Native Plants, Habitat Restoration, and Other Science Snippets from Athens, Georgia

Sunday: 30 January 2005

After The Ice  -  @ 10:48:48
Just a few mementos of our excursion into winter, the perfect excuse for a fire in the fireplace, a bottle or two of wine, lounging on the futons with the catties, and shunning the roads. Our northern friends will scorn us for our timidity, but hey, you take it where you find it. It's a rare occasion, this incursion of a moist airmass up from the Gulf at the same time that a cold Arctic airmass is moving south; normally we just get temperatures slightly above freezing, controlled there by the release of latent heat anytime liquid water attempts to turn to ice. No fun that.

This time though the temps did drop below freezing. This isn't snow. This is ice. About a half inch of it, along the roads, on the trees, and on the power lines. It's probably just luck that has kept us in power (so far), given the numerous weak links along the chain. Outside it's a cacophany of breaking branches, the occasional falling tree, and crashing ice as the temperature goes a little above freezing.



Above left, a porch no sane cat would traverse; above right, maple flower buds encased. Below left, river birches drooping under the weight and below right, firewood.


Saturday: 29 January 2005

Saturday Ice Blogging  -  @ 04:05:35
Well now, here's something a little different. From the National Weather Service:

... Winter Storm Warning remains in effect until 4 PM EST Saturday...

.A strong Arctic high pressure system across the mid-Atlantic
continues to send very cold air southwest into Georgia.
Meanwhile... an upper-level storm system is moving from the mid-south
over the cold surface air. Surface temperatures over most of north
Georgia have dropped below freezing and are near freezing across much
of central Georgia. Temperatures will drop another two to three
degrees overnight... with temperatures ranging from the mid 20s in the
northeast areas to around 31 at Macon... Columbus... and Americus.
Temperatures will only rise to near 30 in the northeast to the mid
30s in central Georgia Saturday... thus leading to a prolonged period
of potential winter weather. Widespread freezing rain is expected
overnight... with periods of sleet at the onset. Main Road surface
temperatures in most areas will remain above freezing... but
significant icing can be expected on trees... power lines... bridges
and overpasses.

Significant ice accumulations of 1/2 inch or more are possible by
Saturday afternoon across northeast and east central Georgia... mainly
north of a line from Washington... to Covington... to Cumming... to Blue
Ridge. South of this line to a West Point... to Macon... to
Sandersville line... ice accumulations up to 1/4 inch are possible by
Saturday afternoon. Further south... minor ice accumulations are
possible. Most ice accumulations will be on trees... power
lines... bridges... and overpasses. However... some roads... especially
north of a Washington... to Atlanta... to Blue Ridge line will become
treacherous as the night continues... especially in the higher
elevations. Some roads in Pickens County have already been closed
because of ice.

Current indications are that temperatures on Saturday may not rise
above freezing in north Central... Northeast... and east central
Georgia... leading to the potential for additional... damaging
accumulations of ice. Temperatures should slowly rise into the mid
30s south of a Sandersville... to Milledgeville... to West Point line
by mid-afternoon... changing the precipitation back to all
rain in those areas.

A Winter Storm Warning is issued when severe winter weather is
expected to occur. Heavy ice may accumulate in the affected areas
causing hazardous driving conditions. Travel should be avoided in the
warning area as roads will become treacherous or impassable. Also ice
accumulations on trees and power lines may cause extended power
outages.


We haven't had much of this in the last 10 years or more, although ice storms were fairly common in northeast Georgia in the 70's. So it's rather exciting. Feast your eyes and weep with envy:


Friday: 28 January 2005

No way to be nice  -  @ 15:50:14
It may.., no, it WILL, come as a surprise to most of those in the US, but there is the potential for a devastating pandemic of H5N1 flu. By devastating, I think I mean that politics (and political blogs) simply wouldn't matter anymore, nor would deficits or economies in general. What else can you say when 7 out of 10 people die from infection? I've been trying to think of some nice, delicate, *politic* way to suggest that people pay attention to this, but there isn't one.

