1-31-07, 5 years on


The 2007 Boston bomb scare occurred on January 31, 2007 when the Boston Police Department mistakenly identified battery-powered LED placards resembling the Mooninite characters in the show Aqua Teen Hunger Force found throughout Boston, Massachusetts and the surrounding cities of Cambridge and Somerville as improvised explosive devices. *

I don’t see a lot of improvement in the threat assessments DHS, the cops, etc. are doing.

Some dart frog photos

A friend who moved to Tucson about a year ago is in the area doing some house sitting. We got together yesterday – headed over to the big herp show in Manchvegas where we met a couple other friends/fellow froggers. From there, back to S’s house where we hung out in the frog room, then to lunch, then home. An excellent day. Some pictures (more on my Flickrstream) and a video.

A Bullseye histo.

Oophaga histrionica Bullseye


The frog room (aka The Garagemahal).

Frog room


Not a great photo, but a great subject – a pair of Atelopus (spumarius I think) amplexing.

Atelopus amplexus


And a quick vid of a pumilio calling his fool head off.


Book review: Antarctica: An Encyclopedia 2nd ed.

Cross-posted to LibraryThing.

Let’s get the physical description out of the way first – Antarctica: An Encyclopedia is imposing. Two volumes, 1771 pages and about 300 pounds (that last may be an exaggeration). It is text only; no pictures, no illustrations, not even a map. Here’s a quick phonecam image for scale and to show the page format. I’m sure there are precise terms of art to describe the layout; I thought it might be easier to just show it, especially as I’m going to refer to the amount of topic coverage in a bit. The dollar bill is 6 inches long (equivalent to a legal trout in Maine – or it used to be).


Like another LibraryThing reviewer, I thought I’d attack the Encyclopedia by looking up a few topics.

Ernest Shackleton. The approx. one full column devoted to Shackleton is a precis of his life: birth, parents, expeditions, death. Three sentences are devoted to the transantarctic attempt, the last of which reads, “There followed the most amazing series of events (see the notes on the expedition, British Imperial Transantarctic Expedition) which make one revise one’s concepts about the limits of human endurance and determination, the physical and mental barriers imposed by the human species upon themselves.”  The BITE entry is 4 pages of chronology and description. Side note – folks interested in the BITE may wish to follow @otolythe‘s twitter Shackleton project at @EShackleton.

Mount Erebus. Approximately one column – location, history of height estimates, various ascents and a couple physical notes.

Operation Highjump. About a page and a half of who, what, when, and where. The most information I’ve yet encountered regarding this expedition – excellent.

Tucker Sno-cat (under Sno-cat). Just two sentences on this Antarctic icon *sad face*.

Make no mistake – this is a capital-R reference book. Paired with an appropriate atlas or gazetteer it would be an unbeatable far-south resource.

The Circus, The Laundry and Apophenia

A month or so ago I re-watched the classic 1979 BBC adaptation of LeCarré’s Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – partly to get ready for the new Gary Oldman movie, but mainly because it is so damn good. I was happily viewing when one shot caused my jaw to drop:


George Smiley is on his way to the Lamplighter’s HQ to interview Toby Esterhase. I saw the ‘Starlight Laundry’ sign and immediately thought of Mr. Stross. His wickedly entertaining Laundry series is a Secret Service/Lovecraft/bureaucracy horrorthrillercomedy amalgam that I can recommend unreservedly. “Aha”, says I, “I’ll bet this scene is The Laundry’s birthplace!”

Alas. A little while later I tweeted – wondering if there was any back story to the choice of a laundry in the BBC shot.  [technical note – I will work out the ’embedding Storify w/in a WordPress post’ kinks in the fullness of time – for now, a screen scrape]

“Apophenia is the experience of seeing meaningful patterns or connections in random or meaningless data.” *

And lest anyone think I’m particularly observant/pattern recognizing/perceptive, I think this one belongs in the “even a blind pig can believe he’s found an acorn once in a while” bucket.


Via @debcha‘s always excellent #dailyidioms tweets and their associated annotated Tumblr comes word of new reconstruction of the Permian shark Helicoprion. The shark is almost exclusively known from it’s spiral dentitition – yes, you read that right. The fossil tooth spirals have been known for over a hundred years and have been placed everywhere – upper jaw, lower jaw and even just in front of the dorsal fin. I ran across the name of a favorite artist as I read through the Smithsonian post Deb linked to – Ray Troll (excellent name for a fish-obsessed guy, methinks). A’surfing I went; I thought I’d post a some of the pictures I found, ending with Mary Parrish’s work for the Smithsonian NMNH.

A reconstruction from the Fossil Wiki – note that the teeth grow from the inside out and thus the smaller teeth are older and get wrapped into the center of the spiral. Seems like the teeth would need to replace themselves very slowly for this to work (not a show stopper – apparently Permian sharks replaced teeth more slowly that modern sharks do).


And Ray Troll’s version:


Ray has another page with some thumbnails of a few of the other proposed arrangements – bizarre, but the starting point is pretty weird, so I’m not going to fault anyone.

And finally, Mary Parrish’s less dramatic reconstruction:


Where then does the dentition reside? A possible position is the throat cavity; this cavity could accommodate the dentition’s spiral form, and the dentition would not be subjected to the wear and breakage from biting prey that would occur in a jaw position. In the throat cavity, this dentition was probably supported by the cartilage between the basal margins of the right and left gill arches in sharks. New teeth for the spiral dentition probably originated on this basal cartilage. The teeth may be modified pharyngeal denticles, which occur on the gill arches and basal cartilage in sharks and other fishes. As a throat dentition, when the shark opens its jaws, the teeth would be presented to grab prey entering the mouth cavity. Closing the jaws, the teeth would move the prey toward the esophagus. This type of dentition would work well for catching soft-bodied prey. *