Friday, December 23, 2011

More hanging coffins, this time in Sagada, Philippines. Nice to know there's a Christian precedent for the practice. I have some cliffs in mind (this one would do nicely, for instance).

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sweet justice! Do not tease the batrachian:

Watch it to the end. Via Steve, who adds, "They [african bullfrogs] have teeth, you know."

Monday, December 12, 2011

Siegfried Act III Prelude. This Wotan is pretty damn good for looking like he might work at a Santa Fe Jiffy Lube.

Kinds of rainbows you've probably never seen: twinned (very cool), multiple supernumerary (really bitchen) and reflection (seriously awesome). More here on the science of twinned rainbows.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Friday, December 02, 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bravura fishing skills 42,000 years ago east of Wallace's Line
Fermentation projects still working:

'Katy's Brown Mark 2', the second attempt to create a beer my wife will drink without wincing. Lots of malt, and a fair bit of hop bitterness (Chinook) and aroma (Hallertauer).

Now bottled:

Rosehip Saison: tried this last night and loved it. Comes off almost like a wheat beer (and all these are mit hefe) but with a citrusy, honey finish.

Christmas Beer: a cute idea--the malt is the gold, the spices the frankincense, and the honey the myrrh (on account of those wacky Georgian beys) that utterly flopped. Star anise is not to be played with lightly. Tastes like black licorice scrapped from the bottom of a movie theatre after a week.

Stout: Good enough that only four bottles are left.

Oracular Ale: same recipe as last time, only with dried nettle added in hopes of preventing kidney failure. So far so good!

Hawthorn flower mead: No idea. It'll be another three months before we taste this one. Lots of spiders went into it.

Strawberry wine: See hawthorn, minus spiders.

Spiced red currant wine: I got the spices right for this one--they're background rather than PCs. Still, we won't really know for six months.

Blackberry wine: The old standby. Hot (28-30 proof), sparkling, tasting of jam gone bad, yeast, and diesel fuel. I had to make five gallons this year to meet increased demand.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Surely someone will see fit to make this a reality in print? We have an infant who will soon need it!

Thanks to Chas.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

My new favorite resource: Find online versions of geologic maps (warning: huge time sink). Use the interactive map and limit your search to "Maps in NGMDB Library". Here, for instance, are all of New Mexico, all of Nevada, and Dinosaur National Monument. Smaller scale maps are available.
New jaguar sighting in Arizona

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Written? Kitten.

Hence. Now we need "Written? Crytozooid."
More research on the Gamburtsevs, the range of Alp-sized, glacier-carved mountains that lie buried beneath miles of Antarctic ice. Includes a cool fly-through animation!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Girls in Trouble: Rubies

They also have a song about Jael, wife of Heber.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Statuettes of well-known people defecating are a Christmas tradition in Catalonia, dating back to the 18th century. Catalonians hide caganers in Christmas Nativity scenes and invite friends to find them. The figures symbolise fertilisation, hope and prosperity for the coming year.
If you say so. There's a picture, possibly NSFW. Hat tip Chas.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Friday, October 21, 2011

If philosophers were cooks
I was always a lackluster philosophy student, so this is a challenge better suited to Odious' talents. I'll merely note that the, oh let's say, chile relleno greater than which no chile relleno can be conceived obviously exists, inasmuch as an existent relleno is clearly greater than a non-existent one.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A successful first ascent of the Shark's Fin on Mt. Meru in the Gharwal Himalaya: looks like quite a route! Jimmy Chin, probably the world's best climbing photographer, was on the expedition, so it'll be worth looking for more images of this one.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Were the corpses of Nevada ichthyosaurs artistically arranged by an enormous cephalopod? No, seriously:

"It became very clear that something very odd was going on there," said McMenamin. "It was a very odd configuration of bones."

First of all, the different degrees of etching on the bones suggested that the shonisaurs were not all killed and buried at the same time. It also looked like the bones had been purposefully rearranged. That it got him thinking about a particular modern predator that is known for just this sort of intelligent manipulation of bones.

"Modern octopus will do this," McMenamin said. What if there was an ancient, very large sort of octopus, like the kraken of mythology. "I think that these things were captured by the kraken and taken to the midden and the cephalopod would take them apart.....

Even more creepy: The arranged vertebrae resemble the pattern of sucker discs on a cephalopod tentacle, with each vertebra strongly resembling a coleoid sucker. In other words, the vertebral disc "pavement" seen at the state park may represent the earliest known self portrait.

