The Great American Freak Show
ELDER MUSIC: Joe, T-Bone and Otis


Category_bug_interestingstuff Interesting Stuff is a weekly listing of short takes and links to web items that have caught my attention; some related to aging and some not, some useful and others just for fun.

You are all encouraged to submit items for inclusion. Just click “Contact” in the upper left corner of any Time Goes By page to send them. I'm sorry that I probably won't have time to acknowledge receipt and there is no guarantee of publication. But when I do include them, you will be credited and I will link to your blog if you have one.

In celebration of Earth Day this year, NASA released a selection of their best photographs of Earth taken from space.

This one is Cairo and the Nile Valley at night:

Cairo and the Nile Valley_1923_428-321

And look at this! Manhattan on 11 September 2001. Wow.

911 from space

You will find NASA's collection of 40 Earth Day photos here. If you have never explored the website, do take some time for that – it is amazing in many different ways.

People with hearing loss now have a new tool – a free one, thanks to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – to give them easier access to the telephone. Clear Captions is an internet service that provides real-time closed captioning on your computer as you are on the telephone.

Currently, it works with landlines and iPhones but other mobiles phones will be added this year. The captioning also works with an internet-connected iPad and iPod Touch. Here is a video about the service:

For the moment, this brand-new service works only with incoming calls, but outgoing calls will be added. The captioning is done by live – that is, human – transcribers and not voice recognition software.

It seems to me that this is a terrific service. Find out more here where you can also sign up. Remember, it is free.

Sometimes those YouTube videos you want to post on your blog are just way too long and you want only a portion of them. Hard to do if you're not into video editing.

But now there's a free service, TubeChop. Enter the URL of the video (the link that's supplied on the video page when you click “share”; not the one in the address bar), click “search” and follow the simple instructions. Anyone can do this. Give it a try.

The audio on this video – the unrelenting barking dog – is really annoying. But otherwise, it's funny.


Wolfson News Stand

I know this building in Greenwich Village. It's on the northeast corner of Sixth Avenue and 11th Street. I must have passed it a thousand times. I picked up newspapers and magazines there hundreds of times.

The phone booth is long gone now and I don't recall the detective agency name painted on the second-floor window but it could easily have been there once. Check out the other details – the fire hydrant, the stained bricks, the trash at the curbs.

Vintage photo, right? Wrong! It is a miniature sculpture by artist Alan Wolfson who creates every tiny bit of his urban sculptures from scratch of wood, cardboard, paper, plastics and metal. Here's Wolfson's Brooklyn Bridge subway station.

Wolfson Brooklyn Bridge Station

There are a whole bunch more you can see at his website.

Another graph from my friend, Kent McKamy.

Facebook Graph

It always amazes me how easily dogs and cats, with all that fur on their faces, convey how they feel with their expressions. This dog goes further, behaving amazingly like a kid who has been caught out. (Hat tip to Darlene Costner of Darlene's Hodgepodge)

If a proposed U.S. State Department Passport Application idea – the Biographical Questionnaire – goes into effect, about 74,000 people who would be required to use it each year will probably be denied a passport. Before you read further, take a look at the questionnaire [pdf].

Among the impossible-to-answer-questions is to list “all residences in and out of the United States starting with birth until the present.” WHAT? I've lived in 42 places – I don't even remember at least a dozen of them.

Or, how about: “Did your mother receive pre-natal or post-natal medical care” requiring name of hospital, name of doctor and dates of appointments.

This is a joke, right??? It doesn't appear to be. The announcement of the proposal and request for public comment is here. Of course, by the the time I learned of this the period of time for comment has ended.

There is more information at the Identity Project blog which reports that the State Department estimates it would take an average applicant 45 minutes to compile all the information. What are they thinking? I wouldn't be able to do it at all. Period.

