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June 23, 2009

Biker Dog — At first she was 'sloppy' on the turns but then she started to surf

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So said Alan Ribner of his dog Sevey (above and below), who accompanies him everywhere in a custom-built dog motorcycle seat.

Here's Tara Bahrampour's story from the front page of yesterday's Washington Post Metro section with the details.

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Biker Dog

Virginia Man Never Goes Anywhere Without His Motorcycle Mutt

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Her wavy black hair streaming behind her, she rides without helmet or clothes; just a neckerchief, goggles and a toothy smile. She elicits stares, thumbs-up and sometimes outrage. After all, who's to say she enjoys it, perched precariously on the back of a souped-up Harley-Davidson, careering down the highway at 60 mph? Dogs were not meant to fly that way.

Sevey, a black mutt who has logged 60,000 miles over nine years, would beg to differ. In fact, she begs so insistently for the open road that her owner and riding partner, Alan Ribner, 47, can't bring himself to get on his bike without her.

"I feel terrible," he said. "She's too crazy about it." And so, each time he goes for a ride, the Leesburg resident heaves the 55-pound dog into an ostrich leather, fur-lined seat behind him.

As soon as he puts the key in the ignition, Sevey barks enthusiastically, detecting a high note that occurs seconds before the engine turns over. They launch into gear and they're off, thundering down their placid residential street, her high-pitched "Arf! Arf!" punctuating the roar of his Harley.

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Neighbors wave. Strangers do double takes. Some follow in their cars, pulling alongside and holding out cellphones to take pictures.

"My husband rides bikes, so he'll love this," Stephanie La Lumiere said from a sport-utility vehicle as she snapped a photo.

"I let my child get on the back of a motorcycle," she added. "So I understand."

Ribner waves, and he and Sevey zoom toward the highway.

Their relationship began nine years ago, when Ribner spotted the listless mutt on the road near a 7-Eleven in Lovettsville.

After inquiring about whether anyone had lost a dog, he and his then-girlfriend, a veterinarian, took her in and named her after the store where they had found her.

Ribner, who sells BMWs in Sterling, had always fantasized about putting a dog in a sidecar. One day, he and Sevey drove out to a company he had heard of in Middletown that makes custom motorcycle dog seats, which run about $600. As a test run, the company's owner buckled Sevey into a seat on his bike.

"When he started up the motor, she jumped out of the seat, but she was strapped in, and I'm like, 'Oh my God, what have I done? I'm torturing this dog,' " Ribner said.

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But 15 minutes later, "they come back, her ears are flapping in the breeze . . . and she's wagging her tail as happy as can be." A little later, when the man started his bike again, "she bolted toward the bike, and that's when I knew she was hooked."

At first, she wasn't a good rider. She threw her weight in the wrong direction on turns. She was, as Ribner described it, "sloppy."

After a few thousand miles, however, Sevey started to surf. Standing on four legs, she leaned into a turn like a good bike passenger. Now that she is older -- 11 or 12 by Ribner's estimate -- she sits instead of stands, hanging her front paws over the edge of the fur-lined seat, peering around him and barking into the wind as they pass farms and strip malls.

Many people know her by sight. Some even know her name and call it out as she goes by. They travel frequently to Pennsylvania, where Ribner's 4-year-old daughter lives, and they have traveled as far as Upstate New York. Even after a 12-hour trip, Ribner said, she wants to keep going.

"It's the ultimate feeling of freedom for a dog," he said. "She's out on the prowl with the leader of the pack, wind in her face."

Sevey's presence enhances the ride for him, too.

"It's very peaceful to be riding my bike with my dog rumbling to me. There's a strange connection. I know what she's looking at -- horses, birds. I keep my right mirror aimed at her instead of on the road, so I can see where she's looking."

Inevitably there are times when the police get involved. They inspect Sevey's rig. They call in to see whether there are any laws on the books about dogs and bikes (as far as Ribner knows, there are not). Eventually, they wave the pair back onto the road.

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But does it worry people?

"Oh my God, yeah," said Angela Chan, an animal control officer who spotted Sevey and Ribner last week in a Leesburg parking lot. She has seen them around town for years, she said, and it has always worried her.

She peppered Ribner with questions. "Is he happy? Do they make dog helmets?"

Ribner, who wears a "shorty" helmet, replied that he had not found one that fit a dog. But he is not too worried; when a deer stepped out and caused them to crash last year, he was slightly injured, but the seat protected Sevey.

"Oh well," Chan said with a smile, "the goggles are a start."

So Ribner is set with the authorities. But what if one day he meets a human female who wants to ride on the bike with him?

He shook his head. "I wouldn't do Sevey like that. I would have to find me a biker chick who has her own bike."

They returned home. Ribner parked the bike inside, in front of a picture window. Sevey lapped up a bowl of water and trooped in behind him.

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Often she sits there all day, staring at the motorcycle. That way, no one can go riding without her.

June 23, 2009 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Band Aid Rug — Just the thing for those floor boo-boos

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By Monterrey, Mexico

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designer

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Ricardo Garza Marcos.

