Sunday, September 30, 2007

How I spent my Saturday

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My sweet lords: prologue

It's cool; we're all mammals here--not like it's LiveJournal or anything.

The bear exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo is named "Lords of the Arctic" after the polar bears; no word yet on how the (South American) spectacled bears or the American black bears of the temperate zone feel about that name.

I have *tons* of photogenic carnivore photos to reduce in size and post over the next week or so; for now, since it's travel day, I'll just hint at it by saying that the bears were so active and engaging that I wouldn't have been totally surprised if they'd put on top hats, grabbed their canes, and done a little tap-dance for me.

I also have cats and other animal pictures to post.

Overheard at the zoo:

"I promise you, that is NOT an earwig!"


"No, it's NOT a snake coming for you; she [i.e., me] just rustled a little bamboo by accident.". (Further conversation with the parents revealed this had been a recurring theme all day; the boy was intensely snake-phobic, and was convinced snakes lurked in every nook and cranny. My coming up beside them and bumping into some overhanging bamboo just about made the poor boy jump out of his skin.)


"No, you can't be bad to the animals here, because it's their home. If they came to our home, you could...", (obviously not liking the implications of where this conversation was going, and rethinking on the fly, "...put them outside so they could go back to their own habitat.".

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A living national treasure

So now that Dad's retired, he's got more time to pursue his craft of making wooden bowls.

He's learned from many sources, and one of them is actually a living national treasure---William McClure makes Appalachian bowls, and has one in the Smithsonian.

Dad took me and Mom out to meet him and his wife. They're a sweet old couple, with a house full of crafts. I think they said he's 82 years old; I'll verify that when I get home. They were very welcoming, even though we had dropped in on them with no warning--they are very hospitable, and seemed to enjoy the company.

Dad played a little practical joke when he introduced me--he said he'd brought his city-girl daughter-in-law over to meet him, "because she didn't believe there were any Democrats in this county". He laughed delightedly, sprang over to a nearby table, and snatched up a photograph to show me. Laughing and wheezing through his emphysema, he showed me a picture of Bill Clinton shaking his hand at a reception, and said, "Two...Slick Willies!".

This is Dad and Mr. McClure, Mrs. McClure, and Mom:

Then we moved outside, and he and Dad swapped stories for a while.

More later; I've got to get ready to go to the airport now. In the meantime, here are some of Dad's bowls.

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In which the blogger is dragged, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century

Actually, not so much kicking and screaming as all that; it's actually quite nice what current cars can do.

As a grad student for most of the last decade, I've pretty much exclusively driven used cars from the early 90s, so this rental car (unlimited mileage!) is blowing me away with what it can do! I can lock and unlock it at a distance; it lights up to remind me which unfamiliar car in the parking lot is mine, and I can adjust all the windows (including the back seat) while tooling down the freeway.

I haven't figured out one thing, yet, though--if the windows are all electric, what happens if you go off a bridge into deep water and short out? I'm not quite sure how you escape from such a car under the circumstances. I guess the obvious answer is, don't go off a bridge. Longer-term, however, I bet someone's figured that out.

As Dog is my witness, the first new car I get after this is going to be able to do all that, plus it will be one of those talking cars that gives directions.


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Before my conference in Cincinnati, I visited my in-laws in Kentucky, and they drove me around to show me the state. I used to "commute" back and forth on I-65 between Birmingham, AL and Bloomington, IN, but Kentucky is such a convergence of landscapes that that experience didn't give me any inkling of what the center of the state looks like.

Much of the drive to and from Lexington goes through rock like this (not too shabby for shooting out the back seat of a moving car, is it? :) :

So I totally get the horizontal lines--that's the layers of rock that the glaciers deposited in sequence as they expanded and receded. Those horizontal layers tend to be a lot more regular than I would have thought; it's amazing how straight they can be.

It's the vertical lines that mystified me, until Dad explained. Those are the holes left by the drill bits as the builders were cutting through the hills to put in the freeway. They'd drill down at regular intervals, pack the holes full of explosives, and BOOM! I would have expected a wholesale, uncontrolled explosion, followed by a big unholy mess to clean up, but Dad explained that this technique caused the rock to shear off in vertical layers--a relatively neat and controlled process.

The explanation makes sense, certainly lots more than the vertical glaciers I was trying to imagine putting down those lines.

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Such a deal!

I got a really good price on my digital camera some time ago, and was quite pleased at the quality I got for the price I paid.

Well, as they say, there's no free lunch (and how long before *that* saying's going to bite me in the ass when it's quote-mined as supporting Dembski's pseudo-math?)--it burns through batteries like a bastard! I used 8 just at the zoo yesterday alone.

Mom and Dad bought me a 16-pack of AAs Monday; I've already used up all but two of them (granted, it was over 1000 photos, but still...). Fortunately, Dad can recharge and re-use them, so they aren't just going straight into the landfill.

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