Sunday, May 31, 2009

I have friends who could use this!

I've heard many stories from friends who live in colder climates about the labor involved in chopping firewood for the winter. I bet Marko in New Hampshire, or Miss D. in Alaska, or Brigid, Tamara and Roberta in Indiana, would find a use for this ingenious home-made device.

Very clever! I presume that's a home-made device, not a factory option, but if the builder went into production, I reckon he'd have a long line of prospective customers!


Doofus Of The Day #220

Today's doofus is an anonymous lecher from Australia.

Remember Natalie Dylan? She's the woman who auctioned her virginity online to the highest bidder. Whatever one may think of her morals (or lack thereof) and good taste (ditto), there's at least a screwy ending to the story - so far, at any rate.

The 22-year-old California virgin who auctioned off her virtue online for $3.8 million has yet to meet her winning bidder in the flesh - because his wife won't let him.

Natalie Dylan (not her real name) admitted the deal had fallen through.

Last week, she got a phone call from the rogue Romeo, a 38-year-old Australian real-estate businessman, who said he had to back out.

"I told him to go back into marriage therapy," sniped Dylan.

The Aussie cad then sheepishly asked for his $250,000 deposit back. Dylan said no hard feelings; it would be returned.

There's more at the link. Bold print is my emphasis.

One hopes Ms. Dylan - or whatever her real name is - won't try again. I can think of few things more demeaning to womanhood than putting one's virginity under the hammer (you should pardon the expression).


A different kind of race

I was amazed to learn of the Kinetic Grand Championship, also known as the Kinetic Sculpture Race, held in Humboldt County, California, each year. The 2009 event has just taken place.

The event's Web site describes it as follows:

The Kinetic Grand Championship is a 3-day, 42-mile bicycle race over land, sand, mud and water. Many refer to the Kinetic Grand Championship as the “Triathlon of the Art World.”

The race began 40 years ago in 1969, when world-renowned sculpture artist Hobart Brown challenged Ferndale artist Jack Mays to a race down Ferndale’s Mainstreet. In their kinetic contraptions they started a 40-year Humboldt tradition that has spread to Oregon, Washington, Arizona, Colorado, Baltimore, Maryland and all the way to Perth, Australia. But it all began here among the majestic redwood groves of Humboldt County.

Day 1 of the Kinetic Grand Championship starts on the Plaza in Arcata, California at the noon whistle every Memorial Day weekend. The racers take off to the Manila dunes, where they race through miles of sand to the great and inevitable “Deadman’s Drop.” Then on to Eureka’s downtown gazebo.

Day 2 starts in Eureka at the waterfront on the Humboldt Bay, where brave Kinetic Pilots race their crafts through the water (most float). Then back on land where kinetic sculptures go up Hookton Hill, a 1 mile-7% incline and decline. Day 2 ends with a private campout for racers and volunteers only.

Day 3 starts from the mouth of the Eel River, through Morgan slough and onto dry land. Racers cross the finish line on Ferndale’s historic Mainstreet, where racers park and head up to the Final Awards Dinner at Ferndale’s Fireman’s Hall.

What is a Kinetic Sculpture?

Kinetic Sculptures are all-terrain human-powered art sculptures that are engineered to race over road, water, mud and sand. Kinetic sculptures are amazing works of art; many are animated with moving parts like blinking eyes, opening mouths, heads that move side to side and up and down.

Kinetic Sculptures are usually made from what some people consider “junk”. But one man’s junk is another racer’s raw material. Each Kinetic Sculpture is a work of art and each racing team has its own theme.

The teams consist of pilots, pit crew and pee-ons. Kinetic Pilots pedal the sculpture and steer, the pit crew assists the pilots in transforming the vehicle for the various elements and fixing mechanical issues, and pee-ons, well, they do whatever is needed for the team to get glory. The teams give out “bribes” to their adoring spectators, judges and Rutabaga Royalty.

Spectators are encouraged to follow the race on their bikes (obeying all traffic laws that apply please). Seeing these marvels of art and engineering turns many people on to bike culture and reminds people how much fun riding your bike can be!

Who Wins?

Good question! Well when Hobart Brown started the Kinetic Sculpture Race 40 years ago, he lost the race he created! Now one of the most coveted awards is the “Mediocre Award.”

Other awards include “The Golden Dinosaur,” which is the first sculpture to break down after the start line, “The Golden Flipper,” for the best flip of a sculpture in sand and water, and “Poor Pitiful Me.” Racers can also “Ace” the race, which means they race the entire course for 42 miles without pushing or ''getting caught'' cheating. Each award is handmade by a local artist!

There's more at the link, including links (in the sidebar) to pictures and video of past events. The photographs interspersed with the text above were kindly sent to me by reader Jilly M. Thanks, Jilly!

Here's a video of the starting parade of this year's event. Never have I seen so many weird and wonderful machines assembled in one place!

Looks like a good time was had by all. This one goes on my list of 'Things I'd like to see in person sometime'.


Definitely a failure of the victim selection process

I'm delighted to read that a snatch-and-grab thief picked on the wrong target in Hillsboro, OR, the other night.

It turned out to be Pound-A-Punk day Wednesday at the Hillsboro Park Lanes Family Entertainment Center, a bowling alley in Hillsboro.

A 16-year-old would-be thief reportedly tried to swipe two purses from tables inside the bowling alley at 6360 S.E. Alexander St.

Then, at least from the teen's perspective, things went terribly awry.

The purses weren't the easy pickings he apparently thought they'd be. They belonged to two ladies from V.I.P. Summer Trio, a senior league, said Lanes owner Dean Johnson.

The women, along with other bowlers from the senior league, blocked the 16-year-old's escape through an exit on the building's west side. When he ran toward the glass doors at the building's front, league members were in hot and loud pursuit.

. . .

"A bunch of the senior ladies and senior men started hollering at him and chased him," Johnson said. "That's when Steve, my son, kind of held him down."

The center's front door is sliding glass, and Johnson said that confused the thief long enough for his 22-year-old son to come at him from behind the counter and pin the parried purse-snatcher to the floor.

Several of the senior bowlers dog-piled the teen and held him until police arrived.

There's more at the link.

Yeah! Go, senior lady bowlers! Oh - and I hope the local cops set up a recording device in their holding cell. I want to know how bad boy explains his arrest to the other hardened criminals when they ask him what happened - and their reactions!


