Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Cheetah Conspiracy

A Florida animal sanctuary has reported that the chimp who played Cheetah in the 1930s era Tarzan movies has died, but are they really trying to make a monkey out of us? Some experts are disputing the animal sanctuary's claim since they have no documentation that the chimp really was "the" Cheetah. Plus, if it was the same chimp, that would make it more than 80-years old when it died. Chimps rarely live more than 50 or 60 years.

The director of the animal sanctuary claims Tarzan star Johnny Weissmuller gave Cheetah to the sanctuary around 1960 but all of the records of the donation were destroyed in a 1995 fire.

How convenient.

 Adding fuel to the fraudulent flames are some Hollywood accounts that suggest a chimpanzee by the name of Mr. Jiggs played Cheetah but died in 1938.

 So who was this mystery chimp who pretended to be Cheetah all of these years? And why would Tarzan call his chimp Cheetah anyway when his name for his son was boy? Why wouldn't he have followed the same naming conventions and call his chimp, "chimp?" And if Tarzan had kept a pet Cheetah, would he have named it "chimp?" And technically, Tarzan was supposedly raised by apes, not chimps, so shouldn't he have hung out with a young gorilla? Or would that have caused a jungle scandal? Which begs the question as to what was the true relationship between Tarzan and Cheetah? Did it change drastically when Jane came on the scene?

All of these questions will remain unanswered. Because whether or not the Florida chimp was the real Cheetah, the chimp who played him has definitely gone to that big tree house in the sky.

And chimps can't talk even if it wasn't dead.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas spirits?

We just got back from a weekend in Victoria, B.C., the capitol of British Columbia, Canada. It's located on Vancouver Island and is about 2 1/2 hours from Seattle via ferry (in our case the Victoria Clipper). We went to celebrate my wife's birthday and enjoy the decorations the city sports for the holidays.  We stayed at the Chateau Victoria Hotel.

The first day there, we went to the second floor to use the newly remodeled indoor pool. While walking through the hallway to the pool, we all distinctly heard the squawk of a parrot. There were some offices on the floor so I assumed the hotel kept a pet parrot and thought nothing about it.

A few days later, we were in the lobby and I noticed a framed article on the walk about a Victorian mansion that had been torn down to make way for the Chateau Victoria Hotel. The mansion had been the home of an eccentric recluse named Victoria Jane Wilson. She grew up in the mansion and apparently rarely left it. Her only companions were a variety of birds including a parrot named Louis. When Victoria died, she left her estate to Louis with instructions that he was to live in the mansion until he died. The mansion became known as the Parrot House.

Parrots, however, live a long time. Some life more than a hundred years. And Louis was one of them. But greedy developers eventually figured out a loophole to get Louis out of the house and he died in the late 70s at the home of the mansion's former gardener. The mansion was torn down and the Chateau Victoria was built. And the rooftop restaurant was named the Parrot House at first, but was recently renamed View 18.

The story made me think about the parrot we'd heard. So when we were in the hotel shuttle headed back to the Clipper terminal for our return trip home, I asked the driver if there was a parrot kept at the hotel. He shook his head and said no, but he suggested it might be a ghost and brought up the story of Louis. 

 When I returned home, I did a Google search about the Parrot House and found a few articles recapping what I already known, but no stories of a ghost parrots. Though I did run across a few accounts of employees at the hotel thinking they encountered Victoria Jane Wilson. 

 So who knows what we heard on the second floor of the Chateau Victoria Hotel. But the next time I stay there, I'm bringing crackers.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

In god particle's we trust

A headline caught my eye the other day online: ‘God particle’: Scientists close in on evidence of Higgs Boson existence. Apparently, the Higgs boson particle, named after U.K. physicist Peter Higgs, was created at the beginning of the universe and in theory allows other particles to have mass (substance, not a religious ceremony...though you would think a god particle would be open to the whole mass concept).

 According to the article in the Washington Post, Scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research have narrowed where the particle can be found and hope to eventually prove that it exists so it will no longer be the equivalent of the Tooth Fairy to physicists. Apparently the hints found in their research could lead to proof of the god particle's existence by next October (which could very well coincide with another doomsday prediction of religious nut job Harold Camping).

Apparently,  finding the Higgs Boson would be the "discovery of the century" in particle physics, a "never-before-seen subatomic particle long thought to be a fundamental building block of the universe." I wonder if the first scientist to actually discover the particle will be surrounded with news cameras and be asked what he or she will do next. I kind of hope they'll say, "I'm going to Disneyland!"

I doubt this will happen, because I don't get the sense physicists have much in the way of senses of humor. Regardless, I'm not certain what discovering the god particle will mean other than confirming the basic principles of standard particle theory (I know I've been losing sleep over this). A more interesting question is what it would mean if scientists determine that the particle doesn't exist after building a $10 billion dollar lab to find it. I imagine their response at that point will be, "that sucks." That would be my response.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Why do Christmas lights burn out when they aren't being used and other mysteries of the holiday season

I am not a handy man. I'll get that off my less than hairy chest right up front. I would just as soon pay someone else to be handy for me, such as hang Christmas lights on my gutters. But I am not an overly wealthy man, either. So I must hang Christmas lights myself.

