Year in Review 2008


I had a good year and hope you did too. My 2008 review is designed to be read in order or surfed. There are hyperlinks for additional discovery.
            Best wishes,

  Table of Contents for 2008 Review

 1. This Year's Card
 2. Contact Lens/Computer Science
 3. International Travel Summary
 4. Western Africa Trip
 5. Mexico Trip
 6. Libertarian Party
 7. Sons of the American Revolution
 8. Pacific Trip
 9. Summer Seminar
 10. Apple and the Digital World
 11. Circumnavigators
 12. Scholarships
 13. Family Tree
 14. Domestic Travel
 15. Balkans and Europe Trip
 16. Brazil Trip
 17. Argentina Trip
 18. Theater and Music
 19. Book Recommendations
 20. Exercise Program
 21. Heckle
 22. Other

This Year's Card

This year's e-card is the evocative Superman painting. I would like to learn the name of the artist to see more of their work. The painting captures some of the current zeitgeist. The painting has a patriotic theme and reminds us of the phrase "truth, justice and the American way." On the other hand, there is the feeling of magic that someone will come to rescue us. It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Congress sending us a check (and a bigger one to General Motors). But wait, where did Congress get the "free" money to send out? There is a problem with magic in the real world for adults.

50th Anniversary of Contact Lenses & 40th of Computer Science MS

October 2008 is my 50th anniversary of wearing hard contact lenses. In 1958, Eisenhower was President, and Castro was still a rebel in the mountains. Two doctors measured and re-measured my eyes for what seemed like an hour. The technology was new and not fully proved. I was an early adopter. My first pair of lenses cost $99, a lot of money in 1958. I continue to wear rigid gas permeable contact lenses updating them as technology progresses. Contact lenses really improved my vision and halted my progressive myopia. The last time I lost a contact lens was in 1960.

May 2008 is the 40th anniversary of my Masters degree in Computer Science. I was graduated from the University of Chicago in 1968. At that time there were very few books on CS, and most of what we studied were research papers or articles. I had written my first program in Fortran in 1964 when Bill Gates was still 8 years old and Steve Jobs was 9. Now Bill and I are in retirement, but Steve continues to reshape industries.

These anniversaries remind us how far ahead the USA was of other countries in 1958 or 1968. Now the gap has narrowed as they have acquired our technology coupling it with lower wages. To maintain our living standard, we must be on the cutting edge of technology. Specious arguments have blocked clean nuclear power for 35 years, putting us behind other countries. Equally disastrous, Congress believes it can/should pick the energy winners. Congress has massively subsidized ethanol which makes no economic sense, but has increased the cost of food. Why isn't Congress sending subsidies to Apple for iPods? Because the computer industry is the least regulated and most successful American industry. Free enterprise made the USA the envy of the world, not Congress rewarding its donors.

International Travel Summary

I achieved the gold level in the Travelers Century Club (TCC) and the platinum level in (MTP) in 2008. Out of 6,000,000,000 people in the world, I am now among the top 300 travelers on planet Earth.

See the summary of my 2008 travel. While visiting 27 TCC countries and a staggering 100 MTP locations this year, I took over 8,000 photos. Planning my 6 trips was a complex, time consuming process. These trips took 95 days of intense travel requiring over 100 flights, 10 trains, 4 ferries, 4 boat trips, and countless motor vehicles. I created just two trip reports in 2008: a slideshow on Midway Island and a report on Kosovo, the world's newest country.

My Kosovo report links to, which thanks countries that have recognized Kosovo's independence. It has a link to Kosovo's national anthem. This is gorgeous music, but the words are not written yet.

Travel of this scope and intensity is educational in the profoundest sense. My mind is filled with discoveries, surprising connections and indelible impressions. It is very difficult to explain the experience.

Western Africa Trip - January

After reviewing the 1835 photos I took on an intense 3-week trip to Western Africa visiting 10 countries, my head is spinning. How to explain this trip succinctly? First, you can see the list of countries, key statistics, links to maps, Wikipedia, etc., in my 2008 trip summary. I selected 10 photos, avoiding showing poor people, dirt and flies.

