Archive for November, 2010

Our Greatest American Meal…

… and it’s not the BigMac.

Thanksgiving is celebrated by almost all Americans, but all it really breaks down to is a meal. Most holidays are centered on some activity – Christmas (presents/the tree), Easter (church/egg-hunts), July 4th (fireworks) – but Thanksgiving is the only one that’s all about the meal. Of course, family is a huge part of the holiday too.

This year will be my first Thanksgiving away from my parents’ home. I have celebrated the holiday in the same way, in the very same house all my life. I probably cleaned a few windows or vacuumed some rugs in preparation all those years, but never did I have to handle the food.

Since I am buying all these ingredients myself to make this great meal, I thought it would be interesting to find out where each item comes from. With the option of the Athens Farmers Market, it’s hard not to wonder why so many people around Athens still decide to buy all their groceries at Walmart. So for my experiment, I bought all MY food at Walmart, just for this one meal.

What I found out was startling, but I knew in the back of my mind what the reality surely was. My Thanksgiving meal came from all over the US, requiring hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel to transport the food to my local Walmart.

Here is an interactive graphic I created to show the results of my little experiment. Hope you enjoy!


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The most stressful time of year… time to procrastinate

If you’re a student, you are plenty familiar with the amount of stress finals week, and the weeks leading up to it, can put on any student.

My undergraduate university’s student paper always put out an edition during finals week that contained nothing but “stress-busters” – about a dozen crossword and sodoku puzzles. This always helped me out, and seems like the ‘smartest’ way to procrastinate.

So, in honor of procrastination, here are some great links to sites that can help you pass the time in between assignments:

USA Today’s crossword and other good word puzzles – Be careful, the name is accurate

Top 10 best sites to procrastinate (Cornell Daily Sun)


Good Luck!



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What does WWII mean to me? Everything.

We have so much to learn from our WWII veterans. Besides saving the world from pure evil, the men – and women – of the greatest generation taught us about duty, bravery and honor. At no other time in our nation’s history did so many stand up for what was right and sacrifice their lives and livelihoods to ensure freedom for generations to come.

This Veterans’ Day, we should remember this great generation and how what they did for us then has created the world we know now. From the men on the beaches of Normandy, to their wives in the factories back home, every American was fighting – fighting for my parents’ generation and my generation and my children’s generation. They fought simply so that we could live and live free.

I am regularly reminded of the scope of WWII, and it never ceases to amaze me. Not only were the shear numbers of enlisted men massive, but with every action a serviceman took, came an infinite number of consequences.

Let me illustrate:

My grandfather, who served on the USS Columbia in the South Pacific, worked in the radio shack (yes, that’s where the company’s name came from) of the ship. This room was one of the highest points on the boat, atop a tall tower. The Columbia was attacked by kamikazes three times throughout the war. On one attack, the plane struck just below the radio shack, severing the compartment completely. The structure exploded in a burst of flames and all the men working there were thrown into the water. Most, if not all, of them died. This just happened to occur while my grandfather was on his fifteen minute break below deck, eating a sandwich.

Fifteen minutes. If that plane had hit at any time that day outside of those fifteen minutes, my grandfather would have likely died. He would not have came home after the war and had his ten children, one of them being my father. My father would never have had me and my four brothers. My brother would never have had his two kids. An entire family rested on fifteen minutes.

This is what I think of when I consider the consequences of WWII. There must be thousands of stories just like my grandfather’s. Unfortunately, the window of opportunity to hear and record these stories is quickly closing. Every day, around 800 WWII veterans die.

I hope to soon begin a research project to find veterans and record their stories, thoughts and lasting impressions of the war. I think this is something that must be done before too long, but it must be done by hundreds of us all around the country – our government has already started. Very soon the oral history of WWII will be gone. It would be a shame if all we were left with were the facts and dates of battles and had little history of the men and women who made our world possible.

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My home town…a long, long time ago.

I came across this NPR blog that featured a write up on a set of pictures taken of the Cincinnati skyline in 1848.

I just happen to be from Cincinnati, and I just happen to have a print of the exact same photographs, all pieced together to form a panorama shot, hanging above my desk at home. Needless to say, the article sparked my interest.

The blog post is cool. You can smoothly adjust each plate, zooming in extremely tight to pick up the tiniest detail. And those silver daguerreotype photographs of the era are miraculously sharp. Modern digital photography might be able to capture images this crisply now with HD cameras, but keep in mind these were taken from the northern Kentucky side of the Ohio River in 1848 and had to be exposed for probably ten minutes or so.

What’s awesome is that becuase of the sharpness of these extremely old photos, we can even pick up figures of humans near the bank of the river. The author throws out the idea that these may be the first candid pictures of a human being – all others before being staged portraits.

But, of course, not soon after this post, someone out there found an earlier picture, this one of Paris in 1838, where a figure can bee seen near the sidewalk.

No matter what, these photos are fantastic. They are great testaments to the merits of silver-based photography (all back and white film uses silver). It can produce incredibly sharp images that have the possibility of holding up over hundreds of years! Awesome.



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