Friday, September 16, 2011

Gems of the Web: snowfall database
Tony Crocker's '' is another all-substance, no-style labor of love that I am putting forth as an old school gem of the web. Written in simple, iframe-era HTML with no appreciation or ambition for the aesthetic of web 2.0 or the intriguing possibilities of data-visualization with something as palpably measurable and comparable as snowfall, Crocker has built a dogged and complete curation of North American ski resort snowfall data going back to the late 1990s (which, judging by the look, is the first and last time the site itself experienced any design work).

Clearly Tony and I have few things in common: a passion for skiing and fascination with weather and data. He's created a resource here that I would probably want to create myself if it didn't already exist. The painstaking data collection itself is one thing: accurate, organized and, I would suspect, mostly manually curated from a wild variety of sources as I don't think there's a lot of RSS of snowfall data going on. But there's also the analysis from a skier's point of view with a candid account of the what matters to the people seeking this kind of information: powder.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Assassin Bug

Ever since I was a small boy who chanced upon the terrifying spectacle of a pair of mating beetles on the sidewalk in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I've maintained a horror-fan's fascination with the insect world. So naturally, I was intrigued when I spotted this creeper lurking near the entrance of our house on the Eastern Shore. 

It's a buggy place out there for sure, particularly on a steamy midsummer night when the lights stay on inside and the windows become irresistible, luminous magnets for a teeming, insectoid phantasmagoria of unimaginable variety. Watch and you'll see everything from sub-tropical jumping spiders to fantastically woolly caterpillars to clambering katydids (which are apparently vicious predators). 

But none so far had topped this freaking stranger. Which is about as weird as that unidentified bastard I discovered in my shag carpet last year. So I was duly stoked at the opportunity for another cloud-sourcing experiment to uncover the nature of this little beastmaster. But for my own skills at internet searching, I quickly verified the identity of my discovery and thus spoiled the mystery while adding to my own trove of trivia.

Per the excellent website,, (a gem of the web, no doubt) this is a 'wheel bug' of the assassin bug family of 'true bugs' of the order hemiptera and famous for the painful bite it inflicts with that absurdly large rostrum. Yikes!