Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The dark side of brilliance

We prize and value intelligence but I had a disturbing thought watching a special on monkey-hunting chimps last night.

The purpose of intelligence in nature, at its most basic, is to kill.

Whether it's a dog or a dolphin, a monkey or a man, nature's purpose for a better brain is to improve the odds of a successful hunt.

Sure, people now use their brains to paint pictures and erect skyscrapers, but we only have time for such diversions because we have become the most effective killers on the planet, having eliminated our every natural rival and enemy except disease and having learned how to keep our meat on hand in a stockyard until we're ready to chop it up for the table.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Mom's journal

Sweetie and I read a few pages in my mother's old journal last night.

She (my Mother) describes Her earliest memories: a chilly house where a person dressed in a hurry around the wood-burning stove; Her own Mother's struggle with polio; riding horses around the neighborhood.

Such are memories of an age that has gone forever; the first two, thankfully; the last, sorrowfully.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A day of death

My aunt-in-law called this afternoon, asked if I would dig the grave for her cat tonight. It died at a good old age, 18.

So I carved out a hole in the cold clay of her backyard and gently lowered the little box into it.

I drove home through the darkness, thinking about the old saying that nothing is sure in life except death.

In my front yard lay the body of a raccoon.

I don't know what happened to it. Nobody could have hit it with a car way back here and no cat would survive a fight with a beast like that. At least it will not have to face the cold winter that is blowing into Virginia.

I carried it into the woods and, for the second time this day, dug a hole in the ground and lowered a small body into it, into the earth that accepts all things that have come from Her, at the end of their brief lives.

Sunday, October 28, 2007



From the Latin root aevum, an age - i.e., ageless.

Hebrew equivalent: olam.

What is eternal? The material substance that forms my body today, was shaped ages ago in the furnace of a star and a billion years from now, might again be part of a star or perhaps make up a few molecules of some planet's atmosphere, perhaps a billion light years from where I now sit.

Will my consciousness or some kind of soul persist in some other realm, some heavenly sphere, long after my mortal components have been recycled? Of what substance, if so, will it be formed?

The Greeks did not believe their gods were eternal: they had a birth from an earlier generation of elemental beings. The Judeo-Christian God, however, is decisively aeveum, olam, without beginning of days or end of years.


Yet the scientist who smiles condescendingly at such a conception, must also admit that there are limits to his or Her own understanding, what has been, what will be, what science knows about eternity.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Thought for the day

Submitted in a letter to National Geographic, published in the November 2007 issue:

"The suffering will not begin to end until we treat the living world with the humility necessary to bring all our knowledge of its subtlety and intricacy to bear on these problems."

-- Attributed to Rachel Carson, by letter-writer Marcia Phillips.

What do you think this means?

Return from oblivion Part II

I finally got to escape into the woods today -- I have been craving this hike for weeks.

I checked the holly by the wood's edge for berries -- I'm trying to see if its a boy or a Girl tree. Then visited the log where I found oyster mushrooms a few weeks ago. Nothing on it but slime.

No flowers in bloom, not even any asters. The forest is closing up shop for the season.

Every year I check the little fringe tree on the slope by the creek to see if it will finally produce the blue berries that it's supposed to. Still none.

Something hard beneath my shoe, upon examination, looked an awful lot like a hickory nut so I searched around and finally had my first glimpse of a mature hickory tree -- all I've seen in this woods before were saplings.

Tried to get a picture of a little orange spider who posed very patiently for Her portrait but my camera wouldn't focus.

Tonight I made friends with tamarind. I've enjoyed the juice before but never tried it any other way. Found a Balinese recipe for marinating chicken in tamarind sauce. Thought I would try it out.

Finding tamarind was tougher than I thought. My neighborhood redneck grocery of course didn't have it -- but neither did the fancy grocery store up by the mall. So I went to the Asian grocery a few miles away.

"Tamarind?" I asked, not sure how much English they would understand.

"Fruit? Or candy?" the Lady asked. By fruit She meant a big dark block of compressed tamarind. That looked fine so I happily carried it home and went to work in the kitchen. You mix it with boiling water, crushed garlic, pepper, coriander and salt. Marinate the chicken in it for an hour, then deep fry.

