Showing posts from 2007

Vintage UFO on Contactees

The Vintage UFO blog has an absolutely brilliant entry on the Contactees of yesteryear. The section 'I believe them, I just don't take them literally' seems especially on the mark. (And by that I mean, I suppose, that it agrees with my own thoughts on the subject.) The Contactees were not charlatans (not wholly so, anyway), but neither are they to be taken on face value:
We need to take them seriously, not just reject them for being quaint kooks... their reports of what it was like on these planets were clearly fantastical, not meshing in any way with what we know. I don’t take them literally, but I believe them. I don’t believe them in this sense: I don’t believe they literally went to Venus, or Mars, or any other planet. In fact, I don't think they ever left the desert. However, I believe they thought they left the desert.
...If one remains stuck in the opinion the UFO phenomena is pretty much just nuts and bolts -- literal ETs from a literal planet -- we’re not going …

CTCastle - Dave and Gavin

CTCastle - Dave and Gavin
Originally uploaded by AlhazredFun photo from the Cape Town castle excavations of 1988. Dave in background is sorting through finds, Gavin in foreground.

Hwy101 roadside cross in snow

Hwy101 roadside cross in snow
Originally uploaded by AlhazredSame as previously blogged photo, another angle.

Random Sunday postcard

I have a large postcard collection (>1100), all of which are unused. I have quite a few that people have sent me too, and hang on to those and treat 'em with loving care.
Although internet social networking sites are a better tool for keeping in touch these days, I still use postcards for this also. Every sunday I throw my trusty multisided dice (actually, I have a few sets of those too) and pick a random friend from my list. Then I pick a random postcard using the dice again, or, since I have so many damn postcards, the internet random number generator.
Of course only out of town contacts are on my postcard list. Sometimes the postcard comes back with "no forwarding address on file" and then it is time to search the person down and get an updated address, or sigh and remove them from the list. But I don't really like doing that.


Stalin denounced Esperanto as a “language of spies.” Naturally, so did Joseph McCarthy.
And there is much more in the excellent Curious Expeditions blog entry on Esperanto.Sincere thanks to Providence Portland Medical Center, who took such good care of my wife during her operation this last week.

Eldritch Dark, almonds

For lovers of weird fiction and the Lovecraftian circle, the Eldritch Dark
site contains a wealth of Clark Ashton Smith information, stories, art, and a forum that is actually well worth reading.
I've recently become fond of almond milk. Here is the World's Greatest Food blog on the subject.

Hwy101 roadside cross in snow

Hwy101 roadside cross in snow
Originally uploaded by Alhazred

Couple of links

My favourite error message

Kudos to Wrigley-Cross Books of Troutdale for another excellent open house. No Tim Powers for me this time, but we did get some excellent Hippocampus Press Lovecraftiana, Paul Williams' PDK bio, and Michael Swanwick signed hard covers.

Open source warfare, Matisyahu leaves Lubavitch, RPG studies

Following my mention yesterday of the Atlantic piece on primary loyalties and current warfare, also worth mentioning is Robert Charette's article 'Open-Source Warfare' in IEEE Spectrum. (I'm not really that fond of the term 'Open-Source Warfare', but it seems like an adequate descriptor.) Mentioned in the article are John Robb, originator of the term, as well as Eric Raymond, open source software theorist.Matisyahu interview: leaving Lubavitch, but staying Hassidic.Bibliography of Role-Playing Game studies.

Primary loyalties, stuck trucks, found objects, satanic mayors

I wouldn't want to be this Stutter guy.I was about to write that Robert Kaplan's Atlantic piece, It's the Tribes, Stupid, with its analysis of the tribe as the unit of primary loyalty, sounded awfully similar to the arguments set forth in Brave New War. But it looks like John Robb himself has already blogged about it.It was a chilly day in Portland today, but nothing compared to what this poor Russian trucker was going through.This seems rather odd: a small town Arkansas mayor resigns, claiming that in the past he had been kidnapped by a Satanic cult.

Utah demographics, maps

The Salt Lake City tribune has an article on the changing demographics of Utah, and the sociopolitical implications thereof.Map of Australia, Middle Earth style.

Dante the curry loving dog and... a cute nerd list

It's cute, but I'll post it 'cos it's fun. It's the story of a doggie that loves his curry:
...Dante has such a taste for tandoori that he refuses to eat normal dog food and regularly turns up outside his local take aways and restaurants begging for curry.
Unfortunately poor Dante developed bowel trouble as a result of his preferences, and the vet nixed his curry munching days. Luckily, a local restauranteur stepped in:
...Mohammed Asdar Ali, who owns the Village Tandoori on Beech Road, Chorlton, took pity on him and created a healthy dog-friendly chicken balti dish which will not inflame Dante’s bowel problems.
Nothing like a good curry. Dante seems like a most discerning doggy.And since we have that out the way, I may as well follow it up by recommending John Dyer's 'Top 1010 Clues that You're at a Really Good Nerd Party.' OK, enough cute stuff. I'm done.

Quick line of the day: wonderful grave art

Absolutely beautiful gravestone art (in the form of a pretty reclining nude lady) from Ramblings of a Renegade Djinn.

