Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Sea Sloth

Thalassocnus is an extinct aquatic or semi-aquatic sloth-like animal from South America. Order Xenartha (or Pilosa depending on who you ask). It is generally thought to be a herbivore, living off of seaweed and sea grass.

I have been reading about Xenartha most of the morning. Fascinating stuff.
Many massive thanks to Cameron McCormick for intoducing me to this topic:
He has various scientific periodicals linked from his blog post I have linked to.

Ironically, this species in generally lumped among the "ground sloths" merely because whatever it is it isn't a tree sloth. And the term sloth is quite misleading. Sloths have a specific lifestyle. I don't think it is exaggeration to say that their best known distinguishing traits are lacked by the "ground sloths." Namely, tree sloths live their entire lives upside down, they move very slowly, and their fur is green-ish (a result of algae living in their moist fur, lending sloths with longer hair more chamouflage...a survival trait). None of these three traits are probably present in the "ground sloths," although I hesitate to make any absolute assertions.

Thalassocnus is almost as much an anteater as a sloth-proper. Of course, as my dad pointed out, anteaters are known for eating ants. And that is almost certainly not what fossil evidence suggests.

However, the "ground sloths" are most definitely Xenartha (grouping of armadillos, anteaters, and sloths), and they are most definitely related fairly closely to the sloths (judging from all available evidence). The "ground sloths" are represented by a few major fossil groupings, with Thalassocnus NOT among the archetypical genus, represented by Megatherium.

I want to remind the reader that although teeth are a very good indicator of what an animal eats, it is hardly foolproof. Please observe the Giant Panda. It has the teeth of a carnivore, and yet lives off of mostly plant matter (bamboo) which really confused Western scientists for while.
Also, it should be mentioned the aquatic habits aren't really something that can be confirmed, either.


Friday, February 12, 2010

What have you read by Charles Fort?

Myself, nothing. I have just recently run across the author's name, but from what I have read I have officially added his name to my mental list of authors to read. From what I can tell, his unorthodox interests in the paranormal make him well-regarded among so-called cyrptozoologists, and that is where I first read about him. What I have read about his writing style is what intrigues me most. Sounds like a fun read.

I have a strong interest in reading authors of the "modern" past, and Fort's works are in that vein. Also with that theme I have enjoyed reading Emerson, Saki, Henry James, Maugham, and Melville.

Wikipedia (that ever-present wealth of questionable online content) says:
"Charles Hoy Fort (August 6, 1874 – May 3, 1932) was an American writer and researcher into anomalous phenomena.
Fort's books sold well and remain in print. Today, the terms "Fortean" and "Forteana" are used to characterise various anomalous phenomena."
"Fort wrote ten novels, although only one, The Outcast Manufacturers (1909), was published."
"Understanding Fort's books takes time and effort: his style is complex, violent and poetic, profound and occasionally puzzling. Ideas are abandoned and then recalled a few pages on; examples and data are offered, compared and contrasted, conclusions made and broken, as Fort holds up the unorthodox to the scrutiny of the orthodoxy that continually fails to account for them. Pressing on his attacks, Fort shows what he sees as the ridiculousness of the conventional explanations and then interjects with his own theories."
"Partial bibliography (Wikisource has original works written by or about: Charles Fort
All of Fort's works are available on-line (see External links section).
The Outcast Manufacturers (novel), 1906
Many Parts (autobiography, unpublished)
The Book of the Damned, Prometheus Books, 1999, paperback, 310 pages, ISBN 1-57392-683-3, first published in 1919.
New Lands, Ace Books, 1941 and later editions, mass market paperback, first published in 1923. ISBN 0-7221-3627-7
Lo!, Ace Books, 1941 and later printings, mass market paperback, first published in 1931. ISBN 1-870870-89-1
Wild Talents, Ace Books, 1932 and later printings, mass market paperback, first published in 1932. ISBN 1-870870-29-8
Complete Books of Charles Fort, Dover Publications, New York, 1998, hardcover, ISBN 0-486-23094-5"

Monday, February 8, 2010

JHW: The Greatest Country in the World

JHW: Job Hunt Woes

First off, anyone international reading this probably carries an opinion from a much wider perspective.

