Science and Sarcasm
31 October 2005
Halloween edition of Circus of the Spineless carnival

CotSCotS #2 is crawling around at Snail's Tales. Aydin has done a creative job of arranging the submissions into an invertebrate menu. Yick! Very appropriate for Halloween, however. Check it out.

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28 October 2005
What goes around...

Today the Tush White House knows how I, and millions of other progessive Americans, felt on election day.

Libby's been indicted on 5 counts and has resigned. Rove remains in Fitzgerald's crosshairs. Cheney and others are still apparently unscathed, though I suspect they have some internal injuries. Heck, Tush couldn't take the pressure and decided to leave town after accepting Libby's resignation letter.

....and now we return to our regularly scheduled program - "Bashing Wilson & Plame"; to be followed by "Talking Point #1: Criminalizing Politics," a made-for-TV movie....

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Another reason to love Google
  1. Go to Google.
  2. Type the word "failure."
  3. Click the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button.
  4. Laugh your ass off.

(via Unscrewing the Inscrutable)

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27 October 2005
Bile farm bear rescues in China

My dear friend Kati has been working nobly in Chengdu, south central China, and in other far-flung places, for the past few years to improve the lives of bears who've been treated badly, horribly by humans. It sounds like most of the bears she and her colleagues rescue, repair and rehabilitate have been removed from bile 'farms.' Bear bile is used in traditional Asian medicine and so is a lucrative market. The farms, however, harvest bear bile in a particularly cruel manner. Farm bears are fitted with catheters to drain bile from their gall bladders while they're confined in tiny cages to prevent them from reaching around to tear the irritating catheters out. It's not a pretty sight. The catheters become rusted, infected, the bears are chronically in pain and sick. They die. Bear bile farms house from tens to hundreds of bears.

Here's an excerpt from one 2005 rescue report:

On a freezing cold day in January, another 46 farmed bears arrived at our Rescue Centre in desperate condition... crammed in tiny, decrepit cages they stared out in terror from their prisons as our expert team swiftly unloaded them and began to assess their pain-wracked bodies. With each new group of bears that arrives, we never cease to be shocked by their suffering and this group was no different: emergency health checks revealed missing limbs, crushed paws and bodies rubbed raw by the unrelenting cage bars; whilst surgery to repair their battered bodies, showed that many of the bears had received multiple surgeries on the farms to convert their gall bladders from one excruciating method of bile extraction to another.

Kati's working on behalf of the Animals Asia Foundation headquartered in Hong Kong. That's Kati above, in the red sleeves. She's also in these pictured here, directing the rescue of a couple of bears from a pit. Her email this week says she's off to Bangkok and Borneo over the next few weeks in pursuit of bear improvements. I think this must be the perfect job for someone so intently desiring to make a huge difference to animals in this world. Thanks Kati. Does your standard uniform include a cape? It should.

Visit the Animals Asia Foundation website - they do a lot more than rescue bears.

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I and the Bird #9

I and the BirdIATB#9 is up and it looks like perhaps Hedwig has rounded up a record number of bird-related posts.

Join in, poke around and bring a bug, or some millet, or something to share...

Reminder: The mighty Pamela is hosting IATB#10 next time. Email her your submissions before Nov. 8th.

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26 October 2005
Under pressure, Tush rescinds Gulf Coast wage cut

Rep. George Miller (D-CA) started the ball rolling by figuring out a way to force a vote of the House. A tiny victory, but a victory nonetheless.

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Pam at Pandagon on Sheryl Swoopes

Another strong female role model.

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25 October 2005
Teach the EVIDENCE!

Flying Spaghetti MonsterPZ Myers, rock-star-status science blogger, is kind enough to share a powerpoint presentation on the topic of creationism v. science he gave to his biology class today.

His detailed presentation is quite good. I learned a couple of things - among them, that creationism is more far-fetched than I thought.

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24 October 2005
Molly, Molly, Molly...

Believe it or not, there is a certain charm to simply telling the truth, and even to telling the truth simply. This emperor isn't wearing any clothes, and the people who are pointing that out now that Bush's approval ratings are at 37 percent, but who were nowhere to be heard when he was at 60 and better, are maybe not the people we should be looking to now.

For me, the most annoying suggestion being made is that Democrats somehow need to claim or reclaim patriotism or to do something to let folks know that we, too, love our country. I find that hideously offensive. I have always thought the only way to respond to Republican statements and implications questioning the patriotism of non-Republicans is with a good swift blast of venomous anger.

How dare they imply that opposing war in Iraq calls one's patriotism into question? Take the offensive. Anyone who would use that kind of slimy attack sullies America, where dissent is honored, respected and, Lord knows, needed.

The contemptible, petty, little would-be Joe McCarthys need to understand what love of country really means -- love of the highest and best in America. Never to be confused with "pre-emptive war" over nonexistent weapons and certainly not with using "democracy" to sell a rotten, failed war.

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Guinness Brewing Co. supports evolution

Guinness an advertising tool at least. Check out their creative TV commercial. (via Crooked Timber) The folks at Guiness did get the lineage a bit wrong though. I don't believe our evolution from mud puppies to homo sapiens went through a big, sea-dwelling, fishy-reptile phase.

