Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Coretta Scott King 1927-2006

America mourns the passing and celebrates the life and work of Coretta Scott King.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Spicy Investment Tip?

Maybe its time to sink some cash into star anise futures.

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United In Death - January 27

This week's Friday Mashup pairs two men, entertainers from two very different worlds, who died on a January 27.

2004 Jack Paar - Pioneering late-night TV talk show host
1901 Giuseppe Verdi - Italian composer

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Fuel For Thought

Gasoline prices at-the-pump today in Gainesville, FL: $2.45/gallon.

Tonight the television news reported that oil company profits are up 46% over the past year. Now this might be a temporary Good Thing for my 457 investment plan, but I still cry "ouch!" when the pump passes the $20 mark as I'm refueling the little 12-gallon tank of my Sentra. The other temporary Good Thing: most of the 350-400 miles of driving I chalk up every week is in a company vehicle, fueled by my employer's gas card and annual fuel/operations budget.

Ford Motor Co. has intimated that it might produce, as part of its restructuring plan, a line of vehicles including a pick-up truck, that run on E85 - a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. Hey good news, right? Yes, but....

Biofuels are attractive alternatives to foreign oil sources of gasoline. Shoot, even Willie uses biodiesel in his
Bus. However, consider the inevitable tipping point, at the intersection of the production of food, fuel, and industrial chemicals, when it is more profitable for Big Agriculture to market fuel products and industrial chemicals derived from traditional food sources such as corn and soybeans.

What will happen to the food supply when major food sources can more profitably be converted to industrial products, like fuel and chemicals? The sooner we wean our economies from *fossil fuels* (alarming term, isn't it?) the sooner we approach a fuel-for-food crisis. "It was cheaper (=more profitable to shareholders) to make biofuel than to make food, then millions starved."

Put that thought in your pipe, and, as they say, smoke it. Smoke it long and hard. Then, eat a good meal, and start planning for the future of your children and grandchildren.

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Today’s Birds, In Passing

Seen today in the Gainesville, Fl vicinity:

Cedar waxwings
Fish crow
Sandhill cranes
Eastern glossy ibis
White ibis
Little blue heron
Snowy egret
American egret
Green-winged teal
Blue-winged teal
Black-bellied whistling duck
Pied-billed grebe
Palm warbler
Lesser yellow-legs
Loggerhead shrike

Yesterday at Lake Santa Fe in Alachua Co., Fl:

Bald eagle
Red-shouldered hawk
Black-headed vulture
Yellow-rumped warbler
White-eyed vireo

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Monday, January 23, 2006

The Divine Art Of Retroactive Copyrights

Comes now the official Vatican publishing house, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, with an edict of its own: Everything written by the current Pope, beginning with his first encyclical, and by his predecessors in the past 50 years, is now subject to copyright.

So now you have to pay royalties on the Word of God, if thats what they're still claiming it to be.
The Clog Almanac asks, "Did God tell them to charge the world for His Word?" "Did He inform the Pope first, about the institution of this new copyright policy?"

Other than for the necessity of staunching the bleeding of cash for legal judgements for unspeakable acts committed by priests (largely in the litigious USA), is the Church really that in need of money?

If this is a tempest in a teapot, then tell us. (US copyright terms summary here.)

(Via The Times Online.)

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Sunday, January 22, 2006

Counting Crows: Corvid Stereotypes

This past weekend a raucous flock of crows descended on our neighborhood to roost for a night in the expansive oaks near Clog House Est. 1935. I decided to google, in the spirit of the Prejudice Map, "what crows are known for". I likewise tried other corvids as well. The results, which I think may be a little less prejudicial than those of religious sects I recently queried, are presented here.

Crows are known for:
Meticulous hygiene; ability to make tools; loud raucous cawing; eating carrion; stealing food from eachother; landing on and plucking hair from horses; eating eggs of other birds.
Ravens are known for:
Intelligence and complex social dynamics; love of shiny objects; problem solving abilities; remarkable memories; playfulness and versatility.
Grackles are known for:
Decapitating the heads of unwanted neighbors.
Blackbirds are known for:
Colorful hypnotic songs; fiercely defending territory; loud rattling alarm calls.
Blue Jays are known for:
Their crests and beautiful blue color; loud vocalizations and repertoire; caring for young after they’re independent; aggression; intelligence.
Magpies are known for:
Swooping at people that stray near their nest; engaging in play behavior; ravenous and nondiscriminatory appetites; staying in pairs; thieving ways; collecting bright shiny objects.

