Friday, December 24, 2010

Okay, we really can't leave the disgusting Saddam post up over Christmas. So I'll recycle last year's post. Merry Christmas to all!

Nativity (Christmas) Icon from Cappadocia, Turkey

11th C. Nativity Icon, Tokalı Church, Göreme, Cappadocia, Turkey.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Update, just to prove I did something other than drink and stay up till 3am:



Yours truly, liveblogging the eclipse.

Isn't that the most boring and predictable live-blog ever, you ask? Pretend you're an Aztec and get back to me.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Free-Range Kids blog has posted the 2010 Golden Helicopter Parenting Awards, the Ig-Nobel Prize of parenting and sanity generally.

Doomed, I say.

I really approve of the Free-Range Kids blog, but I don't check in much because it's just too damn depressing. Leaves me thinking that the only options are vasectomy, purchase the Unabomber's land (lately for sale!), or move to Turkey. Turkish kids wander the streets of major cities at will, negotiate urban traffic and run cheerfully to greet strangers. You'd think they'd all be dead of tetanus, splattered on undercarriages, or held captive in basement gimp-rooms. And yet they seem to thrive....

Three Turkish girls at the Çifte Minareli Medrese, Erzurum, Turkey.
Talking to Strangers


This was downtown in a city of over 360,000, no parents in sight. Some of the most striking things about Turkey were the large numbers of (very friendly) young people, and the moments of feeling like you were in a '50s movie, where street urchins say "Hi, mister!" and everyone acts proud of their hometown. I don't want to digress too far, but suffice it to say that within 12 hours of arriving in Gümüşhane, we two random travelers had our picture taken with the mayor. Turkey certainly has problems, including some very big ones, but there's a sense of pride and optimism there which I never feel here (not even at the Salmon demo derby).

Friday, December 10, 2010

And in the spirit of the season:
"If we could gather all electric eels from all around the world, we would be able to light up an unimaginably giant Christmas tree."
Thus far, they must settle for one eel and one standard Christmas tree.
Recreating the Antikythera Mechanism with legos

Update: Here's a video of a more traditional reconstruction. Amazing!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

I know this feeling. It's looking like a long La Niña winter down here....

Saturday, December 04, 2010

The Axolotl Song

I'm afraid the B-part is Salamander Slander. Click at your own risk.

(I'm really sorry! Mrs. P, who found it, isn't sorry at all.)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Was Tycho Brahe murdered by Kepler? Doubtful at best, but it's nice to see research putting paid to the absurd notion that he died of superhuman bladder control.

(Note to NYT: Please remove writers obsessed with Hollywood adaptations or aspiring to be gossip columnists from the science beat.)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Flying reptiles are in the news:
"The whole snake itself is just one long wing," Socha said. "That wing is constantly reconfiguring, it's constantly reforming and contorting... Parts of the body, depending on where they are in space, might be interacting with the wake from the front part of the body, and this might hurt or help or be neutral."
Flyingsnake.org will reward some browsing.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

More often than not, I'm quite fond of New Mexico's climate. But sometimes.... is this a classic southwestern weather alert or what?
Snow, Wind, and Critical Fire Weather Conditions to Impact NM Today

Thursday, November 18, 2010

New seismic fault discovered in central Idaho:
Scientists at Idaho State University have mapped a previously unknown and active seismic fault in the northern Rockies capable of unleashing an earthquake with a magnitude as high as 7.5....

....Glenn Thackray, chairman of the university's geosciences department, said the 40-mile-long fracture in the Earth's crust at the base of the Sawtooth Mountains near the tiny mountain town of Stanley is cause for some concern.

"There's a chance in the next few decades there will be an earthquake on this fault, and if it does happen it will be a rather large earthquake," he said.

Scientists located the fault with a remote sensing technique that relies on laser-equipped airplanes. They were able to gather data about its history by analyzing sediment cores lifted from Redfish Lake, a mountain lake on the fault line famous for its historic sockeye salmon runs.

Thackray said researchers believe the fault triggered two earthquakes over the past 10,000 years, one some 7,000 years ago and another 4,000 years ago, suggesting significant seismic activity occurs at the site every several thousand years.
I visited the fault scarp from the 1983 Mount Borah earthquake this summer (another illustration here). With nearly ten feet of vertical displacement in places, it's quite impressive. The mountains rose six inches while the valley floor dropped nine feet. We run a rapid on the Middle Fork of the Salmon whose main obstacle is a boulder dislodged from the cliffs by the quake 70 miles away. East-central Idaho is shaky country. Quakes here would be a big deal if the area weren't so sparsely populated.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wee, Sleekit, Cow’rin, Tim’rous Beastie

The Secret Lives of Harvest Mice

Very cool, and an example of really bravura wildlife photography. They still look like treats for pythons, though.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Jonah Goldberg receives an interesting question:
I have a co-worker who is a 38-year-old Muslim from Niger... He is here on a permanent visa and plans on eventually becoming a citizen.... With some prodding from him, I have taken upon myself the task of assigning him a list of movies he needs to see in order to explain America and its myriad cultures to him... I’d love it if you could ask your readers…are there some movies that perhaps wouldn’t make a Best Movie list that I should include anyway? My only criterion is that the film has to delve into a different subculture of American life, either past or present. Whether or not you like a movie is not relevant.
In accordance with the interests of this blog, let's narrow the scope a little. What movies would you recommend to an outsider to understand the people and lifestyles of the modern American West?

My thoughts:
  • Lonely Are the Brave: Just saw this for the first time a few months ago, and it's damn good. Old western love of freedom and wildness collides with modernity and development in Albuquerque and the Sandia Mountains.
  • Into the Wild: An extreme manifestation of the love of solitude, nature and adventure that draws people to the West.
  • The Milagro Beanfield War: Has its detractors, but northern New Mexico village life has never really made it on film anywhere else. Also shows the role water plays around here,something which folks from elsewhere have an awfully hard time grasping.
  • The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada: For such politically charged material, this one does pretty well in wrestling with the world of the border. Excellent dark humor on display.
  • Rancho Deluxe: I hesitate to list this one, since I'm not at all sure what a foreigner would take away from it; but it's a lot of fun despite some mannerisms, and the dope-smoking rustler je ne sais quoi is unique and appealing. Would that Montana were remained thus. Plus, it's got Slim Pickens.
  • Smoke Signals: Most interesting Indian movie I could think of, not romanticized, but not too squalid either, and has a sense of humor. I'd love to hear other suggestions, though. My only other vaguely satisfactory idea is Thunderheart.
Some vaguely related thoughts:
  • All of the above get their landscapes right, which is pretty rare for filmmakers. Note to Hollywood: more and more people know and care about this issue, we find it distracting, and it makes you look like idiots. Please film your next Geronimo movie in southern Arizona, not in Utah.
  • Many aspects of the West simply haven't made it to the screen. Mormonism, for instance: September Dawn was apparently a bit of a flop. Anyone actually seen it?
  • The Monkey Wrench Gang movie doesn't look promising. Release date has been pushed back from 2008 to 2010 to 2013. Last I heard they were going to film in New Mexico for tax purposes. I love NM, but that's not going to cut it landscape-wise (see above).
Lastly, since suitable movies are in somewhat short supply, what book would you like to see on film to exemplify the modern West (assuming it would be done well)? My first impulse is Peter Bowen's Wolf, No Wolf.
It's official: squid can fly. With photographic evidence.
From what has been gathered through the small body of evidence, these species of squid capable of 'flying' use a kind of jet propulsion to project themselves out of the water, whereupon they extend their fins to guide the trajectory and create lift.
Thanks to Odious for the tip.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Speaking of which, it's about time I blogged the new addition to the family:

Woodhouse's toad

I believe he's a Woodhouse's toad, though I stand open to correction if anyone knows better. Someone caught him wild and gave him to the store where we get our pythons' mice, and we decided he'd be happier with us than there. He's been settling in pretty well, and feeding him is great fun.

