Friday, 28 January 2011

Scorched earth

So - two full buying days and I'm running out of money. I always manage to spend more than I bring, leaving Tucson with a list of complicated arrangements to sort out at home. It's better than missing out on a good buy. After sorting out the fish, trilobites and shark teeth my main concern now is a bed that doesn't deflate fifteen minutes after lying down on it. I'm sleeping on the floor of a friend's selling room, watched over by the huge skull of a Tarbosaurus and a hadrosaur tail balanced carefully on a metal stand. I'm not scared of the teeth, but I'm terrified of knocking the table.

It's hot and dry here, and I keep forgetting to drink water. They're very big on dust in Arizona. Dust and gravel. Out of the city, though, the desert is beautiful. The Sonora has those iconic saguaro cactus lining the hills and I want to try to get a trip at some point next week - doesn't really matter where. In the past I've been to Mexico, Tombstone, Bisbee and a few places nearer Tucson. The Grand Canyon is reasonably close, and to my shame I've never managed to make it there. Maybe this will be the year.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Dead cow

I recently got a new batch of files back from the photographer and can put some more lines up on the website. You know. At some point... Actually, I have managed a couple of new ammonite entries. Took me a little while to remember how to format the images. I have great plans for when I get back, though. Longer term procrastination.

Among the additions will be little pieces of a mesosiderite from Chile. Mesosiderites are a type of stony-iron meteorite with an even balance of the familiar iron-nickel material and a silicate mixture. There aren't very many known falls, and these pieces are from one of the larger ones in the endearingly named Vaca Muerta area of the Atacama desert. Dead Cow. Not a holiday hotspot. That's one above. Not very exciting looking, I know, but it came from outer space! Plus as meteorite material goes, it's very cheap. I have a couple more meteorite lines to put up, too - Seymchan pallasite from Russia and relatively run-of-the-mill NWA chondrite stuff. Not NWA like Dr Dre. They're from North West Africa.

Anyone collecting in the Atacama deserves to find something. It's the driest place in the world, with almost no rain at all. Not a nice place to spend a lot of time. Nobody goes hunting for meteorites in the Bahamas, or in Milan. It has to be somewhere inhospitable. If it's not sand, it's ice. If it's not ice, it's mosquitoes. Meteorites aren't picky about where they fall, but it's easier to find a meteorite in the desert than in a forest, under a branch of Debenhams, or at the bottom of the deep blue sea. In the desert, anything that's not sand is worth checking out. Finding meteorites must make it well worthwhile being dusty and thirsty all the time. Thankfully.

Friday, 14 January 2011

To the sun

After a cold and icy winter, I'm looking forward to getting to Arizona this year. It'll be about 22C in Tucson over the next few days, which would be manageable. Haven't really been planning this trip much this year, so I'll have to work out what I need over the next week, pile my scraps of scribbled paper and have a guess at just how empty I can leave the bank account. The scary part. Then I need to gather all the stuff I want to take, get the suitcase from the loft and leave it in a huge pile for everyone to trip over for a week. I think that's the best way to prepare for a journey. I'll be flying to New York for a couple of days first, and while Edinburgh's snow has finally gone, there's plenty of it there. Hopefully there won't be any trouble with flight cancellations and so on - Riley has been delayed in returning from Ohio by the weather and should get back today.

This will be my 12th Tucson trip I think, and I've been pretty lucky with travel so far. A few delays, missed connections and so on, but nothing more than a few hours here and there. The thought of spending a couple of days in an airport is not appealing. £19.67 for a packet of crisps and some water, then sitting hunched over a book for hours on end. I hate all the waiting around involved - departure lounges, waiting for the line of passengers to finally be allowed to shuffle out of the plane, the queue for the passport control gates, and the agonising fifteen minutes at the baggage carousel. I do like some aspects of travel, though. I don't like watching movies I really want to see on a plane - the tiny screen and uncomfortable seat don't really do a film justice - but I quite like having a range of films to choose from that I haven't picked myself. You can feel better about watching a terrible film. And even though the food may not be much cop, I love it when the meal comes. Maybe it's just because something is happening. Even having to tuck your elbows into your flanks to butter your cracker and worrying your coffee is about to spill into your salad doesn't spoil it. Cramped dining. Thrills.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Prophet margin

It's 2011. Happy New Year and so on. This week, a bunch of dead blackbirds fell out of the Arkansas sky and a tide of dead crabs washed up on Kent beaches. Portentous events? Spine-chilling omens? Apparently some sect or other expects the world to end in May this year. It's reckoned the crabs were killed by the cold. Sounds feasible to me - it's been freezing. It was also horribly cold last year, and last year - guess what - thousands of crabs washed up on beaches. The blackbirds? As well as in Arkansas, a bunch of birds met the ground with a fluffy thump in Sweden a couple of days later. Oh no! But have a quick look on the net and there are dead-birds-falling stories from 11th March 2010, 28th January 2009, and 23rd July 2008. On the first page of results. And the world keeps turning.

Far more people are fully expecting the apocalypse to come along in 2012. Only a year away! Quick - blow all your savings on cakes, fine wines and electronic goods! Well, actually, nearly two years as it's supposedly December 12th 2012. 12/12/12. Why? Because of The Mayan Prophesy. Except, it's not really a prophesy at all. All that happens is a calendar runs out then - a new one starts. The Maya are still around and are keen to point that out. They aren't smashing their piggy banks.

There have been loads of doomsday predictions throughout history. So far, obviously, none of them has been correct. This must have left scores of sects, cults and prophetophiles trying to bury their disappointment in a nice steak pie and convince themselves they're not secretly a little relieved. There was even a fair amount of nervous tension in what considers itself the civilized world as the year 2000 approached. Quite what was expected, I don't know. The Four Horsemen?  Because it was a nice round number. Something significant ought to happen, because it's a round number. Why are people so keen for the world to end? Some bits of it are really good. I've never been to Tanzania, Japan or Peru and I want to. I think probably what makes people so excitable about the idea of Armageddon is that they have become convinced that they are among a chosen few that are going to do pretty well out of it. Everyone else will die, sure, but they are going to go somewhere really nice. The Rapture, or whatever version of it suits the theory.

Big business, prophesies of doom. All so negative, though. I will attempt to redress the balance a tiny bit. Prophesies of Alrightness. I hereby predict that the world will not end in May. It will not end in 2012. Everything is going to be relatively okay. Remember - you heard it here first.