American Elephants


Back to Bardarbunga, Up Close and Personal: by The Elephant's Child

We wrote  about a month ago about the Bardarbunga volcano in Iceland that was erupting beneath the 1300 foot deep ice, and wondering how long it would take for the lava to break through.

This video demonstrates that a guy with a quadcopter managed to get very, very close to an erupting Icelandic volcano — close enough to melt the face of the camera that shot the video. Eric Cheng, director of aerial imaging for drone maker DJI joined photographer Ragnar Th Sigurdsson to send a drone over the eruption. It took proper permits and connections with the local authorities to get close enough to send a drone, and Sigurdsson had the permits and connections.

“Iceland is the only place on the globe where a mid-ocean ridge — the seams in the Earth’s crust that pull apart, bringing molten magma to the surface to produce more crust — rises onto dry land. It’s an incredible view of one of the most important and impressive geologic processes on the planet.”

And how exciting to be able to sit with your computer and be able to watch that geologic process — safely at home, thanks to Wired. Here’s the drone:

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A Ten Hour Amish Barn Raising: in 3 Minutes 30 Seconds by The Elephant's Child

An Amish Barn Raising in Ohio. This is majorly cool!

Wow. Look at what can happen when you know what you are doing, and how to do it. The first building my father built many years ago—promptly fell down. Big mistakes, if you learn from them can be profitable. He learned his lesson, and the second attempt worked fine.

The important thing is learning from mistakes—not the mistakes themselves. Something we need to remember.

(h/t: Maggie’s Farm)



Happy Constitution Day! by American Elephant
September 17, 2014, 3:23 pm
Filed under: Conservatism, History, Pop Culture, Television | Tags: , , ,

I’ve known the Preamble of the Constitution by heart since I was a little kid because of Schoolhouse Rocks, which used to come on in between Saturday Morning Cartoons–so they had a captive audience. Great Way to introduce your kids to our founding document. Can you recite the Preamble by heart? If not, you probably didn’t grow up with Schoolhouse rocks. Try learning the chorus. And teach it to your kids.



Thirteen Year-Old Truant Forced Out of D.C. Public Schools by The Elephant's Child

Avery Gagliano has been playing the piano since she was five years old. She was a straight A student at Alice Deal Middle School, and the Jack Kent Cook Honors Scholarship recipient at the Levin School of Music. She was chosen to join 11 other musicians from around the world to play in Munich last year at the Lang Lang Foundation Junior Camp.

Avery’s parents tried to persuade the school system to excuse her travels, when she was chosen by the Foundation to tour the world as an international music ambassador. Her parents created a portfolio of her musical achievements and academic record, and drafted an independent study plan for the days she would miss while touring the world.

In March, Avery traveled to Connecticut for a piano competition. She won the Grand Prix award for her performance of a Chopin Waltz and when she returned to school —a truancy officer was called. D.C. bureaucrats label any student with 10 “unexcused absences” as a truant. The truancy law gives school officials the option of deciding what an unexcused absence is. Not for a very young piano prodigy.  Rules are rules and all that. The truancy office and the school wouldn’t budge. Here she is in Munich last year.

Avery has been forced to spend her eighth grade year as a homeschooler, and the Gaglianos are not happy.

“We decided to home-school her because of all the issues, because it was like a punch in the gut to have to face the fight again this year,” Gagliano told the Post. “We didn’t want to do this. We want to be part of the public school system. Avery has been in public school since kindergarten. She’s a great success story for the schools.”

Avery’s accolades include studying in the Inaugural Lang Lang Junior Music Camp in Munich, Germany, as well as under Dr. Veda Kaplinsky at the Aspen Music Festival. She was also featured in a NPR broadcast program “From The Top” and a two-hour PBS documentary titled “Arts and the Mind” that was broadcast nationwide. All the awards would not convince the D.C. public schools to recognize or reward Avery’s talent. But a little publicity did.

After a column about Avery was published in The Washington Post, Chancellor Kaya Henderson issued a statement saying the column was wrong and they would like to have Avery back at Alice Deal Middle School. They claimed they had excused Avery’s absences for international travel. But during summer vacation the family received another letter telling them their daughter was truant, and enclosed a helpful brochure on the possible police and Child and Family Services intervention for students who are truant.

We have all been reading and clucking over the idiocy coming out of our public school systems. It hardly seems a week goes by without another case being reported. What is clear is that school administrators need some remedial training in plain old common sense. It seems to be missing. Political correctness and mindless adherence to regulations  is the order of the day—from children who are suspended for chewing a pop tart into a gun shape (or the state of Idaho) to punishing prodigies for their excellence. It goes on and on.

Let’s hear it for home schooling and charter schools. If the public schools cannot do a decent job of educating the next generation—fire them.



The U.S Forest Service Has Issued Detailed Instructions on How to Roast Marshmallows. by The Elephant's Child

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Saturday was apparently National Roasted Marshmallow Day, who knew? Obviously must be a promotion by marshmallow makers. Nevertheless, the occasion brought forth a 700-word publication from the U.S. Forest Service on how to safely roast marshmallows.

