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Miscellaneous Archives, 2004

Some of the most wild, wonderful, and just plain offbeat musings, photographs, and sundry graphics you're likely to find on the Internet, or your money back! *

Andrew Clem archives

December 27, 2004 [LINK]

Perfect timing

Right on cue, the "Paperwhite" flowers bloomed on Christmas Day, three weeks after we placed the bulbs in water. I bought them from The Potting Shed in Lexington, VA. The stalks grow to about two feet tall, and they look much like daffodils until the flower clusters pop open. Aside from providing a wonderful bit of spring-like greenery to our home, the pleasant fragrance is very intense, and almost intoxicating. If only they would last for a few more weeks...

Andrew Clem archives

December 25, 2004 [LINK]

Merry Christmas to All!

... behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
Luke 2: 10-11

May glad tidings of peace and goodwill toward all men and women be heard throughout the world, especially in Iraq, Sudan, and other lands tormented by hatred and violence.


"Stamping out Christmas"

There has been a lot of talk this year about the Christian backlash against the secular proselytizers who want to strip away every semblance of Christian belief from the public sphere. Donald Sensing relayed the curious discovery of Doug Petch, "that you can get a Kwanzaa stamp from the US Postal Service. You can get an EID stamp and a Hannukah stamp. You can even get a lunar new year Year of the Monkey stamp. But you can't get a Christmas stamp, just a Holiday Traditional one." See

As most people have become aware in recent years, the words "under God" were added to the pledge of allegiance in the early 1950s. Perhaps fewer people (only stamp collecting nerds?) know that the U.S. Post Office (as it was then known) began issuing Christmas stamps in 1962. Whether President Kennedy had anything to do with this is uncertain. Then in the 1990s the multicultural trend got going, and stamps for Hannukah, the Chinese New Year, and even Kwanzaa were issued for the first time. By disturbing coincidence, the first "Eid" stamp (honoring the Muslim feast day that follows Ramadan) came out in late 2001, just after the 9/11 attacks.

We are indeed a multicultural society, and our secular traditions are a major bulwark against the kind of factionalism that plagues countries like Iraq and Ireland. That doesn't mean that Christians should feel ashamed about expressing their beliefs in public, however. For many years American was too monolithic, and in recent years we have turned toward the opposite extreme of a normless "Babel." Hopefully, a reasonable balance between tradition and tolerance will be reached before long.

Andrew Clem Archives

December 17, 2004 [LINK]

Coming Attractions Blockbuster: WoW!

From before dawn until after dusk yesterday I was on the set of the forthcoming Paramount Pictures movie War of the Worlds, starring Tom Cruise and Tim Robbins. It is being directed by Steven Spielberg, with a production budget even greater than Titanic, and therefore is almost guaranteed to be one of the biggest blockbusters of all time. The 1953 adaptation (see of H. G. Wells' classic novel is considered one of the best of the sci-fi cinema genre, so Spielberg's remake has a high standard to meet. I was a humble extra in some of the refugee survivor crowd scenes (which I assume will be digitally multiplied), but I may have been close enough to the camera to be recognizable in the climactic battle sequence. Look for me in a dark blue coat wearing a white stocking cap with a Yankees emblem. Eleven Humvees mounted with machine guns and TOW missile launchers were in that scene, but they lacked armor plating. Someone alert Donald Rumsfeld! The road signs pointing toward the set said "WoW," hence the title above. I was dumbfounded to see the enormous scale of the production around the set, with dozens of big tents, trucks, tractors, trailors, and assorted machinery. A veritable city nestled in the scenic Appalachian foothills! After the filming was over (whew!), the cast of hundreds sang "happy birthday" to Steven Spielberg. I didn't get close enough to see Steven or Tom, but other extras around me did. On the local news this morning I learned that while stopping at a fast food establishment [Dairy Queen], Tom Cruise put $5,000 in the donation jar for a girl [named Ashley who needs costly surgery to recover from a near-fatal accident].
Hooray for Hollywood

December 17, 2004 [LINK]

JMU Dukes win Division I-AA title!

