The Ghost Forest

General Discomfort



Isaac Newton’s Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica was published July 5, 1687.

Dolly the sheep, the first mammal cloned from an adult cell, was born July 5, 1996. Astronomer A.E. Douglas was born July 5, 1867. He studied the connection of sunspot cycles and tree growth rings, founding modern dendrochronology. The study of tree growth rings reminds me of a New Yorker article published a few years ago, called The Really Big One by Kathryn Schulz. It is a fascinating piece about the Cascadia subduction zone, and the probability of earthquakes and tsunamis in the Pacific Northwest. I find tsunamis the most terrifying thing on earth, so I read the entire article with great interest a couple of times. There was an especially frightening part about the ghost forest, a group of dead but still standing trees standing in seawater along the Copalis River. These red cedars are estimated to be about 2,000 years old. In 1987, a couple of scientists analyzed samples of the trees’ growth rings and determined that the final rings were all in 1699, which lead to the confirmation that these remains are the result of a January 1700 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. The description of the area, along with that history, makes me think it sounds like the creepiest, loneliest place on earth, and of course, I want to go there.

Moving on. Activist Clara Zetkin was born July 5, 1857. Creator of Calvin & Hobbes Bill Watterson was born July 5, 1958. Artist Chuck Close born was July 5, 1940. I read an interview with him once where he was talking about how he used sensory deprivation to commit things to memory. It sounded like a rather extreme and uncomfortable way to meet an objective, but interesting.

Physicist and inventor Charles Cagniard de la Tour died July 5, 1859. Inventor Nicéphore Niépce died July 5, 1833. He developed the technique of heliography, and created the oldest known photograph. Satirical poet Sasha Chorny died July 5, 1932. Painter Cy Twombly died July 5, 2011. Are you looking for new ways to irritate your friends with your hipster sophistication, yet feeling uninspired by the latest wares at Urban Outfitters? May  I suggest a  Cy Twombly shower curtain?

Methods of recording and understanding moments in time stick out to me as the common thread of July 5th.  Early cameras, sensory deprivation, dendrochronology, copying a genome. What have you recorded about your life in unconventional and unexpected ways? Where is your ghost forest? I think it is time to visit and commit it all to memory.


Ghosts in the Machine

General Discomfort, Pseudoscience, Weird Science

Ectoplasm and Enumeration



The Art of Statistics

On June 8, 1887, Herman Hollerith, founder of the company that was to become IBM, applied for patent #395, 781 for his punched card calculator for what he called the Art of Compiling Statistics.  His innovation would cut the processing time of the 1890 census considerably and set the stage for his many later inventions.

On June 8, 1949, an FBI report, sourced by “confidential informants,” listed names of suspected Communist Party members, including Helen Keller, Dorothy Parker, Danny Kaye, Fredric March, John Garfield, Paul Muni, and Edward G. Robinson; the very same day George Orwell’s novel 1984 was published.

Ghostbusters was released on June 8th in the actual year 1984. According to Pew research, 18% of Americans have seen a ghost. People alive right now only represent 7% of all the people that have ever lived.

Ghost in the Machine:


I have always loved the description of ghosts in Donna Tartt’s The Secret History (this is for real my favorite book, in spite of previous admissions).

June 8th is the birthday of many shining stars, including Kayne West, Barbara Bush, Frank Lloyd Wright, Nancy Sinatra, and Joan Rivers.


In a bit of French history I just learned, Robespierre attempted to launch a new religion in post-revolutionary France with the first national festival of the Cult of the Supreme Being on June 8, 1794. I am hoping something got lost in translation with that name. Unfortunately for Robespierre, it did not catch on, and he was sent to the Guillotine a little more than a year later.

Today is the feast day of Melania the Elder: tell me her likeness is not a tiny bit terrifying.

Sincerest of thanks to E.L. Murdworderer, who has edited my last few posts, and deserves all of the credit for the noticeable reduction in post typos, and none of the blame for any that still linger.

For the weekend:

Watch the Ghostbusters series while eating s’mores, adding marshmallows exponentially depending on which one you are on.

Want to do some sleuthing yourself? Here is a helpful blog post that I did not write about pragmatically using statistics to hunt for ghosts. For all those ghost sightings, the supernatural didn’t make the top 10 of America’s top fears in 2017. You’re going to be just fine. From ghost attacks that is. The rest of it is anybody’s guess.