Thursday, August 30, 2007

Addition To Last Post

Just a couple pics of the secret spot I was talking about in the last post. Notice I didn't include any landmarks, and you are all sworn to secrecy! Shhhhh!

This is the closest thing to a trail when getting to it.

So pretty! Little do you realize the menacing shapes gliding under the water.

Gratuitous pole shot!

A nice little bass. Look at those gorgeous colors!

So far, I haven't been able to catch the monster carp. But I got some serious bites tonight, so I'm getting closer. I need just the right combo of bait ingredient and..........okay, you guys probably think I'm the biggest redneck by now. Next post I promise something not fish or mud related!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Little Find

So I was out fishing tonight in a secret spot. You have to hop a fence, bushwhack through all kinds of brush and snakes, and duck and crawl your way to the shore. Then you have to cast in bizarre angles because the entire shore is covered in thickets. Crazy? Perhaps, but it is worth it. The carp are so big, they actually mock you when you show up. They laugh at your pitiful baits and lures. Laugh, I tell you.

Anyway, the shore is basically a cliff, so I dug in the dirt to make a make-shift seat. Low and behold, I came across some turtle eggs! Now, the odd thing is this is the second time I've accidentally dug up turtle eggs - the first was in a field in NC, and I raised three of them from that incident. Unfortunately, this time I had already smashed one open by accident, and a little fellow popped out. I decided to take him home to try and raise him to releasing age since his shell was broke.

Even stranger, later in the evening I was reeling a line in by hand (don't ask), so it was dragging on the pond's bottom. I thought it was stuck, but something huge began pulling. The line was a light four pound test, so it was quite a struggle. When I got it to the shore, it was a snapping turtle the size of a truck hubcap! You should have seen this massive hulk coming out of the water, tail like a dragon, shell like a WWII tank. For those that don't know, snapping turtles can bite your toes clean off, and actually give medals to each other for just that thing. I thought it might have been the turtle's mother coming for revenge, but it was a different species (you should know your turtle species when you wade in water). But to be sure, it was a little odd.

I can't prove it, but I think the snapper pointed at me and said "YOU."

Monday, August 27, 2007

Boston and my Sister!

Went to Boston last weekend and was in history-nerd-heaven! Paul Revere's house, the USS Constitution, Bunker Hill, the whole nine-yards of nerdness. Birthplace of the Nation? Well, who knows, but a pretty cool town.

Plus I got to see my sister, who was in town speaking at a huge chemical conference. We met with my parents and all got to hang out.

Let me tell you folks why the women in my family rock.

They are drop dead gorgeous, yet they have never relied on their looks and always stood on their own two feet! Case in point (brag alert!) - my sister is becoming a seriously famous scientist with a PHD in poly-chemistry, doing research at one of the best universities in the country. She is one of the smartest people on the planet. Yet she has model-good looks and I've had to fight my friends off her for years. My mom used to ACTUALLY model, yet is a full professor of English. She raised two children completely on her own, and managed to work full time and get a PHD in the process. Now why aren't women like this role models for our children?

Do they care about the surface stuff that society teaches us - like you "have to rely on a man", or who has the best handbags, or "oh, look at me?" No!! They are smart, tough, successful, beautiful women. And don't get me started on my cousins! I love it, the ultimate snub to the propaganda of the 50s!

That's all, I just wanted to brag a little!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

"Conan, What Is Best In Life?"

It's a good question, isn't it? What are a couple things in life I think are pretty cool? I have some opinions, as you probably guessed.

- I love that feeling I get when I find an ancient ruin, castle, or similar historic site on one of my travels. I don't know, it's some weird, primitive connection I feel. As if the ancestors are calling out - "Check out what we did! Isn't life cool?" I mean, how can you not like things like this:

- Making things with my own hands. It is bizarrely satisfying. As a fun game, I try not to buy little knick-knacks if I can make them myself. For example, here is a knife I made (made the chainmail too)

- Going old-school camping. That's right, kids, none of this "suburban-camping" stuff where you bring your little cellphones and I-pods (ugggg). If you truly distance yourself from civilization, it awakens something in you, if only for a weekend (insert cavemen banging on drums).

- Having my own land. I have 16 acres in NC, and I love the fact that I can do whatever I want with it. By the time I am done it will be one of the coolest places ever. Here is a picture, by the way. No castle built yet, standby for that.

- My Cat, "Mr. Cat!" Isn't he cuuuuuuuuute??? Say it! Saaayyyy itttt!

- Fishing. Ohhhh man, out there, all is quiet. Just me and the water, the anticipation, the fight. I especially like wading in the muck to go that extra mile. None of this "ewww, I might get dirty" stuff. Sometimes, you just have to go Captain Ahab, folks.

- Just taking off and exploring. Whether it is getting in my car and randomly driving, finding a field somewhere, checking out a flea market I happen upon, whatever. It is so much fun to see new sights and sounds - I'm always surprised at how much cool stuff there is even locally!

