Category Archives: Birds and Mammals

Sealy Phocas (South Africa series 4/10)


Playout date: 14 November 2006
Camera: Fuji Finepix
Post Production: Windows Movie Maker – slight use
Location: Hout Bay, Cape Town
Other people featured: David Uncleborough, Afrikaaner boat captain, Viktor Dmitrievitch Huliganov, Pierre Delauney
Genre: Environmental
Music used:  Heaven for Everyone, Queen
Languages used: English, but with Russian and French words for seal.
Animals featured: Arctocephalus pussilus, Cape fur seal

I rarely do a lot of different voices on one video, but this is one occasion. I do what I hope is a passable
impersonation of David Attenborough (I called this character David Uncleborough and he comes up a couple of times in my films), and also I do a South African, some Huliganov and some Pierre Delauney.
The Hout Bay cape fur seal colony is a beautiful thing to see. This is the part of the world where the great
white shark preys on these creatures, even jumping out of the water to attack them. We didn’t see any of them today, though.
The mountains around are the twelve apostles, very majestic neighbours of the Table Mountain.

Old Usenetposts Gallery #5 Coots in cahoots


Gallery Page 5 – Coots in cahoots


The birds you see here are the common coot, Fulica atra, which is similar to the American coot Fulica americana, only with a ‘balder’ appearance, as the white headshield is higher in the Eurasian version, leading to the expression ‘as bald as a coot’. The term ‘coot’ in itself is in all likelihood onomatopoeic in English, as one common noise the bird makes, among a large playlist of other calls and alarms made by the splashing of its specialised lobed feet, is like the syllable ‘coot’. The only language that shares with Engolish the name ‘coot’ is Dutch, which calls the bird ‘Meerkoet’. The German term is ‘Blaesshuhn’, the Scandywegian languages are ‘blishoene’ and ‘sothoene’, but don’t ask me which is which, the Russian is Lysukha’ and the Polish is ‘Lyska’, and the Romance languages show mainly variants on the latin ‘Fulica’ (Fr. ‘Foulque’, Sp. ‘Focha’ , It. ‘Folaga’)

Coots wintering on the Vistula near Plock – Photo taken at Nowy Duninow, December 2004

These coots are resting together on the retention reservoir which has been made in the Vistula River between Plock and Wloclawek in a ribbon several birds deep and several kilometres long, strongly calling to mind the appearance of the band of rooks in migratory flight over Warsaw each spring and Autumn, only resting on water rather than flying through the air. These birds will migrate in the spring into East Poland, Belarus and Russia for the summer breeding period – this is the most westerly point on mainland Europe that they are found all year. They live for about 18 years, are omnivorous, and considered as a type of rail: family Rallidae, order Gruiformes.

More beautiful landscape scenes from Poland and elsewhere coming up…

DJJ 13th February 2005

Old Usenetposts Gallery #2 Tropical Birds


(I’m continuing with the repost of old material from the former Usenetposts.com)

Gallery Page 2 – Tropical Birds
Right, still with me? Good. We’re still looking at unidentified fauna. Here we have a kind of gull that I’ve never seen in Europe, with a kind of hairstyle, as it were, of an old English teacher of mine. (I use that possessive pronoun attributively, not possessively, as he would say). Provisionally, therefore, I’ve named it the Saunders gull – but what is its real name? E-mail or bulletin board if you know the answer. Seen in the Dominican Republic, Casa de Campo, November 2004.

This seagull is probably not new to science, but it was new to me

Again from the Dominican Republic in November 2004, is this small reddish hawk. The picture doesn’t deserve its own page, as the quality is not good, but still I don’t know the bird so I’m hoping someone will tell me what it is. This is the best of three I managed to take before it flew away.

The tiniest hawk I ever saw

More animals coming up, before moving on to other themes…

DJJ 13th February 2005

Monty the ginger cat not reacting to Colonel Bogey


Playout date: 7 October 2006
Camera: Fuji Finepix
Post Production: None
Location: Hemel Hempstead
Other people featured: My wife and my dad
Genre: Cat film
Music used: A whistled version of Colonel Bogey (Creative commons)
Languages used: English
Animals featured: Monty the ginger cat

I used to be able to make my old cat come by whistling Colonel Bogey like this, but Monty was a one-man cat, and could only be summoned by my father. He was at first my sister’s cat, but when she started to live with her later husband, the cat needed a new home as like most young people these days he is an allergist for cats.

Unfortunately Monty passed away a couple of years back, having lived about 17 years, which is a ripe old age. His presence lives on a bit in the house in a way. I still go gingerly into the kitchen when the light is out from having needed to do so before in order not to walk into him.

Why do Christians eat pork?