Our Administration in this country isn't doing anything to alert people or inform them, unless you actively HUNT for the information. There appears to be a fair number of professionals who are very alarmed about this, and after considerable research within the internet(s) venue and outside of it, I'm alarmed too. Maybe nothing will come of it, but that doesn't excuse being not being informed or prepared and it certainly doesn't excuse those responsible for failing to inform and prepare.

Whether you're alarmed or not isn't that important - you're not going to get any info in this country (that would be the country that is the paragon of freedom and liberty, the one that Europeans now say "are you sure?" when someone says they're going to visit it) until it's too late. I highly recommend that you bookmark and visit the following sites on a regular basis:

Recombinomics News and the alerts therein.

Effect Measure and the extensive posts therein.

CDC Avian Flu Info and the links therein.

Agonist Board Concerning Disease Outbreaks

What can you do?

1. You can urge, no, you can DEMAND, that your senators, your reps, and your President desist from political profiteering from bogus issues such as gay marriage, Janet Jackson's breasts, the social security strawman, and, oh yes, Buster the Bunny, and to demand acceleration of the stockpiling of oseltamavir, the only antiviral likely to be effective against H5N1. The US currently has 6 million doses for 300 million people. Japan and China are doing better than that, and they're preparing. Do you really think you're going to get a dose? Who do you think is? Regardless of what happens this round, this stockpiling is essential.

2. You can urge (demand) that your senators, reps, and yes, despite everything we're coming to realize about him, your President accelerate the production of a vaccine. Currently the vaccine production is being held back by absurd regulations regarding the classification of the H5N1 antigen as a "select agent". This is because H5N1 is so pathogenic that it kills the chickens that are used to make the vaccine. H5N1 has been modified so it isn't so toxic, which means vaccines could now be made except for the Catch-22 of now classifying it as modified.

3. If you have a blog, and especially if you have a political blog that attracts large numbers of readers, get educated, decide for yourself, keep informed, and keep your readers informed.

4. Frankly, you can start preparing to be isolated.

Maybe nothing will come of this, but as epidemiologists have been saying this isn't something that might happen, this is something that WILL happen, eventually, and probably sooner than later. Numbers 1 and 2 above are critical regardless. I find it appalling that Number 3 isn't self-evident, but navel-gazing has always been popular among political bloggers. Number 4, well, you can decide for yourself.

Friday Trustworthy Cat Blogging  -  @ 13:30:55
It's been a busy several days trying to get the store set up and connected to 2checkout - it's almost done, and so time for some cat blogging.

Now here's a cat who won't eat your dinner (unless you turn your back, then it's fair game).


Saturday: 22 January 2005

10 Dumb Moments in Sci-Fi Cinema  -  @ 13:41:38
A fairly amusing webpage.

Which brings us to "I, Robot", which I saw last night.

You have to understand that I can count on the fingers of one hand the movies I've seen in a theater in the last ten years. I really hate being in crowds of people, for one thing, and especially in crowds of rude jerks, which has been my uniform experience prior to a gradual withdrawal from the theater scene. I understand that cell phones have enhanced the rude experience in the last few years and I'm glad I made my transition to a theater-free life a long time ago. It's really for the best - I try to be a law-abiding citizen and putting me in a movie theater is just asking for trouble. The upshot is that I generally see "new" movies a year or two after they've come out.

"I, Robot" was not a bad movie at all. I was fully entertained throughout, and I'm an Asimov fan since I was ten years old and received one of his famous postcard replies in response to a question I wrote to him. (The reply, btw, was "cos(latitude) times the circumference".) To start with, those who say the movie was nothing like the book are at best speaking sloppily - there is no *book* per se - "I, Robot" was a collection of stories revolving around the recollections of Susan Calvin, the robopsychologist. At least IMNSHO it was perfectly appropriate to create a new story so long as certain rules were observed.

