Book Review: Megafauna

Fariña, Richard A. et al, Megafauna: Giant Beasts of Pleistocene South America.(Indiana University Press, 2013) Kindle Edition

Short version: Neat book, skim the arguments about Darwin and Intelligent Design.

Longer version: The book looked interesting, and the price was better than for a lot of similar texts, so I decided to give it a try. If you are interested in the strange mammals that roamed the Americas south of Panama, this is a fascinating and very well written book. It helps to have some biology background, although the first two chapters go into detail about how paleontology developed in South America and how the animals are organized and classified. Although most of us in North America know at least a little about Ice Age mammals (giant hairy elephants and friends), far more kinds of critters existed in the south.

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Some Thoughts on the Damage to Notre Dame de Paris

Well, to paraphrase, since this is a PG-rated blog, “nagdabbit!” Followed by, boy I hope this was not arson. Then, medieval churches’ greatest enemy strikes again. Then I cried.

I’ve only seen the outside of Notre Dame. The line was so long, and the day so hot, that I opted to go to the Roman site under the church rather than stand in line for two hours in the sun. I’ve seen a number of other Gothic cathedrals, and didn’t feel the need to get heat-stress just to view this one along with thousands of strangers. (I got heat stress the next day, after going back to the Louvre. It was near 100 F on the city streets, with a hot wind and dust swirling from the park near the museum.)

One of the single greatest causes of, ahm, unplanned urban renewal in the pre-modern era was fire. Without pumps that could move water and apply constant pressure to it, the only thing to do was 1. bucket-brigade, 2. tear down buildings closest to the fire to keep it from spreading, 3. pray, 4. all of the above. Some of the earliest building requirements, such as a tile or slate roof, or covering the facade with plaster to cover and protect beams, or “cover fire hours,” (curfews) came from those fires. Multi-storey houses often kept ladders under the eves of the first floor, along with buckets, in case the fire tocsin rang in the night. Certain church bells would be designated as the fire bell, and when that note sounded, everyone stopped what they were doing and hurried to fight the fire. Continue reading

Book Review: The Maneaters of Kumaon

Corbett, Jim. The Maneaters of Kumaon (Kindle edition, Merwin Unwin Reprint)

I grew up being told stories from Corbett and Capstick, and Bell, and other hunters and naturalists. So I knew the stories before I read them. That doesn’t change the heart-racing effect of reading this book, however. Corbett was a great story-teller as well as naturalist and hunter.

I needed a complete brain break. This was the perfect book for that. Short, intense, and beautifully written. Continue reading

Horse Lessons

When I was flying full time, I needed something to do in my free time that was not flying airplanes or reading. It just so happened that the stars aligned and I was able to take riding lessons, both western and modified English. I loved it, and it did wonders for my posture and my knees. I almost had a six-pack (thank you, cantering). I also had bruises in interesting places and learned how to fall with grace and dignity, sort of. Continue reading

Stamm on Shikhari

Of all the things that confound well-meaning people about Shikhari – the animals that want to eat them, scratch-mint—Stamm has to be the greatest conundrum. The Staré sort themselves by size and color, and enforce a set of brain-twistingly complicated duties and restrictions on themselves. It strikes newcomers and horrible unfair and the worst sort of discrimination. Long-timers and those humans born on Shikhari who have spent time learning about the system of Stamm find it just as complicated, but accept it for what it is.

So, what is it? Continue reading