Friday, May 30, 2008

Amazon - not the website

An uncontacted indigenous tribe has been discovered (see update below) in the Amazon rain forest of Brazil near the border with Peru. In some of the pictures, they don't look very happy about being found, and are threatening the plane with arrows and warpaint. Very sensible of them, I say.

According to the BBC article (quoting Survival International), there are about 100 uncontacted tribes in the world, more than half of which live in Brazil and Peru. I was intrigued - I didn't realize there are that many. I went to the Survival International website to find out where the rest are. It's down at the moment due to high volumes of traffic.
Lets just hope none of the planes accidentally drops a coke bottle where they can find it... Of course, nowadays it would probably be a plastic energy drink bottle.

Why does this story remind me of this?

Cheney: 100 Brazilian soldiers are joining our troops to help fight the war in Iraq.
Bush: That's GREAT! How much is a brazillion?

*UPDATE*: I found another website that indicates that officials have known about this tribe for at least 20 years, but only just published the photos to draw attention to the fact that the tribe is losing habitat due to illegal logging. They have already been pushed out of Peru and into Brazil...although I doubt it makes that much difference to them.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Mountain biking fun

This is a photo of me with my new mountain bike taken by my friend M (I have three friends M) right after an hour-long ride in 90+ F (32+ C) degree heat. Note the red face. I think I got mild heat stroke because I had a horrible headache for the rest of the day. There is also a red letter somewhere in the photo...

We were riding along, and I had to slam on my brakes to avoid running over a fat two foot plus snake stretched out all the way across the trail. My initial reaction whenever I see a snake is to yell “Cool!” and grab it before it can get away (ask Kia - she’s seen me in action). I love snakes.

This is what went through my mind in the couple of seconds it took for the snake to move off the trail:
“Wow! That’s one fat gopher snake”
“Shoot! These stupid mountain bikes don’t have kickstands”
(making it more difficult to just jump off and leave it)
“Darn! It’s moving too fast for me to catch it.”

Then my brain began to engage…
“That gopher snake has odd markings…”
”and a very triangular head......”
“And rattles”
just as M slid to a stop behind me and said, “Is that a rattler?”

Photos from
Crotalus oreganus oreganus - Northern Pacific Rattlesnake

Pituophis catenifer catenifer - Pacific Gopher Snake

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Ad-dressing of Platypuses

With all the fundamentalist morons claiming that a platypus is some sort of chimera, I feel as though I have to defend the integrity of my blog title. So with apologies to both T. S. Eliot and The Digital Cuttlefish:

The Ad-dressing of Platypuses

You’ve heard of the platypus from Australia
That is a member of the Class Mammalia
It split off from our family tree
Before we evolved viviparity
When first discovered it caused a ruckus
But was very soon named Ornithorhynchus

But how do you ad-dress a platypus?

It has a bill superficially like a duck
That it uses to dig around in the muck
This “beak” is electro-sensory and more
To locate prey for this carnivore
It does lay eggs, like few mammals other
But young platypus do drink milk from their mother

And contrary to what you may have heard

The venomous ankle spurs the males portray
May help keep other males at bay
And this is hypothesized to be the reason
They are only venomous during breeding season

But do not make the silly MISTAKE
To think the Platypus is part SNAKE

A chimera is a mythical creature
With breathing fire as a prominent feature
Part lion, part serpent, part goat but all Greek
Bellerophon and Pegasus killed this freak

Although the beast was born of Echidna
A platypus is real and is NOT a CHIMERA

A chimaera is a fish of the deep and dark
With a rat-tail and claspers, it’s related to the shark
It also is any organism with genetically different tissues
A chimera can cause the CSI some real issues
Although this might confuse a true believer
The platypus is obviously neither

A chimera is also a wild dream or illusion
This is MUCH more like the creationist’s delusion

The genetics are causing evolutionists no fuss
And this is how you AD-DRESS a PLATYPUS

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Mawage, that bwessed awangment

The California Supreme Court overturned the ban on same sex marriage today. Finally after 15 years, David and Pete can get married and won’t be living in sin anymore! ;-)
Bonus points if you can name the movie from which the post title is a quote.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Kids say the darndest things

Mother's Day post with a nod to Art Linkletter and Bill Cosby. This post was actually inspired by my mother. My mother and I were talking the other day about when my son was little, and some of the things he said. We managed to crack each other up. Karloff over at Pax Compoundia provided the impetus to write it with a similar post.

My son at about age three:

Speaking to the air in general. Or maybe the dog. I couldn't tell: "I stand up to go to the bathroom...and Mom sits down to go to the bathroom*...(long pause and much thought).....and Dad lies on the couch because his back hurts."**

*I just want everyone to know that I'm almost certain that my son NEVER saw me on the toilet. EVER.
**I'm also pretty certain that David never peed on the couch.