The Three Laws of Robotics represent one of those rules, and the movie was attentive in this respect. I was pleased to see that VIKI, not to mention the recently departed Dr. Alfred Lanning (played briefly by the usual heavy James Cromwell), had deduced the inevitability of Asimov's Zeroeth Law, and its robot-as-involuntary-nursemaid consequences, whether you like it or not.

Another rule is that Susan Calvin had to be true to Asimov's characterization. The movie didn't do so well here - the attempt to portray her as the bloodless, relatively unattractive, pale-eyed robopsychologist was foiled to start with by the choice of the attractive Bridget Moynahan to play the role, followed by the out-of-character thawing-out of the human iceberg Asimov depicted. But they tried.

The director Alex Proyas, who also directed the compelling "Dark City", did a fine job with the transferral of Asimov's vision to the screen. Futuristic Chicago is fun to see, and the USR building was fantastic. If you're going to do CGI, you might as well do it right, and the NS-5 robots were exemplary.

Otherwise, it was a pretty superficial treatment (although some might argue that Asimov himself was pretty superficial). Will Smith is Will Smith, and the expected swagger and corny one-liners continue to define Will Smith. It may well be that I've heard the words "freedom" and "liberty" thrown around too much lately; if so, then that probably explains my lukewarm response to the ending.

Acting - well, it was in the expected league of most Hollywood movies, which is to say, not. Those chosen to play the characters are able to convince you that they aren't just repeating the words transmitted into an ear implant from a pack on their back, and very grateful we are for that. This movie was eye candy, albeit expensive eye candy - enjoy it for that, and expect little else.

Avian Flu Update  -  @ 07:38:14
Effect Measure has two updates in the last two days, here, and here. As much as people may not like to think about things like this, or relegate it to the category of "Things I am simply not going to try to understand", it would still be a good idea to keep an eye on it.

Friday: 21 January 2005

Friday Dead Bat Blogging  -  @ 16:13:47
Glenn took the pics below of a poor pitiful dead thing. Weighed about 11g, and as you can see measured about 7.3 cm long excluding the tail. This puts it more in the size range of a Little Brown Bat (Myotis lucifigus - 8-9 cm and 7.5g) and too small to be a Big Brown Bat (Eptesicus fuscus - 11-12 cm and 15-23g).

Wednesday: 19 January 2005

Virulence and transmission  -  @ 15:57:30
In reading over a great deal of repetitive material on viruses, and particularly flu viruses, some interesting findings:

The "Spanish" flu of 1918 did not emanate from Spain; that was a little lie designed to blame Germany for attempted biological warfare. The flu appeared in a soldier in Kansas; within a few hours over 100 soldiers were showing similar symptoms.

Apparently the 1957 and 1968 pandemics made more people sick than the 1918 pandemic, although the mortality rate was much lower in the latter two. Possibly a difference in human transmissibility (higher in 1957/1968 compared to 1918 )  and virulence (higher in 1918 than in the 1957/68 strains).

Antibiotics are useless against viruses, of course, but antiviral drugs can slow the spread of a virus in a person. Two of the more commonly used ones,amantadine and rimantadine, don't seem to work against H5N1, the "avian flu" subtype that is the scary one right now. Others include oseltamivir and zanamivir.

All flu viruses are avian viruses. All the H and N subtypes are found in birds. Some have proven effective at crossing species barriers, and that's where we and other mammals come in. Besides humans, H5N1 has been found to infect horses, minks, cats, whales, and pigs, at least.

Avian viruses affect the digestive system of birds, but in mammals go for the respiratory system. This apparently has to do with the sialic acid residues present on infectable cells that act as a lock the virus key can fit into, as well as the presence of an enzyme that modifies the key so it can fit.

The human pathogenicity of H5N1, as well as the numbers of people infected, has been increasing since the first outbreak in 1997.

