Friday, November 30, 2007

Is it bad luck when a slug crosses your path?

Yesterday I saw a late season slug cross my path on a sidewalk and then onto a manhole cover. I raced to get a camera to get a good closeup because I am a lover of nature and science, even the slimy kind.

This appears to be a dehydrated leopard slug (also called a Great Grey Slug, Limax maximus). It looks much thinner than this picture of a slug in Maryland on wikipedia. I would imagine that since it is getting to be winter, that they won't look as nice and juicy as in the middle of summer or after a rain. Perhaps a certain Ranger with more expertise on wildlife than I can offer an opinion about dehydrated slugs. I believe these slugs are an introduction from Europe so he should be familiar with them. A closeup view of the slug next to a ruler (click for large view) really shows its spots and stripes and the intricate wrinkles on its mantle.

He/she (they are hermaphrodites) moved into the mulched area, hopefully to survive the winter. I won't hold a grudge against them, though the slugs in my garden love to chew plants down to the nub. We use slug bait pellets with iron phosphate to protect our plants. Since iron phosphate naturally occurs in the soil it is safe, the slugs eat and it and they crawl away to die. I guess garden plants > slugs in my book.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Recycling polystyrene packing material in Wilmington

I have been storing packing material from some large purchases because I just couldn't bear to put it in the trash and end up in a landfill. Additionally after a year of living on Shellpot creek I am hyper-sensitive to Styrofoam in trash since every rain brings a new piece to be plucked from the stream. Thus I have been trying to recycle the Styrofoam packing peanuts and packing stuff that comes in with shipments.

In northern Delaware a company called Flo-Pac (actually FP International) collects Styrofoam and recycles it into more packing material. Their collection site is hidden away in an industrial park off of Ruthar Drive off of Harmony Road in Newark.

From North Wilmington it is a pain to get to and the trip should be avoided during afternoon rush hour. Take I-95 south toward Newark. Get off at the Rt273 exit going toward Newark. Go towards Rt 4 on Harmony Road from the Rt273 exit on I-95. Brave the reactionary traffic calming measures, go past Rt4 and make a left onto Ruthar drive. Make the first left into an industrial park onto Alan Drive, there is no sign. Go all the way to the end, past tons of Flo-Pac trucks.

The address is 111 Alan Drive (map). On the left is a door that looks like it goes into a factory, but is labeled pretty clearly, inside you can deposit Styrofoam for recycling into some bins.

I found out that they will take boxes full of peanuts or bags and loose form fitted polystyrene foam. It is clean polystyrene or Styrofoam only (specs here), no cellulose peanuts, no polyurethane foam. Other FP Locations can be found here.

Many years ago (13!) when I was a graduate student at the University of Delaware I organized our group of students to recycle the polystyrene packing material that we collected in the Chemical Engineering department. It was a pain because a little packing material takes up a huge amount of space. We finally told everyone where the place was and sent them off on their own. Only recently did I have enough packing stuff to return to the recycler for myself. I try to keep it to less than a trip every 6 months.

I am not sure that I was carbon neutral in my 40 minute round trip to recycle, but hopefully I won't see that Styrofoam floating down the creek someday.

Cultivate your inner European

Use this quiz to find your inner European.

My results are not surprising, since I am of Italian descent.

Your Inner European is Italian!

Passionate and colorful.

You show the world what culture really is.

Tell us your results in the comments below.

(via FirstState)

MR BUR license plate ready for winter

Spotted this license today. Although the weather will be 50's and rainy for the next few days MR BUR is ready for winter with his license plate.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Crazy Delaware Blue Hen Roundup - now with Baggy Pants!

Baggy Pants Blue Hen

One Wilmington council member has solved all of the issues of the city and can now move on to more frivolous activity. He is proposing a ban on the baggy pants prevalent in hip-hop culture. You know when the pants hang down so low you can see the person boxer shorts. I personally am not interested in seeing wannabe rap stars underwear but I think that wasting time outlawing such a thing ignores the million other things that a law maker might focus on. The inflammatory News Journal commenters also worry if this proposed law could be used to target certain segments of the population. Something this stupid will never be passed in Wilmington and hip-hop fans are free to look as ridiculous as they like.

Dover Houdini

A suspect wanted in Pennsylvania was caught and then escaped from police custody in Dover, Delaware. He was somehow able to free him self from handcuffs and then escape encumbered by leg shackles. This guy should go on Phenomenon and compete with other "mentalists" (not magicians I guess) in front of Uri Geller and Chriss Angel.

The blinking, the blinking.

Since all other issues of civics that should be addressed by New Castle County Council are completed they have moved on to the thorny issue of blinking time and temperature signs. The previous statute allowed electronic signs but they could only be changed every 12 hours. Time and temperature displays were exempt. Apparently some ne'er-do-wells are exploiting this loop hole to entice customers into there business with blinking displays (ooh, shiny). The new law limits changes to every 10 seconds. I can't believe that people waste time with this. The best quote:
“The blinking and flashing was creating a distraction to drivers,” Weiner said. “I don’t want Concord Pike and other roads in Brandywine Hundred to start looking like the Las Vegas Strip.”
Have no fear councilman Weiner, we should be so lucky.

Car crashes through store.

Not just into the store but 60 feet into the store. I almost drove down there to take a picture myself, but your intrepid blogger is too lazy to do the kind of reporting required here. Neither is the News Journal, their picture stinks too. Just a note - the brakes are in the middle, the accelerator is on the right.


