Saturday, December 31, 2005

PETA Dissident Names Self

19 year-old PETA staffer Chris Garnett has changed his legal name to The Clog Almanac asks: Will he please consider franchising humanely raised/slaughtered chickens, and come up with a secret recipe better than KFC chicken? Because we're hungry and ready for a new recipe.

More here.

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New Years Croquet: "No Brag, Just Fact."

Today the afternoon temperatures have pushed into the 70's in north central Florida. No brag, just fact. What to do on a lovely warm and clear winter day, the last day of 2005? Croquet! The Clog-wife's 18 year old son laid out a course around the grounds of Clog House Est. 1935, and we had a jocular tourney under the happy sunlight. Yours truly won the day. I revel in my victory, this once.

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What's New Pussycat? - Tom Jones Knighted

Ladies and gentlemen, Sir Tom Jones.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Schwarzenegger Name Removed From Austrian Stadium

Those life-loving Austrians were a bit peeved when the Governator refused to pardon Tookie, who is dead. In response to a petition from Green Party leader Sigrid Binder, the Graz City Council changed the name of Arnold Schwarzenegger Stadium to Graz-Liebenau Stadium, but not before a little political maneuvering and sour grapes from Arnold.

Full details in Richard Bernstein's
International Herald Tribune article.

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UK Torture Documents Loose In The World

Blairwatch has posted documents implicating the UK and US in obtaining intelligence from the Uzbek Secret Forces that were gained through torture. Now The Independent has picked up on the story, just a few hours after the documents were circulated by speedy bloggers.

The documents include
secret telegrams sent to British Foreign Office superiors by former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray. Murray's career path hasn't been all primroses, as this Wikipedia entry attests.

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United In Death - December 30

The Clog Almanac's Friday Mashup of notables who died on a December 30.

2004 Artie Shaw - American bandleader/clarinetist
1992 Ling-Ling - First beloved panda given to the US by China
1979 Richard Rodgers - American composer of Rodgers & Hammerstein fame
1947 Alfred North Whitehead - British mathematician and philosopher

Pandas aside, this conjunction of musicians and mathematician here interests me. Two of the extremely accomplished musicians in the old-time string band in which I play guitar are also math-heads: professors of mathematics and of ecological modeling, respectively. I'm interested in hearing of other math and music overachievers that visitors to this site might know.

Some math/music links, here, and here. Here's a book, if you're interested.

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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Blog Plagiarism Alert

Om Malik has a post alerting bloggers to the growing problem of wholesale ripping and repurposing of web content by unscrupulous thieves seeking unearned advertising dollars. This problem is likely to get much worse before it gets better.

Florida Crazy - 2005 Sour Orange Awards

Tom Zucco and Craig Pittman have posted the 2005 Sour Orange awards for the wackiest Florida news stories of 2005. A special report from the St. Petersberg Times Online.

Perhaps like me you've missed Dave Barry's regular Miami Herald column which frequently provided side-splitting commentary on some of the Sunshine State's quirkiest residents and their habits. Barry took a sabbatical from the column at the end of last year.
Editor and Publisher now report that Mr. Barry will not resume posting the weekly column.

Barry will continue
blogging as usual.

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Our office building suffered a break-in last night. No computers or other office equipment were stolen, the digital cameras were untouched. A few drawers and cabinets were jimmied. Evidently the perpetrator was after cash. The only items missing are the varied contents of the damn community cuss-jar.

On a brighter note, this morning I treated the office mates to an amazingly delicious NYC cheesecake from the
Carnegie Deli. It lasted all of 5 minutes. Something there is about the combination of butter and cream cheese that is irresistable.


Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Robbery Victim Outsmarts Police AND Thief

When a graduate student realized that the only copy of her finished masters' thesis had been stolen from her locked car along with her purse and other items, she ignored the police who cautioned she'd never see her stuff again, analyzed the clues, thought like a thief, tracked her stolen property to a Wendy's refuse bin in another town, and recovered the stolen thesis, and other articles.

She must have emerged awfully grimy from the successful dive in the dumpster. Somehow, I think the police are the ones with egg on their faces this time around.

Carnival Of The Vanities #171

The most recent Carnival of the Vanities is up over at Chicken Soup 4 The Damned, where yours truly has a post (purr), below the fold, and below the snarky tonguelashing (grrrr) from the administrator to those who did not follow his submission protocols to the letter and last jod and tilde, and submitted through the Conservative Cat's carnival submission form.

