Friday, December 26, 2008

Just churning out more random posts...

Okay, so take yourself back in time about 2200 years. Place yourself somewhere in the neighborhood of Greece. On a ship, in the Mediterranean. Now, look around and try to imagine what kind of technology you have access to....

If you've never heard of the Antikythera device, well, you're not alone. I hadn't either. It's a mechanism of gears enclosed in a box, that was found in a shipwreck at the bottom of the Mediterranean about a century ago. It has been dated to about 200 BC. It was very corroded and incomplete, but after almost a hundred years of studying it with everything from microscopes to X-ray machines to who knows what else, it seems they've finally figured the thing out. The video below shows a reproduction of the original Antikythera mechanism.

So, is that cool or what? Maybe it's just my inner geek, but I bet that's more sophisticated than 98% of the "modern" stuff in my house.

And we're not talking about some fanciful Da Vinci drawing or something. This is an actual device! From 200 BC!!

For more background, here's a 2 part clip from a Nature documentary:


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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Just sayin'...

May the light brighten your darkness
(but hopefully not at 5am)
May the homefires keep you warm
(homefires - not housefires)
May you receive whatever you need
(if not whatever you want)
May the next 12 months
be better than you could have possibly hoped
And may whatever you believe in
make you a better person
and the world a better place.



It's late. Don't ask.

My nose is pathetic. Seriously. I can't smell much of anything.* I don't know if it's from having two smoking parents, each with smoking SO's growing up, or some kind of sinus problem, or something hereditary. Once Amelia gets her service dog, I'm thinking of applying for a smelling nose dog.** It could alert me when there are cookies baking, when the flowers are blooming, or when a diaper needs changing. ***

* Is there a name for that. I mean if you can't hear, your deaf. If you can't see, your blind. What if you can't smell?

** They do have those, right?

*** No, it's not a clever ploy. Well, at least not usually.

I don't know how many times Lori has said "Can't you smell that?!" Then I sniff purposefully and go, "Oh, yeah I guess you're right," even though sometimes I'm just faking.

So how is it that my nose is totally locked in on skunk smell?

Wait. Let me back up.

We had a skunk living in our barn. Then the barn cat, Kiki, chased it off. Not until she got sprayed several times, but still.* Anyway, so after the skunk relocated, a possum** moved in. Kiki apparently couldn't persuade the possum to leave, and so she adopted our garage as a temporary home base. I wouldn't have minded all this, except that this possum was almost as fearless as the skunk, a much better climber, and it could eat more chicken feed in one night than our 17 chickens eat in four or five days. Plus it was stealing whatever few eggs the chickens were laying.

* I'll never forget the time I was in the barn, standing on top of a wooden pallet, when I saw Kiki chase the skunk into the barn. The skunk hid under the pallet I was standing on. Then the cat proceeds to start batting at the tufts of skunk fur sticking out between the slats right at my feet. How I didn't get sprayed, I'll never know.

** Apparently what we have is technically an "opossum" rather than a possum. Yeah whatever, Wikipedia.

So after weeks of trying, I finally trapped the possum.* (E5 was pretty taken with the giant rat tail, the beedy eyes, and the sharp teeth.) We relocated him to a new home "down by the river," a couple miles away, to get fat on corn and soybeans for the rest of his days. Either that or to get chewed up and spit out by a giant combine harvester. Hard to say.

* Possum shit smells terrible, by the way. Even for me.

But for some reason, the vacancy sign in the barn hasn't been noticed by the skunk or the cat. They're now battling over the rights to our garage. Our attached garage.

Being a newer house, we've got one of those "open" floor plans. Living room, dining area, and kitchen, all in one big open space. The living room shares a wall with the garage, and the door into the garage is right off the eating space. So when a skunk sprays in the garage, you know it.

We've experienced this twice (so far) this week.

In case you've not been up-close-and-personal with skunk smell, let me borrow some words from Chris Martenson:
Now, skunk spray doesn’t have just one smell, it has three. There’s the not entirely unpleasant smell you get from a distance (aka “classic skunk”), there’s the similar but stronger and physically disturbing smell you get up close (aka “my last three dogs”) and then there’s the smell that wafted through our open bedroom window and set off our fire alarm at 3:00 a.m. last August (aka “skunk-to-the-third”).

So sitting in the living room, you first get that earthy, fermented, beer / cabbage smell, followed shortly thereafter by the same smell only more intense, with a bouquet of scorched rubber.

But open the garage door, and well... imagine if a tire fire took a giant crap on a dead skunk.

And here's the problem: No matter where I go in the house, I can smell it. Lori says she's not even noticing it at this point. I can't shake it. It will haunt my dreams.

No sugar plum fairies for me.



Wednesday, December 24, 2008


Here is a non-cynical story for your holiday reading pleasure.



Friday, December 19, 2008


I hereby declare this blog a Cynicism Free Zone
for the rest of this calendar year.