It's been a real challenge to find a name for him, though. We went through an awful lot of options: Gilbert, Timur, Chinggis, Killick, Jarbidge. We've very nearly settled on Belisarius, narrowly edging ahead of Ptolomy. We'll see if it sticks.
Ranchers and hookers unite to stick it the Endangered Species Act by saving the Amargosa toad. Let's see more of this kind of conservation, especially involving toads.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Hallbjörn Hjartarson, the king of Icelandic country music. You can listen to a song here.

Hat tip to Rajan Parrikar, an excellent photoblogger who seems to split his time between Iceland and Goa. I definitely recommend clicking a good ways into his archives.

Monday, November 01, 2010

"He’s been asexually budding and having the younger versions of himself bid for city contracts."

Surprisingly, this is not just another special New Mexico election moment, but rather a civic-minded sci-fi bagatelle from John Scalzi.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

Incantation for Dog Bite:
Long-kneed
Swift-running
Short of victuals
Lacking in food.
In his teeth
He carries his semen.
Wherever he has bitten
He leaves his offspring.
Hear it in the Babylonian! And in regard to all the obvious questions, I'll echo my source at DesertWindHounds: no idea.

Friday, October 15, 2010

We've blogged Ted Hughes splendid autumn poetry before. But here's my personal take on it:

Monday, October 04, 2010

These people are lunatics, but they sure got some great film:



Article here.

Monday, September 27, 2010

An interview with master Persian singer Mohammad Reza Shajarian. I've been fond of his recordings for a while, and it sounds like the singer himself is an admirable man:
...in recent years, his songs have taken on new meanings.

"He ends every concert with 'Morghe Sahar — Bird of Dawning', and it really brings the audience to their feet," says Milani.

The song starts with a call for the bird to begin its lament. "And by the end of the song," Milani says, "it is asking the bird to sing, so night of oppression can come to an end, and the day of liberation can begin. And there has developed a kind of metaphoric language. Night is invariably understood to mean despotism; winter is cold days of oppression. And this song uses virtually all of these now well-known metaphoric words to ask for the rise of day of freedom and end to the night of oppression."

"Iranian literature is primarily poetry," explains Milani. "And Shajarian is a master of this literature and knows exactly what lines from which poems could be used at what moment in history. He says if you follow my songs, you can almost write the history of the last 40 years."

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I guess whaling's in the air this week. Check out Girl on a Whaleship, which uses the diary of a six-year-old who spent three years on a whaling voyage in the 1860s as an excuse for a very fun interactive web site about all things whaling. You probably want to save this link for when you have a little time on your hands, and a fast connection.

Hat tip: Deep Sea News.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Stone-age whale hunters of Lamalera: amazingly cool! Much more here, and many more photos here.

Found by running down an intriguing footnote in The Tiger, which I just finished and cannot recommend too highly!

Update: Looks like Odious blogged this years ago. Shows what I know. But it's well worth a second look.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Monday, September 06, 2010

And I thought county highpointers were insane! Looks like someone's starting on highpointing Russian autonomous districts. He's knocked off Nenets and Komi/Mansi-Khanti. I didn't realize the Urals got quite that dramatic.
A disturbing trend for coursing:


I have no doubt that the Querencia pack will be at the forefront of the noble counterinsurgency.

From Got Medieval, which documents plenty more of this perfidy.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

O Amazones! Asgarda!
In the Ukraine, a country where females are victims of sexual trafficking and gender oppression, a new tribe of empowered women is emerging. Calling themselves the “Asgarda”, the women seek complete autonomy from men. Residing in the Carpathian Mountains, the tribe is comprised of 150 women of varying ages, primarily students, led by 30 year-old Katerina Tarnouska. Reviving the tribal traditions of the Scythian Amazons of ancient Greek mythology, the Asgarda train in martial arts, taught by former Soviet karate master, Volodymyr Stepanovytch, and learn life skills and sciences in order to become ideal women.
I have nothing to add to the awesome here. The seventh photo is my favorite.

I should add: hence.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Cephalopod attack!

This one isn't even a stretch (though it's sensationalized enough): Man Eating Giant Squid Devouring Fish Stocks
Two Mexican fishermen were recently dragged from their boats and chewed so badly that their bodies could not be identified even by their own families....

Hunting in 1,000-strong packs the giant squid can out-swim and out-think fish. Scientists believe they coordinate attacks by using pigment cells to communicate....

Former US special forces diver Scott Cassell has put his life on the line to study the squid. He too has been attacked.

He said: “Within five minutes my right shoulder had been pulled out of its socket. I had 30 big marks on my head and throat and one squid hit me so hard I saw stars. They then grabbed on to me and pulled me down so fast that I could not equalise and I ruptured my eardrum.
Apparently it's about climate change, as usual. Another point in global warming's favor!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

It's an awfully long time since we've done recipe blogging. Let's remedy that. We've been eating a lot of this since receiving it from the Querencia crew. It's summery, really easy and works very well when prepared in advance. I don't know the provenance (though it's obviously an Eastern Mediterranean sort of thing); I received it handwritten in my mother's script. But I cannot recommend it too highly!

Eggplant with Pomegranate Sauce

[Recipe claims it serves six. Maybe with lots of other food. We're having it for two right now.]

1-1/2 to 2 lbs. Japanese eggplant (Long, narrow eggplants are best, not weighing over 3/4 lb. each)
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 F, lightly coat a baking sheet with olive oil.

Remove ends and slice eggplants on the bias into 1/2" thick ovals. Spread slices on baking sheet and brush w. olive oil [I find dipping in a bowl answers better]. Bake about 12 minutes [takes us longer] on each side until golden brown. Transfer to serving dish, overlapping slices slightly.

Pomegranate Sauce

2 tbsp. pomegranate molasses
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 clove [yeah, right!] garlic, peeled and crushed w. 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. sugar
1-1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
2-3 tbsp. fresh mint
1 tbsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp fresh pomegranate seeds [If you got em, but don't hesitate to go for it without them. We've found dried powdered pomegranate is quite acceptable as well.]