Now that's a protest!

Hat-tip to Julie for e-mailing me about this story. It seems an Egyptian man has found a novel way to protest his parent's domination of his life.

AN Egyptian cut off his penis today in protest at his parents' choice of bride, a police official said.

The 25-year-old labourer from the village of Sheikh Eissa in southern Egypt was taken to hospital in stable condition, the official said, adding that the man had also mutilated his testicles.

"He was in love with a woman but his parents rejected her and told him to marry another woman he didn't want. He took a knife and cut off his penis in his room.''

Doctors were unable to reattach the severed member, the official said.

Uh . . . um . . . yes, well, he made his point (or, perhaps, lost it!): but how is this supposed to make his parents feel bad? I'd have thought it was more of an 'own goal'!


Saturday, May 30, 2009


The video says it all.


A long-lost musical instrument re-created

The BBC reports that a musical instrument of Bach's time has been successfully re-created after intensive research, and is lending a newly authentic tone to one of his motets.

New software has enabled researchers to recreate a long forgotten musical instrument called the Lituus.

The 2.4m (8ft) long trumpet-like instrument was played in Ancient Rome but fell out of use some 300 years ago.

Bach's motet (a choral musical composition) "O Jesu Christ, meins lebens licht" was one of the last pieces of music written for the Lituus.

Now, for the first time, this 18th Century composition has been played as it should have been heard.

Researchers from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the University of Edinburgh collaborated on the study.

Performed by the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis (SCB) the Lituus produced a piercing trumpet-like sound interleaving with the vocals.

Until now, no one had a clear idea of what this instrument looked or sounded like.

But researchers at Edinburgh University developed a system that enabled them to design the Lituus from the best guesses of its shape and range of notes.

The result was a 2.4m (8ft) -long thin straight horn, with a flared bell at the end.

It is an unwieldy instrument with a limited tonal range that is hard to play. But played well, it gives Johann Sebastian Bach's motet a haunting feel that couldn't be reproduced by modern instruments.

There's more at the link.

The same software used to re-design the lituus might also be able to recreate other long-forgotten musical instruments. Who knows? We might be able to hear the sound of ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Assyrian and Babylonian instruments one day. Now that's exciting!


Doofus Of The Day #219

Today's doofus is an unfortunate thief from Warsaw, Poland.

A suspect tried to evade police by wrapping himself in a carpet.

Miroslaw Dabrowski, 32, rolled up in a rug and propped himself against a wall on the balcony as police searched his aunt's home in Warsaw.

He was only found after two hours when a detective went out to the balcony to smoke a cigarette and the officer noticed it was shivering.

A shivering carpet? Yeah, that'd get my attention, too . . . Pity he didn't roll himself in it while it was still indoors!


Not the winners, but still my favorites!

Tonight saw the finals of the 'Britain's Got Talent' TV show. I'm sure by now many of you have read the results.

My favorite act of this year, 'Stavros Flatley', a hilarious send-up of the 'Riverdance' type of Irish step dancing, made it all the way to the finals. The father-and-son team didn't make the final three, but I know they had a blast all the way. The relationship between them is clearly very close, and the father set a great example to his son by agreeing to join him in fooling around on stage.

I posted video of their first round and semi-final success before. If you haven't watched those yet, I suggest you do that now, then return to this post. Here's the video of their appearance in the finals.

Very funny, and very wholesome. Congratulations to both of them!


Another automotive legend comes under the hammer

A classic 1939 Auto Union D-type racing car, long abandoned in pieces in the Soviet Union, has been rebuilt, and will be auctioned in California in August.

According to the Web site of Bonhams, the auctioneers:

Bonhams & Butterfields is delighted to offer for sale by auction nothing less than one of the most charismatic Grand Prix racing cars ever built – the 1939 Auto Union ‘D-Type’ with rear-mounted 3-liter twin-stage supercharged V12-cylinder engine. The annual collector’s motorcar car auction is set for August 14, 2009 in Carmel, CA.

This legendary racing car - absolutely confirmed today as chassis number ‘19’ - was driven to placing finishes in the 1939 Grand Prix racing season. Handled by Auto Union factory team drivers Rudolf Hasse and Hans Stuck, this pioneering rear-engined Grand Prix projectile finished fifth in the German EifelRennen event on the North Circuit of the Nurburgring, and sixth in the Grand Prix de l’Automobile Club de France around the super fast public road course at Reims-Gueux.

. . .

During the 1939 racing season, Auto Union deployed 11 ‘D-Type’ chassis in the six significant Grand Prix Formula events contested. In addition to Nuvolari’s second place in the EifelRennen, Hasse finished second in the Belgian GP, before his team-mates H.P. ‘Happy’ Muller and ‘Schorsch’ Meier brought the team a wonderful 1-2 success in the French race at Reims-Gueux.

It was there that chassis ‘19’ raced for the last time, driven by Hans Stuck, the veteran Austrian star. In his hands, this ‘D-Type’ Auto Union completed the works team’s day by finishing sixth.

Today, Auto Union ‘D-Type’ chassis ‘19’ is the only proven surviving Grand Prix car of its type with contemporary 1939 racing history. It is one of the classic car world’s most charismatic machines, and is exquisitely well-restored to running order. In a world hungry for genuine intrinsic value, it has much to commend it.

Post-war Myth and Mystery

For nearly half a century the survival in Communist Russia of ex-works German ‘Silver Arrow’ Grand Prix cars from the 1930s seemed little more than unproven myth. The search for any such cars from Mercedes-Benz or – much more so – Auto Union - was regarded as historic motor sport’s quest for the Holy Grail. While several 1930s Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix cars survived at the Stuttgart factory and in private Western hands, the only known Auto Union was a sectioned 1936 V16 model exhibited in the Deutsches Museum in Munich.

It was known that the surviving Auto Union team cars had been expropriated by Soviet forces in the Autumn of 1945. In fact, no fewer than 13 Auto Union cars were transported by train from the company’s devastated factories in Zwickau and Chemnitz, Lower Saxony, in what was to become Communist East Germany.

They were delivered to the Soviet Union’s NAMI motor industry research institute in Moscow, where early in 1946 a working group of engineers was established to investigate these dazzlingly high-tech German designs. Four Auto Unions - one with wheel-enveloping streamlined bodywork – were dismantled and effectively destroyed during the NAMI group’s inspection and analysis.