I've enjoyed a couple visits to Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park over the years, but the next trip will be seriously enlivened by the possibility that it's a fossilized kraken lair.

Update: In the unlikely event the exercise is beyond any of our readers, National Geographic and Pharyngula take some Occam's razor to this story. They focus on the self-portrait idea, though, which is pretty damn out there, but don't much mention the the notion of the midden, which seems much less bonkers, even if it's not overly endowed with evidence.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Elisha Joseph Frishman

I'm not sure O&P has any readers who don't also read the Querencia blog, but on the off chance such a person exists, here is my son Eli, born October first (his actual due date!) at a whopping 9 pounds 12 ounces. We were trying for a home birth, but it eventually became clear that the western medicine safety net was warranted, so he came via C-section in St. Vincent's Hospital, the same place I was born. A second generation honky native of Santa Fe is a fairly rare thing.

Here he is with his state-of-the-art baby monitor:

He's named after Eli Tripp, my departed and much-missed best friend from my Montana years. Steve posted an excellent tribute to Eli a while back, and I'm not up to matching it. Joseph is a family name from his mother's side, and also a nod to Steve, who shares it as a middle name.

Eli and daughter Phoebe, sharing her father's wicked grin:

And for good measure, here's the last picture with our Eli on the inside, two Mondays ago in our local mountains:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"A dog bitten by a snake fears sausages."

I.e., "once bitten, twice shy" in Portuguese. More foreign idiom equivalents, courtesy of Lonely Planet.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Apparently my English (at least when I produce it in quantity) is 84% Shakespearean. Give it a go.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Great moments in advertising copy:
Colon hydrotherapy is the river of life...
Yah, it's the sacred bleedin' Ganges, mate. Glimpsed in the Santa Fe phone book.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A cool map of generic American nomenclature for streams. My typical haunts are definitely fork, wash and arroyo country, no surprise. I'm a little surprised by the prevalence of sloughs in the northwest, and even into the Great Basin.

One interesting obscure term along these lines is "prong," (which doesn't make it on the map). The only examples I am aware of are in southern New Mexico's Black Range.

Via Strange Maps.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Even more terrible was the Palden Llamo, one of the divine protectors of Buddhism but also a devouring mother who sacrificed her own children. She rode upon a lake of entrails and blood, clutching a cup made from the skull of a child born from incest, her thunderbolt staff ready to smash the unbelievers and her teeth gnawing on a corpse. Her horse's saddle was made from the flayed skin of her own child, who had become an enemy of the faith, and snakes wound through her hair. Like many gods, she bore a crown of five skulls and a necklace of severed heads. Her ostensible purpose was to defend Buddhism against its enemies, and in particular to guard the Dalai Lama, but she must have terrified many true believers as well. The Tibetans considered Queen Victoria to be one of her incarnations.
Emphasis mine. Of all the sentences not to have an end-note! From The Bloody White Baron, a biography of the appalling Baron von Ungern-Sternberg: as Steve put it, "one of the most disturbing minor figures of history.... be glad that he is minor."

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Handy advice for dealing with anachronistic vocabulary in historical fiction.
A little foodblogging: Tonight we tried an appealing recipe for "Pear-Shaped Meatballs Stuffed with Creamy Eggplant." I don't really feel like putting the effort to plagiarize it whole, and if this sort of thing appeals to you, you'd be be well advised just to find a copy of The Cooking of the Eastern Mediterranean by Paula Wolfert. She locates this recipes origin as Aleppo; it seems very Turkish to me, though perhaps it represents a strain of Arabic cuisine I haven't been fortunate enough to experience. (Virtually every Levantine restaurant I've visited in the western U.S. has left me thinking, "Surely Arabs must occasionally eat something besides hummus, tabouli, falafel and dolmas." But it is the mountain West in question, so I'm sure there is indeed more out there.)

This is something of an inversion of the dish karnıyarık ("riven belly"), which is a large eggplant stuffed with meat and other goodness. In this instance, one fries some small eggplants and stuffs them into the (nicely seasoned) meat, leaving the stems exposed:

Then you fry them a bit:

Make up a sauce from tomatoes, onion, garlic and seasonings:

Pour the sauce over the meatballs, bake for half an hour and serve:

Recommended, especially if, like me, you enjoy eggplants but wish to downplay their vegetable nature.

