Sunday, December 23, 2007

Have A Merry Surreal Christmas

This week-before-Christmas your friends at The Clog Almanac found ourselves in some incongruous juxtapositions that just might fit the very definition of surreal:

While walking our two crippled rescue Corgis in an open field and counting a flock of about 400 American robins that had been previously feeding
noisily in turns on drupes of the large camphor tree in the yard of Clog House Est. 1935, our eyes were drawn earthward from the skyborn tomato-soup-colored breasts of these south-wintering thrush-cousins by the more dulcet tones of a familiar melody blaring from the speakers of an ice-cream van slowly making its way through our north Florida neighborhood.

The van slowed, stopped, and the the driver's window rolled down. It was just then, as the music abruptly ceased, that we recognized the tune as the dreydl song. The red-cheeked gray-haired lady driving the van assumed a beneficent smile fit for the Pope, mustered a restrained
Queen Elizabeth hand-wave at us, and shouted in a slow drawl as completely Florida-southern as smoked mullet, grits and fried okra, "It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!"

We stood motionless, trying to process the scene while the van with its good-willed occupant lumbered away and the Hanukkah music resumed.

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

An Early Morning Rain

Clog-wife and I walked our two corgis before sunrise on this last Saturday of Autumn.

A soft rain came this morning just before first light, pattering on the unraked red oak leaves and gently drumming on the tin roof of Clog-house Est. 1935. The wife went back to bed, the dogs settled into drowsy silence and I had the calm and quiet world to myself. Rather than retire and nap until breakfast, I chose to take advantage of the peacefulness and spend time on the screened porch listening to the first stirrings of the birds and other creatures, and quietly intoning some of my tunes on the fiddle.

Gordon Lightfoot must have spent some days contemplating an early morning rain.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Michael Vick Nike Endorsement

Michael Vick shoes will make you faster. He said so on this Nike Endorsement video. Not quite the other Mike, yeah? Gotta love Vick's pitbull terrier cameo, no? Obi-Wan Kenobi says "there is no disconnect here. Let Michael Vick be known for who he is."

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Afghan Suicide Bombing Chronology

An article that lays out a chronlongy of suicide bombings in Afghanistan is here. Would you agree that the pace of violence has increased in that country?

The "Surge" of U.S. troops seems to be working in Iraq, if standard sources are to be believed. The Clog Almanac warns that thinking that the war on terrorism is being won in that place may be a hasty judgement at best. Faced with sure defeat and destruction in Iraq, insurgent groups and individuals may in fact be doing what they have always done in those societies: melt away and regroup to fight another day, elsewhere. Iran must be walking a fine line since it's purported terrorist-support and nuclear development activities are under the international microscope. Perhaps the decline in violence in Iraq is related to Iran's decreased support of terrorism in that theater.

In the case of Iraq, insurgents who would otherwise be fighting and mounting suicide attacks may be looking for quieter venues in which to ply their deadly trade. They leave the battlefield, bombing and other incident stats go down, and the U.S. reports that the Surge is working. Maybe "it's working" because the enemy is quietly withdrawing. It doesn't take a genius to come up with a list of places where the U.S. and its allies are not concentrating their war, where terrorism and the advancement of enemy ideals might be less expected:

Some insurgent groups may be heading for Afghanistan, to join with the Taliban's push to gain influence. Others may be regrouping farther afield in places like Turkey, Malaysia, Indonesia, or certain African countries. Pakistan? Why not pile into that currently unstable country where tribalism and lawless border areas are the norm and where there are nuclear weapons within reach?

Calls for the beginning of the end of terrorism and international turmoil and violence are immature, in the Clog Almanac's opinion.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Wild Hog Sighting

The spate of absolutely gorgeous Fall days continues in north-central Florida. Yesterday I nabbed a shovelfull of native Fall-blooming sunflowers from a larger population on an out-of-the-way county right-of-way and transplanted them into my butterfly garden. This species, Helianthus angustifolius, the narrow-leaf swamp sunflower.

Today's drive home found me admiring the sunset when of a sudden I noticed 5 wild piglets snuffling around at the edge of a tree line bordering US 441 and wildlands on the NW side of Gainesville Florida near the City of Gainesville's Deerhaven power plant, operated by Gainesville Regional Utilities. The adult(s) were no doubt ensconced in the vegetation.

One morning last year I toured the 1400+ acres of wildlands associated with the coal-powered generation station that are part of a state-recognized "stewardship forest". That day I saw wild hogs, turkeys, white-tailed deer and a bobcat, and many local bird species. Kudos to the company foresters/land managers who are creating and maintaining a diverse mosaic of natural forest communities so wildlife can thrive so close to a growing urban area.

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Alligator Munches Florida Car Thief

You've probably already heard the current "Only-in-Florida" story about the car thief who, despite warnings from alarmed witnesses, dived into a pond to elude capture by police, only to be captured by an alligator. Divers found his remains 50 feet below the surface. There is no punch line to this story, unless some clever reader supplies it via comments to this post.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Alberto Gonzales - $40,000 Speaking Fee

Accent, a University of Florida student organization, is finalizing a contract to pay $40,000 to former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to speak at an event on November 19, 2007. The free event is for both students and public alike. Gonzales, the grandson of (at least 3 of 4 grandparents) illegal immigrants, has no accent, by the way. Gonzales speaks English as well, and probably better, than you do, so don't spout that "he doesn't talk like us" crap). Oh, you don't like that, do you? My my. Speakers' fees are paid for by semester charges to students (or whomever pays the tuition and bills [MOM and/or DAD, no doubt]).

