Sunday, November 15, 2009

What Do Night Owls Do?

People always wonder what I do so late at night that I don't go to bed until 4 or 5 in the morning. Here's what I did last night:

I chatted with a friend online till about 1 am. Then I read about edible tree bark, American elm trees, and slippery elm trees. Next I read about a few more trees. Then at about 1:30 I read a long article about the ecology and cultivation of chickpeas. From there, I noticed that the site had a long list of different plant species and decided to see if they had similar articles for other plants, like the tomato. I went to the tomato page and saw that they listed the species name as Lycopersicon esculentum and not Solanum lycopersicum. Nowadays botanists place the tomato in the Solanum genus, and so L. esculentum is a synonym. Naturally, I checked out the Wikipedia page on tomatoes next, where somehow I started reading about lumpers and splitters.

At 2 am, I went on a diversion and read about lexicostatistics, then the tree model of language change and the wave model of language change. That led to reading about the guttural R (i.e., the French R), which led to me reading about Norwegian phonology. I then went back to reading about plants, this time the difference between cultigens and cultivars as well as plant breeders' rights. At 2:30, I read how to make gravy, then read about Vietnamese cuisine, and from there, cooking weights and measures.

At 3 am, I headed back towards botany with some reading about the botanical term "variety", which led to key limes and Escobaria vivipara, a type of cactus. This led to the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature or ICBN. That sounds very similar to ICBM (i.e., intercontinental ballistic missile), and at 3:30 I started reading about Operation Paperclip, Wernher von Braun, the Nazi People's Court (check out the extremely evil-looking picture), and the White Rose. That somehow led to conditional baptism, Edgardo Mortara, and the Capture of Rome during the unification of Italy. And naturally, one must ask why San Marino wasn't annexed to Italy as well.

So at 4 am I read about the history of San Marino. After an article about San Marino during World War II, I ended the night at 4:30 with the differences between botanical author citation and zoological author citation. All in all, I'd call that a successful night.

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