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January 17, 2002
Enron on eBay
Posted by Teresa at 12:00 AM *

As Cory Doctorow put it in Boing Boing: “Enron employees, former and current, are making extra cash by selling off instantaneously ironic items from their erstwhile employer.”

You may want to look quickly; some interesting auctions are ending today — the Enron-branded Marquis Waterford Rollerball Pen, for instance; ditto Tiffany & Co. china trinket box, ditto Tiffany sterling silver key ring. Not to mention the Enron Victorinox Swiss Army Knife. And the annual Enron Christmas ornaments, 1997-2001. And the Enron (baseball) Field Christmas ornament. And the Enron lead crystal executive award. And the Enron crystal prism paperweight. And the Enron “Visions & Values” paperweight. And the Enron “Visions and Values” puzzles. And the Enron golf balls. And the Enron yo-yo.

Enron appears to have had corporate-branded pelf coming out its ears. There’s a lot of sports-themed stuff; I count at least five different kinds of Enron-branded golf balls on offer, and I lost track of all the tchotchkes featuring Enron Field. The non-executive indoor-environment items are heavy on the Enron “Visions & Values” statement, the text of which they’ve injudiciously left up on many of their web pages. (Their Corporate Culture page, for instance, which says “The corporate values exposed by Enron include respect,integrity,communication,and excellence.”)

(The V&V kipple is exactly the sort of corporate workplace morale-boosting tripe that’s brilliantly parodied by Despair, Inc.: source of beautifully designed and photographed motivational posters and calendars that, on closer inspection, turn out to feature slogans like “Sometimes the best solution to morale problems is just to fire all of the unhappy people,” or “There’s no ‘I’ in ‘teamwork’, but there is in ‘bite me’.”)

And which item is the bidding highest for? The one titled Enron Smoking Gun: Risk Management Manual, Item #1500114600. Here’s part of the description:

This is the original manual given out during one of Enron’s internal advanced risk management classes. It gives detailed descriptions as to how earnings, creditworthiness, and the timing of reportings can affect how a company is perceived in the financial world.
from the manual:

Attain Favorable Accounting Treatment
By using certain structures, companies can re-categorize expenses in such a manner as to improve the perceived financial performance.

Also included are passages and case studies to teach a person how to do the following:

-manage the timing of reported earnings
-enhance creditworthiness
-improve ability to attract capital
-stabilize earnings through complex risk structures so as to make lenders more likely to extend credit, and do so for longer terms
-use risk structures to reduce earnings volatility perception in order that lower multiples are not required by equity investors

from the manual:

Enhance Operating Margins
Risk management structures do more than just stabilize margins—they enable companies to shift the realization of income and expense from period to period. Thus, companies can boost margins in critical (nearer term) periods.

There is much more contained in this manual, including case studies illustrating all of the above, booking revenue under GAAP rules, qualifications for adjusted EBITDA, and generating false revenue in the current period based on future bookings.

There are 223 pages, including training and review material. It is in a 3-ring binder and imprinted on each page with Enron’s logo.

January 15, 2002
Hot Bronze Age sounds
Posted by Teresa at 03:00 PM *

Some 104 horns still survive from the Irish Bronze Age. Until recently, nobody tried to play them because their mouthpieces were too strange. Then ethnomusicologists studied similar instruments that are still being played, got some idea of how to blow them, and brought some musicians in on the deal. As it says in the section on the Silver Pipes of Ur:

They produce a gentle mellow sound with surprising volume from such narrow tubes. The pipe with four finger holes will play five notes and the other with three holes will play four notes. The overall sound is quite similar to much of the music that is played in the Middle Eastern region. It is possible to circular breath while playing to maintain a continuous sound. This technique is used today by exponents of the triple mouth pipes of Sardinia. Adept players are able to produce intricate traditional tunes while also holding a smooth drone. Though the research into playing the Silver Pipes of Ur is in its infancy, in the first months they have proven to be a delicate tuneful instrument.

On a recent visit to Edinburgh Simon asked the eminent piper Ian McDonald to try the silver pipes. Almost immediately he discovered that by inserting the reed into the other end of one of the pipes he was able to play at least eight notes. This was an excellent example of how important discoveries can be made with prehistoric instruments by giving access of perfect reproductions to professional players of modern equivalents.

