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.

, ,

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.

, , ,

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.

, , ,

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.

, ,

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.

, , ,

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]

, ,

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.

, , , , ,

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.

, , , ,

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?]

, , , , ,

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.

, , , ,

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.

, , , , ,

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".

, , , , , , ,

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?

, , , ,

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.

, , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Blog Chatter

We just couldn't resist posting this image of one of America's oldest novelties: wind-up chattering teeth.

Somewhere in the dusty corners of your memory you recall seeing a pair of these work their silly magic in a cartoon, or comedy routine.

Search "chattering teeth" and you'll find several sites from which you can purchase one of these timeless gags.

, , , ,

History of the Internet

This timeline provides a rather amusing perspective on the history of the Internet.

My 2nd favorite of the landmarks along the continuum:
1996 - AOL begins its efforts to make sure that no human being on planet earth is without an AOL sign-up disk.

We think you'll enjoy the site too.

, ,

Baby Mammoth News

Science Daily has more news about the intact baby mammoth recently discovered in Siberia. Don't get sidetracked or bedazzled by all the adds for fossil ivory.

Further interesting discussion is here at Anthropology.net, including mention of a Russian biologist's efforts to create a "Pleistocene Park" - where cloned mammoths would presumably roam were scientists successful in extracting intact DNA and replicating these Ice Age beasts.

, , , ,

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Hobbit House in Wales

The Clog Almanac recently called your attention to Smurf Houses available in Turkey. Now you can contemplate a functional, lived-in Hobbit House in Wales.

Quite a remarkable site really, plus commentary, advice, and house plans for you to peruse if you are so inclined. Don't I wish Bilbo or Frodo could comment on the place?

, , , , , , ,

Surf's Up! - Must-See Web Content

Time to start a new occasional post at The Clog Almanac.

Henceforth, under the heading Surf's Up!, this site will provide links to a sometimes motley assortment of web- and blog-sites that have caught our eye; courted our fancy; sparked our interest; engaged our minds; tickled our funny-bones; piqued our conscience; challenged our perceptions; won our admiration; garnered our praise; or made us exclaim "Thats' cool!"

In nowise will we try to slip in items that might tug at your heartstrings; try your patience; test your patriotism; question your devotion; break your will; ruin your reputation; harm your self-esteem; steal your identity; or make you exclaim "That's gross!"

Pacific Ocean Trash Vortex - You've been to the beach and seen all that trash that has washed up from God knows where.
Greenpeace knows from where, for the Pacific Ocean, anyway. Visit the link to view a remarkable animation that shows the fate of all that trash we humans cast into the sea...and where it ends up, eventually.

American Television Theme Songs - Someone had to compile them. From "The Addams Family" and "Beavis and Butthead", to "Mighty Mouse", "Underdog" and "Yogi Bear", this website has a gracious plenty, ready for you to right-click and download.

Visuwords - An utterly unique dictionary/thesaurus that lets you look at words in a visual-spatial context of related words and synonyms. It's dynamic and quite enjoyable to experiment with. Type in your favorite word, and Presto! magic happens; you find your word among a free-wheeling 3-D net of synonomies, derivatives, and associated words that you can drag around and reconfigure to your heart's content. Great tool if you're writing and need to find a word that expresses that precious sliver of nuance that suddenly escapes you.

, , , , , , ; , , , ,

Monday, July 23, 2007

On Yards & Yardwork

I worked in the yard of Clog House Est. 1935 this weekend. Just the basics - mowed the lawn, trimmed a hedge, pulled a few weeds here and there. I also trimmed four crape myrtles that are in full bloom along the long sunny side of the property - shearing heavy clusters of developing fruits from straining branches with two thoughts in mind: Removing the clusters of capsules would let the trees devote energy back into flowering and thus prolong the blooming season; and, lightening the weight of the branches would make them less likely to split or break when laden with rain during the frequent summer storms. I had to work between intermittent lightning storms and rain showers to accomplish what little I did. Still, it is pleasing to look out upon that portion of the yard that is newly mown and trimmed. The whole "our human ancestors evolved in open grassland country so we yearn for open spaces where we can detect approaching dangers" explanation, and all that.

