Friday, February 29

Tough day for blogging

Today was the first trial of the new chain saw. There’s a tree that shed a few very large branches over by the corral, and they looked pretty good for converting into firewood. It’s a white oak, a tree that usually has a lot of decay and rot and that’s why big old branches fall off and invite chain saws to make them into little 18" (46 centimeter) pieces suitable for a stove or fireplace. But this tree shed some really good solid wood. Eager to reduce those branches to consumables, we drove the truck over with all our gear and started to work. Karla got to use the new saw, and I used an older, larger saw. There was a lack of gloves, due to wearing out and loss, so I was assigned a pair that happened to be infused with cactus thorns, which I discovered about 10 seconds after donning them. I picked out about a dozen of those little stingers from my fingers and threw the gloves under a rock so they could rot. Looking around, I found only a right-hand glove to wear. As I was cutting off a branch that stuck up in the air, it fell suddenly and bashed my ungloved hand, leaving a 2-1/2" (6 cm) bruise and cut that immediately started hurting and bleeding. (If it had hit the gloved hand, probably only a bruise would have been the result.) Another part of the branch also hit me on the head, but I was wearing a hard hat and only got knocked off balance. I went back to the house to bandage the wound while Karla soldiered on and got most of the wood cut.

During my recovery regimen, I checked email and received a 33-page document from the United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal, an injunction that removes our guest ranch from the packing business. We can still do a limited number of day rides into the wilderness, but that’s it. We’re still mulling over the ramifications of this order.

There’s a whole bunch of trees at the ranch. Maybe we should go into the firewood biz.

Thursday, February 28

Note to L.L. Bean: Get a proofreader

Yes, once again ol’ Eagle Eye has detected another faux pas. This is part of an ad that appears in a full-page layout on page 27 of the October 2007 Scientific American magazine. When I was in elementary school, one of my teachers told a story about a kid who was going to be in an upcoming spelling bee. He had a problem with one word, the one that’s giving ol’ Bean a problem. In the story the student was told, “Remember, there is a rat in that word.” Needless to say, he won the spelling bee. Can you find the word that needs a rat?

This blog took only about five minutes to put together. But I have spent almost three hours trying to get the nice folks at Google/Blogger to accept its submission. I used two computers to try to find out if it is a problem at my end, but both of them were ineffective. Time for them to make things work, methinks.

Wednesday, February 27

New chain saw

Had to buy a new chain saw today. The old one is, well, old. I knew immediately that the warranty had expired when I dug it out of the archives and the dates were in Roman numerals. Hoping maybe parts are still around, I took it to the saw shop. As soon as I entered, the owner started laughing. “What’s so funny,” I asked, knowing I was doomed. “I haven’t seen one of those old plastic-handled saws in years,” he guffawed. “That’s deer antler,” I retorted. “And that old black wrought iron chain!” he yelled, calling his buddies from the back of the store to see this ancient thing. “It’s not iron,” I yelled over the din of laughter, “it’s obsidian! And the case isn’t granite—it’s sandstone, for lightness.”

“What’s it run on, kerosene?” one of the mechanics yelled. “Yak butter,” I responded. “It’s Tibetan.”

The new one’s made mostly of metal and new-fangled plastic, and runs on gasoline you can buy almost anywhere. I guess now we can eat our stinky old yak.

Tuesday, February 26

On the Internet, nothing dies

I’m not sure when I first saw this picture. Maybe a couple of years ago. It is one of those Internet legends, kind of like the old black-and-white postcards of men strapping a 15-foot fish to the bed of their pickup or the goofy antlered rabbit, the jackalope. Here’s the copy that accompanies this one: “Only in Alaska....... This guy raised an abandoned moose calf with his horses, and believe it or not, he has trained it for lumber removal and other hauling tasks. Given the 2,000 pounds of robust muscle, and the splayed, grippy hooves, he claims it is the best work animal he has. He says the secret to keeping the moose around is a sweet salt lick, although during the rut he disappears for a couple of weeks, but always comes home... impressive!”

