natural history museums are like art museums, except the art work isn't created by humans, but rather by the forces of nature. that's where i found myself this morning, at the harvard museum of natural history.

under normal circumstances, the museum, just a few blocks away from where i live, would be an easy walk to get to, but this morning there was wet snow falling and the sidewalks leading to the museum were dotted with puddles of slush. on sundays the museum is free before noon, and i was able to get there before the cutoff time. it was crowded of course, a lot of parents with kids, but i also saw a few college students, there taking notes for some sort of project.

half of the HMNH is filled with taxidermal specimens, and there's the strong distinctive odor of formaldehyde that one soon grows used to. whoever stuffed these animals must've had a strange sense of humor because a lot of them have the weirdest expressions, and i make it my personal mission to discover a new face or two everytime i visit.





they had a special exhibit on dinosaur eggs, which was kind of interesting if you like looking at balls of rocks that're supposedly fossilized dinosaur eggs. there was also an exhibit called "dodos, trilobites, & meteorites," showcasing some of the museum's collection that's normally not on display for public view. the big draw that brought me to the museum today was the dodo skeleton. it wasn't that impressive standing amidst the clutter of some other specimens, and it was an asterisked skeleton at that, assembled from the bones of many other dodos, and it wasn't complete either, although a card said it was the most complete dodo skeleton here in north america. standing next to it was a dodo reproduction, created from the feathers of other birds, based on drawings and paintings of the extinct bird. i still think about the dodos sometimes at nights when i can't fall asleep (don't you?), a bird that evolved with no predators, even if they weren't wiped out in the 1700's, an animal like that just couldn't survive for long once they've been exposed to the outside world.

there are a few impressive specimens in the museum. there are the complete whale skeletons suspended from the ceiling. i wish i could have one of those for my house, it'd be a great conversation piece. equally impressive, equally large, is the kronosaur, a monster fish dinosaur, who's rows of sharp teeth meant that it probably wasn't a peaceful sea-grazing kelp eater. and there's the preserved coelacanth, the living fossil fish, one of my favorite things in the museum. i never noticed it before, but this coelacanth has no eyes. after watching a nova special on this fish, i know that coelacanths, because they live in abyssmal waters, have very beautiful large reflective eyes, like cats. i was disappointed that the insect exhibit i saw two years ago was no longer there, that auspicious day when i bumped into my old high school biology teacher mr.howick.




the HMNH is also famous for its glass flowers exhibit. now i love plants more than most people i know, but i find the glass flowers to be very boring. from a technical aspect it's very impressive, but if you didn't tell me, i'd think they were made of plastic. i briefly walked through the glass flowers room and then went to the mineralogy half of the museum.

if you love rocks, this is the place to be. rocks of all shapes and colors, the special exhibit was on tourmaline. you might've seen tourmaline before, sometimes they appear as watermelon colored gems (although they do appear in many different colors as well). did you know if you heat or squeeze a tourmaline crystal, it emits an electric charge? they had clear slices of tourmaline you could look through to see the the color rings like those found in trees.

from there i went to the peabody museum of archeaology and ethnology next door (the two museums are interconnected). i wandered around this museum, not as popular as the HMNH, it was mostly empty, the lights dim, as if they're trying to save on electricity. i guess kids don't get as excited about micronesian feathered headgear as they do dinosaurs. i was impressed by the few totem poles on display. i wish i had one of those at my place! (the fact that i don't have 50 ft ceilings just a minor logistical problem). one of the totem pole was a replacement, the former pole reclaimed by the original indian tribe it used to belong to.

by the time i walked back home in the slush, it had stopped snowing, but started to rain. i made some scallion pancakes for lunch, and then did two loads of laundry, whites with warm water, colors with cold. i watched a few old kentucky wildcat basketball games on espn classic. i didn't realize antoine walker, ron mercer, tony delk, and walter mccarty all used to be teammates under rick pitino. later, my parents and sister came over for dinner.