Archive for the ‘Mammals’ Category

Of airlines and men.

Wednesday, April 26th, 2017

I have no joke here. I just wanted to say:

Tell us about the rabbits, United!

(United Airlines: the Lennie of aviation.)

Obit watches, firings, ocelots, and other stuff: December 27, 2016.

Tuesday, December 27th, 2016

I think I’m going to wait until tomorrow to try to pull together the Carrie Fisher obits. Not that it was entirely unexpected (though I think we were all hoping for the best for her), but I feel better letting things sit for a day.

By way of Lawrence: Richard “Watership Down” Adams. A couple of pithy quotes:

The book, and a subsequent animated film in 1978, became synonymous with rabbits and at least one enterprising butcher advertised: “You’ve read the book, you’ve seen the film, now eat the cast.”

“If I saw a rabbit in my garden I’d shoot it,” he once said.

By way of my beloved sister-in-law: Vera Rubin, noted female astronomer.

Rubin’s uncovering of evidence for dark matter revealed that “there’s much more out there than we would expect based on our common-sense experience,” said James Bullock, professor of physics and astronomy at UC Irvine. “Today, the standard interpretation is that 80% of matter is in this form that’s different than anything that is known to science. And without this dark matter, a lot of other things about the universe don’t make sense: Galaxies themselves wouldn’t exist; stars wouldn’t exist, and we would not exist.”

Rex and Rob Ryan both OUT in Buffalo.

The Bills went 1-7 this season against teams with a record better than .500, with the one victory coming against the New England Patriots, who were without suspended quarterback Tom Brady and started rookie third-stringer Jacoby Brissett.

He’s still due $16.5 million after compiling a 15-16 record as Bills coach, a .483 winning percentage that is actually the best of the seven head coaches (including Perry Fewell on an interim basis) who have followed Wade Phillips since the 2000 season.

Babou (either one), call your office, please.

…biologists working in Laguna Atacosa National Wildlife Refuge near Harlingen found the first known ocelot den in two decades.

Meanwhile, the BBC reports that the cheetah is “rapidly heading towards extinction”. While sad, this comes as no great shock to us…because, as we all know, cheetahs never win.

This is kind of cool, at least to me: a homebrew short-range transmitter that sends out time signals on the WWVB 60 KHz frequency. Why would you want to do this, other than for the challenge?

Unfortunately, I can’t get my wristwatch to receive the 60 kHz amplitude-modulated time signal in my dorm room in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Christmas is coming.

Friday, September 23rd, 2016

I’ll post another reminder after Thanksgiving, but remember: clicking on Amazon links, or using the search box, gives us a small kickback on your purchases, and allows us to indulge our penchant for small electronics, knives, books, and movies from the 16 page list, “A partial and incomplete list of movies we might want to watch or have talked about watching (with annotations)”.

(I maintain that as a Google Doc which is shared with a few friends. I’m not sure I want to share it here, and if I did, it would be read-only. But if you ask directly, I might think about it…)

(Speaking of the Amazon search box, is anyone having trouble with it? It seems to be working okay for me, and I thought I replaced that when Amazon end-of-lifed the old version, but Lawrence made a comment to me the other night about it not working…)

I don’t expect gifts: the thoughtful and pleasant people who hang out here are more than enough of a gift for me. However, as an administrative note: if you are someone who feels inclined to purchase a gift for me, please do not purchase this book. Thank you.

(However, I wouldn’t object to a book on goat raising. Especially those Nigerian dwarf goats. I have been trying to persuade my mother that she needs a dwarf goat, or some dwarf cattle, to keep the Corgi company and give it something to do besides park itself under the bed.)

(Via. The funny thing is, I’d actually heard of this guy, or at least his toaster project. I would be more interested in the toaster, though it strikes me as an inferior version of “I, Pencil”.)

Things you may have wondered about. (#5 in a series)

Saturday, September 17th, 2016

Somebody asked me this question this morning, and I thought the answer was interesting enough to make for a post in this department:

What was the name of Pavlov’s dog?

Turns out “Pavlov’s dog” is actually sort of a misnomer: good old Ivan had a bunch of dogs. I’ve seen 37 in one source, and 40 in another.

But did they have names? Yes.

Eleven years ago, I began a scientific mission with a trip to Russia, to find the names of Pavlov’s dogs. My intention was to name Drosophila memory mutants after the dogs.