One little problem: Look at the pile of logs on the left, then the pile on the right. If you simply reverse the logs, they’re the same pile! There are other little clues to its fakeness that are hard to spot in the smallish picture here. (Thanks to daughter Hilary for spotting this years ago.) It makes me want to start my own foolish Internet spoof. Like maybe a flock of hummingbirds and helium-filled-frogs’ croak sacks tethered to a chain lifting logs out of the forest without tearing up the ground. Could be a little harder to do than put tack on a stuffed moose. I’ll have to think about that for a while. Actually, forget it; it would probably look fake.

Monday, February 25

More thoughts on earthquakes

A few entries back, I said I’d try to think up some earthquake-related ideas for you. I just got one. If you’re planning to do some painting around the house, have the color and kind of paint already decided on. After an earthquake occurs, hurry off to the paint store and buy the paint you need. It will be pre-shaken! You’ll save the time you would normally waste waiting for the can jiggling machine to stir the paint while you wait. Saves all that finger-drumming and sighing. I’m sure I can think of some more really good ideas. Stay tuned.

Oh, wait. I just remembered they have to shake the paint after they add the color. All right, then. Forget the color; buy white paint. Whew! Almost blew that one!

Oh, wait. I just got another thought. Go to the paint store before the earthquake, order the color you want, and while they’re mixing it, sneak out of the store, wait for the quake, then return. On second thought, that’s not really too smart either, is it?

Oh, wait. I just got the final answer. Go in after the first earthquake, order the color you want, then go home while they’re adding the color. Wait for the inevitable aftershocks, which will stir the paint for you. Sure saves time!

Cold day? Make soup!

When you heat your house with wood in a stove with a nice flat top, the temptation on a cold windy rainy day is to make soup! The kettle on the left with the foil-covered handles holds a cut-up butternut squash in chicken broth, the little sauté pan has the squash seeds and some raw cashew pieces, and the large pan on the right contains carrots, celery, onions, parsley and garlic cloves in olive oil. After cooking, everything gets tossed into a blender and mushed till it’s all runny. Before serving, toss a glop of sour cream into your bowl and stir in the hot soup. Yum. Of course, now we have to let the stove cool so we can clean off all the spills, but it’s worth it.

Sunday, February 24

Note to Greenpeace: Get a proofreader

This is one of a series of ads to get people interested in helping Greenpeace by simply giving them money; you don’t need to get wet. It’s a clever series that was probably put together by some smart people. But they sure could use a proofreader or at least pay attention to the red underline under the word “dingys.” It’s dinghies, you dang ding-dong doofus dorks!

Saturday, February 23

Take one horse, add rain…

This is a picture of the left shoulder of our constant companion at the barn, Geronimo, The World’s Greatest Horse. (Also our most barn sour.) When it rains, horse hair does a very interesting thing. You would never know there was so much curl just waiting to be released by wetting it. The actual color is much richer than what you see here; a lot redder. This photo kind of reminds me of the 7200 Bananas on a Wall.

Friday, February 22

Is this any way to run for leader of the whole world?

This could be a joke, but with the way her campaign is being run, maybe not. We’ll see, I guess, after the upcoming Texas, Ohio, Vermont and Rhode Island primaries.

Shirts, mugs, yard signs and fridge magnets with this message are available here. Buy at your own risk, and don’t tell anyone where you heard about it; she plays rough.

Thursday, February 21

Earthquake a big nothing

Since I live in earthquake territory, I am always interested when a big one occurs nearby. This morning’s shaker in northeast Nevada isn’t exactly nearby, but it still got my attention. The big blue square means the magnitude is at least 6, which is a significant quake. I checked various sources, a newspaper in Reno, another in Las Vegas, and finally the New York Times. You’d think nothing had happened. The Las Vegas paper had an article from Reuters saying the high-voltage power lines in the area weren’t damaged (need lots of power to keep the lights on in Vegas), the Reno paper said gold mining wasn’t on hold for too long, and the Times had a quote from a woman whose ironing was interrupted by the shaking: “I kept thinking, ‘When is it going to quit?’ A couple pictures fell off the walls,” she said. “One of my grandkids ran outside. They didn’t know what else to do. It scared them.”

