Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sadistic streak

It may be a little sadistic, but I rather enjoy torturing gingerbread men by dunking their heads in a mug of coffee or hot chocolate, then watching their icing faces melt away as they realise the true horror of their predicament. It is probably on par with lining up gummi bears and tearing the head off one while the others watch on. Playing with your food is acceptable!

Ok, so the compliments I received for my gingerbread cookies have spurred me to pop the recipe up for everyone to try out.

You will need the following for ~50 cookies
  • 250g butter, at room temperature
  • 200g sugar
  • 1/2 - 1 cup golden syrup
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 4 cups plain flour
  • 2 tbs ground ginger
  • 1-2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • additional flour for rolling dough
(1) Beat butter and sugar together with an electric mixer (easier, trust me - unless you have really sturdy wrists). This mixture should be creamy; add the syrup and egg yolks. Mix well.
(2) In a separate bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and bicarb. Gradually add to the syrup mixture, stirring with a wooden spoon. The mixture should become dough-like and will leave the bowl easily without sticking.
(3) Lightly flour a clean surface and place dough, knead it until it's smooth (don't clean the floured surface, you'll use it again). Roll into a ball, flatten to make a disc and wrap in clingwrap. Place in fridge to rest for 30 minutes.

Icing ingredients
  • 200g icing sugar
  • food colouring (red and green)
  • egg whites left from gingerbread recipe
(4) In the meantime, preheat the oven to 180°C. Get the egg whites and combine with 200g icing sugar. Separate icing sugar into however many colours your are wanting - one white, one green and one red etc. Leave one aside. In the others, add the desired food colours (8 drops) for a vibrant red or green. Cover each container with clingwrap and refrigerate.
(5) Collect the dough from fridge, and add more flour to surface if necessary. Roll dough to .5cm (5mm) thickness and use shaped cookie cutters for desired effect. (I found that taking 1/4 of the dough at a time and rolling it was easier and less messy).
(6) Place cut-out cookies on baking paper in 2 trays (I had to use 3), spacing them about 2-3cm apart (otherwise you end up with a MONSTROSITY). Pop in the oven for 10-15 minutes or until they're browned considerably. Take them out at 10 mins and they'll be soft cookies, leave them in a little longer and they'll be a little softer than gingersnaps. Leave on a rack to cool.
(7) Spoon icing into a piping bag (or if you're a genious, get a ziplock bag, spoon into a corner, twist the bag to seal the icing in and carefully snip the corner). Decorate!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Deck the halls with glowing Froggies!

Fa-lah lah lah lah, lah lah lah lah!

Thank you lovely Kassidy for sending me this great idea from National Geographic...

now if only Bunnings could supply the frogs too.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Cake! Anyone?

There are cakes...

... and then there are CAKES!

Fossil digging... did I hear a chorus of "YAY!"

Armadillo cake of awesome!

There just aren't enough miniture scale models of LotR cakes around anymore

Mmmm calamari cake

This tiger is too pretty to eat

And of course, the gore of the Halloween cake... yum!

... but then there is ... well... this:

Ever wanted to eat a child? Now you can, in cake form.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Could be a cute dogfish??

How could you not love this face?!?

This ADORABLE little face belongs to the African lungfish. It is one of the more advanced species of lungfish, with the Queensland or Australian lungfish being the most primitive (QLD species has only a single "lung", has lobe-fins similar to the coelacanth, and is the only lungfish species which can breathe through its gills - others gulp air as the gills are no longer efficient - therefore it is the only lungfish that cannot live out of water but must instead remain moist [other species may live for several months out of water in burrows etc]).

Another interesting thing to note, this African lungfish looks like Rosie, a King Charles spaniel...

*note the resemblance*

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Everything is better with BACON

Western Gateway to the BACON!

I am, of course, referring to KEVIN BACON!!

The story behind this, despite bacon coming from delicious pigs and actually making everything taste amazing, is that over the past month there have been numerous sightings of the elusive "celebrity of Gidgegannup" ... and happens to have been posted on nearly all the signposts in the Gidge town-site along Toodyay Road.

So come to Gidge... you might meet a celebrity :)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Dino'en!

It's All-Hallows-Even!