1997: 18 people hospitalized, 6 deaths. (33% mortality)

2003: 35 people sick in Thailand and Vietnam, 23 deaths. (66% mortality)

2004-Jan 18, 2005: 50 people sick in Thailand and Vietnam, 37 deaths, one possible human to human transmission in Thailand in Sep 2004. (74% mortality)


Different strains of flu can be low or high pathogenicity, depending on how severe symptoms are. One of the things that makes the avian flu H5N1 so dangerous is that it's high pathogenic, causing death in most human cases. (This was similarly true of the Spanish Influenza outbreak of 1918.) What makes one strain high pathogenic and another low pathogenic?

One thing is the rapidity with which the virus enters the cell, reproduces, and leaves the cell (thereby destroying it). The faster a virus can do this, the more dangerous it is because it can cause a lot of cell death before the immune system can respond. Rabies is like this; it replicates extremely rapidly, so rapidly that it causes irreversible damage before an unvaccinated immune system can respond. Rabies treatments consist of injections of antibodies from organisms (use to be horses) that have been exposed and developed an immune response. This holds the line until the infected person's immune system can take over.

Apparently the strains of H5N1 implicated in human mortality is very good at this, once in the respiratory system.

An epidemic is a localized outbreak. A pandemic is worldwide. A pandemic is more severe than a mere epidemic. Three things are required for a pandemic (such as 1918 (H1N1), 1957 (Asian flu H2N2), and 1968(Hong Kong flu H3N2)) to occur.

1. A new virus must emerge to which the population has little or no immunity (H5N1 fits the bill, having emerged in 1997).

2. The virus has to be able to replicate and cause disease or illness in humans (again, H5N1 excels at this).

3. The new virus must be efficiently transmitted from human to human.

The first two requirements have been satisfied for H5N1; as far as we know the third requirement has not.

Although I'm a little unclear on all the mechanisms of transmission, and why H5N1 cannot be easily transmitted as yet, it several hypotheses occur to me.

Shedding of the virus may be one block. The virus may not be efficiently sequestered in tears, mucous, and glop like that.

Entry of the virus and successful crossing of the general defense responses may be another block. The virus has to enter through wounds or other openings such as eyes, nose, mouth. Known flu viruses do this efficiently; there may be general immune responses that stop H5N1 at this point.

H5N1 is an RNA virus and mutates rapidly. Mutations can cause a virus to change its behavior and vulnerabilities so that the above two mechanisms no longer apply. This is apparently seen all the time in the poultry industry, where a low pathogenic strain circulating in a flock becomes a high pathogenic strain.





Sunday: 16 January 2005

More flu  -  @ 08:03:30
From this page I snitched the following figure:


Notice the hemagglutinin (H) and neuraminidase (N) proteins sticking out of the flu virus. H unlocks the cell so the virus can get in. N is also like a key, but lets the baby viruses get out. Since they're sticking out of the virus, antibodies from your body can get to them and neutralize the viruses. That's why vaccines for flu contain H and N proteins - they cause you to make antibodies. But they have to be the right H and N proteins, which means someone has to make a guess as to which virus is going to become dominant in the next flu season.

Now you know why all the fuss about H1N1, H5N1, and so forth. There are 15 known H types and 9 known N types (H1 is variant 1 of hemagglutinin, and so forth). (Just to make things complicated there are zillions of strains of each H and N, resulting from mutations). Three Hs are found in humans (H1-3) with the rest found in other animal species. Two Ns are found in humans (N1-2) with the rest found in other animal species. The Hs and Ns can mix too. So vaccines are made of H1N1, H2N2, H3N2 and so forth, so you can make antibodies to these human variants, but not to the animal viruses - why bother?

One reason to bother is that occasionally through recombination some animal Hs and Ns can become part of the human type. This is why the "bird flu" or avian influenza is of such concern - if recombination led to the H5N1 avian virus becoming part of the human viral repertoire there could be a pandemic of highly pathogenic virus that you have no antibodies to. This is what caused the 1918 influenza pandemic: a bit of pig virus replaced the middle part of H1 in H1N1 and there was whole new taste treat. Major antigen shifts that occur every ten years or so are caused by recombination (the flu epidemics of 1957 and 1968 ) .

