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Uncommonly Sensible

Keeping the "anal" in analytical... (While trying to remain civilized)

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Location: United States

Monday, October 30, 2006

Just in time for Hallowe'en...

Black Cat Adoptions Banned on Halloween
A.P.: No black cat will cross your path this Halloween...many shelters around the country [are] prohibiting black cat adoptions from now to Nov. 2, fearing the animals could be mistreated in Halloween pranks - or worse, sacrificed in some satanic ritual.

There are some very weird people running around loose, so I wouldn't doubt that these concerns are justified.

However, people will find a way to indulge themselves somehow, often enough.

We always had pets when I was a child, and up until a few years ago I had a cat. He was mostly not black, as he was a Burmese, which is similar to a Siamese...but with a better disposition.

My reason for having sworn off pets is when I got new carpeting in my previous residence; the subfloor was heavily stained with feline effluence, all over the house. I wanted to get rid of him at that point, so my sister took him.

My new home has hardwood and tile flooring, no wall-to-wall carpeting, but I'm done with pets.

Besides, I like to be able to disappear for weeks at a time without making arrangements.

Cats don't have to be black to bring bad luck...

Friday, October 27, 2006

The New American Motorcycle?

Victory Motorcycles, a division of Polaris Industries, has been in the motorcycle business for several years now.

In 1998, Polaris introduced Victory Motorcycles, which were among the first new American motorcycles in decades...since the Indian Motorcycle company went "belly up" in 1953.

Monopolies are no good for fostering a competitive market, because there's no incentive to improve the status quo.

Fortunately, there are now quite a few options available in that market.

Much as I like my Harley, I'm glad that they're no longer "the only game in town" if one wishes to acquire an American motorcycle.

Most of those other American motorcycle companies haven't entered into the luxury touring motorcycle market, but Victory Motorcycles wants to change that...and they're looking for feedback from their potential customers.

The picture above is one of four concept drawings that they want people to vote on; it's my personal preference, because it appears to be the one that is the most comfortable for a passenger.

I'm fairly sure that passengers would agree...

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The height of decadence?

For those with an extra $10K laying around, who can't think of anything better to do with it...I present:
Dinner in the Sky.

Dinner in the Sky takes place in Belgium at a table suspended up to 50 meters high. (164 feet)

It can also be done elsewhere, for additional charges.
(If you can afford it at all...why not where you want?)

Technical specifications
Total weight of the table: 2,200 kilograms (4,850 pounds)
Weight of the crane: 90 or 160 metric tons (99 or 176.3 U.S. tons)
Table measurements (not assembled): 6 x 2.5 meters (20 x 8.2 feet)
Table measurements (assembled): 9 x 5 meters (29 x 16.4 feet)
Rotation range of the seats: 180°
Maximum height: 50 meters (164 feet)
Number of dinner guests seated (four-point seat belts): 22

Basis - 8 hours
Dinner (table + crane + logistic & security staff) 7,900 Euros ($9,913)
Transport (table + crane + client location scouting) 750 Euros ($941)

Payment conditions
50% down; balance due 30 days before the event.
Weather risk insurance 10% of the total + 15% tax.
(If paying that much for dinner, I'd get insurance)

For those with the wherewithal:
(And the desire)
DAVID GHYSELS +32 (0)2 333.38.10

I've rappeled 100 feet out of helicopters, and hundreds of feet under and above ground. I can tell you from personal experience that it appears to be a lot more when you're looking down from above than it does from below.

Not that I'll ever have that kind of "money to burn".

But if I did? I'd go for it...

Monday, October 23, 2006

Going batty!

Bats are our friends!

But they may be the most misunderstood animals in the United States (if not the World), even though as consumers of enormous numbers of insects, they rank among the most beneficial.

As a caver, I've encountered quite a few of the little critters...and even rescued a few knocked off their perches by carelessness.

I also saw lots of them in an old mine near my brother's place, while exploring same with him and my nephew a couple of years ago.

Almost all bats in the U.S., and 70% of the bat species worldwide, feed almost exclusively on insects and are thus extremely beneficial. In fact, bats are the only major predators of night-flying insects. One bat can eat between 600 and 1,000 mosquitoes and other insect pests in just one hour.

While most United States bat species are insectivorous, bats in other parts of the world feed on a variety of items in addition to insects. Many species feed primarily on fruit, while several types feed on nectar and pollen.

Fruit bats perform an extremely important function as seed dispersers. Nectar eating bats, including the federally-listed endangered lesser long-nosed and greater Mexican long-nosed bats, are important pollinators. Many plant species depend almost entirely on bats for pollination.

