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Europe’s Wild Men, photographs by Charles Fréger, text by Rachel Hartigan Shea

Europe’s Wild Men is a collection of Fréger’s photographs of men dressed in traditional costumes evoking spirits, monsters, and animals. The subjects of these photographs are apparently all men, but occasionally women do wear these costumes. Shea’s text explains some of the costumes and the history behind them.

Mahogany’s Last Stand, by Scott Wallace, photographs by Alex Webb

In this article, we look at the business of tree poaching in Peru. The primary target of these poachers is mahogany, but other trees are targeted as well. The government of Peru stopped mahogany logging in 2001 and has been including most mahogany forests in national parks and in reserves for indigenous people, in hopes of preserving them.

Apparently, the poaching of mahogany continued after 2013, because I found a Sierra Club article about mahogany with falsified documents being imported into the United States in 2015.

Every Last One, by Rachel Hartigan Shea, photographs by Joel Sartore

In my last National Geographic post, I said that this article will also be tangentially about death. And extinction, cancer, John James Audubon painting the portraits of dead birds, there’s a lot of death, and potential death, going on here.

Joel Sartore is a photographer who used to travel all over the world, until his wife, Kathy, developed cancer. Sartore needed to be there for her and to take care of his kids, so he stopped traveling for his work. Using John James Audubon as his inspiration, he decided that he wanted to start taking portraits of animals. As you may or may not know, Audubon was drawing, which takes longer than photography, and he needed his subjects to sit still longer than they would in life, so every bird that Audubon drew was dead and wired into a natural pose.

Sartore contacted a friend who worked at a local zoo and got his friend to lend him a white box and a naked mole rat. And thus Sartore’s new career was born. Some of the animals that Sartore is photographing are endangered, some even critically endangered. Sartore photographed one of the last five northern white rhinoceros in the world just before she died. Sartore’s photographs are amazing. In this article, we see 77 of his photographs. Sartore estimates that it will take 25 years to finish photographing just the species that are in zoos. He may not live to see that part of his career finished.

Oh, and Kathy had another bout of cancer in 2012, but has been cancer-free for four years now. His son, Cole, had Hodgkins lymphoma in 2012, but Hodgkins lymphoma is curable, so his prognosis is excellent.

Urban Parks, by Ken Otterbourg, photographs by Simon Roberts

If you’ve been reading here very long at all, you’ll see that I really love urban parks, so this article was right up my alley. Otterbourg traces the origins of some of our urban parks, mostly focusing on lands that have been reclaimed from other uses, including the rebirths of the Cuyahoga and Chonggyecheon rivers, the creation of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and other parks.

I’m disappointed that Millennium Park isn’t listed here. The creation of the park above a parking lot and old railroad lines seems right in keeping with the “reclaming land to make parks” theme of this article. Speaking of which, it’s August, so it’s only about two months before I return to walking San Antonio’s own reclaimed-land park, the Peak Greenway.

 

So, no sooner did I start getting my act back together on posting than my hard drive went out.  So here I sit with my brand-new hard drive, which has a one-year warranty, so I should be set for a while. While I was gone, I read one (November 2015) and two halves (April 1889 and September 2013) of National Geographic issues, so now I just have to recap the one that I’m done with and finish the other two issues and recap them and I’m in business.

We set up a new password for our National Geographic account, so I can continue reading the issues online, rather than having to balance a magazine on my lap while I type.  That’ll help me get this done a lot faster. Now on to November 2015, which is the Climate Change issue.

The Will to Change, by Robert Kunzig, photographs by Luca Locatelli

The Will to Change is about what Germans refer to as the energiewende (should that be capitalized or not?  It’s a noun, and German nouns are capitalized, but I’m writing in English.  Kunzig and his editor opted not to capitalize it, but that seems wrong to me).  After the Fukushima power plant disaster, Germany increased its commitment to renewable energy. Angela Merkel promised to close all of Germany’s nuclear reactors by 2022 and she seems on track to do just that.  Germans are picking up the slack left by the nuclear power plants with wind farms and what what is known in the United States, at least, as net energy metering.  “Net energy metering” is when entities other than the power company generate their own power and sell any excess to the power company.  Generally, credits are issued and used to pay back the power company for any power drawn from the grid.  I’ve heard of some ambitious individuals who end up owing nothing to the power company and it is even theoretically possible to make a little profit at it.

