Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Dear Diary

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Messenger



Crows have a lot to say, if you listen carefully...

In the End



Sunset, a few minutes from my house.

Old & Tattered



Got this shot of a pretty ragged looking crow about to land on an equally ragged looking tree. A friend of mine said it looked like an album cover, and I have to agree.

Friday, June 19, 2009

A Duck's Tale



So, I haven't been as active here lately. As I've gotten more and more into photography, I've been spending most of my online time at a site called Deviant Art, where I have a gallery of my photos. If you're interested, you can see it by clicking here, or for an easy-to-remember url, you can simply go to www.getintrouble.com (a url I was going to use for something else but never did, so I pointed it to my deviant art page).

Anyway, I'm only bringing that up because I had posted a story on that site of an encounter I had the other day with a female mallard, and I was going to post it here as well, but I've since had an update to the story, so I'm posting both here, simply because I learned something out of it, and maybe you'll learn something too, or at least maybe find it interesting. The original post was on the 16 of this month, and the update came on the 18th. Here it is:

6/16/09
Yesterday after work, I went to a lagoon near my house to take pictures. It's a spot I've always loved, and I've been going there a lot lately because of all of the ducks, geese, herons, seagulls and crows that are there - all things I love.

So I'm standing there taking pictures, and I see a group of male mallards on the concrete walking path all crowded around one female. I've seen this happen once before, but I've never been sure of what it was that I saw. Maybe it's part of the mating ritual - like, how the males decide who will get to mate with the female - or maybe it was something else, but I didn't at first assume it was violent.

Yesterday, however, was different. From a distance, I saw the female lamely try to get away, and the males - and one male in particular - jump right back on top of her. It didn't look like the female was a willing participant, so I started walking over there.

As I got closer, I could see that the female was in bad shape. The entire top of her head, and her entire back, were completely bare of feathers, and there was only red, raw looking skin exposed. I quickened my pace and stamped my feet as I approached to disperse the males.

As they abandoned her out of fear of me, the poor female slowly dragged herself off of the path, and into the soft shredded wood that lined the side of the concrete path. The male ducks were intent though, and I had to stay next to the female and continually hiss and scatter loose dirt at the males to keep them at bay.

As I got a closer look at the female, I saw that she was in really horrible condition. I believe the males were going to continue until she was dead. Her back looked absolutely dreadful and so painful and inflamed, and the top of her head was much the same. I could see small bits of dried blood on her back, probably from where feathers had been savagely torn out.

She pretty quickly realized that I was not going to harm her, and that I was clearly keeping the males away, and she lamely inched her way closer to me. At this point, I knelt down and was talking softly to her, and she inched up even closer until her little head was under my leg. The poor girl was shivering uncontrollably, probably in part from the trauma, shock and fear, and in part from all of her exposed skin. The feathers that remained on her body were tattered and wet, and her wings, which at one point she sort of half spread open, looked incapable of lifting her in the air.

I immediately called the local humane society, but there was only one officer on duty, and she was currently on another call. So then I called another local place called Wild Care, which specializes in caring for sick and injured birds until the birds can be released back into the wild. Or, if they can't be released, they get to live at Wild Care. The woman at Wild Care said that the humane society would bring the duck there anyway, and that if I could bring the duck there myself, that would be best, as time could be of the essence. I explained that I was hesitant to handle the duck due to the extent of her injuries, and I didn't want to add more harm to the situation, but said I would try, and if nothing else, would sit and wait with the duck for the humane society officer to get there.

By this time, I was sitting flat on the ground with my legs stretched out in front of me. The duck was now quite sure that I only wanted to help her, and she had snuggled up firmly against my leg, leaning her head against me as well. I had started to put my jacket over her, but she didn't seem to want that. I suspect it might have been due to how painful her back was. So instead I had made a sort of barricade around her exposed side with it, so that she could no longer see the male ducks.

At this point, I didn't want to wait anymore - though I'd only been there for about 10-15 minutes. I pulled out a soft canvas bag and set it in front of her, with the opening facing her. Without hesitating, she limped inside it. She couldn't (or wouldn't) extend her legs when she walked, so it really almost looked like she was dragging herself. I carefully lifted the bag, allowing her to adjust as the position of the bag changed, and made my way to the car.

I called the officer and told her I was on the way to Wild Care, then called Wild Care to let them know as well.

The duck handled the car ride beautifully, and I spoke softly to her the whole time. As I was walking up to the door of Wild Care, she pulled herself out of the bag just enough to rest her head on my arm. My heart melted.

Once inside, the woman there set up a little box with a towel at the bottom for the duck to rest in, and explained what they would do in the next 48 hours to treat her. They had creams to help soothe and heal her exposed skin. She gave me a patient ID number, so I can call and check on her condition. I asked about visitation, but they don't allow that because they don't want the animals to get attached to people, which is actually really good (even though I so badly want to go see her!). But, she did say that they will call me when it's time to release her back into the wild so that I can come be a part of that. She said they never release at that lagoon because of how dangerous it can be there, especially for the female ducks - something I didn't know. But, something I will now be aware of and will look for anytime I'm there.

So, that's how I rescued a duck! It's not the first time I've found an injured bird and brought it there, but the first two were too far gone to survive. I'm really really hoping that this little lady makes it. She was just so sweet and so scared and so appreciative for the help I gave her.

I always help any animals in need whenever I come across them, and each experience is always rewarding in some way, but this one really was special to me due to the fact that she was so quick to trust me and snuggle up to me. I realize she didn't have much of a choice, but it really made my heart swell anyway.

