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Posts Tagged ‘Miscellaneous’

Groundhogs

This hillside behind the Jefferson Civic Center is home to a sizable colony of groundhogs. Now that spring is here, I’m beginning to see the little guys peeking out of their hidey-holes.

In the photo above, the brownish spots are entrances to their burrow. Sentries are posted here and there to keep an eye out for perils such as me, Jake, cats, hawks, etc.

The critters are Marmota monax, aka groundhogs, aka woodchucks, which are burrowing rodents of the marmot family. They are said to be quite intelligent and have a complex social order that includes whistling to warn the colony of threats.

The hillside is about 15 feet high, providing an excellent view of the area, and some 200 yards long, almost all of it pocked with holes. A sizable colony, it seems.

I’m certainly not a threat to them, and Jake is on a leash, but they don’t know that.

The Rio Grande Rift

You may be aware that the Rio Grande flows down the center of New Mexico, dividing the state neatly in half. But did you know that the river follows a fault that began forming about 30 million years ago when the Colorado Plateau uplifted itself from the rest of the continent?

The Rio Grande Rift runs from southern Colorado to northern Mexico. Below El Paso, the rift continues south into Mexico, but the river turns east there and flows to the Gulf of Mexico as the border between Mexico and the US.

Although classified as a “narrow” rift, the fault averages about 180 miles wide. Geologists say it is expanding at a rate of about two millimeters per year.

Out of Sight

On weekends, Jake and I usually take our morning walk at one of the local schools. No people, no traffic, and Jake can go off-leash.

He doesn’t stray far, but occasionally he disappears from view for a moment, which can be worrisome. One Saturday recently at Jefferson Academy, when he was 30-40 feet ahead of me, he turned a corner, and I lost sight of him. I walked faster to catch up.

A few seconds later, I found him — surrounded by, and being petted by, a group of kids whose basketball game he had interrupted. Jake was gloriously happy.

If reincarnation turns out to be real, I want to come back as a dog.

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Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● Mormon Lake in northern Arizona has a surface area of 12 square miles, but averages only about 10 feet deep. During dry seasons, the lake sometimes disappears entirely.

● Caesar salad was invented in Mexico.

● Mike Ditka played pro football as a tight end for the Bears, Eagles, and Cowboys from 1961 to 1972, then coached until 1999. He won Super Bowls as a player, assistant coach, and head coach.

● The Ford Mustang is named after the P-51 Mustang, the leading propeller-driven fighter-bomber in WWII. The Mustang also was the main fighter at the beginning of the Korean War, but jets such as the F-86 soon succeeded it.

● Arizona, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, and the US Virgin Islands choose not to observe Daylight Saving Time. Mostly due to their locations, they say they have enough daylight as it is.

● A dragonfly eats about 300 mosquitoes a day.

● The elements of the periodic table are organized by atomic number, which is the number of protons in the nucleus.

● The Roman emperor Caligula, son of the Roman general Germanicus, was born Gaius Caesar Augustus Germanicus. As a child, he was given the nickname Caligula, which means “little soldier’s boot,” by his father’s troops.

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Useless Facts

More “Useless Facts for Inquiring Minds.”

● Leonardo da Vinci invented scissors.

● Originally, John Hughes planned to release his 1985 film The Breakfast Club as The Lunch Bunch.

● The growling, gurgling, rumbling sound your stomach makes due to gas and fluid moving around is called borborygmus (pronounced bor-borIG-mus).

● Edwin Aldrin, Sr., father of astronaut Buzz Aldrin, was an eyewitness to the Wright Brothers’ first powered flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903. 63 years later, as a NASA consultant, he watched on live TV as his son walked on the moon. Bonus fact: the maiden name of Buzz Aldrin’s mother was Marion Moon.

● 25 cities in seven countries are named Rome. 35 more are named Roma.

● The Trump administration twice tried to give Dolly Parton a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and twice she declined. She said Biden approached her recently, too, but she probably would decline because accepting it now would seem political.

● In Alabama, it is illegal to dress as a priest or nun.

● Most caterpillars have 12 eyes, six on each side of the head. The eyes are simple structures thought to be only vaguely light-sensitive. When a caterpillar becomes a butterfly or moth, it develops compound eyes capable of seeing details (such as pollen) in the ultra-violet spectrum.

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Problem, Solution

On our daily walks around Jefferson, Jake and I observe all sorts of things.

For example, at the corner of two residential streets north of downtown is a house with a nicely-manicured yard. The lawn and shrubbery are immaculate. These people take pride in their home’s appearance.

Not long ago, I was surprised to see deep tire ruts in the grass at the edge of the yard, caused by a vehicle cutting the corner during a hasty left turn.

The homeowners responded by posting a “Keep Off the Grass” sign beside the ruts. But the next time Jake and I passed the spot, the sign itself had been run over, and fresh ruts were visible in the grass.

Game on.

The homeowners countered by placing three massive boulders at the corner — giant, immovable things that can foil any vehicle. And actually, the boulders add a nice decorative touch.

Game over.

Feet and Chair Legs

In 1498, Leonardo da Vinci completed his painting The Last Supper on the wall of a convent in Milan, Italy. 150 years later, inexplicably, residents of the convent found it necessary to punch a door in the wall, which eliminated a chunk of the bottom center of the painting. Gone were the feet of Jesus and some chair legs.

