Thursday, 3 January 2012

09:45 – I’ve been dithering about whether or not to include a mixed bacteria culture in the Life Science kits. Well, not literally a culture, because a culture is by definition reproducing. Such cultures are provided in a nutrient broth or on a nutrient agar slant, and require special handling, often including refrigeration. They’re normally shipped next-day air and must be opened and used within a couple days after they arrive. Even allowing the culture to sit undisturbed over a weekend can cause problems. The problem is that cultures continue reproducing until they run out of nutrients and become senescent. Mutations occur, and eventually the culture becomes useless.

Other than freeze-drying a culture, there are two ways to avoid that. First, one can reculture every few days to every few weeks, transferring a small amount of the culture to fresh media, and then repeating the reculturing as necessary to maintain a robust culture. That’s obviously not practical for pre-packaged science kits. Option two is to put the bacteria into stasis (essentially, hibernation) by inoculating either a sterile saline solution or a sterile PBS (phosphate-buffered saline) solution with the bacteria. The saline/PBS contains no nutrients, so the bacteria don’t reproduce. Stored in the dark at room temperature, such saline/PBS specimens may remain viable for anything from a few years to many decades, depending on the particular bacterial species and other factors.

The problem is that I don’t have years to decades to find out which species are suited to stasis, and there’s not a whole lot in the literature other than for pathogens. I’d like to provide a mixed group of non-pathogenic bacteria that encompass the three basic morphologies as well as examples of Gram-positive and Gram-negative species. It’d also be nice to have an example of a species that is a facultative anaerobe. On that basis, I’ve tentatively chosen Bacillus subtilis, Micrococcus luteus, and Rhodospirillum rubrum.

So, here’s what I think I’m going to do. Make up and autoclave a liter of saline or (probably) PBS. Using aseptic procedures, transfer about 5 mL of a robust mixed culture of those three species in nutrient broth to the 1 L of sterile saline, mix, and then fill 200 sterile 15 mL polypropylene centrifuge tubes to 5 mL each. Recap and tape each of the tubes, label them, and store them in the dark at room temperature.

Worst case, at least a few individuals of each species should survive statis, so reculturing in nutrient broth or on a nutrient agar slant or plate should produce colonies of each of the three species. Of course, I may be expecting too much of 7th or 8th grade students, not many of whom are very skilled in aseptic procedures. I suspect many, even most, of the tubes will end up contaminated with environmental bacteria, but I’ll have done what I can do.


78 thoughts on “Thursday, 3 January 2012”

  1. A question for the Aussie contingent:

    Canada has been issuing their new “counterfeit-proof” $20 and $50 banknotes in a polymer plastic, and there have been some local news stories about the new bills melting in the summer heat just from being in a wallet, or left in a car. I understand that Australia is also using the same polymer banknotes, and am wondering if they’re having any issues?

  2. Bob, I forget how you’re autoclaving. I use a pressure cooker, 15 PSI for 10 minutes (and then let cool naturally), to sterilize saline. Is that enough?

  3. 15 PSI for 15 minutes is “standard”, but it really depends on what you’re autoclaving. For example, if you’re doing a stack of Petri dishes with good separation among them, 15/15 should work fine. On the other hand, if you’re doing 1 liter PP bottles that are full of liquid, it’ll take more than 15 minutes to get the entire contents of those bottles up to 121C. For something like that, I’d probably go 30 minutes or more. The container also makes a difference. Metal conducts heat better than glass, which conducts heat better than plastic. Thick plastic containers can take quite a while to equilibrate.

  4. Wow, I am beginning to think that OFD is not paranoid (sorry OFD). Did you see the list of tax credits that got reauthorized and new one so that GE never has to pay income tax ever again?
    http://washingtonexaminer.com/tim-carney-how-corporate-tax-credits-got-in-the-cliff-deal/article/2517397#.UOXKlHfFmkS

    That federal deficit meter will need a guy standing there pouring oil on it to keep from burning out the bearings. Of course, the new taxes that got passed yesterday will ensure that the 48% who pay taxes will pay even more taxes. I figure that going back to 6.3% of social security will not tax a lot of people due to the EITC which apparently was also expanded yesterday.

    Hmm, I smell a new carbon tax XXX penalty coming from the EPA soon. Very soon. Such a penalty is authorized by the Clean Air Act but has never been implemented on a broad basis.

  5. So I guess the consensus is that we all just sit on our hands and wait for things to collapse around us?

  6. I figure that going back to 6.3% of social security will not tax a lot of people due to the EITC which apparently was also expanded yesterday.

    I think the EITC “expansion” may just have been a renewal of the expansion that was necessary to get the Bush tax cuts passed.

  7. I’m pretty sure most will continue sitting on their hands after the fall…

  8. So I guess the consensus is that we all just sit on our hands and wait for things to collapse around us?

    No, just prepare for the bad times coming in the next 10 to 20 years. The USA can inflate the dollar and purchase unsold tbills through the Federal Reserve for quite a long time. At some point, the world markets will crash and cause the Dollar to crash also. We may choose to ignore it or we may choose to accept it. Depends on the President at the time.