Goree Slaves Senegal Guard Mauritania Peace Corps  Gambia Roots Village Supreme Court

The trip covered the history of the slave trade including Gorée and St. James islands. During this trip and the 2007 trip, I have seen all of the important slave shipment hubs. If your ancestor came to the New World as a slave from Africa, the odds are high I have stood on the same ground they did. One drawing (see photo above. Note 160cm is just over 5 feet.) shows the brutal conditions in the slave ships except it does not include the human excrement. The colorful uniforms of the President Guards in Senegal show the French influence.

I talked to Nick Herbert, a very nice Peace Corps volunteer (photo) at the airport in Mauritania and learned about his daily life. He lives with a family in a remote village, speaks their language and eats what they do. He has lost 40 pounds so far. He teaches English, and I’m sure that his students will always remember him. He rarely sees his fellow volunteers. He earns $60 a month because he gets a hardship bonus for working in Mauritania. He has to spend money from his savings to afford to work for the Peace Corps. He has gotten a list of parasitic diseases (including schistosomiasis) that shocked me, but that he shrugged off. What blew me away was his comment that joining the Peace Corps was the best decision of his life. What a special country we live in to have people with this level of dedication & idealism.

In Guinea-Bissau, stamps were colorful like ones of Pope John Paul II & Marilyn Monroe, a distant cousin. One street was named for Ulysses S. Grant. I visited a hospital run by a witch doctor. You cannot imagine the conditions.

In Gambia, I took a boat trip to see the village (see photo above) made famous in Roots by Alex Haley who traced his ancestor Kunte Kinte there. The streets, then as now, are dirt. The irony of slavery: the descendants of slaves in America are so much better off than the descendants in Africa of the black enslavers.

In Sierra Leone, settled by black soldiers who fought with the British in the American Revolution, the display on the Amistad was compelling. Enslaved Africans took over a Spanish ship in 1839. When in U.S. custody, they got a top pro bono attorney to argue their case. He was a former President of the United States and the son of a Founder of the United States. His name was John Quincy Adams and he won the case decided by the U.S. Supreme Court (see photo above). The slaves were freed and returned to Africa. Please note this was before the American Civil War. I also visited the fascinating Tacugama chimpanzee sanctuary. See photo of John F. Kennedy’s statue below.

JFK Statue Liberia Art Liberia Monument Liberia Rape Sign  Melilla Building

Because freed American slaves settled it, I had long wanted to see Liberia. It’s capital Monrovia was named for President Monroe. Its independence monument (see photo above) lists a number of the planners of Liberia who are household names: Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Daniel Webster and Henry Clay. Freed slaves from America (see photo) regarded the local blacks as savages because they could not read and lacked shoes.

Liberia was an independent democratic country from 1847 until 1980 when Sergeant Samuel Doe staged a military take-over. After 14 years of on and off civil war, it is now returned to democracy. Mrs. Sirleaf, a Harvard trained economist, is Africa’s first female President and she is doing a good job. It is a tragedy to see the results of war in a poor country (see photo above). Half the people still do not have electricity 4 years after the war. The Firestone rubber plantation covers over 100 square miles and has been there over 80 years, but we were refused a tour because they were experiencing some labor problems on the day were arrived. Before the military takeover in 1980, Liberia had the best hotel and the best Masonic temple in West Africa; these are still impressive shells.

I visited the historical enclaves of Gibraltar, Ceuta and Melilla. The last two are Spanish enclaves in Morocco that are over 500 years old. Melilla is an architectural gem and I included a sample photo above.

Mexico Trip - February

Over the last 50 years, I have been to Mexico 10 times and visited 8 of its 32 states. In February I visited the remaining 24 by air and road. Three of us hired guides & drivers to cover Mexico. Some days we had two drivers & a guide.

Mexico is the 14th largest country by area and 11th by population with over 100 million people. The City of Mexico is the second largest in the world with 18 million people. Mexico’s mountains are over 18,000 feet. It is a kaleidoscope of geographic and ethnic diversity with colonial cities almost 500 years old. There is a lot to see.

Mexico has improved its roads, toilets and basic infrastructure. With its friendly & proud people and nice climate, it is an enjoyable and easy place to visit. I heard haunting music in the airport in Cabo San Lucas (Por ti volaré) that I added to my music video page. It's a Spanish video using Italian music that captures the romance of Mexico.

Mexico Cancun Mexico Volcano Mexico Contrasts Mexico City Mexico Street

Libertarian Party

Don Parrish and Bob Barr Wayne Root Don Parrish At the May Libertarian Party Convention in Denver, I was a delegate and was photographed with our Presidential candidate Bob Barr and VP Candidate Wayne Allyn Root. Libertarians are the choice of voters who want a smaller, more respectful government. This year over 500,000 voters cast their ballots for Barr & Root. This was over .4% of the vote for President.