My son at about age four:

He and my mother drove past a rural Indiana elementary school which happened to have a cemetery right next door.

My son: "That's handy!"
My mother: "What?"
My son: "The school right next to the cemetery. If any of the kids die in school, they can just throw them over the fence."
Age six:

We were living in Indiana, and my son's five year old cousin Jamie acquired a new baby brother. My son's dad, David, called from California and we put the two kids on the phone together and prompted my son to ask about the new baby.

My son: "How's the new baby?" [pause] "He WHAT?" [pause] "Oh.........." (Strange look) "Ok, bye!" and he hung up the phone before we could get it back.

My parents and I asked how Jamie's new baby brother was.
My son: "He sucks on the cat."
Us (in unison): "WHAT?"
My son: "He sucks on his mom's cat."
We thought this was odd - I knew my son's aunt didn't like cats, and she certainly wouldn't have let a baby suck on one, so we figured it must have been a stuffed toy.

A few minutes later, we got a call back from David, laughing, and we managed to put both sides of the conversation together:

My son: "How is the new baby?"
Jamie: "He SUCKS!"
My son: "He WHAT?"
Jamie: "He sucks on my mom's TITTY!"

Somewhere around age seven:

Pete (David's life partner) and I were driving with our son and his best friend Colin in the car. The kids were in the back seat with some toys making airplane noises and crashing sounds. We stopped at a watch repair place and I ran in to get a new battery. When I got back, Pete was looking as though he would burst. He said he'd tell me later. Apparently what had happened was:

Kids: "EEEEeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrbbrrrrrbrrrrrr.. Pssh! PPPPPPssh!"
The noises suddenly stopped.
Colin to our son: "What does gay mean?"
At this point Pete froze.
Our son: "Ask him. He's gay."
Pete: (thinking) "Crap, crap, crap, crap..."
Colin: "Pete? What does gay mean?"
Pete: (fiddling with the radio dials trying desperately to buy time), "Uh...uh...hold on a minute, I just want to listen to this....." (at the time, we didn't know Colin's mom all that well)
Our son (matter-of-factly saving the day): "It means when two men love each other."
Colin: "Oh."
Kids:"EEEEeeeeeeeerrrrrrrrbbrrrrrbrrrrrr.. Pssh! PPPPPPssh!"

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Peace Officers Memorial

Yesterday wasn’t the day to commit a crime in Sacramento. It was the annual Peace Officer’s Memorial Ceremony where the names of all the police officers, sheriffs, and park rangers in California who have fallen in the line-of-duty this year are added to the memorial. Committing a crime anywhere else in California, yes. The fuzz were all here. Hundreds of police officers converge on Sacramento once a year for this ceremony. I happen to work in a building where they drive by one side and park down the other. You can feel when the parade of motorcycles and police cars comes by. The whole building vibrates. I wish I had had my camera. I used the one on my phone. The lines of parked motorcycles went on for about two blocks.
These cars are parked right outside my building. You can't really tell from the photo, but they were parked four and five deep for about three blocks, and most of them arrived with at least two officers in them. That is a lot of officers.The Keystone Cops also apparently made it, although we only saw their car.There were a few police dogs...and...
This is why I look forward to this event every year. Seventy-five police horses from all over the state. It's very impressive. The photos don't do it justice.
They form the back row listening to the ceremony. When we walked by the names of the 19 officers killed this year were being announced to the sound of bagpipes playing Amazing Grace. I got all choked up. While I love seeing the horses, wouldn't it be nice if we could have some years where there was no reason for the ceremony?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Easy meme

The reason I changed the name on this blog from Aquatic Ecologist, Bright, Atheist, so many labels.. to Chimaera Contemplations was because I wanted to indicate that it is about a variety of subjects, and my friend Kia had already taken the name that says it all. That and the old name was just to darn long.

I was tagged by Mr Farty with this meme. Well, he tagged somebody named 'you' so I'm considering it to mean 'me.' And it is easier to do than the other post I am working on about the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

1. The rules of the game get posted on the beginning.
2. Each player answers the rules about him or herself.
3. At the end of the post, the player tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they’ve been tagged and asking them to read his [or her] blog.

NOTE: I don't know why the numbers are showing up as cutesy little flowers when I post this. They are numbers in edit mode. Woo Hoo! I figured it out. The creator of this template, Todd Dominey, liked cutesy flowers instead of numbers for some reason.

