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. Gosh, it is huge! Talladega Superspeedway is located on an old abandoned airfield and was constructed in the 1960s. Talladega is most known for its steep banking and the location of the start/finish line which is closer to turn one than at Daytona International Speedway. The track currently hosts the NASCAR series such as the Sprint Cup Series, Nationwide Series, and the Camping World Truck Series. Talladega Superspeedway is the longest NASCAR oval with a length of 2.66 miles (4.28 km) (Road America - used by the Nationwide Series — is over 4 miles long), and the track also has a seating capacity of 175,000 spectators.

The high number of crashes over the years, along with other factors, have led to rumors of Talladega Superspeedway being cursed. Stories of the origin of the curse vary. Some claim that a local Native American tribe held horse races in the valley where the track currently resides and a chief was killed when he was thrown from his horse. Others say that the site of the superspeedway was once an Indian burial ground. Still another version says that after the local tribe was driven out by the Creek nation for their collaborating with the forces of Andrew Jackson, a shaman put a curse on the valley.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Meet Prudence...

The music of Prudence Mabhena is a powerful sound that echoes out of a country in crisis: Zimbabwe. Her success is all the more extraordinary because Prudence is physically disabled. In Zimbabwe, that can be a death sentence.

Prudence story is a tale of abandonment and neglect by her parents and stepmother, and then of a new home at Zimbabwe's King George VI School for the Disabled. Her stepmother despised her. "I felt like nothing; I felt useless. ... I really agreed with her, 'cause at the end of the day I would find out that, yeah, for real, there is nothing that I can do for myself. I ended up believing in whatever she said."

Fearing witchcraft, adults in Zimbabwe often see their children's differences as a sign that the family has been cursed. Mabhena was born with arthrogryposis, a condition that deforms the joints; it has cost her both of her legs, and makes it difficult for her to use her arms. When she was born, her father's mother advised her mother not to nurse her. After her parents abandoned her, she was cared for by her maternal grandmother, a rural farmer who kept Mabhena at her side as she worked.

Her grandmother taught her to sing. She would carry her out to the fields with her, and she would lay her in the fields as she worked in the fields. ... She would sing to Prudence, and Prudence learned to get comfort from music.

Music by Prudence is a 2010 short documentary film directed and produced by Roger Ross Williams. It tells the uplifting story of Prudence as she struggled to overcome poverty and discrimination. All other seven members of Prudence's band "Liyana" are also disabled. Music by Prudence won the 2010 Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Subject).

Watch Prudence deliver a rousing rendition of 'Ipi Ntombi' (Where's My Lady) during VSA's opening ceremony at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC in June this year.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Yes, it really is mine! Thank you!?
A smile of appreciation from a patient at the Hospitality
Center after he's told he can keep the toy.
 Miss Ginny loves the Lord. . . and she loves children. For most of her 86 years, she has been a teacher and mentor of youngsters in her own kindergarten and at church. She leads the Junior Church at First Baptist Church in Hampton Falls, New Hampshire. Her class consists of about fifteen children, ages 5 to 9.

When Miss Ginny heard that two members of the church would be volunteering full-time with Mercy Ships onboard the Africa Mercy , she quickly invited them to talk to her class about the mission of the organization. Their presentation included a short video showing life onboard the hospital ship.

The children were fascinated - especially when they saw the children recovering in the wards. They excitedly wanted to know how they could help those kids.

Miss Ginny encouraged them to come up with some creative ideas. And they did! They sponsored a circus in their classroom one Sunday morning before church. They also sold tiny toys and even did chores around their homes to earn money for their Mercy Ships Fund.

In a few weeks, they presented a check for over $150 to the Mercy Ships volunteers to buy stuffed animals for the children in Togo, West Africa. "They need something to hug ," explained one of the children.

The first batch of stuffed animals was distributed to children at the Mercy Ships Hospitality Center in Lomé,Togo. People who are recuperating from surgery or awaiting surgery stay at the center. Children on crutches. . . children with serious burns, massive tumors, and cleft lips. . . tiny crying babies. . . all received their own huggable toy.

