Thursday, March 31, 2005

You're Kidding, Right?

Goldman Sachs today predicted the market for crude oil could be entering into a "super spike" that may see oil prices reach as high as $105.00 per barrel. Blink.

Yes, they said that. No, it isn't an April Fools joke.

Wall Street analysts are all over the place though mostly on the skeptical side. Some think that only a major disruption in production, say in the heavy hitters club like Iran, Iraq, or Saudi Arabia, could cause oil prices to jump so high.

The Rites of Spring
On a happier note, I successfully removed a tick from the crown of my head. Little shiny dark brown fellow, without the white spot like the one I recently pulled off the small of my back. Both bites itch something fierce. One of the negative perks of my job as an arborist/forester.

Curing The Blues With Flowers

Blue flowers are everywhere in north central Florida this week.

Spiderworts, of the genus Tradescantia, are blooming all along the roadsides, and in the uncut grass of our yard. The stamens of this species bear tiny velvety blue hairs - described as looking like "beads on a string" when viewed with a dissecting microscope. This character, "moniliform hairs" is quite rare in the plant kingdom.

Blue-eyed Grass, Sisyrinchium, has a matty grass-like habit and is usually overlooked until in flower. It is a diminutive member of the Iris family, and is one of my favorites, second only to the Bluets I came to love when I roamed Kentucky, Tennessee, and Indiana. There are bluet species in Florida, none of them truly blue.

Finally, Lyreleaf Sage, a pretty blue Salvia that is popping up in yards, parks, and roadsides, competing in numbers with the Spiderworts.

Why not give someone you appreciate some lovely fresh flowers today?

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Tilly Hawk

I drive past open pastures ringed with oak woodlands as I come and go to work each day. More often than not I see one or two sparrow-hawks perched on a wire just north of our home. Each sighting brightens my journey and calls to mind memories of other times in my life.

As a child in Idaho I learned to watch for sparrow-hawks perched on roadside powerlines where cultivated fields and pastures fingered into open rangelands awash in big sagebrush. I often saw them hovering over a stubble field watching for mice and other small prey. Once, long ago in my childhood in the early 1960's, I accompanied my father into a large hangar-like building at Gowen Field in Boise [commercial airport and military base, where burrowing owls once also dwelled]. We found a dead sparrow-hawk lying on the floor inside. It had followed a prey animal, a sparrow or finch perhaps, into the building through an open skylight window, and had become fatally trapped. The occasion gave me a chance to examine the bird very closely (the first bird I'd ever held in my hand) and marvel with my father at the rich cinnamon and dark greenish blue hues of its plumage and the nearly black streaks below the eyes, which I soon came to recognize as marks to identify them in the field. I've loved that bird's brethren ever since.

Sparrow-hawks, or Tilly Hawks, as they are locally known here in north central Florida, are not as common as they once were. I am glad there are a few pairs living close to home. Last year the Clog-wife and I observed a pair of persistent sparrow-hawks drive away a red-tailed hawk that had perched too close to their nest tree.

The sparrow-hawk, or American Kestrel, is known by many folk-names besides Tilly Hawk, including: bastard hawk, bullet-hawk, chicken-hawk, cleek-cleek, cliff-hawk, desert sparrow-hawk, house-hawk, killy-killy, little brown hawk, mouse-hawk, rusty-crowned falcon, short-winged hawk, tilly, windhover, wood bird.

In 1910, Winthrop Packard published an interesting volume entitled Florida Trails, as Seen from Jacksonville to Key West, and from November to April Inclusive. In chapter 17 he had this to say about Tilly Hawks:
"Another great insect destroyer is the little sparrow hawk which winters in the savannas in countless numbers. If one would see sparrow-hawks he should go to a fire. The birds do not flock at ordinary times but may be seen singly, watching for game much as the butcher bird does. But let a wisp of smoke appear in the air and you find them sailing in on swift wings from all directions. As the fire gathers headway in the dry grass and young pine growth they sail about like bats, whirling down into dense smoke and darting back again to a perch not far from the fire, always with a fat, flying grasshopper or other insect driven to flight by the fire. These they seize in their talons in true hawk fashion and devour when perched."

"How such small birds -- the sparrow-hawk is only ten inches long, no bigger than a robin -- manage to include as many fat grasshoppers as I have seen one pick as brands from the burning, it is hard to tell. He who shoots a sparrow-hawk shoots a bird whose main record as a destroyer of insects outweighs his sparrow killing a thousand to one. But the sparrow-hawk is hardly a morning singer, though he does sometimes pipe up "killy-killy-killy-killy," whence the name in some sections, "killy hawk."
The endless conversion of agricultural land and prairie into sprawling suburban developments destroys piecemeal the preferred habitat of this beautiful and fearless little falcon. It would be a sad day were no more Tilly Hawks to be seen perched on a roadside powerline or hovering over an open field. We all would all be the poorer for it.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Floating Buffalo

Capt. William Clark noted the following on the 28th-30th of March, 200 years ago:,
"The ice has stopped running, owing to some obstacle above. Repaired the boat and pirogues, and preparing to set out. But few Indians visited us today. They are now attending on the river bank to catch the floating buffalo."