There is a downside to the energiewende (still sticking with Kunzig’s choice here), however.  Since Germany is shutting down their power plants, the needed energy that is not generated by energiewende projects have to come from somewhere. And that “somewhere” is coal-fired plants.  The energiewende is driving down the cost of power, so they have priced themselves out of hard coal entirely and are left with lignite coal, the cheapest fossil fuel there is.  Lignite coal is dirtier than hard coal, meaning that it produces more carbon dioxide than hard coal.

Hopefully, over time the energiewende will reach a point where the lignite coal can be phased out, but even if it can never be completely weaned from coal, Germany is definitely on its way to a cleaner future.

A Blueprint for a Carbon-Free America, by Craig Welch, graphics by Jason Treat

I’m not overly fond of the term “carbon-free.”  Recently, Domino launched “carbon free” sugar, which is, um, well, water, since table sugar is C12H22o11.  Take out those 12 carbon atoms and what you have left are twice as many hydrogen atoms as oxygen atoms, which is water.  A carbon-free America would be one with no life left in it, since all Earth-based life forms are more or less made from carbon. A lot of dirt is carbon, as well. We’d have some metal left — iron (but not steel, since steel is iron and carbon), calcium (which is what is left over when you take the carbon out of limestone), a lot of sand and other silicon-based things like quartz (but no diamonds because, well, carbon).

I know that’s not what “carbon-free” really means.  “Carbon-free” is a shorthand way of expressing the idea of ending carbon dioxide emissions from coal, natural gas, and oil.  It’s imprecise, though, and that irks me.

This is just a short little blurb about replacing things that have carbon dioxide emissions with hydroelectric, solar and wind power.  The graphs are nice and show, among other things, how much wind could be generated by both onshore and offshore wind farms.

Power to the People, by Michael Edison Hayden, photographs by Rubén Salgado Escudero

Throughout the developing world (India, Uganda, and Myanmar are the examples given here), people are enjoying new freedom through the use of portable solar lights.  At the moment, one of the biggest players in the field is a company called Simpa, which charges around $0.35 per day to rent the light.  That can be a lot of money for someone who makes only a few dollars a day, but it also, for example, allows shopkeepers to stay open later to get more customers and, thus, more money.  And the solar lights are more convenient for the people using them than the old battery-operated lights some had before.  When the battery ran down they would have to travel to get a new battery. With the solar lights, when the battery runs down, they just put it in the sun for a few hours, which saves time and wear and tear on their shoes and joints.

Now that I’m down to actual identifiable years in my travel, I did a quick count of the places I can remember having traveled and the years I went.  It looks like I have enough My Travel Memories posts to get me through until April or May of 2017, not counting the month or so that I will spend on my 2016 vacation.  There might be more.  I have a gap from 1983 through 1986 and if we went anywhere then, I can’t remember it.  So if my dad can find my mom’s old travel journals, that may spark some new memories that I can use to fill in those years.

My plans for my 2016 vacation are Salt Lake City, Fishlake National Forest, the Golden Spike Monument, Yellowstone, and Dinosaur National Monument.  So that will be a little more than a month.

So then I would be in June or July of 2017, which is when I will be taking my 2017 vacation, which is looking to be The Netherlands and Germany (if all goes as planned financially).  That should take me through at least August and probably into September of 2017.   After that?  I don’t know.

And who knows?  Maybe this travel blogging thing will lose its luster by January and I’ll stop in the summer of 1982 or wherever I am by then.  But assuming I’m in this for the long haul (and I’ve been writing with one site since 2011, so I probably can stick this out at least that long), I will keep going at least through 2017.

As of 2017 I will have three weeks of vacation a year at my job.  So maybe, just maybe, I can fit in some smaller trips to new destinations in that extra time.  Maybe if Wild Earth Llama Adventures is still in business by then Alex and I can make a trip to New Mexico . . . .