This is a pretty cool article that I commend to your attention (especially for the photo of the author wearing Ivan’s old top hot).

The Quora article (with appropriate citations) lists the names of all forty known dogs, Just in case you’re looking for a good name for your new puppy,

Speaking of animal behavior, I’ve been wanting to link to this, and it seems like here is a good place for it. There once was a scientist named John Bumpass Calhoun, whp specialized in studying the behavior of rats and mice.

By 1954, he was working under the auspices of the National Institute of Mental Health, which gave him whole rooms to build his mousetopias. Like a rodent real estate developer, he incorporated ever-better amenities: climbable walls, food hoppers that could serve two dozen mice at once, lodging he described as “walk-up one-room apartments.”

His ultimate experiment, Universe 25, began in 1968 with eight mice.

The mice themselves were bright and healthy, hand-picked from the institute’s breeding stock. They were given the run of the place, which had everything they might need: food, water, climate control, hundreds of nesting boxes to choose from, and a lush floor of shredded paper and ground corn cob.

The population grew to 620 in about a year.

Then, as always, things took a turn. Such rapid growth put too much pressure on the mouse way of life. As new generations reached adulthood, many couldn’t find mates, or places in the social order—the mouse equivalent of a spouse and a job. Spinster females retreated to high-up nesting boxes, where they lived alone, far from the family neighborhoods. Washed-up males gathered in the center of the Universe, near the food, where they fretted, languished, and attacked each other. Meanwhile, overextended mouse moms and dads began moving nests constantly to avoid their unsavory neighbors. They also took their stress out on their babies, kicking them out of the nest too early, or even losing them during moves.

The last mouse was born in May of 1970.

And by the way, there’s also a literary tie to this story, but you’ll have to click through for that; I won’t spoil it here.

Sterling Archer, white courtesy phone, please.

Saturday, September 10th, 2016

And now, more than 25 years after it was initiated, ocelot subspecies in Texas and Arizona finally have their own official federal recovery plan.
The Ocelot Recovery Plan might be the most in depth federal document ever compiled for an animal species, featuring the work of dozens of scientists and eventually spreading to 237 dense-packed pages on habitat, genetics, population numbers and more.

I haven’t read through the recovery plan, so I don’t know if one of the steps is to get them some toys to play with. I’ll update if I find out anything more.

Questions. We’ve got questions.

Wednesday, July 13th, 2016

Prompted by various things, including recent events and other people’s travels:

  1. Why did the FBI feel compelled to announce they’ve abandoned the search for D.B. Cooper?
    Is it possible they’re playing a long game here?
    “Olly olly oxen free. Come out, D.B. Cooper!”
    “Hi, I’m Dan Cooper.”
    “Hi, Dan. You’re under arrest.”
    “Hey, wait! That’s not fair! You called ‘olly olly oxen free’! No takebacks, you cheater!”
    (I would ask why they were still pursuing him after 45 years – I thought the statute of limitations would have run out long ago – but, per Wikipedia (I know, I know) there’s a John Doe indictment in absentia against Mr. Cooper.)
  2. More of a rhetorical question: I didn’t know there was a Cleveland Museum of Natural History. I don’t think I did, anyway: if I ever went, I was very young. I’ll have to make a point of going next time I’m up Cleveland way. (And it is my turn.)
  3. Speaking of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, why is Balto, the famous Alaskan sled dog who took the diptheria serum to Nome, in the Cleveland Museum of Natural History?
    (I know what the more or less “official” answer is: Balto died in what’s now the Cleveland Zoo. And why was Balto in Cleveland in the first place? Because the children of Cleveland and the Plain Dealer collected pennies to purchase Balto and the other dogs, because they were allegedly badly treated after being sold to a “dime museum”. It just seems odd. If George Kimble had been a resident of Houston, or a graduate of UT, would Balto be in Texas now?)
  4. Have I linked to the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History before?
  5. Why doesn’t the CMNH want to return Balto to Alaska? I kind of get the idea that Alaska may have forfeited rights to Balto, given the way that he was supposedly treated. But I’m not sure I blame the state, or Balto’s first owner, for what they did. Also, it was a long time ago in another country: wouldn’t it be nice to give Balto back?
  6. Another rhetorical question: I was unaware of the Balto/Togo controversy. It wasn’t covered in the children’s book I read about the serum run when I was a lad. (In case you were wondering: Togo’s skin is in Alaska, while his skeleton is at Yale.)
  7. What’s Balto’s Bacon Number? The Oracle says 3. But I’m not convinced: if you were voiced by Kevin Bacon in an animated movie based on your life, shouldn’t that lower your Bacon number?
  8. There were three Balto movies?
  9. What was the name of that children’s book about the serum run, anyway? I know it was non-fiction, and I swear it had a blueish cover, but I can’t remember the name. I’d kind of like to find a copy.

