Weekend Reading

Another wet almost-holiday weekend in the southern Appalachians. If you’re inside, dry and trolling for a few worthy things to read, try these:

– Interesting article from 2000 titled The Last Island of the Savages: Journeying to the Andaman Islands to meet the most isolated tribe on Earth about Sentinel Island, the place that proselytizing American was recently murdered in the Andaman Islands.

– A few weeks back, my 3QD column on wildebeests addressed the mental capacity of bees, ants and termites. In Bee-Brained, two academics, Lars Chittka and Catherine Wilson, explore insects’ minds much further.

The Uighurs and China’s Long History of Trouble with Islam by Ian Johnson.

– And finally, Sean Carroll has written a paper in which he tries to explain everything. (A timely sort of CliffNotes version from Martin Rees popped up in Prospect about the same time.)

Here’s a fun example quote from the Sean Carroll article:

“While a creator could explain the existence of our universe, we are left to explain the existence of a creator. In order to avoid explanatory regression, it is tempting to say that the creator explains its own existence, but then we can ask why the universe couldn’t have done the same thing.”

Carroll concludes that

“invoking a creator does not provide us any escape from the need to posit something that simply exists because it does, without further reasons to which we can appeal.”

That’s comforting because it means that after all, it really is turtles all the way down

Enjoy your weekend. See you next week.

Quotes: The American President on Pollution

“You look at our air and our water and it’s right now at a record clean. But when you look at China and you look at parts of Asia and you look at South America, and when you look at many other places in this world, including Russia, including many other places, the air is incredibly dirty, and when you’re talking about an atmosphere, oceans are very small. And it blows over and it sails over. I mean we take thousands of tons of garbage off our beaches all the time that comes over from Asia. It just flows right down the Pacific. It flows and we say, ‘Where does this come from?’ And it takes many people, to start off with.”

From an interview with Donald Trump in The Washington Post.

Crossing the Black Sea

Because Ukraine is back in crisis this week, with some of its military ships impounded by Russia during an attempted trip from Odessa through the Kerch Strait, this might be a good time to revisit a trip from several years back between Istanbul and Odessa by overnight ferry. Here’s how that went:

Common Sense and Whiskey


From 2007:

Today we’d sail on the Yuzhnaya Palmyra, a ship of the UKRFerry shipping company, on once weekly service Istanbul to Odessa. It was to be an approximately 28 hour crossing of the Black Sea south to north, although we’d have to see about the timing.

Departure was set for 9:00 on the web, 10:00 on our ticket (a hard copy they insisted on sending via DHL for $70 from Ukraine to the U.S.), and 11:00 by the people at the hotel, who made some calls on our behalf. So arrival as well, I suspected, ought to be approximate.

We presented ourselves down at the Karakoy docks shortly past 8:00 a.m. “Actual Time,” as the reception clock had it. We had ample time for a spin up and down ship, stem to stern, and an extended goodbye to the mosques filling the Istanbul skyline, lying at anchor, as…

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