Pot bellied pig at Lisbon Zoo

Image via Wikipedia

I received a question on Christianity, which is a welcome change from receiving all linguistic questions, from YouTube viewer JInks232, who writes:

I viewed your “Basket case” video and an old question came to mind. How is that Christians eat pork despite the injunction in the bible against its consumption?

We traditional eat a nice ham for Easter Sunday. I am just curious and you seem to be knowledgeable.

Many thanks for that compliment, friend.

The fact is not all Christians eat pork – Seventh Day Adventists do not, I believe most Messianic Jews do not and there may well be others who do not. Nevertheless, the overwhelming majority of Gentile Christians do not observe the shunning of pork, even though hopefully most of us are aware that Jesus Christ himself certainly must have refused to eat it, by way of His living out the whole Law.

The placing of pigs, and with them a whole series of other animals, on the list of unclean animals takes place in the context of Levitical law. This comes from when Israel was called aside as a nation after arriving in Israel and the priesthood of the Levites was instituted.

When Noah lands the Ark after the Flood, God gives an instruction in Genesis 9 v 3, that he can eat any of the animals, just as before he could have eaten any of the plants.

There is mention in Genesis 7, before Noah goes into the Ark, of taking seven pairs of clean animals, one pair of unclean, but this has nothing to do with not eating them, as mankind was not allowed to eat animals at all until Genesis 9, after the Flood. So it presumably refers to some animals being regarded as sacrificial animals even before people consumed the animals.

Nothing more is said about some animals not being eaten or being regarded as dirty until we get to Levitical law. Especially Leviticus chapter 11. In the meantime we have had Abraham, Isaac and Jacob needing to be circumcised in order to be in the covenant, but no word about them shunning pork.

Some people talk about pork being regarded as unclean because of tapeworms. In this case people simply would have not kept pigs at all, and yet we know that pigs were kept in the region because of the Gadarean swine and also the fact that the prodigal son in Jesus’ parable ends up in a pigsty.

So circumcision was earlier by some generations in the Old Testament than dietary laws. Anyway Jesus kept all of the Levitical laws perfectly.

The Levitical law was a law for a special holy nation to be set aside to see if they could follow a set of precepts reflecting the perfection of God, and was there as Paul says as a schoolmaster, to lead us to the doctrine of grace. If righteousness comes by the law, he wrote, then Christ is dead in vain. Only Christ, out of all the men who sought to keep the law, actually managed it in thought, word and deed, despite being subjected to all temptations that man is prone to. This level of holiness is inconceivable to anyone who was normally conceived. The heritage from Adam through the male line precludes any such righteousness by works as we have a flesh that is in bondage to sin. So the only claim to such a righteousness we can have is for that man Jesus to have died on our behalf and to have offered himself as propitiation on the basis of simple belief in Him, repentance and calling on Him for salvation.

The experiment that the human can achieve righteousness by the law was done by God with the Jews as the chosen nation. It failed. Christ was the answer.

The experiment that the human can achieve political fairness and equality by communism was done by men with the Soviet peoples and some others as the chosen ones for that, but it was something God had never asked them to do. Still Christ is the answer.

Jesus Christ sent his disciples to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and ministered to Israel almost exclsuively. He did however respond in kindness to those coming who recognised that they were outside and ready to pick up crumbs that fell from the masters’ table.

Even after His resurrection, when at the end of Matthew’s Gospel He finally instructs the disciples to go into the whole world, not just Israel, He himself still gives one more chance to Israel. Look how the Acts of Apostles is structured, It is very important, these first few chapters tell a lot of how Gentiles started to be included.

in Acts 2 we have Pentecost, and the tongues enabling the message to go out into the whole world.

In Acts 3, we still have Peter addressing the men of Israel, though, and in Acts 4, and Stephen in Acts 7 addresses also the Jews.

Stephen the Martyr sees Christ in His resurrected state above the Jews to whom he offers the Gospel, and when they stone him it s like the final rejection. The garments already go to Saul, shortly to become Paul and the one who will be the apostle to the gentiles. Peter receives his vision in Acts 10 vv 14-15 where God commands him to eat of the unclean beasts, he says he has never eaten anything unclean, and God says “what God hath cleansed, that call not thou common”. The chapter goes on to show how now God has opened the way for the gentiles to join the covenant of Christ, and Paul to be the Apostle to them.

Later Paul deals with the issues of Jewish Christians trying to impose circumcision (as I already said above, a more core aspect of OT righteousness even than the dietary laws) on Christians and the Letter to Galatians is mainly all about that, and Christian liberty from Levitical laws. If a person sees righteousness as needing to involve one part of the law, such as circumcision, and not all by grace alone through faith, then they are a debtor to do the whole law.

