Friday, April 25, 2008

Not exactly light reading, but I like it

The latest issue of my favorite medical journal, Emerging Infectious Diseases, is now out on-line. EID in general is not exactly light reading, but it always contains some fascinating material, the cover is almost always gorgeous (this month's actually falls more into the category of 'interesting' for me; I've never been big on portraits) -- and the editor not only selects an intriguing painting to grace the cover, she also provides a detailed history of the piece and the artist and then ties it to current issues in infectious disease and public health. I always kind of wonder which comes first with the editor -- does the cover art influence the contents for any particular month, or does she look at the line-up of articles and then go looking for the art?

EID is packed cover to cover with the type of material I spend my days editing, so I do take a professional interest in seeing how journal articles look in their final format (although nothing I've edited since I started my current job has been published in EID -- everything my authors have done has gone into much, much less appealing publications, like Vaccine). Of course, part of EID's appeal for me is that unlike many of the professional journals out there, EID practices plain language (or close to it; some polysyllables and technical terms are unavoidable). No strange abbreviations or acronym soup, just nicely organized articles that present interesting information.

That said, my favorite part of this month's issue is "Bedtime at Nana and Pop's House." It actually is light reading.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

And trees will die for this?

From today's Washington Post:

Miley Cyrus has reportedly inked a seven-figure deal to pen her memoirs. And none too soon. At 15, she's achieved the maturity and distance needed to reflect on her life's lessons. Although the book won't hit stores until 2009, Celebritology has obtained (wink wink) an incomplete outline of the book's proposed chapters, complete with handy descriptions.

The descriptions are, of course, totally tongue-in-cheek. Too bad the book deal itself isn't a joke.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Nifty roadside architecture

Ranger Bob at Retread Ranger has photos of nifty cabins from a former tourist court in Poplar, Wisconsin. Definitely roadside architecture at its finest.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The sex life of trees

I've been thinking lately about one of North America's least appreciated trees, acer negundo, better known as the box elder or ash leaf maple. This is a tree that is so common, that has been so much of the background for so many places that we've lived up north, that when we moved into our current apartment and discovered one growing on the edge of the patio I didn't recognize it. The last thing I expected to find next to our back door in Atlanta was the same type of tree we had shading our deck in Hancock, Michigan. I actually checked a tree i.d. book out of the agency library in order to pin down the species. I kept thinking, "It looks really familiar. Now what is it?" Definitely a "duh" moment when I learned what I was looking at. (The book did come in handy for identifying the stuff around Atlanta I really had never seen before, like mimosa and balloon nut, so carrying it home from work wasn't a total waste of time.)

Tree i.d. books use terms like "invasive" and "weedy" when describing acer negundo. Maybe "highly adaptable" would be a better term. Box elders like disturbed areas and edge spaces so in urban areas they tend to pop up in vacant lots and along alley fences. Or, in the case of the fellow pictured here (and it is a male tree; box elders are dioecious, which means every tree is either male or female, and those are boy parts dangling there), on the inside of a patio fence. Box elder grows fast so, at least according to the Corin Center for Biodiversity at UW-Green Bay, has occasionally been used in the past as a street tree. Not anymore. Box elders aren't particularly long-lived compared to other shade trees, nor are they particularly strong. They are, in fact, generally viewed with considerable contempt. No commercial value, no long term landscape value, ergo, of no use in general.

The song birds that hang out in the box elder growing on our patio would beg to differ, of course. The mockingbirds, cardinals, robins, and a wide variety of LBBs seem perfectly happy with the tree. And so are we. It may have popped up accidentally not that many years ago (I'm guessing sometime in the 1990s), but previous tenants ignored it. It's now tall enough to provide shade for our west facing wall, which is basically two stories of glass. That tree allows us to keep the blinds open all summer instead of turning our townhouse into a gloomy cave. It's leafy enough to provide shade, but the growth isn't so dense that it completely blocks light -- it just filters it. It may be a fragile tree compared to, for example, a white oak or a sugar maple, but the branches are still more than strong enough to hang a bird feeder or a potted plant from. It doesn't shed tons of crap like the balloon nut tree one patio over from us (although I will concede the balloon nut has showier flowers), and, maybe because it's male and has no seeds it doesn't seem to attract squirrels. I am, in short, rather fond of that tree.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Isle Royale wildlife

