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Fireballs In the Sky

[Here's the top of my story posted this afternoon on the Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis.]

Something dramatic happened about 12,900 years ago, and the continent of North America was never the same. A thriving culture of PaleoAmericans, known as the Clovis people, vanished seemingly overnight. Gone, too, were most of the largest animals on the continent -- horses, camels, lions, mammoths, mastodons, saber-toothed cats, ground sloths and giant armadillos.

Scientists have long blamed climate change for the extinctions, for it was 12,900 years ago that the planet's emergence from the Ice Age came to a halt, reverting to glacial conditions for some 1,500 years, an epoch known as the Younger Dryas.

In just the last few years there has arisen a controversial scientific hypothesis to explain this chain of events, and it involves an extraterrestrial calamity: A comet, broken into fragments, turning the sky ablaze, sending a shock wave across the landscape and scorching forests, creatures, people, and anything exposed to the heavenly fire.

Now the proponents of this apocalyptic scenario say that they've found a new line of evidence: "nanodiamonds." They say they've found these tiny structures across North America in sediments from 12,900 years ago, and they argue that the diamonds had to have been formed by a high-temperature, high-pressure event, such as a cometary impact.

[Click here to keep reading.]

By Joel Achenbach  |  January 1, 2009; 6:01 PM ET
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: 19 More Days
Next: Catastrophe Roundup


Drat that Yoki. If I hadn't been trying to remember a poem about a buccaneering bee I'd have been first.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 1, 2009 6:09 PM | Report abuse

Oh my, a thousand pardons Yoki. Running back for the others.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 1, 2009 6:10 PM | Report abuse

Undrat! Besides, Yoki can bat back at a good drat now and then. Frosti, go to the head of the class for thinking of others!

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | January 1, 2009 6:13 PM | Report abuse

I'm laughing, frosti. An apology offered before I was aware of any possible offence (which would certainly not have been taken) is disarming and endearing.

But I still want to know about the bees.

Love the story. The last line is very well chosen. Drat that pesky scientific method!

Posted by: Yoki | January 1, 2009 6:19 PM | Report abuse

April Rain

It is not raining rain for me,
It’s raining daffodils;
In every dimpled drop I see
Wild flowers on the hills.

The clouds of gray engulf the day
And overwhelm the town;
It is not raining rain to me,
It’s raining roses down.

It is not raining rain to me,
But fields of clover bloom,
Where any buccaneering bee
Can find a bed and room.

A health unto the happy,
A fig for him who frets!
It is not raining rain to me,
It’s raining violets.
--Robert Loveman

My favorite poem of those memorized in third grade was Ozymandias, but this will be forever etched in memory because it was the one I was called upon to recite aloud. Not that reciting poetry aloud was a trial, I memorized easily and loved to be called on. No, it is the sneeze with the projectile loogy hurtling through the air and caught just at the moment of no return in bare hands that makes this one memorable. Third graders being third graders, color, volume, and viscosity were the subject of lunchroom discussion for a few days.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 1, 2009 6:30 PM | Report abuse

Frosti, you remind me of what a boring childhood I had!

Posted by: nellie4 | January 1, 2009 6:33 PM | Report abuse

ok try again

If of all thy worldly goods bereft
and from thy slender stores,two loaves are left
Sell one and with the dole
but hyacinths to feed thy sole

Posted by: greenwithenvy | January 1, 2009 6:35 PM | Report abuse

nellie-boring is good. Ma Frostbitten and I always wish each other the most forgettable of holidays for it is only the horrid ones that are truly etched in memory.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 1, 2009 6:45 PM | Report abuse

Terminal closure
frosted my butter cake dreams
Chilled mummers weren't stilled

Posted by: DNA_Girl | January 1, 2009 6:49 PM | Report abuse

nanodiamonds? Hmm. Adds a whole new meaning to those stupid "He went to Jared's" commercials.

This whole thing, unsurprisingly, reminds me a whole lot of the early work done by Luis Alvarez and his son Walter back in the early 1980s. (They were the ones who originally proposed that the dinosaurs had been largely wiped out by an asteroid or comet.)

I remember seeing a talk by a member of their team back when I was in college. He mentioned an anecdote about some confusing results encountered early on, when they detected an unexpected element in their rock samples.

It turned out that this was actually a false positive, brought about by laboratory contamination from one of the women working with the samples. Or, more precisely, by the woman's engagement ring.

See? It all fits together.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 1, 2009 6:57 PM | Report abuse

Karma Repair Kit: Items 1-4 by Richard Brautigan

Get enough food to eat,
and eat it.

Find a place to sleep where it is quiet,
and sleep there.

Reduce intellectual and emotional noise
until you arrive at the silence of yourself,
and listen to it.

Posted by: kbertocci | January 1, 2009 6:57 PM | Report abuse

Nellie, Wendy Cope writes about the blessedness of boring:

Being Boring
If you ask me 'What's new?', I have nothing to say
Except that the garden is growing.
I had a slight cold but it's better today.
I'm content with the way things are going.
Yes, he is the same as he usually is,
Still eating and sleeping and snoring.
I get on with my work. He gets on with his.
I know this is all very boring.

There was drama enough in my turbulent past:
Tears and passion-I've used up a tankful.
No news is good news, and long may it last,
If nothing much happens, I'm thankful.
A happier cabbage you never did see,
My vegetable spirits are soaring.
If you're after excitement, steer well clear of me.
I want to go on being boring.

I don't go to parties. Well, what are they for,
If you don't need to find a new lover?
You drink and you listen and drink a bit more
And you take the next day to recover.
Someone to stay home with was all my desire
And, now that I've found a safe mooring,
I've just one ambition in life: I aspire
To go on and on being boring.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | January 1, 2009 7:02 PM | Report abuse

The Hunt, by Billy Collins

Somewhere in the rolling hills and farm country
that lie beyond speech
Noah Webster and his assistants are moving
across the landscape tracking down a new word.

It is a small noun about the size of a mouse,
one that will seldom be used by anyone,
like a synonym for *isthmus*,
but they are pursuing the creature zealously

as if it were the verb *to be*,
swinging their sticks and calling out to one another
as they wade through a field of waist-high barley.


And now for something completely different, utterly pedantic, but hopelessly on-kit. I liked Joel's article, but it left me with several questions, to wit: what is the meaning of the term "Younger Dryas," and if there was such a thing, was there also an Older Dryas? Finally, just WTF is a "drayas," anyway (don't let TBG answer this one).

So a little perusing of Wikipedia yields the following, in reverse order. First, "Dryas" is the name of an alpine/tundra arctic flower (the actual word Dryas is from Greek mythology, being a nypmph, although Greek mythology has no less than nine Dryases to chose from). The name Dryas apparently was chosen as the descriptor for this geological period, because very large quantities of Dryas pollen were found in that layer Joel is talking about.

Was there also an Older Dryas? Yes, about a thousand years earlier than the Younger Dryas, and it lasted about 300 years.

This material may appear in a quiz or on the midterm.

You may now return to your New Year's Day activities.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | January 1, 2009 7:02 PM | Report abuse

Mudge, you went and asked the questions I was wondering myself. Thanks for asking and answering too.

Posted by: MiddleofthePacific | January 1, 2009 7:05 PM | Report abuse

Ted Kooser poem:

Selecting a Reader

First, I would have her be beautiful,
and walking carefully up on my poetry
at the loneliest moment of an afternoon,
her hair still damp at the neck
from washing it. She should be wearing
a raincoat, an old one, dirty
from not having money enough for the cleaners.
She will take out her glasses, and there
in the bookstore, she will thumb
over my poems, then put the book back
up on its shelf. She will say to herself,
"For that kind of money, I can get
my raincoat cleaned." And she will.

From Flying at Night, University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | January 1, 2009 7:08 PM | Report abuse

Siegfried Sasson poem:


WHEN meadows are grey with the morn
In the dusk of the woods it is night:
The oak and the birch and the pine
War with the glimmer of light.