Sweetie won't normally eat a whole chicken breast, not being a glutton like I am. But She ate every bite on Her plate this time and licked the bones. I think She now likes tamarind chicken, too. It was good with a scoop of garam masala seasoned rice and some spiced banana bread for dessert.

A good meal took the bitter edge off the news this weekend that we have to replace the whole damn furnace. Probably have to take out an equity line to pay for it.

Return from oblivion

Hello, dear blog, I am back. I have missed you. I know, it's only been three days but it feels like forever. I hope my job will ease up and let me have some of my evenings back, sometime soon.

I needed a Saturday like today. Took Sweetie to the local mall. Been so long since we've been there that we both got a shock: Her favorite store was missing. Or rather, had been relocated to a different section. My bookstore and my hot sauce shoppe were still where they've always been. I tasted a sample of "Scorned Woman." It was wonderfully hot but the flavor behind the heat was just bitter. Maybe one of these days I'll fork over the 18 bucks for that evil-looking Black Mamba sauce -- it has a great flavor and the little bottle is just so cool.

If it weren't for those three shops, Her Hallmark and my two favorites, that mall would be a worthless place to visit. Nothing else but clothes and jewelry.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Had enough whine

The skies opened up over Virginia today and gave us some rain.

I've had time to visit LayDdee, Chase and Ian in blogworld, if no one else.

I bought a pink camelia bush on my lunch break, although I went there in search of white pine.

I'm still tired and stressed but life is good and I have had enough whine for a while.

A bright light on Youtube

Last night, before I gave up on staying awake any longer, I flipped over to Youtube and encountered the work of a young man who really impressed me.

He seemed to be in his late teens or early twenties. But his video was not about clubbin' or hotties or pranks - the usual annoying obsessions of a male of that age range. It was a documentary -- as good as any that I've seen on Animal Planet -- of the various amphibians and reptiles that live in his state.

It was so refreshing to see a young man so respectful and passionate about nature, not flippant or cruel.

Here it is, my first attempt to "embed."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Some cheese with my whine

I like feta. Jalapeno pepper jack, too, or muenster.

I could use some good cheese with my whine.

It's only 8:23 p.m. and I can barely see this screen and I'm ready for bed.

It's been like this all week, 12 hour workdays one after the other. Today we had an "incident" in the school district where I work and I was literally talking to media on the cell phone while the office phone rang off the hook with parents calling in. As soon as I hung up from one, the other rang, and that annoying recorded voice was busy all day telling me, "You have ... xyz ... new messages."

And when I wasn't answering the same questions over and over again on the phones, I was standing in front of tv cameras repeating my mantra. "The district has blah blah blah."

And so I am tired, very very tired. My head has throbbed for two days. And I realize this is a depressing, useless post, but this is why I haven't visited any of my blog friends today except Lyn.

I need a weekend, a real weekend, not another one in which I am sucked back into the job whirlpool again. I need a vacation. I need some nice, salty feta cheese with my whine.

The first tree in my East Coast forest

I should hate botany.

I took a class on it back in college and did horribly. The final exam consisted of examining a heap of twigs, leaves and such, piled upon a table, and then deciding what were the scientific and common names of each specimen.

But I love botany – the science of plants -- even so, even if I am a mere amateur.

Plants, in such yummy forms as corn, potatoes, strawberries and beans, feed me.

Orchids and roses inspire me.

Rafflesia and coco de mer makes me smile.

Chocolate, vanilla, hot pepper and cinnamon make me happy.

And what of trees – the giants, the gods of the forest?

The first tree that I see as I step into “my” forest is a humble one – a thin sculpture of sticks with a few sparse leaves to alert me that it’s actually alive. It’s more of a bush, a pathetic little bush, than a tree. And yet, when it flowers, and when it proudly hoists its brilliant, scarlet fruit, suddenly it stands out. I posted a photo of it here a few weeks ago.

It is strawberry bush, Euonymus americanus, in the staff tree family. Also called spindle tree. Unlike the completely unrelated strawberry that you plop into your cereal bowl, this plant is not to be munched unless you are Bambi.