Huge congratulations are due to the James Madison University Dukes football team, and their coach Mickey Matthews, for defeating the Montana Grizzlies to claim the NCAA Division I-AA national championship. It was close for most of the game, but JMU pulled away in the fourth quarter, winning by a score of 31 to 21. Finley Field in Chattanooga was in poor shape, as the sod was ripped to shreds by the end of the game.

Andrew Clem archives

December 13, 2004 [LINK]

JMU vies for national title

The James Madison University "Dukes" football team beat the William and Mary "Tribe" in the NCAA Division I-AA semifinals game in Williamsburg last Friday, by a score of 48-34. (Talk about two weird university team names! "Dukes" refers to the pet bulldog of a former university president, not to nobility.) JMU will play the Montana Grizzlies in the Division I-AA Championship Game this Friday in Chattanooga. See This is a big morale booster and great P.R. for an up-and-coming public university. One of my students at JMU last year was a football player, and I was impressed by his serious attitude and hard work in keeping up with studies while putting in long hours in practice sessions and team meetings. Meanwhile, the U.Va. Cavaliers turned down an invitation to appear in one of the pre-Christmas "consolation" bowls after they lost to Virginia Tech a couple weeks ago, because the game is being held during finals week. Thank goodness there are still exemplary institutions whose athletic programs take scholarship seriously. It's ironic there is a national championship for the second tier universities but not the top tier. I've always been deeply skeptical of having a national championship series for college-level football, and the controversies over the BCS serve to validate that. It would only hasten the trend toward the professionalization of college sports, but it seems that's where things are heading.

Andrew Clem archives

December 11, 2004 [LINK]

"That's gotta hurt!"

Hornworm The transition to an automated blogging system is now virtually complete. The "home blog" page (index.shtml; note the "s" in the file name extension) has the same layout as the main home page ("index.html"), but the interactive graphical effects do not include the topical montage photos which are found on the latter page. To quickly toggle between the two home pages, just click on the banner at the top.

I was going through my photo albums today and this picture of a Tomato (?) hornworm caught my attention. Those are not grains of rice stuck to its body, they are wasp larvae (!), contentedly sucking the life juices out of this hapless creature as they grow up. I took this in 1993 or so, when I was living in Charlottesville. I found several of these colorful caterpillars chewing on the leaves of my hot pepper plants, so I suppose the wasps were helping me out by keeping them under control.

Andrew Clem archives

December 8, 2004 [LINK]

More Web site tweaking

The change in the banner above, and the graphical and layout modifications to several of the pages on this Web site, have been a long time coming. Note the interactive graphic effects (when you move the mouse over the links) that replace the all-in-one (rather crowded) "Los Clems" banner. Only the "Our Canaries" (Home Birds) page now carries the name "Los Clems." I am in the middle of a rather awkward reorganization of the Web site, and am about to make a transition to a much more efficient automated blog system. Stay tuned...

Andrew Clem archives

December 7, 2004 [LINK]

War of the Worlds

Steven Spielberg is directing a remake of the classic science fiction movie based on H.G. Wells' terrifying novel, which was adapted by Orson Wells in that infamous panic-inducing radio show in 1938. Tom Cruise and Tim Robbins are among the stars of the new version. Several scenes are being filmed in this part of Virginia, and I went down to the scenic, historic town of Lexington for the casting call on Saturday. It was quite an amusing spectacle: Thousands of wannabe actors were lined up for the few hundred available parts!

October 18, 2004 UPDATE: David Ortiz just drove in the winning run for the second night in a row, keeping the Red Sox's impossible dream alive. This year's "Boston marathon" has been simply unbelievable! And the Astros' 2B Jeff Kent of all people gets to be the hero for the folks in Houston. (Oh, that home field advantage.) So it's back to New York and St. Louis; could this year's postseason top last year's???

