Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Catfish Farmer Wars

August 25, 2022

One of the first species of fish I ever caught was the brown bullhead catfish (Amerius nebulosa). I caught it in a canal that marked the border of my grandfather’s backyard when he lived in Inverness, Florida circa 1972. I remembered how good it tasted, so I was surprised when I first began sampling farm-raised catfish being marketed during the 1980s. Farmers in Mississippi and Alabama raise channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus). The farm-raised catfish tasted ok, but the flesh had a flabby texture, and it was filled with streaks of tasteless fat. Frying the fish makes the fat crisp, but it is just not a versatile product. During the 1990s Vietnamese catfish farmers began flooding the American market with their farm-raised catfish, and The American Catfish Farmers of America went to work trying to cheat away the competition. During 2003 this organization convinced Senator Trent Lott to add an amendment to an appropriations bill that made it illegal for Asian catfish to be marketed as catfish. Asian catfish farmers were forced to rename their product as swai (Panganius hypothalmus) and basa (P. bocourti). The catfish Vietnamese farmers raise are known as the shark catfish, though they are true catfish and not related to sharks. However, Vietnamese raised catfish were still cheaper, and consumers seemed to prefer it over American farm-raised catfish. Not surprisingly, during 2008 American catfish farmers unsuccessfully tried to force Vietnamese catfish farmers to change the names of swai and basa back to catfish.

Brown bullhead. This is 1 of the first species of fish I ever caught. Some call it a trash fish, but it tastes just as good as American farm-raised catfish and the flesh has a better texture.
Adult and juvenile channel catfish. American catfish farmers raise this species. The flesh has a flabby texture and there are big blobs of fat in it. Vietnamese farm-raised catfish is better.
Vietnamese catfish farmers raise 2 species of shark catfish known as swai and basa because American catfish farmers bribed politicians to pass a law not allowing them to be called catfish. Vietnamese catfish is superior in texture compared to American farm-raised catfish, and beat it in a small blind taste test involving 58 people.

The American Catfish Farmers of America are a bunch of liars. They’ve convinced celebrity chefs including Alton Brown and Emeril Lagasse that farm-raised catfish tastes better than wild catfish, but from my experience I know this is untrue. Perhaps wild catfish caught in evaporating mud puddles do taste muddy, but wild catfish caught in clear water taste just as clean as farm-raised catfish. They want to discourage competition from sports anglers. This organization is also probably behind propaganda videos that falsely claim Vietnamese farm-raised catfish are raised in sewage and are contaminated with bacteria. An independent study conducted by Alan Marshall and Amit Pal of Mississippi State University found that Vietnamese raised catfish were just as safe to eat as American farm-raised catfish. Moreover, in a taste test involving 58 people, Vietnamese farm-raised catfish beat American farm-raised catfish. Accusing Vietnamese farmers of raising unsanitary food seems a bit racist to me. The Vietnamese eat their own product. They wouldn’t feed hazardous food to customers in their own country. In my opinion the American Catfish Farmers of America is a dishonest and racist organization. They represent unethical rednecks.

I made fried swai, hush puppies, and okra and tomatoes for supper last Sunday.

I recently discovered swai, and the product was so good it inspired me to research what exactly it was. It is an economical and quality product. The flesh is meaty without the flabby texture and streaks of fat found in American farm-raised catfish. It is as good as farm raised tilapia. I will be a regular consumer of this product.


