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October 6, 2005

Tom ♥ Katie


Let me be among the first ten million people to congratulate the happy couple on yesterday's announcement that Katie is expecting.

I couldn't be more delighted.

But I will say that it might not be unwise for Tom to take a page from Ronald Reagan's remark to Mikhail Gorbachev, at their historic 1987 summit meeting, that the U.S. approach to arms reduction treaties from that point forward would be "trust, but verify," a translation of the Russian "doveryay, no proveryay."

In Tom's case it would probably be worth his while to give poor Chris Cagle


a ring sometime in the next few months to get some tips on how to proceed "just in case."

I would also be remiss if I didn't suggest Tom take a look at both yesterday's post and that of this past Monday on the suddenly hot topic of DNA paternity testing.


Just a thought.

October 6, 2005 at 05:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Liquid Luggage — Carry your water bottle in style


Sure, you could clip your water bottle to your belt but let's face it: it really doesn't go all that well with your gorgeous Chanel suit.

Rejoice, fashionistas, because travel hydration salvation is now at hand with... Liquid Luggage.

From the website:

    Don't leave your drink behind because you don't want to lug it around the airport!

    Designed by an airline pilot, this handy carrier means an end to juggling water bottles or weighing down your tote with them.

    Special foam backing helps keep beverages cool for up to 8 hours.

    Patented technology keeps the bottle in place, even when turned upside down.

    Also perfect for strollers, bikes and exercise equipment.

In red or black–is–the–new–black black.

Holds a 24 oz. bottle.

$14.50 here.

October 6, 2005 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

'Planes Briefly Disappear From Virginia Radar Screens'


That's the headline of Sara Kehaulani Goo's story in yesterday's Washington Post, where it was buried on page B3 of the Metro section.

Perhaps with the airline industry already in a death spiral the Post decided to go easy on the staggering companies still in business and not alarm any of the dwindling number of passengers any more than decent newsmanship demanded.

The outage is said by the FAA to be unrelated to an intermittent problem of planes disappearing from the FAA's long–range radar over the past several weeks for periods of "at least 30 seconds."

In any event I, for one, was startled to learn that occurrences like the out–of–the–blue 2-1/2–minute outage this past Monday are not rare but, on the contrary, "... a much more common and routine incident which controllers have experienced throughout their careers."

Say what?

Here's the article, which I hope some person who's already petrified of flying wasn't reading on board a plane yesterday in the area where the radar vacuum occurred.

    Planes Briefly Disappear From Virginia Radar Screens

    Air traffic controllers directing planes over Virginia called on the Federal Aviation Administration to investigate an incident Monday in which planes disappeared from radar scopes.

    According to a report filed by an air traffic controller at the Leesburg facility, two Delta Air Lines planes disappeared from a radar scope as one was descending over Virginia from 35,000 feet to 29,000 feet and another nearby was flying level at 33,000 feet.


    An alarm sounded in the control room signaling that the safety standard of five miles between the two planes had been breached, said Tim Casten, a representative for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, which is in contract talks with the FAA.

    Further investigation revealed that the planes were a safe distance apart and that safety standards were maintained, according to the union and the FAA.

    The union said the outage caused planes to disappear for at least 2 1/2 minutes. FAA spokesman Greg Martin said that the outage was less than two minutes but that he could not specify how long it was.

    But Casten said the incident highlights the tense conditions that controllers work under because of technical problems.

    "The computer was not receiving radar data, so the computer estimated the planes' position to be closer than five miles," Casten said.

    "It forced a very bad situation."

    Martin said the outage is not related to an intermittent problem of outside interference with the FAA's long-range radar that has caused planes to disappear from radar over the past several weeks.

    In those instances, planes unexpectedly disappear for at least 30 seconds from screens used by controllers to direct traffic at the agency's Washington Center in Leesburg.

    The facility controls air traffic above 15,000 feet in the area bounded by New York, South Carolina and West Virginia.

    Martin said that the FAA has pinpointed the radar interference problem to a specific area in Virginia and that it has not recurred since Sept. 27.

    Monday's incident "is a much more common and routine incident which controllers have experienced throughout their careers," Martin said.


    He said the FAA is updating some of the radars covering the Washington Center's airspace, which "will help reduce those radar jumps."

October 6, 2005 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (24) | TrackBack

Nihilist Chewing Gum — 'We don't believe in flavor'


$5.95 for six 14–piece boxes here.

