Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Tempestuous Relationship

The sky is so mean to me sometimes, I honestly forget why I stick with it.

Today's newspaper, for example, revealed that it's given me just four clear days since Dec 1. Four! Certainly such abusive negligence is sufficient grounds for divorce in any court in the land.

But then, just when on I'm the verge of filing the necessary papers, it unexpectedly gives me something like this and all is forgiven:

Jan 30, 2012 - 5:46 PM

Jan 30, 2012 - 5:50 PM

Jan 30, 2012 - 5:54 PM

I'm such a sucker for a pretty sky.

If it ends up dropping a tornado on my head someday, I'll have no one to blame but myself....

Monday, January 30, 2012

Now You See It, Now You Don't (2)

Central Ohio's Japanese Tea House isn't the only well-known structure that's disappearing this month.

Seneca County's courthouse in the county seat of Tiffin is disappearing, too.

After a bitter fight lasting the better part of the last decade, county commissioners finally decided to demolish the structure late last year after savage state budget cuts left them with no good way to pay for the necessary renovations.

This is apparently the first time that an Ohio courthouse on the National Register of Historic Places will have been demolished. It will leave a big hole in the center of Tiffin - a hole that won't be filled any time soon, if ever. Trials and other normal courthouse functions are apparently being held in a "temporary" location that is hard if not impossible for those in wheelchairs to get into.....

Like many of the Ohio courthouses built in the 1800s, Tiffin's (built in 1884) used to be a pretty impressive place.

Here's a postcard view of it, circa 1944:

And here's a more recent view:

I think it was back in the 1950s that the original clock tower was replaced by a streamlined version that never failed to startle me as I passed by during my semi-regular trips through town in the 1980s and 1990s. (Apparently Seneca County has a long history of not being able to come up with the money to do things right.)

Here are two views from the last few weeks:

Jan 4, 2012

Jan 24, 2012

If this destruction were the prelude to bigger and better things it would of course be much easier to accept. Instead, it seems like just one more sign of the decline and fall of Ohio (if not the US as a whole).

Like so much of Ohio, Tiffin seems to have peaked in about 1970. Since that time it's lost nearly 20% of its population. It now has significantly fewer people than it did in 1950.

Is there a limit to the decline short of zero?

I don't know.

But I don't think I'd bet on things bouncing back much in my lifetime.

(To learn much more about all this, go here. Want to get a better idea of what's being lost? Go here and here.)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Gap

Jan 15, 2012 - 5:28 PM

Jan 28, 2012 - 5:43 PM

Jan 29, 2012 - 5:37 PM

Note to Mother Nature: Two weeks between visible sunsets is much too long. Don't get me wrong - I really do appreciate the 16 minutes of additional light you've given us in the evenings since Jan 15, but... I miss seeing the sun's slow day-by-day shimmy to the north. Why, the point at which it disappears from view has moved almost an entire house width under the cloak of this month's clouds! This will not do. Please reform your ways immediately. Thank you. (PS - If you're still requiring animals to kill and eat each other in order to survive, I don't want to know.)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Seven Things I Learned This Week

----- Since 1961 more than 200,000 Americans have served in the Peace Corps. (They've worked in 139 different countries.)

----- 10,000 manhole covers are stolen in Bogota, Colombia every year. (That's about 4% of Bogota's 250,000 total manhole cover inventory.)

----- There are about 5600 Taco Bell restaurants in operation these days. (That's about 1000 fewer than 12 years ago.)

----- About 60,000 novels were published during the Victorian Age (1837-1901). (About 30,000 novels were published in the US last year.)

----- The adhesive on US stamps can withstand temperatures ranging from 158 degrees (Fahrenheit) to 40 degrees below zero. (That's just one of the ways US stamps are better than I am.)

----- About $58.8 billion dollars are spent on lottery tickets every year in the US. (About $18 billion of that is profit - roughly 31% - for the 43 states and the District of Columbia that run these lotteries.)

----- The oldest inmate in Ohio's prison system is 90.

I suppose that's more than 7 things, if you want to get technical. (I don't.)

