Friday, April 30, 2010

I Get All Mixed UP

A while back, my niece posted a note on Facebook about how much fun she and  her family had creating anagrams from their names. 

They are a very literate (and literary) family.  She and her husband are both published authors,  he teaches literature and their younger son names his pets after characters from the plays of Aeschylus for God’s sake; so I had visions of them around the dinner table with Scrabble tiles, legal pads and number 2 pencils. 

I couldn’t imagine even her bunch doing this exercise in ink – the Times Crossword maybe, but not this.

I thought the idea sounded fine, in principle, but required too much work, so I went on line and found an Anagram Decoder.

You just plug in the word(s) you want to check – gears grind, sprockets spin and after a few seconds it spits out results. 

My name (I used my full name, Robert Allen Couch) generated 62,501 responses, some of which are pretty cool and some of which make no sense what-so-ever.

Below are what I consider to be my top 15.  I think I like the first one best as a personal description, and since we quit smoking the last one describes my current condition about once a day – certainly more often than I would wish.  Otherwise, here they are in no particular order:

cute cornball hero

carbuncle hole rot

barn hue collector

brutal ochre clone

cable color hunter

cool bleacher runt

buccaneer hot roll

cobra counter hell

bachelor cunt lore

colon ulcer breath

her carbuncle tool

herbal cuter colon

ocelot churn baler

urban creole cloth

tobacco hell rerun

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Rose By Any Other Name


A rare giant flower, known as the "corpse flower" for its rotting-meat smell — is set to bloom at Western Illinois University this week. It's one of a small group of these flowers that have bloomed in cultivation since the 1880s.
As of Monday, the mega flower (one of four in the university's greenhouse), was 44.5 inches  tall, having grown nearly 4 inches  in 24 hours. In the wild, the plant can grow as big as 20 feet  tall and 15 feet  across.
"The Titans in the WIU Botany Greenhouse will only get about half that," said Jeff Hillyer, greenhouse gardner at WIU.
For more pictures click - Corpse Flower

The flower, whose scientific name is Amorphophallustitanum and is also known  as Titan Arum, is native to the equatorial rainforests of central Sumatra in western Indonesia.
For most of its life, the corpse flower grows vegetatively, only producing a single, umbrella-like leaf.  The bloom (or inflorescence) of the flower is actually composed of thousands of flowers. The flower's nickname comes from the odor of the bloom, which smells like rotting meat.
In its native environment, the Titan Arum is pollinated by carrion beetles and flesh flies, which are attracted to the horrendous
odor. The flower is a member of the Araceae family that includes plants such as Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Calla Lilly and

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Puppy Size

We're all suckers for cute stories about puppies or little kids. This has both:

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Corporate Faux Pas


This past Friday marked the 25th Anniversary of the introduction of New COKE, probably the biggest corporate snafu in the history of American business. 

No major corporation (with the possible exception of Ford) has ever so completely misread consumer  taste and opinion, and at least  the Edsel was offered in addition to – not instead of – the company's most popular product.


It seemed like a good idea at the time.

The story of New Coke is still taught in business schools, and not in a good way. Coca-Cola, anxious to fight off a challenge from Pepsi, had forgotten its fans' deep psychological connection with the brand. It hadn't asked them if they would mind if the 99-year-old Coke formula disappeared, resulting in the biggest marketing blunder of the century.

Within days, consumers were searching for and hoarding the old Coke. Protests broke out, callers lodged thousands of calls to Coca-Cola headquarters and protesting shoppers poured New Coke down gutters.

After three months, the company acknowledged its mistake. It reintroduced the "classic" formula, which remains the top-selling soft drink brand today.  New Coke lingered on through the late 1990s, but the world had passed it by.

From the Coca-Cola company website, their spin on the debacle is:

Ad for new Coke, 1985Perhaps a more human assessment of consumers' loyalty to Coca-Cola had come in 1985. The Company startled the American public by announcing a new taste for Coke, the first change in the secret formula since Coca-Cola was created in 1886. The new taste was overwhelmingly preferred in taste tests, but all the testing and research could not measure the emotional attachment Americans had for the original formula. That original taste had become more than just a soft drink, and consumers' deep feelings, memories and loyalties to it came alive. The Company listened to its consumers and quickly responded by returning  the original formula to the market as Coca-Cola classic®.”