Totally aside, Sean Hannity, the captious pedant right-wing talk-show host was paid $75,000 for a similar appearance in Gainesville, FL. Again, the entertainers are paid more than the politicians. At the event Hannity took a jab at Hillary Clinton, saying that "It takes a village to satisfy my husband". If you've listened to Hannity before, you'd know you wouldn't put that sort of cheap shot above him. He doesn't spout this sort of thing on his radio and TV broadcasts because he knows that it is cheap blather unworthy of him and the advertising-sponsored networks on which he's franchised. He should know better.

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Are You the "5th Guy"?

One in five don't practice good hygiene. Are you the 5th guy? You know, the one that doesn't wash his/her hands after using the restroom or changing the baby in the airport facilities? The one who sneezes and coughs on everyone in the staff meeting? The one who lets their diapered kids reach down their pants and then touch the restaurant table, shopping cart and drinking fountain handles or toys at the day care?

Meet your buddy The 5th Guy at his MySpace page.

The whole thing is a clever creation of the Florida Department of Health. Do us a favor and don't be the 5th Guy. And by the way, keep your hands out of your pants.

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Monday, November 05, 2007

United States' Presidential Primary Dates

Confused about when U.S. states hold their presidential primaries? Go here to get a list of BOTH the republican and democratic parties' primary election schedules.

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Guy Fawkes Day - Nov. 5

The Clog Almanac wishes everyone a happy Guy Fawkes Day. Remember, remember, the 5th of November.

However, the world has had enough of folks blowing up stuff , themselves, and eachother, lately. Enough is enough.

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Got Mints? Must Watch Office Series Clip

Our clever friends at The Office gave us a prank that we're itching to try.

Using Pavlov's teaching theory, Jim teaches Dwight to want mints.

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Micro Wind Power

Check out this short video clip to see how easy and inexpensive it could be to produce electricity from wind on a small scale. This windbelt invention is lauded at ScribeMedia:

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A Very Clever Prank

Need to practice your German? Why not watch this very clever practical joke while you're at it?

Who said the Germans didn't have a sense of humor?
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Monday, October 08, 2007

Little White Pill, Final Update

The little white pill that occupied an unswept landing in the stairwell of my office building for several weeks is no more.

The building's cleaning staff changed, and suddenly the pill was gone.
Gone, but not lost. The day after I noticed it missing and broke the news to colleagues, a group of us walking to lunch downtown found the pill where it had come to rest in a groove between two bricks of the new brick sidewalk that passes next to our building. I told them the whole boring story, which confirmed certain of their impressions of me - how many people do you know that monitor the life-spans and life-histories of items lost or discarded that persist in out-of-the-way nooks at their place of employment?

Our theory is this, and it is ours, and what it is is this: The new cleaning staff, being good new employees who hadn't yet found ways to shirk their after-hours time away like their recent predecessors, swept the little white pill down the stairwell and out the employees' entrance door at the base of the stairwell. They continued sweeping the small brick plaza just outside the door, until the sweepings met the nearby sidewalk. With a flick of the broom they propelled the sweepings, including the little white pill, westward down the sidewalk, out of their scope of work and responsibility, where the little white pill bounced and skidded for a few yards before coming to rest in the place at which it was eventually noticed by us.
That is our theory, and it is ours.

For two days the little white pill persisted in the chink of the brick walk, only to succumb to afternoon rains, during which time it was replaced in the stairwell by a green peanut m&m, whose stay lasted all of those 2 days. For all we know, the janitorial staff ate it. We have no theory about that.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Michael Vick Parodies

Michael Vick parody clips here, courtesy of the Campaign to Sack Michael Vick. You really should explore the site. There's much there to digest; to think about; to curse American professional sports about; to pray about; to wonder about the future of human history about; to speculate on the future of the United States about, and of course, to shake your head and laugh about.

Really, through it all (all those nasty charges), Michael Vick suddenly found religion? Please. Have a brain and turn your bald-faced lie meters up to "detect asshole" on this one. Trust me.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

China's Virtual Internet Police

Beijing police begin patrolling the internet today with virtual police men and women. View the image and newswire story here. Just a little scary, no?

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Alberto Gonzales - Resignation Letter

Here is an image of Alberto Gonzales' resignation letter. Who of us didn't see it coming?
What you really should be checking out is Former Attorney General John Ashcroft's recording history.

It's tough being the Atty General. You just might consider turning down the job - if you're ever offered it.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

Michael Vick Good as Unemployed

Michael Vick's atty's hinted he'd plead guilty to some charges surrounding the dog-fighting, cruelty, and conspiracy allegations that his good friends and cohorts have already turned state's evidence on with their plea deals. You might want to visit the Campaign to Sack Michael Vick, just to once again test the winds on the issues, whatever your sentiments.

