Friday, September 25, 2009

Jaws on legs and feathered dinosaurs

So not only did Tyrannosaurs have feathers, they had a Mini Me as well. Or rather they had midget ancestors.

I lost a bet to a workmate the other week. Well, only half lost a bet. The workplace banter had turned to the Tyrannosaurus rex for some reason, and my colleague made the assertion that Tyrannosaurs had feathers. I rejected that assertion wholeheartedly as I had always thought that T. rexes had some kind of leathery-scaly reptilian skin. After all, Steven Spielberg could not have gotten it wrong, could he?

So for the price of me making her a cup of tea without any comments about the two to three sugars she takes in her cups of black tea (if she was right), I set her the challenge of finding scientific evidence that the T. rex had feathers. Were she wrong, or couldn't find the evidence, I'd be able to occasionally, gently hassle her about the sugar content in her tea (you see, I care about friends facing risks of developing Type 2 diabetes, but I don't think I'm mean or too onerous about it).

The result was half-and-half. My workmate had very quickly dug up the National Geographic's
pictures of the Chinese finding a new dinosaur some years ago – a tyrannosauroid that had feathers or some kind of early or hairlike primitive feathers. Or proto-feathers. As so:

I counted with the argument that this tyrannosauroid, Dilong paradoxus, was actually a different species from the Tyrannosaurus rex – in fact an early relative of T. rex, and it was the T. rex that we'd had the bet about.* Either way, the feathered tyrannasouroid created a fair bit of interest in the office.

To top this was the recent news of the Mini T. rex – a relatively tiny ancestor of the T. rex that was only approximately
three meters long. The ABC reports that the Raptorex, also found in China, 'weighed only about 60 kilograms and was nearly 100 times smaller than T. rex'.

It may have been as small as an adult human, but it was still letha. As
Dr Paul Sereno, paleontologist with the University of Chicago, put it, “It was jaws on legs.”

That ABC piece has some really interesting ideas about why the Raptorex poses some intriguing rethinking about the evolution of the T. rex. For one, the fossil find suggests that 'the skinny arms evolved not in order to help it offset a heavier overall bodyweight, but instead as a trade off for agility and speed.' But there was no suggestion of whether the 'Mini Me' T. rex had feathers too.

I reckon the might of the T. rex, for all its agility and speed, is overated. Those small, skinny arms make me doubt it.

*PS. The bet: while I insisted that my workmate's feathered
tyrannosauroid was a seperate, earlier species, I made her a cup of tea with two sugars anyway.


Read more!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

And now a red tulip blooms

And now a red tulip blooms, originally uploaded by Mark Lawrence.

The fun of getting a mixed bag of tulip bulbs is not knowing what colours you'll get until they flower.

Labels: ,

Read more!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Celestial butterfly

The refurbished Hubble telescope has caught some new amazing images of the celestial bodies, including this amazing image that has been dubbed a 'celestial butterfly'. Apt. According to the ABC:
The spectacular butterfly-like image is of a nebula, a cloud of stellar dust and gas, created by the last throes of a dying star that once was about five times the mass of the Sun.
I could just get lost in that image if I stared at it for too long. I keep wondering if it will suck me in to a vortex in the middle.

The new images were posted on
NASA's Hubble website yesterday. This image is used under the terms of NASA's fair-use policy.

Labels: ,

Read more!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


I picked up Judith’s shopping list from the footpath the other week, and I certainly hope she lost it on her way home from – not to – her shopping. I have no idea who Judith is. I was walking to the tram stop from yoga and it had just started to shower, when I spotted and picked up the rather damp note from the wet footpath.

It is a small piece of paper that had been cut from a larger sheet. It wasn’t Judith who was the thrifty recycler, but her friend Val, who had originally left this note – quite obviously with the book she was returning to her friend:
P.S. I was concerned about the library book getting back to you.
What a delightful book & a change from all the serious ones I’ve read this year.
The characters are so believable weren’t they?
Val’s handwriting is that old-school, well-tutored, slanty cursive handwriting that I have often envied but never mastered, in a rather scratchy, almost faint black ball-point pen. What book did Judith enjoy so much that she was prepared to recommend, and lend her library book to, Val? And that Val so enjoyed, and found its characters so believable?

That’s surely the kind of praise every author wants to hear. If only the author could know what Judith and Val thought of the book.

And the note I found was just the ‘PS’. I wonder what else she had to say to Judith. Perhaps she’d dropped in unannounced and had to leave the parcel on the doorstep because Judith was out. Did Val have to cut the notepaper from a larger sheet and rummage in her handbag or glovebox for a pen that worked? You know what that’s like. Three pens in your car/bag/next to the telephone but none work? And you wonder why you’re still hanging on to them? I hope Val got a new pen.