No Blog Entries until At&T Fixes my Internet

March 12, 2022

I have no internet at my house for the first time in 24 years. I am typing this from a library computer terminal. The internet at my house became unusable 4 days ago, but AT&T couldn’t send a technician until yesterday. Then, the shithead couldn’t fix it. If anything, he made it worse. All I know is he failed. He made all kinds of excuses–he even blamed Covid. If they don’t have it fixed by the middle of next week, I’m going to have to switch internet providers. I asked AT&T to send a different technician, but they said I’d have to wait another 7 days. The stupid shmuck who failed to fix my internet told me there were only 8 customers on the road where I live, and AT&T was going to drop us all at the end of the year anyway. He then backtracked on that statement. He told me to keep checking to see if might start working with all the “improvements” he made. It’s not and without internet at home I’ve got nothing. I don’t know when this will ever get resolved. I haven’t been able to find anybody who knows how to fix my stove for 8 years. I’ve been cooking on Bunsen burners and an electric skillet. Incompetent doctors put my wife in a wheelchair 27 years ago, and nobody helps me take care of her. I’m tired of having to do everything all the time for everybody without support from anybody. Nobody helps me, and now they can’t fix my stuff. My mom used to help me, but she went senile and passed away years ago. Fuck it!

I am Reducing my Predicted Life Expectancy from 91 to 81

December 2, 2021

My brain is malfunctioning. I inherited essential tremor disorder from my mom. A child of a parent with essential tremor disorder has a 50% chance of developing the disorder during their lifetime. I am 59 years old, and I think my mom was the exact same age when it developed in her, and the disorder is manifesting in the same way–my head involuntarily shakes. The disorder is a result of a mutation in a gene that causes changes in the way the cerebellum communicates with the rest of the brain, but scientists don’t yet understand the mechanism behind the miscommunication. I first noticed a feeling that my head wanted to shake a few months ago. Then, it did start to shake, but I didn’t pay attention to it until a few weeks ago when I went to the gym. They have narrow mirrors in the locker room that make me look muscular, and I like to look at myself with my shirt off. But on this occasion, I looked at my face and realized I look old…and my head was shaking. The sudden epiphany reminded me of an old episode of the tv series, Dark Shadows, when a jilted lover/doctor deliberately screwed up a cure for Barnabas’s vampirism, and he suddenly aged to 100 years old. I can’t believe how old I look. I am not upset about this development, just surprised. This is the first time anything has ever gone wrong with my body. My wife is not impressed–she has been disabled and wheelchair bound for 26 years–but I am amazed. I am human after all.

I looked in the mirror at the gym the other day and suddenly realized I look old, and my head was involuntarily shaking. I inherited essential tremor disorder from my mom.
My cerebellum is malfunctioning.

Essential tremor disorder is not a fatal condition, but there is no cure for it, though the symptoms can be treated. I reject most treatment options. Beta blockers cause light-headedness. I have to take care of a disabled person 24 hours a day, and I can’t risk being dizzy when I help transfer her into and out of her wheelchair. Anti-seizure medications and tranquilizers cause drowsiness. I might as well save a trip to the drug store and drink alcohol which I am used to. For me it takes at least 2 glasses of wine, but alcohol does stop my head from shaking. Botox injections are another treatment option, but they cause muscle weakness. Brain surgery is yet another option. Surgeons can implant a probe that interrupts signals between the cerebellum and the rest of the brain. I’d rather endure head shaking than risk expensive and hazardous brain surgery, even if it is considered a minor procedure.

The biggest concern for me is the elevated risk of developing dementia. At least 13 studies have determined essential tremor disorder is associated with a higher risk of developing dementia. My mom lived with this condition for 18 years before she did develop Alzheimer’s disease. The last 2 years of her life were simply a rapid decline into ever worsening dementia until she passed away. One study found that 25% of people with essential tremor disorder develop dementia compared to 9% of people without the disorder. I could only find 1 contradictory ongoing study. Doctors are studying people in an Arizona nursing home. Most of the dementia patients in this study never had essential tremor disorder. However, this study seems to be an outlier.

I formerly estimated that I would live to be 91 years old based on the ages of my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. I had great-grandparents who lived to be 98 and 92. My grandparents lived to be 90, 89, 85, and 82. My parents lived to be 84 and 79. My condition resembles my mom’s who lived to be 79, but I am physically more robust and exercise more. I think I’ll outlast her by a couple of years, unless I die of a stroke, jogging in the Georgia summertime heat on my hangover day. I am ok with dying 10 years earlier than I predicted. I wasn’t looking forward to being an octogenarian anyway. I don’t want to be a shriveled up old man who probably can’t get an erection. I don’t see the point of living if I can’t get a boner. After I die, I want to be buried in a cheap pine coffin, so paleontologists and archaeologists can dig up my bones hundreds or thousands of years from now.