If you go here, you can download samples of the horns being played. The last two tracks, where they’re played together (accompanied by a traditional drum, on the last track), are mournful and cool.

Good news on the Winter Garden
Posted by Teresa at 10:00 AM *

It’s a beloved space, and was sadly damaged when the WTC came down. I’ve been mourning it. There’s a longish piece on it with before-and-after illustrations in my weblog of Wednesday, September 19, 2001, archived here. The news this morning is that they’re fixing it, and from the sound of things are going to considerable effort to make it what it was before. Of course it can’t quite be that, ever again; what was a peaceful area within a much larger complex is now likely to be a pass-through from the esplanade to the empty space beyond.

January 14, 2002
Fluorescent fauna of the Pleistocene
Posted by Teresa at 08:00 PM *

As Debra Doyle informed me, moose are fluorescent — or rather, them being semi-aquatic and having all this long coarse hair that little aquatic bio-bits get caught in, it’s the animalcules resident in their coats that do the fluorescing. Still, the effect is the same: under a black light, moose glow in the dark.

I mentioned this in e-mail to my friend Bob Webber, and he wrote back saying “Sloths, too.” We didn’t discuss the mechanism of slothful fluorescence; I assume it’s similar.

That’s been kicking around in my head for some while now, and a question has occurred to me: Didn’t mammoths have just such long coarse pelts and boggy habits? Might not they, too, have glowed in the dark?

The anti-portfolio
Posted by Teresa at 03:00 PM *

Bessemer Venture Partners’ own site says it best:

Bessemer Venture Partners is perhaps the nation’s oldest venture capital firm, carrying on an unbroken practice of venture capital investing that stretches back to 1911. This long and storied history has afforded our firm an unparalleled number of opportunities to completely screw up.

While, over the course of our history, we did invest in:

— a wig company
— a french-fry company
— the Lahaina, Ka’anapali & Pacific Railroad

We chose to decline the investments below, each of which we had the opportunity to invest in, and each of which later blossomed into a tremendously successful company.

Then they proceed to list ten tremendously successful companies, and explain why they turned down the opportunity to invest in each one. In FedEx’s case, they turned it down seven times.

Paramedic simulators
Posted by Teresa at 02:00 PM *

There are actually quite a few of these on the web; the story-problem nature of EMS calls lends itself to the format. In Less Stress Instructional Services’ Pre-Hospital Care/EMS Simulator, “You play Bob Czagrinski, the greatest ambulance monkey to ever live… your partner Mortimer, however, leaves a little to be desired.” Which is just about right. (Note: The friend who originally told me about this site says they’ve fancied up their coding, and now his browser can’t deal with it. Mine’s still okay with it.) (Whoops! Spoke too soon. As of Scenario 29, it stops being nice flat HTML and needs a Streaming Web Plugin. So far I can’t get it to work either.)

Bob and Morty operate in Mercy City. Bob’s stalwart; Morty’s eager but gormless. There’s generally some funny business in each scenario, like finding that Death is taking the same elevator you are:

In the elevator with Death

You are in the elevator with your resuscitation gear and the angel of darkness. You look at the console and see the number 14 button lit.

Bob: “We’re going to the same floor - what a coincidence…”

Death remains motionless, but begins to speak. A strong wind current of wind swirls around your feet as its words are uttered. Its voice is deeper than Barry White’s, and it makes the elevator shake slightly.

Death: “SHE’S MINE…”

Bob: “I have 360 joules worth of ‘bite me’ slung over my shoulder and I say otherwise.”

Death turns to face you… Its voice goes up a notch, and it’s shaking its skeletal arms around in frustration.

Death: “YOU BLS GUYS HAVE GOTTEN SO COCKY EVER SINCE THEY GAVE YOU DEFIBRILLATORS! AREN’T YOU THE LEAST BIT SCARED?”

Bob: “What am I - a rookie? You’re not real - you’re a hallucination induced by caffeine and lack of sleep. I get them all the time! Last week I worked an extrication with the Easter Bunny. He sucks at spinal immobilization, by the way….”