You know that 52-week money challenge thing that goes around once in a while, particularly towards Christmas?  Well I use a similar approach to save up for bigger trips.  The 330 weeks I mention in the subject line is how long it will take me from my start just about a year ago to save up the money for a planned trip to China in 2021.  I started studying Mandarin in 2007 in hopes of one day taking a trip to China, but it never worked out, so I have tentatively scheduled this long-awaited trip for 2021. At the moment, I have two other trips planned that I am using a similar approach, one to Germany and one to New Zealand, between now and 2021.

And before you ask, I’m not ever going to put $330 aside in one week. The plan goes something like this.  For a trip to China, I figured that $10,000 should do it (and checking Expedia, it looks like I can do it much more cheaply than that, but you never know what will happen to prices over the next five years).  So I counted the weeks between the date I started and the end of December 2020 (since I want to book the trip around six months in advance, plus I made this calculation using San Antonio and Shanghai as my endpoints and I hope to do a bit more traveling around the country than that, which will raise the cost) and got 330 weeks.  Dividing $10,000 into 330 weeks gives me an average amount of just a little more than $30 per week, so my first week will be $1 and my final week should be $60 (though it won’t, as we will see).  Since 330 divided by 60 is 5.5, I will round down and start at $1 the first five weeks and go up $1 every five weeks after that.  This will mean that my final five weeks will be $66, rather than $60.  At the end of those 330 weeks, I will have a little more than $11,000.

And you know what?  If my trip to China doesn’t end up costing me $11,000, then I can use that money on another trip.  I want to return to Naples (I loved Naples — more on that later) to see the blood miracle of San Gennaro in the early 2020s as well, so that seems like it might be a good use of any extra money.

Additionally, in practice, it doesn’t always work out so perfectly, since sometimes money is a little tighter than others and I end up having to carry that week’s amount forward another week or two to tide me over.  But, in theory, I should have plenty of money to do whatever travel I want to do in China saved up in plenty of time for the trip I hope to make.

I am also doing a reverse version of this to save up for smaller trips.  I chose a dollar amount as a maximum and I am counting down in reverse from that amount, decreasing every two or three weeks, depending on my financial state that week.  This money added up quickly and if I suffer some kind of financial setback, the money is already there for me to use on a smaller weekend trip sometime in the future. The thought occurs that I should go to Mexico at some point, speaking of travel to countries where I speak the language. Mexico is, after all, right there. I went to Nuevo Laredo once in the 1990s, but have never been farther into the country than that.

The Age of Disbelief, by Joel Achenbach, photographs by Richard Barnes

The cover of this issue of National Geographic calls The Age of Disbelief,  “The War on Science.”  That’s really oversimplifying this article.  In fact, there are so many ideas here that I’m having a difficult time figuring out where to start here.  I guess I can see where they were coming from on that “war on science” blurb.  Oversimplification is certainly tempting. Continue Reading

As I write this, it is around 6:45 (I say “around” because my cat is sleeping in front of the clock on my computer) on July 9, 2015.  When this posts, it will be midnight, Central Daylight Time, on July 16, 2015.  If all goes as planned, my son and I will be asleep in New York City, recovering from our first full day of vacation.  We will definitely have just visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island the day before and hopefully will have been to the United Nations as well. We probably will have taken the bus to Battery Park so that we could make it in time for our tour, but I may have convinced my son to walk at least some of the way back.  Let’s see how it all plays out in the end.


The theme for this issue is food. There are other articles, on the Middle East, 3-D printers, and the like, but the first three articles (well, technically, article and two pictorials) are about food, so I am going to group them together.

The Joy of Food Text and photos by various writers.

The Joy of Food is the first pictorial in the article. There are both historical and current pictures of people eating (mostly of them sharing food) from as far back as 1894 and from locations all over the world.

We open with two children in England sharing an apple in a photograph first published in National Geographic in 1916 accompanied by text by Victoria Pope. Following this are images from Afghanistan, Germany, England, and the United States (one from California and one from Washington, DC). The 1894 photograph takes up two pages. It is of picnicgoers in Maine eating watermelon. The next pages feature images from Croatia, Ghana, China, and one of a family saying grace where the location is unknown (but likely is the United States once again). We get another two-page photograph, this one likely to be a modern photo of nuns in Beirut making marzipan. The final five photographs are of 1934 birthday party, an Armenian wedding, food laid out for the dead in Belarus, a fisherman in Alaska, and a boy eating porridge in Denmark.