Despite the upbraiding, I retain the pleasure of knowing I've never been much of a jump through arbitrary hoops with a fake smile sort of bloke. Why jump through a hoop when you can run around it? Besides, wouldn't you agree that herding bloggers is more difficult than herding cats, conservative or otherwise? Purr.

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Not Your Typical Egg-Timer

I frittered away way too much time last night fooling around with this falling sand game.
(via blogdex)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Freedom House 2005 Report

Freedom House has issued its annual press release charting the progress of freedom in the world. Purchase the organization's 800-page 2005 Freedom In The World survey here.
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In Praise Of Stanley - Thermos

The Clog-wife and I spent a wonderful 12/23 on Cumberland Island. It was cold but we were dressed accordingly, and had brought plenty of food and hot drinks. Now let me digress and plug praise my thermos.

I carried a quart of hot spiced cider onto the island in my old Stanley thermos. You know the one - big old bluegreen thing with the shiny stainless steel interior and twist-on cup/lid - the one Fred Flintstone might take to the job at the quarry. The cider went into the thermos at a slow boil around 6:00 a.m. When we left the island 13 hours later the remaining cider was still steaming and fit to warm us on the windy sunset cruise back to St. Marys.

Old technology with no moving parts, a tried and true design. I bought the thing at George's Hardware in Gainesville, FL. The neat thing about George's is that the proprietor buys top-condition items at flea markets and antique stores, and displays and sells them on the shelf right next to the new items. I could have purchased a new Stanley thermos, but got this one in perfect condition for 1/4 the price. Ditto with the old hammer, axe, anvil, socket wrenches, chisels, and other things I've picked up at George's over the years.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Key This? Graf That

The year has almost played out and if you're like me, you've just about had it with 2005. The days between Christmas and getting back to work in earnest after the New Year are liminal time-out-of-time days where I just can't bring myself to commit to the daily grind as usual. My head is in a different place and I find myself doing things that I'd not do otherwise. Things like washing my collection of colorful old bottles shaped like banjos and fiddles, which occupy the sunny sill of a long bay window at Clog House Est. 1935, or dusting off my Silvestri accordion.

For this season's betwixt-and-between days I hied me to the hardware store and purchased a tube of powdered graphite and goosed all the locks around the place with the stuff - cars, house, shed, bicycles, toolboxes. I daresay the pleasure derived from feeling a key opening the silky innards of a well-lubed lock exceeds that of even, well, replacing a toilet flapper and fixing that leak that causes the commode to heave a dismayed sigh at annoying intervals.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Noted: December 25th Deaths

For those who died on Christmas day show pity where pity's due,
And likewise, bless the rest of us who's lives are not yet through.
For the living all have work to do, yes, we all have work to do. - CALL

1996 - JonBenet Ramsey - Murdered child beauty queen
1989 - Billy Martin - Famed NY Yankees manager, player
1989 - Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu - executed Romanian dictator and wife
1983 - Joan Miro - Spanish abstract surrealist
1977 - Charlie Chaplin - Blacklisted actor/director and icon
1946 - WC Fields - American comedian, actor, writer, juggler

Friday, December 23, 2005

United In Death - December 23

The Clog Almanac Friday Mashup of people who died on December 23

2000 Victor Borge - Great Dane, Funniest Man In The World
1982 Jack Webb - Joe Friday of US TV series Dragnet
1972 Charles Atlas - legendary bodybuilder and tycoon

My brother and I were once shushed by an attendant on a transatlantic flight because we were laughing so violently at Borge's signature phonetic punctuation of a fairy tale, unwisely piped into the seat headphones.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Day At The Beach

Tomorrow the Clog-wife and I will spend all day at Cumberland Island National Seashore. Cumberland Island is the southernmost of the famous Georgia Sea Islands.

The place has lots to offer, beginning with a ferry ride, since the island is only accessible by boat. We'll spend the day hiking through woods, past dunes, and combing the beach. I expect to add a shore bird or two to my life list. We hope to glimpse the wild horses, and 0f course, bring back some great photos and memories. The trip is a gift to me from the Clog-wife.