The doors open and you exit the elevator, leaving Death behind. Where the heck is that patient?

Trauma.org’s interactive moulage scenarios (which is the formal term for these things, or maybe just the British term for them) are more challenging and technical. They also berate you for your stupidity if you make the wrong choice, and explain why and how you just killed your patient. For additional fun, in some of the scenarios the patient’s parameters and response to your treatment changes with each run-through, so you can’t just keep starting over and guessing until you find out all the right answers. If you do get through a scenario correctly, your probable reward is to have one of the characters tell you that they’d been wondering whether you’d completely lost it, but it looks like you haven’t done so yet.

Tae, the paramedic from Hell
Posted by Teresa at 01:00 PM *

Tae Kim is a paramedic. In the mid-90s he posted accounts of his adventures to alt.tasteless. They’re gruesome, flippant, and make compelling reading. This is Tae at his mildest, describing the course of a typical cardiac arrest:

A late-fifties male gets up in the morning [wife’s still sleeping] to go to the bathroom. He’s overweight, smokes like a chimney, and is now grunting away - trying to push out the pound of steak he ate for dinner last night. While he’s doing that, the pressure he places on his bowels produces a sudden drop in his heart rate, with a corresponding drop in blood pressure. This is known as ‘vagal-ing out’ - as the vagus nerve responds to such stimulus by dropping the heart rate. The man gets dizzy, and falls off the can in mid-shit. This is what I call the classic ‘Elvis’ presentation: man on bathroom floor, boxer-shorts down to his ankles, flopping around and leaving skid marks on the floor so wide you’d have thought a 747 landed nearby.

Now his heart *could* at any moment increase its rate - but since his heart is soooo tired after all those years, it decides to pump at this rate for a while - ‘catch a breather’ so to speak. Ironically, since the heart isn’t pumping enough to circulate blood and oxygen efficiently, the heart itself does not receive enough blood and oxygen to continue beating - so it quits altogether.

Anywhere from several minutes to several hours later, this man’s wife wakes up - and follows the ‘I had steak for dinner last night’ smell to the bathroom, where she finds hubby. Naturally, you’d think her first reaction is to dial 911, to get some help for him. Noooo, wrongo. You may pick from the following options:

1) She yells “Ralph - wake up.”

2) She notices his boxers down to his ankles, and pulls them up.

3) She splashes cold water on his face.

4) She yells “Ralph - wake up” again, just in case he didn’t hear her the first time.

5) She genuflects, makes the sign of the cross, and throws in an ‘Our Father’ for good measure.

6) She calls the family doctor - to ask what to do.

7) She calls the family priest - to ask what to do.

8) She calls another family member - to ask what to do.

9) She does all of the above - then dials 911.

10) Any combination from above.

By the time an ambulance gets dispatched to a cardiac arrest, things look pretty dim.
This one’s less benign:
Speaking of dead people with stomas:

I remember when one of my first shifts on the ambulance. My unit received a call for a “woman not breathing.” Upon arrival, we found a fifty-ish woman on the front steps of her apartment, in cardiac arrest. The fire department had already arrived, and was trying to rescucitate her. There was one small problem: this woman had a permanent tracheostomy stoma or “hole” in her neck, so it confused the firefighters no end - everytime they tried to “bag” this woman, all the air would go out the stoma. Oh, did I mention that she also had lung cancer, and was ooozing some black liquid from her mouth and stoma - lots of it?

This is what the fire department decided to do: they got a length of oxygen tubing (about 1/4 in dia.) and SHOVED the entire length of tubing DOWN into the stoma and into her lungs. The other end they hooked up to an oxygen tank and they let fly. The result: one woman who had previously been described as “98 pounds soaking wet”, looking like Dolly Parton - as a chipmunk.

In comes unsuspecting medic - me - sees the tubing, pulls THREE FEET of plastic tubing out of this stoma, which was covered with some black tarry-looking substance. I finally get to the end of it, and as soon as I pull it out - a straight stream of BLACK GOOEY STUFF from a dead woman’s lungs comes straight at my face, splattering my entire body. Fire lieutenant:”What the hell happened.” my partner (the smarter medic):”Well Lieutenant, this woman died - personally I heard she was under a lot of pressure.” Three showers later - I still did not feel clean.