I hope you've learned at least as much. (Learning, after all, can be a fine distraction from bad weather.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

King Of The Yard

Today would not have been a good day for you to put on your favorite gray sweatshirt and then scurry around my patio like a mouse....

According to my less than perfect records, this is the first time I've seen this guy since December 14. I bet he's been around when I haven't been looking, though. Predators are like that.

Sunday's newspaper told me that hawks like this have become increasingly prevalent in Ohio's suburban areas during the last 10-15 years. Apparently more and more people are putting seed out for the birds, inadvertently turning their yards into smorgasbords for hawks in the process.

Although the newspaper assured me that hawk attacks have little impact on the overall population of birds, the impact they can have on individual birds seems indisputably impactful - especially if I happen to catch a glimpse of that impactfulness while I'm trying to eat my lunch.

Just last week I'd tried to minimize the dangers of hawk attacks by telling my S.O. that cardinals must taste bad since their bright red feathers against white snowy backgrounds don't seem to make much sense otherwise. Well, the newspaper specifically said that hawks eat cardinals. Now I want to establish something like the witness protection program for them.

Do hawks eat elephants? I doubt it. But I guess I'll find out for sure if I dress my cardinal friends up in elephant suits and they end up disappearing.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

2011: Great Year Or Greatest Year?

Ok, truth be told, I thought 2011 kinda sucked.

But that's pretty much my opinion of every year.

On the bright side: 2011 could have been much worse.

On the brighter side: 2011 was actually better than many years in some ways.

Here are a few examples I gleaned from recent newspapers:

----- Fewer people died on Ohio roadways in 2011 than in any other year since they started keeping records back in 1936.

----- Fewer people were murdered in Columbus last year (92) than in 2010. Or in 2008. Or in 2006 and 2003. And in the 21st century only 2004 had so few summer murders (18).

Um, ok - I thought I'd collected one or two other pieces of good news about 2011, but... I seem to have misplaced them.

Let's hope I can find them again before their loss becomes a strike against 2012.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Cardinal Knowledge

So, in my last entry I posted five photos of cardinals that visited my back yard yesterday.

This morning - less than 24 hours later - I opened my front door, brought in my copy of the Columbus Dispatch, and found a story about cardinals in it.

It would seem that I'm surrounded.

And now infiltrated.

Or something.

One thing I'm clearly not, however, is plagiarized as the story didn't focus on red cardinals but on other kinds.

Who knew that there *were* other kinds?

Not me.

Not until I saw their photo of a yellow cardinal, anyway.

There are also allegedly albino cardinals but apparently photos of such creatures aren't fit for publication in a family newspaper. They published a photo of a partial albino instead.

You can see it for yourself by going here.

If you read the article under the photos you'll also learn the following fun facts:

----- There are apparently far more cardinals in Ohio now than before the area was settled by Europeans. It seems that cardinals love our suburban open spaces and more or less hated the old growth forests that once covered much of the state. Consequently, it doesn't look like you're gonna need to join any "Save The Cardinals!" campaigns anytime soon.

----- How many cardinals are there in Ohio now? An estimated 2.4 million. That's roughly 1 cardinal for every 5 Ohioans. (In case you can't tell the two apart, cardinals are the ones who don't clog the airwaves with negative campaign ads.)

----- Both male and female cardinals sing but the females sing a little less vigorously. (Raucous blue jays "sing" - if you want to call it that - far more loudly than either.)

----- In 1879 or so you could buy cardinals in Columbus for about $1.50 a pair. That's illegal now. But you can still buy just about as many assault rifles as you want. Go figure.

----- Sometimes you might see a "bald" cardinal. These poor, crestless birds with their exposed dark and bony heads are suffering from mites. The mites itch. The birds scratch off all their feathers as they attempt to find some relief. Fortunately, most of these mite-infested birds fully recover. (The article doesn't say whether or not the mites survive. I guess nobody cares. If mites ever learn how to sing, maybe that will change. I bet it would even boost sales of assault rifles.)

