“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” - Groucho Marx
Sunday, October 30, 2011
One of California’s Giant Sequoias has fallen, and the US Forest Service is trying to decide what to do about it. Here’s the story from yesterday’s LA Times:
Along the Sierra Nevada's famed Trail of 100 Giants, the mammoth sequoia had stood sentry since King Arthur's knights gathered at the Round Table.
It witnessed the arrival of the first European settlers and the flurry of miners in search of gold. The onset of the Medieval Warm Period and the passing of the Little Ice Age. It stood, unperturbed, through the Great War and the one that followed.
Then a month ago, as a handful of amazed tourists looked on, it toppled — crushing a bridge over a small stream and blocking the path.
Now, the U.S. Forest Service must decide what to do.
Slice a big hole in the 300-foot-long roadblock? Go around it? Over it? Under it?
When you're dealing with a 1,500-year-old sequoia in a national monument, the questions aren't just logistical. They're environmental, emotive and potentially legal.
Officials closed the popular tourist trail, cleared the debris and solicited ideas from the public on how to deal with the fallen giant — actually two trees fused at the base.
Among the 30 or so suggestions: Reroute the trail. Tunnel under the trunks. Carve steps and build a bridge over them. Sell what would be one heck of a lot of firewood.
"This has not happened in the Sequoia National Forest before," said public affairs officer Denise Alonzo, explaining the indecision.
The now-prone twins — two-thirds the height of Los Angeles City Hall — were among the bigger specimens in Long Meadow Grove, part of the Giant Sequoia National Monument. About 17 feet in diameter at their common base, the trees are middle-aged for giant sequoias, which can live 4,000 years and have the greatest mass of any living organism on Earth.
The Forest Service isn't sure why the trees hit the dirt Sept. 30, because they appeared to be healthy.
A German tourist, one of only a few people on the 1.3-mile loop trail at the time, recorded the crash on video.
"It can't be possible," Gerrit Panzner told the Visalia Times about what went through his mind when he realized the sequoias were falling.
"I wasn't afraid," said his wife, Sigrun Rakus. Her only thought was to get out of the way.
The trees may have toppled because the wet winter left the ground too soggy to hold the roots, which are relatively shallow.
"Sequoias do fall. That's how big sequoias die," said Nathan Stephenson of the U.S. Geological Survey. "It's never anything that I consider with alarm."
After a wet winter in 1969, he said, one of the giants fell in a picnic area of nearby Sequoia National Park and killed a woman. Over the years, there have been a couple that thudded onto trails in the park. Officials cut openings in the downed trees to allow visitors to pass through, as well as to give tourists an appreciation for their immense size.
When the Trail of 100 Giants was built several decades ago, it actually was routed around a long-fallen sequoia.
Since the Forest Service reopened the path a week ago, visitors have been climbing on the hulking trunks and treading where only birds and animals have been for more than a millennium.
"We got up there and everybody was just in awe of what was in front of them," Alonzo said. "And until the snow falls, it's open for anybody to go up and visit."
In considering its options, the Forest Service wants to keep the paved path accessible to the disabled and make sure nothing is done to damage the root systems of surrounding trees, Alonzo said.
Ara Marderosian, executive director of the environmental group Sequoia ForestKeeper, knows exactly what the Forest Service should do.
"I thought it was a great classroom for what nature does," said Marderosian, who submitted a three-page letter to the agency after visiting the grove. "It's quite a beautiful sight to see on the ground the way it is."
Saturday, October 29, 2011
The photo above – from the Houston Chronicle – may be your last chance to see bison roaming in Harris County.
Apparently, it’s time to say goodbye to the last sizable group of a species that once stomped the Katy Prairie by the thousands, and left its name on the waterway that provided the earliest transit artery in Houston - Harris County is sending the 11 bison penned in Deussen Park at Lake Houston to an animal sanctuary in North Texas
The last known sighting of a wild bison herd in the Houston area occurred in 1836, a few months before the Allen Brothers sailed up Buffalo Bayou and founded the city.
The departure of the herd apparently leaves only a handful of buffalo on public display in Harris County. There’s one pair at Pioneers Park west of town, and another twosome at the Armand Bayou Nature Center near Clear Lake.