Lessons learned:

1) Always let someone else do the dangerous stuff - firefighter, police, your partner.

2) Never connect anyone to oxygen tubing and deliver 50 pounds per square inch into their lungs - makes for poor recovery.

3) When in doubt: put body in bushes and say you couldn’t find ‘em.

Oh yeah, she didn’t survive either.

There are various collections of Tae-posts on the web. These three pages [1] [2] [3] collect all but a handful of them, but their formatting is a little wonky. This site has better formatting, and duplicates everything in the three-page collection except for the first and last stories in [1]. There are additional uncollected stories available through Google, if you don’t mind sorting through Tae’s occasional non-storytelling messages: a shitty call :: useful tattoos :: my first hanging :: elephantiasis :: scented oxygen :: following too close :: dead people with stomas (quoted above) :: amputations and groceries :: not enough six-packs in the world :: bad scene on the Pike :: Thanksgiving chorea :: toilet-plunger cardiac treatment :: how to put in a Foley catheter. . And if you want to keep hunting, this message from another newsgroup member might lead you to more; I’m not sure.

Weird Nursing Tales
Posted by Teresa at 09:00 AM * 0 comments

I got into reading the Weird Nursing Tales site through finding out that nurses tell ghost stories. They tell other stories too. They can be funny:

A 15-year old boy was lying on a stretcher with his mother sitting next to him. The boy was coming down from “crank” (methamphetamine) that he had injected into his vein with needles he had been sharing with his friends. Concerned about this the doctor asked the boy if there was anything he might have been doing that put him at risk for AIDS. The boy thought for a while then said questioningly, “I’ve been screwing the dog?”
or disturbing:
Okay, I’m not a nurse. I’m not even a CNA, but I think this story fits your page. I was just someone they hired off the street, mind. The only qualifications were three references and a negative TB test.

One night I had a patient in respiratory distress. He’d been out of lung meds for two weeks and his lips were purple. I called the night nurse, and she yelled at me for making her ride up to the third floor in the elevator. After she’d chewed me a new one she complained to the supervisor, who also chewed me out and told me I shouldn’t call the nurse unless someone had actually died. This was later amended to we should never call a nurse. Instead we should clean the body for morning transport and not bother the nursing staff with unimportant details. We were told if we reported anything to the state or gave a hint of some of the things one of the owners’ relatives did to the patients on day shift we would be fired on the spot and never work in the business again. I quit after three months.

or cynical:
Working in a prominent OKC CCU in the early 80’s, it was 2 a.m., all the patients were sleeping, all the curtains were drawn and the monitor tech announced that room 5 was off the monitor. I was standing nearest the room so I told Janet, the nurse for that room, to stay seated, I’d put the patient’s leads back on her. I pulled back the curtain to peek in, expecting to see the female patient rolling over in the bed. Instead I was greeted by the sight of this patient in all her 300-pound glory … she’d pulled her IV, her monitor leads, her foley, fully disrobed & had gone over the foot of the bed and was on all fours, with her head in the trash can … and a 7’ diameter (I swear) puddle of pee and diarrhea on the floor. I went back to the desk and said, “Janet, your patient needs you.”
or gnomic in their simplicity;
A young woman called the ER one day in June to find out if the pregnancy test she had back in July was positive.
and some are just plain spooky:
I worked as a charge nurse at Retirement Residence in a small town on Lake Ontario. It was a very old building that had been used previously as a university, a hospital during one of the World Wars, and a psychiatric facility. It was a very large building that reeked with history. On nights (when else) there were only two of us on shift for 40+ residents. We always stayed together and the building was locked tight.

One night we went up to distribute the laundry and went to where we’d left the cart. It was gone! We searched high and low, finally finding the cart on the third floor. When we got up to the floor the resident cat flew by as if the hounds of hell were chasing it. (This from a cat that hadn’t run in years.) I picked up the cat and it bit and scratched, jumping free to take flight. When we found it in the Nurses’ station it was under the desk in a corner hissing at shadows. It was mid July and the temperature had been in the 90’s all week, but suddenly my co-worker was freezing. We didn’t leave the station until daylight (except to answer call bells). When we were checking the stairwells, we went down near the old morgue. The stairwell was covered in dead flies.

