The Doofus

This is the Doofus. This is one of the last pictures we took of her before she died on Sunday, August 28, 2010. Her real name wasn’t the Doofus, it was just the most used of several names she acquired during her time with us. She was nameless and anonymous for the first six or so years of her life. She spent those as a Westie breeder dog in a puppy farm in Missouri. All of the puppies that she produced over that time doubtless received names when they were dispersed and sold to the public. But she went nameless until she was finally released from her sentence and we acquired her as a rescue dog around Christmas time in 2005. The folks who rescued her that Christmas cleaned her up and named her Noel before turning her over to us. We called her Ellie. We were supposed to be fostering her until they could find her a permanent home, but we knew as soon as we saw her that we were going to keep her.
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OpenLaszlo Animation

I’m experimenting with OpenLaszlo to animate a solar shutter demo:

The current animation is a Flash SWF file embedded in this post using an object tag. I’m working on a DHTML version that will implement a video player. At this point I am focusing on setting up the development environment and learning the OpenLaszlo application and LZX language. Better graphics will come later.

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The Trailer

Ok, so I didn’t quite find a trailer for “less than $200″. But I came close. After following a few dead ends in a futile search for a good $100 trailer, I found this one for $225. Although we haven’t fitted it to the boat yet, it really seems like a solid trailer that will work great for our needs. Very solidly constructed, robust leaf springs, good tires, a winch, plenty of rollers, a set of configurable bunks, and the seller threw in a couple of guide-ons (not pictured below) that we can adapt if necessary. The trailer is exactly 14 ft long so we don’t have any excess length to deal with in parking or storing it. Have not gotten the light system to completely work yet (just bought the trailer yesterday) but the wiring looks solid and I really like the custom-made tail lights, very cool looking and located out of the way on the fenders. All in all, I’m really happy with this purchase and our total outlay is still only $425 for boat, motor, and trailer. We’ll probably be around $500 to get the whole thing together and running – not counting customizations like decks, new paint, etc. I’ve ordered the needed parts for the motor. Getting that running will really determine whether we have done as well cost-wise as we think we have.

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Jon Boat

Will and I have been looking for a used Jon boat to fish the rivers around here – especially some of the larger tailwaters such as those below Bull Shoals, Beaver, and Norfork reservoirs. We were looking for a 14′ boat with a motor and trailer that is wide enough to be stable when standing up for fly casting. The other main criteria was cost, we want something inexpensive (i.e., we are cheap). We were tempted by anything in the $800 – $1000 price range but there didn’t seem to be many (any) that met our criteria in that range. Last week we finally found one on Craig’s list that met most of our criteria, especially the cheap requirement. The price was $200, so the fact that it did not have a trailer did not seem critical in that we feel we can obtain one and still stay at less than $400 total outlay. The boat itself is well used but has pretty much the exact physical characteristics we were looking for. The motor is 70′s vintage, very clean, and sounds good when you pull the start rope. We need to get a couple of fuel system fittings before we can test it but the owner (who gave the appearance of being a very honest fellow) said it ran great the last time it was used. For $200 we figured we could afford to take a little risk on the motor. We are now looking for a used trailer, which should not be too hard to find for less than $200 in this part of the country. Here are a few photos:

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We didn’t cut the clematis down to the ground last fall like we usually do (out of laziness, not intent). Based on this spring’s results, it appears to have worked out ok.

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Roaring River Fishing

Yesterday, Will and I spent part of the day fishing at the Roaring River Trout Park near Cassville, MO. This park incorporates several miles of the Roaring River immediately downstream of where it originates as a 25 million gallon/day spring. Most streams in Missouri are too warm to support trout populations. However, at some locations where large springs issue from the karstic dolomite and limestone in southern Missouri, the water is cold enough for trout. The state has created trout parks at a number of these locations where spring flow is large enough and consistent enough. The parks are designed to accommodate a wide range of fishing interests including providing people an opportunity to catch and take home trout for dinner. Accordingly, all of these parks are intensively stocked to keep up with the take rate and to provide a very good probability of catching your next meal. Apparently they base their stocking rate on the number of daily permits sold and some rule-of-thumb estimate of how many fish are hauled home per permit issued. This way they make sure that plenty of trout are always available for the taking. While we were there yesterday, we observed many stringers of nice rainbows being carried around by successful fishermen (and women).

I mention these facts as a means of characterizing our respective success rates yesterday. Will had a very successful day hooking and landing on the order of 8 or so fish (see photo), and hooking and losing maybe 4 or 5 others. He also had many strikes where he was unable to set the hook. The lost fish and the missed strikes were in large part because he was using #22 midges for most of the day (very small hooks). I, on the other hand, caught 0 (yes, that is a zero, not an “O”) fish, hooked and lost 0 fish, and had 0 confirmed strikes. If you do the math, between the two of us, we probably validated the park’s rule-of-thumb stocking rate – he no doubt caught more than the normal amount of fish and I, no doubt (duh) caught less than the normal amount of fish. If the park based it’s stocking rate on Will’s results, the river would soon be swarming with fish like the breeding ponds at the onsite hatchery. If the park based it’s stocking on my success rate, the river would soon be devoid of any trout. Since Will released all of his fish, there was an overall net gain in the trout population for the next day’s fishermen. Of course, I also contributed to the gain in my own unique way. Bottom line is that Will gained more confirmation of the value of the time and effort he puts into tying flies and learning techniques while I am left to ponder the gross injustices of the fishing gods.

