Monday, September 22, 2014

Thanks Obama Iriving!!!

Tonight is the first episode of season two of the television show Sleepy Hollow. While I am not a T.V. watcher, I watched the first episode last year because the show touches on local interests of mine. I have periodically posted about Sleepy Hollow since my second year of blogging, and I like to visit the area, made famous by Washington Irving's story of the Headless Horseman. Note, the Legend of Sleepy Hollow is not a legend, and there was no town named Sleepy Hollow until 1996 (I covered that in my first linked post)- "Sleepy Hollow" referred to the valley of the Pocantico River as it wound through the hills on the North Side of a village named North Tarrytown.

Now, regarding Irving's story... there was a real man named Ichabod Crane. Washington Irving met Ichabod Crane in 1814- he was aide de camp to Daniel D. Tompkins, then governor of New York State. At the time, the War of 1812 was in full swing. Irving accompanied Gov. Tompkins on an inspection tour of forts on the border of our hated Canadian enemy, where he met Ichabod Crane.

Irving wrote the Legend of Sleepy Hollow in 1820 while living in England- the story was written by Irving under the psedonym "Geoffrey Crayon, Gentleman" and attributed by "Crayon" to the fictional "narrator" Diedrich Knickerbocker... pseudonyms all the way down, it would seem. The 1820 Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. was a popular best seller on both sides of the Atlantic shortly after it was released. The real Ichabod Crane went on to have a distinguished military career, and was a colonel on active duty when he died in 1857. I'd love to know what Crane's feelings were about sharing his name with a wildly popular but somewhat ridiculous comedic character.

THANKS A LOT, IRVING!!!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sustainable Ecology, Sustainable Economy

I missed out on the big climate change awareness march in Manhattan today. I work weekends, and heading down to Manhattan for a spell before rushing back to Westchester in time for work was just not an option. I don't think that this was a cop-out on my part. I cover "green" issues fairly regularly, and the presence of one more person at the rally isn't as important as the presence of a voice consistently harping on green issues.

To me, the biggest problem facing our society is our utter failure to look beyond the immediate future: the next quarter, the next election cycle, the next ratings period... these occupy the thoughts of our policy makers to a far greater extent than a long-term, sustainable future. The symptoms of this underlying failure to develop a long-range plan, better yet, a multi-generational blueprint for the future, can be see in all walks of life- bubble economies, boom-and-bust cycles, environmental degradation, and infrastructure delapidation. Tragically, I don't see any changes being implemented until it's too late. Hell, at this point, I'm convinced that the best we can do is to lessen the impact of the coming crash, but big business and bad government actors are doing their damnedest to put the pedal to the metal.

I've long maintained that fossil fuels should be considered "startup capital" to be used to usher in a sustainable energy economy. The problem is that Homo sapiens has been burning (quite literally) the "seed money" with little effort to develop the next generation of energy sources. My personal feeling is that biofuels developed from algae or small, quick growing plants suck as duckweed. Carbon capture would best be achieved through reforestation efforts.

At any rate, the most important change that has to occur is that we, as a species, have to think of a future beyond the next quarter.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Missed One of the Year's Biggest Dino Stories

I can't believe that, for a week, I missed one of the biggest paleontological stories of the year... actually one of the biggest paleontological stories in the history of the field. It was revealed a week ago that the largely complete fossil remains of Spinosaurus aegyptiacus were discovered in Morocco. Spinosaurus has long represented an enigma... the remains of the "type specimen" were destroyed by an Allied bombing raid on Munich during WW2. Comparisons to other Spinosauridae such as Baryonyx (which has been determined to be a fish-eater due to the presence of scales found among the remains of a specimen), suggested a piscivorous lifestyle. The largely complete fossil Spinosaurus found recently exhibits a plethora of aquatic features:





I'd liken Spinosaurus to a therapod dinosaur playing at being a crocodilian, which amuses me because the crocodilians are the only surviving archosaur group besides the dinosaur-descended birds. In addition, this staggeringly large (estimates range up to almost sixty feet in length) crocodile-mimicking dinosaur shared its habitat with Sarcosuchus, a crocodilian which reached a length of about forty feet. One has to wonder what the hell was in the water in that time and place!