They tell jokes, too:
Q: What do you do if you see someone having a seizure in a bathtub?
A: Throw in a load of laundry.

Q: How many perverts does it take to put in a light bulb?
A: Just one — but it takes the entire emergency room to get it out.

Q: What happens if you give a surgeon Viagra?
A: He gets taller.

January 11, 2002
A few more cakes
Posted by Teresa at 11:00 PM *

These are some last research leftovers from the 17 December 2001 entry about Earlene Moore’s cakes.

Mike’s Amazing Cakes is just that. I won’t link to individual cakes because there’s something glitchy about the way some of them display, but the site has good clear thumbnail pages. They’re divided into three categories. The special event cakes for corporate occasions are impressive, though almost too slick. The personal occasion cakes are just as beautifully finished, but weirder. I sympathize with the CEO who couldn’t eat his own portrait bust. The wedding cakes are the most humorous of the lot. My favorite is either the one with the penguins, or the one where a firetruck has pulled up next to the traditional tiered cake to rescue the bride from her perch on the top layer.

Sheila Miller makes detailed scale models of real buildings in gingerbread, which she refers to as gingerbread replicas. Which makes sense; they’re a long way from the traditional gingerbread house. Best line: “My husband, Gordon, used an electric router to miter the corners of the walls and chimneys…”

Roland A. Winbeckler’s forte is life-size full-round realistic portrait sculptures. Here are his Cher, Colonel Sanders, Princess Diana, Elvis, George Washington, and Christopher Columbus cakes. (The Colonel not unreasonably asked whether his cake was chicken-flavored, but it was just vanilla.) Over here are his pastry effigies of Wayne Gretzky, little people Michu & Julianna, Marilyn Monroe, a Tiger, and a Viking. Some smaller stuff: busts of Abraham Lincoln and King Tutankhamun, a Dungeness crab, a roast turkey, and some Lambeth cakes. And here’s how he does it, making in this case an effigy of someone named Bernie.

Nile Green
Posted by Teresa at 04:00 PM *

Scientists have determined that the basic color of the universe is a pastel green, the color of a piece of celadon dinnerware that’s thinking hard about celery.

Comparative wizards
Posted by Teresa at 03:00 PM *

The New York Times has published a classic consuite debate: Which is the greater wizard, Dumbledore or Gandalf? (It’s Gandalf, of course. Everybody knows that.)

The writer, James Gorman, comes to a semi-respectable if wimpy answer: Ged, from A Wizard of Earthsea. More wimpily, he doesn’t mention Rincewind at all; neither does he make even the sketchiest of genuflections in the direction of Jack Vance.

Hmmmmf.

Still, it’s a start. Next: William Safire on the Enterprise vs. the Death Star. And after that, can an op-ed piece on Why This Issue Is Late be far behind?

January 10, 2002
Bone spurs
Posted by Teresa at 12:00 AM *

Monday’s revelation, that jackalopes exist , prompts a further question: Whether Marrow, a newish member of the X-Men, is a variety of jackalope.

January 09, 2002
Live-action cryptanalysis
Posted by Teresa at 12:00 AM *

Wired reports that a Federal judge in Newark has said it’s okay for the Justice Department to have gathered evidence on Nicodemo S. Scarfo’s loan shark operation by sneaking into his office and planting a keyboard sniffer in his PC. Mr. Scarfo had using PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) encryption software to secure his business data. This frustrated FBI investigators no end because they couldn’t crack the encryption, so they broke in to his office and surreptitiously installed a keyboard sniffer. It records all your keystrokes, including the ones you use to type in your passwords and code keys.