"The obstacles broke away above and the ice came in great quantities. The river rose 13 inches in the last 24 hours. I observed extaordinary dexterity of the Indians in jumping from one cake of ice to another, for the purpose of catching the buffalo as they float down. Many of the cakes are not two feet square."

[The Journals of Lewis and Clark, entries for March 29 (28) and 30 (29), 1805]
My experiences with American Bison date from visits to Yellowstone Park in the early 1960's to the present. There is a small herd of bison in north central Florida, roaming within the 21,000 acre Payne's Prairie state preserve. My big black cat's name is Buffalo, by the way.

Read a 1937 Yellowstone Park report on bison history and management
here. A brief comparison of the 3 subspecies of bison, including the mountain bison that once populated Yellowstone Park, can be found at this link.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Pace-Eggers and Jolly-Boys

The egg is a powerful symbol of life and renewal in many cultures and societies. Two Easter time calendar traditions in England are Pace Egging and the Pace Egg plays.

"Pace" comes to English through European languages denoting the Easter time (Pascua, Paques, Pasch), but originally derives from a Hebrew word for Passover. Colored eggs were exchanged by the Greeks, Romans, Persians, and Chinese at their Spring festivals.

In the Pace Egging festivals of England, brightly colored eggs are rolled down a hill in a sort of bowling distance contest. Traditionally the eggs were colored with herbal dyes, or wrapped in onion skin and boiled. The old custom is said to commemorate the rolling away of the stone sealing Christ's tomb. In some English towns oranges are rolled instead of eggs, since they roll betterfartherfaster. Perhaps the most famous of these celebrations occurs today, Easter Monday in Averham Park in Preston, Lancashire. This link leads to a webpage that lists many other similar festivals in Lancashire.

In another old Lancashire custom Pace-Eggers, or Jolly-Boys, went door to door begging for eggs or money. They wore fantastic or outlandish dress such as animal skins or went covered in tattered cloth strips. One is reminded of Hallowe'en in the United States.
"Heres one, two, three Jolly Boys, all in one mind.
We have come pace-egging and I hope you'll prove kind.
And we hope you prove kind, with your eggs and strong beer,
And we'll come no more nigh you until the next year."
he Pace Egg plays are more or less street theater, and are related to the Mummers plays, in that they involve a death and rebirth, where a hero (usually St. George, who slew the dragon) is killed by a villain and then brought back to life, thus vanquishing Death and restoring the world's order. The Lancashire Pace Egg Play tradition is the subject of a recent book.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Easter Day

The Pope stood silent during the Easter blessing at the end of Easter Mass in Rome. Yet, one is confident that his silent prayers are heard and felt nonetheless.

Here the sunny Easter morn was welcome after 3 days of nearly constant rain. Not the sort of rain that pools in the yard or floods the swales along our country roads, but the sort of rain that falls gently and steadily without felling the tender flowers that have begun to spring forth in all quarters. The sort of rain that whispers in the treetops and on the tin roofs of the cheery houses in this little north Florida village.

Today the Clog-wife and I shared a lovely pot-luck Easter meal with several close friends. Rather than post a Sunday Recipe Blog, I'll just mention briefly the foods we contributed to the meal:

Curry and honey-glazed carrots
Fresh pickled beets
Strawberry chantilly cake with pureed strawberries.

The cake recipe was the Pane di Spagne (sponge cake) from Romeo Salta's Pleasures of Italian Cooking. The strawberry chantilly filling was modified from the whipped cream discussion in The Joy of Cooking. I cut the finished cake in half, then cut each half into top and bottom halves to make the levels of a 4-layer cake. I drizzled juice from the pureed strawberries over each cake piece, spread 1/4 inch of strawberry filling between layers, then drizzled more juice over the top of the cake. I froze the filled cake for 8 hours, then placed it in the refrigerator until serving with fresh strawberry puree ladled over individual slices.

The cake was a hit, inasmuch as it was my first elaborate from-scratch cake.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

On This Day...

On March 26, 1858, British poet and classicist A.E. Houseman was born.
"Loveliest of trees, the cherry now
Is hung with bloom along the bough,
And stands about the woodland ride
Wearing white for Eastertide."
--from The Shropshire Lad--
Robert Frost was born on this day in 1874.
Joseph Campbell, scholar of mythology and comparative religion that was a mythical inspiration for George Lucas' Star Wars films, was born on this day, 1906.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Easter Thoughts

Its Spring time, Easter time. The time of earthly renewal long marked on clog almanacs and calendars, and celebrated by diverse societies for time out of mind. The natural world is astir and the business and promise of life inspires one to activity, and one yearns to make, and do, and to strengthen connections with the old and the new.

