Friday, April 11, 2014

Amana Pickled Ham recipe

The University of Iowa Press is making Easter preparation easy for you this year by providing an Easter ham recipe from Lawrence L. Rettig's Gardening the Amana Way. Now all that's left to worry about is where to hide the eggs!

Amana Pickled Ham
4 cups cubed ham
1 large sliced onion
2 cups water
1 cup vinegar

Combine all ingredients and let stand at room temperature for four hours, then refrigerate.

Bon appétit!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Interview with James Sandrock and Jean Prior, pt. 3

James Sandrock and Jean Prior are the authors of The Scientific Nomenclature of Birds in the Upper Midwest, a Bur Oak Guide published just this month. Bur Oak Guides series editor Holly Carver asked them a few questions about the book.

HC: Now that you have mastered the nomenclature of all these species, what new connections among names, behavior, plumage, etc., have you discovered? What was the most intriguing?

JS: It is both interesting and amazing that the binomial system perfected by Linnaeus more than 250 years ago endures to this day, practical, resilient, and valid. As we worked our way through the research and writing of this book, it became more and more evident that the early taxonomists and ornithologists possessed a deep knowledge of classical languages and literatures; the names they assigned to avian genera and species reflect their easy familiarity with classical Greek and Roman myth, history, literature, geography, even geology, as well as with the languages themselves.

It surprised us that not all binomials were helpful; some were misleading, some inaccurate. We found at least one name to be a nonsense word. The genus Xema appears to be such a word concocted by William Elford Leach for the genus of Sabine’s Gull. (More about William Leach later.) Many species names are eponymous, such as henslowii or swainsonii, which do not describe any distinguishing marks of the bird itself—not much help to an observer in the field, but interesting as ornithological history.

Most binomials, however, augment and enhance the description of distinguishing marks. The binomial of the Red-eyed Vireo, for example, is Vireo olivaceus; the specific Latin term is a descriptive adjective that calls our attention to the olive-green plumage of this small bird. While the common name focuses on the red irises of this species, the Latin binomial affords the observer another important distinguishing mark to look for when identifying it.

These examples and many more served throughout this enterprise to deepen our interest in and appreciation of scientific nomenclature.

JP: I can’t say that I have mastered the nomenclature of these species, but I certainly learned a lot working alongside Jim. His special background for this enterprise awakened new insights into language, history, biology, art, and literature. Though Aristotle, Pliny, Nuttall, and Newberry were familiar names from other scientific studies, I found their contributions and connections to the naming of birds to be quite fascinating.

I was responsible for including the regional or folk names for these birds, and I found they often were more useful than the attributes provided by the scientific name or even the common name. Wilson’s Warbler, for example: Alexander Wilson was a remarkable scientist, writer, poet, and painter, but his name alone is not as descriptive and helpful as the regional name “black-capped warbler.”

Other useful, colorful, or humorous names include “thunder pumper,” “bog bull,” and “look-up,” which tells you a lot about the sound, location, and demeanor of an American Bittern. “High hole” and “yarrup” suggest where to look for the nest of a Northern Flicker and what to listen for. “Golden slippers” takes your eye to the feet of the Snowy Egret for a positive identification. Coming upon a “hang-nest” suggests the “hammock-bird,” the characteristic suspended home of the familiar Baltimore Oriole. The tree trunk antics of a “topsy-turvy-bird” help confirm both the White-breasted Nuthatch and the Red-breasted Nuthatch. But be careful, “fly-up-the creek” can apply to both the Belted Kingfisher and the Green Heron.

HC: What were the quirkiest factoids that you discovered?

JS: Two quirky things come to mind. The name of the Slovenian Ornithological Association (OAI) is IXOBRYCHUS, which is the genus of the Least Bittern. And the quirkiest? William Elford Leach (see above), a British zoologist, named many genera and species that occur under, on, and over the sea. While the numbers vary, it is said that he used anagrams of the name “Caroline” possibly thirteen times in scientific binomials. The identity of “Caroline” remains unknown.

JP: One of the quirkiest bits of information was that accompanying the ordinary and common European Starling. It seems that this bird from Europe was first released in Central Park, New York City, in 1890 and 1891 by a Eugene Schiefflin, a great fan of William Shakespeare and also president of the American Acclimatization Society. A goal of this group was to introduce all the bird species mentioned in the works of Shakespeare to New York’s public parks. The group’s greatest success was the European Starling (see Henry IV, part 1).

JS: Thanks for the interview. We think that our book will be both helpful to birders and interesting on many fronts. It has been described as both scholarly and quirky. We hope its readers will find it to be all these things.