Since this a a rather awesome secular tradition nowadays, I know that we don't really embrace this in Australia, but that won't stop me from wishing all a Happy Hallowe'en :D

(Picture by Larkin-art, DA)

LOVE to the Pagans and Wiccans (and the dinosaurs before them)... you guys really knew how to party down with the creepy!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Nature abhors a vacuum... and pompous, uneducated folk

They are Apologetics Press. And they offer no apology in slaughtering science with the aim of disproving it (or as they've put it "rationalising") with common sense... and science. Their section, Sensible Science, is full of these common sense scientific articles on why science is wrong and religion is right - a little -hypocritical- guys.

Step up to the plate, my new nemesis, Brad Harrub Ph.D(?) (in what?)
He's one of the leading causes for sleep deprivation in evolutionists; his theories leave your mind gasping for correctly used scientific evidence and begging for a lack of religeous influence. Let me highlight one article in particular: Evolutionists just can't admit to getting something wrong!

This is of great interest to me, as I was researching literature on extant coelacanth by Peter Forey to add to my current research and description of a new fossil coelacanth specimen... and I instead found the link to Harrub's garbage bin, having referenced Forey's Nature article. Harrub goes on to belittle the scientific community for not admitting that they were incorrect in appointing the coelacanth as "transitional species to terrestrial tetrapods", when at the time the living species had not been discovered.

In 1938, a South African museum director (East London), Marjorie Courtney-Latimer, identified a fish as "unique" and ancient in appearance. She took it back to the museum and tried to contact a fellow scientist (with a hobby in ichthyology) and friend, J.L.B. Smith. He finally saw the specimen and declared it to be exactly what Miss Courtney-Latimer had suspected: the only extant species of an ancient fish lineage believed to have been extint since the dinosaurs. Due to this finding, Harrub believes that it couldn't be the direct ancestor to tetrapods because it exists now. The problem with this idea has been seen in the ape-human theory... "if man evolved from primitive apes and ape-like creatures then why are there still apes?"

Well, once upon a time... there were multiple species of coelacanth, big ones, medium ones, and tiny ones; all living happily at different times during the Earth's LLLLOOOONNNNGGGGG series of time periods and epochs. Some couldn't keep up with the changes in the world and died out, other lasted longer... sadly Latimeria chalumnae and L.menadoensis are (for now) the last of the entire Order, being the only living species left from this lineage.

For your benefit and understanding, Mr. Harrub:
There are many reasons as to why these species were not direct ancestors to the tetrapods. Simply, they could be a young species, maybe evolved some tens of thousands of years ago. It could have been another genera from the Coelacanthiformes which gave rise to the tetrapods. But, since science is bound to make a few mistakes now and then as it learns about new species and techniques in understanding currently known species, it is more likely that corrections are made to the phylogenic tree after discovering that lungfish are possibly more advanced than coelacanth (i.e. precursors to terrestrial lungs instead of swimbladder). While Forey says that the extant coelacanth live at depths of 100+ metres (and Harrub suggests that because of the depth, coelacanth couldn't be the transitional species), fossil coelacanths have been uncovered in areas where there was once a shallow sea with reefal fringes and coral atolls. One species does not dictate the behaviour and environmental influences for the rest within its Order.

So, put quite frankly, Mr. Harrub...
Nature abhors YOU!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I'd opt for extinction if I had a name like that. . .

Looking up strange dinosaur names today... similar to poor Megalosaurus' "Scrotum humanum" and the little Pachycephalosaur "Dracorex hogwartsia". I think I might have found the single most depressed dinosaur in their entire existence...

Erectopus superbus

This pathetically named Allosaur probably wished death upon himself. I would have surely conjured up an asteroid just for the occasion. The poor buggar appeared to have several -near- name changes over the past 100 years, but still managed to maintain his pornstar name. Essentially, Erectopus means "upright foot", add the superbus in and you get "proud upright foot". I highly doubt it would have felt superior and terrifying in the face of laughing herbivores.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

I love you, Spike

Stegosaurus Week (13th Sept to 19th Sept) is coming to a close, and I haven't made a single mention about the Stegosaurus.

For those who don't know, Stegosaurus was a herbivour which first appeared in the Jurassic (and probably had epic battles of survival against Allosaurus). The most commonly identified of the Stegosauridae family is most likely Stegosaurus stenops, since nearly everywhere I look (if you're searching for dinosaurs as much as I am), S. stenops is almost like the posterchild for what a Stegosaurus species is characterised for. It was short and stocky, but with large plates and typical 4 spikes on the end of the tail. Although, it wasn't the largest stegosaurid, it does seem to be the most common species.