The mother of one young patient told a nurse that the toy was kept for in-the-house play only, so it wouldn't be lost or stolen. When asked if the toy was her little boy's first teddy bear, she responded, "It's the first gift he ever got !" His first gift was a gift of love from children thousands of miles away in Miss Ginny's class.

Written by Elaine B. Winn
Photo by Mercy Ships

Thursday, November 11, 2010

American Cultural Observation 475: Boy Scout Popcorn

Last year I supported the Girl Scouts and their cookie drive in the name of cultural research! This year, Thanks to a colleague's grandson (thanks Dee!), I am siding with the Boy Scouts and their popcorn drive. And boy, am I glad I did!

This fall, Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts introduced a whole new lineup of Trail’s End popcorn products for their annual fundraiser – the biggest change in 30 years. Since 1980, Americans have supported Scouting with their purchases of Trail’s End microwave popcorn and ready to eat popcorn treats.

The sale this year occurs during the Boy Scouts of America’s 100th anniversary.

The popcorn sale helps pay for local Scouting programs in communities all across the country, and Scouts enjoy a great return on their sale, with more than 70% of the purchase price going to fund local Scouting.

Luckily for me, ready to eat Cheese Corn are now made with canola oil, with 0 grams trans fat and low saturated fat and all of the ready to eat products have beautiful new packaging that’s better for the environment because less packaging waste ends up in landfills. Just as well, as I opted for the Cheese Lovers Collection which contained three 8oz. packages of lip smackin', finger lickin' cheddar cheese popcorn (2) and scrumptious white cheddar cheese popcorn (1) and was I happy to see it was packaged in the ALL NEW reclosable packages.

Needless to say, there is now a trail of yellow cheesy goodness all over my keyboard!

Trail’s End is sold exclusively by Scouts in more than 280 Scout councils across the United States and Canada.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

CONNECTIONS: A Mercy Ships Update!

Come with us as we take another close look at the unique world of Mercy Ships.  Recently the Directors of the all the Mercy Ships National Offices met in the organizations International Operations Center in Texas. We asked Don Stephens to update us on how these meetings went. While in South Africa, Mercy Ships is increasing access to mental health care by enhancing the capacity of the church to meet the mental health needs of their parishioners and local communities. Dr. Lyn Westman, Mental Health Program Administrator for Mercy Ships explained it for us.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Living life vicariously…

So, while having a mind numbingly quiet weekend some of my friends had quite a different time.

Gunning for Jesus!

Shannon found her inner Texan this weekend by going for shooting lessons. After a lengthy safety lesson she got chance to practice and decided that she liked the Glock 40 the best. As she was regaling us with the tale this morning we all realized that she sports the most testosterone in the office. Hands down.

Last night was Halloween and Shannon and Vangie spent the night in Hideaway with some of their friends doing their bit of treating. Trick or Treating is where costumed kids go from house to house and after ringing the doorbell and the house occupants would then offer candy after the kids scream ‘Trick or Treat’. Vangie opened the door and upped the kids by yelling ‘Trick or Treat’ as she was a bit excited. By now all four women crowded the door and started commenting on how scary one of the kid’s outfit was… They must have been a little too enthusiastic because the kid bolted. Mellisa, one of the door crowders took off after the poor kid while holding the bowl of candy yelling "don't you want some candy"?

Reclining Road Kill!

After spending the day at IKEA, Trevor was on his way home late Saturday night when he was accosted by a recliner… in the middle of Highway 110! Trevor came around the corner and hit the recliner full on! It just fell from a truck minutes before and one of the truck occupants was about to pull it out of the road when Trevor came around the corner. The truck valiantly tried to warn Trevor by flashing its head lights but it was too late. In Trevor’s words he had just a few seconds to react. He saw something that looked like a cardboard box in the middle of the road and thought that if he was to swerve he would cause more damage and might even roll his car, so he hit it instead. He knew it was more than a cardboard box when he saw an explosion of stuffing zip past the car... Needless to say the chair did not live and his car got a bit of damage. I kept on badgering Trevor by asking if he saw the recliner’s scared eyes in his headlight just before he hit it.