Far away in Florida, I contemplate my family in Idaho and Utah, and I miss feeling those feelings on home ground, in my own territory, among the people and places of my origin. Thus is life in a fragmented and mobile society. But thinking of my northwestern roots, my mind returns to this lovely paragraph in which the wife of a Montana sheep rancher recounts Spring and lambing time at the Call Ranch in the Madison River valley south of Ennis, MT, in the far-gone decades prior to WWII.
“For everywhere I look I can see the stir of new life – in the tender, pale green of the hills, rolling on and on to meet the horizon; in the deepening green of slender, silver-trunked quaking aspen; in the sweet, sharp-scented fragrance of pine and spruce and fir, as the sap runs through their branches.”
Hughie Call. Golden Fleece, with Illustrations by Paul Brown. The Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston. The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. 250 pp.
I have a deep knowledge of what she was feeling. The book is a cherished volume in my library.
Be Well, Do Good Work, and Stay in Touch

I have added a pernanent link to Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac in the sidebar to the right. I do enjoy these daily productions when I can catch them on National Public Radio. There is a link to the complete archives on that site.
This Day in Florida

The Schiavo case is spurring a hunger strike.
Hands-on kidney diseases are loose at petting zoos.
The American Crocodile population is growing.
Minor League Baseball may be coming to Gainesville!
March 25, 2005 - Good Friday, Lady Day

[Mary] Flannery O'Connor was born on this day in 1925.
She died in of lupus in 1964 at the age of 39. Two quotes:

"I come from a family where the only emotion respectable to show is irritation. In some this tendency produces hives, in others literature, in me both."

"I suppose I divide people into 2 classes; the Irksome and the Non-Irksome."
I keep a copy of the complete collection of O'Connor's stories on the bookshelf near my bedside.

Easter Theme Music Blogging
Print out these great Irish tunes with an Easter theme from The Session website and trill them on the instrument of your choice, or convince your family musicians to play them!

Good Friday - D major jig
Palm Sunday - A-Dorian jig - and one of CALL's favorite tunes
The Sporting Days of Easter - D-Mixolydian reel

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Scientists Study Soft-Tissue Remains
from 70-million Year-old T. rex Fossil

You'll probably hear about this on the news this evening. Scientists have recovered soft-tissue remains from a Trannosaurus rex thigh bone. Tissues appear to include blood vessels and blood cells.

One of the Holy Grails of paleontology: Isolate dinosaur proteins or DNA. Photographs of bits of the remains can be found at the link provided above.
On This Day...

Erik Weisz was born on March 24, 1878 in Budapest, Hungary.
We remember him today by his assumed name, Harry Houdini.

William Morris was born on this day in 1834. Morris was a poet, painter and designer, typographer, and founder of the Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain. He was the founder of the Kelmscott Press, whose editions of classic literary works featuring his exquisite woodcuts and typefaces are among the most beautiful books ever printed.
Daughter of the Moon

The moon is full tonight, and I'm thinking of my Mother.

Here's a snippet of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Song of Hiawatha that my dear Mother read to me at bedtime at a very tender age. The poem's imagery and rhythm helped inspire in me a curiosity for language and a love of poetry that has lingered with me into adulthood:

By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.

[H.W. Longfellow, The Song of Hiawatha, Part III]

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Space Available: Yahoo Inc.

Yahoo Inc. has announced it will soon provide 1 GB of free storage space to users of its free email service.
Beet Greens Revisited

I'm dining on raw beet greens today, partly by choice, partly out of miserliness, and partly because I've felt a need for more fresh greens in my diet lately. It turns out raw beet greens are a great source of vitamins A and C.

Visit for an exhaustive look at the nutritive value of the foods YOU eat, including those Subway sandwiches touted in television adverts.

Free nutrition information for the foods of 250+ restaurants and over 29,000 foods can be found here.
New Moon at The Clog Almanac

Because some of the old clog almanacs were based on the lunar calendar, or bore symbols of both the Jovian and lunar calendars, I have added a javascript freeware application to this blog's sidebar that tracks which phase the moon is currently in.

If you're a scientist of sorts like me, you might want to ground-truth the phase information by looking up into the night sky from time to time. Then again, one should need no excuse to gaze into the night sky and do a little pondering.
About That Gas......

The price for unleaded 87 octane gasoline stands at $2.15/gallon today in Gainesville, FL .

Follow this link to a list of 2005 cars that get 40 mpg or better. The Honda Insight with manual transmission stands above the rest in terms of gas mileage and looks pretty cool too. And at just over $19,000 for the starter model, it will fit within the budget of many car buyers.

These recent innovations in the alternative fuel industry are A Good Thing. On the down side, a friend of mine had trouble with her Toyota Prius hybrid. Acquiring the specialized part and making the required repairs inconvenienced her for two weeks.
World Water Day 3/22/05
Eau de Paris/Agua de la Florida

Half the drinking water in Paris is provided by artesian wells; the other half of the water is pumped from the Seine and purified. Half of the Parisians drink municipal water; the other half drinks bottled water. How does one convince a Parisian that his/her municipal water supply is as good as the bottled stuff? Enlist famed designer Pierre Cardin to design a tres chic carafe meant to store Paris tap water in the refrigerator, and then give 30,000 of them away on World Water Day, in front of the Hotel de Ville.

Florida has 27 of this nation's 78 first magnitude springs as well as 70 second magnitude springs. The many springs have long been a precious economic and recreation resource for the state. Several of Florida's spring parks are wondrous jewels in the highly regarded State Park system.

During the
bottled water boom of the 1990's bottled water companies came to Florida's springs. They continue to vie for rights to pump the pure water flowing straight from the Floridan aquifer. As you might expect, there are severely contested issues concerning water and development rights, preservation of natural spring flow and integrity, and locally unwanted land uses (LULU's).

A very interesting and lengthy fact-filled article entitled "Unknown Quantity: the Bottled Water Industry and Florida's Springs" from Florida State University's Journal of Land Use and Environmental Law can be found here.

