Saturday, April 30, 2016

Laqunah: Part VI

Bursting through the curtains behind the shop counter, Ova beamed with absolute delight. She wore the mark of admittance on her sleeve, letting the entire world know about her success. Hultran sat huddled behind the kitchen table, attempting to eat a slice of minced marigold pie. Just as he was about to take the first bite, she squeezed his neck with the force of a giant vice grip.

“You're in?”

A smile ear to ear...

“I am in!”

“I'm so very proud of you. What a treat!”

Pushing the tart dessert down his throat, he couldn't help but grin along the way. To be the parent of a Persimmon student was highly regarded within the walls of Laqunah. More so, to have a child attend was a source of personal pride. Yes, he had done a great job raising the child after all. Though, to be fair, Ova had just as much of a hand in raising Hultran. They were a finely tuned pair, father and daughter, ready to overcome any hurdle thrown their way.

Next to Hultran's plate sat a peculiar book filled with drawings and photographs. Along the cover were intricate swirls of silver and cobalt against a deep orange hue. Hultran flipped through the pages as he ate. Ova peeked over his shoulder as her curiosity got the best of her.

“What an odd book. Where did you get it?”

Hultran pushed the empty plate away, bringing the book front and center.

“I received it in trade while you were at your meeting. A poor soul claiming to be without money asked for a card reading. They offered this book in lieu of payment. I figured why not... it's been a slow day anyway.”

As they marveled at the fanciful tome, their eyes widened at the sights held within. Page after page filled with scenes not of their world. Metal tanks rolling through lanes straddled by stone towers. Creatures highly similar to Ova appearing to be happy, standing alongside great stretches of coastline. Flying animals and beasts with claws. Massive statues adorned with gold and teal. A large white castle barricaded behind a fence.

“Where is this place, dad?”

At a complete loss, Hultran closed the book and set it aside.

“I've no clue, my dear... but it's giving me a headache. Perhaps we can revisit it after dinner?”

Friday, April 29, 2016

A Short Note On North Carolina Moped Drivers.

At least she's wearing a helmet?

I watched as a moped unsafely whipped ahead of a line of cars this morning while driving, only for said moped to delay traffic and unreasonably slow everyone down. And yet, that moped is allowed on public North Carolina roadways without a licensed operator.

This is simply unacceptable.

I realize that some other states require moped operators to be licensed. North Carolina should do the same. Test people in the much the same manner as motorcyclists. Require that they possess the proper insurance. Make sure that everyone operating a motor vehicle has been evaluated and deemed responsible enough to share the highway, moped drivers included. More importantly, hold moped drivers in equal regard with other drivers. If they're caught driving while intoxicated, they must face the same penalties as drivers operating trucks, motorcycles and cars. Mopeds are involved in hundreds of accidents every year. Mopeds can and do kill people.

All drivers operating a motor-powered vehicle on the highway must be held to the same standard. Period.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Hardest Part Of The Human Body.

When one thinks of the hardest, most durable parts of the human body, there are some obvious guesses that could be made. The skull? Maybe the hip? Perhaps your femur?

No, no and no.

Believe it or not, the hardest part of the human body is in your mouth. Tooth enamel, the outermost layer of your teeth, is the most adamantine structure you possess. Enamel is largely composed of hydroxyapatite, which is a crystalline calcium phosphate. As such, it is stronger than any bone you have.

And yet, even tooth enamel has its weaknesses. What you eat determines the longevity of your enamel and overall dental health. Sugar is extremely destructive to enamel. Why? Because sugar acts as a food source for oral bacteria. As sugar comes to rest on your teeth, bacteria feed on it. This produces lactic acid. Accordingly, the lactic acid lowers the pH in the mouth. With a lower pH, the mineral structure of the hydroxyapatite in your enamel begins to erode, allowing bacteria to further invade the interior of a tooth. It's a endless cycle, ultimately leading to a tooth rotting out if not treated. Also harmful to tooth enamel are various acids, like that found in your gastrointestinal system or from soda pop. Of note, a hard-bristle toothbrush can also wear away the enamel over a long period of use. Soft-bristle toothbrushes are the way to go!

