Time to leave the blogosphere?

Getting busy. Things are happening too fast.  Maybe I’ll blog for 2 or 3 days more.

My first blog post was on Sunday, October 29, 2006 here:

Some Links

How to order Indian food in Hindi. (via Organizations and Markets)

Which countries have the most dentists per capita? Look for the UK.

Average faces – select or upload faces to average  (thanks, read)

Coffee map of Ethiopia (thanks, Jake)

King Alfred’s Grammar Book (Jake again)

Jake’s sig:

Singapore Jake:
The Best Banjo Player in Bangkok

“If wishes were horses we’d all be eating steak.”
Jayne Cobb

The Iowa Republican focus group Obama muslim video.  I count 26 people in this group of “Republican caucus voters”. The moderator asks how many people believe Obama is a Muslim and 6 people raise their hands.  Everyone looks around, then an additional 4 people raise their hands.  Let’s see, 10 out of 26 is about 38%, not even a majority.  So what is the title of the video?

Iowa Focus Group on Obama Agrees: He’s a Muslim

Ha, ha, ha.  38%.  “The group agrees.”  Ten out of twenty-six.  And four of them didn’t even know the answer until they looked around to see how many people had their hands up. That’s why I stopped reading political commentary.

BTW, if you ask that question in Jordan, I hear you get 100%. That’s because a person’s religion is supposed to be inherited from their father.  And that’s why Muslim men are allowed to marry outside their religion, but Muslim women are not.

Of course it doesn’t always work that way.  What really happens is that the bride’s family threatens to kill her, so it is the husband who ends up changing his religion, then the children are raised without any religious instruction.  (There is no civil marriage, it’s all done by the families.)

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Another clue in the Bobby Franks murder mystery

Nearby Wolf Lake has been the scene of numerous crimes, but one that continues to haunt the imagination is the murder of Bobby Franks in 1924.  In particular, people like to speculate about the location of the culvert where the body was found. (I wrote about it here and here.)

I have received via email another clue to the location of this culvert–a small map that appears to be quite old.

I have no idea what this is from. It’s not drawn to scale,  but it has an incredible amount of detail, mostly of landmarks that no longer exist…house, hotel, etc.

Everything has changed since 1924.  The water levels have changed, wetlands have  have been drained, and the flow of the lake has been reversed to empty into the Calumet River to the west instead of Lake Michigan to the east.  An interstate highway cuts through the east side of the lake on the Indiana side, and a Nike missile site has been built and torn down on the north shore of the Illinois side.  The outlines of concrete missile bunkers can still be seen in the ground on the hill overlooking the lake. They are visible from satellite.

But a few things are the same.  The state line.  The railroad embankments. A few city streets: 106th street and 112th street.

So where is it? Impossible to tell, but you could probably get close. Today we have satellite images at our fingertips and image editing programs.  If you crop the images at 112th street at the top and the north shore of the Illinois side of Wolf Lake on the bottom, and distort the satellite image a bit, it starts to look like the proportions of old map.

To make it easier to compare the two images, I’ve marked the state line in blue and the railroad outlines in red, and also labeled 112th street. The railroad on the east is still there and the railroad on the west is now a foot trail that follows the old route of the tracks and is quite visible from satellite. The only missing pieces of information are the locations of the 1924 shoreline, now that the lake may be lower by as much as 15 feet and of the “drainage ditch” marked on the old map.

The culvert was at the intersection of the drainage ditch and the western train tracks.

The old map shows the drainage ditch constructed in an east-west orientation; I’m going to stick my neck out and say it flowed east into the lake.  So, the rain that dislodged the boy’s body washed it to the east of the railroad tracks, where it was then visible to someone on a passing train. The east side of the ditch is near the intersection of the state line and the railroad track that bisects the lake. The west side of this drainage ditch is marked as the location of the infamous culvert where it meets the other railroad track.

There are three possible locations for the drainage ditch.

