Friday, June 29, 2007

The full technical explanation on how ketchup works and the correct way to pour ketchup from traditional ketchup bottles

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Are you looking for something different to do? Do you enjoy performing? Are you interested in working in a fun, exciting atmosphere with a group of energetic professionals? The Unusual Suspects, a local entertainment for hire Murder Mystery Dinner Theater Troupe, are looking for members. We are looking for people who are not afraid of hard work, having fun and being in the Limelight. You must be 21 and have reliable transportation. Rehearsal schedules are flexible.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Attention music lovers! Asthmatic Kitty, the label that has brought us wondrous musicians such as Liz Janes, Castanets, Half- handed Cloud, and Sufjan Stevens (just to name a few), has recently announced a new series of albums called the “Unusual Animals Vinyl Series”. From the AK website: “Asthmatic Kitty is pleased to announce the first in a series of vinyl-only releases. The series, entitled Unusual Animals, pairs Asthmatic Kitty roster artists with friends and sometimes-unlikely bedfellows.” And guess what else? Asthmatic Kitty was kind enough to ask me to design the covers for the series. Weehaw! The Japanese Macaque gets the distinguished honor of being the unusual animal featured on volume 1… more news as it becomes available.

A Half Million Years

About a hundred years ago a Heidelberg scholar by the name of Schoetensack called attention to an astonishing bone discovery: in the little village of Mauer they kept digging up remains of ancient animals while excavating gravel and sand. These were of types that had never been noted in southern Germany: saber toothed tigers, lions, elephants, hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses among them. Dr. Schoetensack started avidly collecting whatever they brought him and what he himself discovered. But he awaited futilely the discovery that would please him the most: human remains were not to be found in the Mauer gravel pit.
Twenty years later, someone wrote on 21 October 1907, the door of the Hochschwender Inn in Mauer opened. The gravel pit worker Daniel Hartmann, called "Sand Daniel," came in and shouted: "Today I found Adam!"
"Sand Daniel" had really found something at the foot of a gravel pit wall some 20 meters high that got Dr. Schoetensack excited and would make the village of Mauer famous: a human mandible. Just a jawbone, nothing more. But this jawbone caused a sensation. Dr. Schoetensack published a year later (1908) a precise scientific description. In that it was stated that had a mandible without teeth been discovered, it would not have been possible to recognize it as human: "the absolutely certain proof that we are dealing with a human part lies solely in the nature of the denture."
The teeth of apes, for example gorillas, differ from ours, but not those of the Mauer mandible. The being to whom this rare jawbone once belonged was clearly a human. Dr. Schoetensack called him "homo heidelbergensis," Heidelberg Man. Two unusual things appeared in this jawbone: the very wide and primitive rear bone and the lack of a pointed chin. What can be concluded from that? - The primitive bone reveal that the whole face was primitive. The man from Mauer would also have had a somewhat differently formed mouth cavity than we do. The making of many sounds, especially consonants, must have been difficult for him. He would thus not have had a highly developed language.
When did the man from Mauer live? Scholars have not quite been able to agree. It is estimated that the age of the mandible is about a half million years! How can a bone survive for such a long time? That is explained by fact that the sand in which it was embedded contained a great deal of lime.
The animals whose remains were found near Mauer were for the most part contemporaries of our homo heidelbergensis. Whether he was in a position to hunt them is hard to say. The man from Mauer would have been satisfied with lesser wildlife. Berries and forest plants would have been his general meal.
Our homeland at that time was covered with sparse mixed woods. The bone remains of Mauer betrays that to us, especially the teeth of the elephant and the rhinoceros. The molars are suited for chewing foliage, but not steppe grass.
If there were woods, it could not have been cold. In the Ice Age, the trees disappeared. The man from Mauer thus lived in one of the warm periods that have occurred several times in the last million years.
On 24 July 1933 there was, again in a gravel pit, another sensation-producing discovery: near Steinheim on the river Murr, a tributary of the Neckar, there was excavated the very well preserved skull of an early human. Years of investigation began. The scientists worked like detectives who had a difficult case to solve. Where did this skull come from?
Today it is believed that it is the remains of a young woman who lived 250,000 or even 300,000 years ago. The bulges over the eyes revealed a primitive appearance. But overall, this "homo steinheimensis" must have been quite similar to the human of today. It is certain that he like the man from Mauer lived during a warm period. That is revealed by the numerous animal remains that were also found in the Steinheim gravel pit. Even a water buffalo is among them, an animal that only lived in a very warm climate.
