Steveston Sea Lion Stupidity


Anyone who’s seen the program When Animals Attack understand it almost always starts with nincompoops too stupid to grasp imminent danger.Yesterday afternoon the dock at Steveston B.C. catapulted stupid to the stratosphere. Hey, lets feed this wild animal! No wait, lets put this child in its face. Hahaha, it tried to kiss her, lets put our child even closer. NO STUPID! It wants to eat her, she looks like food! Hit play and watch stupid in action –

 

Never Open My Freezer


My daughter wanted small animal skulls for an art project. Naturally she asked my brother, a perfectly reasonable request none of us considered remarkable. “No problem” he said. We promptly forgot about it for several months. Out of mind until he messaged to expect a parcel sent Greyhound express.

If I could bottle my brother the label would read “Essence of  decency, character, work ethic, empathy, moral fibre and principles”. A man of few words, words saved for storytelling delivered with mesmerizing cadence matched only by the twinkle in his eye. Stories of thwacking a bear on the nose while witching for water, sticking his hand down a drainpipe to extract a rattlesnake, plunging through alone in the wilderness pond ice under the weight of fur bearing animals, once and for all riddance of Saturday morning Jehovah Witness interruption courtesy a half skinned Marmot passed off as his cat. Trapper, water diviner, nuisance wildlife problem solver, woodsman and yes – provider of small animal skulls for an art project.

Not wanting to hurt his feelings I kept an open mind to caution our Greyhound parcel was perishable. “Do tell” seemed appropriate. “Wow, thank you” was all I could muster on hearing its contents. It would appear ungracious to point out she wanted “small” animal skulls, how could I argue with news of several Lynx skulls (skinned but not free of brain matter), raccoons, skunk, marmot and squirrel similarly stripped but not purged and one cougar head skin intact. Not wanting to be a ninny, I heard myself calmly remind him I lived in the city. What were we supposed to do?

No worries he said. Put everything in a large pot, boil until bits start floating to the top. It might take a while, if it smells disgusting throw in some bay leaves and pretend you’re making stew. OMG!! I’ll spare subsequent details, suffice to say it involved extraction of soft boiled tissue.

He would have been proud. Stoic, unflappable determination opened the package, assessed the situation, put all but the far too large cougar head in a pot set on boil. Congratulatory back slaps waned relative to ever growing gray pot scum.I couldn’t say how long it boiled, I can attest to the moment gag reflex stench recalled adding herbs to skull stew. Big mistake! Rubber gloves – check. Soft tissue extraction implements – check. Why aren’t these skulls coming clean? Where did we go wrong?

Suddenly my daughter shouts “abandon ship” – we rationalize postponement not failure. “it’s ok, we just ran out of time, we’ll try again tomorrow”. We carry the pot downstairs intent on flushing skull scum water down the toilet. Nothing prepared us for the last swirling toilet gurgle ejecting a rogue floating skunk skull – a spectacle so absurd both of us collapsed in hysterical stress release laughter. Composure returned with dutiful bagging of drained animal parts. Bag of drained bits back in  pot, punctuated with the satisfying clang of lid containment. Cougar head wrapped in another bag – both problems parked in a basement chest freezer.

That was five years ago, it goes without saying our one and only attempt would be the last.We don’t talk about that day, it’s far too awful. Guilt of wimping out is troublesome. Worse still, I can’t bring myself to deal with contents of the freezer for fear of disappointing my brother. We no longer use the freezer, it serves to preserve a pot of assorted par- boiled skulls and one glorious skin intact cougar head. I need help!! Anyone looking for a frozen cougar head?

Super Sticky Frog Spit


Ten times softer than a human tongue, elastic frog tongues store energy like a spring. Hapless prey succumb to tongue lashings five times greater than the force of gravity. Ever the perfectionist, nature wasn’t satisfied with soft frog tongues wired to change shape on contact and retraction with lunch. A dose of good measure insisted on super sticky frog spit.

