Saturday, April 30, 2005

Ducks Go Shopping

Mallard duck hen and babies go shoppingToday was a nice day. Why not take the whole family grocery shopping?

Needless to say, this momma mallard and her brood caused no small stir in the Harris-Teeter parking lot this afternoon. Store management was experienced with this sort of thing and the hen and her nine babies were soon relocated to a nearby ditch from whence they came.

All in a day's work.

-- Dalton Hammond

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

O Beautiful, For Darker Skies

M83 barred spiral galaxy
Have you ever looked at a picture of a majestic spiral galaxy like the one -- M83 -- pictured here and wondered what it would be like to live in one?

Get ready for this: We DO!

Our planet Earth, the Sun, and all of our neighboring planets are situated about two-thirds of the way out one of the stellar arms of a barred spiral galaxy like M83, that we call the Milky Way.

Composed of billions of stars so far away that the spiral arm we live in looks to us like a trail of milk painted across the night sky, the Milky Way can no longer be seen, indeed has NEVER been seen, by millions of Earth's residents because of artificial light pollution.

While unwanted light is mainly a big problem to professional and amateur astronomers who study the stars, it prevents us all from enjoying the beauty and majesty of the universe we live in. Entire generations of city dwellers and suburbanites worldwide have been deprived of ever being able to see the magnificent river of stars above us.

Fortunately, lighting engineers have developed new ways of giving us nighttime illumination for commerce and security that doesn't invade our night skies, and may in fact be less expensive to operate than traditional lighting. But much work must be done to educate the public and our elected officials, and to pass laws enabling the new lighting provisions.

Lights should illuminate the ground. Light directed to the sky is wasted, expensive, and pollutes the night.

You can get involved in restoring our nighttime sky. Check out the International Dark-Sky Association and see how you can help save the Milky Way.

Look up an astronomy club near you, visit one of their public star parties and look through their telescopes at the wonders above us in the night sky. You and your family will love the experience.

May your skies be clear -- and DARK.

-- Dalton Hammond

Some Dark Sky Treats

Sunday, April 24, 2005

The Cat and the Mockingbirds

Several years ago I was pulling into my assigned parking space in front of my apartment when I noticed my neighbor's housecat crouched on the lawn in front of the apartment building. He was studying a mockingbird that was sitting high up on the roof ridge of the adjoining building on the left. It was clear to me that the bird was taunting the cat, calling to him in squawks and screeches that only a mockingbird can produce. The cat lay perfectly still, watching the bird from the corners of its eyes, pretending not to notice.

After a few minutes the bird grew silent and right away another mockingbird joined in the heckling from a roof on the building to the right. The cat remained still but slowly cast its eyes in the direction of the second bird.

I decided that the cat's ego was taking a bad bruising but since the birds were high up and far away that they were in no danger, so I went inside.

The next day when I got home from work I found the same scenario. The birds were again on the rooftops and the cat was back in the yard enduring the harassment. This drama continued for several days.

After about a week I noticed that the birds had become more daring. They would first heckle the cat with their raucous calls, then swoop down just over his head like a dive bomber, taking turns on him, then return to the roofs.

One day as I pulled up I saw the cat eyeing the mockingbirds which were on the ground on either side of him about thirty feet away, both still heckling. The cat remained still and took it all in. It began to seem possible that if the birds got too adventurous one of them might get killed, scaring off the second one for good, teaching him a good lesson in manners.

The next morning when I went out to my car, on the ground I found TWO separate piles of mockingbird feathers.

-- Dalton Hammond

Another Mean Bird Story

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Words Women Use

Thanks to Wendy for the following translations. -- Dalton Hammond

This is the word women use to end an argument when they are right and you need to shut up.

Five Minutes
If she is getting dressed, this is half an hour. However, five minutes is only five minutes if you have just been given five more minutes to watch the game before helping around the house

This is the calm before the storm. This means 'something' and you should be on your toes. Arguments that begin with 'nothing' usually end in 'fine'.

Go Ahead
This is a dare, not permission, DON'T DO IT!

(Loud Sigh)
Although not actually a word, the Loud Sigh is often misunderstood by men. A Loud Sigh means she thinks you are an idiot and wonders why she is wasting her time standing here and arguing with you over 'Nothing'.

That's Okay
This is one of the most dangerous statements that woman can make to a man. 'That's Okay' means that she wants to think long and hard before deciding how and when you will pay for your mistake.

This is the least used of all words in the female vocabulary. If a woman is thanking you, do not question it, just say you're welcome and back out of the room slowly.

More Jokes

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Death by Hummingbird

The hummingbirds are back from their winter vacation in Mexico. My first hummer visitor of 2005 showed up a few minutes ago and has already taken a few large swigs from the feeder which I fill with a mix of one part sugar to four parts water.

I read that the females mostly stay in the nest and that it is the males which come to the feeder. The cute little things can be quite aggressive, guarding the feeder and driving off smaller males. I can attest to that with this grisly true story. -- D.H.