So why is Stegosaurus so awesome??
Besides the clearly lethal set of tail-spikes Steg sported, and the pretty cool looking fashion statement they made during the Jurassic with their plate(-like Mohawks), there is one really awesome thing about Stegosaurus:

It had a "second brain"; near the base of its tail used for controlling reflexes in the rear part of its body. The "brain" in the hip region was not made of brain tissue, but instead, a complex nerve centre; the "sacral plexus." It was a secondary control center for the spinal cord. So despite the obvious tiny size of Stegosaurus' brain, and the possibility that it may have lacked intelligence, didn't mean it wasn't cleverly designed for its time in an evolutionary time-frame.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Feathery upset

I had this journal article in Nature brought to my attention; and low and behold! It has my favourite palaeoartist, Raul Martin's interpretation of this amazing predator, Concavenator corcovatus...

Interesting features of this 130 million year old predatory dinosaur:
(1) a strange hump on its back; and
(2) unusual calcareous lumps on its forearms (believed to bear quills - a possible evidence of feathers).

The eleventh and twelfth vertebrae are more prominent, being double the height of the rest of the vertebrae. This pyramidal crest may have been used in territorial disputes and/or attracting a mate, or even similarly used in a manner resembling Stegosaurus' plates. (To me, it looks like an ideal, gentle slope where a male Concavenator could rest his chest while romancing the lady... but that's my outlandish observation).
At this point, all we can gather is Concavenator is a rather strange specimen.

Now the bumps on the forearms is even more controversial than the odd triangular hump. So the problem here is this... C. corcovatus provides evidence that feathers began to appear earlier than previously thought. Which now puts a little twist in the Therapod family tree, as Concavenator is more closely related to "Big Al" (MOR 693) which, up until now, have never had a feathery relative. The sister lineage which has the feather-featuring dinosaurs (T. rex) and finally leading to modern-day birds has now been thrown into shambles over the rights to bear plumage.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Vintageosaurus mistakeii

Reconstruction of Laelaps (now known as Dryptosaurus) - by Edward Drinker Cope - possessing a typical (at the time) vertical posture, slouching head and useless arms. Image from Love in the time of Chasmosaurus

We occasionally make mistakes. Everyone can think of at least one major mistake they've made during their career (undoubtedly we make a couple in our personal lives which we may or may not wish to recall). But I want to look into some memorable vintage palaeo mistakes. . . the ones generally made when there is nothing in the known world (19th century known world) that can be comparable to the discovery of massive "lizard bones":

Most people will recognise this dinosaur more than the first palaeo reconstruction mistake, Megalosaurus. The first reconstruction of iguanodon was the huge iguana-like statue which still stands at Crystal Palace, south London, by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. The "thumb spike" was placed on the tip of the snout, creating a more lizard-like appearance. In some aspects, Hawkins' iguanodon resembles a horned, very toothy chameleon.
The initial reconstruction of Iguanodon by Hawkins, and the current corrected version by Raul Martin.

Apatosaurus (formerly Brontosaurus)
Apatosaurus went through many changes, but one of the more notable was the correction of its skull. For many years until 1975, the poor sauropod borrowed the skull of a distantly related cousin, Camarasaurus - more closely related to Brachiosaurus. The contrast in the two skull types are quite astounding.

Left is the Camarasaurus skull, which for years was placed upon the body of "Brontosaurus", the skull on the right is that of a Diplodocus, a close relative of Apatosaurus (NE: Brotosaurus) and displays what the skull of Apatosaurus should have been like. Image from Taylor, M.P., Wedel, M.J., Naish, D. 2009. Head and neck posture in sauropod dinosaurs inferred from extant animals. Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, 54(2): 213-220

Posture, poise and grace

For most dinosaurs, the position of the legs and the weight-bearing stance was often incorrect.
Tyrannosaurus, Iguanodon, Triceratops, Stegosaurus and even large sauropods have all fallen at the unbalanced positioning of their limbs and tails. Tyrannosaurus, for example, for many years had been depicted as near vertically erect like an alert meerkat and balanced precariously on its tail (which dragged along the floor similarly to sauropods depicted around the early 20th century). In the case of the sauropods, (such as Diplodocus) they were occasionally illustrated with bow-legs; dragging their enormous bulk through the dirt, long tail limp behind them. Due to this hefty burden, most sauropods were placed in an aquatic setting to allow them more buoyancy. Providing evidence in the fact that poor teaching and a long-standing reliance in religion and Creationism doesn't achieve results in reality.