Dryads brown as the leaf
Move in the gloom of the glade;
When meadows are grey with the morn
Dim night in the wood has delayed.

The cocks that crow to the land
Are faint and hollow and shrill:
Dryads brown as the leaf
Whisper, and hide, and are still.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | January 1, 2009 7:11 PM | Report abuse

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time

Gather ye rose-buds while ye may:
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles to-day,
To-morrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the Sun,
The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he's to setting.

That age is best, which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times, still succeed the former.

--Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
You may for ever tarry.

Robert Herrick

Once upon a time, I thought of researching Herrick for a master's degree in English. Instead, I was practical and got an MPA.

Posted by: slyness | January 1, 2009 7:14 PM | Report abuse

The Discovery of Scat, by Billy Collins

Long before Dizzy,
high on the rising tower at Babel

a bearded carpenter turned
to a stonemason

(barely able to see him
through the veil of clouds),

turned to ask for a wooden nail
and said something
that sounded like
bop ah doolyah bop.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | January 1, 2009 7:15 PM | Report abuse

Happy New Year All, CP, do you know a poem Caroline Kennedy read at her mom's funeral, all I can recall is something about gathering toys and we will play on another beach someday?

Posted by: -CB- | January 1, 2009 7:25 PM | Report abuse

when i read mudge's 7:02, i couldn't help mentally substituting dryass for drayas. i don't know why. but it's a very amusing post when read that way.

Posted by: LALurker | January 1, 2009 7:26 PM | Report abuse

CB -- will look. Not off the top of my head.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | January 1, 2009 7:27 PM | Report abuse


Memory of Cape Cod

by the red-headed Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | January 1, 2009 7:43 PM | Report abuse

Memory of Cape Cod

The wind in the ash-tree sounds like surf on the shore at Truro.
I will shut my eyes . . . hush, be still with your silly bleating,
sheep on Shillingstone Hill . . .

They said: Come along! They said: Leave your pebbles on the sand and come along, it’s long after sunset!
The mosquitoes will be thick in the pine-woods along by Long Nook, the wind’s died down!

They said: Leave your pebbles on the sand, and your shells, too, and come along, we’ll find you another beach like the beach at Truro.

Let me listen to wind in the ash . . . it sounds like surf on the

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | January 1, 2009 7:45 PM | Report abuse

Since the pedantic line has been crossed, I am puzzled by this-
"For decades, scientists have believed that meltwater from the receding ice at the end of the Ice Ages formed a huge lake in central North America, known to scientists as Lake Agassiz." Believed? What, this is not "known" as in proven fact? Have I stood on the "beach" of Lake Agassiz near Crookston, MN and not been on the beach at all? What of the icebergs dragging their bottoms across Grand Forks County, leaving scars nearly unimagined on the ground but easily visible from a plane? What of the still rising ground, freed from the weight of all that water and glacier? Must I rethink an entire semester of Physical Geography?

More than any boodler, but this one, could ever want to know about the official ND stance on Lake Agassiz

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 1, 2009 7:46 PM | Report abuse

Expanding upon CqP just slightly:


Daughter of President Kennedy and
Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

The poem I'm going to read comes from a book my mother kept
on a special bookshelf in her room. The front of the book reads
``Marie McKinney Memorial Award in Literature, First Prize.''
Presented to Jacqueline Bouvier, June 1946. And the poem is
called ``Memory of Cape Cod'' by Edna St. Vincent Millay.

The wind in the ash tree sounds like surf on
the shore at Truro.
I will shut my eyes.
Hush. Be still with your silly pleading
sheep on Shilling Stone Hill.
They said, come along.
They said, leave your pebbles on the sand
and come along.
It's long after sunset.
The mosquitoes will be thick in the pine
woods along by Long Neck.
The winds died down. They said, leave your
pebbles on the sand and your shells too
and come along.
We'll find you another beach like the beach
at Truro.
Let me listen to the wind in the ash.
It sounds like the surf on the shore.


Posted by: Curmudgeon- | January 1, 2009 7:51 PM | Report abuse

Wow, kb, we are thinking along the same lines. Here's a Richard Brautigan poem which is one of our favorites, and very Boodle-like, I think:

Your Catfish Friend

If I were to live my life
in catfish forms
in scaffolds of skin and whiskers
at the bottom of a pond
and you were to come by
one evening
when the moon was shining
down into my dark home
and stand there at the edge
of my affection
and think, "It's beautiful
here by this pond. I wish
somebody loved me,"
I'd love you and be your catfish
friend and drive such lonely
thoughts from your mind
and suddenly you would be
at peace,
and ask yourself, "I wonder
if there are any catfish
in this pond? It seems like
a perfect place for them."

["I'd" is in italics.]

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 1, 2009 7:55 PM | Report abuse

Part I
The story of Schroedinger's cat (an epic poem)
May 7, 1982
Dear Cecil:
Cecil, you're my final hope
Of finding out the true Straight Dope
For I have been reading of Schroedinger's cat
But none of my cats are at all like that.
This unusual animal (so it is said)
Is simultaneously live and dead!
What I don't understand is just why he
Can't be one or other, unquestionably.
My future now hangs in between eigenstates.
In one I'm enlightened, the other I ain't.
If you understand, Cecil, then show me the way
And rescue my psyche from quantum decay.
But if this queer thing has perplexed even you,
Then I will and won't see you in Schroedinger's zoo.
— Randy F., Chicago
Dear Randy:
Schroedinger, Erwin! Professor of physics!
Wrote daring equations! Confounded his critics!
(Not bad, eh? Don't worry. This part of the verse
Starts off pretty good, but it gets a lot worse.)
Win saw that the theory that Newton'd invented
By Einstein's discov'ries had been badly dented.
What now? wailed his colleagues. Said Erwin, "Don't panic,
No grease monkey I, but a quantum mechanic.
Consider electrons. Now, these teeny articles
Are sometimes like waves, and then sometimes like particles.
If that's not confusing, the nuclear dance
Of electrons and suchlike is governed by chance!
No sweat, though--my theory permits us to judge
Where some of 'em is and the rest of 'em was."
Not everyone bought this. It threatened to wreck
The comforting linkage of cause and effect.
E'en Einstein had doubts, and so Schroedinger tried
To tell him what quantum mechanics implied.
Said Win to Al, "Brother, suppose we've a cat,
And inside a tube we have put that cat at--
Along with a solitaire deck and some Fritos,
A bottle of Night Train, a couple mosquitoes
(Or something else rhyming) and, oh, if you got 'em,
One vial prussic acid, one decaying ottom
Or atom--whatever--but when it emits,
A trigger device blasts the vial into bits
Which snuffs our poor kitty. The odds of this crime
Are 50 to 50 per hour each time.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 1, 2009 7:56 PM | Report abuse

Part II

The cylinder's sealed. The hour's passed away. Is
Our pussy still purring--or pushing up daisies?
Now, you'd say the cat either lives or it don't
But quantum mechanics is stubborn and won't.
Statistically speaking, the cat (goes the joke),
Is half a cat breathing and half a cat croaked.
To some this may seem a ridiculous split,
But quantum mechanics must answer, "Tough @#&!
We may not know much, but one thing's fo' sho':
There's things in the cosmos that we cannot know.
Shine light on electrons--you'll cause them to swerve.
The act of observing disturbs the observed--
Which ruins your test. But then if there's no testing
To see if a particle's moving or resting
Why try to conjecture? Pure useless endeavor!
We know probability--certainty, never.'
The effect of this notion? I very much fear
'Twill make doubtful all things that were formerly clear.
Till soon the cat doctors will say in reports,
"We've just flipped a coin and we've learned he's a corpse."'
So saith Herr Erwin. Quoth Albert, "You're nuts.
God doesn't play dice with the universe, putz.
I'll prove it!" he said, and the Lord knows he tried--
In vain--until fin'ly he more or less died.
Win spoke at the funeral: "Listen, dear friends,
Sweet Al was my buddy. I must make amends.
Though he doubted my theory, I'll say of this saint:
Ten-to-one he's in heaven--but five bucks says he ain't."
— Cecil Adams

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 1, 2009 7:57 PM | Report abuse

Will catch up soon (cooking dinner) but I liked the Kit very much. I am very interested in the mystery of the Clovis people. I like the idea of the exploding sky. Also thanks to Mudge for answering the questions I had, too.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 1, 2009 8:02 PM | Report abuse

CP, Mudge, thanks so much, you are amazing

Posted by: -CB- | January 1, 2009 8:03 PM | Report abuse

Ivansmom-I like that "and be your catfish friend..."