County Commissioner El Franco Lee, whose precinct includes Deussen Park, says the decision to send the bison to the 6,400-acre Medicine Mound Ranch in Hardeman County was motivated by both the on-going drought here that has pinched food and water supplies, and by a concern that the herd was becoming dangerously inbred, having grown from an initial pair acquired in 1973. Inbreeding will not be an issue where they are going, since the ranch operators neuter all their animals.
Friday, October 28, 2011
Thursday, October 27, 2011
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
When I was a kid, the ultimate source for the absolute best chocolate malt ever made was Balfanz Pharmacy, and I’ve never found anywhere else in the last 50 plus years that even comes close.
Located a block off of Heights Boulevard on White Oak at Harvard, Balfanz was a full service pharmacy, but the malts from their soda fountain were a source of pride.
Their concoctions were made with chocolate syrup and real powdered malt, tons of ice cream and no milk – well, maybe a teaspoon or so, but those malts were solid. When they came off the mixer, they were served in a tall glass they pulled out of the freezer just in time to serve you. The serving vessel looked like a pilsner glass, but the glass was much thicker to retain the cold, and it frosted over as soon as it came out of the freezer. They also gave you the stainless steel cup from the mixer because there was always a little bit that wouldn’t fit into the glass.
Balfanz served their malts with a long metal spoon, and if you asked for a straw, they would look at you aghast – totally offended. Of course, they had straws on hand for sodas and such, but you would probably have had to wait around for at least a half hour before one of their malts could be pulled through one.
Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Earlier this month, I wrote about the problems a former astronaut was having with NASA. Astronauts aren’t the only ones NASA targets; sometimes they go after little old ladies:
When NASA agents swooped into a Lake Elsinore, California, Denny’s earlier this year, authorities said they seized a purported “moon rock” from a woman who had been trying to sell it for $1.7 million.
What they didn’t mention -- the woman was a 4-foot-11, 74-year-old grandmother who, along with her now-deceased husband, had worked at North American Rockwell, a NASA contractor during the early years of the space program.
An elaborate mission to recover a moon rock led NASA agents to the restaurant. At the end of the sting operation, agents were left holding a speck of lunar dust smaller than a grain of rice and a 74-year-old suspect who was terrified by the swarm of armed officials.
NASA investigators and local agents who swooped into the restaurant hailed their operation as a victory – a cautionary tale for anyone trying to sell national treasure. No charges have been filed, NASA isn’t talking and the case appears stalled.
The target, Joann Davis, a grandmother who says she was trying to raise money for her sick son, asserts the lunar material was rightfully hers, having been given to her space-engineer husband by Neil Armstrong in the 1970s.
The strange case centers on a speck of authenticated moon rock encased in an acrylic dome that appears to be a paperweight. For years, NASA has gone after anyone selling lunar material gathered on the Apollo missions because it is considered government property, so cannot be sold for profit.
Still, NASA has given hundreds of lunar samples to nations, states and high-profile individuals but, they say, only on the understanding they remain government property. NASA’s inspector general works to arrest anyone trying to sell them.
The case was triggered by Davis herself, according to a search warrant affidavit written by Norman Conley, an agent for the inspector general.
She emailed a NASA contractor May 10 trying to find a buyer for the rock, as well as a nickel-sized piece of the heat shield that protected the Apollo 11 space capsule as it returned to earth from the first successful manned mission to the moon in 1969.
Davis offered to sell the sample for $1.7 million. She said she wanted to leave her three children an inheritance and take care of her sick son.
NASA investigators then arranged the sting, where Conley met with Davis and her current husband at the Denny’s at Lake Elsinore in Riverside County, California.
Soon after settling into a booth, Davis said, she pulled out the moon sample and about half a dozen sheriff’s deputies and NASA investigators rushed into the eatery.
When officers in flack vests took a hold of her, the 4-foot-11 woman said she was so scared she lost control of her bladder and was taken outside to a parking lot, where she was questioned and detained for about two hours.
“They grabbed me and pulled me out of the booth,” Davis claimed. “I had very, very deep bruises on my left side.”
Davis was eventually allowed home, without the moon rock, and was never booked into a police station or charged.