This is what sugar does to your mouth. It leads to enamel loss, allowing bacteria to invade and destroy your teeth.

Your tooth enamel will serve you a lifetime if you take care of it. Brush twice a day and limit your sugar intake as much as possible. Do that and the hardest substance in your body stay that way.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

How Does An Atomic Clock Work?

We all know the importance of clocks. They keep us running on time. Without them, we'd miss soccer practice and school, dentist appointments and weddings. The clock is a highly important tool, perhaps in the upper echelon of humanity's greatest inventions. But what about atomic clocks?

Just to alleviate your fears... no, atomic clocks don't run on nuclear power.

The base function of time-keeping with an atomic clock is grounded in atomic physics (not nuclear physics as many may believe). Using the electromagnetic transition frequency found within atoms, an atomic clock bases its mechanism of measurement against this standard. More often than not, atomic clocks rely upon the microwave signals that electrons emit in an atom when they change energy levels.

So how do atomic clocks work? With lasers. Coooooool!

Pew. Pew. Lasers are so rad.

Using captured atoms in a microwave-filled atomic fountain (a cloud of atoms tossed upwards by lasers in the Earth's gravitational field), atomic clocks employ said lasers to slow atoms down dramatically. In fact, the atoms are slowed to nearly absolute zero. That's frigid! Once the atoms are slowed to almost a standstill, the are probed to measure the time difference between the electrons changing their energy level.

At this point, you may be asking "Jared, what atoms are used to measure time in an atomic clock?" Good question! Atomic clocks rely upon a standard measurement found within caesium-133. As the only stable isotope of Caesium, the International System of Units (SI) defines the second as the duration of 9,192, 631, 770 cycles of radiation relating to the transition between two energy levels of the caesium-133 atom.

Click to enlarge

That's a lot of technical jargon, but essentially, the most accurate time measurement known to man is all thanks to the element caesium.

Because atomic clocks measure the second on the atomic level, they are the most accurate time measurement tools on the planet. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is the chief time keeper for the United States, through which much of the world also relies upon. Their current premier clock, the NIST-F2, has been online since 2014. Current evaluations of NIST-F2 place its accuracy at an amazing 300 Million years before it will lose a second. If you've ever synced your computer's clock to internet time, then you may have noticed the weblink. This is the NIST's website, which helps keep all of our computers, mobile devices and GPS units running accurately. Thanks NIST!

The NIST-F2 Atomic Clock

And there you have it. Atomic clocks keep our technological world running accurately and efficiently. When you look at your smart phone for the time, or map your coordinates on a GPS device, you're employing lasers and atomic physics. Doesn't that feel awesome?!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016


Heh... do you need TP for your bunghole?

Yeah... we all know that bunghole is a slang word for the butt. Go ahead and laugh. Get your giggles out the way.

As a teenager in the '90s, bunghole rose to vernacular prominence thanks to MTV's Beavis and Butthead. Cornholio, the high-strung persona of Beavis, would often make reference to his bunghole.

And yet, bunghole has even been used by a US President. Lyndon B. Johnson was recorded over the phone mentioning his bunghole to his tailor, whom was making him some new pants. You can hear that phone call here.

A plugged bung.

Where did the word bunghole come from, though? Well, it's a common word found in the wine and brewing industry, dating back millenia. The bunghole is a hole drilled or tapped into a sealed barrel which holds liquid. Via the bunghole, samples can be drawn to test for the content's quality.

So yes, a bunghole is a small hole that stuff comes in or goes out of. Perhaps the slang usage makes more sense than originally thought!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Remember Slim Goodbody?

If you grew up in the '80s and watched PBS, then you'll probably remember this guy...

And you thought you'd pushed this memory out of your mind, didn't you?