----- The yellow of yellow cardinals is caused by a genetic abnormality known as "xanthochroism" among scientists who enjoy showing off at parties and such. It mutes the darker pigments, allowing the yellow to show through - or so I'm told. Part of me suspects this is all a put-on from a bored journalist who doesn't think that readers of the Dispatch have ever heard of Photoshop.

----- Cardinals can apparently live as long as 16 years in the wild. Given Ohio's often horrible weather, I'm betting that feels like about 100 years to those cardinals lucky enough to survive middle age.

And just because I know it's impossible to have too much cardinal knowledge, I'll also pass along this: The cardinal is Ohio's state bird. Just like it's the state bird of 6 other states - Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Virgina, and West Virginia. That just seems wrong as wrong can be - or at least as wrong as the Cincinnati Reds calling themselves the home team of 7 different cities. When I'm King this is exactly the sort of nonsense I hope to replace with a whole better class of nonsense.

North Carolina is perhaps the most surprising state on that list. I would have thought North Carolinians would be the ones most familiar with the Bible and, as such, the ones who would have picked the bat to be their state bird. I suspect they'll rectify this unholy oversight just as soon as they realize the futility of trying to sell tobacco to cud-chewing rabbits....

Friday, January 13, 2012

Two More

Jan 10, 2012 - 5:19 PM

Jan 11, 2012 - 4:52 PM

Lots of clouds and snow showers today.

If YOU happen to see the sun, please tell it I said hi.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Now You See It, Now You Don't

In case you haven't noticed, things change.

Here's more proof:

Dec 24, 2011

Jan 8, 2012

That may not look like much of a loss in the grand scheme of things - or even the small scheme of things - but... I think it represents a loss all the same.

The structure in the first photo was known locally as the Japanese Tea House because that's what it was for much of its existence. It started off as a regular house until a US Army linguist who had served in Japan bought the place in the 1950s and transformed it into a showcase for Japanese culture.

That linguist even went so far as to import a Shinto shrine from Japan and set it up in the back yard.

Next to a carp pond.

Here's the postcard view of it that they used to sell to those with a quarter or two to spare:

I never found the time to take a tour of the place while such tours were still being given but apparently hundreds and hundreds of area school kids did thanks to the invention of the field trip.

It was one of the most unlikely things I've ever stumbled upon in central Ohio and it's likely to continue to hold that title until the Democrats regain control of at least one house of the state legislature.

I'm never exactly sure how special little things like this go from being eye-catching gems to empty lots, but a news story from about two years ago did a fair job of succinctly charting its decline.

According to that story, the linguist's son sold the place for $500,000 back in 2005. It was sold again for $330,000 in 2007. The city apparently bought it a year or two ago for about $126,000.

Now it's an empty lot.

Ready for redevelopment, they say.

We'll see.

Maybe someone will actually put something on the site that's even more interesting, but I have my doubts.

In fact, I'm betting on yet another ugly CVS drug store popping up, but we'll see.

The fact that someone actually decided to put a Japanese Tea House there less than 20 years after Pearl Harbor would seem to indicate that almost anything is possible.

Bottom Line: I remain open to being surprised.

Got lots of money you don't know what to do with? Why not give it a shot!

*Suddenly wondering what it might cost to turn the site into a trilobite sanctuary*

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Things In My Yard: Exhibit E

It's been months since anything very interesting has found its way into my yard.

Well, anything made by humans, anyway.

That ended yesterday when my S.O. brought in this late afternoon find:

As usual, it seems to have come from a place many miles away.

Do you suppose that a force strong enough to deposit this receipt in my yard is strong enough to also deposit the item it happens to be a receipt for?

Apparently not - but I'm continuing to keep an eye on my yard, just in case.

(To see some of the other things that have turned up in my yard, go here.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Greetings From The President

I hope everyone had a great holiday season.

Mine was ok.

About two dozen old-fashioned snail mail holiday greetings found their way into my home this time around. The snowmen cards far out-numbered the religious ones. That put a smile on my face - and it probably will right up until the day a complete stranger comes up to me on the street and tries to tell me that Frosty melted away for my sins.

I even got a holiday greeting from the Obamas!


I'm not sure why I got this. I've never sent them a card. Maybe every American got one?