Wawa ATM's in Delaware had fake card slots placed over the regular card slots which allowed thieves to get the card info and collect the pin numbers from unsuspecting users of the machines. A glance at the picture on the side (click for larger) shows that the devices are pretty sophisticated. I am sure that I would be fooled. has anyone out there ever seen such a thing in person? (If so check your credit report and bank accounts.) I have started pulling on the ATM card slots just to check if they are real. I am not sure my paranoia mediaction covers instances like these where they really are out to get you.

Necrotizing fasciitis - no thank you.

Student athletes in Delaware are picking up super bugs from each other and sports equipment. Some of these bugs are so virulent that they are getting necrotizing fasciitis - the flesh eating bug! If ever there was a reason for me to avoid all athletic activity and to encourage others to do so this is it. The bacteria is methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. The students that have gotten it have at least had their infections recognized as such and been treated, sometimes through surgery. They have scars but have kept their lives and limbs. MRSA is still relatively rare but this story also activates my paranoid wig out meter.

Friendly Blue Hen from the 30's

We don't have Unicorn Chasers to clean out our minds from scary stuff at the Crazy Blue Hen roundup, but we do have blue hens. Here is a friendly blue hen mascot from the 30's. We will have to trust that he is blue since the photo is in black and white.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease

Consumer reports is running a great series debunking drug advertisements and they have taken on the drug Requip for my favorite disease Restless Leg Syndrome or RLS (The Jimmy Legs). Though Consumer reports does point out that while the commercials do tell the truth, they sometimes leave out some important facts. Such as:

  • 73% experienced relief from their RLS when taking Requip, but 53% also experienced relief from a placebo.
  • the drug can make you sleepy and the other side effects, nausea, for instance, sound worse than the restless legs. I pointed this out earlier.
  • The drug is based drugs used to treat Parkinson's disease and is powerful stuff.
Maybe you just want to suffer with the restless legs. Please be more sensitive to my commenter than I was, anonymous said that RLS is a real disease, and then suspiciously pointed me to

The video critiquing the commercial is at the Consumer reports website.

(via BoingBoing)

Monday, November 12, 2007

Happy Anniversary

Saturday we celebrated our 1st Wedding Anniversary at Restaurant 821 in Wilmington. 821 is on Market Street in Wilmington and its name is its address. When I made the reservations they asked if it was a special occasion and I did tell them it was our anniversary.

At dinner there were complementary glasses of champagne and though we did not order dessert, after a superb meal we were gifted with this collection of delicious chocolate truffles and a message in chocolate. I failed to get a picture of the smeared mess of chocolate after we got through with it. That is for the best.

We wholehearted recommend Restaurant 821. The restaurant exactly matches my preference for many little things and different tastes. Each dish is usually three different preparations of the main ingredient and the chef uses many of the most modern preparation techniques especially some of the ones termed molecular gastronomy. We like guessing his techniques with our knowledge from the food network and books. We were so proud of ourselves to guess he used sodium alginate to make lemonade "caviar" - little tasty gelatinous caviar sized balls of lamon flavor. We appreciated the foams and he always uses the freshest ingredients.

We like his work so much we are going to see if we can get him on Iron Chef. Come to Wilmington specifically to eat at Restaurant 821. It will be a great experience.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The peanuts live on

As archetypes of human behavior the Peanuts have a lot to teach us about ourselves and others. This quiz allows you to find your inner peanut and tell the world.

My results follow:

You are most similar to

"I have affixed to me the dirt and dust of countless ages ... Who am I to disturb history?"

Yes, Pigpen is dirty -- very dirty. But there is more to his personality than his obvious lack of hygiene. To his credit, he is quite secure about his messy appearance, and he dismisses others' concerns about it with eloquence. He has come to accept the filth, and he maintains a rosy outlook despite all. Pigpen is a kind fellow with an independent spirit and an active imagination.

I am cleaner than Pigpen, yet I am proud to hold his worldview.

(via Exploding Aardvark, who else?)

Monday, November 05, 2007

Crazy Blue Hen Delaware News Roundup - now with Pumpkins and Dolls

Just where does Delaware end anyway?

This roundup may or may not be coming to you from Delaware, as the state battles with New Jersey over the location of the Delaware River state line boundary. It is not in the middle of the river as you might think. Penn's Grant actually places the Delaware boundary right at the water line on the New Jersey side and this has caused all sorts of problems with a natural gas loading facility - in the river - that companies on the New Jersey side of the river want to put in. Should there ever be an accident it would certainly be felt on the Delaware side of the river, by most of Wilmington, for instance. For environmental and safety reasons, Delaware has said no and the court battle has begun anew, this time all the way to the Supreme Court. You can learn more about the border here. It is quite interesting that Delaware has all of the say about what New Jersey can put in the water along that particular stretch of river.

Mystery Dolls of the Delmarva peninsula

Someone is delivering dolls to the front porches of Dewey, Delaware homes. No one knows who it is. I am sure that it is harmless, but in this day and age of unthinking paranoia, why would anyone think that this is a good idea. If we throw good sense and reality to the wind then we can worry about killer dolls like Chucky and that scary clown from Poltergeist. Leave the dolls at home, people!

Pumpkins fly to their doom.

Have you ever heard of Punkin Chunkin? If not you can't be from Delaware. Every November for 22 years, teams from all over the country compete in lower Delaware with home built machines to fire a pumpkin the farthest distance. This year's winner fired a pumpkin 4,211 feet! Just let that soak in a little - a ten pound pumpkin shot almost a mile. The prevailing technology is air cannons, but there are other classes for catapults and trebuchets, and different age groups. The pumpkin must stay intact until impact. If it blows apart during launch it doesn't count and is called a "pie".

Punkin Chunkin is really just another local festival with extra technology that adds spice to living in Delaware.