The affidavit states authorities believed Davis was in possession of stolen government property but so far they have not publicly revealed any proof.
“This (is) abhorrent behavior by the federal government to steal something from a retiree that was given to her,” said Davis’s attorney, Peter Schlueter, who is planning legal action.
About 2,200 samples of lunar rocks, core samples, pebbles, sand and dust — weighing about 840 pounds — were brought to Earth by NASA’s Apollo lunar landing missions from 1969 to 1972. A recent count showed 10 states and more than 90 countries could not account for their shares of the gray rocks.
Monday, October 24, 2011
The Houston Zoo has mounted crates on poles in the Elephant Compound and they fill them with hay. They are placed just high enough to cause a full-grown Indian Elephant to stretch a bit to reach the food. Much as he might try, the little fellow doesn’t stand a chance of reaching the box.
Don’t worry, the little guy is resourceful. He may not be able to reach the box, but he can reach mama’s mouth!
Sunday, October 23, 2011
The purpose of a good headline is to catch the reader’s attention and encourage reading of the article. Headlines often used to give an encapsulated version of the stories they lead, but apparently that is no longer a requirement.
Saw this headline this morning:
Cops: Man caught having sex in museum
'What can I say, I get around,' accused intruder tells newspaper
Now you might think the guy was arrested for assaulting an exhibit – having sex with a piece of art, a stuffed animal or a mummy - but actually he had a partner, a young woman, who was arrested along with him.
Intentionally misleading? Probably – but it got me to read the story HERE.
Saturday, October 22, 2011
When we visited the Houston Zoo on Wednesday, we spent some time watching the South American Maned Wolf.
With its shorter snout and tall pointed ears, this critter’s face looks more like a fox than a wolf, and its slender body and extremely long legs made me think of it as a sort of canine version of a Cheetah. The other thing you can’t help but notice is that Maned Wolves mark their territory with a musk that smells an awful lot like a plain old North American Skunk!
Just before we went up onto the viewing platform, we met a couple of young women pushing baby strollers. Walking along with them was a little boy who appeared to be 12 to 15 months old. He stared at me, and when I smiled at him he smiled back and followed me onto the platform.
Once the ladies had maneuvered their strollers up the ramp, one of them asked me if the little guy was with us.
“No,” I said. “I thought he was with you.”
She picked him up and headed back the way they had come. She hadn’t got far – 50 feet, or so – when she was met by a young man with his arms wide open and a big grin on his face.
“Hey, Buster,” he said in a bright, cheery voice. “Did you make some new friends?”
I still can’t decide whether this guy was:
(a) Super Dad carefully disguising his fear and concern to keep from upsetting his child, or
(b) a total nitwit who should never have been allowed to have unprotected sex.
Friday, October 21, 2011
It didn’t have anything at all to do with my prediction , but the city of San Francisco was in the middle of a major disaster drill billed as the Great California Shakeout– preparing for the next big quake – when the ground began to move yesterday. The quake was centered across the bay, and was the first of two that were felt in the area yesterday.
The two small earthquakes hit the city of Berkeley on Thursday, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The quakes, measuring 4.0 and 3.8 magnitude on the Richter Scale, were centered within 1-2 miles of Berkeley, which is located on the east shore of the San Francisco Bay. The 4.0 magnitude tremor struck at 2:41 pm, Pacific time, and the 3.8 magnitude earthquake struck at 8:16 pm.
Well….. not the big one I predicted – and am still betting on – but I’m sticking to my guns.
What I was not prepared for, and took me totally by surprise, was that an even bigger earthquake, a 4.8 magnitude tremor, struck southwest of San Antonio Texas in Karnes County yesterday morning. The quake hit at 7:24, sending tremors throughout downtown San Antonio. It was felt as far away as Round Rock, north of Austin.
Earthquakes of this magnitude are a rare event in Texas, and Thursday’s quake was the strongest on record for Texas’ southern region. The previous largest quake had a magnitude of 4.3 back in 1993.
UT freshman Megan Ziegler said she felt the earthquake from her Kinsolving dorm room around 7:30 a.m.
