Wednesday, December 31, 2008

How to green your mavericky list of overused words from Wall Street to Main Street

Lake Superior State University has put together their 2009 "List of Words to Be Banished from the Queen's English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness". I can certainly get behind such a list as I am often the offender and sometimes the offended. The list has words you might suspect:

From the election: Maverick, First Dude

From the economy: Wall Street/Main Street - caused a great amount of intoxication during a Presidential debate drinking game earlier this year.

One my personal annoyances is "green", since it is used pretty indiscriminately on things that could never be conceived of as good for the environment.

I encourage you to read the comments on the list as their are some suggestions for additions (such as robust as a verb).

Monday, December 29, 2008

Snow birds not always white or in the snow

These northern juncos (also called a "slate colored" junco or the dark-eyed junco) have been flitting all over the backyard lately. They are listed in Peterson's Eastern Bird Guide under snowbirds and close examination of their range map shows that they winter in Delaware and to the south. It is interesting to think of Delaware in the winter as the south that more northerly dwelling birds fly to, even as our summer birds fly farther south.

This one looks like a male with its slate colored top and white belly. You can also see the characteristic white tail feathers on the outside of the tail. The tail is a flashes white when they fly around.

This more dun version is a female. The boys tend get to wear the more fancy clothes in the bird kingdom. It does have dark eyes and a seed breaking beak.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Freezing rain takes down a tree on Shellpot Creek

Lynn actually heard this tree fall about an hour ago. We ran out to see what happened and see that it has fallen across the creek.

This tree belongs to the folks across the creek and is one of the trees I expected to fall soon. I suppose the freezing rain weighed it down, and the rain of the past few days loosened the soil so that gravity and wind could take it down. Too bad it is completely blocking the creek. I will need to explore my previous picks of across the creek to find a before picture.

The Greatest Looney Tunes of all times

Cartoon Brew wants your help to pick the 100 greatest Looney Tunes cartoons of all times. Animation historian Jerry Beck is writing a book collecting the 100 best Looney Tunes cartoons and is asking for comments and opinions about what you think the greatest are.

I am partial to the Gremlins one from World war II where Bugs Bunny deals with a gremlin on an airplane. I also liked the Porky in Wackyland cartoon where Porky hunts for the last of the dodoes (I am sure in my youth I saw the colored remake Dough for the Do-Do). There are so many favorites from my youth. Remember Bugs against the opera singer where he plays the tuba for a short bit during the cartoon? Remember the "shoot him now" duck hunting season with Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd and Daffy Duck?

There is a full list of every title available here. I don't know a tenth of them, and I certainly don't know them by titles. Many classic cartoons from the 30's and 40's can be found at the Internet Archive. Watching all of them and forming an opinion is probably a task for an crazy fan from the internet.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Candy Cane Lighted Christmas Trees

Last year I was too timid to try anything complicated so I just had red trees or white trees. I wrapped the trees in front to as far as I could. I had dreams of striping the trees with the lights like a candy cane so this year that's what I did. I think it turned out well.

I only wrap the trunks because that is all I can reach without equipment, these trees are tall. It is my sparse modernist interpretation of decorating trees with Christmas lights.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Rain swollen creek off its peak

Last night Shellpot Creek was even higher than this after the two days of rain we had. The rain and rising creek means the varius brush piles in the creek move around and change position but never go away.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Adding a second to the year

I appreciated Howard's take on the leap second to be added this year on December 31st. he cries that it is one extra second more until President-elect Obama can take office. Rachel Maddow echoes his sentiment when she points out that the official atomic clocks are at the Naval Observatory, which happens to be Vice President Cheney's home. She fears that he may add seconds just to prolong his reign.

Other reasons for disappointment around the leap second might be:

One observer complained, first they added a whole day to the year and now they are squeezing in seconds? Will this year never end.

Corporations will attempt to wring one second more earnings from an already tough year and beleaguered workforce.

I have to wait one more second until the Mummer's Parade.

One more second for the market to drop!

I am sure that it will be fine.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Are you a dangerous driver?

A quick quiz to tell whether you are safe while driving or if people should run for their lives.

How dangerous of a driver are you?

Created by The Car Connection

I achieved a stellar C with 59%. I am probably only a hazard to myself. Time to schedule another defensive driving course.

(via Presurfer)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

VOLATLTY license plate in New York

It is probably reasonable to guess that this VOLATLTY license plate on a Mercedes in New York City belongs to a stockbroker or someone in the financial services industry. It is oh so appropriate these days.

Happy Delaware Day

On this day in 1787, Delaware became the first state to ratify the Constitution of the United States, earning the honor of being the First State. Today is also the 75th anniversary of Delaware Day, a celebration instituted to commemorate this honor.

