Tuesday, April 29, 2008

New Content on The Right ----->

And yes, the thing about ant baits does come from personal experience. The warm weather (which is supposed to come to an abrupt halt tonight) has brought the annual inward migration of the sugar ants. Following the logic of The Lobster Hypothesis, the ants seem to be figuring out these ant baits are bad news and learning to avoid them more each year, usually by infesting places not amenable to the instructions on the bait packs. Putting the baits against a wall does not do a lot of good if the ants are nowhere near a wall.

I really am long overdue giving a giant Tip o' The Beak to Emp. Peng. He puts up with an amazing amount of weirdness from me. More than occasionally, I turn The Rookery into an amateur science lab, and he lets out nary a peep about my experiments. When I was testing the effectiveness of cinnamon on ants, he walked in on me dusting cinnamon over half the kitchen counter around the coffeemaker, and did not even blink. Nor did he blink at my controlled experiment testing the hypothesis that you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar (not true--at least with fruit flies). He did not question why I was drilling holes in the bottom of our old paper shredder bin (it makes a nice planter). I even organized the pantry in ascending order by processing level and he went along with it. When I started turning the back quarter of The Rookery's lot into a one-penguin agrarian operation, his only request was "no livestock." He doesn't (seem to) mind that a component of our home decor is made of duct tape or that the bottom crisper drawer is a holding pen for soon-to-be-compost. I could go on, but you get the picture. He deserves more than a Tip o' The Beak, really, for putting up with the mad scientist in his castle.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Talk About CYA

The following is an actual excerpt of the End User License Agreement for the 30-day free trial of Apple's iWork software that I downloaded this morning (caps in the original):
First, let me say that, should I ever be on life support, I sure as heck hope that I'm not being kept alive by a 30 day free trial of ANYTHING. If I am, I would rather it be Apple than a Microsoft product, though. Nobody wants a whole new, literal, meaning to Blue Screen Of Death. I would also hope our nuclear facilities and air traffic control would have sprung for the full install version of any program that is keeping reactors from melting down or planes from colliding midair. And while I am not an expert in aircraft navigation, if presentation software plays a key role in getting me from Point A to Point B, I may have to reconsider air travel entirely. It could explain all the lost luggage, though.

Answer of the Day

Where prune juice comes from. In sum: rehydrate prunes, cook the bejeebers out of them, strain off the bejeebers and other solids, and presto! Prune juice.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Oh, How I Want To Title This Post "Jackass Cousteau"

Not meaning disrespect to Jacques Cousteau, inventor of SCUBA gear, but when the Penguin News of the Day is about an African penguin (aka "jackass penguin," for the sound they make, not any inherent personality disorder) wearing a wetsuit, that is the sort of title that pretty much begs to be written. Yup. You read that right. Penguin in a wetsuit. Why, you may ask, was a penguin in a wetsuit? His butt was balding.

Tip o' the beak to PengSis for the news tip.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Question of the Day

If prunes are dried plums, where do they get prune juice?

Monday, April 21, 2008

Penguin Quote of the Day

From a Q-and-A article in Slate, for Earth Day:

...oil companies and other big corporations run ads on TV saying how green and forward-thinking they have become. Is this sincere, or opportunistic? How can big industries be persuaded to become genuinely green?

Bill McKibben:
The more penguins in the ad, the worse they're raping the planet.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Non-Exploding Penguin on the Telly

It's just gone 8 p.m., and time for the penguin on top of your television set to...fly?

And just how do the penguins do it?

And a final penguin clip for those who are completely baffled by the title of this post:

You can ignore the first two minutes.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Stop Me Before I Plant Again!

It started innocently enough. I just wanted to replace a plum tree that is turning out to be more trouble than it is worth. A quick jaunt through my favorite online nursery came up with a suitable replacement plum, and a "$50 off any order of $25 or more" promo. Since my tree was $27.50, it would actually save me a couple of bucks to add $22.50 more to my cart.

This is dangerous. A bull in a china shop has nothing on a Pengy let loose in the nursery catalog with $22.50, especially since the unplantable area out back is getting plowed some time in the next couple of weeks, leaving me with a quarter acre of fresh ground to play with. OK, let me revise my previous statement. A bull in a china shop has nothing on a Pengy let loose in the nursery catalog with $22.50 and a quarter acre of good south exposure to fill up. In addition to the tree I was planning on getting, I am now expecting an elderberry bush and two purple trilliums.

