Originally ran in July, 2009.
This is the Falkirk Wheel. It’s a rotating boat lift that connects the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. The difference in height between the two canals is 79 feet. Originally the two canals were connected with a series of 11 locks but by the 1930s these had fallen into disuse, were filled in and the land built upon.
The Millenium Commission decided to regenerate the canals of central Scotland to connect Glasgow with Edinburgh once more. Designs were submitted for a lock to link the canals, with the Falkirk Wheel design winning. As with many Millennium Commission projects the site includes a visitors’ centre containing a shop, café and exhibition center.
Architectural services were supplied by Scotland-based RMJM from initial designs by Nicoll Russell Studios and engineers Binnie Black and Veatch.
The wheel, which has an overall diameter of 35 metres (110 ft), consists of two opposing arms which extend 15 metres beyond the central axle, and which take the shape of a Celtic-inspired, double-headed axe.Two sets of these axe-shaped arms are attached about 25 metres (82 ft) apart to a 3.5 metres (11 ft) diameter axle. Two diametrically-opposed water-filled caissons, each with a capacity of 80,000 imperial gallons (360,000 l; 96,000 US gal), are fitted between the ends of the arms.
These caissons always weigh the same whether or not they are carrying their combined capacity of 600 tonnes (590 LT; 660 ST) of floating canal barges as, according to Archimedes’s principle, floating objects displace their own weight in water, so when the boat enters, the amount of water leaving the caisson weighs exactly the same as the boat. This keeps the wheel balanced and so, despite its enormous mass, it rotates through 180° in five and a half minutes while using very little power. It takes just 22.5 kilowatts (30.2 hp) to power the electric motors, which consume just 1.5 kilowatt-hours (5.4 MJ) of energy in four minutes, roughly the same as boiling eight kettles of water.
The wheel is the only rotating boat lift of its kind in the world, and is regarded as an engineering landmark for Scotland. The United Kingdom has one other boat lift: the Anderton boat-lift in Cheshire. The Falkirk Wheel is an improvement on the Anderton boat lift and makes use of the same original principle: two balanced tanks, one going up and the other going down, however, the rotational mechanism is entirely unique to the Falkirk Wheel.
I bought some genuine Tabasco Sauce today. I LOVE hot sauces. Each one is good for a specific thing. For example, Crystal hot sauce is absolutely the BEST THING to put on popcorn. Screw butter. For me it’s Crystal hot sauce made by the Baumer family in New Orleans. I happen to actually know Mr. Baumer. His boat was three slips away from the Lady Ann which I ran out at the lakefront. Crystal is also pretty damned good on red beans and rice. When I was getting ready to move to France I went out and bought five bottles of Cyrstal. The first time I went to the grocery store over in Antibes I discovered they only sold two kinds of hot sauce over there…Tabasco and Crystal.
I also like D’Elidas. down here since I’ve never seen any Malinda’s and D’Elidas is close. They just started stocking Sriracha sauce at Romero and Rey. That stuff, with a bit of melted butter makes an excellent wing sauce. I don’t care for Cholula.
Now Tabasco is interesting. I actually know where Avery Island is in Louisiana. Ran crewboats all around the place for several years, but never stepped foot on it. Here’s the thing about Tabasco…it’s good on, like red beans and rice, but it sucks on popcorn. HOWEVER, if you’re going to make a Bloody Mary, there’s only ONE hot sauce that will work and that’s Tabasco. PERIOD! Any other hot sauce sucks when it comes to making bloody Bloody Marys.
Now, when I took the bottle of Tabasco out of the box it came in I looked at the stuff printed on it. Interesting. D’Elidas is made of “Selected habanero peppers (not just any run of the mill habaneros, no siree, ‘selected’ ones), Mustard, Vinegar, Water, Salt, Onion, Xanthan Gum (whatever the hell that stuff is) and 0.1% Sodium Benzoate (mmmmm, sodium benzoate).
