4/09/2017

A Change of Seasons

prevernalWhile trying to determing the winter version of adjectives like vernal (spring-related) and autumnal (autumn-related) for a facebook comment [FYI: it’s hibernal. And summer's adjective is estival], I came across a list of seasons I hadn’t previously encountered.  According to Wikipedia, the ecologists have designated their own seasonal divisions, and they’ve come up with six of them, rather than four.


vernalBeing ecologists, they use occurrences in the local ecosystem to cue us that we’ve switched seasons, as opposed to cues from our orbit about the sun (as astronomers do) or from weather history (as meteorologists have).  Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about the seasonal designations that ecologists use for temperate climates:


  • estivalPrevernal (early or pre-spring): Begins February or late January (mild temperate), March (cool temperate). Deciduous tree buds begin to swell. Migrating birds fly from winter to summer habitats.

  • Vernal (spring): Begins March (mild temperate), April (cool temperate). Tree buds burst into leaves. Birds establish territories and begin mating and nesting.
  • Estival (high summer): Begins June in most temperate climates. Trees in full leaf. Birds hatch and raise offspring.
  • serotinalSerotinal (late summer): Generally begins mid to late August. Deciduous leaves begin to change color. Young birds reach maturity and join other adult birds preparing for autumn migration. The traditional "harvest season" begins.
  • Autumnal (autumn): Generally begins mid to late September. Tree leaves in full color then turn brown and fall to the ground. Birds migrate back to wintering areas.
  • Hibernal (winter): Begins December (mild temperate), November (cool temperate). Deciduous trees are bare and fallen leaves begin to decay. Migrating birds settled in winter habitats.
autumnal

As someone who has grown up in the Midwestern US, I really like this.  The 4 season model never quite seemed to capture what was really going on.  How could autumn continue into December, if most of the leaves had already fallen before mid-November? And I’m really supposed to believe that April, May and June belong to the same season?  Anyone living in Wisconsin can tell you that this is patently nonsensical!  


hibernalThe down side is that there's no calendar date for the start of a season, and probably no cut and dried beginning or ending to any season. So if spring comes early one year, it comes early. There's no first day of spring, just cues from the world around you. This may be why they've set their seasons up as adjectives rather than nouns. There might be some disagreement as to whether Spring is here, but we can all agree it's becoming more Vernal. As a gardener, this approach just feels right to me.

2/03/2017

Why Things Seem So Crazy...

So many puzzle pieces are falling into place in my mind all at once… Kellyanne Conway has referred to “alternative facts”.  She also refers to the “Bowling Green Massacre”, which never happened.  Sean Spicer refers to an Iraqi attack on a US Warship... which never happened. President Trump has an inordinate number of billionaires or near billionaires involved with his candidacy and as President.  This includes Elon Musk, who is on his advisory board.  

Now, Musk has been rumored to be a time traveler, apparently trying to push Earth civilization  (via revolutionary creations like Paypal, Tesla, SpaceX) to an advanced state, putatively to spread Earth civilization to Mars.  Meanwhile, “alternative facts” just might be lingo that a team of time travelers might use to refer to things that were facts in their previous timeline, but which have now been changed – facts like massacres and attacks which have no longer happened.  And how easy would it be for a time traveler to become rich, either through foreknowledge of events, or long range planning?

So that’s my theory.  They’re all time travelers.  My first guess is that Trump’s people came first.  They’ve been planning their takeover of Earth civilization for ages.  Everything is planned out.  But Musk arrived at some point and he or his team started making targeted changes, so that certain events that Trump’s team counted on haven’t happened.  That’s why they have so many alternative facts.  They’re getting more and more confused as the new reality diverges from their old reality.  Parts of their plans are falling apart.

The kicker is that I believe both Musk and Trump have the same goal - preserving Earth civilization form whatever catastrophe was about to fall upon it in the era they travelled from.  “The Obstacle” could be a fleet of alien starships arriving, runaway global warming, an alien drone ship detonating the sun, a rogue planet crashing through the solar system, a nearby star going nova, or any of an infinite number of other scenarios.


