Wednesday, July 29

Stormin’ at the lake

The satellite picture above shows some serious thunderstorm activity in the Sierra.
And this picture shows what the radar saw. At the two o’clock position from Fresno is a stompin’ cell of rain and lightning. I talked with Karla at Florence Lake and she said it was a terrific storm. What made it even more interesting was that there was a missing hiker up there somewhere and the Fresno County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team based at Florence was trying to find him. Eventually the hiker was found on the Inyo side of the Sierra, but in the meantime the Sheriff’s brave helicopter pilot was ferrying people into and out of the mountains from the lake in some of the most awful weather you could imagine. It’s all quiet now, except for the wind of course.

Monday, July 27

What do you do with yours?

You’ve pulled the last piece off the toilet paper roll. What do you do with the empty roll? Click here to see what you should do with that piece of cardboard.

Sunday, July 26

Grate art

I stole the title of this entry directly from here. New York City has subways rushing through tunnels. It’s like pistons inside cylinders. Air gets compressed ahead of the train, and needs to be vented to the outside so it doesn’t blow passengers off the loading platforms. They vent the air through grates on sidewalks. As a train passes below, air is blown up and out. What a neat resource, thought the artist Joshua Allen Harris. Let’s use it for something. Which he did.

Almost as interesting as what a subway vent did to Marilyn Monroe’s dress in the movie The Seven Year Itch.

Saturday, July 25

Saved by the Bill

It’s funny when you run dry of ideas for a blog and someone comes along with a really good one. I was trying to figure out how to write about how in order to feed one of our old horses (36 years, going on 37) (more on that later*) I have to wade through ground squirrels in the round pen. Seems she is such a slow eater the squirrels jump up into the feeder and help themselves. Once when I was caring for another ancient equine he had a ground-level feeder and fourteen squirrels to contend with!

Anyway, I don’t have pictures of these squirrels and talking about them will make most readers yawn and go back to solitaire or something that might even take thought. So here comes neighbor Bill with a link to a really cool picture. You never know what you’re going to find out there in that ol’ universe, do ya? This bubble was discovered by an amateur astronomer in California, and last week another amateur in Australia discovered the spot on Jupiter caused by something smacking into the planet. Nearly every new comet and earth-threatening asteroid is discovered by a network of amateurs around the world.

*As for “36, going on 37,” where does that goofy expression come from? Of course someone is in the process of moving forward in time. So why not “36 going on 95”? Take a risk! Try to predict the date of demise. Make it interesting, like solitaire.

Photograph: T. A. Rector/University of Alaska Anchorage, H. Schweiker/WIYN and NOAO/AURA/NSF

Friday, July 24

It’s a Miracle all right

After yesterday’s lament about not finding the peppercorns, and complaining about the same thing regarding our precious salt, what should happen but I find the salt! It was on the pantry floor because it comes in a bag that gets bagged in another bag along with yet another bag of desiccant to keep it flowing. All that polyethylene makes for one big slippery mess, and if you try to keep it on a narrow shelf it just slides down and eventually ends up on the floor. Boy, does this stuff taste good! I simply can’t go back to commercially purified sodium chloride (with sugar added to keep it flowing—really!). This natural unwashed salt has all the muck and dead fish and rotting kelp and shark teeth—all that good stuff. Plus whatever comes off of the old monks who dig it up by hand with their silver scoops, and who knows what it’s packed in (goat stomach bladders?) when it’s packed out on the bax of yax. Yum.

Thursday, July 23

One out of two…

The pepper grinder was feeling awfully light—time to refill the thing. Oh, gad. It’s always a traumatic time since I can’t remember where the peppercorns are. They’re not in the spice drawer because the container is too big. They should be in the small pantry, but almost never are. The big pantry is too chaotic to dig through without a stiff drink first.

Oh, well. Might as well start. I open the doors to the small pantry and—there it is! Unbelievable! First time in, what? Decades! What luck! (Karla musta planted it there to surprise me.)

