Sunday, May 31, 2009

Local teen headed to Ivy League on triangle scholarship

Local musician Tim Herman, 18, of Center City, is headed to Princeton University on a triangle scholarship this coming fall. The dedicated member of the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra has been dazzling audiences throughout the country and Canada since he was 8 years old.

Herman began learning the instrument—usually shaped like a 3 or 4-sided triangle—when he was only six and began performing solo concerts only two years later. By the age of 12 he had played Radio City Music Hall, The Academy of Music, The Kimmel Center and the Mann Center for the Performing Arts all as a soloist.

"At first I kept pushing him to play the violin, I mean, really pushing him, but he had this gift and we didn't know what to make of it at first. We wanted to encourage him the best we could," said the musician's father, Jim Herman.

"Though he is only called upon to ring the triangle, maybe, four or five times over the course of a performance it's unlike anything I've ever heard," said the Youth Orchestra's Maestro Timothy Di Angelo.

It has been nearly fifty years since Princeton University awarded a musical scholarship to a triangle prodigy. In 1962 Verna Diller received a full scholarship from the Ivy League school for her masterful work on the triangular-shaped instrument. She was 12 years old at the time.

"We present 20-30 music scholarships a year, but rarely to a percussion triangle performer," said Princeton's Gail Underwood, Dean of the College of Music, who appeared surprised that Diller was the last recipient.

"When I turned 13 everyone kept telling me that I would have to change instruments or add an instrument, or two, to receive a college scholarship. I love the triangle and I wanted to prove them all wrong," said Herman.

During his four years at Princeton Herman will study under the famed trianglist Arthur Von Gelpin. Gelpin, 67, from Hamburg, Germany, has won every award a percussionist can obtain, including the Arthur Von Gelpin Award in 2007.

Herman will tour Europe this summer playing in Paris, London, Madrid, Barcelona and The Hague. The young performer hopes to be playing the National Anthem in London for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Canada's largest territory awaits word on NHL franchise

The NHL's Phoenix Coyotes are in danger of moving from the Valley of the Sun to the Valley of the Nun. Nunavut that is. Nunavut is Canada's largest territory or province and is bordered to the west by the Northwest Territories, Manitoba Province and Hudson Bay to the south and numerous waterways to the east and north.

"When Hudson Bay is to the south you know you are almost as far north as you can go," said Nunavut resident Julie Bernstein, 56.

Specifically, the bankrupt team could wind up in the capital of this wild landscape—Iqaluit. The city sits on Forbisher Bay and, though it was originally founded as an American military base, has become known as the largest exporter of ice in the world. For eleven months of the year 8 of the world's 10 largest ice exporting companies ship frozen water all over the globe.

Iqaluit is overflowing with ice money and billionaire David Brennen, CEO of Fro-Zen Master, Inc. and its 500 employees, is leading the investment team that will bring the Coyotes to Nunavut.

"I sold ice cubes as a boy here then I carved figurines from the cubes," said the gregarious Brennan. "That's how I started out."

To become home to an NHL franchise the league requires that an arena with at least 17,000 seats must already exist or be under construction. Iqaluit city officials say that constructing the stadium is not a problem, but filling could be.

"The city has roughly 6,000 people, but that won't stop us from welcoming a team. There may be a lot of empty seats but we'll be loud," said Iqaluit mayor Jim Billingsly.

It is expected that with so much corporate ice money in this hockey-crazed city that most fans will watch games from the arena's luxury boxes.

With only a small local airport visiting teams would have to be brought in by ice road truckers—truck drivers who literally ride on roads of ice—from Quebec Province. (The History Channel is salivating from possible future episodes.) NHL officials foresee no problems transporting players on a 9-hour drive over unstable ice shelves.

"It's safe," said the mayor. "To give you an idea of how cold it is here, and thus, how hard the ice is, we vacation to Quebec City in February to escape the cold. It is [Quebec City] our Florida."

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Yesterday, in downtown Phoenix, AZ, angry Coyote fans held up signs reading, "We'll have None-avut." The group asked passing cars to honk if they wanted the Coyotes to remain in Arizona.

