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Friday, December 31, 2010

Ode to the newly discovered squidworm

(Photo credit: Laurence Madin, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute)
click to enlarge

And now, a newcomer, from the Celebes Sea,
The most curious beastie you're likely to see.
Teuthidodrilus samae, a segmented worm
with enough weird appendages to make anyone squirm.
What is it for -- all that tentacled foppery?
Evolution devising its own sort of moppery.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

"Britain's most stylish couple"...

Charlotte and Peter Fiell, using Morris's stylish Fruit in their stylish hallway!  Read the full article with other pictures of their gorgeous Arts and Craft Aesthetic style home in today's New York Times. 

(Michael Harding for the New York Times)

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Exuma Junkanoo

Junkanoo is a Bahamian street parade that traditionally occurs before dawn on Boxing Day, December 26th.  The tradition dates back to the 16th or 17th century when slaves were given one day off after  Xmas to celebrate with their families.  Usually the junkanoo begins before dawn but this year it was held after sunset, I think in an effort to lure larger tourist crowds.  It seemed to have worked as the ratio of tourists to locals was much higher than in years past and the streetside bars were doing a ripping business.  However, it didn't have the same magic as the pre-dawn junkanoo with the drums being warmed over makeshift fires before the parade and everyone lining the streets rubbing the sleep out of their eyes wondering why the hell they got up this early---until the fun starts that is.  The marchers often spend months working on their costumes and floats and in Nassau, where the largest junkanoo is held, competition is intense for various best-in-show categories.  The size of the smaller Exuma junkanoo waxes and wanes with the economy....happily larger this year than last.  Like many nations heavily dependent on tourism, the recent economic meltdown hit Exuma hard.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Monsterdrawings on Post-it notes

Who do you get when you cross Edward Gorey with Maurice Sendak? A Denmarkian named Don Kenn!  Here's the link to his website....take your come this guy doesn't have a book? 

And if you like your bedtime stories twisted, make sure you didn't miss the Struwwelpeter post.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Capt. Robert's Conch Salad

Ingredients (serves 12):

4-5 freshly caught conch
a few red or green peppers
an onion
a few tomatoes
a few cucumbers
a few pepperoncini

a few oranges
a few limes

Step 1.  harvest the conch meat using the back of a hammer to whack a hole in just the right spot on the shell.  Insert long thin knife and cut muscle away from shell such that you can pull conch out of front door.

Step 2.  clean the guts off such that white meat remains (optionally eating a certain clear gooey part rumored locally to make you more virile).  Dice into small pieces with small machete (for most authentic experience) or any strong knife.

Step 3.   Fill a large bowl half full with seawater and put diced conch and diced veggies into bowl as you continue with chopping of peppers, onions, cucumbers and tomatoes.

Step 4.  When all veggies chopped, drain out seawater then squeeze in juice from a few oranges and limes.  Add chopped pepperoncini.

 Step 5.  Toss and serve immediately with a cup of Goombay Smash!

Trips in the Exuma Cays with Capt. Robert can be be booked through his web site Robert's Island Adventures.   Mention Maureen of the stromatolites  :-).

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Last minute shopping?

Update from an earlier post "Buy a share in a satellite" ---- an email I received today....

Dear Friends,

You are one of the over 530 people from 30 different countries who have donated to the campaign. Some of you may be spending the day with your family and friends celebrating Christmas.  Others are treating this day just like any other.  Together we've raised almost $30,000.  Over 100 people have volunteered their services on our volunteer form.  Some bought shirts as Christmas presents recognizing that the gift of access for others is far more vital than any trinket:

"I donated three times. I am giving them all away as presents. This year I am implementing a "donation only" policy with my family and friends.  I'm a web / technology developer and I love bringing great technology to the market. However, the more I work, the more I have come to believe that the ones who need technology most are the ones who receive it least, and the ones who need technology least have the most of it." - Alex

And others donated for reasons we never anticipated:

"I come from a family of holocaust survivors and I donated $1,000.  Since I was a young kid I asked how the world did not come to our help during the holocaust.  I was told time and time again, "We (the world) didn't know."  I keep asking this question many times: The Chinese cultural revolution, Cambodia, Lebanon... I am donating in the name of my grandmother who lived through the horrors of the concentration camps and for the better future for my kids" -Roni

The Internet made all of this possible.  Online news organizations and blogs like, Al Jazeera, Popular Science, covered our story.  1,500 people follow our updates on, our founder Kosta Grammatis was invited to give a TEDx talk in Athens Greece, and now we now have the opportunity to stay in touch with each and every one of you, to say thank you for your donation, via e-mail.

