On a somewhat off topic note, here are some interesting facts I've learned in the midwest the past week:
1. People have llama farms! We saw a farm of like 30 llamas! It was awesome!
2. One use of llamas (after we had a discussion about why the heck people would be raising llamas) is to guard sheep, or to be a "sheepllama" as I now like to call it. llamas are not afraid of coyotes, and will start yelling and charing at a coyote if one comes near their llama herd. They still do this even when they're not in a herd of llamas, and are in fact in a herd of sheep. Therefore, some people in the west have started using llamas instead of sheepdogs to scare away coyotes! Here is an article about it.
3. In the midwest (cause i've never seen this on the east coast and apparently it's common here) sometimes when it's below freezing temperatures, and maybe because someone took a hot shower or something, but for whatever reason, the sewer grates will start putting off steam. Not huge plumes of steam like in NYC, but just enough steam to catch the light from the headlights at night, look like a shimmering ghost, and scare the bejeebus out of me. I almost didn't say anything to B when I saw it for fear he would think I was insane, but it turned out there was a rational explenation for it! (I kinda muttered "i feel like I'm seeing ghosts..." and B was like "I saw it too!") We turned around and drove past it again so we could look at it again. :) B says it happens all the time and he even has an awesome name for it...sewerghosts!
I've always found the idea of ghosts especially scary, and I blame Jews for it. When i was a kid my great grandfather always told me not to whistle or clap, becuase that would draw the shadim (Jewish word for ghosts with chicken feet) to you. When I was around 10 years old, my dad decided that for my Bat Mitzvah me and him would learn Gemarah Brachot (see, my dad is kinda modern...I learned gemarah!). Anyways, I don't know if you all have read it, but there's a whole bunch of stuff about shadim in there. You shouldn't go into abandoned wearhouses cause the shadim would cause it to collapse on you, there was a story about some rabbi who went to his grandmothers grave and talked to her ghost, and there was something about how if you burn up a black cat which is the daughter of a black cat which is also the daughter of a black cat, and then sprinkle its ashes in your eyes and look in a mirror at midnight you would see shadim! (I don't know if the details are exactly correct cause I learned this 15 years ago, someone plz confirm). Also i think there was something about sprinkling flour around your bed at night and in the morning you would see the chicken feet prints from the ghosts which had chicken feet, and who run around your bed in circles at night for some reason. I wanted to do that and see if it would work, but I was always too scared to do so because what if it DID work? and then I knew there were chicken footed ghosts running around my bed at night? I would never sleep again! The fact that I remember all this stuff 15 years later (and I don't remember anything else that was in that book) probably points to the huge impression all of this made on my 10 year old mind.
Now of course now I realize that this was all based on the superstitions of the people who were writing the gemarah, and that this stuff about ghosts (along with everything else in there) is a bunch of crap. But when I was 10 or 11 (and younger when my great-grandfather- who died when I was 7- told me about not clapping or whisteling), this stuff really scared me! I mean, at that point I still trusted everything rabbis said, and it didn't cross my mind that rabbis who wrote the gemarah might be..you know...WRONG. So yeah, for years I believed that ghosts were real..i think even after the time at which I decided god was probably not real (which I realize makes no rational sense, but there you go)