Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Seven Quick Takes

(Joint Post Edition)

1. Tycho Brahe was one of the great astronomers of the 16th century, a contemporary of Galileo and Kepler, and an all-around colorful character. He lost part of his nose in a duel, and had a metal prosthetic made (reportedly embellished with gold and silver) which he wore in its place. He is also reported to have had a tippling pet moose:
Lantgrave Wilhelm of Kassel in Germany, with whom Tycho Brahe had an extensive mail correspondence and astronomical discussions, asked Tycho in a letter 1591 about an animal he had heard about called "Rix", which was faster than a deer, but with smaller horns. Tycho replied that such an animal did not exist, but maybe he meant the norwegian animal called reindeer. Tycho wrote that he would check further details about such animals and if he could perhaps send one. He wrote that he had a young moose, that he could send if the Lantgrave would like. The Lantgrave replied that he had owned reindeers before but they had died of the heat, he also had a moose, which was tame and followed him like a dog. He would gladly accept a tame moose from Tycho, and would in such case reward Tycho with a riding horse for the trouble.

Tycho replies that he would order additional moose, and he would have sent his tame one, had it not died shortly before. It had been transported to the castle of Landskrona, a city close to Hven, to entertain a nobleman there. But it had happened that during the dinner, the moose had ascended the castle stairs and drunk of the beer in such amounts, that it had fallen down the stairs, and broken a leg. Despite the best care, the moose had died shortly thereafter. [source]
However, the most famous story about Tycho regards his death, and comes to us from his friend and fellow astronomy Kepler: Tycho had attended a banquet in Prague for the emperor Rudolph II, whom he served as imperial mathematician. The etiquette of the day required that none of the guests rise until the emperor did -- a stricture which Tycho followed despite having drunk deeply and suffering acutely from the call of nature. When he got home, he found he couldn't urinate, though he was in great pain. Nor was he able to for several days. When at last he was able to urinate a bit, it was tinged with blood. He died of a fever (with severe lower abdominal pain) several days later.

This would make Tycho the perfect warning to children reluctant to go to the bathroom before leaving for car trips, except that modern autopsies suggest that he may actually have died from mercury poisoning, perhaps from a medicine that he took to help his bladder ailment. (Darwin)

2. We had a chance to go see the movie Babies last week, and it was just good. Though the focus is mainly on the babies (natch), I couldn't help but observe what glimpses you got of the parents as seen through the eyes of a baby. I was struck by the unstudied beauty of the Mongolian and African mother, and, in the case of the Japanese mother, how meaningless trendy strollers and artfully tousled hair and hipper-than-thou clothes are to a baby. I thought the American parents a bit silly, but I suppose in Mongolia there are plenty of mothers who might protest that their babies aren't allowed to wander around farm animals unsupervised. Or, plenty of African families who would object that it's inaccurate to portray African life as a primitive Bronze-Age existence, and that their children aren't raised in the dirt, thank you very much.

But who cares? The point is the babies, and they're worth watching. As a parent, I recognized every moment of this movie. (MrsDarwin)

3. One of the odd sensations of having written a blog for so long is that every so often I'll go look up a post that I remember as being recent and fairly clever, and find to my shock that it was written 3-4 years ago. I had this sensation this week when looking up a post I'd written in praise of amateurs. (Darwin)

4. Darwin and I often encounter situations that leave us shaking our heads and saying, "I'm glad we're us." And here's a fine example of other couples being silly, from a WSJ article about married couples who spat about driving:

Beverly Floyd will never forget the worst argument she ever had with her husband—a fight that saw the couple screaming at each other and hurling insults of "crazy" and "psycho."

A spat about finances? The kids? Work? Nope. It was about which one of them should gas up the car.

The fireworks started when the couple pulled into a service station while on a return leg of a road trip. Already silently fuming that he hadn't offered to do his share of the driving, Ms. Floyd was astounded when her then-boyfriend didn't lift a finger to pump the gas. So she did it herself and paid for it. As she got back into the car, he handed her a $20 bill.

Bad idea. She threw it at him. He tossed it back at her. She ripped it up. He shredded the cash she kept in the ashtray. She ripped up the money in his wallet. All told, they destroyed about $200 in a matter of minutes. (They spent their evening trying to match serial numbers and tape the shredded pieces of money together.)

