Monday, March 31, 2008

A personalized radio station

at you can type in the kind of music you like and Pandora will immediately set up-for free- a radio station that streams into your computer that music and other music like it. I'm listening right now.

edit: I have been listening for 45 minutes now and there have not been ANY ADS! This must be too good to last...but I'm liking it so far.

It all depends on what you choose to look at

Photography by nature has an interesting duality: it captures reality exactly and it captures reality distorted. It all depends on what you choose to look at. I often post photos of the natural beauty around here, and largely the county is gorgeous. There are parts however, which, if I chose to present ONLY those, would give an entirely different impression.

The town of Comer has seen booms and busts, and mini-booms and mini-busts. It is going through one of the latter now. The Chinese restaurant moved to Danielsville. The Comer News editor, who was extremely well-loved, died and the space is still empty. "The Warehouse" sign is the best part of a crumbling building. The lonely newspaper stand in front of an old sign for a former senior center is sad. The rusty thing by the Farmer's Market stand has long ago seen better days. The picket fence topped by a weird collection of things fronts an industrial lot with junk inside.

The two bright spots for me, aside from Blue Bell Gallery, are Cup of Karma Cafe and Carmine's Pizza Time, going-strong restaurants that bracket Comer News. What would we do without Carmine's and Karma Cafe?! I love you! So, here's another view of Comer...

Sunday, March 30, 2008

mmm, mull!

The Danielsville Volunteer Fire Department hosts an annual chicken mull fundraiser. This is a dish only found in NE Georgia and it well-loved by the locals here. A bunch of friends and I went last night to the annual event, it being my first time. They showed me the ropes, because there is a definite process to eating mull. The thickened soup/stew is accompanied by hot pickles, cole slaw, and saltine crackers. One must crumble LOTS of saltines into the bowl of mull, and if brave, season it with Tabasco. Sweet tea is of course on hand and for dessert there was cherry or apple crumble to choose from.

Fire Department guys roam around with a pitcher of more mull and refill you as much as you want. Mull is made with milk, butter, seasonings, and either shredded or ground meat. In the old days rabbit was used quite frequently, my old timer friends tell me. Today the meat of choice is chicken. Tee shirts are available, they say, "DVFD 25th annual Chicken mull: no bones about it just good mull." It was an enjoyable, very local, evening.

Mull this over:
According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia, the dish known in northeast Georgia as chicken mull is a stew of chicken meat (ground or cut into bite-sized or smaller pieces), broth, milk, butter, vegetables, and seasonings, thickened with crumbs of soda crackers. It is also called chicken stew, chicken soup (rarely), and in south Georgia, chicken jallop. Because grinding, cutting, and lengthy cooking can tenderize tough meat, chicken mull may have originated as a way to make tough old roosters and spent hens palatable.

Mulls are served in bowls and eaten at home, in restaurants, in hunters' camps, and at special events such as church socials, community gatherings, and fund-raisers. Like other regional stews served to large groups (for example, Brunswick stew, Kentucky burgoo, Carolina hash, and Virginia sheep stew), mull can be prepared in large pots, outdoors or under a shed.

Mull is traditionally a cold-weather dish. Northeast Georgians speak of the "mull season." According to local lore, almost any meat or combination can be used, including goat, dove, squirrel, and it is rumored, rat and roadkill.

In rabbit mull or crow stew, rabbit or crow replaces chicken. Turtle mull contains chicken as well as turtle and sometimes such additional meats as beef, pork, and even beaver. Jallop is sometimes made from catfish.

To make chicken mull, pieces of chicken are simmered in water in a kettle or Dutch oven about one hour, until done. When the pieces are cool, the skin and bones are removed and the meat is ground or cut, then restored to the broth. Milk and butter are added and cracker crumbs are stirred in until the desired thickness is achieved. The consistency varies, but typically mull is similar to cooked oatmeal.

Other ingredients may include baking soda; such vegetables as celery, onion, tomato sauce or paste, tomatoes, ketchup, lemon, and garlic; and such seasonings as salt, red and black pepper, Worcestershire sauce, steak sauce, and hot pepper sauce. Traditional side dishes include sweet pickles; onion rings, cucumbers, and tomatoes marinated in vinegar; slaw or salad; and green beans. Chicken jallop is sometimes served over hamburger buns.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

'Doh! I forgot about the video!' says Hillary

Axiom #283: If you're going to lie about your experience, at least make sure there's no video proof of the truth.

"Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and her staff said she misspoke when saying she landed under sniper fire during a March 1996 trip to Bosnia as first lady. "I did make a mistake in talking about it the last time, and recently,'' Clinton told reporters in Greensburg, Pennsylvania. "I made a mistake. I have a different memory. That happens. I'm human. For some people that's a revelation."

Well...she made four mistakes. She "misspoke" 4 times. And let's call it what it is: a lie. And she is all too human, because she forgot about the CBS video, and that is the revelation, because she is usually very careful about remembering which lie she told at which time.

Clinton said, "I say a lot of things -- millions of words a day -- so if I misspoke, that was just a misstatement.''

Just? more four more Clinton years. Please.

Vote Ron Paul.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Good God, man! This changes everything!

Google has a new feature, "Street Maps." You can now click on most any city, address, and street maps, and view what is going on in some one's back yard. Or any old drug deal going on in the street. Like here. Take a look

Here's how it works. Go to Click on "Street View." A bunch of cameras pop up at many locations around the US. Click on a camera. When the blue outlined streets appear, move the guy to the street you want to view. Or type in an address.

Between viewing addresses on the street and the fact that the FBI is eavesdropping on you even when your cell phone is turned off, well, they've got us pretty well covered, don't they? My only consolation is that Google does not have any street views available in Georgia. Yet.

Monday, March 24, 2008

This is so gorgeous

Where I live, I mean. I drove around a five mile radius at dusk on a 68 degree evening and took photos of most things I saw. Here you go:

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Amish in ascendancy

The list of failed United States FDIC banks has grown from two to five in the last couple of weeks. Here is a list of insolvent banks. The latest world Big World Bank to teeter on the verge of insolvency is United Bank of Switzerland. Yes, it's true, a Swiss bank.

The current financial crisis is not one of liquidity, as the Federal Reserve says. It's really an issue of insolvency. Here is a list of insolvent banks, with their writedown, rundown, or losses in the millions or billions next to their name. UBS is United Bank of Switzerland. You will notice the first few sound familiar. After Bear Stearns went bankrupt, and the Fed opened up an emergency take-out window, Goldman Sachs and Lehman Bros took advantage of the fire sale. That resulted in a downgrading of their S&P rating. To negative.

Here is a good article from Bloomberg about the Swiss Bank situation

So what's this have to do with the Amish? Our country is in a deep crisis, with a current account deficit that cannot be sustained, a falling currency, and an energy crisis, all at once. Just before the Soviet Union fell, it was enduring the same. The US is now the world's largest debtor nation, and for a country with the world's largest economy, if (when) we default, the world economy comes with it. The cycle of things will stop. I don't know how to build a home, make a tool, grow some food, coordinate with my neighbors, create fire, or use a horse for transportation. But the Amish do.

Name - ($) writedowns so far (does not include loss reserve increases or remaining exposure). The list on the original page offers a hyperlink for each bank, so you can check it out for yourself.
Goldman Sachs - $5.4B
IKB - $2.71B + 10.2B
Morgan Stanley - $16.1B
Merrill Lynch - $22.5B
Lehman Brothers - $5.4B
Citigroup - $46.6B
Washington Mutual - $1.6B
DZ BANK AG - $2.1B
HSBC - $26.5B
UBS - $19.2B
ABN AMRO Group - $2.4B
Wachovia - $3.2B
The Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC (RBS) - $3.6B
Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group - $510M
HBOS PLC - $2.5B
Comerica Incorporated - $63M
Fifth Third Bancorp - $155M
US Bancorp - $690M
Royal Bank of Canada - $544M
Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce - $3.2B
Bayerische Landesbank - $2.8B
Bank of Montreal (BMO) - $639M
Credit Suisse - $3.1B+$2.85B (est.)
Wells Fargo - $1.4B
Mizuho Financial Group Inc - $3.2B
WestLB AG - ?
Barclays PLC - $3.1B?
Commerzbank - $855M
Deutsche Bank - $3.2B
JP Morgan Chase - $3.7B
SunTrust - $222M
Bank of America - $7.2B

Friday, March 21, 2008


Random things goin' on:

--"It's not funny going to work and worrying that a zombie might be around the corner." Yah, that'd put a crimp in your day. Workers at Southern Water's treatment plant in Eastbourne, East Sussex, UK said they have been scared to enter tunnels after being followed about by a "humanoid figure" as they went about their jobs. Yikes! Read the news story, it's funny and creepy.