The Clog Almanac advocates letting Vick plea to lesser charges by the federal authorities, thinking he'll be able, as one of the posts put it, to "Strut Training Camp Next Summer". Round 2 would be to allow South Carolina to pull the rug out from under him by later pressing state charges and try him for a longer list of crimes. Round 3 would be for the NFL to quietly ban him from their ranks. My employer would sack me and other little people (to paraphrase Leona Helmsley) and deny any vested pension benefits if convicted of the same list of state and federal crimes.

If anything, this whole affair puts other thug-athletes on notice that their anti-social behaviors and crimes will not go uninvestigated and unpunished. Go ahead, read the Code of Thug Life again.

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Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Other Side of the World

From the clever interactive Antipodes Map:

Tunnel down through Hawa'ii: You come out in Botswana, Brah...
Jacksonville, FL - sorry, you come out in the ocean way off Western Australia.
Anchorage? Somewhere in the Southern Ocean north of Antarctica - Sorry to break this news.
Hong Kong? You're gonna end up in Bolivia. I wouldn't have guessed, either.

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US-Israeli Military Aid Deal

The US stock market, beset by the widening fall-out of overextended American greed within the whole of the residential real estate investing/brokerage/financing market, has seen volatility this past two weeks that resembles a graph drawn by a cricket trying to stand on a hot backyard grill. At this point, the only thing keeping the market from plunging once-and-for-all into the depths of the Earth are near-daily infusions of capital by major banks and governmental agencies in several key countries.

Meanwhile, US-Israeli negotiations have warmed to the extent that the US Undersecretary of State (Nicholas Burns) has just signed a deal that pledges US$30 billion in military aid to Israel over the next 10 years. Consider this as a couple of 5-year plans from the near-finished Bush administration. What are they pledging to beef up Israel for? War with Iran? With Syria? With ________
(insert country here)? Are they hoping to provide Israel with deterrent arms that could be pressed into service if/when the US mounts a liberation/terrorist war against another Middle Eastern country?

Time will tell.

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Gator Hunt Opens Today

Dean became the first hurricane of the 2007 season early this a.m.

The first full day of the alligator hunting season opened today too. All 4500 permits were sold. Each permit holder is allowed to take 2 alligators.

How do you kill an alligator? Get your 2007 training manual here.

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Dean First Hurricane of 2007

Tropical Storm Dean has strengthened and so becomes the first hurricane of the 2007 season. Hurricane Dean is walking its way across the Atlantic at 18-20 mph and appears to be headed for the Yucatan. A National Weather Service posting indicates that an Air Force Reserve hurricane hunter aircraft will be dispatched this afternoon, and the NOAA will send its Gulfstream-IV on a surveillance mission.

You might want to bookmark this Google Earth site to track the storm's progress.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Distributed Proofreaders

Pages proofread for Distrubuted Proofreaders: 356
Rank: Proofreading Apprentice - 1393 out of 59,383 volunteers.

The Clog Almanac recommends this all-volunteer team that assists Project Gutenberg in the painstaking task of converting public-domain books into a broadly-accessible online format for all the world.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Pakistani Clerics Stop Polio Vaccine Campaign

Islamic fundamentalists destroyed polio vaccines and took health workers hostage in the Bajur agency in Pakistan. Hard-line clerics in the remote region are convinced that the vaccination program is a US conspiracy to render Islamic children incapable of having children, and thus, anti-Islamic.

Pakistan is one of only a handfull of countries in the world where polio still exists in the wild and where documented cases have been reported in the past few years.

How backward of those people, one might sigh, looking down from his/her western vantagepoint. One needn't be reminded that significant controversy still surrounds vaccinations in the US and other western countries. A search of "vaccine controversy" in your browser will return over 1.6 million links to investigate. Many of the loudest voices in the West seem to be centered in religious groups, and those who administer or practice alternative medicine.

Some have posited a link between vaccinations and autism. Here is the Center for Disease Control's statement.

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Mauritania Enacts Slavery Law

Slave owners in Mauritania can now face up to 10 years in prison if caught. There's progress - the practice was banned in 1981 but until now there was no penalty.

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Quebec Considers Plastic Bag Tax

Montreal environmental activist Jaques Lalonde is advocating a 20-cent tax on every plastic shopping bag, and Quebec's environmental minister is listening. The tax is not proposed as a source of state revenue, but rather, as an incentive to change the way people shop and reduce the amount of non-biodegradable plastic going into landfills. A similar tax in Ireland has reduced plastic bag use by 90% since 2002.

Must-Read Book

I finished reading Richard Preston's Wild Trees last night. This engaging account of the discovering, climbing, then exploring scientifically the canopies of the worlds tallest trees - the redwoods of northern California and Oregon - is utterly amazing. There are passages that will make your palms sweat, your stomach turn, and give you vertigo.

Visit the Humboldt State faculty webpage of the visionary Professor Stephen Sillet, the man behind the vision, the story and the science, then buy the book and read it.

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Little White Pill Update:

That pill languishing in the stairwell of my office building since sometime last month is still there.

Friday, August 10, 2007

United In Death - August 10

Today's Clog Almanac Friday Mashup juxtaposes two pioneers of flight. Both slipped their surly bonds on an August 10.