Wolfert calls this dish "ormuk kebabi," but a Google search for the phrase produces only a single irrelevant website in Hungarian. Ormuk certainly sounds Turkish rather than Arabic, but my casual searching has only found the word to be a) the name of a volcano near Lake Van [pg. 6] and b) "A fine, soft fabric, made of the hair of young camels in Turkestan." My curiosity is piqued.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cheap content from Atomic Nerds! Bold for what I've read (no italics, since the only book I've started and not finished is The Fountainhead--which I have since--sigh--completed. Substance is no substitute for style.)

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien
. Damn straight.

2. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

3. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
. Fuck you, philotes.

4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert. That is, everything by Frank Herbert.

5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin

6. 1984, by George Orwell

7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov
. All of them. Even the ones after the trilogy that had incomprehensible telepathy.

9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman

12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan

13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell

14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson

15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore

16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov

17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein

18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss

19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley. The best book about writing and the regret that follows. What, you thought it was about children?

21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick

22. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
. Assigned in my junior year of high school. A lot more impressive then.

23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King. Fine, italics. The first and no others.

24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke

25. The Stand, by Stephen King

26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson

27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury

28. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut

29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman
. Entirely responsible for my goth phase, about which no further information will be given. There are no pictures.

30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess

31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein

32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams

33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey

34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein

35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller

36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells

37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne

38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys

39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells

40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny

41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings
. The worst LotR clone since Terry Brooks.

42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley

43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson

44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven

45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin

46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien

47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White

48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

49. Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke

50. Contact, by Carl Sagan

51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons

52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman

53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson

54. World War Z, by Max Brooks

55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle

56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman

57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett

58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson

59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold. Worthy of every Nebula they won.

60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett

61. The Mote In God's Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind

63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
. This and not Blood Meridian?

64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke

65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson

66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist
. What's more, I've been to Krondor.

67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks. And the other books beyond the first three. I just don't know why.

68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard
. I never saw these as wish fulfillment; rather, as the explication of a peculiarly Texan philosophy of life.

69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb

70. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson

72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne

73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore. Ha! One nerd-bullet dodged!

74. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi

75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson

76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke

77. The Kushiel's Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey

78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin

79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury

80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire

81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson

82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde. My sister liked this, so I didn't read it.

83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks. Ditto.

84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart

85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
Bad style, and three for eight on interesting ideas.

86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher

87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe

88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn
. Not proud of that one.

89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan

90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock

91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury

92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
. I was pleased to see Sunshine here; it's McKinley at her best, which is very good, and is often under-rated.

93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge

94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov

95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson. I'll just read Genesis, by Fred Turner.

96. Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis

98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville

99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony
. Way too many of these, sadly.

100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis. Nice to see these get some recognition.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Two Oddities of the Snake Range

I recently enjoyed an overnight backpack in eastern Nevada's Snake Range (probably better know as Great Basin National Park). Anyone interested in seeing my attempts to capture Nevada's beautiful landscapes would do well to look in on my photoblog (and keep checking, I've got quite a backlog). But two things I've learned since I returned merit mention here on Odious and Peculiar.

What do Neal Stephenson's Anathem and the Snake Range have in common? They're both connected to the 10,000 Year Clock project:
...a huge Clock, hundreds of feet tall, designed to tick for 10,000 years. Every once in a while the bells of this buried Clock play a melody. Each time the chimes ring, it’s a melody the Clock has never played before. The Clock’s chimes have been programmed to not repeat themselves for 10,000 years. Most times the Clock rings when a visitor has wound it, but the Clock hoards energy from a different source and occasionally it will ring itself when no one is around to hear it. It’s anyone’s guess how many beautiful songs will never be heard over the Clock’s 10 millennial lifespan.

The Clock is real. It is now being built inside a mountain in western Texas. This Clock is the first of many millennial Clocks the designers hope will be built around the world and throughout time. There is a second site for another Clock already purchased at the top of a mountain in eastern Nevada, a site surrounded by a very large grove of 5,000-year-old bristlecone pines.
Read the whole thing. I don't generally care for people mucking about with the landscape in indulgence of their own obsessions (see Christo and his planned hybrid of nuisance and eyesore which he wants to inflict on the Arkansas River), but this is pretty damn cool:
Carved into the mountain are five room-sized anniversary chambers: 1 year, 10 year, 100 year, 1,000 year, and 10,000 year anniversaries. The one year anniversary chamber is a special orrery. In addition to the planets and the Earth's moon, it includes all of the interplanetary probes launched during the 20th century, humankind's first century in space. Among others, you'll see the Grand Tour: Voyager 2's swing by of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. The Clock will activate and run the orrery once a year on a pre-determined date at solar noon.
It's one of the better things I can imagine filthy rich people doing with their money. And in regard to the Nevada site, as much as I love the wilderness of the Snake Range, the area they're talking about is already impacted by mining and attendant road access. This is probably the only time rich outsiders purchasing an old mining claim might be good news. Mount Washington, the planned clock site, is visible below, towards the right, three ridges back and lighter than the other peaks (limestone, not quartzite).

