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Smithsonian Mulls Climate Change

[A dispatch from the Natural History museum, published in today's Style section.]

Is there any controversy about climate change? Not at the Smithsonian! The National Museum of Natural History has found a way to open two new climate change exhibits, starting Friday, without a single smithereen of contentiousness. We get just the facts: Planet's getting warmer, arctic ice is melting, Inuit are out of sorts, Siberia is thawing. The future? "Models predict different outcomes," a sign says.

It's all rather low-key. The museum declined to include any stuffed polar bears. The one stuffed caribou is too high on a platform to pet. Nor did anyone realize how cool it would have been to have an Al Gore statue -- one that, every 20 minutes, suddenly starts talking (because, you know, it's really him !!!). Instead we see pictures of dwindling ice caps, and graphs of the greenhouse effect and fluctuating surface albedo. We learn about the primitive atmosphere, the rise of photosynthesis, the Oxygen Boom, the Cambrian Explosion, the hot Eocene, the cold Pleistocene, the comfy Holocene.

Please memorize: exosphere, thermosphere, mesosphere, stratosphere, troposphere.

There's an interactive globe that would be neat to have in your house if you could be sure it wouldn't break within a week. The 1954 photograph of Pasadena housewives wearing gas masks and carrying Fight Smog placards is nice, as is the film of Inuit people somehow living in a world where fish come out of a hole in the ice. But there are also sections that you would be tempted to compare to watching paint dry were it not for the danger that a curator might steal the idea for the next climate change exhibit.

The two new exhibits, which run through Nov. 30, were conceived separately and yoked under the label of "Forces of Change." You can enter the hall at either end, meaning you can start with the ice exhibit ("Arctic: A Friend Acting Strangely" -- you decide, worst title ever?) and then proceed to the air exhibit ("Atmosphere: Change Is in the Air" -- no, that gets the vote here), or you can start with the air exhibit and go to the ice.

The ice-first method might make most sense, simply because it takes the molecule-intensive topic of climate change and puts a human face on it. Much of the conversation on global warming turns on climate models and the IPCC consensus and the North Atlantic Thermohaline Circulation and whatnot, so it's helpful to recall that for many people the issue isn't esoteric.

A testimonial: "Zacharias Aqquiaruq, an elder in Arctic Canada, recently described the weather as uggianaqtuq , an Inuit word that can suggest strange, unexpected behavior." There are photos of permafrost collapsing, of villages on the verge of being washed away by arctic seas. A set of panels explains how the arctic ice cover reflects solar radiation back into space. We learn that pregnant caribou struggle in soggy snow to reach their calving grounds.

The atmosphere exhibit goes back billions of years, and reveals how life and the air evolved in tandem. A film graphically shows that only Earth has a habitable atmosphere among the worlds of our solar system. We learn of the environmental victory over ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons. Poke around and you'll find out that Eurypterus remipes , a sea scorpion that ate trilobites, is the New York state fossil.

But are we ruining our atmosphere? Here's a picture of Lyndon Johnson signing the Motor Vehicle Air Pollution Control Act of 1965. Wall text: "Air in the United States is cleaner, but industrialization threatens air quality in developing countries such as China and India."

Perhaps we should be pleased that the museum has steered clear of the recent public-museum habit of trying to make Americans hate themselves and their ancestors and their civilization. This time there is no attempt to delve into the thorny topic of climate change policy (should we have ratified Kyoto? -- check another museum) or make people feel guilty about their profligate, carboniferous, vain, environment-ravaging lifestyles. There are no wall texts saying, for example, "Because you drove to the museum in a gas-guzzling beast of an automobile, a reindeer just died."

And perhaps we might also note that putting together museum exhibits on climate change can't be easy, since climate involves air, and air is invisible except in places like Los Angeles. The museum has tackled that problem directly, mounting a transparent display case that at first glance and all subsequent glances appears to be empty. The accompanying text says it contains 5.2 cubic feet of nitrogen and 1.4 cubic feet of oxygen and a bunch of trace gases. It lists the market price of these gases, in pennies, and adds, "Value of clean air: priceless."

Clever, but it's still an empty case.

Any exhibit on the atmosphere runs the risk of being gaseous. And then the argon crowd will say that, once again, they didn't get their due, and the helium people will complain in their squeaky voices. The methane guys will make their abominable noises. But many visitors of all persuasions might wonder why there's not more in these exhibits about carbon dioxide.

You can't pick up a newspaper or a national magazine without hearing that greenhouse gas emissions, and specifically CO2, are threatening life as we know it. Even Vanity Fair has made climate change a cover story, complete with photo illustrations of how rising sea levels would terrorize Martha's Vineyard and the Hamptons. (End. Of. The. World.) So where is the CO2in these exhibits? You have to hunt for it. You can find a mention on a panel that is otherwise devoted to a Smithsonian experiment to study how plants absorb carbon dioxide:

"Human activity increases the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere -- mainly carbon dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gas). The extra greenhouse gas may be trapping too much heat, abnormally raising Earth's temperature."

Asked about the neutral tone of the exhibits, the museum's director, Cristian Samper, said: "We do not advocate a particular solution, just because that's not our role as a museum of natural history. We won't tell you what to think."

When a reporter asked exhibit designer Barbara Stauffer why there wasn't more of a discussion about the role of humans in climate change, she said, "It's about the science." She added, "I think it undermines what we do in the exhibit if we start pointing fingers."

She went further: "It's about functions of the atmosphere. It's not a climate change exhibit."

No argument here.

By Joel Achenbach  |  April 12, 2006; 6:59 AM ET
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Ah, I get it -- this is an actual article.
I *knew* it was too good to be just a Kit.

(". . . the helium people will complain in their squeaky voices. The methane guys will make their abominable noises." Ha!!!!)

Posted by: Achenfan | April 12, 2006 7:15 AM | Report abuse

[Not that there's anything wrong with Kits.]

Posted by: Achenfan | April 12, 2006 7:16 AM | Report abuse

[Talking to myself again. Seizure.]

Posted by: Achenfan | April 12, 2006 7:33 AM | Report abuse

There's a guy in my town (midwest)who claims to be a scientist (masters in agriculture, irrigation) who still insists global warming is a hoax perpetrated by the political left. Facts, lists of scientists, scientific articles--nothing gets in the way of his belief. He's not alone and what he represents is frightening. Even more frightening is the fact that this guy and our president are two peas in a pod.

Posted by: Dave | April 12, 2006 7:44 AM | Report abuse

So nice to see methane getting back into the conversation.

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 12, 2006 8:00 AM | Report abuse

The sky is falling! The sky is falling. Give me money...

Posted by: Pat | April 12, 2006 8:07 AM | Report abuse

I thought we talked about climate change and global warming on Thursdays?

Posted by: Pixel | April 12, 2006 8:10 AM | Report abuse

Ah, I just knew there would be a kit like this when I have a morning meeting.

This is a topic I cover in historical geology, and I've agonized over the proper way to teach it.

There are two very separate issues on global warming--1) is Earth getting warmer, and 2) if it is, are we causing it?

These days, the first issue is clear-cut; the Earth IS getting warmer, and it's substantially warmer than even 100 years ago. So, what's the cause?

If you make a graph of temperature change (BETTER PAY--AND GRAPHICS!), and compare it to industrial CO@ output, they are startlingly similar. It looks like a "slam dunk"! And the Earth isn't just getting warmer, it's getting warmer FAST.

Here's the problem--the Earth right now is almost as cold as it's ever been. In the Eocene Epoch, 40-50 million years ago, during the Eocene Thermal Maximum, the whole Earth was toasty--no ice caps, and tropical conditions in the ocean covering DC and Maryland (based on the fossils we can pull out of the banks of the Potomac River). Around 35 million years ago, the Antarctic Ice Sheet started forming, and the Earth's temperature has been plummeting ever since. It bottomed out during the last Ice Age (10,000 years ago), and has been climbing since then.

There's even fair evidence (discovered by advocates of human-induced change, ironically) that the rate of temperature change after the last Ice Age was comparable to the rate of increase today.

But the fact remains, that the Earth has almost always been much hotter than it is now. The evidence that we are causing it boils down to 3 things--the Earth is getting warmer, it's getting warmer fast, and chemical modeling indicates that our pollutants COULD cause this change--but the historical data of the last 50 (even 250) million years puts these in doubt.

Now, like me, most of my friend are leftist Bush-phobes, and they're now throwing things at me. I don't think the Bush administration uses these arguments. For the record, I support dramatic action to curb emmisions right now. Here's why: I don't want to stake the future of humanity on the possibility that I might be right, and the climate change is natural. I didn't say we definitely aren't causing climate change; just that we might not be. It's too important to gamble.

A strong possibility is that the Earth is getting warmer all on its own, but that we are making it happen faster because of our activity. Since this would be unique, the models get fuzzier about the potential results. But even if climate change is occurring naturally, it's bad for us, and if we can slow it down, it buys us time to figure out how to accommodate it if we can't change it. Besides, cutting emmissions is a good thing for all kinds of reasons, not just to control climate change.

OK, I'm off to my meeting, and ready to take all the knives about to be thrown at me.

Posted by: Dooley | April 12, 2006 8:17 AM | Report abuse

Joel, this was a brilliantly subversive piece of writing. (Did you choose the title or do you have a trusted accomplice?) I love the way you use the wit and humor so valued in such reviews to devastating effect. From what you described, I agree that these exhibits might have benefited from just a smidgen more hysterical ranting. Sometimes alarm is preferable to sedation.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 12, 2006 8:18 AM | Report abuse

But wait. This isn't Tuesday, it's Wednesday. On Wednesdays I worry about volcanoes.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 12, 2006 8:20 AM | Report abuse

No Pixel, we do Global Warming Tuesday. On Thursdays we deal with crabgrass.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 12, 2006 8:27 AM | Report abuse

Thanks, Dooley, for that clear explanation. I have clear evidence for global warming in my yard: begonias and herbs that are supposedly annuals are coming back, since the weather wasn't cold enough to kill them completely. I've got one begonia that has survived for six years.

I am looking at a moral dilemma on global warming. In the next 12 months, I will trade the minivan for another vehicle. What should it be? Since I'm no longer a basketball mom (the basketball player is a sophomore in college, bless her), it won't be another van. Should I buy a hybrid, or just go for a smaller car with much better mileage? I do want to be part of the solution...

LindaLoo, you up yet? I hope you're feeling better today.

Posted by: slyness | April 12, 2006 8:30 AM | Report abuse

Whom to blame for global warming? (Joel already gave you a big hint, those 1954 protests aside. Not to mention all those floats in that dreadful Rose Parade, idling at 5 m.p.h. for hours along Colorado Blvd. on New Year's Day):

It's the little old lady from Pasadena

The little old lady from Pasadena
Go granny, go granny, go granny go
Has a pretty little flower bed of white gardenias
Go granny, go granny, go granny go
But parked in her rickety old garage
Is a brand new shiny red Super Stock Dodge

And everybody's saying that there's nobody meaner
Than the little old lady from Pasadena
She drives real fast and she drives real hard
She's the terror of Colorado Boulevard

It's the little old lady from Pasadena

If you see her on the street don't try to choose her
Go granny, go granny, go granny go
You might drive a goer but you'll never lose her
Go granny, go granny, go granny go
Well, she's gonna get a ticket now sooner or later
'Cause she can't keep her foot off the accelerator

And everybody's saying that there's nobody meaner
Than the little old lady from Pasadena
She drives real fast and she drives real hard
She's a terror out on Colorado Boulevard

It's the little old lady from Pasadena

Posted by: Loomis | April 12, 2006 8:41 AM | Report abuse

As opposed to brickbats, we should be throwing kudos to Dooley. That was a very lucid and even-handed summary. Life did just fine when the world was warmer.

Remember all the dinosaur movies; they all grazed in fetid, humid, fern-filled swamps. Once global warming kicks in, we can go back to herding our brontosaurs (or apatosaurs, if you prefer) around the Mall. The Tidal Basin would make a nice home for those swimming reptiles with the long snouts.

I failed to check the byline on the Smithsonian article when I read it this morning, but I should hae suspected something when he got to the description of the Emperor's Big Box of Atmosphere. I'm just not used to Joel in the part of the paper that actual people read instead of the section that gets recyled with the drugstore flyers.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 12, 2006 8:46 AM | Report abuse

Dooley said, "Besides, cutting emmissions is a good thing for all kinds of reasons, not just to control climate change."

NPR had a story on California's new emmission controls and had the usual two-handed sound bites on whether that would be good or not for the economy. There really is not a good reason to pollute, and it seems CO2 counts as a pollutant if you don't have to.

And just because the mean bullies in China and India are doing it, still doesn't make it right. They (and us to some degree) will have to live with the consequences of their decisions once they have strip-mined all the coal and turned their rivers into stagnant pools of industrial waste. Clean air and clean water should be no-brainers.

We have a saying at my office: Catch h3ll for doing what's right.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 12, 2006 8:55 AM | Report abuse

Wow, you made the dead-tree edition. Did someone leave the padlock off the cage they keep you and David von Drehle in?

Posted by: jw | April 12, 2006 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Dooley - I like your arguments. Risk analysis favors doing more even without the hysterical ranting. Unfortunately, most people aren't that insightful. Most people need something to be in their face before they pay much attention. This means that a bit of hyperbole regarding global warming can be forgiven.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 12, 2006 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Good points by Dooley this morning. It's getting warmer that's for sure. Whether it's mainly because of us, the volcanoes, the methane people with their horrible noises, the cows or even the trees (remember that one from one Reagan's secretaties ?) I think we don't know yet.
In any case reducing oil consumption is a must . There are more intelligent things to do with the stuff (PLASTICS !) than burning it in a 6000lbs vehicle moving a 150lbs human being around. A lot of that $69/brl manna is financing bad and/or mad governments too.
Slyness, hybrids are a bit of a gadget at this point. They are expensive initially and they will be expensive to maintain. Those lead-acid batteries won't last forever. Pick a sub-compact with great mileage if you want to make a difference.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | April 12, 2006 9:11 AM | Report abuse

Here's a question for the science types. We all know that the climate follows certain cycles. Ice age, steamy-hot sauna with giant spiders and women wearing leapard-skin bikinis, another ice age. So on and so forth. Does anyone know what causes those cycles? I'm guessing something involving the release of gases into the atmosphere (like dinosaur flatulence). It's pretty obvious that humans have made significant contributions to the CO2 levels in the atmosphere, along with lots of stuff that would have probably been spewed from a volcano if it didn't come from our industrial-era smokestacks. I'm just guessing, but an eruption like Mt. St. Helens probably didn't help acid rain levels any.

Anyway, I guess my point is that a lot of the stuff we call pollution that gets spewed into the atmosphere would probably end up there eventually anyway, through natural processes (CFCs and other weird stuff notwithstanding). But we're certainly accellerating the process. So--are we making global warming worse, are we just speeding up the merry-go-round, or is it a combination? Or do we just not know enough, since record-keeping during the last ice-age was so abysmal?

Posted by: jw | April 12, 2006 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Slyness: I would strongly consider a hybrid minivan. Toyota is supposed to be coming out with one within a year, reportedly with 40 mpg capability. There will always be a trade-off between economy and utility, but I find my van just too useful. It's got 213,000+ miles on it, and as long as it keeps chugging, that's what we'll use. (Full disclosure--our other car is a '93 Mazda Miata. Yes, a fun little roadster, but it gets 32 mpg on the highway)

Posted by: ebtnut | April 12, 2006 9:14 AM | Report abuse

jw : Record keeping during the last ice age was excellent, as Curmudgeon can confirm. The problem was that magnetic tape was so dear then that there was no choice but overwrite the data with new records every 100 years or so.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | April 12, 2006 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Being a lightweight, all I can say is that I have been to the Helium Museum.

Posted by: Dolphin Michael | April 12, 2006 9:26 AM | Report abuse

Some thoughts:

Would putting this exhibit in the SI Museum of Science and Technology be more appropriate, or less?

Guys love methane noise jokes, though the rest of those gas jokes were somewhat nebulous.

I personally heart the use of the word "albedo"; normally a word not seen (or is that "cene"?) outside of scientific/astronomy journals.

Does anyone really know what the average temperature of the Earth's surface is SUPPOSED to be? Are there any predictive paleoclimatologists out there?

I'd be less inclined to blame the Little old Lady from Pasedena and her SuperStock Dodge (the Beach Boys never say if she had the 413 or 426 Max Wedge in that Dodge, btw) scootchin' down the road than armadas of two- and three- ton SUVs that never go off-road, idling in LA traffic jams.

If the SI wanted to make a point with this exhibit, why not show a Hummer at the entrance to the exhibit (easy, 'Mudge). Just have it idling like it's in traffic with the a/c on, cycle the engine through short bursts of stop and go on a wheely dynamometer (to actually put some load on it. And yes, I know this ignores air resistance) and have an electronic display showing the thermal and exhaust emissions in real time, and display a multiplication to show what millions of these kinds of vehicles have on the atmosphere.

Re. animatronic Al Gore.
1. With or without the beard?
2. Amimatronic, or why not the real Al Gore? I mean, what's he doing these days?
Give the man a sopabox and a mic and let him go.

Hm. I wonder if I could even tell the difference?


Posted by: bc | April 12, 2006 9:30 AM | Report abuse

This is what I like to worry about on Saturday nights since I do my fair share of realeasing CO2 into the atmosphere from all the beer cans I pop open. Since burning fossile fuels is essentially combining Carbon (C) and Hydrogen (H) with Oxygen (O2) to get not only an energy release, but CO2 and H2O molecules. Since O2 is a necessary component of the atmosphere to sustain human life, shouldn't I be more worried about running out of Oxygen more than running up my air-conditioning bill? Where does all the Oxygen come from?

Posted by: Pat | April 12, 2006 9:31 AM | Report abuse

jw - that's a good question. In a complex chaotic system like the earth, there are doubtless many forces at work. As reported in the kit a few days ago, though, I think these orbital cycles might be partly to blame.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 12, 2006 9:40 AM | Report abuse

I'm starting to get a grip on my cholesterol, but I had completely forgotten about my fluctuating surface albedo.

Posted by: kp | April 12, 2006 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Dooley, when you mentioned fossils on the banks of the Potomac, you weren't talking about ME, were you?

It's interesting that you teach "historic geology." You realize, of course, that you could save yourself a lot of trouble and class preparation if you'd only switch over to faith-based geology, inwhich the earth is only 6,000 years old. Then you don't have to go through the drudgery of memorizing all those epochs and eras you reeled off-- the pleistocream, the mesoteric, the paleodactyl, the benedryl, the soporific, and whatnot.

Hope this has been helpful. Always like to lend a hand to the teaching profession.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 12, 2006 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Regarding Padouk's comment: that's my problem when teaching this topic in class--I want to be accurate with the science, but I don't want to give my students the impression that the global warming issue should be blown off, because I don't think that.

I replaced my minivan with a Prius, although I admit that I did it primarily because of gas prices, and emissions were only a secondary reason. Of course, now I can cheer on skyrocketing gas prices as I laugh all the way to the credit card bill.

But I confess, I also own a Ford Explorer that I use for camping and field work--at least until I can afford a hybrid pickup truck, but by then I'll be older than Curmudgeon.

And let me just say--the SI's empty display case is BRILLIANT! I can't wait to suggest one for my museum!

Posted by: Dooley | April 12, 2006 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, but there is science there. God put all those things on the earth that look over 6,000 years old... like Carol Channing. We need to study those items and figure out why he is trying to fake us all out.

Posted by: Dolphin Michael | April 12, 2006 9:46 AM | Report abuse

SCC: In the flotilla of SCC-able items in my 9:30 comment, please replace the "." with a "?" in the first sentence of my 6th thought item, after my aside to 'Mudgeman (which would be a cool name for s superhero).



Posted by: bc | April 12, 2006 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Bonus SCC: replace "s" with "a" above.

Someone stop me before I SCC again.


Posted by: bc | April 12, 2006 9:49 AM | Report abuse

As some of you may know, I am a recent convert to the 'yes-global-warming-is-really-happening-right now' side of things. I used to be more of a 'global-warming-is-theoretical-in-the-future' type.

In the end, while many scientists still dispute the matter, to me it came down to 'why not hedge on the side of environmentalism & conservation'? What's the worst that could happen? A clean planet? A lack of pollution? A more diligent use of resources? A better quality of life?

Even if the doomsday scenarios some scientists predict never actually happen, in the end we're living more healthily and with less impact on the Earth.

So, I'm inconvenienced a little. So what? I buy stuff with less packaging and have less trash to throw out (we've cut our garbage output by 50% in 2 weeks...) I cook meals more now instead of eat out (multiple benefits there, I tell you) and end up having to expend a little of my own energy to save some of the fossilized kind.

None of those things are bad.

So, we started a compost bin, we upped our level of recycling, we have made sure our vehicle runs properly (looking into a hybrid for our next purchase & I need new tires for my current one), we have installed low-flow toilets and have replaced our incandescent bulbs with low-watt energy savers. We eat a few more vegetarian meals a month. We walk more, take elevators less and don't even take the car out for trips that are a mile or less round trip.

We haven't had the need to buy any medium ticket items, but have committed to looking for 'gently used' where possible first, then to new. Although, with big ticket items, some of the newer ones are more environmentally friendly and more energy-conscious. With small items, we've decided to figure out if it's really even necessary to purchase it; if not, isn't the ultimate in conservation to simply not buy it? :)

We're working with the young'un on recycling and why we do it; why only certain things go into the compost bin and why only certain things go into the recycling bin. We talk about taking care of things, maintaining them, so we don't have to get a new one until it's absolutely necessary. (Read a recent article that asserted Americans are a 'disposable junkies', that sometimes repair costs outstrip replacement costs and so most people just throw away the broken thing and buy a new one...That ain't right! Ack!)

It seems the most affective stance is an aggressive and pro-active one. If you're gonna waver or whisper about the possible consequences, why bring it up at all? That neither convinces nor helps anyone. People are already confused by the myriad experts and the indecipherable data.

We could impact how people think by being decisive about a course of action, and by encouraging people and businesses to do the things they already know they should be doing. We need to put political pressure to bear on our current Administration and on future Administrations to do what is rational, and ironically - conservative.

In my opinion, Kyoto wasn't near enough based on the data I've been reading and yet it's something - not sure where I stand on that one, except that someone should be standing for something somewhere and we're not (as a nation) even doing *that*.

The stakes are too big to do otherwise.

Again, if we go with the ideas of environmentalism and conservation, what's the worst that could happen? Whatever it is, it's gotta be better than if we did nothing at all.

(Thank you for listening to my testimony. I'll lead the choir next week, okay? :) )

A couple of questions: Does anyone here own a hybrid? If so, what kind? Do you like it? Or not? Any problems you care to share? Thanks, in advance.

Posted by: amo | April 12, 2006 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Paleo-atmospheric chemistry makes my head hurt. I skipped that lecture. It's also one of the topics where the conventional wisdom keeps changing.

Basically a lot of little chlorophyl laden bacteria farted out enough oxygen to makes some critters switch to oxygen and other critters as a fuel source and then they crawled onto the land to eat all the ferns they couldn't get to before. I may have skipped a few steps.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 12, 2006 10:00 AM | Report abuse

I can only speak for me, Joel, but you're more than welcome.

Dooley, don't understand the subject of climate change and global warming, not the science of it, but your explanation did shed some light. Thanks.

If the last hurricane season is an example of where we're going, everyone needs to sit up and listen. Sounds like the Smithsonian wanted their exhibit to be "neutral". But doesn't science actually point to a conclusion?

