Monthly Archives: December 2008

“Sir” Robert Plant

 

Robert Plant.

Robert Plant.

I always knew that Robert Plant was an aristocrat among rock stars.  Now, it’s official.  Plant was honored today as a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by Queen Elizabeth II, according to Reuters News. I thought he’d been knighted, but not so.  See third comment below.  He can’t be called “Sir,” either, but if Elton John can be called “Sir,” certainly Robert can!

The Queen also granted awards to British fantasy writer Terry Pratchett and members of Britain‘s Beijing Olympics team, including a knighthood for triple cycling gold medallist Chris Hoy, Britain’s most successful Olympian at a single game in a century.

Plant, 60, is most famous for being the lead singer of rock band Led Zeppelin in the 1970s. I was lucky enough to see Led Zeppelin in 1970.

Plant has forged a successful career since Led Zeppelin‘s disbanded in 1980.  He reunited with surviving band members a couple of times for fund-raisers, including once in 2007.  Plant recently collaborated with singer Alison Krauss on the celebrated album “Raising Sand.”  I saw Plant and Krauss when they toured this year.  They were fantastic!  To find links to my posts about Plant, Krauss and Led Zeppelin, see below.  Click on the post headlines to see the photos, if they don’t appear at first.

Led Zeppelin in 1969 at the beginning of the band's career.

Led Zeppelin in 1969 at the beginning of the band's career.

The CBE honors are bestowed in the name of Queen Elizabeth II and are recommended by a panel that considers suggestions from British government departments and political parties as well as from members of the public, according to Reuters.

 

Robert Plant and Led Zeppelin

Alison Krauss and Robert Plant

Robert Plant’s official webpage.

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is explained here.

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Filed under Entertainment, History, Life, Music, Personal, Random, Royalty

Blackout

If we didn't have electricity, how could we have fabulous lighting displays like this!

If we didn't have electricity, how could we have fabulous lighting displays like this!

 After a day of temperatures in the high 60s on Friday, a thunderstorm tore through our city during the night.   We woke to freezing temperatures and no electricity. 

candle

Candles seem romantic, until you have to rely on them for your lighting.

The winds were 60 to 80 miles an hour and tore down trees and knocked down power lines, including a couple of poles on a nearby street.  Some people said they thought their houses were going to blow over.  How did I sleep through that?  Our house was unscathed, except that our bird feeder was flung into the backyard and smashed.  How do the birds hang on in the trees? 

Almost 50,000 houses lost power in the area. Strangely, only half of the houses in my subdivision were affected — all of those just east of mine were fine.  My neighbor’s Santa Claus on the motorcycle was (above) still burning bright when we left the house to find a warm, illuminated place to hang out.  I’m seriously addicted to electricity.  Every blackout, I have new appreciation for our ancestors living life in the cold and mostly dark. We were only without electricity for a day, but it seemed much longer.

I’m grateful for the KCP&L workmen who worked all day on the problem.

When I was finally able to turn on my computer, it rasped and growled for half an hour, probably angry to be so rudely jolted.  I hear ya!

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Make This No-Calorie Chex Mix

chex-mix-jigsaw-puzzle

Here’s how to make no-calorie Chex Mix.  You won’t even get your hands dirty. 

Chex Mix Jigsaw Puzzle.

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Filed under Diet, Entertainment, Food, Homemaking, Howto, Humor, Life, Personal, Random, Recipes

Round the Town from Down Under

When guests come to town, I usually take them to the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, especially when it's below freezing and there's snow on the ground. Here two of my Australian guests check out the acoustic furniture in a special exhibition in the Bloch Building.

Sure, snow is pretty, but the thrill quickly wears off when frost bite sets in. When it's snowy, sleety and frigid, what are you going to do with guests who don't know what real winter is? I took them to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, where the temperatures are balmy. Here two of my Australian guests check out the acoustic furniture on a curving floor in a special exhibition in the Bloch Building. In the foreground is Michael Cross' work, "Flood," which features light bulbs and brightly colored cables in vases of water. (Kids, don't try this at home!)

It was a dreary, cold, snowy night when we picked up our Australian guests from the airport in late December. To us locals, the snow was a nuisance, but our guests thought it was beautiful, like fairy dust, fluffy and bright.   (It was soon dirty and crusty…)

The first night, the boys raced through the snow in the dark with a flashlight, making tracks.   We’d gotten rid of our sleds long ago (probably in some garage sale for nothing!), but the next morning, the youngest boy found a piece of cardboard and “snowboarded” down a hill several times.  