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 1, 2009 8:04 PM | Report abuse

Two poems, a bizarre sort of "call and response":

This Is Just to Say, by William Carlos Williams

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

and then come the response poem:

This Is Just to Say, by Erica-Lynn Gambino

(For William Carlos Williams)

I have just
asked you to
get out of my

even though
you never
I would

Forgive me
you were
me insane

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | January 1, 2009 8:15 PM | Report abuse

gwe -- the poem about the hyacinths was my mother's favorite. Thanks for putting her face before me.

Posted by: nellie4 | January 1, 2009 8:25 PM | Report abuse

Y'all are just too wonderful.
Brautigan's one of my favorite freakies.

In Watermelon Sugar

In Watermelon Sugar the deeds were done and done again as my life is done in watermelon sugar. I'll tell you about it because I am here and you are distant.

Wherever you are, we must do the best we can. It is so far to travel, and we have nothing here to travel, except watermelon sugar. I hope this works out.

I live in a shack near iDEATH. I can see iDEATH out the window. It is beautiful. I can also see it with my eyes closed and touch it. Right now it is cold and turns like something in the hand of a child. I do not know what that thing could be.

There is a delicate balance in iDEATH. It suits us.

The shack is small but pleasing and comfortable as my life and made from pine, watermelon sugar and stones as just about everything here is.

Our lives we have carefully constructed from watermelon sugar and then travelled to the length of our dreams, along roads lined with pines and stones.

I have a bed, a chair, a table and a large chest that I keep my things in. I have a lantern that burns watermelontrout oil at night.

That is something else. I'll tell you about it later. I have a gentle life.

I go to the window and look out again. The sun is shining at the long edge of a cloud. It is Tuesday and the sun is golden.

I can see piney woods and the rivers that flow from those piney woods. The rivers are cold and clear and there are trout in the rivers.

Some of the rivers are only a few inches wide. I know a river that is half-an-inch wide. I know because I measured it and sat beside it for a whole day. It started raining in the middle of the afternoon. We call everything a river here. We're that kind of people.

I can see fields of watermelons and the rivers that flow through them. There are many bridges in the piney woods and in the fields of watermelons. There is a bridge in front of this shack.

Some of the bridges are made of wood, old and stained silver like rain, and some of the bridges are made of stone gathered from a great distance and built in the order of that distance, and some of the bridges are made of watermelon sugar. I like those bridges best.

We make a great many things out of watermelon sugar here -- I'll tell you about it -- including this book being written near iDEATH.

All this will be gone into, travelled in watermelon sugar.

Posted by: DNA_Girl | January 1, 2009 8:34 PM | Report abuse

Have any of you discovered Kenneth Carroll? I found him only yesterday, admired his work, and then found today that he is a DC native son and still lives there. If ever you see his name in a list of artists reading, please go on my behalf. Here is one. Also look for his "Elaborate Signings" a most wonderful poem.


Kenneth Carroll


a breeze in August nightly
thunder showers in July
silent politicians, loud bid whist games
my mother & your mother alive again,
laughing in our kitchens our daddies,
sober, locked in tonk games raucous
as a Georgia Avenue barbershop on Saturday
low blood pressure - low murder rates
Chuck Brown at da Panorama Room
Murrays’ steaks, cookouts, Rock Creek sodas in
Rock Creek Park, a seedless joint rolled
tight as EU in the pocket at Anacostia Park
Mrs. Teency's bread pudding, block parties
open hydrants, balling at Kennedy playground
Baggy John's jump shot before the drugs
Old heads hand dancing at the Chateau
us slow dragging in an unfinished basement
your brown arms around me, our hips in a
desperate grind choreographed by red light
& Skip Mahoney’s falsetto

safe neighborhoods with real neighbors
instead of arrogant urban pioneers &
third millennium settlers
the end to naïve romanticism about the
disappearance of crime & crack filled properties
front porch courting - corner debates with Marvin Gaye
wafting from someone's open window
you & I making out to a Quiet Storm at Haines Point,
oblivious to the parade of hustler's depreciating vehicles
shopping on H Street with Grandma, Eastover with mommy
musty rummage sales at First Canaan Baptist Church
U Street muted by four feet of February snow
watching fire works at Malcolm X Park
Pre-Korean Mambo Sauce on fried wings,
steak & cheese from Miles Long
Sal-mon & SWords
a bama-less world
swung to an Ellington tune.

Posted by: Yoki | January 1, 2009 8:45 PM | Report abuse

Nellie,My Mom's favourite too and twas my pleasure

I particullary liked the catfish poem

And that one too yoki by Mr Carroll

Posted by: greenwithenvy | January 1, 2009 8:56 PM | Report abuse

CP, I can relate to the Wendy Cope pome (boring). This is when I wish I knew more poetry so I could contribute.

kb, was the Brautigan piece missing item 4 or is that part of its meaning?

One poem that I do think of at the new year is this, by Tennyson. It was printed in a small town newspaper in Montana, and I clipped and saved it. Pretty well describes my mood in the dark cold of winter (note to self: move to warmer clime):

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Posted by: seasea | January 1, 2009 9:12 PM | Report abuse

I saw the moon and Venus together again this evening. They have become a familiar and most welcome sight. They are like two coy lovers who glide by each other without making eye contact. But I am on to their secret.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 1, 2009 9:14 PM | Report abuse

Collegequaparkian, would you post the titles of books or sites that you are posting those poems by Wendy Cope from?

She looks worth reading.

I did not expect a bonquet of poetry today for New Year's day! It makes me think if Poe's poem "The Bells."

Alas, Wilbrodog has been too busy to write any haikus today, but WIlbrodog Curlos Wilbrodog certainly is out there on the 'net.

This is an early draft of my poem on Schroedinger's Cat.

Instead of typing a full poem, I'll just mention Shel Silverstein and his "Hug O' War" poem.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 1, 2009 9:15 PM | Report abuse

Nice Ass

There is so much lost
and so much gained in
those words.

-Richard Brautigan

(also my favorite poemer)

Posted by: yellojkt | January 1, 2009 9:16 PM | Report abuse

Seasea, I believe that is stanza CVI from "In Memoriam A.H.H.", a very long poem on grief. The poem spans many years, and mentions Christmases quite often.

It is not an easy poem to read at one sitting, but many of the stanzas are readable as entire poems that capture a specific mood or image related to his grief. It was a bestseller in its day, and is considered Tennyson's best work.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 1, 2009 9:21 PM | Report abuse

Yes, the catfish poem will be saved.

Posted by: nellie4 | January 1, 2009 9:23 PM | Report abuse

I want catfish friends
To tickle my nose, then dance
when my heart gallops
With poems ready to burst out,
then wriggle hard in my mouth...


Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 1, 2009 9:31 PM | Report abuse

Wilb and Wilbdog

The first two acerbic poems are from her first book:
Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis, circa 83-85

The more sedate blessedness of boringness one comes from
I Don't Know (circa 2001)

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | January 1, 2009 9:49 PM | Report abuse

Yoki's poet-find writes very much like George Pelecanos, a boodle fave.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | January 1, 2009 9:55 PM | Report abuse

I try to follow along on this science stuff, but, alas, I'm confused. Yet again.