In the decade of excess, a thin man hopping around television in an anatomically correct leotard oddly didn't seem so strange. And yet, I wanted to plant this image back in your head.

Yeah... take a closer look.

Ah, Mr. Slim Goodbody. In all actuality, this oddball had a perfectly good reason for prancing around looking like he'd been in a horrible accident with a giant vacuum. He was portrayed by John Burstein, whom created the persona in the mid 1970's to entertain sick hospital children. Along with the flashy costume, he sung songs and performed skits pertaining to the human anatomy and health. In the 1980's, Burstein expanded upon the character and brought the Goodbody act to television on PBS. And that's where all your foggy, semi-frightening memories came from. THE INSIDE-OUT MAN FROM YOUR PAST HAS RETURNED!

Goodbody appearing with television legend and mainstay of my local PBS affiliate as a child, Captain Kangaroo.

Burstein still performs as Slim Goodbody occasionally while touring the USA, mainly playing to school crowds. I'll give the guy credit -- he spoke about the dangers of childhood obesity long before any of the other adults in my life did. I salute you Mr. Goodbody!

And now, for your viewing pleasure, an old episode from the 1980's Slim Goodbody television show! This one's about how you go poop!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Draw Something: The Friendly Kappa

The kappa meets all three requirements for being cool.
  • Is it a monster?
  • Is it a turtle?
  • Is it from Japan?
Yes. Yes. Y-E-S!

Kappas are creatures bound in ancient myth. Said to warn children about the dangers found along the banks of rivers and lakes, the kappa is both terrifying and beloved. Their history is beside the point, though. I just think they look cool.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

How Did I Get Here?

Trapped in a Dodge Nitro
Spinning wheels on the way to an Indigo Girls concert
Where did I leave my man card?
Back at that Motel 6 in Tulsa
With the cute desk attendant in her second year of vet school
She liked my chocolate brown polo shirt
Said that gator was 'cute'
Twelve hours and too much tequila later
That former beauty queen rolled off me like primary school insults
Meaning she didn't
My dad is going to love you
Mama is dead, she got hit by a cattle truck
I felt sorry for her again
Just like I had the night before
Lost in a thought... sorry folks
Are there apologies in poetry?
I digress
Barreling down the highway at a thunderous 55 MPH
Seemed like a good idea at the time
Just like nipple piercings and buying a Yaris
When do we get to LA?
My mocha frappa double whip no sugar soy milk caramel whatsamajig
Needed a top off... I was tweakin'
I don't know her name
I'm gonna call her Lucy
Lucy puts down her spicy chicken sandwich and asks
"Where do you see yourself in five years?"
Waiting for my demon spawn outside his charter school
Dad belly and tissue in hand
The closer I am... to fine?

Friday, April 22, 2016

Cauliflower Leaves Are Edible!

I've spoken before about my love for cauliflower. It's a fantastic vegetable that's also highly nutritious. Being tasty is an added bonus. And yet, I learned something valuable this week about cauliflower that absolutely surprised me.

Did you know that you can eat the leaves of a cauliflower plant... and they taste awesome?

There are a few cauliflower plants currently growing in our garden. On a whim, I asked Crystal if you could eat cauliflower leaves. After researching to see if they were toxic, she grabbed a leaf and took a bite. Edible and tasty indeed! I tried one of the leaves myself. They smelled like cheddar cheese, oddly enough. Once I bit into it, the flavor was similar to broccoli, only slightly muted. What an amazing food source sitting right in plain sight!

Yep... that's a lot of spinach.

Yesterday for dinner, we prepared turkey burgers. Instead of eating them with buns (with are nothing more than calorie-bombs that you shouldn't eat), we wrapped them in cauliflower leaves. Let me tell you... they worked great! It's almost like eating your burger in a taco, without all of the extra sugar and calories. I recommend you try it for yourself!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

An Afternoon Of Birdwatching.

