30 June 2009


from the eponymous book by chuck palahniuk, the Seven Rules of Fight Club:

1. you don't talk about fight club

2. you don't talk about fight club

3. two men per fight

4. one fight at a time

5. no shoes no shirt

6. fights go on for as long as they have to

7. if this is your first night at fight club, you have to fight.

sounds a little like real life at times, doesn't it?

29 June 2009


following is a guide to the relative $$ yield among different crops on facebook's farm town (ratio decimal figures are rounded to the nearest tenth) -- the first two crops assume multiple plantings per day indicated by the number-plus-X.

crop--------cost-- yield--- time to mature-- yield/day-- yield ratio

raspberry-----15------47------2 hours------------282 (6X)--------18.8
grapes-------- 20----- 56----- 4 hours------------ 168 (3X)-------- 8.4

strawberry--- 30----- 85----- 1 day---------------- 85------------- 2.8
watermelon-- 35----- 92------ 1 day---------------- 92------------- 2.6
potato-------- 40----- 99----- 1 day---------------- 99------------- 2.5
cabbage------ 45---- 107------ 1 day-------------- 107------------- 2.4

tomato------- 50---- 140----- 2 days--------------- 70------------- 1.4
rice---------- 80----- 190---- 2 days--------------- 95------------- 1.2
wheat-------- 80---- 180----- 2 days--------------- 90------------- 1.1
peas--------- 90----- 202---- 2 days--------------101------------- 1.1
carrot-------225----343------2 days--------------171.5------------o.8
pepper------250----378------2 days--------------189--------------0.8

onions------ 170---- 338----- 3 days-------------- 113------------- 1.0
sunflower--- 115---- 277----- 3 days--------------- 92------------- 0.8
corn-------- 130---- 285----- 3 days--------------- 95------------- 0.7
coffee------- 150--- 298------ 3 days-------------- 99------------- 0.7
blueberry---275----472-------3 days--------------157-------------0.6
pineapple---300----512-------3 days--------------170.7-----------0.6

cotton-------180----360-------4 days--------------90-------------0.5
pumpkin---- 200--- 396------ 4 days-------------- 99------------- 0.5

[note: trees have varying cost and yield, but essentially the same end ratio: 0.03.]

as you can see, it is misleading to choose a crop simply by the dollar amount of its yield. one has to figure the yield per day in order to get a realistic understanding of how productive one's land is.

balancing this is one's time availability (greater time to mature means more freedom away from your computer), as well as the visual pleasure one derives from rotating different crops.

i hope this info is useful to all my farm town neighbors.


erica jong's 1973 novel Fear of Flying isn't so much about sex, as it is about the search for self identity. here are a couple of my favorite exerpts --

~ "what was it about marriage anyway? even if you loved your husband, there came that inevitable year when fucking hm turned as bland as velveeta cheese: filling, fattening even, but no thrill to the taste buds, no bittersweet edge, no danger. and you longed for an overripe camembert, a rare goat cheese: luscious, creamy, cloven-hoofed."

~ "i remember a diet column in a medical journal of bennett's. it seemed that miss X had been on a strict diet of 600 calories a day for weeks and weeks and was still unable to lose weight. at first her puzzled doctor thought she was cheating, so he had her make careful lists of everything she ate. she didn't seem to be cheating. 'are you sure you have listed absolutely every mouthful you ate?' he asked. 'mouthful?' she asked. 'yes" the doctor said sternly. 'i didn't realize that had calories,' she said. ............. well, the upshot, of course (with pun intended) was that she was a prostitute swallowing at least ten to fifteen mouthfuls of ejaculate a day and the calories in just one good-sized spurt were enough to get her thrown out of weight watchers forever. what was the calorie count? i can't remember. but ten to fifteen ejaculations turned out to be the equivalent of a seven-course meal at the tour d'argent, though, of course, they paid you to eat instead of you paying them. poor people starving from lack of protein all over the world. if only they knew! the cure for starvation in india and the cure for the overpopulation -- both in one big swallow! one swallow doesn't make a summer, but it makes a pretty damn good nightcap."

