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Posts Tagged ‘Miscellaneous’

Happy Endings

My hair stylist of the last dozen years has retired early, for interesting reasons. When I met her, she was in her early 20s and newly married, but her doctors told her she was unable to have children. Except — oops — she turned up pregnant.

But complications arose. She had several scares when her blood pressure tanked. She almost died during delivery, and the baby was premature. But mother and son eventually recovered.

Two years later, against the advice of her doctors, she got pregnant again. After a difficult time and another scary early delivery, she and her second boy rebounded, albeit slowly.

Two years ago, against the advice of doctors, family, and friends, she became pregnant again. But this time, the pregnancy was textbook normal. No health issues whatsoever. After a full nine-month term, she delivered a healthy girl without incident.

My friend is now a stay-at-home mom, home-schooling the two boys. I see the family around town sometimes. My back-up hair stylist is now the primary.

This story makes me happy.

Pandemonium

A dramatic incident occurred recently in my usually quiet life. It consisted of 10 seconds of utter chaos, an episode that is etched forever in my memory banks. I chuckle out loud each time I mentally replay the scene.

Not long ago on a morning walk, my dog Jake surprised a squirrel — surprised as in met it eyeball to eyeball as we rounded the corner of an old shed. The startled squirrel leapt into the air, bounced off the side of the shed, zipped across Jake’s back, and scrambled up to the shed roof.

But the metal roof was steep and slippery, and the squirrel’s claws found no purchase. Running frantically, but sliding steadily backwards, the squirrel fell to the ground, landing at Jake’s feet.

Barely eluding Jake, the squirrel bounded into a tree, ascended to the uppermost branches, flung itself into the air, and landed with a thunk on the roof of a nearby house.

Fortunately, the roof of the house was not metal, and the squirrel made its escape.

The Rest is Cake

Becca Lawton, a river guide at Grand Canyon during the 1970s and 80s, has written several books about life as a boatwoman. In her most recent, she nicely sums up life in the inner canyon and how being on the river can affect you. As I can attest, the influence of the place is real and powerful. Becca wrote this…

The Canyon may appear vast and overwhelming when seen as a whole, especially when viewed in the mere 17 minutes the National Park Service notes as the average tourist’s visitation time to the rim.

What the mini-visitor doesn’t grasp in that time are the pockets of sanctuary tucked everywhere in the Canyon’s recesses. Deep green waterfalls. Pockets of shade and cool. Pools in red rock. Ferns, monkeyflowers, cottonwoods, willows.

You only have to get them there,” Canyon guide Louise Teal says. “The rest is cake.” Get people to the river, earn their trust, and take them deep into what Louise calls the “zillion-year-old rocks.” She and I were passengers before we took up guiding. Then we never wanted to be apart from the Canyon’s soul-stirring sunsets, embracing rock walls, and endlessly flowing water.

Those we guided, too, found it a beautiful, intense, and, in Louise’s words, “completely fulfilling place.” It is — a place out of time and out of overwhelmed mind.

So take me to the river. Drop me in the water.

Experts say it usually takes about three days for a trip passenger to fully “arrive” on the river and mentally disconnect from their outside lives. Honestly, I don’t think it ever took me three days.

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NAPLES, FLORIDA — Biologists have captured an 18-foot Burmese python in the Florida Everglades that weighed 218 pounds, the heaviest on record.

Burmese pythons are an invasive species from Southeast Asia first found in the Everglades in the 1990s. The snakes have no natural enemies and threaten a range of native mammals, birds, and reptiles.

The captured snake was a female carrying 122 developing eggs, which were destroyed along with the mother. A postmortem showed that the snake’s last meal was a whitetail deer.

Importing the pythons was banned by the U.S. Department of the Interior in 2012, but the snakes thrive in the South Florida wetlands. Their current population is about one million.

Over 1,000 Burmese pythons have been eliminated in Florida since 2013. Typically, biologists implant radio transmitters in male snakes, which always seek out the largest females, and follow the signals. Eliminating females is considered the best way to interrupt the breeding cycle.

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA — A South Korean software engineer marked the demise of Internet Explorer, Microsoft’s much-maligned browser, by erecting a tombstone with the epitaph, “He was a good tool to download other browsers.”

The engineer said Explorer was “a pain in the ass,” but he was forced to use it because Explorer was the default browser for so many government and business offices.

Explorer was launched in 1995. It came pre-installed on billions of computers equipped with the Windows operating system and quickly became the world’s leading browser. But many considered Explorer to be sluggish and flawed, and by the late 2000s, Google Chrome took over as the top browser.

In June, Microsoft retired Internet Explorer to focus on the Microsoft Edge browser, which was released in 2015.

“I won’t miss it,” the software engineer said of Explorer’s passing. “Its retirement, to me, is a good death.”

