Friday, February 26, 2010

The snowstorm was a dud

All last night the wind raged and howled as snow came down at what seemed like a rapid rate; but even as the snow was falling it was apparent that the storm was more or less a dud. Most of yesterday's snow melted on contact with the roads and the driveway even as it piled up on the old snow in the yard and appeared impressive. And when the snow did stick it insulated the roads and driveway so there was a layer of relatively warm wet under the five or so inches that actually did accumulate.

Last evening Linda and I had a moderately exciting drive back from Sam and Deb's house at about 9:40. By then there were a couple of inches of snow on the roads where the wind was drifting it across from fields in exposed areas. All in all we had less problems on the road than we did in playing pinochele with Sam and Deb. They beat us handily in the first game and were leading heavily in the second when we decided we had better leave. Debra had an amazing run of luck with her cards. It seemed that neither she nor Sam could bid without the other having eight or ten meld and a couple of aces. I don't think they went set more than a couple of times and they took most of the bids.

This morning the snow looked impressive while it was still coming down; but when I went out at about noon to plow I was able to do the driveway in two passes.

I just returned from a trip out to the post office and the gas station. The roads were already simply wet since the sun has been out. And, thankfully, all the essential services, like the gas station and the tanning salon were open as normal.

There's something to be said for snowstorms at this time of the year. The sun is high enough to clean things up pretty quickly once the snow stops. We're hoping that Mark and Linda L were able to get their driveway plowed because we're planning to meet them for dinner if they can do it. The plan is to go to The Texas Roadhouse, which we've been wondering about for years as we've passed it on Route 422 going back and forth to the Ballroom of High.

We deserve steaks tonight because yesterday we ate pretty healthy beef barley soup that I made. And, on Wednesday we had only a light dinner because we needed to get out of here pretty promptly to go up to Pottstown for our Tango lesson.

Speaking of the tanning salon, Alex called the other night to tell us that those SOBs down in Washington are trying to tax tanning. It seems they were going to tax botox treatments and boob jobs; but the cosmetic surgeons, the Botox maker and the boob implant people must have been able to put together a fatter set of bribe envelopes than the tanning people.

Who knew there were 20,000 tanning salons in the U.S.? Imagine how many wrinkle wranglers and boob ballooning surgeons there must be to outbid the tanning industry when it comes to bribing Harry Reid and the other corrupt Senators and Congresscritters down there in DC.

Is this a great country or what?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A blast from the past

This morning I got a call from Susan the daughter of The Count. It turns out Count is now 87 years old and in a nursing home and he has been reminiscing about the Redpeppers. So Susan has been trying to track down folks her father and brothers remember from the picnics in the 1950's and 1960's. She found the Redpepper team picture and Pop's picture as a pitcher that I apparently posted on Flikker a couple of years ago and finally worked her way to me.

We had a very interesting conversation. Susan and her brother Michael are ten years or so younger than their brothers John and Ronald whom we knew better. I told her to remind John of the time we dared him to break the little window at the peak of Trooper School with a baseball thrown from home plate of the baseball field. He amazingly did it after only three or four throws although it had to be at least a two hundred and fifty or three hundred foot throw and the window was three stories up there.

Susan now lives in Tennessee and has a 22 year old daughter. Her brother John still lives in Philly and has two boys. Her brother Ronald lives in Newport Florida. And her brother Michael lives in Trevose. The Count, whose real name is Gaspare or Gap, has not been too well because of his heart.

I suggested that Susan hook up with Marianne on Facebook and also suggested that she friend Angie R. And I told her she probably should friend Don A if her dad wants to get into old Norristown stuff. Don is a few years older and knew those guys who hung around the corner of Main and Walnut and over at Lou's a lot better than me or Sam and Jas. I gather that John is trying to interest Count in using a computer so perhaps he can get in touch via email and Facebook and such.

Talking to Susan brought back vivid memories of those picnics. She too remembers looking forward to them all year long - the ball games, the corn roasting on the big grill, that creek where we bigger kids would catch crayfish and minnows, the ball games.

Good times!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Twenty two chronometers

Well, Charles Darwin finally made it back to England on HMS Beagle, after a five year voyage. He spent most of his time ashore during the voyage since the actual transit time betweeen the various stops was only about 18 months. Of course the Beagle itself spent a lot of the other 36 months at sea in and around the harbors where Darwin was set ashore for his explorations.

