Me and the Frog – Rampant Miscellanea

Posted in On Tthe Road on April 4th, 2011 by MadDog
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Once again hard up for a subject, yet needing to express myself, I’ll demonstrate my flair for the nonsensical today.

But first, I want to revisit the koalas from yesterday. I don’t usually comment here on readers’ comments, but Ali Raynor came in yesterday with a real charmer. Have you ever heard a lonely (and presumably eager for a cuddle) male koala in full song? Well neither had I until an hour ago and I can’t get that . . . uh . . . noise  out of my head. Please, for pity’s sake, click this link to hear a sound that you would not ever guess could come from a charming little koala. Brace yourself.

Ok, now brace yourself again. I have seldom featured a less flattering or more disturbing image of myself here, but this one seemed somehow necessary to me this peculiar evening. My brain is manufacturing funny chemicals again. I need something to settle my nerves. My toes, after a month in Jamaica on holiday, are tingling again. Today, after I finished mowing Val’s lawn, we strolled down to her frog pond and I foolishly mentioned, for the second time, that it was looking pretty sad and neglected. Val promptly mentioned, also for the second time, that it needed cleaning. Okay, I learned many years ago that one can generally safely let an initial such comment slip past, but the second one requires some sort of action. Today there seemed to be only one appropriate response.

Clean the frog pond:

As any fool can see, I’m up to my shins in green slime. Fortunately, I no longer have any sense of smell, so stink wasn’t a problem, at least not for me. I should also mention, while I’m bemoaning my general decrepit state, that I noticed, when I got this image on the screen, that my beard was getting intolerably bushy. I immediately went to retrieve my whisker whacker and mowed it.

While remaining on the lookout for poisonous snakes, I was startled by a movement in the water and nearly took a slime bath. Then I noticed that it was a frog, which is just about the last thing I expected to find in this frog pond. A rather handsome frog, at that:

I have no idea what species it is. Perhaps a reader will enlighten us. There was also a small cane toad in the pond. Both were put out of their house while it’s being cleaned.

UPDATE: Reader Pvaldes once again nailed an ID for us. The frog is Limnodynastes peroni  an inhabitant of Eastern Australia.

While pond cleaning I was nagged by the thought that I sincerely wished that I had a microscope. I kept wondering what algae species were squishing between my toes. I’ve always been a fan of Spirogyra  algae, of which there are over four hundred species. It is commonly referred to as “pond scum”. However, under a microscope, it is quite elegant. Oddly enough, it is also the name of one my favourite jazz bands, with the slightly different spelling of Spyro Gyra.

I suppose that everybody knows about black swans. I did not know nearly as much as I thought. I saw these at a little park in Gympie:

Black swans are found only in Australia. It’s a different species from the white swans found elsewhere. They loom large in many aspects of Australian culture. I ripped this bit from the Wikipedia article about black swans:

The Black Swan’s role in Australian heraldry and culture extends to the first founding of the colonies in the eighteenth century. It has often been equated with antipodean identity, the contrast to the white swan of the northern hemisphere indicating ‘Australianness’. The Black Swan is featured on the flag, and is both the state and bird emblem, of Western Australia; it also appears in the Coat of Arms and other iconography of the state’s institutions.

While languidly researching black swans I was amused once again by the way one can be led down a long garden path by the ridiculously connected web. I stumbled on the very interesting “Black Swan Theory“. What is that, one might ask (or, more likely one might not, but I’ll explain it anyway).

Taking it in the light of recent events, I think of it as the “We Should Have Thought of That” theory. I speak specifically of the 2011 earthquake in Japan and the subsequent nuclear disaster. (I’ll insert a small disclaimer. I’m not opposed to nuclear power generation. I do, however, think that we have to find a safer way to do it.) Getting back to the theory itself, here is the way I think it works. We’re talking about big, unexpected events and how we react to them.

  1. The event is a surprise (to the observer).
  2. The event has a major impact.
  3. After its first recording, the event is rationalized by hindsight, as if it could  have been expected (e.g., the relevant data were available but not accounted for).

Well, the recent events in Japan seem to fit pretty well. The more I thought of this, the more it intrigued me. Did I mention the funny chemicals? I started to think of Black Swan events. How about the housing loans fiasco. We should have thought of that, eh? Hmmm . . . even the rise of the internet seems to make the grade as a Black Swan. It certainly surprised Bill Gates. I wonder if he ever said to himself, “Duh, I should have thought of that!”

I soon got bogged down in my efforts to find a definitive set of Black Swan events. The financial industry seems to have captured the concept and is currently holding it hostage. Every hiccup of the market is now a Black Swan event. I don’t think they are quite caught up to reality. Hey, guys! The whole system is hopelessly broken. It needs a major overhaul. While they are doing that they might want to think about throwing a few more miscreants in jail.

Okay, enough with the black swans. I’m getting dizzy.

Hmmm . . . how about a hair ball:

I found this dubious object in the vast archives of the Gympie Gold Mining and Historical Museum, a collection of quaint structures housing a seemingly endless agglomeration of random objects, a few of which have something or other to do with the mostly defunct but one time huge gold mining industry in the area.

This object caught my eye immediately, as I’m a casual fan of old engines of any kind:

Ho, hum. It’s an old petrol engine. But wait! It was made in Evansville, Indiana. Nearly all of the other old engines in the museum were made in England. I wonder if a Hoosier equipment salesman once made his way around Australia.

Here is the strangely disturbing logo of the Hercules Gas Engine Company:

What, precisely is Hercules (it is, presumably, the great god himself) doing to the engine. Producing it? Seems like he could just snap his fingers, eh? Fixing it? Posh, why should an engine made by a god need refurbishing? Why is his loincloth flapping in the breeze? These are important questions.

Ah, life’s little mysteries.

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