1896 Otto Lilienthal - German aircraft pioneer
1945 Robert H. Goddard - American rocket scientist

Lilienthal was known as the "Glider King". Photographs of his repeated successes at glider flight caught the imagination of the press and public. Lilienthal's studies of bird wing aerodynamics helped him to improve the design of his glider wings. Lilienthal worked with his brother Gustav, and eventually completed over 2000 glider flights before his death from a glider accident. The Wright Brothers were inspired by Lilienthal's successes.

Robert Goddard is the father of jet propulsion. He had designed and successfully tested a liquid-fuel rocket by 1926. His vision and work ushered in the age of manned space flight and nuclear warheads.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Michael Vick Honored by Christian Conference?

The current Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta explored ways in which to recognize Michael Vick in order to save his embattled soul. Trouble was, he was bound to stay in Virginia because of the serious felony charges surrounding the dog-fighting scandal, so they decided to wait until the case was decided in the courts.

Oh well. Perhaps southern Christians should look elsewhere for a person to honor. Maybe one of their own who are fighting to save families and to end poverty and racism, for instance.

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Product Review: Fudge du Locke

I've had the great pleasure of sampling once again the maple-walnut fudge from the Fudge du Locke candy kitchens of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, located near the Soo Locks. Every summer a gracious coworker sends a couple of one-pound sampler boxes of the delicious fudge south during her annual vacation to the family estate on the shore of Lake Michigan.

I've never been to the Soo Locks, which by the way, are the busiest locks on the planet (12,000+ ships/year). If the Clog-wife and I ever visit, we'll be sure to be there on the last Friday of June, when "Engineers Day Open House" occurs. On that day, visitors may gather at the edge of the locks within touching distance of the giant freight ships and other large craft that are lowered along the 21-foot drop between Lake Superior and the lower Great Lakes.

Made-from-scratch fudge is a tradition in my family. I can still remember by heart the basic fudge recipe memorized as a high school student when for a time I took over as the sometime fudge-maker in my family:
  • Combine 2C sugar, 1C milk, 2T Karo light corn syrup, 3T cocoa powder, dash salt. Stir until mixed.
  • Cook over low heat DON'T STIR! to soft ball stage (236 degrees F - we used the cold water test, or candy thermometer, whichever was most convenient).
  • Remove from heat. Toss in a T or two of butter.
  • Let butter melt and let fudge cool for a half hour or so.
  • Beat cooling fudge with a stainless steel serving spoon to introduce air and to hasten cooling.
  • Pour fudge onto a buttered platter when it has lost its gloss and has thickened to the point that hand-beating is quite difficult.
  • Cool uncovered at room temperature until fudge is solid.
  • Covered unrefridgerated candy will keep for days. Refrigerated fudge will crystalize and dry out - BAD!
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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Currently Reading

Two books that I'm currently enjoying:

The Dead Father - Donald Barthelme
The Wild Trees - Richard Preston

The Dead Father, one of Barthelme's classic novels, is a postmodern, metafictional pastiche that seems to defy the inertia of the giant half-dead, half-alive Dead Father being dragged by a cable across a collage of scenes and landscapes by a band of nineteen people. It's a remarkable story told in a remarkable style.

The Wild Trees seems more like science fiction than a narrative about an extraordinary scientific endeavor. It is an account of a group of adventurers who dared to climb to the tops of redwood trees and explore in the minutest detail the amazingly complex structure of a previously undiscovered unrecorded ecosystem 300 feet off the ground. Here you'll read about tree-dwelling voles, salamanders, earthworms and copepods; imagine clouds of honeybees buzzing around airborne huckleberry gardens, fern grottos, and many other wonders you may have previously assumed were bound to the ground beneath your feet. You'll read about a tree named Iluvatar by its discoverers whose complex crown of 220 trunks arranged in 6 hierarchies was one of many trees mapped in three dimensions. This tree is the most structurally complex living organism every discovered.

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Sunday, August 05, 2007

Tancredo - We'll Bomb Your Holy Sites

Senator Tom Tancredo really did suggest that the U.S. warn Islamic fundamentalists that an attack on U.S. soil would precipitate retaliatory bombing of Muslim holy sites. Mecca and Medina are two of the places Tancredo has in mind.

Why Mecca? It is the holiest of holy sites. Non-Muslims are forbidden to set foot there on pain of death. Why Medina? The prophet Mohammed's tomb is located within the Mosque of the Prophet in Medina.

Would Tancredo go further and suggest that the bombing occur during Hajj time, when the holy sites and nearby cities are full of devout pilgrims? If so, he's likely already considered the following dates marking the beginning of the annual pilgrimage:

Hajj Calendar
2007 - December 18-21
2008 - December 6-9
2009 - November 25-29
2010 - November 14-17
2011 - November 4-7

The Clog Almanac judges Tandredo's saber-rattling to be dangerous folly - if for no other reason that the religious sites in question, Mecca and Medina, are in Saudi Arabia. Of course, there are many other reasons why threatening to destroy religious and cultural sites is a bad idea.

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Sack Michael Vick Saga

If you're trolling for info and sentiment surrounding the Michael Vick dogfighting saga, perhaps your first stop should be the Sack Michael Vick Blog Carnival. That site is organizing and tracking the development of the issues.

