St. George is ready for his closeup…or is he?

For centuries, a small catholic chapel in Estella Spain has featured a wooden statue of Saint George, mounted on horseback and perpetually about to lay some smackdown on his eternal enemy, the dragon. However, recent efforts by a local arts-and-crafts teacher and parish authorities have left old George looking less heroic and more like a cartoon rodeo rider really enjoying his day on the carousel.

St Geo horseback

Photograph courtesy of Twitter user Xavi Escaned

The chapel, built in the late twelfth century has hosted St. George of the Merry-Go-Round  (ed. note:  No. Not his name) since the sixteenth century, making the value of the art hard to quantify. At least it USED to be hard to quantify. Now that he’s had his…what we might charitably call a facelift…it might be easier to put a dollar value on St. George the Bewildered (ed. note: Still not his name. Cut it out), since centuries-old original colors and paints may have been lost in the restoration.

St Geo before and after

Saint Have I Left the Kettle On?

Immediate comparisons are being drawn between the statue of St. George, the patron saint of England (ed. note: Stop it. Oh, wait. That one is accurate. Carry on.) and another Spanish victim of misguided art restoration, the painting Ecce Homo in Borja. Similar to what happened to our boy Georgie, Ecce Homo was defaced by a well-meaning, but unauthorized touch-up, leading to the painting to be redubbed “Monkey Christ”:

Monkey JC

Photograph: Centro de estudios Borjanos/AP

Considering that the woman who gave Jesus his simian facelift eventually asked to strike a deal with the local church to get a share of the royalties associated with the revised painting, it’s entirely possible that the custodians of St George the Colorful, are going to be looking at his value an entirely new way.



Barbecue season ticks by…

Here in the northern hemisphere, summer officially started this past Thursday. For some people (particularly my kids), the last day of school is the date that gets circled on the calendar to represent the start of summer. And some Americans consider Memorial Day weekend the unofficial start of summertime.

But here at Lamprey Global Headquarters (temporary motto: “We suck everything interesting out of the internet“), summer unofficially starts the very day that evening temperatures allow for the ceremonial grilling of the meats without freezing my delicate bits. Burgers, brats, hot dogs, BBQ chicken, the savory deliciousness of a gigantic slow-cooked sous vide ribeye that crusts up over raging hot coals. All of it in its delicious, meaty goodness. Often in the summer, it’s too hot to cook inside, and it’s just too damn nice to not cook outside. Grilling meats is a summertime tradition dating back to early neanderthal man standing around the fire, arguing about the pros and cons of the designated hitter rule while mammoth steaks roast on the coals (ed. note: Citation needed, but where the f*** am I going to get a neanderthal to ask??).

However, in addition to the threats of eating underdone poultry, disease-ridden mosquitoes, and murderous grill scrapers, there’s a new menace to natural born grillers everywhere. There’s a species of tick in the US called the Lone Star tick and its bite carries with it a VERY unfortunate side effect. When bitten, some people develop an acute allergy to red meat, called alpha-gal allergy…which, contrary to its name is not sneezing a lot when encountering a really cool girl.  According to NPR’s The Salt, cases of alpha-gal allergies have increased exponentially over the past decade, with only a few dozen cases reported in 2007 and 2008 compared to over 5,000 known cases in the US today.

As its name suggests, the Lone Star tick originated in Texas, but its range has expanded annually to include most of the northeastern and central US:

tick range

Picture courtesy US Center for Disease Control and Prevention

There is currently no treatment or preventative for alpha-gel allergies, aside from not being bitten in the first place. Approximately ten to fifteen percent of all sufferers get the double whammy of also becoming allergic to dairy as well, which just goes to show that, yes – it can always get worse. However, some patients have reported that the allergy symptoms abated and people ‘outgrew’ their allergy after a period of time and not being chewed on by hideous spider-crabby things anymore. So there’s that to look forward to. Now we just need to breed a species of insect whose bite improves liver function and reduces the impact of these post-cookout hangovers.


When the moon hits your eye…

…it looks suspiciously like it’s the same size as the sun. What the hell, right? Is it a conspiracy? Is the moon just the sun’s ‘CLOSED‘ sign? Well, it turns out it’s just astronomical coincidence, and it’s one that occasionally makes for some pretty spectacular events.

Let’s start with a couple of basics: D&D. No, not the dice-centric roleplaying game. D&D in this case are of the celestial variety: distance and diameter. Look at the sun. (Ed. note: No…stop that. Don’t look at the sun. It’s bad for your eyes. Jesus. I’ll be more specific.) CONSIDER the sun. It’s about 864,000 miles across, plus or minus the distance between Detroit and Chicago. That’s a lot of miles across the solar equator. But…the sun is also really far away. Like 93 million miles far.  In short, the sun is big and far.