Two sister cars were delivered to Moscow’s ZIS production car factory for parallel examination and research. One, a V16-cylinder, was subsequently scrapped. The other - which was a hill-climb car comprising a 16-cylinder-type chassis powered by the later V12 engine - escaped destruction, eventually passing into a museum in Riga, Latvia, and subsequently to Audi.

Four other Auto Unions - three 1938-39 V12 Grand Prix cars, plus one streamliner - went to the GAS factory in Gorky (now renamed Nizhniy Novgorod) where some components were cannibalized for use in GAS, Moskvich and ZIL-based competition cars. When one staffer required a trailer, a stripped Grand Prix chassis frame was cut in half to suit . . . !

Generally, the Soviet technicians were unable to run the cars, with the exception of one V12 ‘D-Type’ at Gorky, whose tanks were found to contain the correct sophisticated German fuel mix. This car was started successfully and tested at high speed, only for driver Leonid Sokolov to find his path obstructed by encroaching roadside crowds. He lost control under braking, and crashed into them, killing as many as 18.

Around 1950, two surviving open-wheel GP Auto Unions and one 16-cylinder streamliner were assigned to engineer Vladimir Nikitin in Kharkov, Ukraine. He cannibalized the streamliner to build his ‘Kharkov’ racing car, powered by a 4-cylinder Podeba street engine. A fellow Ukrainian engineer, Eduard Lorent, also benefited from Auto Union study in building his small- capacity ‘Kharkov L1’ and ‘L2’ racing cars.

One complete open-wheeler chassis, the trailer-frame and their major mechanical components survived surplus to Nikitin and Lorent’s requirements, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russian-born American Paul Karassik – a Florida-based antique car enthusiast – spent much time in Russia hunting down the truth of the Auto Union legend. Karassik accumulated an incredible treasure-trove of pre-war Grand Prix car components, including Auto Union serial ‘19’s complete, unspoiled chassis and the late-model V12-cylinder engine which powers it today. Mr Karassik entrusted restoration of this car to the renowned British ‘Silver Arrow’ specialists, Crosthwaite & Gardiner in Buxted, England, and they rebuilt it in as-original two-stage supercharged form.

Seventy years later, Auto Union ‘D-Type’ chassis ‘19’ will star in the Bonhams & Butterfields sale at Quail Lodge in California on August 14, when it is expected to realize in excess of $8-million.

There's more at the link.

That's a pretty amazing story! To have survived in pieces, neglected and abandoned, for so long, only to be rediscovered by an enthusiast seventy years later . . . I imagine the restoration must have been quite a big job. The chassis and engine were available, but all the bodywork, suspension parts and the like would have had to be either obtained elsewhere, or fabricated by hand. I know Crosthwaite & Gardiner specialize in that sort of thing, and probably have the largest collection of genuine Auto Union parts in the world to help them, but even so, it's no wonder it took years to accomplish.

I hope whoever buys it will allow it to join the other three surviving Auto Union cars on the road now and again. Here's a video of the other three at Zwickau, Germany, a few years ago. Note the incredible sound of their engines, something duplicated by no other motor, either at the time or since.

It's nice to see such a rare example of automotive history in public.


Friday, May 29, 2009

Frightening can be funny!

The video below shows various people being 'ambushed' by those wanting to throw a scare into them. It's been around for a while, but I still laugh when I see it: so, for those of you who may have missed it, here it is.


Doofus Of The Day #218

Today's Doofus award is belated, because the incident in question occurred in January 2008. However, when I read the report, I realized it was such a classic example of Doofidity that I simply had to give the culprit an award: so, on the principle of 'better late than never', here it is.

A bank robber's cunning plan to disguise his identity by coating his face with plaster sadly turned out not to be the criminal masterstroke he was hoping for.

Robert Coulson Lavery, 56, of York County, Pennsylvania, was convicted last Wednesday for robbing the New Cumberland Federal Credit Union in Fairview Township on November 2006.

He got away with $7,910, partly due to his wonderful idea of impersonating a wall by smearing drywall all over his face.

Regrettably for his burgeoning felonious career, however, while his identity was impossible to discern through the thick layers of building material, the distinctive NASCAR plate on the front of the getaway car was a little bit of a giveaway.

The police were able to trace the car to his getaway driver, 53-year-old Robert Steven Miller, after a tip-off about the plate. Miller then sang like a canary, and would ultimately plead guilty to robbery and theft.

Lavery was arrested at Miller's house, where authorities found some suggestive evidence – like $3,775 in cash, and large amounts of plasterboard compound smeared over clothing and the passenger seat of the car.

Yep. Nothing like leaving a trail of evidence like that!


A ball fetish, perhaps?

I'm astonished to read about the collection of the late Mr. Barry Grosse of Saskatoon, Canada.

The Canadian family of a dead Saskatoon man who was passionate about golf say they've found more than 40,000 golf balls he hoarded at his home over decades.

Barry Grosse, 64, was struck by a car and killed last September while riding his bicycle, and nephew Phil Grosse is cleaning out his uncle's home, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix said Friday.

Grosse said his uncle, who was a retired school principal, became passionate about golf in early childhood and spent countless hours playing and collecting golf balls from various courses.

"I don't know how many of them he tripped over in the bush, I don't know how many he actually dug for in the bush, I don't know how many balls he fished out of a pond," the younger Grosse said. "All I know is he's got about 40,000 golf balls."

The nephew works as marketing and communications coordinator for the Saskatchewan Golf Association, and about 32,000 of the balls are being donated for use in its youth program, the report said.

The other 8,000 will remain in the family for sentimental reasons, Grosse said.

I'm even more astonished to read that last line! Why keep 8,000? Why not 8, or 80, or 800? With 8,000 of them, he'll be mourning his uncle for a long time. Every time he loses one, it'll be like a death in the family, all over again!


Bureaucracy gone mad - again!

I'm infuriated to read of the cavalier attitude of Lambeth Council, in south London, England. They decided they were going to make a portion of road, previously open to parking, into a no-parking zone. They duly hired contractors to paint a double yellow line on it. The contractors arrived, only to find the car of Ms. Ruth Ducker already parked there. No problem - they brought in a crane, physically lifted the car out of the way, painted the new no-parking lines, and then replaced Ms. Ducker's car on top of the no-parking zone!