Of the 45 species of bats found in the continental United States, six are federally-listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. These species include the gray bat, Indiana bat, Ozark big-eared bat, Virginia big-eared bat as well as the two long-nosed bats mentioned above. In addition to the listed continental U.S. species, the Hawaiian hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus semotus)(Hawaii), little Mariana fruit bat (Pteropus tokudae)(Guam) and Mariana fruit bat (Pteropus mariannus mariannus)(Guam), are also listed as endangered. Twenty other species are considered to be of special concern and may be proposed for listing as endangered or threatened in the future. Populations of several of the remaining species, especially cave-dwelling species, also appear to be declining.

Of course, the bat that gives the rest a bad reputation is the Vampire bat (Desmodus rotundus).

Vampire bats are one of the few bat species that are considered a pest, but exist only in Latin America.

If not for their diet, people would not pay much attention to these small bats, which feed mostly on livestock.

In Latin America, cattle raising is a growing business, and sleeping cattle attract vampire bats. In ranching areas, control programs have been started.

Unfortunately, millions of beneficial bats are destroyed by people who mistake them for vampires.

A vampire bat finds its prey with echolocation, smell, and sound. They fly about one meter above the ground. Then they use special heat sensors in their noses to find veins that are close to the skin.

They don't actually suck blood, however; they make tiny cuts in the skin of a sleeping animal, then lap up the blood that oozes from the wound. A chemical in their saliva numbs the animal's skin and keeps them from waking up, and another chemical keeps the blood from clotting.

In fact, scientists have discovered that vampire bat saliva is better at keeping blood from clotting than any known medicine. Vampire bats may one day help prevent heart attacks and strokes.

So the "bad boy" of bats can be a boon to humanity...

Vampire Bats Help Battle Strokes

Friday, October 20, 2006

And if your friends jumped off of a bridge...

...would you do that, too?!

As with aircraft, I would if I had a rope to hold onto:

I'll leave the skydiving to my brother Rich and my caving buddy Nate, et al.

Bridge Day is the largest extreme sports event in the world, held on the third Saturday in October every year in Fayetteville, West Virginia. 450 BASE jumpers, hundreds of rappellers, and up to 200,000 spectators are expected to attend this year's Bridge Day on Saturday, October 21, 2006.

The New River Gorge Bridge, 876' tall and the world's second longest single arch bridge, is the launch point for at least six hours (9am-3pm EDT) of legal, safe BASE jumps.

My first rappel was in Air Assault school, on a tower...gradually leading up to doing it out of a helicopter.

Since I got out of the military, my rappeling has been caving/rock climbing related.

I was hoping that this year's Bridge Day was going to be when I was in the area last weekend; I've been meaning to go for years, but have never managed it yet.

In previous years, when I organized whitewater rafting on the Gauley, the other participants didn't want to fight the crowds that weekend...but I did. However, I let the majority opinion rule.

Update (bad news):

There was a fatality at Bridge Day...the first since it began in 1987.

"Brian Lee Schubert, 66, died of injuries suffered when he hit the water 876 feet below the New River Gorge Bridge during West Virginia's annual Bridge Day festival, said Fayette County Sheriff Bill Laird.

Schubert, from Alta Loma, Calif., had been well known in the sport of BASE jumping since 1966, when he and a friend became the first people to jump from El Capitan, a nearly 3,000-foot-tall rock formation, in California's Yosemite National Park.

The sport's acronym stands for the places jumpers usually leap from: buildings, antennae, spans and earth."

Read the whole story here.

This is why I won't skydive.

Update II:

BASE jumper may have pulled chute late

Investigators will continue to examine the fatal incident, but witness accounts indicate Brian Lee Schubert's death Saturday was caused by the partial or late deployment of his chute...

Maybe he was "pushing the envelope"; I'm sure the skydiving community will have something to say on the subject, one way or another.

As for me, my non-skydiving policy remains in effect...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Have a blast!!!

I was surprised to discover that there are actually commercial tours available to visit North Korea...the "garden spot" of Southeast Asia.

The picture above certainly looks inviting.

Tour companies offering N. Korea trips:
North Korea 1 on 1 Universal Travel System

It was also surprising to discover that the U.S. doesn't have a ban on such a visit, as it does in the case of Cuba. Apparently, in February of '95 the Department of the Treasury revised its regulations to allow Americans to go to North Korea and spend money. That last part is the difference between the two countries from the official perspective. The embargo against Cuba prevents U.S. nationals from contributing to the Cuban economy. There are ways around that, however; there usually are.

I'm guessing now might be the time to go, if one wishes to risk it. Before there's some type of nuclear "incident" over there.

I traveled to South Korea in '97 for job-related reasons. It didn't impress me (favorably) there; I'm sure that North Korea is really dismal, except for a few select places like the one shown above.