    Some day in the far future, we will wake up to a speech by the President saying that there is a new Dollar (blue) and that old Dollars (green) are good no more. Certain global realities will be acknowledged and the USA citizenry will lose their Dollar savings. I wonder what will happen to the rest of our savings such as land and other personal holdings.

    So, how does one prepare for this possible future? Obviously the first thing is to invest all dollar holdings in some kind of hard assets. Maybe store a month? three months? six months? one year? of food, fuel, medicine and water. Storing fuel is very difficult to do in secret. Maybe purchase a bugout XXXXXX vacation property in the sticks and store your stuff there. I just have yet to decide what is the best way to do this.

  9. It sounds like you expect pretty much what I expect, impoverishment, rather than OFD’s more apocalyptic expectations.

  10. The way around the tax credits and the like that were in the fiscal cliff bill is to eliminate the corporate income tax. Just tax dividends and capital gains like ordinary income.

  11. No, the impoverishment cycle started in late 2008. At some point, the economic system will fail and that is when the apocalypse will start. There is an old saying, “Civilization is only three meals away from anarchy”. Drop the electrical system or the food distribution system and we are in real trouble. Very few people have more than a weeks food in the pantry, the fuel in their vehicle gas tank and the water in their toilet tanks.

    BTW, how far does a bugout place need to be from a major city like Houston? I own 14 acres across the Brazos River, 35 miles from downtown Houston. Unfortunately, that bridge across the Brazos is 4 bridges, 2 + 5 + 5 + 2 = 14 lanes. It would be a real effort to drop it or barricade it. I’ve got a bad feeling that I would be over-run in an apocalyptic setting. I’ve got my own water well and sewer, but I do not have any power generation. Yet. And no guns and ammo since they are at the bottom of the Brazos.

  12. Uh, I’m an anarchist. Anarchy is a Good Thing. I think you meant “chaos”, which is entirely different.

    I wouldn’t worry too much about the bridges. If things get as bad as you expect, they’ll be blocked before long with wrecked cars and so on. Still, 35 miles from the center of a city the physical size and population of Houston ain’t much.

  13. “I understand that Australia is also using the same polymer banknotes, and am wondering if they’re having any issues?”

    Let me put it this way: If Canada is starting to use the same polymer on notes as we have been using in ours for ages, then you have nothing to worry about. 🙂

    There is only one small inconvenience with the polymer notes: creasing. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to get that undone. Apart from that, they are great. I much prefer them to the paper based notes.

  14. I wouldn’t advise putting polymer notes in the oven. Otherwise no problems.

    Yeah, creasing is annoying, but I just fold the note back along the crease and it’s just fine.

    The first polymer notes had some problems but they were ironed out. I’ve seen notes defaced by scraping off the ink – both the $5 notes with Her Majesty on them – presumably by some republican miscreants.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banknotes_of_the_Australian_dollar#Current_series_.28polymer.29

    The old (paper) notes were larger in length and height as the denomination increased, now they are all the same height but longer as the denomination goes up.

    I love engraved stamps and banknotes, I miss the old notes but there is no doubt that the polymer ones last longer and are more secure.

  15. “Uh, I’m an anarchist. Anarchy is a Good Thing. I think you meant “chaos”, which is entirely different.”

    So, can you name any anarchist societies that actually function? The only anarchist society I can think of is in republican Barcelona during the Spanish civil war, and it didn’t turn out too well. Perhaps if they’d spent more time fighting Franco rather than destroying churches…

    “I wouldn’t worry too much about the bridges. If things get as bad as you expect, they’ll be blocked before long with wrecked cars and so on.”

    Perhaps these anarchists will take care of the bridges:

    http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/05/01/11485641-5-anarchists-nabbed-in-plot-to-blow-up-ohio-bridge?lite

  16. Agreed. Australia has patents on the polymer banknotes. If Canada has licenced the Australian processes and is using the same materials, they won’t have heat-related problems. Early on in the process, some decades ago, there was some experience with notes left in clothes that were over-heated, and the notes shrunk laterally and thickened, and those people ended up with bank biscuits instead of bank notes, but that’s the only heat-related problem I know of. We’ve gone through about three major evolutions of the notes for whatever reasons I don’t know, but we’ve been on the current generation for a couple of decades or so now.

    And the creasing isn’t really a problem. Dog-ears happen, but just flatten it out, shove it back in your wallet so it’s held flat, and the crease will even out enough for use – no worse than paper currency.

  17. “…impoverishment, rather than OFD’s more apocalyptic expectations.”

    I believe, in my horrific state of rampant paranoia, that impoverishment will lead forthwith to semi-apocalyptic consequences, even here in this great big rich wonderful country of ours, jam–packed with Mr. Fix-It geniuses who will roll up their sleeves and get cracking on rebuilding everything. Except the Fixit Peoples will be too busy dodging bullets and scrabbling for basic human needs, at least for a while, and especially in the large metro areas.