[Update: The Las Vegas Sun now reports that 25 buildings in Wells, NV, collapsed and 700 homes in the area were damaged. They also report that federal disaster agents will be flying in to assess damage. Wells is described as a “railroad town.” The Feds are going to fly in?]

Around here, the quakes are tiny. But more and more numerous. On the map above, see that little teensy yellow square in the middle of California? That’s my house. Or nearby, at least. We get little 2s and 3s every once in awhile, but over a year’s time that could add up to at least a 7! Kind of like rain—an inch here, a half inch there—over a year’s time you got feet.

Having a blog gives one the chance to help prepare readers for emergencies. Like for instance, when an earthquake happens while you’re ironing, simply let go of the iron and step away. The ironing board will jerk back and forth, but the iron will remain stationary due to inertia and just might finish ironing your shirt for you! Remember that for the next big one. I can’t think of any more good ideas right now, but promise I’ll work on it.

Wednesday, February 20

Pac-Man frogs, on steroids

Boy, no sooner do we lose a good friend than this pops up. An article in the New York Times reports on what may have been the biggest frog to ever have lived. The illustration compares the monster to today’s current size champ. Clarence would be, in comparison, like krill to a whale (well, that’s a little exaggerated, but you get my drift). Fortunately for the cats, squirrels, chickens and little kids in today’s world, these guys (and gals, since they were the bigger ones) are no longer around.

One thing that always intrigues me about these reconstructions from a few bones is, how do they know what color the thing was? Maybe the skin color was fluorescent chartreuse with flashing pink polka dots which made the poor thing stand out and attract predators much bigger than itself who made it their own hors d’oeuvres. As I recall, Pac-Man was pretty flashy himself.

Illustration from the NYT article

Tuesday, February 19

Clarence D. Frogge, R.I.P.

Sad news. Of course we all know that frogs shouldn’t sleep in a dish cupboard when the dinner plates are being put away. That’s the probable cause of his demise—being flattened by a 12" dinner plate or three. He was laid to rest in a lovingly padded* Altoids box out by the compost heap. I wanted to put a few sacrificial moths in with him, but Karla vetoed that. Too ancient Egyptian, I guess.

We will now have to wait for a new frog to take Clarence’s place. It, too, will probably be named Clarence to carry on the tradition. By the way, I hope I spelled his last name correctly; I never did see his Hatch Certificate.

*Padded with quilted bath tissue, of course!

Monday, February 18

Ike and me

To answer the overwhelming requests from readers to see the picture of soon-to-be president Eisenhower and me, here it is. Remember, I told you it was blurry and torn. The reason I don’t appear in the photo is that I was so darned cute my mother loved the picture of me, but never would have voted for Ike, so she tore the part with me in it off and took it in to have it framed. Unfortunately, the frame shop had a catastrophic fire, caused by mice biting strike-anywhere matches stored next to the nitrate based film, consuming the entire city block before Mom could pick up the finished product. But I remember the picture very well, and can fill in the missing parts from memory. And that’s enough for me.

Sunday, February 17

Gargantuan Wall of Tom’s Many Awards

How do you withdraw your name from nomination for the Nobel Blogging Prize? Please tell me if you know, because today was the day for cleaning and dusting my many awards on the “Gargantuan Wall of Tom’s Many Awards” we have in the house, and frankly after a couple hours of polishing and dusting, I was bushed. I almost fell off the ladder a couple of times as I reached way too far out for my beer that I had placed in the only tiny empty space on one of the shelves. As I get older, I am going to be less able to put in the time at this now-weekly chore. The Nobel will obviously take a prominent place on this wall which means I will have to shift everything else to the left or right, maybe even up or down a shelf, depending on how large the case with the medal is. That in itself could consume a whole week, which would cut into blogging time, thus diminishing the value of the award which is only given to those who blog at least every other day. Friends have told me that the cash award that comes with the prize would enable me to hire someone to dust and polish my awards, but to me that’s like hiring someone to care for your children in their formative years. And I might have to completely remove the fading, torn, out-of-focus black-and-white picture of ten-year-old me shaking hands with President Eisenhower in Courthouse Park in Fresno in the early 1950s before he got elected (yes, I knew him when). Of course, I could commission the building of a whole other Gargantuan Wall of Tom’s Many Awards, II. That may be the solution—we could free up some space in our gigantic storage building by taking all the lesser awards that are packed away in boxes up there and putting them on the new Wall. I do like that old picture of Ike and me.

