Archive for November, 2007

A midge-hood is just one of a number of extreme... (Picture from Scotsman.com)

Occasionally this blog mentions things about midges (phantom midges) and then things of a Scottish nature (kilts, flying ants in Scotland…). So now, I bring to you: Scottish Midges!

Apparently, they are quite a problem and not something the tourism bureau often mentions. Well, one in particular called the Highland Midge or Culicoides impunctatus (which just begs for a cartoon rendering of a midge in a kilt) is the culprit. Undiscovered Scotland has an interesting page about these midges here, with a link to the Midge Forecast (which is closed for the winter but will reopen when the midges are back…sort of like the swallows to Capistrano…well, OK, alike in that they both fly). June to August are the worst months.

According to the makers of Midgeater Max (who are backed by a reputable scientist):

Because it is found in such dense populations, it is estimated that in some parts of Scotland, a single hectare of land can host up to 50 million midges. That is a similar number to the total human population of the whole UK.  This means the equivalent of ten midges for every man, woman and child in the whole country.

I found out about the midges through this old story from the BBC News which talkes about the “splatometer.”

Now clap you hands along to the fabulous Midgie Song, which I just love!

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Just so you know…

Had to work Friday, which was kind of nice as nearly everyone else had taken a personal day off. Discovered, however, that the stairwell at work is a portal directly to Hell.

Seriously. It was about 100 degrees in that stairwell. I expect vines to be growing up the walls any day now…I’ll open the door and hear that stock jungle sound that you hear in every Amazon movie (parrots squawking and an odd rattling call). Just going up one flight of stairs causes me to be drenched in sweat.

One time I did have cause to go to the basement down there, as there was a tornado warning. Three of us went down to the bottom of the stairs and pulled open the huge steel door marked “Authorized Access Only.” It revealed a rusty wall with a small, person-sized square opening leading to a dark corridor even further below ground. Spooky! We decided to not investigate further.

It would explain how they heat the whole place though…but I haven’t seen any dark rivers flowing down there or guard dogs, so maybe not, huh.

(There is a similar story involving this theme in the fun and worth reading book: Summon The Keeper by Tanya Huff

Claire Hansen, the Keeper, is summoned to the Elysian Fields Guest House to reseal a hole in the basement, which is literally an opening to Hell. The owner and monitor of the site disappears, leaving Claire stuck managing the place until the problem is solved. Her new employee, Dean McIssac, is a gorgeous Newfie who cooks, cleans, and lives the Boy Scout oath. Then there’s Jacques Labaet: very French Canadian, very sexy, very dead. Jacques is a ghost who wants to be the man in Claire’s life. Oh yeah, and there’s Austin, a talking cat with attitude: “I barely know you, but I’m assuming you’re human. I’m not saying this is a good thing, it’s just the way it is.”

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fall dandelion

Yup. Found this perky little fellow blooming for all it’s worth the other day. Seems to be pretty frost resistant, as we’ve had a few chilly nights. Guess that’s why they are so successful (especially in my yard…the neighbors hate me for this…oh, and the cottonwood tree in the spring, but that’s a whole ‘nother post).

Look, I’ll go out and spray RoundUp on poison ivy (because I can’t seem to kill it any other way…and I’ve tried pulling, cutting, and everything else short of toxic waste!) but I happen to like some color in my lawn. Nothing cheers me up like a field of yellow (rather than boring, uniform green grass). You’ve got to admire a plant that is so quickly adaptable to its environment (notice the ones that bloom lower after the first mowing).

I find it interesting that if you search for “dandelion” that the first thing that comes up in my smart browser (it’s so helpful it’s painful) is “dandelion+kill”….then “get rid of.” Must be a lot of foaming at the mouth over this little plant.

If you are looking for some good pictures and info on dandelions, check out this website.

(As always, please use commonsense before eating lawn-grown plants. Especially if you have dogs. And neighbors who spray or use Permagreen or whatever. Probably some extra zip you could do without). Basically, it’s a good leafy veg. In fact, it’s a multi-million business growing dandelions for the food supply (tell that to an irate neighbor) but mostly for European palates. Here’s some interesting info for farmers in Canada considering growing dandelions as a commercial crop…notice that you are NOT allowed to let them flower.

For your amusement, I offer up this wonderful series of Cruciferous Crusaders trading cards form the Leafy Greens Council…collect them all! Yeah, like this will make any kid eat more greens….Escarole Rex….yeesh!

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Tree in the middle of the Road

I love this road! In my neighborhood there is a street that has tree growing right in the middle of it. Smack dab in the middle. I can’t figure out who had enough pull with the city to make sure they didn’t cut it down when they paved the road.

Still, I am worried it may not last much longer. It is beginning to hollow out from both sides and since we live in such a litigious society I’m sure someone will call and have it cut down. Sigh. Guess I will have to enjoy it while I can.

After some looking, it seems this may be more common than I first thought. Perhaps it is just road workers dodging some extra work? “Hey, our plans don’t say anything about removing a tree…aaw, just pave around it!”

