More Trilobites

Another museum stop in San Francisco was at The California Academy of Sciences, also located in Golden Gate Park. While there, I saw these wonderful trilobite fossils.

You might recall a post I did early in the month, that linked to a New York Times article on trilobites that had a rather amazing picture of a fossil from Morocco. I was pleased to see this specimen of Drotops armatus, also from Morocco. I boggled at how big it was – about the size of my hand. As we discussed in my earlier post, you have to wonder how they prepared it.

This is Phacops rana, from Ohio. It (and the specimen in the picture below) are more the size I had expected, maybe half again the size of a cockroach.

This is Reedops deckeri, specimen collected in Oklahoma.

Gottardo Piazzoni and a Friend

Earlier in the month, Connie and I took a trip to the Bay Area. Connie was taking a training course in San Francisco on Thursday and Friday of that week, and while she was in school, I played hookey and hit a couple of museums. On the weekend, we drove up to Sonoma County and toured wineries, etc.

One of my visits was to the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park and its excellent art collections. When I got there, I was surprised and pleased to see this sign, advertising works by Gottardo Piazzoni (1872-1945) a Swiss-born California artist, who I had read about, but whose work I had never seen.

The room houses two murals:

The Sea (1931)…

and The Land (1932). Please click to “embiggen” these. The angled shots were the best I could do with the size of the room and my 18mm lens. Each mural is done in five panels and they were meant to give the impression that the viewer is looking out through a colonnade, west to a seascape and east to a landscape. They were originally painted for and installed in the San Francisco Public Library. They were moved to the de Young after the library was repurposed as a museum for oriental art.

Piazzoni was the grandfather of contemporary artist Russell Chatham, who you may know, did the painting on the cover of this book. In the short memoir he wrote for his book, One Hundred Paintings , Chatham describes how he spent endless hours in his youth copying his grandfather’s paintings, which were a great inspiration to him. I believe you can certainly see Piazzoni’s influence in his work.

Here is another Piazzoni painting that was in the gallery, Silence (1912).

And in the gallery near Silence, I was able to view this Maynard Dixon painting I had not seen before, November in Nevada (1935). You all know how I feel about Dixon.

Dixon and Piazzoni were contemporaries and friends, part of a group of writers and artists who regularly had dinner together at Coppa’s, an Italian restaurant in San Francisco.

A Very Old Site In Brazil

Last week the New York Times had this article about a rock shelter in Brazil that had yielded a date of 22,000 BP for its earliest human occupation. The article goes on about its implications for dating the peopling of the New World, which if you have been reading some of our posts here, you’ll know the theories regarding it are undergoing a tumultuous revolution. RTWT.

These old dates from South America have been kicking around for a while, including the almost 15,000  BP date for Monte Verde in Chile, and they expose one of the flaws with the old single Beringian migration paradigm. If the old paradigm were true, logically we should find that the earliest dated sites in Alaska should be the oldest and the earliest dated sites in Tierra del Fuego should be the youngest. Numerous studies have shown this doesn’t hold true in any sense.

And I have to point out that it is sad to see good archaeologists asserting that the tools associated with the early dates must have been made by monkeys to try to deny the findings.

Weekend Doggage

Shiri just took these photos of the ever- amazing Larissa. Can’t believe how she has blossomed since she got out from under the domination of her slightly tyrannical mother Ataika.

It also shows the skills and stamina our dogs must display to hunt successfully in this harsh country. Go Riss!

And I am starting to process many oldies too, so expect the unexpected. Here is one of Riley, whose mother was the deerhound Lepus and father the golden brindle country greyhound Diamond.  Below that are two of Floyd’s hounds.

Riley caught, single hand, the big coyote whose pelt is buried with Betsy Huntington. Notice his size beside the grey Lady and the white saluki cross “Gates”.

Photos from 1985 I think, loading up Floyd Mansell’s dog truck. I have better photos of the truck but these are good of the hounds. Click to enlarge…


It was “Isaak Dinesen’s” as well as one that was quoted a bit in many venues in the 70’s. Can’t fault it:

Navigare necesse est;  vivere non est necesse…

From Plutarch , if a borrowing; even then;  also recently attributed to everyone up to William Burroughs, who did not say it first– though he used it in favor of exploring Space!…

TH White and Falconry

Courtesy of Jon D’Arpino and the Journal of the North American Falconers Association, with special thanks to Conor Jameson, The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas in Austin, Helen Macdonald for taking me there and of course Stacia Novy, who got me to write it.

Cock Fighting, Naturally

It’s that time of year again: Greater Sage Grouse are gathering on their leks (breeding grounds), with plenty of strutting and displaying by the males in attempt to impress the females. I’ve spent the last three mornings on a lek near our home in western Wyoming, and today was the only day I’ve managed to get any photos. The other two mornings, I was “eagled” which is my version of skunked while fishing. A golden eagle came over the lek just as daylight was breaking, blowing all the grouse off the lek before I could get a decent shot.

The sage grouse cocks did plenty of slapping at each other this morning, but it all begins with trash talk. “What? You talkin’ to me?”

The two then strut around each other, taking measure of the opponent, before squaring off to fight.

The fight is furious for several seconds.

There were about a dozens males remaining on the lek, continuing their disputes, a full two hours after my arrival. Meanwhile, the hens had quietly picked their males and had melted back into the nearby sagebrush.

Mahakala(s): Mongolian Free Association

I took a bunch of Mongolian artifacts to the Magdalena Library Saturday as visual aids to a talk by my friend Ian Jenness. He and his wife had taken the Trans- Siberian to Lake Baikal and Irkutsk, then dropped down to Ulan Bataar, spent a week or so in Mongolia in ger camps, then continued by rail through China.

I bought snuff boxes and 19th Century books and clothing and a muzzleloader and folk paintings, and several images of this guy:

Though he looks monstrous to Western eyes, he is in fact supposed to be a fierce protector; one of his “jobs” is Protector of Monasteries. This may well have special relevance to Mongolia in the past (and Tibet in the present?) Although Choibaltsan is sometimes called the Mongol Stalin, and ruled for about the same span of years, his reign was marked more by stultifying bureaucracy then terror– except for monasteries and (as always with dictators?) minority tribes. I was once shown a cave where he had ordered 30 monks burned alive in the 50’s, with soot still visible on the roof. It was refreshing to know that the family who showed me the cave were the proud parents of a novice monk, who took a day off to join us at our feast at their summer ger.

(From Wiki: ” Choibalsan oversaw violent Soviet-ordered purges in the late 1930s that
resulted in the deaths of an estimated 30,000 to 35,000 Mongolians;
mostly Buddhist clergy, intelligentsia, political dissidents, ethnic Buryats and Khazaks, and other “enemies of the revolution.” His intense persecution of Mongolia’s Buddhists brought about their near complete extinction in the country.”)

But wait– there is more. Mahakala is also the genus of a small but taxonomically important feathered Mongolian Dino, a sort of roadrunner with a bony tail.

Brian Switek writes about his discovery here; and Carl Zimmer tell us how his lineage illuminates the bird- Dino lineage here.