24 July 2015

The Great Black Swamp

Raise your hand if you already knew about this.  Didn't think so...
The Great Black Swamp... was a glacially fed wetland in northwest Ohio and extreme northeast Indiana, United States, that existed from the end of the Wisconsin glaciation until the late 19th century...

It stretched roughly from Fort Wayne, Indiana in the west, eastward to the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge near Port Clinton along the Lake Erie shore, and from (roughly) US 6 south to near Lima and Findlay. Near its southern edge at the southwestern corner of present-day Auglaize County, the swamp was so impervious to travel that wheeled transportation was impossible during most of the year, and local residents thought the rigors of travel to be unsuitable for anyone except adult men...

Although much of the area to the east, south, and north was settled in the early 19th century, the dense habitat and difficulty of travel through the swamp delayed its development by several decades. A corduroy road (from modern-day Fremont to Perrysburg) was constructed through the Maumee Road Lands in 1825 and paved with gravel in 1838, but travel in the wet season could still take days or even weeks. The impassibility of the swamp was an obstacle during the so-called Toledo War (1835–36); unable to get through the swamp, the Michigan and Ohio militias never came to battle. Settlement of the region was also inhibited by endemic malaria. The disease was a chronic problem for residents of the region until the area was drained and former mosquito-breeding grounds were dried up.
A tip of the blogging hat to reader Dan Noland, who in response to my post about muck farms sent me links about this and the Kankakee Outwash Plain.  You learn something every day.

Catch of the day


A gull catches and swallows a starling mother as it returned to the nest...

Photo credit: Dougie McColl, 51, from Barrhead, Glasgow/ DOOGZ MCCOLL / CATERS NEWS

Travel tip

(Helen Mirren) admits she never takes her own garments away with her, instead choosing to pick up outfits from second-hand stores as soon as she arrives at her destination.

She says, "I love a good charity shop, especially when I'm travelling. When I'm going to cold places, I take nothing - just underwear. On my way from the airport, I ask the driver to take me to a good charity shop, and I buy boots, socks, trousers, jumpers, sweaters, hats and scarves - usually for £30."

But the actress never keeps the items: "On the way back to the airport, I have it all in a big bag and drop it off at another charity shop."

20 July 2015

"The Art of the Opening Shot"

A list of the movies used for this compilation is posted at the YouTube link under "show more" in case you want to open it in another window while the video is playing rather than waiting until the end.

The soundtrack for this video is the subject of a separate post just below this one.

Via Kottke.

Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir performs "Lux Aurumque"

Eric Whitacre... is an American composer of choral, wind and electronic music. He has served as a guest conductor for ensembles throughout Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas. He is one of the most popular and performed composers of his generation, his works being part of standard choral and symphonic repertoire.  He is inspired by pop and electronic music and is known for his work with virtual choirs—creating choral community via the internet.
Even if you don't like choral music, you should watch a couple minutes of this video to see what can be done with webcams, microphones, and a healthy dollop of imagination.

Addendum:  The soundtrack of the video I posted above this one sounded familiar, and with a quick search I discovered that I had posted the musical arrangement back in 2010.  I think it's worth a repost now.

And here's the wiki on "Lux Aurumque" -
Lux Aurumque ("Light and Gold", sometimes "Light of Gold") is a choral composition in one movement by Eric Whitacre. It is a Christmas piece based on a Latin poem of the same name, which translates as "Light, warm and heavy as pure gold, and the angels sing softly to the new born baby". In 2000, Whitacre set a short Latin text for mixed choir a cappella. In 2005, he wrote an arrangement for wind ensemble. The choral version became known through Whitacre's project Virtual Choir in 2009. The piece is also available for men's choir. Its duration is about four minutes.

NASA's budget as a percentage of the federal budget

Via Reddit, where the top comment provides an informed discussion of the relation of these two budgets.

19 July 2015

Our grandparents saw things we will never see

"Everywhere men and women reported monarchs flying by the millions in September in gigantic, undulating waves extending for miles; like the passenger pigeon migrations of the age, these swarms sometimes obscured the sun, blurring day into night."
From William Leach's Butterfly People: An American Encounter with the Beauty of the World, citing "A Swarm of Butterflies" in the September 1868 issue of American EntomologistPhoto Credit.

17 July 2015

It's more than just a rock

It starts out as a story about three kids digging up a rock.   But it becomes much more than that.  Easily worth three minutes of your time.

In your face

As reported by Guns.com:
Some residents of St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, are upset over the choice of one local business’ name, which they claim just does not convey the type of character they want in their small town.
Our business is F-Bomb Ordnance, which is a firearms business,” co-owner Dr. Geoff Gorres explained...

But Gorres, who is an emergency room doctor in addition to co-owner of the gun shop, said the play on words is a constitutional-protected right and the name was never created to offend or otherwise cause furor...

