Thursday, March 26, 2009

African helmet or wood shrike (Euryceros prevosti)


"'All shrikes are bullies, aggressive and blood-thirsty', says a distinguished naturalist, and the habits of the African helmet or wood shrike would seem to confirm this statement. But like other creatures, including man, it must eat to live, and fight for its living. We hear of shrikes seizing helpless young birds and pecking out their brains to provide a tasty morsel, whilst ignoring the rest of the body.... In many districts shrikes band together in companies to protect their nesting grounds. Fortified by numbers they become exceedingly daring, and will even mob and 'dive buzz' an invader as large and formidable as a leopard."

--Animal World in Color, Volume 8 - Hunters: Birds, Fish, and Amphibians, edited by Maurice Burton, Childrens Press: Chicago, 1969

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

North Dakota Tourism Division 28-page brochure entitled "Indian People of North Dakota"

photo caption: "Sakakawea Statue Dedication, 1910"

"First People of the Plains

"They are the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, the Yanktonai, Sisseton, Wahpeton, Hunkpapa and other Dakotah/Lakotah (commonly known as the Sioux) Tribes, along with the Pembina Chippewa, Cree and Metis....

"Visitors are welcome to explore the reservations and discover the beauty of Indian culture.

"The native people of North Dakota invite you to 'Indian Country.' When Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out to explore the Louisiana Purchase west of the Mississippi River, they found it occupied by Native peoples who had developed extensive trade networks from the Northwest Coast, to Mexico, and into what is now Canada. Walk in the footsteps of some of the legends of American history, like Sakakawea and Sitting Bull, and take in the beauty of their homelands. Just as the name 'Dakota' means 'friend or ally' in the Lakota language, the hand of friendship and hospitality is extended to you as you journey here."

Monday, March 16, 2009

secretary bird (Sagittarius serpentarius)


"When the secretary bird comes calling, even the deadliest snake had better hide, for this odd-looking creature is a master of the fine art of killing snakes. Found throughout the African grasslands from the Egyptian Sudan to Cape Province, the secretary gets its name from the crest of long feathers that look like old-fashioned quill pens stuck behind its ears. Most of its four-foot height is taken up with the long, gangling legs that allow it to walk faster than a man can run. When it spies a snake, it approaches, weaving and flapping its wings. By confusing the aim of the reptile's fangs, it can pin the writhing serpent with one powerful foot. Then, seizing its victim behind the head, it either dashes it to death or takes it aloft and kills it by dropping it from a great height to the hard ground below."

--Animal World in Color, Volume 8 - Hunters: Birds, Fish, and Amphibians, edited by Maurice Burton, Childrens Press: Chicago, 1969

Sunday, March 15, 2009

/still/ with the vampires

"From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Medieval stories of revenants have common features....

"Several stories imply that sucking of blood has occurred. Because of this, revenants have sometimes been described as 'vampires' by a number of authors of popular books about vampire legends, starting with Montague Summers. Medievalists are, however, largely skeptical towards this interpretation, possibly because vampire legends are believed to have originated in Eastern European folklore and became known to the Western public only later through reports coming from the East in the 18th century. Vampires do not appear in Western fiction (with modifications) until the late 18th century and early 19th century, starting with authors such as Robert Southey, Lord Byron and John William Polidori. However, anthropologists and folklorists tend to blur distinctions between the various forms of 'walking dead', for which counterparts exist in the myths and legends of nearly every civilization dating back to earliest history."

Saturday, March 14, 2009

cease to be

"Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh."

--George Bernard Shaw

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Svenhild Hansen


"Stories are often told of eagles carrying off a lamb or child, but real-life instances capable of proof are very few. It is generally agreed by ornithologists that an eagle is unable to carry a weight in excess of its own, and few of these birds weigh more than twelve pounds. However, there seems no reason to doubt the terrifying experience of four-year-old Svenhild Hansen, who was actually 'kidnapped' by an eagle near Trondheim in Norway in June, 1932. She was playing in the yard of her parents' farmhouse when an eagle swooped down on her, fortunately clutching only her dress in its talons. The giant bird is then said to have carried her 'more than a mile' towards its eyrie. Becoming tired, it deposited her on a ledge eight hundred feet up on a mountain and fifty feet short of the nest. Only the fact that the eagle was seen to fly repeatedly over the spot gave a clue to the panic-stricken parents and a party of searchers. Eventually little Svenhild was found there fast asleep, uninjured except for slight bruising and a few scratches.

"Now a married woman, she keeps the torn frock she then wore as a souvenir of one of the world's most amazing adventures. As it is the habit of eagles to kill their prey before bringing it to the nest, Svenhild's escape must be one of the most extraordinary on record."