Every part of my body without exception

One of my favourite phrases ever published is found in Albert Bender's 1962 description of his experiences with the Men in Black, Flying Saucers and the Three Men. At one point, Bender is brought aboard a space ship. There he meets three comely alien ladies, who proceed to apply oil to his body. "They massaged every part of my body without exception..." wrote Bender. Lovely phrase.
A recent blog entry in 'Inexplicata - The Journal of Hispanic Ufology' covers another case in which this rubbing down of all by aliens has occurred. For instance, one hapless lad has this done to him:
They then covered him in a dark, amber-colored oil and placed the repulsive-looking female on top of him. The sexual act was rapidly consummated and the aliens fussed over him again, bathing him in the strange oil once more.
Sounds like his alien ladies weren't as nice looking as Bender's, but he went a bit further with them. Unless Bender left out details for the sake out decorum.

Thoughts on hot chocolate

Henry Fountain reports in the New York Times that the first use of cacao beans was probably for an alcoholic drink:
The ancient peoples of Mexico and Central America loved to drink chocolate. But their beverage was nothing like the modern one — it was a frothy, bitter brew of fermented, roasted and ground cacao seeds, often spiced with chile peppers, more like mole poblano than Swiss Miss.
Which sounds pretty damn good to me. I like hot chocolate once in a while (and when I was on my lame 3 AM shift always had Milo or Ovaltine before retiring - helped me sleep), but the modern beverage can be rather lame. On the other hand, a chocolate drink with more character - spicy or bitter, something with character - would go down pretty well. Any recommendations?

Melvin Bragg is God

I've been listening to In Our Time for a while now, and am greatly impressed by the host, Melvin Bragg. Under his guidance, three experts discuss the topic of the week, which ranges from William of Ockham to antimatter to Joan of Arc to Joseph Conrad.
I used to think that Terry Gross was the best interviewer which I had heard, but Melvin Bragg now claims that title. I am amazed at his ability to converse (within the context of In Our Town) intelligently on such a wide range of subjects.
Perhaps one of these days he will do Crowley. Here's hoping.

Figureheads and UFOs

Curious Expeditions blog has a fine little entry on the history of figureheads. One of the interesting tidbits that he brings up is
The bared breasts of the female figurehead wasn't just for sailor's enjoyment. "An adage dating at least to the time of Pliny the Elder maintained that the waters could be calmed by a woman uncovering her body at sea, and many sailors no doubt hoped that the representation of a bare-breasted woman would stave off foul weather."So the validity of UFO sightings is difficult to prove one way or the other. "Who cares?" says Greg at UFO Mystic, "they're fun."

GDS for linux

Old news, but I just found out. Google Desktop Search is finally available for linux. Here is the link for debian-based distros.

Abbey of Thelema, more Templars

Blog recommendation: The Abbey Today features a series of photographs by Luigi Bertolucci of the current state of the Abbey of Thelema in Cefalu.The Telegraph has a piece on the recent Templar story that I mentioned a few days ago.[04/19 - The Abbey Today was last updated in 2006, but is still an excellent resource.]

Chinglish, Templars on NPR

Some delightful examples of Chinglish (specifically Chinese versions of Engrish) from Language Log. My favourite photo of the post:I think that it was Foucault's Pendulum that had a lovely quote to the effect that every good conspiracy theory eventually gets back to the Templars. Anyway, I just heard a bit on NPR that will doubtless prove to be conspiracy fodder:
In 1307, the Knights Templar, an order of military monks who had achieved great wealth and power, were ordered by the King of France to be arrested for heresy. They were tried and found guilty. Some members were burned at the stake, and the order was disbanded. The Vatican will soon release newly discovered documents pertaining to the trial of the Knights Templar. Professor Helen Nicholson speaks with Liane Hansen about the group and whether they were really guilty of heresy.
Anyway, listen to the audio.

Barley domestication

Dienekes' Anthropology blog notes what looks to be a rather interesting study by Purugganam Saisho on the domestication of barley. Of especial note is the hypothesis that there were
...two domestication events that led to the origin of barley - one in the Fertile Crescent and another further east, possibly at the eastern edge of the Iranian Plateau.

Coffee, Adamski and prohibition

More good reasons to drink coffee: apart from weight loss, it is mentally stimulating, reduces risk of Parkinson's, cardiovascular disease, gallstones. Good stuff.Adam Gorightly has a rather nice and thoughtful kooky piece on the various strands of the New Gnosis. It includes the following neat piece of George Adamski trivia:
In the 1930's — prior to his "Space Brother" encounters — Adamski operated a monastery dubbed "The Royal-Order of Tibet," which afforded him a permit to make sacrificial wine during the Prohibition. After the Prohibition ended, Adamski's monastery suddenly closed its doors, and he afterwards opened a burger stand near the Mount Polomar Observatory. While there, Adamski claimed to have helped astronomers photograph several UFO's — a claim that afterwards was never verified by anyone at the observatory.

Thoughts on job interviews

Recently I have had to interview a number of candidates for technical support positions at my work, and it has been rather an eye-opener. I'm no stranger to interviewing people, but never have I seen such a consistent range of inappropriate behaviours.
Let's start with the most minor: dress. Now, I do not believe that dress code is at all appropriate for the average tech support position, but I like to see someone make an effort for the job interview itself. Preferably a jacket and tie. Failing that, at least a shirt. But, no. Quite a few of the people I've been seeing (for what is actually a fairly well paid position) just show up in jeans and t-shirt. Guy a couple of weeks ago came in the varient of an old sweatshirt, with t-shirt on top, a combo which irritates me even outside work. OK for beer and pizza, maybe, but not a job interview.
Then there is the demeanour of the person. It is pleasant for everyone to keep it relatively informal and friendly. But it is a job inter…

It finally happened

Nerdcore that is actually good and not just funny. MC Frontalot's 'It is Pitch Dark,' video directed by Jason Scott.

