May 25, 2011
Why the broad-headed skink's head turns bright red in May
From Patterson Clark's entertaining "Urban Jungle" feature in yesterday's Washington Post:
For most of the year, the male broad-headed skink is olive-brown, a color that helps him blend into his favorite habitat of moist oak forests.
But during breeding season in the spring, high testosterone levels trigger a flush of color to his head, which in May resembles the end of a red-hot poker [above].
Not surprisingly, the males with the biggest, reddest heads tend to be the ones that get to mate with the largest females, which lay the most eggs.
When challenged by another male, the skink will try to intimidate his opponent by displaying the size of his head. If that swagger doesn't work, a fight will ensue, with the loser banished to the margins of boss skink's territory.
There, young and defeated males lurk, waiting for a chance to sneak some time with the closely guarded receptive female.
In the summer, females lay clutches of eggs in rotten hardwood logs, where they carefully monitor and protect them.
When they hatch in August, young skinks wear their mother's black and tan stripes, but sport bright blue, quick-release tails.
A predator grabbing a skink's blue tail will probably lose the rest of the lizard, which can scurry away — and can grow another tail.
I can attest to this: I've long since lost count of how many wiggling blue tails I've seen on my patio after Gray Cat's invariably accurate paw strikes.
POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS (shower curtain)
Winner of the 2011 Best Illusion of the Year Contest
From Rachel Saslow's item in yesterday's Washington Post:
In great optical illusions, straight lines bend, dots disappear and 3-D images pop out of seemingly 2-D drawings. Jordan Suchow and George Alvarez of Harvard University created an illusion called "Silencing awareness of change by background motion" [above] which just won the title "Best Illusion of the Year."
In the 14-second video, bright dots that form a ring around a tiny white dot change colors. When the ring starts to rotate, the dots appear to stop changing color; in reality, they are changing the whole time, but our eyes can’t detect it.
What is it?
Answer here this time tomorrow.
Hint: bigger than a bread box.
Fresh raw green almonds
Writes my Los Angeles correspondent, "These are eaten raw and whole with salt and cucumber — a Persian spring dish."
I have not yet had the pleasure of sampling either these or fresh dates, but I am determined to do so sooner rather than later.
Star Wars Trooper Hoodie
Designed by Marc Ecko.
$69.99 — but wait, there's more: "35% [$24.50] off this item automatically deducted at checkout."
Sweet: that brings it down to $45.49.
Note: "Offer ends Monday, May 30, 2011 at midnight PST."
You could look it up.
Experts' Expert: David Pogue's 5 ways to make your phone battery last longer
1. Decrease screen brightness
2. Turn off Notifications
3. Turn off Location Services
4. Quit open apps not being used
5. Turn off Push email and set to Manual
The tips appeared in Pogue's column in yesterday's New York Times.
He wrote, "A good friend of mine had been complaining that her iPhone 3GS battery was holding less and less of a charge. When we got together at 5 p.m. one recent day, it was at 5 percent full — and it had been fully charged that morning. She had barely used it all day. The phone was apparently running itself dry simply by being turned on."
After implementing the five suggestions above, Pogue noted, "The next day, my friend's battery, by the same time of day (5 p.m.), was still at 80 percent!"
iLog for iPad
From the website:
Crafted from carefully chosen reclaimed London wood, this iPad stand is a purpose-built charging station.
An ideal way to turn your iPad into a TV, a slide show, even a photo frame. Your iPad can fit either vertically or horizontally.
It's functional, useful and makes a lovely antidote to high tech living.