Haunt of Hikers, Divers, and the Giant Spider Califorctenus of the Cacachilas
Situated between La Paz and El Sargento in Southern Baja
Before the 2017 announcement that a new genus of giant wandering spider was discovered there in an abandoned mine shaft, I had never heard of the Cacachilas Mountains, located in a relatively out of the way corner of Baja California Sur, the second-least populated state in Mexico.
As it turns out, the nearby sea coast is a popular place for scuba divers. And the Cacachilas themselves offer an expansive sunny landscape for hikers and burro riders who want to get away from it all and commune with some the wildlife. But don’t worry, the spider isn’t that venomous. And since it had gone undetected by science all these many centuries, it is safe to say you will likely never see one outside of a zoo, or perhaps an abandoned mine shaft.
As reported in the scientific journal Zootaxa, this spider also represents a newly discovered genus.
Allow me introduce you to Califorctenus cacachilensis (Cteninae, Ctenidae, Araneae), the giant spider of the Sierra Cacachilas.
OK, the arachnid in question measures about four inches across, with a body about one inch long. But compared to most spiders in the world, that qualifies as a giant to scientists. And it would seem that way to most anyone who felt one running up their leg, or had an encounter with its furry fangs.
In fact, this new species of wandering spider is reminiscent of the infamous Brazilian wandering spider, among the most venomous arachnids in the world. Also known as the banana spider, newspaper reports of my childhood wherein Brazilian wandering spiders hitchhiked to the USA amongst banana bunches, made me extremely wary of my mother’s grocery bags.
However, you would have go to the mountain caves at the extreme tip of Baja California to find this new creepy crawler, as that is where they were discovered, doing their wandering in the dark of night, in search of prey. But one reason this new spider has been declared the first species of a newly discovered genus is that it is not as venomous as its poisonous cousins from points father south.
While new species of spiders and insects are discovered all the time, it is rare for anything so conspicuously large to be found new to science these days.
You can read more about the discovery of this new spider at Smithsonian.com (since Zootaxa costs money to read and is rather dry in the telling.)
Robbie Robertson’s bronzed guitar from the historic Last Waltz concert recreated
This $14,500 limited edition Fender Stratocaster is a meticulous replica of the hot-rodded 1954 Strat Robertson had dipped in bronze to signify the final show of the Band, on Thanksgiving Day, 1976.
Although the other members of The Band reunited and played together for many years, Robbie Robertson never played with them again.
Perhaps more than any other guitarist, Robbie Robertson influenced my own sense of how to play fills as a lead guitarist.
But I am in good company there, Eric Clapton was so enamored of Robertson and the Band’s first album, Music from Big Pink, he said he was seriously considering quitting Cream and moving to Woodstock, NY to commune with the roots music rock band sometimes seen backing Bob Dylan.
Here is one of my all-time favorite performances played on the original article, you can see the gleam of the bronze in the stage lights, even on this lo-res archival footage.
Unfortunately and inexplicably, a pretty big chunk of the guitar solo was cut out of this song in Scorsese’ motion picture The Last Waltz. So here is the version from Winterland’s house archive camera, released after Bill Graham’s death, with the mix the audience actually heard.
I tried to synch up the mixed audio from the record album, with all its fancy EQ that combined the stage mix and house mix, but the actual timing on the CD version, the video on Youtube from the film, and this archival footage here, are all at different speeds so it was a no-go.
Also, you will notice the camera man stopped paying attention and pretty much misses Robertson’s playing on the solo – something that seems to happen VERY often when people are filming or video taping classic performances and end up shooting other people instead of showing iconic guitar solos I will only wish I could see in detail – or like in the Last Waltz film in general, where the editor keeps showing Robbie’s face contortions rather than what his hands are playing.
Jesse Sheidlower, former American editor of the OED, reviews the Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles, Second Edition at the New Yorker Online
Having grown up watching the CBC on Channel 9 out of Windsor, I always had affection for the rather civil Canadian ways of being and seeing, and speaking about the world. And I was always in awe of how the very best youth hockey teams we Ohioans could offer up were devoured like snacks by our jovial Canadian counterparts, who played the gim aboot as well as a gim could be played.
So I very much enjoyed reading this review and being reminded of so many Canadiansims, as well as learning about some previously unfamiliar ones.