To make things worse, an hour or two later, along came another contractor - this one charged with enforcing Lambeth Council's road ordinances. Of course, they saw a car 'illegally parked' - and had it towed! In doing so, they ignored a specific Council instruction that new no-parking zones were not to be ticketed or enforced until the following day.

Poor Ms. Ducker came looking for her car, only to find it vanished without trace. She knew it had probably not been stolen, because she removes the battery from it whenever she parks it in that spot: and the new no-parking lines gave her a clue as to what might have happened. However, on inquiry, Lambeth Council blandly denied any knowledge of her car. It took them two full weeks to confess that they had it - and then they demanded over £800 (over US $1,300) in fines and penalties before they would release it!

Furious, Ms. Ducker refused to pay, and set about sorting out the bureaucratic bungle. Enlisting the help of her Member of Parliament finally did the trick, but only after interest and other penalties had ballooned the amount Lambeth Council was demanding she pay to £2,240 (over US $3,600). Faced with such high-level intervention, the Council bureaucrats finally gave in, canceled the fines and penalties, and returned her car - but offered only £150 (about US $240) in compensation for the weeks she'd been without her car, the additional trouble and expense she'd incurred, and their total waste of her time.

This sort of bureaucratic arrogance and bungling seems to be growing in frequency, not just in England, but also here in the USA. Witness the experience of a pastor and his wife in San Diego, CA just this week. They were interrogated by a county official because they hold bible studies in their home, and threatened with action unless they halted the practice. As the couple's lawyer quite reasonably points out:

"If the county thinks they can shut down groups of 10 or 15 Christians meeting in a home, what about people who meet regularly at home for poker night? What about people who meet for Tupperware parties? What about people who are meeting to watch baseball games on a regular basis and support the Chargers?"

I can understand concern about several dozen or more people meeting in a residential home, crowding streets that aren't meant to accommodate that number of visiting vehicles: but to target a small Bible study group like that makes no sense at all. It's bureaucratic power-madness.

The same attitude is evident even at the highest levels of our government. Witness the Administration's blatant attempt to strong-arm bondholders of Chrysler into accepting far less than is their legal right in current bankruptcy proceedings. Witness proposals by one Congressional representative to ban anyone on the 'no-fly list' from owning a firearm. These individuals have, in most cases, never even been notified that they're on the list, much less convicted of any offence. No-one knows why their names appear on the list, because no reasons are given - yet, without any trial or conviction, this representative appears quite happy to strip them of a Constitutionally-guaranteed right!

This sort of bureaucratic, 'we-know-better-than-you' arrogance is growing more and more intrusive. The trouble is, every time we tolerate it, we condone such abuses, and inevitably open the way for their extension into new areas. Witness the growth in 'intoxication roadblocks' by many municipal and county law enforcement agencies. Sure, it sounds innocuous, even praiseworthy. After all, who wants to allow drunk drivers on our roads? Trouble is, it doesn't stop there. Instead of merely checking for intoxication, it becomes a license, registration and insurance check: and then it progresses to questions about what you've been doing, or what you may have in your car. Refuse to answer, and many police will claim that gives them 'probable cause' to be suspicious - perhaps even search your car. This is nothing more or less than a 'fishing expedition'.

To my mind, such tactics are a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment. (I know that many 'good' cops, including my friend Matt, agree with me on that point.) I won't tolerate such abuses myself, and have refused to respond to such questions or permit such searches when stopped at such roadblocks - only to be accused of 'not co-operating', or 'obstructionism'. Like hell! If I exercise a Constitutional right, that's not obstructionism at all. In each such case that I've encountered, I've advised the officers concerned that if they wish to proceed, they do so without my consent, and I will take legal action against them and their departments for violation of civil rights if they do. Guess what? Every time, they've backed down. What they're doing is illegal, and they know it - but because so few people complain about it, they've grown accustomed to getting away with it.

I forget who it was who said these words, but they've stuck in my mind for years.

"Rights are like muscles.
Unless they're exercised, they atrophy."

Truer words were never spoken! It's high time those who use their bureaucratic powers to try to walk roughshod over us, and ignore our rights, were slapped down. After all, they're not called 'public servants' for nothing. Perhaps it's long overdue for them to be reminded of that status! If all of us did so, I daresay things would soon take a turn for the better. The longer we remain docile and unprotesting, the more these unelected, accountable-to-no-one autocrats will believe they can get away with such conduct.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

This just blows my mind!

I came across this video of an utterly astounding performance at the 38th annual performance of the Circus Monte-Carlo. I don't know the names of the two gymnasts, so if anyone can provide further information, I'd be very grateful if you'd please post it in Comments.

Suffice it to say that the strength and balance of these two is just amazing!

What an incredible display! I hope they keep performing, and come over to the US sometime. I'd pay to watch that live.


Ever heard of 'Stinking Bishop'?

Neither had I . . . until I learned that this week, 'Stinking Bishop' was voted Britain's smelliest cheese.

As Anna Pickard of the Guardian comments:

According to the Press Association, "the Stinking Bishop made by Charles Martell of Martell and Son in Gloucestershire blew the judges away and was described as smelling like a rugby club changing room."

Blowing away which judges? Well, apparently a set of professional judges, including a perfumier, who you would expect to know his odours, and a journalist, who presumably had a nose for a good story.

They were joined, it says, by a set of junior judges from Wells Cathedral School. Only the most sensitive noses were picked, it claims (or perhaps it was because they are eager choristers that put up their hands to volunteer first for everything, and didn't realise that this time it would involve subjecting themselves to an awful, dreadful stench. That'll teach 'em).

They all came together, smelled the cheese, and decided that though they "were all fantastically smelly", the Stinking Bishop was stinkiest. Proving, say the people who ran the competition that 'Britain equals anyone - and especially France - in the making of speciality cheeses'.

Does it really? Or does it simply mean that we can produce something that smells worse than a rugby club changing room and be PROUD about it?

There's more at the link.

Intrigued, I looked for more information, and found a fascinating description of how this delicacy (?) is made.

Stinking Bishop was first produced in 1972 by Charles Martin on Laurel Farm, in Dymock, Gloucestershire in the South West of England.

