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Archive for May, 2011

Gilgamesh Redux

May 22, 2011 4 comments

File:GilgameshTablet.jpg

Folks:

Just a brief note to say that I’m working on Tablet VIII of Gilgamesh and am making good progress on Gilgamesh’s lament for Enkidu (the first half was easy, the second half has been tougher than nails)… nothing drastic here, just a sometimes irresistible urge to work on the Project… & will post excerpt from the lament soon…   RT

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Photo: Tablet XI of The Epic of Gilgamesh; WikiCmns; Public Domain.

The Moa

May 10, 2011 11 comments

New Zealand’s moa (family Dinornithidae) isn’t the largest bird that’s ever existed (that honor goes to Madagascar’s elephant birds), but to my mind, it is the most exotic bird imaginable. Paired with its massive predator, Haast’s Eagle, the moa symbolizes the amazing turns that evolution takes when populations of a species are isolated. And New Zealand’s flora and fauna before the first people arrived about 1300 A.D. (New Zealand was the last major land mass settled by humans) are worth a note or two as well.

1) You will be wanting the stats: the two largest of the moa’s 11 species, Dinornis Robustus and Dinornis NovaeZelandiae, topped out at 12 ft and weighed about 510 lb. The moa lived on both the North and South Islands, and got to New Zealand by walking from South America and Africa across Antarctica (New Zealand split away from Antartica 70 million years ago). They ate a wide range of plant materials and scrapped out shallow nests in the ground, where they laid a single egg that could be up to 9″ tall and 7″ wide. Apparently, in some of the species, males incubated the eggs; moa species were dimorphic, with the females being as much as 150%  taller and 280% heavier than the males.

Examination of the bird’s trachea has led scientists to believe that some moa species may have had a deep, resonant call, and their feathers ranged in color from reddish brown to white to purple.

Haast’s Eagle was the moa’s only known predator.

2) The Maori arrived in New Zealand towards the end of the 13th century A.D. It took about 100 years of hunting, habitat destruction, and predation by rats to drive the moa into extinction. It is possible, though, that isolated populations survived, and sightings of the bird continued into the 19th century.

The moa genome has been sequenced.

3) New Zealand has some of the most distinctive flora and fauna found on the planet–80% of its vascular plants are endemic, as are 70% of its native terrestrial and freshwater birds. Notable species include the Kuari tree, the wetas, and the tuataras. The country’s Department of Conservation is implementing an ambitious program to protect and restore native species.

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RT’s Related Posts: 1) The Elephant Bird; 2) Mediterranean Vacation: Lost Landscapes

 

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Photo: comparison, left to right, of a kiwi, and ostrich, and a moa. WikiCmns. Public Domain.

Esperanto

 

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This is a brief note about Esperanto, one of the oldest and perhaps the most widely spoken auxiliary language.

Esperanto was published in 1887 by L.L. Zamenhof, an ophtholmologist from Bialystok, which at that time was part of the Russian Empire. Its vocabulary is taken mostly from the Romance languages; its word structure is agglutinative (i.e., it forms its words by adding affixes to a word base); and its words consist of few word-pieces or morphemes (i.e., it is an isolating language). It is written in a modified version of the Latin Alphabet that uses a one-sound-one-letter principle.

My main point in writing is to introduce some of the distinctions used to classify languages. And Esperanto’s comparatively wide use means that those who study it tie into a large community of speakers (up to 2 million native speakers, by some estimates).

& for what it’s worth, here’s my favorite word in Esperanto: lingvo (language). 8)

RT

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Image: Official flag of Esperanto; WikiCmns; Public Domain.