Combine first 6 ingredients, blending well. Drizzle sauce over eggplant. Top w. mint, parsley and pomegranate seeds. Cover w. plastic wrap and let stand until ready to serve [preferably at least 45 minutes, in our experience, it does make it better]. Best at room temperature.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Two U.K. climbers make a couple of really remote first ascents in Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor:
Alan says: "I was standing on top of a mountain in Afghanistan that probably no Westerner had even seen - maybe no human being has even seen.
Alan Halewood has photos on his blog.

Hat Tip: The Adventure Blog
Luxurious geothermal baths and horrific wounds: A nice page on health, grooming and medicine in early Iceland.

Thanks to Chas.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Opera Round-Up

Blogging the Santa Fe opera season is a tradition here on O&P, and this year will be no exception. However, high standards for individual posts on each production have led me to blow off blogging the last couple performances over the last couple years. This sucks, not least because I didn't post on The Letter last year, which was awesome, bringing to mind Puccini, Janacek and Strauss, made one happy about the future of opera. So I'm doing them all in one mildly drunken post this year, in the order we saw them. We gave Life is a Dream a miss; the plot actually sounds rather good and well-suited for opera, but the music was not recommended unless you were in the mood for atonalism. We were not.

Tales of Hoffman:
This was my first listen all the way through, and I must say it's not going to become one of my favorite operas. Poets and their muses; one woman in three aspects; drunken, artistic stupors: I just don't have the sympathy for these things that I did in high school. Hoffman is a study in random weirdness, and this year's production decided to amplify the weirdness rather than organize it. However, I had no complaints about the musical performance. The orchestra was in good form, and the singers rocked it. There was a stand-in as Lindorf/Various Bad Guys/Satan; alas, I didn't catch his name, but he was clearly having the time of his life, and stole most of his scenes. Also of note was mezzo Kate Lindsey, who played Hoffman's Muse/Nicklausse: besides being really good looking, her singing was a delight, whenever the production could spare her from sprawling languidly on the furniture. And in her Nicklausse incarnation, she got to be the only character who talked a word of sense. Some ambitious composer could make a rather good sequel in which Nicklausse leaves Hoffman in a gutter and proceeds to do something intelligent and worthwhile.

Madame Butterfly: Just about perfect. Puccini performs so well, he made these things pretty foolproof. Still, this was just bloody good, the kind of production Santa Fe really does well, naturalistic but light, making a little scenery go a long way. The only criticism I could think of was that the set representing Butterfly's home shouldn't have had to spin around quite that many times. Kelly Kaduce (also easy on the eyes; the fat lady stereotype is really a thing of the past) absolutely nailed the title role, and committed very satisfyingly convincing and gory seppuku at the end. Pinkerton got booed at the curtain call; I assume this is a tradition, as the tenor did not at all disappoint. (This is a mild response to a despicable opera character; Italian baritones have had to dodge real bullets when playing Iago.)

The Magic Flute: This was a revival of the production from a few years back. I liked it well enough the first time, but it may please be retired. It did not reward a second viewing. Maybe it was an off night, but the performance seemed a little phoned-in in every way. The conductor's pacing was a little flabby, and Audrey Elizabeth Luna was just not up to The Queen of the Night. Her coloratura was out of control, the high notes in the Act I aria brought to mind a countertenor camel, and she managed (deliberately or otherwise) to get laughs out of the Act II number by her bodily twitching. That's just wrong. The opera is comic, but Der Hölle Rache is not.

The performance was saved by a very good Pamina (Ekaterina Siurina) and an amazing Sarastro (Andrea Silvestrelli). (I do see a certain logic to the current trend of casting the better singers as Pamina; a good Pamina is an excellent thing, but this breaks down if the Queen is absolutely not up to it.) Silvestrelli's first notes made you feel like the sound was coming from inside your own chest, giving rise to fears about the resonant frequencies of ribcages. He sounded like an opera-singing walrus, and I mean that as a complement!

Happily, we had friends in town for this one, and they got a perfect Santa Fe opera experience. We tailgated, with a lot of great Vietnamese food and New Mexico's excellent Gruet blanc de noirs. The sunset was absolutely incredible, even by our high standards, with ranks of clouds traversing every shade of yellow, vermilion and red, while each finger mesa of the Jemez stood out in shades of purple. And when we went to take our standing-room spots (we planned this one a little late), the staff practically dragged us by our necks to fill some inexplicably empty sixty-dollar seats. Such boons incline one to forgive a lot in a performance.

Albert Herring: One has to see any opera with the word herring in the title. God, this was good! The plot is as perfect a plot as exists anywhere: no young ladies of sufficient virtue are to be had, so a young man is elected Queen of the May. Then he gets drunk. Santa Fe has been doing great things with Benjamin Britten for a while now, and everything about this was perfect. Kate Lindsey was in this one too, as a village tart (Nancy) of outwardly loose but inwardly compassionate morals; she can act as well as sing. The Vicar (Wayne Tigges) embodied everything that annoys one in vicars. The Mayor (Mark Schowalter) was straight out of Graham Oakley's Wortlethorpe. The village brats were cute but decidedly bratty. Lady Billows (Christine Brewer) was perfectly insufferable (how nice it musty be for physically large singers to play fat English ladies instead of 16-year-old ingenues!). Mrs. Herring (Judith Christin) may possibly have been a Monty Python member in drag ("Oooh, well I never!"). And Albert himself (Alek Shrader) gave a very, very fine performance. So did everyone else. And the scenery was spot-on, convincing and detailed without being distracting. At this point, I'd say any Britten in Santa Fe is absolutely a must-see.
Some good news for Desolation Canyon. Plus new photos.
Bringing the aesthetic delights of the 1040-EZ to every cash transaction: some design firm has really ugly ideas for our money. And I'm using ugly in its most literal sense. Not even going to touch the implicit politics here. If we want to revamp our already rather unattractive cash, what's wrong with old-fashioned engravings of picturesque minorities and alpine scenery?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

An amazing set of photographs from throughout the Russian Empire, taken from 1909-1912:
In those years, photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944) undertook a photographic survey of the Russian Empire with the support of Tsar Nicholas II. He used a specialized camera to capture three black and white images in fairly quick succession, using red, green and blue filters, allowing them to later be recombined and projected with filtered lanterns to show near true color images. The high quality of the images, combined with the bright colors, make it difficult for viewers to believe that they are looking 100 years back in time - when these photographs were taken, neither the Russian Revolution nor World War I had yet begun.

There's a lot of shots in there from Central Asia, the Caucasus and eastern Turkey, besides Russia proper. Truly an incredible record!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Och, crivens, the Omanis can spiel a pipe like ony Scotsman!



The dancing is something too! Here's much more:



Thanks to Mrs. Peculiar, who was delighted to happen upon such an Omani piper at the Santa Fe Folk Art Festival earlier this summer.