For hours on end this afternoon and evening, Crystal and I sat in our backyard and took note of the various species of birds that came to our home. Many of these birds live in the Leyland Cypress trees surrounding our property. Others travel to eat, then fly back to the surrounding forests. We have five different bird feeders and a bath, so the birds know it's safe to come to our place for a bite to eat. Though the birds have been coming over for many years since we purchased the property, we've never really taken a detailed list of which species are present. Here are the birds we saw (or those that I can verify as having seen previously).

American Robin

Carolina Chickadee

Chipping Sparrow

Dark-eyed Junco

Eastern Bluebird

House Finch

Lesser Goldfinch

Mourning Dove

Northern Cardinal

Northern Mockingbird

Song Sparrow

Tufted Titmouse

White-throated Sparrow

I'm really thankful for these birds coming to our backyard to eat and reside. There's a real joy to be found in watching birds. I can't believe we've never done this rewarding activity before. I hope birdwatching becomes a daily ritual!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

How To Survive A Bear Attack.

I genuinely admire bears. They're smart, full of personality and eerily similar to humans in their behavior. And yet, they can also be savage killers if provoked. Almost exclusively, a bear attack is solely the fault of the human victim. We may tread upon its territory, or unknowingly approach their offspring. If a bear decides to attack a human, then it has a good reason. You are at fault.

Now, let's say you do find yourself involved in a potential bear attack. Whether consciously or unconsciously, you've done something to piss the bear off. The only question now is... how do you survive?

Here are some tips to follow if you're ever facing down a bear.
  • The strongest piece of advice I can give is to avoid putting yourself in danger to begin with. Don't move through a bear's habitat in solitary silence. Travel through forests with a friend and make a normal amount of noise. Bears will actively avoid you in return, so let them know you're coming.
  • Are you dealing with a black bear or something more menacing like a grizzly? This info matters! Grizzlies have a lump on their shoulders; black bears do not. The black bear has tall ears, whereas the grizzly has short ears. The face of a grizzly is also more broad and has a dished profile. Finally, the grizzly has much larger claws than a black bear. This knowledge becomes important later on.
  • If you see a bear before it sees you, either return the way you came or walk the LONG way around. Give the bear plenty of space.
  • Whatever you do, NEVER RUN FROM A BEAR. This triggers its aggressive instinct to chase and attack.
  • If you do find yourself in close quarters with a bear, stay calm. Speak in a soft, but direct voice. Say something with a steady, even tone like "Time to go away, bear." If you can back away slowly while speaking, do so. More often than not, a black bear will attempt to flee from you. Give it plenty of room to do so. Do not limit its avenues of escape. If you happen upon a grizzly, the same rules apply, but don't try to move it away as with a black bear. Just back away slowly and speak in a reassuring, pleasant voice.
  • If you surprise a bear and it becomes aggressive, this is its way of trying to deter you. Naturally speaking, bears don't want to fight any more than you do. A black bear will only present aggressive behavior (growling, swatting, snapping jaws) if you are near her cub, too close to a food source, or simply sneak up on him/her by mistake. Again, back away slowly while speaking in a calm voice.
  • There is only one instance where you should "play dead" in a bear attack. If you are in close physical contact with a grizzly bear, roll onto your stomach on the ground, put your hands over the back of your neck and head, then spread your legs and elbows wide. Your chances of surviving a battle with a grizzly improve if you do this. The grizzly will probably lose interest after a bit, but stay still! Do not get up (if you can) until you're certain the bear has gone away from the area. But what if the grizzly bear starts to eat you?
  • If a grizzly (or extremely rarely a black bear) has decided to make you lunch, even after playing dead, you're in a heap of trouble. Now is the time to make a lot of noise and fight! Shout, wave your arms around and act as big as possible. Make eye contact with the bear. Punch it in the face, eyes and nose when it starts to attack. Do whatever you can to inflict as much damage to the bear's face as possible. You're undoubtedly going to be injured, so don't be afraid to lose a hand or limb if you have to. Better to live life with one arm than be dead. You're not going to be able to outrun a bear, so this is your last and best option. If the bear decides that you're too much trouble to fight, they'll back off. Or, they won't... in which case, sorry about your luck pal!
I really love bears, but they need their space in the wild. Respect the bear and its habitat and they'll respect you in turn. Just remember... if you see a bear, back away slowly, speak in a calm voice and relax. The bear wants to live to see another day, just like you.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Gift Of Benevolence.