Naturally, any money that goes into Kim Jong Il's coffers will help support the Army, the joining of which is one of the few ways to guarantee you'll eat. At least occasionally.

Most N. Koreans don't get that opportunity:

I don't think I'll be going anytime soon...

Monday, October 16, 2006

Whole lotta shakin' goin' on...

HONOLULU (Reuters) - A powerful earthquake and repeated aftershocks shook Hawaii on Sunday, rattling nerves, knocking out power in Honolulu and prompting Gov. Linda Lingle to issue a disaster declaration for the entire state.

The 6.6 magnitude earthquake struck off the west coast of Hawaii on Sunday morning at 7:07 a.m. local time, with strong shaking felt as far as 150 miles away on the island of Oahu, according to the U.S. Geological Service.

The earthquake was not strong enough to trigger a tsunami warning, according to Victor Sardina, a geophysicist at the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

There were no immediate reports of serious injuries or fatalities as the quake struck off a sparsely populated area, but there were scattered reports of damage.

Lingle in a press conference broadcast over radio said she had flown over the island of Hawaii to assess damage and had yet to receive any reports of serious injuries.

Most folks who are even slightly familiar with me know that I like Hawaii. I try to spend some time there every Winter; the rest of the year it's OK in CONUS.

Earthquakes in the 6.0 magnitude range are rare in the region, but they have happened before. The area generallly has quakes in the 3 and 4 magnitude range caused by volcanic activity, when they occur.

The last Hawaiian earthquake this strong struck more than 20 years ago. The magnitude 6.7 caused heavy property damage on Hawaii Island and collapsed trails into a volcano in Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park on Nov. 16, 1983. A 6.1 magnitude quake also hit in 1989, according to the Earthquake Information Center.

The largest recorded Hawaiian earthquake struck the Ka'u District (where I spend much of my time when I'm there) on Hawaii Island in 1868, causing 77 deaths. Its magnitude was estimated at 7.9.

A 9.5-magnitude earthquake, the largest in the world, struck Chile on May 22, 1960, and a tsunami traveled to Hawaii where 61 people died.

I spoke to a few of "my" people over there after the event...they assured me that they are fine, but it was an interesting experience.

As for me, I'm usually at the 1000' elevation.


Hawaiians Check for Quake Damage

Aftershocks keep Hawaiians on edge

Damaging Quake Shakes Up Hawaii

Hawaii resident: 'Our whole house was rocking'

Past Earthquakes in Hawaii

Earthquake leaves Hawaii in the dark

My, That's a Big One
("The Dougout" blog)

Friday, October 13, 2006


Movies about killers in hockey masks notwithstanding, Friday the 13th is considered by some to be a very unlucky day.

There's even a special word for it: Paraskevidekatriaphobia.
(Or friggatriskaidekaphobia)

The word with which most people are familiar is just plain triskaidekaphobia, but that really only means fear of the number 13, technically speaking.
(One of my specialties)

As for the whys and wherefores of it, there are a number (no pun intended) of theories about it.

I bought my current home and sold my former one on Friday, April 13th, 2001.

But then, I'm not superstitious...

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Hit the dusty trail...

I have mentioned a hiker get-together that I've been attending for years in a couple of previous posts.

It's called the Gathering, and is organized by ALDHA, which is an acronym for the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association.
(It'll be this coming weekend)

While it was originally organized for Appalachian Trail hikers, many of the members have hiked on a number of long distance trails, most notably the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail.

I have hiked extensively, including many hikes on the Appalachian Trail, in most of the States through which it passes...a year ago, I hiked to the Northern Terminus, which is Mount Katahdin in Maine.

After that, I went to the Gathering, which was held at Dartmouth University in Hanover, NH last year.

This year it will be held at Concord University in
Pipestem, WV...it alternates between those locations each year.

If the weather's good, I'll ride the Harley...

Monday, October 09, 2006

Wild ride...

It's called the "Hyanide".

I was reading about it in a recent issue of Popular Science magazine.

It’s a concept vehicle created by German designers Oliver Keller and Tillman Schlootz for the 2006 Michelin Challenge Design.

The way it works, at least as far as steering is concerned, is through a coordinated effort of hands and feet.

In one article I found about it, they called it a "mutant".

In another article it was called "the monster truck of motorcycles".

In yet another, the descriptor of choice was "eye candy".

I'm thinking it'd be great for lava fields...

Friday, October 06, 2006

A simple life?

Normally I post about a variety of subjects. I've strayed from political topics here, as they are so thoroughly covered elsewhere, although I still comment on such things...elsewhere.

Of late, however, one particular topic has been weighing heavily upon my mind.

I cannot conceive of a more nearly perfect example of innocence than these little Amish schoolgirls; they were practically babies.