I have often heard certain people proclaim loudly and passionately that America (meaning the US) is the "Greatest Country on Earth"
I am not qualified to make that determination one way or the other, but I feel strongly that things aren't all they are cracked up to be. ("crack" could have worked as a rather effective pun here. I am too mentally tired. Make up your own damn pun)

If America is so great, why does it suck so bad? Life is unsafe. Healthcare is unavailable. An honest living is hard to come by, if at all.

A former girlfriend from Indonesia pointed out that healthcare was the single biggest flaw she noticed. And I took her point to heart, and have often recalled her observations. Except for the super-rich, the average or even above average person can expect slow and inaccessibly priced medical care. Specifically, in an hospital Emergency Room, even a person rushed in by an ambulance will usually sit in pain and panic for hours.

The insurance system is a mess, and affordability is functionally impossible. But there are plenty of eloquent (or otherwise) diatribes online. I don't care now. I was going to try and make this blog make some sort of structural sense, but screw structure.

I recall reading or hearing somewhere about a son who saw his father working in a panic and worrying about things til the day his cancer ate him alive. I heard of the radio of a man talking about his dying mother (again, terminal) heartbroke over how she'd ever pay for anything. This just isn't right.

I want to start my on "We hold these Truths to be self evident" 1) a person doesn't have to linger in pain 2) a person who is dying has enough to worry about 3) an honest living should be available to ANYONE who asks for it and honestly tries 4) no child should go hungry or be sexually abused

For the record, yes America is a very good place to live, in comparison. That that just makes me wonder about the miserable condition of most of humanity. It's appaling. And just because my neighbor go killed in a fire, that doesn't mean I'm any happier that MY house burned down, too.

Here I am, good credentials, and I can use the computer effectively, and I have unemployment money coming in for a while, and I have family I can borrow a car from, and I am having one hell of a time. How much worse is it for the other guy, the one who is trying to get his life together after a bad divorce, or being homeless, or being in prison. Damn.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

"When things are going wrong..."

This is a line from a worship song sung by my friends at the Twelve Tribes (loooong story). that I heard a few weeks ago.

"When things are going wrong,
Remember the path you're on."

(Paraphrase; from memory)

This applies best to people who do have a core belief system, I would imagine, theological or philosophical or otherwise.

When I first heard this part of the aforementioned song, I wanted badly to cling onto the wisdom I felt was inherent. Then, it slipped from my mind, only to return just now. So i felt I better post while the getting is good ;-)

I don't even have to make any trite remarks. If you (O Gentle Reader) are at all a self-examining person, you've already begun to think. If not, then it doesn't matter what I say or post, does it?

attn: tabletop gamers


Chess mixed with D&D.
An idea I've thought about from time to time, although not to this extent.

But Chess would have a lot more peril (and cost) if every attack could potentially result in the attacker losing the foray.
I am reminded of Edgar Rice Burrough's Chessmen of Mars, and the swordplay and bloodsport version of chess, which gave each gladiator-like contestant in a "chess" move a personal life-or-death stake in the move.

I also think quite strongly about my "house rules": that a king can, at whim, "trample" and discard and pawns in his escape route, as needed. Makes game logic to me.

"Documentation is like sex."

I found this quote online, and I thought is so funny yet apt that I had to repeat it:

"Documentation is like sex. When it's good, it's very, very good. And when it's bad, it's still better than nothing."


I doubt it's an original saying, but it worthy of... documentation.

I have experience with English lit, History papers, science reports, etc, and have friends in many such fields, and it applies wonderfully.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Pandas are a myth!

The history of the discovery of the [Giant Panda] demonstrates that a large animal can elude detection for decades, and that native tales of such creatures can be based in fact. It took sixty-seven years from the time the Giant Panda was "discovered" by Westerners until its live capture. During this period twelve well staffed and equipped professional expeditions failed to collect a single live specimen of this large bear. [Red Panda was probably well-known to lowland Chinese authorities and Western scientists.]
It took over twenty years to collect a living specimen of the Congo Peacock once it became known to Westerners from feathers and oral descriptions by natives of the Congo River basin. Likewise for the [mountain gorilla. And the opaki. And the pygmy hippo.]


