Sunday, May 25, 2014

Tellico Blueway

We canoe-camp the Tellico Blueway - a pristine, unspoiled 11-mile paddle along the Tellico River. These stump-filled waters are too treacherous for large motorboats, but ideal for serene canoeing. 
The trip starts  as a narrow channel,  wild roses grow along the river banks, and, as the waterway gradually widens, we pass cattails and tall, light-brown limestone bluffs with gnarled cedars clinging to the rock. 

Before lighting the fire at our primitive campsite,  we watch long-jawed orb-weavers at work in the canopy.  There is no-one else within miles. Next day the river widens, with nesting  ospreys and great blue herons. 

Most surprising of all - this is Memorial Day weekend. About 800,000 people will have visited the Smokies in the month of May, but Stephine and I are alone in doing this. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Connie Sausage and Annie

Annie Fenniger
I'm presently in Vienna. I have been participating in a workshop on the cold, slow death of everything; well, entropy in bimolecular systems, actually, but it's kind of the same thing. But things are hot in Austria, with Connie and Annie. They're both champions!

Anna Fenninger is the new World and Olympic ski champion. She's highly in demand - a good wholesome, beautiful,  sporty and now highly successful girl.

 Connie's a bit different. She won the Eurovision Song Contest -  the competition that has been boring everyone on the old continent for decades but nevertheless stokes up some amusing remnants of nationalism (Franco's men bribed the juries to make Spain pip Britain's Sir Cliff Richard in 1968, for example) and the contest did start out Abba. Anyway, Connie won it this year for Austria with a magnificent offering entitled River Phoenix or something like that. Thing is, though, Connie's a man with a beard. Conchita Wurst (real name), when literally translated, means something like 'she of the immaculate conception who doesn't give two hoots about anything'.

Conchita Wurst
Although, like the Eurovision voting panel, the IOC have not been averse to bribery in the past, Annie won the Olympics all fair and square.  She decided to not grow a beard, though -  shaving seconds is most important in ski-ing, you see.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Boat Person Update.

Update: The full story of my neighbor's escape from Vietnam is here.

It's even more dramatic than he had told me.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Bye-Bye Premier League! We're DOWN!!

That's it, Norwich City are relegated after three years in the Premier League. Relegated in the worst way - with a painful slide plonking us just over the lip into the death zone right at the end of the season. A season for which the club invested heavily in strikers who,  poorly nourished from the midfield, lost confidence  and shriveled on the vine. And the coach, Hughton, universally loved for being a nice guy, showed he was too nice, unable to motivate. The team lacked passion. Now they are down.   (At least Ipswich weren't promoted, though.)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Excessive Regulations are Turning Scientists into Bureaucrats

A new report from the National Science Board, the National Science Foundation's policymaking think tank,  describes how excessive regulations are turning scientists into bureaucrats. Something we recently mused upon. Overregulation, while mostly well-meaning, often ends up flattening the very flower it is trying to protect.