Sons of the American Revolution

The Sons of the American Revolution, one of our oldest patriotic organizations, requires proof that an ancestor fought in the American Revolution for membership. April marked the end of my 5 rebuilding years as chapter President. The Fox Valley chapter, because of its great Board of Managers and activities, is often praised as the best chapter in Illinois.

My five years ended on an incredible high point: the commemoration of the 240th birthday of Israel Warner, the most important 9 year old in the American Revolution. In 2007 responding to the plea of his descendant, Rebecca Hougher, I located his grave. Then I worked with others to create the Israel Warner Commemorative Committee. This was an example of the genius of the American civil society, where individuals come together and pool their resources to do something they regard as important. The committee, working for a year, figured out how to restore the grave stones, design & obtain 5 new commemorative stones, design & produce the bronze historical marker, and plan & execute the ceremony. Each person on this committee made key contributions and the result was a wondrous patriotic experience for the 300 plus who attended the May 31st ceremony blessed by perfect weather.

The Daily Herald created this 3 minute video of the event. It is an easy way to get the feel for the pageantry, excitement and importance of this event.

John Reynolds Don Parrish Historical Plaque Warner Graves Israel Warner Stone Don Parrish Rebecca Hougher

There are over 200 additional photos of this event taken by Michael McMeans, Secretary of the Fox Valley Chapter.

Israel is buried with his daughter, son-in-law and two grandsons, both were named for soldiers who fought in the Revolution and both died due to their service in the Civil War. Those 5 graves are a piece of American history linking the American Revolution and the Civil War. Israel Warner lived to be 93 and died in 1862 during the Civil War, one of the last surviving soldiers of the Revolution. His restored stone is readable in excellent lighting.

Israel Warner (Read more information) went into the army at age 9, served for 6 years, and was honorably discharged as a Private at the end of the Revolution when he was 15. Israel Warner spoke to George Washington and we have some of the direct quotes. Read the amazing anecdote.

Israel and his father, Colonel Seth Warner, fought in the Battle of Bennington. Colonel Warner, who was greatly admired by George Washington, was considered a hero of this battle. His statue is next to the 306 foot monument to celebrate the victory. August 16th is still a legal holiday in Vermont.

Pacific Trip - June

I visited new 10 countries during my 25 day, 30,000 mile (50,000 kilometers) trip to the Pacific and Indian Oceans. In general, the Pacific is an area of peace and relative prosperity. English is widely spoken. Most of the countries I visited are under the influence of Australia. See my 2008 trip summary for key country data, maps and internet links.

I started by flying to Hawaii for a charter flight to Midway Island for the 66th anniversary of the pivotal battle of the Pacific during WWII. See my Midway slideshow that includes the famous gooney birds.

Tuvalu Flight Samoa Signpost Samoan Dancers Samoan High School Sex Sign Lord Howe Island

On the flight from Tuvalu to Fiji, the pilot invited me to fly in the cockpit (photo). I felt part of the crew. It was my first time to be in the cockpit on a commercial flight, and I joked with the pilot and co-pilot that the difference between us was that I was older than the plane, a Convair 580 built in San Diego in 1957.

Samoa was one of the highlights of my trip. The people in Samoa have a natural talent for singing. Samoa, Fiji and Tonga are the heartland of Polynesia. The signpost (photo) demonstrates that Samoa is a long way from everywhere. I stayed at the delightful Aggie Grey’s Hotel, named for a woman recognized by Queen Elizabeth for her WWII service. Her lovely granddaughter manages the hotel. The waiters perform war dances during the weekly show (photo).

Unfortunately, I lost my photos of the home of the famous author Robert Louis Stevenson. The outstanding guide explained that Mr. Stevenson spent the last 5 years of his life in Samoa before dying of TB at age 44. He negotiated with the German rulers improving the lot of the Samoans. He was a beloved figure to the Samoans. The guide had the tourists in tears with her description of his funeral where thousands of Samoan men standing in two rows past his coffin hand over hand to the top of a large hill where he was buried on his estate.

American Samoa with 57,000 people compared to 200,000 on Samoa, is well known for its Starkist tuna factory. The warning sign (photo) at a high school shows the local approach.