The reason for bringing up some of the errors in palaeontology (and particularly reconstructions) is in showing that when first uncovered, after the initial analysis and subsequent recording of characteristics and features, not everything about a specimen will be correct. More often than not, since science is forever updating its knowledge and techniques, things which may not have been considered important may, in fact, turn out to be the exact source of information which could completely alter the definition of that specimen... as an example, I turn your attention to BMRP 2002.4.1 "Jane"... (in my heart, always a Nanotyrannus), or maybe the example of the absorption of Stygimoloch and Dracorex as individual species into different growth stages of Pachycephalosaurus would be for better understanding.

Monday, August 30, 2010

"Bird brain"... not such an insult

So, I was going through the TED library of film clips for something interesting to watch and I stumbled upon this piece of gold: Einstein the Parrot.

This was as equally impressive as the documentary I saw of Alex the African Grey who passed away in 2007 at age 31. The vocal range of these guys is amazing and the understanding and recognition of commands and simple words and phrases is really impressive. But the brains don't end at the African Grey Parrot. . .

The kea, (possibly my favourite parrot of mischief) a large New Zealand parrot, have also been know for their intelligence. They've been observed to become destructive (damaging cars, bins, and home roofing), disruptive and bored whilst in captivity; requiring mental stimulation in the form of rather complex puzzles.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

One Year On

As I sit in those moments of quiet,
When sadness invades me,

I know that yesterday,

You were here.

Now you are away from us,

Not knowing your future,

Or when you'll come home, but yesterday,

You were here.

It has now been a week,

A week since you last were in the house,

An entire week since we carried you away,

To the place where we did not know your future,
but just last week,
You were here.

Another day passes;

A week ago, you were still with us,

In daily reports from the clinic,

They did not know your future, But we could still hope, and,
You were here.

More days pass,;

A week ago you left us,

Your head cradled in our hands,

Your spirit gracefully moving upward,

But for a few hours of that day,

You were here.

Sadness invades again,

As I know that once those hours pass,

I can no longer look back,

Over the span of a familiar week's time,

To find that comforting point when,

You were here.

More time will pass;

Sadness will not so much invade as menace,

And I will mark the days,
Saying things like,
"last month, last summer, last Halloween, last year,"
You were here.

I dread that day,

One year from now,
That first marking of the time,
That your body was no longer with us;
Though we will never forget you,

Your tangible memory fades,

The feel of your fur, your head, your back, your weight against us,

The smell and sounds of you when,

You were here.

The emptiness is beginning to fade,

To change into another reality,
One with you still playing a part,

But a role of ethereal presence rather than physical comfort we crave;

Your memory, your spirit, your essence and counsel,

Dwell with us, but this feeling is not the same as when,

You were here.

--"You were here" by Jenine Stanley


A year ago today, I said goodbye to you for the last time. I held you and pleaded to keep you longer if you were willing. You were too weak, and I knew I was being selfish. It felt like the longest drive, and when we arrived, I wished it had taken longer. I carried you in your blanket; you didn't fight... I knew by then that you had given up. I lay you on the table, the Vet came in to see us. Not once did I stop holding you - but she had to take you away through the back door. You weren't gone long, but you came back ready to leave. I held you again and whispered in your ear, and then your legs gently buckled and you got very heavy. You lay there, head slumped in my hand; and I closed your eyes. The Vet checked your vitals and announced "She's gone now". I cried. If love alone could have saved you, you never would have died.

I still cry, but maybe not as much.

I know I have my memories... but I only wanted you. You're my best friend and were always there for me through the hard times. I miss having you there... with all your quirks and love and life. You were more than a cat to me, I grew up with you forever by my side. You'll always have a special place in my life and I'll always love you for how you were and not how you left.

Forever loved; Always missed
"Seal Moosh"


Saturday, July 10, 2010

CELLS: for the microbiologist in you

The new time waster for me also happens to be a necessary source of scientific revision :) This is a very "cool" (yet nerdy) free online game for the microbiologist in us all... or the science student who requires unique ways in learning cellular function...

Friday, July 9, 2010

Happy birthday Goose

It happens to be someone's birthday today... yes, that's you Ben (special enough to elicit a blog out of me). I thought I'd point out the other miraculous happenstances surrounding your birthday some 23 years ago to the day... you know, for reminiscent sake.