But I'm not of the "no blade of grass where it doesn't belong" set. There are portions of the yard that I leave wild. Some would say I've let little out of the way corners go to ruin and to the weeds. These spots are anything but. They are little preserves for butterflies and other insects. Many common "weeds" in this north central Florida landscape are host to the larvae of butterfly species. I let them grow and flower in my little preserves to invite butterflies to breed in my yard.

I've planted and transplanted species that attract butterflies in one of the larger "wild" areas that we call the "butterfly garden", and have begun to put out little concrete and stone pedestals and architectural elements. Here you will find native purple passion flower twining up a trellis and feeding a host of frittilary caterpillars; yellow sunflowers of various sizes rising from the tall grasses; purple and white Echinacea coneflowers, a cassia shrub that will be an explosion of yellow blossoms in a couple of months, parsley for the swallowtails; Sida rhombifolia for the checkerspots; black-eyed susans; two or three milkweed species; a red-flowered lantana; coral bean (also a hummingbird attractor); a dwarf pomegranate shrub; and various wild vetch species. The entire wild jumble of blooming plants and grasses is bordered by a tall bank of pink, white, and yellow four-o'clocks whose colorful blossoms fill the evening air with a lovely perfume, and which attract various hawk moths at night.

I think what I like best about the butterfly garden is that it attracts the eye and interest of the Clog-wife. Each morning she gets to survey the scene for new blooms and new surprises as she leaves on the morning dog-walk. My big black cat likes that garden too, and can be found lurking among the flowers early in the morning.

, ,

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Italian Terrorist School in a Mosque

Italian police raided a mosque in Perugia and found acid, cyanide, remote explosive detonators, films and internet evidence that the facility was used to conduct training activities according to this BBC report, and this article in the Sydney Morning Herald. It appears the investigation stemmed from intelligence that suggested that leaders and others at the mosque had connections to the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group (GICM).

, , , ,

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Clog Almanac Favicon

Here's an attempt at crafting a "FavIcon" for the Clog Almanac. Just a brief and simple Photoshop experiment for now. The rub:

Tree: clog almanacs were made from wooden staves. Paleobotanist by training, urban forester by profession, trees are my business.
CA: abbreviation for this site's title - the Clog Almanac.
CA: first two letters of CALL, my epithet.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Today's Birds, in Passing

I saw and heard a few birds today as I went about my business in Gainesville, FL.

Mockingbird - singing for all he was worth from the dead top of an American Holly tree in a nearly completed luxury subdivision (the tree will be gone when that lot is built upon).

Mississippi Kite - soaring far overhead in company with an osprey, the latter one of a pair that roosts in a tall communications tower in downtown Gainesville near my office. These birds are done nesting here - soon they'll depart for other climes.

Osprey - the pair referred to above calling and wheeling above the city; one of them whooping and stooping - perhaps trying to entice their fledgelings to flight, from their nest-tower?

Bob-white Quail - surprising calls overheard emanating from a yet-to-be-developed acreage near a rather built-out suburban area.

In no-wise have I seen great flocks of birds like those reported in times past - over a billion passenger pigeons in one single flock by Audubon, for instance, or for the 1.5 billion birds at one time claimed by this Planet Earth video clip.

Simply amazing video, that.

, , , , , , , ,

Love in a Submarine

You learn something every day. I never thought I'd learn this:

1. Rich people make love in their own private submarines.
2. Dolphins like to watch rich people make love in their own private submarines.

It's all here.

US Submarines (quoted in the link above) manufactures luxury personal underwater craft and living spaces. Money quote from the FAQ at their website:
With 2300 megayachts operational around the world, some costing in excess of $150 million, the stakes in the game of one upmanship are rising. Some yacht owners like the idea of having a larger and more unique toy.
Take 'er down, Scotty!

, , , ,

Leonardo da Vinci's Cats

I wasn't aware that Leonardo da Vinci sketched cats.

Many of the familiar poses of my present-day feline companion "Buffalo" are illustrated in the accompanying image. I am a little puzzled though, that many of the figures look quite like other animals.