Lord Howe Island, the most beautiful island in the Pacific, has strict limits on the number of tourists and strong ecological protections. One photo cannot capture its well-groomed charm. I hiked up to the site of the plane crash in WWII as part of exploring the island. I stayed at the oldest hotel, the Pinetree Lodge with its homey atmosphere.

Tasmania Factory Perth Skyline Perth Street Statue Vanuatu Chief Rotuma Flight

Tasmania, long on my list of exotic places to visit, was fascinating. I took a tour of Mt. Wellington on a clear day, and before we could get to the top, we were in a sudden, brief snow storm for 30 minutes. The visit to the ruins of the female factory prison (photo) was sobering. It is painful to think of thousands of young women transported from England or Ireland to Tasmania in the 19th century for stealing a loaf of bread. Sometimes they did it to get sent out of England or Ireland because the conditions were so bad, and there were 10 times more men in Tasmania than women.

Perth is one of the most beautiful cities on the planet! Australia is in a resource boom. Lynn Cunningham, who I had hosted in Chicago ten years ago, treated me to dinner. She is a friend of my high-school classmate, Linda Cartledge Squire, who was away from Perth on a round the world trip with her husband.

Vanuatu was a interesting place to visit, and Port Vila is a classic small port. I was photographed with the hotel greeter, the son of a local chief. The hotel was open to the elements like the ones in Hawaii. An Australian TV crew was filming a race scene on the streets when I walked into town.

Christmas and Cocos Islands are in the Indian Ocean and it takes a lot of flying to see them. Likewise, Rotuma, one of the remote out islands in Fiji, is almost 3 hours from the main island. The woman at the airport was reading Rick Warren’s book, A Purpose Driven Life. The small plane with 6 passengers had a female pilot (photo) for its weekly flight to Rotuma. The monthly supply ship was being repaired and the people were low on food.

Summer Seminar - July

John Stossel I attended the 19th annual summer seminar of the Atlas Society: The Center for Objectivism. This year it was held in July at Portland State University in Portland, Oregon. I always look forward to these intellectually stimulating week-long conferences on philosophy and its application to today's world. They attract interesting, thoughtful people: new friends and old friends. One participant satirized college students who wear Che Guevara T-shirts by educating them to basic facts.

John Stossel John Stossel After the conference, I went mountain climbing with Dave Saum and two of his friends. Our target was Mount St. Helens, site of the famous volcanic explosion. We did a pre-visit during the conference to check the logistics. See how good the weather is in the first photo. However, when we arrived at 6am on Sunday to get our license for the climb it was raining. We had to contend with snow/ice from the start at 3,000 feet. In spite of the difficulties, we got half way up spending 8 physically demanding hours on the mountain. As the photo shows the 4 of us were a team! (See Dave's photos.) It was a great adventure. After the climb, we treated ourselves to a hot springs spa massage at the historic St. Martin hotel & spa.

I frequently attend the monthly discussions of the New Intellectual Forum on Objectivism or current topics. These are great discussions conducted in a salon type atmosphere. Marsha Enright, who heads the NIF, is working on a project to create the College of the United States thru the Reason Individualism Freedom Institute.

Apple and the Digital World

MacPlusiPhone 3G

I bought my first Mac in 1986. It was one of the best decisions of my life. This year the evolution all came together. Now my computers and cell phone are integrated. My life is easier. Thank you Steve Jobs!!!!

My 1986 Mac Plus cost over $3,000 and had 1 Meg of ram memory. My 2008 iPhone 3G cost $300 and has 16 Gigs of memory. This is a price-performance improvement of 160,000 times. Do the math. Price improvement of 10 to 1 and a memory improvement of 16,000 to 1. (Was there an improvement in government in that period? What if Apple and the computer people were working on health care and world peace instead of the lawyers in Congress?)

This year saw the replacement of my last non-intel Mac with another stunning and totally quiet 20 inch iMac, a capacity upgrade of my laptop's disk, upgrading of all my Macs to OS X Leopard, replacement of my old Airport, that provided reliable Wifi 24x7 for 8 years, with a Time Capsule, and a conversion to the iPhone 3G! Life is good.

The Time Capsule is Apple's way simplfying your life by wirelessly backing up all of your Macs on one device, a combination server-grade disk plus a wifi router. Finally, a simple solution to backups. I got the one terabyte version.