Orignally there were only 68 Gloucestershire heifers that produced the milk required to make the cheese, but the breed has had a revival in order to sustain the demand of Stinking Bishop. Sometimes the milk from Friesian cattle is combined and pasteurised with that of the Gloucestershire breed.

Mr Martin didn't set out to make cheese, it came about as a sideline as he was conserving and breeding the Gloucestershire cows. Now Stinking Bishop is a gourmet cheese stocked in specialist shops around the globe, and the Gloucestershire cattle breed is in it's hundreds. Both have thrived since the small beginning of the 70's.

Only 20 tonnes of Stinking Bishop is produced each year.

The Making, Smell and Taste

Stinking Bishop is a soft cheese and it's pungent aroma has been described as smelling of death, of damp laundry left in a washing machine for days, and unwashed socks. After those descriptions, it's a wonder that anyone dare temp to taste it at all. My personal description of the smell is that it's like a gym bag full of unwashed sweaty sports clothes. To say that this cheese is an acquired taste is somewhat of an understatement.

The smell is due to the cheese being washed during ripening with perry. Perry is an alcoholic drink much like cider, but instead of being made from apples, it's made from pears. In this instance the Stinking Bishop pear variety is used, and thus where the cheese gets it name from. The pear is said to get it's name from Mr Bishop who created the variety and who had an ugly temperament.

As well as being a cheese maker, Mr Martin, the maker of Stinking Bishop also grows his own pears.

The cheese is washed with the perry every four weeks while it matures.

When fully matured after 4 months, the cheese is smooth, soft and creamy. The distinctive taste is that of nuts and fruit, with a bitter aftertaste. You can taste the smell, if that makes any sense. It's a very strong flavour that keeps the tastebuds working long after the cheese is swallowed.

When eating Stinking Bishop, it is an absolute must that it has been out of the fridge for at least an hour. To get the full taste sensation of this cheese, it must be as gooey and stinky as possible. For some, the cleaning of teeth will be a must after the first try!

There's more at the link. Text in bold italic print is my emphasis.

Well, readers, after that, I'm sure you're just itching to rush out and buy some of this gastronomic tour de force.


Good - because neither am I! An overly close encounter with a ripe Limburger some years ago put me off stinky cheese for life!


It's always someone else's fault!

From Colorado comes the news of a tire-slasher who simply couldn't help himself - according to him, anyway. (The report's from a British source, hence its spelling of 'tyre'.)

A man arrested in Colorado on suspicion of slashing the tyres of around 50 vehicles told police that he blamed his vandalism spree on his relationship with his mother, the fact that he got braces when he was younger, and radiation.

The 31-year-old man, identified by police as Alexander Kabelis, was arrested after he was spotted crouching behind a police car in Boulder, Colorado. The vehicle had one of its tyres slashed. The man was followed from the scene by a police officer, and arrested.

According to police, he admitted to slashing the tyres of 46 different vehicles in the past month, including nine police vehicles.

Upon being apprehended, the man gave police a lengthy list of reasons for his crimes. Firstly he said that he was 'frustrated' about his relationship with his mother, according to police spokeswoman Sarah Huntley.

He then added that he was angry about losing his license a few years ago, and complained that he had recently been 'buzzed' by a police car. After that, he suggested that the fact he had got braces in the 1990s might be to blame.

Finally, he posited that radiation from Colorado's disused Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant might be behind the tyre slashing.

Uh-huh . . . and since there's no nuclear waste at Rocky Flats at all, just what is it about the place that made him do that? Ancient microbes uncovered during tunneling?

This reminds me of another report, also published this week, which alleges that 'perceived racism' (note, 'perceived', not necessarily actual racism) might be responsible for weight gain!

Perceptions of racism -- from being treated with suspicion in a store to unfairness in employment or housing -- can heighten stress levels and affect health, research has shown. A new study from Boston University links these smoldering signs of racism to weight gain in black women, suggesting a possible explanation for the their higher obesity rates compared to white women.

. . .

At the end of the trial, all the women had gained weight. But the women who said they felt higher levels of racism gained more weight and had bigger waist-size increases compared to the women who felt the least racism. That held true after accounting for factors such as education, geographic region, and beginning body mass index.

"Racism is real and it has real effects," Cozier said in an interview. "It can result in real changes in the body."

There's more at the link.

Both stories are complete and utter bull, of course. If Mr. Kabelis wants to stop slashing tires, Step 1 is to put down the knife! If any person wants to lose weight, or not gain it, Step 1 is to put down the damn donut! Don't feed your face, you won't gain weight. Q.E.D. Even more to the point, make sure that the 'racism' is real, not just a figment of your imagination. I'm sick and tired of hearing militants allege 'racism' when nothing could be farther from the truth. Just because you perceive something doesn't mean it's factually true - it might mean only that your perception is warped to the point of batshit insanity!

Excuses, always excuses. Sheesh!


Some good guys need your help

I'd like to appeal to all my readers to help Chris and Melody Byrne, better known (collectively) as the AnarchAngel. I've never had the privilege of meeting them personally, but I know them by reputation. They've helped many others in the past, and gone out of their way to do so. Now that they need a little help of their own, I think it's up to all of us who care to do our bit.

Some of you may already know the backstory, which they covered on their blog in January last year. They received a lot of help from readers and other bloggers at that time. That help was enough to get them through the immediate crisis, and they seem to have emerged triumphant: but they still have some crippling legal bills to pay. Melody writes (by e-mail):

Right now we're going through the process of the state appeal because the judge is question made an erroneous ruling (he ruled that he did not have jurisdiction over the children when the LAW and the DISTRICT COURT and the NINTH CIRCUIT told him he did). We're currently $25K behind on the legal bills and I don't start work again until the end of June (and even then it's temporary). This wouldn't normally be a problem except that my lawyer's clients (most of them small businesses) have defaulted due to the economy and he's in extremely dire straits. He's already sold off everything he can and he still can't meet his mortgage.

So we're pretty much screwed. So screwed that I'm selling every firearm I have except for my primary carry piece.

I've been trying to sell our cookbook for precisely this reason. We need 160 preorders just to start the print run, and we only have 60-something at this moment (and cash received for only 50). Once we make that number every copy we sell will be at a profit. If I don't make that number by the end of this week I will have to return the money for the preorders.