Posted by: Cassandra S | April 12, 2006 10:04 AM | Report abuse

Amo, I love my hybrid--I bought it used (1 year old), which was the only way I could afford it. I get 55 MPG commuting though the mountains, and we've put 25K miles on it in 9 months with no problems. I was surprised at how roomy it is--it comfortably holds me (big enough that my doctor yells at me), plus my wife, 10-yr-old son, and two dogs (including a St. Bernard). Next week we're driving it from Martinsville to DC and back, and it will only take 10 gallons of gas to do that. Of course, will have it paid for in 5 more years.

Oh no, I feel a major "South Park" "Smug Alert" coming on!

But seriously, to make it financially logical, you have to drive a lot (we drive 40-50,000 miles a year), or assume that gas prices are going nowhere but up (a safe assumption, I think).

Posted by: Dooley | April 12, 2006 10:05 AM | Report abuse

I miss the Smithsonian already, but Hong Kong has some interesting museums too.

I recently went to the Museum of Medical Sciences. I'm not sure what was more macabre: the jars of hearts and gallbladders (with gallstones!) or the foot-binding exhibit, featuring a pair of tiny slippers worn by a dainty-footed woman as well as x-rays of the foot. (It was all, like, *arched*.)

I was also drawn to an artist's rendition of the bubonic plague in the late 19th century. A group of people are playing mahjong, only one of them is a corpse, propped up to look alive because the deceased's relatives, for religious reasons, don't want the body to be taken away by the authorities. Impish rats scurry about under the table, and a huge pig doses nearby. It's almost comical -- but not. Another gotta-laugh-or-you'll cry situation, I guess.

Posted by: Tom fan | April 12, 2006 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Regarding the "greenness" of hybrids. I've always assumed that no energy is free energy, perpetual motion machines excepted, of course. Does anyone know what will happen to those giant batteries when hybrids end up in the junkyard? Why not buy a regular internal combustion ultra low emission vehicle (like a Civic) and donate the $5,000 you just saved to your favorite environmental cause?

Also, how many of those people blocking wind-farms in Nantucket Sound drive a Prius because it's fashionable? Why is owning a hybrid in vogue, but having a view of a wind-farm that produces millions of watts of clean energy isn't?

Posted by: jw | April 12, 2006 10:07 AM | Report abuse

Yellojkt, you just summed up in one paragraph what it takes me 4 hours to lecture on in class. Well done!

Posted by: Dooley | April 12, 2006 10:08 AM | Report abuse

Florida had a pretty nice Pleistocene climate, rather dry, non-steamy summers, and apparently fewer severe freezes than today. Apparently the vast, extremely high North American ice sheet prevented masses of cold air from sliding south from Alberta. The mastodons and ground sloths would have been a bit hard on the landscaping. Some ground sloth bones are just now being excavated near Lake Okeechobee. And Florida was twice as big at the time.

Posted by: Dave of the Coonties | April 12, 2006 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Pat: don't worry too much about O2 production, unless that is, we keep cutting down rain forests and polluting the ocean. Plants and algea take in CO2 and release O2 as part of their respiratory cycle. Which is why taking out the rainforest, with its multitude of O2 producing plants, is such a bad idea.
denizen: i agree that we need to stop using so much oil, especially for cars. but plastics aren't exactly bio-degradable...we need to find alternate sources for production and enery quickly, even if it means more methane production.

Posted by: tangent | April 12, 2006 10:11 AM | Report abuse

I notice that no one mentions that with the Milankovitch cycles, Sol's energy output has increased over time. Some say that around 3 Billion years ago, it's output was very roughly 75% of what it is today which wouldn't have been enough energy to keep water in liquid form on Earth's surface with the atmosphere we have today.

A greenhouse-like effect allowed the early Earth to retain enough heat for liquid water, and, of course, life to form and evolve.

If the sun's energy output is increasing at a very rough 8% per Billion years, things are going to get quite warm by the time the Democratic Revolution takes over all three bodies of the US Government.

I suggest that we turn the wick on the Sun down just a little bit. Since no one uses pencils anymore, perhaps we can build a giant graphite control rod and stick it into the Sun's core and set the thermostat just where we want it. Laugh if you want, but I think it's a lot simpler than changing Billions of people.


Posted by: bc | April 12, 2006 10:12 AM | Report abuse

You Liberals are All Alike. Don't you understand that the "rapid warming" of the earth is part of a "natural cycle" that occurs every several thousand years and results in melting icecaps, flooding rivers, pandemic disease, and the deaths of tens of millions of brown-skinned people? It's a "natural process" that can't be stopped. It's God's Will. Quit worrying and start enjoying the warmer climate in Wyoming and Michigan.

Posted by: MadCow | April 12, 2006 10:15 AM | Report abuse

The Cow Man is back!

Posted by: CowTown- and Tom fan | April 12, 2006 10:17 AM | Report abuse

I recall a science fiction book in the '70s by James Hogan in which an alien species, faced with a freezing planet, considered either turning up the sun or altering their planet's atmosphere. But their sun experiment (on a different star) caused it to go nova, and and climate change program didn't work, so they just moved.

I think it was "Gentle Giants of Ganymede", the sequal to "Inherit the Stars".

Posted by: Dooley | April 12, 2006 10:18 AM | Report abuse

When did science become a liberal or conservative issue? I probably missed something. I always do.

Posted by: Cassandra S | April 12, 2006 10:22 AM | Report abuse

[That handle I just used was probably a bit confusing. I meant CowTownfan and Tom fan.]

Posted by: Tom fan | April 12, 2006 10:23 AM | Report abuse

Hey Mudge, I sent you a reply at the end of the last Kit. And, no, Linda, I'm not the "older woman" -- with respect to Mudge, anyway.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | April 12, 2006 10:25 AM | Report abuse

You shouldn't worry about lead in scrapyards. Lead is a fairly valuable commodity (about $1100 per ton now), it will get recycled.
Dooley, start putting money aside for that battery change...

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | April 12, 2006 10:25 AM | Report abuse

jw, thanks for saving me from another hybrid rant.

To follow up, buy a sensible vehicle, maintain it properly (proper tire inflation pressure to reduce rolling resistance, clean crankcase oil actually has less tailpipe emissions than oil that's been in there 8, 10, or 20,000 (heaven forbid) miles, good ignition components (plugs/wires or coils), and think about using high end gasoline not because of the better burning octane, but because the high end gas from reputable distributors have much less contaminants and particulate matter which reduce the efficency of modern fuel injection systems), and think about reducing or consolidating trips, and you'll have made some steps in the right direction.

And if you do change your own oil, please recycle rather than dumping it or hiding it in your trash.


Posted by: bc | April 12, 2006 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Alternative to hybrids or even high milage vehicle, would be a diesel car, and then use as much biofuel as possible or available. Biofuels are completely renewalable and the technology is beginning to develop to produce them from a wide variety of sources.

Posted by: dmd | April 12, 2006 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of the thermostat, I never know which way to turn the dial when my wife asks me to turn the air-conditioning up.

Posted by: Pat | April 12, 2006 10:29 AM | Report abuse

dmd, diesel is also a good solution, but did you know that you can't buy a diesel in any state that uses the California emission standards? They don't even sell them in those states, and you can't register a new one bought out of state. Ironically, registering a used one (2001 and earlier, I think) is fine, even though new diesels are much cleaner than older models.

Posted by: jw | April 12, 2006 10:33 AM | Report abuse

Any thoughts on the Duke incident, anyone?

Posted by: Cassandra S | April 12, 2006 10:40 AM | Report abuse

sorry jw, Canadian not American, however, I know (Minnisota) is beginnig to legislate 2% biodiesel in the diesel fuel. Do the changes to the diesel fuel (removing sulpher) affect those regulations at all.

Posted by: dmd | April 12, 2006 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Folks in this country have been kinda slow on the uptake to adopt the new direct injection "green diesels", and I'd add that there aren't a lot of places to buy low-sulfur diesel fuel in the US either.

Europe's pretty far ahead of the curve on us in that area. Of course, they've been living with fuel prices that are still some time in our future for the past decade or so.

I live to write sentences like that last.


Posted by: bc | April 12, 2006 10:45 AM | Report abuse

According to an article in May's Discover magazine (yes, I know it's barely April...), scientists recently discovered that trees actually produce a fair amount of methane. The cows of the world just breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Posted by: jeg | April 12, 2006 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Tom Fan: Thanks for the welcome. I've been really, really, really, really busy lately so I haven't been able to contribute much. I'll try to check in later. Have a great day, everybody.

Posted by: CowTown | April 12, 2006 10:48 AM | Report abuse

Mudge wrote:
Precisely, Padouk. And a final point: have we not done our damned on this planet to eradicate certain life forms? I'm thinking of polio, smallpox, ebola, ad inifinitum. Does ebola have a "right to exist"? If we had the power to kill every last globule of ebola virus except a little bit in a test tube at Fort Detrick, I'd do it in a New York second, ditto polio, smallpox, and whatever else is on the list. Just because it's a microorganism doesn't make it noble.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 10, 2006 01:10 PM

I just have to challenge you/educate you about something you wrote two days ago. I'm doing it now because I'm feeling better.

On Aug. 11, 1978, 10 months after the last case of smallpox was reported in Somalia, Mrs. Janet Parker, a lab photographer, became ill. Her office was on the floor above the microbiology lab at Birmingham University in Britain where samples of the smallpox virus, variola, were kept. Long story short--particles of virus escaped from the lab below and traveled through an air vent to reach Mrs. Parker.

Mrs. Parker died of smallpox eight days after she was diagnosed as having variola. The professor who ran the lab cut his throat in an apparent suicide attempt, but five days later, after showing no brain wave activity, the plug was pulled on his respirator. Mrs. Parker's father died of a heart attack very shortly thereafter; Mrs. Parker's mother came down with smallpox but recovered. As a result of this incident, Britain sent its stores of the smallpox virus to the United States. Writer Patricia Cornwell uses the Parker incident in her book "Unnatural Exposure."

Because of the perceived threat of smallpox in the GWOT, scientists have manipulated the virus in order to have an animal model to study. There are other orthopox viruses that affect animals, but not variola. Scientists have amplified the virus multiple times over in order to inject chimps and monkeys with millions of particles of the virus and give these lower primates smallpox. This perversion of nature is told in Richard Preston's book, "Demon in the Freezer."

In a story written on June 24, 2004 by Tom Hamburger of the Los Angeles Times, he reports that the Bush administration had earlier that year ordered that government scientists must be approved by a senior political appointee before they could participate in meetings convened by the World Health Organization, the international health and science agency that launched the campaign to eradicate smallpox.

In April of 2004, a top official from the Health and Human Service asked the WHO to begin routing any request for participation in its meetings to the HHS secretary for review, rather than directly invite individual scientists, as had long been the case.

WHO officials in Geneva reacted, refusing to implement the request, saying that hand-picked government scientists would compromise the independence of international scientific deliberations. In June 2004, WHO Assistant director-General Denis Aitken was quietly negotiating with Washington on a compromise. Result?

The request is just one more instance in which the Bush administration has been accused of allowing politics to intrude into once-sacrosanct areas of scientific deliberation, criticized for putting industry and political allies on advisory panels instead of highly regarded scientists.

In November 2004, a WHO advisory panel recommended that Russian and American (the only two countries purported to hold samples of the smallpox virus) scientists be allowed to manipulate a gene in the smallpox virus for the first time--a marker gene that glows green under flourescent light, to speed up discovery of drugs against the virus, which had been eliminated worldwide in 1980. A meeting was scheduled in 2005 for the agency's member countries to consider the recommendation. However, in 2003, National Public Radio reported that a WHO advisory comittee had "significant reservations" about another experiment with the smallpox virus that had the potential to create a even more potent version of the smallpox virus that could be used as a new weapon in bioterrorism.

In weapons inspector Jonathan Tucker's book, "Scourge," he lays out the efforts by Donald (D.A.) Henderson, who led the WHO smallbox eradication campaign in the 1970s, to completely destroy all remaining stocks of the smallpox virus worldwide, to forever close the lid on this virus in Pandora's box.

I see only two reasons for possibly keeping the smallpox virus around: the first to understand why the virus has remined so stable over hundreds of years' time and to further understand the human immunie system. Not to fill chimps and monkeys full of it and give them a dreadful disease, not to play political football with it, not to manipulate the genome of the virus without knowing the consequences of where playing in the devil's playground will lead.

I stand behind D.A. Henderson--kill what remains in the test tube.

Posted by: Loomis | April 12, 2006 10:48 AM | Report abuse

One question - are the biosphere and troposhere the same thing? It seems like my professor called it the biosphere in college - then again, I might have been asleep.

Here's a fun fact - space shuttles actually orbit in the thermosphere, below the exosphere. Not in outer space...

Don't know too much about the Duke incident, unless you're referring to the fact that they really should've beaten LSU.

Posted by: Mr. Cabbage | April 12, 2006 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Let me apologise for my poor sentence construction today.

I've been in and out of meetings, hasty Boodling by the seat of my pants.


Posted by: bc | April 12, 2006 10:50 AM | Report abuse

You know what I'd like to see? fiscal encouragement to use solar energy in our homes. Governments seem to find all kinds of reasons up here to make it difficult beyond just the cost of the solar panels themselves. An individual homeowner has to register in the same way that any major electricty producer does to be able to dump excess onto the grid. There are a lot of homes out there that could operate with some solar energy and solar panels are an improving technology.

Posted by: dr | April 12, 2006 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Several of my coworkers own a Prius. None expect to save much money. They also tell me that from an ecological standpoint it is kinda hard to tell. (Sort of like the great cloth-vs-disposable diaper debate.) They bought their cars because they are a fun technology. Further, they hope to encourage the manufacturers to move in the right direction. In the near term, everything I have read says that a small well-maintained car is the best bet. Especially if you leave it in the garage and take the metro now and again.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 12, 2006 10:51 AM | Report abuse

I'm with MadCow here. If people don't want to drown when all the icecaps melt, they should have had the sense to be borne on higher ground. Like New Haven or Lincoln, Nebraska.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 12, 2006 10:53 AM | Report abuse


Hopefully things will begin to change, locally this province has set up a program for home owners to sell their solar onto the grid, although I do not know the specifics of the program. Governments will start to move quickly when public opinion tells them it is necessary, or when more money can be had from alternative fuels than conventional fossil fuel.

Posted by: dmd | April 12, 2006 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of bio-warfare, seems Dubya can't tell the difference between weather balloons and bio-labs.

Let's hope he doesn't call an airstrike in on the Goodyear blimp hangar.

People have gone to a lot of trouble to strip off the credibility of the phony war excuses, but that doesn't bother the neo-cons, because those were all red herrings anyways.

Still, we haven't even managed to implement the real goal. After three years of "reconstruction", Iraqi oil production is still below Saddam-era emargo levels. Way to go team. No wonder all of Bush's companies went bankrupt.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 12, 2006 11:04 AM | Report abuse

The Duke incident. The media has consistently referred to the woman, who alleges she was raped, as "a stripper hired to dance at a party". Last night the spokesman at a rally of her supporters questioned why the public was not informed that she is also a full time student and the mother of two young children. The more things change the more they stay the same.

When my sister was preparing to leave for college, Mother, without any explanation, made her promise two things. 1) Do not join a sorority and 2) Never ever, under any circumstances whatsoever, enter a fraternity house. Claudia didn't ask why. When Mother used that certain tone of voice, we simply obeyed without question.

Posted by: Nani | April 12, 2006 11:04 AM | Report abuse

From the Kit: "Please memorize: exosphere, thermosphere, mesosphere, stratosphere, troposphere."

Easy. E-T-M-S-T, which spells — oh damn it doesn't spell anything.

Posted by: Bayou Self | April 12, 2006 11:05 AM | Report abuse

I concur about the small car option RDP, see my 9:11. What burns me a little about modern diesels is reading those car reviews in European magazines. They report great performance and great fuel economy in fun little cars. These things are not even available here even though the most up-to-date technology is co-owned by Ford and Peugeot... The most fuel efficient direct injection turbo-diesels add about 1000 Euro ($1000?) to the price of the basic gasoline models. And yet the diesels are flying off the lots in countries with large fuel taxes (France, Italy, Switzerland, etc. )because of better fuel economy. We would need a $5 a usg gasoline (cdn$1.50/L) to make it popular in North America I guess.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | April 12, 2006 11:07 AM | Report abuse

What's this? MadCow seems to have his radical position confused with our conservative position that the earth should remain as unharmed by man as possible. Did I mention that I have been to the Helium Museum?

MadCow is busy surfing on the backside of the wave of science.

Posted by: Dolphin Michael | April 12, 2006 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Gas is already at 1.02/litre in Canada, that 1000 Euro approx 1,600 Canadian would be paid off quickly at higher fuel mileage.

Posted by: dmd | April 12, 2006 11:13 AM | Report abuse

I've got to start getting up earlier.

1. Isn't it amazing how much stuff you can occasionally retain from childhood? Yellojkt's 8:34: "those swimming reptiles with the long snouts". What is Ischthyosaur, Alex.

2. Smallpox. It sounds great to destroy it, but given its lethality, you have to be absolutely 100% sure that all samples are also destroyed, or you're taking a very large risk should another sample be used as a weapon.

3. Speaking of NBCW, as a public service, if you're ever in an office that has had nerve agent dispersed through the air vents like in the current season of 24, for Pete's sake, don't go back to work until the office has been decontaminated.

4. bc writes: "I notice that no one mentions that with the Milankovitch cycles, Sol's energy output has increased over time." Yeah! I was noticing that too. Oh wait, I'm thinking of Milla Jovovich (as always).

Posted by: SonofCarl | April 12, 2006 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Here's some tidbits from the Massachusetts Dept. of Evironmental Protection's FAQ:

Has MassDEP prohibited diesel passenger vehicle sales?
No. Massachusetts has not specifically prohibited the sale of diesel passenger vehicles. However, diesel vehicles can only be registered in Massachusetts if their emission levels are low enough to meet California emissions standards, which Massachusetts has adopted. The automobile manufacturers have not made MY 2004 diesel passenger vehicles that meet MY 2004 emission standards.

Can consumers register MY 2004 diesel passenger vehicles in Massachusetts?
Beginning in MY 2004, diesel passenger vehicles and light-duty trucks weighing up to 8,500 pounds GVWR, with less than 7,500 miles on the odometer, cannot be registered in Massachusetts under MassDEP?s LEV program. In order for a vehicle to be registered in Massachusetts it must be California-certified. Since MY 2004 diesel passenger vehicles will not be California-certified, consumers cannot register these vehicles in Massachusetts.

Will consumers be able to register diesel passenger vehicles in the future?
Current diesel technology has not advanced to the degree that automobile manufacturers can produce vehicles to meet the more stringent LEV II standards. It is up to the automobile manufacturers to produce diesel passenger vehicles that are California-certified so they can be registered in Massachusetts. As diesel technology advances and as low sulfur diesel fuel is phased in, diesel passenger vehicles may be manufactured to meet the California standards under LEV II.

Posted by: jw | April 12, 2006 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Another reason I heart Willie:

There's so many things going on in the world
Babies dying
Mothers crying
How much oil is one human life worth
And what ever happened to peace on earth

Mammas Should Let Their Babies Grow Up To Use BioWillie?

Willie Nelson is pushing biodiesel as an alternative fuel, but many environmentalists are skeptical about biodiesel's net energy benefits and its ability to replace a substantial fraction of traditional oil-based fuel:

His Car Smelling Like French Fries, Willie Nelson Sells Biodiesel, by Danny Hakim, NY Times: Willie Nelson drives a Mercedes. But do not lose faith, true believers. The exhaust from Mr. Nelson's diesel-powered Mercedes smells like peanuts, or French fries, or whatever alternative fuel happens to be in his tank. ... Willie Nelson has birthed his own brand of alternative fuel. It is called, fittingly enough, BioWillie. And in BioWillie, Mr. Nelson, 72, has blended two of his biggest concerns: his love of family farmers and disdain for the Iraq war. BioWillie is a type of biodiesel, a fuel that can be made from any number of crops and run in a normal diesel engine. ... The rationale is that it is a domestic fuel that can provide profit to farmers and that it will help the environment, though environmentalists are not universally enthusiastic about it...

Every alternative to oil ... has its drawbacks. Biodiesel would reduce most emissions of smog-forming pollutants and global warming gases, and it could be used instead of foreign oil. But some studies show that it increases emissions of one harmful pollutant, nitrogen oxide, and it could not be produced in vast enough quantities to supplant oil-based fuel, or come close to it, unless the nation starts turning the suburbs over to farmland. And as with ethanol, producing great quantities of biodiesel from corn or soybeans could drive up food prices.

Bill Reinert

Posted by: Nani | April 12, 2006 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Yellowjkt: W doesn't like to admit that he was born in New Haven, CT. And don't worry--we New Haveners are just as happy that he doesn't like it here. We even fought so that the idea of putting up a big sign near I95 proclaiming that this city was his birthplace never came to fruition. Dunno how Cheney feels about Lincoln, Nebraska or vice versa.

Cassandra S. & Nani, innocent until proven guilty, but something bad happened to this woman and I think Duke President Richard Brodhead and the DA have handled things pretty well so far. Women still don't get equal treatment and I guess we're never going to get an Equal Rights Amendment passed, so we just have to watch out for ourselves the best we can.

Posted by: aroc | April 12, 2006 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Not to defend the Dukies who are pretty indefensible, but strippers that are hired to "dance" at a party often perform sex acts for tips as well. Bachelor party tales at my office, as well as the occassional photographic momento, confirm that pretty clearly.

It's all part of the innuendo of the stripper/dancer/escort code language for what to expect and what to get. Any disclaimers the booking agency uses to the contrary is to protect them from liability when the dancer does what the customers are expecting rather than what is "wink-wink" promised.

I don't find the fact that the alleged victim is a student and single parent convincing one way or the other. Lots of mothers strip. Stretch marks are hard to hide. They usually get booked for the lunch shift so they don't need a babysitter.

I've told all my friends with high school senior daughters to read "I Am Charlotte Simmons" by Tom Wolfe before they send them off to school. Better yet, make the daughters read it. Nani's mom was right about the risks of fraternity houses.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 12, 2006 11:22 AM | Report abuse

One argument that bothers me is when people suggest that because an alternative cannot replace current methods it should be discounted. If several different methods were added the problem would not be solved but it could be eased. Isn't that a good thing? Biodiesel can also be produced from waste wood products, peat not just food crops.

Posted by: dmd | April 12, 2006 11:24 AM | Report abuse

I think you had at leasttwo facts wrong in your analysis of hybrid cars, jw. You implied that the cost savings of a regular car over a hybrid--and you specifically mentioned the Honda Civic--was about $5,000. In the case of the Civic (and I bought a Civic hybrid a year ago) was only about $1,500. And in Maryland, there was a tax rebate for purchasers of hybrids, so I got that $1,500 differential back right away. So for me (and many others), the alleged "extra" cost of a hybrid is often nonsense or bogus. I will grant you that some hybrids do inddeed cost that much more--but certainly not all of them.

Second, the business about "disposing of [hybrid vehicle] batteries" is complete hysteria. Automobile and virtually all other large industrial batteries are recycleable, and there's already infrastructure available to do just that.

IMHO, the alleged "objections" against hybrids ("extra" cost, the horror! the sheer utter horror! of the batteries, etc.) is a lot of crap.

(Not that anyone cares, I bought my hybrid because I wanted to get 45 miles per gallon instead of the 20 I was getting before. And now I am.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 12, 2006 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Shrieking Denizen - couldn't agree more with you. If I didn't do anything wrong in my conversion, in Germany you'd pay ~ $5.80 per gallon. Lots of diesels there, and I mean clean, quiet diesels - you couldn't tell it from a gasoline car, neither in sound nor in handling if you drove on the highway. One of the problems in the US is that hard-to-change perception that a diesel is something dirty, loud, and sluggish. Where is the power of advertisement here? Uh-oh, a market niche...