The iPhone is the swiss army knife of integrated electronics: a GSM phone that works in 200 countries, a camera, a mini Mac OS X computer to browse the internet or do e-mail, a GPS device to locate yourself and get directions, an iPod for music and books, photo storage, your calendar and address book, and the app store.

The killer app is the app store. There are currently 10,000 applications and they have been downloaded 300,000,000 times so far. Applications are downloaded wirelessly and many are free with the rest being inexpensive. For example, Shazam, a free app, is instinguishable from magic. It can determine the name of a song by just listening to it.

With an iPhone is there is no need to read a manual. It is intuitive. All you need is a 5 minute demo. You really owe it to yourself to get a demo at an Apple or AT&T store. I got the 16G version in white with a black leather belt case.

Windows users keep moving to Macintosh. Here is a place to get started. You owe it to yourself to visit an Apple store. The latest version of OS X, called Leopard, can also run Windows application programs at their native speed.

This year on I added quick links and redid my Photos with Famous People page.


Dave Gotaas Don ParrishThe Circumnavigators Club is an organization for people who have made a trip around the world. I'm a life member and remain active in our local Circumnavigators chapter. I have served on the Board for over 10 years, and am the Webmaster. I also serve on the subcommittee that selects our Foundation Scholar each year. We send a Junior from Northwestern University on a 3 month round the world trip to pursue research of their choosing. Here I'm with a fellow officer, Dave Gotaas at our September event. He and I traveled to Kosovo and the Balkans just a few weeks later.


I have permanently endowed 3 scholarships. The Anderson Scholarship, awarded initially in 1998, honors my mother, Herdis Anderson Parrish. The Parrish Electrical Engineering Scholarship, awarded initially in 2008, honors my father, Donald M. Parrish. The Parrish Computer Science Scholarship, awarded initially in 2001, was established in my name. Each of these scholarships is awarded to a college freshman each year. I have no control over the selection of these excellent students, but I hope, that these scholarships in some small way, help them launch their careers.

Here are the 2008 winners. Click on their name to get more information about them. Click on their photo to enlarge.

Jeremy Bruecken Emily Russell Jessica Skelton
Jeremy Bruecken
Emily Russell & Don Parrish Jessica Skelton

Family Tree

Cortlan PJ Cortlan Jim Ashley McAndrew DNATest2008

In September, I made my annual trip to Texas. In Burleson, I visited my nephew PJ (Philip C. Parrish, Jr.), his wife Amy and their son, Cortlan. Cortlan is a 9 year old, who is in his video game phase (It will probably be over by the time he is 50.) Here he is with his father dueling it out in a video war game. The family got AT&T U-verse service, and has been pleased with it. This triple-play service is not yet available where I live.

In Austin, I visited my cousin Ashley and her husband Jim. They are in the finishing phases of their first real estate project. It was exciting to see how much they have accomplished since last year.

To help the The Parrish DNA Project, I took a DNA test in the fall. According to Stephen Parrish, one of the administrators, my test was further proof that the New England Parrish branch is different from the Maryland branch. There are 3 distinct Parrish branches in America.

This year I discovered more famous cousins. One discovery was especially meaningful to me. I am a distanct cousin of Israel Putnam, a major military figure in colonial history, who became a Major General in the American Revolution. Seth Warner thought so much of this man that he named his first son, Israel Putnam Warner!

Another newly discovered distant cousin was so important in 2008 that the news media had to work to destroy her. She and I share several common ancestors including Richard Warren on the Mayflower. If you want to check your guess, check the historical section on my famous cousins page.

Domestic Travel

Don Parrish and Christopher Hitchens Fran Holt Bob Barr Dave Wahlstedt Richard Lynn Latimer Dan Darlene Kellner

On April 3, I drove to Grand Rapids, Michigan to see a Hitchens vs. Hitchens debate. Christopher Hitchens debated his brother, a well known journalist in England, on religion and the Iraq War. I see Hitchens occasionally on TV and admire his knowledge and reasoning skills. He is a give-no-quarter debater! During the reception line afterwards, I had a chance to give Christopher my card with a link to my report on North Korea. He remarked that put us in rare company and promised to have a look. See photos of some of the other famous people I have met.

In May, at the Libertarian Party convention, I took this good photo of my 11th cousin Fran Holt and Bob Barr, the Presidential candidate. It was a real opportunity to see old friends I hadn't seen in many years.

