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August 15, 2019

"O Brother, Where Art Thou?"

A wonderful 2000 film written and directed by the Coen brothers.

The cast includes George Clooney, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson, John Goodman, Holly Hunter, and Charles Durning, among others.

August 15, 2019 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Helpful Hints from joeeze: How to keep your ice cream frozen until you get home from the grocery store

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For me it's not an issue since I keep an Igloo cooler in my back seat so I can put ice cream and sorbet inside under a couple of tightly packed t-shirts and keep the freeze on for a while.

Also, I live only about two miles from Kroger.

You prolly aren't the type to keep a cooler in your back seat (or trunk, for that matter) for this purpose.

OK then — you're the person I'm aiming this at.

1) Add a package or two of frozen vegetables to your shopping cart

2) Ask for paper* — not plastic — when you check out

3) When you get to your car, rearrange your groceries so that the ice cream/sorbet is at the bottom of the bag**, then place the vegetables on top

4) Fold the bag down over your ice cream + vegetables as tightly as you can to minimize air space and create more layers of insulation

As they say... easy peasy.

*A paper bag is a much better insulator than a flimsy plastic bag

**Lagniappe: a double bag works even better

August 15, 2019 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

10 simple words that can change your life

10 Words to Change Your Life

I read the column above some years ago in the Charlottesville Daily Progress.

I liked very much author Rick McDaniel's quote (Ephesians 4:29) in the first paragraph, "Say the right thing at the right time  and help others by what you say."

The opposite is equally true — heard that, been crushed.

Words are powerful weapons indeed and can have an impact every bit as physical as a bullet.

August 15, 2019 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

Form follows function: Middle Stone Age (47,000-31,000 BCE) obsidian tool

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[Above, point found at the Fincha Habera rock shelter in the Bale Mountains of what is now* southern Ethiopia.]

From the New York Times:

In the Ethiopian Mountains, Ancient Humans Were Living the High Life

Humans may have inhabited sites at high elevations far earlier than once believed

Scientists have discovered what is by far the oldest evidence of human occupation at extreme altitudes: a rock shelter strewn with bones, tools and hearths 11,000 feet above sea level.

People lived at the site, in the mountains of Ethiopia, as long as 47,000 years ago.

The research, reported on Thursday in the journal Science, contradicts the long-held view that high elevations were the last places on Earth settled by humans.

That notion was based more on assumptions than hard evidence, it now appears.

In East Africa, paleoanthropologists have long focused their attention on the Rift Valley and other archaeological sites at lower elevations.

"We were simply the first to go higher," said Götz Ossendorf, an archaeologist at the University of Cologne in Germany and lead author of the new study.

The high-altitude humans thrived as hunter-gatherers, subsisting on roasted giant mole-rats and glacier-fed streams.

They crafted stone tools from a nearby outcrop of obsidian.

And they occupied the rock shelter, off and on, for at least 16,000 years.

Humans have managed to settle into a huge range of habitats, from searing deserts to the Arctic tundra.

But extreme altitudes pose special challenges.

The weather can be brutal, and extreme altitudes don't support lush forests or grasslands, as lower elevations do.

Low levels of oxygen can be dangerous, sometimes even fatal, to humans at high elevations.

"Our hominid ancestors were born lowlanders," said Mark Aldenderfer, an archaeologist at the University of California, Merced, who was not involved in the new study.

Despite these challenges, people eventually moved uphill.

Today, in Ethiopia, the Andes and Tibet, humans live year-round at high elevations.

Archaeologists have assumed that these places were among the last to be settled.

But in recent years, expeditions to mountains and plateaus have turned up remarkable clues of human occupation tens of thousands of years ago.

In 2018, for example, a team of researchers working on the Tibetan Plateau found stone blades and other artifacts dating back over 30,000 years.

More recently, another team discovered the 160,000-year-old jawbone of an extinct human relative, known as a Denisovan, in a high-elevation Tibetan cave.

In Africa, even more tantalizing clues have come to light.

Simple stone tools have been found at high elevations in Ethiopia, and they appear to be hundreds of thousands of years old.

They might have been left there by members of our species — or an earlier hominid species.

Still, it's hard to know whether these findings mean that humans were living at these altitudes, or just making a brief sojourn.

"Any of us can walk up to high elevation and spend six weeks up there," said Dr. Aldenderfer. "But we know we will have trouble living there permanently, especially if we’re trying to create societies up there and have children."

To get a deeper understanding of life at high elevations, Dr. Ossendorf and his colleagues began a project in the Bale Mountains of southern Ethiopia in 2015.

They traveled over 700 miles on foot and with pack horses in search of signs of early human occupation.

They visited overhanging cliffs to see if people had ever used them as shelters.

The archaeologists found 331 rock shelters with signs of human occupation.

Almost all had been visited in recent centuries by livestock herders, making it difficult to examine the sites for truly ancient human remains.

But one rock shelter had gone undisturbed by modern herders, thanks to its low ceiling.

When the scientists dug into the shelter floor, they quickly turned up hearths, animal bones and tools — evidence that people once lived there.

The tools surprised the researchers, because they were made in the distinctive style of the Middle Stone Age, which lasted from about 300,000 years ago to 28,000 years ago — far older than the researchers had expected.

"That was breathtaking," Dr. Ossendorf recalled.

To establish the age of the site, called Fincha Habera, the team analyzed carbon from charcoal still in the hearths.

It ranged from 47,000 to 31,000 years old.

The menu at Fincha Habera was dominated by one entree, the researchers found: giant mole-rats, a species that lives today only in the Bale Mountains.

The residents may have smoked the animals out of their tunnels and killed them, cooking the mole-rats over fires and pulling the meat from the bones.

The Fincha Habera people made a great number of obsidian tools, but it's not certain what they were used for.

It is clear that the inhabitants didn't bring the tools from the lowlands — the researchers traced the rock to an outcrop nearby, at an elevation of over 13,700 feet.

Fincha Habera had other attractions, it turns out.

During the Ice Age, parts of the Bale Mountains were covered by glaciers that fed rivers year-round.

The rivers were flanked by forests that may have been home to antelope and other game that people may have hunted.

Some researchers have viewed extreme altitudes as refuges of last resort, where people went only if the surrounding lowlands became unlivable.

But at the time that people lived at Fincha Habera, the lowlands were wet and had plenty of game, said Lars Opgenoorth, an ecologist at Philipps University Marburg in Germany and a co-author of the study.

People living in Fincha Habera, he argued, were not fleeing conditions somewhere else. "They thought it was a good place to be," he speculated.

*"People lived at the site, in the mountains of Ethiopia, as long as 47,000 years ago." Shouldn't it be "... in the mountains of what is now Ethiopia?" Sure, it's a fine point, but being precise adds an element of deep time that enhances one's sense of the past.

August 15, 2019 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Split Ring Pliers

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Way better than splitting a nail trying to get something off or on to one of those vexing split key rings.

From the website:

Designed for opening and closing small split rings, these essential "fisherman's" split ring pliers will simplify the installation of your favorite gear onto your keychain or bag.

Zinc-plated steel.

$3.50 (split key ring not included).

August 15, 2019 at 08:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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