Friday, January 31, 2014

Gerbils are Not Hamsters

The Lemming recently discovered that gerbils are not hamsters. Well, of course they're not hamsters: if they were, they'd be called hamsters, and the Lemming would have to find something else to write about.

Gerbils aren't mice, either. They're gerbils.

The point is that hamsters live in hamster houses: those colorful plumbing nightmares you see on television sometimes. Or in pet stores.

Hamster houses are fine for hamsters, partly because hamsters don't mind prefab tunnels: and apparently don't eat plastic. Not often, anyway.

Gerbils, in sharp contradistinction (yes, it's a real word), dig their own tunnels: or try to. They also eat plastic, including the sort that hamster houses are made of.

Gerbils shouldn't eat plastic, but it's no use trying to educate a gerbil on the consequences of chowing down on synthetic tunnels. They eat the stuff anyway, after which their owner learns what a Wikipedia page meant by "serious health issues."

The same resource says that folks have quite a few opinions about how much space a gerbil needs:

"...Information from gerbil societies from throughout the globe is conflicting with regards to tank sizing. However, a common minimum given appears to be 10 imperial gallons per gerbil...."
(Housing in captivity, Gerbil, Wikipedia)

The page doesn't say so, but the Lemming assumes that the "tank" should be filled with air, not water: maybe that's obvious, but we live in an era of stupid warning labels, and that's another topic.

And why, the Lemming wonders, in this liberated age, should gerbils insist on imperial gallons? Do they consider common gallons beneath their dignity? And who ever heard of a house pet with royal pretensions, anyway?

Pretensions are not the same as pre-tensioned concrete, which is a fairly common structural material these days: and the Lemming's mind is wandering.


Finally, this is a gerbil:

(From Roo72, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)

This is not a gerbil:

(From JJ Harrison, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)

It's not a hamster, either, and that's yet another topic.

Vaguely-related posts:

Friday, January 24, 2014

Chicago, City of Lights: Maybe

(City of Chicago, via Archinect News, used w/o permission.)

"A bright idea: City aims to light up architecture to boost tourism"
Fran Spielman, Chicago (January 22, 2014)

"Chicago would be turned into a Midwest version of Paris — La Ville Lumiere, the City of Light — under a mayoral plan showcased Wednesday to boost tourism by spotlighting the city's architectural wonders.

"Even as his Infrastructure Trust launches a $13 million plan to make 60 government buildings more energy-efficient, Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants to use a spectacular citywide light show to accomplish a new and 10 percent higher goal of attracting 55 million annual visitors by 2020.

"It will start with an 'international design competition' that invites teams of artists, architects, engineers and designers to envision ways to light up Chicago's 'buildings, parks, roads and open spaces.'..."

If this works, Chicago will look different in a few years. That'll probably upset purists of the architectural and economic sort.

As long as Chicago city planners don't try to make the city a Paris knockoff, the Lemming doesn't see a problem.

Dubai has become famous for architecture that's innovative, bizarre, or garish: depending on your point of view. Seeing folks build an indoor ski resort with resident penguins doesn't bother the Lemming a bit: and neither does an ultra-high-end hotel shaped like an arabian sailboat.

It doesn't hurt, in the Lemming's eyes, that Burj Al Arab's over-the-top decor gives tightly-wound architecture critics fits.

Getting back to Chicago, the Lemming expects that the usual suspects will get conniptions over the dreadful waste and extravagance of lighting up some of North America's most spectacular buildings. They might have a point, if the city lights up with old-style incandescent bulbs.

In the Lemming's opinion, that's about as likely as La Ville Lumiere by Lake Michigan using Yablochkov candles, and that's another topic.

Other folks, the Lemming included, will sit back; enjoy the show; and hope that Chicago attracts more tourists and investors with this makeover.

Vaguely-related posts:

Friday, January 17, 2014

Very Rich Hours of the Duke of Berry and a Rambling Lemming

(Limbourg brothers/Jean Colombe, via Wikipedia, used w/o permission)

January is named after Janus, a two-faced ancient Roman god who, oddly enough, had nothing to do with politics or infomercials. The idea, as the Lemming recalls, was that Janus did doorways and January was a doorway into the new year, except it's not a real door.

