The Suitcase Lady

Centered

August 13, 2019, 9:22 pm

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From grade school on, I have always loved geography. The physical features of the land as well as the political lines our species draw on that land are equally intriguing to me. I have a great desire to know where everything is and what it looks like.

As part of this quest, I found myself wandering through a cornfield a few weekends ago, looking for the center of the western world.

Twenty-one miles west of Wausau, Wisconsin, and a few miles from the small town of Poniatowski is Meridian Road and a tiny park with the 45×90 Geographical Marker. This marks the exact spot that is halfway between the Equator and the North Pole and halfway between the Greenwich Meridian and the International Date Line, the place where the 45th Parallel of Latitude intersects with the 90th Meridian of Longitude.

There are actually four 45 degree-90 degree points in the Northern Hemisphere. However, I’m not likely to visit the other three; one is in the Pacific Ocean, one is in a mountainous region of China near Mongolia and one is in the Indian Ocean.

In the Southern Hemisphere, 97% of the 45th Parallel passes through open ocean. Here’s a photo from New Zealand, one of the rare spots where it’s not underwater.

So my best bet was the cornfield in my own state. The day was warm, the sun was setting, the corn was high and I got myself centered…always a good place to be.

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Ada

August 6, 2019, 9:32 pm

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My husband is crazy about another woman. She has bright pink hair and is a total nerd. He loves to consult her about all things techie.

Fortunately for me, Ladyada and he only get together in computerland where she has zillions of other fans. This is not a sexual thing. My guy just likes building electronic inventions and Ladyada gives him exactly what he needs: cool little circuit boards.

Since my husband is always hanging out with this lady, I decided to find out more about her and googled “Lady Ada”. I immediately got loads of information, but it was definitely not about a pink-haired woman who is alive and well at this moment.

The original Lady Ada was Lady Ada Lovelace (1815-1852), the only legitimate child of the poet Lord Bryon. She was a brilliant mathematician and generally credited with being the world’s first programmer, working with Charles Babbage on his mechanical computer.

Further searching quickly brought me to Limor Fried who calls herself Ladyada in homage to the original. She is an MIT trained electrical engineer and the owner of the electronics company Adafruit industries. Her stated goal was to “create the best place online for learning about electronics and making the best designed products for makers of all ages and skill levels”.

The other morning my husband was checking into Ada-land and I happened to glance at his computer screen. To my great surprise, Ms. Ada had a number of items I could truly enjoy. Bear in mind that there is not a techie bone or brain circuit in my body.

Here is one of her Saturday Morning Cartoons……in additional to being brilliant, she is also a cat lady.

Kitten to Cat to Kitten Video

Ladyada, By TechCrunch

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Lakes

July 30, 2019, 11:05 pm

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Image from www.slapitonamap.com

Lakes are fluid in more than the literal sense. They change size and even disappear. Any list comparing the size of the world’s largest lakes will change…even in the short span of a few decades.

This is how I have come to live on the shores of the world’s fifth-largest freshwater lake as measured by surface area. When we purchased our lake lot 40 years ago, Lake Michigan was only in sixth place. To be blunt but factual, the Soviet Union destroyed the vast Aral Sea, thus moving Lake Michigan up the list.

Before the 1950’s the Aral Sea was the world’s fourth-largest lake. By 1997, it had shrunk to 10% of its original size and split into four lakes. By 2014, the eastern basin had completely dried up.

The destruction began when Soviet engineers began diverting the two mountain rivers, the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya, that fed the lake with snowmelt. The goal was to grow cotton in the desert. The cotton bloomed, but the Aral Sea fishing economy collapsed. Coastal towns found themselves high, dry, covered in blowing salty dust and suffering from hotter summers and colder winters.

The uptake here appears to be, “Never underestimated the ability of people to destroy the environment.”

Our Lake Michigan level is at record highs this year. Our beach has disappeared and half of our stairs have been claimed by the waves, but we are not complaining. We’ve got water.

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Pup

July 23, 2019, 9:49 pm

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A friend recently sent us a minute-long video she recorded. It depicts an amazing moment and begs to be shared. But first, here is a bit of background information to make it even more enjoyable…if that is possible.

Bats are marvelous creatures. The only true flying mammals (squirrels glide) they fly with their “hand wings”. The bones in their wings are elongated finger bones with small thumbs used for climbing. Thin, fragile skin membrane fills the space between the fingers. Anatomically, bat flight and bird flight are totally different mechanisms.

To understand how a bat flies, just mimic the arm motions of the butterfly breast swimming stroke. Bats row through the air. Strong muscles in their backs and chests enable them to create an up-stroke and powerful down-stroke.

A bat mom gives birth hanging upside down from her perch and catches her blind and furless pup in her wings. She has only one baby, but it’s a big one, about one-third of her weight. Mom cradles her pup in her tail pouch.

Like all mammal mothers, mom nurses her baby and it grows fast. Pups start learning to fly after 3 weeks. By 6 weeks they can catch insects by themselves and no longer need mom’s milk. By three months they are independent.

One huge danger lurks for mothers and pups. The bats in a majority of species cannot take flight from the ground. They must drop down 2 or 3 feet before they can fly. So a pup who falls to the ground from its roosting site is in serious trouble…mom can’t come to its rescue.

See how this pup solves its problem….thanks to its thumbs and a well-designed bat nesting site.

 

A bat pup has fallen out of its bat house on the side of our friend’s home. Our friend climbs the ladder to the pup catcher and describes what happens next.

Lots of squeaking from box above. One more look before I take her out of there… Before I can do that, watch what happens as the pup suddenly gathers herself up and…” (click here or on picture below)

 

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French

July 16, 2019, 11:16 pm

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Here’s a tricky trivia question. Where is the only place in North America where the Euro is the official currency?

You would have to travel to the tiny French islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon about 12 miles off the southern coast of Newfoundland to spend those Euros. In a concession to their geographic location, the locals do accept both Canadian and American dollars.

France’s empire in the New World once covered a vast swath of land. At its peak in 1712, it extended from Newfoundland to the Canadian prairies and from Hudson’s Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. This territory encompassed all the Great Lakes. By 1873, defeats in wars, treaties and other circumstances reduced France’s sphere to the 87 square miles of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon.

These extremely wind-swept islands were settled by fishermen from Brittany, Normandy and the Basque region of France. For over a century they caught and salted the plentiful cod. But in the 1920’s, a more lucrative business flourished, bootleg liquor.

America passed prohibition, and Saint-Pierre became the epicenter for smuggling Canadian whiskey, Caribbean rum and French wines into the States. Fishermen abandoned the fish in favor of running distilleries and smuggling operations. Even Al Capone spent some time in this Prohibition hot spot.

With the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the smuggling business collapsed. But the island’s most important historic moment was yet to come. On Christmas Eve, 1943, De Gaulle’s exiled Free France Government (the resistors of Vichy France) secured the island in a bloodless coup thus denying the Axis Powers a foothold in North America.

Today the islands of 6,000 French citizens are bastions of French culture. The tourist industry predominates…French restaurants, bakeries and wines are irresistible draws.

But if I need a French fix, I probably will not visit these islands. They are over 2,200 miles from my home, a bit more than halfway to Paris. And transportation costs are about equal.

Then again, life is full of surprises. If I ever find myself in Fortune, Newfoundland, I’ll definitely take the ferry ride over. I never turn down a genuine croissant in my vicinity.

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