Next time you purchase bottled water, check the label for the water's source. You may be drinking Florida. Just don't drink her dry.
Then do the world a favor in honor of World Water Day: Refill the plastic bottle with water from your tap, and reuse the bottle over and over, until it's worn out. Ponce de Leon would approve.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Fuel For Thought

Here in the Gainesville, Florida vicinity we're paying on the upside of $2.10 for 87 octane, and $2.30 for the high-test 93 octane. Gasoline prices here are typically among the highest in the state.

Climbing gasoline prices have many drivers around the country sweating naphtha, if not paraffin. Have you been thinking about gas mileage lately, and wondering how your make and model rates? You could keep a log and do the mileage calculations yourself, like my dad did when I was a kid (miles traveled/gallons consumed = mpg).

Or you can click on over to and get a ballpark mpg rating for your model, or at least the 2005 version.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Schiavo Case Prolonged

For those interested in the Schiavo right-to-die case playing out here in Florida, the complete House of Representavies roll call vote can be found here. The U.S. Senate thereafter approved the measure by voice vote, but only a few senators were present.

President Bush signed last-minute emegency legislation early this a.m. Now the federal courts are involved in yet another review of the case.
John DeLorean 1925-2005

Great Scott! John DeLorean is dead.
In case you're wondering, it took 1.21 jigawats of power and a flux capacitor to get that stainless steel gull-winged car to jump time.

DeLorean had great success in the 60's and early 70's at General Motors, including overseeing production of the GTO and the Grand Prix. More in this article in today's Chicago Sun-Times.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Sunday Rambles

This lovely Spring afternoon the Clog-wife and I took a slow walk through the woods along Bolen's Bluff, on the south rim of Payne's Prairie south of Gainesville, FL. The trail loops through upland flatwoods and mesic hammocks to the edge of the Prairie, a 21,000 acre expanse of open marsh and swampland.

We took a side trail at the Prairie's edge and discovered an 8' alligator up in the woods. The beast was freshly dead and had a length of rope constricting its neck. Blowfly heaven in a State Preserve created by the illegal and senseless act of a species of human I'd sooner were extinct. Like the Great Dodo.

There were yellow-rumped warblers everywhere, as well as all the commoner birds we're accustomed to. But I did observe two species with the binoculars that I hadn't a good look at before: savannah sparrow, and yellow-throated vireo. We also got a good close look at a palm warbler and a small catbird that didn't seem nearly so shy as others I've encountered.

Sunday Recipe Blog: Beet Trifecta

I bought a bunch of freshly pulled beets from Freddy Wood Saturday morning and came up with 3 dishes:

Pickled (Harvard) Beets
Remove the leafy tops from 1-2 lbs beets and set aside for Beet Greens and Baby Beet Greens Salad.
Wash beet roots well and cook in a pressure cooker for 8-10 minutes.
Trim and peel cooked beets, reserving 1 C of the cooking liquid.
Dice or slice peeled beets into bite-sized pieces and set aside.

Pickling syrup
Combine 1 C distilled white vinegar, 1 C cooking liquid and 1 C sugar in a saucepan.
Bring to the boil over medium heat.
Stir in ½ tsp ground cloves.

Canning Beets
Pack beets to within ½” of the top of a sterilized wide-mouthed pint canning jar.
Ladle in hot syrup to just cover beet pieces.
Cover with a sterilized lid and ring.
Place sealed jar in a covered large pot and 1” of water, and boil for 15 minutes.
Remove jar and let cool. Check seal, tighten ring, and save for another day.

Fresh pickled beets
Place remaining beet pieces in a glass bowl, cover with remaining syrup, cover with lid or plastic wrap and chill for 24 hours. These beets can then be eaten immediately, and will keep for several days in the refrigerator.

Beet Greens
Sort beet leaves by hand, separating mature leaves from the baby leaves.
Discard leathery, discolored, or insect-damaged leaves.
Save aside baby greens for Baby Beet Greens Salad.
Remove purple stalks from mature leaves and discard (they’re full of sand in these parts).
In a large stalk pot or wash basin rinse leaves repeatedly until no sand, mud, or debris remains in the rinse water.
Chop leaves coarsely and steam for 10 minutes in salted water.
Drain and serve, with a little butter, salt, and pepper, if desired.

Baby Beet Greens Salad
Wash baby beet greens well in very cold water.
Place in salad dish and garnish with Pickled (Harvard) Beets and quartered hard-boiled eggs. Top with a mild dressing. I like a creamy Vidalia onion – cucumber dressing purchased locally.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Saturday Bird Spottings

A clear sunny morn with birds all around the yard and in the woods beyond. The Clog-wife and I walked the corgi at 7:00 a.m. down the short tree-canopied dirt road to the pastures and woods bordering Orange Lake. I paused at the gate to watch and listen to the many birds; Clog-wife, the white cat and the corgi continued through the gate and down the road that right-angles around an old homestead dating from the 1840's.

All that remains of the homestead is a pile of brick that used to be the chimney, slowly returning to earth beneath a rank tangle of poison ivy. Freddy Wood farms that piece of ground and grows melons or squashes. Right now the patch is sown in winter ryegrass. Over the past year we've gleaned
from the freshly turned furrows a jarfull of bits of old crockery and pieces of colored glass , door knobs, and two glass beads .