--Last night I watched George Clooney in "Michael Clayton." I LOVE movies like this, billed as a legal, intellectual thriller. So deep on so many levels, but entirely watchable because you don't notice how deep it is while you're watching it. Have you seen it? I loved everything about it. I'm always so grateful when Hollywood makes a movie for adults.

--I lunched yesterday with a friend and an elderly man. He talks a lot about being in the Navy way back when, which I love. He tells good stories, and laces them with a wry wit. He is also a gentleman. He doesn't have family around and is blind in one eye and cannot drive. So I invited him out.

We ate at the Tanner House, a new restaurant in town everybody is crowding to. Down south restaurants are successful only when they offer a LOT of home cookin', cheap. That's what this place bills itself as. And it's practically the only thing southerners will flock to.

It was like Cole Farms inside an old house. In Gray, Maine, where I'm from, there's this restaurant called Cole Farms that has been there forever. Well, since the 1950s, which in the business world is almost the same thing. Cole's has quite a history to it, apart from the food, and quite a bad one at that. As far the food goes, originally it was a hamburger stop and it was what it was & was very good at what it was. Then it diversified and offered a larger menu and sit down service. In the 60s and 70s it was still great, offering things like meat loaf and homemade mashed potatoes and great stews and turkey dinners for just a couple bucks. Then it coasted in the 80s and in the 90s it expanded and started offering fru-fru things like Mexican taco bowls and please stop into our gift shop. Where you could buy a postcard of a moose. Or a lobster.

Its website touts the following:

Like the fabulous painted deserts in Arizona, perhaps?

Now it's just so bad the only thing a friend of mine will eat is dry toast. Regulars who sit at the counter bar bring their own condiments because the syrups for example are so watered down. The last (final) time I ate there I ordered pancakes. There was a hair in it. Not ON the pancake, IN it. But people still flock to it for reasons unknown and incomprehensible to me and it still has quite a following. In my opinion it's a waste of money but I guess those folks have money to waste. I do have something to say about the desserts, both at Cole Farms and at Tanner House. In a moment.

Sigh. So Tanner House was like early Cole Farms. I ordered a strawberry muffin, grilled or toasted, and a bowl of corn chowder. The muffin was as big as a walnut, I swear, and microwaved, too long at that. The chowder was like cream corn straight out of the can, I could stand a spoon up in it. The guy at the next table said. "What's corn chowder?" I think the cooking staff don't know either. My friend had a half sandwich with soup, and the sandwich came on Wonder bread. The best thing looked like my elderly friend's beef stew. I've become convinced there is no such thing as a good restaurant experience any more.

The desserts at Tanner are made by Mennonites in a nearby community. They looked FANTASTIC. Same with Cole Farms, the pies, cakes, and muffins are all made fresh every day and still deserve their stellar reputation.

--I hear the geese quite often. I realized I am always in the habit of looking north when I hear them, being from Maine and they are always traveling south. Here in GA though I need to look south. They are always heading the other way now that I am down here! It's always nice to hear a flock of geese. I love being in a place where you can hear not just geese but all kinds of birds. I left my window open the other night and even though it was 58 degrees in the apartment by dawn, it was worth it to listen to all the night birds as I fell asleep.

Have a good day everyone!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Presidents say the darndest things!

If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I'm the dictator.

oops... he really didn't mean to say that, again, did he? Oy! he did!
"A dictatorship would be a hack of a lot easier, there's no question about it."

It’s good to be king, if just for a while
To be there in velvet, yeah,
to give ‘em a smile
It’s good to get high
and never come down
It’s good to be king
of your own little town
Yeah, the world would swing
if I were king
Can I help it if I still dream
time to time
It’s good to be king
and have your own way
Get a feeling of peace
at the end of the day
And when your bulldog barks
and your canary sings
You’re out there with winners,
it’s good to be king
It’s good to be king
and have your own world

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Prices of things

I live in NE Georgia. With the prices of things going up, I've become very careful with my pennies. I don't drive unless I absolutely have to and at that, I don't go beyond my local town for mail and a few groceries. In other words, no joy trips to Athens, the big city, for entertainment. Gas here is $3.26 today. Result: I haven't filled up for a month.