The appendixes at the end of the book turned out to be almost as interesting as the book itself. For instance, the Beagle left England with 22 chronometers in order to be sure that Captain Fitzroy could accurately chart the longitude of a bunch of places, which was the real job of the ship. Even with 22 of the most accurate clocks that could be bought in 1831 the ship's itinerary was planned to allow stops in many places whose longitude was known with fair precision so Fitzroy could calibrate his chronometers by observing and timing the occultations of stars by the moon. Fitzroy took an instrument maker whose sole job was maintenance of the clocks.

It came to me as I was listening to all of this that the sheer amount of detailed mathematical work which needed to be done after the Beagle returned to England was unbelievable. By taking his observations at the known longitude places Fitzroy would have related the time shown by all of those clocks to the actual known time of the occultation. None of this would have had any precise meaning until after he returned to England and compared the time on the clocks to standard Greenwich Mean Time. At that point Fitzroy, and several assistants no doubt, would have had to go back and reconstruct the whole voyage to calculate the real longitude of all the places where he took what had to be tens of thousands of soundings and bearings to known points of land. Almost unbelievable how much detail work had to be involved.

The other thng that struck me was Darwin commenting at length on how easy the voyage was relative to the previous voyages of Captain Cook and the other earlier explorers. The Beagle was 90 feet long and 24 feet wide in the beam. It was home to no less than 74 men for those five long years. Of course that was far fewer men than the Beagle had carried when it was outfitted with 12 cannon as a warship. For that purpose the crew was 120 men. As a survey ship the Beagle carried only 6 cannon.

We think of Charles Darwin as the plump bald guy with the heavy brows whose picture was taken in 1854, or as the fusty old bearded guy whose picture was taken in 1868. But when he went off on the Beagle he was a determined looking 22 year old. A rich 22 year old, by the way. He took a servant with him for the five year exploration trip. He was the grandson of the Wedgwood pottery guy and also the son and grandson of two generations of very prominent doctors. His grandfather had the nerve to turn down King George the 3rd's invitation to be his personal doctor.

The Voyage of the Beagle was an interesting listen.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The big global warming lie is coming undone

For the past couple of years people have been digging deeper and deeper into the details of the so called research that the global warming believers have been basing their reports on.

Now we learn that the oldest thermometer station in Europe, which is in Czechoslovakia, actually show that temperatures have gone DOWN over the past two hundred years. Pehaps that's why the global warming fanatics removed that thermometer station from their data. They did the same thing with the 130 year old thermometer station in Darwin, Australia. And they did the same thing with the over 100 year old thermometer station in Central Park in New York.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A new recipe you may or may not want to try

I haven't tried the recipe Beppe Bigazzi talks about at the link below; but perhaps I will the next time something that cooks up "better than chicken, rabbit or pigeon" comes wandering around. Ruperto de Nola, writing in the classic days of Italian cuisine, recommended spit roasting after basting with olive oil and garlic. Remember to soak for three days in spring water. Very popular in Arezzo, they say.

Watch the short video! His young assistant keeps trying to get him off the subject; but she can't once he gets on a roll.

Fluffy, the other white meat.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The new snow turned wimpy

Yesterday they were predicting two to five inches of snow around here; so I went out and more or less eliminated the worst of the moguls in the driveway. I also widened it just in case we really got a significant snow. All this while I was making Lobscouse for dinner.

The Lobscouse turned out to taste remarkably like Mom's stew, even though it was just meat, potatoes, onions and about a third of a can of left over LeSeur peas, all simmered for about three and a half hours after a brief frying of the beef and then the onions in a tablespoon of olive oil. Oh, and I also put in a couple of teaspoons of instant beef boullion, a tablespoon or so of Worcestershire Sauce and few small bay leaves. This was for a pound of beef cubes, three onions and about half of a five pound bag of potatoes. Mom always put celery and carrots in her stew. And she never put in a can of beer, which is what most of the Lobscouse recipes called for.

Next time I think I'll try adding carrots and celery along with the beer.

It's snowing pretty good again out there but from the forecast I doubt we'll get more than an inch or two of total accumulation.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mmmm! Nice and warm in the house

I just came in from digging out a bit in front of the mailbox. Too late, as it turns out. The mailman had already dropped off the mail. Why would he be early on a day when many of the roads on his route are probably a mess? And a day where he needed arms like an orangutan to reach into most of the mailboxes.

