Saturday, January 09, 2010

Squirrels In My Tree! Squirrels! Squirrels!

This is what it looks like when Blue, as she often does, traps a squirrel in one of our Crepe Myrtle trees. (Click on the picture for a close up view.) Don't worry...She never actually catches one! Either she eventually gets bored, or the squirrel manages to jump away.

~Steve

PS: Sing the title of this post to the tune of that song where Candice (of Phineas and Ferb fame) has squirrels in her pants.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Let It Snow!?

A year ago this time, the four of us were bemoaning the fact that Beijing is really, really cold in the winter, but gets very little snow. It seemed to be the worst of all possible combinations.

Then, this winter, it has been as cold as last year (probably colder!) and the snow has been falling in record amounts. We were all thinking that our timing had just been off by twelve months. Oh, to see those historic Beijing sites all covered in mounds of white!

Then we began reading accounts like this...

"A train from Harbin to Baotou ran into snow more than 2 m high near Jining in Inner Mongolia on Sunday and passengers were evacuated only yesterday.

All 15 carriages were buried in snow and more than 1,400 passengers were stranded in the train without lighting and heating. Food and drinking water were also in shortage, the local railway bureau said.

'The snow was so high because this area is at a lower elevation. It piled up quickly, and huge gales continued to blow snow in,' Zhang Jianwen, an armed police officer from Ulanqab League who led the rescue work, told China Daily.

'Though snow stopped yesterday, the temperature was -28 C, freezing the doors,' he said.

Armed police managed to pry open one door, and with the help of the local railway bureau, evacuated the 1,400 passengers to a nearby railway station yesterday.

Nearly 2,000 people, including armed police, railway workers and farmers, worked to remove snow from the rail track with shovels, he sad.

'For a whole day, we only ate a steamed bun each after waking up at 4 am,' Zhang said.

As the train blocked the line, two more passenger trains were affected, too.

'Some 2,000 passengers were stranded on the two trains, but we delivered food to them,' he said.

By 6 pm, snow was finally cleared away from the railway, and trains could pass through at a slow speed, a spokesman for the Hohhot railway bureau surnamed Han said."

~Steve

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Lotus Effect

During our year of living in China, we (make that Desi!) took a bunch of neat little pictures of lotus leaves and their ability to repel water.

Our fascination with the so-called "lotus effect" was at the intuitive, visual level. As in, "Wow! That's really cool!"

Now, scientists at Duke University (!) have conducted experiments using loudspeakers to try to get a better understanding of how the whole repelling process works. Check out this video to see what they found...

~Steve