How this works
, with starlings:

I grew up in southern Idaho. My horse-trading great uncle Al Baldwin, one of the last of the old Idaho horse traders, constructed a magpie trap from old corral posts against the side of one of his barns, and baited it with the hindquarter of a goat. He sold/traded magpie wings and tails with Shoshone-Bannock Indians living on the Fort Hall Reservation near Pocatello, the old home of both of my parents' families.

For me the resilient
Magpie has been a constant wonder and source of interest and remains one of my favorite birds. I can't wait to see them in their irridescent black and white domino plumage congregating in the pasture of my family home in Boise upon my yearly visits.

Folklore surrounding crows, ravens and other related birds abounds. A smattering of corvid folklore, some of it British, is found here.

Raven, the trickster, was a common element of the mythology and folklore of the indigenous peoples of the NW coast of North America.

In my outdoor activities I've come to know the wiles of the Stellar's Jay and Clark's Nutcracker, which, among my family and friends, have always been classed as "camp robbers" for their bold forays onto the camp table when the humans are away or otherwise momentarily distracted.

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

United In Death - January 20

Herewith this week's Friday Mashup of notables who died on a January 20:

2003 - Al Hirschfeld - Caricaturist of Broadway's brightest lights
1988 - Phillipe de Rothschild - elite chateau vintner
1948 - Mahatma Gandhi - India's pacifist bapu
1900 - John Ruskin - English writer, tireless critic of art and society

Gandhi credited John Ruskin as being perhaps the single greatest influence on his life. Ruskin's moralistic commentary about the arts and society was a foundation stone of Victorian sensibilities, and his ideas led to the formation of the National Trust, and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. His ideas inspired the Arts and Crafts movement, and the Labour Party. Ruskin is known as the "greatest Victorian bar Victoria."

Ruskin quotes here.

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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Home Furnishings And Some Backyard Birds

I was home all day, puttering. Outside the morning air was filled with the trills of chickadees and the metronomic chips of a couple of pairs of cardinals. I decided to watch the cardinals, and quickly noticed a catbird following a male cardinal as it flitted among the azalea bushes and wisteria vines in a neglected and overgrown corner of our yard. I haven't glimpsed a catbird in a good long while. An eastern phoebe perched in a recently pruned crape myrtle in the sideyard, but it shyly flew to a safer perch on a chain-link fence across the quiet street as I moved around the yard. Later, as the sun swept over the oak trees in the neighborhood, the robins appeared and filled the air with their distinctive chattering, to the occasional faintly whistled descant of passing cedar waxwings.

In the afternoon stopped in at a local antique shop and purchased a solid walnut, art-nouveau, curved-front curio cabinet; ideal for displaying the best of my antique corkscrews, Victorian ebony and rosewood brushes, and depression-era glass. Life is good at Clog House Est. 1935.

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A Time To Plant

Yesterday was a planting day.

I put in a couple of flats of pansies to add some winter color to the flower beds in front of the house. I planted some very robust foxglove starts. These should bloom in a few weeks. I potted some hickory nuts I'd recently collected from the grounds of the Dungeness ruins on Cumberland Island. And lastly, I planted the red buckeye seed from the tree I'd found growing on the verge of a big sinkhole rimmed with very old red bay trees, that sat in the middle of an expansive pasture amongt a vast woodland-pasture section in the farmlands of Alachua County.

All the while the trees overhead were filled with a busy if not noisy flock of robins. I think they were taking turns eating the small fruits of the camphor tree in the back yard.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Winter Music, Lovely Florida

Yesterday Irrational Exuberance, the string band in which I play guitar, spent a lovely morning playing "waltzes and threes" for the dancers attending the annual English Infusion weekend at O'Leno State Park. Though it was cold outside, the 1930's CCC-constructed dance hall was filled with happy English Country Dance folk lilting to our music.

After the festivities I hiked the trail along the Santa Fe river around the the sinkhole where the river sinks below ground. A finer afternoon you might not experience anywhere this time of year.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Religious Stereotypes By Google

Following the idea of The Prejudice Map, I googled the phrase "X are known for" to find out about certain religions. According to Google:

Mormons are known for:
Clean living; dedication to church and family; generosity; close community bonds; large, tight-knit superfunctional families; upstanding lifestyle; stockpiling emergency supplies; door-to-door missionary work. But not appreciation of sophisticated beer.
Catholics are known for:
Extraordinary generosity; tolerance of other religions; decorating crosses with a crucified Jesus; artistic beauty; lighting candles; double religious affiliation; ability to stand up, sit down, and kneel a billion times an hour.
Lutherans are known for:
Scholarship; hymnody, choral and organ music; sticking by the disaster-stricken for the long-haul; stressing saved-by-grace; potlucks; stoicism toward religious experience; theological argumentativeness.
Baptists are known for:
Vocal Christianity; zeal; free souls and open mouths; political involvement; divisiveness and local church autonomy (hence, many flavors of Baptism); service and ministry; fantastic potlucks; being against fun, in general.
Methodists are known for:
Generosity; hymn literacy; love of singing; good cooking; hospitality; setting up committees; being very anti-alchohol; balancing head and heart on the spiritual journey.
How this works.


