Friday, April 27, 2012

Saddle Up!

I'm possessed. Time to go spread evil around the world.

I guess I can't be Famine (after all, I just finished breakfast).

Maybe Conquest? Yeah, that sounds cool.

Gittey-up, horsey!

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Monday, April 16, 2012

Right On Time

A few days back, I was birding a bit at Crosswinds Marsh.  April 5th, in fact.  Warm?  Nope.  Quite chilly, as I recall.   So chilly, I was under-dressed.  (No, I wasn't nude. Naked birdwatching has not yet caught on with the masses.  For that matter, I'm not sure it has caught on anywhere.)  With a brisk breeze, the open boardwalks were really not the place to be. 

With all the chitter-chatter in the bird world relating to the mild winter and unseasonably early summer-like temps contributing to an early bird migration (most of which is nonsense), it was nice to spend a bit of time paying attention to a bird that is one of bona fide "early" migrants. 

Sitting patiently, on the boardwalk railing just a few feet in front of me, sat this Tree Swallow. 

Generally speaking, my records (I have notes dating back to 1995) have Tree Swallows arriving in southeast Michigan around the third week of March.  It is amazing how consistent this bird's migration timetable can be. For that matter, it is amazing how consistent most birds are with their timetable!

Was this bird late?  After all, I had it in April when many of my first-of-the-year records are weeks previous. No.  I had been seeing them here and there for a few weeks. 

This is just the first one who sat long enough for a photo. 

I suspect part of the reason was the chill.  Cool air keeps the insects down.  With little-to-no flying insects, there was really nothing for this bird to catch.  So, with no food, what is the point of zippin' around? 

That said, know that within an hour or so, the insects where starting to move and this blue-green gem started snapping them out of midair with ease.  

I suspect this bird will try and nest in the area.  If is survives the season, it will head back to the deep South or well into Mexico for the winter.  If all goes well, he/she (you can't tell by looking at it) will survive that season and then migrate north again.

Perhaps I'll see it again in March of 2013.  I would bet sometime around the 21st. 

Right on time. 

Saturday, April 14, 2012

11:07PM Local Time

If you looked at my previous entry, you saw that I was at the Titanic Exhibit at The Henry Ford today. Sure, I saw it years ago in a different location, but it was worth seeing again.  As fate would have it, today is the 100th anniversary of the disaster.   That might explain the masses of people. 

To give the exhibit more personal connections to the visitor, each person is given a card bearing the name and details of a real Titanic passenger.  The last room of the exhibit has the names of all "souls on board" organized in columns based on class (First, Second, and Third plus the Crew) which in turn were subdivided to those that survived the wreck and those that didn't.

I was a hotelier by the name of Thomas William Solomon Brown.  Bound for Seattle, he was traveling with his wife (his second wife, actually, who was 20 years his junior) and daughter. He was last seen smoking on the Boat Deck after safely securing spots on Lifeboat 14 for his two loved ones.  His body, if indeed it was recovered, was never identified.  That is a photo of him to the left.

As a Second Class passenger, this was not horribly uncommon. After all, "Woman and children first!" was the order. This was certainly taken seriously, by some. There is a documented case of a young man who turned 16 while on the journey.  He refused to think of himself as a boy and died with the gentlemen smoking what was probably his first (and certainly) last cigar. Sadly, some apparently did not quite get it. 

I started thinking about the timing of the ship's sinking.  She struck the iceberg at 11:40PM on April 14th, 1912 and sunk a few hours later (at 2:20AM on the 15th).  I'm sure those dates and times are common knowledge. 

But keep in mind, that is the time on the ship as recorded by her crew at sea. 

If you are like me, you like to keep important dates in your head so you can think about them a bit as the anniversary rolls around.  In this case, we can even think about the ship hitting the iceberg 100 years the minute. How cool is that?

So, I thought I would take a moment and think about the time zone conversions.  What would 2AM be to me here in Detroit? Well, how awesome is it that somebody already did it.

So, tonight, I'll be out with friends.  Old fart that I am, I doubt I will be out until 11:07PM (I'm using Lighttoller's version. After all, he was on the ship!). But, if I am, I will be sure to raise a toast to the lost.  (For the record, you can use this timeline and subtract 1 hour and 33 minutes from each event.)

Just to add a twist to this blog entry, I have is set to post at 11:07PM tonight.  If you are awake and see this entry go live, know that 100 years ago, basically to the second, she struck the iceberg. 

Now I am stuck wondering what Mr. Brown's thoughts were.  Did he feel the ship and iceberg collide?  Many passengers didn't.  If so, did he think it would sink? Many didn't.  At what point did he realize he would never see the sunlight again? 

I'll leave you with what is considered the last photo of Titanic...

Let's See How This Turns Out

I am currently at the Titanic Exhibit at the Henry Ford. I am now a real passenger.

Second class? This might not turn out so well....

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Monday, April 2, 2012


Two anthropologists fly to the South Sea islands to study the natives. They go to two adjacent islands and set to work. A few months later one of them takes a canoe over to the other island to see how his colleague is doing. When he gets there, he finds the other anthropologist standing among a group of natives.

"Greetings! How is it going?" says the visiting anthropologist.

"Wonderful!" says the other, "I have discovered an important fact about the local language! Watch!"

He points at a palm tree and says, "What is that?"

The natives, in unison, say "Umbalo-gong!"

He then points at a rock and says, "and that?"

The natives again intone "Umbalo-gong!"

"You see!" says the beaming anthropologist, "They use the SAME word for 'rock' and for 'palm tree'!"

"That is truly amazing!" says the astonished visiting anthropologist, "On the other island, the same word means 'index finger'!"

To the best of my knowledge, this completely awesome joke was not used in the case against Carl Bach.  

I suppose you never heard him, right? Well, until a few days ago, I hadn't either.  But, boy 'o boy, he is the stuff of legend in Wood County, Ohio. ( That's just down road from Toledo.)

My travels this past week took me to Perrysburg, Ohio for a conference. These conferences involve field trips.  We found ourselves at the Wood County Historical Museum

To make a long story short, by 1881 (or so), Carl and his lovely wife Mary were not getting along. She asked for a divorce (quite the thing in the late 19th Century) but invited him to still sleep in the barn.  Apparently, in a fit of rage, he murdered her and ultimately mutilated her body.  The sheriff, according to legend, placed three of her severed fingers in a jar thinking they might be needed in the sure-to-come court proceedings. 

Even though he confessed a short time later, mad-man Carl was not convicted until after two years had passed.  On the last day of the Wood County Fair in 1883, he was sent up the ladder to bed, as they say.  It was a big deal. The town even sent out invitations!

So what became of Mary's fingers?  They became part of an exhibit at the Wood County Courthouse along with the murder weapon, the rope used to hang Carl, and the hood he wore to his "party".  For decades, it was on public display for all to see.  At some point (I'm not sure when), the County thought better of Mary's digits and thought it better to pass them along to the Museum for all to see.

And now, folks, for your viewing pleasure, Mary Bach's fingers....

Apparently, the jar at one point held some sort of fluid to preserve the flesh.  Some suggest it was simply whiskey - a very strong possibility as I understand the stuff.  Whatever it was, time has wicked the fluid and moisture from the jar.  Modern-day morticians have examined the glassware and told the Museum to never open it.  A fresh blast of 21st Century air would fragment the phalanges in no time.  

What a story, huh? Follow along, now, boys and girls.  Lunatic kills wife.  Gets neck stretched. Travelers see fingers in a jar a century later.  I can't make this stuff up!  Only in Ohio. 

I wonder what the South Sea Natives would say if they saw the jar?