Yes Virginia, There Are Alligators

In Idaho. I'm an Idahoan who lives in Florida and my kin in the West think its pretty neat that I frequently see alligators in my peregrinations. Now that they've discovered that there is an alligator farm in southern Idaho, they've one less reason to come to Florida for a visit.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Barbie Doll Mutilations

You've seen them, the legless, armless Barbie dolls, whose twisted hair couldn't even be salvaged into a bundle of blasted ratty dreadlocks: But that lowly end, that state of hopeless dishevelment is no accident, no this-is-the-way-the-world-ends demise. It's Barbie mutilation.

The horror, the horror.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Happy Birthday, Mr. Spoonbender

He writes! He sings, He creates jewelry for QVC! He's a motivational speaker! He appears in commercials and documentaries and talk shows! Michael Jackson was his best man! And he bends spoons!

He's Uri Geller, and today is his birthday. CAUTION! His website will give you headache, or vertigo.

(If you've never heard of Uri Geller then you're not old enough to be in this chat room today.)

Cranes In The Air, Ducks On A Wire

Seen yesterday at Chapman's Pond, Gainesville FL:

Coot (30)
Black-bellied whistling duck (20)
Blue-winged teal (15)
White ibis (15-20)
Hooded Merganser (14)
Pied-billed grebe (8)
Woodcock (8)
Bonaparte's gull (4)
Gallinule (3)
Snowy egret (1)
Great blue heron (1)
Palm warbler (7)

While scanning the pond environs with the binoculars I heard distant but unmistakable clattering cries of
approaching Sandhill cranes. I watched a line of about 40 of these great birds fly straight towards a spiraling column of black vultures high overhead. The cranes spooled into the column below the vultures and in no time had surpassed them in altitude. On cue, the skein of cranes broke into two groups, played out into separate lines like a drill team, reformed into an even chevron, and then continued on its south-by-southeastern tack down the rivers of sky and air.

Were it not for the movements of clouds or the breezes that sweep the land below, I might be lulled into imagining the air as a still and lifeless invisible void. Watching the sandhills brought these questions to mind: To birds' eyes, is the airscape just as varied and topographically detailed as the landscape that my eyes behold and delight in? Do they see charging rivers, lazy streams, still pools, waterfalls, backwaters, ripples, currents, waves, torrents, flumes, seas, estuaries ... of air?

Perhaps my most curious bird observation ever was the sight of a half-dozen black-bellied whistling ducks trying to stand next to one another on an overhead wire. Seeing the ducks' compatriots perched all over in the branches of adjacent trees and atop the power poles was strange enough, but that precarious balancing act was the strangest. The feat occurred 2 seasons ago near a pond at an equine study facility operated by the University of Florida, in SW Gainesville.

[Update Jan. 6, 2006: The Clog Almanac welcomes migrants from Birdbrained Stories and the I And The Bird blog carnival. Thanks for stopping over!]

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Monday, December 19, 2005

12 Gills Of Cider

Our string band Irrational Exuberance had 2 gigs over the weekend. One was a Ph.D. graduation party held at the rustic woodland home of the dissertation advisor. We played a lively selection of traditional Appalachian tune sets, a lovely Scottish strathspey called the Birks of Invermay (music notation here), and several Irish jigs and reels. We played waltzes and the folks danced. They clapped after every set of tunes and we were thrilled. It was a case of the band feeling like it was part of the party rather than a band of shady strangers to be shunted into a dark corner and ignored. We were plied with delectables at every turn by appreciative and smiling people.

Midway through the evening, the Columbian hostess produced a giant paella that she’d prepared for the festivities. I delighted on the authentic dish, especially the fresh mussels, shrimp, and squid. Who’d have known that a kid from Idaho would take to seafood like I have? It took a move to Florida.

We played the next day for a gathering of English country dancers, all friends and part of the larger traditional music and dance community we’re involved with. Prior to the dance we all traded holidays-happy banter over a home-cooked turkey dinner with all the trimmings. I think I consumed a dozen gills of hot-spiced cider during the evening. English country dance is slow and stately, and deliciously suited for after-dinner recreation.

I think I had the food pyramid covered this past weekend. As I’ve commented before, good food, good conversation, good homemade music – life doesn’t get much better than that.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

1862 General Order #11 - Jews Out

On this day, December 17, in 1862, Ulysses S. Grant issued General Order #11, expelling all Jews from the department of Tennessee (TN, KY, MS).

The order was a poor attempt to manage the precarious cotton trade between North and South during the Civil War. The North needed southern cotton for its mills and for the war effort (e.g., for tents) and the ill-advised Grant thought that Jewish traders were subverting the process that controlled the supply of cotton (and price) for the North. It turns out that just about everybody was, including Union army middlemen all along the supply chain.