Googling Around The World

The Prejudice Map at Google Blogoscoped is worth a look, if you haven't seen it already.

How Old Are You, Anyway?

If China takes over the world, I for one, will suddenly become a year older than my birth certificate and drivers' license claim that I am. There is no grace in growing older suddenly.

Calculate your Chinese age here.

Friday, January 13, 2006

United In Death - January 13

The Clog Almanac Friday Mashup of people who died on a January 13:

1983 -
Dallas McCord "Mack" Reynolds - U.S. sci-fi writer
1941 -
James Joyce - Irish novelist
1929 -
Wyatt Earp - Legendary U.S. marshall
1864 -
Stephen C. Foster - American composer
1599 -
Edmund Spenser - English poet

At the tender age of 19 in 1978, I had the priveledge of sharing several long evening conversations with Mack Reynolds at his home in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico. He would be tickled to see his name listed with Joyce and Earp and Spenser.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Daedalus Birds Return To Florida

Flocks of cedar waxwings have made their appearance in north central Florida. These birds are commonly heard before they're seen. They emit high-pitched wheezy whistles as they wing through the sky. In this area they swoop en masse into the holly trees lining Gainesville's downtown streets and gorge themselves on the bright red fruits.

I get the feeling that the spectacle of dozens of birds careering through downtown intersections and stripping the trees of berries goes rather unnoticed by the majority of folks. The annual return of the waxwings is a seasonal hallmark for the local birding community.

Cutting Through The Rye

The string of north central Florida days just past have been nothing short of lovely. The thermometer will edge into the high seventies today. The snowbirds must be loving it. By snowbirds I mean the folks with Ontario Canada license plates that frequent our interstates during this time of year.

I had to mow the lawn at Clog House Est. 1935. The winter rye seed I spread just before Thanksgiving came in thick and bright green and proceeded to grow a good 6 inches. Mowing the lawn in midwinter seems an odd activity everywhere but in the Snowbird state. I'm in no way fanatical about cutting the grass but I must say I do like the look of a freshly mowed greensward.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Sunday Birdwatch - Florida

The Clog-wife and I took a short walk from our home, Clog House, Est 1935, in High Springs, FL, to the downtown area, which is essentially the old business district of a rural last-century town thrown into the 21st century by burgeoning growth in Alachua County, and tourism to the many world-famous springs whose runs feed the Santa Fe River. We visited a large inactive sinkhole, around which a small city park has been laid out. I stopped under a spreading old live oak to see what birds might appear. Emulating the alarm calls of wrens and titmice called numerous birds to the branches over my head. I noted these birds that gathered in the single oak tree:

Black and white warbler
Yellow-throated warbler
Yellow-rumped warbler
Palm warbler
Tufted titmouse
Carolina chickadee

There was a warbler? in the tree that had chestnut-red hues on its sides. I haven't identified it as yet. Perhaps a bay-breasted warbler that hasn't completed its migration to Central/South America. Must. Return. With binoculars.

Local birdlife never ceases to delight and amaze me. Most folks have
no clue about the startling diversity of birds that live or pass through their locale during the course of a year. Here in north central Florida, folks might recognize common local neighborhood birds like cardinal, bluejay, titmouse, "vulture", "hawk", "owl", "heron" or turkey. But they are almost to a person ignorant of the dozens and dozens of bird species that frequent their community on a seasonal basis, and wouldn't know or care to distinguish a house finch from a chipping sparrow, or wouldn't think to distinguish a pine siskin from a goldfinch.

These knowing folks stand up in public meetings and will swear that birds are not affected by development and sprawl, and that since moving to their home "x" years ago, bird diversity has remained *constant*. The truth is that it's only those few common birds that they can identify that have adapted to urban conditions, that seem constant. I know, because before I started observing and identifying birds, I, like the good folks I've described, thought only 5-10 different birds lived in my little part of the world. But what about the dozens and dozens of seasonal visitors who linger for a short time taking brief advantage of local resources on their yearly migrations hither and yon?