During July 9th, 1987:
-- "Light-induced colour changes by the iridophores of the Neon tetra, Paracheirodon innesi" by Clothier, J. & Lythgoe, J.N. was published in the Journal of Cell Science.
-- It was a Thursday

During July 1987:
-- I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me) by Whitney Houston was the number 1 single in Australia for 5 weeks starting in June.
-- Movies of note during July, '87 include "La Bumba", "Jaws 4: Revenge", "Revenge of the Nerds II: Nerds in Paradise", "Superman IV: The Quest for Peace" and "RoboCop"

During 1987:
-- Susumu Tonegawa won the Nobel Prize for his discovery of the genetic principle for generation of antibody diversity
-- Most popular boy's name this year = Michael
-- Most popular girl's name this year = Jessica
-- Most noted cartoons include "The Care Bears", "Smurfs", "Thundercats", "Alf", "Transformers" and "Jem & the Holograms"

During July 9th (any year):
-- Sir George Howard Darwin (one of Sir Charles Darwin's sons) was born this day in 1845. He posed the theory that the moon was once part of the Earth and was the first to mathematically analyse the evolution of the Earth-moon relationship and solar tides.
-- In the Battle of Normandy, British and Canadian forces capture Caen, France during WWII, 1944.
-- In 1816, Argentina declared its independence from Spain.
-- Henry VIII of England annuls his marriage to his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves in 1540.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Fossick fossick fossick

I'm excited... again... :D

More fossils to fossick through!

Note to self...
If I ever go to QLD, I'm going to Richmond's "Kronosaurus Korner"

Monday, June 21, 2010

Top 5 Fossil Discoveries (IMO)

-1- Materpiscis "Mother fish"
Ancient fish from Australia's Kimberley region, c.380 million years ago. Oldest known fossil displaying viviparous characteristics (live birthing) in the fossil record.

-2- Gogonasus
Ancient fish from the primitive tropical Australian reef 380 million years ago. Its breathing structure on its head, and forearm lobe-fin joints were precursors to the middle ear and limbs (radius and ulna). Gogonasus now replaces Quebec's Eusthenopteron (the original "missing link" in terms of early tetrapod development) in the tetrapod relationship. Since it's so ancient, this pushes the first appearance of these features further back in the fossil record.

-3- Darwinius masillae "Ida"
The most complete skeleton of the earliest stage of human - the key "missing link". Small, lemur-like fossil believed to be the earliest stage of human evolution. Not related to lemurs due to the lack of dew claw on the forelimbs and there is not a fused tooth comb (both characteristics are primary features of lemur).

-4- Homo floresiensis "Flores Man" aka: Hobbit
Potential to rewrite human history. Believed to be a separate species of homonid from humans, but appeared to exist around the same time as early H. sapiens (hobbits were founds on the Idon Flores while humans inhabited the rest of the world). Possible disease and/or rare genetic disorder caused their shorter stature.

-5- Megalosaurus bucklandii "Giant lizard"
The first dinosaur (besides birds) to be scientifically described and subsequently named. It came upon the unfortunate name "Scrotum humanum" by Richard Brookes in 1763 due to its identification by Reverend Plot as the femur of a giant human (as described in the Bible). Its appearance was believed to be a long limbed, quadrupedal dog-like crocodile before coming to its more correct form.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My cat is Lucifer in fuzzy-form

So... I had a rather large jigsaw puzzle (with exquisitely painted Cape Hunting dogs) out on the 8 seater dining room table and it took up half that. I only needed to do a touch up so I could frame it (its a Charlotte Firbank-King edition hence the framing) since the majority of it was done some year back as a past time for my Grandma. Well...

That puzzle I was working on most of the evening and well into the night... and finally had 5 pieces left before completely finishing (I mean, seriously, who paints a massive leafless tree in the background with so many branches and patched of plain sky??). The 10 month old kitten, who is affectionately known as "Demon Child" Lily, launches herself from the dividing wall I was facing, landing directly on the puzzle and sliding across the table only to bump heads with me. The puzzle had folded in on itself and the rest cascaded onto my lap, scattering EVERYWHERE.

I cried, I yelled, I cried some more, I got angry... then I laughed... that kind of hysterical psychotic laughter someone makes while crying with anger and considering murder. Safe to say, her look of absolute fear at the moment of sliding from one end of the table to the other on a jigsaw puzzle was enough justice for me. That and I've cut her kitten milk rations... and taken all the cat nip toys away.

Cat: 1 Me: 2