Friday, August 31, 2007

Delaware Hedge Clipping Crazy Surfing Blue Hen Lighthouse Roundup

In the "how long til they find you" category - This 85 year old woman just had to trim the hedges, then she just had to dispose of the clippings by throwing them over the side of her property, then she just had to lose her balance doing it and fall down a 20 ft embankment, then she had to subsist on rain and the dew from leaves for 3 days until her son came looking for her. This story jabs straight at my fear that I will fall in a ditch and no one will discover me for days. Could be worse, this guy's body wasn't found for 8 years.

The more magical thinkers among my readers will wonder if this wasn't divine or karmic punishment for disposing of the clippings over the hedges, but I see clear cause and effect here.

From the "Hey Buddy wanna buy a lighthouse?" section- Two bidders have driven a federal auction for the Fourteen Foot Bank Lighthouse off the coast of Delaware up to $195,000. The auction was supposed to close a week ago but has continued as two tycoons known only as "andy#222" and "latea" continue to trade bids. I can't see why anyone (meaning any hermit) could pass on this opportunity. The lighthouse can only be reached by boat and has no dock once you get there, has no plumbing or electric, the buyer must allow the coast guard access because it is an active light, and it cannot be altered because it is on the register of Historical Places. It may also contain asbestos. (.pdf of info on the bid)

I personally would love to own a lighthouse. Maybe I will go in and snipe this auction at the last minute a la eBay.

From the "Hang ten dude" files - I guess the waves aren't high enough on the Atlantic ocean off of Delaware's beaches because this man thought it would be fun to car surf. It ended much as you would imagine - "Bendistis fell off and hit his head on the ground, police said." Unfortunately he didn't seem to be using his head too much when he got the car surfing idea in the first place. Cowabunga dude.

Extra bonus: So the Virtual Ranger doesn't complain, here is a surfing blue hen, and a surfing blue hen.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Guess the T-shirt reference - 'You had me at Klaatu'

I have a new favorite T-shirt designed by the clever folks at TopatoCo (Jeffry Rowland of Overcompensating fame). The clever logo - "You had me at Klaatu". One point for each of the references which combined to make this funny shirt. Points for the movie titles, original lines, characters and actors. No googling, or other search engines or wikipedia, it's gotta come from your own head!

What do you win? The fact of knowing that you might be more geeky than me, a high distinction, and the only thing I got cause I haven't designed any swag for you guys yet. Whirdly is not eligible because she has seen the shirt and knows too much. Put your guesses in the comments please.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Peninsula Point Lighthouse

The rest of this lighthouse, the house part, burned down in 1959. You can see the outline of the foundation. This lighthouse is south of Stonington on the peninsula between the Little and the Big Bay du Noc across from Escanaba. It is a quick trip that satisfied my incessant thirst for lighthouse hunting.

I included whirdly at the top for scale. Either she is tiny or the lighthouse tower is tall.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Sand Point Lighthouse in Escanaba

This lighthouse was restored to its original condition after many years as a Coastguard station. It sits on the shore of Lake Michigan almost in the middle of Escanaba.

Later I will try to get a picture of the Peninsula Point lighthouse across the Little Bay du Noc from Escanaba.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Grassfire playing bluegrass at the Breezy Point

If you are free this afternoon you can join us at the Breezy Point Bar on the Lake Michigan in Escanaba on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for some bluegrass music played by "Grassfire". They just played "Man of Constant Sorrow" and it was pretty good. The lake with fluffy blue clouds is a nice backdrop too.

They are playing until 8. We're here, where are you?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Flying in to Escanaba

When you fly those puddle jumpers into the small towns and you sit in the front seat it pretty much feels like you are flying the plane. This extreme close up is merely a picture from my seat, I did not have to step forward or lean into the flight deck to take the picture.

Unfortunately they closed sliding doors between the flight deck and us passengers during the flight so I didn't get good views during the flight.

Start this stopped clock Milwaukee Airport.

This clock is only right twice a day but I will not be here to see it. It is not 5:05. I took these pictures at 10:30am Central time or 11:30 Eastern time, I have a two faced watch that tells me both.