1) Where the present day road is, between the shoreline and the Nike missile site .  In this case, the infamous culvert would have been at the place where I photographed the deer in the previous post, where there is a short footpath from the lake road to the old railroad path.  I think this is unlikely, as there is now marshland next to the road. (See previous photo of the north shore road looking east towards Indiana with the railroad that intersects the lake in the distance. The autumn cattails, that usually grow in ditches and  standing water, are evident on the left side of the road. )  I think this area would have been completely underwater in 1924.  But maybe not. The intersection of the state line with the tracks does not look all that different.  But then you get into the question of all the buildings–house, hotel, whatever.  There would not have been much space for them next to the water, with a road as well. A ditch is unlikely on the very top of the small bluff.   It is also unlikely that a ditch would be built on the shoreline and paralleling a lake, when the water could be much more easily routed directly into the lake at the west end. I think the buildings pictured on the old map were on the crest of the hill, and the road as well, with the ditch to the north of that.

2) The ditch might have been parallel with the present day 118th Street. Today there is a foot path from 118th Street to the trail on the old railroad embankment and another trail leading east towards Egger’s Woods, and if you go south a little, towards the Nike missile installation. I have never followed this path very far, the gang signs and drunk teenagers I have seen here from time to time don’t encourage me to venture  into such a remote a place alone, but it does look very much like the terrain from the photos of the discovery of the body–a sort of high pasture.  There is a line of trees on the left of the path–and from satellite it looks like a very straight line–that may indicate a place where water (from an old ditch?) might be more available.  The main thing that favors the 118th street theory is the curve in the railroad tracks. On the old map, the culvert is pictured at the curve, and the curve is here.  It’s now an industrial corridor with high voltage lines that cross where the path curves.

3) The theory I favor at the moment is that the culvert was somewhere between 118th and north shore of the lake.  The old photos are marked 121st Street, not 118th.  From satellite, there is a straight dark line, presumably a tree line, slightly north of the old missile site, that could indicate an old ditch.  The location is roughly at the guerrilla book exchange, which I wrote about here (03/07) and here (05/07) and finally here (9/08) (image).  This area is quite swampy, even now, as soon as you step off the path, so maybe the culvert was further to the north after all.

Maybe an old map would help, maybe not. If the culvert was by 118th street, why did the photos say 121st street?  Was that an approximation or an official location?  Was 118th Street even there in 1924? It should be easy enough to find out. Chicago has been well mapped by the fire insurance companies, and historical maps of the East Side neighborhood (directly north of the lake), and Hegewisch (to the south and west of the lake) should be in an archive somewhere. I think the originals are in the Chicago Public Library.

Walking around might yield some clues too.  What about those straight tree lines that you can see from the satellite image?  Are they the remains of an old ditch?  And the old Indiana road–where does that connect now, and is there any sign of a ditch on the east side?  For further reference, here is wikipedia on Wolf Lake (with latitude and longitude coordinates on the upper right corner that you can click to find satellite images). A map of the Burnham Greenway trail system is here; the paths leading north from Wolf Lake are real enough, any paths leading south are purely hypothetical as yet. Here is a map of William W Powers State Park, the area closely surrounding the lake.

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Here comes the sun

The sun came out briefly today and I took the opportunity to capture the moment on film, or whatever you call it with an electronic camera.

What happens to geraniums when you leave them without water for three weeks?  I was pleased to see they revived quite nicely after my recent medical tribulations.

There is even one flower.

Some things do not look better in the sunlight.

This web is not world wide—yet—but it is just a matter of time.

Dust is a status symbol, yes? It means you have other, and presumably loftier, priorities.

Sun dog

Be it so, said Tubero; and since you invite me to discussion, and present the opportunity, let us first examine, before any one else arrives, what can be the nature of the parhelion, or double sun, which was mentioned in the senate. Those that affirm they witnessed this prodigy are neither few nor unworthy of credit, so that there is more reason for investigation than incredulity.
—Cicero, On the Republic

You don’t see these very often, and when you do, they’re usually double, one on *either* side of the sun. I shot this from the road, braving the single digit temperatures to roll down the car window and point the camera over my shoulder.

By the time I could pull off the road, the second image on the right was gone, and there was only the oddly glaring winter sun, low in the sky.

Then in the rear view mirror I caught a glimpse of a brilliant red sunset with both sun and sun dog. But by the time I fumbled the camera out of its case, the color had diminished and I only had time to catch this view through the salt-encrusted window as the car passed behind a hill.

Sometimes part of a photograph catches my imagination, and I play with it in an image editor to try to bring out whatever I find startling about it. A pity this one wasn’t in good focus.