I first had Melinda’s sauce at a place on Caye Caulker, Belize. There was a woman there who set up four card tables on her porch and made lunches. The most fantastic thing on her simple menu was a lobster tostada: flat, crispy tortilla with refried black beans, a healthy heaping serving of lobster salad, some chopped lettuce and grated cheese topping. For a buck U.S. !
There was a bottle of Melinda’s on the table and it was FANTASTIC ! In the six days I spent anchored at Caye Caulker I had lunch there four times…(I didn’t discover the place until my second day). Melinda’s was the first carrot-based hot sauce I’d ever come across. The ingredients are: Fresh Carrots, Choice Red Habanero Peppers, Onions, Lime Juice, Vinegar, Garlic and Salt. No Xanthan gum or sodium benzoate for that girl.
Now, probably the simplest of the sauces is Tabasco. Ingredients are: Distilled vinegar, red pepper, salt. PERIOD ! That’s it. NOTHING ELSE ! The Peppers are ground into a mash on the day of harvest and placed along with salt in white oak barrels. After aging for up to three years, the mash is strained to remove skins and seeds. The resulting liquid is mixed with vinegar, stirred occasionally for a month. And there you have it.
On the side of the box is the Nutrition Facts box. There are 0 calories in the official FDA “Serving Size”. Total Fat? 0 and there is 35 mg of Sodium in that serving which constitutes 1% of your daily value according to the FDA. Compare that to a “serving” of Old El Paso Thick ‘n Chunky Salsa that contains 200 mg of sodium of 9% of your daily value and that’s per 2 tablespoons of the stuff. And you’re never getting up from the table after just using 2 tablespoons, are ya?
Ask anyone in the world what the first thing is they think of when they hear the word “Panama,” and the nearly universal response would have to be CANAL! One Hundred years ago the opening of the Panama Canal literally changed how the world worked. Shipping no longer had to make the treacherous voyage around Cape Horn, one of the worst places for shipping on the face of the globe.
Eventually, though shipping outgrew the size of the Canal’s locks. The lock chambers are 110 ft (33.53 m) wide by 1,050 ft (320 m) long, with a usable length of 1,000 ft (305 m). These dimensions determine the maximum size of ships that can use the canal; this size is known as Panamax. For years many new ships have been referred to as Postpanamax because they wouldn’t fit. Now, though, the country has been on a construction project unlike any other ever attempted. They’ve been building new locks to accommodate the larger ships. The new lock chambers will be 427 m (1,400.92 ft) long, 55 m (180.45 ft) wide, and 18.3 m (60.04 ft) deep. They will use rolling gates instead of miter gates, which are used by the existing locks.
To give you some idea of the immensity of this project take a look at these two videos updating the progress of the new lock system. Work is close to 90% completed. Income from the Canal today, and what will come from increased traffic (though it will take decades to pay off the several BILLION dollars the project will cost) is what makes Panama the most prosperous country in Central America and much of South America as well. Not only had the Canal project been a boon here ports all over the United States and Europe have been on a building boom, too, to match the anticipated volume of large shipping that will be coming their way with the completion of the Canal.
One thing worries me, though. This project has been a boon to construction workers in the country, and people don’t often think of all the businesses that support such a project…concrete companies, the drivers who haul the concrete and the land that’s being excavated. The mechanics who maintain those trucks. And it gets right down to the little corner “Super Minis” of “Chinos”, Panama’s answer to convenience stores where the workers spend their pay checks. What happens to all those people when the project is finished. What will they do for work then? Will it cause social unrest and massive unemployment? Time will tell, of course.
You may notice that I said “The” dog, not “My” dog. That’s only because she’s only “my” dog by virtue of the fact that I feed her. And even then, it’s not every day. She’ll disappear for a couple or three days every now and then. She kind of accepts that her name is “Dirt Dog” though she’ll only come to that name when I call her if she feels like it. The reason I call her that is because she’s mostly white with a couple of BIG black spots and one of her favorite things to do is to go down to the river, take a dip and then lay around in dirt giving her a coating of mud sometimes.