I fill the pepper grinder and notice the salt shaker is getting pretty light. “Gourmet Sea Salt” was sitting right next to the pepper, but we like salt that is hand dug with silver scoops by old monks in Tibet and hauled out on the bax of yax. I can never find it either. And that is true today too. Oh well. One out of two ain’t bad.

Wednesday, July 22

Some people have all the luck

Down here in the foothills at around three in the afternoon it is over 100F/38C° while in the middle of the picture above I see a big white puffy cloud dumping cool moisture where the rest of the family is. Rain, plus a bit of lightning, some wind…making the rocks really slick and you kind of have to watch out for falling huge pine cones and lightning might spook your horse and you get tossed into the frigid, raging river and every rare once in awhile you just might get hit with a billion volts—

Maybe things aren’t so bad here after all…

Photo: Naval Research Laboratory Monterey

Tuesday, July 21

Jupiter tries to make smiley face

It’s just one of those days…here we’re finishing celebrating 40 years since first stepping on the surface of the moon, the longest solar eclipse of this entire century is scaring the daylights (pun intended) out of primitive folks in far east Asia, and now Jupiter blows its chance to send us congratulations—it turns out to have only one eye. Bummer.

Image credit: NASA/JPL/Infrared Telescope Facility

Monday, July 20

Members of the over-40 club…

…where were you when this footprint was made? On this day forty years ago almost one-quarter of the world’s population watched live images from the moon of what must be the crowning achievement of the 20th century. I still get goose-bumps from seeing the images and hearing the sounds from that era.

Sunday, July 19

Clever bird

I just saw something remarkable, I think. A little brown sparrow-like bird flew out onto a sandy area where the ground temperature had to be hideous, being the hottest part of the day. It landed and hunkered down and dug itself into the fine dirt and just sat there. At first it looked like it was going to take a dust bath, but it didn’t move. It stayed there for probably three minutes. That would cook any living thing in that time! Aha! That’s what it’s doing—cooking any parasites on its hot little body! That’s what some honeybees do to the killer wasps that attack their hives; the bees swarm onto the wasp several bees deep and jiggle their wings to create heat that kills the wasp.

It looks like we haven’t finished learning from the birds and the bees.


I glanced out the window and saw that the bird feeder was empty. It’s taking longer for the birds to empty it now that it’s been so hot for a week, with more heat coming. It must ruin their appetites. Out I went with the bucket of seed. I noticed that there were greasy spots on the ground under the feeder, with bits of seeds in clumps on the greasy spots. I looked up and saw that the suet block was melting! It is supposed to be solid clear up to 120° (49°C). The thermometer read 108° in the shade and it’s only 1 o'clock. By 4 o’clock the whole thing should be melted and on the ground. The squirrels will love it.

Saturday, July 18

Now, There’s A Job!

Thanks to a story referred to me by neighbor Bill, I caught a glimpse of a dream job, watching over ravens. It’s illegal to own a raven in the US, but here’s a guy who’s in charge of nine! And he gets to work in the Tower of London, which has great views, if you like urban views. I like rural views. And I would have a hard time putting in the required 22 years in the British military in order to qualify for the post. Of course I’d be subject to British health care, which is a death sentence for anyone over 65 (“Get to the back of the line, grampa. We got some young ones to take care of first.”) But then American health care is in line to do the same. Oh, well. I’ll settle for the two ravens that seem to trust me a little.

Read the whole tale here.

Photo: The Independent

Thursday, July 16

Begging for captions…

Even with the pieces of masking tape still stuck to it, this 1955 picture, a print from a Kodachrome transparency, just screams for captions. It appeared in an ad and depicts two kids enjoying bread that has been slathered with Nucoa Margarine. Each has two slices of extremely white bread that have been liberally coated with trans fats and lovingly wrapped in wax (waxed) paper. (I had to look up wax vs. waxed to make sure. Preferred is wax paper, and it seems to have been invented by Thomas Edison or one of his minions, although its use can be traced to medieval times before patents were invented.)