This confirms a principle taught me by my friend who used to do this sort of thing professionally, back when he was working for his uncle. He says that there are five basic kinds of cryptanalysis, and that under real-world conditions,

The strong-arm mathematical kind takes a far distant back seat to the faster, more reliable, and more effective kinds; to wit:
a) checkbook cryptanalysis
b) black bag cryptanalysis
c) rubber hose cryptanalysis
d) dumbshit cryptanalysis
As he explained it to me, checkbook cryptanalysis is where you pay someone in the target organization to give you the keys. It’s the the commonest and most effective method. Black bag cryptanalysis is where you break in and steal the code key, or (as in the case of Mr. Scarfo) plant a bug that makes more sophisticated codebreaking unnecessary. Rubber hose cryptanalysis is where you get hold of someone who knows the key and beat or otherwise torture him-or-her into Telling All. Dumbshit cryptanalysis is what happens when a guy in the organization absentmindedly leaves the code key in the pocket of the trousers he sends to the dry cleaner. Planting a very sympathetic barmaid in the guy’s favorite bar probably counts as dumbshit cryptanalysis too.

The other principle he taught me is to not trust security systems designed by people who go on and on and on about how many permutations you’d have to try in order to break their passwords, because they’ve had their attention focused on the wrong things: “The other guys have checkbooks and black bags too,” he said. “They’re not going to be sitting there feeding in permutations.”

Back when my friend was responsible for security at one of his uncle’s overseas branch offices, a fellow employee sent away for a new security program for their desktop PCs. I believe they were running one of the earlier versions of Windows. When the new software arrived, my friend noticed that the packaging and documentation went on and on and on about how many permutations you’d have to try in order to break its passwords: It would take forever, you’d run out of room on your hard drive, the sun would go nova, yadda yadda. Bad sign.

He installed the new software on one of the PCs, then dropped down into DOS to have a look at it. Sure enough, one of the associated files sitting right there in the directory was named “passwords.” When he opened it as a text file, it contained all the uncrackable secret passwords in unencrypted form. The whole operation took him less than five minutes.

His own approach to security was much simpler: At the end of each workday, he unplugged all the keyboards and locked them in a safe for the night.

Doing that might have helped Mr. Scarfo. On the other hand, the FBI wouldn’t have had to break in and install a keyboard sniffer if Mr. Scarfo hadn’t been using PGP. I don’t know what the moral to this story is. Maybe it’s that if the big guys really want to crack your security, they’ll probably succeed. Maybe it’s that PGP is so secure that the only way around is is to use non-cryptanalytic cryptanalysis. (My friend is a great believer in PGP, by the way.) And maybe it’s that the only truly secure document is the one that you don’t write down in the first place.

January 07, 2002
In search of universal impulses
Posted by Teresa at 01:00 PM *

I nearly did myself an injury laughing at Lore Fitzgerald Sjf6berg’s appallingly accurate Geek Hierarchy. When I could breathe again, I observed to Scraps and Velma and Lydy that Sjöberg had left comics fans and the SCA out of the hierarchy; whereupon Scraps pointed out the link I’d missed to the extended version of the chart — which, by golly, locates comics fans and SCA members in the great scheme of things. Sjöberg’s helpfully supplemented the charts with answers to some Frequently Paraphrased Question:

As a Ren Faire person, am I more or less geeky than someone who writes fanfic?

This sort of conundrum is the very essence of the complex web of status and discarded candy wrappers that is the Geek Hierarchy. Your position as a fan of science fiction literature (a category which includes nearly all geeks to some extent or another) puts you above fanfic writers, but fanfic writers can say the same to you. Embracing this paradox will lead to understanding of the Geek Nature.

Who died and left you boss?

Isaac Asimov.

Does erotic fanfiction rank higher if it’s more than a century old and uses a classic as its starting point? I’ve been meaning for some time now to blog The Venetian Carnival, a nineteenth-century work of erotic fanfiction: Being an Erotic Preamble to Miss Austen’s Pride & Prejudice as recounted by Dr. Christopher Hart with illustrations by the late Herr Georg Emmanuel Opitz.

Note: Don’t click that link if you’re allergic to naughty pictures, though the one involving the Italian acrobats on the tightrope is quite something. Puts me in mind of some of Thomas Rowlandson’s work, though I won’t link to any just now on account of having not quite enough excuse for the additional indecency.

I expect that if we only knew, erotic fanfic’s been written all along. People will fantasize about anyone who makes a strong impression on them — and if you don’t believe me, here’s a series of very naughty lithographs from around 1840 featuring Napoleon and His Generals. (Mom, don’t look at that one either.)

