Friday, July 31, 2009

Margherita Dolce Vita - Stefano Benni

While at the Book Expo this year in the City, I came across a display for Europa Editions and just loved their titles and covers. I even did a post on how much I loved their covers. The cover for Stefano Benni's Margherita Dolce Vita especially caught my eye. I just love it. So, without reading what it was about, I reserved it at the library.

You know how sometimes when you want to love a book so much and you just don't? Well I definitely didn't have a problem like that with this book. I LOVED it!

Here's the summary:

Margherita (dubbed Margherita Dolce Vita by her grandpa, is a 14-year-old girl living with her family in Italy.

Her father Fausto is "tall and skinny, and he is meteoropathic, meaning his moods change with the weather".

Her mother is Emma, looks "like a used teabag" and "is good as gold, but she has an addiction" which is watching soap operas while smoking imaginary cigarettes.

Her eldest brother, Giacinto, is "like a really stupid version of me (Margherita)" and a soccer hooligan.

Her younger brother Erminio or Heraclitus "is a ball-busting likable little terrorist genius" who also can converse with their grandfather via ESP...or so they both say.

Grandfather's name is Socrates has "done it all" and thinks there are so many toxins in the world that to counteract this, he slowly poisons himself throughout the day...example being eating out of date yogurts and water with bleach.

And Sleepy, their lovable dog with hysterical narcolepsy.

All is well until the day the Cube is built next to their house. The Cube is a modern mansion and the wealthy neighbors start to integrate themselves into this little family's life. Emma stops cooking and starts doing botox treatments and new hairstyles. Fausto tries implants to hide his balding spot and starts working with the neighbor in their mysterious import/export business. Giacinto falls in love with the spoiled daughter and even converts to another soccer team (the horrors!) because of her. And Erminio is drugged complacent by gifts of video games.

Only Margherita finds it all to be strange and starts to investigate because the happy family she loves is slowly deteriorating. And what type of business are the neighbors really into and why isn't she allowed into her father's shed anymore? Oh, and she develops a crush on their odd son who is a type of rebel and crazy institutionalized person all rolled up into one.


I have to say the writing is hilarious, poignant, rich, and beautiful. Even though it's narrated by a 14-year-old, I wouldn't call this a young adult novel. And the ENDING!!! Someone please read this so you can tell me what you think. Ok.

Oh! And totally forgot to mention. This is deeply satirical about consumerism and what it's doing to people. I loved that part but it might not be for everyone but I absolutely loved Margherita.

Kitten Mittens

Incredible Lightning Strike

Video of a near-miss lightning strike in Norman, OK in July 2007, as the cloud-to-ground stroke nearly struck storm chaser Curtis M. This is one of the most incredible lightning videos I have ever seen!

Living Photographs by Mole and Thomas

Taken at the beginning of the 20th century, by English photographer Arthur S. Mole and his American colleague John D. Thomas, these living photographs show thousands of American soldiers posing as symbols of American history.

They traveled from one military camp to another taking photos of soldiers forming patriotic symbols as a part of planned promotional campaign to sell war bonds. Thousands soldiers would form gigantic patriotic symbols such as Statue of Liberty, president Woodrow Wilson, American Eagle or Liberty Bell which were photographed from above.

Mole and Thomas spent days preparing formations which were photographed from a 70 to 80 foot tower with an 11 by 14 inch camera. Photos by Mole and Thomas are now part of the Chicago Historical Society, the Museum of Modern Art and the Library of Congress.

In the picture of the Statue of Liberty there are 18,000 men: 12,000 of them in the torch alone, but just 17 at the base. The men at the top of the picture are actually half a mile away from the men at the bottom.

The Living Uncle Sam: 19,000 officers and men at Camp Lee, Virginia, January 13, 1919.

The Human US Shield: 30,000 officers and men at Camp Custer, Battle Creek, Michigan, 1918.

The living emblem of the United States Marines, formed by 100 officers and 9,000 enlisted men at the Marine Barracks, Paris Island, South Carolina.

A portrait of President Woodrow Wilson, formed of 21,000 officers and men at Camp Sherman, Chillicothe, Ohio, 1918.

The Human Liberty Bell, formed by 25,000 officers and men at Camp Dix, New Jersey, 1918.

The Human American Eagle: 12,500 officers, nurses and men at Camp Gordon, Atlanta, Georgia, 1918.

Living insignia of the 27th Division, New York’s Own, breakers of the Hindenberg Line. Formed of 10,000 officers and enlisted men, March 18, 1919.

22,500 officers and men, 600 machine guns at Machine Gun Training Center, Camp Hancock, Augusta, Ga, December 10, 1918.

209th Engineers, Camp Sheridan, 1919.

The Panther, formed by the faculty and students of the University of Pittsburgh, April 9, 1920.

Indoctrination Division, Air Training Command, Lackland Air Base, San Antonio, Texas, July 19, 1947.