In August, I visited dear friends Richard and Lynn Latimer at their dream home in Verona on a wooded lot they moved into in 2008. Sad to see them leave Chicagoland, but now they are closer to children & grandchildren.

In August, I visited Dave Wahlstedt, his wife Gretchen and their two bright children at Pipe Lake in Wisconsin. I failed to take a family photo. Here is a good shot of Dave while he was preparing the camp fire for cooking.

In September, I visited my old neighbors Dan and Darlene Kellner that I hadn't seen in a decade at their lovely home in Texas. They have a nice swimming pool. Both their sons, born when they lived next door to me, are now grown men. One is serving in Iraq. Darlene has created amazing scrapbooks of his military services.

I also visited the QuadraSpec shareholder meeting in West Lafayette, IN in May and the New Orleans Investment Conference in November, where the bearish predictions of years past were proven right in 2008.

Balkans and Europe Trip - September/October

My 4 week trip to Europe included postage stamp-sized countries, enclaves, Rome, and the Balkans. This was one of the most educational trips I have taken. It is very frustrating to pick 10 photos out of over 2,000.

San Marino Tower Kosovo Posters Kosovo Couple Kosovo Skanderberg Statue Montenegro Beach

I landed in Zurich and took 2 trains & a Rhine boat to Büsingen, a German enclave surrounded by Switzerland. Then trains to delightful Liechtenstein that also borders on the Rhine. Then trains to Lugano for a boat to the Italian enclave, Campione d’Italia, surrounded by Switzerland. There were posters for a Liza Manelli show at the Casino.

Then 2 more trains to the unique and special San Marino, the oldest sovereign state and constitutional republic in the world. Christian stonemasons fleeing Rome founded it in 301. Its constitution from 1600 is the oldest constitution still in use. In 1861, San Marino made Abraham Lincoln an honorary citizen and they are still using quotes from his reply in their tourist brochure. I attended their investiture ceremony on October 1st. This was a thrilling visit.

In Rome, I visited the Sovereign and Military Order of Malta, probably the world’s smallest sovereign territory. I did a re-visit to the Treasures of the Vatican and I climbed hundreds of steps to get to the top of Saint Peter's for a great view of the eternal city. I also made a re-visit to one of the most amazing buildings in the world, the Pantheon.

From Rome I flew to Pristina, Kosovo via Budapest. A set of circumstances made this an exceptional visit I will always remember. See my separate report on Kosovo that declared its independence from Serbia on Feb 17, 2008.

From Kosovo, we took a two-hour ferry to Albania. I was there in 1995 soon after years of communist misrule so I was impressed by all of the progress. We visited tourist sites associated with the national hero, Skanderbeg.

From Albania, we drove along the Adriatic coast to Montenegro visiting the walled city of Kotor, then to Crotia to see the world famous Dubrovnik, now restored from the Serbian shelling in the 1990s. The Adriatic was dominated by the ancient Romans. I flew to Pula to see one of the best-preserved Roman colisseums, the wonderful Arena.

Istria Pula Arena Mostar Bridge Diver Sarajevo Museum Tall Serb Monk Serb Guide

In Bosnia, we visited Mostar that still shows the damage inflicted by the Serbs. The famous bridge has been restored. It really takes guts to jump off the bridge into the shallow river, but young men from a sports club do it for money.

In Sarajevo that I had visited in 1984, I was eager to see again the steps in the street where the assassin, a local patriot Gavrilo Princip, stood when he killed the Archduke Ferdinand and his wife Sofia. In fact, I was out in the rain at night looking for the steps in the pavement when a local man explained the situation to me. In 1992 when the Serbs started raining thousands of shells down on Sarajevo from the hills, the steps were cut out of the pavement because the view of Princip totally changed. Now he is considered a Serbian terrorist. His name was stripped off the bridge and his treatment in the museum was re-focused.

We drove thru Republic Srbska, the Serb speaking portion of Bosnia, on our way to Serbia where we visited the Studencia monastery. In medieval times, this was the spiritual, religious and political center of Serbia. A young Serbian man (photo) became our guide. He was an intense guy who frequently bowed on the floor and kissed the stones.

Brazil Trip - November

I visited Brazil several times in the past 35 years. In 2008, I visited 23 Brazilian states for the first time. Brazil has a land area nearly the size of the USA. Its population of 190 million is half of the total population of South America.

