Matt Mullenix, who talked me into having a website, designed it, and got me going, has a new blog, Waypoints . His last became one of the most original and literate falconry books around– I’ll tell you about it as soon as it is out. The new one is more free- form and he is asking for feedback. Matt is an original mind. What can you say about a (still young, Matt!) writer whose favorites are Hemingway, Wendell Berry, C S Lewis, and (gulp!) me?

Decadent–or just unclear on the concept?

I have no doubt that eating at El Bulli in Spain could be a fantastic experience, but I’m not sure about the cookbook . A $350 cookbook that is too beautiful to bring into the kitchen? And, to quote Jessica’s Biscuit: “The first book catalogues his work though full-color photos, and you can only find the recipes on the CD”.

THAT’S practical. Never had to deal with sauce on the EMac before…

I don’t take all Amazon reviews too seriously, especially those that can’t spell,but this one raised my eyebrows too: “The recipies are not meant to be for the home cook, but anyone interested in new techniques, this book explains it all. Most of the food isn’t very appealing for the Western pallate [sic]”. And this is a five- star review!

I wonder what John Thorne thinks of all this. Maybe I’ll ask….

Kennewick: free at last!

A team of scientists are finally going to be allowed to study the 9000- plus year old remains of “Kennewick Man”, despite the coalition of tribes that objected under what any rational person must think is (at least) an overly- broad interpretation of NAGPRA.

Too bad the government colluded with the tribes to rebury and cement over the rest of the find. It will make it very hard to do a true “taphonomic” study…

If remains as old as this are surrendered to the tribes I believe I am going to get together with a few friends of Italian Alpine descent and lay claim to the Ice Man. We have a better claim to genetic ancestry any day than the four tribes who claim the Kennewick bones do….

And here is the scariest part to me:
“Legislation remains under consideration in Congress that would allow federally recognized tribes to claim ancient remains even if they cannot prove a link to a current tribe”.

Uhhh… why?

Poison Mammals

A venomous mammal has been found in fossil beds from 60 million years ago in Alberta. The interesting part is that it had fangs like a snake, or rather a Gila monster: “The fossilized remains of two curved canines, found in the Canadian province of Alberta, shows a groove from which the creature, Bisonalveus browni, probably shot venom into its prey”.

Now I don’t know about “shot”– Gila monsters drip and chew. But specialized venom teeth in a mammal are still news.

It may be that venom was much more common then, though. In addition to the solenodon mentioned in the article, and the platypus’s heel spurs, many shrews have enough venom to give a nasty toxic bite (experience speaking: Blarina brevicauda in Massachusetts, if I remember right). All these are very old families.

Thanks to David at Cronaca, which everyone should read.


I am currently doing some research (on parasites of digger bees– whole ‘nother story) in the vast almost roadless Sevilleta Wildlife reservation north of here, where no one is allowed save researchers. And I am seeing the first SMALL box turtles I have ever seen, east or west– often. Seems the exclusion of most cars, signs reminding you to watch for turtles crossing, and maybe all- natural grazing have done them a favor. Here is a rather small– see scale to wallet– individual. But he is already big enough to survive coyotes– look at those tooth scars!

The End of Oil?

VERY scary piece from the Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Journal: could Saudi Arabia be lying to the world about the extent of its oil reserves? If so, civilization is about to hit a serious speed bump…

And who thought this was a good idea?

The Alpha Environmentalist, knowing of my interest in China issues, just alerted me to this op- ed piece from the Arizona Daily Star on the Chinese government’s bid to buy the California based oil company Unocal (don’t know how long the link will be up).

Exactly who– other than, say, the Peoples’ Liberation Army– thinks this is a good idea? Assuming the most benign motives possible, it will doubtless divert oil from us in the future. As the Star states:”…..if the point of this purchase is to increase China’s oil sources, it seems only a matter of time before pressures would build to divert U.S. supplies to China’s domestic use”.

But, worse, what will happen if, down the road, China chooses to confront us over Taiwan, or… well, I can hadly begin to list the possibilities. To quote the Star– quite a liberal paper by the way– again: “There is a contradiction between the communist repression we don’t see and the economic surge we do. It is easy for us to forget that the People’s Republic of China is a repressive, totalitarian government.”

We don’t have time today to go into the Chinese record on the environment (air quality, the Yangtze Dam, animals in traditional medicine, and more). But over the next weeks I will be writing a lot more on China– on John Derbyshire’s novel trilogy, on Mark Elvin’s Retreat of the Elephants (China environmental history) and more.

Oh and– China also wants to acquire IBM’s computer division. Makes me glad I drive a Mac.

Didn’t Lenin say that the last capitalist would sell his executioner the rope with which to hang him?

UPDATE 6 July:
Both conservatives (National Review Online) and liberals (The New Yorker) have now defended the Unocal sale, mostly on the grounds of free trade and the nature of the oill market. The New Yorker adds for the record that we should NOT sell off defense companies like Lockheed Martin. They make some rational points, but I keep seeing that rope…

“My name is Steve and I am a bookaholic”.

Check this hilarious post from Dymphna at Gates of Vienna.

She pefectly captures our mutual addiction: “Read-a-holics cannot resist the printed word: It starts with cereal boxes at the breakfast table or newspapers abandoned in the restaurant booth by whomever ate there before you and continues into reading your high school English lit books the day you get them. This is not virtue. A therapist once posed the question: “so when did you discover that books were a neurotic escape?””

“Motto: never leave home without a book. You never know when you might be trapped somewhere with nothing to read. Horrors”.

Read the whole thing, as the man says.

Libby insists I take at least two books to go to the Post Office where she works (two miles away). I take about five on our biweekly two- hour trip to Albuquerque… you never know.

My favorite New Mexico book dealer, Jerry Lane of the Book Stop, once whirled on me as I entered and said to a customer: “THERE is the perfect example of a man who needs a book muzzle!”