My latest million dollar idea…

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

An all-natural, organic, made from renewable resources, energy drink.

The main ingredients will be the livers of polar bears, walruses, and moose. Possibly in a suspension of cod liver oil, with natural flavorings to make it a little more palatable.

Quote of the day.

Wednesday, June 24th, 2015

I was proud of that first Sharps of mine…At first it used a 320-grain bullet, but I experimented with one a hundred grains heavier, and thereafter used the 420-grain projectile. It killed quicker. In making this change I didn’t sacrifice anything in velocity, because by then I had begun to use the English powder…and it added 10 to 30 percent efficiency to my shooting. After a year or two, having plenty of buffalo dollars in my jeans, I talked myself into believing I needed an extra rifle in reserve–so I bought two. [Emphasis added – DB] One was a .40-70-320–a light little gun for deer and antelope but too impotent for buff. The other was another .40-90-420. Both used bottle-necked cartridges; don’t ask me how I fell for that sort of thing after vowing I was off bottle-necks for life.

—buffalo hunter Frank Mayer, quoted in David Dary’s The Buffalo Book.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Seriously, it just tickles me to see the “well, I had some money, and I thought I needed a second one” justification being used as far back as the 1870s. Also, I love that throwaway line, “So I bought two,” and the “don’t ask me how I fell for that sort of thing”. I’m pretty sure anyone and everyone who’s a serious gun person and been around for a while is familiar with all of those.

(Heck, you’re welcome to name your favorite “don’t ask me how I fell for that”, “so I bought two”, or “well, I had some money…” justification in the comments.)

Incidentally, I was curious about the reference to “the English powder”. A quick Google search turned up what looks like an interesting ebook, though I haven’t had time to go through all of it yet: “A memoir on gunpowder” by John Braddock, published in 1832. This looks to be one of the earliest extant books on methods for making and testing gunpowder, and falls squarely into “quaint and curious volumes of forgotten lore” territory.

Cry havoc! and let slip the dogs of Westminster.

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

A shih tzu called Rocket was picked as the top toy dog at Madison Square Garden.

So? Well, one of the owners of Rocket is…Patty Hearst. No, really: from “Death to the fascist insect that preys upon the life of the people!” to “Who’s a good dog? Yes, you are!”

Meanwhile, can a bloodhound win “Best in Show”? Maybe. But Nathan, one of the favorites to win this year, is out of the picture.

After action report: Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Monday, November 17th, 2014

I’ve sort of hinted at this, but now the full story can be told.

Mike the Musicologist and I went on a road trip to Oklahoma the weekend of November 8th.

(more…)

A double handful of randomness.

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

The arson puppies of Las Vegas. Yes, I know that sounds like I’m just stringing random words together, but this a real story. Plus: puppies!

Hey, you’ll never guess who is running for a Congressional seat in Louisiana. Edwin Edwards. Yeah, that’s right, Edwin Edwards. You know, the former governor of Louisiana who spent eight years in prison after being convicted of bribery, extortion, and fraud? That Edwin Edwards?

“Iacta alea est,” Mr. Edwards said, after describing how Julius Caesar came to the rescue of the unhappy citizens of Rome. “The die is cast. Today I cross the Rubicon.”

Always nice to see a classical reference in the news.

My humps, my humps…

Friday, February 14th, 2014

A camel that escaped from a Palmdale property and began charging people and cars is now in the custody of animal control officials.

Thoughts:

1. I admit I’ve written some bad Perl code. But I don’t recall writing any that ran away. SQL queries, yes, but not Perl code.
2. “Runaway Camel” sort of sounds like a stunt organized by those truth jackasses.
3. I have a “primates” tag; do I need a “mammals” tag?

Edited to add: I think I do need a “mammals” tag, and an associated “camels” tag. But even though primates are mammals, I don’t feel right moving the “primates” tag under the “mammals” tag, so I’m keeping them separate for now.