I wrote this for our local newsletter, The Cornwall Chronicle, but the subject is much more than local. If you've noticed the same phenomenon elsewhere, let me know in the comments. I'm researching an article on the subject.
Back then the largest of these available to me were deer and once I was lucky enough to see some from an upstairs window. They were far away across the valley, a doe and two fawns. I called my sister to bring up the binoculars and we took turns watching, excited.
We moved away after the war and when I got back here it was 1972 and deer had become a traffic hazard. The whole composition of wildlife seemed to have changed, almost turned upside down.
In the 1940s the only geese to be seen here were high overhead in V’s on the way to their winter homes on Chesapeake Bay after summering, presumably, in Canada. Crows had always been abundant but now ravens had appeared too. So had bald eagles ands vultures and Great Blue Herons.
In 1982 a yearling bear showed up in Canaan. Some idiot shot it, but more came. So did coyotes, moose, fishers, bobcats, and, very probably, mountain lions. (In 2011 one made it from South Dakota to the Wilbur Cross Parkway, where a car killed it.)
This has all been to the good, in my view. The more the merrier.
What isn’t good is the disappearance of the smaller creatures I remember from my boyhood. My considerable collection of mounted insects had been assembled by swinging a butterfly net at random through the cloud of insects that rose in front of me as I walked through unmowed fields. Try that today.
I seldom see even a grasshopper now. Or an anthill. Or a salamander. Or a toad. Or a daddy-long-legs. Summer nights were once noisy with the one-note symphony made by a thousand musicians. When was the last time you even saw one cricket?
What happened to those elaborate webs with an elegant black and yellow orb weaver spider at the center that used to decorate our fields? Huge Cecropia and Phoenix and Polyphemus and Luna moths used to be drawn to the light from our porches. No more. I have seen exactly one, a Luna, on our screens. Gardens were once alive with Monarch and Viceroy and Mourning Cloak butterflies, Wood Nymphs and Sulfurs and Fritillaries. Look them up on Google Images. That’s where they are now.
I have no proof of what happened to these all these small things, just a suspicion. We happened, with our insecticides.
In the large scheme of things, humanity is best considered as a swarm of mindless cancer cells, multiplying out of control as they feed on their helpless host. Now that this earth is finally dying from our blind greed, we head blindly out to find a new victim. The medical term for this is metastasis, and the process explains the space race. At the rate we’re stuffing this planet into our mouths, even Mars is starting to look pretty good.
Now if Trump were to have a dog and for some reason it was neutered, do you suppose — Aw, forget it.
However, other procedures are more cosmetic — lifting saggy skin around the face or abdomen, for example. And apparently some owners opt to give their dogs testicular implants after neutering, so they’re (hopefully) less likely to notice or be bothered by the loss of their real testicles.
From the New York Times:
Executives at Mr. Weinstein’s film companies who learned of allegations rarely took a stand, cowed by their volatile boss or worried about their careers. His brother and partner, Bob, participated in payoffs to women as far back as 1990. Some low-level assistants were pulled in: They compiled “bibles” that included hints on facilitating encounters with women, and were required to procure his penile injections for erectile dysfunction.Ed. Note: A real man would have had the women do the injections for him too, amirite or amirite? Jeez, does a guy have to do everything for himself around this place?
From Acta Herpetologica.
While most species of turtle exhibit secondary sexual dimorphisms that can be used to reliably infer sex, there are some species that are very difficult to sex … Therefore, we tested the novel method of using a vibrator to sex turtles by stimulating male turtles to evert their penises. Once a male turtle was captured, we attempted to lnduce an erection by applying an 18 cm, variable-speed, silver bullet vibrator to its shell and tail …
In general, turtles appeared to respond best when only the tip of the vibrator was touching them and when the vibrator had fresh batteries and was set on the fastest setting. Also, they seemed to respond best when the tip was held firmly against them (rather than allowing it to bounce), but not be pressed hard against them. Both allowing it to bounce and pressing it too hard generally resulted in turtles holding their limbs and tail tightly against the body, rather than relaxing. Additionally, it was often useful to move the vibrator around in small, slow, steady circles.
I came across these beauties last week in a secret place I know on Sharon Mountain. If you’re very, very good I might take you up there someday. It'll be fun!
Here is Fred Reed, explaining why humans have always been and will always be irremediably, stupidly and suicidally vicious. And now that we have the hydrogen bomb the question is not whether we will use it. The question is when.
Another thing that makes human behavior hopelessly awful is the dog-pack instinct. We have an insuperable tendency to form packs and bark at other packs. In the case of some species, such as ours, a powerful territoriality is also in play. The urge to merge into a pack and fight with others is perhaps stronger than the sex drive. It is not unique to humans — ants do it, for example — but it is unusual in nature. Intelligent species, such as horses, form herds but don’t fight each other. So do whales. Cats don’t bother at all.
Countries (very large packs) fight and growl at each other, and form larger packs — NATO, the Warsaw Pact — to fight and growl at each other. These are immensely territorial. Members of these fanged herds do not actually pee on the borders to mark them, but come close…
Countries behave as idiotically as dogs because they are ruled by people as idiotic as dogs. Male dogs in a pack want to be alpha-dog, and fight to get there. Male politicians, to include the marginally female, want to be alpha-pol and fight, scratch, claw, lie, cheat, and steal to get there. Politics rewards the unprincipled and truculent, and thus those most likely to start wars. A fairly small number of these pathologically combative people decide whether a country of three hundred million go to war with another that most of the population has never heard of.
Misfortune can follow when people with instincts suited perhaps to small bands living in the wild decide on war for nations of hundreds of millions with nuclear arms. Their hormonal urges are exactly those encountered in bar fights. The pack follows them because, again, we are pack animals. It is what we do.