I just got back from the local town and bought groceries. The local store used to be, well, a small, local grocery store. But lately the produce has perked up. It's the freshest. And the sales have been fantastic. Result: this morning I spent $16.25.

What did I get?

stalk celery: .88
2 green peppers: .68 each
bag lettuce: $1.28
three quarters pound asparagus: $1.17
jumbo sweet onion: .34
4 cans chicken broth: $2.00
2 large cans sweet yams: $3.00
doz medium eggs: $1.75
gallon milk: $3.89
subtotal: $15.77

I have some rice and I'll make a soup with the veggies; that'll last a few days. The asparagus will be accompanied by some frozen shrimp I had already for another meal. Eggs are breakfast (egg whites, separated). I have a bread machine and will bake some bread Thursday, that will be good for sandwiches. The milk will be used for oatmeal breakfasts too. Yams baked into a casserole. I don't buy beverages like soda or alcohol. My entertainment is totally at home, through satellite tv or my computer. So these groceries, measured out among the other meals I'll have out (covered dish breakfast Easter Sunday morning, a friend taking me to lunch Friday) hopefully will last me and I won't have to spend any other money for another week.

I don't know how large families do it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Peeps tableau 2008

Shepeeperds at the birth of Jesus.

This Sunday is Easter Sunday. Jesus rose from the dead, walked on the earth 40 days preaching and teaching, and then ascended to heaven so that the Holy Spirit could descend and fill all the believers! Very cool.

Other (better) Peeps dioramas. My favorite is #10, "Rosslyn Metro Station, Friday 5 p.m."

Monday, March 17, 2008

tornados stink

I'm used to slow moving weather catastrophes. The large, lumbering kind that you can see coming for days at a time. The kind you go out and buy milk and bread for. The type where you glance out the window, looking for the first snowflake or raindrop, and then return to business as usual. Where the weathermen put on sweaters and talk about inches of predicted precipitation, in between sips of coffee and graphics of isobar charts.

That was Maine.

Here in Georgia, the storms are tornados and the warning comes in as little as 8 minutes, as those in the Georgia Dome Friday night will attest. Or Saturday in Madison County, about ten minutes. We stayed glued to the tv all day, watching the progression of tornado watches change to warnings and the actual storms traverse the northern portion of the state, one after another. Many of them, thankfully, scooted below Madison County or north of us, but a few did hit here. At one point the tv guy said that there was circular motion at Transco, 3 miles away. They can go right down to the street level and so when he said that and we looked out and saw the sky darkened and hail hitting the metal roof, we said, well, let's go. We went into the closet, & thought, 'OK, this is it.'

Photos: which would you prefer, the backyard with tree house in snow, or the doom over Atlanta?

I cannot say I am a fan of the tornado as natural catastrophes go. You can't see them coming and they dodge and weave. Blizzards and hurricanes lumber in a line that is well-tracked and they gear up slowly. Tornados are wiry, snaky little buggers and all I can say is, I can't wait for tornado season to be over.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Now for something completely different

A post that does not reflect the current economic reality but instead reflects the current agricultural reality:

Pear blossoms at Comer Elementary School against a blue sky. The sky stays blue all day here, something I appreciate. Where I used to live, the sky might be blue for a quarter of the day. I love the brightness.

Forsythia line a driveway at a local farm. Everything blooms earlier here than I am used to. This is quite all right by me!

It's not your money anymore

Didn't you know that? In the deepening worldwide financial crisis, the deputy of the International Monetary Fund announced today that in order to to shore up the financial institutions, for the good of everyone, thay just may have to grab your money. Just like that. Really. I am not making this up.

IMF tells states to plan for the worst
Financial Times of London
By Krishna Guha in Washington

"Governments might have to intervene with taxpayers’ money to shore up the financial system and prevent a “downward credit spiral” from taking hold, the International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday."

"John Lipsky, the IMF’s first deputy managing director, said: “We must keep all options on the table, including the potential use of public funds to safeguard the financial system.”