The stopped clock gives less of a train station ambience to the Milwaukee Airport so much as an abandonded train station ambience. Wouldn't you think that at any sort of travel hub - bus station, train station, airport, or even highway rest stop - should have accurate functional clocks so you don't miss your transportation?

Landing in Milwaukee

On the way to the cabin in Escanaba, Michigan we get to stop in Milwaukee with a dramatic landing with lots of turns over Lake Michigan. Next trip is to go over the lake to the UP side.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Old One, Dark One, Minion, Which Lovecraftian horror are you?

A great quiz for those Lovecraftian cultists out there. Which Cthulhu mythos character are you?

You scored as Cthulhu, You are Great Cthulhu! You lay and dream at home (or the beach) most of the time but one day (when the stars are right) you will suddenly have the power to get out there and show the world what you're made of! Lets hope you don't do too much damage......

Which Cthulhu Mythos character/God are you?
created with

I needed to answer a tie breaker to decide between Cthulhu himself, and Yog-Sothoth (The Lurker at the Threshold, The Key and the Gate, The Beyond One, Opener of the Way The All-in-One and the One-in-All), so I suppose I could be either of them as required. If my hair was whiter I could have been Nodens(Lord of the Great Abyss or Nuada of the Silver Hand). Let me review my Necronomicon for advice on this situation.

(found via Neatorama at Under Vhool's Shadow which is about all things Lovecraftian)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Which transformer are you?

I did go to see the Transformer movie a while back. Good special effects, weak story but reasonably close to the original one - "Autobots wage their battle to destroy the evil forces of the Decepticons!"

Would you like to know which Transformer you are most similar to? We have a quiz for that. I turned out to be like Optimus Prime (whoop tee do).


Take the Transformers Quiz

Which are you?

Flashing Neon - Honest Hypocrite

Get yours at Image Chef Studio Neon.

Previous fonts for The Honest Hypocrite: Negative Building Space, Old Timey Graffiti, my back tatoo, as actual buildings, alphabet agates, in lights, on a T-shirt (I really should sell these), Googlized, and with zombies.

Another 'whatever' license plate

This license, WATEVR, dispenses with the H to get their devil may care, or alternatively, teenage sullen disinterest attitude across. Perhaps they don't care about electricity prices, but that license would be KILOWATTEVER.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Finally - rain fills the creek again

Our rain barrel was empty, we were forced to start watering our new plants with actual city water. Finally the rain has come again. About 0.7 inches over the last day or so have filled the creek to a more swollen, interesting state.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

There, Their, They're

They're saying their questions are over there.

Take the They're/Their/There quiz to see whether you use them correctly.

I got 100%, but I always grammar and spell check my e-mails because you never know when one of these errors will creep in.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Conservatives are Threatened and Liberals are Thrilled

Spider Robinson (website) has taken old notes and outlines and written a "lost" Robert A. Heinlein novel "Variable Star". The book is a fun read and one thing that Robinson has done well is capture the glib advice and commentary that is a hallmark of many Robert Heinlein novels. Heinlen had an opinion on everything from war to relationships to manhood to survival, and he wasn't afraid to put it into the know-it-all mouths of his characters.

So what does Spider as Robert have to say about the political parties?
(from pg. 202 of "Variable Star")
"Sol Short once told me that mankind is divided into two basic sorts: those who find the unknown future threatening... and those who find it thrilling. He says the rupture between those two sides has been responsible for most of the bloodshed in history. If change threatens you, you become conservative in self-defense. If it thrills you, you become liberal in self-liberation. He says the Threateneds are frequently more successful in the short run, because they always fight dirty. But in the long run, they always lose, because Thrilled people learn and thus accomplish more."
At least this opinion is expressed not by the twenty-something protagonist but by the older and "wiser" character, Sol. It turns out to be important when the characters in the novel face a space disaster even more horrifying than the 9-11 World Trade center attack and they must decide on their approach. After an attack everyone feels threatened, but what is the appropriate next step? The novel throws in some not so thinly veiled commentary on our life and times, the war on terror and the appropriate response to attack.

As to the philosophy espoused, it doesn't make Threatened sound like an attractive position. I also disagree that all of the bloodshed is caused by disagreements between the two sides. The Threateneds seem to like to beat up on each other pretty nicely as well.