George, Princess new nest New But wait, there's MORE on the Fall Photos page. Jacqueline and I drove up to see the fall foliage at Shenandoah National Park yesterday, but there was so much traffic that we had to wait in line at the entrance gate for over 20 minutes. It was clear and sunny, but extremely windy. Inspired by the spirit of the fall season, I went through some old photos that I posted years ago, and one of them looks much better after having adjusted the brightness and contrast using Apple's iPhoto program. See the (revised) Blacksburg page. While I was at it, I added this recent photo of George guarding Princess at her new nest, the first time she has made use of this mini-shelf we installed for that express purpose.

September 7, 2004 My brother John informed me that the local newspaper in my home town published a more accurate version than did the Sioux Falls Argus Leader of the story about my once-in-a-lifetime double eagle back on August 10. What's more, it has been saved on their Web archives, so you can read all about it in the online version of the Vermillion Plain Talk. Unfortunately, the story contained two misspellings.

Believe It Or Not!

August 18, 2004 Double eagle I just returned from my vacation to South Dakota, the highlight of which actually appeared in last Thursday's Sioux Falls Argus Leader. If you're not a golfer, you should know that a double eagle is even more rare than a hole in one, nearly all of which are on par 3 holes and hence just single eagles. "Perfect!" I exclaimed, as the ball I hit sailed toward its improbable destiny. Perfect indeed. Never even having scored a "single" eagle before, I was utterly stupefied as I approached the green and found the ball in the cup. I saw my name in the newspaper two days later, and wouldn't you know it, the greatest athletic feat in my lifetime gets misreported! I called the Argus Leader to request a correction, but apparently such minor stories aren't deemed worth it. Oh well... At any rate, I was lucky to be playing that day with my father and two brothers, both of whom scored birdies on that same hole. I'm not big on luck and superstition, but there must be some cosmic significance behind that once-in-a-lifetime event.

August 4, 2004 I'm heading west to South Dakota for a high school reunion and family get-together. If all goes as planned, I'll see a ballgame in Detroit on the way out there, and perhaps another city or two on the way back. I may try to update this blogsite from a remote location, but otherwise, I'll return by mid-month.

July 9, 2004 Show me the money! Now that I've resumed devoting top priority to this Web site over the past several weeks, I feel comfortable with setting up a "tip jar" via a PayPal account. (Just click on the [PayPal] button.) I'm only asking for five bucks annually, the price of a beer. Feel free to donate more if you think it's worth it; I would be extremely appreciative. (Proceeds will go toward my long-deferred summer baseball tour!Smile") If you're one of those fine folks whose photos I've included on this site, consider yourself paid. If this works as I plan, donors will get special consideration in terms of access to comments pages, etc. I had neglected keeping up with the Amazon Honor System over the past year, and need to figure out what happened with it. I hope to avoid indulging in too much crass money-grubbing, but you may see a few ads or commercial links here and there...

July 26, 2004 New Photos and descriptions of our trip to New York last week; another roll has not been developed yet. The trip went very well, except for the rain on Friday that forced us to abandon plans to take the ferry boat to Liberty Island. We learned that the Statue of Liberty itself will be closed until August 4 anyway, so it wasn't a huge disappointment.

July 21, 2004 Jacqueline and I are heading north to see the Yankees playing host to the Toronto Blue Jays Thursday afternoon. (And to think, I waited 40+ years for this!) With any luck, we'll catch the Phillies hosting the Cubs on our way home.

June 22, 2004 New" The third and final batch of photos from our trip to Peru in March is finally done. There are twelve photos, mostly large ones (plus two rollovers), so please be patient while it loads.

June 29, 2004 WW2Memorial-Atlantic We were up in Northern Virginia for the weekend, and in certain locations we noticed a lot of tree damage caused by this year's periodical cicada eruption. In other areas, zilch. I was sorry we missed the cicadas here in Staunton; I recall vividly how hard it hit Arlington back in 1987.