Vick's legal counsel, of course, would probably call it dogpiling.

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Saturday, August 04, 2007

History's Yardstick - An Irish-American Success Story

The previous post mentioned the purchase of an antique yardstick at a community yard sale. The advertising on both sides reads:
The seller guessed the ruler "came from somewhere in the Midwest, maybe Iowa". Several other items for sale bore advertising from that state. What I found was interesting:

William John Dixon was born 12 Jan 1857 in Lisburn, County Antrim, Ireland. Dixon traveled to America as an 18 year-old in 1875. He worked in a lumber yard, learned the business, and founded a lumber business of his own. The W.J. Dixon Lumber Co. had yards in Sac City, Lytton, Denison, Audubon, Auburn, and the Dixon Lumber and Coal Company in Ida Grove and Rockwell City, Iowa. Dixon served in the Iowa legislature, the Board of Trustees of Iowa State College (now University) and the state board of control. He always went by the nickname "W.J."

W.J. Dixon's son, Paul William Dixon, took a degree in Architecture from Columbia University. For a time he managed his father's business, the W.J. Dixon Lumber Co. He eventually became the Chairman of the board of Trustees of Buena Vista College (now University) in Storm Lake, Iowa. Paul William Dixon self-published a book titled Our Heritage, which details the Dixon, Gould and Eastman family connections.

That, after just a few minutes searching the Internet. My yard-sale yardstick is the measure of an immigrant success story. An Irish boy comes to the United States, runs a successful business, and eventually becomes a trustee of the first land-grant college in the country - a school that will go on to achieve membership in the prestigious American Association of Universities. His son attends an Ivy League institution, manages the family business, and becomes a trustee of yet another college that will also go on to be noted as a University with a first: the first "wireless" university campus in the U.S.

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Small Town Americana

Early this a.m. the Clog-wife and I bicycled the few blocks to the historic center of our little north central Florida town. Her destination, the city-sponsored yard sale. Mine, the old-fashioned barbershop, for a trim.

As usual the man-talk in the shop was varied and comical. Southerners love a good story and love to tell them. Since today's talkative gentleman was a law enforcement officer from one of the neighboring counties, stories centered around humorous incidents and arrests of local characters back in the days when a feller got sent home to his wife without being charged, drug busts on the I-75 corridor, and other sundry accounts that contrast today with the way it used to be. About as close to Mayberry R.F.D. as you can get these days.

At one point an old local farmer walked through the door and one barber held his hands up and exclaimed "Hold it everybody, so-and-so has just walked in, so you better put your boots on!" - meaning that the B.S. would be piling up soon.

The downtown was awash with people from far and wide looking for good deals at the yard sale. I had 3 inquiries about my old bicycle, a 1960's Western Flyer. I wasn't going to sell it. It's too fun to ride. From the yard sale I brought home 3 items that I could hold in one hand while riding the bike home: a paperback version of Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, an old yardstick advertising the W.J. Dixon Lumber Co., and a small antique vise designed to grip the edge of your workbench.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

End of an American Icon?

The other day an American icon met its demise in my neighborhood.

Remember when the neighborhood Quickie Mart parking area got its first coating of asphalt? I do. Remember how in years following the asphalt became studded with bottle-caps that had been crushed into it? I do. Of course, you had to have been born before the eclipse of glass-bottle pop by the popularity of can soda and its successor PET-plastic bottled soda. Those were the days when the cashier kept a cap-lifter behind the counter and offered to open the glass bottle for you. [There are places in Florida that to this day still do that for you if you want to drink on their premises - bottled beer even. But then, it's Florida.]

A convenience store, most recently a Chevron outlet down the road from Clog House Est. 1935, just re-paved the parking area. Buried under a couple inches of new asphaltum are a few hundred bottle caps forever sandwiched between sheets of black pavement. I wish I had taken a photo before they were entombed.

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Mississippi Kite

An afternoon bobbing and weaving between heavy rain showers found me at a vacant lot in an upscale subdivision in NW Gainesville, FL. A pair of Mississippi Kites winged overhead, calling loudly, and clearly taking insects out of the air above my head. I am not usually so close to these birds. It was very pleasing to watch these birds doing their work with such a will.

I was at that location to look at trees on the lot of a soon-t0-be-built home. Honest opinion: The lot was the one of the last to be built upon in the whole development. The pad was cleared and graded and I actually mistook it for a retention pond under construction. All topographic contours in the vicinity led down to this depression. I see why this lot was among the last to be sold. I hope the owner has approval to bring in the kabillion or so yards of fill that will be required to elevate the finished floor of the future home up out of the de facto moat.

I noticed that the home on the lot next door was built atop 2 nested ramparts delineated by a retaining wall, each 4 feet or so in height, like an ancient British hill-fort. The ledges provided great landscaping opportunities, but left little room for gardens and recreation areas. That configuration just made matters worse for the lot I was observing. That lot is the receiving area for all of the neighborhood stormwater runoff. Extra warning: since the subdivision road is a private road, the County does not maintain or take responsibility for the road or the runoff that properties within the development generate/receive. That should have red flags going up everywhere, especially to prospective owner-builders. Would you want your neighbor's home, who built up and atop the higher ground next to yours, towering high above your rooftop and surveying your Ninth Ward McMansion (c) from the vantage of his/her overlooking ramparts? Would you want the rainwater pouring off the roof and sheet-flowing from the yard to end up in your sunken living room?

