38 COOL THINGS ABOUT AMERICA: A BLOG OF HOPE

Heads up, Democrats, Republicans, independents, and the 47% of you who didn’t vote at all — I’m trying to say something nice here.

Whether you were celebrating or numb with shock after the Presidential election, the results are what they are. As a country, we’re watching what happens, hoping that the divisive rhetoric dies down, and quite frankly worrying about people’s rights, their health, and their families.

While the election and its aftermath have kept the news media and social sites buzzing, I’ve been working on a major freelance project for a hospitality client. I’m writing more than 100 search-friendly pages of content, each one focused on a specific city or unique point of interest.

I’m only part of the way through, but I’m learning a ton about all of these different places across the country. And in the process, I feel like I’m connecting with more of America.

My four big takeaways so far:

 

  • Pleasantly surprised at our commitment to art and culture throughout the nation.
  • Seeing massive efforts to protect the environment and improve sustainability.
  • We’re more connected every day, thanks to technology and social media.
  • Our dedication to preserving U.S. history is incredible. (As an example, see #12 below.)

 

Here’s 38 things I’ve learned. You might find some of them boring and some of them cool, that’s OK. But they should all give you a little more insight into what’s out there in America:

  1. American University in Washington, D.C. is on track to be carbon neutral by 2020.
  2. As you travel along the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area that spans the Washington/Oregon border, the ecosystem changes from dry grasslands to a temperate rainforest in just 80 miles.
  3. At the San Jose International Airport, there’s a mural called “Hands” on the outside of the building that can be seen from more than a mile away.
  4. Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona, has the largest baseball stadium in the spring training Cactus League — and is home to two teams: the Chicago White Sox and the Los Angeles Dodgers. (And you can get Dodger Dogs there, too.)
  5. Chattanooga, Tennessee claims to have the fastest internet connection in the Western hemisphere, with speeds up to 1 gigabit per second.
  6. Chicago O’Hare International Airport is incredibly committed to the environment — with the first major on-airport apiary, the first aeroponic garden, and more than 300,000 square feet of vegetated green roof on 12 different facilities. They even use a grazing herd to clear dense vegetation on the property.
  7. Columbus, Ohio claims that its Short North Arts District is “the SoHo of the Midwest.”
  8. Durgin Park, the oldest existing restaurant at Faneuil Hall in Boston, was opened in 1827. (Although there was also a restaurant there as far back as 1742.)
  9. Elvis Presley was 22 years old when he bought his famed Graceland estate in Memphis, Tennessee for $102,500 in 1957.
  10. Gatlinburg is home to the Hollywood Star Cars Museum, where you can see the jalopy from “The Beverly Hillbillies,” the General Lee from “The Dukes of Hazzard,” the Batmobile, and Herbie the Love Bug — as well as an 8-mile loop of Great Smoky Arts & Crafts Community, which is the largest gathering of independent artists in the country.
  11. Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Iron Maiden and the Red Hot Chili Peppers have all recorded concert albums or videos at the Long Beach Convention Center.
  12. Mount Vernon is open to the public every day of the year, and it’s owned and maintained not by the government — but by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association. (Also, there’s a whiskey distillery on site.)
  13. Osceola County Stadium in Florida is home to the Jim Evans Academy of Professional Umpiring. #BOO
  14. Phoenix’s Gila River Arena has a $5 million “dancing fountain” water display, similar to the one at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.
  15. Pittsburgh’s David L. Lawrence Convention Center is the largest “green” building in the world, with both Gold LEED certification and Platinum certification for an existing building.
  16. Raleigh-Durham International Airport has an annual Bluegrass Music Series every fall, with musicians performing live in the baggage claim area.
  17. Repticon — a convention featuring thousands of reptiles and exotic animals from around the world — is held annually at the Pasadena Convention Center in Pasadena, Texas. (Bonus: Pasadena is also home to the Armand Bayou Nature Center, the largest urban wilderness preserve in the country.)
  18. Rockefeller Center is actually 19 buildings.
  19. Sacramento is now known as “America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital.”
  20. San Francisco’s Moscone Center has one of the largest city-owned solar electricity installations in the country on its roof.
  21. The Dallas Convention Center has the world’s largest heliport/vertiport on top of the building.
  22. The first South by Southwest festival had about 750 attendees. Today, tens of thousands of people show up to Austin every year.
  23. The Grand Ole Opry has been on the radio since 1925.
  24. The home of the Kentucky Derby, Churchill Downs racetrack has the world’s largest 4K video screen.
  25. The International Rose Test Garden in Washington Park, Oregon, is the oldest of its kind in the U.S.
  26. The Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens have the largest jaguar exhibit in North America.
  27. The Knoxville Convention Center’s world-class art collection is valued at more than $1 million.
  28. The Leo Rich Theater in Tucson, Arizona presents a week-long Winter Chamber Music Festival every year.
  29. The Merriweather Post Pavilion — a historic outdoor concert venue located in a 40-acre forest in Columbia, Maryland — was designed by legendary architect Frank Gehry.
  30. The Ontario Mills (CA) shopping mall gets ten times more visitors annually than Disneyland, and also has the largest concentration of movie screens west of the Mississippi.
  31. The Portland Japanese Garden in Oregon is considered by experts as one of the finest public Japanese gardens located outside Japan.
  32. The University of Cincinnati is one of the “World’s Most Beautiful College Campuses” according to several magazines.
  33. The Virginia Beach Convention Center was the first in America to earn LEED Gold certification as an existing building.
  34. Times Square isn’t really a square.
  35. Tropicana Field, home to MLB’s Tampa Bay Rays, has a 10,000-gallon tank containing more than 30 cownose rays just behind the center-field wall.
  36. Tucson International Airport displays more than 100 original artworks by local artisans.
  37. Tulane University has a highly regarded School of Tropical Medicine, the only one of its kind.
  38. Tulsa International Airport has an Air and Space Museum with a full-domed planetarium, and a Cultural Advisory Group comprised of local citizens chooses artwork to showcase throughout the terminal.