I was one of those millions of Coke drinkers who did not like the taste of New Coke.  It tasted slightly salty to me, and I thought the taste copied RC-Cola, a brand I would only drink of there was no Coke available and my only other choice was Pepsi. I can remember how skeptical I was when Coke Classic was introduced; was it really the original formula, or were they screwing with us again?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sunday Bible Verse

J Knapp

Award winning Christian singer Jennifer Knapp was at the top of her game when she dropped out and disappeared back in 2003.

This week  she came back with a pair of announcements:

  • She has a new (secular) album coming out in May, and
  • She is a Lesbian who has been hiding out with her companion for the last seven years.

You can get the details HERE

Who cares? you may be asking. 

That was certainly my first reaction, but the internet is full of posts from folks urging Radio to boycott her music and praying that God will cure her and/or bring her to her senses.

At least one of those posts quoted Romans 11:32:
For God has imprisoned everyone
in disobedience so He could have
mercy on everyone.

Would your God do that? 

I will take my chances with lightning strikes and eternal damnation and tell you mine would not.

I wonder whatever happened to Matthew 7:1:

Judge not, that ye be not judged.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

The Latest Scoop on Poop

This article below may be hard to read since it’s written in Australian – words like tonnes, extra and unnecessary vowels, Esses where we would use Zees (Zeds?) and so forth.

The logic is even harder to follow, but apparently the positive effects of whale poo can counteract the negative effects of the flatulence from the world’s dairy cows, thereby reversing Global Warming and saving the planet. Ergo: Eating whale is bad, but eating krill is good, so long as you crap in the ocean.

Of course, neither the whale crap or the cow fart study takes into account all the other things going on in this world of ours, volcanoes for example - Nearly 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide were injected into the stratosphere by Mt. Pinatubo's 1991 eruptions, and dispersal of this gas cloud around the world caused global temperatures to drop temporarily (1991 through 1993) by about 1°F (Or 0.5°C in Aussie ). Based on that, shouldn’t we expect a little cooling courtesy of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano on Iceland which is still spewing enough crud into the atmosphere to cause problems today.

Then again, what do I know? I always thought those Greenpeace folks were just a bunch of interfering assholes who deserved to have their boats rammed and sunk.


Whale poo key to healthy oceans

Andrew Darby
April 23, 2010 - 3:00AM

EVERY little bit helps. Research has revealed the potential value of whale poo in mitigating climate change through its recycling of iron.

Australian Antarctic scientists looking into ways to increase the amount of CO2-absorbing algae in oceans have traced the passage of iron through whale digestive systems and have found that whales take up iron when they consume shrimp-like krill.

Before commercial whaling began early last century, whales consumed about 190 million tonnes of krill per year, converting this into about 7600 tonnes of iron-rich faeces, which encouraged the growth of carbon-absorbing algae, according to Steve Nicol, of the Australian Antarctic Division.

''This monumental fertilising effort means the whales may have been responsible for recycling about 12 per cent of the current iron content in the surface layer of the Southern Ocean,'' Dr Nicol said.

''The baleen whales' faecal iron concentration is about 10 million times that of Antarctic seawater.''

He said about 24 per cent of the total iron in the Southern Ocean surface water is currently stored within krill body tissue.

''The most recent estimates of krill biomass in the Southern Ocean is 379 million tonnes, storing about 15,000 tonnes of iron.''

The research suggests increasing populations of baleen whales and krill would have a positive effect on the Southern Ocean ecosystem and improve the ocean's ability to absorb CO2.

This story was found at:

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Ultimate Texas Bluebonnet Photo

After I posted my pictures of this year’s bluebonnets, a friend from Austin ( actually somewhere between Pflugerville and Hutto) sent me this picture.  He claims to have taken it in his back yard.