"There were an awful lot of beeping," said Susan Tuffnil, 38, of Glendale, AZ. "I lost count after 20 or so. And they were the good kind of beeps."

The NHL expects to decide by the end of June on the status of the franchise formerly known as the Winnipeg Jets. What will the new name of the team be you ask? The Nunavut Ice, of course.

"We chose Nunavut in hopes that all of the territory's 30,000 residents will get behind the team," said Brennan.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Mem-Oreo Day? Cookie fast becoming staple at BBQ's

One of the only foods to begin and end in the letter 'o' is moving from late night snack to crucial cookout component. Oreo cookies have long been viewed as the partner to a glass of milk sought sometime after dinner, but the chocolate sandwich cookies with the vanilla center have recently been showing up next to, and in, cheeseburgers and hot dogs. That is correct. Before being placed on the grill hamburger meat is often rolled with an Oreo inside of it and, in the crushed form, the cookie acts as a topping for hot dogs. "We just love it. We put Oreos in salads and coleslaw and ... this is embarrassing, but I even put crushed Oreos on my Oreos," said Viera Hannerhan, 47, of Doylestown, PA, who entertained 25 relatives at a barbecue earlier today. Nabisco, the maker of the cookie, plans to introduce a spreadable Oreo topping, in a squeezable container, with a ketchup-like consistency for the Fourth of July holiday. So popular is the new bbq accessory that the Phillies toyed with the idea of having Dollar Oreo Night in conjunction with tonight's Dollar Dog Night, but nixed the idea last week. "We weren't able to secure 400,000 Oreos with such short notice," said a team rep.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Vowel play? 'E' stolen in broad daylight

Above, workman posing as real "letter washers" remove the final 'E' in Yankee from New Yankee Stadium's large sign overlooking the grand home plate entrance. "They said they were here to wash the letters and that I should worry about concessions if I knew what was good for me," said Yankee Stadium concessions manager, Tim Worrly, after confronting the crew. Normally, each letter is removed once a week—by two large helicopters—and taken to an undisclosed site in northern New Jersey to be thoroughly washed and detailed. The cleanings usually take place on Monday's, but this "cleaning" occurred on Wednesday. The Yankees have spared no expense with the new ball field. The organization did not realize they were being robbed until it was determined the helicopters were flying south toward Philadelphia. This weekend's Phillies-Yankees series will not be moved to Citizens Bank ParkE as was first believed. Police have no leads on the letter's whereabouts. The Yankees have not issued a statement, but third baseman, Alex Rodriguez offered to personally place the vowel back in it's intended spot once recovered. "I'll just carry it on up there," said Rodriguez.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Minnesota may force changes in business names

The Minnesota government in St Paul is considering a bill that, if approved, would regulate the names of new and existing businesses in the gopher state. The bill is aimed at 'and son' businesses, which are usually formed by a surname followed by 'and Son(s).' Specifically, the law targets surnames that end in -son.

For example, Samuelson & Son, Peerson & Son, Gustavson & Son, Benson & Son, Mathieson & Son, Anderson & Son and Emanuelson & Son are a handful of business names in Minnesota that would be affected if passed. If the state has their say the above companies must use 'and relative(s)' in place of 'and son(s)' or eliminate the 'son' from the surname (Ander and Son). Confused yet?

"It's redundant and there are quite a few of them in the state," said Minnesota state senator, Mike Holst. "It's confusing to customers. Why can't the 'son' in the last name double for the 'and son?' Ander&son would work fine."

The vote will take place in several weeks and has much of the state's 'and son' owners extremely upset.

"We've been Anderson & Son for 54 years," said funeral director Colson Anderson who has three daughters, and no sons, all of which are not active in the organization. "Anderson & Relative just doesn't sound right."

Hence, another issue that concerns the state is that an estimated 40% of these 'and son' businesses do not have a son involved at all in the day-to-day operation of the business.

Sonnerson and Son, Inc in Bells Mills, MN, a lake counting firm, contains three 'sons' in its name and in only a month or so could see its new name be reduced to simply ... Son, Inc.

