Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bo Staff

Self-defense is a crucial tool to have.  As a child, my parents enrolled me into karate classes after being abused by bullies at school.  For two years, I began to grow on this fighting style from China.  But more important than learning how to protect myself, I learned self-discipline.  Yet with all this new self- control, I couldn’t stop myself from wanting more out of the art.  I can remember most notable the obsession to wield some sort of weapon like a lightsaber.  But with hundreds of ancient weapons to choose from, how is one to choose?  It’s simple.  Just get yourself a bo staff.

The bo staff, properly known as the bo, was originally made from hardwoods, typically white oak or bamboo.  A traditional bo is exactly 1.82 meters in length.  Today, many are metal or plated with metal to enhance their strength.  The most common shape, the maru-bo, is round while other polygon shapes exist (squares-octagons). 

Did you know?-
The first bo was called ishibo and was made of stone.

The Japanese art of wielding the bo staff is bojutsu.  The bo is gripped in thirds, and when held horizontally the holder’s right palm faces outwards while the left hand faces the body.  This enables the bo to rotate; its power generated by the left hand pulling back towards the body with the right hand used for guidance.  When striking an opponent, the wrist is twisted, like turning the hand over when punching.  The staff’s techniques include a wide variety of blocks, strikes, sweeps, and entrapments.  It can even be used to sweep sand into an opponent’s eyes.

Like most weapons, the bo staff was once an everyday item.  It was used to balance buckets or baskets; one at each end of the pole which was balanced behind the neck on the shoulder blades.  But with all the advancements of modern technology, the weapon has become obsolete.  If you are interested in learning the art of bojutsu, I encourage you to look for instruction.  Please do not purchase this weapon without understanding its raw capability to harm.  To learn what type of bo staff is right for you, go here to view a complete guide.

I want to know…If you could wield any human powered weapon in existence, what would be?  Leave a comment below.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Race Across America

Superstar athlete Lance Armstrong has boosted cycling’s popularity through the roof. Yet I’m disappointed that when people think of the bicycle race they say the Tour de France. And while I am in no way questioning the race’s difficulty, there is another event that makes the Tour de France look like a walk in the park. Don’t believe me? Yeah, well you try bicycling 3,000 miles in 10 days!

Arguably the hardest sporting event in the world, the Race Across America (RAAM) is no picnic. It was created in 1982 originally titled the ‘Great American Bike Race’. Competitors start somewhere on the East Coast and finish on the other side of the United States a little bit over a week later. And while the Tour de France is still 2,300 miles long it is divided into daily ride segments prolonging the race for three weeks. The coolest thing about RAAM is that there are no pit stops. In order to be competitive, one has to pedal at least 22 hours a day!

Most cyclists begin with an all out surge, sometimes pedaling in access of 40 hours before taking a sleep break. And during that time riding, they are only off the bike for about 10-15 minutes. They even pedal in the night, followed by their trusty support vehicle (with flashing lights on) providing mechanical and medical assistance, as well as much needed moral.

If you’ve ever witnessed this race, you have one man to thank for its creation; John Marino. In the race’s debut, there were only four competitors (John Marino, John Howard, Michael Shermer, and Lon Haldeman). Some of these competitors would literally train by riding across the U.S. back and forth solo with no assistance whatsoever. Lon Haldeman won the first race with a time of 9 days, 20 hours, and 2 minutes with an average speed of 12.57 miles per hour (mph).

Did you know?- More than half of the starting athletes end of up having to quit.

Since then, hundreds of competitors from around the world have come to take on this challenge. There are now 23 race categories including a separate class for woman and teams of multiple riders (2,4,8).

Did you know?- The fastest nonofficial race time was completed by Michael Secrest in 1990, in 7 days and 23 hours.

In closing this post, I leave you with some inspiration. Released this year, filmmaker’s Stephen Auerback’s Bicycle Dreams is a documentary of the 2005 RAAM. But for of those who aren’t into cycling, this movie is not about a sporting event. This is a classic example, if not the best I’ve ever seen, of man vs. self. The film is more of a window into the lives of ultramarathon athletes displaying their inner victories and defeats. Below is the movies official site description.

"They are seekers, madmen, and angels hell-bent on riding across America on a bicycle in less than ten days. But what begins as the adventure of a lifetime is transformed in an instant when tragedy strikes the race. These voyagers discover what is truly at stake as they pedal on, praying for the deliverance only the finish line can bring. By journey's end, some are saved, others are lost, but all learn that the fuel that takes a soul toward its own true destiny is desire."

