New fossil material from the pelvis of Tiktaalik roseae suggests it was able to use its hind fins as props as well as paddles

Illustration by Kalliopi Monoyios for National Geographic

New fossil material from the pelvis of Tiktaalik roseae suggests it was able to use its hind fins as props as well as paddles

How Did I Miss That? Ancient Fish Fossil and Cocaine Condoms

National Geographic announced a TV mini-series based on University of Chicago paleontologist Neil Shubin’s book, Your Inner Fish. The “star” will be Tiktaalik, a fish from 375 million years ago that could walk on its fins. My Cousin Ray Sixkiller was not impressed, pointing out that many Christians claim the Earth could not be more than 10,000 years old. “And I thought an Arkansas River catfish was ugly!”

“The timing really couldn’t be much worse since we’re approaching the peak shorebird migration season,” said Richard Gibbons, conservation director of the Houston Audubon Society. Gibbons referred to an oil spill of 168,000 gallons of the 900,000 gallon cargo of an oil barge that collided with a ship in the Houston Ship Channel near the Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary, which hosts between 50,000 and 70,000 birds. The good news is that the spill is over 200 miles from the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, home to critically endangered whooping cranes. “That’s easy for you to say,” Cousin Ray grumped. “You’re not a pelican.”

The Associated Press reported that 340 grams of cocaine packed into 14 condoms was seized in a package addressed to the Vatican Post Office. Police attempted a controlled delivery, but nobody claimed the package. “Maybe the smugglers thought better of it,” Cousin Ray commented. “It’s really serious to be caught in Vatican City with condoms.”

Vladimir Putin had an op-ed in The Onion that said in part: “It’s certainly no easy task to forcefully annex an entire province against another country’s will, so I just wanted to thank you—the government of the United States, the nations of western Europe, and really the entire world population as a whole—for being super cool about all of this.” Cousin Ray said he could laugh a lot harder if the Weekly Standard would STFU about deploying US troops and jacking up military spending. “You can’t tell which is the satire.”

In other news that pushes the limits of satire, The Daily Beast reported that Army PFC Lawrence S. Gordon, KIA in the assault on Normandy in 1944, would be coming home. Civilian researchers documented the location of his remains in a German cemetery but the US military refused to act. The repatriation of Gordon’s remains is owed to the Germans he was in Normandy to fight.

On March 21, a federal judge appointed by President Reagan struck down Michigan’s ban on same sex marriage, joining courts in Utah, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Texas. The suit was brought by Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer, nurses who have each adopted special needs children and sought to have their relationship recognized in law to protect the children in case of the death of one parent.

In what has become a pattern, same sex couples in Michigan rushed to get marriage licenses before the bigots in control of government could get a stay pending appeal. About 300 Michigan couples scampered through the temporary breach in the legal walls. The New York Times quoted Jonnie Terry, who married her partner of 28 years, Elizabeth Patten, “It’s not how I envisioned my wedding, but we’re grateful.”

Steve Petrow, former president of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, commented on the passing of Fred Phelps, the founder of the Westboro Baptist Church: “I suggest we bombard Westboro Baptist with sympathy cards and prayers. Or, as a friend of mine tells me, ‘Drive your enemies really crazy: Love them.’ Okay, maybe not love, but at least not hate. Never hate.” Cousin Ray suggested that driving the Westboro Baptist Church crazy is like driving Al Qaeda to violence. “The commute is short.”

Video of Melodi Dushane, 24, going berserk at a Toledo Mickey D’s has gotten a new life on the Internet mistakenly attributed to Topeka, which is perpetually in the news from the antics of the Westboro Baptist Church.

Dushane was arrested for vandalism after being treated for her injuries when she punched out the drive-though window at a Toledo Mickey D’s because they did not sell chicken McNuggets at 10:30 a.m. “If chicken McNuggets cause this much grief,” Cousin Ray chuckled, “how crazy would it get if Mickey D sold real chicken?”

