Wednesday, June 20, 2007

How can I not be called Cute?

Someone recently tried to convince me that opossums are not cute. In fact, I believe they said they were ugly. Here's a picture I took of an opossum in February of 2004. How can anyone say this isn't a totally adorable animal?


Monday, June 18, 2007

End of an Era

I was really saddened this weekend to hear that Don Herbert passed away. For those not as geeky as me, that's Mr. Wizard. I used to watch Mr. Wizard's World on Nickelodeon as a child and he seemed old then! Don Herbert taught science to so many people and got so many kids excited about science it boggles the mind. I remember so many things I learned from that show. He taught concepts in such fun ways. Here are a few highlights I remember off the top of my head.

I remember he taught how flour mills explode by putting a birthday candle in a paint can, feeding a tube into the side of the can, putting a small pile of flour just inside the hole, lighting the candle and then putting on the lid. When he blew into the tube it filled the air in the can with tiny particles of flour which caused the top of the can to explosively blow off when the candle lit them on fire.

I remember him demonstrating air pressure by filling a large can with hot air and then submerging it in cold water. The change in air pressure as the air inside cooled crushed the can.

I remember him picking up a bolt off the bottom of a fish tank and not getting his hand wet because he dusted the surface of the water with yellow powder (I think from a butterfly's wings.)

I remember him seeing how large a column of water could be sucked up a tube strung up the side of an apartment building(again to demonstrate air pressure.)

I remember him cutting a banana without peeling it.

I remember him showing how to play a record with a foam cup and a straight pin.

I remember him showing how to measure the height of a tree with a pie tin and water. (and algebra)

I remember him drawing the space shuttle on a computer with very early computer graphics.

I remember him teaching about fiber optics by putting a flashlight into a black paint can and punching a hole in the side. The water arched out and acted like fiber optics bending the light from the flashlight onto the spot where the water hit.

I remember him showing air flow from cold to warm with some dry ice, regular ice, a lamp and an aquarium.

I remember him calculating the speed of sound with a starter pistol, a stop watch and a walkie talkie.

I remember him teaching about nerves with pins taped to a meter stick.

I remember him making a come-back can.

I remember him cutting a small piece of paper so that you could walk through it.

I remember him challenging someone to fold a piece of paper in half eight times. ( I can't be done, go ahead and try it.)

I remember him breaking a meter stick by putting a piece of newspaper on top and hitting the end, the air pressure on the paper is so great the stick snaps.

I remember the challenge to blow over a little folded piece of paper.

I remember the turning window optical illusion.

I remember him playing music on the rim of glasses.

I remember him getting an egg or ball or something into a cup by knocking a block out between them with a broom.

I remember him keeping water in an inverted glass with a playing card.

i remember him making a mobius strip.

I remember him lighting steel wool on fire.

I remember him showing how a siren works.

I remember him making secret writing with lemon juice.

I remember him showing how to tell if an egg is raw or hard boiled by spinning it.

I remember him showing how to flip a spoon into a glass.

I remember him teaching about adhesion and cohesion in water by pouring water along a string.

Most of all I remember him as a man who was always willing to teach kids about science and make it fun. He explained it in a way that everyone could understand and he didn't have to resort to fancy computer graphics and the like. He used simple language, simple drawings and everyday objects. It is a lesson that sticks with me to this day and I try to teach like him every chance I get.

When I was in elementary school, a teacher asked me to write about a hero of mine. I didn't have any hero's then and I don't now. I think the concept is silly. I do have role models though that I respect greatly and Don Herbert is one of the greatest of my life. I never gave it much thought but I'm sure he was one of the people responsible for making me the hands-on teacher I am today.

He will be sorely missed but he his influence will never be gone.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

2007 Birds 111-116

I'm slowing adding birds at this point. They are getting harder and harder to find. The trees are thick with leaves and I've spotted many of the common birds already. On Memorial Day I walked around Lake Como with Chelsey and Odin. Near the spit of land that juts out into the lake I heard a warbling call and soon spotted a little bird flitting around in the bushes. the call sounded familiar and as I tried to match it up to a mnemonic it suddenly hit me. "I'll hug you and squish you and squeeze you till you squirt." Who could forget that one! It was a warbling vireo. Not a flashy bird but the call makes up for that. Coincidence?

On Saturday, June 9th I started the day out teaching a fossil hunting class at Lilydale Regional Park in St. Paul. While I waited for participants in the dirt patch that passes for a parking lot I heard a call and grabbed my small binocs out of the trunk. It was a first year male American redstart. I wish it was a mature male as then it would have been red instead of yellow. I'm going to count this as my first sighting of they year. I saw one from really far away in the bog at work earlier in the season but this was a much better sighting. Later that same day I went out on a hike with Paul over to the farmstead across the road from the nature center to look for birds during a BioBlitz at work. We spotted warbling vireos there too and we could even see that they had been banded.

June 11th, Paul and I ate lunch quickly and then headed out for a quick drive to look for a bobolink where he had spotted one earlier. We didn't see any there but did see a bunch of Eastern meadowlarks. We did finally catch a glimpse of a bobolink and hear the call near the corner of Norell and co rd. 4. That's a rich corner!

June 13th Paul, Julia and I headed out to the bog at Warner for a short hike. We actually wanted to see if there were any northern waterthrushs but we heard something else instead. We soon found a bird up in a tree at the south end that from behind we thought might be a red-eyed vireo. When it turned around though we caught a spectacular view of a yellow-throated vireo. It was simply beautiful.

Later in the day on June 13th we went canoing on Lake Terrapin to train in some staff on procedures and up at the top of the lake we spotted a pair of loons with two babies. Great stuff. The babies were riding on their parents backs. I had heard loons all spring but this was weirdly my first sighting.

Finally, rounding out the list is the simple and beautiful blue-grey gnatcatcher. Today, June 14th, Paul pointed them out at the very beginning of the work day as a bunch of them were hanging out right by the parking area at work.

I listed Fox Sparrow Twice so I started re-numbering down by 1 with this post.

111 Warbling vireo
112 American redstart
113 Bobolink
114 Yellow-throated vireo
115 Common loon
116 Blue-grey gnatcatcher

Friday, June 08, 2007

Are you Cool?

All the cool kids are getting tattoos of me. Isn't it about time you joined in?


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Abandoning Google

I'm pretty much ready to abandon Google at this point. Their search functionality is almost gone as advertisers and spammers are getting better at figuring out how to get higher and higher ranking. Search results are littered with junk sites that have no relevance to your search. They are simply generic sites with your keyword thrown in and then links to junk articles.

Same story over a yahoo. Are there any actual search engines that work out there anymore?