“I looked out the window and thought it had to be something else,” Ziegler said. “I lived in Uzbekistan in high school and felt earthquakes all the time there, so this felt familiar, but I had never heard of earthquakes in Texas before.”
Nicholas Hayman, a research associate and lecturer at the Jackson School of Geosciences, said the recorded location and strength make it difficult to understand the exact causes of the earthquake.
“This did not really happen on the Balcones escarpment so there’s no clear surface information.” Hayman said. “All passive margin earthquakes (those that are not on major plate boundaries) are a bit mysterious — actual causes are really speculative.”
San Antonio Police Department spokespersons said they received no earthquake related dispatch calls Thursday morning. No injuries or damage was reported according to the Associated Press.
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Back in the 70’s, I was a service engineer for 3M company.
In those days, before Xerox was a verb, 3M was the largest copier company in the world, but whenever I told anyone who I worked for, they assumed I made/sold sandpaper or tape.
Actually, their background defined their understanding. School teachers and secretaries thought Scotch Tape, mechanics and carpenters thought sandpaper, and people in the budding computer industry envisioned magnetic tape and floppy discs.
Obviously, our personal experiences provide a frame of reference which colors our understanding. I mention this only as a lead-in to today’s point:
Background and experience have such a profound effect on our definition and understanding of words, it’s amazing that we can communicate at all!
What started me down this road today is a story I read recently about dealing with pets frightened by gunfire, thunder or other loud noises. The author suggested that the pet owner should try using DAP.
DAP – a simple three letter word, but I had no idea what they were suggesting.
In my world, DAP is a sealer, a putty, a glazing compound
and I could not, for the life of me, see how that was going to help a panicked puppy.
So, I went to the internet. The all-knowing Google informs me that:
If you are a teenager, DAP means
The not-exactly-a-handshake form of greeting popularized by gang bangers, athletes and musicians.
Probably the first DAP on film occurred in a 1936 Tarzan movie when Maureen O`Sullivan, as Jane, met a pygmy chief.
On the other hand, if you are a member of the West Coast Arts crowd, you would know DAP is an acronym for Distributed Arts Project.
If this search for something to calm your frazzled pooch seems to be taking forever, you might need
There are other links to other definitions, but by now that frantic puppy is probably driving you up the wall, so
The answer is DAP – short for Dog Appeasing Pheromone.
Within a couple days after delivery, a new mother dog begins to emit a pheromone which has a calming effect on her nursing puppies. That chemical has now been synthesized and is available with delivery systems such as the one pictured above. It is said to have a calming effect on adult dogs as well, and is also useful in controlling barking, excessive urination and a variety of stress related disorders.
I don’t think it works on people, but by the time this little exercise was over, I was ready for a whiff of feel-good myself. Wonder if there is a WAP (Writer Appeasing Pheromone) out there somewhere?
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Here’s a simple arithmetic question:
“A bat and ball cost $1.10. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?”
The vast majority of people respond quickly and confidently, that the ball costs 10 cents.
This answer, which seems so obvious, is absolutely wrong.
Education doesn’t really help, either - more than 50% of students at Harvard, Princeton and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology routinely give the incorrect answer.
Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Laureate and professor of psychology at Princeton, has been asking questions like this for more than five decades. His experiments have profoundly changed the way that we think about thinking.
While philosophers, economists and social scientists have assumed for centuries that human beings are rational agents, Mr. Kahneman and his little quizzes demonstrate that we’re not nearly as rational as we like to believe – often taking intuitive “shortcuts” that can, as in the example above, lead us astray.
(The correct answer, by the way, is five cents for the ball and $1.05 for the bat.)
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
Tired of getting dressed for work?
Like to save money on your clothing budget?
There’s an ad on the British version of Craig’s List looking for salespeople and (female) web designers who want to work totally naked. Owner Chris Taylor explained that the business currently operates out of his house and he specified female web designers because he was tired of looking at naked men.
Their Website says that they are also looking for American partners to start a clothing-prohibited office over here.
Monday, October 17, 2011
There was an article in the Houston Chronicle this morning about the effects of the drought on aquatic life in our area. It reported that flounder were being caught north of Liberty off sandbars in the Trinity River and also mentioned that the drought was impacting the commercial fishing for Menhaden.
