Category Archives: Felicity Aston

The Pencil Today:

TODAY’S QUOTE

“Being in politics is like being a football coach. You have to be smart enough to understand the game and dumb enough to think it’s important.” — Eugene McCarthy

SMALL TOWN HEARTS

One more observation from the sad tale of Diane Singleton, who was found dead near a creek Monday evening after wandering away from home earlier in the day.

More than 100 people volunteered to search for her Monday. The volunteers included friends, family, her fellow church-goers, her husband’s co-workers and students, and many others. Once again, Bloomington-folk have proven themselves to be caring and willing to go out of their way for their brothers and sisters.

Searching (photo by Jeremy Hogan/Herald Times)

Which is in stark contrast to the likely reaction of people in my old hometown Chicago. Sure, the word would have gotten around and people would have shaken their heads and clucked their tongues upon learning of the woman’s disappearance. “That’s a horrible shame,” a typical Chicagoan would have said. “I wish I could do something to help. Say, let’s get over to the Purple Pig for dinner — I’m dying to taste those prosciutto escarole bread balls.”

WON’T THEY EVER LISTEN?

A lesser human than I am would become frustrated.

Once again, the world is refusing to listen to me. I mean, I’ve got all the answers, which I gladly share with the Earth’s seven billion residents on a daily basis here.

See, I’ve harped on this too many times to count already. Still, people continue to waste their time and effort doing things that…, that…, well, that are stupid.

To wit: someone named Felicity Aston has become the first woman to ski solo across the Antarctic. I remind you that the Antarctic is more than a thousand miles wide. It is the world’s largest desert. Mean temperatures during the summer (it’s the equivalent of late July there right now) range from -5 to -31F.

Summer

Locations in Antarctica experience a phenomenon known as whiteout. Here’s a description from an Antarctica travel site (go figure): “”Whiteouts are another peculiar Antarctica condition, in which there are no shadows or contrasts between objects. A uniformly gray or white sky over a snow-covered surface can yield these whiteouts, which cause a loss of depth perception — for both humans and wildlife.”

Early explorers learned to keep an eye on their fellow travelers, looking for signs of disorientation due to hypothermia. People can literally go mad in the frigid air and the howling winds.

Bet you’re itching to click on that site so you can plan next January’s vacation, no?

It’s in this frozen hell that Felicity Aston decided to ski, alone, for 59 days, in order to get from one end of the continent to the other.

A continent, by the way, that’s fairly well mapped, considering there’s nothing there.

So Felicity Aston isn’t doing the world a favor by pushing into an unknown land, striving to discover new flora and fauna, hoping to learn something about the biome that might benefit civilization.

No. She skied 1,084 miles, dragging her supplies on a couple of sleds behind her because…, well, because.

Aston

NPR Morning Edition’s Steve Inskeep interviewed her this morning as she waited for the last flight out of Antarctica before the weather turns bad (turns bad?) for the year. She spoke of days when she was unable even to see her feet because of the driving snow. She could only keep her head down and watch her compass as she schussed across the ice shelf on those days.

Inskeep asked her if she was happy to get back to base camp and interact with people again after nearly three months of solitude. She replied, unsurprisingly, no. She did say, though, that she had to remind herself not to pee wherever she felt like it, as she did during her journey.

Nice of her.

At the conclusion of the interview, Inskeep told her, “Congratulations.”

Lucky I wasn’t the interviewer. I would have told her, “So what?”

FAVORITE SON

Mitch Daniels gave the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address to Congress last night.

When it comes time for the GOP to select a vice presidential candidate in August, the party could do a hell of a lot worse than Daniels. They probably will.

Daniels

WE TREASURE DAVID BAKER — BUT NOT AS MUCH AS…

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last few weeks, you know that David Baker celebrated his 80th birthday on December 21st.

The Indiana University and Bloomington communities have been toasting him since November. The Jacobs School of Music threw a gala birthday bash for him Saturday night at the Musical Arts Center. Speeches were made, Michael McRobbie presented Baker with the President’s Medal of Excellence, students and fellow faculty members serenaded him, a proclamation by Mayor Kruzan was read declaring January 21st David Baker Day in Bloomington, and the Jacobs School announced the establishment of the David Baker Jazz Scholarship.

Baker, natch, is a legend and one of the top people in his field in the world.

So, troublemaker that I am, I decided to check the Herald Times database of public employee salaries, just — you know — for kicks.

Baker, as near as I can determine, made nearly $147,000 as a professor in the jazz department at the Jacobs school last year.

Good. I’m glad he gets paid handsomely for his contributions to that peculiarly American art form. I hope that the residents of the planet Kepler 22b, when they finally translate our radio transmissions, hear some of Baker’s music. They’ll get a good first impression of our crazy, mixed up world.

And how crazy and mixed up is it?

IU football coach Kevin Wilson made half a mill last year for the singular accomplishment of leading the Hoosiers to a 1-11 record. Tom Crean, the basketball boss, made 600 Gs. Of course, Crean’s guys are a tad more adept than the gridders.

I’m just sayin’.

SUMMERTIME

Miles Davis plays George Gershwin‘s tune from the opera, “Porgy and Bess.”

That’s all I need to say.

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