Squirrels were fascinating creatures. Cardinals and woodpeckers were exotic.   It was wonderful to see the world with a new perspective.   When I drove them around, I pointed out what I knew.  They also asked me plenty of questions I didn’t know the answer to, so I spent some time online when we got home learning more about my own city.

We spoke the same language, yet we didn’t quite.  Jumper, biscuit, council, fringe, bum.  Familiar words, but with different meanings from American English. I’ve watched enough Masterpiece Theater that I knew what they were talking about, though.   Thanks, PBS!  New to me is bushwalking, which means hiking.

In Australia, they are surrounded by birds we only see in cages, such as lorikeets and parrots.  There are marsupials everywhere, while we have only one — the opossum.  They have mandatory voting and are fined if they don’t vote.

The Liberty Memorial is so tall you can't see the top!

The Liberty Memorial is so tall you can't see the top!

They checked regularly online for the cricket scores.  There was a  big game in Perth, Australia, against South Africa.  Australia’s national cricket team is the highest ranked in the world.  Cricket is played in a hundred countries.  High-level “Test cricket” games can last up to five days with time outs for lunch and tea. I still don’t understand American football, so I can’t begin to explain cricket.  All I know is that they use bats and wickets, and that one of the incarnations of Dr. Who wore a cricket uniform.

We visited the National World War I Museum underneath the Liberty Memorial.  Again, I saw the world through a different perspective.   Their visit lasted too short a time. The next time I hope they can see our city in the summer.   Soon I’ll be seeing the world from their point of view (and be a lot warmer, too) when we visit them in January.

What is Cricket?

What is Australian English?

National World War I Museum

Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

 

Our young guest from Sydney, Australia, contemplates the snowy view.   Beyond, Auguste Rodin's "The Thinker" ponders the giant shuttlecocks that seemed to have landed on the snow in front of the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art.

Our young guest from Sydney, Australia, contemplates the snowy view. Beyond, Auguste Rodin's "The Thinker" ponders the giant shuttlecocks that seemed to have landed on the snow in front of the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art.

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Filed under Art, Friendship, Humor, Kansas City, Life, Photography, Random, Relationships, Sports, Travel

Full Moon

The full moon hung like a huge ornament over the Christmas lights of the Country Club Plaza shopping center in Kansas City.

The full moon hung like a huge ornament over the Christmas lights of the Country Club Plaza shopping center in Kansas City on Saturday. When we rounded the curve of Ward Parkway in our car, the sight was breathtaking. At a red light on a bridge over Brush Creek, I jumped out and snapped a couple of shots. I knew they were blurry, but we'd stopped traffic so I couldn't get any more. A woman, who had walked onto the bridge, was also photographing the scene. "Isn't it crazy beautiful!" she exclaimed. I agreed. Next year, I'll set up a tripod and take a proper photograph. This year, you have to pretend it's a painting by Claude Monet.

The full Moon adorned the glowing Bloch Building on Saturday.  You can see the moon in the center between the trees.

The full moon adorned the glowing Bloch Building on Saturday. You can see the moon in the center between the trees. Actually, this photo was taken one day after the moon was full, but it's still an impressive sight (much more so in person, really!) On Friday night, the moon appeared 14 percent bigger in our sky, because it was at its closest point to Earth this year. It was also 30 percent brighter than some other full moons during the year, according to space.com. The moon makes a trip around Earth every 29.5 days, but the orbit isn't a perfect circle. On Friday night, the moon was 221,560 miles (356,567 km) away. The average distance is 238,855 miles (384,400 km).

You can't see the moon here, but the Bloch Building creates its own glow.  The Bloch, a new addition to the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, houses contemporary art.

You can't see the moon here, but the Bloch Building creates its own glow. The Bloch, a new addition to the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art, houses contemporary art.

Moonlight iluminates the sky above the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City on Saturday.  One of the Nelson's four giant shuttlecock sculptures, by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, looks as if it just landed on the front lawn.  There are four shuttlecock sculptures among the many sculptures in the Nelson's Sculpture garden, including a dozen monumental bronzes by Henry Moore and a cast of The Thinker by Auguste Rodin.