If the explosion happened in the air, why would they be looking for a crater? And I thought this type of an event had already been confirmed...something about something in a remote area of Russia beginning of the last century. Same stuff different day, right? I don't get it...why the skepticism over another like event?

I'm also confused about the phrase 'short term environmental impact'....if there's been a really gigantic ka-boom, everything's burned, and the sunlight can't get through the haze for anything to grow, aren't we talking about something that would make a Mad Max landscape seem attractive by comparison? How short term can that be?

Sorry for the interruption. We now resume our regularly scheduled program.

Posted by: LostInThought | January 1, 2009 10:01 PM | Report abuse

Short-term impact might be a decade or less, rather than centuries, millennia, or eons, or even epochs, LiT.

Geologists measure by the age of the Earth, not by the lives of mortals.

All meteors explode somewhat in the air, but the chunks would still be huge enough to make craters, and the explosion midair might be big enough to create shockwaves too.

The Siberia meteorite was pretty big, but didn't wipe out entire megafauna.

Good questions, though. Joel needs to tweak more for clarity.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 1, 2009 10:08 PM | Report abuse

Lovely pomes, but here I am in prose response.

DNA_Girl, try, try again!

Yello, big hit, post some other recipies, please, when you put down your tatting. I added a cup of diced celery towards the end, nice crunch.

Yoki, IIRC I made you both scrapple and pork roll for breakfast one morning, so CDB really isn't worse that that.

Had a wonderful time/dinner with friends, just got home. I IM'd my boss (a mummer, so he's probably collapsed by now) to say I'd worked 15 hours on NYEve and 2 hours today, so I'm not getting up at midnight but would see him in the morning. No response is a good response.

Posted by: -dbG- | January 1, 2009 10:22 PM | Report abuse

Here's a couple by my friend Jim Chastain. [See and for more.]


We booked the hotel
although it was a busy time
and the rates were sky high.
Upon arriving, we learned
somebody, probably me,
had screwed up the reservation
and we had one king bed
for four tired travelers.

At one point in our lives
this news might’ve been
a point of contention.
But now? We shrugged it off.
The hotel was nice, the weather warm.
It was spring break and we were
alive with money in our pockets.
Here was our cup, half full.

AND another short one:

Coffee Moments

It's not about the coffee.
We meet there, yes,
and drink as though
our lives depend upon it.

But java's just an excuse
to gather, to share a part
of who we are, to stay
reasonably connected.

We searched for paradise
and never found it--yet here
with cup in hand, perhaps
we're a latte closer.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 1, 2009 10:23 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for all the good stuff so far, especially Yoki's discovery and to frostbittenOne for Schrodinger's cat!!

Here's one final by Jim Chastain:


What did she mean
by calling him irreverent?
Part cut-down, part compliment,
the word had an edge to it,
like the neighbor's lawn.
The comment held no spite,
was uttered dispassionately,
as if reviewing indisputable facts.

He tried the word on for size.
If irreverent meant asking
tough questions about "tradition",
then by God he was a disciple.
If it meant mean-spirited
and distanced from God,
then his independent branches
needed pruning.

But if irreverent meant
real and funny and honest,
then glory be, hallelujah
and all that, he was saved!
And yet, if irreverent meant
leaping over all known
boundary lines,
then there was trouble.

He went and grabbed
his Oxford English Dictionary,
hoping to shed light on the matter.
It never dawned on him
he'd misunderstood her entirely,
that the word she'd really used
was on the previous page
and was much less vague.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 1, 2009 10:31 PM | Report abuse

Nice poems, Ivansmom. Yet, you can't grab the Oxford English Dictionary; you need a forklift for any of its volumes.

But by gawd, it's a stupendous work of lexicography.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 1, 2009 10:37 PM | Report abuse

Mike Griffin, manager extraordinaire, redux:

Posted by: -dbG- | January 1, 2009 10:43 PM | Report abuse

"On Again Looking Into Bartlett's Quotations"

When I've been reading poetry,
I find it takes a while to free
My mind from meter's symmetry --
And metaphor -- and simile.

In rhyme I make a cup of tea,
I butter toast iambically,
And write a verse - pedantically.
Oh, bother reading poetry!


Posted by: nellie4 | January 1, 2009 10:44 PM | Report abuse

The yellojacket manse must have a pantry stocked similarly to the hip urban loft. Discovered this afternoon that all ingredients for the Buffalo Chicken Dip were on hand, so we rescheduled for today's college football viewing and found it tastily addictive. What was the yield on that recipe, yello, 4 servings?

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 1, 2009 10:47 PM | Report abuse

Those are great, Ivansmom - really like the last one - doh!

Speaking of the OED, I read the book by Ammon Shea - he read the entire OED and wrote a book about it - kb and I heard him talk about it at the Miami Book Fair. He has a very dry wit - the book, "Reading the OED", is quite enjoyable. It took him a year to read it. I used to read encyclopedias - dictionaries never quite drew me in that way.

Posted by: seasea | January 1, 2009 10:47 PM | Report abuse

This poem spoke to me. Maybe to you too?

The Journey

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice--
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do--
determined to save
the only life you could save.

Mary Oliver

Posted by: rickoshea0 | January 1, 2009 10:51 PM | Report abuse

Wilbrod, yes I know about how they measure time. I was trying to point out that the use of the phrase 'short-term' is relative. New Orleans is another example of this type of 'short-term environmental impact' event that, without the surrounding population, technology, and infrastructure (ha!) would have wiped out a civilization.

Do all meteors really explode in the air? Are all the pieces all the time big enough to leave a nice dent for us to find? Haven't other 'short term environmental impact' events changed the landscape enough to obscure, or even obliterate such a dent? Isn't it possible that had there been one, it's gone? Isn't it possible that we're looking for a coupe deVille at the bottom of a cracker jack box?

Posted by: LostInThought | January 1, 2009 10:51 PM | Report abuse

We had some left over, frosti, so spent some time talking about how to leftover it. You know, dinner called before we had a chance to finish it.

The favorite ideas were (1) reheating and tortilla-wrapped with lettuce, onions and grated cheese, (2) quesadillas and (3) homemade Buffalo chicken pizza.

Posted by: -dbG- | January 1, 2009 11:00 PM | Report abuse

I'm so glad the recipe is a big hit. It's been going around my office like wildfire. The diced celery is an inspired addition. I took my last batch over for a dinner party of six as well as a bag of chips and a samll tub of french onion dip. All the french-onion dip went as well as half the buffalo chicken. It's party sized so as long as there are other things to eat, at least ten people should be able to nosh off of it.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 1, 2009 11:01 PM | Report abuse

One more pome before bed:

The Memoirs of Jesse James

I remember all those thousands of hours
that I spent in grade school watching the clock,
waiting for recess or lunch or to go home.
Waiting: for anything but school.
My teachers could easily have ridden with Jesse James
for all the time they stole from me.
-Richard Brautigan

from 'Rommel Drives On Deep Into Egypt'

Posted by: yellojkt | January 1, 2009 11:06 PM | Report abuse

I will let the physicists answer that question, but no meteor lands one hundred percent impact-- the friction and heat of entry is too great. Some of it either vaporizes or explodes.

It is possible the meteor is now underwater, of course, LiT. As of now, they can only surmise that the evidence points that way until they find something they can test. Which is what the last sentences were about.

Maybe reading about Meteor Crater, Arizona, will give you an idea of the speed and vaporization involved.

The meteor they're looking for would be more recent and much bigger, perhaps.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 1, 2009 11:06 PM | Report abuse

dbg-thanks for the ideas. I can see the leftovers, and we do have some, as topping to liven up a frozen cheese pizza.