[note: i'm particularly fond of the latter anecdote. any regular reader knows that in my view, human overpopulation is at the root of nearly any social or ecological ill you can name. i love the hilarious irony in her solution. plus it appeals to science's fundamental principle of parsimony -- a solution elegant in its simplicity.]

28 June 2009


my thanks to my buddy perry, for turning me on to the showtime series "Weeds", which is available on DVD. we both have a crush on star mary-louise parker, whose quirky smile and doe eyes and daring vulnerability (or is it vulnerable daring?) are so appealing. the writing is intelligent, the ensemble cast superb, and i laugh so hard it hurts. five stars ! !

27 June 2009


just got my laptop back from the computer doctor. new fan (with metal bearings rather than the factory plastic ones), and removal of three years' accumulation of cat hair. at least there were no hair balls inside, bless their hearts.

25 June 2009


on 25 june 1876, the year of the nation's centennial, general george armstrong custer led a column of the u.s. 7th cavalry to their doom at the battle of the little bighorn. the encounter is erroneously referred to as "custer's last stand", implying there were previous "stands". untrue. custer was the master of the stealth massacre of entire indian villages, e.g. at washita river. further, custer's command was wiped out by a single swarming charge by indian warriors, not by the slow encirclement depicted in popular paintings of the day. (please click on map below to enlarge.)

custer was a vainglorious and ambitious man, some might say psychotic. in any event, the combination of poor intelligence, and rash decisions to split his vastly outnumbered forces and attack a combined arapaho, northern cheyenne and lakota sioux encampment of thousands of warriors and their families on the little bighorn river (a.k.a. greasy grass creek in lakota), all acting against explicit orders from his superiors, resulted in the most spectacular victory by native american warriors in the history of the u.s. invasion of the west. victorious indian leaders that day included sitting bull, crazy horse, gall, and black elk.

24 June 2009


here are two versions of one of my favorite torch songs, the swinging original by miss peggy lee, and a sultry cover by rita coolidge. one can say so much, using so few words......

23 June 2009


the other day i watched a riveting documentary on DVD, Sharkwater. videographer and marine biologist rob stewart pokes holes in the myths about sharks, revealing them to be innately shy, curious predators, rather than the vicious man-eaters of hollywood hype. (it's like being in the home of any other large predator -- you are the visitor, and as a guest you are responsible for learning the language and customs.) the film starts with visits to sites where sharks have historically gathered to mate, only to discover that shark populations globally are in catastrophic decline, thanks to (familiar story) over-harvesting by humans. in my view, the slaughter is particularly heartbreaking, because the hunters are only killing sharks for their dorsal fins (prized in asia for shark fin soup, an expensive delicacy). once mutilated, the sharks are cast overboard to die.

during the course of the film, steward teams up with radical environmental activist and greenpeace cofounder paul watson, who for decades has risked his life by doing what world governments refuse to do -- interfering with the murder of creatures of the sea by well-financed industrial interests from many countries. i won't give away any more about this graphic, disturbing and beautifully-shot film. please see it and form your own impressions. much of it isn't pretty to watch. but for just that reason, it is important. bearing witness to the atrocities which we visit upon the planet and its creatures is the most effective way to galvanize public awareness, and public action.

i will close with this -- as noted in a number of previous entries, the presence of healthy populations of natural predators is essential to the health of ecosystems as a whole. as steward points out in the film, the case of sharks is special. oceans cover roughly 70% of the planet's surface, and oceanic plankton and larger marine plants provide the majority of the oxygen we breathe. if we remove the food web's top predator, sharks, then their prey (large fish) multiply, and their prey (smaller fish, and on down to phyto- and zooplankton) are reduced. the bottom line, less oxygen. we all have a stake in the fate of the world's predators, most especially the fate of sharks.