--Animal World in Color, Volume 8 - Hunters: Birds, Fish, and Amphibians, edited by Maurice Burton, Childrens Press: Chicago, 1969

Dharma Bums II

“Diamond Sutra says 'Make no formed conceptions about the realness of existence nor about the unrealness of existence.'”

--Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums, 1958

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


"From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"In the Julian Calendar as well as in the Gregorian Calendar that improved it, intercalation is done by adding an extra day to February in each leap year. In the Julian Calendar this was done every four years. In the Gregorian calendar, years whose number is evenly divisible by 100 but not 400 were exempted in order to improve accuracy. Thus, 2000 was the first century year in 400 years to be a leap year."


"From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Soteriology is the branch of theology that deals with salvation. It is derived from the Greek sōtērion 'salvation' (from sōtēr 'savior, preserver') + English -logy. The term itself can be used to refer to any kind of religion, and no savior figure or figures are required. Soteriology is a key factor that distinguishes religion from philosophy."

Monday, March 09, 2009

why did he not write out his thoughts

"She asked him why did he not write out his thoughts. For what, he asked her, with careful scorn. To compete with phrasemongers, incapable of thinking consecutively for sixty seconds? To submit himself to the criticisms of an obtuse middle class which entrusted its morality to policemen and its fine arts to impresarios?"

--James Joyce, "A Painful Case," 1914

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Friday, March 06, 2009

Somewhere in Poland

photo by Marta

decided I couldn't post this in either The Crush or Adventuria

My friend Mike and I have a 14-year ongoing dispute over religion. He's atheist; I'm agnostic. I visited Mike in Boston last autumn. I arrived late on a Saturday night, and as we rode through the city in a taxi, Mike told me that he had to get up early the next morning to attend the weekly meeting of his atheist group. I said, "What?" He told me, yes, he's a member of an atheist group that meets every week, and I was invited to come along. I said, "You go to church? You're an atheist! The best part about being atheist is that you don't have to get up on Sunday morning and go to church! So you blow that all to hell by going to atheist church? Whoever heard of such a thing? And you want me to go with you? Goddamnit Mike, of all the people I know, you were the last person I ever expected to push their religion on me." But I went; the atheists met in a bar so at least we got to drink.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009


The "War on Terror" guys are releasing a new boardgame:

"The Raven" in 1946, one hundred and one years later

"'The Raven' is probably the best-known poem in America. When it appeared in the New York Evening Mirror for January 29, 1845, it created a national, even an international, sensation. 'No brief poem,' says George E. Woodberry, 'ever established itself so immediately, so widely, and so imperishably in men's minds.'"

--American Writers: Revised Edition, The Athenaeum Press: Boston, 1946

Dharma Bums

“I hadn't yet digested the Lankavatara Scripture which eventually shows you that there's nothing in the world but the mind itself, and therefore all's possible.”

--Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums, 1958

Monday, March 02, 2009

consciousness, illusion, free will

"The brain appears to make up its mind 10 seconds before we become conscious of a decision....

"'We think our decisions are conscious,' said neuroscientist John-Dylan Haynes at the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience in Berlin, who is pioneering this research. 'But these data show that consciousness is just the tip of the iceberg. This doesn't rule out free will, but it does make it implausible....'

"Dr. Haynes and his colleagues devised a deceptively simple experiment, reported in April in Nature Neuroscience. They monitored the swift neural currents coursing through the brains of student volunteers as they decided, at their own pace and at random, whether to push a button with their left or right hands....

"Studying the brain behavior leading up to the moment of conscious decision, the researchers identified signals that let them know when the students had decided to move 10 seconds or so before the students knew it themselves. About 70% of the time, the researchers could also predict which button the students would push.

"'It's quite eerie,' said Dr. Haynes....

"Dutch researchers led by psychologist Ap Dijksterhuis at the University of Amsterdam recently found that people struggling to make relatively complicated consumer choices -- which car to buy, apartment to rent or vacation to take -- appeared to make sounder decisions when they were distracted and unable to focus consciously on the problem.

"Moreover, the more factors to be considered in a decision, the more likely the unconscious brain handled it all better, they reported in the peer-reviewed journal Science in 2006. 'The idea that conscious deliberation before making a decision is always good is simply one of those illusions consciousness creates for us,' Dr. Dijksterhuis said."


the situation

"Mr. Oakhurst seldom troubled himself with sentiment, still less with propriety; but he had a vague idea that the situation was not fortunate."

--Bret Harte, "The Outcasts of Poker Flat," 1869

Sunday, March 01, 2009

In certain natures

"In certain natures the deepest joy has always something of melancholy in it, a presentiment, a fleeting sadness, a feeling without a name."

--Thomas Bailey Aldrich, "A Struggle for Life," 1867