The captions:
He: I hope these ghastly trans fats and nutrition-free slices don’t kill me before I’m old enough to read the blog this picture inspires.
She: No kidding. My mom uses butter which is the real killer. When you weren’t looking I switched my bread for yours.

He: When the photographer’s done, my mom’s using my modeling fee to get my stomach pumped so when I grow up I’m still really good-looking.
She: My mom’s investing my fee in Apple stock so I can get a triple bypass when I’m forty.

He: That stupid blue ribbon in your hair really clashes with your red dress.
She: This is Thursday and your mom dressed you in yellow. You must be gay.

Photo credit: Click here

Wednesday, July 15


The coolest day in the forecast is 104°F; the hottest is 107°F. That’s 40-42°C. No record-setters, though, just misery enough to last at least a week. Yuckaroids.

Monday, July 13

Insanity reigning in agriculture

This is just crazy. In order to keep food safe for people, we have to kill everything else! An article in the San Francisco Chronicle here.

Photo: San Francisco Chronicle

Sunday, July 12

In the know…

I was cleaning the car this morning and had the radio on to a news station from San Francisco. When Karla and I go driving and the conversation runs dry, I suggest that we turn on the radio and listen to “traffic and weather together every ten minutes” from the Bay Area. This morning I heard that there were scattered traffic cones in the number one lane and a large box in the right lane of some freeway. Wow. How cool. I felt really in the know, and could carry on a relevant conversation with a Bay Area native.

But then I thought why not make those traffic reports more interesting to people other than the drivers who are approaching all those hazards. Like, instead of a large box, make it a large box of barge locks. The traffic cones could be traffic cones like doggie bones.

Once we heard a report on the radio of a car that was crushed by a truck, the driver trapped and burned beyond recognition. I said to Karla that there was one good thing about that otherwise terrible outcome. “What’s that?” she asked. “He should at least get a discount from the crematorium.”

She made me turn the radio off.

Thursday, July 9

Time-waster extraordinaire

Bored? Have nothing going on? Here’s the place to go. Mind-altering substances could enhance the experience, but don’t ask me; my choice is coffee. Sometimes chocolate. You can get some control of the motion by dragging your cursor over the image while it moves.

Sunday, July 5

3,500 words, one at a time

Actually, you have to type in two words at a time. One has already been deciphered, the other is your contribution to the cause. You never know which is which, so it’s a mystery. For example, shown above is the word ironies, which is pretty obvious. But are they looking to solve Austin? For that matter is it really Austin? I will never know, and that makes it worthwhile. Not knowing is what leads to the mistakes that are the basis of all great discoveries.

Saturday, July 4

Porch perch

Having a mind curious about scientific stuff has helped me in many ways to understand the mysteries of life on earth. An example is shown above, a plastic chair on a wooden porch. The chair is obviously a popular spot for birds to pause for a sit-down and eliminate waste. Most folks would look at the droppings on the chair and the droppings on the porch below and break out the garden hose. But I look on the scene and get a much bigger picture brought on by my deep thinking skills.

I noted that the droppings on the deck are:
  1. Fewer than on the chair back
  2. To the north of the chair
It’s obvious. Birds resting on this chair are migrating. During migration it is important to keep your direction of travel in mind so you don’t get off course. At this time of year, more birds are migrating to the north than to the south, thus the droppings on the chair back are more abundant than the ones on the deck. It’s elementary…

Thursday, July 2

2 bad

Has anybody out there not played Asteroids on a computer? A triangular shaped space ship shoots blasts of light at incoming space debris until it gets hit and disappears in a flash only to reappear ready to shoot more rocks. It turns out someone thinks a movie can be based on this time-waster. 2 bad they dont know to much about speling.

Graphic: Universal Studios