From Gabriel Sherman’s excavation of Roger Ailes in New York magazine:
Still, the whispers about Ailes and women were growing louder. Karem Alsina, a former Fox makeup artist, told me she grew suspicious when Fox anchors came to see her before private meetings with Ailes to have their makeup done. “They would say, ‘I’m going to see Roger, gotta look beautiful!’ ” she recalled. “One of them came back down after a meeting, and the makeup on her nose and chin was gone.”
Still, the new study gives one pause and suggests a bottle of sanitizer might not be a bad glove compartment staple. It’s not just the number of germs present on gas pump handles, but the quality of those germs. The earlier Kimberly-Clark study, led by a University of Arizona microbiologist named Charles Gerba (whom colleagues know as “Dr. Germ”), found that 71 percent of the pumps were highly contaminated with germs associated with disease. The new survey, conducted by Busbud, studied samples from three different gas stations, as well as three different charging stations, to see what we may be exposing ourselves to. The sample size is small, but the results mirror the larger earlier study and are eye-opening.The new study doesn’t give me pause, nor does it suggest a bottle of sanitizer. We are constantly and unavoidably surrounded by germs. They are a part of us, a part of life. For germs thou art, and unto germs shalt thou return. Relax, people. If gas pump buttons could kill you, you’d be long since dead.
Based on laboratory results from swabs from the sample gas pumps, handles on gas pumps had an average of 2,011,970 colony-forming units (CFUs), or viable bacteria cells, per square inch. Worse, the buttons on the pumps (where you select the grade of gas you want), had 2,617,067 CFUs per square inch. To put that in perspective, money, which is considered quite dirty since it changes hands often, has only 5.2 CFUs per square inch. A toilet seat has 172 CFUs per square inch. That makes a gas pump handle about 11,000 times more contaminated than a toilet seat, and a gas pump button 15,000 times more contaminated.
A few years ago in an Indonesian forest, a crested macaque monkey named Naruto picked up an unattended camera and took several photos of himself. The resulting monkey selfies have become the center of a debate concerning the overlap of intellectual property law and animal rights.
The owner of the camera, photographer David J. Slater, has been selling copies of the pictures for profit. He and his company, Wildlife Personalities, both claim copyright ownership of the photos, even though Slater admits that Naruto took the photos himself in 2011. PETA has filed a lawsuit on Naruto’s behalf, asking the courts to recognize Naruto as the owner of the copyright to the photos…
Research supports PETA’s claim that Naruto satisfies the basic requirements for authorship. Macaques are distinctive—even among monkeys—in their high degree of intelligence and complex sociality. They are particularly characterized by an extremely well-developed capacity for object manipulation, and a strong tendency to engage in tactile behavior. They understand the correlation between cause and effect, such as that by hitting a snail shell with a rock, they can crack it open and retrieve the snail. They also have individual personalities, and their unique characteristics lead to their capacity for idiosyncratic, self-oriented, highly intentional social behavior.
…to post something like this:
No, not in Cleveland. In Karachi.This just in from Gulf News Pakistan:
Islamabad: Around 100 snakes have been ruthlessly killed as part of a so-called magic show at the Karachi zoo, it was reported on Tuesday.
Titled “The snake-eating man”, the stunt has been attracting hundreds of visitors since the first day of Eid and is likely to continue for a few more days, the Dawn reported.
The snakes are killed by a performer who breaks their necks with his teeth before skinning them, and tasting their blood dripping from their mutilated bodies…
“The show is being held only for a few days and in no way damages the public image of the zoo,” director Fahim Khan said.
From The Huffington Post
CORRECTION: This article has been updated with the correct nickname of Matt “The Megatoad” Stonie. A previous version of the story incorrectly identified him as Matt “The Megaton” Stonie.
This is fresh from today’s edition of Herpdigest, to which you may subscribe here.
The team encountered the first individual, a beautiful meter-long silvery female, climbing in a Silver Palm tree near the water’s edge on a remote island in the southern Bahamas. As dusk approached, Harvard graduate student and team member Nick Herrmann called out on the radio: “Hey, I’ve got a snake here.” The rest of the team came crashing back to his position, and collectively gasped when they saw the boa. Expedition member Dr. Alberto Puente-Rolón, a professor at Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico Arecibo and global expert on West Indian Boas, remarked that this animal appeared unlike any species of boa yet known. The group then set about a systematic survey to locate additional animals, turning up four more individuals by the middle of the night. After recording data from these specimens, the team had lain down on the beach to rest until dawn. During the night, as Dr. Reynolds slept, a boa crawled down from the forest, across the beach, and directly onto his head. This caused him to awake with a start, and upon realizing what had happened, he awoke the others to inform them that they had found their sixth animal.
From Fox News:
“It’s my first time ever recovering a monkey from a prostitute,” Detective Rick Lowe told FOX12.
I just came across this dispatch from Laos in 1969, the height of our Southeast Asian War Games. Thousands of Americans were stationed in the capital, Vientiane, many with their families. It is an open letter, here slightly abridged, to parents of students at the American School of Vientiane:At the Student Council meeting January 29th, the idea of buying a cobra, the school mascot, was brought up. After discussing it, the Council decided to look into it deeper then ask the student body what they thought. A questionnaire was sent to the students February 13th. Two-thirds of the student body want a live cobra. The Student Council would like the opinion of the parents before purchasing a cobra.
From The Origins of Morality and Honor by the evolutionary biologist Edward O. Wilson, the world’s greatest ant expert:
Nevertheless an iron rule exists in genetic social evolution. It is that selfish individuals beat altruistic individuals, while groups of altruists beat groups of selfish individuals. The victory can never be complete; the balance of selection pressures can never move to either extreme. If individual selection were to dominate, societies would dissolve. If group selection were to dominate, human groups would come to resemble ant colonies.