These are but studies, perhaps concentrating on overall form and pose. Still, among these images I see a few ferret- and rat-like creatures. Perhaps a few hundred years' breeding has transformed the cat's appearance to the more familiar one borne by those inscrutable aloof pets that have bent us to their unfathomable wills.

Visit this website to see many other da Vinci sketches.

No sketches of cats would be complete without the word-pictures so playfully composed by T.S. Eliot in his collection of poems "Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats", the entirety of which you can happily read here.

Eliot's own cat, named Jellylorum, is one of the characters in his collection, of course.

, , , , ,

Sunday, July 15, 2007

More Home-Fried Potatoes, Please

Idahoan that I am, I love potatoes. A favorite weekend breakfast at Clog-House, Est. 1935 includes this wondrous staple, home-fried with diced onion, in my oft-used and well-seasoned 9" cast iron skillet.

The simple trick to producing golden-brown home fries that are thoroughly cooked is to half-cook the potatoes before slicing, dicing and frying. This may be accomplished by boiling or microwaving. The latter method is quicker, requires less energy, and keeps the summer kitchen cooler.

Peeling the spuds beforehand is a matter of preference. I don't mind the taste of Irish potato skins; cooked red potato skins leave a disagreeable bitter aftertaste , and have a curious propensity to stick to the roof of the mouth.

The onion carmelizes while cooking, and imparts a flavor that truly enhances that of the fried potato. Some cooks also like to add chopped bell pepper, or minced garlic. Others fold in a palmfull of chopped fresh parsley or chives in the last seconds of cooking. If you want to go overboard, try tossing in some peeled and chopped apples and a pat of butter.

Use a very well-seasoned, pre-heated cast iron skillet, as I do, or a good-quality non-stick pan. The potatoes won't stick and you can drastically reduce the amount of frying oil required.

, , , ,

Saturday, July 14, 2007

A Saturday in OZ

A day of intermittent rains kept me indoors most of the day. I spent a considerable bit of time proofreading pages of L. Frank Baum's The Emerald City of OZ for Project Gutenberg. It was quite interesting reading, and before I knew it I'd proofed 75 pages. The simple language and imagery are very engaging.

Uncle Henry and Aunt Em accompany Dorothy to the enchanted land in this volume. We learn that the name of the Tin Woodman is Nick Chopper, and that the Cowardly Lion has a companion, Hungry Tiger. Dorothy is a Princess in Oz, and the characters we've come to love are all present. Toto Too.

, , , ,

Friday, July 13, 2007

United in Death - July 13

Todays' Friday Mashup unites a painter, a photographer, and a pioneer, each of whom died on a July 13.

1954 Frida Kahlo - Mexican painter/wife of artist Diego Rivera
Check out the Tate Modern's great Kahlo web exhibition that includes a film clip, timeline, 360-degree photo tour of The Blue House, and numerous details of Kahlo's life and art.

1946 Alfred Stieglitz - American photographer/husband of artist Georgia O'Keefe
Read the concise Stieglitz biography compiled for his induction into the International Photography Hall of Fame.

1890 John C. Fremont - American soldier/explorer/first Republican presidential candidate
Fremont mapped extensively along the Oregon Trail. His route brought him through present-day Boise, Idaho, my home town, which he described here.

, , , , ,

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Disaster Planet

Oh great, as if forest fires driving tourists out of Greece wasn't enough, now we learn that London is sinking at the rate of 1-2mm per year.

, ,

$225-Thousand Manhattan Parking Space

The National Association of Realtors reports that in May 2007 the median single-family home price in the U.S. was about US$230,000. Of course, such a home typically includes an expanse of driveway and a one-, two-, maybe three-car garage.

Good luck finding a place to garage your car in Manhattan. You might have to shell out a quarter-million dollars or more if you want to park your Prius or bakfiet there. Yes, you read it correctly - $225 thousand. Not that Manhattan, but
the other Manhattan, where office space can rent for upwards of $200/square foot.

Sheesh. Paying more for a space to garage your car than the median price of a single-family home. Is this what capitalism is all about?