Brief: Iraqi metal and tapirs

Stop Smiling has a brief report on what looks to be Iraq's only heavy metal band, Acrassicauda. At present they are in exile in Syria.From the sad to the cutesy, which I usually hate. But Curious Animals is an interesting blog to play around in. Here is there entry on the tapir.

Brief: Greys and linux command line shutdown

The blog Damn Data takes a look at that most well-known aspect of the Greys: their big bonces. I rather feel sorry for the female Greys, as getting those big noggins through their birth canals must be quite an arduous business.This thread in the official Ubuntu forums gives some usual command line shutdown options.

Darkest of the Hillside Thickets CD release party

The Darkest of the Hillside Thickets is a pop punk (maybe) band that sings about Lovecraftian themes. I think that in some respects they were a bit ahead of their time, and deserve greater respect among Science Fiction fandom. Anyway, they are still going strong, and here is a press release for their CD release party.
Saturday, September 1st I.M.U. presents THOR & The DARKEST OF THE HILLSIDE THICKETS Double CD Release Party @ The Media Club, 695 Cambie. Doors 8pm / $12 Advance @ Zulu, Scratch, Scrape, Neptoon Records & online @ . $15 Cover at the door

PLEASE NOTE: Presale tickets purchased at Record Stores and online for originally scheduled Aug 18th show @ The Lamplighter will be honored at the door this evening or you can redeem tickets at point of purchase.

The Rock Warrior THOR is about to take you on a thunderous, epic quest where he and his band journey to the center of the mind on his new concept album 'INTO THE NOISE' (SDR Reco…

Incas in Norway, coal miners.

Weirdo archaeology news from Norway:
The remains of two elderly men and a baby were discovered during work in a garden, and one of the skulls indicates that the man was an Inca Indian.- There is a genetic flaw in the neck, which is believed to be limited to the Incas in Peru, says arahaeologist Mona Beate Buckholm.The Norway Post suggests that maybe the Vikings travelled even more widely than hitherto believed? Why could not the Viking settlers in New Foundland have strayed further down the coast on one of their fishing trips?Well, that seems rather... unlikely. A quick web search didn't find any other material than that presented in the Norway Post article. Anyone have any futher information on this?
My ancestors. (Link to photo displayed at Vintage Photos Livejournal Community.)

Memory: celebrating the end of high school

I graduated from Milnerton High School in 1986, and had a quite satisfying celebration thereof at the beach. I first bought a 12-pack of beer then boarded the Melkbosstrand bus up the coast. The beer of choice at that time would probably have been either Castle or Carling. Anyway, I got off at a stop somewhere along the coast road, then walked until I was alone on the beach, something easier to do in those days.
It was a hot afternoon, and the beer very enjoyable. I kept it cold by burying it in the sand, just a little ways into the water. I then proceeded to relax, contemplate my life, and drink beer. Doesn't get much better.
At about my fourth beer, a dog approached me. I petted it a little, but it wasn't interested in scratches behind the ear. It seemed to want to tell me something. Actually, it was kind of like a stereotypical "dog wants me to follow him" scene in a movie. The dog would come close to me, bump me with his head or suchlike, then trot off down the bea…
It's a little unfortunate, but some of the best South African musicians have not received broad appeal outside of that country. Of course one is always nostalgic for the music of one's youth, but in my opinion the South African music scene in the 80s was a match for anywhere in the world. Some of the bands of the period worth remembering include Psycho Reptiles, Falling Mirror, No Friends of Harry, V.O.D. (the original punk Radley Clack lineup), Dog Detachment.
But of course there is also some damn exciting music happening in South Africa right now. Perhaps this internet age will allow South African musicians to get the exposure that they deserve, without the help of the big US record companies. My favourite of the lot, Fokofpolisiekar, may be hampered by the fact that they sing in Afrikaans, a language not widely spoken outside of South Africa. On the other hand, punk has universal appeal, so perhaps they can still break through.
Thank god for youtube. Here is a couple of good …

Fokofpoliekar photographic exhibit and Bilbo video

Photographer Liam Lynch has an photography exhibition called 'Open to Misinterpretation' on the brilliant South African punk band Fokofpolisiekar. A few samples can be found here.
Favourite Youtube short of the day: the Leonard Nimoy 'Bilbo Baggins' video, with audio from 'Pay to Cum' by Bad Brains.

foodways and BBS

Foodways: communal beer drinking in Uganda.
The BBC has an article on how a new practice of 'one man one straw' is keeping alive the practice of many people sharing a common pot of ajono (millet beer.)
..ajono drinkers now buy their own epi (drinking straw), which they can decorate or label, or hire ones that are sterilised with hot water after use.The straws are made from the dried stems of a common creeper found growing in trees and bushes in the area.Judging from the increased number of the brewers, their policy has reaped rewards.
I cannot recommend Jason Scott's lyrical BBS Documentary highly enough, and will have more to say about it in future blog entries. For the moment, suffice it to say that this history of the BBS phenomenon is fascinating, and I was sad when I came to the end of the last episode.

The golf articles is monoplied

The golf articles is monoplied
Originally uploaded by Alhazred
For all your monoplied golf articles needs.
This is an older photo, from my short stay in Shanghai.