How does recombination happen? You have to mix human and bird viruses in an incubator. Essentially the viruses mate and exchange bits of RNA. Among the many unimportant results could be a human virus that contains enough bits of bird virus to make it invisible to your antibodies and highly pathogenic.

Usually human viruses and avian viruses don't mix - human viruses don't infect birds and bird viruses don't infect humans. In the current situation in Southeast Asia though, birds infected by the H5N1 virus are in close proximity to humans, sometimes being eaten by humans. If a person who has flu from H1N1 or some other type also gets H5N1 from eating an infected bird they can become a human incubator.

The usual antigen shifts coming about from recombination probably don't work this way. With these, pigs are a bridge species. Pigs can get human and avian viruses and so they serve as incubators most often. If recombination produces a human virus with new features, humans may get it from pigs. If the new virus is transmissible from human to human, then you have the potential for an epidemic or a pandemic. This is why pandemics usually originate from Southeast Asia - many cultures practice intensive farming where people, pigs, and poultry (ducks and chickens) live in very close proximity to each other.

Past Pandemics and Outbreaks

1918 Spanish Flu H1N1 killed more people than WWI
1957 Asian Flu H2N2
1968 Hong Kong Flu H3N2
1976 Swine Flu H1N1 not really an epidemic
1997 Avian Flu H5N1 highly pathogenic but few infections
2004 Avian Flu H5N1 so far limited as in 1997

Notice that H1N1, which caused the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, still circulates today. However what circulates today is not the same H1N1. The Spanish flu H1N1 was a strain with a significant portion of H1 replaced by pig virus.

Since 1997 a number of limited outbreaks of avian flu in humans have occurred: H9N2 in 1999 in China, H7N2 in 2002 in Virginia, H5N1 in 2003 in China, H7N2 in 2003 in New York (single patient), H7N7 in 2003 in the Netherlands (conjunctivitis in humans), H9N2 in China in 2003, H7N3 in 2004 in Canada.

Saturday: 15 January 2005

Flu  -  @ 08:27:37
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a wealth of information on the current season. As of Jan 8 the weekly US map looked like this. Not too bad:


The vast majority of cases this year are the Type A Fujian Strain (H3N2), and the vaccine for this season takes care of this (as well as some other genotypes that are not apparently making an appearance.

The CDC also has some disturbing information (scroll down to assessment) on outbreaks of bird flu in southeast Asia, and especially Vietnam, summarized by Effect Measure.

Basically bird flu (not SARS, that is a completely different virus) referred to is a H5N1 flu strain that infects and is transmitted between birds of a number of species. However in Vietnam and Thailand this year (as well as last year) there have been 48 cases of bird flu in humans, and 35 of these have died. There's no evidence that transmission was human to human. Rather it's expected that humans got the virus through close proximity or eating of chickens infected with the virus.

What is of concern is that the more humans become infected, the more likely it is that the rare recombination event between the H5N1 bird flu strain and human viruses can occur. Such an event could result in a human to human transmissibility, with extremely serious consequences. H5N1 is not normally a human virus, so there is little resistance to it in human populations. The only way to minimize the possibility of a human transmissible H5N1 is killing of infected birds (recall the massive chicken killings in southeast Asia), and of course the isolation of infected humans. I don't quite see what prevents a person infected with H5N1 from transmitting via the usual routes to other people - perhaps something intrinsic to the virus.

The vaccine for this year does not contain H5N1 antigen, so it is ineffective against bird flu. My understand is that one of the problems with producing a vaccine is that the H5N1 virus kills the chicken eggs that vaccines are usually produced in.

Friday: 14 January 2005

Climate of Ignorance  -  @ 14:36:16
Someday you'll get to tell your grandchildren about this. When you do, be sure to explain what your role was.

