May 4, 2013

Girl makes book thingy.

An 8 year old girl made this book thingy for bathtub reading.  Its pretty awesome.  Although I'm not sure how it is attached to the book.  Maybe you have to drill a hole in the book.  But hey at least it isn't wet, eh?

Source Boing Boing

Apr 26, 2013

Scottish Knight Found Under Edinburgh Parking Lot

 Why is everyone buried under parking lots these days?  First Richard III  and then and I'm sure many others and now this guy  The knight's remains have also revealed the exact location of the Blackfriars monastery, which was built in 1230 by Alexander II, but was destroyed during the reformation.  The coffin lid has a carving of a Calvary cross and a detailed sword.

Source The Scotsman

Jul 12, 2012

Fishing is Boring?

I've done some marsh fishing this summer just like the people in this boring video.  I had some luck and and some disappointments.  But what I really wanted to do was work on my farmer's tan and that was a complete success! My arms and head may as well be on a different body if you look at my pasty white chest.  I am told that that is what the ladies love.

Jul 10, 2012

A Fitting Golden Girls Tribute

Most people know exactly where they were when Estelle Getty died.  But most can't remember when Betty White died.  I'm just glad they got Aquaman to play Stan.

Jun 12, 2012

Scottish Chapbooks

Satan will punk you.
It's no secret that I have been scanning Scottish Chapbooks for an internship.  But many people have been asking me, "Will, what is a Scottish Chapbook?"  So let me explain,
   Chapbooks in the 18th and 19th century were small publications that contained songs, poems, political treatises, folk stories, religious tracts, fortune telling, histories of famous robbers, kings, and warriors.  Literacy in Scotland was higher than in most parts of Europe due to the government’s decree that there be a school in every parish,  and the Presbyterian Church’s emphasis on literacy so that every parishioner could read the Bible. The chapbooks are not only a great resource to view the popular reading of the common folk of the period but also window  into their society.
  So hopefully that helps.  But man they are really cool.  One topic that I am interested in is cultural continuity that can still be found in American Southern dialect and folkways.  The old Scots dialect  can be found in the many of the Chapbook entries and there are instances of word usage and grammatical structure that can still be found in Southern communities and my 95 year old grandma.  But they can also tell you how to read your fortune in your moles, fingernails, or your cup of coffee and how Satan is making mischief.  Which is incredibly useful!
Did you know that my moles tell me that I am destined to be a furrier!  As I had suspected.

For further reading: The Scottish Chapbook Project

The Humans Who Went Extinct

There has been a lot of new information from the Paleoanthropological world of late regarding our much maligned cousins, the Neanderthals.  I have a soft spot in my heart for these guys and gals instilled by my physical anthropology undergrad past examining their generous occipital bun, small chin, large nasal opening and famous, short, sloping forehead represented in the skull casts that I used to handle.  And recently I read a fairly decent little book on our cousins entitled, The Humans Who Went Extinct: Why Neanderthals Died Out and We Survived.  The author, Clive Finlayson, is the Director of the Gibraltar Museum and adjunct professor for the University of Toronto.  Finlayson is situated in the perfect geographic region to discuss the extinction of the Neanderthals,  the caves dotting Gibraltar are the last place on Earth where the Neanderthal's lived; pushed to very edge of Europe before dying out 25,000 years ago. But pushed by what?  The recently arrived fully modern Homo sapiens?  Or a changing climate?  And why would an incredibly successful species that had been denizens of Europe for 600,000 years just fade away.
In the book the author deftly recreates the forested world in which the Neanderthals lived.  And this is where Finlayson's strength as an ecologist shows through.  He believes that the Neanderthal were a species that thrived in forested areas as ambush hunters.  This goes against the conventional picture of a singularly, cold adapted species with long body and short appendages living on the wind ravaged steppe just in sight of an encroaching glacier.  It was the open steppes, replacing the the increasingly mosaic forests, that did them in and not some Ragnarok final showdown with Homo sapiens.  This theory of Findlayson's has been validated by recent evidence published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution suggesting that the Neanderthal population had  a catastrophic crash 40,000 years ago probably due to climate change and slowly flickered out over the next 15,000 years holed up in isolated refuges like the one found in Gibraltar.  Another belief that Finlayson expounds upon was that Neanderthal culture and intelligence was much more complex than tradition held, based on modified shells that could have been used for decoration.  This has also been validated by the discovery of seal paintings Nerja cave in Malaga, Spain dating back to 43,000 years ago.  This is 13,000 years before Homo sapiens arrived in the same region.
Depiction of seals in Nerja Cave, Malaga Spain
What the author gets wrong in the book is his educated guess that Homo sapiens and Neanderthals did not interbreed, or if they did it was isolated and had no impact on the modern human genome.  Almost immediately after the book was published the analysis of the Neanderthal's  and the newly discovered close cousin of the Neanderthal the Denisovan's, DNA findings were released.  This rocked the paleoanthropological world (and my Anthro-armchair world)  with data that proved that modern Europeans and Asians shared 2.5 percent of their DNA with Neanderthals and that modern people from Oceania shared up to 5 percent of their DNA with the Denisovans! (The only Denisovan bone ever found was the pinky of a young girl in a cave in Siberia, crazy eh?).
Possible Neanderthal modified shells
But this is a great book for the curious soul who wants to know more about the increasingly clear picture of human origins. But the title is now incorrect because the Neanderthals never went extinct, but still exist in most of humanity's genetic makeup.

The Common Cursitors of 1566

Here is a list of 25 different names for a vagabond in England in 1566 from William Harrison's Description of England.  The hooker has given me some ideas (Not that kind of hooker, get your mind out of the gutter.  The hooker that steals things from homes with hooks of course).

The several disorders and degrees amongst our idle vagabonds:

1. Rufflers (thieving beggars, apprentice uprightment)
2. Uprightmen (leaders of robber bands)
3. Hookers or anglers (thieves who steal through windows with hooks)
4. Rogues (rank-and-file vagabonds)
5. Wild rogues (those born of rogues)
6. Priggers of prancers (horse thieves)
7. Palliards (male and female beggars, traveling in pairs)
8. Fraters (sham proctors, pretending to beg for hospitals, etc.)
9. Abrams (feined lunatics)
10. Fresh-water mariners or whipjacks (beggars pretending shipwreck)
11. Dummerers (sham deaf-mutes)
12. Drunken tinkers (thieves using the trade as a cover)
13. Swadders or peddlers (thieves pretending to be peddlers)
14. Jarkmen (forgers of licenses) or patricoes (hedge priests)

Of Womenkind:

1. Demanders for glimmer or fire (female beggars pretending loss of fire)
2. Bawdy baskets (female peddlars)
3. Morts (prostitutes and thieves)
4. Autem morts (married harlots)
5. Walking morts (unmarried harlots)
6. Doxies (prostitutes who begin with uprightmen)
7. Dells (young girls, incipient doxies)
8. Kinchin morts (female beggar children)
9. Kinchin coes (male beggar children)
Source Lists of Note  Boing Boing