The south Snake Range in Nevada's Great Basin National Park, viewed from Baker Peak

Seems like a good site to me. And the Texas clock will surely be the coolest thing in the state, and may even provide some public access to a region that's mostly off-limits.

For those who haven't read Anathem, the Stephenson connection is that he was asked to imagine such a clock, and those imaginations developed into the central conceit of the novel. (And what's more, I have just learned of the existence of Anathem music.)

Only vaguely apropos, on my recent sojourn in the Snakes I photographed an odd timberline flower which caught my eye, and only later realized that it appears to be Holmgrem's buckwheat (Eriogonum holmgrenii), an endemic unique to the Snake Range:

Holmgrem's buckwheat (Eriogonum holmgrenii), endemic to Nevada's Snake Range

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Here is a tidbit from Tony Anderson's (excellent!) Bread and Ashes which will be of interest to fans of Central Asian culture:
The way became very steep and we led the horses, thank God, while Rezo encouraged them with strange Ratchuelian cries of 'Achoo!' and 'Brrr!'....
This is of interest because, while the scene is in Ratcha, i.e. the Caucasus of northwest Georgia, anyone who has ridden a horse in Mongolia* will recognize these commands as the Mongol words for "Giddy-up!" and "Whoa!" Perhaps not amazingly surprising, given the central events of Mongol history, but interesting to see it far away and in liguistically very different country.

*Not too ridiculous a clause, given that this blog does in fact have a few such readers.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

The pig is a wonderful, magical animal! It gives us ham and bacon and pork chops, and can even turn into giant mushroom clouds of flame, a venerable tradition at certain nameless Idaho rafting companies:

Click to enlarge. This is why you don't put out kitchen grease fires with water, kids!

The sequential view:

Dinosaur discoveries are one of those areas of science that has moved too fast in the last couple decades for most of us to keep up. So here's a nice run-down of updated dinosaur understanding.

Via Chas.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011

Friday, June 03, 2011

Transportation of live fish in antiquity:
A number of texts from antiquity have contentiously suggested the ancient Romans could transport live fish by sea. For instance, the scientist, Roman officer and historian Pliny the Elder spoke of transport of parrotfish from the Black Sea to the coast of Naples.

[Researchers] estimate an aquarium behind the mast of the ship could have measured about 11.4 feet by 6.5 feet by 3.3 feet (3.5 m by 2 m by 1 m) for a capacity of approximately 250 cubic feet (7 cubic meters). For comparison, an average bathtub has a volume of about 7 cubic feet. If properly maintained, it could help keep at least 440 pounds (200 kg) of live fish such as sea bass or sea bream, they noted.

again (who has lots of good stuff lately).

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Cryptozoological philately.

There are some very odd gems in there. I think my favorites are (of all things) the North Korean tribute to Darwin by way of coelacanth, and this Bhutanese yeti confrontation.

Via Cronaca.
Worms from Hell: nematodes (Halicephalobus mephisto) found over a mile below the surface in South African gold mines.

Reports of shoggoths will doubtless be forthcoming.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Did the Nazis try to train dogs to talk? If this piece were dated April 1, I'd be very suspicious, and I still am rather. But they were crazy buggers, and even if it's not true, there are some great lines in the article:

"...attempted to build an army of fearsome 'speaking' dogs..." ["Oh God, the enemy wants another treat!"]

"...The bizarre 'Wooffan SS' experiment..."

"[The Airedale] was said to have speculated about religion, learnt foreign languages, wrote poetry and asked a visiting noblewoman 'could you wag your tail?' The patriotic German dog even expressed a wish to join the army, because he disliked the French."

"...a Dachschund named Kurwenal..." [for the Wagner fans]

"...there is no evidence it ever actually came to fruition and that the SS were walking around with talking dogs..." [You don't say. And neither do the dogs.]

Words fail, indeed.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Reindeer can see UV light:
"...there are some very important things that absorb UV light and therefore appear black, contrasting strongly with the snow. This includes urine - a sign of predators or competitors; lichens - a major food source in winter; and fur, making predators such as wolves very easy to see despite being camouflaged to other animals that can't see UV."