Might have to start a Flickr group just for trees in the middle of the road…check this out for another paved and this for an unpaved one. This one is the best, though, for size and lushness of foliage.

Apparently, a tree in the middle of the road can be a tourist attraction….that is, if you live in Iowa. According to their tourism website:

A surveyor was marking the line between Audubon and Cass counties and used a slender cottonwood branch as he walked. When the line was established, he pushed it in the soft earth at the exact point where the lines crossed and where the present crossroad was to be in later years. The switch took root and it has grown into today’s tall and widespread 100 foot tree. To reach the “Tree in the Road” from 71 Highway at the town of Brayton travel east on County Road T to F-65, and follow the green “Tree in the Road” signs on the gravel roads.  From Exira, go east on F-58 and follow the green  “Tree in the Road” sign.   

Personally, I want to see the “tree in road” signs 😉

Of course, when you visit there don’t forget to also see such exciting attractions as the plow stuck in the tree:

At PLOW IN THE OAK PARK” one mile south of Exira, there is a legend that a farmer went off to the Civil War leaving his plow against the sapling. As it grew, the plow became a part of the tree. Today, less and less of the plow is visible but there stands yet, a large oak tree, with an iron plow in its heart. It has been written about nationally, as one of the country’s “Famous Trees”, and even by Ripley’s “Believe It or Not”.

Heady stuff. Not a tree but still odd, Albert, the “world’s largest bull” (according to them) is also nearby. And no, that is NOT an udder in the picture…you can find some great pictures of Albert here and a fact sheet here.    ***Just so you know, I did drive by the World’s Largest Holstein Cow in North Dakota. It was nice to see SOMETHING that wasn’t flat at that point in my road trip across the state, but I do think the veins on the udder are creepy looking…

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 Cool photo by Saint Plan

Well, this is slightly odd: WordPress keeps track of all the search terms that people use to stumble upon this blog. And the number one search term, by a huge and overwhelming majority is “under your kilt.”

I’m not sure if that means people are expecting something a wee bit naughty when they click on my blog or if they are just seriously way off track by coming here. Now, I do have this post, which features a stunning picture of a kilt by Kilt 2…

So, because I’m just a helpful kind of lass (and half Scottish), I’m going to give you, my poor misdirected passing visitor, some places to send you that you might actually be looking for:

First off, check out this silly “what’s under your kilt” website. It’s a mindless, very simple game that amused me for a while. If you are looking for a witty (and some not so witty) comeback to the question of what you have beneath, you can look at this site.

On a more practical level, this site has a great idea: kilt underwear! After all, wool is pretty scratchy…and I promise not to call it a slip.

If you don’t want to spend a fortune on a designer kilt or a traditional kilt, check out the unique American company Utilikilts. I have to say that they have some pretty cool stuff! Although, I’m not sure this will help the situation in Iraq….

If you are really feeling ambitious, you can find directions on how to make your own kilt at this comprehensive website.

Perhaps you are looking for the guidebook What’s Under Your Kilt?

Hopefully, you are well on your way to finding what you were looking for. Hey, feel free to check out the other posts here, though.

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As I was giving out treats to the neighborhood kids this Halloween, something was very odd…it was light outside! Trick or treating started at 6 p.m. and it was bright enough that you couldn’t tell who had their porch lights on or not. Very strange.

Got me thinking about daylight savings time, since we have to turn the clocks back tomorrow… a whole week later than usual. Of course, no one really has a clue why we do this or what started the whole thing. There are plenty of sites that list various theories, causes and Benjamin Franklin (who else, of course). However, the first law regarding daylight savings in the U.S. didn’t pass until 1918. This site here has a cool graphic that demonstrates how changing clocks at various points across the world changes (or does not change) things. 

I have a fascinating book on this subject:

Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Savings Time by Michael Downing

I found out all sorts of weird stuff…about loopholes in the Uniform Time Act that gave us time disasters like Indiana (wait, this is starting to sound like a Thursday Next book!) Also, that–oooh, big surprise–most of this mucking about with clocks is due to powerful business lobbying (to name a few of industries: candy, golf, BBQ) and politics.

There was an interesting article about the large number of deaths caused by daylight savings here. This study here talks about how it is hard for our bodies to adjust to this time shift as well. If you are looking for the definitive website on time, time zones and daylight savings data look here.

Personally, I’m more worried about these changes, than clock changes!

I’ll end with this quote, which I find amusing and appropriate:

“I don’t really care how time is reckoned so long as there is some agreement about it, but I object to being told that I am saving daylight when my reason tells me that I am doing nothing of the kind. I even object to the implication that I am wasting something valuable if I stay in bed after the sun has risen. As an admirer of moonlight I resent the bossy insistence of those who want to reduce my time for enjoying it. At the back of the Daylight Saving scheme I detect the bony, blue-fingered hand of Puritanism, eager to push people into bed earlier, and get them up earlier, to make them healthy, wealthy and wise in spite of themselves.” (Robertson Davies, The Diary of Samuel Marchbanks, 1947, XIX, Sunday.)   😉

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