Cronaca


What happened to Cronaca?

Too much to do, too little time.
And Facebook.

Once I started sharing links on Facebook as well as posting them here, something had to give. Automatically synchronizing the two sites seemed to be an option, but never worked out in practice -- in large part, once again, due to lack of time to figure it all out.

Cronaca readers are welcome to follow me on Facebook here, as well as on my business site here. I'm also posting periodically on old writing instruments on my Vintage Pens News blog.

I am still hoping to be able to revive Cronaca one of these days. Facebook seems to love to mess around with their interface, but without ever giving full consideration to the different ways people use their pages. It could easily be tweaked to make it a fine blogging platform; as is, however, it is a constant frustration not to be able to compose proper posts, not to mention the virtual impossibility of locating posts past.

Posted December 4, 2013 11:36 AM | Link here


Townsville mutiny

An Australian historian has uncovered hidden documents which reveal that African American troops used machine guns to attack their white officers in a siege on a US base in north Queensland in 1942.

Information about the Townsville mutiny has never been released to the public.

But the story began to come to light when James Cook University's Ray Holyoak first began researching why US congressman Lyndon B Johnson visited Townsville for three days back in 1942.

What he discovered was evidence detailing one of the biggest uprisings within the US military.

"For 70 years there's been a rumour in Townsville that there was a mutiny among African-American servicemen. In the last year and a half I've found the primary documentation evidence that that did occur in 1942," Mr Holyoak told AM.

From the BBC.

Posted February 12, 2012 6:56 PM | Link here


No good deed unpunished

Five thousand Irish soldiers who swapped uniforms to fight for the British against Hitler went on to suffer years of persecution.

One of them, 92-year-old Phil Farrington, took part in the D-Day landings and helped liberate the German death camp at Bergen-Belsen - but he wears his medals in secret.

Even to this day, he has nightmares that he will be arrested by the authorities and imprisoned for his wartime service. . .

Mr Farrington's fears are not groundless.

He was one of about 5,000 Irish soldiers who deserted their own neutral army to join the war against fascism and who were brutally punished on their return home as a result.

They were formally dismissed from the Irish army, stripped of all pay and pension rights, and prevented from finding work by being banned for seven years from any employment paid for by state or government funds.

Read the rest at the BBC.

Posted December 27, 2011 10:23 PM | Link here


Not-so-charitable book boxes?

You’ve probably seen them on a street corner or in a parking lot somewhere. Popping up like big blue mushrooms over the past two years are giant metal bins labelled “Books For Charity.” Unfortunately, the truth about what happens to books dropped in those bins is somewhat more complex than the label.
Read the rest here. Once again, the lesson is to scrutinize before you give.

Posted December 15, 2011 12:02 PM | Link here


Bronte manuscript sale

A French museum has won a bidding war for an unpublished Charlotte Bronte manuscript, dashing hopes that it could return to the author's former home.

The Musee des Lettres et Manuscrits in Paris bought the second issue of Young Men's Magazine at auction for £690,850.

It outbid the Bronte Parsonage Museum, based in the family's former house in Haworth, West Yorkshire.

The work, written when Bronte was 14, is regarded as important for the light it sheds on her literary development.

The miniature manuscript, dated 1830, smashed its pre-sale estimate of £200,000 - £300,000 and set a new auction record for a manuscript by any of the Bronte sisters.

From the BBC.

Posted December 15, 2011 11:59 AM | Link here


Crusader inscription in Arabic found

Israeli archaeologists have discovered the first ever Arabic Crusader inscription, they announced on Monday.

The epigraphic evidence emerged from a 800-year-old inscribed marble slab which originally sat in Jaffa's city wall.

Bearing the name of the "Holy Roman Emperor" Frederick II, and the date "1229 of the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus the Messiah," the inscription was found broken on the top, right, left and bottom.

From Discovery News. Frederick II Hohenstaufen was a fascinating figure -- his Wikipedia entry is here.

Posted November 29, 2011 11:22 AM | Link here


Deep-sea fishing Down Under, 42,000 years ago

An archaeologist from The Australian National University has uncovered the world’s oldest evidence of deep sea fishing for big fish, showing that 42,000 years ago our regional ancestors had mastered one of our nation’s favourite pastimes.

Professor Sue O’Connor of the College of Asia and the Pacific at ANU, also found the world’s earliest recorded fish hook in her excavations at a site in East Timor. The results of this work are published in the latest issue of Science.