Which are you?



Thursday, August 16, 2007

My backyard - the raccoon highway

Almost every night just after the sun goes down, one or a family of raccoons walks on by to go from their homes down the creek to the house of one of my neighbors who feeds them up the creek. My backyard is in between and they must walk just past the corner of the sunroom where we usually hang out about that time.

Two nights ago we saw what I must assume was mom and her young, two raccoon kits, but I was too shocked and unprepared to take a picture. Last night I was prepared with a snack of bread right at the corner to get them to stay awhile and with a plan to turn on the lights to get the right lighting for my unsuitable Kodak camera. I will not share with you the many blank or flash filled shots of practice, just this one shot which is recognizably a raccoon. In spite of all of our movement in the sunroom, it didn't run away until it came back to get its piece of bread.

I would have preferred to get a shot of mom and the kits as they scampered over the rocks and climbed trees, but that shot will probably never happen until I get a night vision camera and build a raccoon blind to hide in. I am not that serious about wildlife photography, yet.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Perseid meteor shower viewing and Jupiter

The last two nights were supposed to be good viewing for the Perseid meteor shower. The advice given by the magazines is to find a dark night sky with a view to the northeast for good viewing. I didn't feel like going to some Chester County field to battle insects all night so I improvised by sitting out on our cul-de-sac. Since there is only four houses on the street I thought I had a good chance not to be run over by cars, and the lack of trees growing out of the pavement at least meant that the sky directly above would be visible.

I actually went out on Saturday Night around 10pm or so and saw three really good meteors over the course of about an hour. One looked as long as twelve inches or so at arm's length. On Sunday night we say at least two good sightings over about an hour and maybe a few lighter ones that we couldn't decide were overactive imagination or not. Then the clouds rolled in and stopped the viewing. Though there are no street lights on the street, house path lighting and general light pollution from further away meant that only the brightest meteors were visible. I don't know about the 40 per hour the articles state. That must be if you are watching in the Arizona desert hundreds of miles from lights or civilization.

I learned that I can set as long as an 8 second exposure on my digital camera. Given the meteor rate described above, I would need minutes in order to catch a meteor, so no pictures of shooting stars. Instead, I turned around and looked south to get this picture of Jupiter and Antares. I assumed it was Venus at the time (What other bright object can you think of?), but the star charts set me straight. This was with an 8 second exposure on my Kodak camera, which is actually unsuitable to the task.

The shower continues through the end of the month, but lessens each evening, so you still haven't missed your chance. Did any of you stay out to try to catch a glimpse of a meteor this weekend?

Nerd Humor Graffiti in Delaware

I know graffiti is vandalism and that is bad, but I still want to understand the message from whoever painted the NERD HUMOR on this railroad bridge over Rt 141 in northern Delaware. It seems like nerd humor is something I could get behind since almost by definition every joke I make would fall into that catagory.

The picture doesn't quite bring out the fact that this was painted with pink paint.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Will Sousaphone Hero inspire a new generation of Tubists?

The Onion reports that the new Xbox 360 game Sousaphone hero sales have lagged far behind the previous popularity of Guitar Hero. As a tuba player myself I had high hopes that this game would turn a whole new generation of tuba players onto how cool Sousaphones are. I am ready to go out an update to an Xbox 360 just to get this game.

For the uninitiated, sousaphones are merely tubas that have been wrapped around in a circle for easy holding. The computer game comes with a wireless controller for more convenience when marching.

Some features of the game are highlighted in the article.

Sousaphone Hero offers two dozen public-domain marches, including 1893's "The Liberty Bell," 1896's "Stars and Stripes Forever," and 1897's "Entry of the Gladiators." The bulky sousaphone-shaped controller coils around the body, and players wear white spat-like foot coverings fitted with sensors that monitor synchronized marching steps...

...Players may also choose from 27 different fat-guy characters who can be customized with Alpine hats, epaulets, and a mustache editor with a wide array of options.