The U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wetlands Research Center is looking to hire a college student or recent graduate—
—able to travel on a regular basis, as much of our work involves overnight (Mon-Thurs) travel to east Texas and southeast Louisiana. Individual trip duration will vary from 1 night to 4 consecutive nights. The student will be exposed to year-round field conditions including extremes of temperature, humidity, and rain. In addition, field work involves long days/nights traversing through swamps, streams, and other wetlands. Many field work days are in excess of 8 hours, sometimes not returning to the hotel/Wetlands Center until 2 a.m. or later. Many field locations are in remote areas with snakes, alligators, bees, wasps, mosquitos, and spiders. The student must be comfortable with catching amphibians and reptiles (excluding venomous snakes and alligators). The student must also be comfortable riding in boats and canoes, and wading in waist-deep waters.
Foxes in London? Sure, okay. But maggot farms? Who knew? From the New York Times:
He charges 75 pounds, nearly $120, for the first fox and about £50 for every fox after that, disposal included. The cadavers go to a friend’s maggot farm, where they are turned into chicken feed. “Poetic justice,” Phil calls it.
From Father Gerard Manley Hopkins’ journals:
Nov. 8— Walking with Wm. Splaine we saw a vast multitude of starlings making an unspeakable jangle. They would settle in a row of trees; then one tree after another, rising at a signal, they looked like a cloud of specks of black snuff or powder struck up from a brush or broom or shaken from a wig; then they would sweep round in whirlwinds — you could see the nearer and farther bow of the rings by the size and blackness; many would be in one phase at once, all narrow black flakes hurling round, then in another; then they would fall upon a field and so on. Splaine wanted a gun: then ‘there it would rain meat,’ he said. I thought they must be full of enthusiasm and delight hearing their cries and stirring and cheering one another.
I knew if I looked hard enough there’d be some good news coming out of yesterday’s election. From the New York Times::
PORTLAND, Maine — Bear hunting with bait, dogs, traps will stay legal in Maine because voters rejected a ballot initiative to ban the methods.
Animal rights advocates and others pushed for the law change, which they said would have eliminated cruel and unsportsmanlike hunting methods. Hunting groups, outfitters and the state Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife campaigned hard against the referendum.
Bait — typically sugary human food such as doughnuts — is by far the most common method of bear hunting and accounts for about four-fifths of the hunt.
Each day brings new wonders in my search for the perfect asshole. I had heard neither of canned hunts nor of a specimen named Ted Nugent. Now that I have, my lack of faith in the human race is powerfully reinforced:
In most canned hunts tame or semi-tame game species, reared in captivity, are placed in enclosures of varying sizes, and the gate is opened for the client, who has been issued a guarantee of success. Canned hunts are great for folks on tight schedules or who lack energy or outdoor skills. Microchip transponder implants for game not immediately visible are available for the proprietor whose clients are on really tight schedules. And because trophies are plied with drugs, minerals, vitamins, specially processed feeds, and sometimes growth hormones, they are way bigger than anything available in the wild. Often the animals have names, and you pay in advance for the one you’d like to kill, selecting your trophy from a photo or directly from its cage. For example, Rachel, Bathsheba, Paul, John, and Matthew were pet African lions that would stroll over and lick their keepers’ hands before they were shot in Texas…
“If we don’t protect our image, we may not have a heritage,” says the Colorado Wildlife Federation’s treasurer and board member, Kent Ingram, a leader in the recent well-fought but failed battle to ban canned hunts in the state. He reports that he was informed by a Denver taxidermist that half the elk coming in to be mounted had tattooed lips, which identify captives. Ingram also said he had reliable information that one canned-hunt customer had flown into Colorado and paid $40,000 to kill a Minnesota-raised bull that had been trucked in for the one-day shoot.
Just when you thought you had heard it all, along comes this heart-warming story out of California:
After a few minutes, the girl shouted loudly as she found tapeworms in her fecal waste. Cabral-Osorio said, “It was so gross and she had pooped all these tapeworms. There were a couple that were very long and wiggling around trying to get out of the toilet.”
It was quite shocking to see that the mother was quite calm over the situation. Later, the girl’s mother confessed that she had purchased a tapeworm pill in Mexico and had secretly given to her daughter to lose weight.
The mother apologized and said that she had done it to make her daughter thinner for an upcoming beauty pageant…
Can there anything more pathetic than a grown “man” who would pay thousands of dollars to shoot a tame deer bred to have great, bulging deformed antlers?
(Now that I think of it, maybe there is. Back in the day in Laos, I worked for an American ambassador who would strap on his six-shooter when he went upcountry to our CIA base near the Plain of Jars, safely surrounded by spooks and our Hmong guerrillas. His own generation’s war was World War II, which he had sat out at our embassy in Switzerland.)
…nothing to see here:
A mysterious disease is causing starfish to tear themselves to pieces. The arms of infected starfish begin to twist and then ‘crawl’ away from the creature’s body, until they tear off and the animal’s insides spill out.
It’s just the Republican Party.
From the New York Times:
JACKSBORO, Tenn. — In a mix of old-time religion, modern media and Tennessee law, a 22-year-old preacher who has become a reality television star because of his experience in handling poisonous snakes pleaded not guilty on Friday to illegally keeping dozens of them that he and his congregants routinely touch during worship services…
“This ain’t no longer just a fight for snake handling,” Mr. Hamblin, the father of five, told a group of supporters wearing red — to symbolize the blood of Christ — before his arraignment on a misdemeanor wildlife possession charge. “This is a fight for freedom of religion…”
“If they take him to jail, I’ll go to jail with him,” said Bucky Rouse, a former embalmer who is now an interior designer. “This is something we believe in.”
From Aljazeera America:
On Tuesday, Wisconsin began allowing the hunting and killing of wolves that had, until 2011, been protected by the Endangered Species Act. But scientists say the change is premature and could lead to the devastation of the gray wolf population in the state…
I’ve got no problem with this in principle, as long as it’s a fair fight. The hunters have to use their teeth.
Haven’t you ever seen a calcified flamingo before?
Alice Rivlin ran the Office of Management and Budget in 1995 when the Republicans forced one of their earlier government shutdowns. Here is a memory from that childish GOP tantrum of yesteryear:
AR: The questions you get are “Let me tell you about this activity; is it essential.” So you have to make a call on that.