Hopefully, she will forget about me in time, but I'll never forget her...

P.S. - I'll post updates on her condition as I get them. The woman did say it could be months of recovery before she can be released, if she can be released at all. But, I'll be calling them this week to check on her immediate condition. Fingers crossed!


UPDATE 6/18/09:
I just got off the phone with Wild Care. She didn't make it through the first night. My heart is breaking as I write this. I know I did the right thing (Wild Care is a great place with a wonderful reputation, and I'm not trained in caring for injured animals), but I wish now that I could have stayed with her 'till the end. I'll take some comfort in knowing that she felt safe with me - that she knew I cared about her and would protect her - and that while at Wild Care, she was at least safe and warm and having her pain managed. In her final hours, she knew tenderness and compassion. I'm glad that she didn't have to die on a concrete path with no one to help her. And at the very least, all of her pain ended that night. I'll try and focus on these positive things, but really, this just makes me so incredibly sad. I just want to cry now.


I'm so sorry, sweet girl. Our encounter was brief, but I'll never forget it, and you will always be in my heart...

I've decided to give her a name, posthumously: Daisy.

(note: the picture of the duck on this post is not of Daisy, but is a shot I took of another female mallard at the same lagoon, and it's what Daisy would have looked like before she was so savagely attacked. Sadly, it's not at all what she looked like by the time I found her.)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Days of old



From a recent car show. I normally like the more beat-up look of the rat rods, but this car wasn't bad at all.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Forest of Fire



Have I mentioned yet how much I love the area I live in? I have? Well, I'm saying it again. I LOVE this place. There are so many little spots you can go to still that feel very isolated, even though they are in fact well-traveled. As the population increases, I'm ever more grateful that they've restrained themselves from building up every square inch of land here.

There's really not much better than driving 20 minutes from the city and feeling like you're hours away from the rat race.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

On the water



Yesterday was a great day. The weather was gorgeous and hot, and I went with a couple of friends to a car show that the streets get closed off for. On the walk back home, we were talking about the beautiful scenery that often gets overlooked by people who only want new shopping malls and modern, yet bland housing. I took this shot just on a whim as we were crossing over the bridge. I'm planning on getting back to that area to take some more shots, but with a little more thought behind them.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Freedom



My fascination with crows seems never-ending. The new camera has allowed me to get much cleaner photos of them.

There's a great video here (crow video) that talks about the general intelligence of crows, and how it might benefit us without the need for captivity or causing any distress to them. Some of it I already knew, and some of it I did not, but all of it was interesting, and was presented in an entertaining manner. It only runs 10 minutes in length, and I highly recommend it to everyone. If nothing else, it will add some interesting facts to your own knowledge, and it will only take 10 minutes to do it.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Wings of a Dream



Yesterday I took the new camera out for a couple of hours. The weather was calm, but wet and overcast, with off-and-on rain - not really ideal for walking outside. I took a lot of pictures of this particular bird, but this was the one that sent me home with a smile and made it all worthwhile.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Never give up on them



So, it seems I spoke a bit too soon when I said that Kinser was healthy and problem-free. Over the past few years, she's had a few seizures, and the last one being just a few weeks ago, I guess I have to face the fact that she has epilepsy, and that it wasn't just random cases with the first two she had. Luckily, they only happen about once a year or so. They seem to terrify her though, and it's so difficult to not be able to explain to her what's happening.

In addition to that, it was just discovered that she has hyper-thyroid. Now I give her medicine twice a day for that. It seems to be helping.

I still wouldn't trade her for anything in the world.

The Conversation



Crows are known to have a complex language, and are more intelligent than some primates.

The quiet moments



Whatever was on her mind at this moment, it consumed all of her focus.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Chicks are smart



A friend of mine sent me this article, and me being me, of course I had to share.

Baby chicks do basic arithmetic

By Victoria Gill Science reporter, BBC News

Baby birds can do arithmetic, say researchers in Italy.

Scientists from the universities of Padova and Trento demonstrated chicks' ability to add and subtract objects as they were moved behind two screens.

Lucia Regolin, an author of the study said the animals "performed basic arithmetic" to work out which screen concealed the larger group of objects.

The findings are reported in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Chicks always try to stay close to objects they are reared with - just as they stay close to and follow their mother as soon as they hatch. This instant recognition is known as "imprinting".

"We had already found that the chicks have a tendency to approach a group containing more of these familiar objects," explained Professor Regolin, who studies animal behaviour at the University of Padova.

She and her team were able to test the birds' numerical skills as they followed the objects - which, in this instance, were small plastic balls.

"We used the little plastic containers you get inside Kinder eggs and suspended them from fishing line," Professor Regolin told BBC News.

"We made these balls 'disappear' by moving them behind the screens one at a time."

Counting chickens

In each of the mini maths tests, a chick watched from a clear-fronted holding box while one of the researchers slowly moved the balls behind the screens - three behind one screen and two behind the other.

The front door of the box was then opened, releasing the chick into the tiny arena, so it could walk around and select a screen to look behind.

"The chicks still approached the larger of the two groups first, even though they had to rely on memory to work out which screen to choose," said Professor Regolin.

Swapping the objects from one screen to another didn't fool the maths-performing chicks.

"In a further experiment, once we had hidden the balls behind each screen, we transferred some of them from one to the other," Professor Regolin explained.

The birds, she said, were able to "count" the balls that were moved to work out which screen hid the larger set at the end of the transfer.

"They still chose correctly - adding up the numbers based on groups of objects they couldn't see at that moment."