Posted by: RedFlash | April 12, 2006 11:28 AM | Report abuse


Glad you caught the reference. I was going to say that all the people displaced by global warming should move to Midland, Texas, but that could be construed as a cheap shot. Construed correctly.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 12, 2006 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Sometimes a cheap shot is the best, and correct, shot.

After all, those two characters and the rest of their cronies haven't been playing fair with us for six years or so now, and it's getting worse.

I'm hoping though that the mid-term elections this fall will send a clear message that most folks are fed up.

I'm already busy working on campaigns in CT and have donated money repeatedly to candidates in other states where there is a decent shot to change the makeup of the Senate and House.

Posted by: aroc | April 12, 2006 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Dooley, I would like to tackle Leiby and camels with you today, please. I appreciate the heads-up on Friday about Leiby, and was able to Google him a bit that afternoon after you posted. thereI said it, I also got your link to info about Wyoming geology and shall explore it.

So, in a brief retelling of the Leiby saga, a bunch of Scottish Culbertsons settle and propagate in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. (In the family genealogy tomb, we have a Fanny Loomis, daughter of Israel Loomis, a young aide to Gen. George Washington during the American Revolution, marrying a Samuel Culberston in 1827 in New York. I can't make a link of this Samuel Culbertson to the Dr. Samuel D. Culbertson of Chambersburg, at this point, however.)

The Culbertson family provided Dr. Leidy with fossils from the White River Badlands of South Dakota. The most notable of these were the first specimens of an early camel, Poebrotherium wilsoni, and the oreodont, Merycoidodon culbertsonii. These fossils came to Leidy in a roundabout fashion. Alexander Culbertson, who worked for the American Fur Company, had collected these fossils from the Badlands and sent them as curiosities to his uncle, Samuel Culbertson of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. The fossils were later sent to Leidy for examination.

Another relative, Thaddeus A. Culbertson, was sent by Spencer Baird of the Smithsonian on a survey of the White River Badlands. The fossils he collected were forwarded by Baird to Leidy.

Joseph Leidy (1823-1891) was one of the leading American scientists of the 19th century. He was the Father of American Vertebrate Paleontology, the Founder of American Parasitology, a leading teacher in human anatomy and Natural History and an expert in a wide range of fields. Although he traveled to Europe and the American West, he spent virtually all of his life in Philadelphia.

Joseph Leidy's practical father wanted Leidy to use his artistic abilities as a sign painter, but his stepmother believed Joseph's abilities to observe and record would be better served if he studied medicine and became a doctor.
Leidy began his medical education with a year of private study in anatomy with Dr. James McClintock. He finished his studies at the medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, where his formal studies were conducted under the supervision of Dr. Paul Goddard. [the space Goddard family?]

A close relationship developed between Leidy and Goddard. Goddard recognized Leidy's gifts, made Leidy his assistant and encouraged Leidy's research interests. Goddard would introduce Leidy to the microscope, then an rare instrument in the United States. Goddard would also introduce Leidy to Amos Binney of Boston, a move that would launch Leidy's scientific career.

Do you know how Culbertson and Leidy made the connection? Through medical school?How did Leidy have enough information about Poebrotherium wilsoni (why so named?) and Merycoidodon culbertsonii to so name them? Was he so advanced in his paleontology knowledge at the time simple as result of his medical studies? Does Binney figure in prominently as far as increasing Leidy's palenotology knowledge? Is there a really informative book that tells Leidy's story?

But where was the thrust or advancement of the paleontology body of knowledge taking place in the early to mid-1800s? Europe? Nicholas Steno was writing his treatise on shells in 1688 in Italy. While I was having my prescriptions filled yesterday, I had an opportunity to explore a used book store in the same shopping center. There was quite a bit of activity in England at the time, according to several books that I found, starting with the discovery by a young girl of a skeleton in the limestone cliffs of England, I believe? How much were the extremely early Americans palentologist influenced by the Europeans? Did anyone really predate Leiby? I see that JAMA has an article in 2000 about Leiby titled, "The Man Who Knew Everything" that I shall have to locate in our downtown library. Why would paleontologist FB Loomis decide to study in Munich by that century's end? Is there a "Mother" of American paleontology--perhaps the woman who was the descendant of the Hawaiian sugar/pineapple plantation barons?

I read a statement that the camels evolutionary history occurred in North America. Because South America did not have the land bridge between our two continents after the early evolutionary development of the camel, the llama developed separately. I also read one sentence in the book "The Bone Museum" yesterday that said because of emerging predominance of the horse, through both genetics and evolution, that the horse "chased" the camel from the North American continent. Did the camel migrate across jammed-together land masses as a result of the horse, with the continents later separating? Did horses also get caught in this continental pulling-apart, since it was the Spaniards who (re)introduced the horse to North America?

Best place to send me to bone up on camels and the early history of palentology in America? I think there is a book about Drinker Cope and his rivalry with associates--something about Bone Wars--but it's out of print. More than year ago, at least, I checked whether the San Antonio library has it and it didn't. Do you know the book--and would you recommend it highly enough to send me trying to buy it either used online or trying to acquire it through interlibrary loan?

Posted by: Loomis | April 12, 2006 11:38 AM | Report abuse

I actually don't like hybrids because some guy driving a Prius actually sped up to keep me from merging into his lane on the 14th St. bridge the other day, apparently because I was dumb enough to pay him the courtesy of using my signal. Of course, I still continued to merge. Had to give him a chance to charge his battery up a little.

Posted by: jw | April 12, 2006 11:38 AM | Report abuse

SonofCarl writes:
2. Smallpox. It sounds great to destroy it, but given its lethality, you have to be absolutely 100% sure that all samples are also destroyed, or you're taking a very large risk should another sample be used as a weapon.

Very aware of the argument and ramifications, Carl-Son.

Posted by: Loomis | April 12, 2006 11:41 AM | Report abuse

"When a reporter asked exhibit designer Barbara Stauffer why there wasn't more of a discussion about the role of humans in climate change, she said, 'It's about the science.' She added, 'I think it undermines what we do in the exhibit if we start pointing fingers.'

She went further: 'It's about functions of the atmosphere. It's not a climate change exhibit.'"

I assume that Ms. Stauffer titled the exhibit "Atmosphere: Change Is in the Air"...Will the Smithsonian please use my taxpayer dollars to hire "exhibit designers" for their science museums who actually have some clue about the subject?

This reminds me of "The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra" - a highly entertaining spoof on cheesy '50s monster B-movies. I've lifted this jolly exchange from the IMDB's quotes listing for the film:

Skeleton: You must find the atmosphereum.
Animala: Amish Terrarium. Must find Amish terrarium.
Dr. Paul Armstrong: I don't understand. Why does she need an Amish terrarium?
Betty Armstrong: Don't the Amish live in open air, like us?
Dr. Paul Armstrong: Of course, Betty, it's absurd. Putting the Amish in glass cases would be inhumane.

Posted by: Maritz | April 12, 2006 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Saw the post, firsttimeblogger--but the question remains, where were you when I was 17? *sigh*

I turn 60 on Aug. 24, a few days before you. A Day That Will Live In Infamy.

A close personal friend of mine, Juan Carlo Fangio Isuzu, actually invented the hybrid vehicle back in Spain in the early 1520s. Seems one of his two oxen drving his cart died, so he hitched his "spare" donut-tire type replacement into the rig, which happened to be a donkey, and voila! the hybrid vehicle was born. Unfortunately the donkey tended to walk faster than the ox, so Juan Carlo's cart always turned in lefthand circles. (Which is how NASCART racing was also born.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 12, 2006 11:42 AM | Report abuse

For some reason, jw, I wouldn't expect a guy driving a Prius to be the sort to exhibit antisocial and/or mean behavior. So I'm guessing it was probably someone who was suffering from a self-inadequacy after borrowing the Prius.

Posted by: Bayou Self | April 12, 2006 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Sorry Joel - after the Enola Gay uproar several years ago, no one at the Smithsonian will ever again do an exhibit that might be seen as advocating a cause. Even your cause.

Dooley asks two good questions above: There are two very separate issues on global warming--1) is Earth getting warmer, and 2) if it is, are we causing it? Answers are: yes, and probably (summarizing the rest of the boodle). Here's a third question: what should we do about it? I would argue that the real issue seldom comes up. There are more people on this planet than ever before. Providing this large and growing population a) food and b) a moderately comfortable standard of living results in increasing levels of industialization and agriculture. Some impact on the planet is inevitable. The only way to reverse or even halt human's impact on the planet is to halt the increase in the human population. Anybody got any ideas on how to do that?

Obvioulsy, we haven't made some of the best choices. But many of those poor choices are self-correcting. 6000lb SUVs have been around what, maybe 15 years? With gas proces climbing they will go the way of the dinosaur in 10 years. 25 years is barely a blink in time.

The world's climate is going to change. It'll never again be what it was before some person learned how to build a fire. And if rising sea levels cover much of the east coast, including DC and Maryland, may not be such a bad thing.

Posted by: Steve-2 | April 12, 2006 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Again, we worried about the hybrid cost, but with gas at $2.10/gal (at the time), and considering how much we drive, we figured the car would pay for itself in 8-10 years--less if gas prices went up, which of course they have.

On JW's point, even without a hybrid, there are a lot of things you can do to cut gas usage. Our Explorer is rated (I think) for 18 mpg, but we generally get 22 mpg, even in the mountains--by performing regular maintenance, keeping good tires, using the cruise control, and *gasp* doing the speed limit.

Posted by: Dooley | April 12, 2006 11:48 AM | Report abuse

NASCART - too funny.

I was always a big fan of number VIII.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 12, 2006 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Doesn't matter. I hate all hybrid drivers now. Those people aren't good for this country, I tell ya. Zipping around like they're so much better than me, when I know full well they just bought that car so they can drive in the HOV lane!!! (Did I mention I got a ticket for driving in the idiotic HOV lane that runs through Old Town Alexandria? On my way to a counter-terrorism seminar, no less! I need police lights on my VW)

Posted by: jw | April 12, 2006 11:49 AM | Report abuse

Thanks to the link for the article by Joby Warrick in today's WaPo. The paragraphs below seems so sad that first, officials who reported the truth would fear for their jobs. Second, the reporting by Warrick just seems to be another piece of dam*ing evidence that Bush and gang have perverted the truth to mold the politics to justify going to war. Sand toilets, indeed!

None would consent to being identified by name because of fear that their jobs would be jeopardized. Their accounts were verified by other current and former government officials knowledgeable about the mission. The contents of the final report, "Final Technical Engineering Exploitation Report on Iraqi Suspected Biological Weapons-Associated Trailers," remain classified. But interviews reveal that the technical team was *unequivocal* in its conclusion that the trailers were not intended to manufacture biological weapons. Those interviewed took care not to discuss the classified portions of their work.

"There was no connection to anything biological," said one expert who studied the trailers. Another recalled an epithet that came to be associated with the trailers: "the biggest sand toilets in the world."

Posted by: Loomis | April 12, 2006 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Dooley--I am constantly amazed at how much difference driving at a reasonable speed, accellerating smoothly, and keeping tires at the right pressure can have on MPG. I am also amazed that there are people out there who have NEVER checked their tire pressure. Not only does it equate to literally hundreds of dollars saved in gas money, it also significantly increases the life of your tires, which aren't exactly cheap.

Posted by: jw | April 12, 2006 11:54 AM | Report abuse

We hybrid owners ARE so much better than you, jw. (Hey, what's the fun of being an elitist holier-than-thou liberal if ya can't lord it over somebody? It's a dirty job, but somebody's gotta do it.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 12, 2006 11:55 AM | Report abuse

'zactly so on the speed limit, Dooley...

It's amazing how often I see a Prius or Civic Hybrid or even an Insight flying by me in my regular Civic (40 MPG if the stars align) at the legal limit. And every time, I think to myself, "We're probably getting about the same MPG."

Wonder what we could do with fuel usage if we could find the proper mechanism to get carmakers weaned off the idea that the best thing to sell a car with is raw speed.

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 12, 2006 11:55 AM | Report abuse

bc--correct me if I'm wrong, but to go along with what Scotty says, isn't the drop in MPG for a small displacement engine much more severe than for a large displacement engine? Since a 4-cylinder engine probably has to run at a much higher RPM than a 6- or 8-cylinder engine at the same speed, it probably sucks fuel down.

I know that if my engines anywhere in the 4,000-5,000 RPM range, I can literally see the gas needle move. I'm also probably about to see some blue lights in my mirror, but that's another problem.

Posted by: jw | April 12, 2006 12:03 PM | Report abuse

you should definitely try to show up at the next BPH...the same edge as, Mudge, eh?

Personally, I think Mudge has the seven-year itch, multiplied times 3.25.

Posted by: Loomis | April 12, 2006 12:04 PM | Report abuse

SCC: edge --> age

Posted by: Loomis | April 12, 2006 12:05 PM | Report abuse

But seriously for a moment ...

I drive a four-cylinder '03 Honda Accord. I only get about 20 mpg because my commute is so short. And I only drive a bit more than 6K miles per year. I fill it up ever three weeks or so. Anyway, I guess I'm doing my part, even though I do wish I was getting better mileage.

Posted by: Bayou Self | April 12, 2006 12:06 PM | Report abuse

I haven't been to the Helium museum. I find strange that the museum wasn't a Rare Gases museum, what's so special about He? It's light and fluffy, the Kathy Couric of Rare gases. Neon, Xenon and Kripton have more gravitas. The gas illuminating our lives, Neon must be taking particular umbrage.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | April 12, 2006 12:06 PM | Report abuse

I knew it, Mudge! I knew it! I can see it in their eyes, when they pull into Starbucks for their semi-skim mochachino vanilla latte with extra foam!

Posted by: jw | April 12, 2006 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Bayou Self--mass trans not an option? I think that's where hybrids could really make a dent, that whole shutting the engine down when you're sitting in traffic. When you're at a standstill, a Civic and a Hummer are both getting the same MPG, after all--zero.

Posted by: jw | April 12, 2006 12:10 PM | Report abuse

"Flock of the Dodos," coming to a film festival near you?

"Flock of Dodos" does not attack intelligent design. Dr. Olson just lets its adherents talk. His view, expressed as a Latin motto at the start of the film, is "res ipsa loquitur" — the thing speaks for itself.

But he also lets the scientists talk. Asked to come up with a slogan to match intelligent design's "teach the controversy," they fumble. Asked to make the case for evolution, they get into arguments or discuss it in terms so fancy they require on-screen definitions. ("I did not realize 'mendacity' was a 50-cent word," Dr. Olson said. "That's what academic life has done to me.")

But when he watches the advocates of intelligent design at work, he sees pleasant people who speak plainly, convincingly and with humor. When scientists he knows talk about evolution, they can be dour, pompous and disagreeable, even with one another. His film challenges them to get off their collective high horse and make their case to ordinary people with — if they can muster it — a smile.

The 84-minute film, which will be shown on April 30 at the Tribeca Film Festival, focuses on Kansas, where state school authorities have embraced intelligent design, last year going so far as to define "science" as including the supernatural. Dr. Olson, who went to high school and college in the state, kept up with the debate through newspaper clippings from his mother, Muffy Olson, who lives in Lake Quivira, Kan., a suburb of Kansas City, and is one of the stars of the movie. ...

"I get hundreds of inquiries from students and graduate students wanting to do what I am doing, to get into this interface between science and the media," Dr. Olson said. "There just isn't any financial support for it. The science world does not understand media, does not support it. They don't see the need for innovation."

Dr. Jackson said some scientists, even those interested in communicating science, "squirm" at Dr. Olson's irreverent approach. Others wonder whether his wry humor will translate to a wider audience.

Dr. Olson says, "We'll find out at Tribeca."

Posted by: Loomis | April 12, 2006 12:16 PM | Report abuse

When gas prices started to surge last year, I started driving my Saturn Ion closer to the posted speed limits. It really does help improve gas mileage. Be warned about doing this on the Beltway though. The additional weight of the strap-on armor required to deal with hostile and well-armed speeders can defeat the whole purpose.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 12, 2006 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Loomis, it's going to take awhile to respond to all the paleo, and I just got a call from the school that my son is sick, so I'm going to break my responses into several small posts--hope that's OK.

First, Bone Wars is about the rivalry between OC Marsh and ED Cope, two American paleontologists from the 1800s. I have not read the book, but I've heard it is quite good. The Marsh-Cope thing is legendary among paleontologists, and a fascinating story, if you like that sort of thing...

On Joseph Leidy, I'll have to do some research to answer some of your questions. Leidy, as I recall, was affiliated with Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia and the US National Museum (Smithsonian). It was commonplace at the time for these institutions to employ collectors, but it was also common for people to just send specimens in on their own; especially with Samuel Culbertson in Pennsylvania, the logical place for him to take a specimen would be the academy. It's possible that Leidy knew Culbertson through correspondence only at the time--I'll see what I can find out.

Peobrotherium was named by Leidy in 1848, and Merycoidodon in 1847. Leidy was a very active paleontologist at this time, and named numerous new species in the 1840s-50s (including the first dinosaurs from the US, in 1856). Interestingly, Leidy eventually left paleontology--the rumor among paleontologists is that he couldn't stand the bickering and backstabbing going on between Cope and Marsh, and decided to work instead on (I think) birds.

More on camels later.

Posted by: Dooley | April 12, 2006 12:19 PM | Report abuse

jw - My mass-transit option is a bus that doesn't quite go where I need it to go. Using it would take my commute from 15 minutes to more than an hour, each way. I'd love to leave the car at home, but it just doesn't work for me.

I'd also love to ride my bike. The distance is only about 6 miles, but the route isn't bicycle friendly. I'd be likely get clipped by a speeding Behemoth Belchfire SUV. Or a big ol' pickup. Or maybe a Prius.

Posted by: Bayou Self | April 12, 2006 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Those of us who were sentient during the 70s will recall the "energy crisis." Many of the same discussions going on now went on then. Biofuel, solar, wind, and nuclear were tossed around. Of course, technology has changed a lot, but the options are still the familiar ones. Personally I think that remote nuclear power plants linked via superconducting wires are a promising solution. The electricity could be used to power a new generation of electric vehicles and communities. A global grid would help decrease greenhouse gasses worldwide.
Yes I know, Nuclear Power is like, bad, 'kay. But like I said, the technology has improved a lot and should probably be revisited.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 12, 2006 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Hybrid story. I know somebody who flipped one of the early Prius (the first one, much smaller than the current one, what around 00' ?). These things had a DOT stability advisory against them. The company had gone all-in for the purpose of posting spectacular fuel economy number, including high&narrow tires. The lady's car slid on a patch of ice and was flipped upside down by a froxen snow bank, sort aof a ski jump really. As she was upside down suspended in the safety belts with the wheels still turning the computer was happily reporting that everything was fine and she was doing 15 km/hr on the battery. She still laughs about it. The car wasn't totalled even if the body repairs cost almost as much as the original purchase.

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | April 12, 2006 12:23 PM | Report abuse

I have seen the future and we are all driving nuclear-powered cars. Think of how fun it'll be when the traffic report tells of backups due to a 3-car meltdown.

Posted by: Bayou Self | April 12, 2006 12:29 PM | Report abuse

RDP, you know what I'd say. :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 12, 2006 12:29 PM | Report abuse

When the hubby and I were in Germany last June, gasoline was 1.21 euros per liter. If this English major did the math right, that means it was $5.46 a gallon. We've got a ways to go to reach that, but it puts our current prices in perspective, no? I kinda wish prices would rise like that, since it might impact the traffic. Hubby and I ride together, so even if we're in the minivan, our halos are on straight and shining.

Posted by: slyness | April 12, 2006 12:32 PM | Report abuse

"Speeding on the beltway," Padouk? Surely you jest. I'm lucky if I can get to third gear.

"Those of us who were sentient in the 70s"--leaves me out.

I love my one-hour-each-way bus commute--I get to snooze and read. (Though I have a large bruise on my arm from when, at a dinner party, I mentioned casually that because of my commute, I get to sleep with two additional women pretty much every day. My wife was not amused.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 12, 2006 12:46 PM | Report abuse

That's one of the main themes Friedman at the NYT focusses on - gas prices should reflect their "cost" in all senses of that word.

Posted by: SonofCarl | April 12, 2006 12:48 PM | Report abuse

I live 6 miles from work. The trip takes 25-35 minutes by bus and train. The direct route is very bike unfriendly. There is another option that goes a little out of the way on bike trails (99% of the trip). But that makes the trip 12 miles. And I find it very difficult to read a book while riding my bike. Plus when it rains the book gets all wet and the pages stick together.

Posted by: omni | April 12, 2006 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, guys.

We average about 10,000 to 12,000 miles per year on our current vehicle. We live in a college town that's sprawled out and a vehicle is practically required as mass transit is not a viable option.

A lot of the driving we do is in town. Right now, I get about 22 mpg in city with my mid-size which I regularly do maintain.

So, would it be better to get a higher mileage sub-compact or a hybrid? I understand hybrids can also be expensive to fix because of the technology and it's not like anyone can repair them.

That may be a factor...

I agree about the speed limit thing, although in my youth I had a lead foot. When I had offspring, I traded my lead foot in for something lighter.

Posted by: amo | April 12, 2006 12:58 PM | Report abuse

My best gas mileage is at 93 mph. Sad, really. I don't have many opportunities to actually get good gas mileage. (Ha! I love alliteration. I didn't even mean to do it.) If I'm lucky I get 18 mpg. That's if I'm doing highway driving--rare for me. This week I'll get amazing gas mileage, though. Many wedding errands to run. Speaking of wedding, engagement photos of Jeremy and I are up and I wrote in the blog about a bunch of random stuff.

One more speaking of...

Speaking of global warming and Al Gore, has anyone seen the trailer for the Al Gore/Global Warming movie coming out on May 24th? Very intense. Very dramatic. It's supposedly the "most terrifying movie you'll ever see." And "if you love your children," you'll see it.

Posted by: Sara | April 12, 2006 1:06 PM | Report abuse

As one who drives the posted speed limit, I always dread seeing a Red Truck in my rear view mirror. Red Trucks hate little Nissans! Especially on a 2 lane road with double yellow do not pass lines. They see me, ("Hey Cooter, let's us have some fun, haw haw!") do the pedal to the metal thingie until their front bumper is mere inches from my rear bumper. The high beams start flashing off and on blinding me; then the horn honking and cursing commences. No way for me to pull over, so I speed it up by 10 miles. But noooo, Red Truck isn't finished with me by a long shot - It's like Dennis Weaver in Duel. Finally, bored with scaring an old lady, they pass on the double yellow line and cut in front of me so close that I slam on brakes to keep from rear ending them. With loud guffaws, they drive off into the sunset, confederate flag (the size of a circus tent) bracketed to the truck bed flapping in the breeze. I'd flip em a bird but there's always a gun rack in the rear window and an NRA sticker on the bumper and I think better of it.

Posted by: Nani | April 12, 2006 1:13 PM | Report abuse

Cool pix, Sara. But I note that in the third photo, you aren't even married to the guy yet and already you have your hands in his pockets. (Though he doesn't seem to be objecting.)(He's no dummy.)

Posted by: Curmdugeon | April 12, 2006 1:14 PM | Report abuse

More paleontology for Loomis.

The young English girl you referred to was Mary Anning. The Anning family was left in poverty after the death of the father, and Mary and her brother Joseph sustained the family by collecting fossils and selling them to museums and universities. Their finds included the irst good remains of an ichthyosaur, and the first plesiosaur.