When I went to the Post Office earlier to mail off three books I found that the Collegeville PO has the very best snowplow guy in the United States, or at least one of the best. By 11:00 he had that parking lot completely cleared and wet. Meanwhile, the road outside the post office looked like it got ahead of the Collegeville Municipal plow guys. It was thick with ice and crusted snow.

The guys at the Post Office told me the plow guy should do a good job considering what he charges. Whatever he charges it wasn't enough for the job he did on this snowfall.

Three stems out of the whole clump bamboo grove down by the garden managed to shrug off the wet snow and stay standing. All of the others in that clump, and all but two of those in the long grove of the evil linear spreading bamboo on the other side of the yard, are bowed down to the ground. By appearances it seems impossible they will ever be able to straighten up. Appearances have been deceiving in the past; but I'm not sure I've ever seen the bamboo so thoroughly smashed down as it is today.

The pine trees turn out to be pretty vulnerable to this sort of snow. The pine grove behind the house is strewn with broken off branches up to four and five inches in diameter at the base, and the pine trees along the driveway have large branches still bowed down to the ground. There are also a good number of big branches broken off the deciduous trees. I'll cut the deciduous wood up for firewood next year; but I can't use the pine because it makes too much creosote.

Maybe I'll cut up those pine branches into six foot lengths and we'll make a bonfire with them to celebrate the beginning of spring. Or perhaps we'll hold off having a bonfire and weinie roast til the beginning of April when Jas and Kathy will be back up from Florida.

As always at this time of year the good news about snow is that the sun melts the heck out of it pretty quickly. The driveway was like a toboggan chute this morning when I went out; but it is already getting much less daunting. Tomorrow it should be pretty much normally negotiable, although it will be narrow for a while. The banks of snow on either side of it are pretty high and dense.

Somehow I got completely sidetracked from the reason I sat down to write. When I came in I had to take off my sweatshirt because the house is so warm. The downstairs is now at 72 degrees, down from the high of 73 that it reached an hour or so ago. The upstairs is at 78, down from 79 that it reached earlier. The sun really warms it up a lot when the ground is covered with snow.

I have noticed that the house doesn't hold the heat the way it did when it was new. Back then it used to go up into the 80's (downstairs) on a sunny day and it would then hold that heat until well into the evening. On such days I used to light the woodstove at eight or nine at night and that, in turn, would keep the house in the high 60's til it really got cold outside late at night.

All this is a long way of getting at the fact that a lot of alternative energy things, solar especially, are being written about and analyzed based on the energy production in the first year when the system is new. But just like this house, those systems will degrade as they age. In the case of solar cells I read somewhere that it only takes a very little scratching on the surface of the cells to cut their energy production significantly, because the scratches scatter light rather than letting it go straight through. Naturally those solar cells will work best in the hot and dry areas like the Southwest, where, as it happens, there is lots of sand and dust being blown around that can scratch the surfaces.

I keep an eye on solar power stuff because 24 years ago when we designed this house I specifically settled on a roof pitch that is pretty close to the optimum for solar cells in this latitude. Back then I expected to eventually install solar panels on the roof once they got economical. Well, here we are, a quarter of a century later, and solar panels are still not even close to being a good investment in this area, even with the government tax credit subsidy. Solar assisted hot water would be just barely a good investment, given that we already have the properly sloped South facing roof; but only if it could be depended on to function without problems for fifteen or twenty years, which I don't believe it can be.

Update: I had to go out and put the bucket back on top of my wrapped up fig tree. for some reason that tree is bending over this year.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

We're finally getting the promised blizzard out there

It's been snowing pretty hard all day; but there wasn't any significant wind to speak of until an hour or so ago. As a result the big pine trees have branches arching down to the ground. And many branches have broken off, including the one that landed on my car. I had to cut it up with the loppers to get it to where I could move it off. The car seems okay; but there's no sense checking on that yet. We're not going anyplace tonight, and probably tomorrow either.

I plowed the driveway at 10:00 or so and got stuck a couple of times. Then I plowed it again at about 2:30 and got stuck again a couple of times. Dense and heavy wet snow. The snow hasn't been falling as hard since mid afternoon; but there are probably another few inches out there.

