Snakes On a Plain

Sometime in the mid-1980's, about the time "Entertainment Tonight", Regis Philbin, Mary Hart, and John Tesh took over the airwaves, I got disgusted with network television. Cable became one long commercial, and PBS became a perpetual pledge drive occasionally interrupted by quality broadcasts. Beta lost the battle with VHS, and the trip to rent videos rarely recouped the aggravation. Finally, the remote husband/channel-surfer became a bad Twin Peaks episode. We won't discuss Howard Stern today, as I'm already feeling as sluggish as a rattler after a prairie dog all-you-can-eat buffet. I tuned out and dropped in, or vice versa.*

Instead of coming home from work and flipping on the tv, I usually take off my shoes, start a load of laundry, check my phone messages and emails. Then I click on a few blog bookmarks. Today I checked in on Prairie Bluestem, and read all about sand adders and other snakes of the Nebraska Sandhills. "Sand adders" calls up an image of an ancient toga-clad mathematician walking down the beach writing geometric proofs with a long stick.

Much as I would like to dilly-dally wondering if Peabody, Sherman, and Captain Peachfuzz ever met this particular sand adder back when tv was worth watching, I must find out about the Chaldean astrologers. A Chaldean was a member of an ancient Semitic people who ruled in Babylonia ... a person versed in occult learning; an astrologer, soothsayer, or sorcerer, according to my precious American Heritage Dictionary. The root word may have a relation to the word caldron, mentally brewing, bubbling and burping during our Wizard camp. Nebuchadnezzar lurks just off stage, too, because of the upcoming Dallas Opera production of Verdi's Nabucco. Dallas artists Tom Orr and Frances Bagley are designing the set and costumes for this new production in honor of Dallas Opera's fiftieth anniversary.

A Washington Post story informs me that most Iraqi Christians are Chaldeans, Eastern-rite Catholics whose church is autonomous from Rome, with its own liturgy and leadership, but recognizes the authority of the pope. Chaldeans trace their lineage to the Babylonian-Mesopotamian nation of Chaldees, where the patriarch Abraham was born. Did you know that? I didn't!

But then, there is the problem of chalcedony. Chalcedony is much more ancient than any mathematician, even my high school pre-Cal teacher. According to the U.S. Geologic Survey:

Chalcedony is a catch all term that includes many well known varieties of cryptocrystalline quartz gemstones. They are found in all 50 States, in many colors and color combinations, and in sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks. Chalcedony includes carnelian, sard, plasma, prase, bloodstone, onyx, sardonyx, chrysoprase, thundereggs, agate, flint, chert, jasper, petrified wood, and petrified dinosaur bone just to name a few of the better known varieties.

Because of its abundance, durability, and beauty, chalcedony was, except for sticks, animal skins, bones, plain rocks, and possibly obsidian, the earliest raw material used by humankind. The earliest recorded use of chalcedony was for projectile points, knives, tools, and containers such as cups and bowls. Early man made weapons and tools from many varieties of chalcedony including agate, agatized coral, flint, jasper, and petrified wood.

*Turn on, tune in and drop out.
Timothy Leary
(1920 - 1996)

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