President Abraham Lincoln got wind of his general's order and rescinded it three days later.

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Friday, December 16, 2005

The President Owns The Intelligence, Not You

The Clog Almanac does not appreciate the repeated appeals to legal interpretations to which the current US administration seems to turn for justification of its actions. The newest example has to do with whether the President is obligated to supply Congress and its committees with intelligence of pressing national interest:

Alfred Cumming, Specialist in Intelligence and National Security, to Senator Dianne Feinstein regarding just which intelligence is available to Congress, via memorandum:
"The President's position also affords him the restrict the flow of intelligence information to Congress and its two intelligence committees, which are charged with providing legislative oversight of the Intelligence Community."
In other words, Congress may not necessarily be given access to all the intelligence, contrary to certain recent executive statements regarding the events leading to the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the occupation of Iraq, which generally of late take the form of "What is all this fuss over? You had the same intelligence that we did". The letter continues:
"The President is able to control dissemination of intelligence information to Congress because the Intelligence Community is part of the executive branch. It was created by law and executive order principally to serve that branch of government in the execution of its responsibilities. Thus, as the head of the executive branch, the President generally is acknowledged to be 'the owner' of national intelligence."
In other words, take a hike, Congresswoman. But didn't Congress pass legislation in 2004 directing the Director of National Intelligence to provide Congress access to national intelligence? Mr. Cumming responds:
"Absent a court ruling more clearly defining executive and legislative branch authorities in this area, which most observers view as unlikely, the executive branch has contended that it is under no legal obligation to provide Congress access to all national intelligence."
In other words, until a federal court requires the executive branch to cough up the sensitive and perhaps damning information you request, you're just out of luck.

The memorandum continues on and on, with line-by-line specifics, and a good list of reference documents. More of the "our people researched the legal loopholes for this activity far in advance of our actions, and we hereby proclaim legality for all of our actions" meme.

Does anyone feel this is just another example of the thumb-in-nose, fingers-wiggling snub-to-detractors response of the Bush Administration?

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Boise Idaho Snowfall Record

On this day in 1884, 17 inches of snow fell on Boise, Idaho, my hometown. That is the single-day snowfall record for the Gem State. Add that to the the 5 inches that fell the preceding day, and you get 22 inches, the record for a 2-day snowstorm.

Winters are generally mild in Boise, compared to other areas of the state, and other places I've lived. As kids we always crossed our fingers on Christmas Eve and hoped we'd awake to snow. Sometimes those wishes were granted. Sometimes the Christmas Day snow had melted in time to try out the new bicycle, the new football, or other outdoor toy.

United In Death - December 16

The Clog Almanac Friday Mashup of notables who died on a December 16:

1980 Harlan Sanders - Kentucky Fried Chicken Founder
1944 Glenn Miller - Jazz orchestra leader/composer
1859 Wilhelm Grimm - Comparative philologist and folktale collector

Colonel Sanders was a true Kentucky Colonel, along with Lyndon Johnson and Winston Churchill (yes, you read that correctly!). He started cooking and selling chicken in earnest at age 65, with money from his $165 Social Security retirement check. He sold his franchise business for 2 million finger-lickin-good dollars. Here's a quote attributed to him:
"There's no reason to be the richest man in the cemetery. You can't do any business from there."

Glenn Miller was a
decorated MIA war hero. Read a short bio at the Glenn Miller Birthplace Society.

The Clog Almanac recommends Bruno Bettelheim's very interesting Freudian look at fairy tales: The Uses of Enchantment - The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales.

Thursday, December 15, 2005


This morning a half-dozen turkey vultures were perched in the tall longleaf pine just beyond the back yard. An omen?

The sky has been glum and gray all the day. The only highlight has been a chance to kill time watching giant koi cirling hungrily in an unnaturally green artificial pond at a timeworn Fraternal Order of Eagles clubhouse (bar) that I had to visit on business this morning. Somebody light a fire under me, please.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

What Constitution?

Longish-haired Doug Thompson of The Rant, Capital Hill Blue, produced a few quotes that want substantiating... Hello... That's a job for the blogosphere (hint!). Get to it, compatriots!

First, he quotes Bush as saying
“Stop throwing the Constitution in my face, "It’s just a goddamned piece of paper!” ... reference?

Then Thompson says that Alberto Gonzales, while White House Counsel, said
The Constitution is an outdated document.” ... reference?