The tractor gave me a bit of a scare this last time I plowed. I got it stuck after quite a little session of rocking and ramming a stubborn pile of compressed snow. So I had to get off and shovel out the wheels a bit. The upstart was that when I got back on it revved up revved up, but the wheels wouldn't go in either forward or reverse.

It took me a while to figure out that I had knocked the master transmission knob that hides down under the seat from the turtle setting into the neutral range. I've probably only shifted that master setting four or five times in the 24 years since we've had the tractor. The only reason to touch it is when you want the rabbit setting for going on a road, not that it goes all that fast on the rabbit setting.

We have plenty of wood in the garage and food to last for as long as this global warming keeps hurling itself at us.

The wind is really whipping out there now, but I think the snow is too heavy and wet to drift much.

A near run thing

We woke to a winter wonderland here. Snow drifting down during the night had all the tree branches deep covered. Very picturesque, except for the bamboo grove down by the garden, which is a mess, most of its tall stalks weighted down to the ground helter skelter.

Fortunately I decided to walk out to get the Times Herald and discovered that the beautiful scene was very deceptive. A moderate sized branch broke off the big pine tree behind the garage and fell on my car; but it doesn't seem damaged. I'll get to that later. That car isn't going anywhere today.

Six inches of very wet heavy snow on the driveway is harder to plow that fifteen inches of dry powdery stuff. So I decided to plow ahead of the new snow that's expected to fall all day.

I got stuck twice pretty good before I could plow down to the gravel and churn it up enough to assure traction. On that first pass the plow was pushing a ten or twelve foot thrust of snow ahead of the tractor, until it lost traction and left a big curl of compacted wet snow blocking the driveway. It's fun plowing then; because the only cure is to put on the seat belt, back off, and hit that pile at ramming speed until you break through.

What a great tractor John Deere made for us twenty four years ago. Over the years I've abused the thing in virtually every way possible and it just won't break. The snow is now falling at probably an inch an hour or more, and its supposed to get windy later.

I think I'll make some hot chocolate and sit by the woodstove. My sweatpants were soaked by the time I came in so I have them hung on a chair by the stove to dry. Don't worry. I'm wearing my camouflage long johns, which almost look like normal pants.

Perfect. I caught the hot chocolate just as it got ready to boil over in the microwave. Delicious!

In other news, I see that the U.S. Senate has cancelled today's scheduled hearing on global warming, and that Al Gore still refuses to take the energy use pledge. Why should we give any credence to people who run around shouting that global warming threatens the very survival of the human race but who continue to use energy like utter hogs? Al uses twenty times as much energy and generates twenty times as much CO2 as the average American family.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The best kind of hot chocolate

I just came in from plowing the driveway. A pretty straightforward job, although this was probably the third or fourth heaviest snow we've gotten since we moved into this house in 1986. Maybe the second heaviest.

When I went out to plow Alex had just called to say he was going walking on the frozen Charles River. When I got back in because my fingers were getting cold, Linda reported that someone had called 911 on him. So Alex was ushered off the Charles by the forces of the law, one cop waiting for him on the other side of the river and another cop waiting for him at the place he set out. Perhaps he will be on the evening news.

Linda told me this tale of the nanny state in action while I was searching for the old Dunkin Donuts hot chocolate mix that Albert gave us a couple of years back. Turned out that Linda had given the hot chocolate mix to Alex at Christmas time to take back to Massachusetts. But all was not lost, for I found a hoary box of Nestle cocoa powder way back on the shelf of the cabinet that should be marked "Here be dragons" or "Terra Incognita" like the empty places on Darwin's maps.

"Best by December 2007" doesn't necessarily mean it can't be used to make hot chocolate in February of 2010. Especially when you have a hankering for hot chocolate on a cold and snowy day after coming in from an arduous job of running the tractor up and down the driveway a half dozen times.

So I set out to make hot chocolate. But first Linda had to insist there was a recipe for it on the box even though I was telling her that there was no recipe on the box. Then she suggested that I consult Joy of Cooking for a recipe. As though I needed a cookbook to tell me that hot chocolate is cocoa and sugar and milk in more or less the right proportions. The Aztecs and the Mayans used to make hot chocolate before cookbooks were invented. They didn't even have milk.