On Sunday I escorted my niece Cathy and her friend Yanira to the brand-new World War II Memorial in Washington, shown in the adjacent photo. (You can see the rest of the pictures from our day trip HERE.) On the way there, we stopped at RFK Stadium and walked all the way around it, the first time I had done so. I saw some people wearing uniforms emblazoned with D.C. United soccer team logos, and it turned out there was a youth soccer clinic going on inside. We drove through downtown Washington, and I saw the MCI Center, the new D.C. Convention Center with its awesome mirrored pedestrian bridge, and the new Hecht's building for the first time.

May 25, 2004 Today we got high-speed Internet service (from Adelphia) installed for the first time. Already I'm wondering how I ever survived without it. Stay tuned for major imminent changes to this Web site...

May 14, 2004 School's out for summer! If Alice Cooper had only known that teachers feel an even greater sense of relief this time of year than students do. Not that I'm complaining, mind you; it was a great year at JMU.

May 8, 2004Dr. Andrew Saturday Night Live's takeoff of the final scene from "Friends" but with Rumsfeld and "W" playing the romantic roles of Rachel and Ross was a classic!

Jacqueline and I headed up to Harrisonburg to attend commencement exercises at James Madison University. The weather was truly spectacular but the traffic around the campus was atrocious. Dr. Tony Eksterowicz, a true scholar and gentleman in the Political Science Department (who happens to be a fellow bird watcher!), spoke to the Humanities and Social Sciences ceremony. Among my students who have graduated are: Erin Magnor (cum laude), Katrina Webster, Brian Hurley, Rachel Rupright, Leigh Gurke, Chris Newton, and Thanh Dang. They are a fine group of scholars and deserve hearty congratulations.

Most recent iTunes downloads from Apple: "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow," a guitar and tenor harmony bluegrass song by the The Soggy Bottom Boys, and "I'll Fly Away," a gentler mandolin-centered bluegrass tune by Alison Krauss & Gillian Welch. Both were from the soundtrack album of the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?, starring George Clooney. I had read great reviews of it but never saw it until it aired on TBS a month ago. As with Raising Arizona, Fargo, and other movies by the Coen brothers, it was utterly hilarious and yet thought-provoking.

May 7, 2004 "Friends" has a special place in our hearts, since it began airing not long after our wedding, (almost) ten wonderful years ago. The final episode on NBC last night was not really surprising, since there was really no other way to resolve the Ross-and-Rachel tension that was a central theme since the very beginning. Happily ever after! Even though the characters on "Friends" were all caricatures of neurotic urbanites, they were also very real and compelling, a tribute to their acting skills AND the scriptwriting. As a result, in spite of the implausible premise of entry-level employees being able to afford spacious, well-furnished apartments in midtown Manhattan, their little social circle seemed very real. (As they were vacating their empty apartment at the end, I was amused when Chandler credited New York's rent control laws, perhaps the most egregious and unjustifiable middle class entitlements ever devised.) How will the spinoff series "Joey" do next fall? I'm skeptical, but we'll see. The other sitcom we watch with some regularity, "Frasier" -- which is itself a spinoff of "Cheers" -- ends next week. So much for the highbrow prime time viewer segment...

Mar. 27, 2004 TRIUMPH! After staying up most of the night to finish putting everything together, on Thursday I showed my Latin American Politics class a 30-minute edited video from our recent trip to Peru. The soundtrack of Andean folk music, the scene titles, and transitions between video clips made it all look pretty darn slick, if you ask me. Unfortunately, I couldn't get the video connections to work in my two other classrooms, so I'll have to burn it as a video CD (or DVD) in order to show it to my Global Politics classes.

A couple days ago I got another message from EarthLink saying that this Web site was closed until the end of the month due to excess traffic, but today I heard from a guy who viewed it yesterday morning, so who knows?

We're back from Peru!!!