It is already known that many non-human primates and monkeys can count, and even domestic dogs have been found to be capable of simple additions.

But this is the first time the ability has been seen in such young animals, and with no prior training.

No long sermons this time. What I hope you take away from this article is the fact that all animals, no matter their size or shape, have intelligence that, generally speaking, is greater than we tend to give them credit for. While animals like chickens are thought of as 'stupid' by us, we mainly come to that conclusion by comparing their intelligence to our own, which only makes us seem foolish, not to mention arrogant. My hope is that you will consider these things when you encounter animals, whether they're in the wild, or on the dinner table.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Ridiculous

I wouldn't normally comment here about articles like the one I just saw, but this just seems so insensitive, and so insane that I have to share this:
Fannie, Freddie worker bonuses total $210M

WASHINGTON – Mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac plan to pay more than $210 million in bonuses through next year to give workers the incentive to stay in their jobs at the government-controlled companies.
The article goes on with more of the same, but here's the kicker: as my eyes drifted to the right side of the screen, there in a small box titled "Top Stories" was this little gem:
Unemployment soars to 8.5 percent; 13M now jobless
I don't even need to go on and on about this, because I have to think we're all on the same page on this one, right? And I realize that not every employee at Freddie and Fannie are responsible for this meltdown we're having, but seriously, if some of them want to leave their jobs, why not let them? Why shouldn't they have to suck it up a little bit like the rest of us?

There are plenty of intelligent, good, hard-working people who are desperate for a job. You want some incentive to stay at your job? How about "not being unemployed"? Isn't that incentive enough? Well, if it's not, then take a hike. Because guess what? Those of us who pay our taxes are paying those particular bonuses. And I'll tell you what, I don't really feel like I should have to pay someone just to stay at their job - the same job that's already paying them!


This is all just a bunch of crap. Greed and selfishness have caused this meltdown, and it continues on even as the powers that be pretend they're trying to correct it. And this crosses all party lines, so Democrats and Republicans, stop pointing your fucking fingers at everyone else, because you're all to blame. Corruption runs rampant all through our government, and the ones paying for it all are the honest hard-working folks of this country. And as one of those folks, I'm sick of it.

I'll be honest, I don't know what the answer is, but it's extremely clear that the folks making the decisions don't know the answers either, and in the meantime, we're getting stuck with the bill.

This has to stop.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

So long, humans. It's been fun.



Robot scientists can think for themselves
By Ben Hirschler – Thu Apr 2, 2:30 pm ET

LONDON (Reuters) – Watch out scientists – you may be replaced by a robot.


Two teams of researchers said on Thursday they had created machines that could reason, formulate theories and discover scientific knowledge on their own, marking a major advance in the field of artificial intelligence.


Such robo-scientists could be put to work unraveling complex biological systems, designing new drugs, modeling the world's climate or understanding the cosmos.


For the moment, though, they are performing more humble tasks.

At Aberystwyth University in Wales, Ross King and colleagues have created a robot called Adam that can not only carry out experiments on yeast metabolism but also reason about the results and plan the next experiment.


It is the world's first example of a machine that has made an independent scientific discovery – in this case, new facts about the genetic make-up of baker's yeast.


"On its own it can think of hypotheses and then do the experiments, and we've checked that it's got the results correct," King said in an interview.

"People have been working on this since the 1960s. When we first sent robots to Mars, they really dreamt of the robots doing their own experiments on Mars. After 40 or 50 years, we've now got the capability to do that."

Their next robot, Eve, will have much more brain power and will be put to work searching for new medicines.


King hopes the application of intelligent robotic thinking to the process of sifting tens of thousands of compounds for potential new drugs will be particularly valuable in the hunt for treatments for neglected tropical diseases like malaria.


King published his findings in the journal Science, alongside a second paper from Hod Lipson and Michael Schmidt of Cornell University in New York, who have developed a computer program capable of working out the fundamental physical laws behind a swinging double pendulum.

Just by crunching the numbers – and without any prior instruction in physics – the Cornell machine was able to decipher Isaac Newton's laws of motion and other properties.


Lipson does not think robots will make scientists obsolete any day soon, but believes they could take over much of the routine work in research laboratories.


"One of the biggest problems in science today is finding the underlying principles in areas where there are lots and lots of data," he told reporters in a conference call. "This can help in accelerating the rate at which we can discover scientific principles behind the data."


(Additional reporting by Stuart McDill; editing by Maggie Fox and Tim Pearce)
Once they task these robots with saving the planet, the first thing they'll do is get rid of us, and for good reason. This is going to be one interesting war...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Boiling Mad: Crabs Feel Pain



I just saw this article this morning:


A favored method of preparing fresh crabs is to simply boil them alive. A longstanding related question: Do they feel pain?

Yes, researchers now say. Not only do crabs suffer pain, a new study found, but they retain a memory of it (assuming they aren't already dead on your dinner plate). The scientists say its time for new laws to consider the suffering of all crustaceans.

The study involved using wires to deliver shocks to the bellies of hermit crabs, which, being hermits, often take up residence in left-behind mollusc shells. The crabs that were shocked scampered out of their shells, "indicating that the experience is unpleasant for them," the scientists concluded; unshocked crabs stayed put.

Another test was run to see what would happen if a mild shock was delivered, one just below the threshold that would cause the crabs to leave home. These mildly shocked crabs, along with crabs that had not been shocked, were then offered a new home. The typical reaction: They'd go inspect the new shell. Significantly, those that had been shocked were more likely to pack up and move to the new residence compared to those that hadn't been shocked.