First it was the Kyoto Accords, most recently the Buenos Aires meetings, not to mention arsenic and the auctioning off of US forests to the highest bidders. Now, Congress and the Bush Administration, unsatisfied with merely blocking progress toward an international coordinated response to global warming (excuse me, global climate change, no, pardon me, global climate variability) has allowed 2005 funding to be cut for The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for climate observations. According to Jeffrey Mervis in the most recent issue of Science, the $24 million budget is to be cut by more than $10 million.

This will eliminate funding for the CRN, the Climate Referencing Network, a set of 110 observation stations that had been intended to provide a definitive, long-term climate record for the US and to "tie everything together". It will eliminate the tech jobs that would have serviced and maintained these stations and others in the program. It puts at risk five observatories stretching from Alaska to Antarctica that provide data on CO2, methane, ozone, aerosols, and other atmospheric components, data that are used in climate models. It puts at risk GEOSS, the Global Earth Observing System of Systems, "a planned linking of existing networks to paint a comprehensive, real-time picture of what's happening to the planet".

And last but not least, and a real slap in the face, it cuts funding for the Mauna Loa observatory operated by Scripps Institution of Oceanography. In 1958 Charles Keeling had the brilliant idea of making CO2 measurements at the top of Mauna Loa on Hawaii. Situated in the middle of the Pacific, far away from contaminating influences and more than 11,000 feet above sea level, the observatory has been collecting CO2 data for 46 years and has provided a wealth of data including those for the famous and irrefutable plot of CO2 increase you see below.



It is hard to overestimate the value of the data that come from the $24 million that run these observatories. The cuts represent less than the money spent over 3-hour period running the war in Iraq. The benefits are immeasurable. The consequences of ignorance are frightening.

President Bush has infamously declared that there isn't enough information about global warming (uh, climate change, uh climate variability) to undertake corrective and pre-emptive measures. This is a notion that virtually no climate scientist would agree with (see RealClimate and the articles therein).

Now it appears that the President is making sure we'll stay in the dark, and the Republican Congress is aiding and abetting. So when you're telling that bedtime story years from now, and your grandkids wonder why the world is like it is, be sure to tell them this.

Monstra bonae spei  -  @ 03:53:31
Friday hopeful monsters blogging. At times like these it's easy to forget that their ancestors ate dinosaurs. It does lend some support to the New York Times' cautionary that they may have just been garbage eaters.

Wednesday: 12 January 2005

Graveyard Joke of the Week  -  @ 06:37:46
Attaturk at Rising Hegemon has a brilliant photo sequence.

Tuesday: 11 January 2005

Miscellaneous  -  @ 01:33:59
Awakened around midnight by two cats attacking the roomba! They had pulled it off its power station and it was singing out desperately, "uh-oh! uh-oh!".

In the interests of fairness, I should say that I just noticed a fragment in an unsigned AP report on the CNN webpage:

An earthquake deep beneath the ocean off Indonesia caused the tsunami by shifting the sea floor, resulting in displacement of the water overhead and causing a wave to spread out from that location.

Unlike surface waves that affect only a shallow amount of water, a tsunami stretches all the way to the sea floor and, as that rises to the land, so does the wave. Arriving at shore, such waves can grow suddenly by dozens of feet.

Now that's a good, intuitive description of a tsunami versus a surface wave.

Saturday: 8 January 2005

Magna cum Scientia  -  @ 05:38:15
The latest issue of Science (17 December) is the "Breakthroughs of the Year" issue. At the risk of slighting many unmentioned achievements (please feel free to add as comments), the ten selections are a useful sort of road marker.
Runnerups to THE BREAKTHROUGH include:

2. The discovery on Flores Island of Homo floresiensis, the "hobbits" so alluded to in the mainstream media. Island dwarfism appears to apply to humans as well.

3. The achievement of the cloning of human cells by South Korean researchers, NOT for reproductive, but for embryonic stem cell work.