Okay, so there are TONS more stuff. But what about you guys?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Learning the Banjo

I'm trying to learn the banjo, and decided to record a little with my computer mic. Okay, so I have a loooong way to go. But I figure I'll be pretty good by the time I'm 80. Why not?

By the way, the banjo has it's roots in Africa. The slaves used to fashion banjos out of gourds and the instrument caught on, eventually evolving into it's modern form.

For the record, I think banjo is harder than the other instruments I learned. The timing is really hard to get down, and so far I don't quite have it. But, Rome wasn't built....oh never mind.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Fun With Wood!

Here are some wood-carvings I did. I'm thinking about doing a sculpture at some point, but I need more wood. Anyone want to come with me looking for a giant walnut tree?

My friend blowing bubbles

A random face. Perhaps before the morning coffee?

Maybe too much coffee?

This one is based on a Roman mask found at Kalkriese. The real one is below (okay, so it is not exact!):

So anyway - if you have never carved wood, you should try it, it's fun! And it leaves a wonderful layer of wood-chips in your townhouse - you know, to give it that "18th century" look you can't find in a catalog.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Neanderthals, Cro-Magnon, and Uncle Billy in a Deer-Skin Tube-Top

The idea hit you like a catapulted Dodo bird. You were at the Natural History Museum the other day, and you couldn't help but notice a striking resemblance between the Neolithic Man display and half of your in-laws. The Alpha Male, spearing a 15 foot Mammoth in the buttocks, bore a striking resemblance to your brother-in-law waiting in line at the barbecue. Same gaping mouth, same crazed eyes, same thick, sweat-filled back-hair.

"But" you openly cry into the air, beckoning to the great tourist spirit "I thought we were genetically different than our ancestors! I mean, how long have humans been, well, humans? Isn't there something about Neanderthals being pushed out? And most importantly, did cave-women wear leather bikinis?"

These are all interesting questions, and in order to save you from future embarrassing outbursts at the museum, here are some facts for you. Well, facts depending on who you talk to.

- How old are we? It depends on how you look at it. Homo sapiens as a distinct species started appearing approximately 200,000 years ago, however there are millions of years of protohumans running amok before this. Australopithecus, a group of hominids which existed as early as 4 million years ago, were considered for a long time our ancestors, however there is debate about the actual direct connection. Homo Habilis, the earliest fellows in our particular genus, began appearing about 2.4 million years. So where do "we" begin? Perhaps it depends on whether or not you would date a 4-foot hominid with no car. At any rate, probably your safest bet is to say "Homo sapiens appeared about 200,000 years ago" and hope the early hominids aren't offended.

- How long have our ancestors walked upright? Probably somewhere between 4 and 6 million years (those early hominids again). Walking, of course, was invented when "Ook-Ook the Flea Master" tried to impress the good-looking hairy chick down the way. This led to the first "romantic walk on the beach," which ended in disaster as the couple was dragged screaming into the sea by a now-extinct species of sea-cow.

- Tools: How long have we been using them? The earliest stone tools we have found date to around 2.5 million years ago. There may have been bone tools used earlier, but this guessed it...debated!

- Fire: How long? Fast forward a million years, lots of evolution, lots of crazed whooping, and around 1.5 million years ago we started using fire - or more accurately one of our ancestors, Homo erectus, did (hey, no smirking at the name).

- Clothing? Unknown. There are estimates of between 100,000 and 600,000 years ago. However, it is known that the first childish tantrum thrown by a fashion designer followed the very next day.

- Neanderthals: What are they? Okay - now pay attention. Neanderthals started appearing around 250,000 years ago. It is confusing because Homo sapiens started appearing around the same time (remember - 200,000 years ago), and we share many similar characteristics. There is a debate over whether Neanderthals are a subspecies of human, or a completely separate species. However the current consensus is that they are indeed separate, we just shared a common ancestor.

- Cro-Magnon: What are they? Cro-Magnon are indeed modern human, they are simply the group that lived in Europe, named after the cave in France where the first fossil was found. got your first Homo sapiens appearing in Africa around 200,000 BC, they hang out there for awhile, then about 50,000 BC they start migrating out. The ones that went to Europe? We call 'em Cro-Magnon.

- Did modern humans and Neanderthals come into contact? Yes. there is evidence that in certain areas Neanderthals and modern man co-existed as modern man emigrated into their territories (50,000 BC). However, Neanderthals began slowly being pushed out, and by about 24,000 BC Neanderthals were extinct. Cooiiinciiideeeence??

- Could they mate? DNA evidence suggests no (sorry, Darryl Hanna). But, if you really wanted to, you could have a nice evening with a Cro-Magnon. Ladies, talk about your "real" man (don't put fingers near mouth)

- What exactly then, is a "caveman?" This is simply a pop-culture term for early hominids, particularly Neanderthals and Cro-Magnan. It is not used in scientific terminology, unless the professor actual caveman.

