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Road Scholar
Level 5: 619 points
Last Logged In: July 19th, 2013
BART Psychogeographical Association Rank 2: Trafficker Chrononautic Exxon Rank 1: Clockwatcher


retired
250 + 51 points

Erection by Road Scholar

February 16th, 2010 9:00 AM

INSTRUCTIONS: Explore symbolism in architecture. Erect a rigid free-standing structure at least 30 feet high. Size matters, of course: the higher, the better. Staying power is also important, so try to keep it up for at least an hour.

This task will be more enjoyable if you collaborate. And remember, construction can be dangerous. Don't forget to wear protection.



Come in, come in. Do sit down.

Pleased to make your acquaintance. I am the Road Scholar, your humble conical guide to all things urbane to the Urban, and germane to Main street. You are just in time for our first safari.


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I believe it is important to begin at the beginning, so for this week we look back to our humble beginnings as a people. From whence does our civilization of caution come? Our inclination to designate, to mark, to connote the unseen dangers of life? Far from the rectilinear designs of the Metropolis, we can trace our vanishing point to a world far less accommodating to such notions as minimum visibility distances in walkable mixed-use catchment areas. Come with me, as we venture into the cradle of our ancestors, the rain forests.


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Our specimen this week is the rare Lanceolar Nigripes, a South American Pygmy Cone. South American Pygmy Cone.gif Although this species is solely a New World Cone, scientists believe it to be the closest living relative to our common ancestor with all living traffic cones today. Although none of us are likely to confuse this nocturnal jungle-creature for our own mother, the resemblance to us can be quite striking. It's name, Lanceolar, meaning little lance, and Nigripes meaning black-footed, characterizes the creature, in the grand scheme of things, hardly any differently than we must describe ourselves. Perhaps more remarkable than this beautiful creature's family resemblance, if you will pardon my pun, is his familiar behavior.

My team and I went to meet just such a cone. After several days of stumbling through the uncharted and unforgiving jungles of Costa Rica, our spirits began to flag. It was early one muggy morning when our photographer heard the mating call of a mature female Lanceolar Nigripes, and we knew the game would be afoot. You see, any males for several miles would have heard that call, and try to put on an eye-catching mating display. Whichever male was most accomplished in the arts of visibility, In the Wild would draw the most positive attentions from the female. Hardly minutes later, we stumbled upon a young male considering a tree stump for his display. You can be sure it saw us coming before we spotted it, so keen is their eyesight, but you would hardly know it from the attention it paid to us. Recognizing us would be an act of submission counterproductive to his efforts to command attention, and hopefully attract the female's gaze.

Choosing a DisplayIn a flash the young male had moved on from the stump, and we had to hurry at a very incautious speed to follow him. Following the remnants of a mudslide-qua-riverbed, he paused at several natural counterpoints to places you or I might pause in our day-to-day in the city. My photographer apologizes for the blurring of these images; our charge hesitated only briefly at each of these locations before moving on to a yet more visible point. We invite you to peruse our photolog.


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In what turned out in retrospect to be significant to his strategy this day, the young male paused for several minutes by the obstructing trunk of a vast tree overhanging the ocean.
The solitary tree
The young male stood, gazing up for several minutes at this tree, perhaps contemplating how visibly distinct this tree was from those around it. Then again, the beauty of the jungle may just be causing me to conicthromorphize the animal. In that place, faced with such natural beauty, it is hard not to lose oneself in the moment and see how similar we are, you and I, to our living ancestors. We are so barely out of the jungle.

After nearly an hour tracking this male, we found him back at the seaside engaged in a most unusual behavior. He had begun to burrow headfirst into the sand.
Burrowing

After some time, we concluded that the male had given up, and sought reprieve from our attentions. Our photographer heard again the mating call of the female, just around the rocks to our left, and went out around them hoping to catch a picture of the female on the next beach up the coast. Searching for the femaleIt was while he scoured the far-shore of the bay around the rocks that we began shouting for him to return, as we realized our young male specimen had in fact fashioned a most cunning display.

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Once our photographer returned, the action was over, and we were holding our sides with laughter as he paced up and down the beachfront asking where the male had gone, and what we were on about with all that shouting. This is what he saw:
The missing male

Eventually, he looked up.
Male spotted!
In perspective

Some 34 feet off the ground, approximately 70 times the bodylength of the young male, towering over the beach with the treetops of salt-stunted growth nearby, the male proudly displayed. The simple foundation he dug in the wet sand proved the most stable of foundations for the upraised piece of driftwood; the uncharacteristic bamboo washed downstream from a mountainous region by the floods months ago, and deposited by chance on this of all beaches.


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From the female's perspective

Marvelous, simply marvelous.

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Hoping our diminuitive friend would be rewarded for his efforts, we retired to our camp to leave him and his potential mate some privacy. Back in the comfort of our homes, we may become too quick to pride ourselves on the grandeur of our civilized accomplishments, and our refined way of life, should we forget the majesty of nature, which all cones are graced with from the day we are born. We have come so far in our ways, because we stand upon the peaks of giants.