I haven’t been to most of these places, and I’ll wager that most of you haven’t either.

But I can’t help feeling like this project is bringing me closer to the greatness (and untapped potential) that lives in America.

It makes me feel like things will be OK.

And right about now, a lot of us need that confirmation.

If you liked this blog, let me know in the comments below and I’ll post even more of these facts as I work through my project. Thanks for reading!

A post-election post

I don’t normally talk politics on my blog, but it’s darn-near impossible to not address the major paradigm shift we’ve just begun as a country. So I’m going to try to be as objective as I can – drawing on my liberal arts undergrad studies (thanks, Ursinus College) and my journalistic training (thanks, Temple University). (Apologies, Dear Reader, sometimes I’m such an academic snob/dork.)

Barack Obama won in a landslide because he ran a campaign about hope that inspired millions. John McCain lost for a variety of reasons, but the major one being that his campaign wasn’t very McCain-like.

I really wanted to see a civil campaign in which the candidates discussed their positions intelligently. I wanted to see political advertising that was more about “what I’m going to do for you” and less about “the other guy’s flaws.”

While Obama seemed to live up to my expectations, John McCain didn’t. The man who built his reputation as an aisle-crossing, let’s-work-together Congressman ended up approving attack ad after attack ad. His campaign trotted out the anti-American, anti-Semitic Reverend Jeremiah Wright, even though Sarah Palin’s wacky clergyman was praying for protection against witchcraft and hosting anti-Semitic guest speakers.

McCain approved messages talking about Obama’s relationship with Bill Ayers, a “domestic terrorist.” Obama, to his credit, never discussed McCain’s involvement in the Keating Five corruption scandal of the late 1980s/early 1990s.

Americans had a simple choice: positivity vs. negativity. And after the past eight years, it was time for some good old-fashioned American hope.

P.S.: Although I am personally very happy to see Barack Obama win this election, I am also glad he made sure to note in his victory speech that our nation’s problems won’t just go away because he won. But I think he’s the right man to lead our country out of these troubled times. And I wish him all the luck in the world.

It’s been too long.

Sorry about that. Did some vacationing in South Padre Island (go – but not during Spring Break), some interviewing for jobs, some navel-gazing.

Remicade treatment today. Two hours of a continuous IV drip. Yay? (At least the chairs are comfy, and the WiFi is OK.)

Check this out:

LABOR DEPT: FEWER WORKERS KILLED ON JOB IN 2007

Aug 20th, 2008 | WASHINGTON — The number of U.S. workers killed on the job has dropped to a historic low.

A government report released Wednesday shows there were 5,488 fatal work injuries last year. That’s the lowest number since the Bureau of Labor Statistics began keeping track in 1992.

There were 3.7 fatal work injuries for every 100,000 workers, the lowest annual rate ever reported by the fatality census.

The 2007 numbers represent a 6 percent drop from 5,840 deaths reported to the Labor Department in 2006.

There were increases in some types of work fatalities. The number of fatal falls on the job rose to a high of 835 in 2007, while workplace homicides increased by 13 percent.

The numbers are preliminary, with a final report on 2007 due next year.

Salon provides breaking news articles from the Associated Press as a service to its readers, but does not edit the AP articles it publishes.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
——————————-

Question: Do they take into account the fact that less people are working anyway? It’s hard to die on the job when you don’t have one.