The finds from the Jerimalai cave site demonstrate that 42,000 years ago our regional ancestors had high-level maritime skills, and by implication the technology needed to make the ocean crossings to reach Australia.

Full press release here.

Posted November 29, 2011 11:18 AM | Link here


Deciphering nixies at the Post Office

In the '90s, computers needed remedial reading, stumped as they were by nine addresses in 10. The Postal Service hired 32,000 clerks at 55 RECs to make sense of them. Computers have since learned to see words in scrawls and squiggles the way voice-recognition software hears them in hemming and hawing. The Postal Service says their reading score today is 95%.

What's left over is the handwriting from hell. It pours into just two remaining RECs—here and in Wichita, Kan. Their 1,900 clerks cope with machine-unreadable mail from the whole country. Last year, that included 714,085,866 chicken-scratch first-class letters.

In late afternoon, when volume peaks at the Salt Lake center, a blinking panel showed 67,000 letters awaiting attention—from San Juan, Paducah, Los Angeles, Kokomo. A clerk wearing a headset had hit a patch of pen-pal letters from pupils in Memphis. She was decrypting them at a rate of 800 per hour, down from the desired 1,100.

"We ought to teach kids how to address letters," said Bruce Rhoades, a manager looking over her shoulder. His boss, Karen Heath, stood watching beside him and sighed, "A lost art."

From the Wall Street Journal.

Posted November 10, 2011 8:48 AM | Link here


Unlikely correspondents

THE second volume of T.S. Eliot’s letters was recently published by Yale University Press, with new materials and previously unpublished missives. This is as good a time as any to reflect on Eliot’s most fascinating correspondent. Ezra Pound? Well, no. James Joyce? Hmm. No. Paul Valery. Non! I am referring to Groucho Marx. And no, this isn’t a joke. The letters between T.S. Eliot and Julius Henry Marx are among the strangest and most delightful epistles ever created. . .

At this point, I should insert some boilerplate reflection, something along the lines of “Two more unlikely correspondents could not be conceived of”, etc. And on the surface, the two men certainly are a surpassingly odd couple. As Anthony Julius puts it in his book, “T.S. Eliot, Anti-Semitism, and Literary Form”, Eliot was “able to place his anti-Semitism at the service of his art. Anti-Semitism supplied part of the material out of which he created poetry.” And not just his poetry. In polemics like “After Strange Gods” and “The Idea of a Christian Society”, Eliot elaborated his belief that Jews had no place in modern life.

Enter Groucho, whose wit was as uniquely Jewish as it was universally comic. Where Eliot was the famous defender of tradition, order and civilised taste, the crux of Groucho’s humour was flouting tradition, fomenting chaos and outraging taste. “I have had a perfectly wonderful evening,” he once said to a host, “but this wasn’t it.” And: “I remember the first time I had sex—I kept the receipt.” And: “The secret of life is honesty and fair dealing. If you can fake that, you’ve got it made.” As for Groucho’s attitude toward Eliot’s exaltation of art and knowledge, he had this to say: “Well, Art is Art, isn't it? Still, on the other hand, water is water. And east is east and west is west and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now you tell me what you know.” What Eliot considered “the waste land” of modern life—the deracination, impudence and profane materialism—was mother’s milk to Groucho.

Read the rest in The Economist.

Posted November 9, 2011 9:41 AM | Link here


Ancient dapples

In previous work, Dr Ludwig, and his colleagues, recovered only the DNA of black and brown coat colours from the prehistoric horse bones.

But the dappled coats of the 25,000 year horses depicted at the Pech Merle cave complex in France convinced the team to take a second look.

By revisiting the fossil DNA of 31 horse specimens collected from across Europe, from Siberia to the Iberian Peninsula, the researchers found that six of the animals carried a mutation that causes modern horses to have white and black spots.

Of the remaining 25 specimens, 18 were brown coloured and six were black.

Dr Ludwig explained that all three of the horse colours - black, brown and spotted - depicted in the cave paintings have now been found to exist as real coat-colours in the ancient horse populations.

From the BBC.

Posted November 8, 2011 10:05 AM | Link here


Curators in glass houses . . .

France has laid claim to a 17th Century painting currently being displayed by a London gallery at an art fair in Paris.

The Carrying of the Cross by the French master Nicolas Tournier was bought last year for 400,000 euros ($550,000) by the Weiss Gallery of London. . .