Moonlight illuminates the sky above the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City on Saturday. One of the Nelson's four giant shuttlecock sculptures, by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, looks as if it just landed on the front lawn. There are four shuttlecock sculptures among the many sculptures in the Nelson's sculpture garden, including a dozen monumental bronzes by Henry Moore and a cast of The Thinker by Auguste Rodin.

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Filed under Art, Kansas City, Life, Personal, Photography, Random, Uncategorized

Snow

Paper birch in my front yard.

Snow fell in big, soft flakes this past week, swirling around this river birch tree (Betula nigra) in my front yard. I love the way the bark cracks and peels. So many textures, and the snowflakes add another dimension.

Red Cedar in my back yard.

This red juniper (Juniperus virginiana) is flourishing in my backyard. According to one of my botany professors (long ago), the red juniper (also known as red cedar) is the only evergreen conifer native to Kansas, where I live. Another evergreen fact: Kansas is the only state in the continental United States, plus Alaska, that has no native pine trees, according to my professor. I thought Hawaii also had native pine trees, but thanks to Ed Darrell, I discovered that pines were introduced to Hawaii, as were so many other species. I don't know whether pines will propagate themselves in Hawaii. They don't seem to in Kansas.

 

a cardinal grabs a snack in the snow at the bird feeder outside my kitchen window.

A cardinal grabs a snack in the snow at the bird feeder outside my kitchen window.

 

I didn't venture far to get this photo of snow on a holly bush in my backyard.

Holly berries! After three years of no berries, I thought the original owner of my house had planted only males. What's the point of that? But there were three holly princesses, after all. A holly prince was tucked in a corner (Who needs to see him? He doesn't have berries!) to pollinate this holly harem. I don't know why the romance took so long to blossom.

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Filed under Animals, Biology, Bird-watching, Birds, Environment, Gardening, Kansas, Life, Natural History, Nature, Personal, Photography, Science

Six Random Things

I was tagged by Anna' Bee World.  In her honor, I'm posting this photo of a bee that I took this fall at a nearby nursery.

I was tagged by "Anna's Bee World." In her honor, I'm posting this photo I took of a honey bee at a nearby nursery in October.

 Anna’s Bee World tagged me.   Anna says it’s time to play the “six random things” meme.
1. Link to the person who tagged you. (Click on Anna’s Bee World above.)
2. Post the rules on your blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.  (I’ve written about some of these on my blog.)
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them. (You can use the same ones as other blogging friends.)
5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is published.

So here we go…six random things about me:

1.) I take my camera almost everywhere with me. I’m considered a menace. Symphony in the Flint Hills.

2.) I save news clippings, some of which I try to force on people who might be vaguely interested in the topic.  I also do the same thing with plants I’ve started from seed.  Confessions of a Savoholic.

3.) I love Star Trek, especially the original series. From any thirty in the original series, I probably can tell you which episode it is.

4.) I love road trips, especially if I don’t have to drive and am just in charge of the map. I love maps. I collect maps. I love google maps, too. Awesome Utah.

5.) I love my cat, Malcolm, who’s 16.  Malcolm, Old Friend. 

Malcolm.

Malcolm.

6.) I’m the happiest when both of my adult children are asleep under my roof.  It doesn’t happen very often.

Here are the links to the blogs. They touch on a wide range of interests:  humor, teaching, organic farming in England, sports, photography, book and movie reviews, poetry and daily life — and much more. 

Check them out.  Yes, I know there are seven, not six.   I’ll focus on some other notable blogs later.  Anna introduced me to some great new blogs, including Photographic Haiku.

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Filed under Biology, Communication, Education, Entertainment, Entomology, Friendship, Humor, Insects, Internet, Life, Nature, Personal

Animal Rescue

Malcolm.

Malcolm.

Click on the site below to help animals in shelters.  Corporate sponsors and advertisers donate food to these animals, based on the number of daily visits. 

Add it to your favorite’s list.  http://www.theanimalrescuesite.com  Tell your friends.

Snopes.com has checked it out.   Snopes on the Animal Rescue Site.

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Filed under Animals, Education, Life, Personal, Pets

Merry Christmas from Nikola Tesla

"American Idol" winner David Cook switched on the lights for the 79th annual Country Club Plaza Lighting ceremony on Thanksgiving 2008. We can thank Nikola Tesla for these brilliant lights.