Now, there’s the moon. Also big, also far. Just not as big or as far as the bright shiny thing you use to work on your summer tan. The moon’s diameter is a relatively tiny 2,160 miles across…basically the distance between Philadelphia and Salt Lake City – not even all the way across the continental US. But, it’s closer too. Much closer. Only a short 239,000 miles away (and moving farther away every day; but that’s a story for another time).

So, to sum up: Sun – big and far. Moon – less big and less far. But, there’s a proportional aspect. The sun 864,000 mile diameter is almost exactly 400 times bigger across than our moon (400.3415 times to be exact). However, the distance between the sun and the earth is 389 times the distance between you and the thing that makes tides AND werewolves.

And that ration of 389:400 is close enough so that our simple vision makes the two seem to be the same size, which in turn makes for really, really cool things like eclipses once in a while. The next really good one will be a total lunar eclipse Friday July 27th (2018), visible to our friends in on pretty much every continent EXCEPT north america. This site helps keep track of any upcoming astronomical events, like eclipses, meteor showers, rise of Cthulhu and the Dark Ones…you know, the usual space stuff.

LOOK TO THE SKIES. …except during the day, because that sh*t will make you blind.

The Jawless Horror that Killed a King

The what now?

I said the Jawless Horror that Killed a King. No, it’s not a terrible-yet-somehow-terrific CGI movie on the SyFy network, nor is it an episode title from the final season of Game of Thrones (J.R.R. Martin quote: “I’m almost ready to start writing the next book!”). Nope, this particular toothy regicidal maniac is the Lamprey, prehistoric nightmare and our namesake here at Lamprey Online.

Lamprey, and their kissin’-cousin the hagfish, make up an order of parasitic, spineless and jawless fish that use the hundreds of teeth that line their round, suction-like mouths to tear away chunks of flesh from unsuspecting fish and feast on their blood (ed. note: that sentence alone should be responsible for a straight-to-cable CGI-fest of a movie. Contact me to negotiate the story rights).

Lampreys have been considered a delicacy in European cooking for centuries, with Queen Elizabeth II being served lamprey pie at her coronation and in the twelfth century, England’s King Henry I being done in by “a surfeit of lampreys” after the royal doctor told him to cool it with the lamprey snacks because they’re so rich. Preparation for lampreys often includes soaking them in their own blood for several days, which is great to know so you can plan ahead for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner. So, while we can say lampreys did kill a king, it wasn’t during a tremendous battle standing on the rain-soaked deck of a medieval warship.  We’ll save that for the sequel (ed. note: tentatively titled Jawless Horror II: Electric Boogaloo).

The sea lamprey is considered a dangerous (no kidding) invasive species in the US Great Lakes region (much like the staff at Lamprey Online) where they have few predators and high reproductive potential (also like the staff at Lamprey Online).

The Peculiar Case of the The East African Butt Nut

If someone were to ask you, “What is the world’s largest plant seed?” it would be understandable if your first response was something along the lines of “Who the hell are you and why are you so obsessed with seeds?”.  However, if you aren’t weirded out by random strangers shouting botany-related questions at you, you might also be forgiven if you answered ‘coconuts’ and felt pretty smug while doing so.

You’d also be wrong…  The seed of the coconut palm’s cousin, the coco de mer is approximately twice the size of the coconut, lending it one of its several nicknames, the double coconut. It is a really big nut, weighing in at to 75 lbs, which is equivalent to the size of about nineteen teacup poodles (which is a totally valid size barometer, thank you). It’s also known as the sea coconut, which, as a bit of an aside is odd, since, unlike a traditional coconut, the sea coconut is noteworthy for the fact that it does not float, limiting its range to just to a pair of small islands in the Seychelles, a group of islands off of the East African coast. But it’s not because of any of those boring nicknames that we’re learning about this plant today. It’s the OTHER nickname we’re interested in; the most commonly known nickname in fact. It’s because the coco de mer is most commonly known as…

…The Love Nut.  The seed of the coco de mer is known as the love nut, because it is the approximate size and shape of, well, a person’s posterior.  As you can imagine, just about any organic object that could in any way be described as looking like someone’s naughty bits has some appeal in certain Asian markets as an aphrodisiac and/or sexual enhancement. And naturally, any time Asian dudes are willing to pay a premium price for a little herbal perk in their pencil, it means that there are love nut poachers out hunting the Seychelles in search of some high quality nut booty. This means, that in addition to the fact that the butt nut is legally collected and exported as well as being geographically limited to just two islands because of its inherently un-floaty nature, the love nut is officially classified as ‘endangered’ by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Add to this the fact that the love nut tree is particularly slow growing and slow reproducing, taking up to seven years for individual fruit to mature and ripen followed by another one to two years for the seed to germinate, and it’s possible that we’ll be one of the the last generations to answer the question, “What is the biggest nut?” while giggling.

Save the Love Nut.