Friday, September 19, 2014

Declining the Despot

I can't say I was surprised when I read that 56 million credit cards were affected by a security breech at Home Despot (sic). Let that sink in for a bit... fifty million credit cards were affected... that's one credit card per person for more than one-sixth of the population of the U.S. (yeah, I know that certain people have more than one credit card, and there are international customers, but the number is mind boggling. I have a low opinion of Home Depot anyway, CEO Ken Langone is a whiny plutocrat and Republican donor who groused about Pope Francis speaking out against income equality and the indifference of the rich.

Earlier this week, I went to the independent hardware store within working distance of my home. I had a pleasant walk to the store, where I purchased an 18" fluorescent bulb. The proprietor got it off the shelf for me, and wrapped it in paper to protect it on the walk home (with detours to the bakery for a sfogliatelle and the butcher shop for a store-made black pudding and some delicious pork-and-leek sausages). All of the proprietors of the stores I visited are local people, and I consider them all friends (I've known the baker since I was a teenager).

I live in a neighborhood with a vibrant commercial district. I'd rather travel by shanks' mare to patronize stores owned by careful, attentive local people than to drive to a big box store with sub-par customer service and an abysmal attitude toward the security of their customers. Luckily for me, I have that option, unlike a lot of Americans.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Caledonian Road to Autonomy?

There's a tongue-in-cheek discussion about Scottish secession over at Roy's place. I'm agnostic on the topic, though it would be interesting to see what sort of ripple effect an autonomous Scotland would have on the rest of the United Kingdom- particularly, would Northern Ireland secede and join Scotland in a reunited Union of Dál Riata? Personally, no matter what the result of the vote is, the Scottish people should force a formal declaration exonerating Macbeth from the calumnies leveled against him.

One of the most cogent arguments for Scottish independence was put forth by political philosophers Charlie and Craig Reid:





Another argument for Scottish independence is the United Kingdom's utter failure to take the extraterrestrial threat seriously... Secretary of Defence Fay Fife is fully aware of this menace:





The program director of my great local commercial radio station played this appropriate song by the late, lamented Stuart Adamson during his shift as a DJ today:




Well, played, good sir! Well played.

The post title refers to a song by my beloved, woefully unknown Shop Assistants:





My "spider sense" tells me that Scotland will still be part of the UK tomorrow... I don't think the plutocrat class will idly allow a proper plebiscite to take place. No matter how the vote turns out, let's hope that it shakes things up so that voters, especially the teenagers allowed to vote in the election, will achieve better representation.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

So What? Owl

I'm trying to play as if I'm indifferent, but I have to confess that I am actually really jealous that one of my co-workers, the resident flashlight nerd (he has a big honking portable lamp that he could signal passenger jets at cruising altitude with), spotted an owl on the property at night:




I'm pretty sure this is a northern saw-whet owl (Aegolius acadicus), but I can't be sure. I saw one myself a couple of years back, right after sundown. It was a tiny little creature with an enchantingly pretty face. Here's a video of a bird that, according to the uploader's blurb, flew into a glass door:





While a very cute little beastie, I always cringe when people express a desire to own a wild animal like this as a pet. There are plenty of domesticated animals that need homes, and the wild animal trade is harmful to threatened species. It's a rare treat to see an animal like this in the wild, holding one captive seems like cheating.

Monday, September 15, 2014

NFL, WTF?

Wow,yet another horror story involving a pro football player- and the offender insists he's not a child abuser. Here's a hint, if your family photo album looks like scenes out of Abu Ghraib, you are most certainly a child abuser.

I'm getting to the point where I not only think that Goodell should resign, I'm mow thinking that the NFL should be disbanded. Monday night spelling bees, anyone?