Happened across a long, interesting piece about the wolf/moose study on Isle Royale. Never been lucky enough to see (or even hear) any wolves when I've been to the park, but then I've never been down to the Windigo end. One of these years. . . the fantasy hike/camping trip is, of course, from Rock Harbor to Windigo and back again with side excursions along the way.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Hobbit house

I think I've found the blueprints for the retirement cottage. . . Of course, if we build something like this, if my friend Carol comes to visit she may never leave.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

AJC desperate to fill page space

Despite yesterday's Democratic presidential candidates debate, a shoot-out at an apartment complex in Decatur that sounds like something out of the wild west, and various other happenings around the country and the world, the AJC feels the need to fill page space with:

Marietta police spokesman Mark Bishop said the pig apparently came off a small truck traveling southbound at the Canton Road Bridge at about 9:30 a.m.

"Traffic temporarily halted to rescue the pig," he said. "The pig has minor injuries. They got it tied up to keep it from getting hurt any more until Animal Control can get it."

Amok? Just how much damage did this crazed porker do before they got it cornered? Inquiring minds want to know.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


H/T to Yellowdog Granny. Go check out the smorgasbord of humor she posted yesterday.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

More politics

James Howard Kunstler, a man who definitely has a way with words, had this (and more) to say on the recent Obama = elitist flap:
Barack Obama caught hell last week for daring to tell the truth about the ragged thing that the American spirit has become. He said that small-town Pennsylvania voters, bitter over their economic circumstances, “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them” to work out their negative emotions. He might have added that the Pope wears a funny hat (see for yourself this week), and that bears shit in the woods (something rural Pennsylvanians probably know). Nevertheless, in the manner lately prescribed for those who slip up and speak truthfully in public (and in contradiction to the reigning delusions), Obama was pressured to apologize for his statements.
The evermore loathsome and odious Hillary Clinton, co-owner of a $100 million personal wealth portfolio, seized the moment to remind voters what a normal, everyday gal she is -- who would never look down on the small-town folk of Pennsylvania the way her "elitist" opponent had -- forgetting, apparently, that the Clinton family's consigliere, James Carville, famously described the Keystone State as a kind of redneck sandwich with Pittsburgh and Philadelphia as the bread, and Alabama as the lunch meat in between.
Head on over to Clusterfuck Nation to read the whole thing.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Why I'm getting an Obama bumper sticker

Back in February when I started blogging, I had promised myself this would be a politics-free zone. The MSM never took my candidate seriously, and once that candidate was out of the running I figured I'd just leave commentary and advocacy efforts to others. There are a zillion people out there writing passionately about the issues they care about and the candidates they support; I'd just keep my mouth shut.

Well, this was the weekend Senator Clinton crossed the line. Senator Obama spoke a plain and simple truth -- lots and lots of potential voters are feeling extremely bitter about the way this country is going. They've seen good jobs vanish, they know perfectly well that odds are their kids are never going to have as comfortable a life as they once did, and they're angry. I see angry, unhappy people all the time. They're working multiple miserable, low-paying jobs, putting in 50, 60, 70 hours a week, keeping their fingers crossed no one in the family gets sick, their hours don't get cut, and they can manage to keep gas in the car so they can get to work. These are not happy people. They're not reaching out to religion because it's their tradition; they're turning to their church and their families because society as a whole is failing them.

This would have been a perfect opportunity for Senator Clinton to acknowledge those truths about the economy and the devastating effects ordinary citizens have experienced at the hands of a Republican administration. She could have pointed to efforts she's supported, such as raising the minimum wage, she could have emphasized things a previous Clinton presidency accomplished such as the Family Medical Leave Act . . . but instead of taking the high road, elevating the debate, and saying, yes, look at what Republican economic policies have done to you, she chose to spin Obama's words and interpret this simple, basic truth (people are pissed for a reason) as having been an elitist attack on god and guns. I want to puke.

