Marine Railway - It's kind of an oxymoron

Some years ago the Great Lakes were infected with lamprey eels (although they aren't really an eel). They are, like zebra mussels, an invasive species which took over and made big nuisances of themselves.

My what big teeth you have, you voracious predatory fish

Lampreys naturally spend their time boring holes into the fish in the ocean and into the fish of the St Lawrence River. Unfortunately lampreys have been able to infiltrate every corner of the five Great Lakes because we built a lock system that bypassed what would have been a natural barrier to lampreys - Niagara Falls. One does not simply swim up Niagara Falls.

This fish looks so...tired

Would you want this creature in your pristine, crystal clear lake? Well neither did the people on the Trent-Severn waterway. However the Trent Severn system also has elevation issues and a huge recreation industry. What is the point of having an extensive waterway if you can't go anywhere but circles in your own little pond?

There had been plans to build a conventional lock to replace an outdated marine railway until a small population of lampreys was discovered on the down stream side of the lift. The new lock was shelved until they could come up with a way to allow boats to pass and to give lampreys a 'shall not pass'. If you will. 

They took a look at the old railway and discovered it was ideal for preventing the spread of lampreys into the upper lakes. So they updated the design and built another one.

The Big Chute Marine Railway

Boats navigate between the railings of the lift where they are secured. This is actually the first railway, no longer in use, but the picture shows clearly how the boats are secured.

This is the railway in use now. It has a much larger capacity. The railway car is lifted up out of the water, over a road and into the next body of water.

This is the view you would have if you were on one of the boats. The railway is clearly visible. (Not pictured: Lampreys. Marine Railway: 1 Lamprey: 0)

There are viewing platforms so the whole procedure can be observed.

I don't know why but lock systems and unique lock types are interesting to me. I spent a bit of time on a warm afternoon watching the transfer of boats at this lock.

I included this picture because it was cute and shows that the lock is available for any size boat. These canoeists are part of a 2010 charity event to raise money for cancer

The Big Chute Marine Railway wiki article.

Chute is a French word that means "fall" or "waterfall". The "Big Chute" part of the name comes from the Railway's location to a waterfall and a town with this name.

[Update: In comments, Angie suggested she'd like to see this one in action so here's a video. I should have thought of that]

If you liked that, you might like this:

Peterborough Lift Lock

This is a hydraulic boat lift in Peterborough, Ontario. The dual lifts are the highest hydraulic boat lifts in the world, with a lift of 19.8 m (65 ft)

No external power is needed: the lift lock functions by gravity alone using the counterweight principle. That counterweight amounts to one foot of water from the lift which is basically a huge tub. That weight is enough to life the lower lock up. I told ya, I love locks. They're kind of fascinating.

Halloween Slash looks like everyday Slash

What...he changed his hat and added a fake mustache!

I got this from the very funny girls at Go Fug Yourself. They have a gallery of celeb costumes here. Unfortunately they do not have Heidi Klum's latest. You can find that here.

I tried to find a picture with a higher resolution but you know what you get when you do an image search using "slash" and "costume"? Gore. That's what. Or this:

Which is worse than gore

I have to add that Slash, in spite of being what he is, or isn't as the case may be, is one of my guilty pleasures. I think he's hot. I know. I know! Totally not me. It is what it is.


I want to read Moby Dick again

I was reading the latest Vanity Fair (Canadian. I only say that because our issues seem to run a month behind the US issues. You might think Graydon Carter could pull a few strings, eh?) and there's an article about Herman Melville's Moby Dick. It recalled to my mind how much I loved this book.

I keep looking for something worthy to read and instead of looking at best seller shelves I should be looking at classics. I had started to read all the classics I could find a few years ago. I never studied literature in school. Just tech subjects relating to drafting. I had missed out. I wanted to catch myself up.

The Vanity Fair article said
"The book is so encyclopedic that space aliens could use it to re-create the whale fishery as it once existed on planet earth in the 19th century"
So true! I felt like I was there. You learned something reading that book. Actual whaling information and there was that Ahab thing too. Herman Melville was a whaler. He was an interesting man and captured the industry at the time in a lively, earthy style.