I had never heard of Menhaden, so I did a little research.
This article from Texas Parks and Wildlife explains that Menhaden off the Texas Coast support a $3.5 million industry. Most of the little fish are processed in Louisiana into fish oil or into fish meal for animal food, and some are sold as bait.
Now we’re getting somewhere. I’ve seen them – used them as bait – but had never heard that name. Bait shops call them Pogy, or Pogie, or Pogy Perch.
Sunday, October 16, 2011
Saw one of these signs recently on State Highway 321 near Luce’s Bayou . The bayou eventually feeds into Lake Houston, but is barely a trickle where it crosses 321.
Apparently, we weren’t the only ones who wondered about the sign. Cassie Gregory, writing in Your Dayton News, reports that the signs were put up by the Houston-Galveston Area Council Water Resources Program as part of their effort to minimize pollution in both Lake Houston and Galveston Bay.
Her article isn’t perfect. She claimed. for example, that the Back the Bay website didn’t exist when it obviously does.
She did manage to get in touch with Todd Running, the H-GAC Water Resources program manager, and got this quote regarding environmental responsibility:
“In a city the size of Houston, the amount of dog feces that can be generated in one day is equivalent to (what would fill) approximately 54 dump trucks. “That alone (proper disposal) would greatly decrease the amount of bacteria running off into waterways.”
Now we’re supposed to pick up after our pets in our own back yard? We have two miniature dachshunds, and we religiously clean up after them when on the road whether we are in an RV park, a roadside rest area or any other public place – but at home? Ain’t gonna happen.
In the first place, even if we did, how would we dispose of their feces in what would be considered an environmentally acceptable way? We can’t burn it – there’s a long standing burning ban in effect. Adding it to compost is equivalent to leaving it where they left it, and if it goes in the garbage, it – along with a bunch of extra non-biodegradable plastic - would just head for a landfill. How is that going to help?
Saturday, October 15, 2011
They, like everyone else with even the most superficial understanding of Einstein’s theories, knew that was impossible, so they published their findings in the hope that someone could show them what they did wrong.
Now, researchers at University of Groningen in the Netherlands have come up with a likely explanation.
According to the Dutch scientists, it all has to do with relativity – a very complicated concept to understand.
Stated simply, GPS satellites were used to measure both the distance between the starting and ending points in the experiments, and the travel time between the two. Since the satellites orbit several miles above the earth, they must travel faster than the earth’s surface in order to appear stationary. This means that – in terms of time and distance - the satellites and the earth’s surface are in different reference frames, and, from the GPS satellite’s point of view, the starting point at CERN and the end point in Italy are actually getting closer while the neutrinos travel between them, which accounts for the anomaly.
At this point, you are probably saying WHAT? or Uh… okay or you are slapping your forehead saying DAMN, why didn’t I think of that!
On the other hand, a degree in advanced math or physics isn’t really required. If you have ever had the GPS in your car tell you to drive off a cliff, or turn right where no road exists, the explanation makes perfect sense.
Friday, October 14, 2011
I’ve mentioned before how much I appreciate comments on my blog posts – how I wish there were more – how I would prefer that you post using a name rather than just posting as Anonymous. I even did a post on how to identify yourselves when posting comments.
Today, I got the comment below:
Once I sorted out the grammar and syntax, I was flattered by the comment and fascinated by the name.
That’s a screen-shot above, so what looks like a link is not, but if you go to the original comment Here, open the comments and click on Nevada Drivers Ed, it takes you to
English obviously isn’t the writer’s primary language, so now I’m wondering if the name – and possibly even the comment – was computer-generated by some hacker’s program, or if Ed is some bored-to-death website administrator sitting in a carrel somewhere in Sri Lanka or Kuala Lumpur.
I’ll probably never know.
Thursday, October 13, 2011
This year, we joined with our daughter Cheryl to buy her husband Gene a wildlife camera for his birthday. He had been wanting one to use near his deer stand.
We heard that he has already got some great shots, but I’d bet it is nothing like this – a full year compressed into less than five minutes at Canada’s Banff National Park:
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Monday, October 10, 2011
Apollo Astronaut Ed Mitchell has gone from deep space to deep doo-doo, as the Federal Government’s Attorneys have filed suit against him for the theft of a camera.