My two favorite stories of that period are these. One was [the National Institutes of Health]. The clinical facilities where they had patients, that was clearly essential. But most of NIH is research and research management. We decided that was not essential. And so we sent the researchers home. But then you have laboratory animals. You can’t leave the laboratory animals to starve. So the technicians that take care of the laboratory animals are essential and the researchers are not.
Reading from left, Anayis, Georgia and Wyatt Doolittle, and Centrarchus macropterus:
In today’s New York Times I discovered something that I would probably have known if I had ever given the matter any thought: No other animal commits suicide. Why is that?
A teenage girl interviewed in the article attempts suicide, apparently because she is unpopular. Is she less popular than a lion driven from his pride by a younger male? Lonelier and sadder than a canary that has never seen another canary since leaving the pet store? Never flown free, or even flown at all?
Do these animals choose life despite all this because they are incapable of feeling emotions, good or bad, as we more sensitive beings do? Unlikely. Think of a purring cat or a whipped dog. Or look at the tiger in his cage, pacing, pacing, pacing in what certainly looks like a state of clinical depression. But unlike us he doesn’t lie down and starve himself to death. That only happens in zoos that exhibit the higher primates, like Guantánamo.
Can it be that nonhuman animals, lacking the power of speech, simply don’t know how to kill themselves? After all, a wolf might be able to kill another wolf, but he can’t ask another wolf to kill him. A wolf that sees a fellow wolf die in a trap has no way to communicate his discovery. Future generations would never know that if life got too tough you could always hunt up one of those steel gadgets, stick your leg into it, and wait.
Wait for what, though?
All animals feel hunger, but how could any animal know that resisting those pangs would at some future point result in its own death? Could our wolf even conceive of his own death? No body of ancestral knowledge exists to teach him that all wolves, present company not excepted, are mortal. Lacking that knowledge, no wolf could learn any more in a lifetime than that some other wolves sometimes die. But as far as our wolf knew, he might live forever if he could just manage to get through this one rough patch.
Tucker Carlson's Daily Caller rips away another of the scabs with which Obama tries to hide the diseased and festering mess he has made in Washington. Coming next week: The so-called “president” is secretly half-white!
Lois G. Lerner, the embattled Internal Revenue Service official who apologized for improperly scrutinizing the tax-exempt status of conservative nonprofit groups, is a member of the Humane Society of the United States, a liberal animal advocacy organization.
Lerner — the suddenly infamous IRS Exempt Organizations Division director — “is an active member of the Humane Society of the United States where her efforts in performing pet rescues necessitated by the 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes were widely acknowledged,” according to her biography…
Carlson’s own history with the Humane Society is somewhat ambiguous: he loves him some animals even harder than the HSUA does. For instance, he is a strong proponent of the death penalty for animal abusers.
Norman Mailer was once asked if he thought if an atomic war would kill all mankind. Hell no, he said. We’ll smother ourselves in our own shit first. More and more, Mailer appears to have been right.
Looking on the bright side, though, small sparks of beauty may survive here and there. So take a look at this video sent along by Asher Pavel, and hope for the birds.
Jim Hightower writes:
In 2009, an interim Texas school superintendent declared that sex-education classes were unnecessary in his rural district. Most of the area’s school kids live on farms, he explained, therefore: “They get a pretty good sex education from their animals.”
It’s this kind of thinking that makes Texas so special… (To continue with Hightower, go here.)
Maybe you’ve heard the old joke about the farm boy showing a girl around the ranch when they come across a bull mounting a cow and stop to watch.
Boy: I wouldn’t mind doing that, would you?
Girl: Go ahead, she’s your cow.
Another porcelain sculpture from the incomparable Kate MacDowell:
Normally I am able to resist passing along cute pet videos. Not this time, though:
I tried, God knows I tried, but I just couldn’t let this one slide by without posting it. Those of you with strong stomachs will find the full story here. For the rest of you, a taste:
“If you look at it in a real sense, they’re just invertebrates — no different than shrimp or crabs,” he said, speaking admirably of Archbold’s mental control. “If you caught them in baskets in Maryland, people would put Old Bay on them and gobble them down.”
Unaccountably I forgot to post this picture from my sister Pat’s trip to Africa this summer:
Still more from my sister Pat’s trip to Africa:
More from my sister Pat’s trip to Africa:
Here’s another (see previous post) of George W. Bush’s adornments to the federal bench:
HELENA — Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull on Wednesday admitted to sending a racially charged email about President Barack Obama from his courthouse chambers…
The subject line of the email, which Cebull sent from his official courthouse email address at 3:42 p.m. Feb. 20, reads: “A MOM’S MEMORY.”
The forwarded text reads as follows:
“Normally I don’t send or forward a lot of these, but even by my standards, it was a bit touching. I want all of my friends to feel what I felt when I read this. Hope it touches your heart like it did mine.
“A little boy said to his mother; ‘Mommy, how come I’m black and you’re white?’
“His mother replied, ‘Don’t even go there Barack! From what I can remember about that party, you’re lucky you don’t bark!’”
This from Mike Lofgren, a retired Republican staffer on the House and Senate budget committees:
An observer of the right-wing phenomenon must explain the paradox of followers who would escape from freedom even as they incessantly invoke the word freedom as if it were a mantra. But freedom so defined does not mean ordinary civil liberties like the prohibition of illegal government search and seizure, the right of due process, or the right not to be tortured. The hard right has never protested the de facto abrogation of much of the Bill of Rights during the last decade.
In the right-wing id, freedom is the emotional release that a hostile and psychologically repressed person feels when he is finally able to lash out at the objects of his resentment. Freedom is his prerogative to rid himself of people who are different, or who unsettle him. Freedom is merging into a like-minded herd. Right-wing alchemy transforms freedom into authoritarianism.
From Gail Sheehy’s 1995 profile in Vanity Fair comes all you need to know about Newt — semi-smart but with nutty ideas, poor follow-through, and a mess left for somebody else to clean up.