Janicki, S; S. Cosentae, and F. Lewis

“The Cognitive Side of Essential Tremors: What are the Therapeutic Implications?”

Ther. Adv. Dev. Disord. 6 (6) 2013

Mehto, S.

“Assessing the Relationship Between ET and Dementia”

IFFT Funded Research

Thawani, S. ; N. Shupt, and E. Louis

“Essential Tremor is Associated with Dementia”

Neurologia 73 (8) 2005

New Species of Mastodon (Mammut pacificus) Recognized

November 26, 2021

I didn’t have time to write a new blog entry this week due to the holiday, so I am re-running 1 I posted 2.5 years ago.


I didn’t have to search for this science news.  A link to the complete scientific paper appeared on my facebook page last week, and I knew right away this important new study was blog worthy.  Some pundits complain about the way social media intrudes on privacy, but I love how information relevant to my interests is directed to me.  If people are worried about their privacy, they should not go on the internet.

For almost 100 years paleontologists thought just 1 species of mastodon occurred in North America during the Pleistocene.  They believed the American mastodon (Mammut americanum) ranged from coast-to-coast and from the Rio Grande to Alaska.  However, 10 years ago some scientists noticed mastodon skeletal material from the Rancho Labrea Tar Pits in California differed from mastodon bones found elsewhere in North America.  Mastodon bones are relatively uncommon from Rancho Labrea where they are greatly outnumbered…

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Lost Nuclear Bombs and Warheads

October 29, 2021

The middle of the 20th century was a very scary time. Most of my dad’s relatives were rounded up by Nazis and carried away to concentration camps where they perished. Millions of young men who should have been safe at home enjoying wet dreams were forced to join armies engaged in massive wars with high casualty rates. WWII was followed by the Cold War, a decades-long nightmare of anxiety caused by the doctrine of mutually assured destruction. People hoped the possibility of nuclear suicide would prevent egomaniacal leaders from starting WWIII. Nuclear weapons have great destructive power, and one would think the U.S. military has strict control over them. So it is shocking to realize the U.S. military has lost at least 12 nuclear bombs and probably 13. Here is the list:

1950–A B-36 bomber flying over the Pacific Ocean experienced engine trouble. The pilots jettisoned the nuclear bomb and bailed out over British Columbia. The conventional explosive detonated, and the Plutonium core sank.

1956–A B-97 carrying 2 nuclear bombs disappeared over the Mediterranean Sea never to be seen again.

1957–Crew members of a C-124 jettisoned 2 nuclear bombs into the Atlantic Ocean. They were never found.

1958–During war games a B-52 bomber collided with an interceptor. The nuclear bomb fell into Wassaw Sound off the coast of Georgia. The military claims the bomb was not armed, but they extensively searched for it to no avail.

1959–A U.S. Navy P5M crashed into Puget Sound and lost a nuclear depth charge.

1961–A B-52 carrying 2 nuclear bombs crashed into a North Carolina swamp. 1 bomb was found hanging from a tree by a parachute. The other bomb sank into the mud and was never found. That bomb was in the armed position but luckily did not detonate. The U.S. government bought the land around the lost bomb and does not allow trespassers.

1965-An A-4E Skyhawk with a nuclear bomb fell off an aircraft carrier into the Pacific Ocean and sank into 16,000 feet of water.

1968–A submarine carrying 2 nuclear warheads sank off the Azores Island killing all 99 crew members.

1968–A B-52 carrying 4 nuclear bombs collided with an air oil tanker over Greenland. 3 of the bombs broke apart, but the 4th stayed intact and sank into a glacier.

The old U.S.S.R. military was even more incompetent than the U.S. military. They probably lost more nuclear bombs than we will ever know about. However, 1 incident that we do know about occurred during 1986 when a submarine sank off the coast of Bermuda losing between 24-36 nuclear warheads. (Soviet missiles each carried 2 or 3 nuclear warheads.) With this 1 incident, the old Soviet Union far surpassed the number of nuclear weapons lost by the United States.