Flickr photos: Oregon coast in winter

Here are a few photos from a trip to the Oregon coast that we made last winter. From an el cheapo disposable camera.

Greg's Top 10

In the Fortean Times, Greg Bishop and others give their Top 10 UFO stories. I particularly like his no. 7:
7. Herbert Schirmer – Ashland, NB, USA, 1967.
Patrolman encountered a landed craft-like object on a lonely stretch of highway and saw it take off. Regressive hypnosis by Dr Leo Sprinkle elicited an encounter with apparently friendly beings who showed him around the craft and left him with this piece of wisdom: “We want you to believe in us, but not too much.”
I think that's the best advice for any UFOlogist. Or magician for that matter.

The brilliance of fokofpolisiekar

Here's one of a few Youtube videos:

Brief notes and the Slingshot

I visited Free Geek for the first time today, to drop off a monitor for recycling and to give a donation. A most excellent organization.My favourite xkcd comic yet.More often than not, Scott and I head out for a beer after the gym. Since it's right across the street, we've lately been going to the Slingshot Lounge. I recommend it because:
- the clientele is a laid back bunch. And the doofus factor is very low.
- it has low lighting. Very relaxing after weights.
- it has a nice kitty that sometimes comes and says hi.
- there is an excellent jukebox, that even includes two Bad Brains CDs
- and there are big photos on the walls of excellent yakuza tattoos.

FIFA rankings

I see that FIFA have published their latest World Rankings. South Africa's position is unchanged at 57. USA up 13 places to no. 16 in the world.

Belmont Pearl

We tried out the new Belmont Pearl last night and... it was damn good. The grub was excellent (I had a pepper beef thingy), the staff was cute and attentive, and the prices are fine. I highly recommend it.

History of writing in China

From the BBC: it looks like Chinese writing may be older than previously thought:
State media say researchers identified more than 2,000 pictorial symbols dating back 8,000 years, on cliff faces in the north-west of the country.They say many of these symbols bear a strong resemblance to later forms of ancient Chinese characters.Scholars had thought Chinese symbols came into use about 4,500 years ago.

Werewolves in, well, not London

'Do werewolves roam the woods of England?' asks Nick Redfern, over as There's Something in the Woods. He goes on to quote and analyze local newspaper reports from the woods of Cannock Chase. The gist of it is that there have been a rash of sitings such as the following:
The creature was also apparently spotted by a scout leader walking over the forest land earlier in April. The man, who the Post stated did not want to be named, said he saw what he initially believed was a large dog prowling by the bushes. It was only when he got into his car to drive away that he realised something weird was afoot.He said: "It just looked like a huge dog. But when I slammed the door of my car it reared up on its back legs and ran into the trees. It must have been about six to seven feet tall. I know it sounds absolutely mad, but I know what I saw.”
The comments to the entry are rather good too.
The world is perhaps a lot more Buffyesque than commonly thought.

Ubuntu: Feisty Fawn installation

In case there are any linux techs reading this, I just posted about an installation problem on the Ubuntu forums.


Paul Manansala, at blog Quests of the Dragon and Bird Clan, brings us an excellent post on the person of Jonitus, a figure later Christian mythology identifies as the 4th son of Noah. He is also identified with Prester John.
For centuries, commentators have linked the origin of Prester John's name, Joannes or Johannes in Latin, with that of Oannes, the maritime sage mentioned in the Mesopotamian works of Berossus.
Various theories find the origin of the name "Oannes" in forms like U-khan-na "Lord of the Fish," or Ea-khan "Ea the Fish" in the Akkadian language. Oannes shares attributes of the fish-like god Ea/Enki and also of the sage Adapa.
There is some wonderful content in this entry, as in all of Paul's posts.

Mandela on the meaning of Ubuntu, and traditional knowledge

The Christian Science monitor has a rather nice piece on the increased respect that Australian Aboriginal traditional scientific knowledge is receiving. It starts off
To white Australians, the flocks of red-tailed black cockatoos which flap above tree canopies are a memorable highlight of any weekend hike. But to Aborigines, the parrots are living, squawking barometers.
"A month ago when the cockatoos were flocking and the wattle bushes were flowering, we saw that as signs of rain," says Jeremy Clark, chief executive of the Brambuk Aboriginal Cultural Centre in the Grampian Mountains of Victoria State. "Sure enough, we've just had two weeks of rain."
and pretty much carries on in that vein throughout. What I found most interesting, though, was the following little paragraph on the division of the year:
The Northern Hemisphere pattern of spring, summer, fall, and winter sits uncomfortably with the reality of Australia's climate. Aboriginal tribes, in contrast, …

mtDNA studies, PKD, and JFK.

It's a small world: the BBC has an article on the surprise discovery of Native American mitochondrial DNA in the UK:
DNA testing has uncovered British descendents of Native Americans brought to the UK centuries ago as slaves, translators or tribal representatives.
Genetic analysis turned up two white British women with a DNA signature characteristic of American Indians.
An Oxford scientist said it was extremely unusual to find these DNA lineages in Britons with no previous knowledge of Native American ancestry.
Thanks to Dienekes' Anthropology Blog for the link.The New York Times has a piece on Philip K. Dick. It's rather what you'd expect a New York Times article on PKD to be.Juicy conspiracy theory nibbles from Saint John Hunt, son of E. Howard Hunt. According to the Saint John, his dad was indeed involved in the Kennedy assassination:
Hunt was first made aware of what his father knew about the events of November 22nd 1963 …

Kriol bible published

The bible has been completely translated into the Australian creole kriol for the first time. First read at languagehat.