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Hammons Field

We wanted to attend at least one Springfield Cardinals minor league game in Springfield (about 1 1/2 hours from us) before we moved. It was a good day for baseball – early spring, sun shining, home team won.

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If you found this staring you in the face from a foot away while you are eating dinner on the couch, what would you do?

Doofus stare

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K-T Boundary – Update

It seems that a panel of 41 scientific researchers (see the article abstract for a listing of participants), after studying all of the evidence for various dinosaur demise theories, have recently published an article in Science Magazine that concludes that the Alvarez asteroid theory is the most likely explanation for the dinosaur extinction that occurred 65 my ago. You can read about it here if you don’t subscribe to Science Magazine: A Theory Set In Stone. This appears to me to be the most definitive conclusion yet regarding the Alvarez theory. Of course, science does not preclude a re-evaluation if ongoing (such as the one in Antarctica) or future studies uncover contradictory evidence.
Here is one depiction of the Chicxulub crater showing its approximate location on the Yucatan Penninsula:
Chicxulub Crater
Below is a gravity anomaly map of the Chicxulub impact structure. The accompanying USGS description reads, “The coastline is shown as a white line. A striking series of concentric features reveals the location of the crater. White dots represent water-filled sinkholes (solution-collapse features common in the limestone rocks of the region) called cenotes after the Maya word dzonot. A dramatic ring of cenotes is associated with the largest peripheral gravity-gradient feature. The origin of the cenote ring remains uncertain, although the link to the underlying buried crater seems clear.”
Chicxulub Crater

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Societal Inequality

I recently came across an article discussing a book authored by two epidemiologists entitled,”The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better”. The book title caught my attention because it addresses an issue that seems to me to be at the heart of a lot of the conflict now occurring in our political system. It is well documented that over the past 20 to 30 years, income inequality in the U.S. has increased substantially and that, while the incomes of the lower 95% of wage earners have stagnated, the upper 5% have seen dramatic increases in earnings. This circumstance has implications for all kinds of issues this country is now facing: 1) the anger over the Wall Street bailout and executive salaries/bonuses, 2) the seemingly unequal influence that highly paid lobbyists and special interest money has over our politics and politicians, 3) the inability of millions of Americans to purchase adequate health insurance, 4) the increasing number of people earning below the poverty level and the consequent costs to society, 5) the highest rate of incarceration of any developed country in the world, and many other issues. The study that “The Spirit Level” is based on directly addresses the inequality issue by comparing various indexes of societal problems to levels of inequality measured for developed (“rich”) countries throughout the world. Charts used for these comparisons paint a startling picture supporting the authors’ conclusion that higher levels of societal problems are strongly positively correlated to higher levels of inequality. Particularly noteworthy are the consistently troubling locations of the U.S. data points on the charts. The article linked above includes some explanations for a subset of these correlations, but just a quick run-through of the charts provides a clear picture of the book’s thesis. The article provides other links to reviews and comments on the study and the book. As would be expected, there are criticisms about how the study results should be interpreted, but there doesn’t seem to be any serious disagreement with how the data were collected and analyzed (i.e., the charts). You can draw your own conclusions (I’m going to attempt to read the book). Embedded below is a slide show of the charts that comes from the web site set up by the study authors. It is best viewed by clicking the “menu” button at the bottom of the slideshow window and selecting “View Fullscreen”.

The Places We Live is an amazing photojournalism exhibition that gets right to the heart of what economic inequality really means throughout the world. The first US venue for the exhibit was at the National Building Museum in Washington DC in September-November of 2009. Here is a description posted on the museum’s website:

“In late summer 2005, Magnum photographer Jonas Bendiksen moved into a small room in the middle of Kibera, Nairobi, to try to understand how daily life is lived in one of Africa’s largest slums. He was immediately struck by the residents’ awesome capacity to create normalcy and dignity out of extremely challenging living conditions.

His stay in Nairobi sparked a three-year project documenting households and families in Caracas, Mumbai, and Jakarta. Bendiksen attempted to challenge some of his own assumptions about urban poverty. He discovered that it was impossible to generalize the lives and experiences of one-sixth of the world’s population. He discovered that – beyond the common perceptions of poverty, misery, destitution, insecurity, and danger – there were more stories that needed to be expressed. In The Places We Live, Bendiksen captures the enterprise and hard-work, hope and humor, and love and compassion that occur even in the face of some of the world’s most difficult environments.

The exhibition can be viewed at The Places We Live website. Just a heads up, there is audio component to the site.

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