One day as I sat in my office chair, I watched a drama I'll never forget. Outside my window a small hummingbird was trying to get to the feeder but was being attacked by a larger male. The smaller bird finally succeeded in perching on the feeder and had just begun to sip when the larger bird swooped down and alighted on the young one's back, as if to mate. As I watched from four feet away, the larger bird suddenly drove his stiletto-like bill into the other's back just below the neck, and both birds toppled into the thick pachysandra ground cover below the feeder.

While what I had just seen was trying to sink into my reverie, the larger hummingbird flew out of the pachysandra and perched on the feeder. He then spat out a foamy wad of blood, shook his head once, and began to feed.

-- Dalton Hammond

My Hummingbird Poem

Monday, April 18, 2005

Heron Sketch

I was on my pier taking film pictures through my 8-inch reflector telescope one day when this heron appeared over the tops of the marsh grass. He was molting or something and kept pecking at his feathers with his beak, leaving himself looking rather scruffy. I decided to use his picture for a sketch, and after a few tricks with the scanned photo image in Adobe Photoshop this is what came out.

I kinda like it and gave small framed prints of him to almost everybody I know for Christmas a few years ago.
Heron Sketch
(c) 2005, Dalton Hammond

More of My Pictures

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Forwarded Emails

First, here's the link to a great article about forwarded emails.

Now, I'm going to quote from the article, but you should hit the above link and read his essay for yourself.

Then send it to everyone you know. -- D.H.

One of the great mysteries of life is why people think they're ever, EVER, making anyone happy by forwarding garbage emails... and virtually ALL sorts of emails that get mass-forwarded ARE garbage.

People get terribly offended when I say that; their usual retort is, "But, it's a way to show people I care, and that I want to keep in touch." First off, you do NOT show "caring" by sending out what is essentially spam to people, and secondly, it is NOT "keeping in touch" to pass someone else's email along. If you truly want to keep in touch with people, invest 30 more seconds and type "Hi, how have you been?" and send THAT instead (using BCC so they don't realize you've sent it to everyone), and if you actually CARE, write a real email, detailing what's going on in your life, and asking about theirs... and then send it to the 500 people you're convinced you care about.

For every category of garbage email, there's an excuse for sending it.

Well stated. -- Dalton Hammond

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

He Said...She Said...

I didn't write these; I just enjoyed them. -- D.H.

He said: 'Shall we try swapping positions tonight?'
She said: 'That's a good idea - you stand by the ironing board while I sit on the sofa.'

He said: 'What have you been doing with all the grocery money I gave you?'
She said: 'Turn sideways and look in the mirror!'

On a wall in a ladies room: 'My husband follows me everywhere.'
Written just below it: 'I do not.'

Q. How many honest, intelligent, caring men in the world does it take to do the dishes?
A. Both of them.

Q. How does a man show that he is planning for the future?
A. He buys two cases of beer.

Q. What is the difference between men and government bonds?
A. The bonds mature.

Q. Why are blonde jokes so short?
A. So men can remember them.

Q. How many men does it take to change a roll of toilet paper?
A. We don't know; it has never happened.

Q. Why is it difficult to find men who are sensitive, caring and good-looking?
A. They already have boyfriends.

Q. What do you call a woman who knows where her husband is every night?
A. A widow.

Q. Why are married women heavier than single women?
A. Single women come home, see what's in the fridge and go to bed. Married women come home, see what's in bed and go to the fridge.

Q. What is the one thing that all men at singles bars have in common?
A. They're married.

Man says to God: 'God, why did you make woman so beautiful?'
God says: 'So you would love her.'
'But God,' the man says, 'Why did you make her so dumb?'
God says: 'So she would love you.'

-- Dalton Hammond
More Jokes

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Secrets of Successful Southern Collards

Few vegetables contain more nutrients than collards. My momma grew up on a Southern farm during the Great Depression, and this is how they cooked them -- and talked -- back then. -- D.H.

Cut three or four quarter-inch slices of salt pork fatback (streak o' lean, streak o' fat) and cook like bacon in a big pot to generate enough drippings to coat the bottom well. When they are really browned take out one or two sample slices, munch like bacon and leave the rest in the pot. Yum!

Collard leafStrip a mess of collard leaves from their stems and rinse as you put them in the pot with the fatback grease, er, flavoring. One stalk will fill a large pot. Add one teaspoon of salt, a quarter teaspoon of pepper, a dash of cayenne pepper (preferred) or dried crushed red pepper flakes (don't overdo it) and about a quarter cup of water, or better, chicken broth. (I use Better-Than-Bouillon Chicken Base which keeps for a long time in the fridge.)

Cook at a very slow boil, stirring and mixing often until collard leaves are wilted al dente, around 30 minutes, adding a little broth if needed to prevent burning. You don't want the collards floating in liquid, just sitting in it. The collards are cooked when you can smell them two farms away.