Paleontology was very active in Europe during the early 1800s, especially in Britain, France, and Germany. There were many important players--in Britain, Richard Owen and William Smith, among others, and Georges Cuvier and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck (not fossils, but evolution).

In the US, paleo was a little slower getting started. Thomas Jefferson actually did a lot of the earliest collecting, in the late 1700s and early 1800s, but the people that really got things rolling (for vertebrate paleontology) included Leidy, ED Cope, and Richard Harlan, among others, around 1850.

Posted by: Dooley | April 12, 2006 1:18 PM | Report abuse

Nani - true story. There is a small road that leads to where I work. This morning a Large Truck got behind me and obnoxiously tailgated the whole way to the front gate. I was very relieved when the truck turned left and I turned right. However I could still see where the truck parked. From far off I saw a tiny fifty-something woman climb out. I felt a little better until I realized that this was Virginia. She mighta been packin' heat.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 12, 2006 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Whenever LOVs (Large Obnoxious Vehicles) demand that I move faster, I just remember that their vehicle replacement costs are much higher.

I just hope they remember too.


Posted by: Scottynuke | April 12, 2006 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Sara - you look very happy. I wish you and your future husband nothing but good luck!

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 12, 2006 1:39 PM | Report abuse


I put an email on your blog, as you suggested. Have a book for you, but not where to send it.

Posted by: thereIsaidit | April 12, 2006 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Oh, and Sara --

Lovely pics! Yer a lucky couple, and best of luck! :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 12, 2006 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Sara, when I first started reading your post I thought it was bc.

On another note, when I click your link I get the blog item from 3/9. I must not be doing something right. Or, like I've said before: I'm stooopid!

Posted by: omni | April 12, 2006 1:39 PM | Report abuse

In Weingarten's Chat update today he links to a page of word pairs that always occur together. It includes this:

The only thing you can do with UMBRAGE is TAKE it.

Here are the rest:

Have fun Achenlexicographers. (I am certain that does not mean what I think it does.)

Posted by: yellojkt | April 12, 2006 1:44 PM | Report abuse

Off topic about wedding plans. When my future wife and I were planning our own wedding I learned that it is not acceptable for a groom to say he doesn't care about the wedding details. This means he is not emotionally involved. He needs to care, deeply and passionately, about everything from the type of flowers used to the brand of bottled water served. On the other hand, the groom must agree with the bride on all these details lest he be accused of being difficult, or worse, incompatible. So to be successful the groom must detect the bride's wishes, without her knowledge, and then enthusiastically endorse them. If he can learn how to do this he is assured much happiness, both before the ceremony and afterwards.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 12, 2006 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Is it a bad thing that I'm trying to renew my driver's license, and am stumped on the voter registration block, where I have to check "Democrat", "Republican", or "No Party"? I guess if I have to think about it, the "No Party" block is for me.

Of course, there's also the "Political Designation:_____________" block that I could have a lot of fun with.

Posted by: jw | April 12, 2006 1:48 PM | Report abuse


You look very happy. And your hair is perfect. But you're not drinking a pina colada at Trader Vic's. That's probably because you aren't a werewolf. Or in London.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 12, 2006 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Sara, your dress is lovely. Where did you find one that isn't strapless? I've been on the wedding dress detail for some time now - older daughter's best friend is engaged, so I got to be her second mom. When we went shopping, almost everything we saw was strapless. Not my cup of tea, but I'm not the bride. The engagement photos are cute!

Posted by: slyness | April 12, 2006 1:59 PM | Report abuse

I picked up the following yesterday at the used bookstore at bargain-basement prices:

The Dragon Seekers: How an extraordinary circle of fossilists discovered the dinosaurs and paved the way for Darwin by Christopher McGowan
The Dinosaur Hunters: The true story of scientific rivalry and the discovery of the prehistoric world by Deborah Cadbury

(It looks like these two cover some of the same ground and essentially give the British side of the story--Mary Anning, Richard Owen, William Buckland, Mary and Gideon Mantell, Thomas Henry Huxley, with mentions of Cuvier and Lamarck in France. And the books were so inexpensive.)

along with, for overview and background,
NYT science reporter Nick Wade's 1997/2001 revised "Fossils and Evolution," a collection of articles by Wade, John Noble Wilford, and Malcolm W. Browne. I bought it because Wade is both editor and contributor, and I have tremendous respect for Wade's reporting.

Now, to delve into them, along with the book, "The Camel and the Wheel"...

Take your time on your answers, Dooley. A sick son will always come first...
My bad, as they say on the Boodle, for not hauling my book purchases from yesterday upstairs with me before I composed today's camel Boodle/questions to you.

Posted by: Loomis | April 12, 2006 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Some quick comments, specifically to Scotty & jw's points:

Oh, and a nod to Dooley who brought "smug" into the hybrid conversation (that WAS a funny episode of "South Park")

Highway fuel mileage depends on a lot of things mainly having to do with engine displacement (and gearing) and frictional resistance (both from aerodynamic drag and rolling resistance from the tires). Note I didn't mention weight; I'll come back to that shortly.

To make a long story short, the less reisistance an object has to moving at a given velocity, the less energy it takes to keep it moving. Little cars with narrow, hard tires and belly pans (look under those Priuses and Insights), lose less energy to the air and the ground and require less engine power to keep them moving. This is where small displacement engines shine, because even though they're turning at a higher rpm than a large displacment engine, modern fuel injection systems are designed to lean the fuel mixure out at cruising speeds to get the optimally efficient stoichiometric ratio (14.7:1 air to fuel). Hybrid drives won't make much difference here unless you're going up and down mountains - the electric suppliment for going up and big regenerative gains going down can pay off quite well as Dooley noticed.

Weight becomes a factor when there are changes in acceleration - stoplights, stop signs, etc. In a word, city and suburban driving. Now you have to overcome the reistance of weight as well (though at low speeds the effects of aero drag are negligable). How much energy does it take to accelerate a given weight (I'll skip the torque and HP discussion) to a given velocity (say 55 mph) - this is where IC engines use a lot of fuel, and where hybrid drive systems can also make a difference. Electric motors make full torque as soon as they start spinning, so it makes sense for them to suppliment a wheezy little 1.3 liter gas engine.

I'm not even going to get into transmissions, other than to say that CVTs work nicely to keep engines at optimum RPM, but do sap engine power. Automatic transmissions also sap power more than manual transmissions, which is why manual transmission EPA ratings are usually a tad better than autos. A well-driven manual trans can have a far better difference in real world fuel mileage than the EPA figures show.

Physics and pocketbook notes: I looked at Honda's site to check some stats on the Civic sedan and found that the hybrid model adds about 370 pounds to a regular Civic (more weight to accelerate), in addition to MSRP being over $7000 more than the base model, and around $3700 more than the top Civic sedan.

Gosh, this has gone further than I intended!

I'm going to stop now, though I could write a few (thousand) more words on the subject.


Posted by: bc | April 12, 2006 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Sara, beautiful pictures! I'm glad you and jw are both here today because the boodle wants to give you guys an Achenweddingshower. We just need a date that you both can be here so we can plan the celebration. And maybe if we ask nicely, Joel will do a wedding/marriage kit that same day. Gifts will include anything and everything boodlers think will make you happy. (You said you wanted my chicken and dumplings recipe).

Posted by: Nani | April 12, 2006 2:08 PM | Report abuse

And, finally, camels and horses.

I'm not familiar with "The Bone Museum", but the quote isn't correct. Unfortunately, the answer requires some explaining--sorry about that.

During the Eocene Epoch, c. 40-50 million years ago (Ma), most of the modern orders of mammals occur for the first time, including the perissodactyls (the group that includes modern horses and rhinos), and the artiodactyls (the group that includes modern cows, sheep, pigs, deer, camels, etc.) Another fossil that appears for the first time in the Eocene are land grasses, but they aren't common.

In the late Eocene to Olicocene, c. 35 Ma, the dominant herbivores were rhinos, camels, oreodonts, and to a lesser extent horses and some other (now extinct) groups like titanotheres. All of these forms lived in North America, and many were in Europe and Asia--none were in South America, which had a totally unique set of mammals. Nearly all these groups were specialized for browsing on leaves. But in the Oligocene, the Antarctic Ice Sheet started forming causing the Earth to become cooler and drier (see my earlier global warming post).

By the middle Miocene (c. 15 Ma), the cooler, drier conditions had resulted in the retreat of the Oligocene forests and their replacement by grasslands, something that had never been seen before. Grass is extremely hard to eat--it's abrasive on teeth and hard to digest--and most browsers can't handle it. So through the early to the middle Miocene there is a major turnover in herbivores, toward more grazers that could eat grass. The big winners were horses, the ruminant artiodactyls (deer, cows, etc), and elephants (which were spreading out of Africa). The big losers were rhinos, camels, tapirs, calichotheres, and titanotheres, which were relegated to niche roles or went extinct. Again, this is primarily in North America, with periodic migrations to Europe and Asia during low sea level periods, so NA+Asia+Europe were fairly similar by that time.

Next big event--Pliocene Epoch, 3 million years ago, the Isthmus of Panama formed, allowing a land connection between North and South America. Prior to that time, South America had been an island continent, and was dominated by now-extinct groups like pyrotheres, litopterns, astrapotheres, and toxodonts, plus marsupials and edentates (sloths and armadillos), and giant ground birds. When Panama formed, the North and South American faunas mixed, and in general, the things from the north kicked butt. Almost all the South American forms went extinct--only a few invaded into North America successfully, including ground sloths, opossums, and armadillos. Most things we think of as "South American" actually came from North America--llamas, alpacas, jaguars. Also moving south were elephants and horses.

Finally, after the last Ice Age, for disputed reasons, there was a big extinction, and the North American camels, horses, rhinos, and elephants, and the South America horses and elephants, and all the ground sloths, went extinct. Populations of horses and camels survived in Eurasia (descendents of North American ancestors), and they were reintroduced by Europeans. When Europeans brough horses over, they had only been extinct here for around 8000 years--probably whay they adapted so well. The same is true for Argentina.

So I've left out most of the details, but it's mainly a story of climate-induced faunal change, that all started because of that pesky Antarctic Ice Sheet.

Posted by: Dooley | April 12, 2006 2:09 PM | Report abuse

So, bc, is the bottom line that a hybrid isn't worth the extra cost?

Posted by: slyness | April 12, 2006 2:09 PM | Report abuse

After reviewing my 2:05 comment through my fingers (i.e. both hands over my eyes), I realize that I desperately need an editor.


Posted by: bc | April 12, 2006 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Lindaloo and Dooley, uneducated question, did horses and the other animals mentioned look much different then as they do today? Any books you could recommend with illustrations?

Posted by: Nani | April 12, 2006 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Everybody needs an editor but they don't come cheap. Mudge can afford a Civic hybrid fer crying out loud !

Posted by: Shrieking Denizen | April 12, 2006 2:24 PM | Report abuse

RD, words of wisdom.

bc, wow! Short comments...this is clearly your forté!

(side note: I tried omni's ALT + various codes to get that accent, but it didn't work. I was able to cut and paste, however. I ♥ it when a plan comes together [I still want italics though, note to shop steward])

Posted by: SonofCarl | April 12, 2006 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Fils de Carl,
you pasted an accent aigu in vain. Forte is from the Italian Forte (strong).
Yours truly,

Posted by: Gendarme de la grammaire | April 12, 2006 2:35 PM | Report abuse

Unless I was going to do about 12,000+ miles of city driving per year, I wouldn't consider one.

But that's just me.

Buy a nice little car (see the Honda Civic, or SciTim's favorite, the Honda Fit)with a manual transmission and maintain it well, and you'll be going easier in the environment and your wallet.

Here's bc's car maintenance tip of the day: If you're not up to thoroughly washing, waxing, and cleaning out your car twice a year, take it to a good detailing shop and have it done.

A guy who runs a service station near me asked how long I'd had my car, thinking it was brand new. He was surprised to hear that it was 7 years old and has 113,000 miles on it. And I have 3 children...


Posted by: bc | April 12, 2006 2:36 PM | Report abuse

Another hybrid comment--one thing I like about my Prius is the touch-screen readout on the car's efficiency--it tells you the average mpg on the current tank, updated every 15 seconds or so, you're average over the last 30 minutes in 5 minute increments, and a bar graph that shows your current actual mpg, updated approximately every second.

It sounds like just a fun gimmick. But what my wife and I have found is that we watch the bar graph like hawks, to see how were doing at any given time. It's completely changed our driving habits ("Oh no, I just dropped from 52 mpg to 45 mpg--I better back off the gas.")

We alternate driving the Prius--whoever has the longer commute gets it that day (my days are Tuesday and Thursday, the days I teach). I find myself calling my wife on my cell to brag ("HAH! 56.8 mpg from Martinsville to Roanoke! Let's see you top THAT!")

OK, we're geeks and we have a sad life. But we get good gas mileage.

Posted by: Dooley | April 12, 2006 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Got two minutes today.

Sara: Great photos, thanks for sharing. Congrats again.

Working on a story about the Kansas Board of Education...

Posted by: CowTown | April 12, 2006 2:39 PM | Report abuse

From bc's litany of SCCs for the day: replace "in" with "on" above.


Posted by: bc | April 12, 2006 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Oops--your, not you're. Eleven years of post high school education, and what do you get...

Posted by: Dooley | April 12, 2006 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Dooley, are you enough of a geek to check odometer mileage against the amount of fuel you put in the tank to verify what the computer's telling you?

Sadly, I am.


Posted by: bc | April 12, 2006 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Nani, the critters look more different from the modern ones the farther back you go. So, for example, the biggest horses 15 Ma were only about 150 lbs, with three toes on each foot, and relatively smaller head. A lot of the camels looked similar to llamas, but the rhinos were all over the place in term of appearance. If your in the DC area, there are mounted skeletons of many of these, and paintings, at the Smithsonian, including Peobrotherium and Merycoidodon, and a great exhibit on the history of horses.

Posted by: Dooley | April 12, 2006 2:43 PM | Report abuse

Chained to my desk, in my windowless cubicle, looking ahead to a long evening of editing and inserting computer codes into legal documents--actually I like this work, but I resent the way it's cutting into my Achenblog time.

I will just drop in and say, first, I endorse everything amo said at 9:50 am, and wish we could get up the kind of enthusiasm about living green that we had going yesterday about workers' rights. (I also wish we could be consistently enthusiastic about workers' rights, in the real world.)

And on a virtual level, I second SonofCarl's request for italics. I like to blog about books, and it is painful for me to type a book title with quotation marks around it. For instance, yellojkt mentioned "I Am Charlotte Simmons" (OW OW OW) and I had something to say about that. I read the book and I had strong opinions about it since, like Charlotte, I came from a somewhat sheltered, conservative small town upbringing and went to college completely on my own, sink-or-swim style. Luckily for me, where Charlotte sinks, I swam. This will be a good subject for my blog, when it starts up again next week. Thanks again, yellojkt. What would I do without you?

Posted by: kbertocci | April 12, 2006 2:44 PM | Report abuse

Sara, those pics are very nice.


Posted by: bc | April 12, 2006 2:45 PM | Report abuse

DAM*!!! I used the wrong "you're" AGAIN! Forget bilingual, I'm not even monolingual!

Posted by: Dooley | April 12, 2006 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Those Car Talk guys say you get your best mileage while going at the lowest speed in your top gear. For most cars, that's about 45 miles per hour. So I make it my business to drive at that speed at all times. Just doing my part for Mother Earth.

Say Mudge. On that original hybrid, which beast got better mileage?

Posted by: Bayou Self | April 12, 2006 2:47 PM | Report abuse

bc, yes, I do check it against the actual gas/odometer readings. It's always been within 4% of the actual mileage.

Geeks unite!

Posted by: Dooley | April 12, 2006 2:48 PM | Report abuse

Oddly, my dictionary has "forte" having Italian origin for music, but French for "a thing at which someone excels". I don't mess with the gendarme, however.

Posted by: SonofCarl | April 12, 2006 2:49 PM | Report abuse

thanks, achenfan, for posting my comments on Christy Turner.

For the record, nelson is a she. The post about painting terra cotta pots hot pink and flame orange was indeed a good hint.

I was going to wait until today to post the comments, as it was a bit late yesterday.

Maybe you could repost them? My computer refuses to allow me to cut and paste comments, for some reason (I'm not computer illiterate, really -- but sometimes my machine seems to have veto power over what I want it to do).

I wanted to add a bit to the comments, but it really isn't necessary at this point. (Note: I added all right, in spades!)

As for my sudden disappearances from the blog, some of you may remember my posts after Katrina about what true, cultural poverty is about.

I've had a muscle disease for 18 years now; it took me out of action working in DC in '92. I now live in subsidized housing outside of Williamsburg. It's rural subsidized housing, not DC style housing. (big difference!)

So, I can participate for bits of time, as I have limited hours of functionability (a real word?) I have to live my computer and go out and function. Not unlike having a job, except that taking care of myself is my job.

I admit to being stunned at how many of you can post so often to the boodle and still work. (is the assumption that many boodlers get work done at their jobs a fair one?)

I get tired after writing a long post. And I was late with the Christy Turner stuff -- I knew about him, but he is so radioactive in the field of Southwestern archaeology -- I wanted to do a bit of research on his stuff before posting again. The original post was mostly from memory, with the excpetion of looking at White's book for site name and such. Hence the later post.

It seems the last eruption of the cannibalism talk was in 1999, after more evidence of it turned up at the Cowboy Wash site, one also on the Ute Mountain Reservation in SW Colorado -- Mesa Verde country.

I was working (no remuneration) at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation's archaeobotanical lab at the time (lack of funding has since left the "lab" pretty much shut down).

My mentor, now at a small Jesuit college near San Franscisco, and I had a nice time debating the what-ifs. Not many of the historical archaeologists pay attention to what happens outside of their field (same as many other disciplines).

As someone who is an "environmental archaeologist" I look at cultures and human responses to change as being largely effected by the environment in which the culture is in. This is not environmental determinism. It's a lot more subtle and complex. Not only is a culture influenced by it's environment, but the culture also shapes the environment to its needs.

Environmental anthropology, cultural ecology, the viewpoint that humans live IN the environment, not ABOVE it, is actually not the majority view of most anthropologists, even some archaeologists, today. Many theories subscribe to the notion that only culture changes culture; again this is a crude representation of many nuanced and highly complex ideas.

A great example of culture changing the environment, and of the danace between the two, would be Australia. Prior to European colonization, the Aborigines had been burning the land for millennia -- to create different ecosystems that enabled better hunting, enabled different plants to flourish in areas that had reached ecological maturity. The entire ecology of the continent had been reshaped to the benefit of the humans. And Dreamtime, which is not only in the mystical, conceptual realm; it's firmly rooted in the physical plane of landscape. Of the ecosystem that the Aborigines created.

Burning land for subsistence (I do not meand slash and burn agriculture, but a larger program of shaping the parts of the ecology to fit human needs) is pretty much a worldwide phenonmenon. Tierra del Fuego got its Spanish name because the ships going round the tip of South America saw so many fires burning on the land. Hence, "Land of Fire."

Humans work in concert with -- and against -- the environment. A great book on how humans reshape land, and in the end how cultures must change to the reshaped land is William Cronon's "Changes in the Land: Indians, Colonists and the Ecology of New England."

This topic works very nicely with today's kit on climate change; if not the Smithsonian's anemic exhibit.

Anyway, all this is in preface to my stance on Christy Turner's hypothesis of foreign invaders terrorizing the indigenous Anasazi.

His analyses of the actual human remains that appear to be cannibalized are very good. Tim White backs him up here -- and White is a very big name in the world of physical anthropology.

It's what Turner does with the evidence of cannibalism that many archaeologists (myself included) find so objectionable.

In the absence of really any evidence, he asserts that foreigners from Mexico (he calls them Toltec "thugs") came into the Chaco area and forced the local Anasazi to build the grand ruins of Chaco Canyon. He believes that they were coerced into doing this by terrorism -- the specific terrorist method being cannibalism.

Here is where Turner is on mythical ground. Yes, there is solid evidence that cannibalism was practiced among the Anasazi. But it isn't systematic -- it isn't like what we see in Mexico.

And the physical evidence for a Mexican invasion is missing. Turner asserts that Chaco was not built by the indigenous population. There is no evidence to back this up.

There is evidence of Mexican cultural influence on some architectural elements in Chaco -- and at Wupatki and other sites in Arizona. Ballcourts, similar to ones used by the Aztecs, are present at these sites.

Among the Aztec, the ballgames were sacred battles, with the losers ending up sacrificed to the gods. Human sacrifice was so much a part of MesoAmerican cultures (Aztec, Mayan) that the religious ideas don't make sense without it.

But the physical relics of human sacrifice don't show up in Chaco. (The artifacts associated with cannibalism in the Anasazi area are always tools used for butchering.)

Those ritually sacrificed in MesoAmerican cultures were not butchered and eaten like animals. They were sacrificed by the elite priesthood by having their hearts cut out (while still alive) -- the hearts and blood were offered to the gods, and yes, flesh was eaten by the ruling elite -- hearts were also eaten by the priests. But the bodies themselves were not hacked apart.

Chaco looks much more like an indigenous site that certainly was influenced by Mexican cultures. It was a sophisticated trade center, and there was a culture of traders coming up from Mexico. Macaw feathers, and other items from Mexico have been found at Chaco.

But in limited quantities. There is no evidence that the ballcourts at sites in Arizona (I have not heard of any sites in Colorado having ballcourts -- I could be wrong here) were used for sacrifical games. No artifacts, no bones. We don't know.

Tuner believes the only way some of the architecture at Chaco could have been built was through terror. He uses the very heavy wood lintels at some of the sites as an example. These would have come from far away forests -- very, very heavy and hard to transport. He surmises that cannibalism was used as a means to get a compliant local culture to do the Toltecs' bidding.

Nonsense. The world is full of arhcitectural marvels that we 21st century humans have a hard time figuring out how they were built.

Chaco seems very much to be a reflection of Anasazi culture. The architecture is different than the cliff dwellings and other sites on the Colorado Plateau.

The D-ring structures at Pueblo Bonito are different. The masonry is different. The sites are bigger, more complex with featurs like ballcourts that are not found elsewhere.

But it is more like, than unlike other Anasazi sites. It is very unlike any contemporaneous Mexican architecture.

And yes, there are pockets of cannibalized human remains. But these aren't found in large amounts. Five here and there. The sites like Mancos Canyon are big -- 30 or so people being butchered.

If evidence of cannibalism were so pervasive, if every site at Chaco and other areas had large amounts of cannibalized remains -- if evidence of a system of cannibalization had been found -- some physical evidence of ritual or other systematized use -- was present, Turner at the least would have an argument that aspects of ritualized cannibalism were introduced to and adapted by the local Anasazi.

Turner proposes an idea that places culture alone, without any evidence to back it up, at the center of cannibalization. He does not propose any other reason, like, say, famine, as a reason.

That he resorts to a foreign presence, where no evidence backs him up, makes him look feckless.

He was a professor at ASU-Tempe in 1999. Not sure if he's still active or has emeritus status by now.

I have no doubt that there were incidents of cannibalism in the Anasazi culture, stretching over a period of about 250 years. White's analysis, and Turner's own bone analasis are very strong.

But Turner's theory, along with some squeamishness and political correctness have detracted from the real evidence.

Folks don't like to think of today's peaceful, "mystical" Pueblo Indians (and Zuni and Hopi tribes as well) as having any violence, especially cannibalism, in their history. Back in 1999-2000, when more evidence of cannibalism came out of the Cowboy Wash site, some archaeologists and anthropologists working for the Hopi called the whole idea racist.