To find out where to buy this piece, visit bicycledreamsmovie.com.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Christmas is a time to be thankful. But sometimes it seems like a corporate scam. With things like Black Friday and dollar limits on gift exchanges, the true joy of Christmas is been overseen. One could easily ignore this most mainstream of holidays, but some have decided to celebrate holidays of their own creation. And one in particular makes absolutely no sense to me.

Festivus is celebrated on December 23 annually. Created by writer Dan O’Keefe in 1965, the holiday wasn’t formally introduced to the world until 1998 when his son Daniel, a scriptwriter for the popular 90s sitcom Seinfeld, worked it into an episode’s story line. Festivus is affiliated with no religion and was created by the elder Dan in celebration of his new wife Deborah.

The holiday has three main components: the festivus pole, the ‘Airing of Grievances’, and the ‘Feats of Strength’. Right off, it’s important to know that there are no decorations. Only the festivus pole denotes this time of year; aluminum pole similar to a stripper’s. While the show displays a dinner of meatloaf, the original Festivus featured turkey and ham followed by a Pepperidge Farm cake decorated with M&Ms. It is also tradition to consume large amounts of alcohol, probably to make the following proceedings less painful.

After the family has eaten, each member goes around the table telling each other of all the ways they and the world have disappointed them over the past year. This process is what is known as the Airing of Grievances. This is followed by the Feats of Strength. Here, the head of the household challenges one person in the room to a wrestling match. The holiday does not come to an official end until the head of the household has been pinned. If the challenger loses, he/she is banished from the Festivus celebrations (normally just thrown outside in the cold for 10 minutes then let back in).

In Dr. Brian A. Krostneko’s book Festivus: The Holiday for the Rest of Us, he found the word “festivus” originated in ancient Rome originally referring to the ways people would misbehave on devoted religious holidays.

If you’d like to adopt Festivus into your life, visit festivuspoles.com where you’ll find everything you need to get your tradition started.

Happy holidays and have a Festivus for the rest of us!

Punkin' Chunkin'

Halloween has always been in a league of its own. But as you get older and the more of an idiot you look dressed up each year, the holiday loses much of its appeal. So what do you get after a night of handing out candy? An empty bag of candy and some rotting pumpkins on your porch. Well, about twenty years ago, a couple of men in Delaware found a more enjoyable use for this fruit then just making scary faces.

I speak of the new art of “punkin’ chunkin’”, where one attempts to throw a pumpkin as far as possible with some mechanical device. Yet for the competitors who matter, there is only one place to throw pumpkins. The World Championship Punkin’ Chunkin’ contest is held every year on the first weekend after Halloween in Sussex County, Delaware. Here teams are divided into different classes including catapults, trebuchets, centrifugal machines, and pneumatic air cannons; only battling against those in their class.


air cannon

Punkin’ chukin’ may sound like a redneck paluza but this event is very popular. In 2007, the competition drew more than 20,000 people and $100,000 dollars in ticket sales of which over 60% was given to charities. And when pumpkins aren’t flying, there is a carnival holding amusement rides, and a pumpkin cooking contest.

Each machine enrolls in different contests including height, fan favorite, straightness, and range. The teams get three chances to hurl their specimens out of which only their best launch will be recorded. The association usually only fires white pumpkins because they have a thicker rind and better withstands the forces exerted upon them.

Did you know?- The current world record for longest pumpkin chuck is held by Young Glory III of the Adult Air division at 4483 feet!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Jet Packs

When I was a kid, I loved watching those old Warner Bros. cartoons; the days when violence was not yet strictly monitored on television as it is today. And characters like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Sylvester the Cat, and Tweetie Bird made animated shows popular. One of my favorite cartoons was Road Runner, where the coyote was always trying any new ACME product or other crazy idea to thwart the ever escaping road runner. A contraption that even I thought couldn’t be built was his jet pack. And while in this episode it worked (the coyote smashing into a cliff wall though), I later learned that this fictitious device had some real history to it.

Also known as rocket packs, jet packs attain liftoff from fast escaping liquid or gases that propel the pilot skywards. The first rocket pack was designed by (who would have guessed) the Nazi regime during World War II. Its user wore two shortened Schmidt-Argus jet pulse engines that were used to power Fieseler Fi 103 (V-1) flying bombs. The machine was called a Himmelsturmer (“Skystormer” in English). To take off, the flier ignited both engines simultaneously whose propulsions were channeled into a single, angled rear tube that provided lift and forward thrust. There was also a smaller tube mounted on the user’s chest that maintained a lower, constant upward thrust.

