Saturday, January 15, 2011

Groundhog Day Expedition

Did you ever wonder what the connection is between the critter shown in this photograph (which I took in my front yard last spring), and the weather prediction about how much winter is left in a year? The connection is that this critter---known as a "groundhog"---is one of a group of rodent ground squirrels (called "marmots" in some locations) that goes into true hibernation during cold temperatures. The length of time it remains in hibernation is determined by the climate of the location where the groundhog lives. Likewise the size a groundhog achieves is determined by the number of predators (such as owls, snakes, human beings) that are within its habitat. The gray hair shown in this photo does not indicate that this is an "elder" groundhog. Rather, groundhogs have two layers of fur, one of which is a gray color. This characteristic is responsible for the "frosted" appearance of the fur of many groundhogs.

The stance of the groundhog in this photo is a common one, as you will often see them standing, nearly motionless, on their hind feet, watching for danger. Groundhogs are mainly found in North America, and the earliest recorded date of someone in the U.S. predicting the weather on the basis of a groundhog's activity is February 5, 1841. The basis they used for the prediction was that if the groundhog emerged from its burrow during its hibernation period, and saw its shadow, it went back down into the burrow and continued to hibernate (observers took this to mean there would be six more weeks of winter). However, if the groundhog emerged from its burrow during its hibernation period, and did not see its shadow, (i.e. the sky was cloudy), it will leave its burrow. This is interpreted as meaning winter will end soon. Some early pioneer in the U.S., probably suffering from a bad case of "cabin fever", decided to turn this characteristic of the groundhog into an annual ritual, and declare it as "Groundhog Day"! February 2 is the official "Groundhog Day" in the United States.

The earliest of these Groundhog Day Celebrations took place in Pennsylvania, particularly among the Amish. The Amish---many of which had a German heritage---may have had a similar natural phenomena in their country that indicated climate conditions. However, the hibernating animal was a bear, and not a groundhog, in Germany. There is historical data indicating celebrations were held to commemorate a bear coming out of hibernation, and hence the end of winter. One of the most famous and earliest Groundhog Day Celebrations has been taking place annually, for years, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. It was this celebration that was the basis of the movie "Groundhog Day". What you may NOT know, however, is that most of the town scenes for the movie were not actually filmed in Punxsutawney, rather, they were filmed in the small town of Woodstock, Illinois, in McHenry County, just a short drive northwest of Chicago. I had the opportunity to visit the quaint little town last fall, and took this photo of their lovely courthouse, which is shown in numerous movie scenes.

This distinctive-looking building is the town's Opera House, but in the movie, it was transformed into the "Pennsylvania Hotel", and it, too, is visible in numerous scenes of the movie. Not surprisingly, all the activity of filming a major movie, brought lots of publicity to Woodstock, and they have capitalized on it, by starting their very own week-long celebration of "Ground Hog Day", which includes special meals, pageants, and walking tours, that will take you to various locations throughout the village where movie scenes were filmed. And of course, the movie is played in the town's theater during the celebration, over and over and over again! You can plan YOUR Ground Hog Day expedition to this lovely place by visiting or
I have to be honest and confess that eighteen years ago, I did not see the moral lesson that the Groundhog movie teaches. But visiting Woodstock renewed my interest in the movie, such that I was reading a description of it in Wikipedia. Wikipedia points out that the TV weatherman character (Bill Murray) must live the same day over and over again until he can learn to give up his selfishness and become a better person. The authors state that is why the phrase "Groundhog Day" has ALSO come to represent going through a phenomena over and over, until one spiritually transcends it. In fact, this pop culture definition of "Groundhog Day" is the same principle that is the mission statement of the church I attend: "Turning Self-Followers into Christ Followers, One Step, One Life at a Time." ( ) The Wikipedia article, plus a second viewing of the movie after many years of seeing it for the first time, led me to realize that the theme of the movie could have been taken straight out of the third chapter of James in the Bible! The Message paraphrases those verses to say it this way: "Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It's the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts." So get out there and take a "Groundhog Day" Expedition every day of your life!! Miles of smiles! Tricia Posted by Picasa