Then he quotes a bunch of statements from Justice Scalia which seem to indicate that the Honorable Judge feels that the Constitution is indeed an outdated document. Again : references?

What does it all mean? Did those gentlemen really say that? Did members of the US's *hallowed* executive and judicial bodies really say that? Does the political machine really think that the Constitution of the United States is a moldy and meaningless fossil?

Where is the truth in all this? Where might it all lead? The Clog Almanac wants to know.

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Santa Watch: Jolly Old Elf Assaulted In Germany

Santa suffered broken fingers as he tried to protect his head from 2 enraged shoppers who beat him and beat him with his sack of gifts. Wie sagt Man "Ouch" auf Deutsch?

Perhaps the unwitting soul had strayed into a Santa Free Zone.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

A Measure Of Happiness

Slough, England is the subject of a BBC2 television program/experiment called Making Slough Happy. Some psychotherapists believe group therapy for a lucky 50 of the townsfolk can cheer up the sad commuter burg west of Heathrow airport.

Richard Rahn, happily blogging for Brussels Journal, has comments, including a list of activities that the lead doctor for the series says can bring one happiness, like growing and caring for a plant, daily exercise, regular conversations with a friend, etc. (Blogging is not on the list, and probably just as well.)

What is the measure of your happiness? You might spend a few sunny minutes trolling around in the World Data Base of Happiness, maintained at Erasmus University in Rotterdam. Revel in the links to the
Bibliography of Happiness, Directory of Happiness Investigators, The People Behind, and Key Literature!

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Monday, December 12, 2005

Worst News Liar: Last Day To Submit

MediaChannel has been looking for the best(worst) news lie of 2005, so it can present the Pinocchio's Nose Award. The top 3 lies will receive an award (presumably not a live, cheeky wooden puppet).

Quick! Submit entries, by 5:30 p.m. tomorrow (12/13/05), to Make your mark (this one's gonna hurt!) today.

BUT.... let us now hear from all you bloggers who have uncovered the truths behind the lies, and have set the record straight.

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Frost And Sundogs In Florida

We awoke to frost again this morning in north central Florida. The weather service says to expect frost again tomorrow.

Drivers along US 441 and I-75 around 8:00 a.m. this morning were treated to a pair of brilliant sundogs flanking the rising sun.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Pope Decries Christmas Materialism

Speaking out against the materialism surrounding Christmas, Pope Benedict XVI urged the world today to display nativity scenes as a simple way to bring Christ a little closer to the crux of the season's purpose.

Related link: Santa Free Zone

Harold Pinter Nobel Speech

Harold Pinter's Nobel Prize lecture is a scathing review of US foreign policy and politics. It's long, but well worth reading and rubbing your head over.

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Saturday, December 10, 2005

Signs And Wonders Overhead

Todays' skies over north central Florida were fabulous. Three days of rain had passed and the last high clouds were quickly taking their leave, in the form of a gorgeous mackerel sky. The newly-risen sun had a very resplendent 22-degree halo around it, formed by sunlight refracting from the ice crystals that formed the clouds.

By noon the skies were clear and deep blue. I passed the early evening playing old-timey Appalachian music with a couple of friends at the Carr Farm in Micanopy, as paid musicians at the holiday party of a venerable local travel agency that one of the Carr sons works for. Those who have read Archie Carr's A Naturalist In Florida will know some of the intimacies of this farm, now managed by his children. The food at the event was great - anchored by mounds of barbeque and heaps of ribs prepared on the spot, and big steamed oysters fresh from Appalachicola Bay. Overhead the dark night sky was graced by a 22-degree halo around the waxing gibbous moon.

Good food, good homemade music, a crush of happy people, and the clear bright moon overhead. Life can't get much better than that.

Buffalo Found 2 Blocks From Clog-Household

Red-Letter Day for the Clog-household. The Clog-wife, the three-legged corgi, the white cat, and I walked just 1 block off the standard morning constitutional route this morning, to visit a neighborhood yardsale 2 blocks away. My big black cat Buffalo, gone missing shortly after moving into our new house in September, emerged from a thicket of oak-leaf hydrangeas, and casually said hello to us.

We'd all but resigned ourselves to never seeing him again. He'd taken up residence with 2 yellow labs, a big orange tabby, and several other stray cats. The kind-hearted humans fattened him with Hills' Science Diet. I took him right home. Later we went back and learned of all his new friends and adventures and became acquainted with the folks who took such good care of him - one of whom works at the UF veterinary school/hospital and is a true animal-lover.

