Page Started: 12/23/2010    Last update:  4/29/2016  

This is the page where I will put pictures and videos of unusual things that don't fit on any of my other pages,

10/23/2015  I visited HMNS on Friday, and I saw the Chronophage clock in the Grand Hall. According to information on the HMNS website, this is one of the 4 Chronophage
clocks of this design in the world. I was impressed by the elegance of the design, and after watching a video about its construction and operation I was even more impressed.
Below are 3 animated gifs I made showing the movement of the "insect" at the top.

       ------------   ------------  

This is a working mechanical clock, powered by actions of the pendulum and the"grasshopper escapement".  The clock is 1.5 meters across (about 5 ft).
The "grasshopper" escapement was designed in 1722 by British clockmaker John Harrison.  This refers to the actual mechanism of the clock, which is just modified to
look like a "grasshopper".To acknowledge and demonstrate the escapement John C. Taylor designed the Chronophage clock.


The clock may stop occasionally, or even reverse itself, but every 5 minutes it gives the correct time, and shows it in 3 concentric rings. Outer is seconds, then minutes, then hours. The lights seem to rotate, but are actually
rings of LEDs that show only when a single opening passes in front of each one. Every 60 seconds, it opens its mouth to devour a minute, and every hour, the Chronophage lights up and sings.
According to the HMNS website, the clock's face is gold-plated stainless steel. The stainless was shaped by explosive hydroforming.


It's a fine example of artistic appliance (it *is* a clock, after all), and I'm glad I took the time to see it.  The only information I can find says that it will be in HMNS from 8/24/15 to 12/31/15.
So, it won't be here next year.  If you can't get out to Houston Museum of Natural Science to see it, then maybe these images will show enough. Or, click the following links to see some video clips
of the Chronophage:   
 clip 1(wmv)     clip 2(wmv)     clip 3(wmv)  


The 4 Chronophage clocks that I could find on the internet are at the following links.
"Untitled" -- which is the one currently at HMNS
Corpus --   http://www.johnctaylor.com/the-chronophage/corpus-chronophage/
Midsummer --  http://www.johnctaylor.com/the-chronophage/midsummer-chronophage/
Dragon --   http://www.johnctaylor.com/the-chronophage/dragon-chronophage/
And more information is here:  http://www.johnctaylor.com/2015/02/twelve-things-you-didnt-know-about-iconic-chronophage-clocks/

Just in case the links to outside pages go dead, the list below is from www.johnctaylor.com

Here are twelve facts that most people don’t know about the Chronophage clocks:

1. The name ‘Chronophage’ is derived from the Ancient Greek words ‘chronos’ meaning time and ‘phage’ meaning eater.
2. Dr Taylor, the creator of the clocks, also invented the cordless kettle. He has over 400 patents to his name, six of which pertain to the timepieces.
3. Dr Taylor is also a leading expert on the work of John Harrison, an eighteenth-century English horologist who built the first marine chronometer, allowing seafarers to determine their positions at sea.
4. Each Chronophage is three metres tall, and the 1.5 metre diameter clock face is plated in 24 carat gold.
5. The clocks only show the correct time every five minutes. Exploring Albert Einstein’s theory of relative time, they slow down, speed up and occasionally stop.
6. The clock faces have no hands, but instead tell the time with three concentric circles of blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs). The lights do not flash on and off but are obscured
and revealed by three stainless steel discs, each with a ring of Vernier slits. When the slits align, the lights are visible. The outer ring shows seconds, the middle shows minutes
and the inner ring shows hours.
7. The dragon on the Dragon Chronophage was designed by Professor Long of China Academy of Art in Hangzhou. The design is authentically Chinese – for example, the dragon is accompanied by a pearl, which it swallows every
hour. The pearl is a symbol of purity and prosperity.
8. Since its installation in 2008, the Corpus Chronophage has become one of Cambridge’s most popular landmarks. In 2014 the Tour de France passed the clock in its early stages. Vincenzo Nibali, the first rider past the Chronophage,
went on to win the Tour.
9. Each of the creatures is a part of the clock’s mechanism. The technical name for this component is a ‘grasshopper escapement’ and it was invented by one of Dr Taylor’s greatest clockmaking influences, John Harrison.
10. The distinctive rippled effect on the Chronophage clock face is created using underwater explosions, and depicts time moving outwards from the centre of the universe after the Big Bang.
11. The construction process is so complex and meticulous that only four Chronophage clocks have been created.
12. The Dragon Chronophage is valued at over 3 million, making it one of the world’s most valuable modern clocks.