Rattler in BluebonnetsNow if he could somehow work a Longhorn into the picture…

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Dining Dilemma

Author’s note: Today’s entry isn’t humorous or even educational. There are no pictures. The content is disturbing, at least to me. So feel free to skip today and tune in tomorrow.

If you do read it though, I invite your comments. I would love to know what you think.

Two weeks ago, while Honey and I were having lunch at a restaurant in Brenham, the table closest to our booth was occupied by a dozen senior citizens on a day trip from a retirement community. They all seemed to be enjoying lunch and generally having a very good time.

Each time I looked up at my wife, over her left shoulder I saw one of the women at the tour group’s table. She was a well dressed, impeccably coiffed, elderly lady whose demeanor exhibited the confidence of someone who has been attractive all her life and was used to being the center of attention.

I know I couldn't keep my eyes off her, but it was not because of her beauty. The lady had no nose; the center of her face from her eyes to her upper lip was just an open hole surrounded by scar tissue.

I didn’t know what to think then, and I still don’t today.

On the one hand, I was impressed by her guts and determination – her refusal to let adversity (I’m assuming some form of cancer.) rule her life. But, on the other hand, I couldn’t help wondering about whether it was acceptable behavior to subject perfect strangers to that sight , particularly at lunch.

Okay, I’ll admit I’m a bit of a wimp. I can't stand to watch sick and starving children or maimed and malnourished puppies on TV, and I resent the Hell out of the SPCA, UNICEF, Save the Children, St. Jude’s Hospital, et al for airing them. They’re all wonderful organizations doing God’s work, but it hurts to see it and they damn well know it does. In that particular field of advertizing, painful equates to effective.

I can’t see or hear Sarah McLachlan anymore without visualizing mistreated animals, and that just ain’t fair.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Still Life with Stem Cells


I came across this photo in an article about the the sculpture of Australian artist Patricia Piccinini.  If you would like to see more of her work click  HERE .

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Natural Disasters and Such

Even though we are still a month and a half away from hurricane season,  Mother Nature is showing herself to be in a seriously  cranky mood this year. 

People point to what seems to be an exceptionally high number of catastrophic earthquakes.  Just in the past few days, quakes listed by the USGS include:

  • Magnitude 4.9 UTAH April 15, 2010
  • Magnitude 6.9 SOUTHERN QINGHAI, CHINA April 13, 2010
  • Magnitude 6.3 SPAIN April 11, 2010
  • Magnitude 6.8 SOLOMON ISLANDS April 11, 2010
  • Magnitude 7.7 NORTHERN SUMATRA, INDONESIA April 06, 2010
  • Magnitude 7.2 BAJA CALIFORNIA, MEXICO April 04, 2010
  • Magnitude 4.4 GREATER LOS ANGELES AREA, CALIFORNIA March 16, 2010
  • Magnitude 8.8 OFFSHORE MAULE, CHILE February 27, 2010

We are just learning now that the 4/13 China quake killed over two thousand people.



Earthquake relief continues in Haiti, Chile, etc.  The relief efforts in Haiti, in particular,  are a quandary; when you had nothing to begin with, how do you know when you’re through?


The experts at the USGS  say the recent spate of tremors is nothing out of the ordinary:

China’s tragic magnitude 6.9 earthquake on April 13 and the recent devastating earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, Mexico, and elsewhere have many wondering if this earthquake activity is unusual.

2010 is not showing signs of unusually high earthquake activity. Since 1900, an average of 16 magnitude 7 or greater earthquakes — the size that seismologists define as major — have occurred worldwide each year. Some years have had as few as 6, as in 1986 and 1989, while 1943 had 32, with considerable variability from year to year.

With six major earthquakes striking in the first four months of this year, 2010 is well within the normal range. Furthermore, from April 15, 2009, to April 14, 2010, there have been 18 major earthquakes, a number also well within the expected variation.

Aftershocks will continue in the regions around each of this year’s major earthquakes sites. It is unlikely that any of these aftershocks will be larger than the earthquakes experienced so far, but structures damaged in the previous events could be further damaged and should be treated with caution. Beyond the ongoing aftershock sequences, earthquakes in recent months have not raised the likelihood of future major earthquakes; that likelihood has not decreased, either. Large earthquakes will continue to occur just as they have in the past.

earthquake_depthEarthquakes by depth over the last 100 years; yellow=shallow, red=medium and black=deep. 