During the French Revolution, the painting was confiscated by the state and put on display in a museum, but in 1818 it disappeared.

Nothing was heard of the work for nearly 200 years, but two years ago in resurfaced in Italy during the sale of an estate of a wealthy Florence art collector. . .

"This was the property of the French state that was deposited at the Augustins Museum in Toulouse and was stolen in 1818. It is a non-transferable work," the [French Culture Ministry] said in a statement.

From the BBC.

Where this could get messy is if others decide to hold the French state to the same standard. If 1818 isn't too long ago, then neither is 1796-1812, when Napoleon and his cronies methodically stripped Italy and Spain of their finest artworks, many of which were never returned after Napoleon's fall. Many of these are far more prominent than the disputed Tournier, with ample documentation of how and when they were seized from their rightful owners. The Church would surely be the biggest claimant, since the French confiscated altarpieces wholesale during their forcible closure of religious institutions in conquered territories.

Posted November 7, 2011 10:05 PM | Link here


Indian martial art, on verge of extinction

The basis of shastar vidya, the "science of weapons" is a five-step movement: advance on the opponent, hit his flank, deflect incoming blows, take a commanding position and strike.

It was developed by Sikhs in the 17th Century as the young religion came under attack from hostile Muslim and Hindu neighbours, and has been known to a dwindling band since the British forced Sikhs to give up arms in the 19th Century.

Nidar Singh, a 44-year-old former food packer from Wolverhampton, is now thought to be the only remaining master. He has many students, but shastar vidya takes years to learn and a commitment in time and energy that doesn't suit modern lifestyles.

"I've travelled all over India and I have spoken to many elders, this is basically a last-ditch attempt to flush someone out because if I die with it, it is all gone."

From the BBC.

Posted October 30, 2011 9:23 AM | Link here


Hangar One under threat

Hangar One's massive rib-cage-like doors were designed to split open to accommodate aircraft of giant proportions like the U.S.S. Macon airship. But for the first time since the hangar's construction in 1933, a simple breeze can now pass through its skeleton and tickle the vast heart inside.

In the past four months, construction crews have peeled off 90 percent of the hangar's south face, panel by panel, leaving the 198-foot-high Naval Historic Monument naked as a jaybird to thousands of motorists driving past on U.S. Highway 101. . .

The Navy is overseeing the "de-skinning" of the hangar, a process that began in spring and will remove and dispose of the structure's corrugated metal walls, which are tainted by lead paint, asbestos and PCBs. By the time the project is completed next spring, the hangar -- almost the length of four football fields and the width of one -- will literally be a skeleton of its former self. . .

After the Navy removes the hangar's siding, NASA is responsible for its re-skinning, but federal funds for the project are still in limbo, and a bitter battle between hangar preservationists and those in favor of complete demolition is far from settled.

Article here. Read more and sign the petition here.

Posted October 20, 2011 8:39 PM | Link here


Red tape strangles "lost city" excavation

A project to excavate a small portion of a 1923 silent-movie set buried in the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes — already derailed Sept. 30 by a Santa Barbara County permit snafu — will not happen this year even with an expedited permit process.

That’s the assessment offered Friday by filmmaker Peter Brosnan and the project’s lead archeologist, John Parker.

And Brosnan, who has spent nearly 30 years securing funding for the project, said it may not happen at all.

“We had a very well-planned project, which was utterly derailed at the last minute,” said Brosnan. “We’re going to have to do a very thorough assessment of all the bits and pieces, and see how the permit process goes. It’s way too early, and our heads are still spinning, to make a prediction.”

The excavation, which would involve about 50 cubic yards of sand, was approved in January by county planners, and was supposed to have started last week.

Full story here.

Posted October 16, 2011 6:21 PM | Link here


"Kraken" silliness

Once again, news outlets uncritically repeat a ridiculously far-fetched yarn, this time speculation about a giant Jurassic cephalopod. But kudos to National Geographic, which treats the story with the skepticism it deserves. Note too the commentary at Pharyngula.

Posted October 11, 2011 8:15 PM | Link here


Stolen antiques recovery

Millions of pounds worth of stolen antiques, which have significant cultural and historic value, have been recovered in a raid by police.

They are believed to be items stolen from Newby Hall and Sion Hill in North Yorkshire and Firle Place in Sussex.

The antiques include a rare Chippendale table, which was made specially for Newby Hall in 1775 and is said to be of global importance.

Two men, aged 68 and 44, have been arrested.

