Tuesday, January 22, 2008

How hungry would you get?

I suppose a hungry man has to do what a hungry man has to do.


Perhaps the cold weather and chance of being trapped in a mountain pass (in Delaware!) has colored my answers.

Donner party of two, your table is ready. Donner party?

(via The Presurfer)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Firewood piles are building and the fireplace is going

Since we have been cutting down some small trees before they fall, or if they obstruct views, or if they are crowded, we have built up some nice piles of firewood that I was hoping would be ready for this winter and the fireplace. We were successful in that the wood we cut early in the spring last year seems to burn perfectly well for this summer. I have kept it covered waiting for the tell tale splits that would tell me it was dry enough to split myself. My patience paid off.

Let me say now that I will never split wood by hand (a maul) again since I have purchased an electric log splitter (others love hand log splitting). I was looking at some manual hydraulic splitters (foot and hand), but they looked cheap and looked like they were too much manual labor. The gas splitters were far larger than what I would need and I am not a small gas engine fan since they tend to be inefficient and picky to maintain. The electric one I purchased was right in the middle. I had some misgivings until I put the first 10" diameter, 20" log on there. Split right up. A whole full firewood circle later I declared my purchase to be well worth the price it saved my back from my poor manual splitting technique. All that wood to the left is from our yard.

The only official measurement for firewood amount is the full cord, which is 4ft X 4ft X 8ft or 128 cubic feet. It is key to realize that this is a volume measurement and that different tree species have different densities. Hard wood is denser, soft wood is less dense. All wood has the same heat value/lb, about 6944 BTU/lb by my calculations from the table, but varying amounts of heat/cord due to density. The best wood for heat/cord is Osage Orange at 33 million BTUs/Cord but that is because that is the densest wood in the list. I suppose that since the space the wood takes up is important so that is why BTUs/cord are important.

So Osage Orange (brown bar below) stands out in a graph of the species BTUs/cord. (click on the plot for a bigger picture)

But not in a graph of BTUs/lb. Note that I have greatly expanded the axis for the BTUs/lb, they are all between 6900 and 6980 BTU/lb. (click on the chart for a bigger readable picture)

The firewood information came from this .pdf link at the University of Nebraska Extension Forestry publications, referred by Hedgeapples.com (or Osage Orange or incorrectly Monkey Ball trees), because exploding aardvark noted that this guy's car was damaged and he filed a police report because a hedgeapple did $300 damage to the plastic trim on his car and he wanted the police to arrest it. Isn't hyperlinking fun. In a printed page only world I never would have bothered to find or been able to find or follow all of that so quickly.

How would superheroes do in real life?

I have been reading a graphic novel series called Powers. It imagines a world with superheros, but where it is illegal to be one. The idea is similar to that in the Incredibles. After some damage caused by the Powers, the government has generally frowned on the idea of people with "powers". The stories center around superhero crimes, especially murders of the heroes with powers.

I ordered all of them, but surprisingly the older out of print ones came faster (almost overnight) than the still in print ones from Amazon. I am up to Volume 10, and waiting for Volume 11. I wholeheartedly recommend them. They have adult themes and some adult art so they are not for kids. Here is the list thus far:

The story does a good job of exploring really what might happen if people with "Powers" existed and how they might not be as welcome as they are in the traditional comic book hero stories. The stories also center around how some of these people with powers would still have the same needs and wants as regular people, still have the same loves and hates, still be subject to the same pressures, hurts and insanities, but be able to act on these impulses in a much more powerful way than a regular person. No wonder the police are overwhelmed and "powers" are outlawed in the stories.

As to what the best moral or ethical approach to "powers" would be I suppose the adage "to whom much is given much is expected" is as appropriate as any. One could apply "Do unto others as you would have done unto you" as well. See the X-Men movies for two diametrically opposed approaches to the problem, training by Doctor Xavier, war by Magneto. The cartoon series of the "Justice League" has a government developing their own superheroes as a balance against the ones that they can't control.

Poignant xkcd comic "to Be Wanted" begs to be made into animated gif

This poignant xkcd comic entitled "To Be Wanted" begged to be made into an animated gif because of its recursive nature. I hope I haven't ruined the artistic intent of its creator by doing so.

Computer minded boy longs for sailing adventurer girl who longs for computer minded boy who longs for sailing adventurer girl who longs for computer minded boy who longs for sailing adventurer girl...

(small animated gif is here, larger one with gickr logo as above is here)

(comic from xkcd, animated gif from gickr)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Swollen Shellpot Creek with melted snow

I think the weather forecasters blew the forecast yesterday. I don't think predicting the snowfall while it is snowing is any big trick. They mostly predicted some flurries turning to rain but then missed the changeover. When it was all done it was at least 2 inches and drivers were only inching along.

Anyway, it looked prettier last night, but photography at night is not my forte.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Always the Superbowl bridesmaid never the bride

I am often in the city where the Superbowl will be played before the game but never for the game. I don't know if I ever would have the opportunity to go or be willing to spend the cash. Maybe I can win a contest some year.

This year it's Phoenix. In year's past I have been in Ft. Lauderdale or Miami before the big event. . Several times. One year I missed it in San Diego. If it ever came to Philadelphia (ha, ha) I would have to leave on a business trip or something.