Maybe the right wingnuts will lighten up on the 'creationism/ID=science' argument when they realize that their healthy, capitalist economy requires a literate, edified population with a good understanding of the natural world - including evolution.

The Guiness people may, or may not be, showing this commercial in the US...

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23 October 2005
Rogue River fishing report [22 October 2005]

B releasing a brownIt's the time of year when many trout anglers are hanging up their fly rods and considering the 2005 fishing season complete. A few are already looking ahead to spring 2006 when the new season will open. B and I have a hard time with that concept. Since the Michigan DNR changed the regulations on some stretches of our favorite trout streams so that there is no closed season, we've become almost year-round fisherpeople. And we spend our winter months chasing steelhead too.

This afternoon we headed for the Rogue River near Grand Rapids. We expected the lower portions of the river, below the Rockford dam, to be chuck full of salmon fishermen. So we headed upstream, above the dam, where we hoped to find few fishermen and lots of trout. Once deer season opens and salmon are running, there are typically very few trout anglers on the upper stretches of this river. We arrived around 2:30 and found our choice stretch vacant except for a busy band of wild turkeys vigorously scratching through the leaves on the forest floor for good eats. We also shared the stream with a few late season canoers and kayakers. All were especially cordial and friendly. The water level is probably the lowest we've ever seen it - down around 100 ft3/s. And clear.

Colorful 11-inch rainbowWe figured to spend the afternoon swinging streamers unless we encountered a BWO hatch. I started with a sink tip line and a black steelhead leech and B chose a white conehead sculpin pattern and a sinking leader. We've been better about coordinating our color choices lately so we can more quickly zero in on flies that might work. I hiked a ways downstream from B to a nice spot and within 15-20 minutes, hooked and landed a beautiful, bright 11" rainbow. I snapped a photo and quickly released him. B promptly switched to a dark streamer and also began to catch a few fish.

Later in the afternoon, a thin BWO hatch stimulated some surface action, so we both switched to floating line and CDC BWO patterns and hooked a couple of smallish, but colorful browns and rainbows. B also had good luck with her tan version of a Power Ant pattern; a few light-colored caddis appeared briefly. I also tried the tan ant but couldn't duplicate her results. At one point, a very large fish, maybe a 5-pounder, leaped clear of the surface and smacked his wide flat side on the water - a loud belly-smacker - just across the stream from B. That got our attention. It sounded like a beaver tail splash. We assumed he must've been after a smaller fish that was temporarily distracted by the BWO hatch. It definitely wasn't the more delicate surface sip of a fish eating a BWO or even a caddis fly. B tried a few different flies in the general vicinity of the big trout splash, but didn't entice him.

Turkeys around the fire pitWe continued on downstream, around Waxwing Corner, switching to nymphs and woolly buggers when the BWO flies and the surface action shut down. I caught a couple more little guys on soft hackle wet flies drifted through the main flow and swung out into the flatter riffle. B caught a lot more fish than I did as usual - a handful in the 11-13" range. She hooked one bigger fish that used the tactic of just parking on the bottom of a deeper hole and refusing to move. She had a hard time budging him and he eventually spat the hook. She never saw him to guess at his size.

We fished until we began to get chilly, then headed back upstream toward the car. I pushed the turkeys ahead of me. They flapped across the river and scratched through the leaves around a fire pit in someone's backyard. Then we watched them make their way up into the trees for the night. We've been entertained by their evening routine many times in this same spot over the last 5 or 6 years. They are not exactly delicate or precise flyers when it comes to getting into roosting position. They must have lots of bruises in the morning.

B's catch to mine, approximate ratio: 3:1
Wildlife sightings: lots of woodpeckers and hawks, nuthatches, wild turkeys, deer, eyes in the ditches on the drive home...
Mood improvement once we turned off the Spartan football game: +800%
Did I get to use a spey rod?: No
Enjoyment grade for the day: A+

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22 October 2005
Wow. Possibly the worst blog I've sort of agreed with

I want to be supportive of the author's point of view, but geez o' pete...I can't overlook the overwhelming badness of this blog. It's rilly rilly bad.

I give you ..... The Iraq War was Wrong Blog

With its own mispelled badge:

The reasons for this are manifoled and complex(can't really go into all of the theories behind it in this limited space). For now suffice to say. You just can't do a war thats a quagmire. Thats just common knowledge. There's no provesion in the Constitution for doing a war that becomes a quagmire. In Just War theory they don't say its ok to do a quagmire. The list goes on(honestly I don't want to bore you guy's because I'm sure you know all this- I have some of THE BEST reader's out there)

The Iraq war is not the only thing worng here...

21 October 2005
"Corpse flower" blooms in Stuttgart Germany

Titan Arum

BERLIN (Reuters) - The world's tallest -- and smelliest -- flower has bloomed, reaching a height of 2.94 meters, 18 centimeters more than the previous record for the species, the Stuttgart botanical garden said on Friday.

The Titan Arum, or Amorphophallus Titanum, nicknamed "corpse flower" because of its putrid stench, blooms rarely and briefly.

Garden staff have nicknamed the purple flower "Diva" and are charting its life on their web site.


