Saturday, April 13, 2019

Welsh Neanderthals

Excavations at the cave by Amgueddfa Cymru between 1978 and 1995 unearthed a total of 19 teeth, discovered found deep inside the cave. These have been identified by experts at the Natural History Museum, London as belonging to an early form of Neanderthal..

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Spring Thing 2019 is here.

I'll be reviewing such IF as catch my eye.

Monday, April 08, 2019

Yet another attempt to answer that eternal question: were the Gracchi worth the hassle?

Sunday, March 24, 2019

The Soviets filmed The Hobbit in 1985. They include some of the songs.

Needless to say, if you watch this you have nobody to blame but yourself. But it's still not as bad as at least two of the three Peter Jackson films.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Fantasy birding: sadly nothing to do with simorghs or war shrikes or the like. Valuable tool for education and public engagement, or yet another death knell for our relationship with the non-human world? I have my suspicions, but I'd be happy to be wrong.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Lambing season!
As an aside, the piebald lambs like this flecket are noticeably friendlier. Another data-point for the domestication/neoteny theory.

Shetland markings. Warning: rabbit hole.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Nordic-related miscellany:
 *(Inspired by this collection of aerial images of the Eldgjá flows)

Monday, March 04, 2019

You know what limited this sort of thing in the past? Dueling.
The world of young-adult-fiction Twitter, or YA Twitter, is a very intense place, prone to constant callouts and opinion-policing, particularly on matters of identity and social justice. And things seem to have only gotten worse since Kat Rosenfield wrote the definitive article about this subculture for Vulture, "The Toxic Drama on YA Twitter" in 2017.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Death by wallpaper

SHADOWS FROM THE WALLS OF DEATH, printed in 1874 and measuring about 22 by 30 inches, is a noteworthy book for two reasons: its rarity, and the fact that, if you touch it, it might kill you. It contains just under a hundred wallpaper samples, each of which is saturated with potentially dangerous levels of arsenic.
Ars enecat, vita brevis, hmm?

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Brandon is unimpressed with the Colorado General Assembly's proposal:
I would argue on the basis of this that the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is in fact a violation of the principles of republicanism; that, because of this, Congress has the authority to overturn it if it ever is completed; and that, in fact, Congress has the constitutional duty to do so. While states do have the right to determine how to allocate their electors, the United States has the constitutional duty to guarantee that they do so in a form consistent with republican government.

Thursday, February 21, 2019


Supreme Courtship is a comedic visual novel adventure game, where you learn about the people and proceedings of our nation's highest Court. In Supreme Courtship, you’ll be able to:
* Join a bench with young, stylish versions of your favorite Justices - Justice Ginsburg, Chief Justice Roberts, and more!
* Master the powers of the third branch of government!
* Experience the world’s first Judicial Friendship Simulator

Thy mercy on Thy people.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Making of a Gentleman
“The base assumption is gentlemen are born into a role via class and family. What separates them is not education, not their upbringing, but what they choose to do with it. Austen has a higher standard, I argue, for acceptable marriage-material gentlemen. They make life better for those around them,” Thomas said.
This interpretation is, of course, wrong. A couple in Austen are suited for each other not because they make 'life better for those around them', but because each makes the other a better person--where 'better person' means more virtuous according to the deeply religious sentiments and rather Shaftesburian moral philosophy of the author. Austen is more concerned about the state of her characters' souls than their income. This is obvious when one compares the various couples at the end of, say, Pride and Prejudice.

This is among the most-ignored aspects of English literature, right up there with our blindness to Shakespeare's sincere worriment about male chastity.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Rossetti gleefully reported to William Bell Scott on September 28, 1869 that the wombat had effectively interrupted a long and dreary monologue from John Ruskin by patiently burrowing between the eminent critic’s jacket and waistcoat. This must have been a marvellous thing to watch happen.
 Apparently Rossetti and his circle had quite a thing for wombats.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Since cursory Googling has not revealed an extant one, here's a (moderately Lovecraftian) mnemonic for the Proterozoic geologic periods:
Six red obelisks stand calmly, each steeply tilted, cold, eternal.
[Siderian, Rhyacian, Orosirian, Statherian, Calymmian, Ectasian, Stenian, Tonian, Cryogenian, Ediacaran]
You're welcome!

Monday, February 04, 2019

John C. Wright on H. G. Wells v. C. S. Lewis v. Arthur C. Clarke.

Saturday, February 02, 2019

The Fourth Riddle is interactive fiction based on Turandot.
In the press of the crowd, old Timur's hand was torn from your shoulder. You tried to reach him, but you were too late to grasp his hand again, and you saw him borne away in the surging sea of people, the gulf between you growing ever wider.

Timur is frail and blind. You haven't guided him along such a long, long road to lose him now.
ht: Emily Short

NB: I haven't played it through. Caveat lector.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Exporting our vices to weaken our competitors is worse than launching plague-ridden corpses over the city wall with a trebuchet.

Japanese anime has conquered China. In Chinese, the term “2D culture” (erciyuan wenhua) describes both the television shows, video games, anime (cartoons), manga (comic books), music, and movies inspired by Japanese pop culture and the millions of Chinese who consume these products every week. This “second dimension” is one of the fastest-growing industries in China—with more than 200 million consumers, the market is projected to reach more than $30 billion by 2020. 
But the runaway success of Japanese pop culture among China’s youth has caused confusion, shock, and anger in a country still bitter over historical grievances. Many Chinese see this as a war for the hearts of their children—one they’re losing.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Going to step out of my lane here and post a bit of music I just found and enjoyed: Rebecca Clarke's Morpheus.


