Odious and Peculiar

Philology and esoterica: scribblings, ravings and mutterings.

O&P's Current Pick:

Forging the Sampo

Odious' Links:

The Little Bookroom
The Pumpkin King
Larissa Archer
Inverted Iambs
Eve Tushnet
Pamela Dean
Kambodia Hotel
Pen and Paper

Charles Darwin's Beagle Diary
Deep-Sea News
NASA's Mars Website
Classics Online
Perseus Digital Library

Nine Scorpions
The Blithe Kitchen
Letter from Hardscrabble Creek
Arts & Letters Daily
About Last Night



Chas Clifton's Nature Blog
Rock Art Photo Blog
Girl on a Whaleship
Nature Lyrics Languagehat
Jabal al-Lughat
Laputan Logic
Strange Maps
Vladimir Dinets: Polymath Russian Adventurer
Virtual Tour of Almaty, Kazakhstan
Aerial Landscape Photography
USGS Earth As Art
Panoramic Aerial Maps of the American West

The Internet Bird Collection
Bird Families of the World
Ancient Scripts
The Aberdeen Bestiary Project
The Cephalopod Page
The Ultimate Ungulate
The Red Book of the Peoples of the Russian Empire
USGS Streamflow Data

Worthy Miscellany
Finno-Ugrian Music
Boojum Expeditions
American River Touring Association

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Saturday, February 17, 2018
Time sink of the week: Cut the Knot.


Sunday, January 28, 2018
An Old Welsh Lullaby my wife shared with me tonight.

Friday, January 26, 2018
One trouble with having gone through a certain sort of adolescence is that one cannot read the samkhya sutra without thinking about it in terms of a Dungeons and Dragons encounter table.

"Efficient Causes! Roll 1d8:

1) Virtue. Evolve to a higher plane (gain one level).
2) Knowledge. Emancipate and reroll.
3) Dispassion. Immune to purusa; gain 'absorption in pakriti' quality.
4) Power. Automatically succeed on next roll.
5) Vice. Descent to negative material plane.
6) Ignorance. As Hold Person.
7) Passion. Roll on Reincarnation table.
8) Weakness. Fail next opposed roll."

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Thursday, January 25, 2018
Fascinating paper on the longbow, and why it was not adopted to any great extent outside England and Wales.
A ruler who adopted the longbow by creating a culture of archery thus effectively armed a large segment of his population, which in turn created an opportunity that a usurping noble with an eye on the Crown could exploit. Such a noble could organize effective rebellion against his ruler by utilizing the large number of citizens with the human capital required for proficient use of the cheap and easy-to-produce weapon. A ruler therefore had to be confident in his political security to be willing to adopt the bow.
This explanation is of course wrong, as it was entirely due to our greater manly virtue and fortitude.

Modern analogues are left to the reader.

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Thursday, January 04, 2018
Amazing, if this research pans out and is verified - from the abstract:

We document Indigenous Ecological Knowledge and non-Indigenous observations of intentional fire-spreading by the fire-foraging raptors Black Kite (Milvus migrans), Whistling Kite (Haliastur sphenurus), and Brown Falcon (Falco berigora) in tropical Australian savannas. Observers report both solo and cooperative attempts, often successful, to spread wildfires intentionally via single-occasion or repeated transport of burning sticks in talons or beaks.


Sunday, July 16, 2017
I'm not saying it's the Deep Ones, but..... Did bioluminescent pyrosomes start the Vietnam War?

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Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Film of a square-rigged ship!

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Friday, February 10, 2017
News of the 21st Century: the Navy is synthesizing hagfish slime and contemplating its potential.

“From a tactical standpoint, it would be interesting to have a material that can change the properties of the water at dilute concentrations in a matter of seconds,” Ryan Kincer, a materials engineer at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Panama City Division, said in a statement.
The Navy also envisions using the material in products to protect firefighters and divers, as an anti-shark spray, and as a coating for ships to protect against algae, barnacles and other aquatic life that typically attach to them.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Incomprehensible phrases from Maltese - not quite the Monty Python Hungarian phrasebook, but close!
“Therefore penis, Mr Parish Priest!”


Wednesday, September 07, 2016
Data from forests in the Alaska panhandle translated into music - the results are very nice:

"To represent the changing forests of the Alexander Archipelago in music, Sawe used a different instrument or group of instruments for each of the five conifer species Oakes measured—piano for yellow-cedar, flute for western hemlock, cello and bass for Sitka spruce, violin and viola for mountain hemlock, and clarinet for shore pine. In the clip above, each note represents a tree, and its pitch and how hard it’s hit corresponds with tree’s height and diameter. (Lower, shorter notes stand for younger trees, while higher, longer notes stand for older ones.) Dead trees are represented by dropped notes—gaps of silence that widen as the sonification moves from the cooler study plots in the north to the warmer plots in the south."

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Friday, June 03, 2016
When passing to the other world, the soul of a person who has hit a dog “shall fly howling louder and more sorely grieved than the sheep does in the lofty forest when the wolf ranges.” A man who kills a dog is required by the Avesta to perform a list of penances eighteen lines long. One of the penances is to kill a thousand cats.

From a fascinating book review by Chas Clifton. Another for the reading list!

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Wednesday, February 03, 2016
The Tatooine Cycle.

