Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Extreme R&R

Headed back to the Catskills for a bit of R&R in the great outdoors. This may have been the laziest camping trip of all time. Nothing too exerting--not even a hike.

Tending the fire.

Testing out the close-up feature on my camera.

Relaxing next to a bubbling stream.

Drinking cowboy coffee.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Extreme Mammals at the American Museum of Natural History

Coryphodon has the most extreme brain-to-body-size ratio of any mammal living or extinct--and not in a good way! This diorama shows what the arctic used to look like almost a million years ago.

Introducing a smattering of "the biggest, smallest, and most amazing mammals of all time":
  • The tiniest mammal to ever roam the earth (at least that we know of) lived about 50 million years ago and was about the size of a thumbnail. It was called a batodonoides.
  • In addition to the duck-like bill and webbed feet, the platypus possesses yet another odd characteristic: a venomous spike on each back leg. Females are born with the spikes, but they fall off after about a year; males retain their spikes for life.
  • skunk fur is really, really soft (I always imagined that it would be coarse and never thought I'd get close enough to find out.)
  • horned beavers really existed!
Really, the selection of animals on view at the exhibit seemed like it would be nearly impossible to narrow down since all mammals, as the exhibit pointed out, are extreme in one way or another, but it was great fun to check out the animals they featured. In addition to extreme size, categories ran the gamut from horns or teeth to defense mechanisms. I took only one picture in the exhibit, but it was fun to spot other extreme mammals throughout the museum:

Duck for cover!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Gourmet's Black Bean Quinoa Salad is one of those recipes that I could eat and do eat practically every day. The original recipe calls for fresh cooked black beans, corn cut right from the cob, pickled jalapeƱos, and green bell peppers, but here's my version--GREEN PEPPERS NOT ALLOWED!
1 box ancient Ancient Harvest brand quinoa
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1-1/2 T. red wine vinegar
La Morena brand chipotle peppers, to taste (I use 2-3, diced plus juice)
1 can corn, drained and rinsed
a red or yellow pepper, chopped
5 T. fresh lime juice
1 t. salt
1/3 cup olive oil

Prepare quinoa according to one of the methods on the side of the box, or cook for 10 minutes in boiling water, drain, cover and steam for 10 minutes more.
Meanwhile mix black beans, red wine vinegar, chipotles and juice in a large serving bowl, add corn, peppers and cilantro.
Whisk ingredients in dressing together.
When quinoa is ready, add it to the serving bowl, pour the dressing on top, and stir until everything's mixed. Serve room temperature.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Natural Wonder

Spotted in Kuala Lumpur, February 2008

Malaysian beach constellations...

...created by the tiniest crabs you'll ever see.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Urban Spelunking

Headed underground today to check out the world's oldest subway tunnel. It's true! It was built in the 1800s, fashioned after ancient Roman aqueducts, and it runs under Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. It was the chance to head down a manhole in the middle of a busy street that sold me on this tour, but the fact that Bob Diamond, the man who rediscovered the forgotten tunnels, led the tour turned out to be the icing on the cake. Back in the late 1970s he started searching for a lost subway that he heard about while listening to a late-night radio show. After a years-long search, he unearthed tales of murder, mayhem, spies, pirate treasure, vampires, and ghosts; a long-lost map; then, finally, the tunnel itself:

The man who created the tunnel, Cornelius Vanderbilt,
was paid to destroy the tunnel back in 1871, but he pocketed the money and, instead, left it intact and bricked up the entrance and filled the short passage that led from the manhole at the intersection where Court Street crosses Atlantic Avenue (the same place where the tour began) with dirt. So to reach the tunnel, Bob had to burrow through the dirt, break down a bricked-in wall, and then climb down a sheer drop to the tunnel's floor using a rope ladder.

This was the passage that was originally filled in with dirt and the wall Bob broke through. Most of the dirt is still there.

With the exception of a rickety wood staircase and a few dim electric light bulbs, the tunnel is much the same today as it was when Bob found it--with impressive arched
ceilings constructed out of red brick and a dirt floor where the tracks used to be that's partly ridged and partly smooth. It turns out that in the tunnel's heyday trains would run on one side of the tunnel and horse-drawn carriages on the other.

Standing in the tunnel looking up. That's Bob on the left and Seth in the middle.
It's rumored that the dismembered body of a murdered foreman is sealed in the tunnel's walls, along with an original train engine and possibly pages from John Wilkes Booth's diary. Who knows if they're really there, but if they are Bob will find them!

There's a great article about it at Curious Expeditions.

Spotted in Red Hook

Dead Horse Bay

A neat place.
Kinda creepy, too.Bottles are scattered all over the beach along with shards of old pottery and dinerware, broken shells, bivalves, parts of shoes, old-fashioned irons, tetanus bacteria, broken pieces of plastic dolls and china figurines, the kitchen sink...you name it. The best find, though: an American Oystercatcher. Can you see it? Look for its bright orange beak.