The website,, explains that:

“The plant’s bark & fruit contain the glycosides evobioside, evomonoside, & evonoside, which adds up to a powerful laxative that can at the very least cause dehydration which can alone be deadly. At worst it may have a harmful impact on the cardiovascular system. Nevertheless, Native Americans used it for sundry medicinal purposes, & deer love to browse Strawberry Bush, suffering no ill consequences.”

One of the first principles of botany is that all plants fit into certain families. Those families are typically based on flower similarities – and often, even among plants of strikingly different appearance, that family relationship leads to other similar characteristics. Poison ivy, cashews and mangoes are in the same family. All three contain certain similar oils to which many people are very allergic. Members of the rose family, such as blackberries, apples and of course, roses, have a typically reddish cast to their new growth.

It also fascinates me how within a plant family, just like a human family, “siblings” can have vastly different “personalities.” My strawberry bush, if you will forgive the anthropormorphism, is a meek little thing that struggles to rise above the tall grass at the forest edge. But it has a sibling in the family that is wild, aggressive and generally hated: Oriental bittersweet, a non-native vine, grows thickly enough to girdle and kill even the tallest trees. Do not be a fool and buy this from your local nursery, if said nursery is irresponsible enough to stock it.

Another “sibling,” Celastrius paniculatus, is used as an aphrodisiac in its native India.

Yet another sibling furnishes the African drug “khat,” which is illegal in the United States.

None of these are actually trees, even though the family goes by the Staff Tree name. Very strange.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Saga of a dirty rag

I was north on I-95 and had just inserted Bach into the CD player -- no easy task since many a schnitzel und bier has fattened him up these days -- and was being treated to a glorious crescendo of organ music when it hit me:

A dirty rag gone a-journeying slapped the front of my car.

Perhaps it was a shred of magic carpet past its prime. Or maybe the wing of a horrible harpy.

It twisted and writhed but remained astride the front of my hood. I slowed down but it did not let go. I sped up to 85 mph, just for a moment, but though its gyrations became a frenzied blur, still it stubbornly held its position.

It is hard to enjoy good music and a blue-sky afternoon when a disgusting piece of garbage is dancing in front of you.

Now I began to consider ethics. Had I now become the legally responsible owner of this gross thing? If I were to stop and pry it off my grille, would I be liable for littering? Would I be obligated to deposit it in my own home trash can, teeming with whatever filth or toxic chemical saturated its fibers? If it broke loose on its own and someone saw it escape from the region of my car, would I see blue lights flashing behind me?

I pulled behind a huge truck loaded with I-beams. The mighty lorry must have sent a great gust my way, for finally, after twenty miles of unhappy companionship, the rag took leave of me and hit the pavement to await a new victim.

Perhaps it will continue traveling like this all the way to Chubb Crater, Quebec, annoying countless hapless drivers, for years on end. Sacre bleu!

Saga of a dirty rag

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Tale of a tree

Just beyond the warped ruins of my backyard fence, reminder of a hurricane's wrath,grows a sapling. I think it is hickory.

I'm not a tree expert but the leaves, pinnate and large, suggest that.

Today, after cyber-visiting Kat's lush Georgia forest, where She seems to know every frog, every insect and every flower, I resolved to better know my own East Coast forest.

I might as well let slip a harmless fact, a little bit of my identity. I live in Virginia.

That wasn't so hard.

So anyway, although my time was short tonight, I stepped into the Virginia forest for a moment and contemplated that possibly-hickory sapling.

I'm not a tree expert but I love trees. And there is much to love about a hickory.

Like most members of the walnut tribe, it bears nuts and its foliage is very fragrant.

Most species in the genus, Carya, produce edible nuts, including the famous pecan. I learned tonight that the Native Americans made a delicious cream from the nut oil, which was used in most of their cookery. Their word for this delicacy gives the tree the name by which we know it.

To figure out which kind of hickory this little tree is, I'm going to have to count the number of leaflets in each leaf, observe the bark as it grows older and pay attention to the way its leaves bud out in the spring.

