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Ripples #58

Compiled and Written by Lenny Giteck

 

Ripples art--smallThe Top 10 Ripples
Stories of 2012

Ripples finds it hard to believe that another year has come and gone — and especially that we’re already about to usher in 2013. (Wasn’t it only yesterday we were so excited about the new millennium?) “For auld lang syne,” Ripples again picks his favorite stories from the past 12 months. Enjoy the memories!

#10
Roosters Sacrificed in India to
Secure Swimming Pool Safety

May 23, 2012

According to indiatimes.com, a rooster is ritually sacrificed every Monday in Coimbatore, India, to make a corporate swimming pool safe for bathers. Contractor M. Saamithangam is quoted as saying, "We have to be careful as a lot of people, including children, use [the pool]." Apparently, sacrificing a female chicken would not provide quite the same water-safety mojo.

If you’re thinking that Coimbatore is some primitive, backwater village cut off from the 21st century, think again. It is a major metropolitan area — the second largest city in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, according to Wikipedia — with a population of more than two million and advanced manufacturing and engineering sectors.

Needless to say, Indian animal rights activists are not pleased with the fowl ceremony, which indiatimes.com describes as a “medieval ritual.” As a Solomonlike compromise, Ripples suggests that instead of sacrificing live animals, voodoo pins be inserted into a rubber chicken, which would then be swung 10 times over the practitioner’s head in a clockwise circular motion.

True, despite repeated attempts using this rubber-chicken voodoo technique, Ripples has not been able to grow more hair on his head. Still, it’s worth a try for the sake of pool safety — or to put it another way … it couldn’t hurt.

 

#9
Limbless Aussie Dives into
Pool, Gets Out by Himself

October 10, 2012

There’s not much to say about the 14-minute, self-explanatory video linked below — except to note that watching it may forever change how you deal with challenges in your own life.

Nick Vujicic, a 25-year-old Australian, was born without arms or legs — but despite that unpromising start, what he has made of his life is amazing. Simply put, Nick’s back flip into a swimming pool barely scratches the surface of his incredible attitude and many accomplishments.

In Ripples’ opinion, you’ll miss out on a wonderful experience if you don’t watch the You Tube video below.

Video: To get to know Nick Vujicic, an inspiring human being born without arms or legs, click here. The swimming scene starts after approximately a minute. 

 

#8
‘Swimming Pool’ Is One Delightful
Animated Short with a Surprise Twist

June 6, 2012

Ripples came across this award-winning short by Czech animator Alexandra Hetmerova on huffingtonpost.com — but it first appeared online on vimeo.com.

The Huffington Post related the following: “The charming six-and-a-half minute short about an unlikely connection between two nighttime swimmers has been a [film] festival darling since 2010, when Hetmerova debuted it as a fresh graduate of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague.”

Ripples is confident you’ll be smiling by the end, especially after the surprise twist.

Video: To watch Alexandra Hetmerova’s “Swimming Pool,” click here.

#7
Happy Birthday to Nuuude…
Happy Birthday to Nuuude…

October 24, 2012

Murphy’s Law being what it is, group public nudism does have the potential for unintended, undesirable consequences. Take, for example, the recent birthday party for a 7-year-old British lad held at Radcliffe Pool and Fitness Centre in Greater Manchester. Due to a scheduling snafu on the part of the facility, the mother throwing the party and other parents in attendance were horrified to see 20 naked men showing up en masse.

A spokesman for the facility was quoted on dailymail.co.uk as saying, “This naturist swim was a private booking from 6:30-8 p.m., at a time when it was assumed that no one else would be in the building. On this occasion, it would appear that we overlooked the fact that the children, who were booked into the pool from 5-6 p.m., would then go into the canteen space on the first floor for their party.”

Apparently, it was the first time a nudist group had been booked at the facility. “If further bookings [for nudists] are taken again,” the spokesman added, “they will be at a time when no other groups will be using the pool area.”