One mess of collards makes four average servings, twelve servings if the diners are Yankees, and only one-and-a-half if feeding a Southerner. Serve demi-tasses of pot liquor for dessert.

Note: If you're not used to Southern Cooking you could -- and probably should -- cut the salt, pepper and cayenne in half, depending on the size of the collards stalk.

I was kidding about the demi-tasses, but you'd certainly want to sop up the pot likker in your plate with a piece of corn pone.

Nutrition Facts (1/2 cup cooked collard greens)

Calories 56
Protein 1 gram
Dietary fiber 2.9 grams
Carbohydrates 2.5 mg
Dietary fiber 0.4 mg
Calcium 74 mg
Vitamin A 2,109 IU
Vitamin C 9 mg

-- 'Joi de la Cuisine' Dalton Hammond

Friday, April 08, 2005

Skin Cancer Checkup

At my annual skin cancer checkup today I learned that my skin doctor studied at the University of Illinois and worked at their campus radio station. Is this what Einstein called "Spukhafte Fernwirkungen"?

Skin cancerAfter I informed him that I was a Carolina guy of sorts and once worked at the U.N.C. campus station, we avoided the topic of the recent NCAA basketball championship, and he proceeded to find and remove three new basal cell carcinomas; one from my back and two from my left ear. That makes three that have been found on that ear so far and a total of nearly two dozen pre-cancerous tumors which have come off my skin and bowels in the last ten years. All have been benign, so far, like my humor.

Get those checkups friends.

-- Dalton Hammond

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

University of North Carolina -- NCAA Basketball Champions

Congratulations to the University of North Carolina Tarheels basketball team and Head Coach Roy Williams. As they say, "If God is not a Tarheel, then why is the sky Carolina Blue?" -- D.H.

Bruce Weber has a new point of view.
While orange was his favorite hue,
Roy Williams and Heels
Let him see how it feels
For his walls to turn suddenly blue.

(c) 2005, Dalton Hammond

Silent Sam
There is a famous Tarheel legend surrounding this Confederate monument at the main quad at U.N.C. :

Every time a virgin female student walks by, the soldier fires his musket in salute.

To this day he is still known as Silent Sam.

-- Dalton Hammond
More of My Poems

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Top 10 Suggestions For Guys While Playing Golf Or Standing At A Urinal

10. Back straight, knees bent, and feet shoulder width apart.

9. Form a loose grip.

8. Keep your head down.

7. Avoid a quick backswing.

6. Quiet please!...while others are preparing to take their shot.

5. Stay out of the water.

4. Try not to hit anyone.

3. If you are taking too long, please let others go ahead of you.

2. Don't stare while others address their balls.

1. Don't let anyone see you take those extra strokes!

-- Dalton Hammond

More Golf Stories

More Jokes

Friday, April 01, 2005

Astronomers Receive Outer Space S.O.S.

I suppose I'd better stick to being a truthful person. This little attempt at deception seems to have fooled exactly no one except maybe myself. I thought I had penned the ultimate 'Poisson D'Avril', which of course is idiomatic French for 'April Fool'. Even with the help of fictional characters Dr. Lirpa Sloof (backward: 'April Fools') and Professor Ralos Ecraf (backward: 'Solar Farce') and 415 page hits this story never got much attention. I'm glad, in a way. It just seems to show that the public is smarter than they get credit for being sometimes. Happy April Fool everybody. -- Dalton Hammond

Radio Telescopes Detect Alien SOS from Extrasolar Planet

Science - International

Fri 05/04/01 12:13 AM AEDST

MELBOURNE - Two independent teams of astronomers have decoded an audio S.O.S. from a planet circling a nearby star outside our solar system.

Using a public internet-based database network of dozens of large radio telescopes and combining their weak signals, scientists say they have translated an intergalactic distress message from intelligent beings on a previously unknown planet circling the nearby star Poisson D'Avril in the constellation Pisces, only 6 light-years from the Earth..

Poisson D'AvrilAccording to Dr. Lirpa Sloof who headed a team which studied the data from the Very Large Telescope Array (VLA) in New Mexico, the transmission code was based on the Periodic Table of Elements, a chemical array which is unchanged throughout the universe and which scientists have long considered to be useful for possible communications between the Earth and other-world civilizations.

An Australian team reported that the transmission was not only intelligible, but was successfully translated into fourteen different Earth languages, including English, German, Arabic, and Latin. "This proves that they have been listening to us", said Professor Ralos Ecraf of the Australian consortium, which confirmed the findings in a separate, independent study, details of which are scheduled to be published next week in the scientific journal Universe.

"I can only say at this time that the signal was a request for help, took 6.4 Earth years to travel to us, and contained specific references to Earth events that happened over thirteen years ago", Dr. Ecraf told reporters, refusing further comment.

The star Poisson D'Avril is a supergiant red star in the constellation Pisces, and has long been regarded by scientists as a likely supernova candidate; expected to end its life in a catastrophic explosion and then shrinking to form a black hole from which not even light can escape.

More Aliens

More Jokes