Hickory, along with oak, elm and chestnut, was a king of the primeval American forest, but like them, suffered heavily at the hands of my European ancestors. However, it's not OUR fault that this genus,which once ranged as far as Africa, long ago receded to just the American continent and the eastern edge of Asia.

Update: Whence the genus name, Carya? It derives from Artemis Caryatis, an epithet of Artemis, that was derived from the city of Karyae in Laconia; there an archaic open-air temenos was dedicated to Carya, the Lady of the Nut-Tree. The particular form of veneration of Artemis at Caryae suggests that in pre-classical ritual a Carya was a goddess of the nut tree who was later assimilated into the Olympian goddess Artemis. [Wikipedia].

A nervy question

Why do people speak of someone "having a lot of nerve" when they do things that are rude, stupid and/or likely to lead to pain and suffering?

Wouldn't someone with an excess of nerves be more inclined to avoid pain-producing scenarios and hide under the bed?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Welcome, Ian!

I haven't linked anyone in a while. Just been too busy. But Ian of "Or So I Thought" has visited here several times now, and I love his witty blog and so it is high time to make the connection.

Just an aside: I grew up thinking that name was pronounced Ee-yan. Even today, I have to catch myself and remember that the I in this case is pronounced "sh." Such were the pitfalls of an avid youthful reader, whose first encounter with many words was on the printed page, not in my ears. I pronounced all sorts of words the way that seemed logical to me, until I actually heard them spoken for the first time.

Carbon question

Been reading about this element in my encyclopedia this week.

We all know that common graphite and uncommon diamonds are both forms of carbon. Allatropes.

We know that carbon is the building block of life, the carbo- in carbohydrates -- sugars and such.

But I am wondering how "solid" carbon appeared on our planet in the first place, with the Earth never having plunged to the temperatures required to solidify most other gases. Other solidified gases are not found in elemental form on our planet, such as oxygen, only as components. You've got to really cold planets like Jupiter to find them in that form.

And how does a solid, tangible, visible measure of carbon, combine with some other gas to become invisible, such as in carbon dioxide?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Chocolate and germs

According to the Associated Press, a study in the Journal of Proteome Research finds that "people who crave daily chocolate show signs of having different colonies of [intestinal] bacteria than people who are immune to its allure."

This study raises several questions:

What the hell is a proteome?

Where did these researchers find people immune to the allure of chocolate? Did it involve shovels and a cemetery?

And since the Western world has only known the delight of chocolate for 500 years, what did that germ do in our tummies before it was introduced to the stuff? Make us crave mead and barley cakes?

Or did Europeans get this germ from kissing Aztecs?

A Lady indeed

Always readable.

Always interesting.

Always a blend of wisdom and humor.

This is the Lady LayDdee, whose gift is coverage of celebrity culture. She is neither a hater nor a drooler.

Today She has covered the recent Women in Hollywood awards -- textually and photographically.

Check out Her work at

Monday, October 15, 2007

A memory and a lesson learned

From my journal, twenty years ago this week, in high school:

"Today, something happened and I have to tell someone. I was at the bus stop, watching this Girl across the street smashing Her pepsi-bottle on a rock, so I missed most of the conversation, but I turned around in time to see Maile on the verge of homicide. She was almost crying with fury. This little wise guy Michael was cringing on the ground. Terrence grabbed Her and prevented Her from killing Michael. Apparently Michael had chucked this major insult at Her about being “easy.” It really hurt Her.

Anyway, the whole thing scared me, cause I used to think it was funny to insult people like that, but now I see how much it really can hurt."

And then, they were gone ...

"We sold them," he said.

"You sold them?" I repeated stupidly.

"Yep. No one was checking them out," he said.

So now they are gone, that whole row of weighty tomes, the Cambridge Ancient History. I have been driving the extra ten miles to this library several times a year for a decade now, checking out each volume in turn, working my way from ancient Mesopotamia to the Augustan Age.

My neighborhood library, as I've mentioned before, is worthless for such things.

The only ones left on the shelf, ironically, are the volumes that I have checked out, probably, as the librarian said, because I had checked them out, proving that some human being actually found those volumes interesting.