July 18, 2015 One of my co-workers has a small plane, and-since I'd expressed a desire to get some pictures of Brazos Bend State Park-invited me to fly over Texas for a few hours.
So, 3 of us went down to the coast, and back, and we took a few turns over the park. I was able to get a few pictures, and here they are. We were flying at 1500 feet, and I used camera
zoom when I could.

         Me, in the plane, above Texas


 Elm, Old and New Horseshoe, 40 Acre Lakes                       40 Acre Lake                                           40 Acre Lake                                       40 Acre Lake

                     40 Acre Lake                                    Elm Lake and 40 Acre Lake                     Elm, Old and New Horseshoe Lake          Old and New Horseshoe, Elm Lakes

               George Observatory                                     Maintenance Yard                             Old and New Horseshoe Lake                                Park Headquarters


    Highway 809 @ 332 near Sweeny                              Matagorda, Texas                       Mine Lake and East Reservoir at the Gulf    Brazos River at Brazosport High School

          Brazos River near Freeport                 Brazos River at Highways 2004 and 400          Brazos River at Clemens Reservoir

09/14/2014  Vampires at Brazos Bend State Park! ....sort of. While walking the Spillway Trail near the Alligator Nesting Display, I noticed an area of vegetation covered with orange string-like growths.
This was near one of the islands, so I had to examine the growths through binoculars. Some years ago, I'd seen areas like this, and I'd asked David what they were. He had told me what it was then, and...I
had forgotten.
Fortunately, I was able to ask David again, and he refreshed my memory. The growth is called "Dodder", and it's a true parasite. That is, it survives entirely by sucking what it needs from the plants it grows on.
There are many varieties of Dodder (which are plants in the Cuscuta genus). Some of these are native, some invasive.
Dodder plants grow from seeds. When the seed germinates, the new shoot starts questing about for a nearby host. They "move" as ivys or similar plants do, but experiments have shown that they grow towards other
plants, and not in random directions. When they reach a host plant (and they can use many different types of plants), they wrap around it. Then, theygrow shoots, called haustoria, that penetrate the plant and
join with the host plant's vascular system. The original roots are discarded, and the dodder begins living off the host plant. Recent studies have shown that along with the necessary plant materials
(water, sugars) the dodder and the host plant also exchange mRNA (messenger RNA). Further studyis needed to understand what effects this can have on both plants, but it's possible the dodder
could influence the host to either lower its chemical defense, or even to produce more nutrients to benefit the dodder.
So, although this botanical "vampire" can't turn into a bat it *might* be able to "hypnotize" its host.

 Here are some links that talk more about Dodders:
locating hosts:
 Locating 1
 Locating 2

exchanging chemistry:
 chemistry 1
 chemistry 2
 chemistry 3
 chemistry 4
 chemistry 5

May 25, 2013-- SPECIAL UPDATES: 

On 4/20/2013, I recieved the following email (quoted with permission):

    I read your page on Wyrex and noticed your comments about her missing tail. When we excavated Wyrex, we searched and searched for more tail vertebra but none were found. Wyrex was laying on a fairly flat plain and none of us could figure out where her tail was. However during the prep work on her, it was discovered that her tail had been bitten off long before her juvenile death. At that time it was discovered that the pathology showed that it had healed a estimated that it did not cause her death. Not sure what the sign at Houston states nor what Bob Bakker’s opinion on it is, but hope this helps you better understand Wyrex."

Imagine my surprise at recieving this. It's always (well, usually) pleasant to get some feedback from my pages; and this was so polite. And then, I got to the signature:

Allison Wyrick
(original discover and excavator)