Mar. 17, 2004 Peru montage2 WOW! Our trip to Peru went very, very well, and despite the limited time available (eight full days, not counting air travel to and from Peru) we accomplished nearly all of our travel objectives without any nuisances. I saw a total of 29 life birds altogether, though the exact count is pending closer examination of some video clips I shot. Our new Canon ZR65-MC digital video camera performed suberbly, with one exception: the auto-focus mechanism gets confused when you try to take photos with water in the background. This made it hard to get good shots of sea birds such as Brown pelicans and Brown boobies. Anyway, here is a preview that shows Machu Picchu, which was obviously the high point of our trip, as well as a Black-necked stilt, an American oystercatcher, and a cactus flower. Click on the image to go directly to the page with the first batch of photos from Peru.

We didn't spend as much time in central Lima as I had hoped, but we did stay in the Cuzco highland area for three full days. The altitude sickness ("soroche") left me feeling rather lousy while in Cuzco (elev. 10,000+ feet), but Machu Picchu was much lower (elev. 6,000 feet), fortunately. We spent two nights in the adjacent village of Aguas Calientes, which can only be reached by railroad. Getting on board that train at night with hordes of tourists and local people was quite a surrealistic experience, like getting in a time machine. From that village to the top of Machu Picchu the bus must climb about 2,000 feet, going back and forth along frightening hairpin curves. When you get to the top you find yourself in the most spectacular physical setting you could ever imagine, with lush greenery clinging to the extremely steep slopes, and the sturdy remains of the ancient city.

For me, one of the biggest accomplishments of the trip was purchasing a charango from a musician on the streets of Cuzco. For many years I've been enchanted by Andean folk music, and at last I can try my own hand at "El Condor Pasa" and other songs from the Land of the Incas. Another serendipitous moment in Cuzco was a protest march that arrived in the main plaza just as we were sitting down to have lunch at a second-story restaurant. I had a great view from the balcony, and took several minutes of video that will be highly useful in my classes. There were no other disturbances that we could see, and the truck drivers' strike that briefly cut off food supplies to Lima was fortunately called off just before we flew to Peru. Cuzco, by the way, was the capital of the Inca Empire, and the plaza was the sight of the royal palace that was demolished by the Spanish conquistadors.

Yet another stroke of fortune was that we were able to visit two wetland wildlife sanctuaries near Lima, one in Ventanilla itself, and the other ("Pantanos de Villa") located in Chorrillos, not far from the ocean on the very southern edge of the Lima metropolitan area. I recall reading about the major controversy that erupted in 2002 when the municipal government shut down the adjacent pasta factory owned by Lucchetti, a Chilean corporation which allegedly bribed Peruvian officials to get a permit to build in the protected wetland area. Thanks to Jacqueline's brother Chicho and his family who took us to Pantanos de Villa, I was able to get a copy of a book about that case. Muchas gracias por el libro, Chicho!

Mar. 3, 2004 This will be the last posting to this Web site for the next two weeks or so, as Jacqueline and I are headed to the southern hemisphere for spring break! After we return, prepare to be blown away by exotic tales of adventure and awesome photos from the Land of the Incas!

To me, it's rather ironic that the first time I went to Peru nearly ten years ago, the United States had just used armed force to restore Jean Bertrand Aristide to power in Haiti, whereas this time our government has just taken the lead in encouraging him to pack up and leave. Uncle Sam installeth, Uncle Sam removeth from power... Aristide's claim that he was in effect "kidnapped" by American soldiers, however, seems utterly ludricrous, which only confirms the conventional impression that he is an irresponsible and highly deluded man.

While our attention was distracted by events in Haiti, opponents of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela turned violent once again. Army troops fired on demonstrators in Caracas who were trying to disrupt the summit meeting of the Group of 15 nations, which represent Third World interests in various international forums. The Venezuelan election commission ruled by a slim majority that too many of the signatures on the recall petition were questionable, halting the process once again. The matter has not been definitively resolved, however, so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, in Peru, the association of truck drivers just called off a strike that had severely curtailed the supply of food and fuel to the capital city, Lima, for almost a week. Just in time for our arrival! The government has apparently responded to their demands for a "minimum freight charge" and lower taxes on fuel. It was a very aggressive gesture that illustrates, once again, the weakness of President Toledo.