Th plot is part of a much larger cow pasture of several hundred acres on the northeast shore of Orange Lake. The corgi could smell the cows and made off into the tall grass in a little sweetgum thicket, white cat trailing behind. Clog-wife says "He's got cow in him, but he wouldn't know what to do if he came upon one." I suspect she's correct. The yardbird didn't want to come home.

Back home, I lingered in the yard with my binoculars and identified the following 19 birds by sight or by their calls: parula warbler, yellow-rumped (myrtle) warbler, white-eyed vireo, blue-gray gnatcatcher, ruby-crowned kinglet, brown thrasher, American robin, blue jay, red-wing blackbird, Carolina wren, cardinal, catbird, mockingbird, red-bellied woodpecker, red-shouldered hawk, bald eagle, tree swallow, black-headed vulture, and sandhill crane.

Sawing the Fiddle
Later, the Clog-wife and I drove to Paynes Prairie State Preserve on the shore of Lake Wauberg to watch the latter stage of the Sawgrass Fiddle Contest. The event is held every Spring and the contestants are children and teenagers. Its an effort of love by adult fiddlers and sponsors with the express purpose of inspiring and cultivating the next generation of fiddlers. We heard several playing styles in the brief time we were there: Texas swing, old-time, Irish, and Scottish. It was quite an enjoyable way to spend a lovely Spring afternoon beside a lake.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Hope Is the Thing With Feathers

Our household (Clog-wife, Corgi, Cats, then me) awakens with the birds every morning. I am gladdened each day as these birds sing from the fields and woods surrounding our home. May they always find a healthy mosaic of farm, forest and swampland in all their Summer and Winter haunts.

For our many migratory birds, whose “homelands” span continents or even oceans, Preservation means leaving things pretty much as they are. Preservation does not mean saving something beneath a bell jar, or in a museum or herbarium drawer, or, in the case of a sizable landscape, turning it toward a radically different use or into something else entirely.

As I have learned more about the diversity of birds, I have come to appreciate them all the more, as a metaphor for my own comings and goings on this earthly landscape.

To steal a phrase from Emily Dickinson: “Hope is the thing with feathers”.

I encourage everyone to read Christopher Cokinos’ very fine book of the same title, in which one may read a lyrical and moving discussion of vanishing/vanished American bird species.
Notes to Self:
Being a Guide for Identifying Certain Calling Birds

From One’s Bed Beneath an Open Window

If a bird says ____________ its is a _______________.

Witchity-witchity-wichity-witch: Yellow-throat Warbler
Virginia-virginia-virginia: Carolina Wren
Weesee-weesee-weesee: Black and White Warbler
Teacher-teacher-teacher: Oven-bird
Tory-tory-tory-tory: Kentucky Warbler
Chick’ a-peeraweeo-chick’: White-eyed Vireo

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Madam, How Doth Your Browser?

If you're reading this and the site doesn't seem to look right, or doesn't work, the problem may lie with your browser. Currently, the Big Three browsers that fully support Blogger are later Windows or Macintosh versions of Internet Explorer, FireFox, and Mozilla. If you're using Netscape or Opera, well, I'm sorry.

Consult Blogger's list to see where your browser stands, especially if you contemplate creating your own blog with Blogger.
Paddy, its Your and Clog-Wife's Day

The Clog-wife is an Irish dancer who, for two years has run a small performance troupe in this corner of the non-Irish world. And on this green-letter day, she and the Inisheer dancers are busy. In fact, they will dance at FOUR different venues before day's end. The final performance will be at the Harn Museum of Art on the University of Florida campus in Gainesville.

Irish Dancing Posted by Hello
Idaho Fairy Shrimp Discovery

There ARE new things under the sun, at least in southwestern Idaho. Idaho National Guard biologists announced Tuesday that they had discovered a new and particularly large species of predatory fairy shrimp. [See what you find when you go looking for weapons of mass destruction?]

Several news articles describing the shrimp mention the ability of the cyst-like eggs of the species to survive unhatched for years in "the baking heat of summer and the frozen tundra of winter". Last time I grew up there, there were no, figuratively speaking, frozen tundras in Idaho.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Senate Debates Arctic Drilling This Week

Senators are wrangling again over whether or not to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Previous bills to allow drilling within the refuge have died by Senate filibuster.

Come now the Republicans with another tactic: attach the drilling legislation to a budget bill that is immune from filibuster (requiring 60 votes to overcome), and that needs but a simple majority to pass. Democrats aren't too happy about the tactic.
Details in this article in this morning's Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Beware The Ides of March (In a Big Canoe)

Captain William Clark had this to say 199 years ago today:
"We were visited this afternoon, in a canoe 4 feet 2 inches wide, by Delashelwilt, a Chinook chief, his wife, and six women of his nation which the Old Bawd, his wife, had brought for market. This was the same party that communicated the venereal to several of our party in November last, and of which they have fully recovered. I therefore gave the men a particular charge with respect to them, which they promised me to observe."
Indeed, as they say.
[The Journals of Lewis and Clark, entry for March 15th, 1806]
The Matter With Kansas

Jeralyn Merritt of TalkLeft offered this scathing opinion of Kansas in her guestblog at Vodkapundit today:
"Face it, Kansas is a plain-Jane. Its "I Like Ike" and Bob Dole country. It reminds me of my most hated food -- mayonnaise -- pale, bland, uniform in consistency and boring. There's no ocean, no mountains and its population is hardly a model of diversity. And its always going to be that way. A simply mediocre, generic kind of place, totally devoid of bathos, highs or lows."
Well, Ive been there on a few occasions, and even lived there for a time. For a moment Ms Merritt almost seduced me into thinking that there were no physiographic differences between the eastern and western halves of the state of Kansas. Then I came to my senses.

