Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mechanical Monsters

Having been forbidden to purchase a walk-behind snow blower, my attentions turned to vehicles that can be ridden. A wheel steerable front-end loader would be nice, but they are quite expensive. So, my attention turned to skid-steer loaders. Buckets, snow-plows, cable-layers, roto-tiller, back-hoes and other attachments can be mounted on the things.

I'm thinking of an inexpensive end-of-lifetime used machine with at least a few hours left on it. A snowplow can also be attached, or alternatively an specialized snow-plow vehicle could be purchased. Since I would like to pay for the machine by doing local driveways, it seems like the skid-steer would be the basic all around option. A truck with snowplow would be too hard to turn in driveways.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

"LOVE is worth seven points in scrabble."

The New York Times invited their readers to define love. Most are posted in the comment section of the Weekend Competition.

Several humorous definitions were submitted:
"Love is something silly that women invented over thousands of years while men were out there building the world...Like women, it is undefinable."
"Love is how your dog looks at you (not too be confused with longing, which is how she looks at your sandwich)."

There are many that are plays off of famous sayings:
"If music be the food of love, what's for dessert?"
"For a polygamist, love is a many-splintered thing."

There are deeper definitions:
"That which makes life worth living, makes man worth knowing, and makes woman worth touching."
"Love itself never dies, and never goes away. True love never does, and it is never wasted."

And there are confessions:
"I don't know what love is. But I do know, unmistakably, when I feel it."
"I love a good cheeseburger and I love my wife and my children. On a really good day, like my birthday, I can have all of them at once. If I have to choose, I'll take the wife and the children over the cheeseburger, usually."

Shakespeare said:
"...Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no, it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand'ring bark,
Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.
Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle's compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,I never writ, nor no man ever loved"

And he also told us that "loving goes by haps".

But whatever the real definition of LOVE is, lots of it to the Carlson Clan. Happy Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Herring Run on Mattawoman Creek

Nowadays, the herring population is depleted, but I remember a fishing excursion in the late seventies when you could practically reach your hand in Mattawoman Creek and pull out a fish. Herring are anadromous fish, meaning they live in the ocean but come into freshwater creeks to spawn.
In those days, in the early spring you could tell when the herring were running by numerous cars parked on the side of the road where the highway crosses Mattawoman Creek. Gordon and I spotted this one day and decided to catch some fish. We rummaged in Gordon's barn for an old herring net that his grandfather had made. It was big, at least six feet tall and shaped like a fish. Two cedar branches were connected by their small ends at the fish nose and then bent around until they crossed to make a fish tail. A third branch also went from nose to tail, looping out, to give the net some depth. The whole thing was covered with rusty chicken wire. We picked up Gordon's mother, Hilda, and went down to the Creek.
There was a path along the shore that we had to follow until we got to a spot that hadn't been taken yet. The way I remember this trip, it was at night. There were a lot of campfires that we walked past and numerous jovial crowds with all kinds of nets. Some looked storebought, but most were very homemade looking. A popular type seemed to involve a Y shaped stick in the ground with a long stick with a net attached to it balanced in the crook of the Y. The people would use the stick like a lever dipping it again and again. Each time they brought it up there would be fish in it. There was so much excitement in the air - never was it so easy to live off the fat of the land! We dipped our net into the water, holding it by the tail. Immediately you could feel a bump in the net. Lifting it out, sure enough there was a fish! Hilda was beside herself with happiness. We dipped again and again, putting the caught fish in our bucket. After a while we made our way back down the dark path, all aglow with our success. In the years since, I have tried to recreate this experience a couple of times, but so far have never succeeded.
Despite my inability to recreate my old time fishing success, Mattawoman Creek remains the best fish nursery in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Mattawoman Creek is seriously threatened now by the Charles County Connector proposed highway. Find out more about how to help preserve this resouce at the Mattawoman Watershed Socity website at
Gordon has posted instructions on how to make the net at

3.5th snow day

The National Guard have been called in to clear streets here in DC.

According to NOAA the weather conditions are "life threatening."

Has anyone ventured outside today?

Update: a walkway between two buildings partially collapsed.

P.S. Everyone should like my FB status...its important.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Sunspots resume

It looks like the solar cycle is finally cranking up after much delay. A big radio emitting spot is now on the sun with some other less active ones. It is too late for this to have much effect on the climate this year, but in 2011, if sunspots have an effect on climate as many suspect, then things might be a bit warmer than the so far bitterly cold 2009-2010. Overall though, some people are predicting 30 years of cold weather due to internal Earthly climate cycles.

In any event, the big sunspot now there will create auroras on Earth. Look in the sky tomorrow night and next for an aurora, particularly if you are located in a Northern latitude. Radio Hams are already reporting lots of static due to the big sunspot.

Beer and Bones

There is a new finding that beer is a major source of silica in the American diet. Silica boosts the chances of having healthy bones.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Snow in Accokeek

It looks like the driveway will be impassible for quite some time. Many of the holly trees caught a lot of snow and are broken and bent over.

Eww - Chewing gum is made from plastic

Chewing on Plastic? Yum! | Fake Plastic Fish

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Snowmageddon 2010

We got about 26 inches in Greenbelt, the December 19th storm pales in comparison. We lost power for about 5 hours but fortunately the temperature inside stayed in the 60s.

Our Car - I thinkOur street
The backyard

Piles of snow easily exceeded Linnea's 32 inch height.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Budget Craziness

This just in: The Treasury Department said Wednesday it expects to hit the government's debt ceiling by the end of February, putting pressure on Congress to raise the limit from its current level of $12.4 trillion. How much is that divided by the population of the country. Let’s see – a trillion is a 1 with 12 zeros after it. According to a census website the population of the US today is 308,616,606. So we can do the math of the debt divided by the population and get the per person total: $40179 for every man, woman and child in the country. WTF!!! Yikes! This is crazy! And even crazier is that no doubt congress will raise this ceiling so we soon will owe even more. In our bizarre political system – the largest part of the spending – so called “defense” spending – that includes thousand dollars a day contractors in war zones we have created, and pricy equipment only suitable for WW II type warfare - is not part of the spending freeze that the President is recommending. The new budget of $3.8 trillion in the current budget year assumes that we will borrow 40 cents for every dollar spent! Who thinks this will end well? At least House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said that if we are looking for savings, military spending should be on the table with the rest of the budget. Since the US total military budget nearly equals what the whole wide rest of the world spends on its militaries in total — this spending should not only be on the chopping block, it should head the chopping block list. And we should look at a way to use diplomacy to deal with our enemies. The current strategy, while it is certainly enriching the military industrial complex, is bound to also be creating as many enemies as it destroys.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Lit 101

In my college writing class, we have to read Sarah Vowell's Assassination Vacation, in which she visits all these sites related to the assassinations of U.S. Presidents. She visits Dr. Mudd's house. This amuses me, probably more than it should. Especially the part where she gets lost on the way there.

Post-polio syndrome

Last year fewer than 1600 people got polio and most of those were concentrated in India and Nigeria. There is hope that the disease will be completely eradicated in about 2 years, maybe 3.

Few people in the Western world remember the ravages of the disease except the victims of it, most of them in their sixties and older. Subsequent to the active disease, many decades later, the neuron-muscle synapses wear out leaving the victims fatigued and often unable to use limbs or their breathing diaphragms. This is called post-polio syndrome.

Warm Springs, Ga was discovered by President FDR as a therapy center with mineral waters and he subsequently purchased it with his own funds for therapy of other polio survivors. Not everyone survived the initial disease.