"American Idol" winner David Cook switched on the lights for the 79th annual lighting ceremony on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City on Thanksgiving 2008. We have the genius of Nikola Tesla to thank for the lighting system itself. Tesla "shed light over the face of the earth."

Forget Albert Einstein. Forget Thomas Edison.  It’s Nikola Tesla you need to thank for many of the revolutionary contributions to physics we use in our daily life.  I’m talking about almost everything you use in your daily life that requires electricity, including the current that runs your television, the lights that brighten your home and even the remote control that changes the channel on your television set so you can get that channel where American Idol” contestants are competing.

 Tesla is often described as the most important scientist and inventor of the modern age, a man who “shed light over the face of the earth.”  His patents and theoretical work formed the basis of the alternating current (AC) electric power we use today.  Among other titles bestowed upon him are “The Father of Physics,” “The man who invented the twentieth century,” “the patron saint of modern electricity” and “the man who invented tomorrow.” 

Tesla amazed the world when his AC electrical system lit up the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. He beat out Edison for the contract. The world was forever changed.

His accomplishments and contributions are so great that I can’t list them all, but among them are wireless communication (radio),  AC current, Tesla coil, Tesla turbine, induction motor and rotating magnetic field. He contributed to the establishment of robotics, remote control, radar and computer science, and to the expansion of ballistics, nuclear physics and theoretical physics.  He contributed to the understanding of cosmic rays and x-rays.

Nikola Tesla.

Nikola Tesla.

Tesla was also a model of what we see as the mad scientist — conducting electrifying demonstrations and designing “death” or “peace” rays. He had many eccentric personal habits.   He was obsessed about cleanliness and hygiene, needed everything to be in threes and hated round objects.  He loathed jewelry, particularly pearl earrings, and hated touching any hair but his own.  He was enraptured with pigeons and wasn’t social, but was a good friend of Mark Twain’s and got along with many people.  He was fluent in eight languages and had a photographic memory.

He feuded with other famous inventors, such as Edison, who was an early employer, and battled with Guglielmo Marconi over credit for the radio.  In 1943, the United States Supreme Court credited Tesla as being the inventor of the radio.

Tesla was once one of the most highly regarded and famed scientists in the world, but now he has slipped into obscurity.  Occasionally, Tesla pops back into the public eye.  In the recent movie “The Prestige,” David Bowie plays Tesla as a great, if eccentric, inventor.

The rock band Tesla named itself after the inventor and is among those dedicated to restoring credit to this great scientist.

Despite all of Tesla’s patents, he was unconcerned with money and died penniless.  Although he was almost a hermit in later life, he was honored in a funeral ceremony at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan.  J. Edgar Hoover,  head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation declared Tesla’s papers top-secret, because of possible weapons he may have designed.

You’ve got to check out these websites and the video about Tesla.

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Filed under Communication, Education, History, Life, Movies, Music, Natural History, Nature, Random, Science, Technology

Monarch Butterflies Complete Annual Migration to Mexico

Dec. 3 – Millions of butterflies have found sanctuary in Mexico as they complete their annual migration from North America, according to a Reuters News report.

The Mexican government has plans to massively expand the sanctuaries in the coming years, according to Monarch Butterfly Reserve Director, Concepcion Miguel Martinez.

A news video about the 2008 migration is here.  Monarch butterflies complete their annual migration to Mexico.

Monarch Watch director Orley “Chip” Taylor is one of the scientists interviewed in this article from National Geographic about the Monarch Butterfly migration. Internal Clock Leads Monarch Butterflies to Mexico.  Dr. Taylor is also featured in the New York Times video above.

More about Monarch Watch here.

Newly hatched Monarch butterflies cling to Chip Taylor's hat and beard as they harden their wings.  Taylor is the founder of Monarch Watch.

Newly hatched Monarch butterflies cling to Chip Taylor as they harden their wings at the Monarch Watch open house at the University of Kansas in September 2008.

Monarch Butterflies hang out at the scree house at Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas in September 2007.

Monarch Butterflies hang out at the screen house at Monarch Watch at the University of Kansas in September 2007.

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Filed under Animals, Biology, Butterflies, Conservation, Education, Entomology, Environment, Insects, Kansas, Natural History, Nature, Science, Uncategorized, University of Kansas