“The entry for the stereotypical Canadian term “eh”—not included in the original edition—is almost five thousand words long, discussing its history (it’s first found in British English), its status as a marker of Canadian identity, its main functions (“Confirmational uses, Contesting uses, Pardon eh, and Narrative uses,” further divided into a number of subsenses), and its use in other English-speaking countries. “Hoser” is shown to have been created by the comedians Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas, on “Second City TV,” in 1981. The development of “chesterfield”—once a common Canadianism for a sofa of any sort, but now somewhat moribund—is explored at length…
The dictionary also includes regionalisms from around the country. A “parkade” is a multilevel parking garage, found chiefly in Alberta and associated with the Hudson Bay department stores. “Bunny hug” is used in Saskatchewan for a hooded sweatshirt. In Quebec, “guichet” is a term for an A.T.M., from a Canadian French word for “counter.” Newfoundland is particularly well represented, thanks to its isolation and to an unusual Irish-dominated settlement history…”
Updated from the 1967 first edition of A Dictionary of Canadianisms on Historical Principles, the DCHP-2 is a “greatly expanded edition, which took eleven years of work by a team of linguists at the University of British Columbia.”
Released to coincide with Canada’s 150th birthday, this new edition was systematically re-conceptualized to focus upon 20th- and 21st-century words, along with revised meanings of various DCHP-1 entries.
Declaring it a “delightful dictionary,” Sheidlower takes minor exception to some lackluster photo illustrations provided for the online project, while praising its less than conservative use of modern research tools, and the inclusion of video still not typically utilized by scholarly websites.
And I found delightful Sheidlower’s own special way of using the English language to explore itself, as I always do. And that included the chuckle I had at the very end, when his parting line about this revised Dictionary of Canadianisms landed right on the button.
Beloved childhood comfort food leads to an annual ritual –
Beefaroni on my birthday
Chef Boyardee is a brand of canned pasta products. But once upon a time Chef Boyardee was the head of kitchen at the five-star Plaza Hotel. He is personally responsible for Americans associating “Italian food” with pasta and tomato sauce, and particularly spaghetti with meatballs.
Many of my earliest memories concern eatable entities, at the least the happiest ones. From Play-Doh, which is rather bland, but very salty, to Funny Face, a competitor of Kool-Aid, which my mom would put in milk to trick me into drinking that calcium delivery device, I have vivid remembrances attached to many eating and drinking experiences.
My dimmest memory is a view from my high chair, looking across some sort of food and out the kitchen to the front door some 40 feet away. It hovers in a corner of my mind, dark, as if it is night and all the lights are off. There is a photo of me in that very seat on my 1st birthday. But I assume the remembered event came a bit later.
When it comes to “real food,” there was my mother’s chili. Years later I sought out how she had made it, and was somewhat disappointed to learn it consisted of Campbell’s tomato soup with browned hamburger and about three pieces of raw onion per person. She didn’t even add the chili powder called for by the recipe on soup can.
Another favorite for me and my sister three years my junior was the macaroni and cheese made by our older sister when she would be babysitting us. Again, it proved a let down to learn it was simply boiled macaroni with a large brick of Velveeta melted throughout.
As my childhood comfort food pillars toppled one by one, only one has remained steadfast and forever satisfying. Chef Boyardee’s Beefaroni, part of this complete birthday feast.
Served in vintage Fiestaware!
2017’s Birthday Carbfest was just as grand.
I have enjoyed Beefaroni on my birthday for years beyond count, rarely missing the opportunity, whether I have it for lunch, or supper, as we called dinner back in Ohio, or squeezing it in as a late night snack.
I do not now remember when Beefaroni entered my life. But I remember clearly splitting one 15 oz can with my little sister, on many occasions, after walking home from school for lunch. Now I often have two full cans just for me. But I cannot buy the large cans, as the consistency just isn’t the same. And even with the regular cans, I have to put a good dozen of them to my ear and give them a shake to find the two with the least amount of slosh. Otherwise the sauce is too soupy.
A Surprising Pedigree
I was not able to find any data concerning when it was actually invented. But the chef on the can really was a chef, at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, in fact. It was the premiere hotel in the United States. And to provide some perspective, today rooms start at $825 a night.
Ettore Boiardi worked in restaurants in Italy near Bologna, starting at age eight, and then followed his brother over to America in the early 1900s, where he is reputed to have worked his way up in the Plaza’s kitchen to Head Chef.
He also oversaw two major dinners for President Woodrow Wilson, his second wedding, and a White House homecoming dinner for 2,000 World War I veterans.
At some point he anglicized his name to Hector Boyardee, and opened a restaurant in 1926, at Woodland Avenue and East 9th Street, in Cleveland Ohio. Il Giardino d’Italia was both popular and influential in popularizing what we now think of as Italian food in America. As demand for his recipes grew, the Boyardee brothers opened a factory in Pennsylvania for their Bolognese-style dishes, which families could prepare at home. Spaghetti and meatballs soon became a national dish of America as well as Italy.
During World War II, the factory made rations for the U.S. Army, and returned to normal but increased production in peacetime, retaining all of its employees. But they had an added advantage: the vacuum-sealed can, and the machinery necessary to make it thanks to the War Department. And that is how just about every canned food you can think of came into being.
The company was eventually swallowed up by corporate giants, as family businesses usually are, but Chef Boyardee remained a figurehead well into the 1970s.
