Archive for February, 2008|Monthly archive page

10cm on Dinosaurs


A partial list of extinct animals whose fossils have been found in Texas, compliments of the Austin Science and Nature Center:


Rooneyia viejaensis, primate, 37 mya


Well-Respected Beards, Nos. 032 and 033: Muybridge and Marey


Eadweard Muybridge and Etienne-Jules Marey, chronophotographers of the late 1800s. If you like movies, thank these dudes, their beards, and their tricked-out cameras.

Well-Respected Beards, No. 011: Ernst Haeckel

p117sm.jpg 354px-ernsthaeckeldw.jpg

Sure, sure, the creationists like to bitch about some misleading embryo drawings, and — here’s a shocker — we’ve learned some new things about evolutionary biology since he was studying it at the turn of the (other) century. Was he a German social Darwinist at the dawn of the First World War? Yeah, prolly, but I’m no expert on the history of eugenics. It cannot be denied, however, that he was a badass academic and a scientific illustration machine, and I’ll take his stuff over Jackson bloody Pollock any day. Art is for fuckers anyway once you get a load of these radiolarians … there’s enough beautiful stuff outside to keep us happy forever, assuming we don’t paint over it all with drab gray concrete and high-rise condos.

Thanks, Ernst. Thernst.

Photos: Radiolaria from here, Ernst from Wikipedia.

Ptilonorhynchidae: A Bird with Bling


Welcome to my blog. You’ll see that everything is very orderly here, with lots of interesting tidbits from all over the world for you to gaze upon and wonder over. If you like what you see, perhaps I will treat you to a brief display of my dancing abilities, which you will be able to view on YouTube. Forgive me if my clothing is somewhat drab, but I think you’ll agree that my blog more than makes up for it.

My interest in the family Ptilonorhynchidae (Bowerbirds) was renewed recently when I rented and viewed this excellent David Attenborough documentary a few weeks ago. Though occasionally heavy-handed, it was nonetheless life-changing and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

(Should you encounter difficulties in viewing the program in its entirety, please accept an open invitation to view it at my residence when next you find yourself in the neighborhood.) I would be very much obliged if you could see fit to lend your mind to this particular train of thought: I am interested in discussing what, we must admit, is a rather peculiar avian family … and primarily because I feel that I may be starting to develop sincere doubts about the level to which it may actually be possible to legitimately anthropomorphize some of these little critters. I suppose this is really like a philosophic question which has been around since that Thursday long ago when Man naively assumed that he was wholly different from the Animals; He, exempt from mechanically responding to carnal desires because of an Almightie Soule or some similar metaphorical abstruseness.

At any rate, I’m sure you’ll agree that the behaviors of various members of the family Ptilonorhynchidae suggest an unavoidable parallelism betwixt They and Us. It is this very similarity toward which I hope you might be willing to shed some much-needed light; my mind, such as it is, seems very muddled by the confusing notion that I in all my privations may share some rather grave characteristics with a handful of obsessive Australian catbirds.

Satin Bowerbird (P. violaceus) photo from here.

The Art of the Layoff


I’m trying to do some art and maybe I’ll be in a one-day show. I’m done applying to grad schools and am waiting on pins and needles. I went to the outplacement career advising seminar thingie and soon I will have a monster attack resume. I’m applying to substitute teach again, at least until I find out whether the ivory towers want me. I’m training to lead nature hikes at Wild Basin. I’m shooting the neighbor cat with harmless plastic BBs when she sneaks into my house to steal Pete’s food. I’m about to unplug the cable from my TV so as to cease the leakage from my soul’s reservoir. I’m continuing in my quest to cook the perfect egg (the trick is to wait until the butter starts to brown slightly). I’m teaching myself the art of braising. I’m making regular trips to the dumpster to haul off some of the bullcrap I’d been accumulating. I’m lamenting the single life but enjoying the sunny weather that all of you suckers in cubeland are missing. I’m running ten miles a week. I’m trying to gain weight by eating delicious banana and peanut-butter smoothies. I’m doing research for my book about naturalists. I’m hosting a Contact party for Erik and Jen next Saturday. I’m learning how to operate my new Dremel Mototool. I’m eyeing my mountain bike with a knowing smirk. I’m trying to figure out how to distinguish the call of the Tufted Titmouse from some of the other birds in the area. I’m teaching myself how to draw a praying mantis. I’m reading about Charles Bonnet Syndrome and thinking about going to see that Diving Bell Butterfly movie. I’m glad I’m not blind, or paralyzed, or unemployable, or as poor as I will probably be in a couple months. Life is good, and Friday works for me. I could use some Indian food, or some Pho.