The name restrictions would not include surnames ending in -sen or -sin. 'And Child' may also appear in the name but not 'And Children.' The state claims this law proposal was not in any way inspired by South Dakota's recent approval of a similar bill.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Phils mum on number choice for Obama jersey

The Phillies visited the White House and President Barack Obama on Friday as is tradition for World Series Champions. During the meeting shortstop Jimmy Rollins presented Obama with an authentic jersey and team-autographed ball.

The home jersey was personalized on the back reading Obama and, curiously, the number 44. Why did the team choose 44? What was the significance? Did Obama choose the number? Did the president wear the number as an athlete?

"I don't want to get into all that," said Phillies president, David Montgomery concerning the choice of number.

Asked several times to comment Phillies manager, Charlie Manuel, finally presented his theory to reporters about the selection.

"[JA] Happ is number 43 and [Ryan] Madson has number 46," explained the manager.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Preakness braces for cat-trained mini horse

Seventeen-inch Bundle of Thunder, one of the world's smallest horses (pictured above), will take part in this weekend's 134th Preakness in Baltimore, MD. The miniature horse is only the second smallest ever to participate in the race, the second in the Triple Crown series. (In 1879 Copper Penny measured 16 inches tall and placed third.) The bigger story, however, may be that the tiny horse was trained by the up-and-coming cat horse trainer Kitty Baffert (pictured below with future Kentucky Derby runner Summer Squall in 2008). "I think [Bundle of Thunder] has a great shot. We've been working really hard. It's all about stride," said the cat horse trainer. The mini horse must take 34 strides to equal one stride of the competing horses.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Dubai to buy London, host Super Bowl?

With the announcement last week that the NFL is considering holding its championship game overseas in London other international cities have begun to show interest in hosting America's most popular sporting event.

The Super Bowl has never been held outside of the United States and, if it happens, the two most logical host cities should be, taking into account the time difference issue, either Toronto or Mexico City. So many fans and players were surprised, to say the least, at London being named a leading candidate for the game. (Hmmm, February in London or Miami?)

The NFL has hinted that the first international Super Bowl would be held in an English or Spanish-speaking city. The league, therefore, has politely turned down significant interest from Dubai, Paris, Beijing, Stockholm, Tokyo, Reykjavik and Perth.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, however, has now indirectly reentered the picture as a possible host city for the Super Bowl. The city, which has profited enormously from UAE's oil reserves, has publicly stated it will buy any city that is awarded the game, dismantle the city, transport the city and reassemble the city in Dubai to host the Super Bowl.

After the game concludes Dubai will also cover the cost of returning the city to its original country. This is a herculean effort to host a 60-minute sporting event.

"If it happens to be London then ... we will buy London, then move London here to host the Super Bowl," said Said Adem, a Dubai sports and recreation department official. "We have indoor skiing for Pete's sake. I think we can pack up and move an entire city."

"There's nothing we can do about it," said NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell. "We have to go to where the host city is at the scheduled time of the game."

Last month Dubai began constructing Super Bowl Island in the shape of the Vince Lombardi Trophy in the warm Persian Gulf waters just off the coast adjacent to The Palm Dubai islands (pictured above). The $12 billion project was meant to show NFL executives that Dubai was, in fact, serious about hosting the game.

The island--actually a series of over 250 smaller islands--will include an 85,000-seat stadium and one medium-sized rental villa for each fan attending the game. The islands will all be lined with beaches containing only the highest quality sand. Each grain will be hand picked and trucked one-grain-at-a-time from UAE's deserts to the project site. During transport each grain will be engraved with an NFL factoid, which fans can read using Super Bowl Island's beach microscopes.

(Three years ago Dubai attempted to host an NFL preseason game and created a small island named: NFL Preseason Game Island. The NFL was not impressed, even by the island's 65,000-seat stadium built solely for an NFL preseason game. The league chose not to hold a game in UAE and Dubai later apologized saying that "it really was a very small island.")

The earliest an international Super Bowl could be held is 2013, as each American venue to hold the game has been chosen through 2012. Dubai has made it clear that, should Super Bowl Island be completed before 2013, that it would not purchase and relocate an American city "out of respect for the game."