Nobody but me ever cared to check them out but when they were put up for sale, some lucky bibliophile snapped them all up, probably for a buck a book -- a steal of gargantuan proportions.

I gave the man my number and he promised to call me if they decide to evict the rest of the collection.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I've got to stop making blog promises

This was the weekend that I was supposed to catch up on blogging. To answer all the comments to my posts and then go visit my favorite sites.

And I was going to make bread, too.

I didn't do any of that. Bad ECD, bad.

I did, however, finally clean up the huge pile of newspaper clips on my study room floor -- which will now be a fruitful source of writing ideas. And I weeded and mulched the garden.

I don't dare make any more blog promises. Time just slips away. I will write when I can, comment when I can. Gotta be honest.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Fun in the forecast

The weekend is due in just a few hours. No work commitments, no family obligations -- I shall enjoy it. I don't get to blog much during the week, or read or do anything except work and sleep.

Sweetie groaned when I picked up a book at the bargain store tonight.

"Another cookbook?"

But this book was special. It was a big, fat, glorious, full-color book all about bread -- bread from Britain, bread from India, even bread from Australia. A history of bread. Bread recipes.

I like making bread. I'm pretty good at it. And I intend to use this one.

I followed a quick German cornbread recipe tonight,from my old book. It was a little dry. I added nearly a cup more milk than it called for and the dough was still dry. Well, Germany isn't known as the land of cornbread anyway, so perhaps I expected too much.

Sweetie says it will be just fine with a little raspberry jelly for garnish.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Rant about plastic

What chokes baby albatrosses and sea turtles, is imported from rotten countries whose leaders use the profits to run their murderous regimes, produces poison fumes if overheated and is EVERYWHERE and in EVERYTHING today?


I hate it.

I am aware that plastic jars and bottles are safer than glass. They bounce, but don't break. Plastic wrap keeps germs out. But is a plastic shield really necessary for a Barbie doll?

I wonder if the number of people visiting emergency rooms thanks to broken glass on their kitchen floor might be roughly close to the number of people visiting emergency rooms because they slashed their hands trying to cut open plastic.

Last night, I saw a commercial for yet another brilliant use for the stuff: individually plastic-wrapped prunes. Do these people get payoffs from OPEC? Do they care at all that our oil payments go to lovely people like Putin, Chavez, Ahmednijani or whatever the hell his name is, and the thugs running Myanmar?

Save yourself, child, before it's too late!

It is a pivotal moment in the life of a human being.

There they are, wobbling on fat toddler legs, reaching for the junk piled up on your desk. A sticky paw swings widely – will it grab the calculator or the pen?

If the calculator is seized, chances are the child will do well in math, become a banker or an accountant and live a pleasant life as a member of the Rotary Club, the Country Club or some other genial organization. People in banquet halls will clap politely as his or her accomplishments are listed. He or she will grow pretty petunias and have neatly trimmed hedges and a well-fertilized lawn.

But woe to the poor child who grabs the pen. He or she will suck at math and thus hate school, where math, like the flu, must periodically be endured for no apparent reason. He or she will live a wretched life, forever expressing opinions at which others take offense, collecting enemies like some people collect stamps and constantly worrying whether his paycheck will cover the cost of toilet paper for the month.

Insane people will call her, expressing bizarre theories about the local Freemasons or the corruption in the sheriff’s office.

“This will make a great story,” they declare. “It has everything to do with what happened to Kennedy! You’re just the one [translation = damned fool] to write it!”

And he will grow strange and wild plants, if anything at all, and a lawn speckled with dandelions to which the neighbors will take great umbrage.

Darlene, Part III

She was my original Isis. Smart and so very beautiful.

I've blogged a couple of times now about Darlene Tsue and I have tried, in vain, to conduct Internet people searches for Her. The closest that I have come is a traffic court listing in Mesa, Arizona, that may or may not be Her and a eulogy to a Darlene Tsue who passed away several years ago, who I pray is not Her. Today, I'm happy to see that Isis is the number one result that pops up in an Internet search for Her.