He looks like he would have been a cool character.

Of course we know whales are big. But can you imagine how big big is?

Two sperm whales washed up on the north shore of the island on which I lived growing up. They were about fifty feet long. Big. We took a drive up to see them and as a teen I remember feeling a great sense of loss that something this enormous could just wash up, dead and unsung, on an unpopulated stretch of beach. It was a waste. I had to look way up to the top of the whale because lying down it was still so much taller than I was. It was such a big creature and now such a big carcass. It was quiet also. Naturally. But I felt that a sad, melancholy sound should have accompanied this scene. I suppose the relentless surf could suffice.

I have a reading quest. What could be better? I can't wait.

This picture makes me crave a really big glass of water. sock feet

In every house I have been in, my whole life, I have never known anyone to keep their shoes on IN the house. They come off at the door. Everywhere. I thought everyone did this but apparently not.

For us it's a cleanliness thing. Walking around outside then walking around in the house in the same footwear tracks the outdoor germs indoors. It's an especially huge faux pas if the household has young children who crawl around on the floor and put their toys etc in their mouths.

It's also a weather thing. You can't walk around indoors in your winter boots tracking melting snow everywhere. Snow is filthy. So maybe we formed the habit out of necessity as well and just kept the habit all year round.

Outside should stay outside or just inside the entry way. That's how we see it.

What about you? Shoes on or off in the house and why?

Ame ni mo Makezu - Kenji Miyazawa

not losing to the rain
not losing to the wind
not losing to the snow nor to summer's heat
with a strong body
unfettered by desire
never losing temper
cultivating a quiet joy
every day four bowls of brown rice
miso and some vegetables to eat
in everything
count yourself last and put others before you
watching and listening, and understanding
and never forgetting
in the shade of the woods of the pines of the fields
being in a little thatched hut
if there is a sick child to the east
going and nursing over them
if there is a tired mother to the west
going and shouldering her sheaf of rice
if there is someone near death to the south
going and saying there's no need to be afraid
if there is a quarrel or a lawsuit to the north
telling them to leave off with such waste
when there's drought, shedding tears of sympathy
when the summer's cold, wandering upset
called a nobody by everyone
without being praised
without being blamed
such a person
I want to become

That's what Wiki turned up just now. It's beautiful! It's called Ame ni mo Makezu and it's written by a Japanese man named Kenji Miyazawa who lived from 1896 to 1933. Check him out.

Today's $4 Word - Sesquipedalian

Yesterday in my enthusiasm to re-educate all of you regarding monkeys, I used the word "anthropomorphism". I figure if you're talking to someone and realize you have to explain the word you've used, or they ask what it means, then you need to use different words. People who grasp words easily and who continue to talk above their audience are pretentious ass holes more concerned with their own self esteem than communication. The problem with anthropomorphism is there really isn't a good substitute. It is what it is.

I love it when I look up a word and they use a $4 word to explain a $4 word. ie:
Sesquipedalian: polysyllabic

Ya don't say.

Sesquipedalian means characterized by $4 words.

$4 word means polysyllabic.

Polysyllabic means tons of syllables.

Monosyllabic means one syllable.

The reason I know this word is because my son and I were reading a book and the author used the word and then defined it in a very humourous way. You can almost imagine how easy that would be, right? It made us laugh and we made jokes about it afterward. It stuck in my head because of that. And his too. He knows what it means but doesn't let on. That's my kid.

Since I do not wish to appear sesquipedalian, this will be the last $4 word post. Unless something really killer comes up.


Anthropomorphism is a $4 word that means you give human qualities or characteristics to inanimate objects, like trees or wind and animals.

Like Aesop's fable where the North Wind and the Sun propose a competition to determine who is strongest. The wind and the sun cannot literally do this, but when they are anthropomorphized they become animated and conversational.

Or the tree unfolded its branches like arms to embrace the meadow upon which it rested.

Or the monkey sucking its thumb like a baby.

Don't even say "awww!" Snap out of it! This is an animal with an appendage in its mouth. Nothing more. If you could see in a bubble above its head what it was thinking you'd see this:

I made it really small because monkey brains are tiny

This is not the actions of a horrified mother. This is instinct. If this were a humanesque reaction, she would have saved the baby then kicked the shit out of its sibling.