The camera in question is the one Mitchell used to document the Apollo 14 moon landing. NASA’s plan was for the camera to remain with the Lunar Excursion Module, and be destroyed when the LEM was allowed to crash on the moon’s surface after use. Mitchell chose to remove it instead, and has kept it as a personal souvenir since returning to earth in 1971.
Mitchell’s attorney claims the camera was given to the astronaut as a gift - in line with NASA's then existing policies governing spent equipment. The Government claims no record of transfer exists, and if it isn’t moon dust, it’s the property of the U.S. government.
U.S. District Court Judge Daniel Hurley has denied Mitchell's motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought against him by the U.S. government last June, and the case should go to a jury in Florida in October 2012.
Must have been a slow day in the office when some fed noticed that the 80-year-old moon walker had the 16mm camera up for sale - “Hey! That old camera is supposed to be moon litter. Let’s file suit and make him take it back where it belongs.”
Sunday, October 9, 2011
I took this picture of the Battleship Texas from the top of the San Jacinto Monument when we took the grandsons to tour the ship and the battleground last year.
The USS Texas, one of only six remaining ships that served in both world wars, was first launched on May 18, 1912.
It was the first U.S. battleship to have commercial radar, and the first to mount anti-aircraft guns, the first U.S. ship to use directors and range-keepers to control gunfire.
The Texas became the first U.S. ship to launch an aircraft – a Sopwith Camel - in 1919. The little plane launched from a sloping ramp between the forward guns, and could not return; it had to land on dry ground.
When it was decommissioned on April 21, 1948, the Texas had received a total of five battle stars, one for each of the major campaigns it was involved in during World War II.
Over her years in action, literally thousands of sailors served aboard the Texas, but at a special reunion ceremony yesterday honoring their service, there were only five.
Saturday, October 8, 2011
Back on September 15th, I reported on the honey bees taking over our hummingbird feeders. I told how reducing the concentration of sugar in the water caused the bees to lose interest. That tactic worked immediately, and is still working – sort of.
Most of our hummers have left – didn’t see more than three at a time yesterday – and the bees have returned.
There are not nearly as many bees, not more than 12 or 15 at any one time, and they only hit whichever feeder is currently in direct sunlight – ignoring the ones in the shade. Once the sun and the shade move, they do, too.
I didn’t make any predictions, but maybe I displayed some sort of weird prescience. Then again, maybe not, but -
This past Thursday, I did a piece that mentioned nudity and Dancing with the Stars. Yesterday, headlines trumpeted the fact that Cinthia Fernandez, dancing on the Argentinean version of DWTS, performed a routine that featured total nudity and simulated sex – and she did it with her parents in the audience! There are links to the video, but I’m not going to post one here. Not that I’m prudish, I just think if you want to watch, you ought to have to work at it.
Finally, back on September 20th, I did predict a major earthquake for California. Hasn’t happened yet, but I’m sticking by my statement. Has to happen, sooner or later, and when it does – I’ll look like a wizard.
Friday, October 7, 2011
The masters of marketing at Disney, having reaped huge profits from the movie, a DVD, a Broadway musical, and a 3-D version of the film, have just re-released The Lion King on Blu-Ray and Blu-Ray 3-D.
Meanwhile, Timon and Pumba, two stars of the original film who are still in litigation over residuals, are homeless and forced to hitch-hike. Disney lawyers recently secured an injunction prohibiting the pair from using references to The Lion King, or any music or dialog from the film, in personal appearances.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
The current issue of ESPN - the Magazine – the one they call the “Body Issue” – features nude photos of a variety of athletes, including this one of American Soccer Star Hope Solo.
When we returned home this summer to find our yard nearly dead from the drought, we bought a very expensive (OK- under $50, but expensive by my standards) new lawn sprinkler. Might have saved some money if I’d known she was available.
Actually, having seen her play goalie on TV, and watching her on this year’s Dancing With The Stars, I’m convinced that Hope – like just about everybody else – looks much better with at least a few clothes on.