Sirrush/ "Splendor Serpent"/Dragon of Ishtar Gate casual research

Mackal, Roy P. Searchingfor Hidden Animals. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1980, A Living Dinosaur?: In Search of MokeleMbembe. New York: E. J. Brill, 1987.

"The Dragon of the Ishtar Gate may be one of Cryptozoology's strangest, yet best-documented, ancient crypids. This two and a half millennium old depiction is so unusual that many treat it as a chimera, an impossible combination of animals that could never have existed in nature.

But the people of ancient Babylon knew and accepted the 'dragon' as real, as real as the bulls and lions that also share the walls"..... Dragon of the Ishtar Gate by David G Stone.

aka Dragon of Marduk, aka Saint George's Dragon,


(Rich's blog notes: the Behometh is regularly thought to be a hippo, although the thick tail causes a bit of a problem. Translation errors?


except: Enigma of the sirrush

Around 600 B.C., during the reign of King Nebuchadnezzar, a Babylonian artist fashioned bas reliefs on bricks used in the enormous archway of the Ishtar Gate and the high walls of the approach road. The bas reliefs consist of three animals, and each row of bricks displays numerous images of one of them. The rows alternate, some showing lions, others rimis (as the Babylonians called them), and still others sirrushes (dragons).

Though extinct in Mesopotamia, the rimi was a real animal which was either remembered or known through specimens brought over from Eurasia, where these wild oxen (usually called urus or aurochs) lived on until 1627. The dragon, of course, was a purely imaginary animal. Or was it?

Willy Ley has described the sirrush, which he considered a "zoological puzzle of fantastic dimensions," thus:

... a slender body covered with scales, a long slender scaly tail, and a long slim scaly neck bearing a serpent's head. Although the mouth is closed, a long forked tongue protrudes. There are flaps of skin attached to the back of the head, which is adorned (and armed) with a straight horn....

The Apocrypha's Book of Bel and the Dragon relates a curious story: that in the temple of Bel, Lord of the World, Nebuchadnezzar's favored god, the priests kept a "great dragon or serpent, which they of Babylon worshipped." The king challenged the Hebrew prophet Daniel, who had been going about sneering about nonliving gods of brass, to dispute this god, who "liveth, and eateth and drinketh; you canst not say that he is no living god; therefore worship him." To remove himself from this quandary, Daniel poisoned the animal.

The fortieth chapter of Job in the Old Testament, though written anywhere from 100 to 1300 years earlier than the Ishtar Gate's construction, may refer to the sirrush by another name:

Behold now Behemoth ... he eateth grass as an ox. Know now his strength is in his loins, and his force is in the navel of his belly. He moveth his tail like a cedar: the sinews of his stones are wrapped together. His bones are as strong pieces of brass, his bones are like bars of iron.... He lieth under the shady trees, in the cover of the reed, and fens. The shady trees cover him with their shadow; the willows of the brook compass him about.... His nose pierceth through snares.

The behemoth's identity has long puzzled biblical scholars, who have not doubted that Job was writing of a real animal, even if no satisfactory candidate among known animals seems to exist. Mackal offers this interpretation: "The behemoth's tail is compared to a cedar, which suggests a sauropod. This identification is reinforced by other factors. Not only the behemoth's physical nature, but also its habits and food preferences are compatible with a sauropod's. Both live in swampy areas with trees, reeds and fins (a jungle swamp)."

Mesopotamian cylinder seal dated at 3300 BC. Moortgart, Anton, The Art of Ancient Mesopotamia, 1969, plate 292.
The head of a dragon, the symbol of Marduk, sculpted in bronze and dating from c. 300-600 B.C., was found in Mesopotamia and is now in the Louvre Museum, Paris - dragon image and dragons-bar (top) taken from "Dragons: A Natural History" by Dr. Karl Shuker] http://www.faithalone.com/dragons.html

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

TMP/Ex Machina Betelguesian-related comic strip

Comic found at: http://home.fuse.net/ChristopherLBennett/Trekfiction.html

which says: This little tribute was put together by TMP-alien buff Ian McLean, based on an old ST comic strip from the Los Angeles Times