I’m probably not going to be drinking any Mountain Dew

It seems a man in Illinois has filed a lawsuit against Pepsi Co., claiming that he found a dead mouse in a can of Mountain Dew. The company, in response, is calling the claim a hoax. They say that their product would have dissolved the mouse carcass before he could have found it. That’s some beverage they’re making: Either it sometimes contains dead mice, or it eats away flesh. I will give Pepsi credit for either creativity or honesty (I’m not sure I want to know which), but I’m pretty sure I won’t be drinking any Mountain Dew.

 

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Filed under Weirdness

Back home

Finally got home today after spending Christmas in Portland and spending a couple of days driving through eastern Oregon. While we were in Portland we stopped by Powell’s and spent a wonderful few hours lost inside. Among other things, Catherine got us a complete set of the Foxfire Books. Fortunately, we didn’t have room in the car for the whole set, so we had to have them shipped home instead. I say fortunately because that gives us a few more days to figure out where the heck we’re going to put them.

It was a very enjoyable trip, despite the fact that it rained much of the time. And now we’re home just in time to begin 2012, the year the world isn’t going to end (or if it does, it will have damn all to do with any Mayan calendars).

 

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Archaeology on the final frontier

Paul Davies and Robert Wagner at Arizona State University have an interesting proposal: They want to use crowd-sourcing to search high resolution images of the lunar surface for evidence of extraterrestrial visits. Although they admit that the likelihood of actually finding something seems small, the cost of this sort of effort would also be extremely small, as almost all of the work would be done by interested volunteers.

For myself, I’m happy to see exo- and xeno-archaeology starting to receive serious consideration outside of the usual conspiracy theorist circles. I’ve long thought that if there are any advanced technological societies out there, it’s more likely that we will encounter evidence of their past activities than the beings themselves. The science of archaeology exists at all because artifacts so frequently outlast the people who create and use them. I can’t think of any reason to expect that to be different in space.

 

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Filed under Archaeology, Space

Airports aren’t enough anymore

The L.A. Times is reporting that the collection of bullies, thugs, and perverts called the TSA is expanding their operations to train and bus stations, ferry slips, NASCAR races, and even trucks on the highway. Of course they won’t stop any more terrorists than they have so far, but that’s not the point. They like pushing people around, and this gives them the chance to do more of it.

I’m certainly not opposed to governments in general, but this particular agency badly needs to be abolished. They have accomplished nothing of value, the behavior of their agents has been utterly disgusting, and they have shown again and again that as an institution they have absolutely no respect for the rights they are supposed to be protecting. It saddens me deeply that the American people have allowed the TSA to continue in existence as long as they have.

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Filed under Politics

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” – Luke 2:10-12 (NIV)

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Highly recommended

We’ve been traveling through Northeastern California and Oregon over the past few days, taking a little vacation. Yesterday we were in Bend, so we went out to see the High Desert Museum. I was very impressed by the exhibit showing Indian Nations of the Columbia River Plateau. Far too many of the museums that I’ve visited focus almost entirely on Indian cultures before European contact, helping to perpetuate the “Vanishing Indian” myth that should itself have vanished long ago. This exhibit devotes most of its space to showing how Indian societies have adapted from the time the Europeans first arrived until the present, preserving some parts of their cultures while changing others. Surviving though numerous changes in both White social attitudes and government policies, it was the Indians themselves who decided how to adapt to new technologies and new ways of life without losing their identity in the process. This exhibit appears to have been designed in close cooperation with the various tribes of the Plateau region. The next time you’re near Bend, it’s definitely worth a stop.

 

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Filed under Anthropology

It’s here!

The first locomotive for the Los Angeles Junction Railway (Bedroom Division) has arrived. (As always, click to embiggen)

I’ve confirmed that it runs. When we get back from vacation I’ll add a DCC sound decoder and speaker, and weather it.

(Don’t worry, I’ll get back to posting about archaeology soon.)

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Filed under Railroad

Good bye and good riddance

It’s being reported by nearly everybody that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il has died. What will happen to his former subjects is unknown, but North Korea under Kim was one of the most brutally oppressive regimes of the modern world,  it’s hard to imagine that things could possibly get much worse.

 

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Filed under Politics

You better watch out

I’ve blogged several times about my interest in what I like to call fantastic ethnobiology, a term I use for creatures that exist as cultural knowledge, but which do not physically exist, and which also do not have any particular religious significance. (I make that distinction both to avoid causing unnecessary offense and because I believe the difference really is important in understanding the phenomenon.)

In keeping with this interest, and in view of the season, I was therefore quite happy to find a website that has some first person accounts of sightings that can definitely be described as fantastic.

 

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Filed under Folklore

This woman needs to lose custody of her child NOW

Regardless of whether you support the Occupy movement or not, this kind of behavior is not acceptable, ever. Her magical “faith in humanity” is meaningless. The humanity of the engineer has damn all to do with how long it takes a train to stop. Good intentions will not change the laws of physics. And since she was at the entrance to a major port, she had no way to know whether the next train to come through would be a switcher with just a couple of cars or a mile long string of loaded hoppers weighing tens of millions of pounds.

Railroads don’t like collisions. I know; I was part of the field crew that did the archaeological compliance for the BNSF Triple Track project in the Cajon Pass. I had to attend the morning safety meeting every single day before starting work. And yet, according to Operation Lifesaver, 260 people were killed by collisions with trains in 2010, with another 810 people injured. Those injuries and deaths didn’t happen because the engineers wanted them to, or because the big faceless railroad corporation didn’t care. In nearly every case, they occurred because somebody was on the track when they should not have been.

(BTW, if you’re alongside the track and close enough that you could conceivably get in front of an oncoming train, you should expect the engineer to sound the horn. It’s considered polite to look at them and wave and let them know that you’re aware of the situation and not about to do anything stupid.)

 

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Filed under Railroad