As for what transpired after the men showed up, the article says, “Staff had taped bin bags and paper to the windows in attempt to keep the naturist party from view. But the boy's shocked mother said she and other parents had to stand in front of cracks and at the balcony to make sure children didn't see them.”

 

#6
Were the Dinosaurs Swimmers?
Crawl, Butterfly or Backstroke?

November 7, 2012

Ripples must admit that the question of whether dinosaurs could and did swim is not one that keeps him up at night. He has never paced his bedroom at 3 a.m. wondering, did Tyrannosaurus rex prefer the crawl or the backstroke? Was Stegosaurus partial to the butterfly or the breaststroke?

Still, dinosaurs are enormously fascinating creatures — and not just to kids. So when Ripples came across a blog entry on the Web site smithsonian.com that addressed the issue, he was eager to learn whether the long-extinct giant replies liked to go for a dip now and then.

The article appeared in the blog “Dinosaur Tracking” by science writer Brian Switek. In it, he traced the evolution of paleontological thinking on the question of dinosaurs and swimming.

Switek’s analysis is a bit too in-depth to summarize here, so this is the bottom line: The evidence suggests that some dinosaurs indeed could swim, but that didn’t mean they spent a lot of time in the water. Switek noted:

As [paleontologist Rubén] Ezquerra and co-authors pointed out, the swimming strokes of these dinosaurs were exaggerated walking motions. The way the dinosaurs moved on land allowed them to be adequate swimmers while crossing rivers or lakes, but, compared with semi-aquatic animals such as crocodiles and otters, no known dinosaur shows traits indicative of a primarily waterlogged existence.

Regarding the question of which other swimming strokes the dinosaurs performed…no one seems to be raising that issue except Ripples, who has his own ideas about “exaggerated walking motions.” Of course, Ripples is not a real paleontologist — he only plays one in this column — so he’ll keep his opinions to himself.

To learn more: Switek’s article is fascinating (as one might expect from the Smithsonian). Click here to read it in its entirety.

#5
Swimming Enables Young Israeli 
Terrorism Victim to Heal, Compete

July 11, 2012

A decade ago, an Arab terrorist broke into the home of Asael Shabo and his family and proceeded to murder his mother and three brothers in cold blood right before his eyes. Shabo – who was 9 years old at the time – only survived by playing dead on the floor; he remained absolutely silent for 45 minutes despite having nine bullets and a great deal of shrapnel in his right leg. His father and other brother were not at home at the time of the attack.

Doctors were forced to amputate the leg – but as horrific as his physical wounds were, the psychological and spiritual trauma he suffered may have been even more painful. A year after the attack, Shabo found himself at the Israel Sports Center for the Disabled in the city of Ramat Gan, where he was to receive hydrotherapy treatments. It wasn't long before he took up swimming, an activity that soon became a passion of his.

Now 19 years old, Shabo is training hard to be a member of the Israeli national team at the 2016 Paralympic Games, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He credits swimming with helping him overcome the trauma of what he witnessed. As Shabo notes in an article on the Web site aish.com:

“Learning to swim was tough, but after I learned how to swim properly, being alone in the water gave me two important things: It gave me the quiet and the solitude to digest and internalize what had happened, and it gave me a physical outlet to work through the emotional pain of watching my mom and brothers murdered. I literally swam my way through the emotional turmoil I was going through, and the mental anguish I went through for years afterwards.”

Currently, Shabo is Israel's 50-meter freestyle champion among disabled swimmers; in addition he plays on the national wheelchair basketball team and serves as a coach to younger physically challenged athletes at the center in Ramat Gan.

 

#4
Belated Apology for Booze-Fueled
Skinny-Dipping in Sea of Galilee

September 5, 2012

As you may have heard by now, a year ago a group of Republican lawmakers on a visit to the Holy Land were dining at a restaurant next to the Sea of Galilee when about half of the 30 members of Congress went for an impromptu dip.

According to a report on politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com, there was a fair amount of drinking going on that night, which may help explain why one of the legislators — Rep. Kevin Yoder of Kansas — went in without a stitch of clothing. (Some of the participants later contended “they dived in for religious reasons.”)