Amy Klein, who was one of about a dozen residents who took to the floor during the meeting to speak out against the name, said the blatant use of such a euphemism lowers the standards of the community and does the opposite of what they are trying to achieve by restoring the Main Street area.

But Gorres said he believes the name does no such thing and that he cannot control what other people may find offensive.  “There are a lot of things that offend me in America,” he said. “And I just have to deal with them.”..

But Gorres said the controversy isn’t only about the name, but the fact that they sell firearms. Gorres agreed and said that is “absolutely” part of the problem.  “If the name of our business was F-bomb Records, I don’t think that we’d be having this discussion,” Gorres said.

Dumpster-diving for beauty products

Excerpts from an article at Racked:
"[Selling] makeup is like selling drugs," James Jugan, a New Jersey man, says. Jugan has sold items from the dumpster since 1978, but for the last few years his biggest moneymakers came from the beauty industry. "It’s like having a license to print money. It’s amazing."..

Wimbush started her own [Facebook group], and in just three months she had close to 2,000 members buying and selling items like Urban Decay Naked palettes and Ecotools makeup brushes. Many of the members are there for the sole incentive of high-end cosmetics at dramatically slashed prices—dismissing the obvious, large other price, of course: the item’s source.

"[Sellers] clean up their stuff and [customers] know it's from the dumpster," Wimbush says. "People are willing to take that chance because it's at a really, really discounted price."

Amanda, a professional makeup artist and mother of two, started diving and selling about six weeks ago in Arizona. She says the same dumpster can vary wildly, depending on management. One week it might hold items that look straight off the shelf, the next they’ve "cut bristles off the brushes, gouged out all the eyeshadow, and is completely worthless." ..

All the divers we spoke to were aware of the questionable legality involved. "It's a gray area," Jugan says. "It's worth getting caught. Because the worst they can get you with is trespassing. That's almost like paying for the product. I'll take a trespassing charge once a month if I can get away with getting more product. It's worth it." A typical box haul can yield anywhere between zero to $1,200 worth of products. It’s a gamble, but one these divers keep throwing dice for...

The products making their way to the Facebook marketplace go for ridiculously reduced prices. For example, Too Faced Cocoa Powder Foundation Sephora, which retails for $34, goes for $12 in one group. A bundle including Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer and Smashbox Photo Finish Primer Water goes for $15. Sephora retail prices for those same two items jump to $36 and $32, respectively.


Via The Soul is Bone.

What is the plastic device on this gymnast's hands?

The photo above was one of the Pictures of the Day in The Telegraph (credit AP Photo/Gregory Bull).

My attention was drawn to the young woman's hands, where strips of plastic are secured along her palms.  They would obviously serve to miminize friction when her hands rotate on the bar, but I don't ever remember having seen such a device used during televised Olympic competitions.

Surely some reader out there will have a child in gymnastics training and can clarify for us what these things are called and whether they are training devices or perhaps a new improvement in the sport designed to enhance the health of the athletes.

"Muck farm" explained

During a picnic lunch at a friend's farm, mention was made of a neighbor of theirs who operated a "muck farm."  I had previously only heard the term used with regard to cleaning out a stable, so I had to learn more about muck:
In the terminology of North American agriculture, muck is a soil made up primarily of humus from drained swampland. It is known as black soil in The Fens of eastern England, where it was originally mainly fen and bog. It is used there, as in the United States, for growing specialty crops such as onions, carrots, celery, and potatoes...

Muck farming on drained bogs is an important part of agriculture in New York, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Florida, where mostly vegetables are grown. American "muckers" often have roots from the Netherlands or Eastern Europe, where their ancestors practiced a similar type of farming. The soils are deep, dark colored, and friable, often underlain by marl, or marly clay...

Muck farming is controversial, because the drainage of wetlands destroys wildlife habitats and results in a variety of environmental problems. It is unlikely that any more will be created in the United States, because of environmental regulations. It is prone to problems, such as being very light and usually windbreaks must be provided to keep it from blowing away when dry. It also can catch fire and burn underground for months. Oxidation also removes a portion of the soil each year, so it becomes progressively shallower. Some muck land has been reclaimed for wildlife preserves.
And here's the etymology:
From Middle English mok, muk, from Old Norse myki, mykr (“dung”) (compare Icelandic mykja), from Proto-Indo-European *(s)meug (“slick, slippery”), *meuk (compare Welsh mign (“swamp”), Latin mūcus (“snot”), mucere (“to be moldy or musty”), Latvian mukls (“swampy”), Albanian myk (“mould”), Ancient Greek mýxa 'mucus, lamp wick', mýkes 'fungus'), from *(s)meug, meuk 'to slip'. More at meek.
Apparently the distinction from peat is based on the level of decomposition: peat = slightly decomposed organic material, vs. muck = highly decomposed.
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