4 Paws for Amelia


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Monday, December 15, 2008

Another easy one...

Here's a secret: The Easiest Challenge Ever is a gateway drug. By paying attention to these little everyday things, you might start to become aware of other stuff you can change.

But even so, easy stuff is easy. And I don't know about you, but just everyday life has been challenging at my house lately, so easy is all I can handle at the moment.

*** UPDATED ***

Never mind about the rest of this post. Mr. Obama chose Tom Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture, despite the grassroots efforts to prevent it. We may now return to our cynicism and toothpaste. :-(


Sometimes even the easy stuff can still make a difference. Occasionally slacktivism actually works. I don't know for certain that this next item can make a difference, but this is from an email I got this morning from one of my favorite mailing lists:
Michael Dimock, president of Roots of Change, just called me and said "how do we get more people to sign this petition! I just talked with Michael Pollan and a member of Obama's transition team, and if we get 50K people to sign this in the next few days, Obama will take it into account when appointing the next Secretary of Agriculture!"
These people have put a lot of time into trying to find the right candidate(s) for Secretary of Agriculture. They've been kicking around names for a while, adding people, crossing them off. etc. They've done a lot of homework.

So here's the petition:

And while you're in the neighborhood, here's another:

Okay, next time I'll try to come up with something more challenging.


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Saturday, December 13, 2008

All lathered up

Okay, I know you're excited to hear about my first ever blogger challenge.

I hardly ever participate in other people's challenges - at least not officially - because my life is generally too chaotic to check in regularly, post detailed results, copy & paste badges, and so on. So I'm not going to ask you to do any of these things either.

We'll call it The Easiest Challenge Ever. See how I put it in bold? That makes it more official.

So here's the thing: Our whole culture is built around constant growth. Your company has to get bigger. Your stock price has to keep going up. Your next house has to be bigger than your last. More, more, more.

The problem with growth, briefly, is that it can't go on forever. It appears we're starting to collectively realize this fairly obvious fact. But companies, being what they are, keep looking for clever ways to get us consuming more of their products.

Case in point: How much toothpaste do you put on your brush? Does it look like this?
That's what the toothbrushes on TV ads always look like. That's what they look like in print ads, and on packaging. But really, you only need about a pea-sized dab of toothpaste to get your teeth clean. Or just try baking soda.

The same goes for shaving cream. When you picture somebody shaving with a blade, the guy always looks more like he's been in a classic movie pie fight than getting ready to scrape stubble off his face. You only need enough to give the blade a little lubrication.

The bathroom is full of examples.

Soft Soap: I mean how many times more soap do you use with a full pump from one of those dispensers than you would with an old-fashioned bar of soap? Are your hands really any cleaner?

Gel deodorants: Again, even the tiniest twist on the dial gets you ten times as much deodorant as a traditional stick. And those so-called "crystal" mineral salt deodorants last literally for years.

Shampoo: Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Yeah, wash that hair twice in a row. How about trying just a little dab of shampoo. Or there's always the no-poo approach.

So that's the challenge. See if you can get just as clean with the least amount of (fill-in-the-blank) possible. You're not restricted to the bathroom. You can try it with laundry soap, dishwashing soap, glass cleaner, floor cleaner... you tell me.

So that's it. That's the challenge. Be more mindful of those hygiene and cleaning products you use. Use less. If you think of it, let us know how it went.

For bonus points, consider some of the homemade versions of these products. It seems you can clean almost anything with either baking soda or apple cider vinegar. Check The Google for recipes.

If you think of more examples of this "encouragement to overuse" in other areas, let me know.

(I know, I know. Growth capitalism will crash without growth. What can I say? I'm becoming subversive. Besides, it kinda seems to be in progress already. Let the Revolution begin at the end of your toothbrush.)


Okay, okay, twist my arm. I'll fool around with Photoshop for a little while.

Here's a badge:

And here's how to add it (hopefully):

<a href=""><img src="" border=1 alt="Easiest Challenge Ever"></a>


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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Oh man....

Three days
Three separate doctor visits
One sinus infection and four ear infections

(I wonder if that could be a haiku...)

This after two separate stomach flu's in November.

I hope we get a break soon.

Normal random blogging will resume shortly.

Meanwhile, here's an awesome link to the 10 Most Magnificent Trees in the World, courtesy of Peak Oil Hausfrau.



Monday, December 08, 2008

Crash Course

This is by far the single best (brief) explanation of Peak Oil I have come across yet.

Actually, the whole "Crash Course" is excellent. It takes a while to watch the whole thing, but I think it would work pretty well to cherry-pick the chapters that look interesting to you. You might miss some references, but they should stand alone fairly well. The more of it you watch, the more you'll understand my inner "doomer". This guy is really good at clearly explaining complex ideas, without talking down to anyone.

More to come on other topics, but that's all I have for the moment.


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