October 6, 2005 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

See the flight of the raptors — in real life


Christine H. O'Toole wrote a superb article for the September 14 Washington Post about the magnificent annual spectacle of raptor migration, seen to great advantage at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary (above), an hour northeast of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Each fall 18,000 hawks, falcons and eagles make their way over Hawk Mountain en route from Canada's Hudson Bay to points as far south as Argentina.

Hawk Mountain is considered one of the best places not only in the U.S. but the entire world for humans to watch hawks fly south.

Every September and October researchers and amateurs come to sit and talk and watch a hawk makin' lazy circles in the sky....

Here's the story.

    Talon Show

    On a Pennsylvania Mountain, an Annual Spectacle of Raptors

    You've flown 100 miles since sunup, pushed by fall's first cold snap from the northwest.

    Your silent companions survey the landscape below, a bright patchwork of farmland and forest.

    You wheel slightly west, toward a sandstone outcrop, and spy something moving in the afternoon light. By your instincts as a hunter, you drop closer.


    The creatures moving below, holding strange black eyes against their faces, are 10 times your size.

    Belatedly, some part of your brain recalls seeing them on your flight south.

    You pull up, flap your wings once, and soar gracefully south, past the annual flock of bird-watchers clustered atop Hawk Mountain.

    * * *

    Each fall, 18,000 raptors get a bird's-eye view of this central Pennsylvania sanctuary, located an hour northeast of Harrisburg, Pa.

    They're on routes that can begin at Canada's Hudson Bay and end in Argentina, soaring down the Appalachian Kittatinny Ridge before cutting across Texas into Mexico, where they mass in the millions.

    Birders do some massing of their own this time of year, and Hawk Mountain Sanctuary is one of the best places in the world for humans to watch hawks fly south.

    Every September and October, researchers and amateurs at this nonprofit refuge track the flight of 16 species, from tiny kestrels to bald eagles, as part of the longest ongoing record of raptor populations in the world.

    Migration is hard work.

    But hawks, falcons and eagles make it look easy, gliding at eye level past the hilltop sanctuary in numbers that can reach 1,000 per day.

    And it's easy to copy their laid-back style by kicking back for an afternoon on the sunbaked boulders.

    We've come to Hawk Mountain not as ornithologists but as gawkers, savoring the late summer views and the fellowship of bird lovers.

    The north-south ridges of central Pennsylvania and the valleys in their folds look like a rumpled Indian rug, streaked with vivid orange and red as the birds streak overhead.

    Thousands of folks visit the sanctuary a year, but it's not the biggest local draw.

    That would be Cabela's, in nearby Hamburg -- the outdoor gear superstore that draws millions of visitors each year.

    But the store's location is a clue to the rugged lure of this terrain along the Schuylkill and Little Schuylkill rivers.

    From the sanctuary's 1,300-foot altitude, the view can extend some 70 miles.

    The exhilaration of the setting is the hawk's perspective: With nothing in front of you and the valley, you can easily imagine gliding right off the side of the mountain.

    That's a genuine hazard for the hikers along the notoriously difficult Pennsylvania section of the Appalachian Trail.

    "We get a lot of Appalachian Trail hikers -- it runs right through town," says Jack Boran, owner of the Port Clinton Hotel, a watering hole near Hamburg. Like a discerning bird-watcher, Boran can distinguish the plumage of visitors.

    "The birders might wear a shirt from Hawk Mountain or the Audubon Society. The hikers are wearing packs and boots -- and you can smell 'em," he jokes.

    On the Saturday we visit, an early-morning shower shrouds the vista, and as a result we meet our first hawk not over the valley but in the sanctuary's visitor center.

    A steep two-mile drive from a hex-painted barn on Route 895 brings us to the low-slung building, set across the road from the lookouts and trails.

    Reaching into a cage for a chirping broad-wing hawk, educational specialist Jeremy Scheivert gives us the raptor rap sheet; "Raptors vary in size but have two common physical features. First, talons, sharp toenails, good for catching and killing their food. Second, they can see very clearly at long distances."

    Our eyes being somewhat less acute than raptors', we seize the Hawk Mountain field guide that classifies hawks by shape.

    Buteos sport a classic broad-winged, round-tailed silhouette.

    Falcons have pointed wings and long, tapering tails; accipiters, small wings and long tails.

    The rain ebbs as we stroll the flat path to the nearest observation point, South Lookout.

    A bulletin board with handwritten highlights tells us we should have been here yesterday: six bald eagles were sighted, a season record.