(It is not at all clear that the Hopi or Zuni are the descendants of the Anasazi. Most likely the Rio Grande Pueblo villages are descended from whoever left the Mesa Verde area.) Chaco was abandoned earlier than Mesa Verde. Mesa Verde was abandoned by 1300CE. I was wrong when I corrected myself in my first posting.

So, like so many things that have solid scientific grounding (kick in to current "debates" on global warming), politcs and other wacky ideas detract from the very real evidence.

It's my understanding (given that I have not worked in the SW for a long time -- but I have kept up as best I can from my exile in the East) that most archaeologists with a good understanding of the physical evidence for cannibalism -- the analyses of the butchered humans -- believe that there was indeed incidents of cannibalism in the Anasazi culture.

The debate has moved quietly into the whys of these incidents -- famine, war, etc. The MSM picks up on the whole thing when another site hits the news.

Gotta go now. Won't be back to check in on things until after 5:00pm. May not be able to really look at boodle until tomorrow. Sorry.

Posted by: nelson | April 12, 2006 2:57 PM | Report abuse

I can't wait to see kb's take on "Charlotte Simmons". I also have strong feelings about the book and Tom Wolfe in general. I view him more as Guilty Pleasure than as Underappreciated Iconoclastic Literary Genius as he clearly sees himself. He's giving a talk at the Warner Theater next month, but you have to suck up to the National Endowment for the Humanities to get a ticket.

He's also talking in Baltimore the next day for some outrageous fee. I saw him for free circa 1988 at the University of South Florida for free. Something tells me his schtick hasn't changed much.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 12, 2006 2:57 PM | Report abuse

OK, I'm feeling completely left out because when I go to Sara's blog the latest post is 3.09.2006 - The Life of Sara. sheesh, I'm going home.

Posted by: omni | April 12, 2006 2:58 PM | Report abuse

RD, yours sounds like a tough job, especially the part about knowing without asking.

Nani, the students at NC Central are really upset, and so are some of the folks that live in Durham. I hope the truth is found out, and until then, we'll just have to wait, but it seems the defense is trying the case in the media. Most people are outraged because everybody involved, except the victim, took their sweet time in obtaining evidence, and reporting the incident. Rape is a crime of violence, not love, and the fact that no DNA was found, for me, doesn't really change the story, because one would assume they probably used condoms. I don't see them taking any risk, if they did in fact commit said crime.

Posted by: Cassandra S | April 12, 2006 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Dooley, please to claim English as a Second Language (ESL) as I do. Glad to hear you're in the same geek neighborhood that I am.

My primary language is grunts and scratching, BTW.

B Self, Click and Clack are kinda right about the fuel mileage thing, except when you're lugging the engine or have to open the throttle wide to accelerate.

I have a mid-sized 6 cylinder sedan as my primary transporation, and get nearly 30 MPG city and highway combined (get in the mid-30s highway, mid-upper 20s city). Like I said, manual transmissions can make a big difference.


Posted by: bc | April 12, 2006 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra - I have been married for nearly 18 years now, so I am starting to get the hang of it.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 12, 2006 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Dooley, thanks so much. My graduation gift to no. 2 granddaughter next year is a trip to D.C. (as she specifically requested) and the Smithsonian is at the top of her list of things to see. Mine too, now that you mention the history of horses.

Posted by: Nani | April 12, 2006 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Nelson, thanks so much for that explanation of cannabalism. Wow, having your heart cut out alive. Sounds like what the Europeans did to traitors in the 16th century...We here on the Boodle appreciate your insights.

I think we all blog when we can, in between tasks at work. Personally, I can hardly wait to retire so I can blog more often. (8 months, 2 weeks, one day...not that I'm counting...)

Posted by: slyness | April 12, 2006 3:20 PM | Report abuse


Hope you get back to the Boodle soon and in good health. I'll actually be in your neck of the woods next week on business.

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 12, 2006 3:24 PM | Report abuse

Fils de Carl, I checked my "petit Robert" and there it was : no accent aigu (or aiguë, your choice). I've seen the regular Robert once, in a linguist's office. This is what I call a dictionary, six large format volumes of about a thousand pages each.

Posted by: Gendarme de la grammaire | April 12, 2006 3:25 PM | Report abuse


Try holding down the CTRL key and the F5 key to force a refresh. Your browser is probably loading a cached copy of sara's blog.

The Smoking Gun has the full police report/search warrant for the Duke Lacrosse team. If things happened as described, they are very sick individually and collectively.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 12, 2006 3:30 PM | Report abuse

On mileage and odometers (I put off errands for a while).

I don't have much money, so I drive a 1992 Ford Escort. I set the trip odometer each time I fill the tank. The tank holds about 11.5 gallons. I can get, if I really stretch it, about 340 miles per tank, city miles (if one could actually call Williamsburg and environs "city").

So I'm getting roughly 28-30 mpg in a 14 year old Ford! And the car is like the energizer bunny -- it's got 177,000 miles on it and won't stop (I pray I don't junx myself here).

My entire family routinely keeps track of mileage like I do. My father and I discuss mileage with great excitement. We also discuss weather with great excitement. Not sure what this says about us.

I just read some posts to another boodle about people being hit by lightning.

I was knocked down by lightning when I was about 8 or 9. Me and a friend of mine were running to get into the house at a neighboring ranch during the middle of a hellatious storm. Suddenly we felt this tremendous surge, and then were blown backwards about ten feet (it felt like 100!) and landed on our keesters.

by the time we got to the house we were both absolutely hysterical, with good reason.

Also, the house we lived in when I was 3 through 9 or 10 was hit twice. Once when my mother and all four of us kids were home. It was wild -- you could see the electrical charge running across the walls. We all huddled in the middle of the kitchen and screamed very loudly. but I also remember being excited.

The second time, no one was home. When we did come home, one wall of my parents' bedroom was scorched, and their alarm clock had been blown out of the wall; we found it in the living room, blackened.

This was the same house (it was 3 bedrooms for 6 of us and no central heating; it had been built as a homestead house on the land we then owned) that was swarmed by bees -- really -- it started in the bedroom my sister and I shared. It was scarier than the lightning.

My poor mother. Raised in Chevy Chase, DC, she found herself living in a primitive house in Colorado, isolated on lots of land, with nothing but more empty land around the land we owned. My father owned the local Conoco station and my mother raised thorougbred horses on our "ranch."

To explain -- my family moved from DC (where I and two other sibs were born) to Colorado in October 1962. My mother's mother and her step-father, an air force colonel had just moved to the town of Monument (five or so miles north of the then-being-built Air Force Academy). Mother maintains we moved because of the Cuban Missile Crisis. My father maintains we moved because Mother wanted to be near her own mother. Nelson family history. My mother was a Montgomery, granddaughter to William Montgomery, who built Blythe Knoll in Rock Creek Park. Lots of dough.

She eloped her second semester at the University of Maryland -- College Park with my father -- son of the Nelson Studebakers' dealer in College Park. She was 18 -- he 23.

The entire family is spending a week at Pawley's Island in June to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.

How these two people stayed together for fifty years with such a rough beginning, and middle for that matter, is a story of determination, grit and love.

Mother was unprepared for the forces of nature in rural Colorado. We were always getting three plus feet of snow; my father could not get home (a fact he relished) and my mother would be stuck for two or three days with four wild indians and not enough food. No electricity was the norm.

My parents never learned how to prepare for winters. I remember one time (another memory I love) that Mother dispatched my sister and I to the barn to chop up pieces of the old dairying structures that we didn't use for firewood.

We were never in danger of starvation or of freezing. The plows eventually would make it through on day two or three. but I can imagine how the young mother of four kids might have felt.

Okay -- I really gotta go now.

Posted by: nelson | April 12, 2006 3:37 PM | Report abuse

RD, here's wishing you eighteen more years of martial bliss. I marvel at folks that stay together a long time, because it just isn't something that we see much of today. Everything is so fast and quick, even marriage, and I don't believe people even see marriage as a lifetime committment anymore. And that is sad. My marriages didn't work out, but I'm a big advocate of marriage and family. It is certainly the foundation of any country.

Posted by: Cassandra S | April 12, 2006 3:38 PM | Report abuse

Not to change the subject or anything, but is anyone else excited about the prospect of a bench clearing brawl tonight when Pedro plunks Guillen AGAIN?

Posted by: jw | April 12, 2006 3:38 PM | Report abuse

skottynuke -- enjoy Williamsburg. It's a nice place to visit.

The pharmacy is gonna close before I get off this boodle!!!


Posted by: nelson | April 12, 2006 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for answering (almost) all of my questions, Dooley, at pretty much the drop of a dime.

You have become my new object of temporary fascination. *w*

Please answer me this, though. Why lurk for about six months, according to your own "testimony," before deciding to jump in with both feet into the Boodle? And it took a mention of the Hox genes to bring you in? Did you ever feel tempted to jump in earlier (and before you did, toward the end of last week)?

(The advantage to lurking for that time, I see, is that you know us all well, for example, being familiar with Nani's love of horses--and who knows what else...)

Two last questions? What would have sent FB Loomis to study in Munich? Any ideas? And *how* did you know that Loomis was Romer's mentor/professor?

nelson, your posts are a delight. I'm glad you can join as you are able and in those time periods when you can function. Is your muscle disease of genetic origin? Your pots sound colorful--I've seen similar at our annual Southwest Craft School art show.

Posted by: Loomis | April 12, 2006 3:40 PM | Report abuse

I'd love to see Bush (or someone, anyone) say "Change your car air filters once a year or so, check tire pressure monthly". But that would be simple, cheap, easy, and a no-brainer maybe 5% fuel savings countrywide, so I guess that's why I know people who never do it, and don't even get that it needs to be done. (I'm guilty, I only realized I hadn't changed the filter in my Civic when I realized the mileage dropped markedly. Probably would have saved me $25 or so at least if I'd replaced it when the mileage first started dropping.)

If I'm skeptical that the 1 deg C (or is it F? I see different things) increase over the last century is causing hurricanes, does that automatically make me a liberal? I don't get it. Science is supposed to be science.

If I read that the refrigerants used to replace Freon are 10-20% less efficient than Freon, and therefore we're burning lots more coal for AC and refrigeration nowadays, and I also read that it looks like the ozone hole in the Antarctic sky repaired itself way faster than the models predicted, and oh, by the way, that hole might possibly be part of a natural cycle anyway, well, what does that mean?

Surely nobody objects that in consideration of global warming, the absolute best thing we could be doing now as a country and/or planet is seriously investing in science and satellites to get much better data on solar activity, and all manner of climate data- but then I read about terrestrial science and Earth observing satellite programs at NASA all but drying up and blowing away, and I scratch my head.

Posted by: Les | April 12, 2006 3:43 PM | Report abuse

I don't mean to kill the thread going here, but you know, African-Americans are just a tad skeptical concerning the Duke incident because of the history, the slave history. White women would say they were raped by African-American men, and an angry group of White men would hang that man on a tree. And not too long ago, I'm sure most of you remember that Susan Smith said an African-American male took her two children, when in fact she stood on the bank of the lake and watched her children drown. So there is reason for skepticism.

Posted by: Cassandra S | April 12, 2006 3:46 PM | Report abuse

I'm guessing that the issue isn't that the alleged victim is an African American, it's that, ya know, she takes her clothes off and gyrates on guys' laps for money.

I'm not sure I'm understanding what you're saying Cassandra--do you mean African Americans are skeptical of the teams innocence, or guilt? The atheletes being accused are white, so your examples of lynchings and other false accusations towards blacks doesn't really fit.

Posted by: jw | April 12, 2006 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Laughing here, jw. If Pedro plunks Guillen again, not only will the bench clear, the entire stands might do that, too. (As an ex-umpire and nothwithstanding my pro-Nationals bias, I gotta say it's time somebody suspended Pedro for that crap.) But yeah, I'm kinda interesting in watching for that reason alone.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 12, 2006 3:58 PM | Report abuse

What I was trying to say, and please excuse me for not doing a better job, is that these folks will lie. And lying is not limited to White people, Black folks lie too, but I guess what I'm trying to say is that history shows that White people will lie knowing that when they lie, a life will be lost. But it doesn't matter about the loss of that life because they don't see it as having meaning as compared to theirs.

Posted by: Cassandra S | April 12, 2006 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Since so much of the media coverage concerning this Duke case has been bowlderized in the media, here is the Smoking Gun link to the search warrant which includes the victim's description of the events.

In my 11:22am post I explained that what drunk frat boys think they're paying for and what the dancers say they're willing to do are often very diferent things.

This was a "two girl" party which almost always includes the girls fondling each other or more. Not that I know any of this first hand mind you. I hear talk, that's all.

If the police report is true, these guys are pretty bad seeds and have probably had similar parties before. One in particular is psycho-killer sick.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 12, 2006 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the correction, gendarme, I guess I was too excited over wanting to use the symbols. For the record, then:

SCC: forte

*revs non-hybrid SUV engine, puts back on mirrored sunglasses* See you next time!

Posted by: SonofCarl | April 12, 2006 4:11 PM | Report abuse

And, jw, I realize that her way of making a living isn't up there with the best of them, but I don't believe that she deserved to be raped because of her profession. No, means no, whether it comes out the socialite's mouth or the stripper's mouth.

Posted by: Cassandra S | April 12, 2006 4:12 PM | Report abuse



Posted by: bc | April 12, 2006 4:15 PM | Report abuse

nelson, thank you so much for taking the time and posting about the Colorado plateau people.

Posted by: dr | April 12, 2006 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Nelson, No Way! My house was hit by lightning twice when I was growing up. Once it blew up our well pump, and the other time it shot out of a kitchen electrical outlet and shot across the room. It was great! (to a 10-year-old).

My father was hit by lightning, too. He used to work ground crew for Piedmont Airlines. He was standing with his hand on a 737, when lightning struck the airplane's vertical tail. The plane wasn't grounded, but my Dad's old shoes had boot nails sticking through the worn soles, so he was grounded. The strike threw him 15 feet through the air and knocked him out. But that was the 1970s, and pre-union. I think after they woke him up, they put him back to work.

Posted by: Dooley | April 12, 2006 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Hi nelson. I love your comments, especially about your family. My uncle once had to pull up some fence posts for firewood when the winter lasted longer than our wood pile.

Posted by: Nani | April 12, 2006 4:30 PM | Report abuse

From 'way up here in DC, I don't know what anyone's skin color has to do with the facts of a case or lies.

I wasn't there, I don't know what happened. The authorities in charge of the case are entrusted to try to find the truth and take action based on their findings.

Cassandra, I'm at a loss as to understand what you're trying to achieve with your 4:06 PM comments.


Posted by: bc | April 12, 2006 4:32 PM | Report abuse

bc, some women have a hard life, I know, because I'm one of them. I guess I've killed the boodle. I need to wait until the evening and just check in then, comment, go to bed, and let that do. I get so out of sort with this kind of thing, because it happens all the time, and we just skip over it, and move on to something else, and that's it. I hope the truth is found out in this case. I know somebody is lying, just don't know who.

Posted by: Cassandra S | April 12, 2006 4:35 PM | Report abuse

yellowjkt, thanks for that link.

I agree with Cassandra that no does mean no, full stop.

I note, however, that the graphic email was sent (from x's email account, to the extent that that proves anything) after the alleged incident, so the character assassination is going both ways.

I also doubt the email is admissible in the trial of this matter. I believe US law is the same as Canadian in that prosecutors cannot lead evidence of an accused's 'bad character'. Such evidence can be used to rebut an accused that alleges 'good character'. The exception is 'similar fact' evidence in which a pattern of activity or conduct may be led as evidence that the act at issue is in keeping with this pattern. An email after the fact, however, seems more prejudicial than probative.

Posted by: SonofCarl | April 12, 2006 4:36 PM | Report abuse

nelson and Dooley,
FB Loomis' grandfather was struck and killed by lightning. FB's dad also died a very strange and unusual death.

Some of the more unusual deaths on the family tree, but not *the* most unusual.

Posted by: Loomis | April 12, 2006 4:41 PM | Report abuse

I so rarely get to rant on my area of expertise since air conditioning is so boring, even to geeks. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s) were outlawed several years ago. These include CFC-12, which was used in a lot of car air conditioners. All new cars use HFC-134a which is a hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) that does not have any ozone harming chlorine.

Home air conditioners use HCFC-22, which is a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC). These have chlorine but are one-hundredth as harmful to the ozone layer as CFC’s. They are being replaced with either HFC-407c or HFC-410. Neither of these are a direct substitute for HCFC-22 and required serious changes to your system. There are “drop-in” replacements, but they seriously degrade the capacity and efficiency of the existing system, and I wouldn’t recommend them.

The good news is that systems that are designed from the ground up to use the new refrigerants are much more efficient than most existing systems. Your SEER number is the key. SEER 10 used to be the minimum, but that just got raised to SEER 13 by the Department of Energy (despite Bush administration attempts to lower it). There are systems on the market that claim efficiencies of SEER 15 to 18, which would make them nearly twice as efficient than air conditioners from two decades ago.

In large commercial and industrial equipment, HFC’s are theoretically less efficient than the CFC’s they replace which makes some concerned about global warming effects from the greater electrical consumption required. In practice new air conditioners are almost always more efficient than the ones they replace.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 12, 2006 4:45 PM | Report abuse

"You have become my new object of temporary fascination. *w*"

I'm not sure what that means, but I better not let Mrs. Dooley find out :)

As for why I lurked for so long, I'd like to say that if I don't know what I'm talking about, I keep my mouth shut. But I can hear Mrs. Dooley's response to that:

"Bulls***t! You'll go on about anything!"
"But it's not my fault if I know everything!"
(Eye rolling, and a smack to the side of the head)
"See! I KNEW that would happen!"

Reality, though, is that my work doesn't often allow my to follow daily, because I'm away from the office and home a lot. I've had an unusually long stretch of one month with no out-of-town travel. And, I really am more interested on most topics in hearing other people's views--I'm already familiar with my own.

Also, I knew if I posted, I'd get addicted.

Today I can go hog wild because I'm home with my son. Tomorrow I'll be in the field all day--the weather's warm again, and it's time to collect fossils!

As for Loomis in Munich, I'm not sure why he went there. They weren't slouches in Munich--there was a lot of cutting-edge biology there at the time. If I'd had an opportunity to go to Munich then, I'd have jumped at it.

As for Loomis and Romer: Loomis taught at Amherst from 1899-1937; from 1908-1918 he was Professor of Comparative Anatomy. Romer graduated from Amherst in 1917.

Amherst was and is a small school (they're a competitor to my alma mater, Carleton College, which has ~1800 students now). There's no way Romer didn't take comparative anatomy at Amherst--that's what he became famous for, and there's no way that Amherst had more than one CA professor. Inference, but I don't have any doubt. I do wonder, though--with Loomis doing paleontology--was he the person that inspired Romer to become a paleontologist? I have no idea.

Posted by: Dooley | April 12, 2006 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Dooley: "I'd like to say that if I don't know what I'm talking about, I keep my mouth shut."

SonofCarl: "that hits close to home"

Dooley: "Also, I knew if I posted, I'd get addicted."

SonofCarl: "see above"

Posted by: SonofCarl | April 12, 2006 4:56 PM | Report abuse

I apologize for any role I may have played in the untimely death of the boodle. In case it wasn't clear, my last post referred to my own inability to keep my trap shut and related addiction.

Posted by: SonofCarl | April 12, 2006 5:26 PM | Report abuse

Please memorize: exosphere, thermosphere, mesosphere, stratosphere, troposphere."

Bayou self: Easy. E-T-M-S-T, which spells...nothing

May I submit this mnemonic:

E.T. Meets Stupid Terrans.

Exosphere--far reaches of the atmopshere-- outer space with a few air molecules wafting off earth like B.O.

Thermosphere- the hot part as his pod heats up

Mesosphere-- where E.T. gets his first gander of the pollution below in the...

Stratosphere, where he whizzes through clouds that chars his pod with acid pre-rain.

Troposphere is where he finds he's heading for Florida, not Kansas

If I have this absolutely wrong, I'm not surprised, being a stupid terran.

I am glad nobody IS discussing Milkanovitch cycles. Please continue this.

I already saw "Being John Milkanovitch" once and the idea of being forced to watch that in endless cycles of life makes me want to phone in a direct nonstop ticket to Nirvana, where the wind does not blow and there are no 40+ year old actors impersonating string puppets.

Posted by: Wilbrod | April 12, 2006 5:28 PM | Report abuse

The boodle is usually pretty quiescent once the government workers hear the whistle blow.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 12, 2006 5:28 PM | Report abuse

I've noticed that.

Posted by: Wilbrod | April 12, 2006 5:32 PM | Report abuse

Now that everyone is gone, yellojkt can tell us all the band camp stories.

Posted by: SonofCarl | April 12, 2006 5:33 PM | Report abuse

Tomorrow I'm going into the field to look at Triassic Period rocks that show the effects of something like 37 Milankovitch cycles, or so I've been told. If I can identify the cycles, then I'm going to make my students try to do it. As I tell my students during their first lab exercise--"The college barely pays me enough to cover my gas expenses. I only teach for the sadistic pleasure."

Posted by: Dooley | April 12, 2006 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like a very good reason to teach to me.

Posted by: Wilbrod | April 12, 2006 5:40 PM | Report abuse

The band camp stories are on my blog. By my count we had two couples reach new levels of public displays of affection, two pairs of girls making the gender separation policy moot, and at least one beer, and probably many more, discretely drunk.

Here's the long version. Make sure to read the comments to get all the dirt.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 12, 2006 5:42 PM | Report abuse

yello: a fine account. Also, suprise finish in the NCCC. If only they could all be winners.

Posted by: SonofCarl | April 12, 2006 6:06 PM | Report abuse

A few other point on the Achenblog:

I did find it pleasantly surprising to find HOX genes mentioned--it's not something you hear about outside of scientific circles very often. Living where I do in rural Virginia, it's sometimes tough to even mention things like evolution--much less actually carry on a conversation about it (rather than a defense of it).

Also, the atmosphere here is very different. For awhile I was reading Bert Stover's blog, Reporting for Duty. Bert's a good writer, and I find his posts fascinating. Military history is my hobby, and although I never served myself much of my family has. So I was really interested in what Bert had to say.

But the comments were awful. It was all left-wingers bashing the war (I agree with them, but not the place for it), or right-wingers bashing the left wingers for shear spite (again, not the place for it). I just wanted to know how Bert was doing, and if he was OK.

At any rate, the different atmosphere here has encouraged me to keep reading, and now, post, when I can.

Posted by: Dooley | April 12, 2006 6:08 PM | Report abuse

Sigh . . . I'm addicted, what can I say? Went out and did some errands, should be doing other things or resting, but here I am, boodling my life away. The house is dirty, dinner isn't cooking itself, the kitty is crying for attention (she gets plenty), and here I am, sitting in front of my computer, doing my best to get carpal tunnel syndrome.

Dooley -- that's so cool -- another house that was struck twice. I'm so glad your dad was grounded.

Loomis, I'm normally very careful to name my disease because it can still be stigmatizing after god knows how many trees have been sacrificed to print research validating its reality and ramifications.

I have Fibromyalgia. Big Time. It comes not only with all over, incapacitating muscle pain (think lightning striking inside one's body) but with myriad other symptoms that make it difficult to diagnose, and expensive to treat. And bone-crushing, soul-sucking fatigue.

It does seem to have genetic origins in some families where two or more members get it. For me it was a sudden onset case of what was at first diagnosed as flu, in November of 1987, that started the whole ball rolling. The rest of my family are all disgustingly, blissfully healthy. May they remain so.

I'm not really comfortable going into exteme detail . . . I spent years feeling victim to the universe; angry at everyone and everything for being knocked out of the game of life (so I thought) at so young an age. (I first went to my doc with symptoms on my 29th b'day).

