Friendly Chipmunks and Ghost Ships

This week was a week of hiking. Our excursions took us to the tops of mountains, to abandoned islands, and across disappearing land bridges. Much to my fiancée’s joy, we climbed to the top of three different mountains over the course of the trip. Penobscot, Dorr, and Cadillac. Alice also climbed to the top of Sargent mountain, from which my father and I turned back after our trip ended up going overtime and we had to get back for another event.

IMG_20170712_103416398.jpg

IMG_20170712_123835529.jpgOur abandoned island was Bar Island. After getting lost following a hurried flight from a swarm of bees, we stumbled upon an old fort that may have been from the civil war. This is just one of the chimneys that remain from that old fort.IMG_20170710_180227073.jpg

The bridge to Bar Island is below sea level at high tide, so it is only open for part of the day. A warning sign says that if you end up on the island at high tide you can wait for nine hours or call a water taxi for $150. I suspect you could also take your shoes off and wade back to shore, but I never got to try it.

IMG_20170713_193053868_TOP.jpg

It was here at Bar Island that I first saw the ghost ship.

IMG_20170710_185009531_HDR

The reason I know that this ship is of supernatural origin is due to its unusual size and anachronistic appearance. It also moved slowly and in a straight line, as if it were floating just above the surface of the water.

The flora and fauna were a particular highlight of the trip. Chipmunks abounded, and once I fell asleep and found a seagull nearly on top of me.

 

See below a squirrel fight I recorded.

All in all, I’d say it was definitely worth the legwork.

Bah Hahbah

As I write this entry, I am sitting in a breakfast joint, possibly the only one in Bar Harbor, Maine (as the locals call it, “Bah Hahbah”). It is 6:15 AM, and the establishment is packed. A woman in a shirt depicting welsh corgies floating through space emitting comically bastardized dog sounds (e.g. “bork bork.”). Her accent seems out of place. Mostly Eastern European, although not without a flair of upper New England. I have ordered the wild blueberry pancakes, which I am told are the best in Bar Harbor.

The waiter stops by with my food. She is from Kiev. The pancakes are thick and goopy, soaking the chunky wild blueberry sauce that came with them. Butter, served as a scoop in a plastic cup, melts and sinks into the surface of the pastries until they become saturated with the purple sauce, at which point it sits on top in a white and purple swirl.

IMG_20170709_062854152.jpg

As a savvy reader may have guessed, food has been one of the main attractions of my trip to the harbor so far. My first experience with the area was a Japanese restaurant. We enjoyed rather standard Americanized Japanese fare in an atmosphere juxtaposing faux traditional affectations with color-shifting neon lighting. Our waters were served with what were described as “hand-twirled” drinking straws, and the tea included traditional style cups, except that they were four times the size. The water had a subtle spicy taste, and my aunts, with whom I was traveling, assured me that this was due to high heavy metal content.

IMG_20170708_135517814.jpgWhen we arrived at our rental house, supper was salad with grilled cheese in a much more literal form than one might expect. Halloumi is a cheese made from sheep’s milk that holds up under heat, and thus can be sautéed in a pan, giving it a beautiful browned appearance and a taste that lives up to what one might imagine if you fried cheese in a pan.

IMG_20170708_193151731.jpg

Dessert was s’mores. On the theory that every dessert can be improved with judicious application of alcohol, I tried drizzling whiskey on my s’more. The first bite, I only added a drop and couldn’t taste it. The second one, I poured on half a capful, and the s’more burned my mouth and throat. Thus I have eliminated “pour straight whisky on top” from the list of ways alcohol could improve s’mores.

Dangal

If you like India, wrestling, or stories of broken glass ceilings, if you like touching family stories, hilarious off-beat foreign comedy, or strangely direct musical lyrics, if you like to fantasize about beating up boys who make fun of you, if you have Netflix and three hours to spare, you should watch Dangal. Dangal is a story about India’s first wrestling  gold-medalist at the international commonwealth games. Its lengthy runtime allows for a relaxed pace for a story that spans more than twenty two years, with one actor undergoing dramatic body transformations to represent their character as young and old and others played by two actors each for their child and adult versions.

For this movie, Aamir Khan, one of the most influential actors in Indian cinema today, had to be trim and muscular and soft and potbellied in the same movie. So that he could be muscular after filming was done, he asked to have the movie filmed with the later scenes first and the chronologically earlier scenes last. To transition from the old version of Mahavir Singh Phogat to the representation of himself in his prime, Khan exercised six hours a day and lost 25 kilograms (55 lbs).