Might have to make adjustments for Minnesota tastes, like backing off on the hot sauce just a bit, but we'll be serving yello's dip at the Chinese New Year party instead of buffalo wings-not nearly as messy.

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 1, 2009 11:12 PM | Report abuse

Barbara Allen

It was in and about the Martinmas time,
When the green leaves were a falling,
That Sir John Græme, in the West Country,
Fell in love with Barbara Allan.

He sent his men down through the town,
To the place where she was dwelling:
“O haste and come to my master dear,
Gin ye be Barbara Allan.”

O hooly, hooly rose she up,
To the place where he was lying,
And when she drew the curtain by,
“Young man, I think you ’re dying.”

“O it ’s I ’m sick, and very, very sick,
And ’t is a’ for Barbara Allan:”
“O the better for me ye ’s never be,
Tho your heart’s blood were a spilling.

“O dinna ye mind, young man,” said she,
“When ye was in the tavern a drinking,
That ye made the healths gae round and round,
And slighted Barbara Allan?”

He turnd his face unto the wall,
And death was with him dealing:
“Adieu, adieu, my dear friends all,
And be kind to Barbara Allan.”

And slowly, slowly raise she up,
And slowly, slowly left him,
And sighing said, she coud not stay,
Since death of life had reft him.

She had not gane a mile but twa,
When she heard the dead-bell ringing,
And every jow that the dead-bell geid,
It cry’d, Woe to Barbara Allan!

“O mother, mother, make my bed!
O make it saft and narrow!
Since my love died for me to-day,
I ’ll die for him to-morrow.”

Posted by: Yoki | January 1, 2009 11:13 PM | Report abuse

There are so many versions of that... I remember one where the bells cry "cold-hearted Barbara Allen!"

Memo: never name kids after a ballad about dead lovers.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 1, 2009 11:17 PM | Report abuse

LostInThought, I know just what you mean. You articulated some of my questions very well. I wish Dooley could leap in here. I'm sure the other sciencey kids will play more tomorrow.

Yoki, lovely. Barbara Allen reminds me of the other Barbara in the Civil War poem - she who hung the flag out the window and won the respect of the opposing commanding officer. Barbara Frietchie? I can't remember and will have to rely on someone else, if anyone else cares. Ivansdad and the Boy insist that I leave the Boodle pome night and go to sleep.

Posted by: Ivansmom | January 1, 2009 11:21 PM | Report abuse

Good evening, all.

LiT, your bringing up the Tunguska event is very pertinent to this discussion, and there's a pretty good write-up of it here:

I think there's very good evidence and research to support the hyopthesis that there may in fact *not* be a significant crater under ground zero of an airburst of a large meteorite or comet. Heck, there were tree trunks still standing directly under the Tunguska burst, much less a huge impact crater. Granted, we're talking about something bigger, but just because we haven't found it yet doesn't mean it isn't there (e.g. Can anyone show me a graviton or whatever conveys gravity thorough spacetime? I would argue that gravity exists, nonetheless.)

Also, how much of a disruption would it take to wipe out flora and fauna in a given area? Seems to me that if one floral growing season is disrupted or eliminated due to such an event, there could be a cascade that may result in large-scale flora and fauna extinctions in the blink of an eye, geologically speaking.

I wonder how many anmals survived in that Siberian forest, and how long it took for those ecological niches to be restored or filled by other species?


Posted by: -bc- | January 1, 2009 11:21 PM | Report abuse

Yes, I know. I grew up around more than my fair share of NASA geeks. I'm saying couldn't it have had a zero percent impact. Then there'd be no crater. So you're looking for something that wouldn't be there in the first place. And what if it was a comet? Wouldn't that be a lot of ice? And when that ice burnt up coming in, what would have been left to make an impact? You'd still have the big boom, and stuff flying around, but isn't it possible that there just isn't a crater to find? And about it being under water...couldn't it be under something else at this point? Hasn't the land shifted a bazillion times that you wouldn't see it? Didn't some guy trip across the great sphinx that way? Just the tiniest bit showing?

Off to a find a glass of baileys. Have a good night all.

Posted by: LostInThought | January 1, 2009 11:22 PM | Report abuse

It has been a wonderfully rich Poetry Evening. Thank you Boodle, and good night.

Posted by: Yoki | January 1, 2009 11:25 PM | Report abuse

I remember Bullwinkle's rendition of the Barbara Fritchie poem...

Posted by: seasea | January 1, 2009 11:33 PM | Report abuse

Posted by: seasea | January 1, 2009 11:38 PM | Report abuse

I'm not disagreeing with you one whit LiT. I thought you had great questions.

12,000 years is relatively recent-- one thing we DO know is the bering strait land bridge is now under water, so is some of the ice-age coastline.

We don't have that much information on other geological shifts-- volcanic activity would have to be amazingly right next to any craters to cover the evidence up.

Since 2/3 of the planet is water, and we KNOW that water levels have risen since that period, the simplest explanation may well be that the evidence is underwater.

It is of course possible that the upheaval (drumlins etc) and rebound of the land as glaciers slid off may have obscured any craters that hit the original ice sheets, but again, we're back to water, just in a different form.

We do know that some ice dams burst and caused flash floods towards the end of the ice age.

I think Joel conveyed some skepticism quite appropriately as he wrote it, even ending with "hypothesis" defined.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 1, 2009 11:43 PM | Report abuse

What? There was a land bridge?

Yes, as a general rule, when you hear hooves, you should look for horses. But sometimes, it *is* a zebra.

Posted by: LostInThought | January 1, 2009 11:53 PM | Report abuse

Couple of comments here - Joel's article talks specifically about the YD impact being from a comet airburst. To LiT's point, comets are mostly ice and some low-density rock (a dirty snowball, right?), which seems to me could explode in the air when the pressure of the shockwave of it's passage through the atmosphere exceeded it's structural integrity (roughly that of a big sno-cone, I expect).

I think what hit in Arizona was a high-density hunk of iron-nickel rock, which I'd expect would hold together long enough to hit the ground.

Seems to me that we're talking about the difference between a hunk of iron ore and a snowball hitting your windshield. One goes splat, the other has you calling your insurance company.


Posted by: -bc- | January 1, 2009 11:54 PM | Report abuse

Good advice in your 11:17, Wilbrod. And I suspect that's why you almost never hear of anyone naming their child Oedipus.

Yoki, thank you for suggesting this splendid thread. This was all your doing.

'Night, Boodle.

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | January 1, 2009 11:57 PM | Report abuse

Speaking of ill-advised decisions, here's a Minnesota doozy from a couple days ago.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 2, 2009 12:00 AM | Report abuse

I meant to add that I'd love to find a 10,000 year old Cadillac underwater or in a desert somewhere.

*That* would keep me busy for awhile.

One other thing - wasn't beer invented not too long after this happened? I can only imagine folks in Europe and south America with their Early Civilization lawn chairs out, watching the fireworks over North America with beer in hand.

One Hamburgian proto-farmer gestures with his brew to the West, and the other says, "No, *Bud* Light." (Caution: Terribly Mixed Historical References)


Posted by: -bc- | January 2, 2009 12:19 AM | Report abuse

God loves us so much more than we can imagine through Him that died for all, Jesus Christ.

Good morning, friends. The poetry is lovely, and Kbert, I love your piece. And the Catfish poem is beautiful too.

Lost in thought, your questions are good, and interesting. Wilbrod and Mudge, with the answers.

JA, I like this kit, although, as usual, it leaves me in the dust. That doesn't take anything away from the appeal. Just imagining such things taking place on the planet is like science fiction, but yet much of it is true. It's like being in a science class.

Mudge, Slyness, Scotty, Martooni, Yoki, and everyone, it is Friday morning, day two of the New Year, and a good morning to all. *waving*

It is cold here, and I have to get ready for the walk. I've talked to my sister and she informs me there is a wreck not far from here, on my walking path. I hope no one is hurt. I may have to go with the two pair of pants this morning.