Friday, February 15

Celebration of a remarkable life

Went to the general’s memorial service today. Remarkable. What a life he led. He wrote the entire service himself, and it was laid out like a well-crafted play. Songs by a Grammy award winning singer, the funniest stories from a former US ambassador, and heartfelt thanks from so many people whose lives touched his. We should all be so lucky.

Thursday, February 14


If the online payment service, PayPal, never made a mistake, would that be called PayPal infallibility?


I don’t know about you, but whenever I finish a batch of marmalade, I like to take it out and line up the jars on the deck railing and photograph them then open the picture in Photoshop and fiddle with it. It’s just an old family tradition, I guess. Before Photoshop, we used to have to airbrush all the strange colors onto each glass, then put Vaseline petroleum jelly on the lens of the ol’ box Brownie and hope the picture came out the way we wanted it. Before photography came along sometime in the 1840s, my ancestors would make an oil painting, then hide it in the attic and hope the house burned down before anyone saw it and accused them of being weird. I don’t think it’s weird, do you?

Wednesday, February 13

Methuselah’s dog

The photo above shows the do-it-yourself home health maintenance kit for our dog, Akela. She gets very good care. The vet said she’s in remarkably good condition for her age. She failed to mention, however, that she (the vet) is in remarkably good fiscal condition because of Akela. The darling dog and Raven, the precious cat, recently returned from the vet, having been checked out, tested, and immunized and leaving us $633 poorer. Akela, ancient as dirt itself, should qualify for Medicare. She now gets four pills twice daily plus the occasional injection in order to make her into, in dog years at least, a good challenger for Methuselah’s record longevity. Our vet recently studied to be a dental care expert, so suddenly she noticed a startling buildup of tartar on Akela’s teeth, something that should be taken care of very soon, she said. I’m glad she didn’t notice that the dog is near deaf, or we could be looking at a $40,000 cochlear implant. As for the cat, he weighs too much. Good. I can cut down on the cat food, save some money, and put it toward the dog’s longevity trust fund.

Tuesday, February 12

7,200 bananas?

What do you do with an entire wall of soon-to-be- overripe bananas? I don't feel so bad after squeezing only 500 teensy orange halves today for their precious juice so I can make tons more marmalade. But the remaining skins have to be cut into little strips! Literally thousands of hand-cut pieces that go into the sugary mix and come out as to-die-for marmalade that all our friends will want lots of. My daughter, bless her heart, just opens the jar and eats the stuff without the intermediary benefit of toast or English muffins—and her husband is complicit in the whole scheme. What do I do? Plant another orange tree? Not!

Time to teach others how to make this magical semi-fluid. Maybe I’ll skip the hand cutting and bring out the Cuisinart! Your mouth will never know the difference. But my cutting hand sure will.

He’ll be missed by many…

Retired Brigadier General Ed Munger, a longtime ranch guest and defender of the Sierra National Forest and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, passed away on Monday. Only 68 years old, he lost his battle to very aggressive liver cancer. We knew him mostly as the Head Soar, leader of an organization called the Irascible Order of Soararsis, a charitable group founded in the 1940s to encourage the preservation of and knowledge about local public lands in the Sierra. He gave so willingly of his time and influence to many good causes, and was one of the most generous, friendly and encouraging people I’ve ever known. Top that off with a terrific sense of humor. Services will be held at noon Friday February 15 at the First Presbyterian Church on M Street in Fresno. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to Children’s Hospital of Central California, Fairy Godfather Fund.