So here I am enjoying the very best sort of hot chocolate; the sort that someone says cannot be made but that nonetheless is made out of suspect ingredients combined by instinct. Unfortunately there were no ancient crusty marshmallows to melt on top of it. But you can't have everything in life.

In case you find yourself in a similar situation the recipe is two heaping teaspoons of cocoa powder, a cup or so of skim milk, a packet of Equal, a healthy shake or two of sugar from the bowl because the spoon is already wet with milk and a clotted mess of cocoa, and a dollop of half and half. The cocoa was difficult to dissolve until after I heated up the whole mess in the microwave for a couple of minutes.

Linda is out sweeping snow off her car. In a few minutes I'll go out and sweep off my car so I can move both of the cars to the plowed portion of the driveway. Then I can finish up the plowing, warmed by world class hot chocolate. Eat your hearts out Aztecs and Mayas.

Life is good. Alex got his walk on the frozen Charles before he could be snared by the forces of the law. And I got my hot chocolate.

Glorious snow, cannibals, missionaries and Rosebud

Linda thinks fifteen inches. I think more like eighteen inches. Both of us are too lazy to go out and measure the great heap on the picnic table. Eventually I'll have to go out there to plow. I'll measure it then, but of course I'll have to apply an adjustment to the raw data because it's a well known phenomenon that light drifty snow compacts down over time.

Linda reports that the post office has cancelled deliveries for today. Whatever happened to "neither snow nor heat. . ." Back in the good old days when Jas and Kathy were handling the mail this would never have happened.

Speaking of the good old days, The Beagle just got to New Zealand after a stop in Tahiti. And Darwin was going on quite poeticly yesterday about the great expanse of the Pacific Ocean yesterday while I was driving back and forth to the tanning salon. He was marvelling at the days and weeks of travel involved over the heaving trackless ocean to reach the little islands dotted around. He was also decrying the British naysayers he had heard criticizing the missionaries in Tahiti. He didn't quite point out that the naysayers would have been killed, cooked and eaten by the Tahitians in the days before the missionaries, but he hinted at it.

Meanwhile there are two kids down there by the bridge. Maybe seven or eight year olds, little enough so the snow comes up to their thighs. One of them is covered with dusty snow. Oh for the days when snow meant eagerness to get out there in it until the cold damp coming though your gloves and clothes drove you inside to warm up for a few minutes before heading out again. There are deer running around beyond the pond; but I don't think the kids see them.

Quite a lot of activity out there today. A teenage girl trudged across from Stratford toward Bridal Lane carrying a yellow sled a little while ago. She just headed back with another teenager and a younger girl in tow. They're probably going to try to sled down the sidewalks on Stratford. These days the local governments plow and salt too quickly and thoroughly to allow for proper sledding on the streets. Back in the good old days Park Avenue down in Trooper might stay unplowed all day, and when it was plowed there was still a good packed down base of snow to sled on, sometimes for several days. Those were the days when you had to have a plowed road to sled on because the only sleds around had thin metal runners.

Four deer just leaped and ran across the lawn from Bridal Lane to down by the bridge. Those little kids missed quite a sight, although on second thought the deer probably would have skirted well clear if the kids had still been there.

Gotta run now. The tractor calls. I should paint a name on the tractor. Perhaps Rosebud.

Friday, February 5, 2010

This may be the best headline ever written

"RAHM EMANUEL COMPARES DEMOCRATS TO RETARDED PEOPLE, then apologizes to retarded people."

From Instapundit -

In other news: If you want to see the most amazing thing ever done with a piece of heavy machinery here's a video that Don A sent me from down in Florida where he's enjoying weather a lot nicer than we have up here where we're waiting for a big snowstorm to start. Don had sent me still pictures of this stunt and I wondered whether it was real or whether it was photoshopped. It's real. The video is about nine minutes long. At the least you should skip through it to see the good parts.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Ten to the 120th power

The other day Samuel was here with Don and they got to playing a game of chess. Their game was pretty sophisticated, although Samuel needs to develop more pieces and avoid bringing his queen out too early. As it turned out Don got to chasing Samuel's queen around with his pair of knights and that put him on the path to the win.