She came limping into my life a couple of years ago with a broken leg. Naturally I took her to the vet and got her fixed up. Who wouldn’t? And I took her to one of the spay and neuter clinics that are held around the area monthly. Chiriquí doesn’t need anymore dogs.
Anyway, this morning when I went to feed her I noticed there were a couple of things hanging from her lower lip. It looked like a couple of pieces of dried grass. She does spend a lot of time roaming around in the brush, and right now towards the end (hopefully) of the “dry” season most of the grass and weeds around are the color of straw. But when I was able to get up close to her I saw it wasn’t grass. It was a couple of what looked like porcupine quills.
I was able to pull them out of her lip. She shook her head and walked off without touching her breakfast. I wondered if there were, in fact, porcupines in Panama and this is what I discovered…
It’s Rothschild’s porcupine (wouldn’t you know those rich bastards would have an animal named after them?).
According to Wikipedia, Coendou rothschildi, is a species of rodent in the family Erethizontidae. It is usually considered endemic to Panama. This species can be found in lowland deciduous and evergreen forest. It is nocturnal and arboreal; it sleeps during the day in vine tangles near the tops of trees. The diet includes fruit and leaves. Well, I had a cantaloup that was going bad and threw out in the back yard the other day. I noticed yesterday morning that one large part of it had been dragged off to another spot and it was probably one of these guys, and last night the dog decided to tangle with it and got a surprise.
I tried to get a photo of the quills but they didn’t come out. They’re about an inch and an eight long, black on the barbed end and about two thirds of them are straw colored.
That’s your lesson for the day, kids. And your new vocabulary word is endemic. There’s probably never going to be a time in your life when there’ll be a chance to use the word Erethizontidae but you might be able to work endemic in somewhere. Endemism is the ecological state of a species being unique to a defined geographic location, such as an island, nation, country or other defined zone, or habitat type; organisms that are indigenous to a place are not endemic to it if they are also found elsewhere. Huh, I didn’t know that until this morning, did you? You would, of course score HUGE points if you could work Erethizontidae into a conversation some day.
“Whatever’s good for your soul… do more of that.”
You know, sometimes we think of our mothers as just “moms.” Later in our lives, we often realize how unique and special they really were. I’m not talking about moms like Hillary Clinton who might some day be president of the United States. I’m talking about the moms who cooked your breakfast in the morning and packed you a lunch for school. That kind of mom. Sometimes they do things that really surprise you by doing something you never expected.
I was looking at a quote just now that reminded me of something my mom did a long, long time ago that I haven’t thought about for probably more than half a century. But before I get into that, here’s the first thing she did that blew me away…
I’m the first of seven sons. Two of my brothers died in infancy. They were buried at my father’s plot in Woburn, Mass. My mom’s family was buried in Westminster, Mass. When she died she had herself cremated. Part of her was scattered with the boys in Woburn and the rest with her family in Westminster. I remember I thought that was one of the coolest things I’d ever heard of, and I was really proud of her for doing that. (As a sidebar: My dad was also cremated. Part of him was scattered off the mouth of Venice Inlet in Florida, a place he loved and had fished at a lot with my mom. Most of his ashes were buried in Woburn. After that my brothers, David, Jeff and Mark, and I went out to Westminster, each with a small Ziploc bag and scattered what remained of him at our mother’s grave.)
But what started this whole thing off was seeing a Louis Bourgeois quote that said: “Just remember that others don’t see what you do.” It was back around 1945 when my brother Jimmie died. Of course, back then, there was nothing like heart transplants going on, but they were doing corneal implants and despite her grief my mom’s thinking was so ahead of her time that she donated her baby’s eyes so someone else could see. It’s a shame that I hadn’t remembered that for so long, and remembered what a unique way of thinking she had.
That’s me on the left in the photo, and my brother Jimmie on the right.