4. The production of fermion condensates. Relevant to quantum mechanics and electron behavior in complex substances.

5. The evolutionary role of regulatory activating DNA in the emergence of new species. Junk DNA isn't just junk!

6. The discovery of the first binary system of pulsars (rapidly rotating, like *really* rapidly neutron stars, that pump out a directed beacon of light); the members of the pair orbit each other "slowly", once each 2.8 seconds. A test of Einstein's general theory: the pair should collide in 85 million years. Can't wait!

7. The decline of biodiversity. Long term documentation in the British Isles and elsewhere establish the disappearance or alarming decline of species of butterflies, frogs, and native plants. Gotta love the role of little old ladies in tennis shoes here, and I don't mean that disparagingly - wish there were more here in the US.

8. The continued mystery and further description of water molecules, and ionic substances dissolved in water.

9. The constructive role of public-private partnerships in development and delivery of medicines to the world's poor. Hmmm.

10. The sequencing of genes and genomes from environmental sources like soil and water, without growing the organisms living there.


And #1? Science Editor-in-Chief Donald Kennedy says there wasn't much doubt at all. #1 was very much in the public eye. Take a guess!

Friday: 7 January 2005

Cattus confrontet machinam  -  @ 08:10:01
I finally got tired of asking visitors to please wipe their feet before leaving the house. Last year I considered and rejected the notion, but this year I did it - I purchased a Roomba. It was delivered to Jekyll Island during our stay and provided a measure of entertainment, but vacation time is officially over and it got to work as soon as we got home.

The cats are not particularly intimidated - they do find the Roomba interesting but are miffed that it takes no notice of them. Unlike the old vacuum cleaner, the Roomba makes considerably less noise and of course the best part is that it doesn't require a great deal of supervision.

It's really an amazing little device; a thing for which the idea has definitely come but perhaps not yet the time. It does seem to have a vague strategy for cleaning, and several interesting little tactics for getting out of tight spots. Occasionally it announces via a bright blue light that it's found some dirt and proceeds to rotate several times over the spot. It has a cunning little side brush that is in constant motion sweeping particles from outside the immediate range into its little maw - reminds me of a lobster's feeding appendages. It runs about 2 hours and then gets hungry and homes in on the power station and plugs itself in, trumpeting a triumphant little tune when it is successful. Currently it doesn't make copies of itself.

Yes it's an indulgence, but a fun one.



UPDATE: Shoulda done this before blogging - turns out there's a Roomba Community to discuss your Roomba, dissect your Roomba, genetically modify your Roomba.

Wednesday: 5 January 2005

There and back again  -  @ 04:21:05
Spent yesterday recovering and reflecting on the year-end vacation trip to Jekyll Island. Vacations are something I never used to take, scorning them as unnecessary and frivolous; interruptions of my work and daily routine. I'm not much of a traveler anyway. In retrospect I was (and still am) simply unattracted to *summer* vacations and cavorting with large numbers of other people. Then about ten years ago though we joined some old friends and spent a week between xams and ny at the beach on the Florida panhandle, and that tradition has continued.

And so I've come to see that some kind of interruption in the habit-forming process developed over the course of a year is important.

Everyone else did the things they don't do during the year - biked, visited the interesting ecological sites on the island, Glenn was out every day for six or seven hours collecting plants and harvesting seeds. I already spend a lot of my usual time outdoors planting, harvesting seeds, doing a little landscaping, and so I spent a lot of time reading, sitting in the weak, warm winter sun, and enjoying periodic walks on the beach when the tide was low. A glorious lack of activity. In the evenings we could all agree to party, of course!

Now classes start soon, and tutoring shortly thereafter. It's time to get seeds into the ground and into pots so they can have a short stratification period before spring. I have two areas of trash sweetgums that need to be taken out and turned into moderately sunny areas for grasses and forbs. A week ago I was unenthused; now I can't wait.

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