From the BBC.

Posted September 25, 2011 9:07 PM | Link here


Richard Turner obit

A. Richard Turner, an expert on the Florentine Renaissance whose landmark 1993 study, “Inventing Leonardo,” traced the protean outlines of Leonardo da Vinci through his interpreters and their preoccupations over the last 500 years, died on Sept. 9 in Cape May Court House, N.J. He was 79. . .

“Inventing Leonardo” offered a novel reading of one of the most studied and poorly understood artists in history, in a book that Kenneth Baker, The San Francisco Chronicle’s art critic, called “not a biography but a mythography.”

I am sorry to say I never did take a course from him. From the NY Times.

Posted September 23, 2011 8:33 PM | Link here


Enigma to auction

A version of the three rotor Enigma machine -- used by the German military to encrypt messages, the code of which was subsequently cracked by a team at the legendary Bletchley Park complex -- will be auctioned at Christie's on September 29.

Although the number of the ciphering machines still in existence is thought to remain in the thousands, "it is rare for one to come up for sale," says Christie's specialist, James Hyslop. "Many are believed to have been produced but it's not a particularly high survival," he adds.

From CNN, with slideshow.

The Enigma article in Wikipedia is quite detailed. Enigma simulators can be used online here and here, with the latter offering a good selection of further Enigma links.

Posted September 17, 2011 2:07 PM | Link here


Late Cretaceous feathers in amber

Samples of amber in western Canada containing feathers from dinosaurs and birds have yielded the most complete story of feather evolution ever seen.

Eleven fragments show the progression from hair-like "filaments" to doubly-branched feathers of modern birds.

The analysis of the 80-million-year-old amber deposits is presented in Science.

The find, along with an accompanying article analysing feather pigment, adds to the idea that many dinosaurs sported feathers - some brightly coloured.

From the BBC.

Posted September 15, 2011 4:36 PM | Link here


Maine black church excavation

A wooden water pipe, discovered this week at the Abyssinian Meeting House on Newbury Street, has excited archeologists and historians who are involved in the restoration of one of the nation's oldest black churches.

They say the pipe, intact and still carrying water, was found just a few feet underground and may have been the conduit that provided water in the 1850s to the nearby Grand Trunk Railroad station, now long gone.

The pipe also may have served nearby homes in the decade before the Great Fire of 1866, which destroyed most of downtown Portland but left the meeting house untouched. The find lends credence to the assertion that the Abyssinian was a vital community center and its members played important roles in the development of Maine's largest city.

From the Portland Press Herald.

Posted September 14, 2011 7:17 AM | Link here


Ancient anchor find

Two lifeguards found an ancient 600-pound metal anchor off the coast of Bat Yam, adjacent to Tel Aviv, leading to the discovery of two others

The anchor dates back to the Byzantine period of approximately 1,500 years ago and measured at 2.1 meters (nearly seven feet) long. It was found buried in the sand only 100 feet from shore.

Read more here.

Posted September 14, 2011 7:07 AM | Link here


Visiting the ancient turquoise mines of Sinai

Sinai is often referred to in Arabic as “Ard Al-Fayrouz” (the land of turquoise) after its ancient Egyptian name "Ta Mefkat" or “Khetyou Mefkat”, which means turquoise terraces. . .

Wadi Maghara, Wadi Kharig, Bir Nasb and Serabit al-Khadem were among the premium mining spots in antiquity, and visiting them today offers a different experience for history and archaeology aficionados than the temples and tombs of the Nile Valley and Delta, which reflect ancient Egyptians’ beliefs in the afterlife. The archaeological sites of Southern Sinai relay aspects of daily life in old mining communities.

Full article here.

Posted September 14, 2011 6:55 AM | Link here


Plague hunters

They looked for surviving fragments of DNA in bones and teeth that archaeologists had excavated from the East Smithfield site in the 1980s. The DNA matched that of the modern-day microbe, confirming, as have several other studies, that Yersinia pestis was indeed the agent of the Black Death. Sharon DeWitte, a member of Dr. Poinar’s team, was one of several skeptics who had doubted the microbe’s role. “I’m very happy to find out I was wrong,” said Dr. DeWitte, a paleodemographer at the University of South Carolina. “In science, if you’re open to alternative possibilities, you can change your mind.”