Trump’s team has decided there’s no time to play nice.  Things need to move fast, and one world government under their control is the only way to make it happen.  Musk’s people appear have a gentler view.  They feel that our best hope of overcoming “The Obstacle” is a robust society on a healthy planet, with room for innovation and invention.  I’m not sure which one is right.  Both Musk and Trump seem like lunatics most of the time.  They have information from the future that we don’t have.  But if we have to bet on one, I’ll bet on Musk.  His version of the run-up to the time of The Obstacle seems much more enjoyable.


There’s another bit of information that bears on this story.  Trump’s uncle John was the MIT professor that the FBI called into review Tesla’s papers after Tesla died. I shit you not.  Look it up.  Perhaps these papers led to the time-travel device being used today.  Is that why Musk named his company Tesla?  My mind is whirling.  

12/26/2016

The gift of cash

I've always felt like I was cheating when I gave someone cash for a gift, and the same for gift cards.  So I generally try to stay away from gifts like that.  Sometimes, though, a person specifically requests a gift card or cash in order to help buy a special gift that none of us could afford to buy them on our own. In those cases, I feel the need to get a little... creative.

In the past, I've done the gift card-in-the-box-in-the-box-in-the-box-in-the-box gag (good, but the wrapping gets a bit time consuming) and I've placed the gift card into a baggie and then encased it in insulating foam (too mean - it took forever to extract!).  This Christmas, I found a more pertinent direction to go.

My nephew asked for cash this year in order to help him purchase a new gaming computer.   Cash.  Sigh.  Even less personal than a gift card.  But I want to help him achieve his gaming goals (heh), so I agree to go along.  Anyway, long story short, here's the container I came up with to give dear nephew $50 cash toward a souped up computer:



Actually,  I came up with 4 out of the 5 discs for my 1996 HP printer installation software.  On disc one, I carefully cut the corner seam and pulled out the disc.  then I slipped in the $50 bill, positioning it to show the little green starburst through the hole where the disc used to sit (see below).  Then, a tiny piece of clear tape closed the corner without making it too hard to reopen.

JuDee wrapped it up with the note "For your new computer!"  The nephew was a good sport.  He knew something was up, but kept a politely neutral look on his face (with just a hint of horror) while he tried to figure it out.  It took a little encouragement to get him to look over the floppies to notice the telltale sign of cash on the back of disc #1.  Then - smiles!  And he's keeping the floppies, presumably to start his own Museum of Archaic Data Transfer and Storage Technologies.

11/10/2016

Staples

Today I pulled the last staples from a box of 5000 and slid them into my red Aceliner model 502 stapler (it’s a beaut, le tme tell you!). This simple act has led me to entertain reflections upon my mortality.  Though the declining light and falling leaves at this time of year have already put me into the mindset where endings, dormancies and death are sometimes considered.

As I can best recall, I ordered those staples early in my career at this company’s predecessor, maybe even in my first year.  Since said career at my employer began over 18 years ago, the memory of early office supplies is a little fuzzy.  But I can say that I don’t remember a day here without my little plastic box of staples at my side.  

Five thousand staples spread across 18 years works out to about 278 staples a year.  Considering 52 weeks in each of those years, and factoring in 23 days of vacation and 10 company holidays for most of that time, plus a sick day here and there, yields around 220 works days a year.  So, about one-and-one-quarter staples per day.  It doesn’t seem like much.  I’d have guessed I used around 4 or 5 staples a day.  But that guess would apparently have been wrong.

In any case, these staples have served me well, and soon (after I’ve used up the remaining 20 or 30 staples in my stapler), they’ll be gone.  Though, reconsidering, I suppose that some of those staples will be with me for the rest of my life.  Surely a few have made it home and into my filing cabinets where, barring a fire or a flood, they’ll reside until my personal effects are distributed, some to a landfill, some to a filing cabinet belonging to another.

Perhaps some of the staples have bound together a document with contents of more durable interest - a family tree, a short story?  I  expect that even these will soon be scanned and sent to electronic storage, the original relegated to a landfill.  But that may turn out to be a sort of ageless enduring.  