So there you have it, readers. I'm going to buy one of their cookbooks, partly because I like good food, and partly because these are two people well worth helping. If you're interested, but would like to know more about the Byrnes before deciding, I urge you to go over and read their blog. If you'd like to buy a cookbook for this worthy cause, click here to go to their blog post telling you how to do it. If you could do so by close of business on Friday, May 29th, that would be even better! And if you don't want a cookbook, but would like to help them with even a small donation, their PayPal link is on the order page.

Thanks in advance.


The search for the ultimate military tire

I've been interested in tires for military vehicles for a long time. That may sound like an odd sort of interest (well, if you've been reading this blog for long, you know I have lots of interests like that!), but it stems from my own military service, and seeing at first hand the demands placed on such tires.

You see, military tires have a much harder time than most 'civilian' models. They get shot at, blown up (both directly, by land mines beneath them, and at a distance, by improvised explosive devices or artillery and mortar shells that land near them), and driven at insane speeds over rough terrain as the vehicle drivers and crews pursue an enemy, or hunt for cover, or try to reach a designated point as quickly as possible to meet some operational requirement. The vehicles they're mounted on are routinely overloaded to a mind-boggling extent, under-maintained (wheel alignment? What wheel alignment?), driven in a way that no self-respecting owner would ever treat his personal vehicle, and expected to (literally) 'soldier on' beneath the burden of such abuse for years on end. The tires end up taking most of the pounding.

In the South African military, we got used to a rather harder ride than usual out of our tires, because they were half-filled with water. This was a very useful trick to minimize the effect of landmine blasts. When a mine went off beneath the wheel, the water instantly damped down the flash and blast effects, making injuries from that cause much less severe. (Of course, tire life was reduced by about 50%, and the wheels rusted badly, but these were regarded as minor irritants compared to the benefit in reduced casualties. Tires and wheels could be replaced relatively cheaply. Dead, maimed and injured soldiers couldn't.) Added to the mine-resistant design of South African armored fighting vehicles such as the Buffel, Casspir and Ratel (which, along with some Rhodesian vehicles, were the first in the world so designed: many of their features are now included in the MRAP's being fielded by the US military), this trick saved more than a few of us.

You can imagine, therefore, that my interest was piqued by a recent post by the indispensable Al Fin, who wrote of a new 'airless tire' being developed by a Wisconsin firm. Intrigued, I delved deeper, and found the Web site of Resilient Technologies LLC. This company is developing a new concept of automotive tire for the US military. Prototypes are already under evaluation on Humvees of the Wisconsin National Guard.

Instead of conventional sidewall construction, the so-called 'NPT' (for 'non-pneumatic tire) comprises a honeycomb structure of hexagonal cells, supporting a solid tread. It's made of a mixture of polymers, details of which aren't being made public at this stage. Here's a prototype mounted on a Humvee.

As you can see, there's no sidewall at all. The tires are said to be capable of carrying a load of 3,850 pounds each, and are built for a service life under all operating conditions of at least 15,000 miles. (That may sound dismally low compared to civilian auto tires, but remember, the military versions will run at all speeds, under massive overloads, on all surfaces - or none - and in any weather. Under such conditions, 15,000 miles is pretty good!).

Under load, the tires deform, but the cells prevent them from flattening out completely. Here's a picture of a prototype of the new tire under full load.

Resilient Technologies claims that this form of tire construction will be impervious to deflation by penetration or explosion (from bullets, shrapnel, nearby blasts, etc.). No word on how it'll fare when running over a landmine, but I daresay they'll be testing for that as well at some point. They say that even if up to 30% of the honeycomb cells are severed by flying shrapnel, the wheel will still function.

I'm not sure how this open structure would perform in thick mud or deep snow. Would the mud or snow build up inside the honeycomb cells, forming a solid bar as it dried or froze, and preventing the cells from deforming under load or providing cushioning to the suspension? I guess Resilient Tech has thought about that, and will be testing it with their prototypes. Perhaps some form of flexible sidewall will be needed, to keep that sort of thing out of the cells.

Resilient says that they expect to be able to ship a production unit by 2011, and that it should cost about the same as current Humvee tires. If it's a success, I presume more models and sizes will be developed to fit other vehicles. I'd be interested to see whether this technology could be used for aircraft tires. Over- or under-inflation can cause burst tires on take-off or landing, or contribute to heat buildup that can spark fires in the undercarriage. On some specialist 'bush' aircraft, such as the Piper Super Cubs used in Alaska, their 'tundra tires' are so fat, low-pressure and delicate that some models can't be used on hard surfaces like concrete or tarmac, for fear they might burst. If this new technology can do away with the need for tire inflation altogether, it might be a significant safety enhancement for many aircraft.

There's also the intriguing thought of eventual civilian use. Imagine a tire that would never puncture, never need new valves or inner tubes, and wouldn't have a nice neat sidewall to scuff against the pavement! Even better, it's made of polymers, which can be produced from recycled materials as well as coal, oil, and the newer algae-based synthetic fuel industry. When the tires wear out, they can themselves be recycled into new ones. This would save an enormous amount of rubber. I don't know whether this technology will lend itself to high-performance sporting tires, but for vehicles like my pickup, it should work just fine. I hope so, anyway!

Thanks to Al Fin for alerting me to this story, and good luck to Resilient Technologies. I hope they can make this work. If you're interested, you can read more at the company's Web site, or in articles here and here.


A bighorn sheep shows an SUV who's boss!

The link to this video was sent by Cas G., to whom my thanks. It shows a bighorn sheep in Sinks Canyon, Wyoming, disputing territory with a Toyota 4Runner SUV. The incident happened earlier this month.

I'm not sure if the sheep was trying to scare off a perceived rival, or mate with the SUV, but he was certainly determined!


Doofus Of The Day #217

Today's Doofus is a 17-year-old from Medford, Oregon.

Around midnight Sunday, the boy lifted the garage door at an empty home on the 3400 block of Blueblossom Drive in southeast Medford with a jack from a car and crept under the door, [police spokesperson] Budreau said. The jack failed, dropping the door onto the boy and pinning him underneath.

Around 3 a.m. Monday, the boy's mother noticed the teen wasn't in his bed. She searched the house, then stepped outside, where she could see his legs protruding from the garage in the neighbor's driveway, Budreau said.

She couldn't free him, so she called 9-1-1 for help. Firefighters ultimately had to break into the house to get to the garage door opener and unpin the boy. He was treated and released at a local hospital, them cited on a charge of trespassing.