In addition to the Victoria Pope quote, the text is from Erma Bombeck, M.F.K. Fisher, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

The Communal Table Text by Victoria Pope, Photographs by Carolyn Drake

I think that this is the first article I’ve reviewed that has both text and photographs by women.

The Communal Table is about a meal in Milpa Alta, the poorest borough of Mexico City. Milpa Alta, which is Spanish for “high cornfield,” is the site of around 700 religious festivals a year, culminating in an annual pilgrimage, which begins on January 3, to a holy site in Chalma, 59 miles from Milpa Alta.

This meal, which is held just before Christmas, is called </i>La Rejunta</i> (Spanish for the roundup), is a meal of tamales and atole, which is traditional Mexican chocolate drink. The tamales and atole of La Rejunta given to thank those who made donations to the pilgrimage, and the amounts of each are proportional to the value of the donation.

The Communal Table focuses on the people who make La Rejunta work, particularly on the 2013 majordomos of the event, Virginia Meza Torres and Fermín Lara Jiménez. Pope takes us through the steps of preparation for La Rejunta until the day of the event.

My only issue with this article is that the focus on the people leaves the places shrouded in mystery. The reference to “the ancient place of the holy cave,” and to “a life-size darkened statue of Jesus” led me to the conclusion that the pilgrims still visited the original cave. Instead, the “statue” is a crucifix and the current pilgrimage is to a baroque church that stands in front of the cave. There are references in the text to Milpa Alta being “rural,” but the images are all very crowded looking. In reality, the area is spread out enough that three major hot-air balloon festivals are held in the area every year.

By Their Fridges Ye Shall Know Them, photography by Mark Menjivar

This is a two-page spread featuring several photographs from Menjivar’s “Refrigerators” project. Menjivar takes pictures of the insides of people’s refrigerators and displays them full-sized, so that the viewer gets the feeling that he or she is really looking into someone’s refrigerators. Four images are featured in this spread, including the refrigerators of a football coach and social worker, of a midwife and science teacher, of a street advertiser, and of a bartender.

The bartender, by the way, has a container of mayonnaise from the Central Market Organics line which is local to South Texas (where I live currently). I looked up Menjivar’s CV, and he is in South Texas, as well.

Cross Currents, by Kennedy Warne, photographs by Thomas P. Peschak

Even though this isn’t an official part of the food theme of this issue, this is also an article on food — fishing in particular.

After apartheid ended in South Africa, the government set up a new policy regarding fishing, allowing a certain number of licenses to commercial, recreational, and subsistence fishermen.  The subsistence fishermen group were largely indigenous Africans who fish to provide food for their families.  Subsistence fishermen had previously been shut out of getting licenses, so it was a huge step forward to allow them to have a certain percentage of the available licenses.

The are two problems  with this scheme.  The first problem was that the commercial licenses all went to large operations, leaving the smaller commercial operations (who are described in the article as “artisanal”) without licenses.  The second was that they overestimated the ability of humans to overfish.  As a result, the government ended up rescinding a bunch of licenses and set aside “marine protected areas” where the fish could, theoretically, reproduce undisturbed.

The end result of this, however, was that poaching is now skyrocketing.  Warne spends much of this article talking to the poachers and trying to balance their viewpoints with those of the people who are in favor of keeping, or even expanding, the marine protected areas.

Blessed, Cursed, Claimed:  On Foot Through the Holy Lands: (Out of Eden Walk – Part 3) by Paul Salopek, Photographs by John Stanmeyer

Blessed, Cursed, Claimed is the third installment of Salopek’s series, Out of Eden Walk, where Salopek is walking from Africa’s Rift Valley and across the Middle East, then through Asia, into North America and then down into South America.  Apparently Salopek is taking a fairly liberal interpretation of the term “walk,” since he is doing some of the trip by boat.  Salopek began the walk in 2013, and hopes to complete it in 2020.

In this installment, Salopek walks from Jordan to Jerusalem.  We see archaeological sites, refugees, Bedouins, Jews, Muslims, and Christians, in this part of the walk.

