gall and gumption

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Today's Word From Quentin

Chip. Chip. Chip. You're all alone in the lab, if it was me I'd have something nice and meditative in the background, a Mozart string quartet maybe, I'd be deep in that absorbed state of concentration, delicately removing the plaster, yep, I go the lab for peace and quiet, I don't notice the time going by, as I'm pecking away with delicate instruments at the foss --- JEEEEEEZUS CHRIST ON A BICYCLE!!!!!!!!!.

SALT LAKE CITY - A scorpion lived for 15 months without food or water inside the plaster mold of a dinosaur fossil, breaking free only when a scientist broke open the mold.

Don DeBlieux, a paleontologist for the Utah Geological Survey, said he was sawing open the plaster mold when the scorpion wriggled from a crack in a sandstone block.

DeBlieux is still chipping away at the 1,000-pound rock to expose the horned skull of an 80-million-year-old plant eater — a species of dinosaur he says is new to science.

The scorpion "must have been hanging out in a crack the day we plastered him," DeBlieux said Thursday.

He discovered the two-inch critter on Jan. 5 after spending two months carefully removing the plaster mold. DeBlieux said he'll spend more than 500 hours cutting the fossilized skull out of sandstone using tiny pneumatic jackhammers.

It took three and a half years to cut the sandstone block in the field, where researchers encased it with plaster. They moved it by helicopter from the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument to a laboratory in Salt Lake City.

Scorpions, which eat insects, are capable of surviving for months without feeding or moving in a sleep period known as diapause, said Richard Baumann, a Brigham Young University zoologist.

Under other circumstances, the scorpion might have met an untimely end, but DeBlieux said he wanted respected the creature's will to survive. He set the scorpion free in a field on the west side of Salt Lake City.

Quentin sent me the link with one word: FASCINATING.

He is the source of so many good things.

Now, I have to tell you, Mr. DeBlieux is a man after my own heart. I think Uncle Toby would like him too. That's Tristram Shandy's Uncle Toby, not mine personally, though I like to think of him as mine.

My uncle Toby was a man patient of
injuries ; -- not from want of courage, -- I
have told you in the fifth chapter of this
second book, ``That he was a man of
courage :'' -- And will add here, that
where just occasions presented, or called
it forth, -- I know no man under whose
arm I would sooner have taken shelter ;
nor did this arise from any insensibility
or obtuseness of his intellectual parts ; --
for he felt this insult of my father's as
feelingly as a man could do ; -- but he
was of a peaceful, placid nature, -- no
jarring element in it, -- all was mix'd up
so kindly within him ; my uncle Toby
had scarce a heart to retalliate upon
a fly. -- Go -- says he, one day at dinner, to
an over-grown one which had buzz'd
about his nose, and tormented him cruelly
all dinner-time, -- and which, after infinite
attempts, he had caught at last, as it flew
by him ; -- I'll not hurt thee, says my uncle
Toby, rising from his chair, and going a-
cross the room, with the fly in his hand,
-- I'll not hurt a hair of thy head : -- Go,
says he, lifting up the sash, and opening
his hand as he spoke, to let it escape ; --
go poor Devil, get thee gone, why should
I hurt thee ? -- This world surely is wide
enough to hold both thee and me.

Uncle Toby is also responsible for one of the lines in the book that just never dies for me. I read Tristram Shandy about once a year, just to lift my spirits. And every time I get to the buildup to this line I am like a child who wants to hear the same story over and over.

Dr. Slop has cut his finger while trying to undo a tangle of knots that the servant, Obadiah, has tied around his medicine bag. So now he won't be able to assist at the delivery. This is just the last of a series of Obadiah-related mishaps that the doctor has suffered. Dr. Slop is an obstetrician, and he is also a Roman Catholic. He starts to say, "Damn the fellow!" but Walter Shandy, brother of Toby and father of Tristram, interrupts him and invites him to do it properly. He hands him the text of Ernulphus's curse, a long anathema covering every conceivable bodily function and chance of life.

I declare, quoth my uncle Toby, my
heart would not let me curse the devil
himself with so much bitterness. ---- He
is the father of curses, replied Dr. Slop.
---- So am not I, replied my uncle. ----
But he is cursed, and damn'd already, to
all eternity, ---- replied Dr. Slop.

I am sorry for it, quoth my uncle Toby.


At 2:26 AM, Blogger Pete said...

I had the happy chance to wander around the Escalante area of Utah in my youth (in those days, I was about as skinny as my son is now). It was incredible how many fossilized sea shells there were just laying about in the desert. Plenty of scorpions to go around, too. And as the trip was sponsered by BYU... lotsa Mormons as well. Honest I'm not making any comparisons.

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