Then she piled it even higher and deeper by talking about her grandparents' "cottage at the lake." You want to talk elitist? Most ordinary working people don't have summer cottages. I'm close to the senator's age, I grow up in a mining community, and, major news flash for you, Hil, none of us summered at the lake. Judging by the calls in to C-SPAN this weekend, it's clear I'm not the only person who doesn't think it's Obama who's out of touch; quite a few people think it's the candidate now trying to cling to God and guns and saying, please drink the patriotic Kool Aid because, really your lives are fine, Obama doesn't know what he's talking about. Tactically, this may help her in Pennsylvania, but it's a truly stupid thing to do long term. She's blurred the distinctions between herself and McCain on a major issue, the economy. The only thing left for her to do before she drives the Democratic Party totally into the ditch and hands the general election to the Republicans is jettison gays -- and I expect that to happen anytime.

I really, really wanted to be able to vote for a woman for president in my lifetime, but now I find myself hoping that this is not the year.

And, yes, to those of you who have been telling me all along that Clinton is an opportunistic liar who would say and do anything, no matter what the long term cost, as long as her name ends up on the ballot in November, please save the I-told-you-so.

On the bright side, as long as she's got Bill out there campaigning for her and putting his foot in his mouth at every opportunity, odds are she won't be the nominee. There's nothing quite like reminding people the candidate is no longer young and/or having senior moments to make her seem like a viable alternative to the Republican candidate, is there?

Friday, April 11, 2008

More on beer

Yesterday's news about the pending beer crisis has me thinking about hops and gardening. I can remember seeing them growing in Washington in the Skagit valley back in 1989, but hadn't thought about them much lately. Where will they grow? How harsh a climate can they stand? One source says they were routinely grown in New England, although not many are grown there now. If they're halfway hardy maybe I'll become a hops farmer when we retire to the tundra of the U.P. in a few years. What type of soil do they require? Although maybe I shouldn't ask, because if it's not glacial till this hops farming fantasy could prove problemmatic.

I do know they'll grow in northern Wisconsin. I did the orchards tour around Bayfield back in 2006 and spotted some growing at one of the farms there, although they may have been in the nature of an experiment, too. There weren't many plants, and they were part of an ornamental garden. In any case, Bayfield County is the banana belt compared to the Michigamme highlands in upper Michigan.

The S.O.'s gardening fantasy for the U.P. used to be watermelon grown from seed. That challenge was met a few years ago. Maybe hops will be the new one.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

More climate change bad news

My brother-in-law who's into home brewing isn't going to be thrilled with this news from Secret Ingredients:

Maybe now people will heed the warnings of climate change. A scientist has warned of a possible shortage of beer.

Climate change could cause a drop in beer production within 25 years, warns Dr. Jim Salinger of New Zealand's National Institute of Water
and Atmospheric Research.

In a speech given this morning, Salinger said the weather can cause a decline of malting barley production in parts of New Zealand. Further, The New Zealand Herald
reported, "that Australia was likely to be hit harder because the dry areas in that country would become drier and
water shortages were only going to get worse."
There have been reports elsewhere that global beer production is already being affected by a shortage of hops from other growing areas, e.g., Europe, and that prices are going up for grains. Apparently a lot of farmers who had been growing barley or wheat are switching to corn in response to the demand for corn for ethanol fuel production.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Good deed of the day

Well, I have done my good deed for today -- went to the Red Cross donor center and dropped a pint. I am told there is a shortage of whole blood at the moment (and I believe it -- they called to ask if I could donate and my blood type is so common it's usually the easiest for them to get), so I'd like to suggest that my readers (all 2 of you) consider making the trek to a Red Cross center, too. If a wuss like me can handle watching vital life fluids being drained from my body, anyone can.