Well, let’s take it as a given that the U.S. Forest Service is not real enthusiastic about campfires, and wants you to know how to put your campfire out properly. No problem. We don’t like forest fires either. So they want you to obey the rules for fire restrictions which are put in place for your safety.

I grew up in an era and place of weenie roasts, frequent and great fun.

If campfires are allowed, use an existing fire ring or pit. Be sure you are at least 15 feet from tent walls, trees or other flammable objects.

Most importantly, ensure you work closely with children and talk to them about fire danger, proper behavior and rules – then expect nothing less. No one knows how many children are burned in campfire incidents; however, you don’t need statistics to know precaution is a key to great camping experiences. Some experts advocate a 10-foot rule between young children and a campfire.

15074205215_a8b1d953c3 This is the Forest Service’s idea of wonderful childhood memories. Sigh. The bureaucrat who wrote this crap was clearly never a child. Then we get into all of Michelle’s ideas of what constitutes a reducing diet for fat kids. “Think fruit.”   Oh please. fruit is just pure sugar. The object of roasting marshmallows is not eating lots of marshmallows. I’m not sure it’s possible to eat lots of marshmallows. But they deem plain old marshmallows or s’mores as unsuitable for today’s children.

Another way to limit the amount of marshmallows used is to substitute them with marshmallow crème, a spreadable version of marshmallows that helps you more easily regulate portion. For healthier treats, use large strawberries, apple slices, banana chucks, pineapple or other fruit. Put a piece of fruit on a roasting stick, dip quickly in the crème and roast over indirect heat until a delicious golden brown. You’re still having campfire fun, but the focus is on a healthier evening snack.

A little common sense would be useful here. In High School or College, we did lots of weenie roasts, but “lots” translates to 2 or 3 a year, at most. You need good weather, reasonably warm, and a free weekend.  Summer camping trips with the kids, you don’t do marshmallow roasts every night. Even at summer camp for kids, every night is not s’mores night. Two or three occasions are not going to ruin a child’s nutritional health and well-being. A little perspective please.

I am becoming extremely offended by this administration’s intrusive efforts to manage every element of my life. I do not require and I don’t know of anyone who does require instructions on roasting marshmallows. We can do fine without the bureaucratic input from a bunch of unionized public servants whose jobs depend on lots of useless busywork. Vote them out, and abolish the Department of Agriculture. They don’t do anything useful anyway.



August 30: Bumbershoot Weekend in Seattle by The Elephant's Child

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Sorry about the light blogging. Labor Day weekend here is the time of Bumbershoot, a festival of umbrellas? It is, not surprisingly, raining. This is the greater Seattle area, and that’s what it does here. But, music, entertainment, food, vast crowds, and all the hippies come out of the woodwork — great fun for festival lovers.

Blogging is light because I went out yesterday to refill the suet feeder upon which all my woodpeckers, pilieated and flickers, depend. The clay soil was wet and slippery as all hell, and I went flying. No broken bones, but a remarkably sore backside. Standing is fine, sitting is fine, and sleeping is fine. It’s getting from one position to another that is troublesome.



How Much Do You Read? What’s the Best Book You’ve Ever Read? by The Elephant's Child

What do you do when someone asks you to read an article because it’s “an important one?” Do you obediently read it, assuming that if your friend recommends it, it is worth your time? Do you accept the article, suggesting that you will read it later when you have more time? Do you just refuse to read it because you’re sure it is not of interest?

I fit in the first category. I’m a speedy reader, and it doesn’t take me long to get through even a long piece. But I have known a lot of what I think of as ‘lazy readers’ whose first reaction is that they don’t have time. Or they only want to read what they choose to read. It’s as if reading is a task to be engaged in only when required. Was learning to read a struggle in school? There are people who read competently, but without enjoyment or need for information, but who will spend hours on Twitter. Do you prefer to get your information instead by video, or podcast? Is reading a chore?

I have a friend who is a special education expert, with particular emphasis on reading, and reading disabilities. She went into her state’s prisons at one time, to test prisoners, and found that the numbers who had some form of reading disability was far, far higher than in the general population.

There are lots of people out there who just don’t read much, and people who do not read books at all.  They are just busy with other things.

If you prowl around the internet and read blogs, you are clearly a reader. But what about those other folks who are not? How do people go all the way through university, and, as adults, never read?

Seattle is usually described as the part of the country where most people read a lot. We have busy libraries, lots of colleges and universities, and lots of writers. Must be something to do with the weather, which encourages a brisk fire in the fireplace. a good book and a cup of coffee.

ADDENDUM: I guess I shouldn’t ask others about their favorite books, if I don’t reveal my own. Patrick O’Brian’s series of books about Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin and the Royal Navy in the late 1700s and early 1800s. There are 20 books in the series and I have read them probably ten times, and always found them fascinating to re-read. Most novels don’t welcome even a second reading. Master and Commander is the first, and only a page in and you are hooked. Master and Commander was a great movie too, although based on bits from several of the books.




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