Maybe She will find this place if, God willing, She is still alive. Who knows what can happen in 20 years? She would be about 37 years old now, a few years older than me, still so very young.

I just want to say "thank you" to Her for being who She was and for what She did for me.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Ela's new blog

Ms. Braveheart Ela, whose blog, Time Particular, intrigues and captivates with enigmatic, symbolic paintings, has just created a new blog, Time Recorded.

Her first entry is about a lush, beautiful West Coast forest. Worth a visit.

Monday, October 8, 2007

A fool who said no

It was a warm evening in spring, on the beautiful island of Oahu, where I spent my teenage years. She came to me, a dark-haired beauty with mischievous eyes and that unforgettable Polynesian complexion.

She took my hand and asked me to dance.

I would not go. I did not know how to dance.

She tugged some more, beckoning me to join Her. I held my ground.

She dropped my hand sharply and disappeared into the dancing crowd. I never saw Her again.

I do not give in to peer pressure. That is one of my virtues -- and one of my flaws. The harder that you cajole, the more I will dig in. But She was not asking me to shoplift or to smoke pot. She was asking me to dance and I was a fool to say no.

That was more than 20 years ago but I remember it to this day. We were all kids, none of us dance experts. Nobody would have cared at all if I didn't know how to groove like John Travolta.

I would have had fun. I might have made a new friend.

But I stood there and watched Her walk away.

LGS tagged me to report on a dance in my life and I pass this tag on to Leslie, a master storyteller if ever there was one.

Living Room Visitor

Pretty little thing, isn't it, in spite of my amateur photographic skills. I really should take a class for this.

Fear -- an unfinished post

What do you fear?

I fear typical things: icy highways, hypodermic needles, extreme heights, being cut with knives.

People who do not share one's fears can be extremely annoying as they ridicule you or offer misguided advice -- utterly failing to understand that fear observes no rule of logic and is an extremely powerful force.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Pondering salt

I am a strange duck, a weird little crumpet. Since I first learned about the elements in the universe, back in school,they have fascinated me ... helium, barium, uranium, etc., etc., the building blocks of the universe.

Tonight I am pondering sodium, one of the crucial elements of life. We all must imbibe of this metal to keep our cells humming happily.

Sodium marries carbon and creates soda. Not the brown fizzy stuff in a bottle that people drink because they like dental caries. Rather, the white powder that sits in a box in the back of your refrigerator absorbing the stench of onions and old fish.

Soda once led a more glamorous life. For the ancient Egyptians, it served as soap. And it was a vital part of sacred purification ceremonies, for the living and for the dead.

"Thy heart is pure, cleansed is thy front with washing, thy back with cleansing water, thine inward parts with soda and natron ..." (Papyrus Louvre N. 3284, Book of Breathings).

It may seem odd and grotesque to our Western minds, but the Egyptians believed that this soda was the saliva of the gods -- and that, to them, was not a bad thing.

I think about Jesus, next door in Israel, some years later, using saliva in some of his miracles without the recipient or witnesses apparently being horrified, and wonder if similar concepts were at work ... but that is digressing.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

"Just" a Girl?

Sometimes, For Love of Woman, Sisterblog to Isis, overflows -- points are made that I want to share here.

I have begun to read a very important book, by Denise Linn, The Glory and Pleasure of Being a Woman.

Obviously, I'm not a Woman, so why should I care?

Because I am blessed to have the friendship and love of Women in my life -- my Mother, my Sweetie, my Sister, my colleagues.

The book opens with Linn's anti-epiphany -- discovering to Her hurt that She is "just a Girl," in the words of some boys in Her neighborhood.

So we discussed this on FLOW and Kat, who blogs there and here and on, shared some great examples of how She has found personal empowerment.

She shared unmistakable evidence that a Girl/Woman can be compassionate, brave, quick-thinking, resolute, heroic and In The Right Place at the Right Time.

This is what we must resolve to teach the young Girls who pass through our lives -- our Sisters, our Daughters, our Nieces, our students, our friends.

When She stands at that pyschological crossroads, having been hit to the heart with Her first dose of misogyny -- just a Girl! -- I pray that we will be there to lift up Her chin and clear up the hurt and confusion in Her eyes.