I only just learned of these giant 'corpse flowers' this year. They are named Titan Arum (Amorphophallus titanum) or 'corpse flower' because of the strong, putrid, rotting-flesh stench emitted from the flower(s). Titan Arum is an Indonesian rainforest plant that relies on pollination by carrion beetles and flesh flies - hence the stink to attract them. It's considered to be the largest unbranched inflorescence in the world; comprised of many small male and female flowers, it can be 6 to 10 feet tall by 3 feet across. Thank goodness the giant flower, and its giant smell, only last a couple of days. The plant grows from a large tuber - from 30 to more than 100 pounds. The plant typically lives for about 40 years, flowering only 2 or 3 times during its life. More common members of the Arum family are skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) and the calla lily (Zantedeschia elliottiana).

A lab mate has a Titan Arum in her house - it has never flowered. She has visited the U-W Madison greenhouses where they've had a couple bloom - one this past June. The U-W Titan Arum web site has lots of good pictures.

Here's a time-lapse video of a Titan Arum blooming at Kew Gardens in the UK.

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20 October 2005
Very cool wildlife photographs

Sky Chase by Manuel PrestiItalian wildlife photographer Manuel Presti won a prestigious Wildlife Photographer of the Year award for the photo below entitled 'Sky Chase.' Check out his website for more great photos.

LONDON (Reuters) - Wildlife Photographer of the Year Manuel Presti wants to inspire in others the same awe that the natural world induces in him.

A mechanical engineer by profession who takes wildlife pictures as a hobby, 38-year-old Presti has been snapping the world around him for more than 20 years.

Thursday his image of a flock of terrified starlings trying to evade the predatory attention of a Peregrine falcon in the skies above his native Rome won him the prestigious prize that brings little immediate financial reward but great kudos.


Canon features Mr. Presti and his work (and thousands of starlings) in a nifty little commercial.

He's almost as good as Cindy... Cindy and Nuthatch, do you know this guy? Poking around his online gallery, I noticed that he's photographed birds around Michigan.

My 15 minutes has come and gone

I'm still recovering from a slight blogger-burnout as a result of compiling, writing and hosting I and the Bird #8. I can tell that I'm almost over it... I really, really enjoyed my turn at assembling IatB8 though. Our slowly expanding circle of bird-bloggers is a very friendly, smart and really fun bunch. I exchanged lots of emails with interesting folks whose blogs I read all the time, or only once in a while, about interesting and important nature topics. In imagining what IatB8 would look like, I had goals to include some of my favorite blogs and to introduce some new bloggers to IatB participation. I was thrilled to accomplish both objectives with the help of a few regular visitors to S&S - Deb, Alan, Pamela, Nuthatch, Lené, Cindy and others.

Two additional friends played an even larger role. Mike from 10,000 Birds, the mastermind who started the IatB carnival, was a great mentor and provided superb guidance. He has been summarizing his thoughts on carnival hosting in general here. And Tony G of milkriverblog provided a list of email addresses that he's collected to announce publication of IatB and CotS carnivals or to request submissions, etc. Tony's list was important in drumming up quite a bit of interest, both directly and indirectly. listed IatB8 on their daily blog review page called Clicked. PZ Myers of Pharyngula was also on the email list and he was kind enough to post a link on his most excellent blog. Most traffic to IatB came from these two sources. Traffic here exploded to more than 10 times normal levels.

S&S traffic for IATB#8
There is apparently lots and lots of interest in our IatB, the participating blogs and posts. S&S was even bestowed, briefly, with 'Adorabe Rodent' status.

I'd encourage others to consider hosting IatB or some other carnival. It's a lot of fun. I've noticed that Pamela and Nuthatch will soon be taking turns hosting IatB and CotS...

19 October 2005
A good, heavy dog story

At Creek Running North.

Two carnivals today...

The Tangled BankFirst, Tangled Bank #39 has been posted at The Questionable Authority.

And the inaugural issue of the Carnival of Feminists is available at Philobiblion. This first edition looks pretty good. It features a few of my favorite women bloggers and a lot more that I'm unfamiliar with. The CoF is planned to be a biweekly event hosted at various blogs. Here's the scoop...

18 October 2005
Recommended reading

Recommended reading for the Delay-Frist-Cheney-Libby crowd.

Juan Cole is concerned about the Iraq constitution vote

Suspicions of irregularities in the voting tallies being reported in some provinces in Iraq have provoked the Higher Electoral Commission to conduct an investigation. In six Shiite-majority provinces in the South, 95 percent or more of voters are reported as having cast votes favoring the constitution. The proportion of those voting "yes" was not in and of itself suspicious in those provinces, but the commission felt that anything over 90 percent should be looked at again.


The Washington spinmeisters who are trying to say that the mere fact of the Sunnis voting is a good thing, even if they voted against the constitution, do no know what they are talking about. Political participation is not always a positive thing. The Nazis after all were elected to the Reichstag. And Serbs consistently voted for Milosevic and other ultra-nationalists. Nobody in Washington thought it positive that Iranian hardliners came out in some numbers to vote for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Some elections are tragedies for a nation. This constitutional referendum was one of them.

I would add the tragic US Presidential elections of 2000 and 2004 to this list...