Being a recycler herself, Judith must have written a shopping list on the back of the note Val had slipped in with the returned book. Judith prefers a strong, dark blue felt-tip or gel-ink pen. Liking capitals, Judith’s handwriting is more rounded – untamed. And harder to read.

Judith’s shopping list

Sweet potatoe
Lge handful Rocket
Ginger – little piece
Little potatoes
Goats cheeses
and just below the goats cheese, something indecipherable in a jar (is there a brand of goats cheese in a jar called Meredith?)

And under the heading ‘Coleslaw’ are these items:
Carrots Parsley
Celery Red Onion
Red pepper


I wonder how Judith’s coleslaw went. Judging from the fresh ingredients alone, it sounds like my kind of salad. Then again, I don’t know want went into her coleslaw’s dressing.

What goes into your coleslaw dressing? What fresh ingredients do you use? Have you ever tried adding fresh apple and walnuts to your coleslaw, or should they only be used in a Waldorf salad? I’ve had a potato salad with a little apple and walnut in it, and that seemed to work well.

And would you leave a friend a note if you’d found them not at home, or would you text them?

Labels: ,

Read more!

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Say a little prayer for me

Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul. Inspired by Mike Lynch's Top 100 women singers.

Someone's prayers are being answered. It's raining again in Melbourne. Lovely, wet, grey, soggy rain. The clothes on the line won't dry, but the trees and plants will be certainly greener. And hopefully the catchments a little fuller.

Labels: , , ,

Read more!

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Each day, a little further for fathers

The other day on the morning train to the city, I observed two men talking about their children. All right, I admit it – I was eavesdropping. But it wasn’t that difficult as they were not guarded in how they spoke with each other, and I sat close to where they stood by the train door.

They didn’t seem to be friends, but they struck me as having the casual familiarity of a couple of men who have met a few times, possibly at the train station where they got on together, and who easily find common ground for casual conversation to kill time while waiting on the platform and riding the train to work.

As they exchanged notes about their children, my attention was piqued as I’m always interested in how and where men find camaraderie over shared (or otherwise) experiences of fatherhood. They appeared to have two young children apiece, including a youngest around 3 years old each – the same as my youngest. When one asked the other if his children got along, the answer was, ‘Aah, yes and no.’ Not an unexpected situation with two young children. When asked in return, the original inquisitor had a different take on that old nutshell: his two young kids got along very well, and delighted in a ‘symbiotic misbehaviour’ – each working off or egging on the other as they got up to mischief together.

I covered a smile as I thought of my two boys – 8 and 3 years old – and their own ‘symbiotic misbehaviour’. That clever choice of words is what prompted me to get out my notebook and record the moment.

One father appeared to care for or spend a lot of time with his two kids for three days a week and talked of how he found that wearing sometimes, especially as one child could ‘talk and talk and talk.’ The other man could empathise with those sentiments, although his personal time with his kids seemed somewhat truncated by work and, besides weekends, his busy work-oriented life was punctuated by only a day or two of leave during the school holidays.

Despite the respective differences in the extent of their parenting, these men seemed to find a common bond in being fathers to young children, and their mutual experiences offered them something to not only pass the time with, but also a level of reflection and wonder at parenting and masculinity today. They enjoyed a fraternity of male parenting that I wondered whether was available to their fathers’ generation.

Women often laugh at men talking like this – surely three days with the kids, let alone weekends and occasional school holidays, are hardly ‘real’ cause enough to find parenting stressful! But for these men, and for many, many men in similar shoes (and I include myself in this shoe shop), the time spent with their children is both a time of joy and anxiety. Parenting is rewarding and stressful, enlightening and frustrating, heartbreaking and exhilarating, fun and downright annoying – for fathers as well as for mothers. And the more time men spend as active parents, the more we will encounter the frustrations and conflicts of child-rearing, as well as their joys and rewards. And the more we will learn from these experiences.

However limited or broad their parenting responsibilities, when men are able to whinge, swap notes, boast, let off steam, or get advice about or otherwise explore their experiences as fathers, their sense of being fathers is affirmed. And surely that is good for everyone – fathers, mothers and children.

Welcome spring

This year is the first that I've had to celebrate Father's Day without my dad. I don't think I'm used to it yet. No card or present to buy and send, no early morning phone call to him, no chance to tell him once again how much I love and appreciate him. But I still thought about him, and missed him.

It's spring again, and the tulips that my youngest and I planted in autumn are flowering.
They are gorgeous. Flowering now so long after we planted the bulbs, they remind me of the fun I had with my son as we got our hands dirty mixing compost with potting mix and planting the bulbs. Spring bulbs are a lovely way to mark the passing of the seasons, and I'm really enjoying how the days are getting warmer and lighter, with the odd shower thrown in.

Happy Father's Day to all the dads reading this blog. I hope you had a great day.

Labels: , ,

Read more!