"In 2012 the Super Bowl is in Indianapolis and [Dubai Sports Managers] all agreed that even though [Indianapolis] is a smaller city, thus making relocation easier, we would not buy it and move it here," said Adem.

Dubai's sports and recreation department along with Dubai Sports Managers--a group that brings sporting events to the city--are very optimistic that the rapidly growing metropolis will one day welcome an NFL Championship game.

"Oh, we'll definitely be hosting the game sometime soon," said Adem. "The real question is what city will we also be hosting?"

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Tree company fooled by tree cell tower

Since 1999 many cell phone towers have been designed and built to resemble trees to better blend into their surrounding environment. The first pine cellular tower--now available in palm, oak and banzai models--was created by Mark Lorraine and erected in Woonsocketwrench, RI, during the middle of a mild April night. The town's people never realized it was a cell tower and credited a diet high in iron for the improved cell phone coverage.

Most tree cell towers are extremely detailed with synthetic accessories to help bring the tree to life including: bark, pine cones, needles, branches, sap and rings on the interior of the trunk. Fake needles and several fake pine cones are often spread around the base of the tower to lend even more authenticity.

On Monday a tree service company erroneously brought down a tree cellular phone tower along the Pennsylvania Turnpike near Woodmont, PA, about 17 miles north of Center City Philadelphia.

The company ChainCame, Chainsaw, ChainCut Landscaping took 12 hours to remove the tower, but would have only taken five had they felled the adjacent real pine that was leaning precariously toward the highway. The mistake created a dead zone for passing motorists and area residents.

In the beginning the "branches" of the tower offered little resistance to the men working with pole chainsaws and loppers and they quickly began to work on the body of the 80ft tower.

"There were lots of sparks coming from the chainsaw, but we all figured it was one of those really strong pine trees ... that sparked," said Kenny Delzem, a laborer with the tree service company, after cutting into the "trunk."

The crew was continuously sharpening and lubricating the overheated saws and was finally forced to abandon this method. Eventually, the group went to Plan B--axes and hatchets ... lots of axes and hatchets.

"We haven't used axes to take down a tree in a long time, but it was a lot like hacking a bike. You never forget," said Delzem.

Twenty axes and ten hours later, the tower was reduced to an enormous mound of metal shavings (top picture) after being forced through a wood chipper by the 20-member crew who were all nearly deafened by the sound and blinded by the sparks.

"Talk about a fireworks display," said Tylerton "We kept jamming it into the chipper over and over again. At one point we used a truck to push it into the chipper. Something wasn't quite right."

It was not revealed to the tree service company that they had removed a tree cell tower until they attempted to sell the grounded up behemoth as mulch to a local garden center yesterday.

"We drove the chippings to the garden center and the manager, after looking at the mulch, asked me if this was some kind of a joke," said Bob Entelli, president of the landscaping company.

The crew and the staff at the store all had a good laugh when the foreman announced: "I don't get where all the sap came from."

Most people don't.

Monday, May 4, 2009

City, team celebrate walkoff walk

Above, fans pack into the streets surrounding Philadelphia's City Hall soon after center fielder Shane Victorino walked to force in the game-winning run on Saturday afternoon against the Mets. The team passed through the celebration aboard double-decker buses and continued down Broad St to the stadium complex.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Vegetarians referring to Swine outbreak as Toflu

The Swine Flu alert level reached 5 on Wednesday (or level magenta-sienna-peach-echo-bravo-niner on the Tom Ridge scale) raising fear and surgical mask prices throughout the U.S. (Walmart is launching a designer line of masks on Saturday.) The mere mention of the name itself sends oinks down the swine, er, spine. Because of this, a group of vegetarians have begun referring to the Swine Flu epidemic as Toflu. "Toflu sounds much less scary and is a lot more meatless," said Earl Harbinger,52, a vegan from York, PA. People for the Ethical Treatment of Tofu(PETT) objected to the name change: "C'mon, give us a break over here with that kind of stuff."