V-1 flying bomb

Sustained flights weren’t possible so only short jumps of up to 60 meters (180 feet) at an altitude of 15 meters (50 feet) were attempted. The device was intended to assist German engineer units across minefields, barbed wire, and wide waterways. As soon as the throttle was disengaged, the jet pack shut off. Surprisingly, there are no recorded casualties at the hand of this machine.

In the 1960’s the United States army began to hire companies to design a similar apparatus to be used by soldiers in combat. Most, if not all of these designs, used different types of compressed gases (i.e. hydrogen peroxide, nitrogen) to obtain lift.

Another application that came from this work was using similarly working device in space. One such design was the Bell Pogo, a small rocket powered platform that two people could ride on. In the 1980s, NASA demonstrated its Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) which later was replaced by the SAFER to be used in case of an accidental separation from the spacecraft or station.

Bell Pogos

While it may have been fun to ride, engineers realized that rocket packs would be able to traverse longer distances in they had some form of a wing. One of my favorite examples of such a device is Yves Rossy’s jet pack. His pack was built with rigid carbon-fiber wings spanning about 8 feet (2.4 meters) holding four small kerosene-burning jet engines underneath. After being lifted to a proper altitude by plane, he ignites the engines just before exiting the plane with the wings folded. The wings unfold while in free-fall, and he is then able to fly horizontally for several minutes, landing using a parachute. Rossy controls his flight by adjusting his body position and uses a hand throttle to maneuver. He and his sponsors spent over $190,000 to build the device.

A water-propelled jet pack, the Jetlev-Flyer, debuted in 2009 as a product that could be purchased by the public. Instead of gas, it uses two water jets for thrust. A small unmanned boat with a pump delivers pressurized water to the jet pack via a hose. This amazing idea has a MSRP of $129,000.

If you’re already thinking about building your own jetpack, I implore you to reconsider. Not only are your chances of success minimal, but there would be no truly safe way to test it. However, you’re likely to see someone else perform aerobatics on one if you go to a popular air show. Companies like Jetpack International and Martin Jetpack often perform stunts at large venues or can be hired to be at your own event.

Martin jetpack

Monday, November 30, 2009


As we were all kids at one point, it’s probable that every one of us has had the desire to become an astronaut; to ride the space shuttle, work on the International Space Station, and just simply to go into space. But what was it about space that stole our imaginations? It could have been interest in advance technology, visiting the Moon, making scientific contributions, or wearing those cool space-suits. However, we know it wasn’t any of those things. We just wanted to be weightless!

Weightlessness is a feeling experienced during free fall, normally under a galactic body’s gravitational force or in deep space. Also referred to as a “zero gravity”, this sensation of loosing, if not all, of your weight instantaneously is a simple physics problem. Weightlessness can occur when all forces acting upon a mass are equal or no forces are at work.

One might ask, “Then how come astronauts orbiting the Earth weigh nothing?” Well, the answer is not because our planet’s gravitational force is decreased by increased distance from its core, but because both the orbiting vessel and the astronauts inside have no difference in acceleration. It is the same law considered when launching satellites; if adjusted correctly, a satellites orbiting speed is so fast that it keeps circling the earth creating a centrifugal force equal to that exerted by Earth’s gravitational field.

The only way to experience weightlessness for yourself, short of becoming a fully trained astronaut, is to ride a specifically designed aircraft referred to as the “Vomit Comet”. These types of aircraft fly an elliptical path relative to the center of the Earth, or as it is better described, parabolic.

To begin each arc, the aircraft climbs at an angle of 45⁰, then reduces thrust while aligning to a zero angle of attack, and descends at a 30⁰ angle. Weightlessness is felt during the entire peak of the hump, but when you reach the valley, extra g-forces are exerted on the body doubling your weight. During these maneuvers, you will feel zero gravity almost a third of the time.

If you’ve read everything before this point, you can surmise that weighing nothing is going to cost you a pretty penny. The only company based inside the United States approved by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) is Zero Gravity Corporation which offers flights to the general public where passengers can experience the force of both the Moon’s and Mar’s gravity as well as complete weightlessness. Each mission will consist of 12-15 parabolas, with each arc taking about 65 seconds. Yet for all that merriment, you’re still going to need to come up with about $5,000 to book a ride for yourself.