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
CULLMAN, Ala. — With German roots and Bible Belt values, the north Alabama town of Cullman marked Oktoberfest for decades with oompah music, lederhosen and bratwurst, but no beer. Now the party long billed as the world's only dry Oktoberfest is finally going wet.
Organizers tapped a keg for the first time Monday at Cullman's Oktoberfest, ending an autumn prohibition in a town of 14,000 that had banned alcohol sales outright until church leaders lost that fight last fall.
Hundreds of people sipped beer and cheered at a stein-hoisting contest Monday night. A blocked-off downtown street was full of people enjoying $4 drafts; a few men wore traditional German pants and socks; couples washed down bratwurst and spicy pretzels with brew.
In a compromise aimed partly at helping ease the concerns of townspeople who worried about adding booze to the party, there was still an alcohol-free side to the celebration located about 50 yards away under a big, open shed. There, children did "The Chicken Dance" and cans of Pepsi sat on mostly empty tables; the crowd on the dry side was less than half as large as the crowd on the wet side.
The chairman of the Oktoberfest committee, Ernest Hauk, expects the entire event to only get bigger now that there's a biergarten.
"I think once people get over being worried about who's going to see them drinking ... it will just grow and grow," said Hauk.
The city had its first Oktoberfest in 1977, when a church staged the event for its 100th anniversary celebration, but beer was always verboten because alcohol sales were illegal in Cullman County. In place of alcohol, revelers drank root beer and organizers came up with their own sparkling apple cider, Oktoberzest.
Finally able to have a drink at Oktoberfest, Jason Hicks enjoyed a beer with his wife Ashley as German music played in the background. "Before it was just two old guys dancing," said Hicks, 30. "It's not about the beer now, but it adds something."
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Shoji Tanaka, president of engineering company Cosmo, demonstrates the 'Noah's ark' shelter. Photograph: Itsuo Inouye/AP
A Japanese company has developed a miniature version of Noah's ark in case Japan is hit by another massive earthquake and tsunami – a floating capsule that looks like a huge tennis ball.
Engineering company Cosmo says its "Noah" shelter is made from enhanced fiberglass and could save users from disasters such as the earthquake and tsunami on 11 March that devastated Japan's northern coast and left nearly 20,000 people dead or missing.
The company's president, Shoji Tanaka, said the capsule could hold four adults and had survived many crash tests.
It has a lookout window and breathing holes, and could also be used as a toy house for children.
The company said it had completed the capsule earlier this month and had received 600 orders.
Monday, October 3, 2011
Last night was Andy Rooney’s last regular appearance on 60 Minutes – an event that caused me to watch the show for the first time in years – but, after 33 years and 1097 essays, the 92 year old insisted that he was not retiring.
His exit generated tons of copy for TV, print and internet media. One of the best of those articles was by the CBC. The two quotes below came from their article:
I've always said that ideas are overrated. I'm more apt to collect information on the obvious, which we all have but haven't bothered to put together. We're so busy analyzing the obscure that we haven't realized that we haven't really mastered the commonplace.
Associated Press, 1981
I just wish insignificance had more stature.
New York Times, 1967
Whether you agreed with his opinions or not, you had to appreciate the way in which they were presented. Rooney represents the last of a dying breed – a TV journalist with an almost religious appreciation for the importance of the written word.
He became an icon by being the best there was at just being himself.
Saturday, October 1, 2011
Here – just slightly edited – is a poem I lifted from a Facebook post:
I was shocked, confused, bewildered As I entered Heaven's door,
Not by the beauty of it all, Nor the lights or its decor.
But it was the folks in Heaven Who made me sputter and gasp--
The thieves, the liars, the sinners, The alcoholics and the trash.
There stood the kid from seventh grade Who swiped my lunch money twice.
Next to him was my old neighbor Who never said anything nice.
And Tom, who I always thought was rotting away in hell,
Was sitting pretty on cloud nine, Looking incredibly well.
I nudged Jesus,asking 'What's the deal? I would love to hear Your take.
How'd all these sinners get up here? There must be some mistake.
'And why is everyone so quiet, So somber - give me a clue.'
'Hush, child,' He said, 'They’re all in shock. No one thought they'd be seeing you.'