What needs to be done about the situation in Illinois? I'm thinking the person selected to fill the seat is qualified, yet the fact that he's appointed by someone that tried to sell the seat, doesn't that play in there somewhere? And doesn't the fact that the governor did this, made the selection, despite the accusations, more or less speak to the fact that he's in your face, sort of? I mean, isn't he just saying in his actions, bite me?

Have a great day, folks. Stay warm. The weather person here is talking ice and some form of frozen water. I hope it goes around us.

Time to walk.

Posted by: cmyth4u | January 2, 2009 6:34 AM | Report abuse

The snowball analogy is perfect, but I'm not letting go of the Fred Flintstone Ate Them All Theory. It's what happened in Australia, so why not North America too? And we know how tasty that rack of mastodon ribs is. Yummo!

Posted by: yellojkt | January 2, 2009 6:38 AM | Report abuse

And wouldn't a ring encrusted with nanodiamonds be the most romantic nerd gift ever!

Posted by: yellojkt | January 2, 2009 6:40 AM | Report abuse

Science juxtaposed with poetry. I love Achenblog!

Good morning, all, and happy Friday. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm glad to be getting back into the usual groove. The holidays wear me out and make me cranky. I'm grateful to Joel and all of you for providing a refuge amongst the chaos.

Cassandra, have a good walk. I'll be out with you shortly.

Posted by: slyness | January 2, 2009 7:15 AM | Report abuse

Meteor Crater is one of many great reasons to tour northern Arizona. And perhaps the rarest.

Posted by: DaveoftheCoonties | January 2, 2009 7:19 AM | Report abuse

I always thought a meteor was a meteorite that didn't quite make it to the ground...


And I think I could done TWO Dawn Patrols today, the runway was so empty. Now to try and find something to do...

*seeking-2009's-first-cuppa-joe-at-the-office Grover waves* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 2, 2009 7:44 AM | Report abuse

Will someone tell me what makes this car, Bagutti(?)so special that it will fetch millions on the auction block, other then its age? From the picture, it looks really big, almost the size of a bus in car form.


The walk wasn't so bad. One warms up after starting anyway. It's just the starting that throws me for a loop.

Posted by: cmyth4u | January 2, 2009 7:49 AM | Report abuse

Good morning all. A most Felicitous Day after the Day after New Year's to All.

Back at work again. LiT - you raised some great questions. And bc, as usual, your answers showed that you really know what you are talking about.

Posted by: benfnov | January 2, 2009 8:04 AM | Report abuse

Good morning everyone. Including those strangers with odd handles.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 2, 2009 8:06 AM | Report abuse

SCC: coulda done...

could've done...

something like that.

Hi Cassandra!!! *New Year's-plus-one HUGSSSS* :-)

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 2, 2009 8:07 AM | Report abuse

MegaFauna and NanoDiamonds

I want royalties on that book title.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 2, 2009 8:25 AM | Report abuse

And how has anyone not made the Jerry Lee "The Megafauna Killer" Lewis allusion yet?

Goodness gracious! Great balls of fire!

(Any reference to S'nukes medical ailments purely unintentional.)

Posted by: yellojkt | January 2, 2009 8:29 AM | Report abuse

'morning all. Interesting poetry sampling yesterday. I loved the Catfish one, such a maligned beauty the catfish.

Bugatti Royales are very rare Cassandra. Very few were made and even less survived. Don't be fooled by the name, Bugatti was an Italian but the cars are considered French as they were manufactured in France. Beautiful hand-made cars.

It's cold here but nothing like what the brother in law had to suffer in Thompson MB. He went to visit his parents and landed in a cold snap. Nights were between -30C and -40C. That's cold.

This guy writes about the challenges facing adjunct professors of English, not those teaching the future Elite but rather the part-time schmucks facing the Rest of Them. It should ring a bell with poor College Parkian.

Very cool meteoric crater in Northern Quebec (61 deg latitude North!), the Pingualuit. The lake is formed by the inside ridge of the much larger crater.
"Pingualuk Lake
The explosion was tremendous! The meteorite measuring about 120 meters in
diameter slammed into the earth’s crust at 25 km per second! Not surprisingly, the
energy released upon impact—estimated at 8,500 times the Hiroshima bomb—
wiped out all traces of the meteorite itself. Only a few rare impactites, tiny fragments
created by the explosion, have been found scattered around
the chasm.
All this took place nearly 1.4 million years ago, which makes the Pingualuit Crater
one of the youngest in the world! It is also one of the best preserved. The crater,
which has an average depth of 145 meters, reaches 267 meters in depth in certain
areas. With its crystalline waters low in mineral content and fed exclusively by
rainwater, the crater lake is one of the clearest and purest in the world. But purity
has its price. The waters of the lake take an estimated 330 years to renew
themselves, which makes them extremely vulnerable to all forms of pollution."

Posted by: shrieking_denizen | January 2, 2009 8:34 AM | Report abuse

I've seen some nonsensical handles here before, but "benfnov?"

Posted by: Scottynuke | January 2, 2009 8:35 AM | Report abuse

The post-regime spinning continues.

Josh Bolton and Stephen Hadley, the two flunkies in charge of Iraq when Dubya lost interest, make the oddest passive-aggressive argument that the Iraq fiasco was all Bush's fault.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 2, 2009 8:36 AM | Report abuse

We have two contenders for the No Duh Award today.

The first is:
End of the Year Brings A Burst of Settlements With Justice Department

To get the full "No sh1t, Sherlock" effect, you need to read the lede paragraph:

"The Justice Department has reached more than a dozen business-related settlements since the presidential election, with more in the pipeline for January, prompting lawyers and interest groups to assert that companies are seeking more favorable terms before the new administration arrives.

"The climate for business settlements could grow more harsh when Obama appointees seize the reins at the Justice Department, corporate lawyers say."

Let's effin' hope so. It couldn't get less harsh. If the wrist slaps got any lighter, they would attract the attention of Larry Craig.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 2, 2009 8:40 AM | Report abuse

Must be somebody new, scotty!

Catching up with friends here @ work; we don't think mummer boss will be in today. Not that we won't miss him.

Posted by: -dbG- | January 2, 2009 8:43 AM | Report abuse

The other No Duh Contender is:

Obama's Team Rankles the Right

Again, (and pardon my French this morning) I effin' hope so.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 2, 2009 8:44 AM | Report abuse

Been a Franciscan Novice?

Of course I'm one to talk about cryptic boodle handles.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 2, 2009 8:46 AM | Report abuse

It's good to see Chuckie K back in fine form this morning. Here's his assessment of the Hamas policy goals in Gaza:

"For Hamas, the only thing more prized than dead Jews are dead Palestinians."

In deference to mudge's blood pressure, no link will be provided.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 2, 2009 8:48 AM | Report abuse

And out of the Metro Section, we have this heart-warming and butt-freezing tale:

Runners Leave 5K And 2008 Behind

"Yombo was participating in the annual DC Road Runners Club Predictions & Resolutions 5K, one of a dozen held across the region on the first day of the new year. It began at noon at Gateway Park in Rosslyn and snaked along the Mount Vernon bike path. Under a crisp, blue sky, participants ran, walked or jogged the route, taking in a scenic view of the river and various D.C. monuments."

My wife thought I was nuts when I went for a bicycle ride yesterday afternoon. I bundled up in my biker tights, fleece long sleeve shirt, windbreaker, knit skull cap, and full-finger gloves. My wife thought I looked more like I was going skiing instead of riding. Sixteen miles is 36 degree weather. Invigorating.

Hey, what's the use of the cold weather gear if I don't use it?

Posted by: yellojkt | January 2, 2009 8:56 AM | Report abuse

My boss just walked in. I've been without adult supervision all morning in case nobody has noticed. I had to unlock the front door at 8:15, which NEVER happens. I have my iPod set to shuffle and hooked up to some external speakers. This Beth Hart song just played. It tugs at me every time I hear it.