But to summarize: Besides the pain I have what are called the Fibro 5; migraine, mitrovalve prolapse, hypothryoidsim (this did not set in until after I was on disability), bladder and bowel troubles -- to name a few of my ancillary symptoms.

In 1992, five years after becoming sick and into my second short-term disability (which turned into the long-term one) I was living in fetal position, in so much pain I could not get out of bed. So I began to take pain meds (I still do); all those years ago they enabled me to get small things done, get out a bit, etc.

I was living in the Kennedy-Warren on Connecticut Avenue at the time. Top floor -- man, getting in and out of that building was a nightmare.

I actually ended up moving in with my parents for 18 months I was so sick.

But some of the worst ancillary problems eased up or even disappeared (I even had diabetes insipidus for many years -- not enough anti-diuretic hormone for the body to hold fluids -- severe dehydration and many hospitalizations) over the years.

A few years ago, I started to get better. I attribute this to two changes in my life.

One is that I became an avid gardener. I had always had help with the heavy stuff -- leaving me to manage deadheading, watering, etc. But when I moved into my subsidized apartment, which has a huge oversized sliding glass door that opens onto a real backyard (see, this ain't DC housing!) I decided if I was going to garden, I had to do it myself.

So I very slowly amended or completely got rid of about a foot of solid clay over a 100 SF (maybe bigger) area and began to transplant my perennials. I hauled compost around. I would spend 4 hours in the garden and two days in bed. Then 4 hours in the garden and 1 day in bed and another dazed and confused on the sofa.

Very slowly, I was able to actually work through the pain to get in shape. I had always been athletic -- long-distance cycling, running. I had been a swimmer and gymnast in my early teen years. I knew how to move dirt from all those years as an archaeologist.

But pain had reduced my body to a soft wreck. All research on fibromyalgia stresses the need for exercise. But for years I could not. Not so suddenly, in 2003, I started to strengthen my muscles again. I was able to. I could not have done it even 2 years prior.

Getting in shape helped my stamina. I still have about 6 to 7 useful hours a day. I sleep 10 hours a nite. You'll never see a post from me before noon! But the garden started a process of a fair amount of recovery for me.

I now have a rather large perennial garden (all organic) which I fuss over like it's going to be exhibited in "Horticulture." Not doing any veggies this year though -- too dry.

In the fall of '04, I realized I was in pretty good shape. So I joined the local Rec Center and started -- slowly -- swimming. In '00 and '01 my pain management doctor and I had twice tried PT in the water. I could not even walk up and down the width of the pool a few times without ending up in fetal position for days. Winter of '04 and '05 found me gradually building up to where I could swim 40 laps (one kilometer) in 40 minutes! I also started using the weights.

Last winter I didn't have the money to renew my membership to the rec center and I've paid a high price -- just now able to really work in garden and get through a whole day without ending up back in bed. But pain level is high again.

The garden is the first thing to which I attribute getting better.

The second is Buddhist style meditation.

I began studying Tibetan Buddhism in spring of '01. At the time, the class always reserved the loveseat in our study room for me -- I couldn't sit up for two full hours.

I was also initially too sick to really meditate. Pain is an awful distractor. And couldn't sit up for long periods.

But between the garden and continued meditation I've managed to get to a point where I have some sort of life. And acceptance of what I don't have. Like the Ph.D. I'll never get, despite repeated attempts post-illness to go to school.

It's all okay now. The garden brings me such joy; it's very quiet back here and I can dig in the dirt, watch beautiful plants grow and thrive, listen to birdsong. Even on bad days I can just sit, look and listen. The huge black willow that dominates my "backyard" will be in full leaf in another 3 weeks, from then until mid-October no one can see into my little slice of public-owned paradise.

And in a wonderful twist of irony, tomorrow I'm going to go to my pain management doc's house to give her advice on landscaping her property.

Life is very strange -- and wonderful.

Posted by: nelson | April 12, 2006 6:19 PM | Report abuse

scottynuke -- sorry for the misspelling of your boodle name. I hope you enjoy the 'Burg.

Lots of construction under way right now. Pardon the mess.

Posted by: nelson | April 12, 2006 6:27 PM | Report abuse

To all you newcomers. I don't know exactly why this blog works most of the time, but a lot has to do with the fact that people here hang around long enough to actually care about each other's opinions. Many have met in real life. So there seems a lot less drive-by shooting. So we encourage you to stick around. Put your feet up. Light up a stogie. Just don't do it naked. That's Gene Weingarten's turf.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 12, 2006 7:43 PM | Report abuse

One other thing. The people here seem to have a short attention span when it comes to disagreements. It's kind of like a preschool class that way. People can get into spats, but by tomorrow everybody is friendly again. We can partly thank Joel for that. He is good at changing the subject. So I hope lots of new people join in. It keeps things interesting.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 12, 2006 7:54 PM | Report abuse

nelson, in case you are still here I really liked your posts. I wish you lived closer because I have a huge drainage problem in my yard and have been havng a heck of a tiem getting a reasonable solution to it.

So is there a BPH tonight that I didn't know about? It's kinda quiet....

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 12, 2006 8:02 PM | Report abuse

nelson, no worries. As long as we're referred to by a close approximation of the handles we use, we reply. And I've been to the 'Burg before, although it was a fairly literal drive-by -- taking the kidlets to Busch Gardens. :-O

And I have a friend with the big F, so in some small way I understand. Keep up the exercise as much as possible. :-)

RDP, no BPH in the near future.

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 12, 2006 8:09 PM | Report abuse

Hey Scottynuke - question for you actually kinda on topic. Why do you think nukes haven't been mentioned more in context with global warming? I read a book in high school called "The Dangers of Not Going Nuclear," that made some good points. Plus, there are a lot of new designs with that promising granular fuel. I just think that more public dialogue needs to occur. At work they are stressing something called "alternative analysis" an awful lot. I think the nation needs to consider alternatives that aren't necessarily univerally popular, and that includes nukes. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 12, 2006 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Nelson, may you continue to improve in health. I've known a couple of people with fibromyalgia, and it's a terrible disease. Gardening is a wonderful activity, isn't it? My mother used to say that helping God grow plants is second in satisfaction only to helping Him grow kids. I love playing in the dirt and look forward to having more time to do it when I retire. My lot is almost half an acre, and there's much too much grass for me, but grass is my husband's passion, so I let him enjoy it. We are gradually implementing the landscaping plan we had done ten years ago, but I want more places for flowers and vegetables...My yard is truly a memorial to my mother, who gave me many of the plants I cherish: a tea olive, a Lady Banks rose, camellias, irises, dianthus, and the rose bush that my grandmother picked from to make her wedding bouquet.

At the back of the yard, we had let ivy run wild, so on a nice Saturday in February we both went out and starting pulling. We stopped when we had stuffed our two 55-gallon barrels full, which took 45 minutes or so. I thought I would rather die for about four days, I was so sore all over - back, arms, legs, wrists, everywhere. But it was completely worthwhile.

bc, thanks for the input on what kind of car to buy. My husband is anal about vehicle cleanliness and I'm pretty good with keeping up with engine/drivetrain maintenance, having learned the hard way. I think I'll continue on the path for a small wagon, which was where I had been headed. I don't think I'll drive 12,000 miles annually when I'm not working full-time.

Posted by: Slyness | April 12, 2006 8:27 PM | Report abuse

RD, I think it was in The Straight Dope that I read recently that there's enough energy in the uranium in Chattanooga shale to keep us going for centuries. I don't understand the political issues with nuclear electricity. My ex is a health physicist for the local utility and, having been in the fire service for a very long time, I have a different perspective on risks. For heavens sake, gasoline is much more dangerous - it's all over the place, and in the hands of idiots! But I guess I'm weird, and in a distinct minority.

Posted by: Slyness | April 12, 2006 8:34 PM | Report abuse

Just getting back in, hope everyone gets a good night's sleep. I certainly hope my back and legs feel better tomorrow. I wrote a comment just before I left around five, but I think it got lost because I hit a wrong button. It's just as well, more than likely wouldn't have cleared up anything. Good night all.

Posted by: Cassandra S | April 12, 2006 8:36 PM | Report abuse

RDP -- Actually, nuclear HAS gotten a lot of support with regards to fighting global warming, including by some prominent environmentalists, such as James Lovelock, author of the "Gaia theory." And yes, the reactor designs currently being built around the world are very robust, with better ones on the drawing board. (never mind 40 years of U.S. operation with no members of the public affected by radiation, including Three Mile Island.) Unfortunately, dialogue is hard to come by because "radioactive" is such a poorly understood (and therefore polarizing) concept. Apparently, very few people want to consider the possibility we'll need EVERY energy source available, no matter how good solar and wind power get. It's yet another example of facts trying to compete with dogma, and you know how that goes. *SIGH*

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 12, 2006 8:40 PM | Report abuse

Slyness -- EXACTLY. Risk is another very poorly understood concept, with people expecting "zero risk" to be reasonable and achieveable.

And let me clarify my earlier post. 40 years of commercial nuclear power plant operation, and no member of the public has been harmed by radiation from those plants.

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 12, 2006 8:43 PM | Report abuse

SCC: "Forty years"


Posted by: Scottynuke | April 12, 2006 8:44 PM | Report abuse

Through high school and college, I was pretty anti-nuke. That's not the case for me anymore--I definitely support them now. No, they aren't perfectly safe, but nothing is. I'm not convinced anymore that even 50 nuclear accidents would be worse than what coal plants are already doing, even disregarding the potential climate change issues. It's definitely the lesser of two evils.

Posted by: Dooley | April 12, 2006 8:51 PM | Report abuse

Ah, didn't mean to bail on ya, Cassandra.

Just had real life responsibilites that I need to attend to.

I think we're all reasonable people here. No *does* mean no, and if crimes were committed, those responsible should be held accountable in accordance with the law.

I just don't think facts have skin color. And I also think that the law shouldn't favor those that have the most money, though in many cases it sure looks like it does.

Being upset about the Duke lacrosse situation is understandable, and if that email in the link above is in fact from a Duke player, I think that person should stop watching the movie "American Psycho" and get professional help.

And I hope we can all behave and communicate in ways that promote seeking the truth and healing, rather than using polarizing language that foments anger and hatred.

nelson, I hope your healing continues, and I appreciate your attitude (and Ms. Loomis' as well) in the face of the difficulties you face.

Well, it's storytime for my 6 year-old. Later, folks.


Posted by: bc | April 12, 2006 8:52 PM | Report abuse

Thanks scottynuke! Good thoughts!

Cassandra - I can't pretend that I can view life through your eyes, but lots of us really do try to be colorblind.

bc - 6 year old! What a magical age. Hold on to it.

Night all. Drive safely.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 12, 2006 9:08 PM | Report abuse

I knew that if I ever wanted to write about my high school biology partner (we worked in teams) Carl Gifford, that I wanted his permission to do so. He was one of the people whom I, about a hanful of years ago, wanted to find after 20 or so years' time, along with my first husband.

I contacted the principal of Bakersfield High School about five or six years ago (I hadn't known him), and he was kind enough to put me in touch with a person from my graduating class, Janet Harris Bowles, who stayed in town and kept in contact with many people from our graduating class.

I called Janet and she was able to provide me Carl's phone number. But I was surprised and saddened to learn that Janet lives with both lupus and fibromyalgia, and we spoke of those things, her medical conditions. Janet and I were in student government and on student council during our senior year--she was the pep rally commissioner, and I, the historian. It was she who told me then, about five or six years ago, that our fellow classmember who served as Danny Driller worked at the Stae Department in Washington, D.C. I often wonder what Russ is truly doing these days.

Gardening, too, is my spiritual balm, and after bookstores, nurseries are one of my favorite places to be.

Posted by: Loomis | April 12, 2006 9:16 PM | Report abuse

A news article posted for tomorrow's NYT by John Noble Wilford, whom I mentioned already today--about new fossil evidence:

New Fossils Add Link to the Chain of the Evolution of Humans
By John Noble Wilford
Published: April 13, 2006

In following the fossil tracks of human evolution, scientists have for years searched for links between Australopithecus, the kin of the famous "Lucy" skeleton, and even earlier possible ancestors. Now, they think they have found some connections in Ethiopia.

An international team of paleontologists is reporting the discovery of transitional species superimposed in sediments in the neighborhood of a single site. The findings appear today in the journal Nature.

Tim D. White, a paleontologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who was a team leader, and his colleagues said the 4.1-million-year-old fossils were anatomically intermediate between the earlier species Ardipithecus ramidus and the later species Australopithecus afarensis, the Lucy family. The newfound bones and teeth are the earliest remains of the most primitive Australopithecus, known as anamensis.

Posted by: Loomis | April 12, 2006 9:30 PM | Report abuse

Cassandra, I understood what you were saying about the Duke incident. I think it would have been handled very differently, by the police and the media, had the accused rapists been black and the victim white (that is, I think the accused would be cooling their heels in jail). Maybe I'm just a cynic. And maybe this is being handled correctly - I hope the truth comes out. I will be really upset if it turns out the victim is lying, because rape victims already have a credibility problem.

Posted by: mostlylurking | April 12, 2006 9:58 PM | Report abuse

Nice to hear from other gardeners! Glad it's helped with your health problems, nelson. I know it helps me a lot with my mental health - it restores my soul. I have plants that remind me of my two favorite aunts, who were wonderful gardeners. I grow Heavenly Blue morning glories (or attempt to) because I have a wonderful memory of being with my mother, hanging out laundry on a beautiful summer day, and seeing those flowers - the color of the sky - it takes my breath away.

Posted by: mostlylurking | April 12, 2006 10:05 PM | Report abuse

I read where Scott McClellan used the phrase "turn on a dime" trying to defend the Prez - something about getting one intelligence report, then one that drew the opposite conclusion. We in the boodle take pride in being able to turn on a dime!

nani, there was a chat about horses this week:

Now, I must read Sara's blog...

Posted by: mostlylurking | April 12, 2006 10:14 PM | Report abuse

Nelson, sorry to hear about your fibromyalgia. I have it, too, but not nearly as bad as yours by several magnitudes. As you may have read previously, I was a local baseball/softball umpire for 17 years, and had ever intention of going for 20, if not 25, before "retiring:--but it was the onset of fibromyalgia in my legs that terminated my career. Could no longer stand for long periods, much less move. Mine came with some chronic myofascial pain (CMP in the lingo), with occasional "flares" (you know about this, even if most boodlers don't). So far I've had five flares, which last about a day. On a pain scale, the fibro in my legs never got much above a 3 or a 4, but it was pretty constant--though still nothing remotely close to yours. It took me three years to get a diagnosis, and I think I'd seen every specialist known to man, and nobody knew what it was. I actually wound up diagnosing it myself. In a bookstore one day, I happened to see a copy of Copeland's book, which has the drawings of all the trigger points on the cover--you probably know it. I'd never even heard of a trigger point, or the words fibromyalgia or CMP. But I saw some of those trigger points, and thought, hmmm, that's what I have. So I bought and read the book, and only THEN found a specialist, who confirmed the diagnosis (felt like sending HIM the bill, since I did all the work). All in all, it sank my opinion of the medical profession even further than it already was.

When people ask me what mine feels like, I say, "Suppose you went out this afternoon and played three or four sets of tennis, but you hadn't played for years. You know how you'd feel tomorrow? All stiff, and achy and sore? Well, that's how I feel, everyday, all day, 24/7/365. Like I played three sets of tennis yesterday, and hurt all over, like I'm kinda beat up."

The curious thing is, in milder cases like mine, you get used to the pain and after a while it fades into the background, and a "2" or "3" on the pain scale becomes the new baseline.

(But doncha just love those "shooters," when everything seems to be fine and all of a sudden you get a shooter in the hip or the knee or the shoulder that feels like you just got zapped by lightning, and for a millisecond it's an 8 or 9 on the scale, and a millisecond later it's gone.)

But my larger point is, take heart: you aren't alone here.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 12, 2006 11:06 PM | Report abuse

Go away for a day, and all this stuff happens. I had to skip 75% of the comments, esp. the long ones, in order to finish by this (very late) bed time.

Dooley, I've been to Martinsville a few times, for professional reasons. Something you might you could contribute to, or vice-versa. Go to my personal web page ( ) and drop me an e-mail, and I can explain more. I could be less cloak-and-dagger about it, but my parent organization doesn't yet have a proper web site of its own set up.

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 13, 2006 2:38 AM | Report abuse

nelson, when I was a kid it bewildered me why my Mother, an adult who could do anything she wanted at any time, would deliberately choose to spend most of her day in her flower garden. Digging, chopping, hoing, weed pulling, planting looked like nothing but HARD WORK to me. Then I grew up and on a whim, planted a row of zinnias. Didn't take much care doing it, just sort of threw some seeds onto the ground. But oh the thrill when that first tiny green pod surfaced. I've been gardening ever since. Do my best thinking there. Do you ever feel guilty pulling weeds? Like, who am I to determine what lives and dies?

Posted by: Nani | April 13, 2006 8:09 AM | Report abuse

Dooley, geeks are kind people. Scottynuke, dorks too.

Posted by: Nani | April 13, 2006 8:11 AM | Report abuse

Nani - I had to laugh at your "weed guilt." Actually, that's an excuse I have been known to use from time to time when my wife comments unfavorably on the state of my garden. I say "Who am I to play God?"

She is a patient woman.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 13, 2006 8:13 AM | Report abuse

"I still can't keep the saxes straight."

Posted by: Dolphin Michael | April 13, 2006 8:13 AM | Report abuse

Geeks rule! But my mommy once told me never to use the "d" word.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 13, 2006 8:14 AM | Report abuse

Dooley, why???? I am a member of the IBD.

Posted by: Dolphin Michael | April 13, 2006 8:15 AM | Report abuse

That would be RD Padouk

Posted by: Dolphin Michael | April 13, 2006 8:16 AM | Report abuse

With everything I have to do, I really am resisting the urge to turn parts of the roof that I look out upon into a garden. You are right, anytime you start tossing seeds into the ground, you can get hooked.

Ah, maybe I will go rig a level surface on the roof for a bit of a garden in some containers.

Posted by: Dolphin Michael | April 13, 2006 8:28 AM | Report abuse

DolphinMichael - When my mother was in high school in the 1950s - "dork" was a rather rude word for male reproductive organs. To this day she tells me she gets very uncomfortable hearing it used.

Back to Global Warming! Check out this article at National Geographic.

This is a scary article, but I need some help really understanding the implications. Sure, loss of biodiversity is a tragedy from an aesthetic standpoint, but what will such a development mean for my children's quality of life? If scientists don't succeed in communicating the human implications of such reports, I fear little will change.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 13, 2006 8:35 AM | Report abuse

During spring and summer, the g-girls set up a flowerstand at the end of my driveway where they sell bouquets of my flowers to passersby. We have fun painting the "for sale, 50 cents each" cardboard signs.

RD, is "dork" a cruel word? Scottynuke, if so, I truly didn't mean it that way. Actually now that I think of it, "dork" is probably the modern version of a 1950's "square".

Did anyone see the 1950s Elvis documentary on the history channel a couple of nights ago? Wow, I still love the early Elvis. My parents weren't concerned that rock n roll would lead us astray; quite the contrary. Dad thought Elvis was hilarious, and would laugh at his gyrations. Mother didn't say she liked his music, but she must have because we caught her "truckin" in the kitchen when we played his record "That's Alright Mama". Dad did flip his top when Elvis appeared on the Sullivan show and my sis and I kissed the tv screen. "Expletive Deleted that's disgusting! You're gonna electrocute yourselves. Vivian do something with these girls!"

Posted by: Nani | April 13, 2006 8:45 AM | Report abuse

Nani, I know full well you mean things in the very best way. :-)

And of course there are multiple meanings for words. Anyone remember "Blue Thunder," where Roy Scheider explains that he recognizes one motorcycle as belonging to "Double Dork?" Pretty clear in context why that cycle cop got his nickname. :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | April 13, 2006 8:48 AM | Report abuse

Ah yes, the battle between being in the current era with your choice of words or possibly concerned with the language grounding of those with whom one may be communicating.

Posted by: Dolphin Michael | April 13, 2006 8:54 AM | Report abuse

Blue Thunder ... another Daniel Stern vehicle.

Posted by: Dolphin Michael | April 13, 2006 8:56 AM | Report abuse

I imagine that there is probably a whole school of linguistics devoted to the evolution of obscenities. Of course, academic journals decoted to such research would probably be delivered in plain brown wrappers.

One more bizzare observation about this side-topic before I actually start getting some work done. Humorists know that the "p" and "k" sounds are funny. That's why "purple pickle" is funnier than "orange squash." Stop a moment and think about all the naughty words you can.

I have no idea what this means....

And yes, I know that "Padouk" contains both sounds. That's why I like it.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 13, 2006 8:57 AM | Report abuse

RD, yes, you are right there... Also the way people laugh when they are walking along K Street is completely different from their laughter on P Street.

Posted by: Dolphin Michael | April 13, 2006 9:00 AM | Report abuse

When I was ten, my little brother bet me a dollar I wouldn't yell out the back door "Dork!" as loud as I could. Before I could collect, my father ran into the house and angrily explained what the word meant. I think just general overuse has dampened the shock value of the word.

Besides, according to this quiz, i am more of a nerd than a dork or geek:

I am such a, oh, nevermind.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 13, 2006 9:09 AM | Report abuse

Schoolmate Eddie Spurgeon made my 13 year old life a living hell. Among his many methods of tormenting me, I just now remembered the day he patted me on the back (a subterfuge feining friendliness), when he was actually taping a sign on my back reading "I am a square". It made me cry.

Posted by: Nani | April 13, 2006 9:11 AM | Report abuse

I can leave all you nerds, squares, geeks, dweebs, and d*rks in the dust.
I'm a dag!!!!

When I was approx. 10 years old my best friend temporarily became best friends with another girl, who shared her obsession with Happy Days and, more particularly, the Fonz. This third party told my best friend -- in my presence -- that I was a nerd, although she later conceded that I was merely a dren (nerd spelled backwards; a milder variety of nerd).

Now I ask you -- how nerdy does one have to be to think the word "dren" is cool? In my book, The Fonz was a dag.

Posted by: Achenfan | April 13, 2006 9:18 AM | Report abuse

The Smithsonian isn't allowed to actually say something directly. Really. It's a fetish of the institutional culture, and may be a necessity of their funding situation. Think about it: have you ever seen any overt statement in a Smithsonian museum that interprets the meaning or value of a specific object, in context?

An analogy: "This," says the museum tour guide, "is a house. Houses have sometimes been known to catch fire and burn down, occassionally with tragic consequences." Points to burning building with people trapped inside. "Continuing our tour of objects, this article is a hose. This one is connected to a functional faucet and is capable of carrying many gallons of water rapidly from the faucet to any chosen point of delivery." Points to hose. Points to faucet. "Simply by turning this knob, a fireman, for example, or any concerned citizen, could create a flow of water. Water is a material with many uses. Among other things, water often is used to extinguish fires. Thank you for your attention on this tour. Are there any questions?"

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 13, 2006 9:23 AM | Report abuse

I have always doubted the definition of dork. My suspicion is that the colloquial usage, referencing a person's character and intellect, came first. Only by analogy and similarity to the word "d1ck" did it acquire the definition "penis," as a back-formation. This is my theory. It is ... data-free!

Posted by: StorytellerTim | April 13, 2006 9:27 AM | Report abuse

If of worldly goods thou art bereft
And in thy store, two loaves alone are left
Sell one, and with the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.