There is no way I'd have this on my table

Nostril Mill
Whole peppercorns stored in sinus cavity.
Adjustable sneeze sensitivity.
Ha ha.

I like a good novelty item. I draw the line at some things. For example, there are many places I find unwanted hair and I have no choice in the matter. It just grows and I remove it. Or not. Depending on the season. I can however choose NOT to have a hairy pepper grinder. Hairy pepper grinder sounds like a euphemism for something. Not even going to look. No, Urban Dictionary. No.

PSA: Monkeys are not cuddly. Wake up you people!

Dear People who think monkeys are people too:

Look at these pictures and ask yourself:

Are these teeth really necessary if this creature only eats bananas?

What else is in the diet of animals with teeth like this?

Even the babies, when they're not deceiving you into a false sense of caring
because they're cute, have evil meat eating teeth.
You're saying, those aren't babies, Frimmy. Well, I don't really care.

Ask yourself, is meat in their diet? Is that what those teeth mean?
What?! It's yawning? I don't care.

What sort of meat do these animals eat? Let me answer that for you.
Any meat. Including other monkeys.

What would this bite ratio yield in chunk sizes of human flesh? Large or extra large?

This, my friends, is the stuff of nightmares.

My work here is done. Thank you and good night.

Up Next:
Deviant Monkey Habits

EXTRA!!! Giant Amoeba Found in Pacific!!!!!

Read all about it!!!
(or watch this video from NatGeo*)

I dunno...I didn't really see anything. I didn't think it was that giant either. Maybe because ten centimetres (3.9 inches-ish) is shorter than the heel on a Christan Louboutin pump. All things being relative I guess 10 cms is rather giant for an amoeba. I was just looking for something HUGE. With tentacles and maybe six or seven eyes which would then remove it from the single-celled group, yes, but a girl can wish can't she? *sigh*

*I just learned yesterday that NatGeo stands for National Geographic. A magazine to which I have subscribed for two many years. Everyone was all "natgeo! yay!" this and "I saw that on natgeo!" that and I was lost. What is this natgeo thing? So I asked. Now that I know I feel I can freely bandy the word about and it increases my cool cred.

This turtle has a green mohawk...

Green mohawk? That's just algae! Check out the snake bite piercing!

I cry. I wail. I cry some more. Oo green pompom on my cheek!

Must go, my green haired turtle planet needs me.

The Mary River turtle, Is an endangered short-necked turtle that lives in the Mary River in South-East Queensland, Australia. It is endangered. In the 1960s and 1970s, they were popular as pets in Australia and like all inappropriate pets they probably got released into the wild when they became tiresome. Speaking of tiresome, the wikipedia article for this reptile was a little frustrating but here are some highlights.

Mary River turtles are "capable of absorbing oxygen via the cloaca whilst underwater"

First, what the hell is a cloaca and second who the hell uses the word "whilst"?

Cloaca: 1) A cavity in the pelvic region of most vertebrates except higher mammals and certain invertebrates into which the alimentary canal and the genital and urinary tracts open.


Cloaca: 2) A sewer

Oh. Ok.

So apparently it breathes with the aid of an exit chute on its extremely huge tail. A Mary River turtle's tail can measure almost two-thirds of the carapace (shell, dammit wiki!) length. However, they do regularly come to the surface to breathe air in the usual way.

A full grown specimen was first seen in 1987 and was described formally by scientists only in 1994 and little is known about it. Probably because it's been blending in with the algae all this time.

Mary River Turtle could also be known as the AstroTurf Turtle.
Is that turtle? No, it's just a paddling patch of algae.
(Not pictured: a really huge tail)

It's on the top 25 most endangered turtles list.

The Mary River in Queensland exists entirely on private land and is therefore not protected completely. The main threats to this species in the wild are based in habitat degradation, and include problems such as a deterioration of water quality through riverside vegetation being cleared, water pollution through siltation, agricultural chemical contamination and water flow disruptions.

The Mary River Turtle has every reason to be emo.