Latin is for the undead

Latin is cool. And sexy. And now Maine students are cottoning to that too:
"It's a zombie language. It's kind of undead," explained Paul Bayley, 16, a Scarborough High School junior who eagerly joined his classmates last week in translating and discussing a battle scene passage from the "Aeneid" by Virgil in a Latin class. "It's awesome. You learn so much."

Sumo, babies, and Naxalites

The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting piece on the Naxalite (Maoist) uprising in Chhattisgarh State, India.
The threat posed by the Maoists is widely contested. Like many others, the leader of Salwa Judum, Mahendra Karma, calls them the greatest threat to Indian democracy. But the Naxalites' capabilities are limited. They can carry out quick strikes from their jungle redoubts, experts say, but they cannot take a small district seat like Dantewada, much less Delhi.Those crazy sumo.

Limbo, book covers and lyric poets

It's now official. Although
In the 5th century, St. Augustine declared that all unbaptized babies went to hell upon death. By the Middle Ages, the idea was softened to suggest a less severe fate, limbo,
this concept is set to be rejected in official Catholic theology.At ...By It's Cover, Jim has a wonderful collection of old book covers, such as

and many others.Rogue Classicism gives us a lovely fragment from the Greek lyric poet Praxilla. From her 'Adonis in the Underworld':
Of all the pleasures in the upper world
what I miss most is sunlight
after that the stars, a full moon
summer's late season harvest of fruits
cucumber, apple, pomegranate, pear.

Oddest book title

Winner of the Diagram Prize for oddest book title, as reported in Australia's ABC News Online, goes to 'The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification by Julian Montague.
Montague himself says he is surprised to have won the accolade.
"I was so deeply into the project that I was a little number to the fact that the title could surprise other people," he was quoted by Britain's The Independent newspaper as saying.

Textfiles and right turns

Jason Scott is a beautiful writer. Even if you have no interest in the subject matter (the early BBS scene, the demoscene, etc, which is actually damn interesting), reading his essays is still a joy. Here is a lovely piece on early software crackers (from this essay):
And with these skills came two types of personality; the quiet get-it-done utilitarian software cracker, and the Oompah-Band-Playing Showboater, who would be more than happy not just to crack the software but tie it into a little bow, fixed up and optimized, and better than when you found it initially. At the risk of a totally silly analogy, imagine a car thief that returns your car a day later with better shocks and fuel efficiency. And photos of all the women he picked up in your car. Including your daughter. That's hubris, that's in-your-face. It's rude, crude, but it contains panache.Me and UPS both avoid left turns.

Random numbers, flickr photos

Best regards for First Day of the Writing of the Book of the Law, and blessings upon our Holy Prophet.It seems that if one asked to pick a number between 1 and 20, 17 is the number most often chosen, by far:
...the number 17 was picked much more often -- almost 18 percent of the time, compared to the 5 percent you might expect from this sample.
and interestingly, prime numbers are also picked disproportionately often.I've just uploaded a few more snapshots of the 1988 Cape Town Castle excavations to flickr:
and a previous uploaded snapshot from the restaurant at Tsitsikamma National Park:

Eat the sorcerer

Dieneke's Anthropology Blog has a summary of a couple of posts on cannibalism. The first is from the Smithsonian magazine, and regards the Korowai of New Guinea, and their practice of consuming people suspected of being khakhua (malevolent male sorcerers):
...Bailom shakes his head. "Human flesh tastes like young cassowary," he says, referring to a local ostrich-like bird. At a khakhua meal, he says, both men and women—children do not attend—eat everything but bones, teeth, hair, fingernails and toenails and the penis. "I like the taste of all the body parts," Bailom says, "but the brains are my favorite."
He also mentions this story from Eitb24, the 'Basque News and Information Channel', regarding cannibalism among the Aztec. A caravan of about 550 Spanish were captured at what is now known as Tecuaque:
The caravan was apparently captured because it was made up mostly of the mulatto, mestizo, Maya Indian and Caribbean men and women given to the …

Early modern Homo sapiens from China

Exciting analysis of early modern Homo sapiens remains from Tianyuan Cave, China. From the BBC:
Researchers found 34 bone fragments belonging to a single individual at the Tianyuan Cave, near Beijing.
Radiocarbon dates, obtained directly from the bones, show the person lived between 42,000 and 39,000 years ago.
The Tianyuan remains display diagnostic features of modern H. sapiens. But co-author Erik Trinkaus and his colleagues argue, controversially, that the bones also display features characteristic of earlier human species, such as relatively large front teeth.
The most likely explanation, they argue, is interbreeding between early modern humans emerging from Africa and the archaic populations they encountered in Europe and Asia.

Strange Maps and LARPing

Blog recommendation: Strange Maps. It's a wonderful blog, with maps by turns weird, scary, historically fascinating, or just unusual.LARPs are getting a bit of attention: an article in the Christian Science Monitor no less.

