20 July 2010


My mother's birthday was on Sunday and her and her partner (heterosexual partner I should clarify, they have an aversion to marriage) went camping in Yosemite.

Now, to me, this does not sound like a fun thing to do on your birthday but to my mother this is a sort of Holy Grail of fun times. To each their own and all that. Now, summer is of course prime tourist season in Yosemite but being the intrepid hikers they are they camped in the "backcountry" away from the majority of the teeming hordes. Away from the masses, but much
closer to the wildlife.

Let's pause for a moment and discuss the number one bit of wildlife that one might see in Yosemite... did you say 'a bear'? You are correctamundo. And when camping in Yosemite it is both required and wise to bring with you a bear-resistant container for your foodstuffs. My mother and her partner, being the responsible prepared hikers they are had just such a canister.

Picture the scene, the sun rises on early morning through the trees. Enjoying a bowl of warm oatmeal with her love, my mother's eyes drift past him to the bear-resistant canister. And to the three hundred pound bear who has instantly recognized what in the past has promised good eatings.

My mother's options were many at this point. She could have run. She could have grabbed the heated stove nearby and flung it at the bear. She could have rushed it while waving her arms.

She did none of these things. Instead, wielding her spoon like it was Excalibur itself she yelled "Go away bear!"


Go away bear?

I like to think at this moment the bear, duly chastised, hung his head in shame and shambled off. Later, in Ursa Therapy he recounts this episode. "I didn't even do anything to them, they just yelled and me and judged me for being a big furry ole bear. It's speciest is what it is," he sobs into a giant hanky.

My mother said that in retrospect she felt a bit like someone out of Harry Potter, casting a spell while she brandished her spoon.

You know that picture right there is art.

And it worked. That's the best part. My 100 pound if she's soaking wet mother got rid of a 300 pound black bear simply by sternly telling it to go away while threatening it with a spoon. Which, let's be honest, unless you're Alan Rickman a spoon is about the least impressive weapon you can come up with beside a wet noodle.

In summary, my mother is a badass and I never misbehaved as a child. Hell, I don't misbehave as an adult.

18 July 2010

Theory of Shipbuilding Failing

Have you seen this story? It tells how an 18th century ship was found under the rubble of the World Trade Centers.

Do you know what this means? The modern theory of ship design is now doubly flawed. We were never quite sure what came between the Caravel type vessels of the 1400s and modern ships. Oh, we had pictures and some scientists had made very educated guesses as to what they might be like - but nothing concrete.

But this! Previously we had one gap in shipbuilding history, between 15th and 21st century. Now we have two - 15th to 18th and 18th to 21st! That's twice as many gaps. The theory of shipbuilding is falling down around our very ears. I've known some naval architects, and they are by and large a bunch of smug bastards. So I have this to ask them...

What say you to this obvious discrepancy? Defend yourself or admit that you are wrong that the theory of shipbuilding is failing.

[If you think this is dumb keep in mind that this is how a lot of people feel about the so-called "Missing Link" in evolution. If you're one of them: don't be a moron, shut up and go read some Gould or something.]

01 July 2010

To dare, to dare again and ever to dare!

Yeah, I missed doing this post on the 1st, my bad. In my own defense I am in the middle of moving house and summer school and I... ok, I forgot. Sue me.

Georges Jacques Danton was a French revolutionary who is regarded as one of the most inflammatory public speakers of his time. However, he very rarely wrote his speeches ahead of time and there are very few records of those he did. In 1792 he gave this speech, inciting the French people to war.

To dare again and ever to dare

It is gratifying to the ministers of a free people to have to announce to them that their country will be saved. All are stirred, all are excited, all burn to fight. You know that Verdun is not yet in the power of our enemies. You know that its garrison swears to immolate the first who breathes a proposition of surrender.

One portion of our people will proceed to the frontiers, another will throw up intrenchments, and the third with pikes will defend the hearts of our cities. Paris will second these great efforts. The commissioners of the Commune will solemnly proclaim to the citizens the invitation to arm and march to the defense of the country. At such a moment you can proclaim that the capital deserves well of all France.

At such a moment this National Assembly becomes a veritable committee of war. We ask that you concur with us in directing this sublime movement of the people, by naming commissioners who will second us in these great measures. We ask that any one refusing to give personal service or to furnish arms shall be punished with death. We ask that a set of instructions be drawn up for the citizens to direct their movements. We ask that couriers be sent to all the departments to notify them of the decrees that you proclaim here. The tocsin we are about to ring is not an alarm signal; it sounds the charge on the enemies of our country. To conquer them we must dare, dare again, always dare, and France is saved!

-Georges Danton, 2 September 1792