I suggest that the birders in your area have a better understanding of local ecology than most folks in your local government that make important decisions regarding where and how development occurs in your area. Contact local officials and bid them include birders of the local Audubon chapter in local city and county comprehensive plan discussions. Serious birders take the long view. Their knowledge of local bird population demographics, seasonal bird migrations through your area, and the habitat requirements of the individual species may be among the best ecological advice available to those who plan for the long-term future of your community. Birds are citizens of hemispheres and continents, and so planning for their survival requires more than the typical blinkered thinking we apply to our neighborhood associations, cities, and counties. The well-being of bird species and populations, however long or short their stay in our particular areas, requires knowledge, coordination on a large scale, and passionate representation.

On the walk home I spotted this year's first (for me) flock of cedar waxwings streaking overhead, announced by their shrill weak whistles.

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Saturday, January 07, 2006

An Essay For Our Times

Mark Steyn has a very interesting essay at Opinion Journal, his remarks at a recent New Criterion/Social Affairs Unit symposium in New York. He argues that birth rates and other simple demographic changes will, by the end of this century, do away with much of what we call the western world. Lots of gristle to chew on in this piece. Go read it.

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Friday, January 06, 2006

I And The Bird #14

The Clog Almanac welcomes bird friends who've migrated from the I and The Bird blog carnival. I sincerely hope you enjoyed my post.

United in Death - January 6

Herewith the Clog Almanac Friday Mashup of individuals who left this world on a January 6:

2000 Don Martin - cartoonist for Mad magazine
Dizzy Gillespie - Jazz/Blues trumpet man
Robert W. Welch Jr. - Founder of the John Birch Society
Theodore Roosevelt - 26th US president

Wouldn't you love to be a fly on the wall and listen in if these four assembled for a Coffee and Cigarettes vignette?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

More Florida Birds For Lunch

A chance meeting with friends at a local birding hotspot provided some great conversation and birdwatching during my lunch break.

My pal Tom was there trying out his new Bausch & Lomb spotting scope, accompanied by two other mutual friends. The few minutes we spent together at Chapman's Pond turned up these birds:

Pied-billed grebe
Blue-winged teal
Snowy egret
White Ibis
Loggerhead shrike
Black-headed vulture
Red-shouldered hawk
Sandhill crane
Eastern phoebe

The day was beautifully clear and sunny. A day suitable for nomination as a red-letter day in the .


Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Noted In Passing: Birds I Saw Today

Alachua County, north central FL - My work travels around the county took me into the field today. Birdlife observed, in passing:

200+ Sandhill Cranes at the Gainesville UF Beef Teaching Unit pasture.
Flock of
turkeys gleaning a pasture near a small bunch of spotted FL cattle.
Eastern Phoebe making abrupt forays from and returning to the same snag.
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker swooping tree to tree.
Palm Warblers nattering in trees rimming a recently abandoned pasture.
Red-bellied Woodpecker calling from a dead pine.
Pied-billed Grebe and Little Blue Heron at a suburban retention pond.
Fish Crows massing in the canopy of an aging laurel oak.
Small flock of Killdeers winging along a long pond margin.
European Starlings calling from a residential streetside tree.
Cooper's Hawk jetting over a downtown building, and through an intersection.
Ring-billed Gulls winging over a vacant suburban field.

Not bad for a day's non-birding, a portion of which was through the windshields and open side-windows of company pickup trucks. A portion of the day was spent with local environmental protection friends who are way more serious birders than me.

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Monday, January 02, 2006

A Most Atypical Top-Ten List

I mentioned the one-off activities I engage in during the betwixt-and-between days between Christmas and returning to work after New Years. Today I went through a box of sheet music that I've collected over the years.

I present a list of 10 interesting titles from that collection. Titles range from the 1930's-1950's, and were purchased within a year or two of their copyright date by their original, now deceased owner, one Alma Pinske, nee Tabbert (former church organist in Gainesville FL), who I never knew. How I obtained a part of her sheet music collection remains an unimportant secret, even to me.

This isn't the sort of (tiresome) list that is circulating around the Internet at year’s end. It's certainly out in left field, in comparison. Here goes, all the same:

Vintage Sheet Music from the Top of the Clog Almanac Stack

1. Who Threw The Overalls in Mistress Murphee’s Chowder. 1937. Calumet Music Co. Chicago.

2. Ferdinand The Bull. 1938. ABC Music Corporation. NYC. The Disney Cartoon won an award for cartoon-short-subjects at the 11th Academy Awards in 1938. I once owned a copy of the book written in Latin.