The U.S. military has lost at least 12 nuclear bombs.
Nuclear bombs can incinerate whole cities, and the nuclear fallout can cause radiation sickness for people living nearby, depending upon which way the wind blows following the blast.

Nuclear weapons are terrifying. They can incinerate whole cities, and the nuclear fallout can cause radiation sickness for many miles outside the blast zone. Radiation sickness can cause bleeding beneath the skin, brain seizures, cancer, and weakened immune systems. If all humans suffered from radiation sickness, our species would become extinct. In my favorite Planet of the Apes movie, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, from 1970, humans exposed to radiation following nuclear wars mutated to become telepathic cult worshippers of nuclear missiles. This is less likely than total extinction. Happy Halloween everyone.

This is a scene from Beneath the Planet of the Apes–my favorite in the series. Telepaths mutated by radiation worship a nuclear missile.

First Record of the Giant Short-Faced Bear (Arctodus simus) in South Carolina

April 8, 2021

Increased currents from the periodic release of water from an upstream reservoir on the Cooper River in South Carolina disturbs the sediment at the bottom of this river. Fossil hunters take advantage and scuba dive for fossils in the disturbed sediment. Recently, Eric Proulx discovered a fossil tooth while scuba diving in the river. He didn’t know what pre-historic animal it was from, and he showed it to Dave Cicimurri, curator of the Columbia Museum. The curator misidentified the tooth, mistaking it for a lion (Panthera atrox) canine. The photo of the tooth in a news article was shared on a Florida fossil hunters Facebook page where it became an object of some derision. Most of the amateur fossil hunters recognized the tooth as bear, not lion. (A lion’s canine is much longer.) Richard Hulbert of the University of the Florida Museum of Natural History looked at it and confirmed it belonged to a giant short-faced bear. This is the first record of this species in the state of South Carolina. Though fossil specimens of this species are more common in western states, they have been found in Fern Cave, Alabama, the Withlacoochee River in Florida, and at least 1 site in Virginia. This specimen shows this species ranged all the way to the eastern seaboard.

Eric Prouix found this tooth of a giant short-faced bear in the Cooper River in South Carolina while he was scuba diving. This is the first record of this extinct species in the state.

This map is from the below reference. I added the blue dot to indicate where the short-faced bear specimen was found in South Carolina.
Typical inaccurate image of a giant short-faced bear. Recent studies determined its legs were not as long as previously thought and its face not as short.

Much of what scientists thought about the giant short-faced bear has been revised. It was a very large bear, averaging as big as a Kodiak bear, the subspecies of brown bear that enjoys an high protein diet of salmon. This diet results in a bear able to reach weights of over 1000 pounds. But giant short-faced bears did not have unusually long legs, and their faces were not particularly short. So every illustration of this species on the web is wrong. Scientists also formerly thought giant short-faced bears were highly carnivorous, scavenging by driving other predators from their kills. Though I’m sure this happened on occasion, an isotopic study determined short-faced bears were omnivorous, just like most other species of bears.

The presence of giant short-faced bears in South Carolina shows 3 species of bears co-existed throughout southeastern North America during the Pleistocene. Florida spectacled bears and black bears shared the land with their larger cousins. In addition grizzly bears lived at least as far southeast as Kentucky, and polar bears may have occasionally roamed south along the Atlantic Coast when glaciers covered most of their present day habitat.