Oz flood seeps into US news stream

I usually avoid televisions, but I couldn’t avoid them over the Christmas break when I was waiting for and then recovering from ankle surgery.  Our local news stations are notorious for only showing local news, but night after night there were images of the Australian floods.

First, I followed the flooding in New South Wales by internet. There was flooding in towns with improbable names like Wagga Wagga and Gumly Gumly, that one can only image how to pronounce. Then the flooding moved north to Queensland where sharks are now spotted swimming up Main Street.

One of the sharks was spotted by local butcher Steve Bateman swimming in floodwaters near his shop Thursday while another one was seen in water covering the town’s main street.

Ipswich councilor Paul Tully said he believed the reports. “It’s definitely a first for Goodna, to have a shark in the main street,” he said.

“I know Steve and he wouldn’t say he saw a shark unless he really saw one. It’s not like there have been polar bears or crocodiles spotted. Bull sharks have been in Goodna for a long time in the Bremer [river].

“They are regularly in the Brisbane River and often swim up. I know a number of fishermen who have caught bull sharks.”

What a town.

And now Victoria in the south is expecting heavy rains.

I admit to having been a bit captivated by Australia lately. I just finished reading both Mutant Message Down Under and Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country.  Over these images I’ve tired to impose some order with these maps of towns and rivers, and imagine eucalypts soaking up seasonal waters on the northern flood plain and marsupials leaping across the, what, forest? prairie? mountains?

This first map is a list of rivers.  The second map is something I have never seen before,  an interactive map that  lets you mouse over a remote location and see from automated sensors how much rainfall there has been.  So even if the humans have been evacuated, you can still see information from the area.

So how are they doing in Wagga Wagga these days? The city’s council’s homepage provides a place to, among other things, report a pothole or missing sign.

More recently you can check on the repair status of various bridges damaged in the flood, or find out how to celebrate Australia Day. And how do they do that? With a talent show where you can sing, dance, juggle or tell jokes (without an Oxford comma). Also an army band, free children’s wavers (?) and tatoos (tattoos?). “Don’t forget to bring your hat and sunscreen.” I guess it’s still a sunburned land.

[I was going to google Bill Cosby’s classic 1960’s “How long can you tread water, Noah?” routine and add it to the post, but for one thing I can’t access YouTube these days, also the reposts of loss of life still coming out of the north are quite sobering.]

200 years in 4 minutes

(Thanks, Jake, and Merry Christmas to all.)

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Season’s Greetings

Winter solstice tonight, also full moon — what a coincidence is that? — and if that’s not enough, there’s a total eclipse (visible in North America at least) and a return of the Ursids meteor shower.

Good luck finding the information though. There is a world map of the eclipse here. (Our friends in Europe and Australia will be able to see a partial eclipse.) North American eclipse times are listed at Wikipedia. This website gives moonrise and moonset, along with the cardinal directions for planning your viewing spot or photo angle, you can search for your city. Here is a link to info about the Ursid meteor shower, visible in the northern hemisphere only.  The meteors are in the northern sky and appear to come from within the Little Dipper,  between Polaris and the Big Dipper.

The eclipse starts here at 11:27 pm, peaks at 2:17 am, and is total between 12:40 am and 1:53 am. I’m not sure that’s worth getting up for. The radar shows some clouds coming in, so who knows if it will be too overcast to see anything.

Okay, here’s more links. The website NASA links to is down, but here is the google cache, with start and end times for GMT and the Pacific. And for real eclipse geeks, from google cache of NASA’s eclipse pages, you can also find links to times for “predicted umbral immersion and emersion times for 20 well-defined lunar craters”.

[photo credit: NASA]

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Garrison Keillor’s car starting song

Before Garrison Keillor made the big time, he used to have a morning  show at Minnesota Public Radio in Minneapolis. I listened to it every morning while getting ready for electronics class. Being live radio and unscripted, sometimes he would get hopelessly tangled up in some topic or spoof that was impossible to extricate himself from. On those occasions, with sidekick Jim Ed Poole cracking up in the background, he would cut to the Beach Boys’ “Help me Ronda”.

