Saturday, April 16, 2005

So goeth the buggy whip manufacturers?

Not likely, but apparently some of the big military equipment manufacturers are looking squinty-eyed at the upstarts.

Thanks to for the lead.

Back from Up North

I made it back from the wilds of Bear Country intact and a day early, the latter thanks mostly to some highly uncooperative maple trees. We managed to get some sap on Thursday, and boiled away, but Friday the durn trees had gone on strike, so we took down the buckets (195 of them), pulled the taps, finished boiling what we already had, and headed home today.

The weather up there (near Three Lakes, WI) was wonderful, so we had a couple days of warm sun in the woods, punctuated by skimming sap, pouring in some more, ladling it from one evaporating pan to the next, feeding the fire, sitting around pondering a catalog for the decoy auction coming at the end of the month, checking out an eagle nest to see if anyone was home (there wasn't), some more grueling skimming and ladling and sitting in the sun, agonizing over whethor to drink a beer or a diet Coke, and similarly stressful stuff. We finished with a little under four gallons of syrup, which may have disappointed my host, but I had a good time.

Last night we went into Three Lakes for dinner at the Black Forest Pub & Grill, where I had a grilled cod fillet which went down awfully well. After we sat down I was informed by a usually reliable source that actor Ben Kingsley had been espied in the very same chair the week before. I hope he enjoyed his cole slaw as much as I did.

Back at the cabin I was put on alert about one of the more disreputable neighbors, a porcupine who had been trying to chew off the corner of the cabin. It was the corner into my room, as a matter of fact. It was alleged that he was just trying to eat the house, but pretty clearly he was a bloodthirsty carnivorous predator, and an ambitious one at that, willing to chew through a tough shell to get at the tender morsel inside, namely yours truly. Nonetheless, while the logs showed considerable evidence of his previous efforts, I didn't awake with his fangs in my throat. Possibly my stern attitude warned him away.

Up early this AM and saw an American Merganser drake paddling along. There are worse ways to start the day.

On the way home I stopped at a couple of antique malls, not expecting much, and wasn't disappointed. However, this was the first time I have ever cased an antique mall and discovered a shelf full of used toilet plungers. I hadn't realized that such are now a hot collectible, and perhaps they aren't. This might be the last chance for a canny reader to corner the market before prices go wild.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Here's an oldie but...

...goodie. Enjoy. I'm off to da Nort' Woods for the weekend.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Uh, I think maybe I'll stick with...

...the sink. Not that I have any hang ups, mind you.

Someone has a wicked...

Tom Sawyering in da Nort' Woods

I just got off the phone with a decoying friend who invited me to go up to the family cabin in Eagle River, WI, which I believe generally qualifies as da Nort' Woods here abouts.

We will be collecting veritable bathtubs full of maple sap, schlepping them thru the woods to the fire, and then watching it evaporate down to about a pint or three of maple syrup. I've never done this before, but it sounds at least as much fun as whitewashing someone else's fence, and there are promises of wine and finger food to ward off starving predators. Definitely Currier and Ives material.

Jim is leaving tomorrow AM but I am waiting until Thursday AM as I have an appt with my tax preparer late tomorrow. Four hours drive, past Green Bay, into bear country. Back on Saturday if I don't get eaten.

A woven carbon skyscraper?

Infineon Technologies AG, a German chipmaker, has made a snowboarding jacket that plays MP3's and a carpet that can report the footsteps of an intruder or the heat of a fire.
That big newspaper in New York covers an exhibit of extreme textiles at the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum.

Monday, April 11, 2005

"It wasn't sexual at all."

Rachel Maines' book on the history of the vibrator won the American Historical Association's Herbert Feis Prize a few years ago. Just in case you missed it:
Maines' highly original book discusses a forgotten chapter in late 19th- and early 20th-century medical history, when an assortment of women's maladies were commonly diagnosed by the male medical profession as "hysteria" or "pelvic hyperemia" -- congestion of the genitalia. Maines documents how doctors of that era routinely employed an assortment of vibrators to treat the so-called ailment, regularly performing "vulvular massage" on their female patients to "relieve tension." They performed the task in their offices as a standard medical procedure and considered it a chore. Initially they inherited the job because of 19th-century religious proscriptions against self-masturbation. "Most of them did it because they felt it was their duty," said Maines. "It wasn't sexual at all."
Uh huh.

As I recall, somebody invented the vibrator because the poor long-suffering doctors were getting repetitive motion injuries from treating all their regulars.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Of Fopdoodles and Jobbernowls

What a shame such fine words have fallen into disuse. They might come in handy ever so often when dealing with bureaucrats.

Sam Johnson (not the one who lived in Racine*) defined them, and John Carey reviews books by and about the old boy:
The Dictionary was published on April 15, 1755, and had taken eight years to compile. Johnson worked almost single-handedly, employing only half a dozen raggle-taggle copyists chosen, with typical kindness, because they were poor and starving. By contrast the French Dictionnaire had, as Johnson enjoyed noting, taken 40 scholars 55 years...

To illustrate the meanings of words, Johnson supplied 114,000 quotations from books covering every branch of learning and going back to the 16th century. Nothing remotely comparable had been done before, and it made his dictionary into a superior prototype of the internet — a bulging lucky-dip of wisdom, anecdote, humour, legend and fact. Nobody but Johnson could have done it, because nobody had read so much. A bookseller's son, he had been ravenously turning pages since childhood. Sickly, half-blind and racked by strange tics and spasms that attracted ridicule, he read to escape the pain of life...

Slavery repelled him. He took a freed slave, Francis Barber, into his house, and bequeathed him the bulk of his estate. His opinion of Americans ("I am willing to love all mankind," he confessed, "except an American") stemmed partly from the colonists' doublethink about freedom and slavery: "How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of Negroes?"
Good point.

Plus, he was a cat person.

* You of Alternative Geographical Awareness: Racine is south of Milwaukee, and that Sam Johnson was the head of Johnson Wax. From all accounts quite a decent fellow, but like the Sam above, lamentably deceased.

Locals. Space Aliens. How d'you tell 'em apart?

The New York Times has an answer , but neglects to mention that it would likely work no more than half the time. Still, it would be a start.

It'd take some pretty cool Birkenstocks...

... to walk across THAT. Cool space pic of the day.

Here's a very different one from last year which is also pretty hot.