16 October 2005
I direct your attention to one of the comments on this blog

Up to this point, this has been a rather welcoming blogsite, if I do say so myself. But tonight I noticed a new comment on this recent post left by Gary Glenn, President of the American Family Association of Michigan, supposedly. What's such a high-ranking, broadly-respected spokesperson doing looking at my little blog?* I can't tell if AFAM is really synonymous with Glenn or if it actually has a small membership. Regardless, AFAM is quite inaccurately named if you ask me. They are not really concerned with families. In fact, they'd sooner see my family in financial peril than allowed to continue the risk-reducing domestic partner benefits that my employer currently provides. And he'd wish this on any domestic partnership - straight or gay, childless or with a brood. Like many similar organizations, AFAM seems to thrive on condemnation, condescension and fear. But go read his circuitous comment to get the scoop on his point of view. He uses pretty good grammar, but fails to appreciate the underlying argument - domestic partners are not claiming to be married and therefore receive spousal benefits; DPs currently recieve benefits as DPs. Additionally, I really don't believe that the majority of Michiganders or Americans are as narrow-minded and malevolent as his type likes to argue. You can find a poorly questioned survey result to support any point of view. Dingleberry.

I really believe that all Americans should receive health insurance and other important social supports as a birthright. Just like free public education and social security. Good idea? Of course it is. One day we'll have single-payer health insurance for everyone and this silly little argument will be irrelevant. I guess if we can continue to freely subsidize US corporations like Haliburton and Lockheed and Bechtel, we can provide some basic necessities for our US citizenry, damn it.

I purposely did not link to the AFAM website as I do not wish to have the S&S address show up on their sitemeter. Yick! If you really, really want to find them, I know you can.

*Warning: Extra-heavy sarcasm

14 October 2005
Lady bug season 2005

Ladybug invasion 2005
Opening Day Festivities included a Million Bug March from the Great Outdoors into the laundry and dining rooms. I can only assume I've got some weather-proofing to do around these 2 doors. After sundown, a few hundred bugs (Asian Lady Beetles [Harmonia axyridis]) enjoyed gathering around the Big Light Fixture while a few others decided to retire to the cozy confines of the corners of the ceilings. B treated most of the attendees to a thrilling Vacuum Hose Ride they will not soon forget. Now we're enjoying the slightly metallic smell of post-ladybug-vacuum-cleanup.

Box Elder Bugs (Boisea trivittatus) and these big guys - Western Conifer-Seed Bugs (Leptoglossus occidentalis) have been inviting themselves inside the house in small numbers for a couple of weeks already. They are not present in the same numbers as the ladybugs by any means, but a few of these big, buzzy, crunchy things go a really long way. Nuthatch recently mentioned the BEB invasion in her neck of the woods too. These WCSBs are pretty large for household insects, averaging about 3/4" in length. They're just a tad more daunting than a cute little ladybug or a even a BEB. As with the ladybugs, the cats leave the BEBs and the WCSBs alone - I think they must taste really bad or maybe they bite. Or both. I'm not sure which. That's not information I need to have.

Friday Cat Blogging

Tux in the inbox

Tux likes hanging out in the file-shelfy-thing above the computer while I surf and blog...

12 October 2005
I and the Bird #8

I and the BirdWelcome to the 8th edition of the biweekly I and the Bird blog carnival! Come on in, have a seat, kick off your shoes, and make yourself comfortable! I'm honored to be hosting this weeks carnival of superb bird-oriented blog posts. Past editions of IATB have been stellar and the list of participating bird-lovers grows with each additonal event. I believe we're adding 3 new participants this time around.

It's mid-October already, and here in the upper Midwest US the weather is turning chillier, the brightly colored foliage is beginning to drop and seasonal bird migrations are in full swing. It's a busy time for bird geeks all around the world. This week's selection of 23 blog posts includes submissions from writers in the US, Canada, Australia and Europe. Writer's homes extend from above the Arctic Circle south to Victoria, Australia.

Regardless of where our homes may be, we all seem to have similar motivations and habits when it comes to birding and bird-blogging. Always the overly-analytical one, I've attempted to categorize our birding behaviors, efforts, writing, and today's posts, into 5 tidy groups:

Direct and purposeful birding. Many of the most avid birders among us will schedule time and plan travel with the specific objective of bird observation. This type of birding activity often includes recording numbers of bird species and individuals observed, regional and life lists as well as photographs and maps. Observation records can be compared and constrasted with historical data. This type of birding contributes much to our collective pool of bird knowledge. I know you'll agree when you've read these cool stories about purposeful birding experiences:

From Duncan at Ben Cruachan Blog (Victoria, Australia): A red-cap day. After some lunchtime birding at work, Duncan returned home to grab his dog and his binoculars and head out for some more birding along a nearby river. He had quite a day and lists quite a few sightings.

From Lené at Leaning Birch (Vermont, US): Another walk. Lené has assembled a photo essay from a recent hike in the Vermont woods. The collection of photos features a very nice image of a handsome cedar waxwing.

From John at DC Birding Blog (Washington DC, US): Chimney swifts. An evening stroll around the neighborhood yields a late season chimney swift flock. John also provides some additional information about chimney swifts attraction to population centers and their seasonal migrations.

From Mike at 10,000 Birds (New York, US): Uncertain Savannah. The Core team bags the “Most Frustrating Sparrow in North America” with some final identification help from Charlie and Nuthatch. Well done Core Team!