People have done a lot of crazy things in weightless environments, but this video below takes the cake.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


When it comes to drinking beer, I don’t have any experience. In fact, I have made a vow to never let any form of alcohol touch my lips. But drinking beer just isn’t about getting wasted; it’s about having a good time. And when you’re having a good time you’re normally partying with other people. Well in the drinking world, there’s no bigger celebration of culture and booze than the mighty Oktoberfest.

Oktoberfest is a sixteen day festival held in Munich, Germany from late September to early October. It is the world’s largest fair drawing six million people annually largely based in Bavarian culture. The first such celebration was held in 1810 in honor of the marriage between Crown Prince Ludwig (later King Ludwig I) and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen where a horse race was held.

The festival has been significantly altered since the 1950s. Every year there is the twelve gun salute and tapping of the first keg of beer at 12:00 by the incumbent Mayor of Munich crying "O'zapft is!" ("It's tapped!" in the Austro-Bavarian language). The mayor then gives the first beer to the Minister-President of the State of Bavaria.

Like any other outdoor festival, there are vendors and rides. The vendors reside under huge tents, of which there are 14, each containing a different atmosphere and festivities. Three of the most popular tents are described below.


This tent’s main feature is its crossbow competition of which marksmen have been competing since 1895. Owner Peter Inselkammer insures everyone’s physical well-being. His tent offers roast chicken, knuckle of pork, or traditional sausages with sauerkraut. Of course, all these dishes go great with a mug of their Paulaner beer.

The Hippodrom

It's important to note that one shouldn't start looking for a place to sit too late, as the Hippodrom is somewhat smaller than the other tents. Mainly frequented by the younger crowd, it contains a stylish sekt (sparkling wine) bar and is recommended for singles.


Ornamental lions mounted on the roof let out ferocious roars every few minutes. This tent is the meeting point for fans of the TSV 1860 Munich soccer team as they are called ‘the Lions’.

Now as for the rides, Oktoberfest’s main attraction is the Olympic Looping, a portable steel roller coaster. It is the largest of its kind and the only one with five loops. The loops are arranged to resemble the Olympic rings and are more circularly shaped than most roller coasters resulting in higher g-forces exerted on its passengers (up to 5.2 g’s). The whole structure weights 900 tons and requires a housing space of 85 by 36 meters.

Did you know?- Especially drunk patrons are often called Bierleichen (German for "beer corpses").

Monday, November 23, 2009

Appalachian Trail

There’s nothing like getting some fresh air. To be outside on a clear, crisp autumn morning with the sun in your face, birds chirping away, and colorful leaves slowly drifting to the ground. It’s going to get cold soon…you can feel it in the air and you know this will be your last time to enjoy nature for almost six months. So what can you do? Well, go for a hike. And if you’re 2/3 of the United States population, you’re within a day’s driving distance of one of the greatest wilderness trails in the world, the Appalachian Trail.

Extending between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine, the Appalachian Trail is 2,178 miles long. And if that isn’t enough walking for you, there is an extension called the International Appalachian Trail (609 miles long) that extends into Canada ending in Belle Isle, Newfoundland at the North Atlantic Ocean. Along with the Continental Divide Trail and Pacific Crest Trail, these three systems form the trifecta of long distance hiking in the U.S.

The trail has more than 250 shelters and camp sites available for passing hikers. Most coverts are open, three-walled structures with a simple wooden floor while others are more elaborate.

But the trail is not only admired for its scenery, but for its animal life as well. The American black bear is the largest omnivore residing in all states the trail passes through, with deer, elk, and moose (most noticeably in Maine) also being seen. There’s no need to fear any of these animals since most choose to avoid human confrontation and are easily scared away by noise.

black bear


As far as the animals to be afraid of, there is the Eastern timber rattlesnake as well as the copperhead. These two venomous snakes are normally found in drier, rockier portions of the trail in Connecticut up until New Hampshire.

timber rattlesnake


Notable geographic features include Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Grayson Highlands State Park in Virginia, and Mount Moosilauke in New Hampshire.

Great Smokey Mountains National Park

Grayson Highlands State Park

If you would like to find out how you can help conserve this trail, visit appalachiantrail.org for details.

Did you know?- It takes about 5,000,000 adult footsteps to hike the entire trail!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


“So I’m at home watching TV; sitting on a bean bag chair, naked eating Cheetos.”

Admit it…we all like being in the nude every once in a while; whether you celebrate national naked hiking day or like to roam the empty rooms of your house as king. Being naked is completely natural. Trust me when I say embracing one’s figure is perhaps the most boldest and profound statement a person can send about their self-image. So it’s natural that every once a while people be reminded of the masterpiece that is the human form (no matter what you weigh), and bare it all for the world to see.