20 June 2009


as in, the passions that move my spirit -- flight, preserving nature from human destruction, the exploration of our world and our universe. this year marks my ten year anniversary as a member of AOPA, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. which is rather ironic, in that i've only logged 0.4 hours as PIC (pilot in command). i've been saving for actual flight lessons all this time, and reading everything i can get my hands on -- aviation magazines, books, manuals. the way i look at it, just the study and discovery give me pleasure. when the time comes to take lessons and get my pilots license, that will be icing on the cake. the plane in the photo, by the way, is a Beechcraft Staggerwing, a classic biplane to which a wonderful museum is devoted, at the south end of the municipal airport in Tullahoma, Tennessee (which is also the home to Jack Daniels whiskey). [please note: as always, click on an image to enlarge it for full effect.]

here's a topic that has always fascinated me -- people tend to dream about flying (without benefit of an airplane) in one of two ways. there are those who glide and float effortlessly, soaring and dipping in airy freedom. and there are those who can only stay aloft by an effort of will, concentrating at every moment lest they fall to earth.

for many years i was among the latter. but then, gradually, in my dreams i discovered a third way. it started in scenes where i was running down a hill of ever-steeper slope, so that each bound covered more ground and took me higher above the surface. ultimately this could lead to an out-of-control crash, but that never seemed to happen. then one night in a dream i tried just leaping straight up from a standstill. over the course of subsequent dreams (covering many months), my leaps became monumental, and always well controlled, effortless, taking me hundreds or even thousands of feet into the air, and always landing like a feather. what joy !!!

so back to reality, and the creatures who inspired all our thoughts of flight -- birds. i've been an avid birder for about four decades. while my life list (the compendium of confirmed sightings of different bird species) only numbers about 360, still it is quite varied, since i've gone birding in so many different parts of the country. i have a number of species on my list that would seem exotic to birders who don't travel much outside their home region. and like my cats, i never seem to tire of watching our avian friends go about their daily lives. what a thrill it must be to fly using one's own wings, no? here's a peregrin falcon, capable of speeds in excess of 250 miles per hour while stooping (diving with its wings folded to its body) onto a prey animal which it rarely misses.

19 June 2009


it is not time for jubilation just yet, but the recent sighting of a young male wolverine in colorado made my ears perk up. it has long been my contention (as reflected in the name of this blog, explained in one of the first entries) that the health of any natural ecosystem is reflected in the presence and abundance of its top predators.

we humans have an abysmal record for murdering those creatures which we imagine to be a threat, or which we rationalize as being competitors over game animals. during the past two decades, it has been heartening to witness the return of the gray wolf to portions of the rocky mountain west, largely due to the tireless efforts of a few dedicated individuals and conservation groups. similarly, the bald eagle has staged a comeback after being placed under the protection of the endangered species act.

it is not news to readers of this journal, that i view human overpopulation as the root cause of nearly any social or natural ill you can name. one hopes that we can (a) discover acceptable ways for limiting our own numbers, thus (b) allowing large reaches of land to return to wilderness, opening the way for the return of both predator and prey species. the lives of all will be enriched beyond measure. so here's to you, young M-56. live long and prosper.

18 June 2009


in the late 1950s and early 1960s, as rock 'n roll entered the mainstream of pop music, an instrumental band called The Ventures made an indelible mark on the energy and musicianship of generations of performers to follow. their signature piece, "walk don't run", combined elements of jazz, blues and raw garage band pulse. today's NYTimes announced the death of guitarist bob bogle, at age 75.

17 June 2009


in september 1971, hurricane irene-olivia tracked westward across the atlantic ocean and the caribbean, thence clear across central america, and entered the pacific ocean. in doing so, the storm became the first actively-tracked tropical cyclone to be classified both as a hurricane (atlantic basin) and as a typhoon (pacific ocean). in its last stages, I-O brought over two inches of rain to southern arizona and new mexico -- which may not sound like much, until you consider that ecologically, a desert is defined in part by its annual rainfall, i.e. twelve inches or less per year. (click on the image to enlarge)

16 June 2009


here are a few links to devices which turn your cursor into entertainment --

there are, of course, tens of thousands of others. just google the word "cursors", and go to town.