It might sound silly to some, but all along I've known inside that Buffalo was fine. Now I know he was living the life of Riley. He'll have to be a house cat for a good while, then walk on the harness/leash we'd bought specifically for the purpose months ago, just days before he skipped on us on his first foray outside of the new house.

Buffalo was named for his size and color after seeing the bison while vacationing in Yellowstone National Park. He weighed 13 lbs when we last saw him in September. He's got to be well over 15 lbs now. He still answers to Flobbo, Blublow, Bufflehead, Blackieboy, Pantherboy, and Buffalodeon.

Friday, December 09, 2005

MoTab Concerts Sold Out

All four of this year's famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas Concerts sold out (84,000 tickets) in less than one hour, faster than the Rolling Stones Concert that took place down the street at the Delta Center on November 22 of this year.

[Update: 12/12/05: sold out in less than one hour. Here is a link to the original article in the Daily Herald, for those who were blocked by the Netscape/Compuserve sign-in gauntlet in the second link, above.

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Goodbye Routemaster - British Bus Icon's Last Day

Routemaster buses, the red double-decker British icons for 50 years, became history today as the last bus ran its official historic route (159) for the last time.

Not to worry,
Transport for London have established two heritage routes where 10 buses will continue to run.

Want to buy a Routemaster double-decker, or looking for parts?
Visit the Routemaster Association website.

Predicted: other people are commenting on the icon's demise:

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United In Death - December 9

The Clog Almanac presents its Friday Mashup - of notables who all died on a December 9th.

1996 Mary Leakey - British archaeologist/anthropologist
1994 Maureen Cox Starkey - first wife of Ringo
1988 Roy Orbison - American rock music icon
1964 Edith Sitwell - British poet and author

A profile of Mary Leakey from the October 10, 1994 Scientific American appears here.

Ringo (Richard Starkey) married Maureen Cox in 1965. Brian Epstein was the best man. Cox is one of the "first wives" of Beatles band members.

Visit the link-rich profile of Roy Orbison at Wikipedia.

Edith Sitwell was a satirist who generated many great quotes:
Good taste is the worst vice ever invented.”
Vulgarity is, in reality, nothing but a modern, chic, pert descendant of the goddess Dullness.”
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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Santa Watch: Jolly Old Elf Lynched In Florida

Santa's troubles continue. Now he's been lynched in Florida.

Imagine Yesterday Today

Today I'm wondering what, if anything, John Lennon would have had to say about today's world.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Christian Jihad Watch: Pickup Truck Thugs Assault Professor In Kansas

You might not want to almost teach a college course that challenges Christian fundamentalism, and creation and intelligent design theories. Paul Mirecki, a religious studies professor at the University of Kansas found out the hard way, when he was waylaid on a country road, beaten, and abandoned by a pair of guys in a big pickup truck who'd tailgated him for awhile.

Maybe they were just your typical rednecks, and maybe they didn't know anything about the college course that was planned, then cancelled by Mirecki. Maybe they did know about it, and maybe that was their excuse. But I've learned that Florida is full of big-pickup driving rednecks, and they don't need an excuse to beat somebody up.

US-Funded Spin Stories In Iraq

First it was Armstrong Williams and education reform . Now its Iraqi media and the war on Terror. The US government is paying journalists to spin stories at home and in Iraq. Oh, and perhaps also planning to bomb foreign news agencies that spin widdershins to its party line.

Peter Preston of the Guardian isn't pulling any punches in this story at MediaChannel.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Bird Flu Watch: Human-to-human Transmission?

World Net Daily recently reported that at least 2 nations now suspect that the avian flu virus may have mutated and acquired the ability to jump from human to human.

Specialists in Thailand are watching 2 mild cases where the ill had no recent prior contact with birds or poultry. Meanwhile, reports surfacing from Indonesia hint that the number of cases in that country, particularly in the city of Jakarta, are too numerous to blame on just contact with birds or poultry.

Time and the Internet will tell. You may wish to consult Nature's Avian Flu Timeline, which is current through October, 2005.

What to do when you're quarantined and can't work? Read. Start assembling a
flu library NOW, as I first recommended in this post.

