This week we’ll look at some counter-intuitive observations.

Australia, for example, covers as much of the earth’s surface as the United States.

You could fit all of Poland into Texas and still be able to drive around it.

Each blue-colored state has less population than the County of Los Angeles.


When I first heard the following admonition from some environmental-activist friends, I was skeptical.

If you lug a six-pack of sodas with you on a hike or a walk along the beach, the worst litter you can leave behind are the plastic rings that hold the cans together, or so my friends said.

The rings can entrap birds and other animals, such activists warn and often display photos of seagulls which had poked at something through one of the rings and then couldn’t get their heads back out. I’ve known of skunks getting into trouble the same way.

To avoid this, my friends say, we need to cut the rings apart before disposing of them.

So this apparently is the environmentally sensitive way to litter the countryside?


Many of you classical-music lovers are probably familiar with Trois Gymnopédies by the French composer Erik Satie (1866-1925). The composition is so light and dreamy that one San Francisco radio station used to play it every evening at sunset. Click here to hear.  (Sorry about the brief introductory ad.) I never knew what the word Gymnopédies meant, however, until I finally decided to look it up this week after hearing the music once again.

A Gymnopedia as portrayed on antique Grecian pottery.

What  a surprise! Trois Gymnopédecian refers to the gymnopedia, or festival of naked young men, which was celebrated every year in ancient Sparta to honor the gods Apollo, Artemis et al. The day-long festival concluded with gymnastic exhibitions and frenzied dancing offered to Dionysius. So the next time you hear this relaxed yet dignified melody try to remember it’s all about naked young men dancing competitively in Greece a couple of thousand years ago.


Perhaps the most unexpected of all:

The Coast Guard, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Marin County Office of Emergency Services, and Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary all responded Friday to a grounded vessel along the shoreline north of Dillon Beach.  (Fish and Wildlife photo)

The Coast Guard at 8:45 a.m. Friday, March 5, received the first alert that a 90-foot vessel, the American Challenger, was in trouble near the town of Dillon Beach, according to a state report. The Challenger had been getting towed south from Puget Sound by the tug Hunter, but the tug lost propulsion when a rope became entangled in the propeller.  At 1 a.m., Saturday, the vessel grounded on a rocky shoreline near Dillon Beach where it remains, Fish and Wildlife has reported.  At this point officials’ main concern is that the Challenger could leak enough fuel to create an oil spill.