And the Shuffle Gods followed up with "Sensitive New Age Guys". Karma.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 2, 2009 9:01 AM | Report abuse

Scottynuke - I think it is actually an obscene phrase in slovak. If I were Joel I would zap it just to be safe.

All of this talk about comets and asteroids and the impact (no pun intended) they have had always reminds me of Stephen J Gould and his "punctuated equilibrium" school of evolutionary thought. His idea is that natural systems will tend to reach a stable configuration and then stay there until some external influence comes along to shake things up.

That is, instead of a steady March of Progress, the way some view evolution, the history of life on this planet is more like a dog who finds a sunny spot to sleep until the sun moves away. Then he is forced to wake up and search out a new spot to slumber. (I have actually seen this rare phenomenon with mine own eyes.)

The point is, in this view, which I believe represents the behavior of complex systems in general, big changes require big causes. The system is more buffered than many believe.

But here's the thing, what is meant by a big cause? Yes, a Big Rock falling from the sky is a big cause, but what about, say, the development of a technological civilization?

What I am saying, and it is, as are most of my notions, startlingly unoriginal, is that we are reworking the planet with a rapidity that, in geological time, is essentially instantaneous. We are a catastrophic event. We are like an asteroid.

The good news is that the earth has survived these before, I am am confident it will again. I just wish I could be around in another few thousand years to see how it all plays out.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 2, 2009 9:01 AM | Report abuse

I think you are on to something. Perhaps someday the Gaia Hypothesis will be as central a metaphor as Survival of the Fittest is now.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 2, 2009 9:04 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, Boodle.

Grrrr. Joel's article fails to load :0(

Posted by: Braguine | January 2, 2009 9:06 AM | Report abuse

'Morning, Boodle. Reporting in for Dawn Pa-- hey, wait!! Where's all the other airplanes? Why's there no more coffee in the Ready Room? Only a few paltry donuty crumbs?

Oh. Yeah. I see. After 9 already. Serves me right, I guess. *reluctantly slinks off to work*

Posted by: Curmudgeon- | January 2, 2009 9:11 AM | Report abuse

been 'ere afore nov
is benfnov, I do recall
a friendly lurker?

Posted by: DNA_Girl | January 2, 2009 9:12 AM | Report abuse

It's sot of like the Anthropic Principle writ smaller, isn't it. Systems evolve, naturally, to stability because the unstable solutions don't survive. Because they are, you know, unstable.

So you end up with a "Gaia" like scenario automatically. The system creates itself and, one hopes, heals itself.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 2, 2009 9:16 AM | Report abuse

SCC: "Sixteen miles in 36 degree weather" and it only took me 67 minutes. That has been your exercise numerology for the morning.

And what is that holiday for procrastinators that save work for the end of the year? I think I'm celebrating it today.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 2, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse

That's the mythical Feast Day of Saint Saverio.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 2, 2009 9:25 AM | Report abuse

Also known as the King of the All Nighter.

(Saverio actually was a real person I once knew who was infamous for Putting Things Off.)

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 2, 2009 9:28 AM | Report abuse

I'm actually The Acting Boss today. I mean, I have been handed the Staff of Ultimate Power and everything.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 2, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

I mean the Boss of our division. Which is why I need to go to a staff meeting now.

Pray for me.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 2, 2009 9:31 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, Boodle, Cassandra, all.

It is a cold and wistful morning chez Yoki, as #1 departs for Montreal and physics-boy also leaves us. The very thought had me hiding under the covers.

Will spend some time later trying to get the shrink-wrap off a new recording of Die Zauberflote and load it onto the Ipod for maximum range.

I decided to ditch work today, delightfully leaving me more time to practice my twaddle-writing. Because, you know, I love drivel.

Hope all is well and trust that routine will reestablish itself post-haste.

Posted by: Yoki | January 2, 2009 9:43 AM | Report abuse

Good morning, all.

RD (ahem), yellojkt, thanks for the attaboys.

Cassandra, re. the Bugatti's value - I could get into a lot of reasons to justify it compared to other vehicles of the time (build quality, materials, performance, etc.), but I think the real answer is far simpler. Like anything else in a capitalist society, an object's market value is just what people are willing to pay for it. Isn't the Mona Lisa or Sunflowers simply old paint on an old canvas stretched over old wood? From a material perspective, how much is that stuff worth? Those paintings are probably with more than that Bugatti Type 57, and one could argue that you really can't do anything with them other then hang them up and look at them. One can at least drive the Bugatti if one so chose...

The collector car market is just like the art market - cars evaluated for artistic value and rarity, beauty, performance, condition (unrestored being more valuable than restored, these days) and a market value derived from those parameters by "experts" and dealers, and the most valuable sold at auction, just like other art.

I think that Bugatti is beautiful and wonderful car, but I'm not sure I'd buy it, even if I had the means.


Posted by: -bc- | January 2, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

As is made a little clearer in the NYT version of the story
the conundrum is that the diamond was almost certainly made by a very high-impact-energy collision. The sort quite a bit more energetic than a Tunguska-like "explode in midair from atmosphere shock" explosion. Thus a search for an impact crater.

I have an alternate explanation. Assume the mass was ejected from an orbit far out in space by a prior collision with another object out there. Now smithereens, the object slowly reforms in its own weak gravity as it embarks on a new orbit which crosses Earth's. A loose ball of ice, chondritic matter, and the diamond dust created by its impact. This is what eventually impacts the earth Tunguska-like. Leaving the diamond dust but no huge impact crater.

(Aside, one way to think of "meteorite" is as a mineral. Like goethite, smithite, pegmatite, illite, etc.)

Posted by: Jumper1 | January 2, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Looks like buying more milk and cheese is helpful to some dairy farmers. Perhaps some homemade pizza is an option. Certainly a huge box of costco dry milk for homemade yogurt.

Posted by: Jumper1 | January 2, 2009 10:09 AM | Report abuse

SCC: "worth"

jumper, that's an interesting hypothesis. I imagine there's some way to date the nanodiamonds seperately from the sediment it's in.

In your scenario, I think that original impact that created the NDs would have happened in space long, long before the YD event, and would carbon-date differently.


Posted by: -bc- | January 2, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

seasea, sorry to take so long to respond; I am an intermittent boodler these days, at best...

My paraphrase of the Brautigan poem about karma:

1. blah blah blah
2. blah blah blah
3. blah blah blah
(4.) (silence)

Brautigan was quite a guy--able to say what so many of us were (are) thinking, but that facility of expression paradoxically did not ease the pain of his existence. That's surprising to me because I usually think what's most painful is being unable to express one's feelings in a meaningful way, the loneliness of the emptiness, so to speak. Maybe he just didn't comprehend the extent to which other people did understand what he was saying. Many people did not understand him, and maybe he met too many of those people and not enough of the others. Maybe the internet would have saved him...

Posted by: kbertocci | January 2, 2009 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Good morning boodle! A light workday in the hip urban loft, but a workday nonetheless so it won't be quite so painful to go back to the grind next week.

For your listening pleasure I highly recommend the Third Coast Festival radio documentary award winners and honorable mentions.

For viewing, Nature's "Images of the Year" include almost everything the boodle holds dear, math, Mars, crocheting, tomatoes and Obama.

Off to get something done. Mr. F's crusty bread rocks as breakfast toast. Who knew he'd grow to be so useful?

Posted by: frostbitten1 | January 2, 2009 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Lack of writing skills is a common problem at many colleges. In my day, Gallaudet had English 50, an intensive 6-credit course, for those who tested as having skills too weak to qualify for English 101 or 102.

It was pretty harsh, but it allowed them to focus on getting the basic skills without fear of failing college English.