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Weather Report

I would have liked to started the day with a post but a storm cut that short. Somewhere down the road a branch or tree fell and power was cut at Clog House Est. 1935. All things back to normal upon returning home.

The rain today was typical Florida rain: You drive through a downpour, turn a corner and there is no rain or evidence of rain. I must have found my way through a half-dozen localized gullywashers in my travels today.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Suspense Builds Over Cazoodle...

A Cazoodle bot/crawler has been sniffing my feed. Perhaps another Nutch-inspired browser alternative is in the works?

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GE's "My Earth Rewards" Debt

General Electric wants to help you move toward carbon-neutrality every time you rack up personal debt on your credit card.

People!, PEOPLE! This company wants you to feel good and oh so very green every time you put yourself deeper into debt! You may want to spread the word about this marketing ploy (I didn't say scam, mind) to entice you to feel good about paying them interest for A LONG TIME.

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Tourist Traps and Their Animals

I'm from Idaho, and this is even too much for me - a two-story beagle/motel room that rents for $88/night. I think I'd rather sleep in an igloo hotel behind a curtain of reindeer skins.

I note in the smoking policy of the beagle motel that one may only light up a cigarette outside the ground floor to prevent infiltration. I don't smoke, so this in no hardship. The owners decorate the place with chainsaw sculptures too, even some depicting Lewis and Clark. The website proclaims the proprietors have even sold their chainsaw dog figures on the QVC Channel!

There is, alas no pet policy (at the link, at least). I presume one may, of course, bring one's own pet beagle to the beagle motel. What's to stop anyone from patronizing this place with their other favorite pets, like the pot-bellied pig, pet llama, pet sugar-glider, pet short-tailed possum, pet hedgehog; pet prairie dog, chinchilla, Gambian pouched rat, or any of the many pet pythons and boa constrictors? What about pet scorpions or tarantulas?

I wonder about cats though. My cat will not stand to be transported to any place he has not identified as home. You might as well try to smuggle some kryptonite via Superman's red briefs.

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Meme For A Day: "Myspacification"

Wisdump posted a prediction that Facebook will suffer "an exodus of students and geeks and an invasion of Joe and Jane average. " The result will be the transformation of FB into another Myspace. Or to again quote the source, "a butt-ugly flashing and blinking banner farm." A process Wisdump goes on to describe as the myspacification of FB.

Strong words perhaps wasted on someone like me who is associated with none of the social networking sites, with the exception of, which is really simply a platform for me to store links and favorites on someone else's server so I can access them from whatever wherever computer I happen to be mashing buttons on.

Still, it must be depressing to perceive yourself to be droll and edgy and avante-garde only to witness the unwashed masses invading your bastion of coolness. The old "there goes the neighborhood" meme. What next, cyber-perverts?

See who has been blogging about myspacification here.

[Noted: Wisdump mentions the term twice in the post, and spells it differently each time. In both instances an incorrect "c" is inserted into the string. In this post I have spelled the term "myspacification" hoping to follow standard practice for adding suffixes. Perhaps "Myspace-ification" would make others happier.]

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Superb Panoramic Photos

A growing number of photographers are posting dynamic 360-degree panoramic VR photos to the web. Some of the views are amazing. You're sure to spend more than a little time at this site with its many photos and many links. That is if you have Quicktime installed.

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Brown Widow Spider Check

Every year about this time of year I frequently check for brown widow spiders nesting in specific outdoor items that I usually grasp blindly with my fingers with some regularity. There are 3 places I usually check, and all three are on the undersides of a molded plastic object:
  • beneath the rolled rim of the trash receptacle
  • beneath the rolled rim of the recycling bin
  • beneath the rolled rim of the large slop bucket that I catch rainwater in
This past weekend I found an even half-dozen brown widows in a series of molded cells on the underside of a plastic wheelbarrow. There were 6 spiders in all, and all were protecting one or more egg sacs. One of the six was protecting nine egg sacs. When I reach underneath the wheelbarrow to upend and to shake it out, my fingers find their way into one of the cells. The photo (from Mark Jaquith's Flickr site) shows the yellowish sacs that look like bumpy little spheres about the size of a peanut M&M.

I'm usually a buddhist when it comes to killing creepy critters. I draw the line at these venomous creatures who crave the sheltered undersides of common yard implements that I manipulate frequently.

You might want to inspect similar items and places for venomous spiders at your home or business.

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Monday, July 30, 2007

Rhymes With Sphagnum

Need to find that perfect rhyme to complete that killer song you want to send to Martina McBride so you can become famous? Look no further than this rhyming dictionary.

Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch'entrate, if you're laboring to find a word that rhymes with sphagnum. Or with orange, for that matter. In case you were wondering, blog is not to be found in that dictionary.

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The World Needs More of This

Scott Wade's Dirty Car Art Gallery.

Repeated trips down a long dusty Texas road coat the rear windows of cars in thick layers of dust. Scott Wade turns the dusty windows into works of art. The copyrighted images will amaze you.