During the game Don got talking about playing chess on the internet and to practicing by playing against chess programs. That led to me mentioning this article I had seen by Garry Kasparov in which he discusses why even computers can't play chess by brute force calculation because the possible move combinations in a chess game is about 10 to the 120th power, or 10 followed by 120 zeros. That's an all but ungraspable number. I'm too lazy to look it up, but I think the number of elementary particles in the universe is something like 10 to the 86th power.

Even the first eight moves in a chess game allow for more move combinations than there are stars in the Milky Way Galaxy. Computers currently solve the first eight moves and many more; but they don't even come close to solving a full game. It's possible to imagine a computer that will "solve" chess the way a computer recently solved checkers; but there is no current technology that would allow a computer to be fast enough to fully compute a chess game. Current chess playing computers use shortcuts to rule out whole classes of move patterns that are unlikely to be successful as a way to cut down the possibilities.

If you're interested at all in chess or in how the human mind works here's that article by Kasparov in which he talks about how he beat the computers until IBM finally built Deep Blue. Deep Blue was finally fast enough to compute moves out beyond what Kasparov could do by intuition; but to beat him it still it needed the advice of a couple of human chess grandmasters who helped it by making suggestions for how to avoid traps.

Interestingly, Kasparov, a very smart and well rounded man who writes on many topics besides chess reveals in the article that he's more or less in awe of Bobby Fisher who was by no means a well rounded sort of fellow.

In other news Sam had to get a tetanus shot because of his little incident with the Cutco knife the other day. He's confident that his sewn up finger will be up to golf when he heads down to The Villages later this month.

Finally, Darwin got to describing his discovery of petrified trees high up in the foothills of the Andes, which reminded me of when Jas and I walked around Petrified Forest National Monument when we drove the southwest a few years ago. While we were walking the paved path Jas wondered if the park had gathered up all the petrified logs and put them near the visitor center. So we left the path at a point where we were out of sight of the ranger station and walked the dry washes for a couple of miles to see how much petrified wood there was out beyond where the tourists regularly go. There were other clumps of logs, although none as impressively dense as those near the visitor center.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

There's a Great Blue Heron wandering around

He glided in and landed down by the bridge and he's now patiently stalking along the creek. I can't imagine what he expects to catch in this cold.

But I didn't sign in to comment on the Great Blue Heron. I signed in to comment on the damn Canadian politician who's planning to swoop down here into the U.S. to have a heart operation.

We keep getting told and told and told that Canada has such a great health care system. If that's the case why is a damned Canadian politician coming down here for his operation? Perhaps all the good Canadian doctors have moved to the U.S.

In related news Sam and Deb, along with Dolores and Don, came to dinner on Sunday. So we were able to see the stitches in Sam's finger. It turns out they didn't go to the hospital emergency room but rather to the Premier Urgent Care center in Oaks. They got good efficient service there. Sam said the doctor got to him within fifteen minutes of their arrival. This urgent care concept seems to make sense. The hospitals charge far too much for most emergency room care because of the way hospital accounting works. And the waiting times in hospital emergency rooms can be long.

Sam's main concern is that the stitches should be out by the time it's warm enough for golf.

One of the red headed woodpeckers is down there on the sugar maple tree, so I have to go now.

But first I should mention that I've been listening to Charles Darwin's book The Voyage of the Beagle while driving over the past couple of weeks. A very interesting book, although you do have to be patient when he runs on and on about some particular frog, or mouse, or geological formation that has interested him. What's most interesting is how humble Darwin is. He never asserts anything.

He's groping toward explanations for a whole host of natural phenomena besides evolution, including plate techtonics, ocean currents, vulcanism, mountain uplift, climate variation and change, extinction, etc.; but it's clear he doesn't make up his mind until the evidence is overwhelming. On the subject of evolution it's neat that at that at the point of his life when he wrote this book he was still somewhat of a believer in what was later called Lysenkoism, namely that acquired traits are geneticly passed down.

A very interesting book and a very interesting man, not at all like the forbidding bearded elder who's popular image comes down to us as a result of the fact that he ultimately got to the overarching theory of evolution.

On that subject Linda and I finally saw Ben Stein's movie Expelled a few weeks ago. The movie was contentious, and Stein skewered some of the too proud and exclusionary evolutionists; but it's hard for me not to think that Stein is more reasonable in the end than the evolution explains everything true believers.

The book The Voyage of the Beagle is worth reading, and the movie Expelled is worth seeing.