July 2nd, 2014

The gene came from another species! OMG! That makes Tibetans GMP’s!!! (Genetically Modified Persons!) They need to be forced to wear a label so that normal people know this – something like a big, bright red A on their foreheads!

Two baby killdeer

May 27th, 2014

There are two baby killdeer (really adolescent ones) hanging around work. They are in the mostly but not quite look like adults stage, but they can’t yet fly. Its amazing how quickly and totally they can vanish into an empty area too.
They are much older than the cute and fuzzy 2-3 day old ones I got pictures of a couple of years ago.

Northern rough winged swallow

May 27th, 2014

I saw four northern rough winged swallows mobbing a crow this morning. The crow was eating a biscuit in the parking lot, and the swallows (who nest in the nearby building) did NOT like that at all. They were almost, but not quite, touching the crow.

Brass Monkey

May 25th, 2014

From Urban Dictionary

brass monkey
Every sailing ship had to have cannon for protection. Cannon of the times required round iron cannonballs. The master wanted to store the cannonballs such that they could be of instant use when needed, yet not roll around the gun deck. The solution was to stack them up in a square-based pyramid next to the cannon. The top level of the stack had one ball, the next level down had four, the next had nine, the next had sixteen, and so on. Four levels would provide a stack of 30 cannonballs. The only real problem was how to keep the bottom level from sliding out from under the weight of the higher levels. To do this, they devised a small brass plate (“brass monkey”) with one rounded indentation for each cannonball in the bottom layer. Brass was used because the cannonballs wouldn’t rust to the “brass monkey”, but would rust to an iron one.

When temperature falls, brass contracts in size faster than iron. As it got cold on the gun decks, the indentations in the brass monkey would get smaller than the iron cannonballs they were holding. If the temperature got cold enough, the bottom layer would pop out of the indentations spilling the entire pyramid over the deck. Thus it was, quite literally, cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey.

Snorting dog tongue

May 10th, 2014

Pam and I watched our first four episodes (ever) of Big Bang Theory tonight. Its a hit. Then I snorted max-dogs tongue into my nose, which compounded the hilarity. We laughed until we cried.

Poison Ivy attack, stage 1, Pink Ladyslippers

April 27th, 2014

I just cleared a bunch of poison ivy out of the yard – some Virginia creeper too. While I have a lot against poison ivy, I don’t have anything against Virginia Creeper. Except that there is a lot of it where we don’t particularly want it.

Poison Ivy though – Pam is badly allergic to it. I’m highly resistant to it, but if I go wallowing in it, I’ll get a reaction. If it just brushes me or the like, I won’t. I took extra care though – gloves, long sleeved shirt, jeans, etc. All my clothes went straight into the wash. Shoes were rinsed off and wiped down. The gloves were thrown away.

There is still lots of both to be removed, but there is less now than there was! We have two shrubs to remove later this summer, after their bloom season is over. Bush Honeysuckle, both of them. If they were only mildly invasive, I would be all for keeping them. Unfortunately, they are very invasive. Right now they are covered in pollinators (LOTS of bumblebees, and some interesting wasps). They are also covered in carpenter ants. Pam maintains the Ants are after aphids. I maintain they are interested in the pollen. Observation will tell who is right!

In related notes, the woods in the yard are full of Soloman’s Seal. Ours are not as far along as the ones in the Great Smoky Mountains. We also have Adders tongue fern growing up close to the road. Last year the chickens ate it. Hopefully that won’t happen this year. Hmm, I just discovered via Google, that Adders Tonque has the most chromosomes of any known species of life. Now thats interesting. The Pink Ladyslippers are blooming. (Pam didn’t know they are bumble bee pollinated).

My pot of Venus flytraps died over the winter. It appears they are semi cold tolerant, in this area. I will have to rebuild!

Wildflower pilgrimage

April 24th, 2014

Once again the Wildflower pilgrimage in the Great Smoky Mountains was a fun time for us!

We attended the following classes\events

Fern Walk
Salamander calvacade
Aquatic insects
Salamander walk
Bat lecture

We did skip out on two flower walks Saturday, but we enjoyed a hike up up Chestnut mountain trail. Sunday we did the trail up past Laurel falls to the old growth grove that lies beyond.

I enjoyed myself immensely, and made some mild progress in my nature skills. Pam made some strong gains in her nature skills – especially in salamander and fern id.

I was particularly pleased with finding Morels, my first time finding these much sought after mushrooms. I didn’t collect any of them, but I now have some knowledge of where to look, etc. Pam is less than impressed with the things. Something about slugs…..

I enjoyed seeing Squawroot again. Its an incredibly ugly plant, but like Mistletoe, I like it because its so weird. Its a non photosynthetic plant which acts very much like a fungus. Interesting stuff!

I got to see Bumble Bees, which I’m always a fan of, including one pollinating Solomon’s Seal. All in all, it was a grand trip!

The Martian, by Andy Weir

April 14th, 2014

I’m about to finish up reading aloud the Martian, by Andy Weir. Which has an interesting story behind how it was written.

Anyway, I would rate it a 4 out of 5. Its a very solid book, though not perfect. There is a certain degree of “What NOW?” to Mark’s series of never ending problems. But then, being stranded on Mars will do that to you…

Pam is enjoying it. She forbid me from reading ahead, so I’m finding out about things at the same pace she is. Which increases the pressure to read, I’ll give you that… Anyway, its an excellent example of how math can be solidly useful. The science is neat, and the drama is intense.

Chimney swifts are here!

April 8th, 2014

Today is the first day I’ve seen Chimney Swifts! There were four in Canton, and a bumble bee queen foraging on some Holly. :) Thats only the second bumble I’ve seen this year. Lots and lots of carpenter bees, but only two bumbles.

Trout lilies coming up

March 10th, 2014

The trout lilies down at the beaver pond are just now waking up. Some have been up for a while, but yesterday when I went to check on them, many were just starting to peak out of the ground. I wonder if some of them stay awake year round?

Learning to code

February 10th, 2014

Learn to code vrs learn computer science

See, this is a wonderful point. Learning to code translates roughly to “learning a skill for a job” where learning computer science is “learning how to think”. Teaching toward a job produces morons – you get trained monkeys who can’t do anything outside the parameters of their training. If you know the theory behind something (and how to do it) then you can fix things when they go off the rails.

Just add water

February 10th, 2014

We’ve been doing a lot more with the birdfeeder this year. As in, keeping it stocked. Its proving a treat, providing a good bit of enjoyment. We’ve both spent a fair bit of time watching the birds come and go.
During the recent snowpocalyse thaw, I watched quite a few birds bathe in the temporary puddles left in the drive. Which, naturally, means that I now want to add water to the area.
I started today with a simple pan of water on top of a tree stump. I put a brick in it to weigh it down, and some gravel in the bottom just because. Within an hour a chickadee and a tufted titmouse had checked it out, but were leery of it. The first bird to use it was a goldfinch, who was like “Hey! Water! “Slurrrp”!. Pam later saw two mourning doves in it, and I saw a cardinal drinking from it before the end of the day.
Day one of the “just add water” experiment was a success!