To their great credit, McCallum Bagpipes is willing to accomodate the special needs of far-flung pipers:

Two military pipe bands belonging to the Sultan of Oman, who ply their trade seated upon the backs of camels, are suffering badly for their art. Proud men, resplendent in white uniforms and seated on bedecked and braided camels, they look magnificent until they smile, when they reveal large numbers of missing teeth.

This is the inevitable result of their mounts lurching unexpectedly when they are playing, thrusting 18 inches of rigid hardwood into their mouths.

The Sultan, a lover of the pipes - he has five other more fortunate bands which are not camel-mounted - has now asked Scots craftsmen to redesign the bagpipes with a bendy blowpipe to save his musicians from injury.

McCallum Bagipes, a bagpipe manufacturer from Kilmarnock, has come up with something that flexes as the camels sway graciously across the sands. Stuart McCallum, a director of the company making the camel-

friendly pipes, said: “I was amazed when I got the request, but I designed the device using computer technology.

“It's a flexible plastic tube that bends as the camel moves and can be adjusted in length, depending on how tall the piper is. There's a padded bit on the tip as well for extra comfort.”
Gazelle and terrier produce hideous bastard offspring! Err, to sensationalize a bit. This ridiculous thing is pretty sensational, though.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Reasons I'm glad I'm Orthodox, #51: Giant schnauzer ministry. On a skateboard.

Hat tip: Chas, who has convinced me that Pueblo, CO is very odd indeed. Not that I needed much convincing; I've been there. And such oddities make it vastly superior to the rest of the front range.*

*When we lived in western Colorado, people asked us with rather appalling frequency, "So, do you visit The Springs [i.e. Colorado Springs, a.k.a. The Protestant Vatican] much?" My undiplomatic response was usually, "Good God no! Why would we do that?"

Sunday, August 15, 2010

A new one from Eilen Jewell: Butcher Holler: A Tribute To Loretta Lynn. Recommended, as is all of Eilen's work. Nice to see on her web page that it's doing well on the Americana and Alt-Country charts.
What I did instead of watching the Perseids on Thursday night: Previewed Ragnarok in the Pecos.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Seen recently in Santa Fe, a T-shirt which read:

Fasolt and Fafner Construction
Rates Negotiable

Friday, August 13, 2010

Have brewed mugwort/yarrow beer. Pissing gentle lavender color, and having dreams about dhole worms and shoggoths. NO MORE "ANCIENT CELTIC" RECIPES.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Apostle to the Sasquatches:

A Russian Orthodox bishop is hunting bigfoot:

Kemerovo (Russia), (RIA Novosti) A group of people led by the Russian Orthodox Bishop of Kemerovo and a regional official set out Thursday in search of a bigfoot sighted by hunters in Tashtagol area in Russia, a regional spokesman said.

Earlier this week, the Kemerovo regional administration released a report that local hunters had spotted "some hairy humanoid creatures with a height of 1.5-2 metres near the Azass Cave on Mount Shoriya...

[The spokesman] also noted that yetis for some reason are always spotted singularly, which is "biological nonsense", as a large population must exist in order to create generation after generation.

I'm unclear how "hairy humanoid creature with a height of 1.5-2 metres" differs from an average Russian Orthodox parishioner. Such issues notwithstanding, if any bishops are reading this post, Your Grace is welcome to hire me to investigate bigfoot reports in the Southern Rockies on behalf of the Church. My fees are reasonable.
'Tis the Season

Whan that August with his shoures soote
the droghte of June hath perced to the roote,
and bathed every veyne in swich parfoum
of which vertu engendred is the shroum....


...thanne longen southwestryn folk to goon on pilgrimages. So might Chaucer have ywrote, had he lived in the Southern Rockies and been more interested in fungi than relics.


Everyone's doing it: Chas, Sometimes Far Afield, 14ers.com denizens, and we are not immune. A >12,000' summit plus boletes: that's what I call a successful day! And we even had time afterwards to head to the county fair and feast our eyes on prize-winning swine.





Can anyone identify these hideous alpine thistles, pendulous beneath the weight of their fecund efflorescence? (First shot is in the Pecos Wilderness, high above the mushrooms; below is a specimen up North Crestone Creek in the Colorado Sangres. Click to enlarge.)

Update: Think we've got a fairly positive ID: Cirsium eatonii var. eriocephalum. A big thanks to Al at the highly-recommended Southwest Colorado Wildflowers site for help with this one.



Thursday, August 05, 2010

For no reason but that I came across it today: Chesterton's Defense of Penny Dreadfuls.
In former centuries the educated class ignored the ruck of vulgar literature. They ignored, and therefore did not, properly speaking, despise it. Simple ignorance and indifference does not inflate the character with pride. A man does not walk down the street giving a haughty twirl to his moustaches at the thought of his superiority to some variety of deep-sea fishes. The old scholars left the whole under-world of popular compositions in a similar darkness.
If I had the moustaches, I would never cease twirling them in scorn of those fishes.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Hypatia Round-Up

Not our Hypatia (though she occasionally needs a little rounding up, generally when she's slithering into oblivion inside the furniture). Rather the one being portrayed in Agora, which, even if it may not see widespread theatrical release, will probably come to Santa Fe and Netflix eventually. The movie's now out there, and the web is rife with Hypatia-blogging. Here are a few perspectives:The upshot for me: the movie is a movie of course, but attempts to reduce Hypatia's story to "Pagan vs. Christian" or "Enlightened Philisophy vs. Superstition" are historically naïve at best. Also, make sure you know the historical record regarding the Library of Alexandria. Also, Alexandria was a tough town and a weird, weird place, and Christianity did not change that.

The first link in this chain was Chas.
Not making it up: Radioactive Boar on the Rise in Germany

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Best comic ever! Sweet justice:



That toad isn't even trying to cross the road. Ha!

Βρέκεκεκεξ κοάξ κοάξ!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Here's an amusing toy: I Write Like. Drop a few paragraphs of your text in there, and it claims to analyze it and tell you what author matches your style. Of course, I seldom write like anything at all these days, but that's beside the point. My old Illinois River piece yielded up David Foster Wallace (doesn't mean much to me); my more recent discussion of tamarisk beetles gave Nabokov (thanks, but I don't think so); but my Gila River trip report yielded what is surely the correct answer (Iä ! Iä !)

I write like
H. P. Lovecraft

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!


The first five paragraphs of Call of Cthulhu gets you Arthur C. Clark. A few more paragraphs got us there, but "cyclopean" was a dead giveaway.

Via Atomic Nerds (sorry about the Atwood).

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

World's first illustrated Christian bible discovered at Ethiopian monastery

The world's earliest illustrated Christian book has been saved by a British charity which located it at a remote Ethiopian monastery.

The incredible Garima Gospels are named after a monk who arrived in the African country in the fifth century and is said to have copied them out in just one day.

Beautifully illustrated, the colours are still vivid and thanks to the Ethiopian Heritage Fund have been conserved.