Streaking is a relatively new term that wasn’t recorded in use until 1973. The word as it’s known in modern context was popularized by a Washington D.C. news reporter while watching a “mass nude run” at the University of Maryland. As 500 students exited the dorm building the reporter was announcing “they are streaking past me right now. It’s an incredible sight!” The next day, the headline “streaking” was published on the cover of the Associated Press.

Streaking differs from naturism and nudism with the intent of the participant(s) to display themselves to a large audience. Sometimes purposefully committing the act just to be handled (I mean arrested) by the police. Yet it is also different from flashing, with most contributors not trying to traumatize anyone.

While streaking is most synonymous with sporting events, most streakers prefer to keep it a little more low key; baring it all in the dark, often running along roadways in the early hours of the morning.

Did you know?- The world record for the largest mass streak was made at the University of Georgia on March 7, 1974 where there were 1,543 participants!

Probably the most widely seen streaker off all time was 34-year-old Robert Opel who crossed the stage of the 46th Academy Awards in 1974 flashing the peace sign. Robert’s dashing performance can be viewed here.

Without a doubt, the most distinguished streaker of all time would be a British man by the name of Mark Roberts. His impressive resume of past performances along with some interesting photographs (no full frontal) can be found at his site thestreaker.org.

Mark Roberts

And after reading this you’re still craving more awkwardness, visit streakarama.org or streaking.org for more.

I want to know…Where would be the ultimate place and/or situation to streak. Leave a comment since I trust you’ll be clean.

Japanese Invasion of Alaska

While I tend to post articles pertaining to happy times, ‘Firsts’ are also traumatic experiences. And I cannot think of a much more somber time than that of war. Among the few things that adults may remember from social studies class is World War II. Stories and images from the attack on Pearl Harbor, D-Day, and the Holocaust are ever present in our minds. But one battle of WWII has since been long forgotten, if people even knew of it in the first place. I will now recount the melancholy and epically frank tales of the “thousand mile war” when Japan invaded Alaska.

With a newfound enemy only 2,200 miles from Seattle, WA, the United States military sought to build air bases in the Aleutian Islands, a chain of more than 300 volcanic islands extending 1,200 miles west of the Alaskan Peninsula. The future battleground would consist of 70 of these islands from the peninsula to Attu, the U.S.’s most westward territory. Attu is only some 650 miles from Paramushiro, the northern most bastion of the main Japanese defenses.

After Pearl Harbor, Japan’s top naval strategist, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, believed that by defeating the Pacific Fleet at the island of Midway, we would be forced to consider peace terms. He decided that a diversionary attack would be made on Dutch Harbor on Unalaska Island at the same time to draw a percentage of the Pacific Fleet away from Midway. Ground force would then occupy Attu and another island, Kiska, establishing bases to shield their home land against further attacks.

On May 5, 1942, an armada of 200 ships, including five heavy and three lights carriers, and 700 aircraft headed towards Midway from Japan. Halfway there, carriers Ryujo and Junyo changed course towards the Aleutians under the command of Admiral Kakuji Kakuta. The now established Alaska Defense Command (later designated the Eleventh Air Force) had developed bases at Otter Point and Umnak Island for the defense of the naval installation at Dutch Harbor. Two 5,00 foot airstrips made from pierced-plank steel matting each held a squadron of Curtiss P-36s and P-40 Warhawks, Douglas B-18s, and Martin b-26 Marauders.

P-40 Warhawk

Navy patrol pilots began searching on June 1 as far as their fuel loads would permit. The carriers were soon spotted about 400 miles south of Kiska. At 4:30 a.m. on June 3, Japanese Zero fighter planes and Kate dive bombers attacked Dutch Harbor and nearby Fort Myers killing 78 men. Attacks continued through the next day with Japanese planes attacking fuel tanks, barracks, gun positions, and SS Northwestern, a barrack’s ship and power plant.

A landing party of 1,250 men went ashore on Kiska on June 7, along with 1,200 more the next day on Attu. A reconnaissance plane soon radioed that there were four Japanese troop transports and a destroyer lurking in Kiska harbor.

Japanese invasion fleet gathers in Kiska Harbor.