Surprisingly, the boy in the bottle-thick glasses with a plaid shirt and plastic pocket protector was only a runner-up as a National Merit Scholar. He did make the debate team, but, according to his stepfather, Bob Gingrich, “he wasn’t an A student … He wasn’t the class pride.” His mother Kit claims that Newt’s I.Q measured in the 120s…
“He always tried to be one of the boys,” says Kip Carter. “He never quite was.” To illustrate the point, Carter tells a down-home kind of story from the 1970s. Newt and Carter, who was then his campaign treasurer, used to barbecue hogs in the Gingriches’ driveway in Carrollton, Georgia. They would go to a friend’s farm and pick out a hog and shoot it.
“One day, Newt says to me, ‘I need to be the one to kill the hog. It’s only right, just morally.’”
Carter showed Newt how to use a Walther P-38, a W.W. II German pistol. “I said, ‘Put some corn in your left hand. When the pig comes over to get it, put the pistol against his head and shoot him between his eyes.’”
“So the pig comes over and he starts eating,” says Carter. “Newt flinches as the round hits the pig on the side of the head and ricochets down.” But the shot only stunned the hog and sent it fleeing back into the pen. “Newt keeps trying to get this pig to come back to him. Newt’s getting madder and madder. I said to him, ‘You just shot the son of a bitch in the head, Newt, why do you think he’s gonna come to you?’”
Carter recalls urging his comrade-in-arms, “‘You gotta get in there, in the hogpen, and go get him.’ But Newt wouldn’t do it. So I ended up going in the pen and killing the hog.”
Son Ted boils it down for us: “So coming out of Iowa, the GOP contest is Senator Man-on-Dog vs. Governor Dog-on-Car.”
Doris Potter pointed me to this, which I pass along as a model for all politicians running for national office. Actually not quite all. McCain and Romney could teach this octopus a thing or two.
How can I not run this? Slate’s David Weigel took it at a Tea Party rally yesterday in New Hampshire. Feel free to interpret.
Always a big day in a boy’s life…
Quick note on the occasionally entertaining but never enlightening Republican candidates’ debate still going on as I write this:
A few moments ago — I swear I heard it — Rick Santorum dumped all over Iran for its anti-gay policies. Rick Santorum? Man-on-Dog Rick Santorum? Could I have misunderstood somehow? Or was Rick slipping in, through the back door as it were, something he wants us to know about him? If so, what is it? Who is the real Rick Santorum? And who cares?
Addendum on the morning after:
At least one other person noticed Santorum’s newly-found solicitude for gay rights. Here’s Michael Scherer, live-blogging on Time.com:
80 minutes. This is where things start to get weird. Santorum is asked if he really thinks Attorney General Eric Holder is “perhaps smoking mushrooms” for wanting to try terrorists in civilian court. Santorum responds by saying that the Iranian regime “tramples the rights of women, gays and people throughout their society.” This is Santorum, the guy who was saying just a few minutes ago that it would be good to impose morality from the federal government. The non-sequiter is jarring. But perhaps it can only be understood by injecting marijuana or drinking cocaine.
From the New York Times:
Nazi propaganda dwelled on Hitler as a dog lover. He owned two German shepherds named Bella and Blondi. He tested a cyanide capsule on Blondi and killed her just before he committed suicide.
Below is a painted turtle on Sharon Mountain trying stubbornly (and ultimately failing) to dig a nest for her eggs in a hard-packed clay and gravel road. I post this picture not as a metaphor for Obama and the Senate, but because it gives me the opportunity to pass on to the present generation the greatest poem ever penned about turtles. It was penned, or more likely typed, by Ogden Nash in the early days of our nation. Television hadn’t been invented yet, so people were reduced to reading stuff like books and magazines and even poems.
For further information, please apply here.
Add this to your list of things you always suspected were true. It’s from Ted McLaughlin at The Rag Blog. Turns out that those amazing drug-sniffing dogs are no more amazing than Clever Hans, the Counting Horse.
The researchers took 18 drug dog teams to a church, where it is likely no drugs or explosives had ever been placed in the past. The cops were told there might be up to three target scents in any one of four rooms. If they saw a piece of red construction paper in the room, that indicated where a target scent was placed.
The first room was left untouched. The second room had a piece of red construction paper on a cabinet. The third room had two sausages and two tennis balls placed as decoys. The fourth room had the decoy scents and the red paper. However, none of the rooms had any drugs or explosives.
There shouldn’t have been any alerts, but, in fact, handlers indicated their dog had alerted in every room. There were more alerts in rooms with red paper (which piques the cop’s interest) and no corresponding increase in rooms with sausages and tennis balls (which would pique a dog’s interest).
In other words, at best, dogs are responding to the subtle non-verbal cues of their masters to find drugs or explosives where the human thinks there should be drugs or explosives. The cop suspects you have pot so his body language makes the dog alert. At worst, the cop is purposefully cuing his dog to alert when he wants a handy excuse to violate your Fourth Amendment rights.
…but Gail Collins did:
The Senate sponsor is James Inhofe of Oklahoma, who recently claimed that the supercold winter proves that theories about global warming are “an intellectual fraud.” We could blame Senator Inhofe, but he really isn’t all that satisfactory a villain. It’d sort of be like blaming nuclear proliferation on gophers.
It’s just like Boehner and all his cuddly buddies keep telling us: there’s plenty of jobs out there for anybody who really wants to work. For further information on the one below, go here. Free cabin bunk is included. Another big plus: Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul will be your senators.
The technician will assist in radio tracking Black Kingsnakes, checking drift fences and processing captured reptiles, amphibians, and small mammals, conducting vegetation transects, and data entry. Additionally, technician will assist in the deployment and collection of copper models throughout each study site. Technician should be in great physical condition and be able to hike about 8 - 15 miles a day in various weather conditions with about 10 - 20 pounds of gear.