To say: Yes, You are a Girl -- and what a great thing that is!

Because You are a Girl, You are blessed with gifts and strengths that no boy will ever have -- things You can't even begin to comprehend at this time.

Because You are a Girl, You are part of a universal Sisterhood -- and Your friendships with Them will be deeper and more intimate and wonderful than any bonds ever forged between men.

Yes, You are a Girl -- and thank God for that, because You are needed in this world, with all the magic and joy that You will bring to it!

Someday, that boy who tried to insult You today, will be begging for Your friendship and more -- and if he hasn't gotten any smarter by then, walk away from him with a smile, because child, he ain't worth Your time!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Monster management

It is of course impossible to know the thoughts of people who have vanished long ago, especially if they did not write them down.

The program that I watched last night attempted to do just that, though – ascribing the extinction of the Australian Giant Ripper Lizard to a methodical extermination campaign by Aborigines tired of being snacked on by the beast.

It’s easy to feel a pang for the loss of the moa bird, the eastern bison, the Irish elk or tropical frogs. It’s harder to feel sorrow at the extinction of a horrific, slimy-mouthed monster that could eat a man for lunch and still be hungry. Especially if it roamed the very lands we roam, rather than lurking in the ocean depths or in some swamp, where a man ought to be more cautious venturing and in which a fool hath no business to be.

Here’s an interesting hypothetical. Suppose that somebody out exploring the Outback of Australia, discovered that a few specimens of the Giant Ripper Lizard were still hanging on, say in some remote forest.

Suppose that after this discovery, it was learned that the beasts were reproducing and, with most of the Aborigine hunters eliminated or occupied in other tasks since the arrival of the Europeans, were beginning to spread again across the continent.


Conservationists, presented with this scenario, should the ancient extinction campaign be renewed? After all, you are not talking about a beast that stays in some swamp for the most part or that can be controlled by even the bravest, toughest crocodile wrestler. You are talking about 900 pounds of land-roving, man-eating lizard also packing a mouthful of deadly bacteria.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Nightmare neighbors

Eh, my neighbors are okay. They make noise now and then, and I'd sell them for a nickel to passing Martian raiders, but even the nastiest neighbors pale before the beasts that menaced the childhood of humankind.

It was wonderful tonight to a)not spray/drip/dribble nasal mucus every five minutes and b)actually have three delicious hours between work and bedtime to do nothing but lie on the floor and watch tv.

I think it's been a month since I last turned the thing on.

Telly, I've missed you so. Tonight, you taught me about horrible monsters that shared the world with my ancestors, long, long ago.

I already knew about saber-toothed tigers and even that terrifying eagle in New Zealand that could, would and did hunt the first people to settle there.

But I did not know about this bad boy:

Megalania, aka the Giant Ripper Lizard. The biggest lizard that ever lived. Makes a Komodo dragon look like a Chihuahua.

900 pounds of angry ugliness. And a mouth that drooled toxic bacteria in its sputum. Kind of like a guy with a bad cold.

On a sunny day, it was unstoppable and it ate people like a preteen camper eats marshmallows and beef jerky.

But it had a weakness -- the same weakness to which all its scaly kin are prone: its cold blood kept it slow in the morning chill. Set a wildfire in the early a.m. and even this monstrous beast was helpless.

Ripper rips no more. Neither does the short-nosed bear, that giant eagle or a whole bunch of other beasts that once cracked human skulls.

We burned them out, starved them out, speared them out, we, the naked ape with the big brain.

(Photo courtesy of the BBC, which must have faced some challenges in procuring it, since the Giant Ripper Lizard's demise predates the invention of the camera.)

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The last face many bugs ever see

Dawn makes me laugh

You simply must visit Dawn (now at and read about Her devious dog and an escapade with a sweet potato. It's the funniest thing I've read in ages.

First, be sure that you are sitting down, have recently emptied your bladder and are not in a workspace cubicle where chortles, chuckles and belly-laughs might get your fired.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The secret of lasting joy

What is the secret to lasting joy, to keeping a child's sense of wonder, to living the exultant life, to finding miracles every day?