Sunday, February 10

A barn sour frog?

In case you’re not aware, the term barn sour refers to a horse or mule that wants to return to the barn because that’s where the food is. Is there such a thing as a barn sour frog? Clarence just showed himself after he digested his last big hit on a moth I gave him several days ago. I don’t know where he hides between his big scores, but he shows up, usually at night, when he’s looking a little skinny. Do we have another cat here? Cats are complacent when they’re fed, but when the stomach cries out, they get really obnoxious. Same for dogs and horses. A frog would really have to work at it to become obnoxious since they’re all soft and squishy and can’t really threaten you in any way since they only have teeth in their upper jaws and those teeth aren’t really all that toothy.

I really like wild animals because they’re so independent and get through life in their own way without human help. But when a wild animal moves in to your house, it starts to show a lack of that independence, and resembles a dog or cat or other human-made dependent beast. I never thought that a frog that wasn’t cooped up in a terrarium would become human dependent, but Clarence is starting to look that way.

You’re falling in my esteem, froggie. I still like you, but you’d better start clearing the house of its usual house flies and kissing bugs and black widow spiders and scorpions and aliens dropping out of their flying saucers and stuff like that or you’re toast, buddy.

Meanwhile, I’ve turned on both porch lights to attract some chow for you. I’ll catch ’em and bring them in. Thanks for the entertainment value anyway.

Not much happened today…

Took the usual break-a-sweat-for-a-mile morning hike up the hill with Karla, fed the barn-sour horse who used to be the world’s greatest but now just hangs around despite the abundant grass, helped Karla wash the dog’s butt so she would be presentable to the vet, whom she has to see tomorrow morning to find out why she’s so stinky and pees uncontrollably (the dog, not Karla), fed the cat despite his killing of the bat last night (no signs of rabies yet, but there’s always hope), did a lot of washing with some of it going out on the clothesline and some into the dryer, ran the water pump for a couple of hours because the sun was bright and we got maybe 10 kilowatt hours of power off the solar panels, made the fish fountain water not splash so much by adding sharp edges to the outlets of the troughs that the water pours from between the three levels because I happened to remember a very old TV commercial from the fifties for a wine that touted its “dripless pouring” as a real asset (gotta drink that wine; it doesn’t run down the neck of the bottle when you stop pouring, but wine like that you don’t bother to put in a glass anyway — just chug from the bottle because it’s cheap and you’re a drunk), tried to fix the outside temperature sensor so it reads in our indoor monitor by replacing its batteries but found out that rain got inside and may have rotted everything out so I don’t know what to do so I put it in a warm place to dry it out and hope that works, lamenting the fact that I used to maintain complex radars on the biggest ship in the whole United States Navy but that was when vacuum tubes were king and transistors were just being introduced and now not even transistors can be seen because everything is on only one chip that nobody can fix, just replace.

Other than that, not much happened today.

Photo: USS Enterprise, Northrup Grumman Newport News Shipyard

Saturday, February 9

In praise of smog

Unfortunately, Blogger doesn’t do the best job of capturing subtlety in color when you upload a photo. The colors in this picture are deep and rich and could only happen if you have either a recent volcanic explosion or Good Old Smog. The weather around here has calmed down so the valley can fill with pollution and give us those rosy orange-y rich sunset colors that we all love so much. I just happened to walk outside and had to dash back inside to grab the camera and set its speed to highest then dash back out and grab this shot of the crescent moon and the wonderful silhouettes of bare tree branches and two of our three links to the outside world, the satellite TV and the satellite Internet dishes on the roof. The third link is an actual land-line telephone; we don’t get cellular here.

Not much happened here today, except the bat woke up this evening and started flying around in the house. Last night a bat got in the house and I guess he spent the night with us. The cat, normally a lazy beast, spotted the bat and somehow caught and maimed it. I can only hope that the bat had rabies and bit the cat.