Schubert, B.; R. Hulbert, B. MacFadden, and S. Sourle

“Giant Short-Faced Bears (Arctodus simus ) in Pleistocene Florida, U.S.A., a Substantial Range Extension”

Journal of Paleontology 84 (1) 2010

Spotted Hyenas (Crocuta crocuta) May Have Persisted in Europe until 7,000 BP

October 3, 2020

European climate might be more suitable for spotted hyenas than African climate, according to a 10 year old study published in Quaternary Science Review. Ironically, the spotted hyena is presently extinct in Europe and survives on the continent of Africa and nowhere else, except zoos. Hyenas thrived from Spain to the Ural Mountains for about 3 million years. Genetic evidence suggests hyenas from Africa invaded Europe in 3 waves: 3 million years ago, 1 million years ago, and again 300,000 years ago. The hyenas in Europe were a subspecies of the African hyena, given the scientific name Crocota crocota spelaea and are commonly known as the cave hyena, though most individuals never ventured into a cave. Their primary prey consisted of horse and bison, but their diet also included rhino, deer, ibex, bear, lion, wolf, and other hyenas. Some of these prey items were scavenged, but hyenas actively kill most of their food. European hyenas were on average 40% larger than African hyenas–evidence European climate and habitats were a more optimum environment for them. European female hyenas (for hyenas females are generally larger than males) weighed up to 225 pounds, while African hyenas weigh up to 140 pounds. Hyenas occurred in Europe during all climate phases of the Pleistocene, including interglacials, glacials, interstadials (warms ups during cold stages) and stadials (cool downs during warm stages). This suggests climate change alone can not explain their extinction in Europe. Competition with humans was likely the cause of their extinction there, though scientists believe hyenas succumbed to a combination of environmental change and competition with humans. I disagree with this notion because if humans are eliminated as a variable in the equation, hyenas would still occur in Europe. Thus, humans alone are the cause of their extinction. Hyenas persist in Africa because tropical diseases kept human populations low on large areas of that continent.

Cave hyena (Crocuta crocuta spelaea)

Image of Crocuta crocuta spelaea.

Fossil Presence of spotted hyenas in Europe from 126,000 years BP-21,000 years BP. Note how they still occurred in the middle of Europe during the Last Glacial Maximum (the white circles). Image from the below reference authored by Vareles et. al.

Scientists think hyenas went extinct in Europe about 11,000 years ago, but a new study touts evidence hyenas persisted in Spain until ~7,000 years ago. Some Spanish scientists studied hyena coprolites (fossil feces) found in 2 caves in Spain. The coprolites dated between 37,000 calendar years BP-7,000 calendar years BP. The authors of this study concede younger dated coprolites might have inaccurate dates due to contamination. However, the focus of their study was an analysis of pollen grains found in the hyena coprolites. Palynologists attempt to reconstruct past environments based on the composition of pollen grains, and they use them to estimate past climate. For example during cold dry climate phases pine and grass pollen predominates in samples, while moist warm climate phases show an increase in oak pollen. The pollen profile of the youngest dated coprolites are consistent with the floral composition of the early Holocene, so it seems likely the radio-carbon dates are accurate, and hyenas lived in Spain as recently as 7,000 years ago.


Deidrich, L; and K. Zak

“Prey Deposits and Den Sites of the Upper Pleistocene Hyena Crocuta crocuta spelaea (Goldfuss 1923) in Hoorjostid and Ventral Caves of the Bohemian Karst (Czech Republic)”

Bulletin of Geoscience 84 (4) 2006

Ochard, J. et al

“Palynology and Chronology of Hyena Coprolites from the Pinur Karstic Caves Las Ventanas and Carihoula, Southern Spain”

Paleogeography, Paleoclimatalogy, and Paleoecology 552 August 2020

Vareles, S; J. Lobo, J. Rodriguez, and P. Baten

“Were the Late Pleistocene Climate Changes the Responsible for the Disappearance of the European Spotted Hyena Population? Hindcasting a Species Geographic Distribution over Time”

Quaternary Science Review 29 2010

Unusual Adoptions in the Animal World

September 28, 2020

11 cats live in my yard–2 adults, 3 subadults, and 11 kittens.  Stripey, the biological mother of 8 of my yard cats, is the tamest.  She runs inside our house like she owns it.  She is supposed to be an outdoor cat, so to coax her outside I open the door and throw food on the porch.  Naturally, this positive reinforcement encourages her to run inside the house whenever we open the door and are in an hurry to make it in time for a doctor’s appointment.  Stripey doesn’t let me exercise either.  When I jog up and down the street she follows me until I sit down in our special place and pet her.  2 of her subadult kittens are less tame, though they sit and watch me when I pet their mother.  The other adult cat in my yard is Midnight Runt who also sits and watches me pet Stripey but never quite has the nerve to get within arm’s length.  Midnight Runt is less tame than her subadult spawn, the Cardupnik, who purrs when she is near me and lets me pet her when she is eating. (Cardupnik is the Yiddish word for little person or shrimp.)