So the New testament gives us every reason to understand that as we are gentiles and brought in to the grace of Christ, we are nevertheless not expected to behave like Jews. We should honour Jews and not do what the Church did to the Jews through so much of history, but we are not expected to be Jews. We are not converting to Judaism, we are experiencing an extension to pagans of the grace that at first belonged to the Jews. We are cleansed, our food is cleansed, and God is not calling is unclean. He washed us.

If we deny that washing by trying to obey works righteousness then we are outside the covenant of grace and back under the necessity to obey the whole law, because the Levitical law was not a loose leaf law, you didn’t pick or choose the things you liked. If you wanted access to the Holiest of Holies under the Levitical system, that’s how you did it. And the nation was a Theocracy, it wasn’t a secular state like today’s Israel.

We don’t have to become Jewish to by loved and included in a Saviour who was Jewish. We should certainly not be Anti-Semitic or offend Jews. I am not going to sit around without a yarmulka on if I go to a synagogue, nor am I going to sit around eating tasty food if someone in my team is eating only matzos at Passover. But that is by way of acknowledging the specialness of God’s special people, and not by way of saying that my salvation is incomplete if I don’t do these things. If I am working on a project even with Muslims then I will do them the courtesy of ensuring the pizza ordered for lunch has no pork, so how much more am I willing to accommodate the people of the Abrahamic Covenant.

Salvation is by grace, through faith, not of works, lest any man should boast. And even Abraham believed God, and it was that believing, not his act of circumcision, that was accounted to him as righteousness.

If a Christian doesn’t want to eat pork, he can shun pork. But if he thinks that he has earned any of his salvation by doing so, it would be better for him to wallow in a pigsty for a thousand years than get that wrong idea about what the following of Levitical law can do for him.

A radical, “gen(i)us” new idea for learning Chinese characters


Chimpanzee head sketch

Monkey with character?

My idea stems from the fact that I always had a facility for learning the Linnean binomials of animals and plants which as you probably know are made up of a genus name, bearing a capital initial letter and then a species name. Sometimes you get a third part, which is subspecies.

For example, chimpanzees and bonobos share the genus Pan, bonobos being Pan paniscus and there are no subspecies, whereas common chimps are Pan troglodytes and there are four subspecies, P.t.troglogytes, P.t.schweinfurthii (North Zaire) and two others.

So my idea was to give each Chinese character a linnaean binomial as a way to drive it home. It might be a way to help people latch mentally onto some of the harder characters. I don’t have ZH font installed on the machine I’m writing on now, so I will just describe it in terms of the “rules” for doing it.

The “genus” name would show the radical of the character, but in Latin. So if you have the hand radical in a character, it would be in the genus “Manus“.  “拍” to beat or clap has the hand radical and the white component, so its Linnean binomial would be Manus albus, the common beat or clap.

You could consider the link ups of two characters in one word as like symbiotic relationships of two living things, its frequency in linguistic use could be acquainted with its rarity or endangeredness, whether it’s in the list also for Korean and Japanese could be the zoogeography, and even the stress could determine what kind of an organism it is. The first tone could be for herbivores, the second for carnivores, as they have to jump up and pounce on often larger prey, the fourth for insectivores, pouncing on the lower prey, and third tone for omnivores.

It just may be a way to learn some of them. I don’t think it’s any crazier than Drs Goodman, Heisig or Hoenig, all of whom are pretty much in the mainstream, so please don’t unfollow or call for the white van just yet!

Diary of a New Decade #3 – 10th January 2011 – Mummers and Pappers


Mummers in Exeter, Devon, UK, 1994.

Mummers in Exeter, Devon, UK, 1994. Image via Wikipedia

Well it’s been a week since I did a post in this particular series, the DND series. Not much has transpired in that time. I went to Tczew and came back again, and there was a holiday on Thursday 6th January for Epiphany. That may be the best thing to talk about. The other thing probably worth talking about is the controversy around the large scale die offs of blackbirds and drumfish and turtledoves, which I looked into a bit at the weekend.

Language-wise I did some Czech and some Japanese, and I finished the Michel Thomas Advanced Japanese course, which I can recommend well enough as a course, but I have to say that calling it advanced is nothing short of laughable. There are a heap of structures that still need to be learned. The neutral forms of the verb and the bases were not even touched upon and the past tense and negative pasts of -i adjectives were not used. Moreover, the difference between na adjectives and -i adjectives before a noun were not looked at at all. I can only hope that there will be a so-called vocabulary course – the way the new Michel Thomas language series describes the third lot of rather dear CDs.

I read some rather negative reviews of the Advanced Japanese course on the UK Amazon – more pleasant ones on the US Amazon including one by a friend of mine whom it was a pleasure to bump into by chance reading Amazon reviews. My own view is that I can see where some of the negative comments were coming from but they are exaggerated. It is very good material, and a lot is packed into the hours you can physically get onto 4 audio CDs, if that has to be the constraint. Only don’t go calling it Advanced Japanese, especially bearing in mind not one single kanji and not one single kana has been explained and not even the issues surrounding syllabification and also the series and how shi, chi, tsu and fu appear instead of what you might expect in the sounds tables.