There are some fun game modes as well.
"In the career mode, you can rise from playing in park gazebos for church picnics to performing in the halftime show of the Harvard-Yale game," Hendleman said. "If you score enough points, you can unlock the ultimate level: playing in the John Philip Sousa–led Marine Band at Grover Cleveland's inauguration."
How could that excitement not draw kids into the exciting world of the Sousaphone? Sousaphone players go on to have very rewarding careers and lives.


Beautiful Women


It may be too early to redo this cartoon (apologies to carlh) which reflects the coolness of Sousaphone Hero vs. a real sousaphone.

A Red-tailed hawk in Delaware

It was like an episode of Wild Kingdom at lunchtime today as I watched a red-tailed hawk chase a squirrel up and down a tree. The squirrel did its best to remain on the opposite side of the tree trunk from the hawk because it was that or become lunch. The hawk was about 18 inches tall. It was hard to estimate. It was about twice as big as the robins that were also flying around trying to avoid the fight.

How do I know it was a red-tailed hawk? It had a red-tail. I only had the Treo camera with me and the hawk did not oblige me by flying or posing real close to the window since it had lunch on its little bird brain. You can still tell the tail was red. This encounter was close to the Brandywine River in the wildlife sanctuary that is northern Delaware.

Monday, August 06, 2007

A ton of balloons over the Delaware River

On Saturday we had the good fortune of once again crossing the I78 bridge from New Jersey into Delaware in the middle of a hot air balloon festival. It seems we are travelling that way at the right time each year. The balloons looked bigger and we more impressive in person. This is only about half of them.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Grackles at the bird feeder.

Today was an especially busy animal day in my backyard on Shellpot Creek. We have a bird feeder in a cage to keep out the squirrels and only let in the smaller birds. One particular common visitor is the Carolina Chickadee as well as a variety of smaller brown birds. It seems that one bird at the feeder will draw others of its own kind and then all different kinds of birds. Today's explosion of birds started with the chickadees and moved on through the brown birds to mourning doves, cardinals and finally Common Grackles. These last several are actually too big to get seed from the feeder and usually make do with the seed the smaller birds spill on the ground.

Today though, several grackles tried to get into the feeder. They were unsuccessful.

This is two different birds. Many more just stuck to the ground area.

During this bird excitement we also witnessed a squirrel flipping over and over again on the ground and jumping off of a bush. We also had a visit from our ground hog. No pictures of those, as they were too far away. It is quite the wildlife extravaganza around the creek.

Bunnies at the Shellpot Creek

This bunny rabbit is really the first I have seen around my corner of the Shellpot Creek. I was surprised that I hadn't seen any, perhaps the season is starting. I have followed my habit of trying to have photographic confirmation of each animal sighting since that is slightly more interesting and scientific than an "I saw that". This sighting is from pretty far away since my nature tracking skills and ability to keep quiet and not startle the animal are of the bull in a china shop variety, yet the telephoto lens on the digital camera is not made for the distance.

Amstel beer lover license plate

I have to assume that this person really likes Amstel beer, or maybe the Amstel light that is in all of the commercials, as reflected by their AMSTEL license plate.

It is less likely though possible that they are formally from Amsterdam and decided to get a license plate to commemorate the river Amstel, that runs through that famous city. The beer is named after the river so in a round about way the second speculation is true if the first is.

A diseased quiz

Expoding Aardvark continues to push the envelope of self-awareness and flawed comparisons with her find of the " Which Horrible Disease Are You?" quiz. While she was influenza, I present to you:

Your Score: Lyme Disease!
You scored 28% pestilentiality!

Not particularly social, are we? You are contracted by lone hikers who are trying to enjoy the nature that you just so happen to be a part of. You live in ticks. That's pretty gross, I think.

Your symptoms include a bull's eye-esque rash, and then a constellation of vague clinical signs: fatigue, muscle pain, and most famously, paralysis! You are not contagious person to person, per se, just don't let any of those granola-loving dog-walkers pass you by, lest you miss your golden opportunity.

It may delight you to know that you result from bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi.

It matches my loner, don't realize I am inside you until you have crippling joint pain persona.

