Claude out shopping for a new faucet (because the one in the downstairs bathroom is shot), kids watching Rocky and Bullwinkle (because they've lost the Wii remote). Quiet Friday evening in Fladungen, the sky clearing for what looks to be a frosty night.
So for a while it looked like we might be going to Mongolia next. But now it appears not. Oh, well! That said, here's an interesting thing: most of us have heard the factoid about how X million men are descended from Genghis Khan. Well, it appears that it's true. Yes, one out of every two hundred men -- or more like one out of every four, in some parts of Asia -- is a descendant in the direct male line from the late Khan of all the Mongols.
A link I stumbled across while looking for something else: Devil's Lake, in North Dakota, has been growing steadily for years now, very probably because of climate change.
I used to live in Illinois, and I used to like driving around on two-lane roads. Over time, this gave me a rather low opinion of small towns and cities in America's middle west -- most of them seem, frankly, kinda depressing. But just from the wikipedia article, this small city looks like a nice place to visit.
A short article about childhood in the classical world. There are things here I'd like to know more about.
So a Russian prosecutor's office opened a prosecution against the holy text of the Hare Krishnas, and it has turned into an international cause celebre. Apparently this is part of a general crackdown against the Hare Krishnas, which in turn is part of a broader pattern of Orthodox churches encouraging state aggression against minority religions, especially ones that are "odd" or "foreign". Which arguably is just part of an even bigger pattern of assholic behavior by state-sponsored churches worldwide, but never mind that now.
The Hare Krishnas are an incredibly tempting target, because they're prominent and easy to spot (shaved heads, robes) and kind of obnoxious (chanting, proselytizing). That said, there are probably better ways of dealing with them. The real world doesn't give a Gouranga Bonus.
So here's an interesting image: a young woman on trial in front of a military tribunal, with the judges concealing their faces from the camera. It's Brazil in 1970, when it was under a military dictatorship. The young woman was part of a Marxist group that opposed the regime. She was captured, held and tortured for weeks, but refused to give any information. Eventually she was released; many years later, she got a job with the government.
Speaking of dictatorships, I just like this story. (Note: author Malaparte was not an entirely trustworthy narrator. That said, he did spend plenty of time on the Eastern Front. I mean to look up his book sometime.) My Spanish sister-in-law liked it too, and then told me some hair-raising stories of how the debate over the Spanish Civil War is continuing today.
Also speaking of dictators: living the dream.
And speaking of worms, I think this is pretty nifty. "The presence of living organisms at this depth was not unexpected: bacteria had been found in fracture water previously. Nevertheless, this is the first time that a multicellular animal has been found at this depth." There's evidence that in some cases, multicellular animals may be going up to 3.6 km -- over two miles -- into the Earth's crust. Personally I suspect these will turn out to be minor and marginal cases -- I don't think there's a deep hot biosphere or anything like that -- but they're fascinating minor and marginal cases.
This is a mildly interesting essay on meditation, but I love this bit: "You might as well put a piece of stick you have picked up in the garden on the mantelpiece and give it a flower every day. In a month you will be worshipping it and not to put a flower in front of it will become a sin."
I tend to be very impatient with people who talk about how our space program is dooooomed. (Or, even more annoyingly, how civilization is dooooomed because we dont' have a proper space program.) That said, this guy actually has a point. Meanwhile, though, I'm not shedding a tear for the end of the Space Shuttle program. Also space related: this interesting article on why we should try a manned expedition (sometime, one of these days) to the Oceanus Procellarum area of the Moon. Apparently there were still volcanoes and lava flows on the Moon as recently as a billion years ago. Which is a while, okay, but on the other hand the Moon was still geologically active for the first 75% of the Earth's existence.
And speaking of the Moon: lost data and photographs from the last Apollo mission were kept for years in an abandoned McDonalds before being retrieved.
So that's almost it for 2012. How are you guys?