They've been saying it for years

Of interest to conspiracy buffs and eschatologists, comes the news from the Winston-Salem Journal ('Your guide to life in Northwest North Carolina') that animal sacrifice may soon resume on the temple mount:
In a donated apartment concealed among the narrow streets of the Jerusalem suburb of Nahlaot, 13 Orthodox Jewish men meet every Tuesday to debate matters of Jewish law. They are the management team of a larger developing Sanhedrin, or religious court, in Israel.
They plan to sacrifice sheep on the Temple Mount on the day before or one month after Passover, which will start at sundown April 2. Either date is permissible under Jewish law. "If the government will not resist," said Rabbi Dov Stein, 68, a member of the group, "we will do it."
The Passover sacrifice will draw the attention of some religious Jews as well as evangelical Christians who see both the restoration of the Sanhedrin and sacrifice as part of end-times prophecy. Other Orthodox Jews want…

Houdini and Scaterd Few

Houdini died 81 years ago, but his family are requesting an autopsy, in the belief that his death was suspicious:
...rumors that he was murdered have persisted for decades. Eighty-one years after Houdini's death, his great-nephew wants the escape artist's body exhumed to determine if enemies poisoned him for debunking their bogus claims of contact with the dead.I was lucky enough to buy a copy of the brilliant Scaterd Few CD 'Sin Disease.' A hell of a lot of good stuff came out of the Christian music scene in the 80s, mostly in southern California. The hardcore punk band The Crucified, for example, the death metal band Vengeance Rising, Mortal on the industrial side. But Scaterd Few was my favourite. They pushed the limit of what was acceptable in Christian music. As Terry Taylor wrote at the time:
Listen again to that lucid chameleon voice conjuring up the smoggy hot drudgery of L.A. street hassle. There's more angst here in these two lines than you'll find in a…

Heavy Metal, creative commons, Rio DiAngelo

The Telegraph reports that, as slashdot puts it, gifted children find heavy metal comforting:
"Participants said they appreciated the complex and sometimes political themes of heavy metal music more than perhaps the average pop song. It has a tendency to worry adults a bit but I think it is just a cathartic thing. It does not indicate problems."
I certainly found heavy metal a great solace in the confusing years of adolescence. Heavy Metal and Punk bands sang about topics as disparate as social justice, military history, classical themes, alienation, and the like. I could relate to that much more than the vapid pop of the day. (It's only now that I am an old sod that I can appreciate vapid pop.)A highly recommended blog entry on Creative Commons copyright licensing by Jason Scott.The LA Times has an excellent interview with Rio DiAngelo, a member of the Heaven's Gate group.

Security and controversial temples

As Bruce Schneier says, people are the weakest link in any security system. The latest example is a recent diamond theft in a Belgian bank.Foreign Policy has run a piece on the five most controversial religious sites in the world. There are the usual suspects: the Yakasuni shrine (Japan), Potala Palace (China), Ayodhya (India), and the Temple Mount (Israel), with Bob Jones University thrown in to keeps things interesting.


I'm used to associating the word 'kindling' with small pieces of dry wood that can be used to start a fire. The stuff that you would light first before putting on the big logs. Not an uncommon word. But I've been at two separate stores on the Oregon coast where the assistants either didn't know the word at all, or gave it a different meaning than the one to which I am used. I think that both were Fred Meyer, but could be misremembering this.

Me: Do you have kindling?
Store assistant: Is that a special kind of wood?

Me: Do you have kindling?
Store clerk points towards hefty pieces of firewood.
Me: No, I mean kindling. Small pieces.
Store clerk: You mean to start a fire?
Me: Yes.
Store clerk (pointing again at the hefty firewood): That's what I use in my furnace at home.

New photos, hard drives, New Guinea linguistics, chess and strippers,

I love this headline: Young chess prodigy runs away, lives with stripper.Here are some new flickr photos from me:

A fellow tech just told me something rather funny. He was speaking to a guy that started defragging his hard drive (Win XP) just before leaving work. He would then take the laptop with him and put it on the seat next to him as he drove home and the defrag worked away. Ouch. Poor hard drive.Far Outliers has a rather nice blog entry about his linguistic dissertation and fieldwork in New Guinea.


Hell of a thing: laptops don't seem to like having brandy spilled over them.

China in Africa and wikipedia

Rough Type reports on wikipedia's tentative moves to verify academic credentials. Ah: I've just noticed that the essjay affair even made the BBC.Moving from the pathetic conceits of the online world to the all-too-real world, Foreign Policy asks if the USA and China are heading for a confrontation over Africa:
For years, China has been offering loans, building critical infrastructure, and providing engineering and military advice and hardware to African regimes without extracting any promises that the regimes clean up their human rights records—something Western countries insist upon before aid is shipped. This uncritical support of its African partners has allowed China to make diplomatic inroads on the continent, since it provides aid without strings attached, as opposed to the Western approach of basing aid on human rights and good governance benchmarks that many African regimes are unwilling, or slow, to make. Put simply, an African farmer would rather have a Chinese road b…

Academic blogs, Roman imperial sceptres, and early Europeans

As the Beano lads used to say when faced with something tasty: Sloo! At least, I think that's what they said. It's been a while. Anyway... check out the Academic Blog Portal. Yum.From the Telegraph: the only Roman imperial sceptre found thus far is going on display.
The sceptre, which is topped by a blue orb that represents the earth, was discovered at the end of last year and is believed to have been held by Emperor Maxentius, who ruled for six years until 312AD.
It was found at the base of the Palatine hill, carefully wrapped in silk and linen and then placed in a wooden box. Alongside it were other boxes holding two other imperial battle standards and ceremonial lance heads. The depth of the burial allowed archaeologists to date the find to Maxentius' rule. Going much further back, a study has just been published that confirms that Neolithic Europeans were unable to digest milk:
The first direct evidence that early Europeans were unable to digest milk has been found by…

Vanishing dialects

Got this via the languagehat blog. The Telegraph reports that:
A rare dialect that is only spoken by two elderly brothers is to be recorded for posterity before it disappears.
Bobby Hogg, 87, and his brother Gordon, 80, are believed to be the last fluent speakers of the "Cromarty fisher dialect".
It is said to be the most threatened dialect in Scotland and is to be recorded for an internet-based cultural archive.
I wonder how many other dialects or whole languages will in future be preserved only through sound recording. A hell of a lot better than not being preserved at all, I suppose.
Here's a list of extinct languages for your edification. Most are ancient, but many are recent ones that have died out. (e.g. there are many Native American languages in the list.)

