Archive for the ‘Off-topic’ Category
I mentioned that I was going away for an extended break, in every sense of the word. We traveled to the remarkable Galapagos Islands, an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed around the equator in the Pacific Ocean some 525 nmi west of continental Ecuador.
Before I jump back into things, I hope you will indulge me in the modern day version of a slideshow of my trip — yes, it’s off-topic, but… the Galapagos Islands are a simply remarkable place.
And just so it isn’t totally off-topic: There is a U.S. government connection in the Galapagos Islands. When there, I learned that the U.S. constructed a military base on in Baltra island and radar stations in other strategic locations. Baltra was also established as a US Air Force Base. Crews stationed at Baltra patrolled the Pacific for enemy submarines as well as providing protection for the Panama Canal. After the war the facilities were given to the government of Ecuador. Today the island continues as an official Ecuadorian military base.
That is only one fact I didn’t know before the visit. Here is an number of bullet point answers some some of the most frequently asked questions:
* The Galapagos Islands are primarily protected areas, but there is a sizable population that lives on the islands — about 40,000 or so. There is even an airport on the islands. That puts a remarkable strain on the islands eco-systems.
* The Galápagos became a national park in 1959 and tourism started in the 1960s.
* The islands are famous because they are geologically young and famed for their vast number of endemic species, which were studied by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the Beagle. His observations and collections contributed to the inception of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.
We spent a week on board the M/Y Grace — named after Grace Kelly, by the way — touring this remarkable place. And this is remarkable because of the topography — it looks pre-historic… because of the eco-systems — there are desert climates with cactus almost adjacent to very lush green lands… and just about everything in between. The location, the weather, the temperatures — and some luck — have make these islands fertile grounds for scores of plants, animals, birds, marine life. There are these remarkable land iguanas, but there are also the even more remarkable sea iguanas, who have evolved to be able to drink salt water. (They almost snort it out.) And they swim using their tails to propel them to the algae that they eat… There are boobys — Red Footed Boobys… and Nazka Boobys… and the Blue Footed Boobys. There are sea lions — and penguins. Yes, the only place where there are penguins outside of Antarctica… There are Frigate birds. The male Frigate birds during mating season puff up what looks to be their chests to attract a mate. When the female Frigate birds fly by, they puff up, spread their wings, and make a sound that is right out of the Jurassic period.
We arrived at a good time, it was spring and the male Frigate birds were looking for mates. The males sit in low brush and inflate their bright red pouch at the base of their bill and call for a mate. The bigger the pouch the more attractive the male. If a female is interested she will land nearby and offer him a twig. If he accepts they are a couple and proceed to produce an egg.
Zuckerman, who is also a professional photographer, genously agreed to allow me to post some of his photos. They are much better then mine. That being said, if you want to see mine, they are all posted on my Flickr page — you can even see them in a slideshow of your own. You can see the collection here, including my passion for sunsets.
I should also note that on the trip, we visited Ecuador’s capital, Quito, which is virtually on the Equator and, at more than 9,000-feet, second-highest administrative capital city in the world (after La Paz, Bolivia), and the highest legal capital (ahead of Sucre, also in Bolivia, and Bogotá, Colombia). And we got to cross the Equator several times — on the ship, but also on land, where we did the ‘balance the egg on the equator’ experiment. While scientists seem to say it isn’t true, it worked for us.
It was a remarkable trip. It was great to be away — great to be un-plugged for a period of time — and… it’s great to be back.
Just a few more of Ron Zuckerman‘s remarkable photos:
You’ve heard the song “Shake Your Groove Thing” by the group Peaches & Herb. But did you know that Herb — yes, the Herb of Peaches & Herb — is a fed. Yes, he’s a U.S. Marshall… and technically it is Herb Fame, formerly Herbert Feemster.
Friday on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, we will be talking to Herb of Peaches & Herb… about his career… about how he balances these two very different careers… and his new album.
More info on
It’s a Friday in the summer, so… something off-topic — my favorite birthday gift this year — in addition to the fantastic guests we had on Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris on my birthday — but this video is fairly irresistable — my nephew is a budding star and gave me his own personal rendition of Happy Birthday.