Featured Birds
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)
Spinus: This is a Latin form of the Greek word spinos, which was Aristotle's word for "a small, finch-like bird."
tristis: The Latin word for "mournful, sad" refers to the long, soft, sweet song, which Linnaeus apparently perceived as mournful.
Common Name: American Goldfinch, which distinguishes this species from the Eurasian Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)
Other Names: wild canary, thistle bird, yellowbird

Eurasian Collared-Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
Streptopelia: From Greek streptos = collar, necklace + peleia = a kind of dove or pigeon. "Collared dove" alludes to the small black and buff "scarf" on the nape of the adult.
decaocto: From the Latin prefix deca = ten (decem) + octo = eight. Several sources cite the Greek myth in which Decaocto (meaning "Eighteen"), a lovely handmaiden, prayed for release from her cheerless existence. The gods obligingly changed her into a dove. The call of this species is supposedly a version of her name, although perhaps not recognizable.
Common Name: Eurasian Collared-Dove, introduced to the United States from its native Eurasia
Other Names: None found

Monday, April 7, 2014

Interview with James Sandrock and Jean Prior, pt. 2

James Sandrock and Jean Prior are the authors of The Scientific Nomenclature of Birds in the Upper Midwest, a Bur Oak Guide published just this month. Bur Oak Guides series editor Holly Carver asked them a few questions about the book.

HC: Many people are mystified, intimidated, or even infuriated by scientific names. How can they conquer this reluctance to embrace technical terminology?

JS: This is neither the time nor the place to break a lance for the study of Latin and Greek and their use in scientific nomenclature. Independent-minded and intellectually curious people will not be swayed by educationists and by the groupthink that have demonized the study of classical languages and literature for decades. I hope that the use and explanation of the Latin and Greek and latinized terms in this book will convey to its readers the fact that classical languages can be relevant, practical—and cool!

JP: Scientific names are unique IDs essential to the correct identification of each species making up the world’s living and fossil organisms. These assigned names are recognized internationally by all persons who study or refer to them, no matter their native language. It’s the one way to be sure that everyone is on the same page when referring to a plant or animal. While these names don’t roll off the tongue of those for whom plants and animals are an avocation rather than a profession, taking the time to look closely at the scientific name of a bird or a plant or a fossil can reveal useful information about appearance, habitat, behavior, or geography, or the travels and dedication of the person who studied and named it, or the person honored through the naming. Look at these scientific labels as the entry point into another world, one that can help us expand, explain, and enjoy the familiar world we know.

HC: What most interests you about scientific nomenclature? What problems do you solve by understanding it?

JS: Classical languages and literatures have been a major part of my life since high school days; words, phrases, names, and etymology are an abiding interest for me. To see these Latin and Greek words, roots, and stems used in a practical, clear, descriptive way that is universally recognized is intriguing and gratifying. Scientific nomenclature can and does solve the “language problem” for a world that speaks in many tongues. In the introduction of this book, we explain how this works.

JP: Delving into the root meanings of scientific names opens a window onto the fascinating history that lies behind scientific labels and the remarkable people who attached them. Readers also have to marvel at the durability of a system (of scientific names) that has been used for centuries to unite people of all languages in common understanding. Knowing the meanings that lie within the scientific names of birds can be helpful aids to their identification and characteristic markings and traits. This is not a standard field guide with pictures; instead, our book helps interested readers “see” birds through their names.

Featured Birds
Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia)
Pica: Latin word for "magpie."
hudsonia: Coined Latin adjective for "Hudson" + suffix -ia = pertaining to. "Hudsonian" does not refer to Hudson Bay, which is east of this bird's range. The reference instead is to the Hudson Bay drainage basin (also known as the Hudson Bay Territories or Prince Rupert's Land). The type specimen was collected in 1819 at the Hudson Bay Company's Cumberland House, Saskatchewan, Canada, 400 to 500 miles inland and well within the range of this species.
Common Name: Black-billed Magpie for the beak color
Other Name: American magpie

Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus)
Falco: A postclassical Latin word for "falcon," from falx, falcis (genitive) = sickle, scythe, pruning hook. The allusion is to the curved talons and beak—or to the wings in flight.
peregrinus: Latin for "foreign, of foreign places" from peregrināri = to travel about. "Wandering" is an appropriate adjective for this far-ranging bird, one of the most widely distributed in the world.
Common Name: Peregrine Falcon
Other Names: duck hawk, wandering falcon, rock peregrine