Feb. 29, 2004 My old pal from high school days, Greg Merrigan, just had his 12th actual birthday. Felíz cumpleaños, Greg! And to everyone else, I hope you had a Happy Leap Day. Smile

Once again, EarthLink informed me that this site was closed to the public after the monthly traffic quota was exceeded a few days ago.

New batch of photos just back from the developers: Winter 2004. Lots of snow and a semi-decent shot of one of the short-eared owls I saw earlier this month.

Feb. 9, 2004 On February 9, 1964, John, Paul, George, and Ringo made their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. They then took a train down to Washington, D.C. to begin their first stateside concert tour, and returned to do two more shows with Ed later that year. I remember the thrill of watching the Beatles on one of his shows, but I'm not sure if it was the first one.

Feb. 3, 2004 Condolences to Carolina Panthers fans. Their team made a great showing against the Patriots on Sunday, beating the spread and almost winning outright. It occurred to me that the last two versions of Mac OS X (10.2 Jaguar and 10.3 Panther) have been named after feline predators who are also mascots of NFL expansion teams in the southeast. What is the meaning of this?

Jan. 31, 2004 I just learned from EarthLink that this (free) Web site has exceeded its monthly traffic allotment and therefore will be unavailable to the public until the first day of the next month. Good thing that's tomorrow! My apologies to all. I may have to "go commercial"...

As of tomorrow, one year will have passed since the seven astronauts of the space shuttle Columbia died during reentry over Texas. May such tragedies never dampen our spirit of discovery.

I produced our first original video CD project this week, and it took over two solid days of computation (with a 500MHz G3 processor) to convert 13 minutes' worth of digital video into MPEG-2 (higher quality) format prior to "burning." Even so, there were weird digital artifacts (specifically, wavy, rippling edges) whenever the camera panned quickly across images with sharp contrast, such as plant leaves. This apparently rules out making video CD movies with a substantial amount of rapid action. Otherwise, I was very pleased with the results when we played it back on our TV.

The spring semester at JMU is off to a lively start, and I've got another bunch of bright and (mostly) enthusiastic students in my Latin America and Global Politics classes. I'm trying to have the movie The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (2003) shown at the campus theater later this spring. It's a documentary about the failed coup attempt against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in April 2002, when the Bush administration seemed to endorse the usurpers. I'm no fan of Chavez, but forcing him out of office would only serve to strengthen radical forces throughout Latin America. Indeed, that is exactly what the movie's producers are hoping for.

Jan. 25, 2004 (Silly me, I put the wrong date for yesterday's entries. That's what you get for doing everything manually.) Last night I downloaded the iVCD program published by the Mireth Technology Corporation, and it worked like a charm. I can now play back my video creations on our new DVD player! For a G3 Mac such as mine, however, the process of converting to MPEG file format is very time consuming. Today it snowed, and I shot some more video of inside and outside birds, including purple finches and goldfinches, and then edited the raw footage using iMovie. I can't wait to make videos of life in Latin America.

Jan. 24, 2004 R.I.P. "Captain Kangaroo" Bob Keeshan died yesterday after a long illness. What a contrast between his program and the kids' TV shows of today! I would like to think that he imbued my generation with a sense of decency, kindness, and respect, but my generation didn't always take such lessons to heart.

Jan. 9, 2004 (After midnight) Tuesday's bombshell announcement that Joe Gibbs has signed a five-year contract to coach the Washington Redskins once again has reverberated throughout the region. What a timely uplift in spirits for downtrodden fans! I recall how stunned I was when Gibbs bid adieu to football and embraced NASCAR 11 years ago, before NASCAR began to move into the "mainstream." It turns out he knew what he was doing, and his racing team has won two Winston Cup trophies. There is a possible downside to Gibbs' return: it may distract the attention of baseball fans who still cling to hope that major league baseball might relocate to the D.C./N. Virginia market.

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