How wonderful is that? I was in contact with the people who had actually made the fossil of "wyrex" possible!!  I wrote back, and we had some pleasant back-and-forth conversation. I promised Allison that I'd research further, but that I'd also make some reference to this correction on this page. So here it is.  
Since I posted the entry about the HMNS Morian Hall of Paleontology, I've been doing some reading and catching up on dinosaur events since I last read about them some years ago.  I first read through Dinosaur Paleobiology, by Stephen L. Brusatte. Much of it is technical, but I did pick up some items of interest. What I mostly came to understand was that although there has been a LOT of new dinosaur material unearthed and/or described over the last 20 years or so-and there have been many modern methods used to interpret this data-there is still not total agreement on various points. This is in spite of the fact that some of these points have been made public. But, that's science, and the nature and number of studies is large and varied. All interesting, but I can't imagine how full-time paleontologists can keep informed of all new developments.  Another book I have been reading through is:  Tyrannosaurus rex, the Tyrant King,  edited by Peter Larson, Kenneth Carpenter. It is a collection of studies presented in a symposium about the Tyrannosaurus rex.  As I am going through it, I can see that even with this source, there are some studies that appear to disagree with each other, but that's ok for me. They still bring up interesting points. 
One major item  I've gotten from the book so far is this:  From 1900 (when the T. rex was first discovered and defined) to about 1980, there were only 7 examples of this fossil known--in the entire world, Now, there are about 46 known, in various percentages of completion (defined by bone count). 16 of those specimens have been found since 1999. Three of the most complete appear in the Houston Museum of Natural Science.  We have "Wyrex" (aka BHI-6230) and Wyrex is the actual fossil, and the one that Allison and family discovered and excavated in Montana. We also have full replicas of "Bucky" (aka TCM 2001.90.1) and "Stan" (aka BHI-3033).  I have emailed HMNS and have been looking, but can't find any other description of the Wyrex fossil, or any reference to the tail. I'm still looking though, and probably should try emailing the Black Hills Institute (BHI) myself. 
I've been back to the museum many times since May of 2012, and have been looking more at the skeletons as I learn more about them.  I wouldn't have been doing this as much if not given the boost by Allison's letter.  Thanks, Allison! That is for writing to me in the first place. And thanks to you and your folks for finding the Wyrex, and then taking the effort to bring it out of the ground so that we can all see it.

January 12, 2013--  The Houston Museum of Natural Science (HMNS) has the Weiss Energy Hall. It talks about sources of energy, and how we create energy. While doing geophysical surveys in a marine environment, we tow arrays of sensors. These sensors can pick up pressure waves which have traveled through the rock strata under the sea bed. The pressure waves are usually produced be releasing air that has been comrpressed to thousands of pounds per square inch--in one pulse. This causes high-pressure bubble to form. The device that creates this is called an "air gun".  There is functioning air gun on display at the museum. It works at much less operating pressure than the ones in the field, but it is still interesting to watch. I shot some video of the gun at work (it fires about every 20 seconds) and edited them together. The clip can be seen here. The image below is a frame from the video. 


May 31, 2012-- DINOSAURS!! The Houston Museum of Natural Science (HMNS) has just opened their upgraded Paleontology Hall. I was able to visit it a few days before the public opening. What a fantastic upgrade! I will post some pictures here, with a few decscription, but that's it. If you are reading this, and you live in Houston (or near it) then GO SEE IT!  I've always been interested in dinosaurs and other prehistoric animals. From the time that I first read about them as a child (back in the '60s) until now, the way that dinosaurs and other ancient creatures are studied and understood has changed very much.  Advancements in analytical technologies and the encorporating physics and mechanical analysis (kinematics) to model the movements of extinct life forms from studies of still extant animals can give clearer imagery of how they may have lived. I'm sure it must be a wonderful, exciting time to be a paleontologist! (Although...it was probably *always* exciting to be a paleontologist.)  So...these are some pictures of my visit to HMNS and the new Paleontology Hall. These cannot convey everything that is there. Entering the hall, we start early in geologic time. Among the things to see is a three-panel view into the ancient ocean. But this isn't a painting--it's a moving display that appears to be windows looking into the ancient ocean. The sun's rays flex as they are bent by the surface above, and, as one watches, one ancient creature oranother will appear out of the distance, or out of the sandy bottom, move about, then move away. It's a wonderful display--and you just have to go see it.
Eventually, one will encounter the Dimetrodon, a permian reptile--but not a dinosaur. They haven't appeared yet. This creature was cold-blooded. Dinosaurs were warm-blooded.
A little further along, after various other creatures, one encounters the Smilosuchus, a crocodile-like animal. This was large, but not a true crocodile--those appeared millions of yearslater. The Smilosuchus has nostrils just in front of its eyes  and living crocodilians don't. They have nostrils at the end of their snout, with a passage that brings air to openings in the throat behind their hard palate. I counted, and the Smilosuchus has 5 toes on all four feet. Alligators have 5 toes on front feet, 4 toes on back feet. The display mentions an "armor " of plates that cover the Smilosuchus--but the mounted specimen doesn't show any.


   Closer views of the Smilosuchus skull show the nostrils in front of the eyes.
   After some more interesting displays, the Steneosaurus can be seen, mounted to the wall.  This was another crocodile-like creature, but still not a true crocodilian. But it's closer. I compared an
   alligator osteoderm to one that can be seen on the fossil.