Technician should also be tolerant of ticks, spiders, and insects. Technician should have previous radio telemetry experience. Technician should be able to navigate using a compass and topographic map, operate a GPS device, ability to identify and handle reptiles, amphibians, and small mammals (on job training will be expected, but prior knowledge would be beneficial). Venomous snakes will be encountered during this job; however, the technician will be trained in properly handling and processing venomous snakes.
The kitten is adorable but nameless.
He is a five-and-a-half-pound fuzzball with white feet, a dark brown and white face split down the middle suggesting the two-faced mask of comedy and tragedy, a white flourish at the throat, and a dark gray-brown coat like something Aunt Bea sported in the fifties. From the back he looks as it he’s wearing his big brother’s pants. He is so beguiling that he has already charmed all of the many other animals that live in our house — three dogs, a three-legged cat and a demented bird. He may have sinister plans for the bird but that’s another story.
We are so hopelessly smitten by the little cat that we now live to be graced with a sign of his affection. He lives to eat and when not eating to leap about, roll on the floor, chase his catnip mouse, and break everything in sight including our hearts. The only problem is, he has no name.
Not that we haven’t tried to give him one. By now we have exhausted hours — weeks — in the effort. Agreement eludes us. Feelings have been hurt. Epithets have been traded. Violence has been threatened, despair proclaimed. So far, we can find no name to measure up to his superior self. And slowly, unavoidably, we draw closer to the conclusion that there may be no way to name the world’s most agreeable, most enchanting, most lovable, cat.
What would you have named Mozart if not Wolfgang Amadeus? How about Aristotle? Homer? Jesus? The name becomes the man. The man becomes the name. Can the same be true of a little cat? Days go by and a hundred names suggest themselves—all wrong.
Meanwhile, Little Anonymous has taken control of the household. He fears nothing and no one, especially humans, dogs and other cats. He partakes of everything with or without invitation. He is the self-appointed inspector general of all things. He has scrutinized, analyzed, tested, and tasted every object in the house, from stuffed pillows to frozen lasagna, from bougainvillea leaves to old slippers. Small things such as pens, pencils, silverware, peanuts, chopped carrots, and pearl onions are summarily batted to the floor where he feels they belong. They may be used later in a never-ending one-cat game of soccer/hockey, known to us as socky, or they may be consigned to dusty obscurity just out of reach under the sideboard.
We have tried a categorical approach to the naming challenge and this has proved no more productive than the random method. Just because the fur around his neck stands up from the rest of his coat and suggests an Elizabethan collar, it doesn’t mean that Marlowe, Macbeth or Faustus are good names for a cat. His peculiar ruff also acts as a divide between fur of two distinctly different colors, making it look as though he is two different cats, with the head of one screwed onto the body of the other. Somehow this oddity adds to his charm.
His bottomless appetite for mischief suggests another naming category and this has been extensively explored. Pestilence, Apocalypse, Gnat, Locust, Earwig, Rash, Plague, Scab, Abscess — all these names and many more have been considered and rejected as either over the top or not fully descriptive.
Yet another category considers the cat's appearance. Names like Freak, Beaver, Mink, Badger, Hedgehog, Rodent, and Scream, while charming, seem to fall short.
And so, the search goes on. We have observed that the lack of a permanent name does not seem to have affected the cat adversely, or in any way at all. His response to all the names we have tried has been the same: he does not respond; he does whatever he wants. We had the same problem with the dogs until we came up with the inspired idea to name them all Food.
I invite — beg for, actually — comment on this story from the Miami Herald. Speculation on the author’s use of the word “fruitless” is appropriate, although obvious.
A new study of white ibises by University of Florida researchers suggests the pollutant could have a far more profound impact than imagined: It turned a good chunk of a captive flock gay.
The study, published online Wednesday in a biological journal, documented a number of changes in the mating behaviors and reproductive success of four groups of ibises fed varying levels of mercury over a three-year period.
By far the most surprising effect was on the courtship inclinations of male ibises. In the first year, 55 percent of the males given the highest doses of mercury in their feed hooked up with other males during breeding season.
“They pretty much did everything except lay eggs,’’ said Peter Frederick, a UF wildlife ecologist who led the study. “They built nests, they copulated, they sat in the nests together…’’
Some males exhibited bi-sexual interests, changing partners when male-on-male efforts proved fruitless. That’s a common response in the wild after failed efforts, Frederick said.
Many of you have written to ask how long the world’s longest cat is. The world’s longest cat is 48.5 inches long.
The question raised but not answered in this don’t-miss story from Discover Magazine is whether these overendowed squirrels experience lust while masturbating.
If so, Christine O’Donnell wants you to know that when that last nut is harvested you’ll go straight to squirrel hell.
If you have no lust in your heart, however, prospects brighten. Christine will be totally okay with your little auto-fellatio games, and you will ascend post-death to squirrel heaven.
These mighty genitals suggest that sex, and sperm in particular, is a serious business for Cape ground squirrels. To get the best odds of fathering the next generation, they need to ensure that it’s their sperm that fertilises the female’s eggs and not those of rivals. So they make a lot of it; hence, the oversized testicles.
With sperm being so important, it’s odd that some Cape ground squirrels regularly waste theirs. Yet that’s exactly what Jane Waterman saw while studying wild squirrels in Namibia. Some of them would masturbate, apparently squandering their precious sperm. What does squirrel masturbation look like? Apparently, it’s rather acrobatic…
The final explanation is that masturbation is actually a form of self-medication. By cleaning their genitals, males reduce their odds of contracting a sexually transmitted infection. It’s a new hypothesis that Waterman herself put forward, but it’s the only one that actually fits with all of her data…
Today is Chlamydia Monday in Sweden, yet another reason to keep that country on your list of emigration possibilities in case Boehner and McConnell take over this one in November. Go here to see the Official Chlamydia Day Videos (try saying that fast five times in a row). The clips are not limited to just the one sexually transmitted disease, nor to a species-specific method of transmission.