But the missing swath wasn’t exactly lost to history. Around 1515, two of Leonardo’s former students had painted (on canvas, not a stone wall) a reasonably close reproduction of The Last Supper. It shows the lost feet and chair legs basically as Leonardo painted them.

In 2020, the Royal Academy of Arts in London hired Google to digitize the reproduction in super-high resolution and made it available online.

This is Leonardo’s original, door and all.

And this is the reproduction.

I’d really like to know why that door was necessary.

Entitlement

Apparently, Steelers quarterback Ben Rapistberger is nearing retirement. So long, Ben. I wish you all the worst.

You remember Ben Rapistberger, who in 2009 was credibly accused of raping a casino hostess in Nevada. But then, the man is a rich and famous athlete, and the charges were dropped.

You remember Rapistberger, who in 2010 was credibly accused of raping a college student in the bathroom of a Georgia nightclub while his bodyguards, two off-duty state troopers, watched the door. But then, the man is a rich and famous athlete, and the charges were dropped.

Why those incidents got under my skin so much, I can’t say. But I was indignant enough after the Georgia incident that I vowed never to watch the Steelers again as long as Rapistberger was on the team. A silly and useless gesture, I admit, but I kept the vow, and I’m not sorry.

Funny thing, though. Out of all the current fawning on the sports channels about Rapistberger and his illustrious career, I haven’t heard one mention of the casino hostess or the college student.

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The Questions…

1. What is the largest member of the deer family?

2. Of what substance are your fingernails and toenails made?

3. Name the world’s largest island and the world’s longest river.

4. What African country formerly was known as Abyssinia?

5. To what does the Australian term jumbuck refer?

The Answers…

1. The Alaskan moose.

2. Keratin, a strong, tough, fibrous protein. Keratin also is the key material in hair, horns, claws, hooves, feathers, and skin.

3. Greenland and the Amazon River.

4. Ethiopia.

5. A male sheep. Jumbuck is an aboriginal word, origin uncertain.

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The United Nations has a thing called the Human Development Index, which ranks the nations of the world according to the well-being of their people. Primarily, the index considers income, life expectancy, and education level.

The 2020 HDI, the most recent, said the leading countries are, in descending order:

1. Norway
2. Ireland
3. Switzerland
4. Hong Kong
5. Iceland
6. Germany
7. Sweden
8. Australia
9. Netherlands
10. Denmark
11. Finland
12. Singapore
13. United Kingdom
14. Belgium
15. New Zealand
16. Canada
17. United States —Aha! There we are, in 17th place on the well-being of the citizenry chart.

Frankly, that stinker of a rating is no surprise to me. In spite of our huge wealth and abundance of potential, we rank poorly in most categories that genuinely matter to actual people. The US is:

— 13th in standard of living
— 20th in quality of life
— 24th in science education
— 29th in personal freedom
— 31st in delivering decent healthcare
— 34th in the actual health of the population
— 38th in math education
— 46th in life expectancy

But, by God, we do have some Number Ones to our credit. We lead the world in:

— Military spending
— Cost of healthcare per capita
— Incarceration rate per capita
— Number of guns owned by civilians

Is this a great country or what?

That’s a rhetorical question.

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This Just In

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA — Organizers of a camel beauty contest in Saudi Arabia disqualified and fined 43 breeders who used illegal methods such as Botox injections to improve the appearance of their camels.

The King Abdulaziz Camel Festival, in which breeders compete for over $66 million in prize money, is in its sixth year. Because of the high stakes, breeders use a range of illegal methods to improve their chances of winning. These include Botox and hormone injections, bobbing a camel’s tail, and dyeing its coat.

To detect tampering, the camels are inspected physically and scanned with x-ray and sonar devices.

The owners of winning camels not only receive cash prizes, but are able to sell their animals at higher prices. Thus, fines for tampering are high, ranging from $8,000 to $27,000 per offense.

ACTON, ENGLAND — A British company set a Guinness World Record for the largest pyramid made of recycled washing machines. Currys PC World, a retailer of home appliances and electronics, stacked 1,496 recycled washers into a pyramid 44 feet tall.

Guinness said the base of the pyramid was comprised of 256 washers forming a square that measured 31 feet per side. The machines, all refurbished and ready for reuse, were stacked unsecured.

Currys said the pyramid was an effort to raise awareness about recycling the 1.45 million tons of electronic waste generated in the UK each year.

A survey conducted by the company last year found that 68 percent of Brits claim to be confused or uncertain about the recycling process. Translation: not interested enough to find out.

SÃO JOSÉ DO RIO PRETO, BRAZIL — In November, a cow escaped from a slaughterhouse, wandered through town, and ended up at a water park. The park was closed for the season, so the cow was at first undetected.

Employees said the cow found its way up a ramp to the top of a water slide, then dropped to its knees and slid down the chute and into the swimming pool below. It was then rescued and secured.

The workers said the slide is designed to hold 450 pounds, but held the 700-pound cow without damage.

The cow was not returned to the slaughterhouse, but was adopted by a nearby rancher and will live out its life among new bovine friends.

The rancher named the cow Tobogã, which means “slide” in Portuguese.

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More favorite photos I’ve taken over the years.

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We have come to live in a society based on insults, on lies, and on things that just aren’t true. It creates an environment where deranged people feel empowered.

Colin Powell

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Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him and let him know you trust him.

Booker T. Washington

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Every war, when it comes or before it comes, is represented not as a war, but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac.

George Orwell

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Don’t find fault, find a remedy. Anybody can complain.

Henry Ford

Powell

Ford

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