(I don't know the poet to whom this should be attributed)

Posted by: Nani | April 13, 2006 9:34 AM | Report abuse

back to Duke very quickly, then on to gardening, words, and frying the planet:
I was just reading an article on Apparently, and I did not know this, racism is a crime in Brazil, as in, punishable by jail time. A Brazilian soccer player is on trial for calling a player for another team a "monkey." He faces 1-3 years of jail time if convicted, for using a racial slur. I think that that is an interesting idea, and wondering if it could be applied, maybe not in such strict terms, in this country. And if it was applied, would it be effective?

Posted by: tangent | April 13, 2006 9:36 AM | Report abuse

ScienceTim, ScienceTim, it seems I will need a special supply of things to dry my screen with just for your 9:23 alone.

When I was a kid on the prairies, my dad was very enamoured of spruce trees. We treasured those trees and babied them. I now live where I am surrounded by spruce trees, and they are essentially a weed. They sprout everywhere. Gravel paths, crushed rock, under every other plant in the yard. I cannot bring myself to just toss them and replant dozen every year. I figure its going to be another 10-15 years before I can just toss out those tiny little treelets. A weed is just a wildflower growing where you don't want it too.

Posted by: dr | April 13, 2006 9:37 AM | Report abuse

if anyone's interested in reading the article, there's the URL.

Posted by: tangent | April 13, 2006 9:39 AM | Report abuse

I should also say, that when Joel wrote about crabgrass last year I suffered for its demise. A part of me wanted to shout, 'let it free, don't kill it', but good sense reigned and I kept my mouth shut.

But if anyone wants spruce treelets, call me.

Posted by: dr | April 13, 2006 9:40 AM | Report abuse

In the realm of psuedo-etymology, I was always told that "nerd" came from "knurd" which was "drunk" spelled backwords. This never made any sense to me but I wonder if others had heard that version as well. This side posits that Dr Suess first coined the word:

This site also confirms that a geek is a circus sideshow freak that bites the heads off of live chickens.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 13, 2006 9:43 AM | Report abuse

I also find the word "punk" weird when it's used in a non-punk-rock context.

When my brother and I were very young, we referred to "cool" people (people who wore jeans, had long hair, played guitars, etc. -- hippies, perhaps, since this was the early '70s) -- as "jazz people." If one of us saw one of these individuals, we'd say to the other, "Hey, look, [insert sibling's name]! There's a *jazz* person!!!!

(Yeah, I know, we were dags; don't ask me why we called them that. We were very small, and we led sheltered lives. Our parents were definitely *not* jazz people.)

Years later, I was shopping in Border's, wearing some mid-calf-length jeans with embroidered flowers on them. An old lady wearing a delightful floral-print dress and a wide-brimmed straw hat approached me and said, "I like your jazzy jeans!" One of my proudest moments.

Posted by: Achenfan | April 13, 2006 9:56 AM | Report abuse

With regards to anti-racism laws, I think that making laws against making certain statements, no matter how reprehensible, is a very slippery slope. We already have anti-hate crime laws, which I think get as close to that line as we can get without crossing it.

On a not wholely unrelated topic, yesterday on WaPo Radio, Bob Cur was interviewing a cogressman from Georgia on the immigration issue. The congressman said (and I'm paraphrasing because I don't remember his exact words), "If we don't do something now, in five years we're all going to be speaking Spanish, because no one in the US is going to be speaking English any more." That's radio gold, folks.

Posted by: jw | April 13, 2006 10:22 AM | Report abuse

some actual research:

nerd (alt nurd) (n.; adj. nerdly) Person rendered socially undesirable largely thru ignorance, typically of fashion, hygiene, proper social behavior, and the importance of appearance. Often but not necessarily associated with unattractive physical attributes. The nerds: One of the Untouchable castes in high school.

geek (n.; adj. geekish) (from “circus geek”, performer of disgusting, self-torturing stunts, prob. from rhyming contrast with "freak") Person with unusually detailed knowledge about one or more obscure, generally uninteresting fields (e.g., "history geek", "computer geek"). Implication is that such extreme interest in knowledge is suspect and that pursuing the expertise excludes a normal social life. A geek is often also a nerd.

freak (n.; adj. freakish, freaky) (from “freak of nature”, deformed creature, via “circus freak”, a living or preserved specimen of physical abnormality) Person socially unfit due to some behavioral attribute over which they have no control, such as inappropriate outbursts (the "freak out") or permanent confusion. Use for actual disabilities is considered excessively cruel. Since their condition is involuntary, freaks are less reviled than nerds. The freaks: High school students considered mentally unable to participate in the social structure, usually due to habitual drug use.


The definition of a geek as someone who bites the heads off chickens (or, alternatively, snakes)is too narrow; generally, geeks will eat anything, alive or dead (glass, light bulbs, etc.), with the general effect being to gross out spectators.

see also

I suspect it may go back to the turn of the 20th century (from 19th), and perhaps even further back, to Barnum & Bailey days.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 13, 2006 10:23 AM | Report abuse

While I'm at it and feelingly curmudgeonly this morning, here's a WaPo headline I hate, for a dozen (excellent) reasons:

"Flight 93 Myth Becomes Reality"

Joel, please forward my umbragitutde on this topic to the proper authorities. Thank you.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 13, 2006 10:30 AM | Report abuse

The Washington Post and ABC News took a lot of flak yesterday from White House press secretary Scott McClellan for their reporting, including Warrick's prominent article yesterday, about an analysis by a team of weapons inspectors sent to Iraq who determined that objects on trailers in the Iraq desert were not biological weapons labs.

Ed Morrissey, at his blog Captain's Quarters, tries to rebut the two news organizations' coverage yesterday. Howard Kurtz, in his cloumn today, provides a link to Morrissey's blog.

Morrissey is faulting Warrick for stating in the 12th graf, rather than the lede, that there were several (presumably three) groups that were sent to Iraq in the spring and summer of 2003 to analyze the suspected mobile labs.

Who sent these other two groups and when? Who and how many comprised their membership? How qualified were the members of these two other teams? If the one group that represented the Defence Intelligence Agency provided what has turned out to be the correct assessment of these structures on trailers, then what other intelligence agencies did the other two teams represent?

Morrissey says, "[Sending presumably three teams to get a diverse analysis of the evidence] sounds like a prudent strategy to me, having competing teams research the same equipment and evidence to develop independent analysis to present to the Pentagon."

Were all the teams' reports funneled to the Pentagon? What's the point of having three teams, when two of the teams made the wrong assessment? Do two wrongs make a right? Is there a problem in having just one, extremely well-qualified team? Why is it necessary to have so much duplication within the intelligence branches? Why is it necessary to have so many intelligence branches? Is there a problem with intelligence being centralized--other than one may be subject to extreme political pressures? Not that three different teams also couldn't be under the same pressures? And why was what turned out to be the correct analysis called "a minority report?"

I think this question of use of intelligence harkens back to the old Watergate question of "What did they know and when did they know it?" Why was McClellan stonewalling in his morning press gaggle yesterday about not knowing the information regarding this minority report and having to research it? When will McClellan gather that information, if ever, and present it to the Washington press corps and to the people of the United States?

When the "minority report"--actually a three-page field report and a 122-page final report three weeks later were completed in May and June 2003, to whom were they submitted at the Defense Intelligence Agency? How wide were the reports' distribution? Only within the DIA? To Rumsfeld? To Tenet? To Cheney and Bush? Why were these accurate minority reports shelved? Were they shelved? Why did the nine inspectors--both British and American, fear for their jobs because of the information contained within these assessments, as Warrick reported yesterday?

Morrissey writes, "The Pentagon relied on that majority opinion, as did the administration, and no one can argue that doing so constituted either an intent to deceive or even an unreasonable decision at the time." Given that doubts about the aluminum tubes allegedly being used for WMDs and the questionable intelligence about Iraq purportedly buying yellowcake in Niger were circulating broadly well before this time, why not give the minority report about the trailers more weight, even if by that time, the United Staes was several months into its military engagement in Iraq? Did the administration hear simply what it wanted to hear? And if it wasn't getting the correct information at the highest levels of the Pentagon and within the executive branch, then why not?

If the administration wants to get the truth out to the American publican, then the President should declassify all the information about the two other reports about the trailers, as well as the minority report--what agencies were involved, when the reports were filed, the evidence used by the two majority teams to make what turned out to be false claims--and who was on the routing slips of all three reports, and when the sign-offs on all three reports occurred.

What sense does it make that Vice President Dick Cheney would go on Tim Russert's "Meet the Press" program four months after President Bush made his statement on May 29, 2003--after those two minority reports had been filed, and that Cheney would back Bush's claim that those those two small trailers were biological weapons labs?

We're just at the tip of the iceberg as far as this aspect of the WMD allegations is concerned. We need a lot more facts and truth from government officials. At bare minimum, we need a lot more reporting on this story.

Posted by: Loomis | April 13, 2006 10:34 AM | Report abuse

I noticed that too Mudge, but lack your wise ways. It looked like a headline looking for a story...

Sort of like sometimes there are lines in a movie that seemed to have searched for a story plot line such as the line:

"I don't know where she is going, but one thing for sure, she'll get there by 10 am tomorrow morning."

Posted by: Dolphin Michael | April 13, 2006 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Aw, c'mon, Mudge, give us David Letterman's 10 reasons to hate the headline, as only you can write it...

Posted by: Loomis | April 13, 2006 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Hey everyone! I left work right after I posted yesterday, but thanks everyone for the compliments on the pictures. And I don't know what's up with my blog, omni.

Slyness, if you go to an LDS wedding dress store they specialize in dresses with at least a little cap sleeve. And some of the stores ask designers to make them dresses, so that's how I got the Chanel with sleeves.

And Nani, I have finals next week so I won't be around much, but after that I'll be around pretty much every day. So if jw has a day that he'll definitely be here, then I can work it into my schedule.

Posted by: Sara | April 13, 2006 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Hey everyone! I left work right after I posted yesterday, but thanks everyone for the compliments on the pictures. And I don't know what's up with my blog, omni.

Slyness, if you go to an LDS wedding dress store they specialize in dresses with at least a little cap sleeve. And some of the stores ask designers to make them dresses, so that's how I got the Chanel with sleeves.

And Nani, I have finals next week so I won't be around much, but after that I'll be around pretty much every day. So if jw has a day that he'll definitely be here, then I can work it into my schedule.

Posted by: Sara | April 13, 2006 10:38 AM | Report abuse

Oops. Sorry for the double post. Twitchy finger today.

Posted by: Sara | April 13, 2006 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Anecdotal evidence shows that the most rampant Boodling always occurs when I'm enmired in some major escalation at work.

Anecdotal evidence also shows that many of the most prolific, clever, and interesting Boodlers work for the government.

Given that I support two Very Large Government Agencies and things are crashing and burning all over the place while the Boodle is literally bursting with knowledge, wisdom, and wit, I'm starting to think there may be a direct correlation between some Boodlers' Boodling and the general (lack of) quality of my life right now.

Joel, the Achenblog is going to bring down the entire government. Don't say you weren't warned. As my customers like to tell me when they have a problem with the software I support: "When a dirty bomb goes off in the Port of Baltimore, you'll have no one but yourself to blame." (I love that threat.)

So, because I can't always keep up with the Boodle, I have a suggestion. I'd like to create a BPH mailing list so that anyone who is interested in attending can be alerted to dates and times by email in case they miss the Call for Porching. I'm willing to do this using a private server or could set up a Yahoo group thingie.

What say you?

Posted by: Pixel | April 13, 2006 10:42 AM | Report abuse

Ms. Loomis, I see this as just so much obfuscation of the facts. Whenever anyone WHO CARES, lays the known facts (sorry Rummie) out and puts them on a time line, it becomes abundantly clear that we, the American People, were fed a lot of hooey.

The press has a role to play in the obfuscation. Almost like they are reporting on professional wrestling, they suspend their interest in what they know to report what people are framing for them.

The interesting thing is that I think that the obfuscation method works relatively well if you have even a thin majority backing you, BUT, if you have slipped to below 45% in support, it just makes you look a bit slippery.

What is clear is that Bush, like most people, gets a bit uncomfortable telling little lies or leaving out certain details or selecting those words carefully, a la Bill Clinton.

OK, I mean that Bush's war plans weren't on his desk, they were on the coffee table, etc.

Posted by: Dolphin Michael | April 13, 2006 10:43 AM | Report abuse

I have another question: Why doesn't the have a science section on its home page?

The NYT does, with lots of support, sidebars, and graphics and Times Select (subscription only) goodies in conjunction with the science section. This seems to me like a glaring hole here that should be scrambling to correct. Why should Joel's article about global climate change appear in the Style section of the newspaper, fer crying out loud? (I don't get it.)

If those of you who get the dead-tree version of the Post know otherwise, I'll be happy to stand corrected.

Posted by: Loomis | April 13, 2006 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Pixel, like birthday parties? like monday in Bethesda? 7 pm? Where is mo?

Posted by: Dolphin Michael | April 13, 2006 10:46 AM | Report abuse


Thanks for the dissection of the CQ rebuttal. I find it interesting that the MSM isn't delving a little deeper. If what our new buddy Ed says is true, we should see the other reports as well, not just hear about them through a blogger. Something tells me they were performed by groups with a vested interest in the results. The article also states this group was under huge pressure to soften or hedge their findings. How do we know the other groups didn't just buckle to the same pressure?

Joby Warrick was on MSNBC last night defending/explaining his piece. The WH has gone back into the "big picture" defense taht Bush had no reason to see the report that disputes one of his prime "Big Lies".

A lot of people making Bush-Nixon Imperial Presidency Under Siege comparisons lately.

Are there any of the *stated* reasons for the war left standing except for "Saddam was a bad, mean person" left?

Posted by: yellojkt | April 13, 2006 10:51 AM | Report abuse

Digressing ...

I'm already thinking about lunch!

Posted by: Bayou Self | April 13, 2006 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Hmm...good question Loomis. The Boston Globe also has a Health & Science section, on Mondays, I think. Not surprising considering the level of academia in the Boston Metro area. Maybe the WaPo's Health section fills that role?

And from the Boston Globe, Bazarre News of the Day:

Posted by: jw | April 13, 2006 10:56 AM | Report abuse


Hope your grand-daughter didn't have her heart set on the American History museum.

It's going to be closed for two years starting the day after Labor Day. Based on the SI track record for these things, expect it to reopen about Fall of 2010.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 13, 2006 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Eh, I noted that WaPo headline as well, 'Mudge. I snorted and moved on.

jw, thanks for that quote from WaPo radio. That can go right next to the stuff Weingarten quoted (in his chat) from CNN this week. Geez!

I seem to dimly recall a etymology of the word "d1ck" somewhere that derived it from a word for "fat". Someone who doesn't have firewall filtering or logging to deal with may want to follow up with that. Or not.


Posted by: bc | April 13, 2006 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Loomis, there's a science section every Monday.

Posted by: omni | April 13, 2006 11:00 AM | Report abuse

jw - It strikes me (ouch!) that Wayward Hammer might work for somebody as a 'Boodle handle, if they're interested.

Posted by: Bayou Self | April 13, 2006 11:00 AM | Report abuse

O.K., Dolphin Michael, I admit to frustration.

Like firsttimeblogger, I wonder how Bush & Gang can get away with the obfuscation and lies, and why impeachment proceedings aren't at least beginning,


I feel like Carl Bernstein in wondering--or hoping--why Congress isn't stepping up to its responsbilities in at least calling hearings to investigate the information flow about various bits of intelligence leading up and into the Iraq war--or lack of it--within various government agencies. Like Bernstein pointed out, why does the onerous responsibility have to fall to a special preosecutor?

(Note: no reporting on the Warrick-story structures/trailers in our paper this morning, but a large B&W picture of Cindy Sheehan arriving at the Waco airport in preparation for Easter week demonstrations in Crawford.)

If you in the Beltway want to educate me with your perspectives or your insider information or you gossip about the war, please do feel free.

Like Dooley pointed out yesterday, he rarely gets the chance to talk about evolution within his community. Trust me on this one, I don't have the ability to go to a woman in the neighborhood--or I haven't found her yet, and say, "Let's have a cup of coffee and talk about Warrick's reporting on those trailers." Or, "Give me your opinion about HOX genes. What's the latest that you've read?" We have a lot of very dear and sweet mommy-types here (Not that there's anything wrong with them...just not very mentally stimulating for me.) Why do some people gravitate to the Achenblog?

And what did San Antonio pick as the first-time community read? John Philip Santos' "Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation"

Posted by: Loomis | April 13, 2006 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Omni, is the Science section really a section though? I don't have my mountain of newspapers to dig through here, but it's just a few pages in the A section, isn't it? Or is it a separate piece, like the Home section and Food section?

Posted by: jw | April 13, 2006 11:04 AM | Report abuse

Oops, posted before I finished. In the dead-tree version it's usually page 6 or 8. There's one half page article and three shorter articles called Science Notebook. Here's a link to the main article this Monday past.

And the Notebook:

Not sure how to find the main article if you don't know the story or headline, but the science notebook can be searched for from the WaPost homepage.

Posted by: omni | April 13, 2006 11:08 AM | Report abuse

actually if you search "science" from the homepage and it brings up the links for both.

Posted by: omni | April 13, 2006 11:10 AM | Report abuse

jw, you're right that it's not really a section like home or health or food, it really is just a page once a week.

Posted by: omni | April 13, 2006 11:12 AM | Report abuse

I read your comment Nelson, and your life sounds really, really, hard, yet I admire your spirit. If it is okay with you, I will pray for you, your spirit and your body?

Thanks to those of you that commented on the Duke issue. I realize that there is a huge misunderstanding as to my feelings, and you understanding those feelings. That's okay. Perhaps there are not words to express exactly what I feel or just the fact that I don't know those words. I do believe that in this country we each live in our different worlds, and most of the time those worlds don't come in contact until something bad happens. That's a shame, and it does make life difficult for some of us, although some love it so. My desire is that the truth come out, whatever that truth is, and I do hope the victim has not lied, as well as the lacrosse team.

Please, if there is any way possible, have a good, good, day, and remember God loves you more than you can imagine, through His Son, Jesus. And I myself, am going to try and do likewise. I love you guys.

Posted by: Cassandra S | April 13, 2006 11:12 AM | Report abuse

If Joby Warrick is a he--and appeared on MSNBC last night, then Morrissey has that fact wrong, calling Joby a "she."

The "Saddam is a bad, mean person" defense is EXACTLY that used by George H.W. 41 in his talk at Trinity University a week ago Tuesday. (I informed him quite directly that I didn't want him to used the tired line "Stay the course." in his answer to me. Why did I even attend? Going to the event set me back in the healing process on my throat infection to be sure. I must be mad--mad as h*ll.) That's how he started his answer to my question, ending it with "There'll be democracy in Iraq."

Posted by: Loomis | April 13, 2006 11:12 AM | Report abuse

one more and I'm done Achenblog-hogging.

Sara, It usually works itself out the next day. And I have to say it was worth the way as they are truly lovely pictures. You both look incredibly happy.

Now I have some work to do, achenlater

Posted by: omni | April 13, 2006 11:14 AM | Report abuse

SCC way => wait.

really now, must work...

Posted by: omni | April 13, 2006 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Ha! The Boston Globe has a full section, so there!

Actually, doesn't the Post devote a full section to it every so often? I seem to remember a lengthy article about going to surgeons and being misdiagnosed that was in a section all its own.

Posted by: jw | April 13, 2006 11:16 AM | Report abuse

And, there may be a science section in the dead-tree but why not commit resources to provide the (same) information in an organized manner at the

Combining health and science for me just doesn't cut it. The NYT separates health and science--makes it easier to locate information, just like within a library Dewey decimal system--and a kindness to readers trying to navigate the maze of headlines.

Posted by: Loomis | April 13, 2006 11:16 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, everyone, from MST.

I began my day by learning that I am not only a nerd, but a "pure nerd". But you knew that. I have to agree with the definitions provided on that website in terms of actual usage.

Speaking of nerdiness, has anyone else seen the info on the genographic project at National Geographic? Very interesting, in a nerd kind of way.

Posted by: SonofCarl | April 13, 2006 11:18 AM | Report abuse


Don't get me wrong, I was a working stiff in my teens trying to get Clean Gene elected, so I am far from a defender of this administration. I think that my points were poorly crafted.

I agree with you that through simple AND CLEAR obfuscation, the White House stays afloat in its flimsy story.

We know that Cheney was running the contracts group for the Haliburton work prior to the Gulf War II. That is a clear lie. The lies go back to there and they never really stopped. Clarke and all the folks that sort of slinked out of the administration, such as O'Neil have pretty much indicated that the war was on at 1600 Penn ave long before there was any public awareness that the USofA was going to consider an invasion.

I share your frustration and we all should, about the lack of truth coming from this white house and, indeed, the folks that control congress.

What I like the most is the WaPo constantly using the headline that Congress has reached an agreement or negotiations completed on this bill or that when the agreements are actually between Republican factions. Why not suggest that Republicans reached an accord?

The press, which is made up by many folks tat are clearly smarter than I, have, as a group, decided to take a mental and moral siesta on this one.

I think the problem is that the press is made up of money making organizations that have to show a profit and because of this are more than willing to "play the game."

Look at how the white house infiltrated and upset the goings on at PBS, just because they lack a true need to be profitable and thusly may be willing to have correspondents speak their minds when they were not "lockstep" with this administration.

Linda, the guy to watch about this adminstration is Joe Wilson. He has been painted in the press incorrectly as almost a Democrat Mole, but he is and has never been that. He supported Bush. When he has problems with the misuse of intelligence, then we all should.

At this time, I most enjoy watching Wilson "correct" the facts on shows like Wolf Blitzer's. Given enough time, he can carefully do exactly what you did, Linda.

Keep in mind that the White House guys are really sharp and given enough time and resources, can contrive of all sorts of little dodges that are hard to undo. Of course, this takes a lot of time and it sort of shows that they haven't been watching the "country's business" as it were. Everything else is going into the dumper, so we have to blame that on Mexican labor.

Posted by: Dolphin Michael | April 13, 2006 11:20 AM | Report abuse

As per your request (and we always aim to please):

Top 10 reasons why “Flight 93 Myth Becomes Reality" sucks as a headline:

10. I don’t know what the hell it means.
9. It’s a cliché.
8. The whole “myth becomes reality” meme (remember when everybody was doing memes? glad that died overnight) is both overdone and a cliché.
7. Myths don’t become realities; that’s why they are called myths. If a myth becomes a reality, then it was a pretty defective myth in the first place. (In fact, a mythtake. Sorry, just couldn’t resist.)
6. In order to be a myth, you have to be old. Older than me, even. You can’t be a myth that got started last Tuesday.
5. A myth is generally thought of (and defined) as something that is/was untrue, imaginary, allegorical, lacking a factual basis, etc. (actually the primary definition in my dictionary is “a traditional story of ostensibly historical events, ” which may in fact apply, but I submit the secondary definitions are what is commonly understood). (If you use the technical definition which relies upon a “traditional” story, that part may be OK, except that you can’t have an overnight tradition anymore than an overnight myth. Things gotta take their time to develop, and 9/11 ain’t far enough back in history to have developed any “traditions” by now. So “myth” loses either way.)
4. Uh, what exactly WAS that myth anyway? I wasn’t even aware there was one. That the passengers stormed the cockpit, and prevented the hijackers from crashing into the White House? That’s been known almost since the day it happened. Not to take anything away from them, but…is that mythological? Didn’t think so.
3. Playing tapes from a cockpit recorder in a courtroom now constitutes “reality,” does it? So does the release of cockpit recordings from Palm 90 also constitute converting myth into reality? Any or all other cockpit recordings?
2. I don’t know what the hell it means.
1. Because I said so, and I am very old and very wise. Wise beyond my years. Which, of course, are dog years.