, , , , ,

Lady Bird Johnson's Last Moments, Last Rites

Here are links to a smattering of Texas newspapers which ran stories remembering Lady Bird Johnson. Remarks by local people are found in a number of the articles.

El Paso Times
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Southeast Texas Record
Dallas Morning News
Houston Chronicle
Brownsville Herald
Corpus Christi Caller-Times
San Antonio Express-News - with a priest's account of her last moments/last rites.

I turned six years old in Mineral Wells, Texas, in 1964. "Lady Bird" and "LBJ" became part and parcel of my vocabulary then, and there.

, ,

Dutch Citizens Pedal About Everywhere

The Dutch bicycled an average of 1.5 miles a day for every man woman or child in the country last year. Bicycling is taken seriously there - and its not all pleasure-riding either:

  • Since 2002 Dutch citizens have been entitled a tax deduction of up to $950 for the purchase of a two-wheeler used to commute to work.
  • There has been rise in the popularity of "bakfiets" - a hybrid between a wheelbarrow and a bicycle capable of hauling loads up to 175 pounds. [In this country, bakfiets have begun popping up in trendy cities like Vancouver, home of Rain City Bikes, and Portland, Oregon.][Update, 11:47 p.m. - I'm now informed that one can find/purchase Dutch bicycles and bakfiets in St. Augustine.]
Now for some simple calculations:
  • The U.S. population presently stands at just over 302,300,000. If every person in the U.S. bicycled 1.5 miles a day we'd have ridden over 453 million miles in a year.
  • 453 million miles translates to about 22,672,500 gallons of gasoline (20 mpg).
  • 22,672,500 gallons of gasoline produces about 453 million pounds of carbon dioxide when burned (the apparent paradox is explained here).
Summary: If every person in the U.S. bicycled 1.5 miles a day to work, shop, dine out, or visit friends, this country would conserve roughly 22,672,500 gallons of gasoline, and would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 453 million pounds, over the course of a year.

, , , ,

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Lady Bird Johnson - Dead at 94

Claudia Alta Taylor "Lady Bird" Johnson is dead.

Some of you know her as the "mother" of the 1965 Highway Beautification Bill, which she so tirelessly helped push through, establishing herself as one of the "first ladies" to take a deliberate role in legislative activities on a national scale.

Read the moving remarks made by President Lyndon Johnson at the signing of the bill here, or here.

Ever wondered how the lovely roadside wildflowers you see traveling America's byways got established? State departments of transportation have seeded roadsides since the bill was passed. The Clog Almanac commented on this topic in this post.

Sweet irony that
the Honorable John W. Gardner was the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare at the time of the address and bill's adoption.

, , ,

2 Billion Mice Invade China Provincial Counties

Flooding in the Hunan Province of China has forced 2 billion mice from islands in Dongting Lake to seek higher ground. The mice have invaded human turf in 22 counties around the lake. Locals are building walls and ditches to stave off the assault.

Upside: People have killed more than 2 million of the rodents with clubs, garden implements, traps, poisons, and well, about any other way they can contrive.

Downside: at least 1000 cats in the town of Lujiao have made the ultimate sacrifice after eating mice that had ingested poison. [Just when the cats were needed most - Murphy's law of unintended consequences?]

Flooding and landslides have killed well over 300 people in Central China in recent weeks. Chinese officials and local residents fear disease outbreaks will result from the rodent invasion.

The BBC article linked above makes no mention of rats, snakes, spiders, ants, centipedes, monkeys, or any other creature, just in case you were wondering.

, , , ,

You Can Paint Like Jackson Pollock

You too can paint like Jackson Pollock, at this annoying little flash animation.

Hit the space bar to start over.
Hit any key to add or subtract Miltos Manetas's signature.
Left click to change paint color.
Right click to bring up flash player controls.

Please comment to this post if you can figure out how to get the app to stop painting so you can admire your creation!

, ,

Remarkable World Statistics Presentation - TED

Swedish public health statistician Hans Rosling presents surprising world health, economic, and population statistics in an utterly dynamic fashion in a pair of amazing video clips from the now legendary TED conferences. The clips will have you smiling and maybe even cheering along with the audience, and surely correcting personal misperceptions about the developed and developing world.