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This has been the Road Scholar, reminding you to watch your step, mind the gap, and when your find yourself on that grand road of life; take it slow.

- smaller

South American Pygmy Cone.gif

South American Pygmy Cone.gif

Our specimen this week is the rare South American Pygmy Cone.


In the Wild

In the Wild

We discovered our specimen contemplating a potential mating display, deep in a southern rain-forest of Costa Rica.


Choosing a Display

Choosing a Display

At an "intersection".


Choosing a Display

Choosing a Display

Climbing the long-dried riverbed to the crest of the hill.


Choosing a Display

Choosing a Display

Silhouetted at the crest of the hill.


Choosing a Display

Choosing a Display

Marking the trunk of a tree that both obstructed the beach, and hung far out over the sea.


The solitary tree

The solitary tree

It was quite a remarkable tree, that had, by chance, lost the footing of its seaward roots, and leaned precariously out over the shifting sandy shoals where no other trees grew. The chance nobility of nature, starkly contrasting with itself in this most untamed of worlds.


My favorite picture

My favorite picture

We will be submitting this one to National Geometric.


On the move

On the move


Crossing the river

Crossing the river

Caution: Slippery When Wet.


Burrowing

Burrowing

A most unusual behavior. Parental guidance is suggested before sharing this issue with impressionable young cones.


Searching for the female

Searching for the female

This was one of the pictures our photographer took trying to spot the the elusive female, having clambered around the rocks and away from our male specimen.


The missing male

The missing male

A view of the rocks around which our photographer climbed. In his frustration at being laughed at, with no clear understanding what he had rushed back around the slippery rocks for, he had not yet realized where the male had gone, or the significance of the "tree" in the foreground.


Male spotted!

Male spotted!

Quite awestruck was the photographer at this view.


In perspective

In perspective

Truly an impressive feat.


From the female's perspective

From the female's perspective

From back across the bay, we captured this shot of the male, still atop his display. Marvelous!


South American Pygmy Cone.gif

South American Pygmy Cone.gif

Our specimen this week is the rare South American Pygmy Cone.



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7 comment(s)

(no subject)
posted by Ink Tea on February 16th, 2010 9:50 AM

Dear Road Scholar,

Love love love your style, love love love your completion, but.... you did not erect that structure.

love (love love),
Inky

Yes, I had thought about that.
posted by Road Scholar on February 16th, 2010 9:57 AM

I had pondered the options at my disposal for documenting the fascinating behaviors of cone kind. Ultimately, I took refuge in the good company of documentarians before me, principally taking my guidance from one Evil Sugar, and her ursulamorphic quarry.

I assure you, I will do my best to comport with the best practices of an agent, acting on behalf of the interests of my laconic compatriots. These vote points will be used to further their voice, and not simply serve as a pulpit for advancing my own, personal agenda.

That said, thank you for your high praise. However, it is my photographer's good ear and quick eye, Costa Rica's landscape, and ultimately Lanceolar Nigripes' cunning that make my style noteworthy at all.

Take it slow,
The Road Scholar

(no subject)
posted by Ink Tea on February 16th, 2010 3:31 PM

Dear Scholar,

Costa Rica, eh? I bet Central America is very popular this time of year.

Love,
Inky

Fantastic biological activity in the Green Season, whatever the tourists think. +1
posted by Road Scholar on February 16th, 2010 3:38 PM

Beware of the Brazillian Wandering Spider though. More of them in Costa Rica than in Brazil too. Darn biologists with their inaccurate naming conventions. Definitely worth it to go see trapdoor spiders, hear the click frog symphony at night, maybe catch a tapir napping. All four new world monkeys in a single jungle might be particularly appealing to you too, what with the opposable thumbs and hair everywhere.

Take it slow,
The Road Scholar

(no subject)
posted by artmouse on February 16th, 2010 5:19 PM

i would not be so hasty as to place the blame solely on biologists - it is not always they who create the common names for many organisms (and this is certainly true of the Salticids) resulting in many unfortunate misnomers!

wonderful bit of exploratory field biology you've shown us here, though i am with Inky in that it was not indeed directly you who accomplished such a marvelous structural feat!
(either way, the base points for the task alone - a whopping 250 - should leave even the most point-hungry taskers quite satisfied) so comment-vote! ;)

thank you for sharing your adventure!

A clarification (six months late)
posted by Road Scholar on August 12th, 2010 1:16 PM

I just now realized, looking back on Ink Tea's original comment that the implication is that the pygmy cone found that tall 34 foot piece of bamboo driftwood on that beach already erected and then simply jumped up to the top of it.

Let me assure you, that was not the case. He used primitive tools and cunning guile to get that bamboo erected, and once it was erected, he climbed the perilous surface of the once proud bamboo stalk to sit upon the top.

Take it slow,
The Road Scholar

epic, hell yes
posted by susy derkins on October 7th, 2010 10:51 PM

I'm so glad I didn´t miss this after all.