Unusual or not, just what is causing all the tectonic activity this year? 

On Facebook and elsewhere, fundamentalist Christians are quoting  Luke 19:40 – blaming it all on a lack of prayer; "If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out." and wondering if this is a harbinger of Armageddon.

Last week a prominent Tehran cleric said that promiscuous women are responsible for earthquakes.  Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi told worshippers in Tehran on 4/16/10 that they had to stick to strict codes of modesty to protect themselves.

"Many women who do not dress modestly lead young men astray and spread adultery in society which increases earthquakes," he said. "What can we do to avoid being buried under the rubble? There is no other solution but to take refuge in religion and to adapt our lives to Islam's moral codes."

Sounds like a crock to me, but -  Hey, it’s as valid as Al Gore’s sermons on Global Warming.

Monday, April 19, 2010


The eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano on Iceland just under a week ago is having a huge economic impact. The last time it erupted, back in 1821, there’s a good chance that nobody outside of Iceland gave a damn.

It started off as something fun to see, almost like a drive-in movie.

Iceland Volcano

There was the potential flood problem; heat from the volcano would melt the glacier on the mountain faster than you can say Al Gore.

In this case, the ice melt exacerbated the generation of ash and the volcano has been spewing tons of ash along with smoke and steam into the atmosphere.


volcano2This huge ash cloud drifted south and east, bringing a halt to all air traffic in the UK and Europe.


It may be premature, but today it appears that the volcano is changing over to more lava flow and less ash and smoke.

Test flights have been made and some airports are reopening , but billions of dollars have been lost and literally thousands of potential passengers have had their plans disrupted. Several heads-of-state who would otherwise have attended the funeral of the president of Poland were unable to fly in due to the ash, Fed-Ex and UPS cancelled several days of European operations, etc.

Hopefully, the worst is over. If there is a silver lining here, it is hard to see; just like reporters on the scene claim you can’t see anything at all when inside the ash cloud.

Still, it does look pretty from a distance, and this last picture – of the volcano and the aurora borealis is fascinating. I’ve never seen (with the exception of a wisp of steam from Mt. St. Helens and the mud pots and geysers at Yellowstone) an active volcano or the aurora.

Volcano and Aurora in Iceland

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Rainbow Bear

Black bears aren’t always black – maybe not even usually black.  We saw some black ones when we visited Yellowstone National Park, but we also saw some that were reddish brown – Cinnamon black bears.

Near the border of British Columbia and Alaska, there are two distinct sorts of bears.  The first is the Kermode  or White Spirit Bear.




Although it it is white to cream colored, it is not a polar bear, but a self perpetuating sub-species of the Black Bear. 

The other bear found in the area is  the Glacial Blue Bear, another Black Bear, whose coat is a bluish gray.


Like the Montagues and Capulets, these  bears were believed to never associate with each other, but True Love will find a way.  Evidence is the so-called Rainbow Bear, found and photographed a few months ago.

Rainbow Bear

He has a blue nose, beige forehead, cream colored shoulders and a blue butt.  Pretty colorful for a “black” bear.

More on the Rainbow Bear at Rainbow .

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Idol Gossip

I avoided the first few years of American Idol, but eventually got hooked. I'm not the only one; Google American Idol and you'll get 42.5 million hits and American Idol Blog returns almost 31 million.
I'm even watching this year, when the only "Star" quality performer on the show is Crystal Bowersox, who is something of a reincarnation of Janis Joplin.
I love her, but wonder how commercial her music really is today.
Anyway, if you've watched the show and wondered how some really dreadful performers manage to hang on week-after-week while better singers are voted off, at least some of the credit has to go to Vote for the Worst , a website that is dedicated to keeping the worst of the worst on the show.
No surprise that they currently champion
Tim Urban, a tween heartthrob with a nice smile and almost no vocal ability.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Rediscovering Hilda

Back when I was in my mid-teens we actually had a pin-up calendar in our house.  My dad brought it home and pinned it on the wall.  Amazingly, my somewhat prudish mother didn’t object.  She thought it was CUTE.

