Posted by Ellen

At a hotel, every day is wash day.

Posted by Ellen

We perhaps remember what happened last year in Great Britain when the public was invited to submit names for the government's new scientific research vessel. Almost all the people who participated suggested the same name–Boaty McBoatface–a very nice name, we thought. We even submitted it ourselves to the organization responsible for naming our first grandchild. And just like the Brits, we had our submission swatted back at us unceremoniously, and so we learned that the world is run by tyrants who tromp all over the will of the people.

In Britain, the powers that be promptly named the research ship after a long-dead naturalist, though they did throw out a little bone to public opinion in announcing that the ship's robot submarine would bear the winning name. And so this week, the little yellow Boaty McBoatface departed for its first mission, to explore meltwater flow and underwater currents in the Southern Ocean near Antarctica.

A British commentator writing under the name Stuart Heritage, a name that might be even sillier than Boaty McBoatface, helps us understand the larger issues here:

Boaty McBoatface is what the people wanted.... So it's a bad idea? So what? People vote for bad ideas all the time....

Look at [London Mayor] Boris Johnson. Boris Johnson is a terrible idea. He's a egotistical twit in a child-sized Sia wig who keeps filling London with insane foreign-owned monuments to his own genitals, but people keep voting for him anyway.... Nobody overrode the results and installed a more sensible mayor.

Boaty McBoatface would have been trampled by the might of the state had it been suggested in mainland Europe, while the gonzo patriotism of the US would have left the poll only containing options that sounded like Bruce Springsteen albums – Soaring Eagle or Thunder Avenue....  Boaty is the British character writ large. “We are British,” it says. “We have terrible ideas but, God bless us, we stick to them.”

Boaty McBoatface is a godawful name for a boat, and anyone who voted for it deserves to be stripped naked and fed poison in a dungeon for the rest of time, but the people should get what the people want. Can you hear us? Je suis Boaty McBoatface. Nous sommes tous Boaty McBoatface.

Posted by Ellen

John must have been about eight years old when he came across the special offer in a seed catalog: hey kids, add a penny of your own money to your parents' seed order, and you'll get a super fantastic packet of seeds just for you to plant.

If I remember correctly, we taped the penny to the order form, and I got my seeds and he got his. Both our gardens did pretty well that summer, thanks to the good advice of our neighbor on Fifth Avenue in Tuscaloosa, Mr. Crawford. John's turnip, shown here, must have been exactly the super fantastic return he'd been hoping for on his investment–and yup, he's still a gardener today, thirty years later.

At harvest time, he posed for a Polaroid snapshot in the kitchen with his brothers, Joe and Ted. Joe appears to be checking out a previously shot Polaroid, probably watching the colors emerge magically from the paper. Ted appears to be annoyed. Jealous maybe, of his brother's turnip?

Posted by Ellen

An electron micrograph, colorized, showing one little leg of a teeny little soil mite.

Posted by Ellen

When the snow starts to melt in Yaroslavl, Russia, the city's famed Assumption Cathedral shows up in the slush.

Posted by Ellen

Above, Mardi Gras, 1906, at the Canal Street ferry terminal in New Orleans. A crowd awaits the arrival of Rex in his royal chariot, seen below.

Posted by Ellen

After 15 years of service in a city fire department, which likely involved one or more calls a day, every day, round the clock, round the year, a fire engine is pretty well beat up.

If it's well worn but not completely used up at that point, it goes into the city's reserve fleet, to replace newer equipment that's out of service for repairs or maintenance.

After 5 or so years of reserve duty, it's surplus; maintenance at that point is costly, and there is newer equipment falling into reserve status.

So 20-year-old firetrucks go on the market, at a steep discount, and the purchasers typically are small, volunteer fire departments, which could never afford the $500,000 or more needed to buy a new pumper vehicle.

The duty level expected of the old truck isn't nearly as heavy with a volunteer force, where it might be called out for fires only a few times a year instead of several times a day.

The fire engine pictured here was bought new by the Tuscaloosa City Fire Department in 1984; twenty years later, it was sold to the Sapps–Union Chapel Volunteer Fire Department in nearby Pickens County, which is still using it in 2017 and plans to keep running it forever.

Posing with it are Assistant Chief Troy Jordan and Fire Chief Pauline Hall.

Posted by Ellen

Andy "Brunso" Paves and Michel "Jean Claude Van Damsel" Anais, married since 2015, have parlayed professional sports into advanced degrees and non-sports professions.

Andy's professional MMA cage-fighting record is 5–1, with two of his wins by submission. He recently completed his PhD in clinical psychology at the University of Washington and is currently interning in Honolulu.

Skating for Seattle's Sugar Skulls roller derby team, Michel won all-star acclaim on the banked track and earned her MSW at the University of Washington.