Friday, January 25, 2019

This is fantastic!


FRAGMENT OF A GREEK TRAGEDY
by A. E. Housman

CHORUS: O suitably-attired-in-leather-boots
Head of a traveller, wherefore seeking whom
Whence by what way how purposed art thou come
To this well-nightingaled vicinity?
...
CHORUS: Go chase into the house a lucky foot.
And, O my son, be, on the one hand, good,
And do not, on the other hand, be bad;
For that is very much the safest plan.

That μέν/δέ right there is just the best. This is Prawne family level stuff.


From Twitter, someplace.

It's hardly news at this point, but it's amazing what sort of things can fossilize. My current examples: Iridescent structures in feathers and squid ink (common element: melanin, which apparently deals very well with fossilization).

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Consider the hagfish, at length if you think you're hard enough. Choice hagfish tidbits:
Typically, a hagfish will release less than a teaspoon of gunk from the 100 or so slime glands that line its flanks. And in less than half a second, that little amount will expand by 10,000 times—enough to fill a sizable bucket.

You could inject a hagfish with an extra 40 percent of its body volume without stretching the skin.

The entire hagfish is effectively a large gut, and even that is understating matters: Their skin is actually more efficient at absorbing nutrients than their own intestines.

[Last but not least, a photo caption:] A car is covered in hagfish, and slime, after an accident on Highway 101.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

I have never gotten better writing advice than that from Steve: read your drafts aloud.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

On the independent recommendations of some friends whose taste I now esteem more lightly, I have started The Name of the Wind. I can say without exaggeration that this book is the worst commercially successful fantasy novel I've ever read--and I've read every Dragonlance novel ever written. The prose is atrocious, the plot non-existent, and the protagonist is the literary equivalent of Lin-Manuel Miranda, possessor of the world's most punchable face. IThe last character I hated as much as Kvothe was Dolores Umbridge. He is Thersites's self-insert Gary Sue.

I will probably blog more about this once I have cleared the taste from my mouth with strong drink.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Polyphonic pitch-shifting.

Want to hat-tip but can't remember where I found this; please comment if it's you.

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Just read a review of someone's writing that described it as "like a schoolboy's timed in-class translation of Xenophon."

Life goals!

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

A quick bit of corvid behavior for the new year:

Two crows, one up on a telephone wire and the other below. The one above dropped a largish piece of gravel on the one below, then flew down. The one below siezed the gravel in its beak, flew to the other's place on the wire, and then dropped the gravel on it. They exchanged places several times while I watched, before they flew off startled by a car.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Atmospheric Circulation of Hot Jupiters

Abstract
The full-phase infrared light curves of low-eccentricity hot Jupiters show a trend of increasing dayside-to-nightside brightness temperature difference with increasing equilibrium temperature. Here, we present a three-dimensional model that explains this relationship, in order to provide insight into the processes that control heat redistribution in tidally locked planetary atmospheres. This three-dimensional model combines predictive analytic theory for the atmospheric circulation and dayside–nightside temperature differences over a range of equilibrium temperatures, atmospheric compositions, and potential frictional drag strengths with numerical solutions of the circulation that verify this analytic theory. The theory shows that the longitudinal propagation of waves mediates dayside–nightside temperature differences in hot Jupiter atmospheres, analogous to the wave adjustment mechanism that regulates the thermal structure in Earth's tropics.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

"....from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved...."
Parasitic fungus doses cicadas with psilocybin and makes their butts fall off.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Eidolon is generally not high on my list, but this article about teaching middle-schoolers Latin is charming.
Most 6th graders seem to readily adopt ancient language and culture. (I remember going through a serious ancient Egypt phase myself in the 6th grade.) They’re not only excited to speak a dead language — they want to live it. One parent shared with me that her son was regularly reclining at the dinner table “like a Roman.” Another set of parents shared that their daughter was calling them “mater et pater” at home. This engagement with the culture is most resonant in mythology. Many students come into my class with extensive background in Greek and Roman myths, partly due to the popular Percy Jackson series and partly due to classics like D’Aulaires. My jaw dropped the day I heard a 6th student casually include ichor in our informal discussion of the Greco-Roman pantheon.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Flaming Pudding Carol Lyrics

A public service, since these proved rather hard to track down via Google - the lyrics to The Flaming Pudding Carol:
Come bring with a noise
My merry, merry boys
The Christmas pudding a-flaming.
Hospitality
Bids ye all be free
And eat to your hearts' desiring.

With the last year's brand
Light the Yule Log and
For good success in his spending
On your psalteries play
The sweet luck may
Come while the log is a-tending.

Drink now the strong beer,
Cut the white loaf here
The while the meat is a-shredding.
For the rare mince pie
And the plums stand by
To fill the paste that's a-kneading.

Repeat first verse
(The recording has "Drink now with good cheer." Whatever.)
Season's Greetings in Reykjavik:
A new statue of the Icelandic Yuletide cat was revealed last weekend in Lækjartorg in the city centre. It's a five metre tall and fairly creepy statue of this strange folkloric being, known for eating children who didn't get new clothes for Christmas.