- So, did they...(drum-roll) in caves? Well, if there was a good one around, sure. There are lots of archaeological sites in caves, or overhanging rocks for shelter. But they also had huts made of branches and animal skins, and weren't "confined" to caves. As the Cro-Magnon used to say "Hut good. Cave Better. Cave with jacuzzi, best."

I know what you are thinking. 'This is all well and good, Jarod, but what about the cavewomen in leather bikinis?!' I'm sorry to report that there is no evidence of bikinis. There is, however, evidence of leopard speedos invented by Gakk-Gakk the Impressive (made out of actual leopards). Ironically, it may have been the tight-fitting speedo which drove the Neanderthals to extinction by causing the females to throw themselves off cliffs in masses. To be sure, something happened to the Neanderthals, and it wasn't pretty.

At any rate, the next time you are visiting your in-laws, have pity. They can't help the grunting, the bad posture, or the odor. They are the result of millions of years of evolution, and guess what, millions of years from now they will be saying the same thing about us. At least, as long as the leopard speedo stays in Europe.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Good Music!

Went to the "Gathering of the Vibes" music festival on Saturday. It was great! Lots of colorful sites, smiling people, and good music. Les Claypool was up there, slapping his bass. He actually had an odd hybrid between a banjo and a bass he called his "bassjo". By the way, if you never heard of Les Claypool - google and listen immediately (and hang your head in shame for listening to pop rock these last 15 years). Bob Weir was also there, and lots of other bands.
Here are some pics for your groovy pleasure:

Some interesting concert wear. They insisted Dorothy was alive and well.

Some dancing girls and the standard "guy with exposed beer gut"

Some weird light-stick-man thing that briefly hovered above me. I think he was looking for his car.

Les Claypool on stage. That's him all right, clear as a bell!
So thanks, Vibes, for a cool day of music and sights!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

An Actual, Normal Blog Post!

You know, it occurred to me - in a sudden and shocking revelation - that I have never actually posted your basic, normal blog post. I read other people's blogs, and they talk about what they ate for dinner, dating, an experience on the subway, "overheard at work", etc, etc. You know - actual life, and they are usually quite fun to read and written entertainingly (funnily?). I don't think I have ever read another blog post on the top-ten reasons to seige a castle, or how to tell if pearls are fake. I mean, what's wrong with me, anyway? I hear things at work, I EAT dinner! That's right, I too have everyday happenings, but for some reason have not blogged about them.

So kids, for the first time ever, here is an actual, normal blog post (Kazoos, confetti release)!

Yesterday I woke up, and hit the alarm. I petted my cat, who looked at me with that "Yes I will eat you if you die in the apartment" look. I got in my car, and went to work. I was hoping to see a UFO on the way, but no luck.

Got to work. Worked. Work was fun.

Went home. Petted cat. I watched a little TV. Ate dinner. It was a nice steak with......with...................Ahhhhh I can't do it!! Did you know the Aztecs had entire books of written languages, but they were all destroyed but four? Did you know you can fire clay with a portable barbecue and a blowdryer? Do you know what makes good steel for swords? leaf springs!! And, and...

Okay, okay, so I failed. Hey give me some credit, I almost made it through. I will try again another day. In the meantime, a good bait for carp is sugar snaps in a pile of rice mixed with instant jello.

Strawberry is best.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

New Bonsai Tree!

Check out my new bonsai! Of course, "new" may not be entirely accurate since it is over 20 years old. You see kids, I don't own my bonsai trees, I am simply taking care of them until the next generation - hows that for some Mr. Miyagi-esque perspective.

I have many bonsai trees - this one I got from a Master who I took some lessons from. He liked my knives, so I am exchanging a knife for a bonsai - an old school trade, really.

For those that don't know anything about bonsai - here are a couple quick items:

- Bonsai is not a species of tree. It can be just about any tree species - maple, oak, whatever - they are "miniaturized" by pruning, root pruning, and many, many, many, many other techniques. Did I mention there are many techniques involved? This one happens to be a Trident Maple.

- Bonsai means "tree-pot". Go figure!

- Bonsai is pronounced "bone - sigh" (that's right - bone as in chicken bone). This is not to be confused with "Banzai!!" which is a Japanese war cry. Banzai means "ten thousand years" (check out the history of that phrase on wiki, it is interesting).

- They can live for hundreds of years. You don't believe me? Wait.

- Bonsai are not "starved" to become small. In fact, I put fertilizer on mine quite regularly. They are actually quite healthy.

- The idea is not so much to make an exact replica of a tree on a small scale (although you can do that), it is more to give an impression of a tree - think of it in terms of abstract art. If you look closely at the picture, it doesn't look exactly like maple trees do in the wild - yet for some reason it gives you the impression a large, beautiful tree - at least when you see it in person it does.

- If you bonsai an apple tree, full apples will still come out - it's true! Same with lemon trees, orange trees, etc. It's cool looking, check it out -

Well, that's all for now. Now, close your eyes, Daniel-san, picture tree...