Much of this article focuses on barriers.  not only does Salopek cross a national border, he also crosses through the West Bank, where the two-state solution would have the nation of Palestine be.  We also cross the barrier between the main city of Jerusalem and the community of the Haredi, ultraorthodox Jews who have a strict separation between men and women in their society.  We also visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.  The actual site where Helena (mother of Constantine the Great) believed that Jesus was born is now a Greek Orthodox church.  At the height of the tensions between the Greek church and the Catholic Church of St. Catherine next door, the only way that Catholic visitors could see the church was through a peephole in the common door between the two churches.  And, finally, we see the gulf of darkness that separates a Bedouin family that was  Salopek’s host on the shores of the Dead Sea from the nearby luxury resort.

Just Press Print, by Roff Smith, photographs by Robert Clark

I think that this may be the first non-travel-centric article that I’ve written about here, aside from the prefatory material from 1888.  Though there is some geography-related content in the article, the article is mostly about the advances in technology that comes from 3-D printing.  Most of the results of 3-D printing that I have heard of has been plastic and since the results of the 2-D printing industry, in the form of junk mail, has been a big stressor for me, my reaction has usually been “Oh, goody.  Plastic three-dimensional stuff to take up even more space.”

So, this article was good for me to read, since we see some of the useful things that can be made, including a new face for a man who lost much of his face to cancer (warning: if you are squeamish about these types of things, don’t read this article, because there is a beautiful photograph of the man and his prosthetic face) and living tissue, with a view towards perhaps being able to print replacement  organs for people.

The travel hook in the article is a bit about a printed house that the firm DUS is building in Amsterdam.  They expect the house to be finished in around three years.

Wasteland, by Paul Voosen, photographs by Fritz Hoffmann

Wasteland is an article about Superfund sites in the United States.  In 1980, Congress created a program, called Superfund, that was designed to remediate lands that were damaged by toxic waste.  The Superfund program arose after toxic waste was discovered in the Love Canal neighborhood of Niagara Falls, New York.  The original plan was for the companies that caused the waste to be left there to pay some of the cost of remediation and for the government to pick up the rest of the cost, but a number of the companies were unwilling or unable to pay for their share, leaving the government to pay the entire cost.

There are more than 1,700 Superfund sites in the United States, and one statistic given says that one in six people in the United States lives within three miles of a Superfund site.  I have lived, if not within three miles, pretty close to that, of two in my life, one in the Chicago area when I was a child and one in the San Antonio area as an adult.

The article talks about the different types of remediation being done on some of the sites in the United States and also the increasing difficulty the government is having coming up with the money now that the tax that had previously paid for the government’s share, a tax on chemicals and oil, has expired.

Images of other sites profiled in this, article, aside from Love Canal, are Tar Creek in Pitcher, Oklahoma; a landfill in Monterey Park, California;  the Gowanus Canal in New York City; and the Berkeley Pit in Butte, Montana.  There is information on even more sites in the text of the article.

Cowboys on the Edge, by Alexandra Fuller, photographs by Tomás Munita

Cowboys on the Edge is the tale of baguales of Estancia Ana María, in Patagonia in Chile.  In the early 20th century, Estancia Ana María was owned by Arturo Iglesias.  Some of his herd of cattle went feral and natural selection caused them to become wilder and stronger than regular cattle.  Now, rather than vacas, the name for this type of literally savage cattle is baguales, and the men who herd them are bagualeros.

Fuller traveled with the bagualeros as they went to round up as many baguales as they could in the period before the Iglesias family sells the land to a rancher.  The bagualeros hoped to collect as many as 50 baguales, but it was a tougher job than they expected.

I am used to running with a fairly sensitive group online, so I want to put a small content warning on this article. Several of the baguales die on the trip and there is one reference to invading Poland that is kind of tone-deaf to those who are sensitive to Nazism.

Otherwise, this is a quick read written in a pretty informal style.  I did have to wonder about Fuller’s assertion that boat or a 10-day horse ride through fairly deep water are the only ways to get to Estancia Ana María.  I wondered if there are some extreme updrafts preventing one from reaching it by helicopter or if that was an oversight.

(originally posted March 2015)

National Geographic has occasional theme issues.  This is one of them.  The theme for this issue is “Firsts.”