There was once a great queen of Alt Da Rann and Leia was her name. War had sprung up between her people and those of Da Thféider. She sent messengers to ask for aid from the wildman, Cenn Obi. He lived in the wilderness far to the west. These were the messengers she sent: Síd Tríphe Óg, who knew all the languages of man and beast,(2) and the dwarf, Artú.


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Monday, September 28, 2015

Saturday, September 19, 2015
Learn Tuvan with Songs

Great website! It's appealing even if you're not trying to learn Tuvan, but would just like to look at some lyrics and translations to famous throat-singing numbers.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2015
A well-known Jysk tongue-twister, a æ u å æ ø i æ å, means “I am on the island in the stream” and contains no consonants.

A Guide to Endangered Languages


Thursday, August 06, 2015
Abyaneh, the red village (great photos in the link!): 

At the foot of the hill, the fort of Hanjan is enthroned above the here already dry wadi. A veritable Fort of the Tatar Steppe: it has awaited the enemy for two thousand years, but the enemy has not come. The invaders forgot the valley hidden among the mountains in the middle of the desert. While the seventh-century Arab conquerors forced their religion and language onto almost all Persia, the inhabitants of the valley remained Zoroastrians until the 16th century, when the central power of the Safavid dynasty was established, and they still speak the Middle Persian language of the pre-conquest Sasanian empire.

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Tuesday, August 04, 2015
Good Lord, it's a fire tornado!

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Wednesday, July 08, 2015
Goannas are the best burrowers! Also, a conclusion that heartily pleases me:

....these new finds have shown that living reptiles.... are doing some incredibly complex things. Co-operatively built family burrows (McAlpin et al. 2011), warrens formed of numerous individual burrows, and – now – deep, deep, spiralling corkscrew-like burrows. The expectation that complex structures of this sort can only be attributed to mammals.... ha, it’s dead.

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Sunday, April 19, 2015
Cambrai was divided in two equal parts and each half installed in either the right or left side of the choir of the church. An entry in the capitulary acts of February 4, 1473, shows that on only three days of the year did the singers come together to perform in the middle of the aisle: Maundy Thursday, Holy Saturday, and Pentecost…On all other days, they sang from either side, each half grouped around its own lectern, and performing from its own music book. A bizarre confirmation of the existing space between the two sides comes from an entry of September 9, 1493, that reprimands the lesser vicars for throwing meat and bones from one side of the choir to the other during the divine service

Emphasis mine. Via Unquiet Thoughts (whose music as the duet Mignarda I highly recommend).


Friday, March 13, 2015
Oh, look! It's the Gods of the Copybook Headings! They seem pissed.


Saturday, December 13, 2014
Two new species of pseudoscorpions discovered in Grand Canyon-Parashant. GC-Parashant is still decidedly not well known to anyone, and it's no surprise there are still new things to be found out there.

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Saturday, December 06, 2014
An interview with Tim Powers, about the wellsprings of his ideas, his research methods and writing process.


Tuesday, October 07, 2014
Soviet geology: an exotic and romantic business:

Large sections of the country were still waiting to be explored and mapped. Foreign travel was still impossible for most Soviets, so idealistic youths were drawn to geology for the thrill of adventure and exploration. Some of them really thought they could find personal freedom, if not by going west, then in the distant corners of the wild east....

They mapped, carried loads of samples, fished and hunted, wrote poetry, drank vodka, and sang songs around the campfire. In fact, many Russian musicians and poets (Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky included) started out as geologists or worked as technicians in those parties. Few outside of Russia know that it was geologists who started an important movement in modern poetry in St. Petersburg in the 1960s, called the “Geological School.” Furthermore, geologist authors dominated a genre of unofficial, often politically risqué songs (“bard songs”). The songs were about cloud shadows in the tundra, windy mountain passes, shamans and dervishes in time-forgotten villages, apatite [sic..... unless they mean the mineral], camaraderie, lack of cigarettes, and nostalgia for home and love during long field seasons.....

Even until the late 1980s, saying you were a geologist to girls in St. Petersburg was a great pick-up line — often greeted with admiring smiles and questions about exotic places and wild excesses in the field. Yet when I told my father that I was going to become a geologist he said: “Do you want to be one of those inebriated loudmouths with backpacks and guitars who bellow songs on night trains?”

Apparently, the composer Giya Kancheli (recommended) came out of such a background.

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tuesday, July 08, 2014
Minoan priestess Barbie
(Scroll down)

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Friday, July 04, 2014

Friday, June 27, 2014
International Buffalo Bodypainting Festival: not false advertising, I'm happy to report!

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Wednesday, June 04, 2014
The Mozart Effect in practice:

Progeny (age 2): "What's this song about?" [It was Guy Clark, for the record.]
Me: "I don't know, we have to listen and see."
Progeny: "It's about a guy getting attacked by a big snake!"

Not actually an unreasonable guess around here.

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Friday, May 23, 2014
A problem with northern New Mexico written all over it: Go organic, cause a nuclear waste accident.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Friday, March 28, 2014
People say American taxes are too complicated, but I have no idea what they could be talking about. Nope, no clue:

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Monday, March 03, 2014

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Monday, January 06, 2014

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Newly discovered sarcophagi of the Chachapoya, fascinating archaeology in a spectacular setting.

Via the excellent Bones Don't Lie.

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013
How to coax a bullfrog into winning the Calaveras County jumping competition? Mimic a predator, of course.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013