    The rear foot of the Steneosaurus has 4 toes, and the front foot has 5 toes.
   Moving foreward will eventually bring one to the Late Jurassic, and also to an Allosaurus. The Allosaurus is facing a rearing Stegosaurus.


Passing under or around the Stegosaurus, one then passes under a Diplodocus, and into what I call the "main hall". And my first view of this just awed me. No use in describing all of
   the creatures on display. Look at the pictures below, and then GO TO THE MUSEUM and see the display. It's impossible to show how HUGE these are with pictures, and I'm not showing
   video clips here. This is a herd of immense prehistoric predators and herbivores, rearing, lunging and walking.  


   Near the back end of this section, there are a nesting pair of Quetzalcoatlus--the largest-known flying creature...ever. There's one mounted flying overhead (and I've seen this before),
   but it's hard to tell the how big it really was. Unless, one stands next to the nesting pair.  Then, the effect is something like imagining wings on...a giraffe. That's me standing next to them.
    Near them is a new Tyrannosaurus  skeleton-a very fine specimen. The description says that the end of the tail appears to have been bitten off, with no healing evident. This could mean
   that the tail was bitten off after the Tyrannosaurus died--or just before it died.  If the latter, I could imagine that the Tyrannosaurus bled out and died after having its tail bitten off (the
   display mentions that the Tyrannosaurus would have had difficulty walking without the tail to balance and without the muscle attachments that were lost). On the other hand, if the
   T.rex had fallen into a mud pit or drowned, or been buried, then maybe  only the tail was exposed--and this "cover" was what preserved the body and the skeleton so well later.


   The forearms and front claws are also well-preserved, and show an additional "toe" or spur that is not normally visible.
   There are other specimens, and then one eventually will come to this jaw of a Megalodon...a prehistoric shark.

   And that's a taste of the new Paleontology Hall. I'll be going back again. Soon.  Because of my volunteer work at BBSP, I get to see, almost weekly, the activities and habits of alligators--living
   relatives of some of the archosaurs at the museum. And--I get to see any number of about 300 species of birds that appear at BBSP--along with their activities and habits. And they are
   related to the dinosaurs at the museum.

04/08/2012---Easter Sunday at BBSP gets very busy. This year, I had time to put a camera on my bicycle handlebars and do a quick ride on the Elm Lake Trail before it got busy. I was experimenting with doing "virtual" trail tours of the park.
I'm not sure if this works or not, but here is an edited version of the footage I filmed. At suprise unique to the park happens near the 6:47 mark. Links to the video are here (files are about 200mb):  Elm Lake trail mp4  
Elm Lake trail wmv.

08/06/2006--BBSP finally got some rainfall about 4 weeks ago. There was enough water in Pilant Lake to allow some filling of 40 Acre Lake by opening the floodgate between them. When the water levels equalized, the gate was closed, and a diesel-fueled water pump was set up to continue filling the lake. The first image below (FILL THAT LAKE!) shows the pump in action.
The two images below show the improved appearance of the lake.  Compare them with the two images from 06/18/06 further down on this page.
                     FILL THAT LAKE!                                                                   BETWEEN HOOT'S BENCH AND OBSERVATION TOWER                                                                                                                NEAR THE OBSERVATION TOWER
That's some improvement, right? This changed over 4 weekends.

February 4, 2006 --  Here are a couple of clips I shot at Scobee Field. It's a full-sized airfield built for model aircraft hobbyists. These clips feature model jets with working turbine engines.   SCOBEE02/04/06 A 5MB  SCOBEE 02/04/06 B 5MB

June 04 & 18, 2005--  It was the weekend before my surgery (June 6th). I'd eaten at a nice restaurant ("it NEVER closes") not far from downtown; and then I went to get a haircut. I was driving down Montrose when this house caught my attention. After my haircut, I returned to the intersection of Montrose and Willard,  parked at the Texas Art Supply, walked across the street, and took the image shown in the OLD RICKUBISCAM, below. 

-------------------------------------------      ----
                                                                                     OLD RICKUBISCAM 

Now you know why I stopped. Below (TURN OFF THE VACUUM!) is another picture from across the street.  Fortunately, I'd seen a short report on this on our local TV news (but I hadn't noted where the house was), or I wouldn't have known what to think when I saw this. This house is an arresting sight when you don't expect to see it. 


This house is actually an art piece. The card affixed to it (see DESCRIPTION, above), named it as Inversion. I was able to return to this house after my surgery, on June 18th. The remaining three images above show me inside the hole, showing scale. If you happen to be in Houston, you might consider driving by and seeing this for yourself.
And, I'm recovering quite well from the surgery.

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