For the past 15 or 20 minutes, hummingbirds have been strafing each other over the feeder outside my window. Whenever one gets close enough to feed, another darts down and drives it away. There is plenty of sugar water and three sipping holes, each in the center of an imitation flower, but so far no bird has been allowed by the others to perch and feed. Hummingbirds are so cute. Sometimes they seem almost human, only they never actually hurt each other.
Frankly I don’t see the problem here. It’s not like he blew his nose in the clam chowder.
DAVENPORT, Iowa – An Iowa restaurant owner said he'll pay a fine after his head chef was videotaped kissing and licking toads in the kitchen … On the tape, chef Christopher Turla is seen with two small toads on the prep table. He kisses the toads a few times, licks them, then stuffs them in his mouth.
I caught a couple of new pets up on Sharon Mountain the other day. I know you’ll be as excited as I am:
…and not all of them are on octopuses (see previous post). Or on octopoi. Or octopi (see comments on previous post). The excerpt below, from Yahoo! News, suggests that the Madrid Zoo is run by suckers. Or, more probably, by showmen who figure Madrileños for suckers.
MADRID — The Madrid Zoo said Thursday that it has made an offer to buy Paul, the octopus who became a pop culture sensation by correctly predicting the outcome of as many World Cup matches as he has legs — all seven of Germany's games plus the Spain-Netherlands final.
…from the New York Times:
…As hairless torsos have become the norm for male models and actors, below-the-neck hair removal has gone mainstream. The nascent category of body shavers has surpassed $10 million in annual sales, according to Nielsen data cited by Remington. But many men who aspire to the polished trunks of the “Jersey Shore” men face a dilemma when it comes to their backs: they don’t want to undergo the expense of waxing or laser hair removal, but are embarrassed to ask others for assistance.
Enter the extendable Remington Body and Back Groomer, which came out last year and costs $39.99. It’s an update of shorter Remington Body Groomers, which have sold briskly since being introduced in 2005.
To make the next-generation model, Remington conducted studies of men as they wielded various products to trim body hair. “You haven’t lived until you’ve been in a bathroom with a man watching him shave all his body parts,” said Carl Kammer, director of new product development at Remington…
To illustrate the article excerpted above, the Times chose a truly revolting photo. Not only is it not suited for workplace viewing, it is not suited for viewing at all. I strongly advise you not to click on the words “Read on,” below. If you do, you are proceeding at your own risk. And remember — I told you so.
…from the Bellingham Herald, and don’t miss the comment from the British Columbia citizen either. Unfortunately it remains unclear even from the Herald man’s complete account why it was necessary to euthanize the mice, but let your imagination run wild.
A man accused of operating a crude compound near Sumas where people engaged in sexual acts with animals is tied to cases in four court systems in two countries.
Federal agents arrested Douglas Spink at a Whatcom County compound on Reese Hill Road on April 14. They also seized videotapes of a British man, Stephen Clarke, engaged in sexual acts with dogs Spink owned.
The Whatcom Humane Society seized seven dogs, four horses and several mice. The dogs and horses are the subject of a custody dispute currently proceeding in Whatcom County Superior and District courts; the mice had to be euthanized…
A lot of you have written in to say you don’t know what a baby wombat looks like. Here’s what:
Hear this, from the American Family Association:
Chalk another death up to animal rights insanity and to the ongoing failure of the West to take counsel on practical matters from the Scripture…
What about the term “killer whale” do SeaWorld officials not understand?
If the counsel of the Judeo-Christian tradition had been followed, Tillikum would have been put out of everyone’s misery back in 1991 and would not have had the opportunity to claim two more human lives.
Says the ancient civil code of Israel, “When an ox gores a man or woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner shall not be liable.” (Exodus 21:28)
So, your animal kills somebody, your moral responsibility is to put that animal to death. You have no moral culpability in the death, because you didn’t know the animal was going to go postal on somebody.
But, the Scripture soberly warns, if one of your animals kills a second time because you didn’t kill it after it claimed its first human victim, this time you die right along with your animal. To use the example from Exodus, if your ox kills a second time, “the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death.” (Exodus 21:29)
We have a new entry in the highly competitive race for the most grudging non-apology of 2010. Shown below is Rudolph Andreas “André” Bauer with an adorable Scientologist friend.
[South Carolina’s] Republican Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer said Monday he regretted comments comparing people who take public assistance to stray animals, but the incident continued to draw fire.
In a phone interview, Bauer said he regretted the remarks “because now it’s being used as an analogy, not a metaphor.
“Do I regret it? Sure I do. I wouldn’t have to be taking this heat otherwise.”
“The unpleasant habits of round-mouthed hagfish and lampreys are vividly described as ‘suctorial.’ Theirs is a mode of life made possible by having gills which open directly into the throat, so that they can continue to respire while still sucking blood…”
Below we see the famed Republican moralist, Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert, as he explores the subtleties of President Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. A written excerpt, followed by the Full Monty on tape:
If you’re oriented toward animals, bestiality, then, you know, that’s not something that can be used, held against you or any bias be held against you for that. Which means you’d have to strike any laws against bestiality, if you’re oriented toward corpses, toward children, you know, there are all kinds of perversions…
Next thing you know, it’ll be perfectly legal to mate with anything at all, even Republican Congressmen from Texas.
Surely you didn’t expect me to keep this one all to myself:
…Greene, who lives outside Shelton, suffers from epilepsy, a neurological disorder characterized by unprovoked and reoccurring seizures. He said the snake, its reddish-brown body draped around him like a necktie when he’s out in public, senses when a seizure is imminent and gives him a light squeeze. The warning gives him enough time to take medication to head off the attack, alert someone it’s coming or move to an area where the thrashing is not disruptive.
Greene blacks out during these episodes, but his wife, Karen, said the snake’s warning has headed off about a half-dozen seizures in Redrock’s five months with Greene. This month, Greene has had four seizures at night – she refuses to let the boa constrictor share their bed – but none during the day…
Greene said he removes the snake when given a warning and hands him to his wife or another companion. Redrock has never exhibited aggressive behavior toward him or other residents, he said.