Trapped beneath a garage door? A cat burglar, he ain't . . . perhaps an armadillo burglar? And what's a cop in Oregon doing with the name of Budreaux? I thought we had a monopoly on them down here in Louisiana!


An old injury resolves itself

I'm very pleased to read of the 'healing' of a World War II veteran, by the passage of time alone.

For 65 years, Alfred Mann didn't talk much about his war-time experiences.

Not that he didn't want to.

He had just given up trying thanks to a combination of old war injuries that made it difficult to speak clearly.

But now the 87-year-old veteran is relishing a new lease of life - after finding a half-inch piece of shrapnel on his pillow one morning.

The metal shard is thought to have suddenly dislodged from his jaw and fallen from his mouth while he slept.

Mr Mann had no idea he had been carrying the shrapnel or that it was behind his speech problems.

He has also had great trouble eating for many years.

'It's fantastic,' he said yesterday. 'I can move my mouth properly and I have been able to eat steak and lamb cutlets which I couldn't eat before.'

Mr Mann served as a nurse with the Royal Army Medical Corps and was injured in 1944 at the battle of Monte Cassino.

It left shrapnel embedded in his leg, shoulder and hands, although surgeons never spotted the piece in his jaw.

. . .

He told how his mouth had begun to swell up a few weeks before he discovered the shrapnel. 'I went to the doctor and I was referred on to the dentist who said I had an ulcer,' he said. 'Then I woke up one morning and felt something move in my mouth. I discovered a piece of shrapnel lying there.'

His wife Constance, also 87, said she had noticed a real difference in her husband.

'It's strange, he has never talked about the war this much before,' she said. 'I never knew half the stories he has told me in the last couple of weeks. It took him all these years. He seems happier - but the food bills are more expensive.'

There's more at the link.

I'm very happy for Mr. Mann, and I can understand how he feels. I'm still carrying around a couple of shrapnel souvenirs from my own military service. One is in a lump, just above my neck vertebrae, which can be clearly felt with the fingertips. At the time, the doctors decided they didn't want to try to remove it, because of all the nerves and delicate tissue in the area. Who knows? One day it may work its own way out, just as Mr. Mann's did.


What's in a name?

The residents of a street in Conisbrough, England, might be able to tell you. According to the Daily Mail:

In the end, the constant jokes were just too much to take for the long-suffering residents of Butt Hole Road.

Groups of youths used to visit the street and bare their backsides for photographs while many delivery firms simply refused to believe it existed.

And coachloads of amused American tourists frequently turned up to view the sign after it appeared in a US book.

And so despairing households in the suburban street in Conisbrough, South Yorkshire, decided that the road's name simply had to change.

. . .

But an internet petition has already been started to change the road's name back again.

Butt Hole Road is believed to have been named after a communal water butt that was originally in the area.

The road has been renamed Archers Way to refer to a medieval castle that is just half a mile away.

There's more at the link.

I can understand the whimsical at heart wanting the old name back, even to the extent of starting an Internet petition. However, I have to sympathize with the residents. I shudder to think what my friends would have to say if I lived on a road with that name. I mean, I do have a sense of humor, but all the jokes would get very old, very quickly!


A graphic illustration of the need for firearms safety

Many shooters, myself included, have objected to a habit displayed by many participants in shotgun sports. While waiting for their turn on the trap or skeet range, shooters often lean their shotguns muzzle-down on their shoes, pointing right at their own feet. Some specialist shoes for the sport even have a special leather patch on the toe, designed to accommodate the muzzle!

Needless to say, this is a very, very dangerous habit. It violates Rule Two of the Four Rules of Firearms Safety:

Never point the muzzle of a firearm
at anything you are not willing to destroy

I've questioned several shooters about this habit, as politely as possible, and been shrugged off as a 'safety Nazi' or a 'typical gun nut - sport shooters are safe, not like you defensive shooters!'

Oh, yeah?

Thanks to Bob H. for forwarding these pictures to an e-mail list of which I'm a member. Someone rested the muzzle of his shotgun on his foot. Guess what happened?

GRAPHIC CONTENT ALERT: These pictures show very serious injury to the foot. A hole has literally been blasted through it from top to bottom. The bone of the big toe is clearly visible, where the flesh of the toe has been blown away. If you're at all squeamish, you shouldn't look at these pictures.

That said, if you wish, click on the two links below to view the images.

I'm going to print multiple copies of these pictures, and carry them with me every time I go to the range. Next time I see some idiot shooter resting the muzzle of his shotgun on his foot, this 'safety Nazi' is going to take great delight in handing him his very own copies of these images.

Who knows? Maybe some of them will learn something . . . before it's too late.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Slight delay in tonight's posts

Hi, folks. We had a major thunderstorm come through this afternoon. It knocked out power and phone lines for a while. I've got both back now, but my DSL Internet connection is still out of service.

I drove down the road to use a wi-fi hot-spot to make this quick post, but I won't be able to do my usual evening posts until my connection's back online. Just thought I'd give regular readers a heads-up, in case they were wondering.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Doofus Of The Day #216

I can understand a fire department wanting to stage a demonstration of their skills, particularly for local politicians.

I can understand said local politicians turning out for the TV cameras.

What I can't understand is how the Fire Department could hire a Doofus to get things going . . .

The video says it all.

What was the name of that song? "There'll Be A Hot Time In The Old Town Tonight"? I think I have a whole new understanding about how it might have come to be written!


The brutal, harsh reality of the immigration crisis

There's a new series of highly educational videos available online, 'The Promise Of Home'. It highlights the truth about illegal immigration and its impact on the USA. I really can't recommend the entire series too highly.

I'm an immigrant myself, but a legal one. I've seen (as a chaplain in the US justice system) just how enormous an impact illegal immigration is having on our society. It must be controlled - but our spineless, bought-and-paid-for-by-corporate-interests politicians don't seem willing to do anything. I hope this video series will reach enough people that they'll apply pressure on Washington to do the right thing, and close the gates.

The videos are listed below. Click on each one to be taken to that video.

These videos are really, really important. I believe every thinking American should make time to watch them. Sure, they're long - but what's your future worth? If we don't do something to address this problem, we may not have a national future!