"There has been a long debate about whether crustaceans including crabs, prawns and lobsters feel pain," said study researcher Bob Elwood of Queen's University Belfast in the UK.

"We know from previous research that they can detect harmful stimuli and withdraw from the source of the stimuli but that could be a simple reflex without the inner 'feeling' of unpleasantness that we associate with pain," Elwood explained. "This research demonstrates that it is not a simple reflex but that crabs trade-off their need for a quality shell with the need to avoid the harmful stimulus."

The findings are detailed in the journal Animal Behaviour.

Interestingly, scientist don't fully understand pain in humans. It is felt when electrical signals are sent from nerve endings to your brain, which in turn can release painkillers called endorphins and generate physical and emotional reactions. The details remain unclear, which his why so many people suffer chronic pain with no relief.

At any rate, Elwood compared the results of the crab study to how you might react to a painful experience.

"Humans, for example, may hold on to a hot plate that contains food whereas they may drop an empty plate, showing that we take into account differing motivational requirements when responding to pain," he said. "Trade-offs of this type have not been previously demonstrated in crustaceans. The results are consistent with the idea of pain being experienced by these animals."

A Norwegian study in 2005 concluded lobsters react to boiling water or other pain stimuli, but that they don't have the emotional capacity to experience it as pain in the way higher animals do.

But a study by Elwood and colleagues in 2007 found prawns were irritated when their antennae were treated with acetic acid, and after a local anesthetic, they'd stop rubbing the antennae. He said this was evidence that they suffer pain, and that lobsters likely feel pain, too.

Elwood thinks its time for some crustacean empathy.

"Millions of crustacean are caught or reared in aquaculture for the food industry," he said. "There is no protection for these animals (with the possible exception of certain states in Australia) as the presumption is that they cannot experience pain. With vertebrates we are asked to err on the side of caution and I believe this is the approach to take with these crustaceans."

Robert Roy Britt is the Editorial Director of Imaginova. In this column, The Water Cooler, he looks at what people are talking about in the world of science and beyond.

Okay, I'm going to try and keep this one short. I've said it all before, and if you're paying attention then this is not new stuff, and if you're not paying attention, I won't expect you to start now. But here's the deal: we as humans have a tendency to think that animals are not intelligent, that they don't care as much as we do about living, they don't think, or feel, etc., and all because we simply don't understand them. Think about the hermit crabs in this article. I mean, what they're describing takes some kind of thought, right? Scientists think so at least.

So here's the bottom line: All living creatures should be treated with respect and compassion. All living creatures want the ability to live out their lives, just like you do. Just because you can't make heads or tails of an animal's behavior doesn't mean it's not well thought out by the animal. Just because we can't figure out the noises they make doesn't mean they don't have a language (case in point: crows are now known to have a complex language, even though all most of us hear is "caw caw caw"). The arrogance of humans has caused devastation to billions of animals, not to mention the planet itself. We need to be more respectful of our surroundings, and the creatures that share them with us. It's time, don't you think?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Stare



The interesting thing about this photo (to me, anyway) is that I didn't colorize her eyes. I simply upped the saturation (a lot) and this was the result. It's happened in several pics of her, but when you look at her in person, both of her eyes are the same color. A friend of mine suggested that this is due to the angle of light and how it reflects off each of the eyes. This may be the case.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Eye-to-eye


Clouds & Flowers

Some random pictures I've taken recently around the office...

1

2

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4

5

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Growly



I bought Growly about 19 years ago from the car dealership I worked at. Someone traded him in, and I tried to sell him, but each time I'd take someone out for a test drive, I'd like Growly a little bit more. Finally, I told all of the other salesmen not to sell him because I wanted to buy him but needed time to get the money together. Obviously, I did get him, and he's been an awesome car. Not everyone likes the Monte Carlo SS of the 80's, but I really do, and it's not at all uncommon for me to be asked if I want to sell it, as the crowd that does like these really likes these.

He's got about 300,000 miles on him, and I've replaced the motor and the transmission, as well as a ton of other little things. He still has a lot wrong with him, and he has a body full of battle scars, but I love him now as much as the day I bought him, maybe more.

Growly's been a good car. It'll be a sad day if I ever have to part ways with him.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Hard at rest



Kinser is the Matriarch of our cat family, and is roughly 12 years older than Trixie and Dusty. She's had a lot of obstacles in her life, and she and I have been through a lot together.

She had consistent medical problems until she was two, when it was discovered that she had a liver shunt (which means that due to some extra plumbing in her little body, her liver was being bypassed and wasn't able to do what it's supposed to do). To correct this she had to have a major operation at UC Davis, where they placed a ring around the extra "tube" to shut it off.

Personality-wise, Kinser has never been the same since this operation. I've always wondered what happened to her while she was there overnight, but she went there being a very social, loving little kitty who would approach anyone in our house and came back afraid of everyone, including me, and this was a cat who followed me around like a puppy up until then. It also seemed to affect her eyesight, and she would spend periods of time staring at walls. A few months after the operation, she got back to normal with me, but she's never warmed up to new people since, other than Tiff, who Kinser seemed to take to immediately, though I had warned Tiff that it might take weeks or months, or never.

Other than that, she's had two bladder stones (one was removed by surgery, the other she passed on her own, and she was in rough shape for it at the time). She had to have her spleen removed due to an unknown mass on it which couldn't be properly biopsied. Turned out to be nothing, but luckily humans and animals alike do just fine without our spleens, and the fear was that it was cancer. On top of these more serious things, she's had countless vet visits for mysterious ailments that never really showed up as anything in tests. Her vet file is very thick, and I call her my $12,000 cat, as I figure that's roughly what she's cost me in her lifetime beyond the normal pet expenses.