America’s first move was on August 26 when a fleet of 250 tugboats, barges and fishing scows put engineer troops ashore at Adak Island 250 miles east of Kiska to construct an airfield. On September 11, 1943, American engineer troops landed on Amchitka, 75 miles east of Kiska, constructing an airfield. Bombers could now make the flight from there to Kiska 4-6 times a day.

Though the enemy is also your biggest opposition during war, weather, especially In Alaska, took more lives than fighting. By the end of October 1942, 72 American planes had been lost, but only nine to enemy fire.

The only sea battle during the Aleutian campaign was the Battle of the Komandorskis in late March. The battle lasted 31 ½ hours and is noteworthy as one of the longest continuous gun duel in naval history.

American land forces did not enter Attu until May 11th on what was called “Operation Landcrab”. With 4,000 troops ashore, the island was soon under U.S. control. Thanks to Japanese suicide attacks, only 28 of their 2,300 soldiers survived. American losses totaled 549. Allied planes could now run bombing runs in the Kuriles, a string of islands running southwest from the Kamchatka Peninsula.

PBY Catalina over Alaska

After the fall of Attu, Japan realized that their time in the Aleutians was done and soon withdrew all their men from the island. Unaware that they had retreated, Allied hit the island with heavy shelling for 36 hours straight from battleships, cruisers, and destroyers along with 300,000 pounds of bombs. When the 34,000 strong combat force was assembled to go ashore, 5,300 men of the Thirteenth Royal Canadian Infantry Brigade was there to help. However, they were to find nothing except a dozen dogs the Japanese had left behind.

On September 11, 1943, B-24 and B-25 bombers dropped 12 tons of explosives on targets at Paramushiro and Shimushu. The Japanese managed their last attack on October 13, when nine heavy bombers dropped bombs in Massacre Bay and the nearby airfield. During the Kuriles campaign, six enemy ships were sunk, 29 planes were downed, and 155 Americans died.

Fewer than 10,000 Japanese troops tied up 300,000 Allied troops from June 1942 to August 1943. The last intelligence report of the Eleventh Air Force in 1945 summarized the war as thus: “The Aleutian Islands, on the Great Circle Route from North America to the Orient, may not have fulfilled their hope of becoming the ‘Northern Highway to Victory’, but they certainly are destined to be aerial highways to peace.”


Yodeling is a form of singing that involves holding an extended note that repeatedly changes from the chest register to the falsetto/head register.

While the origin of yodeling is still unclear, it is believed to have been developed in the Swiss and Austrian Alps as a method of communication between mountain peaks.

Swiss Alps

The inner workings of yodeling are actually quite simple. All humans have at least two vocal registers, the “head” and “chest” voices, which result from different ways a tone is produced. Most people can sing tones within a certain range of lower pitch in their chest voice and a certain range of higher pitch in their head, or falsetto, voice.

Experienced singers can find the gap between these two extremes. Yodelers can switch between the two at high volumes several times in a few seconds. Going between these two extremes creates the synonymous “voice break” you hear from yodeling.

Yodeling is often heard in American bluegrass and country music.

If you’d like to learn how to yodel yourself or see some more bizarre yodeling videos, visit yodelcourse.com for more information.

Did you know?- According to the Oxford English Dictionary the word “yodel” came from the Bavarian word jodeln meaning “to utter the syllable jo”.

I want to know…Where do you think the most absurd place to start randomly yodeling would be? Maybe during the middle of a eulogy or perhaps an interview? Post a comment and let the discussion brew!


When looking for excitement, we rarely think outside the box. For example, when I was trying to think of a topic for this blog post I kept going through places I wanted to travel to someday. I was thinking about mountains, oceans, and historic places, but then it hit me. I was only looking from the surface up, while there’s a whole other world underneath us.

Caves are technically defined as “natural underground voids large enough for humans to enter.” They are formed in a process known as speleogenesis, where erosion from water, tectonic forces, microorganisms, pressure, atmospheric influences, and animal digging all play a role.

Yet most caves are formed in limestone by another process titled dissociation where traces of carbon dioxide are mixed with water creating carbonic acid. This new chemical breaks down the calcium carbonate within the limestone.