I'd like to ask all other bloggers who read this blog to please publicize these videos on your own blog as well, either by linking to this post, or providing links to the videos on your own pages. To my readers, I ask you to e-mail your friends with a link to this post, and get them to come here, get the video links, and watch the programs for themselves. (To link to this specific post, click on its title. That'll open a new page with this post only. Click on the URL in the address bar and copy it into your e-mail for a direct link to the page.)

Let's get the word out!


They're through to the finals!

A few weeks ago I blogged about the hysterically funny father-and-son Greek-Irish dance act, 'Stavros Flatley', on the TV show 'Britain's Got Talent'. They got through the first round.

Today they appeared in the semi-finals - and won through again! They'll be appearing in the final on Saturday night. Here's video of their performance this evening. Not as funny as their first performance (which you can see here), but still very entertaining, I thought.

You know, I'm sure some of those hip-waggles are more African or Polynesian than Greek . . . but who cares? I'd love it if these two won the whole thing! It's great to see such father-and-son friendship and love. Full marks to the father for doing this with his boy, and showing him a superb example.


A spectacular light show in Sydney, Australia

The Daily Mail reports that for the next few weeks, the sail-like roof of the Sydney Opera House will be illuminated by a spectacular light show.

The iconic building - famed throughout the world for its graceful white 'sails' - has been transformed into a canvas for a kaleidoscopic array of images.

Called 77 Million Paintings, the installation is the work of artist and music producer Brian Eno and features 300 of his drawings.

He told the BBC he wanted people to 'surrender to another kind of world,' as they watched the transformations.

Beautiful! There are many more pictures at the link. Recommended viewing.

Here's a brief interview with Brian Eno, with some shots of his display on the Opera House by night.


Another slap in the face for tax-happy politicians

A few days ago, I blogged about a New York businessman who'd shifted his domicile to Florida - and thereby saved himself over $5 million per year in NY state taxes.

It seems that Maryland has made the same mistake as New York, and is paying the same price.

Here's a two-minute drill in soak-the-rich economics:

Maryland couldn't balance its budget last year, so the state tried to close the shortfall by fleecing the wealthy. Politicians in Annapolis created a millionaire tax bracket, raising the top marginal income-tax rate to 6.25%. And because cities such as Baltimore and Bethesda also impose income taxes, the state-local tax rate can go as high as 9.45%. Governor Martin O'Malley, a dedicated class warrior, declared that these richest 0.3% of filers were "willing and able to pay their fair share." The Baltimore Sun predicted the rich would "grin and bear it."

One year later, nobody's grinning. One-third of the millionaires have disappeared from Maryland tax rolls. In 2008 roughly 3,000 million-dollar income tax returns were filed by the end of April. This year there were 2,000, which the state comptroller's office concedes is a "substantial decline." On those missing returns, the government collects 6.25% of nothing. Instead of the state coffers gaining the extra $106 million the politicians predicted, millionaires paid $100 million less in taxes than they did last year -- even at higher rates.

There's more at the link.

It's the lesson tax-and-spend politicians seem incapable of learning. Tax people too much, and they'll leave, taking their money with them, and go to places that don't rob them to share their wealth with others who've done nothing to earn or deserve it.

Go for it, rich folks! Maybe if enough of you do that, some of our politicians might at last get the point!


Monday, May 25, 2009

Feel-good post for the day

OK, readers, here's your overdose of cute for today. We have both kittens and puppies!

First, how to play 'whack-a-kitty' (very gently, of course).

Next, how to teach an eight-week-old beagle puppy how to howl!


Tech advice needed, please!

Would the more wireless-network-savvy among my readers be able to help me?

I'm going to be visiting a few places where wireless internet access is available, but the signal strength is very weak - so much so that it can't be accessed from certain locations within the building. I'm told that there are devices available that can boost the signal strength, such as the Linksys Wireless-G Range Expander, but I'm under the impression that these must be used on the server side, and aren't of use to an end-user trying to improve the signal he receives.

Can anyone advise me whether such a device is worth buying as an end-user? If I plug it into my own laptop, will it improve the signal I receive? If not, is there any other device I can plug into my laptop that will boost the wireless signal, and enable me to maintain connectivity when I'm in areas with a weak signal? I'm using the built-in wireless aerial and connectivity, of course. If I need to disable that and use an external system, please give details of what's required.

Thanks in advance for your help.


Another tragedy befalls the Britannic

The sister ship to the Titanic, RMS Britannic, had a short and sad life.

She was completed just as World War I broke out, and never sailed in passenger service. In 1915 the British Government requisitioned her for conversion to a hospital ship, and the rest of her short life was sailed as His Majesty's Hospital Ship (HMHS) Britannic. The two photographs and artist's impression below show her after conversion.

During 1916 Britannic completed five voyages between Britain and the Middle East, ferrying wounded from the Gallipoli campaign and the fighting in what is today the area occupied by Israel, Jordan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, where British forces and their local allies engaged the Turkish Army.

At 8.12 a.m. on November 21st, 1916, while on her sixth voyage to the Middle East, Britannic hit a moored mine off the island of Kea in the Aegean Sea. She sank within an hour. Fortunately, almost everybody aboard was saved, the only casualties being from two lifeboats that were launched without orders and drifted into the huge ship's propellers. Britannic was the largest ship to be sunk in the First World War (she displaced some 53,000 tons).

The wreck of Britannic was rediscovered by French marine archaeologist Jacques Cousteau in 1975. Since then, she's become something of a Mecca for deep-diving enthusiasts. She lies at a depth of about 120 meters (about 400 feet), and is thus accessible to those using ordinary scuba gear, provided they breathe a special air mixture. She's classified as a war grave, so permission to dive on her is required from both the British and Greek Governments.

The wreck is in remarkably good condition, particularly compared to that of her sister ship, RMS Titanic. Below is shown a spiral staircase in the bow of Britannic, used by her crew to get to and from the upper deck.

Here's a side-scan sonar image of the entire wreck, as it lies on its starboard side. Click the image for a much larger view.

Today comes the sad news that a member of the latest expedition to Britannic, Mr. Carl Spencer, was killed during diving operations. He apparently contracted the so-called 'bends', or decompression sickness, and could not be revived.

It's sad that another life has been claimed over this sad wreck . . . but I guess as long as the urge to explore such pieces of maritime history continues, we'll find others taking the same risks, and sometimes paying the price for them.