    Our Nanny the Almighty State will keep kicking cans down that dwindling and disappearing road, and will attempt to keep order, even if draconian martial law, so long as they can keep paying their soldiers and robocops and fly all them drones. But already we have folks building their own drones; figuring out to defeat and destroy drones; build firearms from 3D printers; and keep an alternative internet running along with alternative currency. I see roughly three major stages coming our way; collapse; semi-totalitarianism; collapse/rebuilding. The first coming in two to five years and lasting five to twenty years, and the second overlapping with the first and lasting a decade or so, maybe. And then we will start rebuilding and enlisting the help of all the Mr. and Mrs. Fix-its about when me and our host and most others here on this board will have shuffled off our mortal coils.

    Mrs. OFD off just now for Kalifornia, where it is gonna be about sixty degrees warmer this week; I have 7 here now and it was minus 5 this morning. She is making noises now about finding something more stable and local, good thinking, kid, good thinking.

  18. Hi OFD, you forgot the part where Russia, China and Europe invade the continental USA after the collapse. Unless they collapse also, simultaneously.

    I just do not see a collapse coming in 2 to 5 years. I think that the collapse will not happen until the USA debt hits $40 trillion or some other outlandish number like that. And even then, will the Feddies go down and lose control? Nah, they will just create a new monetary system (they’ve already got plans for a new one) and move onto that.

    I really do not see much difference between anarchy and chaos. During either of these times, who will keep the peace? Who will arrest the miscreants who randomly start shooting in the mall? Who will send an ambulance when I am having another heart attack?

  19. Of course Russia, China and Europe will collapse and/or be otherwise too busy to mess around over here across vast oceanic space.

    And I say good luck to any possible invaders.

    Who will keep the peace? We don’t know yet; probably the usual suspects until we run out of money to pay them.

    Who will arrest “miscreants” shooting at the mall? Frankly, I’d hope that someone at the mall blew their shit away on the spot.

    Who will send an ambulance for your haht attack? That is a very good question; I’d hope that there is a local service of some sort, local physicians, nurses, EMTs, paramedics, whatever, available to help. We rely a lot on volunteer fire departments up this way and there are ambulance services which get paid for via various and sundry arrangements with the towns. Anyway, don’t get another haht attack.

    The tough thing for some of these scenarios is gonna be that we may be living at circa 1900 levels here; what did we do then?

  20. Before 1900, one of two things happened. In the cities, a uniformed cop showed up and either shot you or beat the living daylights out of you. In the countryside, the locals either tarred and feathered you, shot you or beat you up. Or all three. If you got away, the sheriff usually formed a posse out of the civil war veterans and chased you down. And then killed you.

    Before 1900, if you had a heart attack, you usually died. If you survived then you usually died within a year. If like me with a congenital heart condition (born with a 2 inch long right coronary artery, should be 8 inches), you usually died by age 20. Most always by 50. I’m 52 and have survived two heart episodes. All my male relatives on my mother’s side above 50 are now getting pacemakers due to low heart rate so they would be mostly dead also. Just drift away some night. I personally have a high interest in this not happening.

  21. First, military invasion is only the purvey of the USA. Totally outmoded and outdated—but that’s the USA for ya,—having been replaced by economic takeover everywhere else. Who in the hell in Russia, Europe, or even China wants the US? I can tell you from personal experience it ain’t the Europeans. They consider their society a quantum advance over the backward, infrastructure outdated, gun-toting, gawd-awful food populated US. They want nothing to do with it. Especially since the US now wants mug shots and fingerprints of every foreigner who enters the US—friend or foe,—our European friends have no interest in even visiting the US, anymore. They are treated like criminal dirt, even though any European country will let anyone toting a US passport in, with no questions asked or mug shots taken.

    Second, what in the world makes you guys think we are all-of-a-sudden going into reverse to 1900? Because your favorite criminals didn’t get elected to Congress and the White House? Geez. That is not the American confidence that built this country—or will save it.

    Although I lived a FAR better life in Europe than I am in the US, I am here for the long haul. I am expecting a progressive year, better than the last, and know that whatever the tax increases, I will still be paying less here than I did in Germany—although I made a lot more money there working just parttime. And although health care here truly stinks compared to what I had in Europe, I’ll struggle by until I breathe my last—which ought to be another 20 years, based on average family longevity in the US. Might have lived longer in Germany, though.

    Now ‘scuse me while I go pop some popcorn and watch “Armageddon”.

  22. Well, whether we like it or not, or did or did not get our fave criminals elected or things were less than pleasant in some areas of human activity in 1900, rest assured we are going there anyway. And things will not be as wonderfully fantastic here as they have allegedly been in Europe, which, by the way, is a place where things there are not gonna be wonderfully fantastic much longer, either. Especially in the lazy, shiftless southern Med tier of countries; perhaps Deutschland uber Alles will last a couple of years longer.