Brazil is a country moving up and has made progress reducing poverty and crime. For most of the past 3 years its currency has gained strength against the U.S. dollar – astonishing success for Brazil that destroyed two of its currencies by inflation since my first visit. Their political class has finally learned a strong currency is essential to a robust economy.

Car with Natural Gas Recife Airport Brasilia Model Rio Branco Bridge  Feeding Bird

Most of the cars in Brazil can run on natural gas, gasoline or ethanol made from sugar cane. The photo shows how a car is tanked up with natural gas. A female attendant lifts the car hood, grounds the pressurized natural gas cable and throws a switch. Moving cars can switch from natural gas to gasoline with a flip of a switch.

Unlike government-subsidized ethanol made from corn in the United States that makes no economic sense, ethanol made from sugar cane is a competitive product in Brazil. Two and a half times more land is required to produce the same amount of ethanol from corn than sugar cane.

Major airports in Brazil have good shopping, good food, good service and clean toilets. In the photo, a female Santa on roller skates serves typical food at one of the restaurants in Recife. Airline on-time performance needs work.

Brasilia, capital since 1960, was educational to visit. Like all planned cities, it lacks a certain dynamic quality, but has a lot of greenery. It is a popular place to live. The original government employees are still in their condos so current government employees have to live in the ring cities. This has created unforeseen traffic jams. The model of Brasilia in the museum shows the scope of the ambitious plan.

Brazil is a vast country with a wide variety of geography. There is much to see. The photo shows me in front of a large statue by a pedestrian bridge over the Rio Branco. Note the curved design. Brazilians like a sense of style.

Brazil owns 3 islands in the Atlantic Ocean. Fernando de Naronha is a tourist favorite: dolphins, gourmet food, scuba diving, old forts, beaches, etc. The photo shows a wild bird being hand fed. I spent 2 days there.

Argentina Trip - November/December

I made my first trip to Argentina 35 years ago. This time I visited 19 provinces for the first time. Argentina has a beautiful & varied landscape, sophisticated cities, and lingering issues from the Peron era. It's great to see by car.

1976 Massacre Cactus Mountains Israel Street Evita Grave

An example of political legacy problems was this memorial to the 22 victims of the 1976 massacre in Margarita Belen in Chaco Province. We saw it as we were being driven along the good highways, and stopped to take pictures.

Argentina has a varied landscape and it could be called the big sky country because of the fantastic cloud displays. Two photos show an example of a salt flat and driving in the mountains literally above the clouds.

Argentina has European cities with tree-lined streets. One was named for the State of Israel in Mendoza. December 1, 2008 was the 95th anniversary of the subway in Buenos Aires. It was the first subway in South America, the Southern Hemisphere, the Spanish-speaking world, and only the 13th in the world. On the same day I was photographed in the art-filled Recoleta Cemetery where many of the famous people of Argentina are buried including Eva Peron.

Theater and Music

In February along with Delta Greene and Don & Mary Brown, I saw Othello in the delightful Shakespeare theater in Chicago. In November, we were back to see the compelling Amadeus. The Shakespeare theater on Navy Pier is a gem. The productions are both high quality and fun. This is classic theater enjoyed with super people.

In Dubrovnik, Croatia, I enjoyed an evening of classical music at an affordable price. With a standing-room-only ticket, you could sit in any empty seat as the the performance began. I sat in the middle of the front row at half price!

Book Recommendations

These 14 books enriched my life in 2008. The book titles are linked to Amazon. I "read" most of these book by listening to them on my iPhone after downloading them from You can listen while walking!

My top recommendation is a book about the earth, the universe, life, the history of science, etc. It will restore your of childhood wonder. Highly recommended for everyone. Fun anecdotes keep this book moving. It is a joy.

These 3 spy thrillers by Vince Flynn about CIA agent Mitch Rapp are highly recommended. These are good vs. evil page turners about Islamic terrorists with complex plots and interesting characters. Flynn has a taut writing style coupled with high-concept plots. Great adrenaline-charged reading.

  • Consent to Kill by Vince Flynn. These are a great trio listed in the order written.
  • Act of Treason by Vince Flynn. These are a great trio listed in the order written.
  • Protect and Defend by Vince Flynn. These are a great trio listed in the order written.