These clips are "Freakonomics" writ large.
I've added a link to TED in the RED LETTER DAYS category of the sidebar to the right.

, , , , , , ,

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Another Lawnchair Balloonist

A Oregon man with the unlikely name of "Couch" recently traveled 193 miles sitting in a lawnchair tied to helium-filled balloons. Follow the link for a great photo and the amazing details at the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

, ,

China Admits Food/Drug Safety Issues, Executes Official

People's Daily Online reports that the Chinese government admits that the developing country's food and drug safety system is inadequate and unsatisfactory.

Beset with internationally publicized incidents of shoddy production, and bribery scandals involving high-level officials within the food and drug safety system, the government has announced a 5-year plan to expand the inspection and monitoring process.

One drastic measure has just taken place. The International Herald Tribune reports that China executed Zheng Xiaoyu, the former chief of its food and drug agency, after he was convicted of taking bribes to approve untested medicines.

China exports a dizzying array of products throughout the world in ever and ever increasing quantities. Some experts are predicting that the China's global trade surplus will balloon to $400 billion dollars in 2008, or nearly 13% of the country's gross domestic product.

In the first six months of this year 34,400 instances of the production/sale of substandard food products have been uncovered. China recognizes that it must control the problem to save face and to protect its exports and standing on the world stage.

, , ,

Baby Mammoth Discovered

The BBC reports that a 6-month old female mammoth has been discovered in northwest Siberia.

The eyes and some of the hair are intact. Scientists are hoping that the remarkably well-preserved remains will provide intact DNA for study and possible cloning.

, , , ,

Monday, July 09, 2007

Boeing 787 Dreamliner - Launch Summary

Boeing posted a blurb of its launch of the 787 Dreamliner. As of last week, the aircraft builder had received orders for 635 of the jets, the most successful aircraft roll-out ever.

The airliner has yet to fly. That little detail could possibly inject a little ointment into the situation. Observe the stock price during the days surrounding test flights of the plane.


Toxic Toothpaste from China - Update

You've likely become aware that the Food and Drug Administration so far has banned 23 brands of toothpaste produced in China from export to US markets (link contains brand names of all 23). The toothpaste contains diethylene glycol (DEG), a chemical poison that causes kidney failure and death. The chemical is used as anti-freeze and as an industrial solvent. The cheaper DEG is likely used as a substitute or cutting agent for the more expensive and entirely safe food additive glycerin.

U.S. citizens who don't try to bring tubes of toothpaste onto international airline flights, thinking they'll buy some toothpaste at their foreign destination, might might want to check the FDA list naming brands and manufacturers of the tainted products, and locations where such unsafe products are known to be available.

Summary of the FAKE COLGATE toothpaste crisis is offered at WebIntel.

FDA has advised that glycerin, used as a humectant in cosmetics, and
sweetening agent in many foods, medicines or other ingestible products, be tested for presence of DEG.

The disturbing tale of tainted Chinese glycerin and its travels around the world is told by Walt Bogdanich and Jake Hooker in this very informative New York Times article. DEG used as an adulterant of safe/safer compounds have resulted in other mass deaths, listed in this good Wikipedia entry.

IT HAPPENED IN THE USA ONCE.--DEG added to the bacterial/strep medicine Sulfanilamide was responsible for 107 deaths in the U.S. in 1937. Read an article on the FDA website with the gruesome title "Taste of Raspberries, Taste of Death - the 1937 Elixir Sulfanilamide Incident" here.

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Red State/Blue State Redux

Here is a religious twist on the red state - blue state meme, shown in the low-resolution image to the left. I grew up in a mostly tan state (Idaho), but in one of the blue counties. Now I live in a blue county in Florida, immediately south of a sea of red counties and states (the whole of the South, essentially).