Meanwhile, the four women surrounding Khan as Mahavir in the picture above actually represent just two women. Exhibiting an ahistorical ability to violate the space-time continuum, Mahavir is sitting with both the adult and child versions of each of his two wrestler daughters simultaneously. If you can’t figure out who is the adult version of whom, don’t feel bad. This is a serious problem with the movie for me. As soon as Geeta becomes an adult, none of my affection for the child version transferred. It’s not just the change in appearance that’s jarring. The kid looks like someone who will beat any boy who teases her to a bloody pulp, whereas the adult Geeta abruptly seems more delicate and gentle. It’s not enough to wreck the movie, but it’s disappointing.

Overall, I cannot recommend this movie highly enough. At about the halfway mark, when the child Geeta becomes famous, is a good midpoint that closes one challenge before the next one begins. Consider using this as an opportunity to pause the film and finish it the next day. As two normal-length movies, this is an excellent pastime for the family.

Murder, chocolate pudding, and ponies

I was playing a game this week in which you play a little rabbit creature with magic powers. The unstated goal was to murder everything in sight, for which you were rewarded with experience that made you stronger in interesting and fun ways. At one point my little serial killer came upon a creature she had been chasing, who was now stuck under some rubble. The protagonist rescued it and the narrator of the game informed me that she had reminded this creature that there is still kindness and mercy in the forest. After accepting the stolen artifact for her inspiring love, the protagonist blew up an owl with two magic missiles and used its soul to empower her to do so again in the future using only one magic missile.

 

dark chocolate orange pudding recipe

On Friday, I made orange dark chocolate pudding for a party. I’m not sure it was the right snack for that venue. I didn’t put as much effort into the presentation as the above picture. People liked the dish for not being excessively sweet, and even though only three people out of eight (including me) ate any, one person may have had three bowls of it. I still have an awful lot left over, so I’ll take some to my co-workers who expressed interest on Friday when I mentioned I was going to make it.

But the crowning story of this week, if we include the prior weekend, is that Alice got to go visit the wild ponies of Virginia.

IMG_6009.JPG
Enraged, a wild pony viciously attacks Alice’s hip.

It is illegal to pet these ponies. Please witness in this picture, Alice is not petting the pony. To my knowledge, there are no laws in the state of Virginia against being eaten by ponies.

I AM MILLENIALS

People are spying on me and reporting on my actions to the Internet. The code name they have for me is “Millenials.” No sooner had I posted a blog post about my engagement lug nut than The Independent wrote “Diamonds aren’t forever: Millenials turn their backs on unethical and expensive gems.”

When I ordered another bulk purchase of Dr. Bronner’s liquid soap, CBS News complained of my intent to kill bar soap, and then the New York Post came to my defense, saying “it’s fun to read the rambling Dr. Bronner’s label in the shower.”

I made a kale salad for my fiance, and pretty soon I was reading in Forbes, “Healthy food makes millennials happy. They push to eat healthier, more eco-friendly foods.”

When I shopped around and got a refurbished laptop, Forbes was in on that, too. This time they even followed my dad. “One thing that makes millennials like their parents is that almost 80% are influenced by price. Even as much as they are looking for other values from their products like authenticity, local sourcing, ethical production and a great shopping experience, nothing beats a discount no matter how old you are.” It’s true, I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m almost 80% influenced by price in many of my purchases.

A reporter from the Atlantic expected to see me at Earth Fare, where he was going to write about how millenials are driving demand through the roof for soymilk and moldy grapes. Unfortunately for him, I had recently decided I was tired of picking through their terrible produce and never arrived. So, the headline read, “Why Do Millennials Hate Groceries?” The reporter’s harebrained theory that I was eating exclusively at restaurants wasn’t entirely wrong – given that SAS’s food is terribly convenient to bring home and eat rather than cooking for myself.

It didn’t take long for the reporting to become sensationalist. I went to a democratic county meeting and the Atlantic jumped in again with the headline, “Can Millennials Save the Democratic Party?” The Washington Post was unimpressed with my activism and responded, “Don’t Count on Millennials to Save the West.”