Dr. Poinar’s team also looked for the microbe’s DNA in another medieval London cemetery, that of St. Nicholas Shambles, which was closed before the Black Death struck. They found no sign of it there, indicating that Yersinia pestis was not already present in the English population before the Black Death, so it must have arrived from elsewhere.

If Yersinia pestis was indeed the cause of the Black Death, why were the microbe’s effects so different in medieval times? Its DNA sequence may hold the answer.

From the NY Times.

Posted September 1, 2011 5:04 PM | Link here


Ammonites!

Gratuitous Lovecraft reference, but interesting short video from Hardcore Science at io9.

Posted September 1, 2011 9:21 AM | Link here


Ned Kelly, found

In Australia, the law finally has its man. The skeleton of Ned Kelly, Australia's most famous outlaw, was confirmed by forensic scientists Thursday as being among remains found at Pentridge Prison in the southern city of Melbourne—albeit missing most of the skull.

Known for leading daring bank raids and blazing through police shootouts wearing homemade armor—including a helmet that resembled a tin can—Kelly ranks among the 19th century's most notorious outlaws, with a myth as strong as U.S. sharpshooters Jesse James and Billy the Kid. In a time of steep poverty he was something of a hero to the rural poor, who identified with him in his battles against authority. His execution in 1880 polarized Australian society.

Hanged by the neck until dead at Old Melbourne jail, he was buried among other executed prisoners within the grounds, and though his remains were thought to have been moved to Pentridge Prison with the rest in 1929, authorities didn't know for sure. The bones now confirmed as Kelly's were found buried in a wooden ax box in 2009, and identified through the application of CT scanning, X-rays, pathology, odontology, anthropology and DNA testing—Leigh Oliver, the great grandson of Ned's sister Ellen, provided a sample for comparison.

From the Wall Street Journal.

Posted September 1, 2011 9:13 AM | Link here


Early Colts at auction

“Colt revolvers have always been the blue chips of gun collecting,” says Greg Martin, president of Greg Martin Auctions. “The romance, the craftsmanship, the history. Sam Colt the man, the promoter, the first American industrialist. All wrapped together it [really makes] an American story.”

An impressive chapter in that story will soon be up for grabs. On September 18 in Dallas, Martin will auction what he believes is the most significant group of Colt revolvers put together in the past 50 years. The Al Cali Collection features nearly 30 Colts made from 1836 to 1865 during the percussion era, including one of the finest known examples of Sam Colt’s very first pistol model, the Texas Paterson.

Slideshow here. More at the auction website.

Posted September 1, 2011 9:05 AM | Link here


Roman harbor unearthed in Wales

A team from Cardiff University discovered the harbour outside the Roman fortress at Caerleon (Isca) during ongoing excavation work.

The remains are said to be well preserved and include the main quay wall, landing stages and wharves. . .

Students using geophysical equipment, which can reveal outlines of buried structures, came across the remains of a site of large Roman buildings on the banks of the River Usk last year.

The buildings may have been market places, administrative buildings, bath houses and temples.

The excavation work, which also led to the discovery of the port, is said to have exceeded all expectations. . .

The port is only the second from Roman Britain to be discovered and excavated after London.

From the BBC.

Posted August 23, 2011 12:14 PM | Link here


German lager beer's Patagonian roots

How did lager beer come to be? After pondering the question for decades, scientists have found that an elusive species of yeast isolated in the forests of Argentina was key to the invention of the crisp-tasting German beer 600 years ago.

It took a five-year search around the world before the scientific team discovered, identified and named the organism, a species of wild yeast called Saccharomyces eubayanus that lives on beech trees. . .

Their best bet is that centuries in the past, S. eubayanus somehow found its way to Europe and hybridized with the domestic yeast used to brew ale, creating an organism that can ferment at the lower temperatures used to make lager.

Full article here.

Posted August 22, 2011 8:42 PM | Link here


Fake review detector

As online retailers increasingly depend on reviews as a sales tool, an industry of fibbers and promoters has sprung up to buy and sell raves for a pittance. ..

The boundless demand for positive reviews has made the review system an arms race of sorts. As more five-star reviews are handed out, even more five-star reviews are needed. Few want to risk being left behind. . .

Determining the number of fake reviews on the Web is difficult. But it is enough of a problem to attract a team of Cornell researchers, who recently published a paper about creating a computer algorithm for detecting fake reviewers. They were instantly approached by a dozen companies, including Amazon, Hilton, TripAdvisor and several specialist travel sites, all of which have a strong interest in limiting the spread of bogus reviews.

