Hickory Hill Park with Sena the Bigfoot Hunter

Because we found that tree structure in Hickory Hill Park recently, Sena led us on a Bigfoot hunt yesterday.

At first all we saw were more dragonflies. One was a male Widow Skimmer. We knew it was a male because it had white patches on its wings. So the first one we saw the other day was probably a female. Then we saw a bright blue dragonfly. We found out later it’s called (what else?) a Blue Dragonfly in the skimmer family.

At first, the expedition went like a lot of those Bigfoot expeditions on TV. The birds got nervous. We heard some tree knocking noises.

Then we saw tracks. Finally, Sena caught sight of a Bigfoot. We caught it on video—sort of.

FDA Advisory Committee Approves Adding Omicron component to the Next Covid-19 Vaccine

On June 28, 2022 the FDA Vaccine and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee came to a majority “yes” vote to the question:

“Does the committee recommend inclusion of a SARS-CoV-2 Omicron component for COVID-19 booster vaccines in the United States?”

The meeting was recorded and is available for review.

Skimming the Parks

We took a walk on the Hickory Hill Park short Loop and the James Alan McPherson Park. We’ve lived in Iowa City for 34 years and walked only one other Hickory Hill Park trail. That was several years ago.

Just before you start the short Loop, you can read a poem, The Morning by W.S. Merwin.

We also saw a Widow Skimmer Dragonfly for the first time ever. It was spectacular.

We spotted proof positive for Bigfoot—a tree structure. OK, so not proof but interesting all the same.

And we fully noticed the two huge American Sycamore trees flanking the beginning of the walking trail on James Alan McPherson Park.

We also ran into others walking the Loop, often walking their pet animals, including a man with a Bengal cat. We’ve never heard of them. Despite its name, it was spotted more like a leopard than a tiger. It looked like a jungle cat.

It’s a great start to the July 4th holiday. Have a good one.

The Little Mundanities of Life

Sena says I need to write about some mundanities, so I will. She says the mundane things in life are important. She told me about an episode of The Waltons she saw years ago, which emphasized the importance of life’s little mundane things. I looked for the episode on the web, but couldn’t find it.

We wash and dry dishes the old-fashioned way. We never use our dishwasher, so it’s like brand new. Sena overheard a conversation two women had at the store about a kind of pre-wash spray you can get that will make it easier to get dishes cleaner when you do them the old-fashioned way. They discussed the pros and cons at length. Neither one of them bought the product.

She got a bottle of that Dawn dishwashing liquid in the upside-down bottle. You get less soap. But you can squeeze out the soap without flipping it.

She can’t seem to get the coffee maker lid down in the morning sometimes. That’s why I took a picture of it. The mundanity of it. I fixed it later in the afternoon.

Without the mundanities, life would probably wear us out. Just think if you had to tolerate a day full of odd events, like the one we heard about on the KOKZ Iowa’s Classic Hits Radio 105.7 morning program yesterday, Mike Waters Wake-Up Call. It was about this crazy rooster who crowed until he fainted. This was a pretty exciting meme in December of 2020.

When we heard it on the radio, we actually heard the THUD when the rooster finally keeled over. Could you stand that level of hilarity all the time every day?  Of course not! I wonder if that fainting consequence could apply to other situations?

Politician: “And if you elect me, I promise—THUD!”

Bigfoot Hunter: “If I hear that little twig snapping noise one more time, I will run over there and confront the hulking—THUD!”

Car Salesman: “This little coupe has only 2,000 miles on it, driven by a little old lady librarian—THUD!”

Psychiatrist: “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, if carefully and consistently implemented, could solve every human conflict if only—THUD!”

UFO Witness: “Look at that thing! What the “bleep” is that thing?” I’ve never bleeping seen a bleepity-bleep thing like that in my bleeping life, can you believe—THUD!”

Celebrate life’s little mundanities every once in a while. They’ll give you a break from all the excitement.

We Are Going to Be Like the Jetsons!

Sena has been telling me for years that someday soon we’re all going to be like the Jetsons, flying around in bubble-top saucers.

It turns out she may be right.

There’s a news story out about the Jetson Flying Car, which I saw on the Good News Network.  It’s a compact flying car that runs on batteries that are good for about a 20-minute commute. Reports about the altitude the Jetson car can achieve vary, but some say you can get up to about 1500 feet and tour along at a little over 60 miles per hour.

And the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) says you don’t need a pilot’s license.

Can you say “mass mid-air collisions?”

I doubt there’ll be a lot of buyers because the sticker price is close to $100,000, not counting insurance, extra batteries (you’ll need 8 if you want to swap out to recharge), and attorney fees.

The CEO of the company that makes the Jetson car says you can be a pilot in about 5 minutes.

Funny, that’s about the same time it seems to take the typical semi-truck driver in Canada to get a commercial driver’s license, judging from how busy the tow truck operators are up there.

What if the heavy rescue operators in British Columbia and Toronto had to do recovery work on the Jetson cars? True, the cars aren’t that heavy (about 250 pounds), but what if the number of crashes overwhelms Jamie Davis (think Highway Thru Hell on the Weather Channel)? There wouldn’t be enough tow truck guys to drag all the cars out of the ditches.

Did you know the Jetson Cars come as a DIY kit? That’s right, you have to finish assembly of that expensive toy yourself. You better make sure the batteries are hooked up right since you get just 20 minutes of running time before you need to recharge. Average commutes are longer than 20 minutes.

The Jetson car comes equipped with something called a ballistic parachute, which should be enough to send most potential buyers running out of the showroom. Hey, why would I need a parachute?

No worries, you’re unlikely to be flying much higher than 16 feet anyway, according to the co-founder of the company, eVTOL (electrical vertical take-off and landing).