What I was doing ten years ago:
Er...I was living in David and Pete's (yes, my ex-husband and his life partner) remodeled garage while I was getting my MBA the University of California, Davis Graduate School of Management. It is a very nice garage with its own bathroom.

About six months earlier, I was living in my parent's basement while I was getting my M.S. degree at Purdue University. A very nice basement it is, too.

Five things on my To-Do list today:

  1. Not much. Did it all yesterday. Went to gym, rented a truck, played in band concert, potted plants, etc.
  2. Working on the post about the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (note #2 on my bad habits, though)
  3. Cleaning Twister's paddock, and bandaging his legs if needed.
  4. Maybe going to see my friend M's (I have three friends M), new baby goats.
  5. Sitting around reading other people's blogs. Maybe trying to figure out how to do a "behind the fold" on my blog. I've found two different ways so far, and neither work the way I want them to.
Update: I actually washed my car today, and it wasn't even on the list. Anything to get out of doing housework.

Things I would do if I were a billionaire:
Not likely to happen, so why bother thinking about it? Millionaire, maybe....:-p

Three of my bad habits:
  1. I don't do housework. Ever. Or at least until I can't see the floor. Then I make a path.
  2. Procrastinating.
  3. I tend to get a little obsessive about things. For instance, I'll read constantly for months and then switch to crossword puzzles for months. According to my family my current obsession is blogging. I never get obsessive about housework, funnily enough.
Five places I’ve lived:
  1. Crowborough, England
  2. Earlville, New York
  3. Lake Jackson, Texas
  4. Benicia, California
  5. Indianapolis area, Indiana
There are several more towns. I once added it up, and until this house, I've never lived in one house more than four years. Going on 4 1/2 years here with Bill. I keep telling him it's time to sell the house and move.

Five jobs I’ve had:
  1. Weekend greenhouse waterer - keeping experimental plants alive at Dow Chemical
  2. Receptionist at a ballroom dance studio - worked for dance lessons.
  3. Clerk/manager of a small parcel shipping company.
  4. Field biologist for a consulting firm.
  5. Scientist with the State of California.
Five books I’ve recently read:
Hmm...define recently...See above post regarding obsessive blogging.
  1. Science Friction - Michael Shermer. Currently reading, but keep getting interrupted by blogs.
  2. The Ancestor's Tale - Richard Dawkins. I bought it for my parents and brother, too.
  3. My Boyfriend is a Twat - Zoe McCarthy
  4. The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster - Bobby Henderson.
  5. Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) - Jerome K. Jerome. I can read it over and over, although I probably haven't read it as often as the Tolkien trilogy (note how I sneaked my favorite books onto the list?)
Five people or communities I’m going to tag:
Anybody who feels like it. As was evident in my last meme, musicians don't follow directions very well. Directors, yes, but not directions.

Actually, I think that most of the people who occasionally read this blog (my family) don't have blogs.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Roving defender of evolution

And it's NOT Richard Dawkins! Although Professor Dawkins does seem to rove a lot.

Professor Francesco J. Ayala is an evolutionary biologist and geneticist at University of California, Irvine, and get this - he used to be a Dominican priest. According to this New York Times article, he gives about 50 talks a year in defense of evolution and against the arguments of creationism and its bastard child, intelligunt desine.

He answers creationist arguments with facts such as: at least 20% of pregnancies end in spontaneous abortion indicating that "God is the greatest abortionist of all," the existence of parasites, and female midges that fertilize their eggs by consuming their mates' genitals.

Professor Ayala says that if a god or some sort of being did design organisms “then he is a sadist, he certainly does odd things, and he is a lousy engineer.”

David Attenborough interlude:

"My response is that when Creationists talk about God creating every individual species as a separate act, they always instance hummingbirds, or orchids, sunflowers and beautiful things. But I tend to think instead of a parasitic worm that is boring through the eye of a boy sitting on the bank of a river in West Africa, [a worm] that's going to make him blind. And [I ask them], 'Are you telling me that the God you believe in, who you also say is an all-merciful God, who cares for each one of us individually, are you saying that God created this worm that can live in no other way than in an innocent child's eyeball? Because that doesn't seem to me to coincide with a God who's full of mercy."
When I used this argument with a creationist (granted, much more clumsily than David Attenborough), she just said, “Well, I believe that there was an angel that fell from grace (or some such twaddle)....and he is responsible for things like this.” There’s no reasoning with illogical people who believe complete nonsense.

And this is what Professor Ayala says in response to arguments that it is only fair to teach both sides of the evolution/creationism controversy. “We don’t teach alchemy along with chemistry. We don’t teach witchcraft along with medicine. We don’t teach astrology with astronomy.”