Friday, May 27, 2011

I might as well jump on this week's bandwagon of Bob Dylan tributes. Here: The Times They Are A-Changin' in Dutch. Listening to other Germanic languages is always so amusing! I recommend ignoring the images.

What I'd really like to post in Dylan's honor would be Tom Russell, Eliza Gilkyson and Joe Ely singing Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts, but I can't find a linkable version. So just buy the recording.

And speaking of Dylan and Russell, Steve (lucky bastard) has a sneak preview of Russell's upcoming album Mesabi. I'll look forward to much on it, including A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall with Lucinda Williams. More glimpses into his recent songwriting are at Tom Russell's own blog.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Time-lapse of a slow-moving landslide in Wyoming
Mahmoud Ahmedinejad accuses Europe of stealing Iran's rain.

Funny, people of a certain mindset have long held similar suspicions about Mormon cloud-seeding in the Wasatch depriving innocent ski areas further east. Such a notion could certainly explain this year's peculiar snowpack. Come on, LDS! Some of that snow is rightfully ours! I expect aircraft loads of it to start shipping to the Gila postehaste!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Cthulhu Crochet blog

What more is there to say?
What a strange year it is for western snowpack!

Click to enlarge. La Nina is clearly visible here: anything south of about Tierra Amarilla, NM has really missed out (though it looks like the Whites in Arizona got a little love yesterday). The snowpack in the Great Basin and Utah is seriously insane, 300% of normal in a lot of areas, and normal is already a lot of snow in the Wasatch. It's going to be quite a year on the Idaho rivers, and a crazy awesome year on the Yampa.

Friday, May 13, 2011

An unnerving incident in which the very popular law blogger Ann Althouse has had her blog suspended as spam, apparently on a whim of Blogger/Google. I hope Ann gets a good resolution, but this would be a good time for anyone hosted on Blogger to export their blog. It's easy, you should do it anyway from time to time, and you'll find it under Settings>Basic. This would enable you to move your blog to Wordpress or another platform if necessary.

Monday, May 09, 2011

"Lathspell I name you, Ill-news; and ill news is an ill guest they say."

Bow to the Tolkien fans, NYT!
The folks talking about using hideous architecture to communicate the dangers of nuclear waste into the future could take a little inspiration from this gallery of abandoned Yugoslav war monuments.

Thanks to Odious for the tip.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

The wind hissed as if welcoming us
The pine swayed creating a lot of fuss
Worst poem ever? Not by a long shot; it's a crowded and competitive field. But Major James Abbot's eulogy to his eponymous town does approach McGonagall territory.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Useful reference: Off-color Turkish slang. Apparently the company Amway didn't do so well in Turkey (exercise left to the reader). And apparently mention of the number 31 (otuz bir) is something foreigners may want to avoid. It's better to know these things than not.

Initially inspired by Claire Berlinski, in the less prurient context of impending Turkish Internet censorship, I hasten to add.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Don't miss the teaser for John Scalzi's new fantasy novel, The Shadow War of the Night Dragons, Book One: The Dead City (announced yesterday).

Lot of overlap between a parody of bad fantasy and good Terry Pratchett. I expect it took a certain amount of willpower for Scalzi not just to keep writing.

Update: And a follow up, a statistical look at fantasy novel titles.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pyrard de Laval says in 1616: ‘(in Goa) they have no glass windows, instead very fine and straight oyster shells are used, inserted into wooden frames, allowing the light to come in as if it was of paper, as they are not as transparent as glass.'
Photographer Rajan Parrikar has some pictures of Goan nacre windows, though only from the outside, alas. I imagine that accurately rendering the quality of interior light filtered through the shells would be a consummate challenge for any photographer. It brings to mind the large sheets of mica used for window panes in Spanish missions in California, another effect I would love to see in person.

I highly recommend a look at Parrikar's blog and photo galleries. The twin poles of his world seem to be Goa and Iceland, an unusual combination to say the least, but he does excellent justice to both.
It's good to have projects. And while documenting every bridge over the Rio Grande would not be my project, I wish Mr. Baca all the best in his endeavor. Seems like a relatively healthy monomania for a former Albuquerque mayor, certainly a more laudable habit than politics. I recommend that he also try and visit the source.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Massive new arch discovered in Afghanistan, one of 14 natural spans in the world over 200 feet. Very cool, even if it does bump Dinosaur National Monument's Outlaw Arch a notch down the list. Complete list of 200'+ arches here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Musical oddity: Performance Today has the Concerto for Oboe, Eight Timpani, and Orchestra by Georg Druschetzky. Lest you fear that this must be some ghastly 20th Century thing, take heart: it was composed in 1800 and apart from its bizarre set of soloists is straight-laced late Classical period stuff (one should note that it's eight timpani, not eight timpanists; now that would be something!). I really enjoyed the first movement cadenza. 'Bout time the timpanists get to have some real fun!