It is embodied in this glorious statement by Kat (

"All my life my everything I most have loved and appreciated is this life this world this everything and its every expression everywhere with all that crawls and flies and creeps and leaps and bounds and runs and hops, their every voice, their every circumstance."

What a magical outlook on life.

Connections ...

About a year ago, I discovered that our local fine arts museum had acquired one of the sculptures upon which Nathaniel Hawthorne based his novel, "The Marble Faun."

So I went to the museum and then read the book. Visiting the museum was the easy part. Finding the book wasn't. As usual, the local bookstore had never heard of it and my county library --- pfft, I've seen auto repair shops with more books in stock than that place.

There appears to be some idea that Nathaniel Hawthorne only wrote one book, "The Scarlet Letter," then was whisked off into outer space by Martians, never to write again.

But eventually, I found it. And read it. And liked it. And I recommend it. It beautifully breathes the spirit of 19th century Rome.

Fast forward to this evening, when I took my Sweetie to get Her hair done.

I picked up an odd magazine in the lobby, "Garden and Gun." I kid you not. Only in the South would one find such a combo. I'm not much into periodicals about shooting things, so I don't know why I bothered even to crack it open, especially since I had Plutarch with me, on my designated reading list.

I am so glad that I did.

Buried amongst tales of bullet-riddled waterfowl was a gem of an article about the Elizabethan Gardens of North Carolina, USA. They have been planted on the very spot where the so-called Lost Colony was founded more than 400 years ago -- the first serious attempt of the English to settle North America.

In these gardens stands a statue. If I get permission, I will post a photo of it.


"This graceful statue is the artist’s version of an adult Virginia Dare, the first English child born in the New World. Sculpted of Carrara marble in Italy by American sculptor, Maria Louisa Lander in 1859, the statue spent two years at the bottom of the sea following a shipwreck off the coast of Spain. The statue was salvaged and shipped to Boston, where it survived a fire. In 1923, Miss Lander willed the statue to the State of North Carolina, where it was displayed in several buildings but was eventually sent to the basement of the old Supreme Court Building as some found her lack of clothing objectionable."

But from tonight's magazine reading, I have learned that Ms. Lander was a Salem native, who, like Her fellow Salem-ite, the aforementioned Hawthorne, left that city for the Eternal City, Rome, about the same time that he did. She stopped in London along the way and saw drawings by John White, Virginia Dare's grandfather. The story of that vanished child fascinated Her, and when She got to Rome, She created in clay Her vision of what the Girl would have looked like as an adult, then had an Italian carve it in marble. It is speculated that the statue's beautiful figure is based on Her own, of which She was justifiably proud.

Meanwhile, Lander had befriended Hawthorne and he based a character in "The Marble Faun" on Her.

What a fascinating web of connections. And to think that, for me, they came together in "Garden and Gun Magazine."

Monday, October 1, 2007

Isis does not burn witches

A friend of mine who practices Wicca has been slammed on Her blog today for that. How lame.

Do these same intolerant people freak out if a Hindu moves next door? Do they foam at the mouth to discover that the nice old Japanese gentleman down the street practices Shinto?

Wiccans (please be respectful enough to call them what they want to be called, not some derogatory old slur, same as you would like for your religion)do not huddle round cauldrons of newt eyes and bat wings. And they're not in the crop blighting business.

If you harbor some deep belief that they are lost souls on the road to hell, fine, you are entitled to your opinions. But do you really expect to win their souls back with threats, insults and imprecations?

I'm not Wiccan. But I will afford its adherents the same respect that I do adherents of Sikhism, Catholicism, Judaism, etc. There's too much hate in this world -- stop feeding it!

What October brings ...

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Thoughts: Mammograms save lives. They are not a luxury but a necessity. If You are a Woman, please get one. If you are a man, gently encourage the Women in your life to have one.

Be familiar with the Center for Disease Control's National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program, which provides access to high-quality breast cancer screenings and treatment to uninsured or underinsured Women, with an emphasis on Women between ages 50-64.

More information: 1-800-ACS-2345.