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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Taking a Sick Day

I had originally planned this week on finally finishing some more of my draft topics that have languished for too long in the works. I was particularly interested in opining on the topic of education, given that my mind is once again occupied by the topic given that the winter semester is drawing to a close and I am finishing up with end of term duties. However, a nasty bout of the flu had other plans for me, and so I find the prospect of lounging on the couch watching mindless television and drinking hot water spiced with honey and cinnamon while feeling sorry for myself to be a much better choice in activity.

Luckily for me, my friend Ian has posted a recent essay he wrote on the subject of teaching style, so I can abdicate my responsibility to him for this week. Ian is currently in Korea as part of a program for international English teaching called TaLK. His essay has several interesting comments regarding the maturation of his teaching strategies over the course of his teaching term, and I think would be well worth checking out for anyone interested in teaching.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Cayo Largo, Part IV: Island Critters

In the middle of our vacation, Sarah and I went on a day-long boat excursion. In Cayo Largo Part III, I had promised to put up pictures and videos from the snorkeling we did while on the excursion, but I had forgotten that I first needed to put up a post about the first part of our excursion: Iguana Island. As always, click on the images for a larger size.

Our excursion started early in the morning. A bus picked us up at our resort and, after brief stops at a few other hotels to pick up some more people, drove everyone to the marina. We had arranged our excursion with the small catamaran option, meaning eight passengers and two crewmen. The captain was a short and lean man with wrinkled, leathery skin befitting a Cuban sea-captain. He sported mustache that was also quite fitting, and was very particular about the rule that no shoes were to be worn on the boat. I don't think the captain spoke a word of English, and aside from a few brief pantomimed conversations spent most of the trip stoically scanning the horizon oblivious to his small cargo of tourists.

Manuel, the first-mate, was young and jovial, and spent most of his time organizing our entertainment. Language was a bit of an issue - four of the other passengers were French-Canadian who had moderate Spanish (and Manuel appeared to be more comfortable with French than English), so they had no problem. However, the other two passengers were a Russian couple with no Spanish and only moderate English at best. I tried my best to help translate, but considering that I was already only getting about half of what Manuel said since his English explanations tended to be a bewildering blend of French, English, and Spanish, I really have to wonder how much managed to get passed along. In the end communication was not really all that vital since we mostly just had to keep our shoes off and watch the early morning sun track across the water.

After a brief trip, we arrived at our first destination of the day: Iguana Island. It is a small rocky island not far from Cayo Largo. As soon as we disembarked we were greeted by dozens of iguanas. Since it was still somewhat early in the morning most were content to simply bask in the sun, but there were a few who were curious about the ranks of tourists unloading on their island.

An iguana basking on the rocks.

One of the largest (and hungriest) iguanas we saw.

Although the massive numbers of iguanas were exciting enough, we quickly discovered that Iguana Island was also inhabited by another type of creature as well. There were several hutias ambling about on the island, seemingly perfectly at home with their reptilian compatriots. There are actually several species of hutia endemic to Cuba, so I am not sure which type were on the island.

A hutia hanging out in a shady patch.

A hutia and an iguana coexisting.

Finally, here is a short of video of one of the hutias walking about. The audio track was mostly just wind on the camera's microphone, so I cut it out entirely (so if you can't hear anything, don't worry; your speakers are probably still working just fine).

The next installment will finally get to the underwater critters from our snorkeling trip.

Mea Culpa

The other day I ended up browsing through the unfinished drafts on this site and realized that I had never finished the series of posts about the fauna encountered on our trip to Cuba. As it is now coming up to two years since that trip happened, I realize that finishing off that series is long overdue. So, I apologize for the outrageous delay, but at long last I will be finishing those posts off over the next few weeks.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Puzzle Number 16: Trip to Canada

Raylan is a young boy in Kentucky whose Uncle Olyphant has just returned from a trip to Canada. On the drive home from the airport, Raylan excitedly asked his uncle what he did.

"Well, son," Uncle Olyphant replied, "My first night was spent in a frigidly cold environment with a constant siren warning me to keep watch for polar bears. Needless to say, it was not a very pleasant time. However, my trip quickly got much nicer, as the next day I found a fancy golden dagger, and shortly after that I ran into a beautiful alabaster stallion. I went to a show which ended up being a fascinating musical number performed solely by a fellow's mouth, followed by a few days watching the largest species of European deer roam about the prairies. After that, I found the jaw of the largest deer in the world. The next day, to my surprise, I won a marvellous wooden cylinder which one can stick in the wall and hang a hat on. From there I went on to a recently established collection of stores to see if I could find any souvenirs for my favorite* nephew, but we'll talk about that a little more once we get home. The next thing I did was visit a trio of French rivers. A little farther along, once the river was mostly English again, I had to ford it in a location where it was full of voracious eels. Despite the danger, it was well worth it in order to get to a fascinating bay perfect for cattle. From there I caught a boat in order to go see a wall made entirely of maize, and finally ended the trip by visiting a large community of friendly and well-mannered dogs."

Raylan looked quizzically at his uncle. "That sure sounds like a nonsensical trip, Uncle Olyphant. Where in Canada did you go to do all of these things?"

Uncle Olyphant smiled and said, "Son, I've already told you."

Where did Uncle Olyphant go?

Solutions to the puzzle can be found here.

* Note the authenticity of his American speech with the lack of a 'u'.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Test Subjects Needed

There is a study on word associations being conducted which is trying to develop a large database of information. Gathering data online is always somewhat dubious, but nevertheless it is an interesting project. Participation is fast and actually fairly fun, so it is well worth checking out and filling in the words that come to mind. The one caveat is that you need to be a fluent English speaker, but if you are reading my blog chances are that is the case.