From the NY Times.

The situation is even worse when the reviewing takes place within a group small enough to be strongly interconnected. I noted some time ago that within my own area of dealing and collecting, any hint of criticism was very poorly received. Excepting only the most extreme cases of dishonesty, it was (and remains) very much a case of shooting the messenger. Much different than face-to-face interactions among the same group, where one can safely share critical opinions in private.

This isn't an option, of course, with the usual hotel or restaurant review sites. As a rule, it pays to focus more on the negative reviews, rather than worry about the overall number of stars or points awarded. With restaurants, in particular, it seems there are a lot of easily-pleased diners out there. For some reason it goes the other way around with most tech reviews, however, where it's the dissatisfied customers who vent via negative reviews while those who have no problems remain silent. It's worth paying attention if the complaints are about specific issues of design and performance, but often it's a matter of "this hard drive failed and it's junk" or "this accessory didn't work with my gizmo and I had to return it".

Posted August 20, 2011 8:49 AM | Link here


Skeletons under the closets

An estate agent in Sweden is offering a house with the remains of a medieval resident included in the price.

The property, built in 1750 in Visby, on the Baltic Sea island of Gotland, has a tomb and skeleton in the cellar.

The starting price for the three-bedroomed house, where the skeleton is visible through glass in the cellar, is 4.1m Kronor ($640,000; £287,000).

The property was built on the foundations of a Russian church, abandoned during the Middle Ages.

From the BBC.

Posted August 19, 2011 11:20 AM | Link here


Remembering Hans Litten

A new drama tells the story of a Jewish lawyer who confronted Hitler 80 years ago - earning the dictator's life-long hatred. So who was Hans Litten?

In the Berlin courtroom, Adolf Hitler's face burned a deep, furious red.

The future dictator was not accustomed to this kind of scrutiny.

But here he was, being interrogated about the violence of his paramilitary thugs by a young man who represented everything he despised - a radical, principled, fiercely intelligent Jewish lawyer called Hans Litten.

The Nazi leader was floundering in the witness stand. And when Litten asked why his party published an incitement to overthrow the state, Hitler lost his composure altogether.

From the BBC.

A biography of Litten was published in 2008; more links available through Wikipedia's entry .

Posted August 19, 2011 9:50 AM | Link here


Where's the octopus?

From Science Friday -- well worth a watch:

Posted August 18, 2011 9:27 AM | Link here


Studying the Black Death in England

Rats weren't the carriers of the plague after all. A study by an archaeologist looking at the ravages of the Black Death in London, in late 1348 and 1349, has exonerated the most famous animal villains in history.

"The evidence just isn't there to support it," said Barney Sloane, author of The Black Death in London. "We ought to be finding great heaps of dead rats in all the waterfront sites but they just aren't there. And all the evidence I've looked at suggests the plague spread too fast for the traditional explanation of transmission by rats and fleas. It has to be person to person - there just isn't time for the rats to be spreading it". . .

Sloane, who was previously a field archaeologist with the Museum of London, working on many medieval sites, is now attached to English Heritage. He has concluded that the spread of the 1348-49 plague, the worst to hit the capital, was far faster, with an impact far worse than had been estimated previously.

While some suggest that half the city's population of 60,000 died, he believes it could have been as high as two-thirds.

From The Guardian.

I'm not sure how much is new here, in that it has long been recognized that the spread of the plague was often so fast that the pneumonic form of the disease must have been at work. Indeed, this fact and the absence of documented rat mortality (also previously noted) has led many to question if the Black Death was indeed plague (Yersinia pestis) or instead some sort of Ebola-like virus, highly transmissible and with a substantially longer incubation time.

Posted August 18, 2011 9:07 AM | Link here


Mapping the past, digitally

Few battles in history have been more scrutinized than Gettysburg’s three blood-soaked days in July 1863, the turning point in the Civil War. Still, there were questions that all the diaries, official reports and correspondence couldn’t answer precisely. What, for example, could Gen. Robert E. Lee actually see when he issued a series of fateful orders that turned the tide against the Confederate Army nearly 150 years ago?

Now historians have a new tool that can help. Advanced technology similar to Google Earth, MapQuest and the GPS systems used in millions of cars has made it possible to recreate a vanished landscape. This new generation of digital maps has given rise to an academic field known as spatial humanities. Historians, literary theorists, archaeologists and others are using Geographic Information Systems — software that displays and analyzes information related to a physical location — to re-examine real and fictional places like the villages around Salem, Mass., at the time of the witch trials; the Dust Bowl region devastated during the Great Depression; and the Eastcheap taverns where Shakespeare’s Falstaff and Prince Hal caroused.