    And if sheriffs in this country need to form up posses of war vets, they have a slew of wars to choose from, all of which made this country and the world worse places to live.

  23. I’m now picturing (and possibly putting together) a posse for Retroville, composed of veterans from the following U.S. wars: Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Lebanon, Panama, Grenada, Columbia, Venezuela, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Congo. Please advise if I’ve left any out, no shortage of pissed-off unemployed combat vets here.

  24. “I see roughly three major stages coming our way; collapse; semi-totalitarianism; collapse/rebuilding. The first coming in two to five years and lasting five to twenty years, and the second overlapping with the first and lasting a decade or so, maybe. And then we will start rebuilding and enlisting the help of all the Mr. and Mrs. Fix-its about when me and our host and most others here on this board will have shuffled off our mortal coils.”
    Sounds like Hari Sheldon’s Psycohistory.

    Perhaps start Foundation III now? :-]

  25. Thanks Bob. the 15/15 sounds like good rule of thumb, mas o menos taking into account the mass and material to be sterilized.

    I’m still moving to India one of these days. Laugh all you want about a 3rd world country, but it lags the USofA by about 3o or 40 years of insidiously creeping federalism and opportunity is rampant. What’s more, manners and social convention govern social behavior more than “laws and rights” and the heady and expensive bureaucracy which goes with them. You can either have manners and courtesy, or laws and bureaucracy and the taxes to pay for them. I vote the former, but it won’t last, even in India. As soon as folks can conveniently off-load personal responsibility to the State or “other people” without much introspection they will do so. Such is human nature.

    Consider cross-walks. Used to be (and still is in India) a pedestrian stopped and looked both ways before crossing a thoroughfare populated by speeding motorcars.
    Here in Seattle, pedestrians now have “RIGHTS” granted to them by ARSISIETY and get killed by the dozens while they blindly cross intersections with white strings in their ears, and perhaps also texting at the same time. But they have RIGHTS!

    Granted by whom, may I ask? How does democracy always seem to devolve this way? *I* am suddenly responsible for some dimwit who can’t look both ways before crossing the street? The lawyers and insurance companies certainly make sure of that.

    And now the politicians (Obamacare) gradually come into play and tell me that your anemia gives you a right to my blood; or your hunger gives you a right to my bread. Hence the 2nd amendment: fuck the politicians and hold arms against any militia which might back them.

    Oh my. I’ve gone from PSI to my own personal PSA. Sorry for the rant.

  26. Just like we are seeing with the EU, things are likely to drag on far longer than anyone expects. The politicians will kick the can way down the road, before they run out of road.

    But how does it end? With a bang or a whimper? The “bang” seems more romantic: The sheeple awake and take back their country. Unfortunately, there are not enough common people who understand enough and care enough. Failing this, there is no reason for government authority to break down; to the contrary, it will simply continue to grow.

    Which means that the most likely scenario is the whimper: the US will sink farther and farther into statism, and thereby into impoverishment. If this takes place over 20 or 30 years, the younger generation will never really understand what happened. The state schools will not tell them that their grandparents and great grandparent were much better off. The country will be heading back to Upton Sinclair’s “Jungle”.

    For us geezers, this means protecting what assets we have. I am very happy to be living outside the USA; perhaps others may also want to consider emigration. The entwining of government and corporate interests has now made US Stocks and bonds into a sucker’s bet. Either invest outside of the US, or buy gold, property, or some other physical good.

    Part of the impoverishment will be continuing degradation of the infrastructure. Stocking food makes sense; best not rely too much on a freezer. Meat can be preserved with pickling and smoking (we make a mean bacon, and ham isn’t hard either).

    Anywhere near urban areas, crime will only increase, and older people look like easy victims. Security glass in the windows, well-mounted solid-core doors, decent locks (the standard lock on most American houses is a joke). Guns and ammo, but that’s preaching to the choir on this board.

    @Lynn: Barring total chaos, 35 miles will probably be enough. Crooks are unlikely to drive 35 miles to break into a single house, unless they know it’s an easy mark.

  27. Thanks for the correction, Miles_Teg.
    Not being a mentat makes remembering stuff exactly difficult at my age.
    🙂

  28. Imagine how hard it is to remember stuff when you’re nearly 300 years old like I am and have a horny Reverend Mother around trying to take advantage of me… 🙂

  29. Jim wrote:

    “Here in Seattle, pedestrians now have “RIGHTS” granted to them by ARSISIETY and get killed by the dozens while they blindly cross intersections with white strings in their ears, and perhaps also texting at the same time.”

    The technical term for that is natural selection.

  30. Nah, it’s natural selection. Artificial selection occurs when humans take intentional action to modify the genotype/phenotype of a species.

