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Clearing the Decks

December 11, 2012
Car and passenger ferry, Kuivastu, Estonia

Car and passenger ferry, Kuivastu, Estonia

This week has seen one of those very odd conjunctions of events. Yesterday, I completed the journal edits on a review paper that has been in the works for at least a year. This morning, we resubmitted a manuscript on Ordovician pycnogonids (“sea spiders”) that has been going through the mill for even longer. Since I also just finished preparing a couple of PowerPoint presentations and am done with travel commitments for the moment, this means that there is suddenly a bit of time to think. Not spare time by any means (there is still much to be done before the year is out), but at least a lull in the action.

Now that the decks are cleared, it is almost frightening how little brain energy seems to be available. In the past few days I have been even more forgetful than usual, and with these projects removed I am discovering that my mind is almost blank. A tabula rasa. It would be great to immediately re-embark on one of the research projects sitting on the shelf, but a few days without much thought will have to pass first. Fortunately there is a mammoth tusk just waiting to be glued together, some specimens to catalogue, and a new camera to be tested, so if I am careful I may be able to get by without using anything much above the medulla oblongata . . .

ferry deck2

© Graham Young, 2012

6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 11, 2012 6:00 pm

    I am heartened to hear that mammoth tusks can be glued together. I picture the more time-pressed resorting to duct tape and moving on to the next thing.

    • Graham permalink*
      December 11, 2012 6:18 pm

      I have seen every imaginable solution applied to mammoth tusks (short of duct tape). In some museum collections they seem to have long ago used bits of wire, or metal bands, in attempts to make tusks hold together. The problem with mammoth tusks is that they are usually not really fossilized – just very old teeth that have been saturated with water for thousands of years, so their tendency is to go to pieces.

      • December 11, 2012 6:25 pm

        I kind of like the way Victorian gentlemen used to stick tusks and toes and various other pieces they couldn’t quite figure out onto the foreheads of skeletal herbivores. In Malta for a long time it was assumed that the skulls of pygmy elephants were proof of the evidence of Cyclops on the island. There is something to be said for this type of duct-taped archaeology!

      • Graham permalink*
        December 11, 2012 7:50 pm

        When you see an elephant skull with that large hole in the front middle of it (for the trunk), the Cyclops myth makes perfect sense. And yes, many people have had the habit of reconstructing creatures from small bits – which also helps to explain unicorns!

  2. December 12, 2012 8:48 am

    I tend to associate “clearing the decks” with preparations for an incoming barrage or a killer storm … at least that’s the way it usually works for me. I just get everything nicely squared away and then mayhem ensues! Here’s hoping your waters remain calm and peaceful.

    • Graham permalink*
      December 12, 2012 4:14 pm

      I think incoming barrage may have been closer to the truth, Dave. But maybe there will at least be a bit of time for camera work today.

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