The physical world of Kansas or any other place knows no politics. The languid and gentle curves of a river and its tributaries, the subtle hues of an expanse of ripening wheat, or towering gunmetal clouds trailing past a prairie outpost each have a thousand-and-one things to teach about beauty and complexity, and the damnable narrowness of one's perceptions.

Boredom is the province of the boring.

[Hat-tip to]
Some More I'ds of March....

  • I'd like to take long walks with the Clog-wife more than I have recently.
  • I'd usually rather be doing something else when I'm doing what I'm doing at the time.
  • I'd sooner continue in the rut I'm in, rather than find a new rut to get stuck in.
  • I'd give $50 to the medium who could put me in touch with the lost companions to all my unmatched socks.
  • I'd like to hear just one statement from a government official about Social Security that wasn't all fog and mirrors.

Final Wild Bunny Update - I awoke to find the Clog-wife burying the wild bunny. The little fellow died during the night, to our great dismay.

They Say it's Your Birthday - Happy Birthday, Brother. Hope the gift from the Clog-wife and me arrives today.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Rock Me Like a Hurricane

Last year at this time Florida had no idea that Summer 2004 would see FOUR hurricanes march across the state. Here in north central Florida, evidence of the past hurricanes is everywhere:
  • Many damaged homes still haven't been re-roofed and sport bright blue tarpaulins
  • Whole uprooted trees laying in yards and common areas are not uncommon
  • Standing water lingers in places that haven't seen water in years
  • Some home owners haven't removed plywood sheets protecting windows
Come now the TV and radio stations warning that "it isn't too soon to start preparing for next years' hurricanes". The local citizenry have responded to this reminder and have contacted the office of this county forester requesting permits to remove one, or more, or ALL the trees from their yards.

One understands their concern, but feels strongly that the concerns may be intensified by fear. Arborists and foresters I know and respect contend that:
  • Healthy trees are less prone to fail or topple during a hurricane than aging trees with outward signs of internal decay
  • Healthy trees around a dwelling shield the structure from hurricane winds by diverting the winds over and around the structure
  • Removal of healthy trees from yards increases a dwelling's exposure to damaging winds
I do not buy the argument frequently proffered that "my trees must be removed because they might fall down IF we get a big storm". Neither does the tree protection ordinance in our local land development code, which I am employed to administer. By that logic, we should remove all SUV's from our streets and highways because "they might collide with a compact car". Or some other nonsense.

Here is what the experts are saying so far about the 2005 hurricane season.
Wild Rabbit Update...

The Clog-wife found some information that suggested that wild rabbit kits don't hardly take to captivity as well as their domesticated kin and have a much lower survival rate. She contacted the local animal rescue society about the little fellow, and decided it might be best to turn the creature over to a dedicated care-giver. The attendant on the phone was, lets say, very concerned and anxious, and pressured the Clog-wife to turn the thing over. Pronto. With a follow-up phone call within 30 minutes. So the plan is to keep the rabbit overnight, and then take it in to the rescue organization. It has eaten well during the 24 hours in our care - fresh Romaine leaves from Freddy Wood's lettuce patch.

The bunny managed to jump out of its box during the night, and was promptly discovered by the Corgi Fergus, who alerted us to its escape. The pair of household cats are *a little* put out at having to break their routine by having to eat and hang out on the screened porch rather than inside the house.

I've been there.
SUV Antithesis............

DaimlerChrysler-Japan is marketing a smart little coupe called, well, Smart. Believe me, it is tiny.
Check out the several iterations. There is even a rag-top convertible model for the more daring.

The April issue of Car and Driver has a quirky roadtrip article featuring this vehicle. The article is not posted to the website yet.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Sunday recipe blog:
Call's Creamy Carrot Soup

1 lb fresh carrots
3 white potatoes
1 stalk celery
1/4 C white or yellow onion
1 bay leaf
8-12 oz. chicken stock
1 C milk
1/4 C sour or 1/2 C heavy cream
2-3 T butter
Salt/pepper to taste

Dice carrots and potatoes into 1 cm pieces, cover with water in a soup pot and set to boil.
Mince celery and onion and add to pot.
Add bay leaf, and salt and pepper.

Cook vegetables on low-medium heat until soft and over half the liquid has evaporated.
Add chicken stock and simmer for 5-10 minutes.
Reduce heat to low, and add butter, milk, and sour cream.
Cream soup by hand or with a blender or food processor to desired texture.

Adjust seasonings, and serve hot with French bread slices and a favorite cheese.
Gasoline to top $3.00 mark by mid-Summer?

Just days ago I mentioned that the average price for gasoline in these United States had topped the $2.00/gallon mark. Now analysts are pitching numbers that warn that we'll be paying more in the range of $3.00/gallon come mid-Summer. My comment then was "Roll out the hybrids".