An Acquired Taste
A taste of the old country remains in Beefaroni, the humble carb and fat delivery device that remains every bit as good as it did when I was 8 years old.
I never liked canned pasta products, and still don’t with one important exception. And when the ingredients consist of hamburger, macaroni and sauce, the sauce matters a great deal. It can be any brand, they all have this same fakey orange color and are far too sugary. While tis true Beefaroni has its share of sugar, or actually corn syrup these days, it has always stood apart, with a tomato sauce that actually tastes (a lot) like the genuine article. I know some of my preference for Beefaroni is related to a pleasant sense memory from my boyhood. But it really is good. And it is not all that bad for you, with less sugar than many grocery store products that claim to be healthy.
Everyone has their favorite comfort foods from their childhood, and others have certain birthday foods they never grow tied of. What are yours?
Please use the Comments form below to share your favorites!
Here is a commercial I still remember clearly from long ago:
National Geographic turns a light on small cats usually out of sight
Awesome photography of these rarely seen felines by Joel Sartore
A fascinating article at nationalgeographic.com focuses on various cat species from around the globe many that most people have rarely seen, or even heard of.
“Advances in genotyping and sequencing reveal that Earth’s 31 small cat species hail from seven distinct lineages, each named for the first discovered species in the line.” Thus the title statement accompanying a chart showing who is related the to whom.
While large in size, the modern day cheetahs and pumas (aka cougars, North American mountain lions) are genetically related to small cats. This is why they do not roar like lions, tigers, and panthers (which include leopards and jaguars) due to a different bone structure in the neck, but can actually purr like a typical house cat.
But the world is full of all sorts of other cats that can appear familiar or incredibly exotic, and which are often singular in their remarkable habits. Or rather, it was once full of them. The all too familiar destruction of natural habitats by our own species has endangered many of this secretive members of our extended planetary family.
I have been a lover of cats since Year One
But some of the furry felines in this informative article by Christine Dell’Amore were new even to me.
You can read the article and see all of the wonderful photos HERE.
Old News: A Russian family lived decades in the remote tiaga wilderness cut off from humanity
This story goes back some years, but it is still amazing, as reported in Smithsonian
Geologists visiting the remote Siberian taiga wilderness in 1978 discovered six members of a family who had fled civilization for religious reasons and survived over 40 years of famine and hardship.
“When (scientist) Pismenskaya asked, “Have you ever eaten bread?” the old man answered: “I have. But they have not. They have never seen it.” At least he was intelligible. The daughters spoke a language distorted by a lifetime of isolation. “When the sisters talked to each other, it sounded like a slow, blurred cooing…”
Two them had never seen a human being other than their parents and brothers.
Like many College Football National Championship games, this one wasn’t about synchronized ballets of gridiron grace. It was about tension, and might, and frustration, and determination overcoming each of them, every so often.
But it culminated in a Fourth Quarter for the Ages, as the Clemson Tigers outscored their mighty opponents 21-7 in the finally period, achieving the winning touchdown with 1 second on the clock, to beat Alabama for the first time since 1905, 35-31, and ruining the Crimson Tide’s perfect season.
Last year, the same teams met in the Championship and it was ‘Bama coming in with one loss to spoil Clemson’s perfect season 45-40. This year, Clemson gets only their second national title (1981, 2017) and keeps Nick Saban from tying Bear Bryant’s record of 6 national titles… for now.
Depending on who you ask, Alabama has won 15 or 16 titles since the modern (polling) era began in 1936. But in the world of sports, past glories are for those who fall short, and for 2017 it is the Clemson Tigers who clawed their way to the top and roar alone at the pinnacle of College Football.
ARLINGTON, Va., Jan. 4 (UPI) — Animal control officers in Virginia said they visited the home of a shocked resident to remove an unusual intruder — a yellow anaconda in the toilet.
“It’s never a dull day in Arlington County Animal Control!” the Animal Welfare League of Arlington’s Facebook post said. “Last week, our Animal Control team received a call about a snake in the toilet of a local apartment. Officer Brenys White was able to safely remove the snake from the toilet and brought him back to the shelter. We were all in for a bit of a surprise — we were expecting him to be a wild snake or a ball python, but the snake is, in fact, a juvenile Yellow Anaconda!”
The snake measured nearly 5 feet long — not quite the up to 13-foot length of a fully-grown anaconda.
“Luckily, we were able to find a specialist who is familiar with his species and will be able to give him the care that he needs. We highly encourage anyone thinking about having a snake as a pet to do extremely thorough research to determine whether they will be able to adequately care for their snake,” the Facebook post said.
“They need specialized care and housing, and while they are non-venomous, can be dangerous when they reach full size and are not well-socialized. Plus, no-one likes being surprised by a lost and confused snake in their toilet!” the shelter said.