These are really basic things needed if you want to get at real Japanese. The person finishing the Michel Thomas course will discover they will have to go right back to the start again if ever they want to be anything more than functionally illiterate in Japanese. I’ve started now the Michel Thomas Greek course and that is really making strides at a faster pace. Again, nothing really about the alphabet, so a person relying on that won’t be able to read anything, but maybe in Greek that is easier to overcome.

I also have major misgivings about a few things in the Michel Thomas method. I do think that it has advantages over a lot of other methods, even Pimsleur, as far as being an audio-only course goes. But I do feel as if it is building so much in a short time that it rely pushes the short term memory. I wonder whether the students who did those course on the recordings actually retained it all for more than two weeks afterwards. I should say not more than 30% of it. But you can get round that as a learner by doing the course and then coming back to it again after letting the knowledge lie fallow for more than 2 weeks, and reactivating it all again. Rinse and repeat a few more times.

I was going to talk about Epiphany or Twelfth Night as a holiday. I noticed that people were regarding it as a Church holiday even though the Bible does not say which day this ‘showing’ of Jesus Christ was, whether it was the eighth day (which was traditional for the circumcision) or the twelfth day, who can say? But what we can say is that in pre-Christian Europe there were two twelve day long festivals, one around the winter solstice and the other around the Summer solstice. In the older calendar the final or twelfth night in the winter one of these fell on New Years and was a general party and carousal, with people dressing up.  This was simply carried over into the Church by an act of syncretism.

Generally speaking Roman Catholicism is happy to soak up and “christianise” just about anything the Pagans threw at them. It was so with turning men into saints, it was so with the goddess worship with Mary being placed into the role of Gaia/Isis/Diana, it was the same with the placing of the date of Christmas (at least there was more guidance over the celebration of His death and resurrection because the Jews still celebrate Peshach, but why did they give this time the entirely Pagan name of Easter?) So this is just another example of the way Polish Roman Catholics are ready to place religious holidays at every single one of the Pagan dates that have been syncretised into the so-called church calendar (including the non-biblical Assumption of Mary on 15th August – the date which coincides with many Pagan devil-worshipping dates worldwide such as O-Bon, the time when the Japanese believe that for 33 years (notice the significance?) after a person’s death, they come and spend three days (August 13th to August 16th) with their old families. This strange reversal of some of the beliefs about Jesus Christ’s life and death almost appears to be diabolical mockery. Doesn’t stop Roman Catholics from revelling in it, though, and choosing it as their time of year to go on Hajj to their various mariolatric meccas, trudging sometimes hundreds of miles in the searing heat to please God doing something He never once commands in scripture, whilst many of the explicit commands are overlooked, like not having graven images, like calling no man father, like not forbidding to marry, and many more.

And how the Devil, who manipulates people to do these things, laughs.

There’s nothing intrinsically Christian about 6th January. There is something intrinsically pagan about twelfth night, and there is some astrological thing that goes on that I don’t even want to remember or understand, but which you can look up if you like. The carry over of the baccanalia from that time into the mumming of the Christian era is clear even from the traditional costumes worn by the mummers, which follow those used in the pre-Christian era.

Anyway, we’ve all been forced by the Catholic Church to participate in this pagan holiday.

I used quite a bit of it having a walk with my son, and I also gave him a walk on Saturday and a really big one on Sunday, when we took a taxi to the old town and walked back. Those three times in total gave us about 14 km over those three days worth of walking, and I do feel that it’s done me some good. The good thing about my son is that he walks about the same pace and just enjoys the walk, he doesn’t run off. And then he is well behaved after as he has been able to use his energy up, although generally speaking he is not as tired as me.

As there is not that much conversation going on I can also listen a bit to the Michel Thomas courses during the walk. All in all a good way to spend time, but it was cold on Thursday and only gradually got a bit warmer over the weekend. At about 5-6 degrees Celsius most of the snow started to melt, but there are large puddles everywhere and of course the contributions to society made by the communion of dog-owners comes much to the fore, all melting in the water and mixing in with the sand that is laid down so that you can tell sometimes where the sand starts and the canine detritus finishes.

I was also going to talk about these big die-offs reported in the Internet and a bit in mainstream media. But perhaps it can wait for a later post. I will come to that, though.

Pushkin on Pushkin


http://lh4.ggpht.com/_u4eOuNN7twk/SbmOeytfmZI/AAAAAAAAACA/1oRVdlK5YUo/s1024/P1030384.JPG

Pushkin sitting on a copy of his complete works.

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