For if the scanning individual follows my technique, they’ll also capture a tiny image of the staple’s stiff visage on the front page of that document.  And perhaps  an image of it’s curled backside on the last page.  And who can guess how long that might last in some personal server, or uploaded to the web?  Its purpose long past, this visual echo may survive for eons, long surpassing the memory of the company that caused it to be made, or the person who used it to bind his papers.

9/02/2016

Snake stories have no end.

Today a colleague who is originally from Jordan used a phrase I'd never heard before - "snake stories have no end". My first thought was ouroboros, the snake eating its own tail, which might appear to have no end. But that wasn't what he was referring to. Apparently, the phrase has two meanings. First, there's the more literal meaning. Everyone has a snake story, so if you start telling snake stories, it'll go on all night. There's no end. Then, there's the more figurative way he used it. The members of our group found ourselves telling similar stories from our respective pasts, and he used the phrase as a way to say- we've all got these stories, this could go on all night. I searched it on google and got one (yes one) pertinent hit. But that hit mentioned it as a common phrase. So, I'm putting this here so that the next person who searches it gets two hits. Could that be considered a public service? I think so.

PS: I'd like to state for the record that I'm glad to live in a place where everyone has a snowstorm story rather than a snake story. I am not a huge fan of snakes.

8/30/2016

Christmas come early!

I finally managed to buy a German Weihnachtspyramide (Christmas Pyramid, or Christmas Carousel) on  eBay for less than $100!  Actually it was less than $40, including shipping. It needed lots of careful work to remove the dust without busting it up.  Unfortunately, I was doing the work, so it got lots of not-so-careful work to remove the dust and some more careful gluing to put it back together.  Anyway, all of the parts seem to be there except for maybe the glass bearing which I can pick up for $5 online.  Kind of a win!

























Now, I haven't had one of these in my home before, so this one brings up a few questions.  For instance - do the angels always look like Bjork?


And does one of the shepherds always appear to be up to no good with one of the sheep?

















And does Joseph always look like one of the guys from the bridge of the deathstar?  (Is death star capitalized?  In our galaxy, it'd be DethStarr(R), but this is a galaxy far, far away, so who knows?)

















The whole thing is just so wrong that I can't help but love it!  I just wish that the wisemen hadn't been painted in racist stereotypes.  Otherwise, major score!








5/10/2016

Turf troubles

I received an email today informing me that, because of the rain, the soccer gods were moving my daughter’s soccer match to the “turf field”.  My first though was “Well, that’s dumb, the turf field will be all muddy.  They should move to the artificial turf field!”  (turf means “grass and the surface layer of earth held together by its roots.”, according to google, and to me).  Reading this email  was immediately  followed by the niggling tension in the pit of my stomach.  I was not properly grasping the intended meaning of the email.   


A follow-up texting session with my wife, and conversations with co-workers confirmed what I suspected - the coach (and pretty much everyone but the landscape industry, and even some of them) were using “turf” to mean “artificial turf”.  Hmm...the language had shifted without me noticing it.  Did I miss the expected intermediate phase where we say “natural turf” and “artificial turf”, or did we just jump to this new meaning?  Based on the results of a few google searches, this looks well entrenched. It is a battle long past winning.

In any case, if I want to speak with specificity in the future, I’ll have to clarify my meaning Maybe I'll go with turfgrass. I sure as hell won't be calling artificial turf, "turf". The sporting industries seem to contrast “turf” (meaning artificial turf) with “grass”.  It seems vague, non-specific, awful.  It looks like the future.

4/22/2016

Reinheitsgebot... why?!

Reinheitsgebot - holding back the development of more-interesting German beers for 500 years.  This Bavarian beer law, enacted on April 23rd, 1516 restricted beer ingredients to Water, Barley and Hops.  With growing scientific knowledge, Yeast was also added to the mix.  The Germans seem very proud of it, but I think it seems like a terrible waste of a brewing industry.  Think of the modern beers that would need special permission to be brewed n Germany - fruit beers of all sorts (addition of pumpkin, cherry, rhubarb, rasberry, etc.),  veggie beers (jalepeno peppers, sweet potatoes), milk stouts (addition of lactose, a milk sugar), wit beers (usually containing at least orange peel and coriander), spiced winter ales (clove, cinnamon, etc.) herb ales (made with lavender, heather, chamomille, oregano, gruit,, etc.) coffee and chocolate beers, beers with added rye, oatmeal or  wheat (though some exceptions for this do exist under reinheitsgebot), and honey beers, or any crossovers between beer, mead and wine.  Now, to be fair, it seems like the current german beer laws are more relaxed, though still somewhat restrictive, using taxation rather than outright prohibition to control beer content.  And the EU has weakened a lot of the restrictions, too. But this archaic law is still used as a marketting tool in Germany (and the US)!  Why would anyone think this was something to be proud of?  It’s like saying “In order to preserve the purity of our nation’s paintings, they may henceforth only be painted using the colors red, blue, black and white.”  You might get some interesting workarounds, but wouldn’t you rather have access to the full range of colors?  