Meanwhile for the runup to the big game, if Green Bay plays New England I will be good for my fantasy football playoff pool (more math and an exlanation of my picks in a later post). If a miracle happens and San Diego beats New England to get in I would be great. We shall see. I guessed that San Diego might have a chance against Indianapolis, but I am not sure lightning can strike twice.

GRUUMPY license plate in Arizona

This driver is unhappy and a bad speller with his GRUUMPY license plate. Look closely at the upper left, it is accented with a picture of the actual Grumpy. No Snow White was with this dwarf though.

Saguaro cactus spines up close

I didn't get stuck on these spines, but in my haste to get a good picture, I didn't look down to avoid the thorny plant on the ground. Ouch!

I need to return to wetter climates and softer plants.

Saguaro cactus in Phoenix

I finally got a good picture of a saguaro cactus in Phoenix. There were many on the side of the highway on my travels. This is the artistic looking up shot. It was probably 15ft tall.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

A mountain near Red Rock Arizona

A cool mountain close to sunset on the North side of I-10 west of Red Rock, Arizona.

Items from the Presidio excavation

Some items found at the different levels of the Presidio in Tubac excavation. The shelves represent approximate locations, the deeper the older.

Excavation to the original foundation the Presidio in Tubac

Because adobe disintegrates after many years there is nothing left of the original Presidio in Tubac from 1752. In 1974 archeologists dug in the area and uncovered the original foundation as well as the levels of later rebuilding.

Original printing press of the firts newspaper in Arizona

Arizona's first newspapes printed on this printing press in Tubac on March 3, 1859.

This display is at the Presidio in Tubac.

Presidio of Tubac AZ

Presidio of Tubac, garrisoned by Spanish in 1752. First town established in Arizona by Europeans.

Now a tourist "destination" mostly filled with artists shops and the oldest state park in Arizona.

Flowering Cactus in Tubac Arizona

These pretty flowering cactus were in Tubac, AZ. At least I think they were flowering. Those bright yellow bits looked like mini cacti themselves.

A cactus south of Tuscon Arizona

Found this friendly little cactus in the Great American Southwest south of Tuscon. I hope to get some other cool pics a little later.

Glue mouse traps Katamari Damacy and the Farmer in the Dell

Since we live near the creek and we have a veritable wildlife refuge around us, sometimes outside creatures try to come inside. In the fall and winter a mouse or two tries to make it into the garage. This week, one adventurous mouse made it into the pantry. We were having none of that, so that day we cleaned the area and bought the glue traps.

The next morning we got one. Herein lies the quandary of what to do with it. I realized that when we bought the glue traps we had set down a certain path of elimination, you can't peal the mouse off and send him on his way. I had visions of setting a sticky mouse outside where he then collects a cat that wants to eat him and gets stuck. Then a dog, then the farmer's wife and the farmer in a Katamari Damacy sticky ball review of the characters in the Farmer in the Dell. Perhaps instead of the cheese the gluetrap stands alone.

We (not me) bagged him up and threw him in the trash. I think there was only one. Now the Franciscans and the humanitarians out there can tell me what the alternatives are to our glue traps. Leave your suggestion in the comments.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Thunderstorms in January and a mildly swollen Shellpot Creek

Thunderstorms last night and today (in January!) have swelled the Shellpot Creek to a more interesting flowing state. Ignore the previous posts about it freezing any time soon. I guess we will need to wait a few weeks for that. Needless to say all of this warm weather chased the ice away days ago.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Are you a Nerd? Of course you are, you're reading this.

You always knew you were a nerd, but just what kind are you? As always the Internet comes to the rescue with a fun quiz.

My results may not be typical, use with caution.

NerdTests.com says I'm an Uber Cool Nerd God.  What are you?  Click here!

(via Marc A. Murison)

Celebrating Epiphany at Epiphany on Epiphany

Yesterday was the feast of the Epiphany. Epiphany of our Lord in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania is the parish I attended when I was growing up. They celebrated the end of their 50th (Jubilee) Anniversary year with a mass by the bishop and a dinner party later in the evening. It was a good time.

The stained glass window in the background is a cool picture of the nativity with the three wise men arriving to do homage. I took a much better picture last year.

This holiday is the occasion to sing "We Three Kings". Bonus if you can name the kings without reference to this blog, google, wikipedia or friends. Put your answers in the comments.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Another freezing night on the creek

Slowly but surely the waterfall chokes with ice. It only has one more night to freeze since it will warm up to 50F on the weekend. Days that warm usually undo any freezing on the creek from the day before.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

It's cold when the waterfall starts to freeze

This is the begining of what will be a beautiful ice sculpture produced by Mother Nature herself as the waterfall starts to freeze on the creek.

Ice on the Shellpot Creek

It was 18F this morning which explains why the creek will be slowing down. When the creek freezes you know winter is here.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Traditional Holiday Flambé

At our house we celebrate special holidays with a breakfast that consists of Eggs Benedict and this Bananas Flambé. Usually accompanied by Mimosas. It is a good start to the New Year, but please flambé responsibly.

Happy New Year with fireworks

Happy New Year with some (tiny) fireworks at the stroke of midnight. Some traditions include banging pots and pans. What noise did you make to ring in the New Years?