Sunday, November 15, 2009

Is 350,000 different types of beetles excessive?

Sometimes I think god spent far too much time on insects at a significant cost to the effective operation of other species – for example – cats.

There are about 350,000 different types of beetles in the world (I don’t have an exact number because they keep finding new ones and there are so many you can’t really expect to get much closer than a ball park figure).

On the other hand – the brains of cats are very small – I would argue that in some cases they are too small to do the job required.

Now I am not suggesting that cats need to be much more highly developed than they are – I am merely suggesting a fairly modest increase in processing power.

For example – it would be useful if Muffin didn’t find stray socks in the middle of the night and drag them around the bedroom howling like a Banshee. Or if Sissi didn’t steal my small screwdriver when I am in the middle of a critical operation and push it under the large (and immovable) cupboard – or even if Monika could make more of an effort with finding the kitty litter – stuff like that – not a big ask surely.

Anyway my point is that is god had made a few less beetles and road-tested cats more thoroughly it would make my life now a bit easier.

Not that I am complaining about beetles mind you – they are bloody fantastic creatures – but also very dim. In Sydney the Christmas Beetles arrive in November and start crashing around the house at high speed – and they are almost indestructible and can bounce of walls undeterred. We don’t miss them at all.

But, after doing that for hours and driving the cats mad, they all fall into the cats’ water bowl and drown. What kind of sense does that make? Why make a bug that can survive a 100 kph collision with a wall – but can’t swim?

In fact there are about 800,000 different types of insects – does anyone else think that’s a bit excessive? And spiders? What’s the story here? It’s OK for you Austrians who have itty bitty spiders but in Australia we have spiders the size of golden retrievers that catch children and small animals in their webs and devour them.

The weather here is just delightful at the moment and I am having a lot of fun being out and about. Merisi has taken some brilliant photos in the park in the last few days (although she doesn’t appear to do many Duck photos and you will have to continue to rely on me for those).

We went to the Kuckuck on Friday night. This is a delightful little restaurant in Himmelpfortgasse – and is non smoking – which is important. The food was good and it’s not too expensive.

We sat next to an older American man and a young European woman – who talked so much that the man had finished his meal while she was on her second bite of her Wiener Schnitzel.

I expected that any moment the man would rise up and club her to death with his chair – in fact I would have been happy to help him – but Cate said she was a lawyer so should be spared.

Der Kuckuck

On Saturday we went to the Catacombs in Stephansdom – and saw some excellent coffins and ancient bones. This is where they keep the vital organs of the dead Habsburgs in alcohol in jars.

They did this not because they particularly wanted to but because they embalmed the bodies of the Habsburgs (these are in the Kaisergruft in Wien) and had to remove the …um….wobbly bits before they could fill the bodies with wax.

Then they had the leftovers and you know how hard these are to throw out - so they put them in jars in alcohol and stored them downstairs. This is of course much better than putting them in the back of the fridge where they could end up in the Easter Weekend hotpot.

They also entomb some lesser royalty and sundry priests and bishops in this place in iron coffins.

It is a bit grim down there and I have instructed Cate that in the event of my early demise I am not under any circumstances to be interred under Stephansdom (yes I know this is an unlikely scenario as I am not royalty or a senior member of the clergy in Wien but it’s always best to make sure that your wishes are known).


  1. Sounds like the Christmas Bug is the same as our June Bug. Annoying insect! They're too big to ignore and swat away, and when they get turned over on their backs (which is every time they plow into a window, door or wall) they wind up on their backs and can't turn back over. This makes walking anywhere near a porch light a crunchy, icky business. Evolve already!

    Kuckuck looks delightful! Will definitely try it out next time we're in Wien. Reminds me of the Thomaskeller, which used to be in the Postgasse. I think it's a disco now, or something.

  2. Wasn't there some well-known biologist that said something to the effect that if science taught him anything it was that our Creator had an inordinate fondness for beetles? Apparently, He was not a cat person...

  3. I don't miss those crunchy beetles at all. And Google tells me it may have been JBS Haldane who talked about the creator and beetles.

  4. So funny you'd notice that I don't do ducks (they are mallards, btw - not that I'd know the difference, even after having been lectured about them mallards more than once all that I remember is that they are mallards and I don't know anymore if they are also ducks). I was watching those pretty birds last Friday for quite a while, but besides taking a few perfunctory pictures, I refrained from straining myself trying to match the brilliance of your duck/mallard photography. Them ducks/mallards are all yours, I enjoy seeing them on your blog way too much!

  5. Ha! You undoubtedly know of the quip made by the biologist Dr J S B Haldane who, when asked by a churchman what biology had taught him about the creator, replied "I'm not sure, but He seems to be inordinately fond of beetles."

    Yes, of course the Mallard is a species of duck. A trip to Neusiedlersee will reveal many more species!

  6. Thanks, Maalie!

    Now, why the need to call them mallards if they are ducks anyway?
    It does take the fun out of nature having to constantly think about names and stuff. :-(

  7. Well, Merisi, supposing I told someone that I had just bought a new camera. Don't you think they might be interested to know "Which kind of camera"?

    Same with ducks. As the Father of Taxonomy (Carl Linnaeus) famously said: "All knowledge of it is useless if you cannot tell me its name".

    And that used to make a superb essay title for a biology degree final examination paper ;-)