While cutting my lawn earlier this morning, I was mowing behind my tool shed when I saw a brown blur leap from the tall clover. It bounced to and fro, trying to escape my whirling machine of death. Abruptly, I had obviously startled a toad living under the ground foliage along the foundation of the shed. Immediately, I turned my mower off. This toad was the size of my palm and certainly more afraid of me than I was of it. Placing the toad in a bucket with some of the clover clippings for security, I finished my mowing. Once I was done, I released the toad back to her home, somewhere beneath my shed.

I've thought about that toad all day long. There was nothing remarkable about the little hopper. It was a female Fowler Toad (Anaxyrus fowleri), something quite common in the Piedmont of North Carolina. The Fowler Toad feasts on grubs, crickets, grasshoppers, spiders and other small insects, many of which are harmful to gardens. As such, the Fowler Toad is a beneficial species to have on your property. And yet, the little creature reminded me of something much more magnificent.

Three or more warts within the dark spots on the Fowler Toad's back help to distinguish it from the equally common American Toad.

As human beings, we have great control over this planet. Within our ability is the power to raze a forest, to pollute an ocean, to level a mountain. Humanity bears gifts not granted to any other species on Earth. In due regard, the decisions we make carry immense weight, reaching far beyond our own local existence. Sadly, I suspect many people would no more consider the toad as they would garbage littered beside the highway. Bound for the blade, that toad would be chopped into a million bits without so much as an afterthought. And yet, to pause for just a moment and insure its survival? That took no laborious toll on my time. In fact, it was a pleasure to view such a creature up close and personal. How kind of the Fowler Toad to make my back yard its home. I am honored.

Benevolence is a virtue too often forgot in our modern world. Not only should we be kind to our fellow man, but we must also steward the other creatures that inhabit our global village. From the enormous elephants of the African continent to the lowly toads in our own back yard, we should do right by animals. Within each of us is the power to give life, or to take it away. To let a creature live is a momentous choice, especially when said creature is of absolutely no threat to our own well-being.

As the toad hopped away, I was thankful for the opportunity it gave me to consider the notion of benevolence. Though that wart-covered amphibian didn't realize it, she had provided me with a gift. For that, I am grateful.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Things That Should Glow In The Dark.

I love stuff that glows in the dark. If I could paint my entire home and everything in it with phosphorescent paint, I would.

There... I got that off my chest. And yet, I feel like there aren't enough glowing objects in this world. For example... my smartphone case glows in the dark. Not just because it's cool, but because it makes it easier to see in the dark when I'm looking for it. If I were to lose it in a field or somewhere dark, all I'd need to do is shine a bright flashlight around and let it absorb the light. Tada! A glowing phone that's easier to recover!

The actual glow in the dark case I use for my LG Volt smartphone. Cool, right?