First Artists by Chip Walter (Photographs by Stephen Alvarez)

This article, just as the name implies, is about the beginnings of artistic expression in humans. We start out at one of the best known early artistic sites, Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave, where artists starting at least 36,000 years ago made charcoal drawings on the walls. We then go to South Africa, where an even older form of artistic expression was found — pieces of ocher with geometric patterns carved into them dating back to at least 100,000 years ago.

There is no continuity to the artistic expression, however. It will flower in one place and then die out again only to resurface somewhere else. The development of art seems to track to times when there were more people, so the theory that Walter and, presumably those he’s spoken with, advances is that the art was a way for groups to communicate.

I wonder if it could be the other way around, though. Perhaps the default state of humanity is to be creative, but stresses on the population reduce that urge. Maybe the population increases were because times were relatively good, which allowed the natural creativity of our ancestors to show. We are, from all the research I have read, naturally wired to acquire a language, so it doesn’t seem to be too much of a stretch to think that maybe we are wired to express ourselves artistically as well.

And despite their reputation as brutish, there may be some evidence that there was a creative urge for Neanderthal humans. Archaeologists have found items with holes drilled into them as if for jewelry in a cache with some tools in France.

Along with the articles are the usual stunning National Geographic photos, including pictures of the earliest pieces of art (including one that is described as a flying bird, but which looks awfully phallic to me), of the archaeological dig in South Africa, and of two young women covered in ochre. 

The First Year by Yudhijit Battacharjee (Photos by Lynn Johnson)

Technically this article should have probably been called The First Years because much of it relates to events in the second year of life and there are even some references to events beyond that point. 

The article, for the most part, recounts studies being done on the brain development of children in the first years of life. We begin with Hallam Hurt’s study of children who come from poor backgrounds which showed that the damage our culture associated with prenatal maternal use of crack actually reflected the situation of poor families in the United States. From this, we developed programs to encourage bonding and mental development during infancy and early childhood.

We also see a glimpse into some of the imaging studies being done of the brains of babies, including studies that show how language development works. 

There is also one study referenced that made me uncomfortable. Nicolae Ceausescu made birth control and abortion illegal, in service of increasing the population of Romania. It worked. It worked so well, that many families ended up abandoning their children, who then ended up in orphanages. The orphanages were understaffed and fifteen to twenty babies were generally taken care of by each worker, which meant that there was no time for the babies to be given any kind of personal attention, which harmed their brain development. A group of scientists saw that the children in these orphanages had irregular behavior patterns similar to those of children with severe autism. When the children’s brains were studied, it was shown that they had much lower levels of activity than would be expected from a child of that age. So they devised a study where half of the children would be put in foster home and half left in the orphanage. The brains of the fostered children under the age of two came to resemble those of children who had not been deprived, but the brain development of the children who remained in the orphanage remained abnormal.

Now, my own background is training as a medical librarian, so my frame of reference is clinical trials, but it is my understanding that if a treatment (which in this case is being put in a foster home) is shown to work (which it clearly did), the study is halted and all of the participants are given the treatment. To do otherwise would be unethical. Yet, there is no indication in this article whether the institutionalized children were put in foster homes in hopes of helping their brain development as had been done with the children put in foster care. I finally had to do some research on my own to find that homes were found for most of the children who had been left in the institution. Out of 68 institutionalized children in the original study, ten of the institutionalized children were still in the orphanage by the age of eight. So at least something was done for most of those children, but I’m still not happy about the ten who were still in the orphanage. On the good side, Romania now has a law forbidding placement of children younger than two in orphanages.

While the article itself is fairly dry, with lots of talk of studies and brain imaging, the “human element” comes from Johnson’s black-and-white photographs of families, many of them poor, taking the time to bond with their children, thus enriching their lives and helping their brains grow.

First City, by Robert Draper (Photographs by Robin Hammond)

In the case of this article, the word “first” is more a reference to rank rather than to chronology. The census for the country of Nigeria has trouble tabulating the population of Lagos, which has grown so fast that, at the moment it is somewhere between 13 and 18 million. The economy of Lagos is flourishing, as well. In the 21st century alone, consumer spending in Lagos has grown from 24.4 billion to 320.3 billion. The economy of Nigeria passed up the previous front-runner, South Africa, in 2012.