"IMF deputy managing director’s comments make it clear that the fund is open in principle to the possibility of taxpayer-funded intervention in the market for mortgage securities as well as intervention to save individual banks from bankruptcy. Mr Lipsky warned: “The risks of further escalation of this crisis are rising and decisive policy action will be needed.”

He said this crisis was different from recent past crises because both the financial markets and the banking system “have faltered simultaneously.” The first priority had to be to reverse the “spreading strains” in global financial markets and restore the functioning of the financial system in advanced economies."

Now, there is some debate among the tiny pinheads like me that 'taxpayer money' means 'already paid into public funds like transportation accounts' or if it means dipping into deposit liquidity in individual banks. Likely the former, but either way, it's not good.

I love the carefully couched euphemisms, particularly 'spreading strains.' In laymen's terms it means: "we're cooked."

Thursday, March 13, 2008

When Bush took office oil was $31 a barrel

In the last seven years, the price of oil per barrel has tripled. Let's see what Jon Stewart has to say about this situation.

In this hilarious clip, Daily Show explains the connection between Bush White House and the High Price of Oil

Meanwhile, I'm getting gladder and gladder that I bought that bike three weeks ago!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bee gone

Remember, as a kid, lying out on a field in a summer day and staring at the fluffy clouds? Your heart slowing so that eventually the crashing of the blood that had been pumping through your young limbs and veins and ears quietens? It is then you hear the bees. The humming and buzzing that seems almost like it is the engine of the world.

Now, those fields are falling silent.

Two reports out this week, more bee colonies than ever crashing. "Colony Collapse Disorder" the scientists are calling it, but that is as far as they've gotten. They do not know why the bees are dying, or what is causing it, or how to stop it. But they are alarmed.

And, you may be asking, 'And why do we care about this?' Because bees pollinate just about everything, even the crops livestock eat from which we get dairy and meats. No pollintation, no crops. No crops no eat.

Report 1: More colonies crashing than ever
Report 2: Decline in bee population cause for concern

Saturday, March 08, 2008

biased news writing

I got bored with the spoon thing. But I do love that wooden spoonatula.

Anyway, I read this from the AP, one news organization I had a scrap of respect left for:

"CASPER, Wyo. (AP) - Sen. Barack Obama captured the Wyoming Democratic caucuses Saturday, seizing a bit of momentum in the close, hard-fought race with rival Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton for the party's presidential nomination."

Huh? Is this guy following the same race we are? I am not an Obama fan, but I understand that he raised more money than Hillary several months running, and beat her in primary races 12 times in a row (including overseas). They came close in two, Obama losing by squeakers, and then won another, Wyoming. And the writer calls that 'a bit of momentum'?

Then he wrote:

"Clinton, buoyed by big wins in Ohio and Texas last Tuesday..."

Clinton won the Ohio primary 54.3 percent to Mr. Obama’s 44 percent, and she took the Texas vote with 50.9 percent to 47.4 percent. Big is as big does. In S. Carolina, Obama win over Clinton 55 percent to 27 percent.

Here are the lead sentences from several other news outlets, reporting the Wyoming primary, in a comparison exercise I always find interesting:

Washington Post:

Barack Obama today defeated Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Wyoming Democratic presidential caucuses, a victory that comes just four days after he fell short in Ohio and Texas.

The Nation:

The head not-so-very-good week ended on an up note with another big win in western caucus state. Wyoming caucuses attracted what Democratic activists across the state described as "huge" crowds and gave the Illinois senator an easy win over New York Senator Hillary Clinton, whose Tuesday wins in Ohio, Texas and Rhode Island upset Obama's momentum in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The Times of India:

CASPER (WYOMING): Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama won caucuses in Wyoming on Saturday over rival Hillary Clinton by a wide margin, US media reported.

ABC News of Australia:

US Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama has beaten rival Hillary Clinton by a wide margin in caucuses in Wyoming. With 91 per cent of the vote counted Senator Obama was leading the former first lady 58 to 41 per cent.

Friday, March 07, 2008

I was going to write about...

... my favorite kitchen utensil, but the day got away from me. I know, that being such a scintillating topic, you will be waiting with bated breath until the morrow, at which time I will deliver my thoughts on the wooden spatula.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

It's not pining, it's an ex-dollar

The dollar and the dead parrot, international economics 101.