From David at Search and Serendipity (Texas, US): Where dinosaurs had trod. David describes a very productive trip to Dinosaur Valley State Park in northern Texas for bird watching and dinosaur tracking. Yes, dinosaur tracking.

Indirect or accidental birding. This category is dear to my heart as I do a lot of birding while I am wading or floating along a trout stream flyfishing. Another example of indirect or accidental birding might be that time last summer when a sharp-shinned hawk chased a chickadee into the back of your head while you were mowing the lawn or the time you noticed a hummingbird nest in the tree next to the garage. This type of unplanned birding often is very exciting and personal and makes excellent story material as you'll see in the following accounts:

From Tom at Sphere (New York, US): Hooting Back at the Owls. If there’s nothing good on TV or in the fridge in the middle of a sleepless night, Tom recommends that you step outside and enjoy the midnight barred owls in your underwear.

From Alan at The Raven's Gazette (Pennsylvania, US): A Penobscot Fishing Tale. Alan recounts a trip on the Penobscot River in Maine that is near and dear to my heart, birding while on a camping and fishing trip.

From T. Beth at Firefly Forest Blog (Arizona, US): Curve-billed thrashers. T. Beth seems to attract these inquisitive, trouble-making thrashers. Despite her need for upholstery cleaner, she has remained an admirer.

From Clare at The House & Other Arctic Musings (Nunavut, Canada): South. Clare is working on building a bed-and-breakfast house in Arctic Bay and his handiwork is, apparently, being scrutinized by the local raven population. Do they require you to fill out a lot of paperwork Clare?

From TroutGrrrl at Science and Sarcasm (Michigan, US): Birding on borrowed time. A description of a hurried and casual bird outing and dog walk in central Michigan.

From Rexroth's Daughter at Dharma Bums (Washington, US): The Steller's Jay - RD was able to photograph this handsome jay at her backyard feeder, snacking among the flowers. Very nice photos RD!

Professional birding. A few of our birder friends are lucky enough to have bird-related jobs. They are able to observe, handle, care for, photograph and write about the animals we spend so much attention on. These folks work for local, state or federal wildlife agencies, non-profit organizations or are self-employed naturalists. They work with birds on an individual basis or as whole communities and ecosystems. We appreciate the detailed, contextual and complete information they provide to our volume of understanding. Here are three superb examples from bird pros:

From Cindy at WoodSong (Michigan, US): A Meal Fit for a King(let). Wow, I have a difficult time identifying small birds like the kinglet, but Cindy is able to identify not only the kinglet, but the small red spider mite on the kinglet's breast. Yikes!

From Dave at Bird Treatment and Learning Center (Alaska, US): The most common owl. One of Dave's recent charges is a small Short-Eared Owl in need of recuperation. I am so glad to know there are people like Dave and places like the Bird TLC in this world.

From Nature Writers of Texas (Texas, US): Great Egrets are Grrrrrrrreat. A Texas wildlife biologist has written a synopsis of the Great White Egret and the populations historical challenges and legal protections. This piece was brought to our attention by Tony G. from milkriverblog and Nature Writers of Texas.

Retrospective assessments and summarized birding observations. Fortunately, some of our bird-oriented bloggers take the time to write commentary and summaries of their observations and viewpoints on birding subjects. More than just facts and data, these stories and essays blend the opinions, emotions, expertise and humor of the author with bird observations and analysis. Here are some wonderful examples:

From Rurality (Alabama, US): Warbler Neck. How can you spot a birder from 50 paces? Look for nice binoculars and a stiff neck among other things. Rurality builds a 'yard list' at home in rural Alabama. Backyard birding appears to be returning to normal after the recent hurricanes passed through.

From Bro. Chaplain at The Blurry-Eyed Birder (Texas, US): Alone. Brother Chaplain has written a short poem about birding and enjoying nature in solitude. He’s happy and he's all alone. Well, except for the teeming birdlife.

From Deb at Sand Creek Almanac (Minnesota, US): I try to forgive people, BUT... A tragic and disturbing story about the abusive behavior of some local citizens in response to a Great Gray Owl irruption a year ago. Deb is a serious Great Gray Owl aficianado and protector. Thanks Deb.

From Nuthatch at Bootstrap Analysis (Michigan, US): Transition. Nuthatch tells us what she admires in the dapper little red-breasted nuthatch and why she chose it as her nom de plume. In observation of the fall migration, she has changed her masthead image from a white-breasted to a red-breasted nuthatch. She apparently lives by the motto "Be the bird."

From Charlie at Charlie's Bird Blog (Wiltshire, UK): Orange-headed thrush. Charlie is a fan of the orange-headed thrush. Once you've read his post and enjoyed his pictures, you will be too. What a beautiful bird. Thanks for sharing Charlie.

From Pamela at Thomasburg Walks (Ontario, Canada): Confusing Fall Warblers. Pamela describes a common difficulty that seems to go relatively unmentioned - the waxing and waning of birder confidence. If you reconsider your bird ID long enough, you can talk yourself into or out of anything. I know I can.

From Tony G. at milkriverblog (Texas, US): On Birds and Molluscs, Part I. Tony has assembled a comprehensive piece exploring the relationship between kites and snails. Parts 2 and 3 are planned for Circus of the Spineless, the new blog carnival focused on invertebrate animal blogging, in addition to milkriverblog. Bravo Tony!

