Monthly Archives: July 2011

Missing pages

One of the world’s largest Korans is being restored, thanks to the wonders of digital technology. The Koran is a volume from the 14th or 15th century with illumination and Mamluk-era calligraphy, and is huge, 88 x 60 x 18 cm or 34 X 24 X 7 inches.  The blog about the digitization, er, “digitisation” project is here (English and Arabic). But the most important part of the story has been left out.

The Koran itself is in The University of Manchester’s John Rylands Library. Two missing leaves of the book are in the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin. WHO RIPPED OUT THE PAGES?????

Was it done in antiquity? Or maybe at the time of acquisition, so the previous owner of the thing could turn a larger profit? Or maybe the motivation was censorship? Or did they want to use the page for themselves? One question leads to another. And we don’t even know which pages.

[Photo credit: top (the giant Koran) —; bottom (one of the missing pages) — The Trustees of the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin]


Nin[]ty Six

If this said 42 I might think about buying it. But what exactly did they have in mind here? The number, clearly, even if it is misspelled, but could this be a censored version of 69? The mind boggles.

LSD on campus

Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between edgy social commentary and just plain bad English.

UPDATE: Mystery solved, at least partially. The reference is to a book, LSD on Campus by Warren Young, published in 1966.

But the script on the t-shirt says “The taskting trerk about the nather a want ceakwaererd trug and the ahe in laceining andayne and anwindrine.” The subtitle on the book cover says “The shocking truth about the nation’s most controversial drug and it’s use in American colleges and universities” an obvious reference to the 60s psychedelic drug, lysergic acid. So was someone just stoned out of their gourd when they wrote it, or is there some more boring explanation.

The hills are alive

No music permitted here, other than from the muezzin, but the desert manages to echo Leonard Cohen in spite of it.

There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.

Like a bird on a wire, like a drunk in a midnight choir, I have tried in my way to be free.

This is a fairly heavy gauge wire, washed in from who knows where. The bird struggled to stay on, but after some vigorous fluttering finally went off in search of a different perch.

Dung Beetle

Found on a camel trail, where else.

Got tuffets?

At first glance this looks like a small scorpion.

Then you see the things on the front that look like pincers and it looks more like a lobster.

The thing was very jittery and never stopped moving. You can see how hard it was for me to try to stop the action and get it in focus, even in full sun when automatic camera speeds are presumably faster.

Where are its eyes? For that matter, where is the head? The front end of this creature looks startlingly like a butt.

I am told this is some sort of spider.

Counting the legs, I get 8, plus two feeler type things on the front. So spider sounds about right, at least until I get other information.

FWIW, here is its habitat, an urban area being used for some sort of dirt or gravel fill.

UPDATE: This is tentatively identified as a camel spider, also called wind scorpion, or sun spider, of the order Solifugae [wiki]. Along with scorpions and spiders, they belong to the class Arachnida. The part of the body I thought was a buttface is a huge set of jaws. Some varieties have central eyes capable of recognizing forms; lateral eyes are rudimentary if present at all. It runs on its six back feet. The front pair of feet and the pedipalps (in the antenna location) are used for sensing and handling prey.  [More images of camel spiders.]


Can anyone identify this? I’m guessing the stone is carnelian. The letters look Arabic-ish, of course, but they are surrounded by uncharacteristic diacriticals.

I’m hoping it’s some incantation like “abracadabra”, rather than something mundane.

[Click to embiggen, as usual.]

UPDATE: Two people have suggested it is someone’s name — no other theories have been put forward. As far as theories of origin, the most frequent areas mentioned are the tribal areas of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.