New JFK video, why I keep the sound down, social networking, and Quests of the Dragon and Bird Clan

A new video of JFK's assassination surfaces. From the BBC:
Amateur photographer George Jefferies held onto the film for more than 40 years believing it was unimportant.
And on the possible implications:
...the president's jacket was riding high on his back, the entry wound in his body did not appear to match the expected position in his coat, which would add fuel to claims that more than three shots were fired.
This is why I keep the sound low:
WAUKESHA - An Oconomowoc man who thought he heard a woman being raped allegedly busted through a neighbor’s door, carrying a sword, only to find the neighbor watching pornography.Not dead yet: although everybody seems to be on Myspace or Tribe, my Friendster account is being to see a lot of action again. No Orkut invite yet. Huh, looks like they have opened up Orkut up to general use. Just created a basic profile.I realize that I just wrote about this yesterday, but Paul Manansala's 'Quests of the Dragon and Bird Clan' bl…

Extreme alarm clock and the King of the East

An alarm clock that I really don't want
The Sonic Bomb Clock has an adjustable volume alarm with a maximum loudness of 113 decibels (just for reference, a jackhammer is about 100 decibels!) And the bed shaker does just that. Slip it under your mattress and your ears will bleed and your bed will shake, and there is no way you will oversleep.
Jesus Christ. That's one Thinkgeek gadget I'm not coveting.Another very tasty blog: Quests of the Dragon and Bird Clan. Take this post on the King of the East as an instance:
Jewish, Zoroastrian, Christian and to a lesser extent Muslim traditions all possess a theme of the "King of the East" as a key player in apocalyptic times.
Concepts of cyclic change that began at least by the Middle Kingdom in Egypt appear to have contributed to Egyptian millennarianism in the first few centuries before the era among gnostic and Jewish apocalyptic sects. Interestingly at about the same time in China to the East, ideas of a future millennarian…

UFOs, black dogs, and lots of flickr

At UFOMystic, Nick Redfern writes of the connection between UFOs and the large black dogs common in British cryptozoological lore. After relating one quite gripping story, he asks
...this raises deep and important questions about both Ufology and Cryptozoology, such as: how many of the still-elusive things that we pursue are flesh-and-blood entities, and how many may - in reality - originate in realms far stranger than we can possibly imagine?
Indeed.I've downloaded a few more old snapshots, from the 1988 Cape Town castle excavations:A flickr slideshow of some very sweet casemods.And here is a flickr photo from my Northern Illinois University days, currently no. 200 in my viewed list:

Vultures - and whining

On a personal note, I gotta say that starting work at 3 AM fucking sucks. But enough boring personal stuff. First off:

More exciting news from Cryptomundo. A species of vulture once thought extinct has been found in Cambodia:
The vulture colony was discovered in January 2007, in the rainforests east of the Mekong River in Cambodia’s Stung Treng Province, according to Michael Casey’s Associated Press Bangkok-based dispatch for February 7, 2007. The slender-billed vultures were believed extinct throughout Southeast Asia, including Thailand and Cambodia, and only having been found in northern India recently.

Library in Mogadishu, UFO music

The Washington Post has a short article on the Mogadishu City library entitled 'In the Heat of War, a literary refuge' After reading it I found myself wondering if there was a way to get donations to them. A little googling found that indeed there is, via the Zaylai Foundation.Take me to your leader! Over at UFOmystic, Greg has been bringing us UFO-related music from his personal collection (which is pretty impressive, and I bet it has even grown apace since I last saw it.) They're available for download.

Local Bozo, Iran, Sign, Two Brothers, Putin

1. Got this from See especially the last paragraph:

Speeding car slams into garage off Oregon 212
A car reaching speeds up to 100 mph slammed into the garage of a home located in the 14600 block of Oregon 212.
The incident occurred early this morning, Lt. Jamie Karn of the Clackamas County Fire District No. 1 said.
The home, located on the south side of the highway, was not damaged. No injuries were reported, Karn said.
Karn said the unidentified driver was racing another car when he smashed into the garage, just missing a 100-foot cliff dropping into the Clackamas River.
Making a bad situation worse, the driver lit a cigarette after the crash - a bad idea since gas was leaking from the car. He started a fire and ended up burning himself, Karn said.

2. Global Guerillas muses on the perceived inevitability of war with Iran.
The current situation is open loop -- an open loop system is one where all participants are regularly adding inputs without any consideration of the…

Latin, brains, funny church signs, non-english music

It's Sunday. And here is today's top 5:

The BBC reports the view of the Vatican's 'chief Latinist' that the future of that language at the Holy See is in trouble. Among other things
...more junior members of the Catholic hierarchy are less enthusiastic about Latin than the recent Popes.
At the Vatican, bishops appointments are still written on papyrus in Latin as are letters of congratulations from the pope, but many bishops and cardinals write back asking for translations.
When I was at the UCT, introductory Latin was very well attended, because it was required for all law students. I was one of the very few that took Latin because I was really interested in the language.
I remember too that the memory of the lecturer was absolutely amazing. There were at least a couple of hundred people in the class, and she soon had everybody's name memorized.

