the spice is life

epicNews from Colombia, Smithsonian paleontologists are onto a huge trove of fossils, and boy are they finding some monsters. The most awesome: a giant snake as big as a schoolbus:

Indeed, it had an average length of 43 feet — far longer than any of today’s pythons or anacondas — and it weighed 2,500 pounds, more than a small car. Its diet included giant turtles and crocodiles

And not just one snake–28 of them, all between 42 and 49 feet. Dios mio.

They are finding these snakes on a mountain, so you can’t quite call it Snakes on a Plain. But we fit that joke in anyway, didn’t we! There are more beasties too:
The team’s work has already turned up giant crocodiles and freshwater turtles that weighed 300 pounds. There are also hundreds of fossils of leaves so perfectly preserved that the paleontologists can easily make out the veins and ridges.

omg, hi Smithsonian a/s/l? lol.

omg chattingHilarious tweet from @smithsonian this morn, a seemingly internal memo to other institutional twitterers advising and announcing a cunningly 21st century tactic:

Note: To RT other SI accounts, & still have enough room to fit their entire Tweet, we will still resort to a bit of “chatspeak” like “2day.”

We also recommend l33tspeak, LOLspeak, and web-2.0 style missing vowlspk.

Hope Springs Eternal: Nope

diamonds boooooWe took a gander at the Hope Diamond at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History last weekend. To be honest, it pales in comparison to the entire backroom of incredible, naturally formed crystals, not to mention several of the large, many-faceted gems (that’s a cut crystal, we learned) elsewhere in the room. Oh and the crystal ball that was polished into a perfect sphere in China in 1923. Wowzors.

At any rate talk of diamonds always reminds us of this article from the Atlantic Monthly, Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond? It is one of the greatest articles EVAR, in our humble. It’s all about the shady-as-fuck diamond industry, monopolies, the invention of a luxury through advertising and product placement, and other romantic and eternal qualities of the diamond industry.

supersize my smithsonian souvenirs!

Just listened to this report about how the Smithsonian hired the retail-oriented consultancy group BerglassGrayson to evaluate their gift shops. Unsurprisingly, the firm returned with blazing criticism, lambasting the museum stores for their under performance and inefficiency compared to, say, non-museum retailers like Urban Outfitters.

And when there’s money-a-wasted (on cultural/arts organizations) in Washington, you can expect the Republican members of Congress to follow:

Sen. Charles Grassley: Money’s fungible so a dollar wasted in the business venture is a dollar of money that’s going to have to be made up by the taxpayers.

This, from the same Senator who earmarked a bill to secure $50 million dollars of money for an indoor rain forest in his home state of Iowa, a project dreamed up by the Iowan industrialist (and Grassley donor) Ted Townsend one day as he ran on his treadmill.

Anyway, the next chapter of the conclusion of this story is that the Smithsonian is now accepting bids from private companies to run its stores.

Next up: Barnes and Noble claims that only they can “right the ship” of the woe-fully inefficient and unprofitable Library of Congress.

price-of-freedom-store.jpg

The Price of Freedom store at the Museum of American History.

the museum that keeps on giving…us things to write about

Our old friends at the Smithsonian are up to it again, this time “toning down” an exhibit on global warming in the arctic to interject some good ol’ fashioned “both sides of the story” “objectivity.”

Among other things, the script, or official text, of last year’s exhibit was rewritten to minimize and inject more uncertainty into the relationship between global warming and humans.

Officials omitted scientists’ interpretation of some research and let visitors draw their own conclusions from the data, he said. In addition, graphs were altered “to show that global warming could go either way,”

The exhibit is hilariously titled “Arctic: A Friend Acting Strangely.” You know, like your friends who act really weird when you shit in their mouths and spit phlegm balls in their eyes and break their air-conditioners so they have to sleep in the sweltering heat. God what is wrong with those friends why are they acting so bizarre and melting and stuff?

The introductory text is positively giddy with regard to this strange–and exciting!–change. Golly gee!

Earlier spring thaws! Later fall freeze-ups! Greater storm impacts! Reduced sea ice! Unfamiliar species of plants and animals! What do these changes mean for the Arctic, its wildlife, its people—and for the rest of the planet?

Luckily for the Smithsonian, it taint the first time, neither. In 2003, photographs of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge were relocated to a less prominent space in the institution in the midst of the congressional oil drilling debate.

if it ain’t burke, don’t fix it: get your chubby little fingers out of there

More from Potomac swamp country–Lawrence “I’m really not *that*” Small joins the aforementioned Sheila Burke in the conflict of interest scandal at the Smithsonian. Small and Burke both sat on the board of directors at Chubb Insurance Group during their time at the Smith’, and, what do you know, switched their venerable institution over to Chubb in what must have been an independent and lowest-bid scenario. For Small’s part, he’s collected $4.8 million from Chubb since 2000; Burke also netted over a million and was AWOL from her post at the ‘Sonian over 25% of the time.

The Smithsonian’s stated mission is “the increase and diffusion of knowledge.” Small and Burke, you learned us good.

The Smithpwnian: Burke ‘n’ stocks are comfortable

Sheila P. Burke, Deputy Secretary of the Smithsonian, resigned on Tuesday due to criticism about her outside earnings over the past 6 years (an estimated 1.2 million).

Quoth the post:

Burke’s resignation came on the eve of an independent report that sources said would criticize her extensive outside activities, including highly compensated corporate board seats, academic appointments, a federal commission that oversees Medicare, and numerous nonprofit organizations.