The beauty of the Internet is that it already connects billions of people to the incredible tools and resources available online.  We will work to bring this opportunity to the billions of others who aren't so lucky.

Thank you for your support.  Please continue to share this idea with your family and friends this holiday season.

With Gratitude,

a baby Jesus pic for to all...

Rest on the Flight into Egypt (c. 1597), Caravaggio 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A friendship map of the world

click to enlarge (and see the Kiwis!)

Paul, a Facebook intern on their data infrastructure engineering team (whose no doubt has very proud parents), made a brilliant map of the geographic connections between ten million randomly chosen pairs of facebook friends.  From the near perfect outlines of many countries you can see the concentrations of populations along coastlines.  You can also see the black hole of China.  From Paul:

"What really struck me, though, was knowing that the lines didn't represent coasts or rivers or political borders, but real human relationships. Each line might represent a friendship made while travelling, a family member abroad, or an old college friend pulled away by the various forces of life."

I was recently friended by an old acquaintance from Nicaragua, one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere, now coming on-line.  How sweet it would be if that was one of the lines.....

Monday, December 20, 2010

What to buy a Morris enthusiast for Xmas?

Artist and fellow Morris enthusiast David Mabb channels The Great One and Russian textile designer Luibov Popova in his bold new work.  He has recently released a collection of limited edition signed prints which you can see above and read about here.  The Victorian and Albert Museum bought one (~US$120), so can you!

Last summer I had the pleasure of visiting Mabb in his studio, link here.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The decisive moment...

In San Francisco this week I visited the SF Museum of Modern Art where the first major retrospective of the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson (died 2004 at age 95) is on exhibit until late January.  From the exhibit:

"An innovative artist, trailblazing photojournalist, and quintessential world traveler, Henri Cartier-Bresson ranks among the most accomplished and original figures in the history of photography. His inventive images of the early 1930s helped define the creative potential of the medium, and his uncanny ability to capture life on the run made his work synonymous with "the decisive moment." This major retrospective offers a fresh look at Cartier-Bresson's entire career, revealing him as one of the great portraitists of the 20th century and one of its keenest observers of the global theater of human affairs."

The exhibit is vast and engrossing and left me wondering how much an original would cost.  From Artnet and various other places on web it looks like a signed photograph is typically between ten and twenty thousand US dollars.  This reminded me of a friend I had in graduate school in the 80s---Joanne had two firmly held goals in life, she wanted a signed Picasso drawing and a fur coat.  You might appreciate this seemed quite exotic to the rest of us scientist-students and I've often wondered since if she achieved these goals. 

In February the exhibit will go to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta.

The exhibit book....gorgeous!

"It is through living that we discover ourselves, at the same time as we discover the world around us."

----Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1952

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Building material recycling and historical imponderables

 The Basilica Cistern in/under Istanbul was built by Emperor Justinian in the sixth century.  Three hundred and thirty six marble columns, many recycled from former building sites, hold up the ceiling of an underground cistern capable of holding 80,000 cubic meters of water.  You might also remember this place from the James Bond movie "From Russia with Love".

Two columns are held up by massive Medusa heads.  Where did they come from?  And why not right-side up?  From wikipedia: "it is widely thought that they were placed sideways and upside down only to be the proper size to support their columns."  But this makes no sense for the upside-down one which presumably would be exactly same height if flipped 180°.  A wonderful historical mystery.....

Thursday, December 9, 2010

An eternity of starry nights

 (head for scale)

What surprises one about Egypt is the sheer number of temples and tombs that are so well-preserved, in large part due to being buried in sand in an extremely dry climate.  Carved hieroglyphics and bas-reliefs are still vibrantly colored from pigments applied thousands of years ago.  One constant is the blue ceilings with gold stars, the evolutionary predecessor of those seen all over Europe (remember this Italy post?).  I love the more primitive shape of the stars, applied in geometric lines---who wouldn't want a ceiling like this in their house?  I'm told the Versace Mansion in Miami has a such a ceiling.

These particular ceilings are in the Temple of Hatchetsup on Luxor's west bank.

The God Thoth

Temple of Edfu

The God Horus