July 22, 2007

North Dakota Pirate Pants

We just got back from a family vacation staying with the in-laws in Stockholm. I am still feeling the 8-hour drive. It was the first trip with our new/used car, a 1997 Ford Mondeo, which car gets two thumbs up: The best car I've owned. Nimble, smooth, nice stereo, space for a family on vacation, easy to drive and not a gas guzzler.

If you don't know this I'll tell you: I refuse to own a car newer than 10 years old. My brother sold me my first car for $200, a 1976 Chevy Nova with three-on-the-tree transmission, in 1986. Rust took that chariot home, after memorable trips to the boundary waters, Big Bend and Longmeadow Massachussets. My second car was a 1967 Chrysler New Yorker, also bought from The Original Owner. It had a twin barrel Holly carb, 440 cu. inch V8, and suspension and brakes from a Dodge pick up. Drove that wonderful machine out to Pasadena in 1989 and slid around LA for a few years in grad school. Then we moved to Sweden and the in-laws sold us their 1979 SAAB 99. A wonderful car although pulling the choke to get the turbo charged slant 4 engine started reminded me of Dad's Evinrude outboard. We got rear-ended by a Mercedes once and drove away with a slight bend in the tailpipe. The Merc was smashed up pretty bad, spilled its radiator fluid and oil all over the roadway. Thence onward to a great 1989 SAAB 900. We would still have that car if only it hadn't turned into an oven during the summer. Finally a lemon, a 1991 SAAB 9000, bought from my sister's brother. Too many faults to go into.

The point is, I would like a car with character and I refuse to pay top dollar-- there's better things to do with money. We don't drive that much anyway since I take the train and bike to work.

But what I wanted to write about was something that happened during our vacation with the in-laws. I walked downtown and ended up in the clothing store where I bought some shorts. Here's what the tag said:

Original Outdoor X-Tuxer Heavy Durable Gear


Built for a life at the bay: rowing out to the wreck of the Bosporus, digging clams for a bake on the strand or launching your brother's hand built dinghy. Brushed T/C poplin for ultimate comfort and rugged durability. Intelligently detailed and sewn like iron.


Tuxers utility pants are made from superior quality material and fabrication.

July 11, 2007


Here's a list of weather records that have been broken in Denmark over the past year (July 2006 to June 2007, click to enlarge):

The reference period for the column labeled ‘normal’ is 1961 to 1990.

July 09, 2007

Fountains of Diet Coke

Seen this one? If you drop a Mento into a bottle of Diet Coke it causes all of the dissolved carbon dioxide to come out of solution instantaneously, creating a foamy jet that will shoot 15 or 20 feet into the air. The strange thing is it only works with Mentos and Diet Coke. Not with say Life Savers or sugar cubes and RC Cola.

The boys and I tried this at home Sunday afternoon and yes it works as advertised-- we sprayed a huge geyser of Diet Coke all over the yard. Then I showed them how to make volcanos using vinegar and baking soda. Great afternoon.

July 07, 2007


I am going to make a list of some of the goofed-up things about Sweden.

1. Every last grocery store stocks the baking powder next to the vanilla-flavored powdered sugar (near the honey and flour), but nowhere near the baking soda, which is kept with the spices.

2. There aren't any post offices in Sweden. This is beyond abnormal and undemocratic-- it is perverse. Want to send an important package? Wait in line at the grocery store and explain to the teenager behind the register how much postage to use and which customs forms to fill out.

3. Every pizza place uses the same small set of recipes. You will never find an Italian serving a pizza in Sweden but only someone from the middle east or just possibly the stans.


Our house lies under a popular hot air balloon route. They always fly in the evening. Often there will be several up at the same time. I liked this one because 'HD' is a molecule I've been thinking about lately.

It's been wet here. We got 5 inches on Thursday this week, judging by the accumulation in the plastic bucket raingauge set on the edge of the sandbox. Roads were closed everywhere and the beet field nearby was under a meter of water. Some train tracks were washed out but not on my route. All the rain made me wish for the 10th time that I would put a different seat on one of my commuting bikes. The seat right now has an enormous holding capacity, really it's just a sponge at the end of a metal tube.

July 04, 2007

Severe Drought in the Deep South

Here's an article in today's New York Times about the exceptional drought in the American Southeast.

From the article,

Scientists call it a cruel freak of nature, one that is causing misery to farmers at a critical period in the growing cycle and has already ruined a “startling” proportion of Alabama’s agricultural output, said Douglas Le Comte, a senior meteorologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Some 88 percent of the state’s corn crop is classified by the government as poor to very poor, along with 85 percent of its soybeans and 74 percent of its cotton.

“The reality is, we’re going to lose a significant amount of money this year,” said Stuart Sanderson, a fourth-generation farmer in Limestone County, east of here. The foothills of the Appalachians make an alluring backdrop, but the reality on the ground is grim.

“A disaster like this is one you never see coming. We’re looking at a 70 to 80 percent loss,” Mr. Sanderson said, standing by a useless field of shrunken cornstalks. The rare, stunted ear could only manage a few malformed grains.

Deep cracks in the red earth indicated dry soil inches deep. “I’ve never seen this ground do that,” he said.

Rainfall is at least 20 inches below the normal 32 inches and in some places far lower than that.

July 03, 2007

Summer biking

We went away for the weekend and stayed with my wife's aunt. She let me borrow the bike in this picture, perfect for riding to the beach. Leather seat with springs, bell, single speed, panniers to hold beach toys, thermos, towels, ball and net. We ate lunch outside at a pizza place and it started to rain.

Back home again we went for a ride outside of town.

I became hypnotized by the clouds and the horizon and fell behind.

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