I’ve no idea why I woke up this morning thinking about Terry who memorably lamented ‘I could’ve been somebody’ in On the Waterfront. Thoughts of Terry somehow dragged up lots of stuff, including toilet rolls, from the depths of my mind.[Read more…] about Strange Memory Links
‘I passed through three boring towns’ was the start of a chapter that changed the way I thought about travel writers yet again. It helped that I would visit them after I read the chapter. Both visits were stopovers of a kind. One by commercial jet, the other by ship seeking shelter from two cyclones that seemed to merge just to scare us off.
I had found In Patagonia in a shop in Buenos Aires in late 1995. I was living in a hotel on Avenida de Mayo just a stone’s throw from the Casa Rosada, the Presidential Palace. Carlos Menem had just been re-elected and there were almost weekly protest marches on Thursdays. Once, a firework cannister was directed at me for watching the passing flag, banner and placard waving throngs from my third floor hotel balcony window.[Read more…] about Patagonian and Fuegian Tales
I first visited Algeria between reading The Plague and A Savage War of Peace.
‘…the plague bacillus never dies or disappears for good …’
Albert Camus’ fiction of the plague in Oran from 1947 is quoted as the Afterword in Alistair Horne’s visceral history of the decade leading to Algerian independence (as written in 1977).[Read more…] about Tax Collectors I
Four anecdotal health and safety tales from memory. These are encounters from a span of two decades that serve to illustrate how things might escalate to tragedy. And special for today, a bonus with a cautionary afterward.[Read more…] about Escalating Bad Things
Three words to start today. Skiing came to mind when I was listening to a discussion about the Andean Condor on the car radio the other day. The enthusiastic recommendation was to go see a Condor on your travels. The reason the Condor was being discussed was the recent publication of studies based on GPS tracking plus a motion sensor that counted the bird’s wing strokes. There’s a science alert you can read on this subject if you want more. Meantime, for me, the most interesting part is not that a condor flew for more than five hours without beating its wings once. Sure, it flew over 170 kilometres using nothing but air currents. I’m pretty sure this has been happening for millions of years. What I want to know if it ‘sees’ the thermals or relies on something else entirely?
Albatrosses fly huge distance too. Same kind of problem. Dovetail this with how both species manage to stay aloft and you have an interesting chance to find something new. New ways of seeing our world perhaps?[Read more…] about Radio Condor Skiing
Perhaps memory failure has an advantage. After all, the knowledge human memory holds will expire. Our certainty is rooted in our fields of endeavour and I think that like oaks, knowledge grows with our effort and because of it. Keeping with that analogy, if the tree avoids the wind, lightning and drought, it will live for centuries. But eventually it will have to be replaced, perhaps after re-purposing.
I have enjoyed reading about the new things we know of dinosaurs. The idea that birds have two-way lungs and pneumatic fenestrae amazed and astounded me. It makes so much more sense than invoking high oxygen levels as the enabling factor for the huge sizes attained by some terrestrial dinosaurs. And to think we’ve all seen birds do this double breathing and had no idea. Received and perceived wisdom should come with caveats and expiration dates.[Read more…] about Sauropods