Monday, February 23, 2009

Almost missed this one: bison reintroduced to the Book Cliffs. It's not what you generally think of as bison country, but neither are the Henry Mountains and they do all right there.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

T.W.I.A.I.L.W.: Rusty Kanokogi.
Kanokogi learned judo from a man on Flatbush Avenue who had picked it up in the military, but her real fight started in 1959, when she went to Utica, N.Y., for the Y.M.C.A. championships. She was Rusty Glickman, nicknamed for a local stray dog, and because women were not explicitly barred from the Y.M.C.A. championships, she figured it was worth a shot.

Used to changing in broom closets and using the bathroom at a nearby diner, she knew that she would still have to blend in. “It’s not like I walked in like a flower,” she said.

Kanokogi, with her hair cut short, competed with her breasts taped down. Her coach put her in the final bout and she won, although she said her team would have won anyway.
As she puts it, "Can I still clobber somebody if I have to? Absolutely."

Thursday, February 12, 2009

We here at O&P have yet to acknowledge Darwin's birthday. That puts us in good company with Darwin in 1834, who seemed more concerned with baffling winds and Fuegians.
NPR had a rather good piece this week on the Shahnameh in contemporary Iran.
Find the acclaimed English translation by Dick Davis, open it at random, and you are as likely as not to find a sentence such as this: "When spring's new growth gave the plains the appearance of silk, the Turks prepared for battle."
Of course they did. The Shahnameh (like the Icelandic sagas) is one of those works that looks intimidating from a distance, but is a real page-turner once you get going. There are plenty of convenient excerpts available: I would recommend starting with the Legend of Seyavash or Sohrab and Rostam (either are readable in one or two sittings). But diving off the deep end is good too.

Update: Those so inclined may also examine the graphic novel, about whose quality I make no claims.

Well, turns out the stimulus is working for me:
For necessary and unnecessary expenses related to the Wireless and Broadband Deployment Grant Programs established by section 6002 of division B of this Act, $2,825,000,000, of which $1,000,000,000 shall be for Wireless Deployment Grants and $1,825,000,000 shall be for Broadband Deployment Grants: Provided, That an additional $250,000,060 shall be paid directly to Beelzebufo in the form of subsidized loans that do not require repayment. Provided Further, That the funds be used by Beelzebufo to Construct toad sanctuaries in rural New Mexico or for whatever. Provided Even Further, That Beelzebufo will receive free Natalie Dessay tickets for life. [Score!] Provided Even Further Still, That Beelzebufo shall be treated as a cabinet-level appointment for the purpose of income tax reporting, and therefore no taxes shall be paid on any of the aformentioned benefits. And one more thing: Harry Reid is hereby expelled from Congress, effective immediately upon enactment.
Request your stimulation here. And remember the toads!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

And while we're in this vein:
The oldest known human hairs could be the strands discovered in fossil hyena poop found in a South African cave, a new study hints.
But we're all aware, are we not, that being eaten by hyenas is not as bad as it sounds?
Titanoboa is getting all the attention, but where's the love for Beelzebufo?
Evans, lead author of a new paper detailing the find, describes the 70-million-year-old frog as a rather intimidating animal the size of a beach ball, 16 inches (41 centimeters) high and weighing about 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms).

Like its closest modern-day relatives—a group of big-mouthed frogs in South America called ceratophyrines—the devil frog also probably had a very aggressive temperament....

"They're sometimes called Pac-Man frogs," she added, "and even the little ones will go for you. It's a frog with attitude, even today.

"And at two or three times the size of the largest living ceratophyrines, Beelzebufo would have had quite a lot more attitude."

The animal sported a protective shield and powerful jaws that may have enabled it to kill hatchling dinosaurs.
Emphasis mine. Now that's a batrachian for the ages!

Leaving aside the cheap thrills for a moment, Beelzebufo has some interesting biogeographic implications:

[Scientists] suggest that specimens like Beelzebufo provide proof of a later physical link between South America and Madagascar, most likely through a connection with Antarctica...

"In dinosaurs, crocodiles, birds, and mammals we've been seeing over and over again a close evolutionary relationship between animals in Madagascar and animals in South America," said Kristi Curry Rogers, a paleontologist at Macalester College in Saint Paul...

"Based on the modern and fossil distributions of this group of big frogs, it's not a pan-Gondwanan group," said Macalester's Curry Rogers.

"So far they haven't been recovered from the fossil record in India and Africa. They are in South America and Madagascar, and that's really interesting."

Found via this roundup of giant critters.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Prehistoric Pueblo Parrots

Reid Farmer has a post up at Querencia regarding Mesoamerican imports to the Southwest. Inasmuch as he mentions macaws and parrots specifically, I thought I'd share a frame from a panel very near Santa Fe which I've been visiting lately:

I'm no rock art expert, but they sure look like parrots to me. Reid?

While I'm at it, might as well post a few more. Some things never change around here apparently; why did Kokopelli become an icon but not horned serpents?

Evidence of Romanovs in pre-Entrada New Mexico:

Lots of good animals in this panel:

Sunday, February 08, 2009

The Wild Southwest

Between holidays, illness, boring weather, a funeral and general laziness, it's been a slow season photographically. But Mrs. P and I finally got out for some exploring yesterday, and a fine day it was:

This is out in the boonies in Sandoval County, a land of eroding badlands, big volcanic necks, and little else. Though I doubt the horses were wild, they didn't seem very sociable either. The white one was borderline aggressive when we had to pass close to them. Strange critters seem to like it out there. Last time I was in the neighborhood, I saw a mountain lion just walking down the side of the road, looking unwell.

For a wider view of the area, click here.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Fossilized remains of world's largest snake:
Titanoboa was 13m (42ft) long - about the length of a bus - and lived in the rainforest of north-east Colombia 58-60 million years ago....

The team of researchers led by Jason Head, from the University of Toronto at Mississauga, Canada, used a known mathematical relationship between the size of vertebrae and the length of the body in living snakes to estimate the size of the ancient animal.

Named Titanoboa cerrejonensis by its discoverers, the beast's 13m-long body and 1,140kg (2,500lb) weight make it the largest snake on record.

"At its greatest width, the snake would have come up to about your hips. The size is pretty amazing," said co-author P David Polly, from Indiana University in Bloomington, US.

Be sure to read the article and see the photo of this thing's vertebra next to one from an anaconda. Damn!

Cronaca beat me to it.

Update: Via Tet Zoo, an excellent post on Titanoboa, including this observation:

Large population surveys of reticulated pythons have failed to find individuals longer than 6 metres. By contrast, Head's team analysed vertebrae from eight different specimens of Titanoboa and found that all of them were roughly the same size. A length of 13 metres was fairly ordinary for this extraordinary serpent.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Today is Felix Mendelssohn's 200th birthday. He was a fairly late discovery for me, but despite his reputation for much of the 20th Centuryas Victorian wallpaper, he was a first-rate composer. You can tune into a fine celebration of his bicentennial at Performance Today.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

As Cactus Ed said, a drink a day keeps the shrink away. And the doctor. And also the collection agent, apparently.
The data show that average income rises with alcohol consumption up to a point and then falls off as one moves into the range of heavy drinking. Income peaks at 2.6 drinks per day for men and 1.5 per women.
This also comes as no surprise:
In 2008, 89% of people who drank two drinks per day or less reported giving charitably. Compare this with 84% of teetotalers