Monday, April 7, 2008

News of the Weird

What is it about Georgia politicians that makes them want to believe in second acts? First Cynthia McKinney starts talking about running on the Green Party ticket and now the Libertarians have this to deal with:

Barr forms presidential exploratory
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr
eased into presidential politics Saturday with an announcement that he has formed an exploratory committee to gauge voter interest in his candidacy as Libertarian.

If there are "sufficient numbers" of people behind a Bob Barr presidential race, he's running, the former Republican said.

The good news is that while he explores running for President his blog, The Barr Code, has vanished from the AJC.

Spring in Georgia

Okay, the dogwoods are pretty, the azaleas are gorgeous, and I kind of like the wisteria that's climbing all over the trees along Peachtree Creek, but all that color definitely comes with a price:

That's not a paint stain in the parking lot. It's pollen. Our truck is no longer white -- it's yellow. So is everything else in DeKalb County. When I did an ATM withdrawal on Friday I think the bills came out of the machine coated with pollen. You can see pollen drifting in clouds in the air. I thought the rain this weekend would help, but apparently not -- according to the AJC today's pollen count is 1705. Anything over 61 is not good. Pretty soon they'll have to stop counting individual pollen grains in a cubic meter of air and just go straight to giving us the count in inches on the ground.

I guess the good news is that I'm pretty sure I don't have any allergies -- at least not to sweet gum, birch, pine, oak, dogwoods, azaleas, cherry, redbud, box elder, wisteria, . . .

Friday, April 4, 2008

More strange sex news

Survey: Fla. Teens Believe Drinking Bleach Will Prevent HIV
Some Teens Also Believe Mountain Dew Will Stop Pregnancy

A recent survey that found some Florida teens believe drinking a cap of bleach will prevent HIV and a shot of Mountain Dew will stop pregnancy has prompted lawmakers to push for an overhaul of sex education in the state.

I was all set to make some comment about young 'uns getting dumber, but then I remembered some of the teenage wisdom disseminated in the girls' locker room way back when I was surviving adolescence -- like the ultimate OTC contraceptive, the Coca-Cola douche (and it had to be Coke, no substitutions of Pepsi or RC).

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Sometimes the jokes write themselves

Stuff you can't make up:

Report: Stabenow's husband paid prostitute in sting

The Detroit News said the motel was located near Big Beaver and I-75.
This probably doesn't count as much of a sex scandal, though, when it's the Senator's husband who got caught paying to play and not the Senator herself.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Lifeways of the Cherokees and Colonial Settlers at Ninety Six NHS

Coming up this weekend, April 5-6, in South Carolina. I had never heard of Ninety Six National Historic Site until it got a brief mention in the AJC's Travel Section this past Sunday, but Saturday we're going check it out. Two Revolutionary War battles were fought there, although the cynic in me says they couldn't have been very important ones if they never made it into my high school history book. Cannonball parks are not normally my thing, but the living history and the mid 18th century music sound like they could be fun -- and for sure it'll be another stamp in the NPS Passport.

Just coincidentally, the park is located almost within spitting distance of the largest flea market in the South. I have a hunch that may have been the deciding factor in getting the S.O. signed on for this expedition.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Third graders plot to kill teacher

The Atlanta Journal Constitution has an article today with a headline guaranteed to catch the reader's eye:

Third-graders questioned on plot to kill teacher, paper reports

Police questioned a group of Georgia third-graders suspected in a plot to kill their teacher at Center Elementary School in Waycross, apparently because she had scolded one of them for standing on a chair, a Florida newspaper reported.

The nine students — girls and boys, 8 and 9 years old — are too young to be charged with a crime under Georgia law, a prosecutor told the Florida Times-Union. Authorities withheld the students' names because of their age and student privacy laws, the paper reported.

I'd love to know why they're stuck in a special ed class. If they're smart enough to figure out that duct tape is the solution to almost every problem, then you'd think they could handle being in the regular third grade classroom.

I'm also mildly curious why the AJC is getting this news second hand from a Florida paper instead of picking up the phone to talk to someone in Waycross, but not particularly surprised.