Abba Garima arrived from Constantinople in 494 AD and legend has it that he was able to copy the gospels in a day because God delayed the sun from setting.

The incredible relic has been kept ever since in the Garima Monastery near Adwa in the north of the country, which is in the Tigray region at 7,000 feet.

Experts believe it is also the earliest example of book binding still attached to the original pages....

Though the texts had been mentioned by the occasional traveller since the 1950s, it had been thought they dated from the 11th century at the earliest.

Carbon dating, however, gives a date between 330 and 650 - which tantalisingly overlaps the date Abba Garima arrived in the country.
Apropos of Ethiopia, an Abyssinian member of our congregation recently told us about a monastery she'd visited several times in Eritrea. According to local tradition, the monastery's founding saint wished to settle atop a sheer plateau, but couldn't climb the necessary cliff. He prayed to the Archangel Michael, who kindly sent a giant python. The snake first offered to take them up in its jaws, but the monks would have none of it. So the helpful python, doubtless rolling its eyes, reversed directions and took them up in its tail.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A conversation about apples:

Emily: The sweet peas are unchanged. Cattle-show is tomorrow. The coops and committees are passing now...They are picking the Baldwin apples.

Vincent: For such a child, that distant time
Was close as apple-trees to climb,
And apples crashed among the trees
Half Baldwin, half Hesperides

Annie: While Baldwins have been used for cider for more than two hundred years, and have received good marks in the past, several experiments have shown the juice to be flat and insipid.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Seen near Riggins, Idaho:

This Highway Adopted by The Yahweh 666 Warning Assembly


It was up the road. Also:

Police have arrested a 74-year-old woman who is accused of repeatedly dumping maple syrup, corn syrup, ketchup and mayonnaise into a library book drop in Idaho's capital city... [She] was a person of interest in at least 10 other condiment-related incidents


Source.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The sun shone. We made hay. Now I am tired.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Thursday, June 10, 2010

I've been river guiding for a couple weeks now. I'm very tired and don't have much intelligent to say, but I do have some pretty pictures up on the photoblog:

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Strangely fascinating (how many posts do we begin that way?) reading:

A

TREATISE

ON

ADULTERATIONS OF FOOD,

AND CULINARY POISONS.

EXHIBITING

The Fraudulent Sophistications of

BREAD, BEER, WINE, SPIRITOUS LIQUORS, TEA, COFFEE, CREAM, CONFECTIONERY, VINEGAR, MUSTARD, PEPPER, CHEESE, OLIVE OIL, PICKLES,

AND OTHER ARTICLES EMPLOYED IN DOMESTIC ECONOMY.

AND

METHODS OF DETECTING THEM.

I had known about the carving of wooden nutmegs, but much of this was a revelation to me, particularly the dangers of Poisonous Cheese.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Ah, synchronicity! Today's Performance Today has an excellent segment dedicated to folk influences in Finnish classical music. Well worth a listen, it includes a composition based on Sami joiking.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

This may well interest no one but me and Proclus, but here it is anyway: Digital Archive of Finnish Folk Tunes. The specific search feature works best if you just want to browse; you can filter by region and by type of tune. Obviously, it helps to be mildly conversant in Finnish geography and music. This polska was a nice find (click here to listen, and click the image for a clearer view):

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Don't get bitten by a coral snake! Always good advice, but now ever more so, since apparently we're out of antivenom. And wouldn't you know it, the perfectly good stuff they use in Mexico isn't coming here due to FDA hurdles.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Letter to the editor, Santa Fe New Mexican, 5.07.10, reproduced in full:
My 30 years' research for a book on ancient petroglyphs reveals a meaning greatly differing from what archaeologists have told us.

I have irrefutable proof that ancient Egyptians, Minoans, Libyans and Galesteans (the Cycladic island of Santorini was originally named "Galeste") founded a colony in the Galisteo Basin circa 1626 B.C. Despite suppression by the archaeological community, I am now moving forward with production. Over the years, several important photos and negatives which I made over 25 years ago have been selectively stolen from my house.

Earlier this year, a packet of 126 film negatives which I needed to make quality enlargements for my book were stolen by professional burglars. Meanwhile, archaeologists in charge won't allow me on San Cristobal Ranch to make replacement photos so I am forced to use inferior photos. Is the archaeology community so weak that it cannot tolerate dissident views?
Hear, hear, let the man publish!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

S.M. Stirling's Santa Fe vampire novel is now released! Samples are available. Been looking forward to this one (though it is not the first Santa Fe vampire novel).

Thanks to Chas for the reminder, and for a very pleasant recent visit:
...layers and layers. Ethnic balkanization and people cherishing hatreds and triumphs that go back centuries. Martyrs and massacres. Deep roots in the earth.
That's us! Don't be a stranger!

Update: Can't really recommend this one, alas. S&M Stirling would be an apt moniker in this instance. He really seems rather more interested in the sexual implications of his vampires' abilities than in, say, plot.
Far out: Do birds see magentic fields through quantum entanglement?

Monday, May 03, 2010

Some rather--unusual--fallacies over at Siris.
Argumentum fistulatorium means, roughly, 'argument by piping'. Ad verecundiam, ex absurdo, and ex Fortiori are, respectively, argument from authority, from the absurdity of the position, and from the truth of a stronger conclusion. They would have been found in real lists of argument-types at the time. All the rest are jokes, but argumentum baculinum was an old one by Sterne's time; it occurs when you resolve an argument by beating your opponent with a club or a stick.
I'm not sure that the baculinum is always a fallacy, however; there are obviously times (for example, if your interlocuter argues that you are incapable of striking him) when it answers quite well; and in any case no less a philosopher than Duns Scotus employs it in his Ordinatio:
And so too, those who deny that some being is contigent should be exposed to torments until they concede that it is possible for them not to be tormented.
Both understandable and effective, I imagine. The Scotch, of course, were noted for combining the fistulatorium and baculinum with great success.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Boy, this expedition sounds like fun:
April 28, 2010 Marks the 221st anniversary of the Mutiny on the Bounty, when Fletcher Christian cast William Bligh and 18 of his men adrift in a 23ft open boat, which marked the beginning of one of the greatest open boat voyages in maritime history. During the following seven weeks, Bligh and his men sailed over 3,700 nautical miles, in an overloaded boat, with little food or water and no charts, from Tonga to Kupang in Timor.

On that same day, in the same place, at the same time, Australian adventurer Don McIntyre, three other crew, will relive Bligh’s nightmare, by attempting to sail the same voyage under similar conditions, no charts, no toilet paper, not enough food or water, in an 18th century traditional open timber whale boat.
Good on 'em! And better them than me!

HT: Adventure Blog

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Whisperer in Darkness movie, complete with trailer. I'm not sure how it will hold up over feature length, but I like the black and white B-movie approach.