“It takes a special kind of snake to be a service animal,” he said.
This picture is of a baby milksnake found on Great Hollow Road in Cornwall, Connecticut. It’s from a photo gallery accompanying an article on local snakes I did for this month’s Cornwall Chronicle, our community newsletter. Click the “Read on…” link below to see the rest of the pictures. Bring the family.
Here’s Rush Limbaugh again, still scribbling away on the walls of America’s toilets:
They don’t like Gitmo, we have to shut it down. They don’t like what we’ve done, fine, Obama will run around and apologize. I’m telling you, folks, it is not the United States of America that serves as Barack Obama’s role model. It’s other socialist nations that have failed and the concept of socialism that is his role model. I’ll tell you what, stupid little community organizer, organize this.
From Lincoln’s Virtues: an Ethical Biography, by William Lee Miller:
When the boys in the neighborhood put hot coals on the backs of turtles to entertain themselves by watching the turtles’ reaction, there are several courses of action open to you. As a good fellow, you can go along with the fun. As one who does feel the turtle’s pain, but is intimidated, you can keep your objections to yourself. As one who has more important business elsewhere, you could ignore the whole matter. As a budding representative of the relativisms of the century to come, you could shrug your shoulders and say: “They like to put hot coals on turtles, I don’t like to put hot coals on turtles — preferences differ. Who is to choose? Don’t be judgmental.”
Or you can do what the ten-year-old Abraham Lincoln did: You can tell your companions that what they are doing is wrong, and that they should not do what they are doing. And you may even, as young Lincoln did, draw out the larger moral principle, and write a composition — cruelty to animals is wrong — and argue publicly on its behalf in your one-room school.
Or on the other hand you could…
This is from a long campaign profile in the New York Times of May 21, 2000, to which we should have paid more attention than we did:
While playing Little League baseball, running for class president, or even sobbing in the principal’s office, George W. Bush absorbed West Texas values that many old friends say are central to understanding who he is today…
‘‘We were terrible to animals,’’ recalled Mr. Throckmorton, laughing. A dip behind the Bush home turned into a small lake after a good rain, and thousands of frogs would come out.
‘‘Everybody would get BB guns and shoot them,’’ Mr. Throckmorton said. ‘‘Or we’d put firecrackers in the frogs and throw them and blow them up.’’
When he was not blowing up frogs, young George — always restless and something of a natural leader — would lead neighborhood children on daredevil expeditions around town, seeing how close they could come to breaking their necks.
Unless I’ve seriously underestimated you, you won’t want to miss this one:
NOW SHE HAS HER PIT BULL CLONED —
ONCE SHE MANACLED A MORMON FOR SEX
Beauty queen who fled UK while on bail resurfaces with her five puppies
The photo was taken from a small boat and with a small camera, but look hard enough and you will eventually see two water snakes. That they are facing away from each other doesn’t mean they’re not friends.
BANGKOK, Thailand — A leatherback turtle has been tracked swimming from the coast of the Papua province in Indonesia to Oregon, researchers said, in what may be the longest trip for marine vertebrae between breeding and feeding sites.
“This is an animal perfectly suited for doing this kind of journey,” said Scott Benson, research fishery biologist for the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, who helped track the turtle and presented details of the journey at a sea turtle symposium last month.
The longest distance of nine turtles tagged in 2003, Benson said, was the leatherback that reached Oregon and then headed to Hawaii before the battery on the satellite transmitter gave out. The 12,774-mile journey took 647 days, he said.
Dear Printer Repair Man:
Please come to my house and check my printer. Every time I use the printer — and I am away while it prints — my papers are wrinkled, even shredded. Sometimes the ink is blurred . I hope that you can find the problem!!
Concerned Computer Owner
Dear Concerned Computer Owner:
While you were gone today, I checked your printer, and I found your problem. Please watch the YouTube video I produced for you for the answer.
Your Printer Repair Man
Thanks to the Washington Post, this much we know: Bernie Kerik is one hell of a multi-tasker:
This much we know: In 2001, a Lower Manhattan apartment meant to provide a haven for rescue and recovery workers at Ground Zero reportedly became Kerik and Regan's love nest. The two had come together while Kerik was writing his memoir, which ReganBooks published.
Here we learn that crickets in Utah are already living the Republican dream:
But in the deserts of Utah, Dr. Couzin and his colleagues discovered that giant swarms may actually be made up of a lot of selfish individuals.
Mormon crickets will sometimes gather by the millions and crawl in bands stretching more than five miles long. Dr. Couzin and his colleagues ran experiments to find out what caused them to form bands. They found that the forces behind cricket swarms are very different from the ones that bring locusts together. When Mormon crickets cannot find enough salt and protein, they become cannibals.
“Each cricket itself is a perfectly balanced source of nutrition,” Dr. Couzin said. “So the crickets, every 17 seconds or so, try to attack other individuals. If you don’t move, you’re likely to be eaten.”
Ever have the feeling that if you don’t blog something you’re going straight to hell when you die? Here’s Katherine Harris running for the Senate. Even though it was Florida she lost:
It has just come to my attention that “when a male mantis is decapitated, cutting off the brain from the ventral nerve cord, the body begins incessant stepping movements which carry it in a circle.
“In addition, the abdomen and genital appendages begin incessant copulatory movements and a headless male can often mate sucessfully.”
This suggests all sorts of avenues for speculation, none of which I will explore. But don’t let that stop you. Contrast and compare.
A well-known Georgia segregationist of the time once called Jimmy Carter a liar. His press aide, Jody Powell, counterattacked with, “Being called a liar by Lester Maddox is like being called ugly by a frog.”
This is not the frog Jody had in mind.
Down south they say that if you come across a turtle on a fencepost, you know three things about him for sure. He doesn’t know how he got there. He doesn’t know why he’s there. And he doesn’t know how to get off.
Hard to blame the turtle for his fix. Blame the voters who put him there. You know who you are.