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Clerihew

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Edited by Richard Walker, Monday, 15 Jun 2015, 00:33

King John

Had far too much on.

He decided it was smarter

To sign the Magna Carta.

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Show No Summer Favourites

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Edited by Richard Walker, Sunday, 14 Jun 2015, 02:56

Show no summer favourites

Not even the heavy white lilacs dipping in the stream.

Even though your mother loved them best

Show no summer favourites.

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Cats 'n Wolves

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Edited by Richard Walker, Saturday, 13 Jun 2015, 00:26

Are dogs and wolves the same species?

Yes, in a sense, because dogs and wolves can interbreed.

But the story is more complex. It's long been thought that the grey (or timber) wolf is the ancestor of dogs.

Controversial new research suggests that dogs and grey wolves are probably both descended from a common ancestor wolf, now extinct. They had the same grand parents, n times removed.

Modern dogs and wolves share 99% of their DNA (I think it is), but that small difference seems to be responsible for (amongst other things) a big change in behavior.

Dogs want to be ordered. Wolves make up their own mind.

Tell a dog 'no' and it may obey.

Tell the most human-friendly wolf 'no' and it will ignore you.

Like a cat, in fact.

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Clerihew

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Edited by Richard Walker, Friday, 12 Jun 2015, 01:33

Alexander the Great.

Was always late.

So he got shot.

Of the Gordian knot.

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Clerihew

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Edited by Richard Walker, Thursday, 11 Jun 2015, 01:03

Socrates thought parsley.

Was ghastly.

He took hemlock instead.

Now he's dead.

 

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JS Bach in State Pen

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Edited by Richard Walker, Wednesday, 10 Jun 2015, 02:59

Listening to the radio yesterday, I was amazed to hear J.S. Bach once did time.

Well not exactly.

As I understand it, he got a new job (in 1717) but his current employer (Duke of Weimar and ruler of that state) didn't want to let him go. So Bach was put in jail. After a month he was released.

But his detention is an example of Power speaking unto Art.

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Clerihew

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Edited by Richard Walker, Tuesday, 9 Jun 2015, 02:34

J.S. Bach, 

Fancied a lark.

So he tried misbehaviour,

With his well tempered clavier.

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Schrödinger's vets

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Edited by Richard Walker, Tuesday, 9 Jun 2015, 00:28

 

http://www.condenaststore.com/-sp/About-your-cat-Mr-Schroedinger-I-have-good-news-and-bad-news-New-Yorker-Cartoon-Prints_i13222248_.htm

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Poppy, I was tempted to pick you

Because I wanted your beauty to last forever,

But I couldn't do it.

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Beauty vs Time 1/3

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Edited by Richard Walker, Friday, 5 Jun 2015, 01:31

Here's the first four lines of another sonnet I've learned, and frequently recite when walking home.

Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea
But sad mortality o’er-sways their power,
How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea,
Whose action is no stronger than a flower?

This is so striking, its author so famous, it must have received legions of analysis. I've read none of them. This is my take entirely.

It jerks us around and brings in multiple images, like an early film, a silent movie. Try to imagine the camera angles and sound track.

First we see things that we think long lasting. The camera pans around. But then we are  reminded nothing lasts for ever, everything will decay with time.

Things that seemed permanent are destroyed. Castles collapse. Sea defenses erode away. We hear the roar.

But where did rage come from? What is the savage attack animal? Who can defend?

Beauty steps bravely forward and - this is one of the astonishing things about the poem - Beauty is a lawyer, pleading the case for a reprieve.This legal metaphor is one of the most surprising and amazing ways in which the focus of the poem takes us by surprise almost line by line

How strong is Beauty's case? Who is the jury?

Try to answer without reading the next episode.

 

 

 

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Moon Looks Down Haiku

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Ow! Smelling mimosa, I reached up.

Grabbed holly.

Spring happens.

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Music and Thought

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Edited by Richard Walker, Wednesday, 3 Jun 2015, 02:16

 A minute ago on the radio.

" Maurice Ravel's music is transparent, it reminds you of the veins beneath the skin."

Then some music followed.

The comment was one those ideas that is not exactly right - what is? - but which changes your way of listening in just a small way.

 

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Black Cat Wind

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Edited by Richard Walker, Wednesday, 3 Jun 2015, 01:11

The wind dropped and the cat and I

Ran in the cornfield.

Not ripe yet though.

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Night Wind Haiku

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Edited by Richard Walker, Tuesday, 2 Jun 2015, 01:40

Tonight I stopped at the gate.

Every leaf was singing, every bough was dancing.

In that gale.

Further off I heard a deeper and an older roar.

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An Anglo-Saxon Riddle

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Edited by Richard Walker, Monday, 1 Jun 2015, 00:55

My transliteration of an Anglo-Saxon riddle.

 

Green and growing.

Tugged suddenly from bed.

Making her cry on the chopping board.

Pleasing her when cooked.

 

What am I?