Friday, February 8

A fascinating tail

In today’s San Francisco Chronicle is a story about two researchers finally finding out how the male Anna’s hummingbird makes its very loud and, for a hummingbird at least, low-frequency chirp when it dives in its attempt to woo a mate. Out here in the boondocks we have tons (grams?) of hummingbirds and see the ritual often where the male bird flies way up in the air a hundred feet or so, then does a power dive. At the bottom of the dive, he flies horizontally in an arc and lets out a very loud “chorp” sound. It seems way too loud and low for such a tiny creature whose normal vocalizations are more like mouse squeaks.

Turns out they aren’t chirping at all, but using their speed to make their quickly opened tail feathers vibrate as the wind passes through them, much like the reed action of a woodwind instrument. I’ve observed that they use the humming of their wing feathers as a threat to rivals. Around the two feeders we have outside you can hear the wing beats get much louder when they try to scare off an intruder. Hey, when you only weigh five-eighths of an ounce, you use whatever you got.

Useless fact: Hummingbirds can’t walk; their feet can only grasp. Same as the acorn woodpecker, though the woodpecker can at least hop. Chickens, bless their hearts, can both walk and grasp. And fly. Cluck. Coo. Don’t get me started about chickens.

Thursday, February 7

Visiting the local Indian casino

Today was the day to go pick up an old friend, and with her and the family go out to celebrate my birthday. I know, it’s a couple of weeks late, but we managed to schedule her in. (My birthday takes up a little over a month before the celebratory fever finally dies down and I can resume a normal life without all the paparazzi and such.) Actually she lives in an even boonies-er part of the country than us, and was stuck for fifteen days because her two-wheel-drive car couldn’t get out after the recent snows. The county doesn’t clear the snow from private roads. When we picked her up, I noticed that she hadn’t lost any weight, but had a lot fewer cats.

We decided to go to the nearby Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino since it has seven restaurants and a reputation for excellent food. And acres of slot machines. I hadn’t been in a casino for over 40 years,* and was fascinated by the numbness of the zombies sitting in front of the rows of slots hitting the play button like robots. This is fun? There isn’t even real money used; they plug in their playing card that’s attached to a lanyard around their neck. When the card runs dry, they stagger over to the nearest ATM-like machine and punch in some more credit. The table game rooms off to the side of the main floor seemed mostly empty. Too much brain power needed there; you have to know how to add to play blackjack, and it gets really hard when you have to remember that an ace could equal either 1 or 11. Gives you a headache.

I’ve been hearing that gasoline prices are about to drop by as much as 50 cents a gallon, so today’s travels helped us rid the tank of the expensive old stuff, making room for the upcoming cheap stuff. So all in all, it could have been pretty profitable.

*Actually I had been to a casino only a few years ago, this very one in fact. But I had to wear a hard hat because we were invited by a friend who owned the concrete company that had just finished delivering its fifteen-thousandth cubic yard of concrete to make this gargantuan place. He wanted to give us a tour during the only time when the 24-hour-a-day construction schedule was paused for one day to give the workers a breather. One room in the basement had a wall probably forty feet long that was covered by cables coming from all the slot machine locations on the floor above, each cable with a numbered tag tied to it giving the location of the other end of the wire. The temptation to switch a few tags was so great. I still kick myself for acting like a grown-up.

Wednesday, February 6


This image recently appeared in a Wired Magazine article. It was taken in 1952 and shows the earliest microseconds of an atomic bomb blast, using a novel camera developed by Harold Edgerton, a pioneer in short-duration photographic exposures. What got my attention is the similarity of this photo to another I posted on February 3 showing “light echoes” of a star in our galaxy. It also mimics the shape of many microscopic life forms.