I’m fascinated by stuff that recurs for no reason. My theory is that the collective unconscious, if it exists, isn’t made up of powerful, dignified archetypal images; rather, it’s a ragbag collection of odd tropes whose archetypal status we can infer only by their inexplicable recurrence, like jackalopes, and drinking vessels in the shape of a boot or shoe, and postcards showing hoked-up pictures of giant fruits and vegetables or fish, and people doing bunny-ears behind each other’s heads when they’re having their picture taken.

It’s mildly unnerving to think that the collective unconscious (if it exists) is full of random nonsense, but much worse to think this stuff was all part of some meaningful pattern.

More on jackalopes: I grew up along the postcard-rich shores of Route 66, so I’ve been mindful of the natural history of the jackalope since the 1960s; but I only recently learned (courtesy of Prof. Chuck Holliday, Dept. of Biology, Lafayette College, Easton PA) that the existence of the jackalope was first recorded by one Joris Hoefnagel around 1575. Moreover, P. Gaspar Schott’s Physica Curiosa (1667) distinctly shows horned rabbits — Lepores cornuti — in its frontispiece and again in the text. Worse, in the Shurangama Sutra, Volume 1, Part Two, Sutra text, pages 157-160, the Buddha himself makes reference to them, albeit slightingly.

Professor Holliday has suggested the possibility that jackalopes are related to the raurackl, or “stag-hare,” legendary among Bavarian hunters. A search on raurackl led me to an article, “Vom Osterhasen und dessen seltsamen Verwandten,” that I didn’t entirely understand. It nevertheless (this is starting to feel like a burlesque version of an H. P. Lovecraft story) provided me with several more names, and hinted at further meanings. Here’s a slightly tidied-up version of the Google translation of part of it:

With antlers, reisszaehnen, wings or also swimming skins armed, “Meister Lampe” is on the way, in order to float as “Raurackl” or “Wolpertinger” its nuisance. Antler-equipped hares are landlaeufig well-known as “Raurackl” in eastern Austria. Some stuffed copies of this rare [species?], by the way, are in the Grottenbahn of the Linzer Poestlingbergs. In the border area too, and particularly in Bavaria, a particularly wild kind is resident: the Wolpertinger.

The Wolpertinger - a fabulous creature

The Diorama of the Wolpertinger in the German Hunting and Fishery Museum in Munich represents a special point of attraction. However, many visitors do not even seem to question the existence of this strange Getiers. Even in the first expenditure of Brehm’s Animal Life stands a horned kind of hare with Latin name “lepus cornutus” registered. Likewise, horned hares were shown in old woodcuts and engravings. Admits is the Wolpertinger at the latest since that 16. Century, a nature, which exists only in the heads, but nevertheless reality to be seems. It is also older thereby than its brother, the Osterhase [Easter Bunny].

The Wolpertinger — or the group of closely related species referred to as Wolpertingers; I can’t tell — turned out to be more than a little disturbing. Mr. Potter’s Museum of Curiosity (a splendidly creepy place; I visited it a few years ago) has nothing on wolpertingers. Neither does the Killer Rabbit of Caer Bannog; so it’s just as well that wolpertingers are so closely related to the Easter Bunny.

But back to the jackalope, and Professor Holliday. I don’t know how to say this, so let me put it bluntly: He says they exist. Really. Scroll about halfway down his page and keep reading.

Our man Sullydog
Posted by Teresa at 10:00 AM *

He’s Jonathon Sullivan, whom I met when he was a student at the Viable Paradise workshop on Martha’s Vineyard. I’m one of the teachers. He’s a promising fiction writer, and meanwhile he’s an ER surgeon and a martial-arts guy. This is his account of what he did Saturday: a lively day, but nothing unprecedented (unless you count the case of neurosarcoidosis). If you like it, there’s lots more; just nose around and you’ll find it.