Federal law prohibits religious tests in our electoral system, but that hasn't stopped a bunch of people from publicly stating quite recently that they would never elect a "tan candidate" like Mitt Romney for president of the US. Pretty much the same things were said about those blue Kennedies, once upon a time. Some things don't change.

technorati: , , , ,

Your New Smurf Home in Turkey

You too can live like a Smurf, in one of these 3-story red-roofed mushroom homes just .5 km from the Aegean Sea, in Turkey.

The Clog Almanac wonders which of the little enclaves that Brainy Smurf will live in, because that over-confident Blue Boy was always messing things up for his neighbors, and I want to stay clear of him.

Just thinking: have you ever viewed your family of co-workers as Smurf/Smurfling characters? Which would you be - Papa?, Smurfette?, Grouchy?, Hefty?, Jokey?, Dreamy?, Handy?, Baby?, Vanity? Just wondering.

Hat-tip: Long or Short?]

technorati: , , , ,

Gulf Fritillary

Today I observed a female Gulf Frittilary laying eggs on a leaf of one of the Maypops (purple passion-flower) that I transplanted into the butterfly garden at Clog-house, Est. 1935 this past Spring. Lovely and interestingly complex, passion-flowers invite (if not beg) detailed and lengthy contemplation. Vegetative parts of the plant are an important host to at least two prominent butterfly species in north-central Florida, the Gulf Frittilary and the Zebra-longwing. In this day of butterfly gardening's popularity, I can't see why this institution or any individual would consider it a weed and try to eradicate it from their premises.

I posit that the relegation of this plant to weed status is an artifact of many years of its being so-named in dated textbooks and extension circulars. Websites and articles that quote those references to this day are just perpetuating an old notion rooted in another time. Passion vines are not weeds. They're important butterfly host plants and wildflowers.

My esteemed naturalist colleague and friend "No Thneeds Needed" has superb photos of a Gulf Fritillary and a Maypop flower in his diverse and ever-expanding Flickr galleries. Click on through to his site - he'd love for you to spend some time enjoying the many fine photos of his adventures in Florida and elsewhere. In my experience, he would welcome constructive comments about his images and any kudos you might offer. You'll be well-rewarded for your time and one-finger exertions.

technorati: , , , , , , ,

Boeing 797 Timeliner

Boeing & Company are secretly working very hard on time travel so the company can stay on track for the unveiling of the Boeing 797 Timeliner. That as yet unbuilt futuristic aircraft will be unveiled on 7/9/07.

Since that day is tomorrow, the Clog Almanac suggests that all interested parties watch for an unexpected appearance of the craft in Seattle. That event will signal to the world that the Boeing of tomorrow did indeed master time travel. Stay tuned.

technorati: , , ,

It's the Little Things Will Get Ya on 7/8/7

A shortage of thumbnail-sized titanium fasteners has proven to be the mouse that tripped the elephant. Or, to be specific, the key part whose supply crunch held up the actual completion of the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner, which will be unveiled today anyway, sans seats and other important passenger jet accoutrements.

Tom Brokaw will host the Seattle roll-out, which Boeing is billing as a "premier". One wonders if the carbon-fiber nose section of the airplane will be blushing from the embarassment of being just a shell of an airliner, and one that still is a few months away from first-flight.

You can view the unveiling hoopla live at the company website here, at 3:30 PDT.

Aerospace Technology has a very nice piece describing internal and external design features, variants of the basic 787 design, and discussion of which companies will be supplying pieces of the navigation, electronics, piloting, positioning, and other key functions of the craft.

If you like plush interiors when you travel, you might try the 787 VIP model. It will cost you several degrees north of $150 million.

, , ,

Saturday, July 07, 2007

To Poe Springs and Back

This evening the Clog-wife, our weekend guest, and I ate at Floyd's Diner in High Springs. Talk was mostly about Irish dance, and of course about the first day of the Colin Dunne workshop.

After dinner we spent a little time at Poe Springs -- just long enough to walk the boardwalk, dip our feet in the cold spring water, and stand at the end of the spring run to watch the mullet which always congregate at the line where the clear spring water flows alongside the tannin-stained water of the Santa Fe River. It was dusk and the park was nearly deserted. At the spring we heard a couple of barred owls calling to one another from the dark bottomland forest. Photos and call recordings of the barred owl are here.