I cry every time I think about the ones whose young lives were ended at the hands of a deranged psychopath.
(So much for the "rough, tough" biker image)

Generally speaking, when I hear of these types of things happening, I find myself wishing that the perpetrator had started with himself rather than finishing there.

As many of you know, I am a member of the Patriot Guard Riders. Since the Amish are a very private group of people, and PGR only attends at a family's request, we were not in attendance...but I was there in spirit.

Fortunately those poor excuses for human beings representing a so-called church in Kansas decided not to show up at the funerals, as they had originally said that they would.

My fellow blogger Benning has posted a nice overview about the Amish.

Memorial contributions can be sent to:
The Nickel Mine School Victims Fund
c/o Hometown Heritage Bank
Post Office Box 337
Strasburg, PA 17579

I imagine they'd also forward correspondence...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Sea for yourself...

I've been wanting to attend the Annapolis Boat Show for quite a few years now, but it has always conflicted with an annual hiker get-together that I go to.

This year, however, the hiker get-together has been rescheduled...so on with the show!

The Annapolis Boat Show launched the first in-water boat show in 1970; it is the world's largest show featuring exclusively new sailboats.

They do a powerboat show too, on the following weekend.

In any case, I'll be off to the boat show on Saturday, to drool over catamarans in particular.

My original idea was to sell my house when I retire, and buy as much boat as that would afford me.

I have since been disabused of that notion, but still plan to have a boat capable of bluewater cruising someday.

The boat I have now (pictured above, at a marina in The Bahamas) is actually my first, and the second time I launched it was on Lake Superior. That was an adventure, but one I'll save for another day.

I figured I'd have to start learning to sail sometime, so I traded a '95 Harley for the boat a few years ago. This was before I took some sailing lessons in Marathon, but I studied up on it, and started to learn by doing.

In 2004 I was in The Bahamas reading a sailing magazine, and became convinced (for a number of reasons) that a catamaran was the way to go. They're spacious, and can get into much shallower places than a deep draft monohull. On the other hand, they are also quite expensive by comparison.

I really like the ability that my 26' MacGregor "trailer sailer" has to be towed quite a distance, and to launch at some fairly shallow ramps. I was told once at a ramp next to a convenience store at Key Largo that it couldn't be done. It was.

One thing I'd like to do after I retire, with the boat I have now, is something called the "Great American Loop". That basically consists of circumnavigating the Eastern U.S.

In the meantime, for the past couple of years, I've been sailing with an eclectic bunch of folks calling themselves the "Conch Cruisers". Last year we went to Bimini out of Homestead, FL; the year before that it was out of Key West to the Dry Tortugas. This year I had knee surgery due to a skiing injury, so they sailed in the Outer Banks area without me.

I'm seriously considering trying out a shared ownership program when the time comes.

It seems like a "win-win" option to me...

Monday, October 02, 2006

I'm only here for the beer...

...but apparently, I'm late for the party.

Now that October has arrived, I started researching my planned post on Oktoberfest, only to find that it actually began in September.

According to Wikipedia:

Oktoberfest is a two-week festival held each year in Munich, Bavaria, Germany during late September and early October. It is one of the most famous events in the city and the world's largest fair, with some six million people attending every year. Other cities across the world also hold fairs, modeled after the Munich event, also called Oktoberfest.

When I first visited Germany, back in 1990, it really spoilt my palate for the swill that generally passes for beer in the U.S.

Fortunately, the "microbrewery revolution" soon followed, so my more discerning tastebuds were soon placated.

Before then, I had discovered bock beer, a seasonal offering; the first one I had was made by the Schmidt's brewing company, which mostly put out some of the worst beer I'd ever tasted, before or since. It was a hometown product in Philly, sometimes referred to as "Schuylkill Punch".

Also from Wikipedia:

Bock is a strong lager from Munich in Germany. The name is a corruption of the medieval German brewing town of Einbeck. The beer is usually darkened by high-coloured malts. Bock is traditionally brewed in the winter time for drinking during the Spring.

Bocks have a long history of being brewed and drunk by Catholic monks in Germany. During the Spring religious season of Lent, monks were required to fast. Bock beers are higher in food energy and nutrients than other beers, thus providing sustenance during the holiday.

But in the twentieth century, bock beers, mainly in the United States, gained an undeserved reputation for being brewed from the dregs of previous brewings. Many craft brewers, however, began to reverse that rumor and produced exceptional bock brews of their own.

Right now I've got a ¼ keg of Yuengling Lager in my beermeister, which I built out of an old refrigerator back in the 80's.

There are so many varieties of beer, I don't intend to cover them all.

That's the bailiwick of my cyberbud "Beerme", anyway...

Official Oktoberfest site
(English version)

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