Just pretend Michael Palin the shop owner is Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke, and John Cleese is everyone else.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


We had some pretty serious storms come through. A tornado watch was out for a while but no tornadoes in our area touched down. We did have thunder, sheets of rain, and numerous lightning strikes. I can't say I'm a fan of waiting for the funnel to appear. At least a hurricane you can see coming for a few days. The storms are all over now. Phew.

Here are close up shots of my deck after the rain. Below, closeup of a tiny windchime hanging from the rail. I had seen some pics of raindrop close ups and was trying to duplicate before the sun went down. I did not make it. but do check out the stunning raindrops at Harold's blog

railing, wood knot.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The calm before the storm

We are supposed to get hammered by storms tomorrow. Thunder, high wind, and possible tornadoes. But for now...for tonight...

I turned the tv off and the radio off and videos off and went onto the deck and just listened to the outside. Yes, I have the heat off and the windows open. I listened hard, and I heard the heron grackle. I heard the breeze in the trees. I heard an occasional bird. There were fireflies. And the dog was running up and down the driveway along the edge were the bushes are. I heard an occasional squeak.

Oh, no, was the dog chasing a tiny animal? I heard another squeak, louder. A mouse? A baby squirrel? Oh, no, we can't have carnage amidst this nice, quiet, velvet evening! Another squeak and more running into the bushes. Yikes! I must stop this beastly hunt! I ran to get my flashlight, and shined it on the dog, who was still running around in circles like a dervish.

He was running madly with...a rubber ducky in his mouth.

I heard laughter. Mine. It is a nice evening.


Center for Disease Control weekly report

The proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza was above the epidemic threshold for the seventh consecutive week.

The proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness (ILI) and acute respiratory illness (ARI) was above national baseline levels. ILI decreased in seven of the nine regions compared to week 7, and was above region-specific baselines in all nine regions. The East South Central, Mid-Atlantic, Mountain, New England, Pacific, South Atlantic and West North Central regions reported ARI at or above their region specific baselines.

Forty-nine states reported widespread influenza activity; one state reported regional influenza activity; and the District of Columbia reported local influenza activity.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

My kitten loves green olives

I made a sandwich and plopped a couple of green olives on the side for garnish. I chowed down, and after, I pet my cat. She sniffed my fingers and then went crazy. Licking, rubbing, following me to the sink where I washed with soap and tried to get way from my crazy kitten.

The next day I gave him a quarter of an olive, and he ate it! Then licked and rubbed the paper towel I'd laid it on, then tore it up and rolled in the shreds. It was like catnip to him.

I googled the query and asked if this was a really weird thing, like, did I end up with another weird cat? Naw, seems it's fairly common. Same with cantaloupe.
"I've heard of this before. Frankly, I'm not sure why some cats react to olives as though it is catnip. It must be something to do with the scent and perhaps something used in the oil to flavor/can the olives. Cats react to the volatile oil in the leaves of catnip and release the oil-scent into the air by biting, rolling on, and crushing the leaves. Perhaps the special oil in Spanish olives tickles the kitty brain in the same fashion."

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Well, which is it... Global warming or global cooling?

Two news reports the same day--

Winter temperature in Finland hits record high

HELSINKI, Feb. 28 (Xinhua) -- Finland this year has recorded its highest average temperature for a winter season since 1900, the Finnish Meteorological Institute said Thursday. The average temperature in the Finnish capital Helsinki in January was 0.6 degrees Celsius, which was 4.8 degrees higher than that of the period between 1971 and 2000, said the institute. Global warming and unusually constant warm currents from the south and the southwest may have contributed to the extraordinarily mild winter, the institute added.

Sydney's weirdly cool summer

Searing heat, parched gardens and sunny skies - trademarks of an Australian summer - were replaced by cloudy days and lots of rain, according to the Bureau of Meteorology.Remarkably, not one day this summer pushed past 31 degrees.

"That's only happened three times in the past (in 149 years of the bureau's weather records), with the last being 1956 - it's quite significant," Ms Symons said.

The Sun Does a Flip

NASA scientists who monitor the Sun say that our star's awesome magnetic field is flipping -- a sure sign that solar maximum is here.