    Human creating hybrid plant = artificial selection

    Human hunting ducks = natural selection

    Human running over moron wearing iPod = natural selection

  31. That, incidentally is one of the two things that really annoy me about anti-evolution folks and greens:

    1. They don’t acknowledge that humans are animals like any other, and that we and our actions are completely a part of nature. Beavers build dams for their own benefit; we build dams for our own benefit. There is no logical difference.

    2. This idea of “higher” and “lower” as applied to species. In a scientific sense, we’re nothing special. No better, no worse. Evolution has adapted slime molds just as well to their environments as it has adapted us to ours.

  32. “2. This idea of “higher” and “lower” as applied to species. In a scientific sense, we’re nothing special. No better, no worse. Evolution has adapted slime molds just as well to their environments as it has adapted us to ours.”

    We *are* special. Do slime molds build aircraft, nukes, libraries, cars, etc. Yes, we’re animals, yes, our evolutionary path is as long, or short as the slime mold, but which would you rather be?

  33. Boy, don’t get me started on Greens.

    In the ACT elections a few months ago the Greens were almost wiped out. They went from four out of 17 members to just one. Of course, the Labor Party government needed their support to stay in power so their one MP was given a ministry, so they can more easily inflict bad policy on the government, and us. They lost 3/4 of their seats but were rewarded. Just nuts.

  34. “Human running over moron wearing iPod = natural selection”

    If I intend to increase the quality or quantity of the eggs my chickens lay by eliminating the lazy ones surely that is artificial selection. If I inadvertently run down iPod users that is natural selection. If I seek them out that surely is artificial selection.

  35. We *are* special. Do slime molds build aircraft, nukes, libraries, cars, etc. Yes, we’re animals, yes, our evolutionary path is as long, or short as the slime mold, but which would you rather be?

    No, we’re not “special”. As I said, we’re well-adapted to our environment, just as dolphins or slime molds or scorpions are well-adapted to theirs. We value intelligence and the products of that intelligence because we’re intelligent. But that’s a speciesist viewpoint. Aircraft, nukes, libraries, and cars don’t mean much to a boa constrictor or a bacterium. I’m sure they’re content to leave those things to us.

    I’m happy being what I am. Oh, I wish I had the strength of an elephant, the speed of a cheetah, and the lifespan of a bristlecone pine, but I’m content with the mix of features and abilities our species has.

  36. Our tools already give us the strength of a thousands of elephants and speeds cheetah’s can only dream of.

    Beating the bristlecone is gonna be tough, though!

  37. I guess I am a specieist. I believe we are special; the Bible tells me so. Also, some incredibly intelligent people have told us so. I do not, nor will I ever buy the Peter Singerian forumulaton that a man is a boy is a pig is a rat or whatever that thing is that was going around.

    Or a slime mold.

    And it is totally irrelevant whether or not jets and cars and libraries mean anything to a boa constrictor or a bacterium.

  38. What I’m talking about has nothing to do with Singer or other nutball so-called ethicists. What I’m talking about is that, from a scientific point of view, there’s nothing special about H. sapiens.

    Your bible may tell you there’s something special about humans. Science says otherwise. We’re not the “pinnacle of evolution” or anything like it. People who don’t understand evolution think of it as a process from simple/inferior to complex/superior, but evolution makes no value judgments.

    I also favor my own species. I think that women are more attractive than female dogs or horses or frogs. I make no apology to a tree that was minding its own business until I decide to cut it down for firewood, nor to the pig that provided the bacon I had for dinner the other night. But nor does the mosquito apologize for biting you when she needs your blood to reproduce herself.

  39. That dang skeeter don’t have to apologize; I swat it into skeeter Hell instantly.

    Interesting: the Bible versus Science. Except that any science I’ve read on the subject seems to say that homo sapiens sapiens is, in fact, special. Certainly not compared equitably or even unfavorably with slime mold and boa constrictors.

    And riddle me this: where does our moral decision-making come from? Why don’t you or I simply bop on down the road and blast any sons of bitches with whom we disagree or who piss us off? (leave SteveF out of this). Why was it OK to smack your kids around pretty good fifty years ago but is anathema now? I’m stone broke this week; why don’t I rip off a bank or armored car or bust into a house or an ATM machine? Assuming I can do it without being caught. Etc.

  40. Well, I was going to give you a list of species A. through Z. and a list of genome base-pair sizes, and ask you to match them up, but that’s too much work. Suffice it to say that there are microorganisms whose genomes have orders of magnitude more base pairs than the human genome.

    I agree that humans are special, but only to themselves and to other human beings. In the larger scheme of things, we’re nothing special at all.

    As to where ethics/morals come from, certainly not from religion. They’re evolutionary adaptations, just like everything else about us.

  41. “We’re not the “pinnacle of evolution” or anything like it. People who don’t understand evolution think of it as a process from simple/inferior to complex/superior, but evolution makes no value judgments.”

    Evolution makes no value judgements because it’s a mindless process, but we are the pinnacle in that if aliens arrived from Alpha Centauri and did the take-me-to-your-leader thing it’s us they’d be talking to. There are many things animals can do better but for all round ability we’re on top.