These days January has 31 days each year, except leap years when it has - oh, right. That's February. Never mind.

Anyway, ancient Romans had ten months each year: which is why October, November, and December have the names they do. Romans were farmers, basically, so there wasn't much point in having months during winter. What's the point? You can't plant, weed, or harvest anything: so why waste a month on do-nothing time?

That was then, this is now, and Americans have Daylight Savings Time: which is at least as weird as a monthless winter. Annoying, too, and that's another topic.

That picture comes from a calendar made for the Duc du Berry: who didn't have much to do with berry-picking, except maybe on some of his estates. He's the dude with a fancy blue shirt and squarish brown hat. Folks in the foreground are exchanging New Year gifts.

From the looks of what's going on just outside, Duc du Berry's New Year's bash is getting a bit out of hand.

What really impressed the Lemming about this picture is that the hills are green. Green. In January?! Either someone didn't tell the artists that France is in Earth's northern hemisphere: or 15th century winters in Europe weren't like winters where the Lemming lives: which is entirely possible.

Not-entirely-unrelated posts:

Friday, January 10, 2014

Voyager 1: Outward Bound

(From NASA/JPL-Caltech, used w/o permission.)
"This artist's concept shows NASA's Voyager spacecraft against a field of stars in the darkness of space. The two Voyager spacecraft are traveling farther and farther away from Earth, on a journey to interstellar space...."

Voyager 1 is outside the heliopause, outward bound. The robot spacecraft is still about one seventh as far from Earth's star as Sedna will be about 11,400 years from now. That'll be the year 13476, give or take: by which time humanity may have long since caught up with the Voyager probes, and that's almost another topic.

About 40,000 years from now, Voyager 1 will be 1.6 light years from AC +79 3888, and a tad farther from Sol, Earth's star. Gliese 445 is a shorter name for AC +79 3888, and whatever name you prefer: it'll be about 3.45 light-years from Sol when Voyager 1 goes past. You'll still need a telescope to see it, if you're on Earth at the time: which is unlikely, come to think of it.

The Lemming didn't find any planets listed for Gliese 445, but scientists are still sorting through data: and nowhere near finished with collecting more about Earth's neighbors. They'll probably be adding new planets to their catalogs for years. Decades. Centuries. Millennia. Longer.

Anyway, right now here are some pretty good places to check out if you're looking for nearby planets:
"Nearby" on a cosmic scale, of course.

Here's what Gliese 445 looks like, as seen through a telescope on Earth. That colored ring isn't part of the star: someone drew it on the photo so you'd know which dot is yet another name for AC +79 3888. Actually, it's an abbreviation of Gliese, and the Lemming's mind is wandering.

(From Caltech/Palomar Observatory, via NASA, used w/o permission.)
"At the center of this image is the star AC +79 3888, also known as Gliese 445, located 17.6 light-years from Earth. NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft, which is on a trajectory out of our solar system, is headed toward an encounter with AC +79 3888. In about 40,000 years, Voyager 1 will be closer to this star than our own sun.

"The image was taken by the Oschin Schmidt Telescope near San Diego, Calif., on April 22, 1998. This telescope is operated by the California Institute of Technology and Palomar Observatory."

It occurs to the Lemming that Voyager 1 may not make it to its flyby of Gliese 445. 40,000 years is a long time, humans are already working on a prototype warp drive, and that robot spaceship would make a dandy exhibit for some museum.

Slightly-related posts:

Friday, January 3, 2014

"...Charming, Quiet Neighborhood"

("The Abbey in the Oakwood/Abbey among Oak Trees/Abtei im Eichwald," Caspar David Friedrich, via Wikimedia Commons, used w/o permission.)

Handyman special: secluded, charming, quiet neighborhood.

Is it just the Lemming, or do those trees look like they stopped moving a moment ago?

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