Thanks to Darlene Costner, I now know that there is an annual sand castle contest right here in Oregon at Cannon Beach. And what sand castles they are:


Building begins as the tide goes out and must be finished and judged, of course, before it returns to wash away these amazing sand sculptures. Take a look at these from the 2010 contest – all the more astonishing for their ephemeral nature.


Very different and interesting links. The Internet has surely opened the world to us.

The sand sculptures are very powerful especially when you consider the time plus the creativity & patience it takes to do this. Wonderful. Thanks again for this Saturday column. Makes my w/end.:) Dee

Thanks for the 'Clear Comments' information. Something I will surely use.

Loved the two animal videos. That's one brave little duck.

Meant 'Clear Captions'!!

Since the video was not captioned, I couldn't understand it. The cc button did not turn on captioning for the video. Amazing.

Thanks for these. You give me a lift on days a lift is needed. The duck...I turned off the sound and marveled at the amazing doggedness of the duck. Yup too, you can easily find the guilty dog. :) Tube shots, cool. NASA very cool. I have a couple of sites for you also but continue to forget to send the links.

I can't believe the stupidity of that proposal for the Biographical Questionnaire. Stupid and intrusive.

The models are indeed brilliant, although I suspect a number of model railroaders would give him a run for his money, although without calling it art.

Thanks for the info and links. A fine selection, as usual.

Loved the plucky ducky and hangdog videos.

Photos from the ISS are truly amazing. Our world looks so peaceful from up there. I follow Astro Paulo on Twitter who's on the ISS now. He posts photos frequently.!/astro_paolo

NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day also posts fascinating photos.

Thanks for the links, a great collection.

Good stuff. Although I'm a cat person by nature, I actually felt myself feeling sorry for the barking dog: since puppyhood he's learned the utility of barking and growling to ward off potential foes, and now his best efforts are useless against this relentless little pursuer. I hope his confidence wasn't shattered forever.

Re Clear Captions,
I downloaded the iPhone app and tried it out. It doesn't work quite like the videos describe. You can see my review on Web Teacher. I have a couple of tips for people who really need to start using it immediately.

I wait for Interesting Stuff all week and I'm never disappointed Ronni.


I would love to know what that little duck was thinking. Is he trying to be friends, play a game or does he think he is big enough to whip that dog? Apparently the dog thinks so.

One of your best "interesting stuff" posts yet ... and they're all good. Esp. like the NASA photos, and that fb graph is hilarious!

Wolfson's minatures are great, I love these things. My grandgirl and I are building dollhouses sort of, just a couple of rooms at a time, standalones. They are art in my book, especially after reading his commentary about his pieces.

As for the Biographical Questionaire, what the h-ll? Thanks for the heads up. I had to fill out something like this for a security clearance years ago. Very invasive. Who evens knows that stuff, why is it any of their business. And that stuff about natal care, what on earth are they up too?

I just posted the link to the biographical questionaire material on my facebook, grrr.

That passport application is ridiculous! I know very few people (any?) who have or can even find all of that information. I'm glad I have my passport already!

I loved the videos, especially the guilty doggy. The sand sculptures are amazing!

There is a sand sculpture contest in Portland each year, also - are you aware of it? It's called Sand in the City and goes in at Pioneer Courthouse Square. You can see the sculptures for longer, since there's no water to wash them out - they truck the sand in for the contest and leave them up for a day or two before clearing it out. I don't know how crowded or big the coast one is; Portland's is small (given the available space), with a bit of a mini-fair atmosphere and a lot of people.

I wasn't meaning to suggest in my comment above that the model shops couldn't or shouldn't be considered as art. I was simply saying that the same thing has been done for years by model railroaders without them even considering the possibility that they were artists. As an example of what I mean look at the work of the late John Allen in the US

and John Ahern in the UK

In fact this has given me a great idea for a blog post!

Hi Ronni. I just noticed your recent photo top right of your page. Beautiful.

As promised here is the post stimulated by the link to work by Alan Wolfson in Ronni's post.

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