Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ornithological Notes on The Hobbit

I finally saw The Hobbit, despite my earlier difficulties.  One thing that stood out to me was the use of CGI songbirds, particularly in association with the wizard Radagast the Brown (who, I found out in researching this post, is also the seventh Doctor Who).  I thought that I would share some ideas on the identification of these birds, although in all likelihood someone somewhere else has probably done a better job of this already. 

The birds that live under Radagast's hat looked like House Sparrows (Passer domesticus).  I also seem to remember that they were both males, but I'd have to watch the movie again to be sure.  

The bird that alerts Radagast to the location of the Necromancer is very clearly an American Robin (Turdus migratorius).  I found it somewhat disconcerting to see such a characteristically North American bird in the setting of pseudo-European Middle Earth.  

And the bird identified as a thrush that flies to the lair of Smaug at the end of the movie actually is a thrush, though I couldn't identify the exact species.  

Radagast the Brown's talent for communicating with birds was acknowledged in the world of paleontology in 2002, when his name was applied to Paraortygoides radagasti, a fossil bird from the Eocene.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Remembrance of Dragons Past

My friend John alerted me that there is a new website where one can purchase pdf downloads of out-of-print Dungeons & Dragons publications.  As a former D&D player, the site generates a great deal of interest in me.  Part of it is nostalgia for items that I remember from my younger years.  But a bigger part is curiosity about all the things that I have never seen before, because evidently there was a lot more published for D&D than what I could find at the local Toys R Us when I was in sixth grade.  

My attempts to play D&D never seemed to work out the way that I wanted. (Playing a full and enjoyable D&D campaign remains an item on my bucket list.)  In my experience, the problem with Dungeons & Dragons is that, in order to play it in a satisfying manner, one needs both maturity and free time, which vary in inverse proportion over the course of one's life.  I started playing D&D in middle school, when my friends and I had lots of free time to play, but very little maturity; as a result, our games tended to fall apart or break down into pointless arguments.  I played some in high school, when people were more grown up, but it was harder to find time to play And I even played a little in college; at that point, the other players and I were mature enough that I felt that I was finally playing the game the way that it should be played.  But the responsibilities and opportunities of college life took up too much of our time to allow for much D&D; our gaming group only got together two or three times.  

I wonder if, in thirty or forty years, we'll start seeing people in nursing homes playing Dungeons & Dragons, in the way that today's nursing home inhabitants might play bridge.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

As Always, Blogging Is Hard

There are a lot of things about which I want to blog—The Hobbit, ornithology, The Hobbit and ornithology, Christmas, paleontology, Dungeons & Dragons, the Beatles, and probably some other things that I can't recall at the moment.  Unfortunately for the last few weeks I haven't had the energy to write any blog entries.  I am going to try to post of these entries in the next few days, but there is a very real chance that I will fail.  

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Slimy Distractions

My friend Josh e-mailed me a while ago saying that I should change the name of the blog to Slimy Distractions and make it all about slugs.  This was because of all the pictures of slugs that I had posted.  I actually hate slugs; I only posted the computer-drawn pictures because slug pictures had worked out well in my post about how to get a slug out of your house.

I like almost all animals, with a few exceptions. The animals that I don't like generally fall into two categories.  

The first consists of slimy terrestrial invertebrates, specifically slugs and earthworms

The second consists of animals that want to drink my blood, such as ticks and mosquitoes, or otherwise bite me in a way that will leave me itchy.  

And then there are the leeches, which combine elements from both categories. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Christmas Season Wrap-up Part I

Christmas and New Year's Day are gone, but I notice that even at this late date some people still have their Christmas lights up.  It seems to me that at this point Christmas lights are essentially mocking us.  Before Christmas, Christmas lights remind us of all that we have to look forward to, the presents and parties and time off from work. And during the period from Christmas to New Year's Day, the lights are part of the fun that we're having.  But after January 1st, when most of us are back at work or in school, Christmas lights are a reminder that we don't have anything to look forward to, because the holidays are gone, and they won't be coming back for a long, long time.