Yes, I’m back. I was away for a few days enjoying some R&R.
Typically, even when I take a few days off, one: I say so here, and two: I still try to blog, at least occasionally. I actually can use that time to get away from the day-to-day stuff and actually ponder a bit.
Unfortunately — or, perhaps fortunately, I was staying at a place that didn’t allow cell phones in public areas — this drove some people insane. It also didn’t have very stable Internet connection. And I was really staying quite busy.
[The place I stayed is called Miraval -- it is this fancy spa in the Tucson desert that really emphasizes a somewhat Zen focus. In fact, their logo says, "Life in balance." I took my father -- a man for whom it is impossible to buy gifts -- for a birthday/Christmas/whatever -- and as a chance to spend some time with my father. So it was time well spent... It was atMiraval last year that I had my 'brush with greatness' with Jeff Bezos. My celebrity sighting this time was Steve Case , the co-founder and former executive at AOL. Now perhaps this isn't a total shock -- Case's Revolution owns Miraval and apparently they were having a board meeting or senior management meeting at Miraval last week. All of that aside, I'd give Miraval a thumbs up.]
Now, back to re-entry… I’m behind on a lot of e-mail… and have a busy week ahead.
My favorite April Fools’ Day item — so far, anyway…
OBAMA POISED TO NAME SHATNER TO GSA POST
April 1, 2009: In a move designed to solidify the bond between Hollywood and Washington, President Obama appeared poised today to name actor William Shatner as the next Administrator of the General Services Administration. An unidentified spokesman speaking on the condition of anonymity stated, “The President believes that Mr. Shatner’s impressive career in space exploration and elsewhere has prepared him well to strengthen GSA’s place in the government management universe. Although not technically an American citizen, Shatner did tell On the Shelf, “I have. Paid. All. Of my taxes.” When asked about his qualifications for the position of Administrator, Shatner seemed confident. “I have boldly gone where no man has gone before in getting people great deals on air fare, car rentals, and hotels. I see no reason why this can’t be put to use for the government.” When asked to comment on the possible appointment, former Administrator Lurita Doan said, “I think that the Administration really hit a bullseye with this appointment.”
Hat tip… this came from Larry Allen, president of the Coalition of Government Procurement . Too funny!
In our e-mail thread, Federal Times reporter Elise Castelli said: “He does have excellent negotiation skills and experience with travel policy. So it really might not be a bad choice. Except it may exacerbate any NASA rivalry. No drama Obama may not like that.”
Ah — team of rivals, right?
Yes, Washington, DC is blanketed by snow — really. The first real DC snowstorm in years. It means I’ll be taking public transportation to Federal News Radio 1500 AM’s glass enclosed nerve center in Northwest Washington, but…
If you’re in the northeast and you have to hit the roads, drive safely, turn on your headlights, and please clear off your entire vehicle.
Yes, there are more serious things out there — I’ll get to them while enjoying some time away next week — but everybody is busy with last minute shopping and, so… NORAD Santa Tracker .
The BBC reports:
Children wanting to track Santa Claus’s global journey on Christmas Eve have a number of options this year.
As always, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (Norad) will be keeping tabs on Santa and children can follow his progress on Google Earth.
In addition, they can send e-mails to the tracking team or even follow Santa on Twitter.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of a tradition that started by accident in Colorado, in the US.
Father Christmas’s journey will start at 1100 GMT and children worldwide can track his progress using Google Maps and Google Earth.
He will pass 24 “Santa cams” around the world, providing live video feeds of his progress, which will in turn be put onto Norad’s YouTube channel as they happen.
For even more up-to-the-minute progress reports, Santa can be followed on the Twitter microblogging service, on which he is known as @noradsanta.
And lastly, Norad volunteers can answer e-mails about Santa’s journey (the address is email@example.com).
A very happy holiday. Please travel safely.
So some had tried to make it out as if Lurita Doan, for former GSA administrator, and I have some kind of tiff — for the record, we don’t. But I will say that she is always entertaining — she was gold for a magazine editor, and she has been radio gold for Federal News Radio.
She sang the Army fight song this morning. It is radio gold. You can hear it here.