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND — The government of New Zealand and the country’s agriculture industry have jointly agreed to a tax on methane emissions by sheep and cattle, to be paid by farmers and the farming industry.

Currently, agricultural emissions are exempt from such taxation, and pressure has increased for industry and the government to take action.

New Zealand, population five million, is home to 26 million sheep and 10 million cows, which are the source of about half of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions. The plan hopes to reduce methane emissions at manure treatment facilities as well as from the belching of farm animals.

Under the plan, farmers and agricultural businesses can reduce their methane taxes via such methods as using feed additives that minimize belching and placing covers on manure ponds.

Worldwide, agriculture is the largest source of methane emissions caused by human activity. In the U.S., agriculture causes about one-third of total methane emissions, and the oil and gas industry causes another third.

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Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● Pink Floyd’s 1973 album The Dark Side of the Moon was so popular, it remained on the record charts for 962 weeks — over 15 years.

● Six of the eight planets in the solar system rotate counter-clockwise, the same as the Sun. The exceptions are Venus, which rotates clockwise, and Uranus, which rotates clockwise while tilted on its side. For the record, the former planet Pluto also rotates clockwise and tilted.

● Disney World has 46 rides.

● Dolphins have the ability to go without sleep by resting half of their brains while the other half remains on duty. The halves then switch places. Studies have shown dolphins doing the resting thing for as long as two weeks before taking an actual full-on snooze.

● When the piano was invented in Italy in 1698, it was called a fortepiano or pianoforte. In Italian, piano and forte mean soft and loud, respectively, a reference to the volume level depending on how hard the keys are struck.

● In the 1963 film Cleopatra, Elizabeth Taylor changed costumes 65 times.

Nephophobia is the fear of clouds. It usually manifests after a scary incident involving a storm, hurricane, or tornado. Nepho is Greek for cloud.

● On average, an ear of corn has 800 kernels arranged in 16 rows. For reasons undetermined so far, the ears almost always have an even number of rows. An odd number is rare.

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A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.

George Bernard Shaw

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Religion is poison because it asks us to give up our most precious faculty, which is that of reason, and to believe things without evidence. It then asks us to respect this, which it calls faith.

Christopher Hitchens

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The facts may tell you one thing, but God is not limited by the facts. Choose faith in spite of the facts.

Joel Osteen

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Global air travel is a miracle when you stop to think about it. But no one does. Instead, we’ve made the very angels ordinary. And … we’re left with nothing but our contempt for the familiar.

Jeff MacGregor

Shaw

MacGregor

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The Questions…

1. The mythological griffin (or griffon, or gryphon) is a combination of what two animals?

2. What US president took the oath of office using his nickname instead of his given name?

3. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer first appeared in 1939. What is his origin story?

4. What do you call the slot in the shaft of an arrow where the bowstring fits?

5. What was the profession of the seven dwarfs, the characters in the 1812 German fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm?

The Answers…

1. An eagle and a lion.

2. Jimmy Carter.

3. Rudolph was created by the Montgomery Ward department store chain as a Christmas promotion. Bob May, a copywriter in the MW advertising department, wrote the story about shy little Rudolph leading Santa’s sleigh, etc., and an illustrated version of the story was printed and made available to shoppers.

4. The nock.

5. They were miners. Or, in the parlance of 1812, delvers.

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Funk and Whimsy

Being a single guy and having no one to stop me, I am free to do as I please when it comes to decorating the house.

My taste is decidedly whimsical. I like fun, funky stuff, so the vibe around here leans toward the offbeat and humorous.

That goes for the fan pulls…

…the suncatchers…

…the refrigerator magnets…

…and my assorted collections.

Which isn’t to say, mind you, that I lack couth and good taste.

Starting several years ago, I extended my whimsy/funky theme to include Christmas decorations.

My Christmas tree is a modest, artificial four-footer that I display on a table in the dining room. At first, the decorations were just the usual colored lights, glass globes, etc.

Then, at a craft show somewhere, I found an intriguing item: a dried okra pod, painted as Santa Claus with a long white beard.

This okra pod.

It was a revelation. It opened the door to exciting new possibilities. It showed me that a ho-hum Christmas tree could be transformed to embrace serious funk and whimsy.

Today, my tree is adorned with everything from Fisher-Price Little People to gnomes with pointy hats. And every year, I find fun new items to add.

Long live funk and whimsy!

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Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● Richard Burton, who starred in the 1984 film “1984,” died in 1984.

● Ninety Mile Beach in New Zealand is only 55 miles long. It is misnamed because European settlers in the mid-1800s could traverse the beach on horseback in three days, and horses typically covered 30 miles a day. They failed to account for sand slowing their progress.