 

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Spring Cloud Haiku

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Spring clouds,

I reached up to grab you.

But you ran away laughing.

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'A most gallant herb of the Sun'

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Edited by Richard Walker, Sunday, 31 May 2015, 02:41

I found this rather showy (indeed gallant) flower on a roadside near where I live.

It is viper's bugloss.

The bugloss part comes from its rough stem and leaves - bugloss means ox-tongue from Greek bous + glossa. The viper component is because the plant was once thought to be sovereign against snakebite.

Culpeper's Herbal of 1653 says

"It is an especial remedy against the biting of the Viper, and all other venomous beasts, or serpents."

Why did people believe this? Had it been found, by accidental trial and error that the plant worked against snakebite and so its use for this purpose became part of local tradition? Does in fact save people from death by snakebite?

No, the reason seems to come from the Doctrine of Signatures. According to this concept, which goes back to antiquity, plants with medicinal uses bore signs that indicated what they were good for.

So for example the leaves of lungwort were thought to look like diseased lung tissue, showing that it would be good for lung ailments.

This notion seems odd to modern thought, but it's based on a belief in providence: these plants had been put there by a creator, or perhaps just by nature, but for a purpose - to help humankind  - and so the plants should be labelled - as the products in a supermarket aisle should be. For me the hardest bit is imagining that the world was created solely for us. That seems so unlikely and species-centered. But we are using modern thought and it's fairly easy to at least empathize with a different mindset.

So following the DOS, the stems of viper's bugloss are speckled, something considered characteristic of snakes (think of the Sherlock Holmes' tale The Speckled Band) and so the herb is marked as a snakebite remedy.

Culpeper offers several other uses for viper's bugloss, for example as a cheery pick-me-up.

"There is a syrup made hereof very effectual for the comforting the heart, and expelling sadness and melancholy."

I could do with some of that but I'll wait for proper testing!

 

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Lost Thoughts Haiku

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Edited by Richard Walker, Thursday, 28 May 2015, 00:25

I'll keep my hair long

To feel the wind blow through it.

So many lost thoughts.

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Neandertal Calculus (No Maths Involved)

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Edited by Richard Walker, Wednesday, 27 May 2015, 02:23

When I went to the dentists they told me the real name for plaque is "calculus".

'Oh, I said brightly, "that's the Latin for 'pebble'". They seemed unimpressed by my erudition.

It seems that plaque is not necessarily a disease of modern living though, and it has been found on 50,000 year old Neandertal teeth. So it's persistent stuff.

Traces of plants were found in the plaque. Read more here or see a gruesome image (plus some good information from a volunteer science writer) here.

Other primates also suffer.

 

 

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The Love Song of J.Alfred Wolfspider

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Edited by Richard Walker, Wednesday, 27 May 2015, 02:01

Some kinds of spider can communicate with others of their species (for threat or courtship) by vibrations, as I've tried to sketch in Fig 1 below.

However they can't, as far as I know, hear sound that is carried through the air, in the way many land dwelling animals do.

But research suggests one spider does use sound indirectly, in a way that reminds me a bit of the "baked bean tin telephone'.

You may know this, but if not, the idea of this improvised communication device is you get two empty tin cans, punch a small hole through the base of each, and then use a string knotted at both ends to connect the cans. The cans are held so the string is tight and then one person holds their can to their mouth, the person at the other end holds their can to their ear. When the first person speaks quietly, the listener can hear them, even over some distance.

This works because sound at one end is converted into vibrations in the string and at the receiving end the tin can resonates, and the vibration becomes audible sound again.

The "purring wolf spider" reverses the baked bean tin trick. One spider stands on a leaf (I think it needs to be dead so it will rustle) and generates vibrations, and vibrating the dry leaf produces sound (which is audible to humans).

The sound causes nearby leaves to resonate in sympathy, and a spider standing on one will feel the vibrations, Fig 2.

Where does Prufrock come in? Well it seems the female spiders on their leaves are the most responsive to the sound and so it may be a courtship song.

Learn more here.

 

 

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Edited by Richard Walker, Monday, 25 May 2015, 03:53

Beetle you're a neon sign.

Why show off so much?

Spring happiness. 

 

 

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Summer Memory

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Edited by Richard Walker, Monday, 25 May 2015, 03:00

Toward home I paused.

Smelling lilac.

Everyone has a last summer.

 

 

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Daybreak Forest

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Edited by Richard Walker, Sunday, 24 May 2015, 05:08

I'd like to die

In a forest at daybreak.

But I don't want to be cold.

So please give me a blanket.

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Stone tools

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Stone tools seem to go back further than we realised. There's a BBC post about it here but personally I think the Nature abstract puts the facts very well.

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Cat Haiku

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Edited by Richard Walker, Friday, 22 May 2015, 02:53

Issa wrote many verses about cats. Here's one I like, a blog post from 1815, as you might consider it. His diary was like a kind of blog.

The kitten catches one
now and then...
fallen leaves.

See here for more,

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