Well then. Darwin and I aren't given to fighting anyway, but we're both essentially serious enough that I can't see us ripping up legal tender to make a point about the psychological issues underlying who pumps the gas.

5. We all have our strange little hang-ups. One of mine is that I absolutely cannot rest when there is a fly in the house. This is awkward, because one of the favorite activities of my many offspring is standing with the door open trying to decide whether to go in or out. On reaching a decision, they go in the chosen direction, leaving the door open. (On my gravestone it will say, "Shut the door!") Thus, when I get home in the evening, the first thing I have to do (even if dinner is on the table) is take up the fly swatter and hunt down all the interlopers. Time is of the essence, if the sun goes down they don't congregate on the window anymore. (Darwin)

6. If you want to see a master actor at work, catch Alec Guiness playing eight very different roles in the classic Kind Hearts and Coronets. Here he is as three characters in rapid succession.

I really only looked up this clip because we've been cracking ourselves up all night by rasping out, "The enemy emerged from behind the kopje..." I post it for your amusement (except that I find it won't embed -- grr).

NOTE: YouTube and Google are not going to win themselves any fans with this new Google Ads deal clogging up videos.(MrsDarwin)

7. Young master Darwin (21 months) has learned, in rapid succession, how to climb out of his crib and how to open doors. Nothing is safe. There is, however, one approach to getting him down to bed that often works. Give him a doll to protect and his toy lightsaber, and he will often settle down with one under each arm. (Darwin)


Bob the Ape said...

"The Danish Astronomer and His Moose" (a drinking song).

Anonymous said...

Awesome about little Jack protecting the doll with a lightsaber. I simply must adapt that approach for my youngest, although he is soon to be 8.

Re: Flies in the house. Seriously, abandon the fly-swatter! A more effective, and much more hygienic method is to use rubbing alcohol in a squirt bottle. One hit & down they go. You will also enjoy the thrill of the hunt as you battle in the home front skies.

Robyn B. @Leave the Lights On said...

We have an indoor cat who, at age 8, still disagrees that she is an indoor cat and tries to escape at every opportunity. So my kids have been trained from the tender years to keep the door closed, or they'll have to go chasing after the runaway cat. I always thought this was a tremendous pain in the neck until I read #5. My kids DON'T leave the door open so hot air and flies can get in. That wicked cat has actually been good for something: training the kids in good door manners!

Catholic Bibliophagist said...

Re: Master Darwin

Awww, what a manly little fellow!

(Remember how Grandfather Darwin used to kill flies by shooting rubber bands at them?)

Kathleen@so much to say, so little time said...

Ooh, I like the rubbing alcohol in the squirt bottle. Good call!

Foxfier said...

Aaaaw re: young master Darwin.

Dang...wish I could give you one of our meat-heads to deal with flies. We have no issue with flies, as 50 pounds of cat-flesh is constantly on the hunt. The more athletic of the two has once seen a fly near the ceiling, launched himself to Elf's shoulder and from there to the fly. Much excitement.

Otepoti said...

"My memoirs!"

Roz said...

Does the alcohol thing work with other flying pests? Inquiring minds want to know, but I don't want to try it on anything with a stinger until I'm assured of first-squirt victory.

About silly arguments, the most tense my husband and I ever would get would be about unimportant things -- whether he had, in fact, assured me that he wouldn't charge me rent on Boardwalk if I traded it to him, or who really did shoot down the Korean airliner. With the serious stuff --- we really did know better.

mrsdarwin said...


I find I can't play games of competitive strategy like Chess or Go with Darwin, because he always wins and I turn into a sulky baby. In almost every other situation we work together beautifully, and with almost any other competitor I'm a good sport, but this character flaw is pronounced enough that I leave the strategy games to Darwin and the kids.

Brandon said...

That seems to be a common problem. My grandmother was very, very good at card games of any sort. Once she and my grandfather were playing some game together -- canasta, I think -- and he was apparently doing much better than she was, and expecting to win. It turned out it was a trap that my grandmother had been laying for him all along; she demolished him, and he never played cards with her again.

Anonymous said...

@Roz - I'm too chicken to try the alcohol on stinger-equipped foes. If I don't bother them, generally they shouldn't bother me. But a fly will always go out of it's way to bother me. Particularly at three a.m. or during an after-lunch nap.