The episode, which took place August 4, 2011, only came to the attention of the public recently due to a report on Politico.com. But what went down (Yoder’s pants, for one thing) apparently did not escape the notice of the FBI. According to the political blog:

A law enforcement official said the FBI looked at the incident in Israel, saying the late-night swimming was probed to determine if U.S. officials were putting themselves at risk, or if any information the lawmakers possessed could have been exposed by a night of drinking and partying. This official did not believe there was any damage.

Politicalticker went on to report, “Yoder…was among the last to jump in, and was the only one who was completely nude. As he dived into the water naked, someone screamed that he was not wearing any clothes, according to the GOP sources. Soon after that the swim came to an end.” Indeed.

Given that the Sea of Galilee is where the New Testament says Jesus walked on water and performed other miracles, inebriated skinny-dipping doesn’t seem to be in keeping with the sanctity with which Christians regard the location.

Congressman Yoder has apologized in a written statement: "Regrettably I jumped into the water without a swimsuit.” He went on to note: "It is my greatest honor to represent the people of Kansas in Congress and [for] any embarrassment I have caused for my colleagues and constituents, I apologize.”

Amen, brother…amen.

Learn more: According to the CNN article, the political…er…stuff hit the fan as soon as Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor got wind of the incident. To read more about what ensued, click here.

#3
Italian Politician Swims to
Sicily to Win Over Voters

November 21, 2012

It’s no secret that politics in Italy can be pretty wild: For starters, the country has seen more than 60 governments come and go since World War II — an average rate of about one government per year for the past six decades.

Even by Italian standards, however, political developments before an upcoming (as of this writing) regional election in Sicily have raised eyebrows. One candidate for the Sicilian parliament, Beppe Grillo (identified by businessweek.com as “a former comic turned political gadfly”) swam from the Italian mainland to the island of Sicily to show voters…what? Apparently that his Five Star Movement will break from recent governmental economic policies. The connection eludes Ripples, but Grillo seems to think Sicilians will get it.

According to the BusinessWeek Web site report, Grillo’s party is squarely opposed to the austerity measures Italy has taken due to the nation’s (and Europe’s) economic mess. The article notes that the 64-year-old Grillo told a rally of supporters in Palermo, the Sicilian capital, “It took me six months of training, but in the end I managed to swim across the strait of Messina in 15 minutes less than what it takes by ferry,” Clearly, Italy needs to get better ferries.

On another political front, the center-left Democratic Party is backing Rosario Crocetta, a former mayor of the town of Gela, in the race to become Sicily’s president. Crocetta, who is openly gay, won fame for fighting the Mafia while in office. Ironically, he is also the candidate of the Union of the Centre, which has gone on record as opposing same-sex marriage.

Crocetta has pledged to abstain from sex if he wins. From businessweek.com:

“If I were to become Sicily’s president, I would say farewell to sex,” Crocetta promised in an Aug. 20 interview with news Web site KlausCondicio. “I will consider myself married to my region and its inhabitants.”

Vowing celibacy doesn’t seem all that promising as a political trend, but candidate Grillo may be on to something by bringing together politics and long-distance swimming. Ripples, for one, can’t wait to see New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie swim from Hoboken to Manhattan (or vice versa) in 2016 to show voters he’s fit to be president. Good luck, Governor…and start training immediately!

UPDATE: Openly gay candidate Rosario Crocetta was victorious in the October 28 election and became president of Sicily. Now that he’s officially married to his region,
he presumably is honoring his vow of abstinence. Ripples is still trying to find out
how Beppe Grillo fared in the vote.

To learn more about the very colorful politician/comedian/swimmer Beppe Grillo, click here.

 

#2
‘Bad Boy’ of American Swimming
Admits to Urinating in Olympics Pool

August 22, 2012

Longtime readers of this column know that Ripples is not one to shy away from discussing the 800-pound golden gorilla in the swimming pools of America – which is to say, Americans' penchant for urinating while splashing about.

