Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Meandering musings

Ah, yet another post to briefly assure my readers that I'm still here for this blog.
` I was working on another dinosaurs post, and another more important one, and then got involved with housework and creating my own office space, piano included, and cleaning up the copious quantities of cat hair, pine needles and other dust that has crept underneath all the baseboard-less walls of the house. (We've had delays in construction.)

Also, since I've been laid off from yet another job, I've been fishing for another one of those. So far, no biters.

But I also have been thinking a lot. Three of the things on my mind are:

1) Why third generation (or '3G') cellular phone technology is all the rage in America. Last I checked, other developed countries are now well into '4G' and beyond. It's like a celebration of being slow to catch up!

2) Since I'm still on the search for a job, another thing that has come to my attention is looking presentable for job interviews. One of the criticisms my boyfriend has is that I tend to leave for them without parting my hair in a straight line.
` It looks straight to me. But apparently, there are subtleties that I do not fathom. If I ask my boyfriend 'is it straight?' I have no idea what answer I'll get.
` Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It all looks the same to me. I may work at it for minutes on end and still he doesn't think it's straight.

3) And then, of course, this gets me thinking of my friends. Of all the friends I have had - not counting roommates - I'm one of the few heterosexual ones. What's odd about this is that I feel somehow different because... I'm straight.
` Now that strikes me as significant: A trait that might be considered as 'usual' now becomes 'unusual'. I'm still trying to figure out what implications this may have.

I'm also excited to announce that I'll be starting up college once again on January 6. (Thank you, Financial Aid!) Most probably, I'll write about what I learned in class up here for all to read.
` Well, back to work! I'll come back soon with more stuff!

Update: Just so you don't think my blog-skimping has been meaningless, 'back to work' began with mucking up all the litter box excavations that had been scattered through the melting snow by raccoons.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Working around work...

Somehow or another, I've managed to write a new 'chunk' on a new topic that should help to round out the content so far - dinosaurs!

It wasn't easy. First of all, I'm away from home about twelve hours a day, with no computer access: When I am home, most of my time is taken up by housework and other necessities.
` Of the time I set aside to write at the computer, I am interrupted at least once, either by power surges (from construction) which turn the computer off, or by people crowding into the room with me for several minutes, at which point I usually just go off and do something else for a while.

Nevertheless, I have finally succeeded in writing my first few bits about The Survival of the Dinosaurs. It's not entirely new, however:

My original vision, entitled Dinosaurs and their Descendants, was posted on my very first blog (on SEO-Blog) in five segments from April 30, 2005 to May 28, 2005.
` Later on, I re-edited it and posted it on the corresponding days on my first blog here at Blogger.

This time, it's getting a full makeover, and when the time comes to arrange it in the Corrigendopedia, it will be more fully updated and illustrated - by moi!
` Though I haven't done them yet, I think I can handle a few dinosaur-related illustrations: As a sample of my talent, here's a visual 'study' sketch that I did, years ago, working from a 'real life' Albertosaurus.

Real life Albertosaurus? That's right! After all...

(Click to enlarge.)
...So... they were actually models. Models that exist, in time and space, even!

Without further ado (or Albertosaurus sketches, alas), here's the new text:

The Survival of the Dinosaurs - Chunk 1

When I was five years old, I was taught that dinosaurs had all died off, so there was no chance that I could ever see what they were like.
` If only I had known that real live dinosaurs lived in my own house, remnants of a lineage that had survived the great dinosaur extinction, I might have seen my pet birds in a very different way.

I remember how my grandma would cautiously peek through the front door before entering, with the question; "Is that robin in his cage?"
` Robby might have just as well been a ferocious meat-eating dinosaur as far as she was concerned - and he as well, judging by the way he gave chase.

It is with great irony that I later learned this isn't far from what all the scientific discoveries show; Robby's own grandparents, ones living way back in the Early Jurassic, actually were ferocious meat-eating dinosaurs!
` Technically, robins are but a 'new' species of dinosaur.

The idea that birds are but a branch on the dinosaur family tree was once controversial; however, after many decades of meticulous research and hundreds of amazingly well-preserved fossil finds, there is no longer much room for doubt.

I could go on, into great detail - so, where to begin?

Which Dinosaurs Are Birds Related To?

Over a century and a half has gone by since Thomas Henry Huxley recognized that birds have much in common with dinosaurs - and in particular, a group of meat-eaters with the strangely-spelled name of Coelurosaurs.
` The word is pronounced "see LOO-row saurs" and means "hollow reptiles", in reference to the air-filled sacs preserved in their bones. These air sacs are similar to the ones found in birds, and seem to have been connected to the lungs in a similar way.

Am I supposed to know what Coelurosaurs are?

If you've heard of Tyrannosaurus rex, then you know at least one! Undoubtedly, this is the most familiar coelurosaur species, though it is also among the most unusual:
` Whereas most coelurosaurs are rather small, with long, well-developed arms, you will know that Tyrannosaurus was huge and heavy, with short, stubby arms and massive jaws.

You might also be familiar with Velociraptor, made popular by the movie Jurassic Park, although it was much smaller in real life.
` Important to know about Velociraptor is the fact that it belongs to the dromaeosaur (DRO-mee-o saur) family.
` Four noticeable features of dromaeosaurs are 1.) the single, retractile sickle-shaped claw on each foot, 2.) long arms that could 'flap' like a bird's wings, 3.) opposable fingers, and 4.) reduced and fused tail bones, resulting in a stiff, rod-like tail.
` Though Velociraptor's skin has never been found, other dromaeosaurs are known to have had feathers almost exactly like those of adult birds, differing only in the complexity of microscopic hooks.

Why Are You Telling Me This?

Because, another famous coelurosaur is precisely what you'd expect if the fearsome Velociraptor had a smaller cousin that could fly.
` Known from several well-preserved specimens, the first few having been discovered in the 1800s, it has another strangely-spelled name; Archaeopteryx (say; "arkee OP-ta-ricks").

Though it was among the earliest birds known, Archaeopteryx - and its close kin - resembled the dromaeosaurs far more than they resembled any bird living today.
` Though its well-preserved feathers were identical to those of modern birds, Archaeopteryx had teeth similar to those of dromaeosaurs, as well as a fused, stiffened tail, grasping hands, and a sickle-shaped retractile claw, among many other characteristics.

In fact, one Archaeopteryx specimen with very poorly-preserved feathers had been thought - for a whole century - to be another tiny coelurosaur called Compsognathus (comp-sog NAY-thuss) until Dr. Peter Wellnhofer noticed the feathers in 1993.

So, when are you going into great detail about all this?

It starts in Chunk 2!