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Howard Hughes vs. Stuff

Er...crappy day yesterday. No words written. Zero. Zilch. Etc. Just a very constructive call from my agent. Otheriwse, I sat here for hours staring at a blank screen. I have looked over the vignette ideas that were submitted yesterday, and, alas, none of them have really, really set the bells ringing. A couple came close, but likely would have sprawled into full-blown short stories, and here it is the 26th and Sirenia Digest #28 needs to go out on the 31st (at the latest). So, if you'd like to please keep making suggestions, the contest still stands (winner gets hisherits choice of a signed and personalized copy of the Beowulf novelization or the new mmp of Murder of Angels.), but I probably won't be using the winning idea until #29.

Why does "science writing" for the masses have to be so stupid? To wit, this story from LiveScience.com, "Fastest Evolving Creature is 'Living Dinosaur'." No. The tuatara is not a dinosaur, not in any sense, but, rather, the last surviving sphenodontid rhynchocephalian. And while the rhynchocephalian lineage can be traced back to at least the Triassic, calling it a "living dinosaur" is almost as dumb as calling a horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) a "living trilobite." Also, the LiveScience.com article manages to misspell the Latin name for the tuatara as "Sphendon punctatus," when it is actually Sphenodon punctatus. But, you know what? I bet you don't care, and I am far too groggy to be this pedantic right now.

And why is it that when you post a "housing wanted" ad to Craiglist, and say the most you're willing/capable to pay per month is $1,150, people write back offering you a place that rents for $1,650? I mean, that's $6000 more a year.

Oh, and did I mention that Spooky has gone on a name-squatting spree on Second Life? We now have Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh. She's even created a pretty good avatar likeness of Cope, and it's only a matter of time before the two square off in the Palaeozoic Museum in New Babbage.

Hey, what do you expect from a journal entry titled "Howard Hughes vs. Stuff"?

Warmer weather today, and that's something I won't complain about.

Tell you what, I'll just leave you with more photos of Oakland Cemetery, or the Oakland That Was before the storms of March 14-15. Behind the cut:

All photos copyright © 2007 by Caitlín R. Kiernan

Postscript: Spooky just found weevils in the flour. No, not the Torchwood sort.


Mar. 26th, 2008 06:17 pm (UTC)
Oh - that's funny, I just read about the tuatara in my first year biology textbook yesterday (while yelling at my roommate SO REMEMBER HOW THEY SAID DINOSAURS WERE BIRDS AND NOT REPTILE? NOW BIRDS ARE REPTILES - not a very good example of scientific communication either, but I did explain things more), so even I knew that.

I went to a lecture on quorum sensing in bacteria today; it was required for immunology students but I needed the excitement since my second-semester biology teacher is half-dead. (Lynn Margulis lectured in Providence a few weeks ago; I got to ask her something about diatoms and was star-struck.) I started to take science in order to do medical illustration, but am falling more in love with the field all the time and think a lot about the need to communicate scientific information; I wish I could teach my class since I see the 19-year-olds turn off from the awful teacher and that makes me mad.
Mar. 26th, 2008 06:37 pm (UTC)
I may need some clarification on the bird issue, by the way; the text just said that the ancestors of crocodilians, dinosaurs, and birds are archosaurs.

It works out like this:

The unranked clade Archosauria is presently considered by most to include two main clades of "reptiles" (a polyphyletic term that will eventually, I think, fall out of favor with biologists) — the Crurotarsi and the Ornithodira. The latter is presently divided into two clades, the Dinosauria and the Pterosauria. The Dinosauria includes both the Ornithischia (ceratopsians, stegosaurs, hadrosaurs, etc.) and the Saurischia. Now, we then break the Saurischia into two major clades, the Theropoda and Sauropodomorpha. The Theropoda, which leads to "birds," is then subdivided as follows:

There are two major groups of theropods, the Ceratosauria and the Tetanurae. Tetanurans are subdivided into the Spinosauroidea and the Avetheropoda (that second name should be a give away if you know just a smattering of Latin). The Avetheropoda is divided into the Carnosauria and the Coelurosauria. Coelurosauria contains the Tyrannoraptora, a group that includes a clade named Maniraptoriformes. The maniraptors lead, in time, to two clades, the Oviraptosauria and the Eumaniraptora. The latter contains both the Deinonychosauria ("raptors," the predatory dinosaur group which includes Velociraptor) and the Avialae. It is that last group, the Avialae that we tend to call "birds."

In truth, there is no clear cut line between dinosaurs and birds (simply put, birds truly are theropod dinosaurs), anymore than there is a clear cut line between "reptiles" and archosaurs, or "reptiles" and "mammals." But it is as correct to call a bird a reptile as it is to call Tyrannosaurus a reptile.

Here I follow the phylogeny presented in Weishampel, David B.; Dodson, Peter; Osmólska, Halszka (eds.) (2004). The Dinosauria, Second Edition. University of California Press.

Edited at 2008-03-26 06:42 pm (UTC)