January 02, 2002
Happy New Year, and then some
Posted by Teresa at 05:00 PM *

On this day in history, the Moors finally lost Granada to the Spanish (1492). The Senate first censured a Senator: Thomas Pickering, on a 20-7 vote, for leaking confidential documents (1811). William Lloyd Garrison first published The Liberator (1831). Brigham Young, 71, was arrested for bigamy; his 25 wives were not (1872). The Standard Oil Trust was organized (1882). General Wolseley received the last distress signal from Gordon in Khartoum (1885). The first US commemorative postage stamp was issued (1893). James Longstreet died (1904). The Dodgers traded Casey Stengel to Pittsburgh (1911). Some 10,000 union organizers and socialists were arrested in the Palmer Raids (1920). Simon and Schuster was founded (1938). Fulgencio Batista fled Cuba, and Fidel Castro took Havana (1959). George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass hit #1 on the charts, making him the first ex-Beatle to hit #1 with a solo album. Richard M. Nixon signed into law a nationwide 55 mph speed limit (1974). The Dow Jones hit 2,810.15 (1990). The most distant galaxy yet discovered, 150K-200K lightyears across and an estimated 15 billion lightyears away, was found by scientists using the Keck telescope on Mauna Kea (1995). They named it “8C 1435+63”.

If you’re Catholic (or just a hagiographical enthusiast), today is the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, and a busy day in the Calendar. Notables include SS. Basil the Great, Gaspare del Bufalo, Gregory Nanzianzen, Macarius the Younger, Munchin of Limerick, and Seraphim of Sarov*; also Abel, Adelard, Airaldus, Aspasius of Auch, Bentivoglio de Bonis, Blidulf of Bobbio, Frobert, Isidore of Antioch, Isidore of Nitria, (neither of whom is the Isidore who’s the patron saint of the Internet), Martinian of Milan, Odilo of Cluny, Seirol, and Vincentian, plus Beati Gerard Cagnoli and Stephana Quinzani. It’s an oddly notable day for groups of martyrs: Narcissus, Marcellinus, and Argeus, beheaded in 320; Acutus, Artaxus, Eugenda, Maximianus, Tabias, Timothy, and Vitus, martyred en masse in the 3rd or 4th century at Syrmium in Pannonia; the Martyrs of Lichfield, d. 304 in Lichfield, England, during the persecutions of Diocletian; and the traditional Many Martyrs Who Suffered in Rome, a catch-all remembrance of martyrs not remembered by name who went down in the same persecutions.

(*St. Seraphim of Sarov (1759-1833) is remembered for his “double miracle”: Not only did he instantly cure a rich landowner’s serious illness, but when he suggested that the appropriate response would be to give away all his possessions, free his serfs, and take up a life of holy poverty, the landowner did it.)

If on the other hand you’re a Lutheran, today is the Commemoration of the fairly cool Pastor Johann Konrad Wilhelm Loehe (1808-1872) of Neuendettelsau in Franconia, who sent a “mission colony” to the Chippewa living in the wilderness forests of Michigan to show them “wie gut und schoen es is bei Jesu sein” (how good and beautiful it is to live with Jesus).

In Japan it’s Kakizome, traditionally the day of the first writing done in the New Year. More recently it has also been observed as Shigoto Hajime, “Begin Work Day”, marking the beginning of the office work year. If the second had fallen on a Monday this would be Handsel Monday in Scotland, but it didn’t so it ain’t. In the US it’s theoretically Betsy Ross Day, but in practice it’s Shigoto Hajime.

Persons born on this day include Nathaniel Bacon (1647), Anton Pannekoek (1873), Therese of Lisieux (1873), Josef Stalin (1880), Sally Rand (1904), Isaac Asimov (1920), and Roger Miller (1936). More to the point, today is the birthday of my sister, Erica Joyce (Nielsen) Barber (1955) — yay, Bunny! — and my husband, colleague, and unindicted co-conspirator Patrick Nielsen Hayden (1959): Happy Birthday!

Is there something afoot at Apple?
Posted by Teresa at 12:00 PM *

Erik Olson pointed this one out to me. Apple never boosts expectations before a show — or rather, they haven’t done so since the “Mac for the rest of us” campaign before the iMacs — but at five days and counting until the Macworld show in San Francisco, that’s unquestionably what they’re doing.

I asked Erik what he thought it might be: “Immortality? Wearable computers? Working nanotech? Peace in our time, the resurrection of the dead, and life in the world to come?”

“Something like that,” he said.

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