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Bowling For Dollars

The college football bowl season is fast upon us. Time to bask in the transparent unlovelyness of ubiquitous corporate sponsorship again. Not only did the number of college bowls multiply like gerbils in the past decade, but also the number of bowls now flouting the name of the corporate sponsor.

Pairing sponsor with the traditional bowl name produces unlikely ugly mashups:
  • San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl - The picture of beauty, isn't it?
  • Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl - The 2-food-groups-in-one bowl
  • AutoZone Liberty Bowl - My car is my sovereign right bowl
  • Fedex Orange Bowl - Fedex orange, UPS brown bowl
How long until we see a Cotton Pajamas Media Bowl?

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United In Death - December 16

The Clog Almanac Friday Mashup of notables who died on a December 15:

1980 Harlan Sanders - Kentucky Fried Chicken Founder
1944 Glenn Miller - Jazz orchestra leader/composer
1859 Wilhelm Grimm - Comparative philologist and folktale collector

Colonel Sanders was a true Kentucky Colonel, along with Lyndon Johnson and Winston Churchill (yes, you read that correctly!). He started cooking and selling chicken in ernest at age 65, with money from his $165 Social Security retirement check. He sold his franchise business for 2 million finger-lickin-good dollars. Here's a quote attributed to him:
"There's no reason to be the richest man in the cemetery. You can't do any business from there."

Glenn Miller was a
decorated MIA war hero. Read a short bio at the Glenn Miller Birthplace Society website.

Compare the text-content about Wilhelm Grimm at this link with that of the link above.

In the early 1980's I was fortunate to experience a Wanderjahr in Europe and to study German at Heidelberg University. One of my mementos of that experience is a 3-volume set of Grimms' Fairy Tales in the original dialects, purchased from an academic bookstore serving the university community in Heidelberg. Some of the dialectal versions of the tales are much earthier, if not more gruesome, than those of the later refined editions.

If you're prompted to delve into the fairy tales beyond just reading for enjoyment, I suggest this book as a fairly good starting point, especially for those with a Freudian bent: The Uses of Enchantment - The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales, by Bruno Bettelheim.

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Monday, December 05, 2005

America Watch: Neighbors Suspect We're Foreigners

Last night a driver stopped her rattletrap foreign-made car in the middle of traffic to question me about the meaning of the orange, white and green flag displayed from the front of the Clog Almanac household. I was stringing white Christmas lights inside the screened front porch to illuminate a grouping of Poinsettia plants when I heard "Hey! What duz that flay-ug mea-un?"

I explained that the Clog-wife is a competition-level Irish dancer and teacher so we fly the flag of Ireland from the front of our house. She replied "Oh, I guess I don't know my flay-ugs."

Now I know that the neighbors are watching.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Sunday Birdwatch - Florida

Frittering about the yard today I heard chickadees across the street. I sat down on the front steps and mimicked the alarm call of a tufted titmouse. With the help of an agitated southern fox squirrel in the big red oak beside the house I soon had the following birds clamoring around me:

Tufted titmouse
Black and white warbler
Carolina chickadee (3)
Eastern bluebird (7)
Ruby-crowned kinglet (4)

I've linked to a variety of on-line bird sites with this post - there are a good many informative birding resources to take advantage of.

Clog Almanac challenges readers to investigate the bird life in your area if you've not done so already. Most folks are quite surprised to learn how many different species frequent their area during a year. Perhaps you might add "learn to identify 10 new bird species by sight and call this year" to your list of New Years' resolutions.

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Saturday, December 03, 2005

Christian Hate-Mail: Flying Spaghetti Monster

Flying Spaghetti Monsterism may be one of the world's fastest growing religions. Support for this conjecture may come from the so many UN-christian hate-mail responses (from christians - very small "c") to the Flying Spaghetti Monster website's open letter to several school boards that have been voting whether or not to include a requirement to teach intelligent design as an alternative to scientific explanations of the origin of life, the universe, and everything else.

Below are some quotes from those responses by some of our christian brethren, who apparently can't spell; don't fathom English punctuation; can't comprehend the English possessive case marker; and, apparently, are just as hateful and profane as secular society's worst characters. All quotes following were copied exactly as they appeared.

