Snow, ice, and off-road excursions

Last weekend Miss D. and I drove to a seminar held at a lakeside resort east of Gainesville, TX.  Unfortunately, that coincided with the arrival of a rare snowstorm.  Our normally safe roads were suddenly covered with 2-3 inches of snow, with patches of ice forming beneath the snow, invisible until you hit it. This was US Highway 82 near Gainesville at about 8 AM on Saturday morning.  The photograph looks clearer than conditions actually were, and doesn’t capture the snow falling fairly thickly.  The car was distinctly “twitchy” over the slush in the tire ruts. A drive that normally takes 2 hours took

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A chemical reaction leads to a very big bang

Back in September, the chemical tanker Stolt Groenland experienced a massive explosion in Ulsan, South Korea.  This clip was taken by the dashcam video of a vehicle parked rather too close to the big bang. An initial investigation has revealed it was caused by a chemical reaction. According to the MAIB’s interim report, released today, the explosion occurred due to the sudden build-up of pressure in the Stolt Groenland’s number 9 cargo tank containing styrene monomer, a highly flammable chemical used in the making of plastics, paints and synthetic rubber. The resulting explosions and fireball could be seen and heard for miles, and passed very close to

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Ewwwww!

An antiques expert in England has learned (the hard way) not to jump in where angels fear to taste. Glass specialist Andy McConnell inspected a sealed bottle from the 19th century on the BBC show [Antiques Roadshow], and decided to sample its mystery contents in front of an expectant audience. . . . Mr McConnell used a syringe to transfer a sample from the bottle to a tumbler, and sipped at the mystery beverage. “It’s very brown,” he told the audience at the time.  “I think it’s port. It’s port or red wine, or it’s full of rusty old nails and that’s

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I think the metric system just struck again . .

I had to laugh at this report from England. A WACKY dad left his neighbours in stitches after accidentally ordering an inflatable Santa the size of his house. Matty James bought the £100 blow-up decoration off eBay thinking it would spruce up the outside of his home. But instead of the 8ft Father Christmas he was expecting the nightclub owner was left in disbelief as he began to blow up the jolly giant. . . . The supersized Santa ballooned into a 25ft accessory, towering over the neighbourhood and blocking the Southport resident’s windows. “When I woke up in the morning I

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Heh

This meme over at Chief Nose Wetter’s place made me laugh. It particularly made me laugh because it reminded me of an Africa story. I belong to an e-mail list that, among other topics, sometimes discusses hunting in Africa.  I recall, some years ago, a member of the list talking about an upcoming hunting safari in Africa, his first.  He was an experienced mountaineer, and told us he planned to take his portaledge tent with him.  He normally hung it from a piton in a cliff face, to sleep in comfort;  so, in Africa, he planned to hang it from a tree branch for

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Ornithology, not ecclesiology – thank heaven!

A news headline made me sit up in sudden concern last week: Cardinal with rare abnormality discovered in central Texas However, I needn’t have worried.  It didn’t refer to yet another sex scandal in the Catholic Church! According to the Inland Bird Banding Association, the bird shows apparent bilateral gynandromorphism, a rare abnormality that causes it to have female plumage on one side of its body, and male on the other. Phew . . . (wipes brow to remove beads of sweat) . . . a bird, rather than an ecclesiastical rank, and feathers, not vestments.  What a relief, considering my article last week! Peter

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Saturday Snippet: the perils of small game collecting in West Africa

In the 1950’s, naturalist Gerald Durrell went to what was then known as British Cameroon in West/Central Africa to collect animals for zoos in Britain.  He chose the region of Bafut for his collecting activities, and recruited local tribesmen to help him in his hunt for specimens.  In a moment of whimsy, he christened his hunters, collectively, The Bafut Beagles, which became the title of the book he wrote about his adventures.  It was an instant best-seller when it was released, and remains popular today. Here’s how Durrell and the Beagles hunted the rock hyrax, an animal well known to me in South Africa as the dassie.  The picture

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A priceless journalistic boo-boo!

This correction notice had me rolling in the aisles – and yes, it’s genuine.  I’ll let the tweet speak for itself. A Purple Heart for an IUD injury?  I imagine emergency room staff all over the country would pay for the privilege of treating that injury . . . that is, if they could stop laughing long enough to do so!  As for the officer writing the citation for the medal, it could only be a miscreant Second Lieutenant fresh out of OCS! Verily, the mind doth boggle . . . Peter

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Saturday snippet: urinary frigidity

A few weeks ago, I published an excerpt from the late Brigadier Dick Lord’s history of the South African Air Force, “From Fledgling to Eagle“.  It was well received, particularly because it was very funny, and I had several requests for more of his tales of flight and fighting in the service of three different countries.  I’m happy to oblige, and I’ll post more snippets from his books at odd intervals in future. This tale comes at the end of his advanced training as a pilot in Britain’s Fleet Air Arm, during the very early 1960’s.  It’s taken from his autobiography, “From

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