Update: Isolated population of Antarctic microbes form five-story waterfall of blood-red ooze. Sounds like the place to look for albino penguins. Ëa! Ëa! (Credit to Jack for this one.)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Wow, we just passed fifteen-hundred posts. This is 1,503. Hooray us!
The technology of Antarctic research stations

Cool! But we all know that the best part of Antarctic research is bringing your tuxedo.
Is opera to blame for country music?

By the early 1880s, Knoxville was hosting extravagant “Music Festivals,” held every spring. Touting itself as “the little Paris of the United States,” Knoxville emphasized European opera above all else, concentrated around Staub’s Opera House, which was on the southeast corner of Gay Street and Cumberland. Significant stars of opera and classical music from New York, Philadelphia, and Boston would take the train to Knoxville for a pleasant weekend of music, some of it outdoors at Chilhowee Park. Even if Knoxvillians didn’t always have the patience for a whole opera—these festivals were mostly composed of portions of operas, individual arias and acts—they loved the singing, and turned out in the thousands.

Knoxville’s music festivals may have left a surprising and thoroughly unintended legacy.

Some older Knoxvillians were skeptical of the Music Festival. Back then, opera was believed to inflame the passions of hot-blooded youth, and they weren’t crazy about their youngsters putting on European airs. In May, 1883, some older folks staged a sort of anti-opera counter festival, featuring some down-home fiddle music on an afternoon at Staub’s when there were no sopranos scheduled. It’s the earliest example of country music being played on a public stage I’ve been able to find.
Opera has some surprising roots out here in the "deserts of Louisiana" (as the Manon Lescaut libretto puts it). The first performances of Lohengrin in the New World took place in the German country of Texas, for instance. And I'm always delighted when I float by Jenny Lind Rock, one of the enormous cliff walls at the confluence of the Green and Yampa rivers, a place famous for its echoes. Lind's 1850 tour of America was almost a Beatlemania level sensation (Berlioz has an entertaining passage about it in Evenings with the Orchestra). Decades later, Pat Brown, a hermit dwelling in a cave near Echo Park, told acquaintances that he had a pet mountain lion who would scream from the echoing clifftop:
"Pat claimed that the lion would come out upon a high cliff and scream in answer to his yell," said Mr. Barber, "and old Pat would say, 'that sound is sweeter than any Jenny Lind ever sang.'" Old residents of the Brown's Park country still call this cliff Jenny Lind Rock.
While we're on these subjects, Mrs. P and I watched La Fanciulla del West a while back, Puccini's opera set amongst the 49-ers of California. Act I is a little slow, and the end is pretty maudlin, but Act II is classic lurid, blood-dripping, rip-roaring Puccini. I'd love it if the Santa Fe opera would adapt it to be set in, say, Madrid, New Mexico, but the drunk Indian characters probably preclude the possibility, alas.

(A hat tip to Professor Reynolds)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Great. Just great: Armed pot growers in the high desert of Oregon. The region has a grand tradition as outlaw country, but this isn't exactly in keeping with the Claude Dallas mystique. Can we please legalize the stuff before all our public lands off the big tourist trails are thus infested?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Friday, April 16, 2010

The summer of the year 1783 was an amazing and portentous one, and full of horrible phaenomena; for besides the alarming meteors and tremendous thunder-storms that affrighted and distressed the different counties of this kingdom, the peculiar haze, or smokey fog, that prevailed for many weeks in this island, and in every part of Europe, and even beyond its limits, was a most extraordinary appearance, unlike anything known within the memory of man. By my journal I find that I had noticed this strange occurrence from June 23 to July 20 inclusive, during which period the wind varied to every quarter without making any alteration in the air. The sun, at noon, looked as blank as a clouded moon, and shed a rust- coloured ferruginous light on the ground, and floors of rooms; but was particularly lurid and blood-coloured at rising and setting. All the time the heat was so intense that butchers' meat could hardly be eaten on the day after it was killed; and the flies swarmed so in the lanes and hedges that they rendered the horses half frantic, and riding irksome. The country people began to look with a superstitious awe, at the red, louring aspect of the sun...

--Gilbert White, recalling the effects of the 1783 eruption of Laki on England
While we're all fascinated by the current eruption of Eyjafjallajökull (great pictures!), spare a moment to contemplate Laki in 1783. 20% or more of Iceland's population died of famine, a cloud of poison gas hung about Iceland and Europe over a brutally hot summer, and the following winter was frigid across Europe and America. Puts all those delayed flights in perspective, doesn't it? If Eyjafjallajökull keeps belching, it'll be interesting to see if there are climatic effects, or at least good sunsets.

Of course, it might trigger Katla. Interesting Katla fact:
At the peak of the 1755 eruption the flood discharge has been estimated at 200,000–400,000 m³/s [that's cubic meters! --ed.]; for comparison, the combined average discharge of the Amazon, Mississippi, Nile, and Yangtze rivers is about 266,000 m³/s.
Hat tip: Sailer.
Man charged with assault and battery after allegedly using a 4 foot long ball python as a weapon.

Bastard. Python abuse would be a much more apt charge. If you're going to use a snake as a weapon, a ball python is an exceedingly poor choice, as they're generally frightened of absolutely everything except mice and dark places. If you have to pinch the snake's head to get it to open its mouth, you're really barking up the wrong tree. This guy should have a Burmese: for one thing, it might eat him.
Counting to five-ish.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Challenged by Peculiar, I have no choice but to respond. No promises of anything high, or even middle brow.

Natalie Babbitt, The Search for Delicious. When I got older I could identify the emotion this book brought over me as nympholepsy, an affliction I have yet to recover from. It's about magic, and nature, and how we abandon them.

William Faulkner, The Reivers. My favorite novel. Unflinching sacrifice of our innocence.

Homer, The Iliad. Is this cheating? I don't care. Rage is our first word. I will say that jack's senior essay helped me understand it quite a bit more deeply than I could have on my own.

Epictetus, Discourses.
Do you then show me your improvement in these things? If I were talking to an athlete, I should say, "Show me your shoulders"; and then he might say, "Here are my halteres." You and your halteres look to that. I should reply, "I wish to see the effect of the halteres." So, when you say: "Take the treatise on the active powers, and see how I have studied it." I reply, "Slave, I am not inquiring about this, but how you exercise pursuit and avoidance, desire and aversion, how your design and purpose and prepare yourself, whether conformably to nature or not. If conformably, give me evidence of it, and I will say that you are making progress: but if not conformably, be gone, and not only expound your books, but write such books yourself; and what will you gain by it?
Sheri S. Tepper, Beauty. Hard for me to go back to this one, but I read it perhaps twenty times when I was fifteen. I'll still read anything she wants to write.

G. K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday. In which we learn that the world is mad, but we still have our duty.

Luo Guanzhong, Romance of the Three Kingdoms. I use this book constantly to help me understand and deal with practical life. This is probably unhealthy.

Diane Duane, So You Want to be a Wizard. "I am on errantry, and I greet you."

C. S. Lewis' Narnia series. I'm not sure the effect on me was a beneficial one; I seem to have spent a great deal of my life assuming that at some point I would find a way into another world, and so didn't need to do my Social Studies homework.

Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain. A good part of these books is about the joy of useful work, and also there is Princess Eilonwy.

Notably absent: overt religion, much philosophy (the Discourses scarcely count), any sci-fi, medieval works, or Xenophon. Hmm.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Watch a huge avalanche nail a lift line at Chimbulak Ski Resort in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
New monitor lizard species discovered in the Philippines.
With a main body length approaching 1m, with an additional 1m-long tail, the lizard has dark skin covered by golden yellow spots and flecks.

Its legs are mainly yellow, and its tail striped black and yellow.

In some pictures, the animal also looks to have green or blue scales.

The new species, which is called Varanus bitatawa, is thought to survive on a diet of fruit, making it one of just three species of fruit-eating monitor lizards in the world.
(Hat tip: Cronaca)

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Querencia folks have a fun meme going: name the ten books which had the biggest influence on you. Influence is an interesting question, since influences are decidedly not the same as favorites. I think my list would have to run as follows (roughly chronological in my life):

J.R.R. Tolkein, Lord of the Rings: I'm not ashamed to be a nerd. And quite a lot of my personality is in there: philology, history, myth and epic, ethnography, poetry, Old English/Norse influence, a sense of loss of the old wonders, wilderness, mountains, rivers. I just re-read it and I still love it.

Hergé, The Tintin oeuvre: World travel, ethnography, archaeology and a great fondness for Britishness (yes, of course I know they're French).

Edward Abbey, The Monkey Wrench Gang:
Wilderness and the American West, anarchist sympathies, environmentalism without the sanctimony and pseudo-spirituality.

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World: Didn't spawn, but sharply amplified my discomfort with government and "progress."

The Kalevala:
If I were really pursuing the thread of influence here, I suppose the ultimate source is the liner notes on Seleniko by Värttinä. Weird folk poetry, epic, non-Indo-European tongues; I think this was my first awareness that there's poetry which really must be examined in the original. And that other languages are much more fun to learn than Spanish. And that that Anon. guy wrote a lot of really good stuff.

David Quammen, Song of the Dodo:
This is where I began to get seriously interested in evolution and biogeography. I believe I read Steve's review galleys.

Isak Dinesen, Out of Africa:
Travel, adventure and bloody good writing together, that's how to live!

Patrick O'Brian, The Aubrey-Maturin Novels: Again, contains a large percentage of my fascinations, and remains my ideal of English prose. There's a lot of how to live here too, even if you don't have Frenchmen to beat up on.

Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae: Not an approach I'd necessarily favor anymore, but she definitely got me fired up about reading the classics and exercising the critical faculties.

W.A. Mozart, The Magic Flute [score]: An odd entry, but no one can deny its influence on me. My relationship with music and general creativity, not to mention the inside of my head, has never been the same.
Interesting to note that only two (Huxley and Mozart) had anything to do with school, and Mozart is the only entry from the St. John's College program. Orthodoxy is notably absent, but not everything is about books; a few books were mildly influential there, but nothing was decisive. At least eight remain favorites, which is nice (might have to revisit Brave New World). All the other favorites wouldn't be favorites without these.

Honorable mentions:
The New World by Frederick Turner: sci-fi can be so much more than gadgetry. Also, David Roberts and Craig Childs: outdoor adventure for people whose brains outmass their other glands. And of course Bodio, though I had the good fortune to get him through spoken word and excellent dinners more than through printed pages. And I have him to thank for four of the listed ten.

Odious?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Perhaps you read in the paper today, as I did, about a "new species of hominid" found in the Altai. Interesting find, to be sure, but the "new species" part is seriously dubious. Anthropologist John Hawks explains why.

Thanks to the Atomic Nerds for the tip.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Happy Ada Lovelace day. In honor of this iteration, I wrote some code today--which actually compiled. I mark this day with a white stone, indeed.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mrs. P and I are off for a four-day weekend running the Gila. It's been quite a while since I ran a river not knowing what was around the bend. This huge El Nino snowpack is providing an excellent window for boating a run that's seldom runnable. Reports soon, with any luck. In the meantime, check out my new photography blog, which is finally more or less ready for public consumption.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Also from China: Phallic cemetery in the Tarim Basin. Anything from the Tarim is intriguing: home of Tocharian language and tartan-clad mummies.

Update: Changed link to much better NYT piece. Read it!

The Sanest of Men: a celebration of the Chinese poet T'ao Ch'ien.

A sample of T'ao Ch'ien's writing, trans. David Hinton:

Drinking Wine

I live here in this busy village without
all that racket horses and carts stir up,

and you wonder how that could ever be.
Wherever the mind dwells apart is itself

a distant place. Picking chrysanthemums
at my east fence, I see South Mountain

far off: air lovely at dusk, birds in flight
going home. All this means something,

something absolute: whenever I start
to explain it, I forget words altogether.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Why can't our politics be more like this?
Over 200 years ago an outraged Lord Sandwich rose purple-faced in the House to shout at an opponent. “Wilkes, you will die either on the gallows or of the pox.” “That,” drawled John Wilkes without a pause, “must depend on whether I embrace your Lordship’s principles or your mistress.”
Found in The Corner.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Saw this about the aurochs, meant to mention it, and then forgot about it again until I was reading Cronaca.
Scientists have analysed the DNA of ancient giant European wild cattle that died out almost 400 years ago.

They have determined the first mitochondrial genome sequence from aurochs (Bos primigenius) from bone found in a cave in England.

Humans worsted by pigeons at the Monty Hall problem

In the experiments, the birds quickly reached the best strategy for the Monty Hall problem — going from switching roughly 36 percent of the time on day one to some 96 percent of the time on day 30.

On the other hand, 12 undergraduate student volunteers failed to adopt the best strategy with a similar apparatus, even after 200 trials of practice each.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

What my ancestors got up to when they weren't blind drunk or thieving cattle: The Curling Song.

More curling songs here.

Friday, February 12, 2010

New additions to the household

Many, but likely not all, of our readers are aware that we acquired a ball python last summer. Well, we thought he might like some company:

The larger one is about a year old and is named (what else?) Pythagoras. The smaller we just brought home tonight, and we have yet to settle on a name. Persephone is a strong contender. She's much more spry than Pythagoras has ever been, exploring, nosing about, gliding from hand to hand like your hands are a python treadmill. Pythagoras can be safely left to his own devices for a while; a glance every 30 seconds or so is sufficient to keep track of him, methodical and stoic as he is. But the new girl will bear much closer monitoring.

Ball pythons really are splendid, amiable little creatures. (In Europe they're often called royal pythons after their scientific name, Python regius, and I rather prefer that usage.) According to Mrs. P's investigations, they're often considered auspicious in their native West African scrub, and some cultures even offer little funerals and burials to dead ones. It's pretty remarkable to have an essentially wild animal that will let you pick it up and handle it with no objection. They're quite gentle and docile. Pythagoras has nipped each of us once, but both incidents had clear reasons; a ball python bit is a little more than sandpaper, but certainly less than needles. Of course, a lot of folks get squeamish about the idea of feeding them mice, but Mrs. Peculiar and I are not very sympathetic to the mammals. Mice have surely, through crop damage and disease, contributed vastly more to the sum of human misery than snakes have. We're the last people to object to a little honest carnivory, still less myophagy.