For those playing along with the home game, that brings The Rookery's orchard up to:
3 apple trees
2 sweet cherries
1 sour cherry
1 peach
2 plums (the bad one is getting a reprieve until I decide whether to cut it down entirely)
1 elderberry
3 grapevines
3 blueberries
3 types of blackberries (~10 plants)
3 types of raspberries (~6 plants)
7 pots of strawberries, with two in-ground patches planned for installation next year

That is just the fruits. Let's not get started on the vegetables.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

In the News

Charlton Heston, dead at age 84. The entire internet makes the same joke.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Look to Your Right ---->

Sharp-eyed regular readers may have noticed a couple of new elements in my sidebar. If you did not, don't worry. I just added them 10 minutes ago, so don't go hurrying off just yet to schedule an appointment with the opthamologist. First, check out the new links. In an effort to bring some fundage into the Rookery, I have recently started writing for Helium.com and eHow.com. Both are repositories for brief articles on a range of subjects, and my goal is to write on as many of those subjects as possible. At the moment, I seem to be gravitating toward domestic topics, but I am looking at some topics that will get me out of the kitchen and maybe even out of the house.

I will be keeping the links in the sidebar up to date with my latest postings to those sites, and a couple of other sites I have my sights set on, too. If you like what you see here, or liked my short-lived secondary blog, Household Hacks (which I have officially declared defunct, sorry), check out what I am writing for those other sites. Click early and often, as I plan to add to my library of articles on both sites frequently.

A Word About the Headlines

This morning's New York Times carried an article, In Massachusetts, Universal Coverage Strains Care. It is worth a read, especially for anyone who is putting a lot of weight behind a candidate's stance on health care reform this election cycle. For those not in to link clicking, the gist of the article is that Massachusetts is finding itself in a bit of a pickle after mandating health insurance for residents last year. Seems that these folks who are now compelled to fork over premiums for health insurance have this strange notion that they are entitled to see a doctor. Unfortunately, in the rush to eliminate the uninsured, someone forgot to check to make sure there were enough GPs to go around once everyone would be insured. Turns out, there are not. Oops. Bit of an oversight there. The article starts with the anecdotal evidence of a Massachusetts doctor who is taking new patients, as long as those patients can wait 14 months for a checkup. For the patient, that is a year's worth of premiums just to be on a wait ing list for a doctor.

This highlights one of the things that skeeves me about the current political discourse. While I am happy as a clam that the nation is discussing health care, we seem to be conflating "universal health insurance" with "universal health care." As Massachusetts is discovering, the hard way, those two are not interchangeable. Mandating universal health insurance is easy. A few signatures, and you're there. Actually providing universal health care is much more difficult. In addition to signatures, you need trained medical professionals, on the ground and available to the entire population, including the parts of the population that live in the kinds of places I affectionately call "the nation's groin boil." Without doctors who have open appointment slots where the patients are, it doesn't matter how terrific an insurance plan is; the patients will still not have access to health care.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Since You Asked (Well, Maybe Not You, But Someone)

When people find out I am in Mensa, one of the first questions they usually ask is, "What do Mensans talk about?" When I first joined an online Mensa discussion group, I got sucked in to a conversation that somehow segued into being about koala poop. Currently, and I am proud to say I started this one, there is a minor side discussion going on the subject of "If robots who were bound by Asimov's First Law of Robotics (A robot cannot harm a human, or through inaction cause a human being to come to harm) ran the U.S. economy, would they have bailed out Bear Stearns?" There is also a lively discussion on who writes the number 7 with a slash through it.

Find out how to join Mensa here.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Speaking of Naptime

A sampler of things I learned from PengSis and the Fledglings' visit:
  1. Naptime is related less to how much sleep the Fledglings need than to the grownups' need to have them napping, and occasionally to the grownups' need to nap.
  2. Don't let something as trivial as a lack of ducks keep you from feeding the ducks.
  3. Consult a physician to determine if you are healthy enough to start a game of "ski jump off the banister" that involves you running up and down stairs carrying one or more Fledgling. If the doctor says you are healthy enough for this kind of game, consult a psychiatrist, because whatever the doctor says, you are not well.
  4. The rules of sibling fights have changed now that your older sibling is the parent. If you must laugh at this (and you must), it is only polite to excuse yourself to another room.
  5. Fledglings do not require full disclosure. It is perfectly legitimate to point out how Mommy and her sister are sharing, without mentioning that it took three decades to get to this point.
  6. The two year old plays the trombone better than I do.
  7. I still don't want any of my own. Rentals are far superior. You can return the rentals after 3 days, and you get to keep the playdough.

Three Days Ago's Political Thought, A Bit Late

Slate beat me to the punch posting it, but not in thinking that, once your campaign runs ads positioning you as the best candidate to answer the red phone at 3 a.m., you are no longer allowed to claim that any mistakes you make (or misspeakings, as the case may be) came about because you missed nap time.