Stripey.  She lost her first 2 litters but has so far successfully raised her next 2.  She is less than 3 years old but has had 4 litters already.  Maybe I need to crush up some birth control pills in her cat food.

Midnight Runt watching me pet Stripey.

All the cats are good climbers.  A neighborhood dog chased some of them into this tree hollow.  They play on my roof every morning, hunting squirrels and birds there as well.

Stripey had a litter of 5 kittens a month ago.  The timing suggests she went into heat before her previous litter was weaned.  What a slut.  I really want 2 or 3 cats, not 10; but Stripey was not through increasing my cat population.  A kitten, a few weeks older than Stripey’s, wandered into my yard a week ago from the woods behind my house.  This kitten was stressed, mewling nonstop for 36 hours.  Its biological mother was probably a feral cat that was killed by a car, coyote, dog, or heartworm. Or perhaps the orphan wandered too far away and got lost.  Stripey adopted this orphan kitten, nursing it alongside her own.  The orphan has quickly learned when I put food out and no longer flees at the sight of me.  The orphan also watches me when I pet Stripey.  Nevertheless, there is a sad look in its eyes.

Stripey’s 5 biological kittens, plus the 1 she adopted.  The orphan is a few weeks older than the others.  The orphan is on the step.

It is not unusual for a mother cat to adopt kittens that are not her own.  The caring instinct is so strong they will sometimes adopt puppies, baby rabbits, and infant squirrels.  Their mortal enemies may be brought up to think they are a cat.

I did a little research and found some strange adoptions in the animal world.  Gorillas and crab-eating macaques have adopted kittens.  In the wild a lioness adopted a baby antelope.  Perhaps the most unusual adoptions occur in captivity where a baby hippo bonded to a giant tortoise, and a baby macaque became attached to a wild boar.  (See: ) Most unusual of all would be an human raised by animals, but none of the accounts I researched are reliable.  Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome, were allegedly left for dead but were saved by a mother wolf that nursed them.  However, this legend originated 500 years after Rome was founded in 753 BC.  Reliable accounts of feral children do not clearly indicate they were raised by animals.  Instead, it seems more like they were living with wild or domestic animals and had little interaction with humans.  In some cases of neglect toddlers crawled around with cats and dogs and lived on pet food.  They never learned to act human during a crucial phase of development.  Another famous case involved a 5 year old slave of a goat shepherd in Spain.  He received some training in outdoor survival before his master abandoned him, and he lived in the wild for 12 years before police captured him.  He claims he blundered into a wolf’s den to escape a cold winter’s night and suckled from a mother wolf alongside her puppies, but he was not actually raised by a wolf.  He was probably used to suckling milk directly from goats, and it wasn’t that much of a stretch to nurse from another animal.

The 10th Anniversary of Georgia Before People

March 5, 2020

I started this blog during March of 2010 to promote my book.  I never imagined that I would enjoy my blog more than my book.  I looked at some of my early entries, and at first the blog seemed to be my private nature notebook opened to the public.  I was merely sharing what I studied and learned about pre-historic ecology along with my thoughts and opinions.  But gradually, I began writing more extensive essays.  Now, I have 113 followers who receive my weekly essay in their email box, though I wonder how many of them get marked as spam.  The number of people who read my blog has varied over the years.  2012 and 2017 were my biggest years.  I think I wrote some of my best essays during those years, but I don’t know if that is why the numbers were higher then.  I don’t really promote my blog on message boards like I used to, and my blog readership largely depends upon search engines.  Lately, readership has fallen off, and the effort I put into my blog has as well.  I’m spending more time looking at naked women on Twitter than researching the latest scientific papers.  If I was ambitious, I could go back and correct all the factual errors in my earlier blog entries and replace the photos that no longer show up, but life is too short.  I’m not getting paid to keep this blog up.  It is just an hobby for me.