    I also favor my own species. I think that women are more attractive than female dogs or horses or frogs.”

    I’m sure Barbara would be relieved to read that… 🙂

  42. If aliens arrive from Alpha Centauri they will immediately either enslave us or eradicate us from the face of the earth; no good talking to them. Put phasers on full charge or whatever. Go for broke.

  43. I think that women are more attractive than female dogs or horses or frogs.

    I am guessing you have never lived on a farm that is 15 miles from the nearest town with no female humans in sight. Some of them remote sheep herders in OZ may disagree with you.

  44. Ah, Ray, you are insulting the sheep herders. It’s not that they wouldn’t prefer a lassie (um, I mean, a human lassie), it’s just that they haven’t seen one in a long while…

  45. They’re called Sheilas down under, and if the Michelle Jenneke viral video doesn’t make you forget sheep and dogs, there is something very wrong with you.

  46. Ray wrote:

    “Some of them remote sheep herders in OZNZ may disagree with you.”

    There, fixed that for you.

    Oh, and Ray, with you being from eastern Tennessee you should not be criticizing man-sheep relations in other countries. We all know what you people do to sheep. And chickens, and piglets, and cats, and any dog that can’t run away fast enough, and…

  47. We have many goddesses down here, including the lovely Stephanie Rice, and Shane Gould, my pinup girl of 1972. Don’t come to Australia Ray, you’ll never want to go back.

  48. Oh, and Ray, with you being from eastern Tennessee you should not be criticizing man-sheep relations in other countries. We all know what you people do to sheep. And chickens, and piglets, and cats, and any dog that can’t run away fast enough, and…

    Nah. Tennessee hillbillies are known for incest rather than zoophilia. The definition of a virgin Tennessee girl is one who can outrun her brothers.

  49. We have many goddesses down here, including the lovely Stephanie Rice, and Shane Gould, my pinup girl of 1972. Don’t come to Australia Ray, you’ll never want to go back.

    Oz has some really attractive women, no doubt, as do NZ and the US, but I think per capita Canada is the world leader.

  50. Any of the countries with a predominate Celtic bloodline have a tendency for beauty. While I must agree with our host about Canada being a world leader, I can’t help notice the sheer number of beauties that come from the Czech Republic, or whatever that part is being called today (I’ve always preferred Bohemia).

  51. Ray, have you Googled Ms. Jenneke? Silver medalist for the 100m hurdles. Not only can she outrun unwanted advances from her close relatives and other Aussie men, being Australian she also jumps!

    Reminds me of the joke about the hillbilly who fell in love with a girl from the next valley “And Pa! She’s a virgin!”

    “If’n she ain’t good enuff fer her own family, she ain’t good enuff fer our’n!”

  52. Hang onto your wallet around those Czechs. They have a reputation as pickpockets, and almost everyone we knew who visited Prague had a story to tell. That Nordic beauty continues north and east, right up to Belarus. Stops at the Russian border, though.

  53. So Chuck, being a European vet traveler; of places/cities over there, which would you reckon are the nicest to visit for a couple of weeks or even a month, for people who dislike tours, organized stuff, and who are not above roughing it a little? Who are also very historically and artistically minded, and Roman Catholic. Before it all turns back to the Thirty Years War era again…

  54. Oh, and Ray, with you being from eastern Tennessee you should not be criticizing man-sheep relations in other countries.

    That only applies to those with 32 teeth, in the entire family. For those of us with both headlights working it is a different matter.

  55. Gosh, hard question. You can find idyllic places almost anywhere. The countryside in France is beautiful almost everywhere. I guess if I had the motivation, I would explore that little village across the border from France in Belgium, where Gérard Depardieu just moved to escape Hollande’s French taxes—Néchin, Belgium. Although my grandmother was from Belgium, and it is the European country most like the US, IMO (probably because of US-led NATO being headquartered there.) But likely, many other people are already hounding that little town.

    If you stay away from the northern countries, everywhere will be RC, as is Germany in the south, in addition to the whole of France. You won’t be in the minority as an RC adherent in most of Europe, like you are in the US. We pagans are in the tiny minority there.

    Plenty of nice places along the south coast of Spain, in addition to the area around Barcelona being wonderful. Madrid is a pit, IMO; don’t bother. One of my favorite places of all time is Mallorca, Spain. Have not been there since the ’70’s though, and I know that it has been developed unbelievably since then—mostly from Germans making it their most favorite tourist destination. Mallorca was once a sleepy little place with incredible food and a pace to life that would make living forever a pleasure.

    I’m a flatlander; mountains do nothing for me; I like walking and hiking on flat terrain, as I am not trying to become Schwarzenegger. But there is beautiful and idyllic territory in Brad’s part of the world. Then go south into northern Italy for the absolute best food in the entire world. Personally, I am not as wowed by southern Italy as most people are. It is a very commercially promoted old civilization. I am always uplifted by Italians; not sure why, but they are energetic and interesting; not in the least depressing to be around, like some Americans I know.

