Tornado Tracks

The graphic above is a beautiful rendering of tornado tracks from the last 56 years created by IDV Solutions. What a visualization of why there’s an area in the US called ‘Tornado Alley’, huh? They also have renderings per tornado intensity.

If you’re interested in tornado history, look no further than the Tornado History Project. The image above shows the deadly Joplin, MO EF5 tornado that killed more than 150 people on May 22, 2011.

I’ve been through hurricanes, flooding, wild fires, and even an earthquake, but thankfully I’ve never been through a tornado.

Starbucks ‘Secret’ Menu is False

It’s taken me a while to address this, but I must. After working at Starbucks for almost 2 years now, I have to tell you there there is no secret menu at Starbucks. Maybe you’ve seen this “secret menu”:

Bogus bogus bogus! Here’s your official Starbucks menu. The only potentially universally recognized drinks not on the menu are the “Red Eye” (brewed coffee with a shot of espresso), the “Black Eye” (brewed coffee with two shots of espresso), and possibly the “Dirty Chai” (a chai latte with a shot of espresso added). I say ‘possibly’ for the Dirty Chai because some people only want one shot of espresso and some want two (sometimes referred to as the “Double Dirty Chai” but not always), but it’s not universal.

To be honest, most of the time if you want ‘extra’ anything, we usually try to quantify just how much extra you want. The most common exception is ‘extra caramel’ sauce where we typically coat the cup with caramel sauce.

Any Starbucks Barista worth their salt will tell you ‘(your size drink) gets x-amount of whatever…how many would you like?’ You can customize your drink any way you want, and we encourage it, but just realize that the best way to customize it is to tell your Barista how many shots or pumps of syrup you desire (BTW, in Starbuckian, a shot refers to espresso, a pump refers to syrup). Starbucks Melody tries her hand at debunking the secret menu and she’s correct.

All this to say if you order something with some name you’ve heard and it’s not on the menu, do not be surprised if your intelligent Barista asks you questions to narrow down the specific recipe for your particular drink.

American Alligator

Dragon vs Dragon (taken by Rob Williams)

When the early Spanish explorers visited the southeastern now-USA coast, especially in Florida, they saw some of the biggest lizards they’d ever seen. El Largato (Spanish for ‘lizard’) became Anglicized into Alligator to describe these beasts that, according to the fossil record, have been around for more than 35 million years. Though the current record for the largest gator is over 19 feet long (and weighed over a ton!), the average adults are around 9-11 feet long and can live as long as a human. They have five toes per foot in the front and 4 toes per foot in the back. Their bite-force has been measured over 9400 newtons – the strongest of any currently living animal.

Gators live here

While we lived in Orlando, we were always cautioned that if there is a body of water, there could be a gator in it. I couldn’t help but always scan the surfaces trying to spy a dinosaur. The photo above is one I took of a 4-5 foot gator in the pond at the entrance of our subdivision (with a dragonfly buzzing around its head).

Gators are freshwater beasts that will eat pretty much anything they think they can overtake. Normally, at least in Florida, a gator isn’t considered a nuisance until it’s at least 4 feet long with the exceptions that it “approaches people, does not retreat if approached, or is in a location that is not natural”. Normally in Florida, a nuisance gator is killed and sold for it’s hide and meat. (BTW, a marinated, fried gator tale is kinda tasty!)

Enter the Gator Boys. Have you seen this show on The Animal Planet? These guys catch nuisance gators, take them back to their park in the Everglades, perform shows and release them back into a safe part of the wild. This is probably my favorite clip from Animal Planet’s “Gator Boys”.

I really like this show because they are an alternative nuisance gator removal (aka rescue) no-kill extraction unit group that shows these animals great respect in the Florida Everglades.

However, sometimes, in some places, the nuisance is overbearing. Presently I can’t find confirmation, but it’s my understanding that in the state of Louisiana, especially in the nation’s largest swamp, the Louisiana Atchafalaya River Basin, many years ago the American Alligator became a protected species. It worked so well that now there is a bit of an over-population. Therefore, for most of the month of September every year, there is a state-wide, tightly regulated gator hunting season.

Enter the History Channel’s “Swamp People”:

Globally, gators have some cousins. The most popular is the Crocodile. Next is the Caiman. Last is the Gavialidae. My short differentiation is that though all are Crocodilia, each are different sizes and have different shapes for their snout. Additionally, basically, gators live in the southeast US, Caiman live in South America, Gavialidae live in India, and Crocs live in SE Asia and Australia.

Finally, following is perhaps the best infographic about gators I’ve ever found.

More Sunday Funnies

Such an intimidating backboard!
Precisely what I thought!
Homer vs Peter = Mind Blown
I hate that every time I get a stack of these they go straight to recycling
Um...yeah, so there's that...
I don't know who's winning
Happens all the time
What a precious family portrait!
Warning Indeed!

Tallest on the Earth

Currently the tallest structure in the world is the Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai at over 2700 feet tall.

There’s all kinds of debate at to what defines ‘the tallest’. Do antennas count? Does the structure have to be inhabitable? If it starts under-water does that count?

What is amazing to me is just how much taller the Burj Khalifa in UAE is compared to everything else. Standing at 2723 feet, the next structure is 2120 feet. In fact, most of the structures from 2000-2100 feet are radio towers and one oil platform.

So just how tall could we build anything? Here’s a great video to let you know


Being a supervisor at work, I’ve tried to instill the idea that I embrace mistakes. If you are “going for it” and mess up, I don’t care. We can fix it! What I don’t like is people paralyzed because they don’t know what to do next.

Some of my best lessons learned are because I made a mistake and I learned from them. If you are working for me and you are trying hard to do your job correctly and make a mistake — I don’t care. Did you learn from that mistake? Usually the answer is “yes!”. Then let’s move along.

I’m easy to work with. If you are ‘under’ me, do your job as well as you can (I don’t care about mistakes as long as you’re learning). If you’re my peer, don’t criticize me unless you have instructive correction to offer. If you’re above me, please recognize I’m continually giving it everything I’ve got, doing the best I can given the circumstances, and always looking for improvement in efficiency.

Luke Skywalker Lived Where I Live

This is possibly the best information I’ve ever discovered recently! And it totally makes sense. Ready?

Luke Skywalker (aka Mark Hamill) attended Annandale High School. I currently live a few miles from this Northern Virginia High School. He attended but didn’t graduate from AHS (he graduated in LA but whatever) because his father was in the Navy.

THEREFORE: Luke Skywalker’s father was in the Navy (which of course TOTALLY makes sense — he had his own ship!). Anakin Skywalker had a ship in the Imperial “Navy” and his son attended a High School near to me geographically. Therefore, I totally understand the plight of Luke Skywalker. The poor guy was moved around constantly but he wasn’t really all that interesting until he became a Jedi. I guess that might have happened in LA, but I dunno.