Saturday, December 2, 2017

Dramatic Sky Pictures


Is it too soon for more dramatic sky pictures? 

Over the years I have taken many pictures like this, particularly in the area of Alexandria along Holmes Run between Duke Street and Eisenhower Avenue, which has very few buildings that block the view of the sky.  

The camera made these three scenes darker and more orange than they were in real life.  








Thursday, November 23, 2017

Feeling Crabby


It might not be the Thanksgiving feast for which you are looking, but my friend Mike sends along a link to a news story with a video of a Coconut Crab killing a Red-footed Booby for dinner.  

Actually this video is creepy enough that it might have been good for Halloween, especially considering the associated story that crabs of this same species may have eaten Amelia Earhart.  



Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Trying To Find Something Scary for Halloween


It’s Halloween, when zombies run amuck, or whatever.  Well, really, it’s not zombies, it’s mostly little kids, and they’re usually carefully supervised by parents rather than running amuck.  

On my old computer I had a drawing program that I used for Halloween graphics, like the Scary Pumpkinhead Dude.  But with my current computer all that I have is my photographs.  

I suppose that I should try to find something scary for Halloween. 

Let’s see . . . scary . . . scary . . . scary . . . 


The best that I could find was this picture from a few years back.  It’s taken at a cemetery, but really it’s not so much scary as it is just a wistful autumn sunset that reminds us of the lost days  of our youth, when time passed slowly, and our lives stood waiting before us, ripe and full of promise.  





Friday, October 27, 2017

The Osteology of Decorative Plastic Halloween Skeletons, Part 4: The, Um, Spider


For our final installment, we have the Halloween spider skeleton, available for $20.99 from Target.  


I don’t know if I even need to say this, but . . . SPIDERS ARE INVERTEBRATES!!!  THEY DON”T HAVE SKELETONS!!!!! 

My series is at an end.  And, as I said earlier, maybe it is wrong for me to provide osteological criticism of plastic Halloween skeletons.  And maybe that is why I don’t getting invited to Halloween parties.  Or maybe it is because none of my friends ever have Halloween parties.  

In any event, I feel better.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Osteology of Decorative Plastic Halloween Skeletons, Part 3: Assorted Mammals


Next in our series, we have what first inspired me to write the series.


There is the cat skeleton, available for for $25.59 at Amazon (and eligible for Amazon Prime).  



There is the dog skeleton, available for $15 from Target.



And there is even the rat skeleton, available for $8.99 from Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores.  



And there are many more examples of plastic skeletons for each of these mammals, and I could probably find other types of mammals with the same problem if I looked.  

In case you haven’t noticed, I will point out that all of these skeletal animals have external ears. And the external ears are shown as bony elements projecting from the skull.  External ears are cartilaginous.  They are not part of the bony structure of the skull.  

(Perhaps the designers think that the skeletons would be unidentifiable to the general public without an appropriate set of ears.  Years ago I volunteered at a museum that had a horse skeleton mounted in the center of the main exhibit area.  Visitors frequently assumed that it was a dinosaur.) 

I guess that I should be glad that external ears aren’t added to human Halloween skeletons (as far as I’ve seen).  




Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Osteology of Decorative Plastic Halloween Skeletons, Part 2: The Raven


Moving on to living species, but staying in the theropods, we come to the subject of our second installment, a (supposed) raven skeleton, available for $7.99 at Party City (and elsewhere). 



Noticeably weird is the fact that the ribcage is completely open in front, with no sternum to connect the ribs.  

But, even more weirdly, whoever designed this skeleton seems to have been under the impression that birds have bones in their feathers.  In the areas corresponding to the flight feathers of the wings and tail, there are elongate rows of bones similar in appearance to the fingers that support a bat’s membranous wings.  (Birds do have remnant finger bones in their wings, but they very small and do not parallel the flight feathers.)



Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Osteology of Decorative Plastic Halloween Skeletons, Part 1: The Home Depot Tyrannosaurus


We are deep into October, and the Halloween craziness has begun.  Perhaps you do not like the Halloween craziness, but consider this—the Halloween craziness may be the only thing that prevents the Christmas craziness from starting in September.  I am fascinated by the Halloween craziness, because I remember the time before Halloween consumed the entirety of October.  One topic that I find particularly interesting is the wild profusion of yard decorations now available. (During my childhood, it was a jack-o’lantern or nothing.)

One type of yard decoration that I seem to be seeing more and more is the plastic animal skeleton.  A variety of animals are represented, but in all cases something in wrong with the morphology of the skeleton on a very basic level.  Thus I am beginning a multi-part series of blog posts that will examine decorative plastic Halloween skeletons from a zoological/paleontological, and, more specifically, osteological perspective.   

Maybe it is wrong for me to scientifically critique Halloween decorations.  Maybe I should put aside my criticisms and blind myself to everything but the fun of the season.  But I can’t help it.  Errors bother me.  (I am someone who is annoyed when people describe food as “healthy” rather than “healthful”.)


The subject of our first installment is a Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton (with LED illuminated eyes) available for $299 from Home Depot.



There are a lot of inaccuracies here, including the head being too large for the body, the almost-nonexistent pelvic bones, and, well, the LED illuminated eyes.  But what really gets to me is that the forelimbs have three digits.  As anyone with a basic knowledge of dinosaurs knows, having only two fingers per hand is a defining characteristic of the tyrannosaurs.