If so, then you probably already know why I ended up feeling a bit miffed by the experience.

If not, well... reading the insert that came with the card might help you understand my feelings:

I think this is the first time in my life that I've received a holiday card that included a request for money.

Such a request would strike me as tacky under almost any circumstances I can imagine.

It especially struck me as tacky coming from a family with an income these days of $400,000 a year.

I understand that the money is going to the re-election campaign and not to keep Michelle in pearls, but even so.... From what I've read, that campaign is already expected to take in and spend a billion dollars this year. Hitting me up for another $50 at the same time that my local food pantry is begging me for any spare cans of peas I can spare seems more than a little inappropriate to me.

It never even occurred to me to send a holiday card to the Obamas asking *them* for money. Now that it has, I doubt that they'd respond very positively if I acted on that thought. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if using the postal service to ask the President of the United States for money doesn't get one placed on some sort of watch list.


Just for the record, I also got a holiday card from a local plumbing company that I've never sent a card to. Sure, it's probably nothing more than an attempt to get money out of me somewhere down the road, but... at least it was subtle.


NO obvious request for cash - let alone a list of suggested amounts.

What does it say about us as a nation when a local plumber has a better sense of tact and etiquette than the people in the White House?

I guess I should be glad that they didn't say the baby Jesus had told them to ask me for money, but... it's hard.

Or at least harder than it should be.

I can only hope that any Arbor Day greeting they might care to send me is a bit more endearing.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Show-Off Sky

Jan 6, 2012 - 5:20 PM

Jan 7, 2012 - 5:16 PM

Jan 8, 2012 - 5:01 PM

Jan 8, 2012 - 5:12 PM

Jan 9, 2012 - 5:17 PM

Jan 9, 2012 - 5:27 PM

Jan 9, 2012 - 5:37 PM

Do you suppose it's a cry for attention?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Weird Postcard Of The Week

I'm not sure what intrigues me more - the idea of dental parlors or the fact that someone thought kittens were the best animals to use to promote a business with Buffalo as part of its name.

(The fact that the kittens are mathematically inclined, on the other hand, seems to make perfect sense to me on some subconscious level.)

Friday, January 6, 2012

Excuse Me While I TiVo The Sky

Jan 5, 2012 - 5:15 PM

Jan 5, 2012 - 5:19 PM

Jan 5, 2012 - 5:24 PM

Jan 5, 2012 - 5:34 PM

Jan 5, 2012 - 5:40 PM

Jan 5, 2012 - 5:46 PM

Thursday, January 5, 2012

My Trilobite's New Best Friend

Regular readers might recall that it was about a year ago that I brought a bouncing baby trilobite into my house.

That baby seems to have had a pretty good 2011, but... I don't know. It seems to have grown rather quiet and unsmiling lately.

I mean especially quiet and unsmiling rather than merely quiet and unsmiling as trilobites tend to be.

In hopes of changing this situation, I recently brought a new fossil into the house.

It seems to have worked!

Which is to say that my trilobite hasn't become even more quiet and unsmiling.

Which is enough for me to declare victory and move on to other things (like pondering whether or not Michele Bachmann will be available to mow my lawn this summer now that she's stopped running for president).

Here's what the new fossil looks like:

(Approx. 3.5 inches Stem to Stern)

As you probably were able to guess, it's a Knightia atta fishie from the Green River formation in Lincoln County, Wyoming.

I'm told that the rocks there were formed by the deposition of calcareous muds and ash between 40 and 60 million years ago.

"Unlike the harsh desert-like conditions typical of this area today, the climate of the fossil lakes was probably mild and subtropical, as indicated by the fossil fauna (alligators, stingrays, boa constrictors, and warm water fish) and the flora (palm fronds)."

That's what the card that came with my new fossil fishie says, anyway.

Wherever my new fossil may have come from and however long ago it may have sweet-talked its way into this rock, I'm pleased that it's now shacking up with me and the others in my household for as long as it chooses to stay.

If it intends to stay more than 40 million years, though, I hope it gives me some advance warning so I can stock up on the chips and dip.