Having a ball python also brings home the biologic ignorance of the general population. People are incredulous that there exist pythons who will never be large enough to devour dogs, babies or oxen. After my nip, an otherwise well-educated person expressed concern about venom. But on the other hand, most people who meet them are enchanted, which is encouraging.

In any case, the new girl has a lovely golden sheen. They're amazingly soft when young. Pythagoras' hide is getting tougher, but even he still feels very soft and smooth until he's ready to shed. We're very eager to see what differences in personality we might observe between the two.

Hmmm... Chryse? Appollonia? Siegrune?

Update: We went with Hypatia, which goes pretty well Pythagoras.

John Derbyshire eulogizes rhubarb, as well he might. I too fondly remember our patches in the Wyoming yard of my youth, dipping the ends in sugar. And rhubarb baked goods are noble things. But I was unaware of its historic renown:

Rhubarb has an interesting and exciting history. The Emperors of China used it as a diplomatic weapon, withholding exports of rhubarb to nations that had displeased them. See here:

The imperial commissioner Lin Zexu, who was sent to Canton in 1839 to put an end to the opium trade, wrote a letter to Queen Victoria pointing to the "fact" that the foreign barbarians surely would die if they could not obtain tea and rhubarb from China.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

The strange journey of a portrait of Napoleon through New Mexico:

  • Acquired by a Confederate major retreating from Glorieta Pass
  • Abandoned in the remote San Mateo Mountains
  • Found by a sheepherder, mistaken for the Archangel Michael, displayed in a Socorro church
  • Taken by a newspaper man to Texas and vanished

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Links roundup:

Really creepy noises in the San Juan mountains (via Chas)

How do you translate "He wanks as high as any in Wome!" into Arabic? (And does he have a wife?)

Recreating the aurochs: yes! (Chas again)

Two reviews of Avatar that are actually interesting and intelligent: an Orthodox perspective ("What I think is worth noting in this pagan/pantheistic view of god, man and nature is its similarity to Orthodox Christianity"), and Darren Naish discusses the beasties.

Things we should all consider in our outdoor adventures: Plight of missing hikers will make great movie. "Personally, I'm hoping at least someone does not make it out alive." But no outdoor adventure movie will ever be dumber than this.

Speaking of which, I finally saw Nordwand. Everything about it was very well done, but they could hardly have made it less uplifting. I don't suppose anyone will start making feature films about how wonderful mountaineering is when everything goes right, but it's nice to get some sense of why people ever think the sport is a good idea. Even Touching the Void was better in that regard.

Speaking of which, a new search is on for Mallory and Irvine's camera, in connection with Irvine's corpse. Good luck with that.

Shackleton's whisky recovered!

And last (and possibly best): amazing climbing by a monkey man in India. Consider me very jealous!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The gleaming stars all about the shining moon
Hide their bright faces, when full-orbed and splendid
In the sky she floats, flooding the shadowed earth
with clear silver light.
--Sappho

Two images from last Saturday night, cross-country skiing in Valles Caldera. The valley bottom was filled with mist, and the full moon rose brilliant through it, all silent save a distant coyote.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The last mummies of Papua
"After my death, I want to be mummified," Gematsu told his children. "I have to protect you."

Gematsu is the chief of Koke, a village at 1,500 meters in the mountains of the Morobe region in Papua New Guinea. It is inhabited by members of the Angas, one of the country's 800 tribes. Mummification of the dead was a traditional custom of the Angas and was abandoned about 50 years ago upon the arrival of the first missionaries. The Angas believed that the mummies watched over them, especially those of the tribe's great warriors, which were placed on an outcrop above the village. Photographer Ulla Lohmann has visited Koke regularly since 2002, and she was with chief Gematsu for the moment which may revive the old custom. In 2005, one of the chief's granddaughters died suddenly. To Gematsu, the death of this child was a message from the ancestors. He must convince his people to resume the ritual and to restore the old mummies that were abandoned to decay. He has begun to teach his children how to go about mummification using a pig. The pig is placed on a kind of wooden scaffold, with a fire underneath constantly fed for two or three months to draw out the water and fats. Ms. Lohmann convinced Ronald G. Beckett, a professor of biomedical science from Quinnipiac University in Hamden Connecticut, to come assist the Angas in restoring dignity to their ancestors.

....The chief has resumed a conversation with [the mummy of] his father, too long interrupted. He hopes that his children will care for him with the same devotion.

Translation mine. Follow the link: the photo essay here is amazing! I've always rather fancied the idea of being mummified and put in a cliff. The western Grand Canyon would be nice, and would spare my descendants the troubles of a humid climate.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Have you been just dying to hear more of that Jew's Harp concerto I blogged a few weeks back? Well, you're in luck: a finale movement is here. Remember, Albrechstberger wrote seven of these!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

For those who missed it, smartdogs' answer to my earlier query about splinting a dog's leg is well worth reading:
...dogs' legs are articulated differently than ours are; and because we can't rationalize with a dog about why we need to have him stay still and calm while we splint his leg - all pet first aid programs now recommend against splinting.

For an injury of this type [compound tibia fracture on rear leg] a sling is your best bet. You can make a very nice impromptu sling for a large dog out of a tote bag or "green" shopping bag. Just cut vertically along the two narrow (non-handle) sides of the bag to create a long, wide band of fabric with handles on both sides.

Slip the sling under the dog's chest or belly (depending on the leg affected) and one or two people can use the handles to support the dog's weight on the affected end.

Allowing the dog to use his other two legs to move helps alleviate his stress.

I'm not a large or strong person and I've successfully moved an injured 130 pound dog with a sling like this.
Take note as well of the posts on assembling a dog first aid kit (also here).

Friday, January 08, 2010

FIRST NIHILIST
Verily did his consort give her toe
In hopes of seeking gold a thousandfold.

SECOND NIHILIST
It is not fair; ‘tis foul but never fair!

WALTER
And wherefore ‘fair’, when ye be nihilists?
Wherefore the nihilist weeps and cries for ‘fair’?
Thy dispute is of infants...

-Two Gentlemen of Lebowski, Act v, Sc. 2

A very curious excercise in translation. Made me laugh to beat the band. (Parts, anyway.) And yes, it's the entire thing.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

If we'd known then what we know now.... Slinging.org. Odious and I made several of these, and we achieved respectable distance and power, though never anything approaching accuracy.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Every thing that is the work of man impairs itself, and passes away like him.

--Francis Le Couteur, A Treatise on the Cultivation of Apple Trees, and the Preparation of Cider, Being a Theoretical and Practical Work for the Use of the Inhabitants of the Isle of Jersey, 1806