She's an awesome cat though, even when she's misbehaving. If I had to do it all over again, from choosing her at the Humane Society to paying for her surgeries, I wouldn't even hesitate.
She's brought immense happiness to my life over the years.

P.S. - I should add in the fact that Kinser has been one healthy little girl for quite some time now, and her days of frequent vet visits seem to be a thing of the past, much to the relief of both of us.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Problem: U.S. Army has too many soldiers

Now, the headline of this blog post may seem confusing because we've all heard about how the U.S. military has drastically loosened their standards as far as who they'll let in, softening up on IQ, physical condition and past criminal record. Their insistence that they need more troops seems in direct conflict with this article which I just saw, however:
Army fired 11 soldiers in Jan. as openly gay

By ANNE FLAHERTY, Associated Press Writer


WASHINGTON – The Army fired 11 soldiers in January for violating the military's policy that gay service members must keep their sexuality hidden, according to a Virginia congressman.

Democratic Rep. Jim Moran said he has requested monthly updates from the Pentagon on the impact of the policy until it is repealed. In a statement released on Thursday, Moran said the discharged soldiers included an intelligence collector, a military police officer, four infantry personnel, a health care specialist, a motor-transport operator and a water-treatment specialist.


"How many more good soldiers are we willing to lose due to a bad policy that makes us less safe and secure?" asked Moran, a member of the House panel that oversees military spending.


The Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy was instituted after President Bill Clinton tried to lift the ban on gay service members in 1993. It refers to the military practice of not asking recruits their sexual orientation. In turn, service members are banned from saying they are gay or bisexual, engaging in homosexual activity or trying to marry a member of the same sex.

The military discharged nearly 10,000 service members under the policy in a 10-year period, from 1997 to 2007. The number fired each year dropped sharply after the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, when forces were stretched thin. Whereas more than 1,200 were dismissed in 2000 and 2001 for violating the policy, about half as many — 627 — were fired in 2007.


The Pentagon has not released its 2008 figures.


The White House has said President Barack Obama has begun consulting with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen on how to lift the ban. But the administration won't say how soon that might happen or whether a group of experts will be commissioned to study the issue in-depth, as some Democrats have suggested.


Likewise, Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill support repealing the ban but have not promised to press the issue immediately.
Our country is at war, and our military is begging for more troops. So how much sense does it make to tell someone who is so supportive of you that they're willing to give their life for your cause that you don't want their help because they're gay?

This is nothing more than government-sanctioned bigotry and hatred at the expense of straight soldiers who are losing their lives overseas. Do you get that, military? Your refusal to accept gay soldiers into the military is killing your straight soldiers. In fact, in a way, the military is helping to ensure the survival of gay people by not allowing them to die in war. But that little bright spot is over-shadowed by the embarrassment of a society who still seeks to ostracize and demonize groups of people just for being "different" than them, even though those differences cause no actual harm to others.


When will we as a people finally learn to respect others who only seek to live out their lives peacefully? Sadly, not in my lifetime probably. Until we strive for compassion and tolerance, our future will continue to be filled with wars and hatred and violence.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Science proves it again

Study: Belligerent chimp proves animals make plans

By Malin Rising, Associated Press Writer – Mon Mar 9, 3:45 pm ET


STOCKHOLM – A canny chimpanzee who calmly collected a stash of rocks and then hurled them at zoo visitors in fits of rage has confirmed that apes can plan ahead just like humans, a Swedish study said Monday. Santino the chimpanzee's anti-social behavior stunned both visitors and keepers at the Furuvik Zoo but fascinated researchers because it was so carefully prepared.

According to a report in the journal Current Biology, the 31-year-old alpha male started building his weapons cache in the morning before the zoo opened, collecting rocks and knocking out disks from concrete boulders inside his enclosure. He waited until around midday before he unleashed a "hailstorm" of rocks against visitors, the study said.


"These observations convincingly show that our fellow apes do consider the future in a very complex way," said the author of the report, Lund University Ph.D. student Mathias Osvath. "It implies that they have a highly developed consciousness, including lifelike mental simulations of potential events."


Osvath's findings were based on his own observations of Santino and interviews with three senior caretakers who had followed the chimpanzee's behavior for 10 years at the zoo in Furuvik, about 93 miles (150 kilometers) north of Stockholm.


Seemingly at ease with his position as leader of the group, Santino didn't attack the other chimpanzees, Osvath told The Associated Press. The attacks were only directed at humans viewing the apes across the moat surrounding the island compound where they were held.


However, he rarely hit visitors because of his poor aim, and no one was seriously injured in the cases when he did, Osvath said.


The observations confirmed the result of a staged laboratory experiment reported in 2006 by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. In that case orangutans and bonobos were able to figure out which tool would work in an effort to retrieve grapes, and were able to remember to bring that tool along hours later.


"Every time you can combine experimental and observational data and you get a consistent result, that is very powerful," said an author of the 2006 study, Joseph Call. "This is an important observation."


He noted that individual differences are big among chimpanzees so the observation might not mean all chimpanzees are capable of the same planning.

"It could be that he is a genius, only more research will tell. On the other hand our research showed the same in orangutans and bonobos so he is not alone," Call said.


Osvath said the chimpanzee had also been observed tapping on concrete boulders in the park to identify weak parts and then knocking out a piece. If it was too big for throwing, he broke it into smaller pieces, before adding them to his arsenal.