In the winter, by popular request, he would play the car starting song. In those days cars had carburetors instead of fuel injectors and a frozen car could be started by removing the air filter and pouring a little gas-line antifreeze (trade name Heet) down its throat. And yes, we did sometimes plug in the car overnight to make sure it would start in the morning–there was some sort of engine heater with a plug hanging out of it, or you could get a portable one with a magnet that would stick on any iron engine part. That was back before they figured out how to get cars with fuel injection and aluminum engine blocks to run in this cold of a climate.

The Car Starting Song is almost impossible to find on the web. I found it by googling “O cold and misery”. Turns out it was written by Charlie McGuire and the title is coincidentally “Oh cold and misery”. It’s even on an album, Harbour Lights: The Second Voyage, and you can hear the first verse here, after a short talking lead-in.

I have to add that this was a fairly typical kind of music we listened to when we went out to The Land in the summer. In the 70’s, Wisconsin communes didn’t have electricity (it has solar cells with an array of 12V batteries now), so no electric guitars or rock and roll, but there were a few people who could play a mean guitar, bass, or banjo, and still do.  Sometimes after much beer was consumed, the musicians would become horizontal, but they never stopped playing.

So here is another link to the car starting song, in hopes that it will be forever immortalized.

Oh cold and misery

It was early morn’ like so many before

C Am
Oh cold and misery

Am C G Am
I put on my coat and walked out of the door

G Am
Standing alone on the frozen ground

Additional verses:

I went to the place where my beast lay asleep
(Oh cold and misery)
On four tires of rubber a long cord in its teeth
(Standing alone on the frozen ground)

I opened the door and I jammed in the key
Not a sound did I hear, nor exhaust did I see

So I went to my neighbor and to her I spoke
She soon came a ‘ riding on white clouds of smoke

On it’s terminals bare, long cables I placed
And I gave it a charge with revenge of my face

It coughed, and it rumbled then let out a roar
Lashing it with gas pedal harsh commands I swore

The smell of the ether ether did hand in the air
And empty “Heet” cans lay about everywhere

And when we were moving its anger was gone
From its radio voice, came music and song

But tonight when the dark comes to its moving parts
It will again be the beast with the ice in its heart

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Work and passion

A while back I discovered the Study Hacks blog.  Mostly it examines strategies for students, but sometimes  it takes apart common cultural assumptions about other topics, like life and work.  The blog is mostly finished, and the archives are the big attraction, but every once in a while, blogmeister Cal Newport comes back to take a stab at topics like dream jobs or Romantic Era scholars in the classroom. This week he tackles The Passion Trap: How the Search for Your Life’s Work is Making Your Working Life Miserable, a re-thinking of all the “do what you love and the money will follow” type of career advice books of the last twenty years or so. As usual, some of the most provocative ideas are in the comments.  Here’s one:

Mary Arrr wrote that passion became the touchstone in 1970, when going to college became the norm, and the first generation of kids raised in suburbia entered the workforce. As she wrote, “This meant that people had to decide what career they were interested in without necessarily having any knowledge of what people in that field actually did, or even any notion of what people who had jobs did all day.” It meant that people did not grow up watching their fathers work, let alone assuming that they would follow their father’s path. And the fathers, the people who had chosen to move the family out to the sociable suburbs, said, “My work is too hard.” They didn’t just say, “Become a lawyer, become a doctor,” they also said, “We’ll be behind you, no matter what you decide to do.” So young people had infinite choices, little information, and little guidance.

or conversely, “you have the capability to do anything you want to do, but we will not be behind you, no matter what you do”, a battle I am currently engaged it, again, …and the story is different it you tell it from the aspect of the mothers instead of the fathers–the values gulf between the American baby-boomer generation of daughters and their mothers is legendary….

But what happens when you chose a path for its sensibleness but don’t follow it because it lacks passion?  Or if you chose a path for its passion and then lose that passion, do you continue because it is sensible? And will your path be littered with the remains of family relationships that didn’t survive because you made autonymous decisions….

Here’s another:

Just try to look at potential projects and relationships as open-ended projects, hypotheses, and experiments. Avoid Grand Pronouncements like “Life’s Work” before you get started – reserve them for when you get older and want to tell a nice story about your life. Distrust these stories, by the way – it’s only in the rear view mirror that your life path looks obvious.

But what if you are older and closer to retirement than to the beginning of your work life–can you still maintain an open-ended attitude about work?

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