Let’s see how many traffic signs and trees we can take out on the way to the drug store to pick up some Dramamine.

Only one person (the pilot) can fit in the Jetson Flying Car. And of course, there’s a weight limit; it’s 210 pounds, which is going to raise a hue and cry from the equity, diversity, and inclusion police. There’s no flying family eVTOL—yet. That’s a good thing because there will have be some survivors left to collect on the insurance.

On the bright side, there are no ashtrays to empty, no flat tires to change (nobody remembers how to do that anyway these days), and no radio stations to cycle through. You’re going to be paying too much attention to the birds getting caught in the rotor blades and the bugs splatting on your visor.

That’s assuming you’re a multimillionaire and can afford to fly like the Jetsons. Don’t buzz the pedestrians.

The Cigarette Waltz

A couple of days ago we heard a ballet called The Cigarette Waltz by a French composer, Edouard Lalo, on one of the Iowa Public Radio (IPR) classical music programs. The announcer told a little anecdote (most of which I didn’t hear) about the saying “Smoke‘em if ya got’em” which he traced to the World War II era, reflective of the general idea that you can do what you like if you have the means. I didn’t get the connection, frankly.

I was curious about why the ballet Namouna (Valse de la cigarette) was connected with cigarettes. The first thing I did was to look up the ballet on the web. I found the version done by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by—Yondani Butt. That’s actually a better joke than the one by the IPR radio show host.

At first the only thing I could find out about Lalo was that his name is the answer to a crossword clue, which is “composer of the Cigarette Waltz.” I followed several dead-end leads. There’s no real connection with Lalo himself that I could find, unless you count his “hemiplegic attack” (a stroke from smoking?) which prevented him from finishing the score for the ballet.

I read the Wikipedia article summarizing the ballet, which didn’t mention cigarettes.

And finally, I found a Google book entry after using the search terms “why is Namouna called the cigarette waltz.” The book’s title is “Traveling Sprinkler Deluxe: A Novel,” written by Nicholson Baker, published by Penguin Group in 2013. It might help to read the Wikipedia synopsis of the ballet before you read Baker’s passage, which mentions a cigarette:

“It’s true that there is an opera by Edouard Lalo called The King of Ys about the flooding of Ys, based partly on a forged Breton ballad by Theodore Hersart de la Villemarque, and true that Debussy had wildly applauded Lalo’s ballet Namouna while at the conservatory, and had memorized parts of it, including perhaps the scandalous waltz in which Namouna rolls a cigarette for her paramour…”

It’s still not exactly clear what’s going on with the cigarette, but because the waltz is described as scandalous, I wonder if there was something salacious about the rolling of the cigarette. The slave girl Namouna is, after all, flirting with Ottavio.

Baker’s point is probably that the ballet is not so much about the cigarette as it is about a larger issue, judging from my general sense of his passage. Larger than a cigarette anyway.

There’s a book titled “Cigarette Waltz: Seventeen Short Stories Adaptable for Theater” by Philip-Dimitri Galas” but I was unable to access any inside text.

Alas, I couldn’t find Cliff Notes about it.

Hammerhead Worm Invasion!

The other day Sena and I were talking with a landscaping consultant about a job we’d like done on our backyard patio. He uncovered a worm in the dirt, and it seemed to wriggle energetically. Jumping worms had been in the news a lot last month. The consultant picked it up and the worm seemed to jump out of his hand.

Sena exclaimed, “It’s a jumping worm; kill it!” The consultant picked it up again and, much to our surprise, simply crushed it in his hand. However, he doubted that it was a jumping worm and hinted that much of the news lately about jumping worms (an invasive species from Asia) was overdone.

I don’t know how he got rid of the crushed worm in his fist.

But I suspect he wouldn’t crush a hammerhead worm in his hand (although I wouldn’t bet on it).

They are also being reported in the news recently, although they’ve been in the country for decades and probably longer. They’ve possibly been sighted in Iowa. The hammerhead worm is another invasive species from Southeast Asia. If you cut them up, the pieces will grow into new worms.

They also carry a toxin on their bodies. It won’t kill you or even harm you that much if you get it on your hands, but you should wash up thoroughly if you nonchalantly crush them in your fist.

The hammerhead worms eat earthworms, which could make things even harder for them because jumping worms displace common earthworms by outcompeting them for territory.

Right now, the best way to rid your garden of hammerhead worms is to kill them by sprinkling salt or spraying vinegar on them.

I can’t help wondering if there might be a way to teach hammerhead worms to eat jumping worms.

But then, how would you get rid of the hammerhead worms? They don’t have any natural predators. There are a number of ways humans can control the population in their immediate vicinity.

Just don’t crush them in your fist.

The Kids to Decide on the Next Hawkeye Wave Song!

The new Hawkeye Wave song will be decided by the kids, and it won’t be just a single song. According to a story in Iowa Now:

For every home game the Iowa football team plays inside Kinnick Stadium, the UI Department of Athletics, in coordination with the UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital Kid Captain program, will ask that week’s Kid Captain to help select a new song to accompany the Hawkeye Wave.

It’s a great idea! Back in April, fans were asked to nominate a song to be played between the first and second quarters of the Iowa Hawkeye football games while the team members and fans wave to the kids watching from UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

It’s up to the Kid Captains!

Learning About Monkeypox

The University of Iowa podcast Rounding@Iowa, hosted by Dr. Gerard Clancy, MD talked with Infectious Diseases specialist Dr. Jeffery Meier, MD about the essential facts about Monkeypox for health care professionals, recorded on June 2, 2022.

This podcast would also be interesting to anyone interested in learning more about Monkeypox.

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