Humorous/Celebrity/Other. Well, anytime I attempt to categorize things, I inevitably find a that I can't pigeon-hole everything and that I need to have an 'other' category. This topic is no different. Though these two stories both feature a celebrity of sorts:

From Birdchick at Birdchick Blog (Minnesota, US): Birding with Neil. Birdchick goes birding and banding with her famous friend, Neil Gaiman, accomplished author. Really!

From Mary Ann at Five Wells (New York, US): Art Show. Mary Ann has assembled and matted an exhibit of paintings by her good friend, Dr. William C. Dilger, for an upcoming art show at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Well, I hoped you enjoyed reading this edition of I and the Bird as much as I enjoyed preparing it. I feel like I know a few of our ever-expanding circle of bird geeks a bit better. Thanks for your great posts and friendly emails. And I strongly recommend that you consider taking a turn at hosting - it's a lot of fun.

Next time, IATB #9 will be hosted by Hedwig of Living the Scientific Life on October 27th. Remember to send your submissions to Hedwig or to Mike at 10000 Birds before Oct. 25th.

Edited to link to the TTLB Ubercarnival page.

11 October 2005
Foxtrot today

In support of geeks everywhere:

10 October 2005
IATB #8 Deadline is almost upon us
JUST ONE MORE DAY until the I and the Bird #8 deadline at midnight tomorrow, October 11th.

Assembly of IATB #8 is humming along smoothly, I'm having fun putting this together. I'd still welcome additional posts if you've got one. I haven't had to resort to the begging, arm-twisting and whining I mentioned a couple of days ago. Wonderful! Spectacular!

If you'd like to submit a post, email me a link to your bird-related submission with a little supporting information.

Thanks and I'm looking forward to hearing from you and to IATB #8 on Thursday, Oct. 13th...

09 October 2005
Birding on borrowed time

SH MarshB, Dylan and I headed for nearby Sleepy Hollow State Park late this afternoon to squeeze in a short birding trip. Well, perhaps I shouldn't describe it has having been squeezed in since we finished a significant portion of the return trip to the car in the dark. It wasn't exactly squeezed in, it ran over.

This state park is close by and we visit it frequently during the summer for brief warmwater fishing outings. We take our canoe or kayaks and fishing rods and can fit in a rewarding paddle or fishing trip at the end of a day of lawn mowing or gardening. The park includes a large, 400-acre, man-made lake that hosts good populations of largemouth bass, perch, pike, muskies and bluegill and also is a temporary stopping place for migratory bird life in the spring and fall. It's a great area for summer and winter resident birds too. Brochures for the 2500-acre park list more than 200 total species. This time, we left the fishing gear behind and chose to hike a short trail we've never been on before and were happy with our choice. The path was well-worn and wound through open grassy areas, dense hardwood and pine stands, dense stands of shrubs, and lowland marshy areas. The path also meandered up and down a topographical range not always encountered on central Michigan trails.

Wild grapesWe noticed a lot of bird activity right away after hitting the trail - lots of bird chatter and scurrying among the shrubs. The trail here is wide enough for two, but lined with dense woody shrubs, so finding and identifying the birds was a challenge. The low angle of the setting sun added to the difficulty. Dylan found the action exciting too, poking his head into the shrubbery occasionally. We quickly identified sparrow friends back from their northern summer homes - both the tan and white versions of the white-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) and a few white-crowned sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys) too. We spotted quite a few birds that were too quick for us to get our binoculars on. In the more open areas, we saw small groups of Canada geese (Branta canadensis) and Wood ducks (Aix sponsa) flying overhead.

Pin cherries?Bird ID was hard enough that I focused instead on searching for berries and fruits that remained to feed the migratory and winter-resident populations. Nuthatch had a recent post on some of these in her neck of the woods; perhaps that's what caused me to think of it. I found lots of big, juicy wild grapes (Vitis riparia), the white berries of the Gray Dogwood (Cornus racemosa), and abundant red berries of the invasive Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata). There were lots of pine cones of various varieties, walnuts of some sort, apples and other crabappley fruits to feed the winter birds and mammals.

Oops, better hurry!Dylan and I snuck down a high ridge to the marshy edge of some open water and flushed an American woodcock (Scolopax minor) just a few feet in front of us. We got a good look at his colorul brown plumage and long bill as he flew off low and fast. We enjoyed their courtship rituals in the fields adjacent to our house earlier this spring. We also flushed a small White-tailed deer and a group of Wood ducks roosting on the ground a bit further up the trail. I'd hoped to spy on some migratory waterfowl on the water, but saw none.

We finished our hike rather quickly since we weren't sure of the distance back to the car. Having never hiked this path before, we misunderestimated the time we needed to complete the loop and ended up walking back along the road, in the chilly dark. Poor planning, but a good outing nonetheless.

07 October 2005
I and the Bird #8 is coming...

Four more days until the IATB #8 deadline on October 11. I've already got a couple of submissions, I need a few more from the regulars here. Do I need to arm-twist? Bribe? Annoy? Beg? I'm not too proud for any of these approaches.

Email me a link to your bird-related post with a little supporting information.

If you don't raise your hand, I will call on you...