You may recall, for example, the Ripples item in the April 27, 2011 issue of this newsletter, entitled "Urine Nation: To Pee or Not to Pee?" Among other things, the report revealed that according to research, fully 20% of Americans confess to relieving themselves while swimming. (That story reflected Ripples' appreciation for the much-maligned stream of reportage known as yellow journalism.)

All of this is to explain why Ripples was fascinated to read that Ryan Lochte, the "bad boy" of American swimming, revealed to radio host Ryan Seacrest ("On Air with Ryan Seacrest") that he did in fact urinate while in the London Olympics training pool.

According to a report on the Web site nbcchicago.com, Lochte told Seacrest in a classic TMI moment, "I think there's just something about getting into chlorine water that you just automatically go." (The chlorine made him do it!) He claimed that while he did not relieve himself during actual races, he "sure did in warm-up."

Lochte confided this to Seacrest and the entire world after losing to Michael Phelps in the 200-meter individual medley. Earlier, he told the "Today" show that his perfect race would be one in which he "crushes Phelps." He said, "In the middle lane is [sic] me and Michael. I look over at Phelps and we have a little stare-off, look who wants it more. We step on the blocks and take your marks, boom. I take off. I'm hitting the water like a rocket and I'm not looking back."

Sadly, that particular fantasy of Lochte’s is unlikely ever to happen. By all accounts, Michael Phelps intends to retire from competitive swimming after the 2012 London Games. As for Lochte, he undoubtedly will be back in 2016 — peeing to his bladder’s content. And, interestingly, Lochte also told Seacrest that his "real dream" is to market a line of clothing he designs. Who knew?

Post script: Ripples would be remiss if he did not report that following Lochte’s on-air confession, Phelps, too, revealed that he urinated in the Olympics pool.

 

The #1 Ripples story for 2012 is [drumroll, please]…

#1
New Book Reveals 18-Month JFK
Affair Started in White House Pool

February 22, 2012

A recently published memoir by now-68-year-old Mimi Alford claims she was involved in a long-term affair with President John Fitzgerald Kennedy — and that the relationship started in the White House pool. The title of the tell-all book: Once Upon a Secret: My Affair with President John F. Kennedy and its Aftermath.

According to Alford, she was a 19-year-old intern in the White House press office when she was invited by Dave Powers, a close aide to JFK, to go for a swim in the pool. The following excerpt was on the Web site dailymail.co.uk:

The water was as warm as that in a bathtub — as I learned later, the temperature was always set at 90 degrees to soothe JFK’s chronic back pain. I was treading water with Fiddle and Jill [two female White House employees] when the president himself walked in. “Mind if I join you?” he asked. He was remarkably fit — flat stomach, toned arms — for a 45-year-old man. After sliding into the pool, he floated up to me. “It’s Mimi, isn’t it?” he said. “And you’re in the press office this summer, right?’ He asked what I’d been given to do, and I told him. “Well, nice to see you, Mimi,” he said, and floated away toward Fiddle and Jill.

According to Alford, she lost her virginity to the president later that day after Kennedy invited her on a personal tour — a very personal tour — of the White House residential quarters. The affair developed from there.

Interestingly, swimming in the White House pool continued to play a role in the relationship. Writes Alford: “Our affair, which lasted until his death 18 months later, began in earnest the following week. All that summer, I’d swim with the president, race back to my desk and then wait for a call to come upstairs.”

Of course, the fact that our 35th president was not exactly assiduous in upholding his marriage vows is yesterday’s news — but the specificity of the revelations in Once Upon a Secret probably will shock nonetheless. Still, like most Americans of a certain age, Ripples remembers the horror of November 22, 1963 — the day JFK was assassinated — with absolute clarity. Nothing revealed since then about Kennedy’s human foibles has tarnished his memory in Ripples’ mind, and it is doubtful that anything ever will.

Learn more: To read the complete excerpt published by dailymail.co.uk, click here.

Video: To watch an interview with Mimi Alford conducted by “Rock Center” reporter Meredith Vieira, click here.

And with that, Ripples says…
Until next time, happy watershaping to you…and may you
have a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

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