"It is very special that he first realizes that he can make these and then plans on how to use them," Osvath said. "This is more complex than what has been showed before."

The fact that the ape stayed calm while preparing his weapons but used them when he was extremely agitated proves that the planning behavior was not based on an immediate emotional drive, Osvath said.


For a while, zoo keepers tried locking Santino up in the morning so he couldn't collect ammunition for his assaults, but he remained aggressive. They ultimately decided to castrate him in the autumn last year, but will have to wait until the summer to see if that helps. The chimpanzees are only kept outdoors between April and October and Santino's special behavior usually occurs in June and July.


"It is normal behavior for alpha males to want to influence their surroundings ... It is extremely frustrating for him that there are people out of his reach who are pointing at him and laughing," Osvath said. "It cannot be good to be so furious all the time."


In Connecticut last month, a 200-pound pet chimpanzee once seen in TV commercials mauled a woman trying to help its owner lure it inside and cornered a police officer in his cruiser before he shot and killed it, authorities said.

The owner has speculated that the chimp was trying to protect her and attacked the woman because she had changed her hairstyle, was driving a different car and was holding a stuffed toy in front of her face to get the chimp's attention.

___


On the Net:
Study: http://www.current-biology.com


So here we are again, being told how much like us primates are, yet without ever mentioning that maybe, just maybe, we should adjust our treatment of these intelligent beings. Quite the opposite actually, as instead of suggesting that maybe Santino was not at all happy in his captive surroundings and should be able to live out his days elsewhere, they castrated him - not even knowing if that will make a difference or not, mind you. Trial & error with physical mutilation, all so people can safely gawk at the unhappy chimp.

And I love how they sort of soften the impact by calling the chimp "belligerent" in the headline. Yes, the word is technically accurate in describing the behavior of Santino, but it's also a word we commonly reserve for out-of-line drunks. It seems to me like using the word belligerent to describe Santino right from the start somehow makes it less offensive that we've imprisoned him for so long.

The article pretty clearly suggests that living behind bars with no real freedoms is what's causing Santino's behavior, but the article doesn't actually say it directly, nor does it suggest that maybe zoos are not the best place for an intelligent, thoughtful being who is born with the same right to freedom that we are.

And maybe it's not for science to decide that... maybe their job is just to deliver the facts.

So here's where you come in. A while back, after reading a previous post of mine about animals, a friend of mine asked "Okay, so now what do I do about it?" That answer is not always easy, and often times the only answer is to write to your representatives in government, support animal-friendly organizations, etc. But in this case, the answer is a bit easier. You don't have to do anything. What you can do is to not do something. Do not go to the zoo.

We've been told over and over that zoos are necessary, that they're there for the good of the animals, and that it's the best way for kids to learn about animals. I disagree. How many of you learned what you know about animals from zoos? Sure, you can learn some stuff, but most of our personal knowledge of animals did not come from viewing them at zoos. What you can learn there is how various animals react to captivity. Read any paper on animal behavior in zoos, and you'll start to understand that the behaviors you see there are a result of the depression that sets in when an animal is denied it's freedom.

So much more can be learned by watching programs like Discovery Channel's 'Planet Earth' series, where you get to see (in HD) animals in their natural habitat. Quality footage of an elephant herd roaming through the wild is so much more breathtaking than seeing one or two elephants wasting away in a small enclosure in a city zoo.

The other argument for zoos is that many of the animals are rescued and are incapable of living in the wild. Okay, so you did good by rescuing the animal, and then you stuck it in a prison cell. There are sanctuaries for every type of animal, and many of these allow visitors to view the animals, but in a more natural setting, with so much more open space for the animals to roam and live their lives. Zoos are not good for animals, and are not the best way to teach humans about animals.

So I'm asking you please, consider these things the next time you think about going to the zoo. Zoos are a business, plain and simple, and as a business, they will defend their actions with well-crafted messages designed to bring in more customers. But the truth is plain to see. I used to love the zoo when I was younger, but at some point, you just can't help but notice that none of the animals seem at peace.

So please, don't patronize a business that brings so much misery to the lives of animals who could so easily have a much better life. It's really simple this time. Just don't go to the zoo. Please.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Fluff

For some reason I really got into our cat's paws. At times, they look like tiny furry boots.



Saturday, February 28, 2009

Crows

I'm constantly trying to take good pictures of birds, especially in flight. Unfortunately, I don't have a good camera for doing this. Tough to get good wildlife pictures with an average point-and-shoot camera, unless the wildlife is motionless, in perfect light, and let's me get real close to it. And I have a tripod at the time. So what happens is I end up with a hard drive full of mediocre-to-bad photos of birds. Sometimes I leave them alone and never really go back to them, and sometimes I try and make them a little bit better in some way. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't.

I took some pictures of crows this week at work, and tried to at least do something interesting with what were otherwise pretty poor quality shots.

I haven't decided if I like the outcome or not. But I guess I don't hate it. Yet.


Friday, February 27, 2009

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

This cracked me up



I love creative people.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Flight of the Perroquet

Perroquet (named for the member of the parrot family that is the subject of the photos) was an exhibit that ran in late 2008 in Europe. I came across these images on one site, and found the source here.

As much as I am absolutely opposed to any birds being held in captivity (unless there are simply no alternatives), I found these images to be too visually striking to not share.

If you follow the link to where these images came from, you can read about why and how the artist did this, as well as see some more pictures, and 8 short slow-motion videos of the perroquet flying by. The videos are really fascinating if you have any interest in birds, as you get a chance to really see details in how the perroquet flies, thanks to special high-speed cameras that were used.