    Of course, as an RC, you surely want to see the theme park of Peter’s fantasyland, The Vatican. Long, long lines for everything, just like Disneyland.

    There is some incredibly beauty in the former Eastern Europe. Poland was kind of depressing when I was there, as it was the dirty equivalent of Appalachia, with cars up on blocks (tractors and rusting plows in Poland’s case) and front porches collapsing with nobody caring. I am told a lot of that has been cleaned up as Poland has gathered new momentum from the EU. Czech Republic and Romania have also benefited greatly from Europe’s advances during the last decade.

    I am also a city boy, and a place like Leipzig is about the smallest I am interested in spending time. There is incredible beauty in the UK. The rolling hills of Sussex is a place where I would spend time painting landscapes, if I had any artistic ability in me, but I don’t. Likewise, the Lake District is a place of restful beauty. There is a wonderful place for the erudite to stay, there in Grassmere, but I don’t want to ruin the atmosphere by publicizing the name. Email me and I will send it. The Romans were in Yorkshire and much of the architecture there is totally different than Saxon-developed places. Same for Bath.

    Knowing you, I would start in Italy at Peter’s Fantasyland, and work my way north and west. You may never make it out of northern Italy.

  56. I hear you loud and clear, thanks Chuck. Mrs. OFD has been to Italy a couple of times and daughter spent a year in Roma; I don’t dig crowds or cities, but would be interested in Lombardy and Tuscany, Vienna, and Budapest. Maybe Prague. I enlisted in the AF a zillion years ago partly having in mind that I would get an assignment in Europe but things didn’t pan out that way for me. So all my overseas travel was in SEA back then and I haven’t otherwise left Nova Anglia since, except for three years in Nova Caesarea with first wife, who is now a big lawyer down there.

    Thanks again for your insights, and anyone else here who’s been to Europe can feel free to jump in, yo….

    Just ruminating that I might like to visit before it’s all too late….

  57. In Scotland I like the south west (Dumfries and Galloway) and Edinburgh. The Whisky Trail is nice country but further north it’s pretty uninteresting scenery. Never been to Glasgow but I hear there are some good museums. Would like to go to see the Edinburgh Military Tattoo eventually.

    Cornwall, where my ancestors come from, is pretty nice and laid back.

  58. I’ve always wanted to go to Tuscany and Roma for the food and history, but I also would like to visit Slovenia and Croatia, especially the Dalmatian Coast. Ancient, lots of Roman and Austro-Hungarian influences, with some Byzantine/Ottoman thrown in for variety, and still off the beaten path for many North Americans.

    My previous employer was an inveterate traveler who eschewed tourist areas, and he came back raving about Dalmatia when he visited in 2006. A trip that included Roma, Lucca and Firenze, Venice and Trieste.

    The Deacon’s tunic is called a dalmatic and originated in Dalmatia. RCs should fit in well in Slovenia (58% RC) and especially Croatia (85%).

  59. Yeah, Mrs. OFD’s aunt and uncle visited Croatia recently, but it was on some kinda b.s. tour thing. Past seventy-year history is pretty brutal.

    We would mos def skip the tourista areas and avoid crowds; also, as I mentioned, not averse to roughing it within reason. And wife has pretty good French and some Italian; I have nit-noy of each, the latter in the medieval version, LOL. I’ll just find a priest and we can scribble back and forth in Latin.

  60. I would assume most priests nowadays would not know much Latin, so you might end up talking to yourself. Hasn’t Princess or Mrs OFD taught you any Frog or Italian?

  61. I’m not much of the travelling type, but here are my few thoughts. I’m not such a city fan, but Vienna is very pleasant. Southern France is lovely to visit, though the French mentality gets tiresome after a short while.

    Probably my favorite place in the world: I am very fond of the wilds of Scotland, especially the Hebridean islands (Harris, Lewis, etc.). That’s very much a matter of taste – they’re hard to get to, and there is nothing and no one there. Absolutely lovely beaches with not a soul in sight (because it’s cold and usually windy).

    If you are fond of mountains, then it’s got to be Switzerland or Austria. The Swiss mountains are better, with hundred of well-marked hiking trails. The Austrians provide friendlier service. Of course, if you pass through Switzerland, we’ll have to meet up for a beer – whether that’s a plus or a minus, I leave to you!

  62. Jerry Coyne was talking recently about his trip to Scotland, he named a town where you dare not go swimming even in high “summer” because the water’s so cold.

    I went to Iona, but the islands and much of northern Scotland just seem to have grass, few trees or anything else to break the monotony.

    I tend to excuse the French behaviour towards tourists. Many don’t make the effort to learn even a word of their language. Just saying merci beaucoup got me a big smile from one hotel receptionist.