06 October 2005
We've elected gay-bashers to the Michigan Senate

Senators Alan Cropsey (R-33), Mike Goschka (R-32) and Alan Sanborn (R-11) put forward a resolution in the Michigan Senate in response to the recent ruling by Judge Joyce Dragonchuk, of Ingham County, that Proposal 2 does not prohibit public employers from providing benefits to same-sex domestic partners and their children. The resolution, as adopted, reads:

Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 33

A concurrent resolution to urge the Michigan Supreme Court to take whatever steps are necessary to maintain the status quo, with regard to same-sex benefits, that was in place prior to the September 28, 2005, 30th Circuit Court ruling in order to prevent the spending of taxpayer monies to fund benefits for homosexual unions until the court has reached a final adjudication.

Whereas, Michigan voters overwhelmingly amended their constitution in November 2004, adding Article I, Section 25, expressing a clear intent that marriage be limited to heterosexual couples and that the “benefits of marriage” be secured for “our society and for future generations”; and

Whereas, Attorney General Cox ruled as early as March 16, 2005, that governmental entities may not offer benefits to same-gender partners, as such a practice is disallowed under Article I, Section 25 of the Michigan Constitution; and

Whereas, Governor Granholm has authorized negotiations with state employees to offer benefits to same-gender people in unions mimicking marriage; and

Whereas, Suit was brought in the 30th Circuit Court asking that the court uphold the ability of governmental entities to offer benefits to homosexual couples in unions that mimic marriage despite the constitutional language; and

Whereas, On September 28, 2005, the 30th Circuit Court ruled, in the case National Pride At Work, et al, v. Jennifer Granholm and Michael A. Cox, that governmental entities could offer benefits to homosexual couples in unions that mimic marriage; and

Whereas, The governor has stated publicly that she intends to implement “quickly” such benefits for state employees in such unions; now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), That we urge the Michigan Supreme Court to take whatever steps are necessary to maintain the status quo, with regard to same-sex benefits, that was in place prior to the September 28, 2005, 30th Circuit Court ruling in order to prevent the spending of taxpayer monies to fund benefits for homosexual unions until the court has reached a final adjudication; and be it further

Resolved, That copies of this resolution be transmitted to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Now, the good news is that this passed resolution does nothing more than document the hatred and disinterest with which the senate regards the well-being of citizens, businesses and organizations of Michigan. Are we really better off with more uninsured citizens and children? Do these politicians really prefer that the burden of insurance premiums and of uninsured citizens fall directly on their communities and other public agencies rather than onto the employees themselves and their employers? The Republican Senators are simply attempting to bully the Michigan Supreme Court into reversing Judge Dragonchuk's decision with an empty resolution that spurs no other actions or implementation. I certainly have no idea how successful they may or may not be. I suspect it may have no effect whatsoever.

It is interesting though, that legislators would choose to limit business owners, governments, employers, unions, anyone and everyone from deciding for themselves how they want to compensate employees. What if an employer decided that employees could add their parents, cousins and best friends to their insurance policies? All employees would have to do is pay the increased premium out of their paycheck. Would we have the senate up in arms about this 'abomination' too? Why is this wrong? Isn't this good? Can't my employer decide how to manage their compsensatory system for themselves? I pay a higher premium to insure my partner just like parents pay more for their kids. What's the big deal?

These Republicans are really quite two-faced about liberty and freedom. It obviously depends whose liberties and freedoms they're talking about. Everyone's freedoms are not equally important in the Michigan Senate.

ADDENDUM: The resolution was passed with a 22-16 vote with no abstentions. Two brave Republican Senators voted against - Senators Beverly Hammerstrom (R-17) and Shirley Johnson (R-13). By my count, that also means that 2 Democrats voted for the resolutions.

05 October 2005
Tangled Bank #38 has been posted

The Tangled BankHedwig the Owl at Living the Scientific Life is hosting TB #38 today. She's done a great job of organizing 41 posts and has included a few posts nominated by someone other than the author this time. (Did Tony and the Spineless People start a trend?)


04 October 2005
Personal history meme

I've accepted Nuthatch's challenge to continue her personal history meme. I enjoyed reading the her meme and the responses from the other recently-tagged bloggers - Trix, Pamela, Deb, Karen, Clare, Mike, etc. It appears I've been among the slowest responders. Thanks Nuthatch for the excuse to reminisce.

Arlo, 198710 years ago: Hmm... 1995. I had recently quit my first stint as a PhD student and had started a job at a small agricultural engineering firm in town. I was underpaid, underemployed, underappreciated and unchallenged, but it would improve a lot over the next 5 or 6 years. B and I had not yet moved to our current, more rural home; we still lived in our very well-built house in the city with a teeny tiny yard. At that point, we also lived with my old dog Arlo (9 years old then), a new young dog Keen and 2 cats, Razz and Jessie (about 9 and 3 years old respectively).

