It practically gallops!

Ripe Van Winkle

 Some of the leaves on my fig tree have started turning yellow and falling off. However the fruits look the same as they did a month ago. According to one Internet article, the tree is either getting too much water or not enough. Another article suggested fertilizer. Yet another suggested mulch.

I watched a video in which a man removed the leaves from one side of his fig tree to make the fruit on that side ripen faster. His Brown Turkey figs were much larger than mine. I’m willing to remove a few leaves and give the tree extra water to see what happens.

In the most recent Einstein Simplified podcast, I talked a little about my fig problem. It led to an improv scene about composting. You can listen by pressing the play button, if you so desire.


Bone Appétit

Dr. Bill Bass did something different for Monday’s “Dinner with the Bone Doctor” at Echo Bistro & Wine Bar. He started his forensic lecture with a quiz.

Before the guests arrived, Dr. Bass placed a bone on each table along with a copy of the quiz. As they enjoyed their meal, the diners were asked to determine if the bone was human or animal and to identify what type of bone it was.

There were some tricky answers. For example there was a young human femur that was about the same length as an adult dog femur. The most unusual bone was a 7th cervical vertebra from a bison, which makes up part of the animal’s hump. I remembered seeing it once before, at a similar dinner in January, 2012. When Dr. Bass held the bison bone, I thought it looked like a sword.

One human femur could be identified as coming from a teenager because the epiphysis at the knee had not yet fused. I heard Dr. Bass use the term “epiphyses united,” which I thought sounded like a Greek soccer team.

 I was privileged to once again be the emcee for “Dinner with the Bone Doctor.” Monday’s date was chosen months ago to coincide with the planned release date of the next Jefferson Bass novel, The Breaking Point. They went ahead with the dinner even though the book release has been rescheduled to June, 2015.


Hazari Materials Team

A crowd was gathered around Dr. Al Hazari on Market Square on Sunday. The chemistry professor had a table at the HoLa Festival and was putting on a very cool demonstration, literally.

When my wife and I approached, Dr. Hazari was making clouds on the ground. As people drew closer, he warned those with sandals to stay back so they didn’t freeze their toes. I missed the beginning of the demonstration but I assume he was pouring liquid nitrogen on the ground. As it hit the cement, it immediately boiled and turned to vapor. Dr. Hazari explained that his clouds were similar to clouds in the sky.

 Next, Dr. Hazari pointed out a piece of dry ice that was boiling in the bottom of a large graduated cylinder. He added different clear liquids to make the colors of the rainbow. The experiment was similar to a pH test. The colors changed as the solution became more acidic. Each color represented a different pH range.


Heart Knox Life

The 2014 Greater Knoxville Heart Walk drew a large crowd to World’s Fair Park on Sunday. I was the event emcee but I was also a participant. The cause is meaningful to me because, like many others, I’ve lost relatives to heart disease and stroke. The ailments are the number one and number four killers in the United States.

The Heart Walk started in World’s Fair Park and headed south through the performance lawn. My wife and I paused along the Second Creek Greenway to take a selfie. The 3.1 mile route continued to Neyland Drive, where it made a large loop before returning to the Greenway and World’s Fair Park.


Go Go! Gala

At the start of the fundraising gala for Go! Contemporary Dance Works, sketch artists drew pictures of the dancers. The sketches will be sold at the studio next week. The Dancetasia Gala was held Friday night at The Foundry. I was asked to pinch-hit as emcee.

In addition to the silent auction, live auction and prime-rib dinner, the gala featured excerpts from upcoming performances by the Go! dancers. The pieces came from a show titled “Continuum,” which will take place at the Clarence Brown Theatre on November 1. The photo on the left is from “Golden Lilies.”

My favorite excerpt was from a piece called “Silent Cinema… Groucho’s Mark.” The dancers paid tribute to Charlie Chaplin, Laurel & Hardy, and other silent film greats. At one point, they used their chairs to pantomime a funny scene of a crowded car ride along a winding road.


General T.S.O.

Paul O’Neill, the founder of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, is a native New Yorker. At one point in my phone interview with him, I made him laugh by using a New York accent. Paul called WNOX to promote the band’s December 10 concert at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville.

Paul said the band only plays Christmas shows in November, December and the first week of January. He seemed impressed when I agreed that the Christmas season ends on January 6, which is the twelfth day of Christmas.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra is performing The Christmas Attic album for the first time this year. They are currently rehearsing for the upcoming tour, which starts November 13 in Ohio and Iowa. Paul explained how and why the band splits in two for the holiday season.

As is normal, I only had time to play highlights of the conversation on the air. However, I posted the full interview here.


Ranch Dressing

A lengthy article in Oxford American about the Body Ranch at Texas State University in San Marcos pointed out a huge difference between it and the Body Farm in Knoxville. The identity of one of the donors was revealed in a 2012 newspaper story.

The article makes fascinating comparisons between the Body Ranch and the Buddhist practice of “sky burial.” A Zoroastrian sect and some Native American tribes practice similar rituals in which bodies of the dead are left to be eaten by vultures.

The family in the article was understandably proud that their loved one had donated her body to science. What they didn’t take into account was that some friends and colleagues didn’t know about the donation. They learned of it after the youngest sibling gave permission for the Associated Press to use his mother’s name in a newspaper story. Then another brother shared the link on Facebook and wrote, “Hey look, Mom got eaten by vultures! Awesome.”

While the family members were happy about seeing their mother’s skull in the newspaper, most of their friends and acquaintances were upset by it. Apparently the woman’s dental work was recognizable in the photo.

At the University of Tennessee, none of the donors are identified by name. Their skeletons are placed in boxes with a serial number and the sex, race and age of the person. The serial number tells what year they died and the order in which they were received. For example, the first donation to be received next year will be assigned the number 01-15D. The 15 will stand for 2015 and 01 means they were first. The D stands for donated.

When I interviewed Dr. Bill Bass for East Tennessee PBS, we sat in front of cardboard boxes containing donated skeletons. The TV crew agreed to blur any visible serial numbers as an added precaution.


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