In a related matter, I suppose Gugliotta is hot on the track of this one, but in the meantime here’s an interesting piece of paleowhatchamacallit from his archrival up the road for all you science lovers(hey, if Loomis gets to write about her ancient ancestors, I get to submit stuff about mine):

The New York Times April 13, 2006

New Fossils Add Link to the Chain of the Evolution of Humans


In following the fossil tracks of human evolution, scientists have for years searched for links between Australopithecus, the kin of the famous "Lucy" skeleton, and even earlier possible ancestors. Now, they think they have found some connections in Ethiopia.

An international team of paleontologists is reporting the discovery of transitional species superimposed in sediments in the neighborhood of a single site. The findings appear today in the journal Nature.

Tim D. White, a paleontologist at the University of California, Berkeley, who was a team leader, and his colleagues said the 4.1-million-year-old fossils were anatomically intermediate between the earlier species Ardipithecus ramidus and the later species Australopithecus afarensis, the Lucy family. The newfound bones and teeth are the earliest remains of the most primitive Australopithecus, known as anamensis.

"This new discovery closes the gap between the fully blown australopithecines and earlier forms we call Ardipithecus," Dr. White said in a statement. "We now know where Australopithecus came from before four million years ago."

The scientists said the fossils supported the hypothesis that Australopithecus anamensis was a direct ancestor of afarensis, which lived 3 million to 3.6 million years ago. The Australopithecus genus — resembling apes in stature and brain size but unlike the great apes in that it walked on two legs — is thought to have given rise to our own genus, Homo.

Some later australopithecines survived until about 1.2 million years ago, existing in Africa as contemporaries with Homo erectus, a predecessor of modern humans.

The genus Ardipithecus, discovered by Dr. White in 1992, appears to have lived 4.4 million to 5.7 million years ago. It was even more apelike, but also walked on two legs.

The relationship between Ardipithecus and Australopithecus, scientists said, remains unclear because of the wide gap in their chronology.
Still, they suggested that one probably led to the other.

Dr. White said a key to interpreting the new anamensis was where it was discovered, in the Middle Awash valley of the Afar region of Ethiopia.
The area, about 140 miles northeast of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital, has also yielded critical evidence of afarensis and the ramidus species of Ardipithecus.

"Finding these three things in time sequence in a single place, that's never happened before," he said.

In their journal article, the scientists said the evidence suggested "a relatively rapid shift from Ardipithecus to Australopithecus in this region of Africa."

The new anamensis fossils were uncovered first at Aramis and then at a place called Asa Issie. The teeth and jawbones of eight individuals were found at Asa Issie, the most recent of the discoveries last December.
The fieldwork and analysis were conducted by scientists from Ethiopia, Japan, France and the United States, with support from the National Science Foundation.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 13, 2006 11:20 AM | Report abuse

Disregard my last. That article was in the pull-out Health section. Not Science.

Posted by: jw | April 13, 2006 11:22 AM | Report abuse

I thought the Achenblog was the science section.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 13, 2006 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Reaches into drawer. Takes out gold star. Affixes it to the word "mythtake."

It might be rolling around in my head all day.

Posted by: Bayou Self | April 13, 2006 11:31 AM | Report abuse

Lest we forget, Howard Kutz reporting on Aug. 12, 2004:

On Sept. 19, 2002, reporter Joby Warrick described a report "by independent experts who question whether thousands of high-strength aluminum tubes recently sought by Iraq were intended for a secret nuclear weapons program," as the administration was contending. The story ran on Page A18.

Warrick said he was "going out on a limb. . . . I was struck by the people I talked to -- some on the record, others who couldn't be -- who were saying pretty persistently that these tubes were in no way suitable for uranium enrichment. On the other side were these CIA guys who said, 'Look, we know what we're talking about but we can't tell you.' "

Downie said that even in retrospect, the story looks like "a close call." He said the inability of dissenters "to speak up with their names" was a factor in some of his news judgments. The Post, however, frequently quotes unnamed sources.

Not all such stories were pushed inside the paper. A follow-up Warrick piece on the aluminum tubes did run on Page 1 the following January, two months before the war began.

Posted by: Loomis | April 13, 2006 11:33 AM | Report abuse

mythtakes were made

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 13, 2006 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Ha! Thank you RD, thank you!

It's Iraq, the present administration and more, all rolled into one.

Posted by: Bayou Self | April 13, 2006 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Reaches for another gold star.

Posted by: Bayou Self | April 13, 2006 11:37 AM | Report abuse

DM writes:
"I think the problem is that the press is made up of money making organizations that have to show a profit and because of this are more than willing to "play the game."

One of Bernstein's big themes last Thursday night, evils of increasing conglomeration of the media and the profit motive, DM.

I saw Wilson being interviewed by George Stephanapoulos last Sunday. Strongest segment of the program--after that I went over to Russ, but saw our own local Rep. Henry Bonilla in a panel discusssion, so turned off the TV entirely.

As far as the Mexican labor remark, don't know if you're kidding or not, DM (I think not), but won't touch it at the moment. Must get on to my day.

Posted by: Loomis | April 13, 2006 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Legend is probably a much better word than myth. The "Let's roll" legend is already immortalized in songs by Neil Young and Melissa Etheridge. What I think the gist of the article is that many aspects of the events in the final moments of the flight that had been the subject of unconfirmed speculation have been clarified to some degree.

Based on the transcripts I've read and the news progam analyses, the hijackers deliberately crashed the plane when it became apparant the passengers were about to succeed in breaching the cockpit in an attempt to overpower them.

That is the stuff of legend and heroism. Not necessarily myth.

"Legend" gets a bad rap as a word because it is usually now associated with "urban legend" meaning a contemporary untrue story. Legends can be true. The one about Flight 93 is.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 13, 2006 11:43 AM | Report abuse


the word "mythtakes"? I'm like bs, the word will be rolling around my brain all day. And RD, you're not helping. That's pretty good.

Posted by: Cassandra S | April 13, 2006 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Mudge, you shine as always:

7. Myths don’t become realities; that’s why they are called myths. If a myth becomes a reality, then it was a pretty defective myth in the first place. (In fact, a mythtake. Sorry, just couldn’t resist.)

A new word for the Achenblog lexicon.

What *are* you doing working for the stultifying Dept. of *****? (The mortgage, the mortgage, the kids, the wife's baubles...) But I'm thankful that we are daily graced by your wit and charm. And, no doubt, you were, in fact, writing about yours, mine and our ancestors.

Posted by: Loomis | April 13, 2006 11:49 AM | Report abuse

"And, no doubt, you were, in fact, writing about yours, mine and our ancestors."

Yes, but the difference is, I vaguely recollect some Australopithecus ancestors of mine from when I was a kid. And I had an uncle who was widely rumored to be a Cro-Magnon (not that there's anything wrong with that).

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 13, 2006 11:57 AM | Report abuse

Robert Asprin has a series of humorous fantasy novels where all the titles have myth puns. The titles include:

Another Fine Myth
Myth Conceptions
Myth Directions
Hit or Myth
Myth-ing Persons
Little Myth Marker
M.Y.T.H. Inc. Link
Myth-nomers and Im-pervections
M.Y.T.H. Inc. in Action
Sweet Myth-tery of Life Something M.Y.T.H. Inc.
Myth-ion Improbable
Myth-Told Tales
Myth-Taken Identity
Class Dis-Mythed

If Asprin comes up with "Myth-takes Were Made" we know who deserves royalties. Technically titles can't be copyrighted, but phrases can be trademarked. I suggest 'mudge get a lawyer so he can cash in like Pat Riley did with "Threepeat".

Posted by: yellojkt | April 13, 2006 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Here are the lyrics to "Tuesday Morning" by Melissa Etheridge:

"Tuesday Morning"

10:03 on a Tuesday morning
in the fall of an American dream
a man is doing what he knows is right
on flight 93

Loved his mom and he loved his dad
loved his home and he loved his man
but on that bloody Tuesday morning
he died an American

Now you cannot change this
You can't erase this
You can't pretend this is not the truth

Even though he could not marry
Or teach your children in our schools
Because who he wants to love
Is breaking your God's rules

He stood up on a Tuesday Morning
In the terror he was brave
And he made his choice and without a doubt
A hundred lives he must have saved


And the things you might take for granted
Your inalienable rights
Some might choose to deny him
Even though he gave his life

Can you live with yourself in the land of the free
And make him less of a hero than the other three
Well it might begin to change ya
In a field in Pennsylvania


Stand up America
Hear the bell now as it tolls
Wake up America
It's Tuesday Morning
Let's roll


Posted by: yellojkt | April 13, 2006 12:06 PM | Report abuse

'Mudge, there are some missing links in your 11:57 AM comment.


Posted by: bc | April 13, 2006 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Not that it's relevant to much of anything, but I thought that I would point out (in the spirit of all that yelling and screaming about Ben Domenech, and the division between the print WaPo and the online WaPo being essentially two different organizations)that the print WaPo has its own staff of copy editors (who are almost always the headline writers), and that the online WaPo has its own completely different set of copy editors and headline writers. So if you happen to see a typo or other kind of mistake (or even a mythtake) in the online WaPo, it probably wasn't made by the folks "downtown" but by the folks "across the river" in Arlington or wherever it is they hang out.

(I happen to know a couple of the copy editors downtown slightly, and whenever I mention some typo or goof I saw online, I like to watch the veins in their necks start to bulge and their eyelids twitch as they say (as they have been taught to do) politely that, gee, that must have happened across the river.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 13, 2006 12:08 PM | Report abuse

All these folks avoiding responsibility is really pything me off.


Posted by: bc | April 13, 2006 12:14 PM | Report abuse

bc, did you say "mything links"?

Posted by: Curmduegon | April 13, 2006 12:15 PM | Report abuse

300 comments and counting. Where's Joel? I think he is mything in action. Or should it be inaction?

Posted by: yellojkt | April 13, 2006 12:23 PM | Report abuse

yellojkt, oh darn, she will be very disappointed. Me too, especially if that's the branch with the history of horses that Dooley mentioned. But we're good sports and surely the other branches will be fascinating. And hopefully the cherry blossoms will be in bloom. We're planning to go by train.

Good morning Cassandra, love to you too. And I do understand.

Posted by: Nani | April 13, 2006 12:24 PM | Report abuse

I think horses are in the Natural History Museum (the names are a little confusing)

Still plenty to see on and off the Mall. The Portrait Gallery is reopening after six years of renovation.

Posted by: yellojkt | April 13, 2006 12:29 PM | Report abuse

Title of country song (haven't written the song yet, just the title) "How Can I Myth You When You Won't Go Away?"

Posted by: Nani | April 13, 2006 12:33 PM | Report abuse

Those are good books.

I must say Class Dis-mythed was good-- I loved the Survivor parody in that one.

I think Robert Asprin probably already wrote down a list of possible titles years ago... and can prove it. Besides, titles recycle all the time, didja see that story?

"My life". "The Island". "Kidnapped!" "Slimed!" "Eaten Alive by Curmudgeons"
(okay, maybe not those last two.)

I would like to write a book with a title that's a mile long, and a tongue twister, but I suspect it wouldn't sell well because nobody could ask for it by name.

Posted by: Wilbrod | April 13, 2006 12:44 PM | Report abuse

"Blue as a Goose Bus?
Buy this Blorange Book"

Nah, not long enough.

Posted by: Willbrod | April 13, 2006 12:47 PM | Report abuse

Fiona Apple released an album titled:

When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks Like a King
What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight
And He'll Win the Whole Thing 'Fore He Enters the Ring
There's No Body To Batter When Your Mind is Your Might
So When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand
And Remember That Depth is the Greatest of Heights
And If You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where to Land
And If You Fall It Won't Matter, Cuz You'll Know That You're Right

Not a tongue twister, but definitely more than anyone dan remember to say. It gets universally shortened to "When A Pawn.."

Posted by: yellojkt | April 13, 2006 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Nani, would you consider changing one tiny little letter? Just for me?

"How Can I Myth You When You Won't Go Awry?"

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 13, 2006 12:55 PM | Report abuse

"Several Species of Small Furry Animals, Gathered Together in a Cave, Grooving with a Pict" -- Pink Floyd. Of course, I intensely disliked the actual album, but I enjoyed the title. Also, "Careful with that Axe, Eugene."

Posted by: StorytellerTim | April 13, 2006 12:57 PM | Report abuse

How Can I Myth You When You Insist on Standing at, Like, Point-Blank Range? -- Aaron Burr and the Veeps.

Posted by: StorytellerTim | April 13, 2006 1:00 PM | Report abuse

"I Got the Just-Shot-A-Lawyer-While-Quail-huntin' Blues."

Alan Jackson, I think. (Of course Kinky Friedman, but that's too obvious.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 13, 2006 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Mything Links would make a good name for a rock band. Probably one that does Led Zep covers.

Another tune cootie: the Rolling Stones doing "Myth You"

I'd mythed that Fiona Apple album.


Posted by: bc | April 13, 2006 1:06 PM | Report abuse

For you, Mudge, almost anything!

I heart the cover of Steely Dan's Gaucho album. Reminiscent of Mr. Nani and I dancing to "our song", the Flamingos version of "I Only Have Eyes for You", the greatest doo wop song ever written (even though Sinatra didn't sing it doo wop style).

My love must be a kind of blind love
I can’t see anyone but you
And dear, I wonder if you find love
An optical illusion, too?

Are the stars out tonight?
I don’t know if it’s cloudy or bright
’cause I only have eyes for you, dear
The moon may be high
But I can’t see a thing in the sky
’cause I only have eyes for you.

I don’t know if we’re in a garden
Or on a crowded avenue
You are here, so am i
Maybe millions of people go by
But they all disappear from view
And I only have eyes for you

Posted by: Nani | April 13, 2006 1:11 PM | Report abuse

thanks everyone for comments of the big Fibromyalgia. Curmudegeon, sorry about the shortening of your umpire career. That's really a bummer.

And yeah, I know all about CMP -- I get 9 or so trigger point injections once a month in the more obvious lumps in my back, shoulders, neck and hips. It's not a bad thing! I hardly feel them and they help so much. Take care of your legs, Mudge.

after I posted that bit about "getting better" I must admit I thought it sounded rather Capraesque -- did the angel get his/her wings? A bit embarrassed.

to all the gardeners out there! Hooray for spring season! I think anyone who gardens is in touch with the "spiritual/mystical" side of playing in the dirt with living plants.
Watching them grow -- they're like all the kids I never had.

Nani, thanks for your kind words about my posts. Coming from you, that's quite something.

Loomis, your post about the NYT article by Wilford has reference to the same Tim White at Berkeley who did bone analysis on Anasazi remains. I didn't mention he was on the Lucy team with Johanssen.

No time to stay and play today. So many great threads going in the boodle -- i get to go act as landscape consultant to the woman who gives me all those injections each month. Should be fun -- I hope I know what the heck I"m doing!!!

cheers to all.

Posted by: nelson | April 13, 2006 1:15 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of long, hard to pronounce names:

"Why is it that nobody remembers the name of Johann Gambolputty de von
gumberaber-shonedanker-kalbsfleisch-mittler-aucher von Hautkopft of Ulm...?"

The funniest thing about this Python sketch is that more than one of them (I think three of them?) memorized this name and said it flawlessly in the context of sentences. Certainly Graham Chapman and John Cleese, and I think Eric Idle as well. They are freakin' geniuses--if you paid me a million dollars and gave me a year to practice, I wouldn't be able to say that in front of an audience or a camera. I can't even read it out loud from a script in the privacy of my cubicle.

Posted by: kbertocci | April 13, 2006 1:16 PM | Report abuse

cassandra -- thanks for your prayers.

My life is probably a lot less hard than most folks on the planet.

And now, I get to spend more time in my garden than all the poor boodlers who are healthy and work for a living!

Posted by: nelson | April 13, 2006 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Tina Turner, Mything You, inspired by the bio-war buses.

Everytime I read the truth, I always catch my breath
Cuz these biolab buses here, what am I gonna say?
and I'm wondering what we have left
And there's Rovestorm that's raging
through his frozen heart tonight
I hear the truth in certain circles
And it always makes me smile
I spend my time thinking 'bout W
and it's almost driving me wild
And there's a law that's breaking
listening to these long distance lines tonight

I ain't mything you at all (mything you)
since you've been gone awry (mything you),
I ain't mything you (mything you)
No matter what I might say (mything you)

Posted by: SonofCarl | April 13, 2006 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Hey, everybody's gotta go read Broder's column, at

It'll make you ill, but you gotta do it. I'll be here, crooning doo-wop with Nani until you get back. (Nani, I always knew that in spite of being a Texas, gal, you were a doo-wop lover at heart. Just hadda be.)

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 13, 2006 1:37 PM | Report abuse

Yellojkt, I love the phrase mything in action and you should patent that before everyone steals it. Though it probably goes back to, like, Plato.

Pixel, if the blog brings down the gummint, no one can blame me, since I have been, as has been noted, mything.

On the John Noble Wilford story, first we must confess that anyone with that byline sounds indubitable -- is that the word I want? -- or just authoritative to the point where it's almost overkill. But I want to note this one passage and then gripe about it:

"The relationship between Ardipithecus and Australopithecus, scientists said, remains unclear because of the wide gap in their chronology. Still, they suggested that one probably led to the other."

With all due respect to the great scientists who are piecing together the story of human evolution, I am skeptical of anything smacking of a bold one-thing-led-to-another conclusion -- because the data IS very limited, the true story is probably fairly complicated (involving multiple species and migrations and so on), and the imposition of a linear narrative is kind of a human-brain compulsion. I'm not saying that Dr. White isn't correct in his analysis of these bones. I just think if we could magically go back in time and observe the emergence of homo sapiens, it'd be a more complicated narrative than the one often taught in textbooks.

I should leave now. This was SUCH a boodle-killing comment.

Posted by: Achenbach | April 13, 2006 1:40 PM | Report abuse

I guess I could stir myself to post a new kit if everyone agreed that it didn't have to be any good. I'm working, you know. Journalism.

Posted by: Achenbach | April 13, 2006 1:41 PM | Report abuse

I myth-understood Mudge's top 10 list post....

How much myth can a myth-buster bust if a myth-buster can bust myth?

Posted by: amo | April 13, 2006 1:45 PM | Report abuse

I was going to make a smart-alecky comment about kit-quality, but I'm just going to keep my trap shut and wait for the new kit.

Posted by: amo | April 13, 2006 1:46 PM | Report abuse

Joel - you are probably right. As I recall, Stephen Jay Gould was especially testy about the notion of linear narratives and evolution. The world is messy and all fractally and such. Unfortunately, without any true ground truth (Where are the answers in the back of the book when you really need them?) the "true story" may never be known. We end up with good stories that fit the facts. You know. Myths.

Posted by: RD Padouk | April 13, 2006 1:51 PM | Report abuse

amo, no kidding on the set up for a comment.

I think this is part of the lock-out program after the recent union agitation.

Posted by: SonofCarl | April 13, 2006 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, this is for you!

Pride can stand a thousand trials
The strong will never fall
But watching stars without you
My soul cries

Heaving heart is full of pain
Oooh, oooh, the aching
'Cause I'm kything you, oooh
I'm mything you, oooh

Touch me deep, pure and true
Give to me forever
'Cause I'm kything you, oooh
I'm mything you, oooh

Where are you now
Where are you now
'Cause I'm kything you
I'm mything you, oooh

Posted by: Loomis | April 13, 2006 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, amo, I took a pass on that, too. As we used to say in the fabric business, discretion is the better part of velour.

Joel is quite correct, however, to point out that "John Noble Wilford" is pretentious beyong belief, even for the Gray Lady. Joel, you and Guy gotta get back into the game. I propose "Joel Saintly Achenbach" and "Guy Omniscient Gugliotta."

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 13, 2006 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Would you please stop, I am feeling mytherable.

Posted by: Dolphin Michael | April 13, 2006 1:57 PM | Report abuse

'Mudge - I did the assignment and read what you linked. Doo wop is nice, but the blues is what I'm hearing.

Posted by: Bayou Self | April 13, 2006 1:59 PM | Report abuse

Oh, Loomith, thtop, you're embarrathing me.

Padouk, gold star for and midst laurels stood "all fractally and such." I'm gettin' all fractally just thinking about where and how to use it next. It's not a tune cootie, it's a word cootie.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 13, 2006 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for laying off that fat pitch earlier.

New kit. Of sorts.

Posted by: Achenbach | April 13, 2006 2:03 PM | Report abuse

New Kit. One of Tom's Dumb Questions! Actually, two questions.

Posted by: ScienceTim | April 13, 2006 2:05 PM | Report abuse

Mets 6, Nats 0, top of fifth. Gack.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | April 13, 2006 2:07 PM | Report abuse

I realize I'm very late on this comment, but I think Dooley might be overemphasizing the case for natural processes explaining recent warming trends. For one thing, it doesn't necessarily follow that because it happened before, it is happening again. It sure seems likely that it will happen at some point, but that doesn't mean human systems didn't interrupt the process early, and if we compound a natural trend that is unfavorable to our survival, its still a bad thing. As a grad student in an agricultural field, I recently studied the evolution of early human agriculture. One of the more interesting things to come out of my studies was the suggestion that warming trends correlate well not only to recent carbon emissions, but also to the advent of human agricultural. As far back as 3000 years ago, the chinese were cultivating rice in rice patties, which releases methane, which could play an important role in regulating atmospheric temperature. Agriculture was also developing rapidly in the middle east at the time. As temperatures rose (which they did), the mediterranean climate became more and more favorable for agriculture, which in turn spread. Is it possible that we have been evolving socially to manipulate our environment to such an extreme degree all along and only recently took notice of it? I think usually when we think of humans as manipulators of the environment, we think that cut down a few trees to build a house. But in truth, as a species, we have coopted global systems, and the fates of other species (corn, the pig or the goat, etc.) throughout our evolution on a grand scale. I suggest this, less as a good or bad thing, and more as an awesome thing.

Posted by: p.t. | April 13, 2006 2:32 PM | Report abuse

Well known (undisputed?) is that increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere results in more solar radiation being aborbed by the atmosphere (after being reemitted from the surface of the earth). Other gasses have similar effect: methane, water vapor, etc. This absorption yields temperature rise of the atmosphere of some amount as greenhouse gas concentration increases. This is again largely undisputed. What can be argued is any amplifying or mitigating effects resulting from this temperature rise. Most source terms point to higher temperatures, but climate is very complex.

Manmade CO2 increases atmospheric level by about 1% per year, and total CO2 projected to double from preindustrial levels by 2050. (Measurements say CO2 has been as relatively stable just under 300 ppm for last 400,000 years, up to about 1850, current CO2 is 380 ppm).

Clearly human made CO2 is significant and measureable. Can it affect the atmosphere? Yes. Do we know how much or exactly what will happen? No. But everything we do know know suggests potential for significant impact on climate. Catostrophic? Maybe, or maybe everything will work out dandy. Do we really want to take that gamble?

Posted by: DL | April 14, 2006 1:02 AM | Report abuse

DL - I gamble everytime I venture out on the DC roads. Why is this a more immediate danger than other gambles we, as a species, take all the time?

I like to think (hope) that we really are due for another ice age, and the greenhouse gasses we are pumping into the air are fortuitiously going to stave it off. Is it really more unlikely than the reverse scenario?

I feel I am being presented with a 50/50 proposition, but one side is telling me I better act now and call "heads" before it is too late. I need better information on the odds. Can current science offer it to me?

Posted by: JoJo | April 14, 2006 11:15 PM | Report abuse

u suck dummy

Posted by: Bob | May 16, 2006 8:19 AM | Report abuse

pmntslmz [link]test4[/link]

Posted by: John S | September 2, 2006 12:31 PM | Report abuse

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