Archive for October, 2007


31 October 2007

Here’s a scary hallowing story for you: continued atmospheric CO2 elevation> increased soil acidification> nutrient-stressed plants> MAN EATING FLORA!!!

Don’t worry, Triffids are fictional. For now.

Thanks to Kevin Z from The Other 95% for the memetic inspiration, to Oberlin cult personality Curtis for turning me onto the Triffids and a Happy Halloween to all!  Proper blogging will resume when the @$!!% NSF application is done.

Boneyard VIII

29 October 2007

The latest issue of the premier paleo blog carnival is up!  Go spend a night at the Hairy Museum of Natural History, but don’t be surprised if you see a lot of dead things.

That, my child, Was Where I Ditched You…

26 October 2007

last summer’s footprints are walkin’
walkin’ dove walkin’ dove walkin’ dove
through last summer’s sand
a dove walkin’ dove walkin’ dove
and where the footprints end
where the footprints end
what happened then?

Footprints“, Bill Callahan

I stepped into wet paint at the Hartman gardens, Lorin said “Dude you just stepped in the man’s paint.” You only get one shot (give or take) to get your body into the fossil record. There’s ample opportunity to leave your mark in other ways however.

Photo: Simon Sharville

As we traipse and course across the planet we frict against various materials. Most are outside the goldilocks zone, either too resilient or too ephemeral to mark our passing. In the urban environment wet paint and wet cement serve as tremendous media for tracking a few short hours in the life of a city.

Photo: Mr. Bullitt

Naturally occuring regolith can perform much the same function although the Earth’s surface is a dynamic place and these traces generally have a short lifespan. As with body fossils however, with untold billions of organisms dragging their selves hither and yon across the greater part of the planet it’s hardly a surprise that some of these tracks find their way into the rock record.

Ichnology is the study of second-hand structures that record the passing of a living organism. This encompasses borings, burrows, trails and crap. For all the appeal of coprolites, the most familiar vertebrate ichnofossils are surely trackways, footprints left in a soft substrate preserved by some accident of sedimentary history.

Fossil footprints have been in the news lately with not one but three important fossil footprint discoveries announced in recent weeks. To treat each with appropriate nuance would guarantee fatal miring, so with only cursorial commentary here they are:

Tyrannosaurus rex footprint? Snap! Here’s the National Geographic story. Actually, eff the footprint, one wants to get down on hands and knees and look for mammal teeth right? (I’m so over dinosaurs btw).

Unfortunately, I missed the SVP talk concerning Australian theropod tracks, but like we said: “eh, theropods. Who cares?” They probably had parkas. Brian does a better job with it.

Okay, now this is really interesting: pictured at top are 315 million year old tracks probably made by some of the earliest amniotes. And, apparently they’re greedy to get their paws on some sweet Canadian dollars.

Ussher…He’s the one with the band-aid right?

24 October 2007

While most of us were presumably present at the moment of our own birth, few can honestly say they can clearly recall it.  Even fewer had a good sense of the exact hour or day when this singularly important event took place, at least at the time.

While we tend to take knowledge of our own birthdate for granted (mine’s November 1 by the way, I know you’ve all been trolling my Amazon wishlist), we of course depend upon the memory of other interested parties, namely our parents.  Dial back several centuries or so, and most humans had only a very hazy idea of when the were born perhaps narrowed down to a particular season of a given year.

High-born Europeans, like James Ussher, were better off than most, and we might assume that his literate clerk father is responsible for the unusually exact record we have for Ussher’s birth (see image above).

As Primate of All Ireland, Ussher took it upon himself to calculate the exact birthdate of the Earth using the best documentary accounts of his time.  After considerable scholarly investigation Ussher deduced that the planet was created around nightfall on October 22nd, 4004 BCE.

Hearty chortles across the interweb today in response to the WorldNetDaily piece commemorating the 6010th [sic] birthday of the planet.  Anyone adhering to Ussher’s chronology in 2007 deserves a chortle.

However, it’s important to remember that Ussher himself was working in 1658 well before Jim Hutton, Chas Lyell, or Chuck D.  In building his chronology Ussher attempted to integrate historical records from different cultures across the “Middle East” (what’s the PC term for the fertile crescent anyway?), or what WorldNetDaily hilariously calls “secular sources.”  All hail secular Marduk!

Uh, anyway…go read Steve Gould’s classic “Fall in the House of Ussher” for an excellent account of how the Irish Primate should be a hero for modern academics and not reality-challenged young earthers.

Wave Bye Bye to the Bureaucrat….

23 October 2007

Dear microecos reader:

Due to administrative changes, microecos will now be a cultural studies blog. We were going to rename it mikrosocé but “Soce” turns out to be the nom de rap of a gay MC also known as the Elemental Wizard:

Yo, yo,
My name is soshizzle,
The elemental wizzle.
I grew up in the meadow.
It’s different from the ghetto.
I did a lot of biking,
And that was to my liking.
There were a lot of flowers.
I rarely took a shower.
I’m not very political,
Vocabulary’s minimal.
My adversary’s critical.
The magick fairy’s mystical.
I’m setting it off,
Getting my record sellin’ boomin’.
I’m consumin’ delectable canaries.
What are you doin’, hunh? —

From “Elemental Intro” by Soce, the Elemental Wizard

©2005 Andrew Singer

So instead we’re going to go with “epikulturen.” No wait, that’s lame. How about “abiorevelation.” Too oblique? I’m still partial to “Albert Hoffman’s Bike Wreck” but that polled poorly in Austin.

Oh, nevermind. But I’m changing my major to Art History. Also I’m selling my washboard synthesizer and buying a harmonium. I mean a melodica.

That is all.

Up next: Coral Bacchanalia.

Bobbing — Green Apple Falls

22 October 2007


Funny that. Few things as wholesome as an apple. You know–a gift for the teacher on the first day of school, the perennial preventative medicine du jour, icon of baked Americana & c.Of course, peel away the glossy veneer and things get a little more complex. Ingest a cup full of cyanogenic apple seeds and rather than keep ol’ sawbones away you’ll earn yourself a quick trip to the emergency ward. Then there’s the tales of razor-blade filled apples telephoned across elementary school playgrounds this time of year, fueled by phobic parents and resentment against Halloween health nuts.

John Chapman, religious zealot and apple entrepreneur, probably did not actually walk around in a burlap sack and a soup pot hat. He probably did try, and fail, to invest in a child bride. He definitely eschewed grafting as an unholy act and thereby guaranteed that the vast majority of apples he grew found their way to the cider mill rather than the school marm’s desk.

Of course, as well as being a good stimulant for conviviality in climates too cold for wine grapes, apple jack has a lower freezing point than water, making it a refreshing winter beverage not requiring thawing or indoor storage. You can’t get more Americanically pragmatic than that.

I like to see the whole grand narrative of Johnny Appleseed’s pragmatic American idealism in these [warning: Ultra-non-worksafe for reasons of intense intoxic subculturalism] glassy-eyed dryads. To wit, “Or, if you’re in the woods you can use a stick”

Of course, there’s a grand tale behind all of this: with Scythians and proto-griffins and archaic apple and Alma-Ata gold cultivars. But I’ve said too much already.

Happy Autumn.

Pluvialis has been enjoying the Autumn harvest as well. Of apples, I mean, of course.


22 October 2007

Something about the cover of Carl Zimmer’s new book looks a tad familiar…

well, I guess I didn’t invent lowercase letters and it’s kind of a logical move when working with the prefix “micro.” Still, I’m going to consider it an extremely subtle homage.  And unlike this website Carl’s book is actually about microbiology.  I look forward to reading it!