Hawaiian Division, Schofield Barracks.

The official seal of the Eleventh Division, Lafayette.

Source: telegraph

Seven Deadly Wine Glasses

Kacper Hamilton has designed a series of seven wine glasses inspired by the seven deadly sins.








Source: kacperhamilton

Cell Phone for Mercedes Fans

To own this cell phone being a fan of Mercedes is not enough, you’ve also got to lack taste completely! I can’t imagine myself speaking in this thing.

Rando Design Inspiration Friday!

I'm so happy it is Friday again, as always! I know most people have left for their country homes, but I'm staying in the big bad city this weekend. Enjoy some of my fave pics from this week!

I bought a few books downtown at a used bookstore about Provence interior design and I'm falling in love all over again with France. So romantic. From Kimberly Seldon's blog.

This sun drenched room looks so relaxing and whimsical. By Sharon Simonaire.

This chair with the caning is possibly everything I've ever wanted from a chair. Okay, maybe that was a tad dramatic but I still love it. By Kimberly Seldon.

Hmm, maybe I wish I were going to my country house (parent's house) this weekend after all. Nothing is quite as lovely as reading a good book on a porch with a beautiful view. From Country Living.

Oh Albert Hadley, you never disappoint me. From the patriotic eagle to the painted floor to the canes by the door, everything in this room is gorgeous.

With all this heat and humidity it makes going outside a big hassle unless I plan on going outside and not moving at all. I will be going to a garden party this evening though! What do you all have planned for the weekend? Whatever it is, I hope it's fun!

Alicia B.

Treats from Holland

Bryan was gone for most of the week on a business trip in The Netherlands, which:
  1. Made me incredibly, incredibly grateful for my husband -- I'm pretty quick to admit what a great husband, dad, partner Bryan is, but there's nothing like going it alone for a few days to raise that appreciation to new heights...

  2. Gave me a renewed awe for single parents (speaking of going it alone...) I mean seriously, how does anyone do this business of parenting alone. Heroes.

  3. Made me a smidge jealous that the most basic things like wrapping every. single. purchase. at the local toy store and the packaging on a little box of mints from the corner market are just so much cooler in Europe. I love the idea of making the smallest things feel special. Special should be for everyday, no?

So now that hubby is home, we're gearing up for a weekend of fun -- trying out a new pizza place tonight and heading to First Saturdays at the Nasher tomorrow morning...and just generally trying to make everything feel special ;-)

What fun things do you have planned?

Fotos de Chavas,icandy, hot babes photos, sexy pics, Beautiful Women Photos, fotoblog, fotos de mujeres hermosas, photoblog, sexy girls, hotties, erotic, sensual, fotos cachondas
Videos Chistosos

Fotos de Chavas,icandy, hot babes photos, sexy pics, Beautiful Women Photos, fotoblog, fotos de mujeres hermosas, photoblog, sexy girls, hotties, erotic, sensual, fotos cachondas
Videos Chistosos

Fotos de Chavas,icandy, hot babes photos, sexy pics, Beautiful Women Photos, fotoblog, fotos de mujeres hermosas, photoblog, sexy girls, hotties, erotic, sensual, fotos cachondas
Videos Chistosos

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Do Not Pave Conservancy Trails!

Mike and his Road bike. What? You don't recognize me?

I'll preface my comments regarding the Pheasant Branch Conservancy creek corridor trail by stating I'm an avid on-road and off-road bicyclist. I have a TREK road bicycle (pictured above) for exercise & recreation and a Schwinn hybrid for commuting and light trail duty. I'm also an avid birder and amateur ornithologist. While I'm a far cry from being anti-bicycle, I am staunchly pro-safety and pro-environment. As such, I'm sensitive to the sentiment recently expressed by Steve Leo, Middleton District 8 alderman, who was quoted in the Middleton Times Tribune saying, "Everyone here, myself included, has a carbon footprint the size of Bigfoot...we've got to do something to get folks out of their cars."

On at least one particular point, Steve and I are in agreement: it sure would be nice for more people to commute via bicycle, as we both do. Somebody has to get the green campaign rolling sometime, so it might as well begin with a trail for bicyclists that just so happens to run through one of the best places in southern Wisconsin to observe neotropical migratory songbirds. If we don't stop global climate change, birds will indeed suffer. What's the point of having any sort of nature trail if we allow the world and its critters to succumb to the destructive effects of climate change? There's a flip-side, however. Presently, the greatest cause of declines in bird populations is habitat loss and fragmentation, not global climate change. However, the latter is a deadly threat looming in the future for all the world's living things.