It is lucky that we have the many caves of the Swabian Alb. They are the most important discovery sites for life during the last Ice Age. Like treasure hunters, researchers into prehistory push into this subterranean world and carry out countless digs. They have truly brought treasures to light.
There have indeed not been many human remains discovered so far. Professor Riek made an important find in July 1931: in the Vogelherd cave (near Stetten in the Lon valley in Heidenheim county) he dug up a skull with mandible but without a face, also an upper arm bone, two lumbar vertebrae and a metacarpal bone. He named this find "Stetten I." Then there appeared a second, less well preserved skull that Riek designated "Stetten II."
The two persons from whom these remains came appear not to have belonged to the same time. "Stetten I," it is believed, could have lived about 30,000 years ago, during the last Ice Age. No doubt, in terms of his appearance, this man was very close to today's people and he was markedly different from the bipeds that inhabited southern Germany and many other parts of Europe 30,000, 40,000, 50,000 years before him: the famous Neanderthals. The chin of the Stetten man is pointed like ours; there are no bulges over his eyes. That he was intellectually more advanced than his predecessor, the Neanderthal, is shown by his weapons and his tools. He understood how to make spear points out of bone fragments: he worked the ivory of mammoth tusks, and he honed extraordinarily fine knives and blades from hard stone. The scientists named him Aurignac Man. Here we will call him simply Ice Age Hunter.
In the Vogelherd cave, this treasury of prehistory, there were found quite different things: small animal figures of ivory, only five to seven centimeters (2 to 2 ¾ inches) long. A charming wild pony is among them, a mammoth, a cave lion. They are among the oldest works of art in the world: then previously Man in the southwestern area had evidently not attempted to depict living things. Where our skilled Ice Age Hunter came from, is not known. One may nevertheless not assume that the Ice Age Hunters lived in caves the year around. They would perhaps have established their camp in the summer on a lake and lived from fishing. Certainly they knew exactly when the best time was to hunt reindeer, deer and ibex. They also did not avoid the mammoth. It is assumed that they constructed pitfalls for the giant beasts, a difficult job for people who did not have iron picks, spades and shovels available.
They would have hunted bear not only for the meat, but also for the warm fur. They lived in the Ice Age; they needed clothing.
Whoever visits these archaeological sites, perhaps the caves in the Swabian Alb, should not forget that the terrain during the Ice Age looked quite different. When our man from the Vogelherd cave climbed the mountain, he saw to the south the immense ice fields of the Alpine glacier glistening. The mountain peaks themselves were quite bare. Below, in the valley, dwarf birches and stunted Scots pines stooped. A raw land! And even so, there lived here an animal world of rich variety. Enough grasses and herbs grew to nourish the mammoth, wild horse, reindeer, and other plant eaters, and lions and tigers also lived from them - and not least, Man.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Time for that end-of-the-year wrap up and I was thinking about some of the more unusual things I’d seen this year, and thought of Cylcops Kitty. The cat belonged to Traci Allen and was born a year ago today on December 28th, 2005. She says the kitten she named Cy, short for Cyclops, was born with one single eye and no nose. Allen said she stayed up all night with the deformed kitten on her recliner, feeding Cy a liquid formula through a syringe. She says she cared for the kitten the next day as well, until it died that evening. The name of this deformity is called “Holoprosencephaly”, and Life Science discusses the case in length. Some bloggers have questioned the authenticity of the photo distributed. AP regional photo editor Tom Stathis said he took extensive steps to confirm the one-eyed cat was not a hoax. Boing Boing lists “Cyclops Kitty” as one of its most trafficked posts for 2006 Cyclops Kitty by Kipling West Many folks were inspired by the kitten, including artist Kipling West, who painted the lovely “Cyclops Kitty”. Kirsten Anderson and Marlow Harris at Roq la Rue Gallery with Cyclops Kitty I, myself, was so inspired I had to own Cyclops Kitty for myself. Is that so wrong? Here I am with the painting and Roq la Rue gallery owner Kirsten Anderson, in front of this, by now, almost sacred work of art. The gal who owned Cy said she’d never sell her on Ebay, implying that was bad, but apparently selling it to John Adolfi of the New Creation Museum was ok. The owner of the now-dead cyclops kitten sold it to John because a blogger had written that it was “the icon of atheism,” and she didn’t like that. John plans to take the pickled feline on tour this summer, and will later make it the centerpiece of his museum. Other artists were inspired too, including Martha Sue and Phil Corbett. And if you don’t want a doll or don’t own a painting, you can buy your own made from durable latex and completely submersible, from Fiendish Curiosities.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