Though they may look like barren hollows meant only for the likes of Satan, a unique diversity of animals make their homes in caves. Animal species that are limited to a cave habitat are called troglobites. The majority of these animals have developed certain characteristics, labeled troglomorfies, which either help with survival or are just happenstance from living underground. These include:

• loss of skin pigment
• loss of eyes or optical functionality
• elongated appendages

Aquatic troglobites (stygobites), such as the Alabama cave shrimp, feed on nutrients from detritus that flows into the cave along with assorted animal feces. Other stygobites include cave fish and salamander, and the Olm; a blind amphibian living in the caves of Southern Europe.

cave fish


Because caves tend to be isolated from one another, each cave has its own separate ecosystem. This causes many species that reside within their walls to be endangered, such as the tooth cave spider, the gray bat, and the trapdoor spider.

tooth cave spider

grey bat

Caves also hold historical importance as being used for shelter, burials, and spiritual activities by our early ancestors. The Great Cave of Niah, in Malaysia, contains evidence of human habitation dating back 40,000 years. Caves are, in fact, still being used in the preservation of wine and cheese; their constant temperatures and high humidity make them ideal environments.

Did you know?- The world’s longest cave is Mammoth Cave in central Kentucky. Known to contain 360 miles of passageway, this national park comprises 52,385 acres of Mississippian limestone strata covered with a surface layer of sandstone. Their park website can be found here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


If you’ve ever thrown one of these next items, you know how difficult it can be to learn and how painful it is if you don’t keep your eye on it. We’re going back to Australia for the ancient hunting weapon called the boomerang.

NOTE: This post does not cover anything about Boomerang the television channel. If you were looking for vintage cartoons instead, click here.

A boomerang is a curved piece of wood that was originally used for hunting. The most famous style of boomerang is the returning, which when thrown follows an elliptical path and returns to its starting point. Non-returning boomerangs make up the rest of the designs which have been referred to as throwing sticks and ‘kylies’. The weapons have been traced back to the Egyptians, Native Americans, and inhabitants of southern India.

However, some boomerangs were not thrown at all but used in hand-to-hand combat by Australian Aborigines. On this island, the oldest traceable boomerangs have been recorded at 10,000 years old.

It has been speculated the returning boomerangs could have also been used for hunting in help to the noise generated by their movement. Their wings could clip leaves in trees or scare birds lying in an open field into flight where they would be captured in nets managed by other hunters. Throwsticks were used mostly for larger game, such as the Kangaroo, that when thrown would strike the animal’s legs and prevent it from escaping.

Today, this sport is mostly just that. Competitive boomeranging has sprung up all over the globe and includes these contest types:

• Accuracy
• Endurance (number of catches achieved in five minutes)
• Fast Catch (time taken to throw and catch the boomerang five times)
• Trick Catch
• Consecutive Catch
• Maximum Time Aloft (MTA)
• Long Distance
• Juggling (a boomerang must be in the air at all times)

Boomerangs aren’t just a great physical activity for adults but kids too. With advances in technology, boomerangs can now be mass produced from lighter, less dangerous materials like foam and plastic. To find multiple designs for children, competition, and recreational purposes go to boomerangs.com for your perfect match.

I want to know?- If there was a villain who attacked his foes with a boomerang, what would his/her name be? Leave a comment.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Off all the places I wish to visit, large portions are simply areas where unique animals have chosen to make their home. With my mother operating her own dog training business, I have learned to love almost all animals as part of the family. And while the animal I am about to describe may not be the most rare I think it holds a place in almost everyone’s inner child’s heart. They are the prize of Sea Worlds across the United States and known by some as only “Shamu”. I speak of the killer whale.

Officially known as the Orca, or less commonly the Blackfish, this beauty of a beast is NOT A WHALE! It is actually the largest member of the dolphin family. They have been labeled as ‘killer whales’ because they have been known to hunt other whale species for food.

Created in five distinct types, orcas are highly social, forming family groups which constitute some of the most stable in the world. Pods usually consist of 5-30 whales, although some pods may combine to form groups of 100 or more. All pods are lead by females and each pod is thought to have its own form of dialect resulting in different languages from group to group.

All orcas have the distinguished black back, white chest and sides, and white patches above and behind the eye. Though newborns come out the womb with yellow/orange tint that eventually fades to white. While males range from 19-26 feet long and weigh in excess of 6 tons, females are smaller ranging 16-23 feet in length and 3-4 tons in weight. Unlike most dolphins, the killer whale’s pectoral fin is large and rounded with the male’s being twice as high and as well as narrower than the female’s.

Together, these characteristics make it one of the fastest marine mammals often reaching speeds in excess of 40 mph! Coupled with their need to travel sometimes 100 miles a day, the orca can stir up quite an appetite.

An apex predator, killer whales are known as the wolves of the sea for the reason of hunting in packs. On average, each whale eats 500 pounds of food each day. They have a wide diet and are known to consume sharks, squid, sea lions, seals, walruses, seagulls (?), penguins, and other fish.