We also observed a turtle that had journeyed up out of a slough to linger on a grassy slope, and two deer grazing in grassy uplands in the park. We'd hoped to see otters and perhaps an alligator.

, , ,

Lucky 777 Deconstructed

No doubt you've heard that today, 7/7/07, is supposed to be lucky. Because we're a bunch of superstitious sillies. I'll warrant that the world's gambling houses will be taking lots of unlucky folks' money by the fistfulls today. Still, 777 is a handy rubric that invites a little investigation.

The "all sevens" bicycle tour of 7 cities and 777 miles ends today, 7/7/7. The tour began in Basel and ends in London.

Consider Boeing's jetliner, the 777. Here are some scaled drawings, if you're into the technical stuff (22-page .pdf file).

The British airship R101 was 777 feet long. Like the Hindenberg, this zeppelin met with mishap--48 people died on its maiden voyage. 36 died when the Hindenberg went up in flames and crashed. That about did it for commercial airship travel.

Islay Hill, elevation 777 feet, is the southernmost of the "Nine Sisters", a chain of extinct volcanos near San Luis Obispo, California.

Bordeaux, Zurich, and Laussane each lie 777 miles from Edinburgh, Scotland.

Finally, a nod to one of those skyscrapers with a number for a name. The 777 Tower in Los Angeles.

Now go buy that lotto ticket before time runs out.

technorati: , , , ,

Sister Hazel Rocks Gainesville

Sister Hazel had a huge clothing giveaway today in Gainesville, Florida. Not this Sister Hazel, but Sister Hazel Williams, who runs a shelter and ministry for the homeless and otherwise downtrodden in Gainesville. Sister Hazel is, of course, the namesake and inspiration of the band. She has for years labored tirelessly and with compassion, and has achieved a measure of well-earned local celebrity.

The en plein air event was held under the shade of a couple of old laurel oak trees on Gainesville's NW 6th Street, next to the grounds of an abandoned church.

, , ,

Friday, July 06, 2007

United In Death - July 6th

Herewith the Clog Almanac revives a personal favorite, the Friday Mashup. Below are an eclectic juxtaposition of notables who left this world on a July 6th.

1998 Roy Rogers - American cowboy star
Known to his friends as Leonard Slye, Rogers' life is a story of success. He progressed from a Grapes of Wrath existence picking fruits and living in worker camps during the Great Depression to his status as a great Western-American music/film idol. Roy's famous golden palomino horse Trigger (stuffed), is the prime exhibit at the Roy Rogers-Dale Evans museum in Branson, Missouri.

1971 Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong - Legendary American jazz trumpeter and singer
I remember my dad cried when Satchmo died and the strains of "What a Wonderful World" were aired. A boy remembers the times his father weeps. Next time you're in Queens, you might visit Satchmo's house.

1962 William Faulkner - One of the America's greatest Southern authors
Here's an essay on Faulkner your cheating high-school student might be submitting. See a photograph of Faulkner as a baby here. In case you were wondering, Yes, there is/was a Faulkner Society of Japan, and they publish/ed a journal. Like so few of us who are disenchanted with their family names, Faulkner added a "u" to his name, after the "a".

July 6, it seems, was also a bad day for high nobility:

1762 Pyotr III Fyodorovitch - Peter III, Tsar of Russia
Unfortunately, he only reigned for half a year. According to the 1911 Encyclopaedia Brittanica, "Nature had made him mean, the smallpox had made him hideous, and his degraded habits made him loathsome." Sounds like some folks you've hung out with in your time, right? Don't lie.

1553 Edward VI Tudor - King of England
King at the age of ten. Associated Lord Protectors, Lord Admirals, and the convulsions of the riff-raff grownups surrounding him. Dead just 6 years later. Grown-ups had other holy plans for the throne and its successors.

1189 Henry II - King of England
First Angevin King. He was a Frenchie, but most definitely not this one. His last name was Curtmantle, which really doesn't translate to "miniskirt" [not work safe], despite the rumors, even though it really might help him in the legacy department.

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,