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Comes in Threes

You've heard the sayings voicing a superstition that had its roots somewhere.
Bad luck comes in threes. Trouble comes in threes. Death comes in threes.
A friend and colleague of mine is feeling very superstitious these days. First, he had a bout of pancreatitis. Ten days ago he suffered a vicious dog attack. Later that week someone (now deceased) in a Mazda Miata flew down a freeway off-ramp at an overpass at what witnesses say was at least 65 mph, failed to stop at the intersection, and was broadsided by my friend's vehicle as it blindly emerged from under the overpass at just 30 mph. So my pal is laid up in the hospital with battered knees (crushed front end displaced the dashboard), bruised face and chest (ditto + steering wheel/airbag). As soon as the swelling abates the docs will be able to assess other injuries.

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Just One Little Pill

Ever notice how some little bits of clutter seem to hang around unattended for months, or years? It's as if their inertia grows with each passing day until they become virtually immovable. First you ignore them, and then one day you don't even see them anymore. The sorts of bits you finally budge when you move your desk or vacate a domicile after many years of habitation.

For two weeks now I've had my eyes on a solitary white pill on a stairwell landing in the bowels of my office building. It lingers there because it came to rest just beyond the footfalls of the stairwell traffic. The passage is rather bland: colorless, lifeless, and otherwise sterile. It is little-used because its entrance is next to a more convenient elevator. Sweeping stairs is obviously extremely low on the to-do list of the cleaning staff. I don't care what cure the little nostrum offers its patient, but I am very curious to see how long it will persist in the stairwell.

Your task: Name one or more tiny out-of-the-way items that you know have cluttered your floor, desk, mantle-piece, rear passenger floormat, etc., for at least six months - things like the toenail paring next to the bedpost, the 3-hole punch confetti under your desk, or that guy's phone number that fell behind your nightstand after the Christmas party last year. Let's see what sort of list we can put together. Comments always welcome.

How to Laugh Off Blog Criticism

For those of you who chew your finger nails worrying about how the world perceives you and your precious blog, Chris Pirillo demonstrates the art of responding to blog criticism in this funny video clip. Start your day with a laugh. [Some profanity and anatomical references]

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Weekend Film Reviews

The Clog-wife and I watched two films at Clog-House Est. 1935 this weekend.

Copying Beethoven - The film seemed a little clunky and the feminism was out of character for the time and place. Still we enjoyed it. I'm glad I didn't read the amazingly scathing reviews before watching it; my enjoyment might have otherwise been spoiled. I liked Ed Harris' portrayal of LvB. Some of the music was sublime.
Rating: 3 clogs.

Uncommon Kindness - The moving story of Father Damian who devoted his life to the leper colony on Molokai, and who eventually contracted and died of the disease himself. Aptly narrated by Robin Williams. We really enjoyed this documentary and marveled at the selflessness with which this Belgian priest lived out his days.
Rating: 5 clogs.

I worked on a pineapple plantation on the island of Lanai in 1975. On rare off-days we were able to travel to Shipreck Beach on the north shore of the island, where one could see Molokai looming in the distance. Some days the island would appear to be floating above the clouds and the sea - a fata morgana mirage. It was that summer that I first learned of the island's history as a leper colony. The image of the island as a mirage added to the mystery that the island held for me. I found my first drift fruits and seeds cast up on Shipreck Beach. I have been collecting "sea beans" ever since. A diverse collection of drift fruits and seeds that I picked up on Florida beaches is housed in the Florida Museum of Natural History's Paleobotany Laboratory.

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Not Just About Burgers Anymore

To hear people talk you'd think everybody hates McDonald's. It can't be true. The mega-chain operates in at least 100 countries. The menus have gone global too, to cater to cultural and religious preferences or restrictions. And that ubiquitous little "Mc" has become the prefix of some pretty wild menu item names.

Beatrice Adams has a nice post at Thrifter. Click on over and read about McLaks, McLobster, McPollo, McArabia, and the list goes on. Heck, you can even get a McHuevo in Uruguay. And no, its not what you're thinking.

A pretty good menu summary by country is also found at Wikipedia.

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Gainesville FL Record Rainfall

I posted the severe weather warning yesterday as the predicted storm moved over our area. Today I located the following precipitation data for Gainesville FL (measured at GVL - the airport) at the National Weather Service website:

YESTERDAY 3.88R 2.32 1926 0.20 3.68 T
MONTH TO DATE 8.37 5.50 2.87 5.14
SINCE JUN 1 15.26 12.28 2.98 9.93
SINCE JAN 1 25.60 29.53 -3.93 22.89
The data show that yesterday a record 3.88 inches of rain fell in a single storm event. The ~2-hour storm surpassed the 1926 record of 2.32 inches. I arranged the relevant bits from the original published data for this post, so it's an abridgement of sorts.

[Just to go way off on a tangent: Why can abridgement also be correctly spelled "abridgment"? One would think that the "e" is required to palatalize the "g" so it is not pronounced as a "hard g" as in gib, gardant and gules?. How many other English words can you think of that have d-g-m in an unbroken string?]