"you should have the simple common sence to respect other peoples beliefs. making a LAME joke about the the one awnser the one thing your whole pathetic life is base upon CANT awnser is a sign of how your brain is flawed. i would suggest growing up allitle and/or blowing your fucking face off with a shotgun. fucking humans, your all pathetic. you dont know shit bitch." - Andiar Rohnds

"I would like to tell you that i was very offended by your letter, and would like to join the 5% that believes you are going to hell. I did not at all appreciate the way you dipict those who beleive something other than you. Jack ass.
P.S. I hope your genitals fall off and are eaten by three-legged mice with squirrel tails.
P.S.S Ninjas are way cooler than pirates. Jack ass. you're an idiot. I'll pray for you." - Andrew Schmitt

Take your spaghetti monster and stick it." - Kelly J. Coppola, RN

"And if you still think you are so smart and wise,to be above a Biblical God theory, allowt me ask your wife how you really are and it should silence you." - David Dorozan

"What you are doing is truly asinine and I hope you realize the error of your ways soon. And by the way, your case would not hold in court, mainly because no judge in his right mind is going to buy this bullshit. Maybe you should try to convert bush, he is a two year old too is he not? Also, feel free to kill yourself. Sincerely," - james aladar

" When you look at your website and see what it is you're you ever just shit your pants a little bit? I only ask because i just viewed your website, and in the middle, I accidentally made a little poopy. Please help me figure out if this is a serious medical
situation, or if it could just be from the fact that YOU'RE FUCKING RETARDED. Thank you." - Dan P Lautersztain

Andiar, Andrew, Kelly, David, james, Dan P - Does your faith encourage you to think and speak like that?

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Another Reason To Dislike Telcos

Reasons that sane people dislike telecommunication companies are myriad. Many of the reasons can be distilled into one concept: Billing. This much for that service, that much for this service; billing for services you don't want or need or ask for; billing you for using their service too much; billing you for cancelling their stupid service contract. They've wrung about as much as they can from the stones of their customer base.

Comes now a BellSouth techexec who wants to add another billing scheme that would seriously affect the internet and ultimately its users: Allow internet access providers to become virtual tollbooths and charge other entities for enhanced priority, speed, and access to other computer users. The scheme could be used to censor competitors to BellSouth or big telcos, and effectively shut little guys out of the game. He called the scheme a *pay-for-perfomance marketplace*.

Well that ploy doesn't pass the smell test or the straight-face test, any more than this little scenario:

TV Salesman: "Sorry folks, you're not on our priority list, so I can only sell you a black and white set."
Customers: "But we want to watch our shows in color!" "We've already invited our poker buddies over to watch the Super Bowl next month!"

Salesman: "Yes, well - I could put you on the list, but we'll charge you A LOT of money just for the privelege of owning a color set, given your sorry demographics, AND charge you thereafter every time you turn it on or off."
Customers: "Every time?"

Salesman: "Well, yes, until you go bankrupt, or die."

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Friday, December 02, 2005

Hurricane Epsilon - That Makes 14

Epsilon, the year's 14th Atlantic hurricane formed today, despite all those news reports marking the official end of the record hurricane season two days ago. Its Nature's way of reminding us who controls the weather.

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Florida Woods Walk

Work required another morning woods-walk today. As usual I had my ears and eyes tuned for birdlife. Today's birds: ruby-crowned kinglets, tutfted titmice, chipping sparrows, house wrens.

The chipping sparrows were in thickets of
fetterbush, wax myrtle, and loblolly bay bordering a small wetland. The titmice, kinglets, and wrens were in an open upland laurel oak and water oak woods bordering a longleaf pine flatwoods that had been subjected to a controlled burn a few years ago.

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United In Death, December 2

Herewith this week's Friday mashup of notables who share December 2 deaths:

1993 Pablo Escobar Gaviria - Columbian druglord
1990 Aaron Copland - American composer
1982 Marty Feldman - British actor-comedian
1967 Cardinal Francis J. Spellman - Archbishop of NY
1963 Sabu - Indian actor

Sabu's first film was Elephant Boy, a thrilling adventure based upon Kipling's Toomai, of the Elephants. I saw this 1937 black-and-white film as a child and have been delighted by it ever since. I was doubly tickled at John Prine's song Sabu Visits The Twin Cities Alone. It remains one of my favorites to sing impromptu, to the piano or my guitar.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Mr. India Watch: Current Candidate Crop Needs Polishing

Judges are lamenting the lack of spit and polish among candidates for the Mr. India Contest. Are you at least 5'10", good-looking, well-spoken, suave, debonair? In possession of a good gait and attitude, or shine in the communication fluency and swimsuit categories? If you answer YES to several of these, perhaps this contest is for YOU.

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