The older I get, the less dogmatic I get. When I was a spiritual young oke I was convinced that consciousness was indepen…

Isabatan, ball lightning, juggling, new CDs

Today's Top 5 links:

Jabal al-Lughat comes across a brief fragment of the now-extinct language of the Isabatan, a pre-Tuareg people of southern Algeria. I haven't recommended this blog as a regular read yet, so let me do so now: if you're interested in linguistics, it's well worth it.

It's an older post, an has been hanging around in my google news box for a while now. Brazilian scientists have managed to produce ball lightning in the lab. Interestingly enough, the article leads off by quoting Aleister Crowley on seeing ball lightning 'in the wild' in 1916:
Aleister Crowley once reported what he referred to as globular electricity in 1916, “what I can only describe as calm amazement, that a dazzling globe of electric fire, apparently between six and twelve inches in diameter was stationary about six inches below and to the right of my knee.” Mr. Crowley, it may not be all in your head.
The Beast shows up everywhere these days.

A lovely contact juggling video fro…

New feral child case

Actually, feral adult, I suppose: she is 19 years old now. This from the BBC:
A Cambodian girl who disappeared aged eight has been found after reportedly living wild in the jungle for 19 years.
Rochom P'ngieng's father says he has identified her through scars but she cannot speak any intelligible language.
Sal Lou, a village policeman, said he recognised the woman as his daughter from a scar on her right arm.
He said: "When I saw her, she was naked and walking in a bending-forward position like a monkey... She was bare bones.Other accounts of feral children can be found here.

Integratron - historical marker

Greg Bishop has a nice post on the historical marker that was erected by George Van Tassel's Integratron near Langley Landers, California. A couple of my photos of this here and here.

An iconoclastic look at the Tibetan Book of the Dead

The New Statesman brings us a review by Mark Bearn of a recent translation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. He gives us a rather unflattering opinion of its spiritual value, and of the sensibility of those that find solace and depth in it:
In similar vein, Gayle Hunnicutt believes that reading the Tibetan Book of the Dead "will give me greater peace of mind and benefit all around me". Did she get much peace of mind from the advice for averting death? "One should face westwards towards the sun when it is close to setting, and remove one's clothes. Then placing a dog's tail under you and some excrement in a heap in front, one should eat a mouthful of excrement, and bark like a dog. Repeat three times."
Now, I blush to admit that I have not read the Tibetan Book of the Dead, so I can't comment on the fairness of his account. But the review is certainly a humourous read.


A few funny interviews

Here's a quick one - a few funny interviews, care of DailyWTF.

Nick Carr on instant journalism

Only twice so far have I found liveblogging, a.k.a. instant journalism of interest. One was the World Cup. We were not allowed streaming audio or video at work, so I found myself obsessively refreshing the BBC's live text coverage of the match. It was rather unsatisfying. The second was during the recent US congressional elections, when I wanted to get the election results in realtime. Apart from those two times, I've never had much use for it.

All of which is just by way of introduction to this post by Nick Carr on his Rough Type blog. I thought that his comments on the piece of cringe-worthy (funny how the mind works: I found myself typing in Cringely-worthy) writing. The comments are rather interesting too.

Zimbabwean dispossessed farmers to return

This from Business Day (via
In a dramatic about-turn, President Robert Mugabe's government, which over the past six years has seized the bulk of white-owned farms, is about to allow hundreds of white farmers to return to the land, according to the Guardian newspaper.The London newspaper yesterday quoted the Zimbabwe government's land adviser, Sam Moyo, as saying "there could be about 300 whites back on farms by the end of next year". Most of them would be running commercial farms, he said.

DNS story

This slashdot comment is one of the funniest things that I have seen for a while.
Towards the end of the year, people publish their lists of what they don't want to see back in the next year. I'm coming in late in the game, but here is Curmudgeonly Mick's list of things I'd prefer not to see in 2007.

Awesome, especially as in "we have an awesome culture" and other corporate-speak.
The word "awesome" sounds perfectly natural and appropriate when used by a 10 year old to describe the latest Spiderman movie. A serious professional describing corporate culture? Not so much.

ASAP - a word I could really do without for a while. Someone telling me that they need something done 'ASAP!' doesn't motivate me to comply. Especially when verbally spelled out and left on voicemail. Anyway, this acronym is getting old and worn out. I vastly prefer PDQ.

Lazy tagging on flickr. I keep track of a number of flickr tags through my RSS reader. For example, I like looking at the day's photos tagged "Cape Town", because I enjoy s…


The economist brings us another article of interest to fans of Tim Powers. This one concerns local beliefs in the Jinn among the people of Somalia and Afghanistan.
THERE is a cleft in a stone hill outside Qardho, in northern Somalia, which even the hardest gunmen and frankincense merchants avoid. In the cool dark, out of the bleached sunshine, there is a pit, a kind of Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole, which is said to swirl down into the world of jinn. Locals say jinn—genies, that is—fade in and out above the pit. Sometimes they shift into forms of ostriches and run out over the desert scrub.