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Clog Almanac Volunteerism Update

The Clog Almanac reports on volunteer efforts undertaken by members of Clog House, Est. 1935:

CALL: Pages proofread via Distributed Proofreaders for Project Gutenberg: 319.
Current DP rank: Apprentice Proofreader - #1577 among 58,829 proofreader-volunteers.
YOU (too) can assist DP to post books on-line so that present and future citizens of the world can access resources and knowledge that we in the U.S. generally take for granted. Register NOW to begin contributing your time, talents, and expertise to this important volunteer enterprise that will enrich lives around the world far beyond the field of your own existence.

Clog-Wife: Kiva Loan Contributor: 20% of her initial microloan has just been repaid within a month of the initial transfer of funds. You too can loan even a few dollars to this revolutionary small-scale program that has a sterling repayment record. You CAN make a small difference in the world of someone less fortunate than you. All you have to do is sign up, loan the price of a night or two out on the town, and you'll help a motivated person to become an asset to their community while they work to improve their lot in life. The recipient(s) of your small loan(s) can make the m0ney you lend work harder than you ever imagined possible, and then repay it in a timely fashion. What do you have to lose? Nothing, really.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Encounter with a Curious Owl

Yesterday afternoon found me in an oak woodland northwest of Gainesville, FL, looking at the existing trees and vegetation where a small residential phase of the Town of Tioga planned development will be built among the trees.

Twenty to thirty years ago this land was clear of everything but the larger southern red oaks. In the years since, laurel oaks have invaded and closed the canopy. While observing understory favorites like dogwood, buckthorn, and sassafras, my colleague directed my attention to a barred owl perched on an overhead branch just 20 feet away. The large owl was watching us intently. We watched it for several minutes and then went about our business. We noticed the owl was shadowing us as we walked the centerline of a future street. We tried to get it to talk to us without success. We did circle around it and were able to entice it to swivel its head just over 180 degrees.

Listen to audio clips of various calls of this species here, here, and here.

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Rain by the Bucketsfull

Our little corner of north central Florida is in the midst of severe thunderstorms. Here's what the weather service had to say:





Right on the money. We hope our big trees don't come apart and smash something. The corgi is cowering at my feet. The cat took cover under the house at the first lightning cracks and thunder rolls. He's got his routine down pat.

What Did You Say?

You'd be surprised at how many English words are neither pronounced nor spelled correctly, even by native speakers. My employer is offering a refresher course for those wishing to improve their spoken and written English. Lord knows a not few among our ranks sorely need it. A few bloopers I've recently heard and read:

"Masonary" - for masonry - paired with "wall", "structure", "construction".
"Suit" - for a suite of furniture, to beautify the master suite, for instance.
"Realator" - in my area realtors heavily accent REAL in an attempt to educate the masses.
"Esplande" - for esplanade - sure its a foreign word, but if you're going to use it to convince someone to buy into your pricey planned development, you might as well learn how to spell and pronounce it. Correctly.

A good starter list of common examples of mispronounced and thus commonly misspelled words is found here. Syncopy, metathesis, analogy, back-formation, misanalysis, haplology - instances of these and others abound.

I had an uncle with heart disease who called EKG's "heart-o-grams".

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Ancient Cairo Toe Prosthesis

A wood and leather big toe attached to the mummified remains of a 50-60 year old woman may be the oldest prosthsesis known. The artifact has been dubbed "The Cairo Toe" and its owner Toe-tankhamun. The device is articulated and shows signs of wear, an indicator that it actually functioned to help its owner to walk. Follow the links to articles and photographs, or tiptoe on over to this National Geographic News article and larger photograph of same. Related stories are at this link.

The Clog Almanac poses this question: Would the lurching halting mummies in all those American horror films have walked differently were they fitted out with similar prostheses?

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Friday, July 27, 2007

United in Death - July 27

Today's Clog Almanac Friday Mash-up juxtaposes a pair of actors with a Middle Eastern ruler, each of whom died on a July 27th.

2003 Bob Hope - American Vaudeville headliner/actor/entertainer
Thanks for the memories. Explore an overview of Hope's career at this great Library of Congress site.

1984 James Mason - Yorkshire-born actor/director
I first became aware of James Mason through his portrayal of Captain Nemo in the 1954 Disney production of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. His 1959 performances in Journey to the Center of the Earth and Hitchcock's North by Northwest marked him in my young mind as a great actor. His unique and compelling voice and measured diction greatly added to his characterizations and brought him roles as narrator in several works.
[Trivia: Mason played Mr. Jordan alongside Warren Beatty in Heaven Can Wait (1978). That film, which dealt with the afterlife, was a cult-favorite at Brigham Young University for years after its release.]

1980 Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlavi - Shah of Iran
See this 2003 BuzzFlash interview where author Steven Kinzer (All the Shah's Men) provides a summary of events of the Shah's regime that are very relevant to America's present involvement in the Middle East. The cast of characters is interesting: The CIA, represented by Teddy Roosevelt's grandson Kermit; the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company - predecessor of British Petroleum; and Presidents Truman and Eisenhower.
The events proceed from the American sponsorship of the 1953 coup to the Islamic revolution of 1979 and the spread of militant religious fundamentalism and anti-Western terrorism of today. Relevant indeed.

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