Here are some other objects I wish were available as glow in the dark.
  • Sink Faucets: It's 3 AM. Your brain is foggy and your eyes are barely open. You fumble into the bathroom and can't hardly see anything. Cutting the light on is a no-go; the sudden brightness would shatter your eyes. How wonderful if the faucets glowed, though? No need for a light!
  • Toilet Lid: Keeping it in the bathroom, a glowing toilet lid would make life so much easier. Not only would you be able to find it more easily, but it would also make life simpler for a man to not miss the bowl when he takes a leak!
  • Wallet / Purse: In the same vein as my phone, a glowing wallet would be super smart! You'd never lose it!
  • Paper: The implications of glow in the dark paper are endless. To begin with, a book printed with phosphorescence would be readable in the dark. No more need for a reading lamp or squinting in a dimly lit room.
  • Bed Sheets: Having glow in the dark bed sheets would be a great application for young children. Many kids are afraid of the dark when they're young. And yet, glowing sheets would provide a natural source of light to help them feel secure.
  • Money: Don't you hate it when you pull cash out of your wallet at night, but have to squint to see which bills you have? Glowing money would fix that. It would also cut down on the chances of passing the wrong denomination bill.
  • Cars: Want to cut down on road fatalities? Make cars glow. The steady flash of headlights in the dark would constantly keep the glowing paint active, thereby making vehicles more readily visible. That's a win-win in my book.
Are there any objects you wish glowed in the dark? Leave a comment!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Draw Something: Axolotl

Perhaps one of the most endangered creatures on the planet, the axolotl is a neotenic salamander native to lakes in and around Mexico City. Thanks to urban sprawl and human encroachment, the axolotl has become incredibly close to extinction in the wild, even though it enjoys a healthy level of breeding in captivity. To think such a beautiful creature can exist on this planet is mind-blowing, and yet we've nearly obliterated it. Find out more information on the axolotl here.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

You're Gorgeous, But Can You Translate?

Sometimes you fall into a deep hole swirling of susurration
Pulling you below as the robin drawn to a writhing worm
No emergency cable to insure your speedy recovery
Plunging beyond the sixty-first minute of the twenty-fifth hour
Uncharted edge of reason wrapping around itself
Warped and shattered the universe divided
Perpetually splitting the inexhaustible sequence

A syndicate to misery with the finest artillery
Left to ponder the metallic flood in your throat
All havoc tastes the same when your tongue is missing
The rising tide on the sanguine sea lifts your hope
To be the last man on Earth without any rope
But plenty of branches from which to swing

Flickers of bronze scattering the late day sun
Flat on your back with nowhere to run
The line between worlds concealed to most
"Hey, great impression of a minefield ghost!"
And there at the bottom you can't seem to recall
Dusk relieves the burden of the incalculable fall

Turn out the light when you leave
Time to go to sleep

Friday, April 15, 2016

Leaving Asheville.

The third and final day of my short excursion to the city of Asheville had finally come. On the itinerary today: visit the North Carolina Arboretum and attend the Asheville Orchid Festival. Woo-hoo!

The grounds of the North Carolina Arboretum are well maintained and groomed. Sadly, I was surprised at the lack of overall diversity in the plants residing on the property. It seemed smaller than I expected, but beautiful nevertheless. They had a large bonsai tree area, but nearly all of the pot-bound plants were still in storage due to the outside temperature not quite being warm enough yet.

Of note, there were two fantastic exhibits in their main building, featuring presentations on the Peregrine Falcon and wild predators of the United States.

Within the education building was the Asheville Orchid Festival. Though, the word 'festival' might be overselling it a bit. I'd say it was more of a 'meeting'. There were a large number of orchids, but not nearly enough to justify the festival designation. The orchid displays filled two rooms, of which half were growers selling their plants at OUTRAGEOUS prices. Over $100 for a plant? No thanks. I must say -- the flowers were very magnificent in both color and scope, much to my delight.

With the city of Asheville squarely in my rear-view mirror, it was time to come home. I have mixed feelings about Asheville. Do I think the city is way over-hyped? Positively so. Yet, there's also a genuine side to the city that was really appealing to me. If not for the Blue Ridge Parkway and Pisgah National Forest being so close by, I'd probably feel unsatisfied with the trip. And yet, the natural wonders and great local food (without hippies) saved it for me. Final verdict? Go to Asheville for the gorgeous environment and great local food, but avoid downtown and the other tourist traps.

Blaaaah. Hippies.

Check out the rest of my trip here: Day 1, Day 2.