B with a nice Montana cutthroat trout5 years ago: 2000. I was nearing the end of my previous 'corporate' job. I was lucky enough to get paid to visit potato farms in Europe a couple of times per year and I got to work in the UP (Michigan's Upper Penninsula) and northern lower penninsula each fall during September and early October. In fact, I was in the UP on 9/11. I really really miss those lengthy annual visits up there. The trees are at peak color, the skies are typically clear blue and beautiful and my job required me to spend each day on a different farm getting dirty, following the potato harvesting and storage-filling equipment around. Sun, soil and no complaints. I'd occasionally have a little time to sneak off to a trout stream in the evening as a bonus. In the fall of 2000, B and I had been in our current 5-acre rural home for about 3 years. We were still adjusting to the place; we built a garage, established gardens, planted trees. Arlo was well into his declining years - still perfectly lucid and fairly energetic but thin and frail and weaker than his younger self. Keen was retired from agility training and competition due to arthritis. We had added Casper to our cat herd - he had grown into a rotund, affectionate, puppydog-like adult cat who favored me over B. Our lives changed a bit when we took our first flyfishing trip to western Montana in September of 2000. This is now a regularly planned trip for us. We've been out there for a week in September 3 times now. We both miss it painfully on the off years.

Razz at 191 year ago: Now, well-adjusted to my new university job, I still spent the fall with my boots in the soil, harvesting potatoes, corn, sampling soil and planting cover crops. Now it is research plots though, no longer whole farm-scale work. And I had returned to grad student status, though in a slightly different field this time - agronomy and soil science rather than animal agriculture. Finding time to make progress on a degree around a more-than-full-time job is not easy. I'm fine with working hard, but I am no longer willing to completely sacrifice my home and family life for grad school the way I was in my previous stint. B and I feel our rural home fits like a well-worn hat. We're constantly amazed at how much larger and more mature our trees are than when we moved here in 1997. We have learned the habits of our local gangs of deer, turkeys, bluebirds and other flora and fauna. By this time, Arlo, Keen and Jessie are resting in graves in the back yard. Razz had turned 18 and still strong as ever (she's 19 now and still ticking...). Two more cats - Tux and Marabou - had joined our animal family.

Yesterday: Sort of a typical work day. Got up early to help a student get a seed-germination experiment started, then off to lab meeting at 8:00. Then back to the seed-germination thing for the rest of the morning. I got my own field experiment planted in the afternoon, finally. Brief meetings, emails, sorting out plans for the rest of our field work week, yada yada. Then home to my family and a big pile of housework. Fun evening phone call with my Chicago sister.

5 songs I know all the words to:
Like Pamela my song lyric memory is somewhat context-dependent. My brain stores lots of lyrics but the card catalog is not very handy. I do know these however:

  • Blackberry Blossom
  • Ashokan Farewell
  • 8th of January
  • Arkansas Traveler
  • Gold Rush

5 snacks:

  • Coca Cola
  • potato chips
  • popcorn
  • potato chips
  • Coca Cola

5 things I’d do with $100 million:

  • quit my job and buy a house in the UP or Maine or western Montana or somewhere in Canada
  • finish my PhD faster
  • start my own agriculture/ecology research and education center or fund an existing good one
  • buy my very own politician(s)
  • give it to folks who need some

5 places I’d run away to:

  • the UP
  • I'd go fishing in Alaska, New Zealand, Chile, Nova Scotia, British Columbia and New Brunswick and anywhere else with beautiful trout and salmon water

5 things I’d never wear:

  • a nun habit
  • eye shadow
  • a boat-necked, poofy-sleeved pink frilly blouse with high-waisted acid-washed jean shorts (I received this exact ensemble as a birthday gift once...)
  • a sweatshirt with embroidered Scottie dogs or this
  • an 'I love George Bush' t-shirt

5 favorite TV shows:

  • We've become big fans of many of the HBO series like Six Feet Under, Carnivale, Deadwood, etc.
  • Also smart, funny, sarcastic shows like Northern Exposure, The Simpsons, Malcolm in the Middle, Gilmore Girls etc.
  • The back yard
  • the cats

5 greatest joys:

  • a witty joke
  • B and our pets
  • my 6 siblings and their families
  • my friends and my soccer team
  • leisurely fishing a beautiful trout stream on a gorgeous day

5 favorite toys:

  • the remote
  • iPod
  • digital camera
  • blogger
  • My 11'3" 6 wt and 8'6" 3 wt fly rods

People I’m tagging:

Striper envy

Michael with a 10 lb. striperNephew Michael caught this beauty of a striped bass from the beach in CT today on his day off from school.

On another recent beach-fishing trip, he outfished his dad and 2 uncles - 5 snappers to 0.

That boy can fish...

And fishing makes him so happy.

UPDATE: I have to admit that I've been victimized by a cruel, cruel joke. Michael didn't catch this beauty, his father did. I fell for it whole hog...look at his face! He got me!

03 October 2005
Have I mentioned that Molly Ivins is my hero?


Sometimes, but not that many, it is hard to tell the difference between playing political hardball and operating with no moral compass whatever. But in DeLay's case, we have a very long record, and what it is shows is that this is a man who has repeatedly crossed ethical and legal lines, and then claimed he was just playing hardball politics -- and that anyone who complained about it was just a partisan whiner. Whenever he is really threatened, DeLay plays the Jesus card and claims he is standing up "for a biblical worldview in everything I do and everywhere I am."


02 October 2005
Freaky, yet hilarious

My sisters, and jrockhopper, will enjoy this one.

Has Fabigail been blogging behind our backs?

via Frogs and Ravens.

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