    I liked Germany much more than I expected. I did a coach tour in 2003, and would like to go back on my own some day. Vienna is nice too, but it was stinking hot when I was there and the hotel didn’t have air conditioning.

    I quite like Spain, I’ll bet there are some bargains there at the moment. It was 42 C in Seville when we arrived, but the hotel was air conditioned and modern. Most of the group went to some folklore show but I just stayed in m room soaking up the cool and watching tele. I was never one for folklore. If it’d been lions verses atheists I might have been tempted.

  63. the islands and much of northern Scotland just seem to have grass, few trees or anything else to break the monotony

    Windblown desolation. Lovely, but definitely a matter of taste.

    Yes, ugly Americans (or ugly Brits) are a definite problem in France. I recall one woman in a bakery who was quite convinces that IF SHE ONLY SPOKE ENGLISH LOUDLY ENOUGH the poor french girl behind the counter would understand her. I speak just enough French to buy stuff in a shop, and it does help. Still, the French attitude gets to you after a while; part of it is that the personal distance for a conversation is different: The French get closer than in other cultures. So they walk right up to you to talk, you step back, they step closer… You wind up feeling pursued.

  64. RE: recent history in Slovenia/Croatia.

    As a fan of history, I didn’t think you would be avoiding places of conflict. Best stay out of Europe, Africa or Asia then! Their entire history seems to be one war after another. Oops, you’ve already been to Asia, haven’t you? 🙂

    Come visit Montreal! The Quebecois will abuse at your language skills, the restaurants will overcharge for both food and alcohol, and the concierge at the hotel will go through your things. Just like in Paris. And we haven’t had a war there since the last time a large bus tour of Americans tried to take us over in 1812-1814.

  65. Ah, but you’re forgetting the Pork & Beans War in 1839, when Maine declared war on Canada and invaded.

  66. There was also the Pig & Potato War in 1859, over in the San Juans Islands. The “war” lasted months, though US troops were stationed on San Juan Island until 1874. However, neither had any combat fatalities, and I’ve sort of discounted them as being minor squabbles between siblings rather than actual wars.

    Canadians also invade Palm Springs, Arizona and Florida every winter, but nary a shot fired!

  67. Looking at the last two posts, I realize that the last two “battles” fought sound like English pubs…

  68. I’ll second the mention of Scotland and add Ireland to the mix. The Scottish Tourist Board did a fantastic job in 1979 (when I was traveling alone) and 1996 (with my wife) of finding nice accommodations wherever we were wandering next. In 79 I arrived in town the day after the Edinburgh Festival ended so that wasn’t trivial. In 96 we were pre-booked for our first days in Edinburgh, including the Tatoo.

    In 1988 we took the whole family to Ireland (self, wife, two daughters, son-in-law, granddaughter) and rented a vacation cottage for two weeks in a tiny little town in County Claire. It helps to have members of the group who socialize well, as in like pubs; the son-in-law went out on a commercial fishing boat one day, the younger daughter attended a wedding reception.

  69. I should mention that the tourist offices in most British towns are excellent. They have a computer system connected to hotels and B&B’s, and they always found us exceedingly nice accommodations. The trick is that those tourist offices typically close at 5:00pm, so it is necessary to reach your destination by 3:00 or 4:00pm. We never made advance reservations, and never had a problem getting a room—save in that dumpy little town of Stratford (where they outrageously decided to give Edward DeVere’s authorship credit to that illiterate itinerant, William Shakespeare). Even there, they found us a room with what they called a bed for one. It was actually larger than a twin but smaller than a full. But since we slept like spoons, we had no problems with it, and the proprietor gave us the same rate as if one person were staying, but still fed us both a full English breakfast.

  70. I will simply note here, if I haven’t already, that the Stratfordians doth protest too much; their defenses of the Stratford poetaster are always shrill, strident and even hysterical; what are they afraid of? Well, many are academics who’ve tied their careers to the hatmaker’s son’s star, apparently. Others have simply kept drinking the Stratford-on-Avon Kool-Aid, one reckons.

    If you haven’t, check out “Anonymous,” which gives fah too much credit to Ben Jonson’s involvement in the period’s specific activities, but the guy playing de Vere does a great job. (Rhys Ifans)

  71. Even a cursory look at the facts shows that Will could barely spell his own name (ever read his will?), let alone know enough about the inner workings of royalty without even being there. But my British friends, who even admit Eddie likely wrote all the material, say there are centuries of tradition that cannot just be cast aside because of the truth.

    I have never been disappointed in a Royal Shakespeare performance at Stratford-on-Avon. Even saw and met a couple of my favorite PBS-import performers there, back when I was working for PBS. (The people who are not the stars are actually very approachable and live nearby.) Met one in the local laundromat as we watched our sox go around.

  72. Yep, that sounds like the UK alright; Tradition trumps Truth. But hey, same deal with our own academic dipstick time-servers over here. Mention de Vere and you are laughed from the room as some kind of ignorant elitist, and quite possibly a fascist as well. They can all get stuffed.

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