However, it seems the look and make-up of hybrids throughout the industry may be in flux as well, according to Paul A. Eisenstein, writer for

Consider this radical idea: Tax the bejesus out of new, off-the-assembly-line gas-guzzling and WAY-oversized SUV's and make them and their poor gas mileage the worst idea since forcing castor oil down childrens' throats. Couple that with tax and credit incentives to bring down the retail price and to advance the availability of electric, hybrid, and other alternative-fueled automobiles, and you might have a combination that would make a difference by weaning this country from its most egregious and polluting petroleum consumption habit. [Not to mention the issue of gross consumerism run amok.]

Just think, car-makers would not have to worry about designing sensible small cars that would be successfully defended against collisions with big SUV's (Six airbags? Where's the limit?), and urban planners and road architects would not have to design parking lots and driving lanes to accomodate the breadth and weight of the increasingly obscene behemoths.

Whither prices for airline jet fuel? If you're considering traveling in the next year you may want to monitor the industry and perhaps book flights early and quickly, before higher fuel prices are adjusted for. Airlines are loathe to sign deals for fuel purchases/deliveries if they think the price for fuel may drop in the near future. This penchant has left some of the bigger companies with low reserves as the Summer season approaches. This means they will be forced to purchase fuel at the going rate, which has soared in recent months; these costs are reflected in ticket prices.
Beside the River Styx....

It was impossible to stay inside on such a lovely morning so I decided to go stand beside some moving water and take in the sights and sounds of Spring. I grabbed my fly rod, tied on my favorite olive green muddler, and ran up the road to the River Styx.

The River Styx drains swampy woodlands fringing the northern reaches of Orange Lake. The "Cross Creek Road" crosses the river here, just a couple of miles north of our home. I stood on the bridge in the early morning breeze and watched the black water curl by the pilings and meander through the cypress and tupelo trees and emergent vegetation. I cast and jigged the fly along the edges of the open water hoping for a redbelly or a bass to rise, to no avail.

Next I headed east to a nearby longleaf pine plantation known to our circle of friends as "the clearcut". I spent nearly an hour wading through thigh-high blackberries between the broad rows of 15-foot saplings and among the old stumps and "lighter knots" of the previously harvested longleaf stand. Lots of birds were there. I listened to a particularly persistant vireo and was able to call in a ruby-crowned kinglet, a yellow-rumped warbler, and a large sparrow I could not identify. Off in the woods I heard the notes and songs of blue jays, cardinals, chickadees, and a lone mockingbird. While walking I startled a group of thrashers that were rummaging through the leaves beneath a sand live-oak.

I found a few shards of broken "Hurdy cups" - red clay vessels used in former times to collect pitch for the naval stores industry.

It was good to wander alone for a time with just my thoughts and footfalls to intrude upon the world around.

The reverie didn't last long. The White Cat Cotton brought a tiny wild bunny onto the screened porch and proceeded to make it scream. We've rescued the poor thing, which appears unhurt. Its no bigger than a tennis ball. Our other rabbit is as big as a tomcat, and is just as fierce.

The Clog-Wife calls Cotton "wicked thing" now, and vows to never have a cat again. I might get back into the business of managing some bird feeders in the yard should that day ever come. But we'll have to reckon with The Black Cat Buffalo in the meantime.

5:00 p.m. Wild Bunny update....
The little rabbit is comfortably 'sconced in a cardboard box recently used to send me an antique carved Ainu bear purchased on The bunny-box occupies my side of the bed. Will I be allowed to occupy my side of the bed tonight? Only time and the Clog-Wife will tell....

The Clog-Wife was born in the year of the rabbit, by the Chinese calendar's reckoning, and was born on a "rabbit day" as well. She is in love with the new addition to the menagerie. In her words: "this rabbit has come to me and I must care for it and love it." So now begin the preparations to give a home to another fledgeling creature that is the object of her tender affection.

Current head-count: 2 cats (Cotton and Buffalo), her beloved 3-legged tri-color Welsh Corgi (Fergus Fodderwing), and 2 rabbits (Bun-Bun, and the new one not named yet).

God love her, tender soul.
British Author Pans Neverland....

Neverland has been all over the news lately, what with the Michael Jackson saga unfolding. Again.

This just in:
"It is an astonishing, daunting privilege to be let loose in Neverland, armed with nothing but a pen,"
said British author Geraldine McCaughrean today at the London International Book Fair, which runs from March 13-15. But McCaughrean won't be writing about Michael Jackson. She has been chosen to write a sequel to J.M. Barrie's classic Peter Pan.

Barrie willed the copyright and royalties to the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children upon his death in 1937. McCaughrean was chosen from a slate of 100 authors who sumitted a synopsis and sample chapter for a book to be called Captain Pan. The judges' panel included Barrie's great-great nephew David Barrie.

The hospital stipulated that the forthcoming book will have the same characters as the original - Peter Pan, Wendy and the rest of the Darling family, Tinkerbell, and of course, the arch-villain, Captain Hook. The copyright for the original Peter Pan expires in 2007 and the book will pass into the public domain.

The hospital hopes that proceeds from the new book will provide a legacy to help fund its many programs.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Section of a Clog Almanac Posted by Hello

Here is a close view of an old Norwegian "primstav" with marks for each week notched into the narrow edge of the stick, and on the flat face, closely spaced weekday notches, and symbols representing special days carved above the corresponding weekday notches.
Consider the birds

Each day in this wooded little corner of Florida begins with birdsong. The loudest birds are the most common - cardinals, bluejays, mockingbirds, Carolina wrens, tufted titmice, and white-eyed vireos.