?- A captive killer whale in Friendship Cove discovered that it could regurgitate fish onto the surface, attracting sea gulls, and then eat them. Other whales then learned the behavior by example.
Females bare a single calf every five years beginning at the age of fifteen. The sex lives an average of 50 years, with males only living 30, and those in captivity barely making it to their mid-twenties.

Like dolphins, orcas use echolocation (bouncing sound off of objects to determine their location) to hunt, and use a series of high-pitched clicks to stun prey. They are found most commonly in the Pacific Basin (where Canada curves into Alaska) as well off the coasts of Iceland and northern Norway.

In 2007, orcas were put on the U.S. Endangered Species List.

Killer Whales in National Parks

• Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska
• Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska
• Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska
• Olympic National Park, Washington

Monday, October 26, 2009

Free Running

Do you ever wish you were Tarzan? How about instead of swinging from treetop to treetop, you could run, jump, and scale over any obstacle in the city? I do but I’m not sure I up to the challenge physically (if you know what I mean). Still, for those diehard athletes out there who can’t afford a bike or skateboard, the newest form of taming a city’s obstacles is upon us. Welcome to free running.

First off, free running has gone by several names so I hope to clear the air here by separating what exactly each term represents. Free running is a form of urban acrobatics where participants use city and rural landscapes to perform movements through its structures. People often confuse this sport with the following two alternatives:

Parkour (PK)- A physical discipline of French origin in which participants run along a route, negotiating obstacles in the most efficient means possible.

o Pronounced in French as l’art du deplacement (English: “the art of moving”).

o Main characteristic is efficiency. Participants travel in the most direct way possible while free runners are keener to freedom movement and creativity.

o Unofficial motto is etre et durer (to be and to last).

Tricking- A new underground sport that combines martial arts, gymnastics, and break dancing.

o Mainly incorporates back flips, 540 kicks from Taekwondo, butterfly twists from Wushu, and double legs from Capoeira.

After receiving attention from the film Casino Royale, militaries from different countries began looking for ways to incorporate parkour into their training. The British Royal Marines hired parkour athletes to train their troops and the art is slowly being introduced into the United States Marine Corps.

If you’re in good enough shape to learn this style of martial arts you should be proud of yourself for taking on this disciplined study. The websites club540.com and tricksession.com offer some decent quality tutorials with pictures and a couple videos. However, if you’re just looking for a place to watch some good parkour videos, parkour-videos.com pretty much says it all.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Lawnmower Racing

Have you ever wanted to get involved in racing but never had the money or advanced technical knowhow to get started? Well this recently born sport may be your lucky break to racing superstardom.

Lawnmower racing is a form of motorsport where competitors race modified, self-riding lawnmowers. The original engines are retained, but blades are removed for safety.

The sport was invented in 1973 in West Sussex, England by a group of men sitting in a pub complaining about the immense costs required to participate in any kind of motorsport. That quickly led to the first racing lawnmowers and the creation of the British Lawn Mower Racing Association.

The idea was later brought to the United States by the makers of a petrol, fuel-stabilizer called STA-BIL. Since then, organizations such as the United States Lawn Mower Racing Association (USLMRA) and the American Racing Mower Association (ARMA) have led the way in the sport since 1981.

Like any standardized sport, there are plenty of rules and regulations. Since USLMRA is the premiere lawnmower racing organization in North America, I have chosen to secure my information from them. The following has come directly from their website. There you can read their blog, find official machine regulations, yearly event schedules, and much more.

Below is their list of the racing classes:

• Stock- As delivered from the factory.
• IMOW- front engine, highly regulated
• Prepared- Modified drive train, engine, etc.
• FX- Major modifications allowed.
• JP: For kids age 10-15.

**All riders must be 18 years old to compete, although 16 and 17 year olds are allowed with parental permission.**

If you want to try this new sport out for yourself, please think it over carefully before you go out and splurge on the new Ferrari of lawnmowers. You should have an ample amount of technical knowledge and patience when facing the inevitable blockades (there are no instructions for you to follow). Although, this link on insturctables.com is one man’s account in pursuit of his dream machine.

The website heymow.com is an online forum where fellow racers can share their knowledge and answer your questions along the way. ARMA's website has a forum service as well that is only available to registered users.

Did you know?- While these lawnmowers go an average speed of 25 mph, most courses are 500-700 feet long laps. If you don’t think that’s fast, see for yourself below.