December 27th, 2009

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Scratchboard Gallery

I found this blog today, which shows the work of an artist who specializes in scratchboard.  It's a kind of reverse art style that starts with a solid black surface and removes the black coating to create a design.
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Hungry Birds

The woodpecker has continued to return several times a day, drilling away at the suet feeder on my office window.  I got a slightly better snapshot of him.



I keep hoping to catch him perched on one of the bushes, but he only stays there for a few seconds.  He's on the feeder by the time I can point my camera at him.

Today, the weather is cold and snowy.  A small flock of sparrows has discovered the feeder.  They're more numerous and more rambunctious, so today my view is full of bird crotches and fanned tails and much squabbling.  They're fun to watch, though.



I've seen the woodpecker once today, so far -- the sparrows gave him the right-of-way without a fuss.
moment of silence, candle

Remembering Wounded Knee

The massacre at Wounded Knee is one of many dark blots on American history.  Here is a petition to remove medals of honor bestowed upon soldiers in the Seventh Cavalry ... for shooting unarmed people including women and children.  Remember that the root cause of conflict between the indigenous nations and the European invaders is that the European settlers were engaged in multiple counts of land theft and genocide. 

While this is historically common behavior, it is not honorable or acceptable, and should not be presented as such.  That dark history contributes to many of the problems complicating our lives today.  To honor it is to perpetuate it.  To rebuke it is to take a step away from it, toward a more peaceful future.  We cannot change the past, but we can choose which parts of it we honor and emulate or disdain and improve upon.  We cannot choose our ancestors, but we can examine the deeds of those who came before and decide whom we will honor and whom we will condemn.

Mitakuye oyasin.
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Another one bites the dust ...

... in the distinction between human behavior and animal behavior.  Specifically, it was supposed to be the case that animal calls were considered "not language" for lack of modularity.  They couldn't combine one type of call with another type to modify the message.  But Campbell's monkeys are indeed combining calls into long strings that convey different meanings and information based on the number and arrangement of calls in the string.  It's not a complete language; what they can "say" in it is still limited (as far as we know).  It is, however, one step closer.

Cool.

I am particularly fascinated because this illustrates a suspicion I've long held: that one way human language could have evolved from animal calls would be to start stringing together the basic calls to create variations of meaning to describe common events more precisely.  That could later be followed by expansion to discuss more topics, and expansion of sounds used for such discussion.  Essentially it turns a call (which is the equivalent of a rote phrase or sentence) into a word or a phoneme (whose meaning can change in context).  That's a really important step because it introduces a new level of abstraction.
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Recipe: "Oatmeal-Date Bars"

Here is the oatmeal-date bar recipe that I've been working on since Yule.  The first version lacked the pistachios, so needed a little further attention.  We are well pleased with this recipe now.  Mmmrrrr ... cardamom.

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