The artist who created the calendar was Duane Bryers, a specialist in art of the American West.  He typically painted scenes such as this landscape which he titled the Day Before Big Bend.

Day Before Big Bend Duane Bryers

Or this one called Crack of Dawn ,

crack of dawnor this one known as My Favorite Hat.Bryers-My_Favourite_hat

The subject of his hugely popular calendars was a girl who was somewhat large herself.  Her name was Hilda.


I came across this picture a couple days ago and it brought a chuckle with it  and some really happy memories of home. 

As far as I could determine on-line, Mr Bryers is still alive, although he must be at least ten years older than dirt.  His Hilda calendars were done between 1957 and 1970.

If you’d like to see more of Hilda, click Here  and here too.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Bhut Burns

India adds world's hottest chili pepper to its anti-terrorism arsenal

India's newest biological weapon, the world's hottest chili pepper, or bhut jolokia, is 400 times hotter than Tabasco sauce, and just a touch on the tongue burns. India’s Army plans to use the chili in tear gas.

A farmer shows a 'Bhut jolokia', world's hottest chili pepper, plucked from his field in the northeastern Indian state of Assam, in this Associated Press file photo.

Manish Swarup/AP/File

I have friends who would put them on chicken wings.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Mark Twain: Corn-pone Opinions

From the time I was about the age of Tom, definitely younger than Huck, Mark Twain has been one of my favorite authors. I came across this essay a few days ago - something I had never read before - and thought I would share it today:

Mark Twain: Corn-pone Opinions

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Word of Warning for Little Lambs

Taser corporation announced the results of a study today on the effects of their X-86 unit (the common police model) on suspects under the influence of methamphetamines. 

The conclusion was that their study does not indicate that tasers cause cardiac arrest in meth heads.

The bad news is that their test subjects were SHEEP on meth!

So, let that be a lesson to all you little lambs out there.


Mind your mama, and don’t stray from the straight and narrow


Because Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll

punk rock sheep_resize

Can put you in a World of  Hurt.


Of course, we’ve been told for years that grass is insidious and can lead to stronger drugs.  Wonder if it works that way for sheep…hmmm.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Photographic Evidence

Ben Franklin is credited with saying  “Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see.”  Good advice in the 18th century, but maybe it’s time to reevaluate the percentages.

Photographic evidence used to be golden in a court of law, but in this day of digital photography and sophisticated editing software, can you really believe your eyes?  We’ve all seen the Photoshopped animals with a cat’s head on a penguin’s body - pictures we know were altered simply by the subject matter, but what about the more subtle changes? 

I once saw a very skilled technician in a processing lab remove an unsightly stairway from the front of a building for a sales brochure.  Unless they had actually seen the building in person, nobody would  have guessed the stairs were there. 

What’s really scary is that it no longer takes the skill level of the lady in the photo lab.  When I took photos of our azaleas last week, I took this picture:


Honey said she liked the shot, but she wished it didn’t show the house and the barn in the background. 

I am a total novice, with no skills at all, but ten minutes in Photoshop produced:

azaleas photoshopped

If you know what to look for, there are a few tell-tale signs (the power line stops in mid-air, for example.) With time and patience I probably could have cleaned that up, but I think that the average person who had never seen the before shot would assume that the after photo was an accurate depiction.

It was bad enough when our perceptions were simply filtered through our prejudices.  Now, it seems the more our technology advances,  the more elusive Truth becomes.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Effing Field Lines

Erma Bombeck wrote THE GRASS IS ALWAYS GREENER OVER THE SEPTIC TANK.  Truer words were never spoken; I can personally attest to their wisdom.

The grass around our tank was especially lush this last month because the tank was starting to overflow.  At first I attributed this to the exceptionally wet winter; after all, the whole place was wet ( see my March 12 post) and all the ditches were holding water.  Then I envisioned having to replace the whole system with a modern (read that expensive) aerobic system.  Those are the only systems which can be installed here under current laws, and I don’t think the old anaerobic systems can legally be re-done.