Fractals, Magic, Math, Beauty and You

I always love it when something propels itself into your sphere of consciousness by proclaiming the words "...and you" and that for whatever reason it assumes it has some relevance in your life. For example, "Fashion And You" or "Home and You" or "Your Child and You" or "Cariboo and You" are some of the examples that came up in a google search. Anyway...

[It is at this point that Ann suggests that I should tell everyone to smoke a big fat joint. So if you have one light it up now]
We could begin by asking ourselves; "Is there magic in our world?" When I speak of magic, I mean actual magic, not illusion. Well, is there math? The short answer to that is yes, pretty much. Lets begin with Fractals.

The Magical Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, not a fractal.
(Not pictured: Beaker, my personal fave and the star of my desktop background entitled; "Beaker And You")

The fractal Benoit Mandelbrot
Father of fractal geometry and Bunsen Honeydew look alike
(Really, who hasn't been compared to Honeydew? That would make a good post to phone in one day)

This is a Classic Mandelbrot Fractal. Isn't it pretty? No! It's geometry! Get a grip.

Mandelbrot Double Spiral. OK, maybe a little pretty.

The Brian Mayndalbrot Fractal. Damn it, just when I thought it was getting pretty! 

Hands up who knew this post was heading in the direction of Queen's awesome guitarist? Shoot, I didn't even see that coming! Dr. Brian May, astrophysicist, would probably be able to explain the math behind fractals and create a killer guitar riff to go with it. An author at The Spine puts forth the theory that Brian May himself is a fractal. I might get back to that...but probably not.

Fractals are interesting in that they are formed from a pattern that continues to repeat itself in smaller and smaller ratios. What does this mean for you? I have no idea because unfortunately for me, this involves math...

... which is not one of my better subjects. Try to hide your shock. 

The self repeating pattern is so exact, a mathematical formula can be written to recreate them. All this fractal stuff is dubiously interesting you might say but when will I ever come across a fractal? Do not scoff, they are here on earth living among us, right now, and they don't even try to disguise themselves.

Real Fern

Fractal Fern

With a fractal you have a geometric shape that is identical to itself through infinite repeats in a recursive pattern and through infinite detail. This brings us to the Magic...and math, and beauty.

Fibonacci numbers and the Golden Ratio

Sunflower seeds arranged in a spiral of decreasingly
sized seeds following a precise formula.

Notice the precise incremental increase/decrease,
depending on which way you're looking, in the proportions of the hand and arm.

A closer look at the bones in the hand reveals symmetry.

Not only are the florets arranged in decreasing sizes, the florets themselves are composed of tinier florets also decreasing in size in a spiral.
This a fractal lovers dream within a dream.

The Chambered Nautilus gives us a really good idea of how the individual chambers are decreasing in size according to a precise ratio.

Buildings showing the incorporation of the Golden Ratio

What is the numerical value of the ratio since clearly there is one? It's rounded off at 1.618 and is denoted by the Greek letter Phi or φ. (One of my game names was Phi 1618. I'm a total loser geek poseur and I know it) Please keep in mind that I'm simplifying this in a way that would make a scientist weep.

Hand in hand with the Golden Ratio is Fibonacci numbers. Stay with's easy. If I can figure it out you can. 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55...I didn't even have to copy and paste it. Each number is the sum of the two numbers before it. What is the ratio between the numbers? 1.618 aka The Golden Ratio.

See? Magical.

...and beautiful. This Fractal is by Roger Johnston.

Roger Johnson is a physicist, aerospace engineer, and artist. He creates fractal art with a freeware Windows app called Apophysis. The ware is free but getting the physicist and aerospace engineer designation, not so much.

More of his stuff here

Extra ice cream if you saw a Fractal/1.618/Fibonacci connection. A lot of fractals also have spirals. This one above clearly has self imitating recursive examples of the Golden Ratio. Fractals...Fibonacci...Golden Ratio... all form a web full of examples of mathematical beauty

There were several articles from which I gleaned information. This is one, Mathematical, yet Magical Beauty of Nature here which tries to explain it in terms I can grasp.

A good article on Fibonacci numbers is found here at How Stuff Works.

Fractals can be found in abundance doing a google image search. Try it!


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