And I am not trying to suggest that hanging Christmas lights on your gutters is a complicated task, either. It just requires a great deal of logistical planning and manipulation of ladders and hooks and lights that I'd just as soon not engage in. I am not even sure how or why stringing lights on the outside of your house became closely associated with the birth of the baby Jesus. It's not as though the Bible said something like "Behold they wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manager beneath some pretty bitching LED icicle lights."

I'm pretty certain the Bible never uses the phrase "pretty bitching" anywhere. At least not in the King James version. Though I'm not a Bible reading man either.

I hang lights on the outside of my house not because of any religious significance or symbolism, but because my neighbors do and I have kids. Peer pressure and parenthood are two major forces in life to reckon with.

Regardless, I spent the better part of two and a half hours on Sunday on my roof stringing white, LED icicle lights along my gutters. This was my second year decorating with lights. Before that we lived in a two-story house with a roof so high off the ground there was no way I could even reach the gutters with my ladder let alone string lights. Last year I dutifully moved a step ladder along the gutter pushing on small plastic clips designed for stringing Christmas lights. It was a finger  (and mind) numbing experience. When I took the lights down last year, I left the hooks up thinking it would save me tons of time this year.


I decided to just climb up on my roof this year to save the hassle of moving the ladder six or seven times along the gutter to place the lights. So I hoisted up about five sets of lights onto the roof, plugged the first set into an outdoor outlet and began pushing the light wires onto the plastic hooks. But I discovered that a year of being out in the elements had rendered the small plastic hooks extremely brittle. So as I pushed the wire into them, 90 percent of the hooks snapped off.

So, I went back down the ladder and retrieved a box of new hooks I'd purchased but hadn't used the year before. As I'm climbing back up on the roof, I notice that the gutters are pretty full of leaves. I decided that as long as I was up there I might as well clean the gutters. So back down the ladder for gloves and a trowel. I went back on the roof and slid along the edge of my roof scooping out soggy piles of leaves and debris.

Even in real life I digress a great deal and branch off on tangents from my original tasks just as I digress here in my blog on a multitude of topics. But I digress.

With gutters clean, I got back to the lights. The first set went up fairly smoothly. Then I plugged the second set into the first one. One section of the set didn't light up.

Okay, these are the same lights that were working fine when I packed them up a year ago. They have been sitting untouched in a plastic bin in a closet in our basement until I carried them upstairs after Thanksgiving. How is it possible for any of them to burn out when they weren't being used? And what ever happened to the promise most lights have about the others staying lit when one burned out? I had a two-foot section that wasn't lighting up.

So I grab all of the remaining lights sets and climb down the ladder and sit in the hallway with a bag of spare bulbs determined to find the burned out bulb and then to test the other light sets just in case before going back on the roof. I start swapping out light bulbs one at a time (missing the old screw in type that have been replaced by these pop in mini-bulbs). When I get to the last bulb, I discover the reason it is not working. It has snapped off. I replace the bulb and all of the lights light up.

I plug in the next string and sure enough, another two-foot section doesn't work. I check all to be sure there isn't just another broken one and I find a single unattached wire dangling from the section of lights that aren't working. But not being the handy man type, I have no idea where the loose wire should be attached, so I chuck that string of lights into the garbage.

I plug in the last string of lights and once again a two-foot section of lights doesn't come on. I inspect each one and discover one that looks black around the base. I swap it with a good bulb and all of the lights come on. Maybe I am handy after all. I declare myself a genius to my three-year old son who is playing with a miniature nutcracker and a sheet of bubble wrap. He ignores me.

Before I go back to the roof, I ask my wife if she'd like me to clean the skylights while I'm up there. She hands me a squeegee and a bottle of Windex and tells me not to break my neck. I climb back up the ladder with the light sets, the squeegee and the Windex.

I clean our three skylights without tripping and falling through them. While walking from skylight to skylight, I discover what appears to be a large beef rib bone on the roof. I stare at it like one of the monkeys in the opening scenes of 2001 A Space Odyssey and then toss it into my front yard.

Finally I return to stringing lights and waving at my neighbors while silently cursing them for forcing me to dangle on my roof just so mine won't be the only non-festive house on the block. I place the last string of lights along the roof line and discover I am about two-feet short of having enough lights to reach the other side of the house. But since I am not a handy man, this is good enough for me, because something tells me if I go buy more lights I will find myself trapped in a tear in the time space continuum hanging lights forever.

I climb down the ladder, put away all my stuff and admire the handwork of a non-handy man. Later that evening, after a matinee of Happy Feet 2 and dinner at a local dive, my family huddles in front of our dark house while I fumble with the extension cord to light up the house. I finally get it into the socket and my LED icicles blaze brightly enough to land a 747.

My five year old daughter stares at the lights for about 5 seconds and then looks up in the sky and says, "Look papa, the moon!"

It was one of my proudest moments.