Sticky frog spit alone is a fathomable concept, why wouldn’t evolution coat a frog’s soft spring loaded whip tongue with adhesive spit? Ah, but this is “super” sticky frog spit and nature likes to show off. Ponder this by Alexis Noel of Georgia Tech, lead researcher of a frog spit study published Feb. 1, 2017 in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface –

“There are actually three phases. When the tongue first hits the insect, the saliva is almost like water and fills all the bug’s crevices. Then, when the tongue snaps back, the saliva changes and becomes more viscous — thicker than honey, actually — gripping the insect for the ride back. The saliva turns watery again when the insect is sheared off inside the mouth.”

Faster than a blink of the human eye, frog saliva changes viscosity three times. I’d call that super freaking awesome sticky frog spit.

http://earthsky.org/earth/frog-tongue-in-super-slow-motion

Start Milking Tasmanian Devils


Until this afternoon, if asked to draw or describe a Tasmanian Devil my best guess would have resembled Bugs Bunny’s cartoon nemesis. Animated Saturday morning impressions – enormous mouth, exaggerated teeth, wild eyes, muscular body, large torso and pointy ears.

An image search did little to vanquish childhood assumptions. Other than black not brown, ears pinkishly rounded and tail longer than recollection, Taz appeared much as expected. Moving forward demanded a wiki search.

Who knew Tasmanian Devils were listed as an endangered species in 2008? Or that since the late 90’s drastic population decline was attributed to devil facial tumor disease? Enter a link to Tim Stark at Devil Ark. Located in New South Wales, Australia Devil Ark is a non-profit organization dedicated to preservation of Tasmanian Devils.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devil_Ark

For the sake of brevity I’ll get to the point – milk from Tasmanian Devils contain peptides capable of wiping out antibiotic resistant superbugs. Obvious considerations such as how do you milk a devilish marsupial, or why ponder doing so in the first place aside – this is news.

Overuse of antibiotics and hand sanitizing germaphobia are bacterial microbes wet dream. It’s too easy, all they have to do is mutate as we flub about in a cloud of assertive ignorance. Oblivious to hundreds of thousand superbug casualties each year, we wake up every morning convinced humanity is invincible. Along comes Tim Stark, director of a non profit Tasmanian Devil preservation society, a man struggling to save obscure cartoon marsupials from terminal face cancer extinction. A man who milked Tasmanian Devils and stumbled upon a cure for antibiotic resistant bacteria.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2016/10/18/tasmanian-devil-milk-is-a-new-hope-in-fighting-superbugs/

Basement Widows’ Fat Beetle


Misplacing bedroom widow has me questioning guidelines of my liberal position on house spiders. Far from the first time a bedroom widow went missing, it may be time to tighten parameters of leniency. It was there this morning, tucked under the windowsill, politely respecting our agreement of six weeks – “stay as long as you like, but stay where you are”. I distinctly recall saying “have a nice day spider” as I left for work.

Maybe bedroom widow found the room a tad stifling, it was freaking hot today. Approaching midnight and the thermostat reads 82 degrees Fahrenheit on the main floor -unpleasant by any standard, I’m going to visualize lost widow blissfully sipping bug juice cocktails beneath soft cool mist falling from my garden canopy.

Downstairs is considerably cooler, almost bearable. As such, basement widow hasn’t made travel plans. Older, wiser and familiar with summer heat, basement widow is an asshole for not mentoring bedroom widow on the intricacies of household habitation. Greedy basement widow – I guess she wanted all the fat beetles for herself.

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Anyone faced with losing a spider, knows to take stock of all house spiders. Basement widow was right where I left her, busily bundling a fat beetle.

Chorus Line Hypothesis


In my mind murmuration is one of nature’s greatest pageants. Undulating spasms of reckless harmony never fails to take my breath away. Erupting effortlessly, exuding exquisite order and purpose, a murmuration of Starlings begs consideration.

Beyond recognition of defensive advantages, the mechanics of murmuration remained elusive until 1984. That year zoologist Wayne Potts published his murmuration hypothesis in the journal Nature. Using high speed film and frame by frame analysis, Potts detailed the “Chorus Line” effect.

He said -“birds are like dancers who see an approaching leg kick when it’s still down the line, and anticipate what to do.”

Birds don’t respond to immediate neighbors, instead they anticipate and react to movement down the line Flying into, rather than away from the flock kick starts the kerfuffle. After that, split second reflex accounts for dizzying speed and flash mob contortions.

http://earthsky.org/earth/how-do-flocking-birds-move-in-unison