I’m lazy, entitled, well educated, underemployed, drowning in college debt, and more willing to consider government regulation of the economy than previous generations. In any case, I need to go take a selfie and eat some avocado toast. Just remember that by 2030, I’ll be the one picking the president.

Evolution and Dogs

My friend Jim has a dog, Casper. Casper (pictured above) is a six year old American Eskimo Dog who still has the energy of a puppy. This is not entirely an accident. Jim is a researcher at a local company, and he has made research into a way of life. His research when selecting dog breeds led him to the discovery that a dog’s lifespan and general health is closely related to how much the dog looks like a wolf.

If this seems surprising to you, consider this: each breed of dog is a descendant of wolves. The breeds were then created through, well, breeding. Humans selected features they wanted, and the very wolf-like first dogs led to dogs optimized to be small (toy breeds), or have comically short legs (Corgies), or short snouts (pugs). In this optimization for human-selected qualities, they have been optimized away from survivability, that is, health. This can also happen with plants, leading to unfortunate situations such as illustrated in the comic below.

There are some things that have not been bred out of dogs, though. For instance, the predilection to roll in the leavings of other animals. Some study has been devoted to this behavior. Theories of why it might be beneficial for a wolf to roll in poop or a rotting carcass include camouflage and group identity.

The camouflage theory does not apply to fooling prey so much. A study of wolves given various scents to roll in found some interesting results.

Surprisingly, the wolves were least interested in rubbing themselves in the faeces of herbivores like sheep or horse: the scientists did not see them rub at all on these odours. Food was similarly unappealing. Instead, their favoured scents were artificial odours like perfume or motor oil.

A powerful, strange smell like perfume is likely to make hunting more rather than less difficult. A savvy prey will run from any strange smell approaching. A predator, however, is more discerning. It may be less inclined to pick off a delicious straggler from a pack of wolves if its nose tells it that in fact what it smells passing by is merely a pack of poops or an ambulatory puddle of motor oil.

Group identity is even more fun. All the wolves in a group might roll in the same dung, identifying themselves together as “team bear poop.” Team bear poop then can more effectively work together and compete against “team deer carcass” and “team industrial sludge.”

I wonder if a dog who finds a scent it likes may just want to keep it around a little longer. What better way than to make it a personal perfume? So, the next time your dog chooses to express its membership in “team ruptured septic tank,” consider giving it human perfume after you wash it for a more sanitary Eau de Toilette.

Bugs

I saw a bug the other day,

Image may contain: outdoor

To be fair, Alice pointed it out. She also identified it as a stag beetle. When I posted this picture on Facebook, there is a secret that I did not reveal. I said I saw the beetles in the morning, which is true, but the light was not good at that time, so this picture is actually from when I came home from work in the afternoon. The beetle, which hardly moved at all the whole time Alice and I were looking at it, had only made it a few feet from where we’d seen it first. Alice looked them up, and it’s common for them to move very little.

Image result for silverfish

Meanwhile, in fiction, I’ve needed to characterize the protagonist of the Cleaners Diane more clearly. As a brief review, The Cleaners is about house-cleaning robots that go overboard in their desire to achieve cleanliness. I’ve given Diane a huge collection of books haphazardly strewn about her house. This created an opportunity to  give her a motivation to not want to let the Cleaner into her house. Her untidy book collection is in fact actively dirty, and silverfishes, which are known to eat books, are occasionally falling out from between the pages. She is protective of her books, though, and doesn’t want a callous robot coming in and throwing them in the garbage. In my first draft, I described a silverfish nest Diane found in one of her books, and Alice wondered if silverfishes have nests. I made a note to look that up when I got around to it, but eventually Alice just looked it up herself and sent me an email. Silverfish lay only a few eggs at a time, it turns out, and a suspicious book can be microwaved to sterilize it. I’m not convinced that that precludes Diane finding a nest, though. Nevertheless, thinking about it more, I’ve decided that having a few silverfish slip out between the pages of a book could make for a more intense effect and sidestep the issue entirely. Having someone tell Diane to microwave her books could be pretty funny.

Now I just need to figure out how to avoid going too far in the other direction and making Diane’s house so filthy that her reluctance to have it cleaned is completely unrelatable, which is a serious risk with the number of silverfish I’ve already described running around the place.

Always ready to assist, Alice helped me come up with an ending for this entry:

Bugs, Bugs, Bugs, Bugs, Bugs. The End.

It's about whatever I say it's about