Duke University Blue Devils basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski, aka “Coach K,” has a reputation the polar opposite of Bobby Knight: a classy guy who takes care of his players. He added to his legend after Duke’s shocking defeat in the first round of the NCAA tournament by the Mercer Bears. Coach K went to the Mercer locker room and proclaimed, “If we got beaten, at least we got beaten by a hell of a basketball team.”

Mt. Gox, the Bitcoin exchange currently in bankruptcy, announced that it had found $116 million of the missing Bitcoin that kicked off the bankruptcy in “old-format wallets.” The New York Times called this “the virtual currency equivalent of finding money in another pair of pants.” Cousin Ray asked me to investigate “where those guys send their dry cleaning.”

A PBS report on March 22 pointed out that after several generations of “tolerating” marijuana use, The Netherlands has fewer regular pot users by population than other western European countries or the US. Nor has the availability of marijuana increased the use of hard drugs. Cousin Ray pointed out that it’s like when Denmark legalized pornography and very shortly the saying arose “You can find anything in a Danish porn shop—except a Dane.”

After spending over $1 million in legal fees that will be billed to New Jersey taxpayers, Gov. Chris Christie’s lawyers concluded that he had nothing to do with the closing of lanes on the George Washington Bridge and the resulting traffic snarl, which the evidence shows was ordered out of his office.  On the cost of the study, Cousin Ray commented, “the price of whitewash has gone up a lot since Tom Sawyer painted that fence.”

The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported that a federal judge would soon decide a case involving the Lubbock Independent School District. The School District admits that they accept advertising by churches on the jumbotron at their football field, but they turned down an ad from Jesus Tattoo because it “would be deemed public speech of a religious nature.” “Some tats are religious and some not,” mused Cousin Ray, “but aren’t all churches religious?”

Former President Jimmy Carter appeared on several TV shows to flog his new book, A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power. Carter, always a practicing Christian, meets head on the religious roots of bias against girl children, unequal pay, and violence against women. Carter has a wish list of sensible policy positions, but it’s still unclear how to argue with sex discrimination on Divine Authority?

Speaking of scary danger to children, The New York Times warns of “poison by the barrel” in the liquid nicotine for e-cigarettes. The potent neurotoxin is flavored to taste like chocolate or bubble gum or various fruits. There have been many emergency room admissions and because of the potency of the poison, one expert is quoted “It’s not a matter of if a child will be seriously poisoned or killed—it’s a matter of when.” “Nerve poison in candy flavors,” Cousin Ray observed, “what could possibly go wrong?”

KLTV reported Marine Scott Olsen, a veteran of the Iraq War, just won a $4.5 million settlement against the City of Oakland for permanent brain damage sustained when he was shot by a lead-filled beanbag during an Occupy Oakland demonstration. In the two and a half years since his shooting by an Oakland policeman, Olsen has had to re-learn how to talk. Cousin Ray shook his head. “The guy goes to war to establish free speech in Iraq and then gets shot over free speech in California. Go figure.”

The Daily Rundown reported on March 26 that some of the Secret Service detail traveling with President Obama have been sent home after one was found passed out drunk in the hall of the Huis Ter Duin Hotel where the President was staying. “There is no truth to the rumor,” Cousin Ray claimed, “that the agents were exiled to Cartagena.”

The New York Times reported, “Australian researchers say they have developed a mathematical model to predict genocide.” Cousin Ray wanted to know where they were with that model in 1492? I pointed out that the Europeans didn’t get started on the Australian aboriginals until 1606, but they followed the same playbook as in the Americas, from terra nullius to the “stolen generations” of aboriginal children to a belated conferring of civil rights on the survivors. “History rhymes again,” Cousin Ray snarked.

Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington football team that relies on African-American players from inner city neighborhoods almost as disadvantaged as Indian reservations is under pressure to start a foundation to aid black children. “There is no truth to the rumor,” Cousin Ray asserted, “that Mr. Snyder will honor his players by changing the team name to Washington Niggers.”

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