14 June 2009


"i wept because i had no shoes, until i met a man who had no feet." -- unknown.

13 June 2009


"you'll know her more by your questions than by her answers. keep looking at her long enough. one day you might see someone you know."

-- Stargirl, by jerry spinell

11 June 2009


as it happens, my first ex (there have been three) was a talented artisan, both in floral arrangement and in stained glass. when we spent four years as caretakers at canelo hills cienega, a nature conservancy preserve, we supplemented our meager stipend with her work. i helped out with designs and building a light table, but she definitely did the lion's share. her business was called clearlight glassworks, the "clearlight" being a sly reference to a variety of LSD. seeing this mandala made me think of those days --


click on this link to view a moving collection of photographs -- some of them taken at the time, and others taken in the present day when aging vets revisited the normandy beaches. this image is of u.s. general dwight "ike" eisenhower, allied supreme commander, talking with paratroopers of the 101st airborn division, prior to the invasion.

10 June 2009


a discussion thread on facebook this morning reminded me of an unusual housemate i had during my sophomore year at washington state university. two other guys and i shared an apartment across town from campus, and one late winter day while walking to class, i noticed an alert but shy animal crouched beneath a pine tree. it was a weasel, domesticated and apparently lost. i took it home, and we adopted it for a time. such a cool animal -- sinuous movements, curious, loved to curl up in your lap. we took to drawing a weasel footprint on the backs of envelopes whenever we sent letters, with the inscription "Weasel Mail". he was the hit of the party whenever we threw a kegger for our poor beknighted friends who lived on campus. everyone treated him with care and affection.
i don't recall what became of our small mustelid friend. we probably released him on the university's nearby farm. one cool little dude.

06 June 2009


06 june 1944 -- D-Day, the allied invasion of nazi-occupied europe across the english channel, was arguably the defining event of the 20th century. there was no exit plan. succeed or die. many died.

if we had failed, we would have tried again, but without the element of surprise. further, a later invasion [a] would likely have been without the leadership of franklin roosevelt or winston churchill; and [b] would have given the nazis time to activate the V-2 rocket, against which there was no defense. one cannot imagine the horror of a world dominated by adolf hitler.

as john scalzi notes, a small and vanishing cadre of WWII vets remains alive to commemorate the event and share their stories. one of them is my father, who served as a railroad worker in france and germany. it is clear when he talks about those days, that they are as vivid and real to him as my own wartime memories of vietnam are to me. yet an era is fading.

or maybe not. because i didn't become a rebellious teenager until 1960, i grew up steeped in the lore, the music and the sense of purpose lived by the WWII generation. so long as i and others like me are alive, the sacrifices and achievements of my parents' generation will not go unnoticed.

thankfully, others feel similarly. steven spielberg's film "saving private ryan" captured in vivid and complex detail not just the normandy invasion, but also the varied mindsets of those who participated. similarly, the excellent PBS series by ken burns, "the war", cast a new light on the lives of ordinary people in extraordinary times, both in military service and at home. i have my own copy of the DVD series, and recommend it to everyone of high school age or older. how else are we to put our own lives in perspective, if not by understanding the lives of our parents and grandparents? how else are we to grasp the direction of the flow of history, if not by learning about what has come before us?

05 June 2009


here's a fun resource for music lovers -- you can choose your own genres, performers and songs at http://www.jango.com/ . your music will play in the background as you work, write, or browse online. have a ball.....

03 June 2009


imagine for a moment that you lived on a gas giant plant, not unlike jupiter -- as whatever life form might survive there. imagine further that your home planet moved in a relatively tight orbit around a small, dim red dwarf star. the two objects are roughly the same size, though the sun is ten times as dense as the planet. here is what such a hypothesized pair might look like --

02 June 2009


this is for my friend perry, who is a harley davidson motorcycle rider -- he told me that even if i don't capitalize god or obama or mother's apple pie, i really need to capitalize harley. so, being the brat that i am -- harley harley harley harley harley harley harley !!!