Archive for November, 2008

It’s a good thing you’re cute, otherwise you’d be dead

November 08th, 2008 | Category: animals,Uncategorized

Everyone who lives with a cat secretly knows they would like to drop that blade sometimes… I love my cat but she is a pain in the ass. After I made a small guillotine for a halloween party, I realized that it was cat-sized.

that's it, cat!

Lights out!

Needless to say, the cat was uncooperative. I decided not to truss her for the picture; that would have been satisfying.

At the party I set it up behind a 5-gallon basin, and used a pump to circulate the punch through a bucket of ice before routing it through the body of the guillotine victim’s neck stump.

The gullotine set up with ice and punch

The gullotine set up with ice and punch

We froze water in rubber gloves and put the resulting ice-hands in the punch. Plop the doll’s head in for the final touch, and guests can serve themselves from the blood coming out of the body. Make sure they only use fresh cups though, or it won’t be clean (saliva on the glass). Maybe you should use a ladle if you’re not sure.

The guillotine is made from scrap wood I had lying around, some pieces of sheet copper, and assembled with finishing nails and a few screws. I only had to buy the doll, pump, basin, and tubing (all of which were carefully washed, with hot soapy water circulating, then fresh water for a long time). Total cost: $35. Assembly time: 6 hours.

You can make the guillotine really dangerous if you want; if the blade is heavy enough and it is sharpened, it will chop a bic pen in half. It will make short work of a hot dog. This one has a meaty blade carrier composed of lots of wood and copper plates riveted together, which gives it some serious force. It has a very impressive thwack when it drops. However, using copper – which is soft – and not sharpening the blade makes this less dangerous.

One lesson learned from this kind of getup is that a standard small pond pump won’t circulate foamy or carbonated liquids, because they foam up too much and the impeller can’t “bite” the liquid. Also, you need to have some water in the ice bucket to facilitate heat exchange, and you need to give it a few hours to get cold, if it’s room temperature. Better to start with cold liquid and let the ice keep it cold.



November 03rd, 2008 | Category: animals,Travel

I could tell you all about sea turtles, but what do I know really? All the same stuff you could read if you really wanted to know. But there is one essential fact about sea turtles: when they are young, they are really cute. Allow me to demonstrate.

Me, holding a minutes-old turtle

Me, holding a minutes-old turtle

Now, you know what I’m talking about!  More to come.


Crapping sand: an update

November 02nd, 2008 | Category: animals,scuba,Travel,Uncategorized

Some time ago I posted a short essay on fish feces, and mentioned the role of parrot fish and similar animals in generating sand. I hadn’t been able to get this on film, despite having witnessed it many times. Well, on a recent diving trip to Cozumel, I finally got it!

Yes, I’ve spent thousands of dollars on a vacation, equipment, diving classes, and endured the rigors of scuba, just so I can take pictures of fish taking a dump. Everyone’s gotta have a reason for getting up in the morning.

Here is an image of two parrotfish at a cleaning station. I think they are both stoplight parrotfish On the left is a stoplight parrotfish, I’m not sure about the ID of the guy on the right.  At first I thought they were the same type of animal – many fish can look radically different, assuming varying colorations at will and in different phases of their lives (or at day/night). But they have different tails and “beaks” so I think they are different kinds of parrotfish.  I just couldn’t find an exact match in any of my books.

They are in a classic cleaning pose: floating motionlessly with heads up, bodies straight, jaws relaxed and slightly open. You can see the little yellow cleaners (initial phase bluehead wrasse, probably) darting about the larger animals. The inset is an ocean surgeonfish in the act of defecating. You can see that the turd is basically sand. That’s because these animals graze algae that grows on sand and coral, and end up eating some of the coral. It gets ground up in their gizzards and eventually excreted. Parrotfish and surgeonfish are similar in this regard.  I love those ocean surgeonfish, with eyes like psychedelic canceled stamps.

Parotfish crapping sand

Parotfish crapping sand

By the way, the original essay was part of the admission process for becoming a volunteer at the Baltimore Aquarium. I was accepted as a diver! So now I’ll be diving there regularly – feeding animals, scrubbing algae and talking with visitors.


If you lived here, you’d be home by now

November 02nd, 2008 | Category: Uncategorized

I discovered that there is an apartment complex near me that is named “Fenestra.”

So – theoretically – if you lived at the Fenestra apartments, and got kicked out, would that mean that you were defenestrated?

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