Though I don't consider myself to be a "bird-watcher" in the classical sense, in truth I could happily sit for hours and do just that - watch birds. So for me, these pictures and videos are the perfect way to really be able to study a bird in flight.

Enjoy.

Pic 1

Pic 2
Pic 3
Pic 4

Friday, February 20, 2009

A blog by any other name...

I've just changed the name of my blog for the second time, and most certainly not the last. Probably not the best way to accumulate readers, but then, that's not really my intent here, as nice as it would be to have hundreds of followers.

So I thought I'd just keep a running list of the names I've used. When I first started this one, I called it "Life as I know it (is probably about to change)". I liked that one, and it felt true (still does), but I also started noticing how many other variations of that theme there are (not at all surprisingly). A lot of "The world as I see it" and "The world according to..." and titles like that. And I like being just a little bit different than the masses (which begs the question, "why did I start a blog then?") So I decided to change mine to "Because I'm not you (that's why)", which I also liked and still like, but it also seems a bit...harsh, or something. Which wasn't my intent. My initial thought about it was that it was the perfect answer to anyone who read my blog and thought "Why did he...?".

So now I'm changing it again. This new one that I'm using - "Inside my head (in words and pictures)" - seems fine for now, but I can already tell I'll get bored of it eventually.

The need to change the name of the blog from time-to-time might have something to do with my recently self-diagnosed ADD, but that's a post for another time. For now, I'll just feel free to change the name occasionally, and I'll hope it doesn't confuse those few of you that visit here once in a while.

3/23/09: Just changed the name again to "Picture Window - a glimpse into my world". I like this one a lot, and think I'll keep it for a while.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A truly rare moment, captured

One of the sites that I like to visit for great photography is http://1x.com. It usually takes only a minute to find a photo that makes me turn green with envy. I wish that I had the equipment and the talent to take incredible photos. One day I will, but for now I admire the works of others and daydream.

I was browsing the site today and came across this image, which I was going to just use as my desktop wallpaper, until I read the story behind the photo. If you know me at all, you'll probably realize that I am now INSANELY jealous of the photographer. You'll see why when you read the story she posted about how she got this shot (posted below the image).



Vigilant

by Elin Torger

The story behind this photo:

The summer 2008 I met a little fox in the woods.....

I went out to photograph flowers...I was in the middle of the forest among the pine needles and leaves and flowers...and mosquitoes...the sun was coming down...it was a little chilly...

"Bang!"...what was that...? "Bang!"...again...it was branches and cones, which fell down from the trees...I thought it sounded like hoof steps...

"Cough!?...?Sneezy!?...What was this? I turned around ... and find to my surprise, a little red fox...it was coughing...maby either it was cold, or allergic..;)

?Typical...?...I thought...?I don`t have my zoom lens with me...?

I started to approach the little fox slowly...slowly...slowly...it jumped all around...back and forth ...back and forth...
Finally...after maybe fifteen minutes, he sat down...
I approached slowly...no sudden movements... slowly...

There I was...in front of the little fox...eye to eye, for maybe a half hour...one meter from it, with my Tamron 90 mm...without a tripod...in bad light...mosquitoes all over.....

Each time the sharpness locked on the camera and it clicked...the little fox leaned his head...:))

There he was...so small and cute...so sweet and red.....:)

If you click on the title of the picture (Vigilant), it will take you to the page that this picture is posted on. If you enjoy it, leave her a comment.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

This matters a lot to me



If it matters to you as well, I encourage you to visit their website.



Tom’s Story: A Gentle Giant

With gray hair, a freckled face, and a large body, Tom is a likeable fellow. His caregivers describe him as a gentle giant, and say that he is likely to remind you of a dear old uncle.

Born in Africa, Tom was ripped from his family and spent 30 years in labs where he was infected with HIV. He endured over 369 knockdowns, 56 punch liver biopsies, one open liver wedge biopsy, and three lymph node and three bone marrow biopsies. In the lab, Tom was plagued by intestinal parasites, and often had diarrhea and no appetite. When he had strength, he banged constantly on his cage.

Today, Tom lives at Fauna Foundation, but is limited in the social skills necessary to be a part of a group - skills he would have learned from his mother and family in Africa. Instead, he lived alone in barren laboratory cages with little opportunity to be a real chimpanzee among his own kind. However, Tom’s social skills have greatly improved, and he spends time during his days with one or two chimpanzee friends at a time, including Jethro.

(Tom's Story is located at this site: http://www.releasechimps.org)

Photoshop for those without computers



(image from www.ffffound.com)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Beautiful



Koala love story wins hearts after deadly fires

CANBERRA (Reuters) – A love story between two badly burned koalas rescued from Australia's deadliest bushfires has provided some heart-warming relief after days of devastation and the loss of over 180 lives.

The story of Sam and her new boyfriend Bob emerged after volunteer firefighter Dave Tree used a mobile phone to film the rescue of the bewildered female found cowering in a burned out forest at Mirboo North, 150 km (90 miles) southeast of Melbourne.

Photos and a video of Tree, 44, approaching Sam while talking gently to her, and feeding her water from a plastic bottle as she put her burned claw in his cold, wet hand quickly hit video sharing website YouTube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XSPx7S4jr4), making her an Internet sensation.

But it was after reaching a wildlife shelter that Sam met and befriended Bob, who was saved by wildlife workers on Friday, two days before Sam, in Boolarra, about 180 km from Melbourne.