Unfortunately the photo also very closely resembles a recent X-ray of my cranium. Two large eye sockets, a tiny brain floating in some mystery fluid, and randomly oriented teeth. I thought at least that my teeth would look better than that, what with all the money lavished on their care and upkeep.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, February 5

Gifts that enslave

About 15 years ago, a friend gave us a teensy little orange tree, something that “my mother planted from seed,” said friend said. Oh, how cute, we said. This act should be outlawed; it’s like giving someone a dog, or worse, a cat. A good portion of your life will be devoted to keeping the darned thing alive. We should have given her a horse in exchange. Sweet revenge.

We watched as the cute little tree quickly outgrew its pot, and finally planted it in the ground. Since that time the little tree grew into a big tree and developed the habit of growing so many oranges each year that it threatened to break its darling branches from the weight of its abundant fruit. It’s a Seville orange, one of the bitterest, sourest of all oranges, suitable only for making marmalade.

Now it’s harvest season. Recent snows didn’t manage to kill the fruit, so we finally succumbed to the necessity of picking, so far, about fifteen gallons of tiny oranges. The tree still bears at least another ten gallons of oranges, between the size of golf balls and tennis balls on its tender branches. Oh how wonderful. So now it’s washing, slicing, squeezing, boiling, scraping out the pulp, and finally chopping thousands of peelings, adding ungodly amounts of sugar so it doesn’t destroy your duodenum on contact, and “canning” (why isn't it called “jarring?”) so much marmalade it makes you sick.

Tasty stuff, though, when the pain is over.

Monday, February 4


It’s been a very busy day, composing and editing arguments to a Federal judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal in defense of what we do for a living. Seems that some folks don’t like the use of horses in the wilderness. And if our letters to her don’t resonate positively, we could be toast. (Hm-m-m. Speaking of toast, today I made another batch of marmalade. I should send some to the judge…)

But enough bad news. A good friend forwarded an old joke that certainly deserves passing on.

A football fan had two 50-yard-line tickets for the Super Bowl. As he sits down, another man comes up to him and asks if anyone is sitting in the seat next to him. “No,” the fan says, “the seat is empty.”

“That’s incredible,” the second man says. “Who in their right mind would have a seat like this for the Super Bowl, the biggest sporting event in the country, and not use it?”

The fan says, “Well, the seat actually belongs to me. I was planning to come here with my wife, but she passed away. This is the first Super Bowl we have not seen together since we got married forty years ago.”

“Oh, I'm sorry to hear that,” said the man. “But couldn’t you have found someone else, a friend or a relative or neighbor to take the seat?”

“No,” the fan says, shaking his head, “they’re all at the funeral.”

Thank you David Rogers

Sunday, February 3

What a blast!

One of the first things I check when I turn on my computer is this site, Astronomy Picture of the Day, from NASA. The above picture is amazing; it’s not a supernova, but rather a “light echo.” For a short time in 2002 it was the brightest object in the entire Milky Way galaxy. You’ll have to check the site for specifics and a much bigger picture. By the time you read this it may have changed. Just check the archive to find Light Echoes.

Photo: NASA

Saturday, February 2

“Making predictions is hard…”

“Making predictions is hard, especially about the future.” I tried to find out who first said that, but couldn’t. I’m pretty sure it was a sports figure, a group of people who have made some memorable statements such as this one about a restaurant: “Nobody goes there any more; it’s too crowded.”

Anyway, back to the future, this is a nine-minute video about just that, from the viewpoint of the 1950s.

They got several things right, with minor adjustments (such as entering data using punch cards). Autos with navigation systems, radar (Lexus has it for collision control; Cadillac experimented with infrared night vision), teleconferencing, interstate highways, container ships, motorhomes and railroad traffic control centers are shown. They totally missed the density of traffic on the highways. And we don't have road building machines quite as impressive as they depict, but close.

Also, if we had it as easy as depicted in this film, we’d all be fat and lazy. Oh, wait a minute…

Friday, February 1

A frog’s dream…

You know how when frogs croak, they inflate that transparent skin sac beneath their chins? What if you were to put a frog in a jar filled with helium. When he blows up his sac to croak, he floats away. When he croaks, he falls back to earth and looks for another jar full of helium. This could be a whole new means of transport for frogs! Saves all that climbing and jumping.