If you’re looking for a truly unique and unusual pet, you need not look further than a hedgehog. There are 14 species of hedgehogs native to Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. In the United States, the species Atelerix albiventris has been imported purely for being kept as pets, but not released into the wild. In the wild, hedgehogs live for three or four years, and in good climates they may live seven years or longer. Hedgehogs are nocturnal insectivores that hibernate in colder months. Their diet consists mainly of earthworms, snails, beetles, and caterpillars, but they also eat a large range of other insects. The diet of a hedgehog may vary depending on its environment, and some have even been known to eat carrion, small birds, small mammals, or cracked birds’ eggs. As pets, they enjoy being treated to dog biscuits and pieces of sweet fruit. Hedgehogs have poor eyesight, so they rely mostly on hearing and smell to locate their food. In the wild in cold climates, hedgehogs usually hibernate during the colder months of the year, but when kept inside as a pet, the hibernation period is either eliminated entirely or very short. During hibernation, a hedgehog will seem dead, because its heart rate drops from 190 beats per minute to 20 beats per minute, and its body temperature is lowered by 20% or more. Hedgehogs as Pets The quills of a hedgehog feel like a bristly brush, rather than a porcupine. They sport soft fur on their faces and bellies, and their tails are very hard to see because they are nothing more than nubs. The average size of a hedgehog is between 4 and 9 inches in length. Because they are nocturnal creatures, they aren’t the best pets for an early riser if you want to actually see them awake. As for personality, hedgehogs tend to be a bit nervous and not a standard cuddly lap animal. In order to bond with a hedgehog, you need to buy a just weaned, 6-8 week old hedgehog. Look for bright clear eyes, a well-rounded body, and an alert and energetic inquisitiveness. Hedgehogs have not been kept in people's homes as a pet for very long. Their life expectancy is thought to be 4-6 years. Normally it is the Pigmy Hedgehog that you see for sale in pet shops. Most hedgehogs can be trained to use a litter box, but not all. If their cage is kept cleaned they have very little odor. Some commercial foods tend to cause hedgehogs to have a stronger odor. People that are normally allergic to cats are rarely allergic to hedgehogs. Welcoming a hedgehog into your home Before bringing your hedgehog home from the pet store, make sure your house is escape proof. Hedgehogs are masters at escaping and can fit through anything their little head can fit through. They also climb everything, like water bottles in their cages. Several types of cages will work, but be sure that the cage is secure. Wire cages work well, but make sure the squares are small enough so the hedgehog can't get out. An excellent container is a good size Tupperware bin. Drill lots of holes for ventilation, but not big enough for the little guy to escape. Hedgehogs must be kept warm, so it can be beneficial to place a heating pad on the lowest setting under one side of the cage. Although there are some good quality hedgehog foods beginning to appear on the market, they are not readily available. Their favorite food and treat is mealworms. If a commercial food or mealworms aren’t available, a high quality dog or cat food can be fed in a pinch. The dietary needs of a hedgehog have not been completely established, but you can offer them some fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber. Hedgehogs are active animals and exercise is very beneficial to them, so a large sturdy wheel is a must. Also empty toilet papers rolls that have been cut through completely across so the animal doesn't get his head trapped. They love to dig and root, so you can make a small sandbox for him, add sand and some mealworms, and he will have a blast! Never use pine or cedar for cage bedding, because they will certainly dig in it, and aromatic softwood is dangerous to their respiratory systems. You can use aspen shavings, or non-dusty clay litter. Choose the bedding carefully because the hedgehog will ingest some of the bedding. Aspen shavings are good because they are digestible. How to uncurl a hedgehog To handle a hedgehog, place your hand on each side of him and gently cup him in your hand. Use great caution not to place your fingers in the middle. They can ball up quickly and your finger can get caught in the middle of a bunch of quills being squeezed together by very strong muscles. If this happens, you will need to gently uncurl him to ease his anxiety. First pick him up, and turn him over on his back to identify where the nose is located. Hold the hedgehog by his back with the head under your fingers. Gently rock forwards and backwards, and when the nose starts to show the front legs will also emerge. As the legs reach for the ground, gently put the hedgehog down. Bonding with a hedgehog is quite different than bonding with other animals. The hedgehog has very poor eyesight, and their hearing isn't much better, so they bond using their sense of smell, which is highly developed. Don't use gloves when handling a hedgehog or he won’t know who you are. If you want him to learn to identify your smell as being that of a friend, don't change your odor each day by wearing different perfumes. Spend a great deal of time with your new friend. It is better to spend small amounts of time frequently than large amounts of time infrequently, so that he gets used to having you around. Find an old article of clothing that has no loose threads or holes, wear it for a day, and then place it in his cage so he can adjust to your smell. A hedgehog can be a special pet for the right person, but they aren’t as cuddly and cute as they look. Many hedgehogs have suffered because of people purchasing them as a fad item and then losing interest, so be sure to do your research first to be sure you are really interested in taking care of a hedgehog. If you are a responsible pet owner, a hedgehog can make a wonderful little pet for you, especially if you have a busy lifestyle or cramped quarters. They can be interesting and entertaining, and best of all, you won’t have to take them for a walk when it’s raining outside!