My Honors professor once spoke of teaching remedial English in Louisana. He said it was surprisingly satisfying seeing them do some progress in their writing; presumably because the class WAS remedial English, not college English taught to remedial students.

I'd say that private college needs to not set students up to fail.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 2, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

"...the conundrum is that the diamond was almost certainly made by a very high-impact-energy collision."

Jumper... nicely phrased. I mentally substituted "carborundum" for "diamond," though.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 2, 2009 10:47 AM | Report abuse

An interesting coincidence in today's paper. From the No Duh article I linked to before:

///Some well-known Democratic activists are advising Obama on how to steer federal agencies, including a few whom conservative Republicans fought hard to keep out of power in the Clinton administration. They include Roberta Achtenberg, a gay activist whose confirmation as an assistant housing secretary was famously held up by then-Sen. Jesse Helms (N.C.)///

From the Claiborne Pell obituary today:

///In 1993, amid a debate over the nomination of Roberta Achtenberg, who was gay, to be an assistant secretary in the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Sen. Pell impressed his colleagues when he took to the Senate floor to announce that one of his daughters, Julia L. W. Pell, was gay.

"I would not want to see her barred from a government job because of her orientation," he said. ///

A hero has reached his rest.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 2, 2009 10:48 AM | Report abuse

The article is very sad. I have, say, two of 66 students each semester who fit that profile. Recall that I do not teach freshman comp, but advanced comp in the forms of professional and technical writing. My course is a university-wide graduation requirement.

Without casting blame on students, I feel compelled to say this: some sort of late-in-the-game collision (collusion?) of optimism, social promotion, and our preference for open access can yield what the author writes about. He is concerned that he (I experience this too, and the pain for all is sharp) is the last in the education punch-ticket line and sometimes is the most profound failure moment. Huge consequences that either 1) teaching and learning did not take place earlier in an unfolding and graduated system and 2) or some other instructors did not mark the grades as failing earlier. Experiencing the roadblock of failure for the first time in college is hideous! and unjust and demoralizing. I wish that the college-requirement for many jobs was a more realistic cluster of certifications.

I love our openness and second change preference. In Europe, your track is set sometime between 5th and 8th grade. But this must be one of the most serious casualties. Cannockies? What happens in the fair climes of Canadia?

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | January 2, 2009 10:54 AM | Report abuse

scc; second CHANCE

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | January 2, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

CqP, it can also be caused by failed school systems who merely "grade on the curve" rather than promoting academic standards.

I could tell you stories about students who got good grades in English in HS only to find themselves faced with taking English 50. They didn't get angry at Gallaudet, they got angry at their old schools and teachers. As they should.

I knew a woman who raised honors students by insisting they read a book and showing them what she did know of English. She came to college in her fifties and had to take remedial English. She really couldn't write much more than a simple SVO sentence at all.

In her case, she was robbed of significant language until she was around 11 years old, then learned sign for the first time. That means she would forever be monolingual. She had a passion for seeing that other deaf got a better educational deal than she did; she even served on a governor's board in Alabama centered on deaf education. I really enjoyed knowing her.

We just need to realize that ESL students don't always have exotic names or birthplaces, sad to say.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 2, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Whoops, skipped a little there in the last post. She raised two children, both honors-English material, by making them read a book a week, generally on Fridays, before they could go out to play. She made it clear to them that ASL and English were two different languages, as well.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 2, 2009 11:03 AM | Report abuse

I just read 'Consider the Lobster' by the late David Foster Wallace. In it he has an essay about how his Literature Class always devolves into a three-week mini-course on composition. He also includes his warning/pep-talk to students than can't or won't use what he calls Standard Written English. He also describes the consequences he has suffered from giving that private lecture.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 2, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

On kit comment; Of all the charismatic and extinct megafauna mentioned, I would most want to have seen the giant armadillo. Hey, I would like to see a real armadillo in person.

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | January 2, 2009 11:04 AM | Report abuse

CP - I would love to see a giant armadillo as well. Although the dinosaurs get more press, I find the giant mammals equally intriguing. Maybe because they are so similar to what he have today.

I would also like to see a giant ground sloth. And yet, after observing my teenaged-son over break, well, I feel as though I already have.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | January 2, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

You can see armadillos in Norfolk,

Or merely walk to the Small Mammal House at the National Zoo to see the three-banded armadillo.

Warning: the Small Mammal House does have a couple of cat-sized wildcats, but they are safely behind glass.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 2, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Wilbrod -- yes, the story you mention is widespread, whatever the presenting difficulty for a student who struggles.

Loads of help, even at the college level exists, much of it free. However, these students do not have a moment to devote to the writing center tutors, let alone make my office hours. I have two students in the situation you mention. I lay awake at night about it, really.

YJ, what were the consequences for DFWallace? Was he pressured to give the mercy D-?

Posted by: CollegequaParkian | January 2, 2009 11:14 AM | Report abuse

I'm stuck on six college credits for a course that isn't college level. Why not just knock the six credits off of what's necessary to graduate? Same dif, no? College, whether private or public, isn't there to make it easy for you to graduate. Just because you have the money and four years doesn't mean you get a college degree.

Posted by: LostInThought | January 2, 2009 11:31 AM | Report abuse

1) tuition fees
2) enables students to receive and maintain necessary credit level for tuition reimbursement for full-time studies.

6 credits fairly reflects the time and work commitment expected for that class.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 2, 2009 11:33 AM | Report abuse

Morning all
Cloudy and cold here is west by god this morning.I started walking again,well just around the block for now.I walked by the street light and was so tempted to throw rocks at it. But I could hear my mother's voice in the background(like the angel/devil guys) in Animal House.

Just birds as my wildlife report,I guess I should put the birdfeeder back up,not much chance of seeing the bear this time of the year.

Off to do some chores.

Posted by: greenwithenvy | January 2, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

Actually, no remedial student would graduate in 4 years, LiT. Maybe they'd never graduate, but at least they should leave more literate and educated than going in.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 2, 2009 11:40 AM | Report abuse

DFW was censured by an academic committee for being racially insensitive. It went on his Permanent Record. You have to read the whole essay to get the full context. Titled "Tense Present", it was originally in Harpers and is available online only to subscribers.

Posted by: yellojkt | January 2, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

But apparently some people think remedial courses make a student more likely to drop out...

(I would submit that THEIR need for remedial work is the reason, not what the college tells them to take.)

Deaf students cannot simply take adult ed classes and get remotely the same kind of remedial support oriented to deaf education needs that they could get at Gallaudet. What are their options to improve on a lousy education other than college?

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 2, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

We have remedial programs in our Universities as well. I must say, however, that from the studies and stats it looks as though Canadian public schools are far more successful at turning out literate and numerate graduates than is the case in the US. Even though education is within provincial jurisdiction, there is a reasonably consistent standard across the country that must be met or the student will not easily gain admittance into any University.

Posted by: Yoki | January 2, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

New kit-- Joel's posted a Catastrophe Roundup!

Posted by: curmudgeon-1 | January 2, 2009 11:52 AM | Report abuse

It's not the remedial classes that I object to. It's the college level credit for classes that aren't college level.

Lots of people are self-taught, or taught in an environment that doesn't include formal classes....Ernest Hemingway, for example.

I can't go to the Universitat de Barcelona and say I don't the speak the language, I deserve special consideration...give me 6 credits. I'd be expected to take the college prep classes before I got to college.

Posted by: LostInThought | January 2, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

Actually those do not get college credit towards a degree at all. You're confusing credit hours per semester to credits that count towards a degree.

By the way, Gallaudet also requires people to be proficient enough in sign to keep up in classes.

Gallaudet doesn't allow sign language to count as a foreign language credit at all, for very logical reasons.

Self-educated people may actually be able to pass some equalivency tests or have life experience counted towards the degree, as long as they can pass the tests, which they must pay for.

Posted by: Wilbrod_Gnome | January 3, 2009 12:42 AM | Report abuse

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