Saturday, January 8, 2011

SuperBowl Stadium Expedition

SUPERBOWL XLV ( is scheduled for the Dallas Cowboys Stadium on Sunday, February 11. (If you are like me, and have forgotten the lesson on Roman numerals, XLV means "45"). The actual location of the stadium is Arlington, Texas, and when I asked the stadium employee I talked to on the phone, "What is the exact street address of the stadium, so that I can enter it into my car's GPS?", the employee told me that there wasn't an exact street address. But, instead, he gave me the street address for the WalMart store, that is across the street from the stadium (You can see the reflection of the WalMart store in the stadium's glass windows, shown in the lower left photo). He said that would be sufficient to get me to the parking lot that I would use to purchase a ticket to tour the stadium. He was right, and I found the very nice WalMart store, without any problems. ( However, I do have a "bone to pick" with WalMart Headquarters at the next stockholder's meeting in Fayetteville: The symbol for the Texas Longhorns was sculpted into the orange-colored brick that made up the walls of the Arlington WalMart store!! As a Razorback alum, I found this a bit offensive. The only remedy for this is for Fayetteville, Arkansas, WalMart stores to have a RAZORBACK sculpted into the RED brick walls of any new stores being built in that city!) Anyway, I guess I am not the only one asking for GPS directions to the stadium, as the stadium's website goes into great detail about using THEIR WEBSITE directions---not your GPS--- to get to your designated parking space for a stadium event (the parking space alone on REGULAR game days STARTS at $40/spot. I can only imagine what the parking costs will be on the day of the Superbowl!) However, the parking fee is probably only a drop in the bucket, compared to what a ticket for the Superbowl costs--- in the unlikely event you were even able to buy one! That is why, even though attending a Superbowl is on my "Bucket List", I decided to settle for taking a tour of the brand new stadium where the Superbowl will be played. And what a magnificent stadium it is!!! It is the world's largest domed stadium AND the world's largest column-free interior. These two world records are made possible by the 300 ft arches that span the length of the dome, and are anchored to the ground at each end. (You can see the outdoor sections of the arches in the top photo of the collage). The stadium was only completed in May of 2009; it seats 80,000, and has a maximum capacity of 110,000, including standing room. What this means is that you can purchase a ticket to an event, with or without, a seat! The tickets, called "Party Pass", are for standing in the open areas behind seats, in each end zone. There are so many video screens located throughout the stadium, that not knowing what is going on down on the field is virtually impossible!

Speaking of video screens, the Dallas Cowboys Stadium holds the Guinness Book of World Records distinction of having the largest video screen in the world! It spans from 20-yard line to 20-yard line! The photo in the upper left corner of this collage may help put its size into perspective: What looks like a tiny white box hanging beneath the video screen, is actually the "employee elevator" used to access the inside of the screen, and is shown in a close-up view on the upper right photo. Our tour guide pointed out an interesting fact about the work area INSIDE the gigantic screen: It does not have a bathroom, even though employees have to be in there for the duration of a game. OOOPPPS! Of course, the omission is understandable, as plumbing for such a bathroom would be almost impossible! The retractable roof of the stadium is shown in the "closed" position on the left photo. The two tiny black dots seen beneath the roof, are the two workers, shown in a close-up photo on the right of the collage. I was pleased (as would be OSHA) to see that the workers had safety harnesses on, since they were working at a height of hundreds of feet!

I would title this collage "Art and Advertising", because no matter where you go in the stadium, you will see plenty of both! The photo of me holding the rookie sign, in the upper right picture, shows the setting for where a tour guest could have their picture made, for purchase at the end of the tour. Note the AT&T logo prominently visible behind me. Likewise, the Ford Motor Company has a HUGE presence within the stadium with new Ford cars literally stacked on top of each other for display beside each end of a lovely fountain in the Party Pass area (center right photo). The top left photo shows a large sculpture which prominently displays the Dr. Pepper logo. But at least one of the logos on display DID show an organization whose goal is to "save", and not to "consume", and that was the Salvation Army logo, shown in the middle left photo. When you have the world's largest domed structure, it makes sense, you're going to have to have some MASSIVE art installations to fill part of those spaces, and the photo on the lower right shows one of those pieces. It is called "Blue Explosion", and fills the wall behind one of the escalators. The photo on the lower left shows an art installation simply titled "Win!" that shows all the words used in the sports world to achieve a winning mind set.

There is a gift shop at the stadium that is open daily, and you do not have to have a tour ticket in order to visit the gift shop. As you can imagine, there were numerous items you could purchase there relating to the Dallas Cowboys logo, as well as the Superbowl XLV logo, as demonstrated by the coffee mugs in the top photo of this collage. The bottom two photos of this collage show the gigantic bronze statue (located outside the stadium near the ticket office) of legendary Coach Tom Landry, who led the Cowboys for twenty consecutive winning seasons. Coach Landry was a leader not only on the field, but off the field as well. He was the "gentle giant" at the Highland Park Methodist Church for 43 years, and for many of those years he taught an adult Sunday School class there, juggling his Sunday morning responsibilities as a Bible teacher, with his Sunday afternoon responsibilities as a football coach. He is quoted as saying "Leadership is the ability to get a person to do what he doesn't want to do, in order to achieve what he wants to achieve . . . it's getting the best out of people." That is a lesson he first probably learned while teaching the writings of Paul, in the seventh chapter of Romans. Tom Landry very successfully applied these Biblical principles to every aspect of his life. What an inspiration to us all! I have highlighted just a few of the things you will see when you take a tour of the Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. There are also many "behind the scenes" aspects you get to see, including the players' locker room, as well as the locker room of those famous Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders, and the private sanctuary of the Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones. Also, the tour is very reasonably priced, depending on which tour you are able to take on the day you visit. You can find out more about the experience on the stadium website, . SOoooooo, even though you may not be able to personally be present at the Superbowl game, keep in mind, that you CAN tour the location of that game---nicknamed the "Palace in Dallas", and I would highly recommend it! Miles of smiles! Tricia
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