Site stats for my blog since 2011.


Site stats for my blog since September of 2017.  Note the decline in readership.  I almost have 1 million views all time.

I reviewed my past blog entries and found a few of my favorite photos I’d like to share in celebration of my 10th anniversary.

This photo is from 2010 in an article entitled “Atlatl Adventures Part 1.”  There was never a part 2.

I can’t believe my luck.  I actually got a photo of a large bobcat.

Another lucky photo–a loggerhead shrike.  Unfortunately, my computer crashed in December of 2017and I lost my photo of a black bear I took at Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  I have that photo on my Facebook page, but a reader has to be friends with me to see it.  I didn’t realize that when I initially linked Facebook photos on my wordpress blog–hence the articles in 2016/2017 with a bunch of photos that don’t show up.

Bison at Land Between the Lakes.

Wakulla Springs 011

Wakulla Springs egret rookery.


Halloween Double Feature: The Lowenmensch and Brain-Eating Amoeba

October 26, 2019

I like to watch horror movie double features on Halloween.  My favorites are the movies made by Hammer Productions, a British company that produced horror movies from 1958-1976.  Turner Classic Movies often airs these every October.  For my annual Halloween blog article I am offering a scary double feature.

The Lowenmensch is a 1 foot tall figurine found in Hohlenstein-Stedelgre Cave, Germany during 1939.  Lowenmensch means Lion-Man in German, and the sculpture depicts a half-man, half lion.  The artifact is estimated to be between 35,000 years-40,000 years old.  Archeologists attempted to reproduce it, and they discovered that it took 370 hours to sculpt.  The artist could have spent 1 hour a day for about a year to make it.  Archeologists suggest this means other people were taking care of him, while he worked on this object because life during the Stone Age consisted of constant subsistence hunting and gathering.  I disagree with this notion.  People didn’t hunt and gather at night when they might be in danger from unseen predators.  Instead, I believe they likely hung around the campfire where there was more security within a crowd of other humans.  The artist probably made this sculpture at night by the light of the campfire.

The Lowenmensch.  Just imagine a beast that was half-man, half lion…a kind of werelion instead of a werewolf 

Who knows what this object symbolizes?  Lions (Panthera spelaea) were a common species that co-existed with humans in Europe 35,000 years ago,  and humans infrequently interacted with them.  The 2 species likely avoided each other most of the time.  Apparently, humans anthropomorphized animals tens of thousands of years before Disney and Warner-Robins.

The 2nd part of this double feature is scarier because it is real.  There is a species of amoeba that eats human brains.

Computer-generated representation of the amoeba Naegleria fowleri, which causes deadly brain infections.

The brain-eating amoeba (Naeglerea fowleri).

The brain-eating amoeba lives in the bottom sediment of warm freshwater lakes and ponds.  Normally, they eat bacteria.  But if a swimmer gets amoeba-filled water in their nose, the amoeba enter the olfactory nerves and penetrate the brain.  The amoeba can’t find bacteria in the brain, so they begin eating brain cells instead, and in response the human immune system fights the invasion, causing the brain to swell.  Symptoms of amoeba meningoencephalitis include headache, fever, nausea, stiff neck, disorientation, and hallucination.  The brain swelling stops the brain’s signals to the spinal cord.   The symptoms mimic bacterial and viral meningitis, often delaying the diagnosis.  The disease has a 97% mortality rate.  There is no sure known cure, but use of an experimental drug known as miltefosine saved 1 girl’s life.  Fortunately, this disease is extremely rare.  Just 146 cases have been recorded since 1962.

The crew of the U.S. Enterprise battled a giant space amoeba in 1 of my favorite episodes of the original Star Trek.