Having heated up the rhetoric with his torrid premise, Steve then attempts to redefine the argument (he is a politician, after all). In the Tribune article he goes on to say, "You purge bikes from the Pheasant Branch Conservancy forever, and our changing climate in the coming years will affect the Pheasant Branch wildlife." Could bicycling through Pheasant Branch really play such a pivotal role on its climate? One wonders just how many bicyclists Steve would like to see using the trails at Pheasant Branch Conservancy in order to circumvent this cataclysmic disaster. First of all, nobody I know, myself included, is calling for a ban on all bicycles from conservancy trails. Heck, I ride my hybrid bike on it all the time. Secondly, while it's certainly admirable to initiate an example for others to follow, it is truly naive to think Americans are anywhere close to ending their love affair with automobiles. If we don't start preserving more breeding and migration stopover habitat now, we won't have to worry about saving birds from global climate change in the future.

Enjoying the scenic commute via trail bicycle.

What Middleton's politicians seem to keep missing is an appreciation for the diversity of songbirds that use the creek corridor as a migratory pit stop. This is an important point, but no matter how many times I've presented it to Middleton, they just don't seem to appreciate how unusual it is to have over 30 different warbler species foraging in an urbanized natural area in May and September:

Blue-winged Warbler
Golden-winged Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Orange-crowned Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Cape May Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Pine Warbler
Palm Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Cerulean Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
American Redstart
Prothonotary Warbler
Worm-eating Warbler
Northern Waterthrush
Louisiana Waterthrush
Kentucky Warbler
Connecticut Warbler
Mourning Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Hooded Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
Canada Warbler

There's an enormous educational potential and tourism opportunity being missed; keep the creek corridor wild for the wildlife. Sustain it in the spirit of Aldo Leopold's land ethic as a bird & wildlife sanctuary than merely another well-groomed commuter trial. There are simply not that many places left in Wisconsin where so many different bird species can be observed in a relatively small area in such a short period of time. Though not as critical for nesting habitat by neotropical migratory birds, the creek corridor provides an excellent stopover point for them to rest and refuel for the next leg of their arduous journey. Over two hundred bird species can be observed at Pheasant Branch Conservancy; birds that spend winters in the Amazon Jungle; birds that nest in remote corners of the Boreal Forests in Canada. Isn't anyone else even remotely amazed by this!?

Blackburnian Warbler foraging along the creek corridor.

Does a sanctuary for wildlife exclude children, handicapped individuals, or bicyclists? The answer is a resounding 'no.' But is it necessary to despoil a trail so that the least advantaged among us can safely use it? Where else do we see this "for everyone" philosophy in public operation? Baseball diamonds? Swimming pools? Playground equipment? Contrary to some comments I received through my blog, children presently do just fine bicycling along the existing gravel trail. I have also observed people who are confined to wheelchairs use the trail and the only trouble I've witnessed them experience were at stream crossings (thankfully, the bridges will solve that problem). Will it be easier for them if paved? Sure, of course. But I wonder how comfortable Middleton's politicians will feel by exposing children and handicapped people to road bicyclists who are capable of reaching speeds in excess of 20mph on paved trails with blind corners.

There will be no more of this, my fellow birders!

I understand it's a grant from the Department of Transportation, but it's my opinion that widening and paving the creek corridor trail from Parmenter Street to Century Avenue will be a mistake and waste of money; money better spent on planting more native plants and shrubs on restored areas along the creek corridor, as well as stabilizing the stream bank from ongoing erosion. The existing gravel trail is more than suitable for accommodating popular mountain and hybrid style trail bikes. While birding, I have conducted dozens of interviews with other trail users; joggers, pedestrians, and other birders. They overwhelmingly prefer the gravel trail the way it presently is. Paving it is unpopular. Paving it is unnecessary. Paving the trail will open it to road bicycles, which are capable of going much faster than trail bicycles. Birding along the Capital City trail near Nine Springs (which is paved and serves as a model for the proposed trails in Middleton) can be a very nerve-racking experience on pleasant days when there is increased bicycle traffic.

As someone who spends nearly every morning and evening birding along the creek corridor trail for several hours at a time during migration, I'm concerned not only for myself, but also for my friends. It will be much more difficult for us while looking up into the trees with our binoculars to hear approaching bicyclists on a paved trail. My hearing is fine, but others I know who go there to bird are hearing impaired. Paved, though less of a concern, conducting nature photography will be substantially more difficult due to increased traffic. Paved, there's a greater chance recently fledged birds (and amphibians, mammals, etc.) that wander onto the trail will be severely injured or killed. As traffic has increased on the trail I'm finding more and more squashed frogs and toads during spring. Perahps worst of all, paved, it seems very likely to increase the probability of a pedestrian/bicycle collision around blind corners.

Mike McDowell

Addendum 08/05/2009:

On 08/04/2009, Middleton Common Council voted 6 to 2 in favor of awarding the contract to install the bridges at the remaining stream crossings and pave the trail (from Parmenter Street to Century Avenue).

All images © 2009 Mike McDowell

A Winner!

Courtesy of, we have a winner for the beyond lovely Tolani Scarf, and it's Heather!

Drop me a line with your contact info...and enjoy!