I'm not sure that PT is archiving shows indefinitely anymore, so if you're interested, listen soon!
Biggest bear ever:
A prehistoric South American giant short-faced bear tipped the scales at up to 3,500 pounds (1,600 kilograms) and towered at least 11 feet (3.4 meters) standing up, according to a new study.

The previous heavyweight was a North American giant short-faced bear—a related extinct species—that weighed up to 2,500 pounds (1,134 kilograms). The largest bear on record in modern times was a 2,200-pound (998-kilogram) polar bear shot in Alaska in the 19th century.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Did the immigration of bison from Eurasia cause large mammal extinctions in the late Pleistocene? An interesting line of inquiry, though I'd definitely want to see a good account of the effects of another immigrant from Eurasia, one with two legs, taken into account.

Hat tip: Skolai Images.

Update: Or did it have something to do with a comet shower?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Poaching on Larissa's preserves:
"Keep smiling!" could be a good slogan for the American lifestyle. "Why would I smile?" - this could be a slogan for the Russian lifestyle.

From a Russian source, no less. Rather interesting thoughts.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A fascinating read about cave art of the Mississippian Culture. If our archaeologically informed readers know of a readable and tolerably up-to-date book about the Mississippians, I'd appreciate a recommendation.

Hat tip to Chas.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Very cool graphic presentation of the history of science fiction. I note with pleasure that Kepler's Somnium is included, but will admit to some disappointment at the oversight of Berlioz's Euphonia, or The Musical City. But it's always easy to pick nits with anything aspiring to be comprehensive; still very cool.

Via Strange Maps.

Friday, March 11, 2011

What happens if you stick your head into a running particle accelerator? Apparently some Russian found out empirically.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Devoutly to be wished:
The movie that he most longs to make is an adaptation of a grandly ridiculous H. P. Lovecraft novella, “At the Mountains of Madness,” in which explorers, venturing into Antarctica, discover malevolent aliens in a frozen, ruined city. Some of the aliens mutate wildly, which would allow del Toro to create dozens of extreme incarnations. He said, “If I get to do it, those monsters will be so terrifying.”
Looks like a serious longshot, though, as what he's talking about will cost the earth (insists on two weeks of on-location filming in Antarctica). Read the whole thing, and don't miss the ancillary video as a reminder of why del Toro might be the guy who could pull it off. There's a lot of interesting stuff about The Hobbit movie as well. Reading it, I'm not too upset that he's off the project, but I sure hope some of his designs make it onto the DVD special features.

Hat tip to Steve.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Here's more on the revisionist-history Lord of the Rings (which Smartdogs mentioned in the comments a few posts back). Sundry observations:
  • Somehow, this brings strongly to my mind the more paranoid stories on modern-day Pravda. Something to do with that Slavic soul we hear so much about, I guess.

  • I find the excerpts barely readable, in the stylistic sense. Substantial (though far from total) blame can go to the translator. But it makes me wonder how Tolkien comes across in translation. I can't imagine these stories without his philologist's pen evoking all those pre-1066 ancestral memories buried in our dictionaries. I suppose it likely does well in the Germanic languages.* Yet another big score for us native English speakers!

  • On a similar note, ever a borderline Luddite and nature Romantic, I still find myself siding with Gandalf in excerpted dialog. Who cares if Mordor may eventually produce the iPad?

  • Many things indicate that the author is not a very serious Tolkien fan. I leave their identification as an exercise to our nerdy readers.

Needless to say, I'm in no rush to read the whole thing.