Songbirds are such hopeful little creatures. They are eager to greet the new day regardless of the weather, and they embrace their daily tasks with a will. We humans would do well to consider these birds, and look upon them as a daily example.

Interesting recent bird sightings:
  • 2 bald eagles standing in a pasture containing sheep and llamas. Llamas were scattered and alert, while the sheep were bunched up shielding their lambs.
  • Pair of red-shouldered hawks shrieking from the top of a live oak tree in our yard. One hawk clutched a mole or mouse in one foot.
  • Bald eagle standing on a roadside tearing at a sheet of fiberglass insulation that had liberated itself from the back of a pickup truck.
  • 2 cattle egrets perched on a reclining cow. One egret had chosen to stand on the poll, between the cow's horns. The cow was unruffled.
Robins winter in this part of Florida, and their arrival reminds those of us in the Good Ol' Sunny South that the rest of humanity to the north are bracing for a season of snow and ice. This winter the robins have been particularly numerous and can be observed in a variety of habitats ranging from coastal salt marshes , to suburban backyards, and the grassy verges along public roads. They're everywhere.

Friday, March 11, 2005

On the map.....

The old clog almanacs provided, by means of simple symbols carved and ruled on a wooden stave, the trajectory of days, weeks, months and red-letter events of the year. They were portable and succinct; didn’t require the ability to read, and were durable. Their long history of use is a testament to their utility and elegant if not simple design.

Paper maps are another indispensable means of navigation. However the rendering of fine details over sizable mapped areas requires the use of a scale that commonly results in maps being printed on large unwieldy sheets of paper. So they get folded so as to make them portable. More often than not, maps are doubled, folded lengthwise like an accordion, then doubled over again.

So here’s the problem: folded paper maps are elegant and relatively accurate representations of the things they depict. They are portable and more or less succinct. But the nature of the folding makes charting and following one’s course of travel decidedly inelegant, since the map must be unfolded, and folded repeatedly as one’s journey progresses.

The good news is that maps can be re-folded in such a way as to make their use more elegant – that is easier to manage with less folding/unfolding required.

Not that a better-folded map would have helped the Lewis and Clark expedition in any way. Two-hundred years ago today they were experiencing personnel problems as well. Charboneau was getting a little testy about the terms of his employment as a guide and interpreter. His wife, the famous Sacagawea, had given birth to their son just a month before. The timeless work-family conflict.

How did Captains Clark and Lewis deal with Charboneau? Just like many modern employers do to this day: they issued an ultimatum. What did Charboneau do, out there in the wilderness, over 1600 miles up-river from Fort Mandan? He quit right then and there.

But we know how the story ended. He cooled off for a few days, got his wits back, and then asked for his job back. Otherwise, Disney would be rewriting the history of Sacagawea about right now.
[Journals of Lewis and Clark, entry for March 11, 1805]

Thursday, March 10, 2005

From the Dept. of Transportation.....

According to the American Automobile Association, the average price for gasoline has topped the $2.00 per gallon mark today.

Reuters news service ran an article citing our government's Energy Information Administration prediction of summertime gas prices in the $2.10-$2.15 range. Roll out those hybrids!

200 years ago yesterday, Lewis and Clark's Corps of Discovery were experiencing transportation concerns of their own: they'd had some horses stolen, and were trying to complete four pirogues out of inferior timber.
[Journals of Lewis and Clark, entry for March 9, 1805]
Spring Fling

Spring has arrived in north central Florida.

Elms, maples, redbuds, and wild plums have bloomed. Dogwood and azalea blooms are transforming yards and parklands into pink and white post cards. The air is awash with the ubiquitous anemophilous pollen of the several oak species and sugarberries and pines. Carolina willows are abloom in the expansive Paines Prairie south of Gainesville. Living things are shaking off the torpor of winter (what little of it we had this year) and are getting a jump-start on the new season.

Freddy Wood, the aging truck farmer and kindly neighbor has prepared his melon patch. I expect he will be getting ready to plant his sweetcorn and Arsh ‘taters soon. This winter we’ve enjoyed his citrus, carrots, beets, cabbages, tomatos, Romaine lettuces, purple cauliflowers, mustard and collard greens, yellow and pattypan squashes, and the tender okra and broccoli.

There is a certain deeply felt pleasure that comes from eating home-grown produce that has been harvested that day, and knowing that the bounty has traveled no more than 200 yards from field to table.

Watching and maintaining the connection with the land and seasons is what the Clog Almanac is and was all about.

Cowboys and Indians in Florida? Explore the history of Cracker cattle and horses, and movements to preserve this aspect of Florida’s storied history

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

1000 Ships under gray skies

Today is a gray overcast day in this part of north-central Florida. Still, it is a red-letter day, since this is the first post to The Clog Almanac.

Hereinafter expect to find occasional musings on the local landscape and weather, a bit of political commentary, personalia, or any other item that gets me thinking and stirs me to post a comment. I'll attempt to work within the rubric of the original Clog Almanac to highlight the circularity of seasons and festivals and recurring notable days or events.