3/25/2016

Now are the witches...

It’s official - the Swedish are all lunatics. Maybe it’s the long nights in winter, or the long days in summer.  Maybe it’s the jealously of being so close to Norway, but not actually being Norway.  Who knows?  But they're definitely off their collective rockers, for no sane country would have a tradition like Easter Witches.


I’ve been looking around on the web, and I can’t believe I’ve got this all right, because it makes absolutely no sense.  Apparently, back in more superstitious days, they used to believe that witches has some sort of big feast in a certain meadow in the Baltics (named Blakulla, not to be confused with Blackula), on the Thursday before Easter.  It all had something to do with Judas betraying Jesus releasing evil into the world (because evil only started 200 some odd years ago, right?)  So anyway, with all these witches about, they lit bonfires to scare them away.  Why witches, who were believed to be in league with the devil, and presumably going to burn in hellfire would be afraid of a bonfire is not explained in the sources I read.  



But it gets way weirder.  Somehow (and I'd really like to hear how this happened), the tradition has morphed into little girls dressing up as Swedish witches and going door to door trading little pictures they’ve made for Easter candy and treats.  Alternatively, they may bless you in exchange for the treats, said blessing taking the form of being hit with birch branches.  Now, I know the picture you have in your head - pointy black hats, black capes, flying on brooms, cats and green skin.  Well, scrub that image away. These witches like to wear layered, oversized clothing and scarves on their heads, have obvious freckles, red lips and rosy cheeks.  And this being Sweden, they tend to be blonde.  The cats and brooms can stay.  Swedish witches have those too.  


So tell me. How in the mother-loving world do you get from the first scenario (lighting bonfires to keep away scary witches on their way to a banquet) to the second scenario (adorably freckled bag-lady witches trading artwork and blessings for candy)?  No, really, tell me.  I want to know. Damn, Sweden, what were you drinking?



3/18/2016

More Milwaukee Echoes

It has been noted that the recently revealed plans for the new Milwaukee Bucks Arena dramatically echo the much tinier Bel Air Cantina.   Looking at the pics below, I'd have to agree!  This is getting kinda creepy!  I wonder if the effect is caused by the Go.D.S.E.E.D?
Some people on social media say the new Bucks arena looks like the BelAir Cantina on Water Street.

3/10/2016

Milwaukee Echoes

Did you ever notice that some of Milwaukee's architecture has produced echoes within the city?  For instance, the Reiman Bridge (below, left) that links the Milwaukee Art Museum's Calatrava addition to the parking structure across the street is echoed in the updated 6th street viaduct (below, right).


















Less obviously, the arch of the Hoan Bridge (below, left) is, at least to my eye, echoed in the arch of the roofline at Miller Park (below, right).




















Are there other echoes of Milwaukee's architectural icons?


Does the Allen Bradley clock tower echo the towers on St. Josaphat's Basilica?





























Do any of these have echoes?  Am I starting to see things where there's nothing to see?  It wouldn't be the first time!




8/20/2015

Bravely Mangled

Is it just me, or does the Ballad of Brave Sir Robin owe something to the song Tipperary Far Away?
Check out the videos below which should start at the points I find similar:
The Ballad of Brave Sir Robin (at about the 50 seconds point)


Tipperary Far Away by the Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem (at about the 30 second point)


There's an obvious lyrical similarity, but I think the music is meant to sound similar as well.  Once again, I think the British are getting a lot more out of this movie, than I did.

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