Touristing in Bogotá

Dear Spouse drops me tomorrow at the São Paulo airport and continues on to Bogotá for a couple days. Here are some ideas for him for his very short stay:

Exploring Bogotá

  • Take the funicular or cable car to the top of Monserrate for a view of the Andes and a drink at the mountaintop restaurant. The cable car runs from 9AM to 11PM daily; the funicular runs only on Sunday between 5:30AM and 6PM.
  • Stroll through the colorful neighborhood of Macarena
  • Explore the small shops and history in La Candelaria (but be careful there at night)
  • Check out historic architecture:
    • Palacio de San Francisco
    • Iglesia de San Ignacio
    • Iglesia de Santa Clara
    • Plaza de Bolivar
  • Visit the Museo del Oro, home to more than 30,000 objects of pre-Colombian goldwork

Shopping and eating

  • Buy your wife something made of emeralds
  • Eat ceviche: try Central Cevicheria at Carrera 13 No 85-14
  • Have tapas in Macarena at Donostia (Calle 29 bis No. 5-84)
  • Drink beer at a pub like Bogotá Beer Company where they brew locally (British-style pubs are popular in Bogotá, and are part of the experience)
  • A great option is to head to the student bars around “The Funnel,” an old, crazily narrow street frequented by university students, who crowd into little funky bars which play metal, punk, and salsa in delightful randomness.”



Lonely Planet

Trip Advisor

The Colombia Travel Guide

Embrace Bogota


Why do horses drool?


It has always cracked me up: ponies who get into clover and drool like leaky faucets. Until recently, I did not know the reason they drool is because of a toxic fungus that grows on the clover. (And I did not know its comical names: Saliva Syndrome! Slobbering Horse Syndrome!)

The Rhizoctonia leguminicola fungus, also called “black patch” because of the (sometimes microscopic) black spots that form on affected leaves, grows on white and red clover, and alfalfa. It produces the toxin slaframine, which can increase horses’ salivary gland output. In more extreme cases, it can also cause increased tear production and urination, difficulty breathing, and–rarely–even abortion. Some horses have have allergic reactions on facial skin that comes in contact with the fungus.

Horses that are more affected than others can either be especially sensitive to the toxin, or just prefer clover, so consume a larger quantity of slaframine.

“Black patch” prefers humid weather, so it is most prevalent in Spring and Summer. To control growth of the fungus, keep your pastures healthy. Clover thrives in stressful conditions, such as droughts, extended wet periods, poor soils, and over-grazing, so rotate your pastures to minimize stress. Use chemical treatments carefully to avoid harming your animals. Note that the fungus can also be present in hay containing affected clover or alfalfa.


Frog or toad?

frog or toad

Frog or toad?

Toad or frog?

Here’s how to tell:

Think about where they live and how they behave. Frogs live in or near water, they’re good jumpers, and they swim. Toads are born in water, but mostly live on land and walk more than jump. So,

frogs have slimy skin (moist environment), long legs (jumping), webbed feet (swimming), and bulging eyes on top of their heads (peeking above water while their bodies are submerged);

toads have dry, bumpy skin (dry environment), shorter legs and toed feet (walking), and flatter eyes (no need to peer out from underwater). Toads are also generally wider than frogs.

Other cool things to know: touching a toad won’t give you warts, and toads have fewer predators than frogs, because their skin tastes bad.

If you like frogs, visit Save the Frogs, a really cool website frog conservation. It has news, events, and froggy facts.

So, what do you think this guy is? Frog or toad?


What’s the deal with fireflies?

Why do they flash?

Romance. Adult fireflies use flash patterns to identify members of same species and opposite sex. Females of two species have been shown to prefer males with higher flash rates and stronger flash intensity, but otherwise not much is known about the flash patterns.

How do they flash?

A chemical reaction in the firefly’s light organ causes bioluminescence when oxygen can reach the photocyte cells. The photocytes are deprived of oxygen by neighboring mitochondria, which consume all the oxygen present, leaving the light cells dark. When a nerve signal instructs cells to produce nitric oxide, the mitochondrial respiration is halted and the oxygen present is free to be used in the bioluminescence reaction.

(Fun fact: I was first introduced to mitochondria as a child in the book A Wind in the Door.)

What else is cool about fireflies?

  • There’s a place in the Smokies where a species called synchronous fireflies flash at the same time. It’s not known why they’re synchronous: it could be competitive — if I flash first, the girls will notice me; or it could be collaborative — if our group flashes together, we have a better chance of getting the girls’ attention. Here’s a video. It’s a little bit creepy. Peak flashing in the park is late May to mid June.
  • Adults fireflies only live about 21 days, and don’t eat.
  • One species has a bluish light.
  • Females flash too but don’t usually fly.

Fireflies and lightning bugs are the same critters. Which do you say? I say both, but probably more often use “lightning bug.”


Scientific American

National Park Service

Tufts Journal