*Also Finnish, maybe? I have the sense, almost totally derived from folk music, that there are certain vocabulary and idioms, mostly Ingrian- and Karelian-oriented, that hint at a more tribal, barbaric, pagan past. What other languages have such a tension? Maybe the Turkic tongues, when they prefer old steppe vocabulary over other terms. The Turks seem to do this when they use ak and kara in lieu of beyaz and siyah (white and black). The latter are the dictionary words, but the former show up in the family names, toponyms, songs, strong idioms and such, from Turkey to Mongolia. (Digression: karakurbağası="dark frog" i.e. "toad.") I suppose their equivalents of Latin and French are Arabic and Persian; no doubt the tension was much stronger before Atatürk's linguistic reforms (makes you wonder what we'd be speaking had Tolkien been to England as Mustafa Kemal was to Turkey). But nothing's even in the same league as English for this stuff. Hooray for us!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Make a laser out of a gin-and-tonic: very cool in theory, though the gin-and0tonic may have even more inspirational applications.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Take a few minutes out of your evening and do a favor for astronomers by submitting some data to the Globe at Night project. They're crowd-sourcing data on light pollution. All you have to do is go outside and see how many stars are visible in Orion, and then report your results and location. I'd particularly encourage our readers in out-of-the-way locations (err... that's most of you) to weigh in. Help them get to 15,000 data points by March 6!

Our back yard rated a pretty respectable Mag 4, not half bad for being a literal stone's-throw from the biggest intersection in a state capitol.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Speculative Dinosaur Project. Uneven but enjoyable. (I got there from somewhere on Tet Zoo.)
Black Sea sparrow hawking. Very well done little film. They even have good Pontic music in there. I imagine that throwing a bird like that would be one of life's great satisfactions. Got to make another trip out that way!

Via Steve, who will no doubt blog it better shortly.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Bloody foreigners:
The official kilogram, a cylinder of platinum and iridium maintained by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures, is more than 130 years old... Some scientists now believe the official kilogram may be losing mass...
As my source for the story puts it, "An honest imperial pound would never show such inconstancy."

And what happened to all that wonderful rationality of the meter being derived from some well-rounded fraction of the earth's dimensions?
Over the years, the official meter has been redefined several times and is now “the length of the path traveled by light in a vacuum during a time interval of 1/299,792,458 of a second.”
Gone the way of Brumaire, Pluviôse, Fructidor and hopes of guillotines in Piccadilly Square, I suppose. Mustn't be unkind, though, they're only poor Parley-Voos after all.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

There's always something new to learn about classical music, and The Simpsons: Ned Flanders' doorbell chime plays Luther's Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott.

Reference, though I heard it on Performance Today, in an introduction to Mendelssohn's Reformation Symphony (which, musically at least, is much better than its title).

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Finally took some real pictures, of some honest New Mexico hinterlands in decent light. Check 'em out: Rio Puerco Volcanic Necks.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

A Farewell to Mountaineering

A notable contribution to a request for mountain poetry:
When I was about 20, my English grandmother introduced me to a 91-year-old friend, an old village vicar who had long retired. He was just about blind, bent and shriveled, but he still had a curious mind and quizzed me about what I had been doing. I've been in Wales, I said, climbing. He shuffled over to his dresser and out came album after album of his mountaineering photos from the days of hemp ropes and hard men. He didn't give me the photos (god, I wish I could get at them now), but he did give me a copy of this poem, a farewell, as he called it, which he wrote at age 90. His name was Herbert Bell.

Dancing, dancing, I wish to die dancing,
Fully to use my limbs, which have carried me
Facing from rock to rock
In dark and dawn, sunrise and sunset,
Seeking we knew not what, only to move further and further
From dull convention's rule.
Three times I slipped, and nearly fell and died.
So would my days have ended,
Killed by too much vigour wrongly placed.
Dancing and ever dancing
Sometimes in excess of misery, unsupported, and unappreciated.
Yet I gave my best, Yet not always my best,
For the true dancer glories not in himself,
But in the fine pattern, paired with his partner
So that the whole may make a perfect figure,
One with the universe of life and being.

So Moses slipped away, when he knew that his work was done,
To die in his desert mountain. I would rather slip away
Dancing in our crowded island.
Let there be no mourning when I go.
You and I are old. The bonds of love must be untied.
Love is eternal, Sweet moments make life stronger.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Kazakh music to brighten up your Friday:

The BBC's Human Planet Explorer site is not recommended if your time is valuable. But it does have Abyssinians fighting off raiding cliff baboons with slings, Shetlanders dressing up as Vikings, among much else.