Tree, who has been a volunteer firefighter for 26 years, said it was extremely rare to get so close to a koala so he asked his colleague Brayden Groen, 20, to film him.

"You can how she stops and moves forward and looks at me. It was like a look saying "I can't run, I'm weak and sore, put me out of my misery,"" Tree told Reuters.

"I yelled out for some water and I sat down with her and tipped the water up. It was in my hand and she reached for the bottle then put her right claw into my left hand which was cold so it must have given her some pain relief and she just left it there. It was just amazing."

INSPIRING LOVE STORY

Sam was taken to the Southern Ash Wildlife Shelter in Rawson. Her story was reminiscent of a koala named Lucky who survived the 2003 bushfires that destroyed about 500 homes and killed four people in the capital of Canberra. Lucky became a symbol of hope.

Colleen Wood from the Southern Ash Wildlife Shelter that is caring for Sam and Bob said both koalas were doing well while other animals like possums, kangaroos, and wallabies were also starting to emerge from the debris.

She said Sam had suffered second degree burns to her paws and would take seven to eight months to recover while Bob had three burned paws with third degree burns and should be well enough to return to the bush in about four months.

"They keep putting their arms around each other and giving each other hugs. They really have made friends and it is quite beautiful to see after all this. It's been horrific," said Wood.

"Sam is probably aged between two to four going by her teeth and Bob is about four so they have a muchness with each other."

Wood said about 20 koalas had been brought into her shelter in recent days, several of whom had bonded as koalas are known to clump together, but none had garnered the same attention as the new Internet star Sam.

Tree, a volunteer with the Country Fire Authority Victoria, has visited Sam since her rescue and was delighted to see she had found a boyfriend in Bob.

"They've really taken a shine to each other as they are both burned and share the same burned smell," he said.

"My heart goes out to the people in these fires and this was so innocent so people have used this to distract them from all the sad stuff that has gone on. It gives people a bit of hope."

Donations for bushfire support can be made to the Country Fire Authority Victoria via their website at http://www.cfa.vic.gov.au/about/supportingcfa.htm.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Indeed, it is.



(This image, and the images in the next three posts below were all found at www.ffffound.com)

All you'll ever need

Love Song

After the poker game

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Kellog: Droppin' it like it's pot

So I just saw that Kellog, famous maker of cereals and snacks, has decided not to renew their contract with Olympic medalist Michael Phelps (the contract expires at the end of the month), citing as their sole reason the picture of him smoking pot that recently surfaced.

I have some problems with this. The other day I saw that another of his sponsors, one that makes watches, I think, stated for the record that they saw no connection between the picture of Phelps that surfaced and his contract with them, and that they were proud to have him on board with their company. I thought that was classy.

Kellog, on the other hand, is being cowardly. But the truth is, I can't blame them entirely. Because as far as I'm concerned, this whole country is cowardly. I don't know anyone at Kellog, so I can't really say where they stand on the issue as individuals. And as a company, they have shareholders to answer to, as well as a very vocal and conservative public to deal with, even if all of the noise is being made by a minority of the population. So yeah, I guess in that sense, I understand Kellog doing what they did. Yet I still disagree.

If they had kept Phelps on, would it have hurt their sales in a measurable amount? I can't imagine it would. But then, I've often been surprised at how the ultra-conservative can hold the rest of the country hostage with their strict ideals.

The thing about pot is, it's not bad. I know it's illegal, but really, it shouldn't be. Not if alcohol is legal. Alcohol is actually much worse than pot. Give me a room full of pot-heads over drunks any day. I mean, if we are to look at stereotypes, what are drunks known for? Starting fights, being rowdy, talking excessively loud (I'm especially bad with that one), falling, knocking things over, etc. Pot-heads, on the other hand, are known for watching TV, playing video games, and eating tons of snack food (that's right Kellog, you may have just offended one of your bigger customer bases). And clearly, it doesn't have to impede your progress towards setting or reaching your goals, as Phelps has proven.

Pot doesn't make you waste your life away anymore than listening to Marilyn Manson makes you turn to murder or suicide. The folks who are going to do that stuff, they're going to do it with or without pot, or Marilyn Manson. And pot doesn't lead to harder drugs. The ones who turn to harder drugs, they were going there anyway. In fact, so many normal, everyday, upstanding citizens smoke pot that it's almost impossible to not start there if you're intent on doing drugs. But if all you want is pot, you won't find yourself reaching for the needle.

The thing about the ultra-conservative base is, they're really a small group, but they've got everyone convinced that their numbers are massive, and through this false reality they keep companies like Kellog in line. Kellog, you had a chance to stand up to the ridiculous right, and you chickened out. Shame on you.

But there's one more angle to this whole thing, and it has to do with the boom in technology which has completely decimated a person's right to privacy. Phelps was in his off-season, with literally weeks and weeks and weeks of nothing to do, and he was blowing off a little steam, being a 23 year old guy. But some douche bag had to post pictures of Phelps enjoying himself at a private party, and now because of that, Phelps is losing out on what was probably a lot of money. All for what? So kellog can woo the religious right some more? It's all bullshit. These public stances that are made in the name of purity and goodness, they don't usually fall in line with the general public, they bow down to the extremists. And I'm tired of it. If more companies and organizations and groups said enough is enough to those ultra conservatives, and saw that there really was no backlash other than some temporary shouting in the headlines, we could eventually be free of these ridiculous restraints. But Kellog won't be in the front of that rally.

Well guess what kellog, the next time I smoke pot, it won't be massive amounts of your cereals that I eat. But I might buy a bunch of watches.