Which Horrible Disease Are You?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Lazy Engadget, Neatorama, Treehugger push bullshit "detergentless" washing machine

The best thing I can say about Engadget, Treehugger and Neatorama and others about their articles on the Haier's detergentless WasH20 washing machine is that they are lazy. I don't understand why these sites just repeat the news of this "detergentless" washer with suspect, crackpot science behind it instead of really investigating whether or not the thing could work. Even applying the most basic science principles might allow one to evaluate the claims. Unfortunately most of us don't seem to know or care to use enough logic and science to make a critical judgement.

At least, I hope it is laziness and not ignorance (or stupidity) that causes them to pass on their responsibility. Engadget is ostensibly a blog that breaks the news on all of the latest cool gadgets. I would expect that the authors have some technical savvy, the post was still only mildly skeptical. Treehugger is supposed to be a forum and guide for living "greener" lives, much of which should require knowledge of some basic science to choose things that are better for the environment. Neatorama is just for fun, so they perhaps get a buy on this one, yet their posts are often laced with interesting science or history so I was hoping for more from them. I guess the pressure to generate posts is enormous.

Regarding the "detergentless" washer: It supposedly electrolyzes water into its components: OH- and H+ ions. The stains of the linen are attracted and retained by ions OH-. The linen is sterilized by the H+ ions. How it does this is not mentioned, though pure water doesn't conduct electricity very well and electrolysis would generate oxygen and hydrogen, not ions.

Good old water, all by its lonesome, has some fraction broken down into hydroxyl (OH-) ions and hydrogen (H+) ions, about 1e-7 molarity for pure water. That is the origin of pH = -log([H+]); pure water is at a pH of 7. Even distilled water in contact with air dissolves some carbon dioxide and the pH drops (to about 5.7) because you have carbonic acid in the water, so pure, in this sense, is impossible to maintain. The OH- attracting the stains and the H+ sterilizing the clothes is just cartoon science at its worst. I could also mention that, in solution, charge neutrality must be maintained so unless you add another ion to the mix, the OH- must equal the H+, and you are using pure water to clean your clothes.

As to stains and detergents: Detergents are surfactants. Surfactants are surface active agents, they lower the surface tension of water and can solubilize oil. Why is that? They contain a hydrophobic oil loving part connected to a hydrophillic water loving part. Stains are usually greasy or oil loving. The detergent helps to remove the grease stain because it is attracted to the hydrophobic part of the detergent which is connected to the water loving part and allows the grease to be soluble in the water. Then it gets washed away in the washer.

Hot water does clean clothes pretty well, so I expect many folks will think they got a good product when they buy this thing. Yet the science and the criticality of the reviews, posts and announcements of the product are extremely lacking. People have used soap to clean clothes for thousands of years because they needed to. For some reason water just didn't get the job done.

When did they redirect Shellpot Creek?

As I delved into the old maps of Shellpot creek looking for previous names I realized that as late as the 1930's, Shellpot Creek emptied into the Brandywine Creek not directly into the Delaware River as it does today. In fact that whole area around this connection was the Cherry Island Marsh, which may have made the difference between creek or river and marsh a subtle one.

The University of Delaware Research and Data Management Services, the Delaware Geological Survey (DGS) and the State of Delaware Department of Technology and Information (DTI) have developed a great site for all kinds of Delaware mapping information called the Delaware DataMIL, for Data Mapping and Integration Laboratory. Clicking on the the Map Lab button opens a window (Internet Explorer only!) with dynamically generated maps with all kinds of data layers. My favorite is the Aerial Imagery going back to 1937. The animated .gif (thanks Gickr) shows the connection between Shellpot Creek and Brandywine from 1937, 1954, 1961, 1968, 1992, 1998 and 2001.

It is interesting to watch the sudden appearance of I495 , the growth of the water treatment plant and ponds and all of the growing development in this section of Wilmington as the years click by in the animated gif. Watch closely and you can see the Shellpot creek connection to the Brandywine was severed between 1937 and 1954.

Using these pictures we can see that between 1937 and 1954 (from the first two pictures in the animated gif, zoomed in below, water outlined in blue),



the land between the Shellpot creek outlet and the Brandywine was filled in for a road to extend 12th street to the railroad yard and eventually to an exit for I495 . Shellpot creek was redirected to the Delaware river. I will eventually find a newspaper article or building planning records that references this change, but for now the aerial photography is very helpful.