Elementary (Letters), My Dear

As a chemist I appreciate the ability to put The Honest Hypocrite in an elements based Periodic Table font. Each letter is a picture of an element from the periodic table.

I think tritium is a cop-out for T in the pictures above, but even worse would have been The spelled with "Th" for thorium and "e" for electron. I guess it is an inexact science.

Other brushes with the periodic table that regular readers will remember are about the Dungeons and Dragons inspired Order of the Stick comics, a Chlorine Elemental and a Titanium Elemental.

(you can see the banner for the Honest Hypocrite here, or make your own here)

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Jupiter, Venus and Moon Show

Howard reminded me that tonight is a rare conjunction of Jupiter, Venus and the Moon tonight. I needed a tripod to get the shot because my hands are so shaky. This half second exposure taken at 6:30pm washes out the moon a little but lets you see the planets better. Venus is the bright dot at the bottom and Jupiter is the less bright dot on the right. I was afraid I would miss it because of the rain earlier this evening, but the rain stopped and the clouds moved away sufficiently. What really stopped my observations was the setting of these three into the treeline.

I wonder what myth that the Romans or Greeks could spin out of a conjunction of the love goddess Venus(Aphrodite) and a moon goddess, Luna (Selene) or Diana (Artemis) who replaced her, take your pick, with Jupiter (Zeus) the king of the Gods. Jupiter stories usually picture him chasing women so I am sure it would be interesting. Zeus had a child with Selene in the Homeric myths, but Artemis is Zeus daughter, and sworn to virginity. Venus is also a daughter of Jupiter but she is all about love. Probably it would be a myth about an argument.

I need a book wheel

This book wheel would allow me to keep track of all of my different reading and might be nice and fun to spin if one was researching a particular topic and had to switch between books.

(via Flickr of BibliOdyssey)

Some years have lots of acorns and some don't

Several articles in the press and out on the web today have sensationalist titles like "Where are the acorns?", "Acorns disappear across the country" and "Acorn Watchers Wonder What Happened to Crop". Even Topix has a a forum topic devoted to it. Then the various articles ring the climate alarm quite vigorously. Others use the false analogy of disappearing acorns to disappearing bees. Once again eye catching headlines win out over even reasonably thoughtful study.

The acorns and other edible parts of woody plants like tress are call mast. These acorns are a food source for many animals in a forest from squirrels, to mice to deer. Pig farmers sometimes let their pigs loose in forests to fatten up on acorns. The important thing to realize is that these trees don't produce acorns every year in the same quantity like a fruit tree or like a farmer farms wheat. There are good years and bad years. Good years (here is an example in California last year) are called mast years, in fact. The cycle is reported to be 3 to 4 years and tied to a wet or a dry spring (this abstract reports other factors as well). The article sometimes points this out but then go on to say no one knows to heighten the mystery. The lack of acorns discussed in the Washington Post is centered around northern Virginia. Not all areas report the same thing.

I wonder if this boom and bust cycle has ever happened anywhere before. A precursory search using google (which I imagine any reporter could do) reveals several free articles on the topic, one with a very good chart. Other articles would cost money, but I am sure that a newspaper might even be able to purchase an article if they needed it.

One the article has an interesting chart (click the chart for larger) with some data that I have adapted by stretching and lining up the years, that shows boom (1994) and bust (1995, 1998) cycles for oak trees in California, Missouri, and Massachusetts and over several years. Some years have no acorns at all, some have plenty. Even different species seem to produce or not to produce in synchrony. I guess an article reporting that some years there just aren't any acorns doesn't get the hits of one with a dire end of the acorn death knell.

From the figure caption from the article: Fig. 1 Example time series of mast production. (a) Hastings Reservation (California) site, Q. agrifolia, (b) Hastings Reservation, Q. douglasii, (c) Missouri, Q. coccinea, (d) Missouri, Q. alba, (e) Massachusetts, Q. rubra. In (a–b) each line represents values for individual trees; in (c–e), lines represent yearly means for each plot. Heavy lines represent yearly grand means.

Another article has an appendix with line after line of articles with historical levels of acorns and other mast over many years, some as long as 31 years. I would love to have the data from that article because I think it would put this issue to rest even better than the small amount shown above. Here is a chart (click for larger) of acorn production for different oak species in Florida (source abstract, source .pdf). Some years show almost no production, and even some synchrony between species.

It is interesting that people at least notice their environment somewhat, but noticing only the negative events and lacking the scientific curiosity to determine if the phenomena is fleeting or cyclic or permanent almost defeats the benefit of being observant in the first place.

The acorns will return.