From the NY Times.

Posted July 28, 2011 9:33 PM | Link here


Convict artifacts in Tasmania

Archaeologists in Tasmania have found more than 300 convict-era artefacts under the floorboards of a 180-year-old chapel.

The discovery at Hobart's historic Penitentiary Chapel includes coins, clay pipes, home-made wooden gambling tokens, a writing slate and bones.

Archaeologist David Roe says it is particularly exciting because the artefacts are very personal items belonging to the prisoners.

Full story here.

Posted July 28, 2011 9:17 PM | Link here


Bronze Age blades not for show

Elite members of ancient Egypt, including the pharaoh himself, likely wielded ornate daggers, swords and axes in battle, or to personally execute prisoners, rather than using the shiny metal for ceremonial purposes, research suggests. . .

This finding is "strange considering the amount of literature that's been composed so far that basically says that all of them were for ritualistic purposes and were never used in battle"

Full article here.

Posted July 28, 2011 9:13 PM | Link here


Medieval mystery tunnels

There are more than 700 curious tunnel networks in Bavaria, but their purpose remains a mystery. Were they built as graves for the souls of the dead, as ritual spaces or as hideaways from marauding bandits? Archeologists are now exploring the subterranean vaults to unravel their secrets. . .

The Greithanners, from the town of Glonn near Munich, are the owners of a strange subterranean landmark. A labyrinth of vaults known as an "Erdstall" runs underneath their property. It is at least 25 meters (82 feet) long and likely stems from the Middle Ages. Some believe that it was built as a dwelling for helpful goblins.

Full article at Der Spiegel.

Posted July 28, 2011 9:10 PM | Link here


Scofflaws' paradise

Bob Brickman spent months fighting a ticket he got last fall from a red-light traffic camera at Wilshire and Sepulveda boulevards in West Los Angeles.

The 61-year-old from Playa Vista eventually decided to give up the fight and fork over the $476 fine. Now he's regretting paying every penny.

City officials this week spotlighted a surprising revelation involving red-light camera tickets: Authorities cannot force violators who simply don't respond to pay them. For a variety of reasons, including the way the law was written, Los Angeles officials say the fines for ticketed motorists are essentially "voluntary" and there are virtually no tangible consequences for those who refuse to pay.

From the LA Times, which further notes:
Court officials estimate that about 60% of those who get the tickets pay them. Blair said about 256,000 red-light camera tickets were issued in the county last year, and that roughly 25% of those who do not initially pay and are referred to the court's collection agency end up handing over the cash. . .

But for those who ignore them and do not show up in court or admit guilt, neither the city nor the court system will force them to pay. Additionally, Cmdr. Blake Chow of the Los Angeles Police Department said those scofflaws face no risk to their credit rating, car registrations or driver's licenses.

I have a real problem with laws that, in practice, apply only to the law-abiding. This reminds me of the experience of an East Coast friend on vacation in California a few years back. His parked rental car was rear-ended right in front of a police officer, who, to his astonishment, let the other driver go without so much as a summons. It was explained to my friend that he was responsible for the damage, since California is a no-fault state and the other driver didn't have any insurance.

Posted July 27, 2011 10:12 AM | Link here


Wide-ranging mountain lion

A mountain lion killed on a road in the US state of Connecticut had walked halfway across the US before it died in June, scientists have said.

DNA tests showed the cat was native to the Black Hills of South Dakota, 1,800 miles (2,896km) away, scientists said.

And its DNA matched that of an animal collected by chance in 2009 and 2010 in the states of Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The evidence suggests the cat had made the longest-ever recorded journey of a land mammal, scientists say.

From the BBC.

Posted July 27, 2011 9:36 AM | Link here


Oldest rock art in Britain?

An archaeologist believes a wall carving in a south Wales cave could be Britain's oldest example of rock art.

The faint scratchings of a speared reindeer are believed to have been carved by a hunter-gatherer in the Ice Age more than 14,000 years ago.

The archaeologist who found the carving on the Gower peninsula, Dr George Nash, called it "very, very exciting."

Experts are working to verify the discovery, although its exact location is being kept secret for now.

From the BBC.

Posted July 25, 2011 10:04 PM | Link here


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