Update: I got an e-mail from Doan correcting me on the song that I pointed to…
I got a call about your blog and your confusion about the lyrics to the Army Fight Song.
Just to set the record straight…the song I sang on FedNewsRadio (albeit WAY off key) was indeed the Army Fight Song and you will hear it being sung by West Point Cadets at every opportunity and especially after every Army score. Here’s a well sung version of the Army Fight Song off the West Point website.
You may want to update your blog because there is a “Long, Gray Line” of West Point grads who are pretty particular about their songs. Don’t mess with their mule either!
What you posted is the Official Army song, “The Army Goes Rolling Along,” which is another wonderful tune but something completely different. I am something of an authority on Army songs and ditties (grandfather was a Buffalo soldier, father was in Army for WWII and Korean War and husband is a West Point grad) and I could go into even greater length if you want to learn even more….You would love “Benny Havens , Oh” and maybe even my personal favorites “Slum and Gravy” and “Army Blue”.
In fact, I feel almost as strongly about Army songs as I do about procurement issues and will always help to set the record straight.
Read the rest of my original post after the break.
Happy Halloween — by the numbers… thanks to the U.S. Census
The observance of Halloween, which dates back to Celtic rituals thousands of years ago, has long been associated with images of witches, ghosts, devils and hobgoblins. Over the years, Halloween customs and rituals have young and young at heart take a more light-spirited approach. They don scary disguises or ones that may bring on smiles when they go door to door for treats, or attend or host a Halloween party.
Trick or Treat!
The estimated number of potential trick-or-treaters in 2007 — children 5 to 13 — across the United States. This number is down about 38,000 from a year earlier. Of course, many other children — older than 13, and younger than 5 — also go trick-or-treating.
Source: Population estimates
Number of occupied housing units across the nation in 2007 — all potential stops for trick-or-treaters.
Source: Housing Vacancies and Homeownership
Percentage of households with residents who consider their neighborhood safe. In addition, 78 percent said there was no place within a mile of their homes where they would be afraid to walk alone at night.
Source: Extended Measures of Well-Being: Living Conditions in the United States, 2003
Jack-o’-Lanterns and Pumpkin Pies
1.1 billion pounds
Total production of pumpkins by major pumpkin-producing states in 2007. Illinois led the country by producing 542 million pounds of the vined orange gourd. Pumpkin patches in California, New York and Ohio also provided lots of pumpkins: Each state produced at least 100 million pounds. The value of all pumpkins produced by major pumpkin-producing states was $117 million.
Source: USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service
Where to Spend Halloween?
Some places around the country that may put you in the Halloween mood are:
Transylvania County, N.C. (29,984 residents). Source: Population estimates 2007
Tombstone, Ariz. (population 1,562). Source: Population estimates 2007
Pumpkin Center, N.C. (population 2,228); and Pumpkin Bend, Ark. (population 307).
Source: Census 2000
Cape Fear in New Hanover County, N.C. (15,711); and Cape Fear in Chatham County, N.C. (1,170).
Source: Census 2000
Skull Creek, Neb. (population 274). Source: Population estimates 2007
Candy and Costume
Number of U.S. manufacturing establishments that produced chocolate and cocoa products in 2006, employing 39,457 people and shipping $13.9 billion worth of goods. California led the nation in the number of chocolate and cocoa manufacturing establishments, with 128, followed by Pennsylvania, with 116.
Source: 2006 County Business Patterns and 2006 Annual Survey of Manufactures, Value of Product Shipments
Number of U.S. establishments that manufactured nonchocolate confectionary products in 2006. These establishments employed 18,733 people and shipped $7.2 billion worth of goods that year. California led the nation in this category, with 72 establishments.
Source: 2006 County Business Patterns and 2006 Annual Survey of Manufactures, Value of Product Shipments
Per capita consumption of candy by Americans in 2007.
Source: Current Industrial Reports, Confectionery: 2007
Number of costume rental and formal wear establishments across the nation in 2006.
Source: 2006 County Business Patterns
Other government Halloween related sites…
- Spooky sounds from space… courtesy of NASA
- The Little Shop of Patent Horrors from USPTO
- The White House Halloween Web site
- USA.gov rounds up more links.