This, for instance, is bound to go viral. You saw it here first, alas.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

The '10 Blackberry is bottled, and the Blueberry is fermenting nicely.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Friday, January 28, 2011

Two poems after my own heart:
Behold the ever-patient Yak,
With four explorers on his back.
He treks for miles across the snows,
Wearing a bracelet in his nose;
And when they stop to have a snack,
It's slices of the useful Yak!
You cannot please the caribou,
No matter what you say or do;
He just morosely glares at you.
Both by Katrina Moore, née Hincks, an intrepid and cultured lady of the best old-fashioned kind. I must try and track down more of her writing. Found these in David Roberts' The Last of His Kind, highly recommended if mountaineering history is your cup of tea.
Some Himalayan glaciers may be expanding rather than shrinking:
[The] report, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, found the key factor affecting their advance or retreat is the amount of debris – rocks and mud – strewn on their surface, not the general nature of climate change.

Glaciers surrounded by high mountains and covered with more than two centimetres of debris are protected from melting.

Debris-covered glaciers are common in the rugged central Himalaya, but they are almost absent in subdued landscapes on the Tibetan Plateau, where retreat rates are higher.

In contrast, more than 50 per cent of observed glaciers in the Karakoram region in the northwestern Himalaya are advancing or stable.
These observations regarding debris bring to mind the reported construction of artificial glaciers by Balti villagers in times past:
The last glacier to be started, we were told, had been made 35 years earlier by the grandfather of the present rajah. It had been built to an ancient formula, with ice blocks coming from male and female glaciers (their difference was not made clear). These blocks were deposited in a high valley and covered with charcoal and thorn bushes, on top of which 50 goatskins of water were placed. The water was to help keep the ice cool and to augment the ice supply when the water froze in winter. After 20 years of gradually adding ice and snow, the glacier became strong enough to support itself and send a constant supply of water in the nonwinter months to the dry fields below.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011 slaughter your enemies, see them driven before you, and revel in carbon credits on an epic scale.

I leave attempts to find any actual meaningful content in this article as an exercise to the reader (the study may or may not contain some, but you'd never know it from the Daily Mail).

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Speakers of archaic Greek in northeastern Turkey:
The community lives in a cluster of villages near the Turkish city of Trabzon in what was once the ancient region of Pontus...

Linguists found that the dialect, Romeyka, a variety of Pontic Greek, has structural similarities to ancient Greek that are not observed in other forms of the language spoken today. Romeyka's vocabulary also has parallels with the ancient language....

"Use of the infinitive has been lost in all other Greek dialects known today – so speakers of Modern Greek would say 'I wasn't able that I go' instead of 'I wasn't able to go'. But, in Romeyka, not only is the infinitive preserved, but we also find quirky infinitival constructions that have never been observed before – only in the Romance languages are there parallel constructions."

The villagers who speak Romeyka, which has no written form, show other signs of geographic and cultural isolation. They rarely marry outside their own community and they play a folk music on a special instrument, called a kemenje in Turkish and Romeyka or lyra as it is called in Greek....

Romeykas-speakers today are devout Muslims, so they were allowed to stay in Turkey after the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, when some two million Christians and Muslims were exchanged between Greece and Turkey.
If you're interested in this region, I highly recommend revisiting this post (which we blogged in 2008) on Kazim Koyuncu and Black Sea Ethnorock.

Via Cronaca, of course.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

A RAVEN sat upon a tree,
And not a word he spoke, for
His beak contained a piece of Brie,
Or, maybe, it was Roquefort:
We’ll make it any kind you please—
At all events, it was a cheese.

Beneath the tree’s umbrageous limb
A hungry fox sat smiling;
He saw the raven watching him,
And spoke in words beguiling:
“J’ admire,” said he, “ton beau plumage,”
(The which was simply persiflage).

Two things there are, no doubt you know,
To which a fox is used,—
A rooster that is bound to crow,
A crow that ’s bound to roost,
And whichsoever he espies
He tells the most unblushing lies.

“Sweet fowl,” he said, “I understand
You’re more than merely natty:
I hear you sing to beat the band
And Adelina Patti.
Pray render with your liquid tongue
A bit from ‘Götterdämmerung.’”

This subtle speech was aimed to please
The crow, and it succeeded:
He thought no bird in all the trees
Could sing as well as he did.
In flattery completely doused,
He gave the “Jewel Song” from “Faust.”

But gravitation’s law, of course,
As Isaac Newton showed it,
Exerted on the cheese its force,
And elsewhere soon bestowed it.
In fact, there is no need to tell
What happened when to earth it fell.

I blush to add that when the bird
Took in the situation
He said one brief, emphatic word,
Unfit for publication.
The fox was greatly startled, but
He only sighed and answered “Tut!”

THE MORAL is: A fox is bound
To be a shameless sinner.
And also: When the cheese comes round
You know it ’s after dinner.
But (what is only known to few)
The fox is after dinner, too.