● 250 languages are written and read from left to right, 12 from right to left.

● In Hawaiian, the word ukulele means jumping flea.

● The Province of New Jersey, an English colony that preceded the American Revolution, granted women the right to vote in 1776. But in 1807, as a US state, New Jersey reverted to the old system wherein only white men could vote. Classy.

● In America, 375 slices of pizza are consumed per second.

● 45 men have served as US President. Only 12 were elected to a second term.

● The only member of ZZ Top who doesn’t have a beard is Frank Beard.

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This Just In

VERO BEACH, FLORIDA — An object identified as a pre-World War II land mine was removed safely from a stretch of Atlantic beach by an Air Force hazardous materials team.

The object was discovered on a beach adjacent to Highway A1A near Patrick AFB. Officials at the base said that from the 1930s to the early 1940s, part of the beach was used for Navy training exercises. One of its missions was using explosives to test the strength of fortifications on the beach.

The beach was cleared of explosives after the training facility closed, the officials said, but the military almost certainly lost track and “left a lot of them here.”

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA — A Vancouver supermarket printed embarrassing slogans on its plastic bags, hoping the reverse psychology would prompt customers to bring reusable bags.

East West Market ordered plastic bags featuring ads for an adult video emporium, an ointment for warts, and a colon care service. Included in small type was the statement, “Avoid the shame. Bring a reusable bag.”

Some customers got the message, but others turned the project on its head; many people appreciated the humor, and demand for the plastic bags soared.

The owner quickly switched to printing the sought-after images on reusable bags.

LAKE CITY, FLORIDA Lake City Mall was evacuated after a suspicious object with multiple wires protruding from it was spotted in a public area.

Units from the Lake City Fire Department, Lake City Police, Columbia County Sheriff, and Florida Highway Patrol secured the area while a HAZMAT team investigated the object.

It turned out to be a sub sandwich wrapped in paper and adorned with wires to make it appear to be an explosive device.

A police spokesman said the device was “most likely intended to cause fear or as part of a prank,” and they intend to investigate the incident.

Under Florida law, placing a hoax bomb in public view is a second degree felony.

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The Chaos of Evolution

Science, as you know, is willing to change its conclusions as new evidence warrants. Well, while I wasn’t paying attention, science made a whopper of a change about the nature of evolution.

As Darwin explained, evolution occurs through the process of natural selection. Namely, the fittest organisms survive, reproduce, and pass on their traits to the next generation. The idea also took root that the process unfolds as a rather neat and orderly progression, as if the species is changing by climbing a ladder, moving onward and upward.

That concept — that evolution is largely progressive — is now out the window. Instead, experts think evolution is less like a ladder and more like a big, gnarly tree, with lots of branches and numerous dead ends everywhere.

The new thinking is that a species evolves to adapt to a specific, immediate environment. For example, researchers once believed that the first horses had four toes, then evolved to three, then two, and finally to hooves.

More likely, toed horses evolved as more suitable in various marshy habitats, and hoofed horses evolved to navigate dry, rocky ground. Maybe one evolved from the other, maybe it didn’t. Think chaos, not orderliness.

Learning this made my head swim, but it makes sense. And it’s wonderfully objective.

I love science.

The Chase

My dog Jake sees deer all the time as they pass through the woods behind our house. It’s a thrill for him, but he’s inside a fence. You can bet he aches to be free, to give chase as nature intended, galloping in pursuit through the trees, unrestrained by fence or leash.

Not long ago, he got his wish. He and I went walking at Jefferson Elementary School on a Saturday, when he could go off-leash. The school property backs up to a multiple-acre woods.

As we walked along the edge of the woods, Jake suddenly froze and stared into the trees. Seconds later, a deer bolted and took flight. In a heartbeat, Jake was after it.

The chase lasted 10 or 15 seconds. Ultimately, 75 or so yards away, the deer leapt a fence into the safety of someone’s back yard. The drama was over.

When Jake came trotting back out of the woods, he was panting with excitement and exhaustion. A beaming dog smile was on his face.

Chickens

The chicken (Gallus gallus domesticus) is the planet’s most common bird and one of the most widespread of domestic animals. More than 50 billion cluckers are raised annually as a source of meat and eggs. They are a crucial and relatively low-maintenance food source worldwide.

The modern chicken is a descendant of junglefowl that evolved on the Indian subcontinent about 8,000 years ago. Man has raised domestic chickens since the time of the ancient Greeks and Egyptians.

Early ocean-going explorers, including the Vikings, helped introduce chickens to all parts of the world. Typically, live chickens were kept on ships as part of the crew’s food supply, and the birds often were traded in foreign ports for needed supplies.

The origin of chickens in the Americas? Christopher Columbus introduced them here on his second voyage in 1493.

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