    The view opens from the trees like a children's pop-up book onto a deeply peaceful valley: rivers, farms and forest.

    The first hawks of the day, in groups known as kettles, spiral over the ridgeline as the air warms.

    "When there's a cold front over the Appalachians, we usually get northwest winds, and birds conserve energy by riding that deflected air current," says Scheivert.

    "Their other strategy is riding thermal convections. With the sun beating down on the valley, a hot column of air rises up. If you're a broad-wing hawk, you get in that column of air and circle, and the heat actually lifts you. When the hawks are high enough, the heat dissipates. No more lift. They turn their nose, point south, and they sail."

    The white streak through the center of the valley is the River of Rocks, boulder-size leftovers from the glacier that pushed past 11,000 years ago. We could have hiked a four-mile circuit around the formation.

    Instead we opt to hike only another 200 feet to the North Lookout.

    The slight exertion brings us to the Slides, where conservation history and hawks converge.

    This stone ledge provided good shooting for the local gentry; a vintage photo in the visitor center shows hundreds of dead birds covering the ground near the North Lookout.

    In 1934, a New York conservationist named Rosalie Barrow Edge raised funds to buy 1,400 acres for a sanctuary.

    Eagles, the celebrities of the raptor world, are now a conservation success story.

    Their recent counts, Scheivert says, have consistently surpassed previous records. But not all hawks are rising; smaller birds, including kestrels, seem to be in decline.

    As the rocks heat up, smaller creatures hover -- monarch butterflies, dragonflies, hummingbirds.

    We could fill the rest of the afternoon with other pursuits: Renninger's, the Kutztown antiques market, is a half-hour away.

    But like most visitors, we prefer to stay on the mountain as long as the light lasts, then head back toward Route 61 for dinner.

    The Yuengling beer at Michael B's in Orwigsburg is frosty and fitting, not only because it's brewed up the road in Pottsville.

    The bald eagle on the label reminds us that he's still missing from our life list -- a reason to return, like the raptors, to Hawk Mountain each fall.

October 6, 2005 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Homer Simpson Pizza Cutter


From the blog that brought you the inimitable Pizza Cutter Fork comes this iteration: "Delivers a laugh with every slice!"

What's not to like?

Any of 4 choice sayings from Homer Simpson accompany each roll of the wheel.

First, though, you hear a chorus of "That's Amore."

"If it tastes good, it must be good for you!" is just one of the quartet of thought–provoking epigrams uttered by this philosopher–in–a–utensil.

"Easy–grip handle with stainless–steel cutting wheel that detaches for easy cleaning."

Button cell batteries included.

Tristan Tzara would so have one.

Although I believe Marcel Duchamp would, in the end, have opted for the Pizza Cutter Fork.

$9.98 here.

October 6, 2005 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

The Zen of Pie


Craig Wilson's column in yesterday's USA Today was as fervent an avowal of eternal love as I've read in a long, long time.

The headline was, "If baking pie is Zen, then eating it is nirvana."

It was addressed to one Anne Dimock, an artist and writer in Afton, Minnesota, whose new book, "Humble Pie: Musings on What Lies Beneath the Crust," is not only possessed of a wonderful title but has filling — er, content — that made Wilson swoon with delight.

Wilson is a unabashed pie–lover and he apparently found consummation in this book.

Dimock has been called by none other than Garrison Keillor "the Proust of pie."

Wrote Wilson, "I have never met Anne Dimock, but I am in love with her."

Noting Dimock's edict that strawberries and rhubarb do not belong in the same pie, Wilson enthused, "I have found my soul mate. The search is over."

His final paragraph read, "I'm not going to beg. Marry me, Anne Dimock. I have pie tins."

The book retails for $12.95; amazon sells it for $10.36.

But wait — there's more.

At 1 p.m. (ET) today Wilson's going to be live online discussing pie, his newfound love object, and things related.

So here's yet another pleasant way to goof off on company time.

Hey — keeping you sane is Job #1 here.

Wait a minute: I don't work at Ford.

Do I?

October 6, 2005 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Hands–Free Doorknob


With one of these you could open a door with your chin, your forehead, your foot or knee, even your hand.

Originally designed for people with arthritis or limited hand function, this device has far wider applications.

The doorknob extender would be ideal in situations where you find your hands full but the rest of you available.

Installs easily without removing, replacing or modifying your existing doorknob.

For right or left hand — or knee — use.

Fits all standard doorknobs.

5" long.

You get two for $19.99 here.

October 6, 2005 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

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