As with many National Geographic articles, this one features the stories of a number of Nigerians, from Onyekachi Chiagozie, an electrician who has big dreams, to Banke Meshida Lawal, a beautician with offices in Africa but who has representatives in other countries, including the United States, to Kola Karim, a multimillionaire who owns a conglomerate that employs more than 3,000 people.

The article also discusses the political climate of Nigeria, including the gap between the culture of Lagos and the upheaval of the rest of the country. Draper also discusses the corruption of the national government of Nigeria, which is a major exporter of petroleum but which doesn’t have enough gasoline for its citizens and which is unable to supply a steady level of electricity to any of its residents.

The photographs range from sitting portraits of residents to pictures of people going about their daily lives, both in the upscale and downscale areas of the city.

First Glimpse, by Timothy Ferris, Photographs by Robert Clark

This article is on cosmology, and cosmology really isn’t my thing. Somehow, the huge numbers of years and distance and things just serves to remind me that the clock is running and the universe will wind down someday. I mean, I’d be gone by then anyhow, unless an article I read a few years ago that said that time might stop any second turns out to be true, but I still find the thought, particularly that there is nothing we can do to stop it, or even slow it down, sort of distressing. 

That being said, I read this article, which opens with a quote that cosmologists are “Often in error but never in doubt.” That’s comforting. Well, not really, but it does kind of remind me of the Dunning-Krueger effect, which says that people who don’t know what they’re doing (“often in error”) will be more likely to be certain that they are experts (“never in doubt”) than one would expect. It is likely that they do know what they’re talking about, but obviously someone has some doubts. 

The article that follows talks about “dark matter” and “dark energy,” which are two forces that we cannot perceive but that seem to have some kind of effect on the universe. “Dark matter” seems to be pushing things closer together, while “dark energy” seems to be pushing them apart. Ferris also talks about the things that cosmologists are doing to measure what they perceive as being dark matter and dark energy, including a large sphere of lights pointing inward towards a pool of argon. The hope is that dark matter will pass through this device and make flashes of light. 

I did find out that dark matter is not some mysterious thing “out there,” though, which was kind of interesting. Apparently, the Earth is being bombarded by it constantly and since we cannot perceive it, it is likely to be be passing through our bodies and we just are not aware of it. 

First Americans, by Glenn Hodges

Now I’m back on familiar, and far more comfortable, territory. 

In 2007, Mexican divers found a cavern full of bones. The oldest one whose skull was intact enough to do a facial reconstruction on, was a teenaged girl who died somewhere between 12,000 and 13,000 years ago. She was given the name Naia, after the Naiads of Greek mythology. Naia’s basic genetic structure is the same as that of current Native Americans, indicating that the current Native American population is descended from the people who were here all those centuries ago, but her facial structure is very different, with much coarser features. 

The bodies of Paleo-Americans that have been found so far seem to be very likely to have evidence of injuries from some kind of close-range battle. The standard explanation is that the men were fighting over women, and the women were victims of domestic abuse. While this is a possible explanation, and may even be the most likely explanation, I was a teenager several decades ago and remember a few physical fights among my female peers. As a result, I’m not going to completely discount the idea that perhaps the women fought among themselves just as the men seem to have done. 

The article also discusses the Friedkin site which is described as being in central Texas “about an hour north of Austin.” That’s still a very large area, so I did a little digging and discovered that it is in Salado, Texas, in Bell County. The Friedkin site may be the earliest settled place in North America. A large quantity of stone tools have been found on the site, some dating back 15,500 years. The quantity of tools seems to indicate to the archaeologists that a group of Paleo-Americans actually settled there for an extended period. 

Hodges mentions the Anzick site in Montana, as well, where the 12,600-year-old skeleton of a child. They were able to extract an entire genome from this child, the first time we had been able to do so. Fossilized human waste was also found in a cave in Oregon, which gives archaeologists a chance to see what people of the area ate and which indicates that the Paleo-Americans may have settled there for a while.

The photographs on the article were taken by various photographers including Timothy Archibald, Paul Nicklen, James Chatters, David Coventry, and Erika Larsen.

First Bird, written and photographed by Klaus Nigge

This is a short, six-paragraph, piece on the bald eagle accompanied by five beautiful photographs. In the article, Nigge discusses his time photographing the bald eagles of the Aleutian islands, who were so habituated to humans that they would let him walk right up to them to photograph them.