3. Tennessee Waltz. 1948. Acuff-Rose Publications. Nashville.

4. Peter Cottontail. 1950. Hill and Range Songs, Inc. Beverly Hills.

5. Thanks For the Memory. 1937. Paramount Music Corp. NYC. Visit Bob Hope's website.

6. Two Sleepy People. 1938. Famous Music Corp. NYC. Appeared in the same movie as #5.

7. Doin’ What Comes Natur’lly. 1946. Irving Berlin Music Co. NYC. From the musical Annie Get Your Gun. Annie is a standard production of quaint and/or lovely outdoor summer stock theaters that have popped up all around the West in past years. I've attended shows at 2 different Idaho venues, and have seen it advertised in Utah too.

8. Side by Side. 1927 and 1953. Shapiro, Bernstein & Co. NYC.

9. Let Me Call You Sweetheart. 1937. Shapiro, Bernstein & Co. NYC. (Earlier copyrights assigned from Paull-Pioneer Music Corp.) Lyrics written by Beth Slater Whitson, who is buried in the Spring Hill Cemetery, Madison, TN, with bygone music luminaries including Roy Acuff, Hank Snow, and John Hartford. Offensive thuglife rendition of the Sweetheart theme here. While you're at it, go memorize the Code of Thug Life.

10. Your Cheatin’ Heart. 1952. Acuff-Rose Publications. Nashville. My father owned Hank Williams records. Williams' music was among the first recorded music I ever listened to. I wish I had the broad mahogany boards my parents' hi-fi was enclosed in!

Italian Farfalle and Spinach Recipe

Today I concocted a quick recipe for this delicious side dish to accompany the fish or meat course of your next Northern Italian meal:

Farfalle With Spinach and Artichokes in White Clam Sauce

1 lb (dry) Farfalle (bowtie pasta)
4C Fresh spinach leaves coarsely chopped
8 Marinated artichoke hearts, quartered
1/2C Butter beans or canelloni, precooked
1/4C Raisins
1/4C Anchovy-stuffed green olives, lightly chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
Dry basil and oregano, to taste
1/2C White clam sauce
3T Olive oil

Boil Farfalle
until al dente, drain, lightly toss with about half of the olive oil, cover and set aside. While Farfalle are cooking prepare the sauce, as follows:

In a large pan on a low-medium flame, saute garlic, artichokes, and raisins in the rest of the olive oil. Stir in the basil and oregano and let cook for a moment. Add the beans and clam sauce (don’t skimp on the clam bits!) Cook at a slow boil until half of the liquid is reduced. Salt to taste. Add the spinach and minced olives; lightly toss them in the mixture until spinach is just wilted and bright green. Adjust salt if necessary.

With your best eye for panache or style, layer the spinach and sauce mixture over the Farfalle; lightly toss if desired. Sprinkle with (red) hot pepper flakes for pizazz and color.

Serves 4-6. Buon Appetito!, as the late Romeo Salta inscribed in my copy of his book Pleasures of Italian Cooking. Its a good cookbook. Froogle it!
You pick the wine.

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Sunday, January 01, 2006

Bird-Flu Update: US Measures Weak So Far

Let's not start the New Year without remembering that there is the possibility of an influenza crisis looming in the year ahead.

The San Jose Mercury News reports today on US measures to handle a possible future bird-flu outbreak.

The Clog-Almanac judges the reported measures to be weak, since they seem to only include plans to quarantine schools or immediate contacts of those that may become infected. Where are plans to provide for widespread hospital and care facilities should an epidemic arise? Where are plans to ramp-up means to produce and provide manufacturing capacity of vaccines for the otherwise unprotected citizenry?

Julie Gerberding, Director of the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is quoted as saying:
"I don't think any of us are thinking of draconian measures to completely quarantine a country or quarantine a community."
But what if draconian measures become warranted? This healthy citizen feels that draconian measures, if deemed necessary, should be planned for, with an eye to facilitating adequate resources and care for those communities so affected while preserving the operation of essential state and local services.

Lessons from the 1918 influenza pandemic should guide preparation efforts with this sobering thought in mind: Though it's an affront to our national hubris, we've not advanced that far beyond the last century's disease containment technology, at least on a national scale. Why suffer again the results of lessons (here, here, here, and here,) not learned or heeded?

The CDC is not entirely responsible for everyone's personal health. Every state and community should be developing programs to guide public and government response to a future flu pandemic, and as individuals, we should learn as much as we can about preserving our health in perilous times.

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Happy New Year 2006

The Clog Almanac thanks all who visited this site over the past year, and wishes you happiness and prosperity throughout the next.

2005 was a good year. I began posting to this blog, the Clog-wife and I purchased Clog House - Est. 1935 and have begun to make it a home. 2005 goes down as the year the cat came back - my big black feline Buffalo walked up and said hello after being missing for over 2 months.