These 3 detective thrillers by Nelson Demille about New York detective John Cory assigned to the terrorist task force are highly recommended. Demille is a writer that can handle large themes and small details. He can be adrenaline-charged or analytical, and likes to flesh out his characters.

  • The Lion's Game by Nelson Demille. Read this one first.
  • Night Fall by Nelson Demille. This is best read second.
  • Wildfire by Nelson Demille. This completes the trio.

These 3 recommendations are about an individual person on a mission. The missions are wildly different, but the spark of the individual spirit is the theme that makes them all uplifting.

  • Outwitting History by Aaron Lansky. He was on a mission improbable to save all of the world's Yiddish books, but learned much more.
  • The Life of Pi by Yann Martel. This is an off-beat story that defies conventional categories. It starts slowly, but then grips you. It is an enriching book.
  • One Thousand White Women by Jim Fergus. May Dodd is one of those admirable characters that you want to cheer for.

These 2 recommendations are about history. They are not very long, and they are interesting & illuminating.

  • What Went Wrong? by Berhard Lewis. This balanced & dispassionate book explains how Islamic civilization, once far ahead of the West, fell behind and continues to fall further behind. You will learn new connections that will make current events in the Middle East more intelligible.
  • The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli. This is a book you may have intended to read, but never did. It is a short explanation of how to get and keep power. I listened to it on the train in Italy.

These 2 recommendations are about science for those interested in cosmology/physics or language/thinking.

  • A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking. Hawking covers the major topics of physics and cosmology that are at the center of science today for the non-scientist.
  • The Stuff of Thought by Steven Pinker. How does our brain actually work? What does the study of languages reveal about the human nature across different cultures?

Exercise Program

Pedometer New Year's Resolution Idea: 51 months ago, I got an Omron HJ-112 pedometer and my (achieved) goal is to average 10,000 steps a day (almost 5 miles or 8 kilometers). In 2008, I had another perfect year averaging over 10,000 steps a day each month. Given my heavy travel schedule, it can be a challenge, but I make getting my steps a priority. You can click the spreadsheet to enlarge it to see my day by day results. I'm proud of myself for getting regular exercise. Some people have followed my example. Walking is an easy way to get more exercise.

The beauty of a pedometer is that it converts all exercise to a common unit. The Omron pedometer is a handy device that I clip on my belt in the morning and take off at night. It stores 7 days worth of step counts. You can buy it some drugstores or from Amazon using the link above. It is an easy way to motivate yourself to exercise.

While I'm walking, I frequently listen on my iPhone to courses from the Teaching Company or to books from has the recommended books above so it is easy to enjoy them while walking.


CicadasHeckle was a friend's bird, but I had a special feeling for this little Cockatiel. For some reason, Heckle must have liked my laugh because he taught himself a passable immitation. He could recognize me. I was surprised and pleased. Of course, I thought he was a very smart and special bird for doing this. When I read that birds were descended from dinosaurs, I believed it because Heckle was such a fiercely independent creature. Heckle died this year over 100 in bird years. I miss him. Recently, there was an article about bird intelligence in the book Alex and Me. A scientist trained a gray parrot to communicate using a 100 word vocabulary. Alex was special enough to get on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.


In February, a friend of mine, John Lewin had an unusual pain in the center of his abdomen. He thought about ignoring it, but decided to call his doctor. When he explained the pain was now moving down on the right side, his doctor told him to go to the emergency room. There a CT scan confirmed he had appendicitis, and he was taken immediately into surgery. He had a laparoscopic appendicectomy. What great medical facilities we have in the USA.

Flat RoofIn September, I had the flat portion of my roof completely replaced. This is part of the joy of home ownership!

In the Fall of 2006 at O'hare airport, I started on the series of Sudoku books by Michael Rios: White Belt (Easy). Last year, I finished that book, and completed the Green Belt (Not so Easy). This year I finished the last half of the Brown Belt (Hard) book. I also finished the 300 puzzles in Black Belt (Super Tough). I'm proud to have finished all 4 books.

I enjoyed season II of Tudors on Showtime. Sex, politics, and religion plus lots of costumes make for good viewing.

The HBO miniseries on John Adams made the difficulties and the importance of this period of American history come alive. The scene between John Adams and King George was a jaw dropper. Little John Quincy Adams, who freed the enslaved men on the Amistad 60 years later, has some classic scenes too. I highly recommended the series.

All the best to you in 2009!