Finally, after denial and panic came determination; I decided to find the problem and fix it!

The field lines from our tank form a letter F.  The line comes out about 20 feet to a Tee, and then travels another 20 feet to an Ell.  The lines from the Ell and from the base of the Tee are parallel field lines approximately 60 feet long.   I first went to the ends of the field lines, and with only a couple wrong guesses I was able to dig down and access the ends of the lines.  The one off the end of the Ell was wet, but not really flowing; the first pipe, the one off the Tee was bone dry.  An attempt to open up the pipe with a water hose was not successful, so yesterday I rented a sewer rooter machine.

It has probably been 40 years since I had handled one of these machines but it ain’t rocket science, and if it works, a $50 rental beats the Hell out of a new $6,000 system. 
The good news is that both arms of the F are open and flowing.  The first one was totally blocked very near the Tee so I effectively doubled the capacity of our system!
The bad news is that a roto-rooter, like a chain saw or hydraulic log splitter and many other labor-saving devices, will work your ass into the dirt before you realize what’s happening.
I am so stiff and sore this morning that I can hardly move.  If you’ll excuse me, I think I’ll go to the bathroom and flush the toilet a few more times – JUST BECAUSE I CAN.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Another slice of Pi

Back on March 14th, I posted a link to an article about pi - the Circumference of a Circle divided by its Diameter. I have no intention and no wish to make this a monthly thing, but no promises - no guarantees; Pi is such an interesting character it may demand a recurring role.
Take today's link for example:


Just finished a great murder mystery by one of my favorite authors. I won't tell you which one, because I don't want to ruin the story by telling you the following:
One of the major characters in the story is a WRITER who is quite literally ADDICTED to his BLOG.
After daily entries for almost a month, I can see how that could happen.
Of course, in the novel, the blogger is a sick, twisted asshole, while I am perfectly normal in all respects and a truly delightful person.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Bluebonnets 2010

Went up to Washington County today to check out the bluebonnets.  Saw the first big field off Hwy 290 at Hempstead.

Through the trees

Drove a loop from Chappell Hill to Washington to Brenham. 

Our impression was that there are more fields with flowers, but the ones with thick flowers weren’t as dense as last year – still beautiful.

Splash of Yellow


Splash of Yellow

bonnets and brushes


Also saw more fields of yellow than ever before.

   Valley View


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Japan and Ireland – Peas in a Pod

Have you ever thought about how much Japan and Ireland have in common?

Both are Island nations with a history of animosity toward their nearest neighbors, and both have been occupied within the past century.

Japan has Rice, sake, sushi and haiku; Ireland has potatoes, Guinness, corned beef and Limericks. 

Japan has Kabuki theater, and Italian Opera (Mme. Butterfly) while Ireland has James Joyce and Italian Soap Opera (What did the Pope know, and when did he know it.)

Japanese-Americans do tend to define themselves by ethnicity while the Irish suffer homesickness for a land most have never seen. 

Here’s the story of a young Japanese-American girl who met an Irish-American lad in college, and against the advice of both families they got married.  Their wedding was beautiful and they felt they were off to a fine start.

Then came an unfortunate event at dinner while they were honeymooning in Mexico.  It caused Michiko to write -

Stars, waves,  sonic boom
Cuervo curdles in the glass
Cry chipotle tears

Upon reading his little lotus blossom’s poem, Padraig penned -

There once was a guy in Cancun,
Whose farts could be heard on the moon.
The fumes from his ass
Would etch Pyrex glass
And caused turkey buzzards to swoon.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Flowers

Spring has definitely arrived; high temps above 80 the past few days, and the Azaleas are in bloom:

azelea 1


azelea 3

azelea 5

azelea 6  

azelea 8

Looks like the exceptionally cold and wet winter gave them a boost.  That Global Warming is amazing stuff!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Friday, April 2, 2010

World's Smallest Political Quiz

A friend emailed me this QUIZ.
Amazingly accurate results from only 10 questions.
According to the quiz, I am slightly right of center and solidly Libertarian - no surprises there.