June 23, 2009 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Flight of the Maple Seed

Unlike acorns, maple seeds do fall far from the tree — sometimes a mile or more.

How do they do it?

Aerospace engineer David Lentink of Wagenigen University in the Netherlands used a smoke-filled vertical wind tunnel to photograph vortexes forming on maple seeds whirling in place (above).

More in Henry Fountain's June 16, 2009 New York Times Science section "Observatory" feature, which follows.

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An acorn may not fall far from the tree, but the same cannot be said for a maple seed, with its distinctive wing shape. As it falls, the heavier nut end of the wing causes it to whirl in the air, slowing its descent and allowing the wind to carry the seed, sometimes as far as a mile or more.

Studies have shown that the seed’s whirling, called auto-rotation, gives it extra lift, but why this occurs has never been explained. It took an aerospace engineer, David Lentink of Wagenigen University in the Netherlands, to figure it out.

Dr. Lentink, with Michael H. Dickinson of the California Institute of Technology and colleagues, report in Science that the wings generate a leading edge vortex — a spinning horizontal tunnel of air along the wing — as they descend. This vortex is stable, Dr. Lentink said, because it has a low-pressure core that reduces the air pressure over the wing, causing the wing to be sucked up. “It really increases the lift,” he said.

Dr. Lentink suspected that the seed might generate such vortexes; many wings do, given the right conditions. To prove it, he and his colleagues first created a model, a rotating robotic wing in mineral oil. The model was dynamically scaled, meaning it matched the aerodynamics of a real seed in the air.

But Dr. Lentink realized a model was not enough. “Biologists worry about the small details,” he said. “I had to make sure that real seeds produce these vortices.”

Using a smoke-filled vertical wind tunnel and adjusting the wind speed precisely, he managed to photograph vortexes forming on real maple seeds, whirling in place. It was painstaking work.

Understanding how maple seeds create extra lift may prove useful in the design of tiny whirling craft, powered or not, that could be used to carry sensors, cameras or other devices through the air. “If you want to make miniature helicopters,” Dr. Lentink said, “then it definitely makes sense to use these vortices.”

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Here's a link to the abstract of the Science magazine report; the abstract follows.

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Leading-Edge Vortices Elevate Lift of Autorotating Plant Seeds

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As they descend, the autorotating seeds of maples and some other trees generate unexpectedly high lift, but how they attain this elevated performance is unknown. To elucidate the mechanisms responsible, we measured the three-dimensional flow around dynamically scaled models of maple and hornbeam seeds. Our results indicate that these seeds attain high lift by generating a stable leading-edge vortex (LEV) as they descend. The compact LEV, which we verified on real specimens, allows maple seeds to remain in the air more effectively than do a variety of nonautorotating seeds. LEVs also explain the high lift generated by hovering insects, bats, and possibly birds, suggesting that the use of LEVs represents a convergent aerodynamic solution in the evolution of flight performance in both animals and plants.

June 23, 2009 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

When Vuitton met Hefty

Pirataria 

Vuitton's flagship store at 101 Avenue de Champs-Elysées in Paris is said by many to be a cynosure of retail.

But behind every glittering facade is a heap of trash.

[via Guaraná Rosa]

June 23, 2009 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Tomoji Tanabe — the oldest man in world — is dead at 113

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Born in 1896, he died last Friday, June 19, 2009 at his home on the island of Kyushu in southern Japan.

A statement by the city of Miyakonojo on Kyushu noted that Tanabe's favorite meals were fried shrimp and miso soup with clams.

The statement added that he drank milk, avoided alcohol, did not smoke and read the newspaper every morning.

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If that's what it takes, I should live forever.

June 23, 2009 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Balenciaga Deck Shoe Wedge

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$995 at Balenciaga stores everywhere.

[via Karla M. Martinez and the New York Times]

June 23, 2009 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

BehindTheMedspeak: Mermaid Syndrome (Sirenomyelia) — Episode 2

Mermaid syndrome, also know as sirenomyelia — in which the legs are fused into one appendage — is an extremely rare congenital abnormality, with only three people on Earth currently known to have it.

Yesterday afternoon several readers emailed to let me know that Shiloh Pepin's Mermaid Syndrome story (above) on The Learning Channel, originally aired in December of last year, was repeated both this past Sunday and again early yesterday morning.

I went back and had a look at my original post on the subject in 2005, which focused on Milagros Cerrón, now five years old, whose surgery in Lima, Peru on May 31, 2005 to separate her legs was noted here at that time.

Shiloh, from Portland, Maine, now nine years old, met the world's oldest known person with sirenomyelia, 21-year-old Tiffany Yorks of Tampa, Florida, early last year.

June 23, 2009 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dunhill Limited Edition Surfboard — Who knew?

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From Sybarites: "Dunhill have released a surfboard designed by the surfer Jed Noll, son of the surfing pioneer Greg Noll. The surfboard features Dunhill’s trademark British bulldog along with the Dunhill logo and is manufactured by Spanish surfboard craftsmen Pukas. The Dunhill Surfboard measures nine feet long and will be available exclusively from Dunhill stores worldwide."

June 23, 2009 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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