Sunday Roast: Summer Solstice

Happy Summer Solstice, all y’all?  Heh, all I know is that it’s supposed to be the day of the year with the longest daylight hours.  I won’t say it’s the longest day of the year, because, as we all know, that is a rather subjective concept.

Anyhoo, enjoy this lovely video of Alaska during summer solstice.

This is our daily open thread — Brace yourselves for summer…

Sunday Roast: Mt St Helens anniversary

May 18, 1980, thirty-five years ago tomorrow, Mt St Helens in Washington State went off like a bomb, killing 57 people and turning hundreds of square miles of beautiful forest into a wasteland.

Here’s a handy dandy graphic from the Wiki page of what happened during the blast:

I was living near Lake Shasta at the time, and working at the K-Mart just off I-5 in Redding.  I was amazed at the uptick in the numbers of travelers going north; we could tell who they were because they were buying stacks and stacks of crappy K-Mart air filters for their cars.  My thought was, “Why drive into that mess on purpose?,” but I guess they had their reasons — maybe selling crappy air filters to the masses.  :D

Thankfully, no one in my family was living in northern at the time.  My parents and younger sister moved to Moscow the next year, so they could establish residency before my dad started law school in 1982.  To hear the old people around Moscow tell it, they received anywhere from a couple inches to 12 feet of ash.  As much of a nightmare as it was, I’m pretty sure it was closer to a couple inches than it was to a foot — let alone 12 feet.

Exciting times!!  My inner geology geek was pinging like mad…

This is our daily open thread — where were you the day Mt St Helens went off?

Sunday Roast: Sea Lions Doing Sea Lion-y Stuff

Lounging...

Lounging…

Swimming...

Swimming…

Vocalizing...and more lounging...

Vocalizing…and more lounging…

Blowing bubbles...napping...maybe waving?

Blowing bubbles…napping…maybe waving?

Photos by Zooey

I definitely waved back, just in case.  ;)

Sea Lions, I like ’em.  Some people hate ’em.  Whatareyagonnado?

This is our daily open thread — Get on with it!

The Watering Hole; Friday April 3 2015; HELP STOP the GOP ESA SHAM

I’ll be brief. I received, this week, the following email from Defenders of Wildlife concerning current and recent efforts by Congressional Republicans to effectively decimate if not completely do away with the Endangered Species Act.

From Defenders of Wildlife:

Anti-wildlife Senators showed their true colors last week as they unleashed a torrent of proposals that if adopted, could cripple endangered species conservation efforts for years to come.

Proposals ranged from delaying the listing of highly imperiled species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to restricting access to the courts to enforce the ESA, to creating loopholes in restrictions on the elephant ivory trade for special interests.

The proposals came as part of the shameless free-for-all in the Senate known in Washington as “vote-o-rama.” Technically, it’s part of the Congressional budget process, but in practice it’s little more than a special interest stampede to raid the federal budget and advance extreme ideological agendas.

Here’s just a sampling of what was proposed:

Amendment #759 by Senator Mike Lee would ban federal protection for any endangered species whose range falls entirely within one state. Roughly half of all endangered species would fall under this exception and lose federal protection.

Amendment #452 by Senator Dean Heller would indefinitely delay a listing decision on the dwindling population of greater sage-grouse under the ESA, making it all but impossible to provide federal protection for this imperiled species.

Amendment #606 by Senator Steve Daines would relax restrictions on trade in elephant ivory, creating further enforcement loopholes that would aggravate the poaching crisis that these magnificent creatures face.

While these proposals never made it to an actual vote, their Senate sponsors have tipped their hands and identified their anti-ESA agendas – and many of these proposals are likely to be reintroduced in the Senate in the months ahead.

Tell your elected officials the future of imperiled wildlife conservation depends on stopping these deplorable attacks.

Thanks for all you do.

To date, nothing introduced in Congress has made it past the opening stumbling blocks, but rest assured that raucous attempts will continue because . . . profits are easier and larger when not encumbered by silly environmental and wildlife protection mandates. And really, it’s just that simple.

So. Please. Take a moment. Click on the link. Ask your Senators to help STOP the assault on the Endangered Species Act. Help halt the idiocy.

OPEN THREAD

The Frozen Hole, Saturday, February 21st, 2015: M-m-m-more S-s-s-snow?!

It seems like more than half the country is getting hit by more snow, ice, and other nasty cold stuff through this weekend.

We humans are just not designed for this. So, everyone stay warm inside and have a look at lots of animals who were much better designed for snow than we are. As usual, thanks to The Weather Channel for gathering the pics in this slideshow. While they do include some of my favorite ‘snow’ animals, such as the snow leopard:
snow-leopard-normalI think they were a bit remiss in not including others of my favorite snow-loving animals, like the Arctic Fox:
Arctic-fox-Wallpaper-arctic-fox-muzzle-eyes-snowAnd not a single one of Arctic Hares, either:

Arctic Hares High-Fiving

Arctic Hares High-Fiving

But I have to say that my favorite ‘wildlife-in-snow’ themed photo that ISN’T in the slideshow is this one:

"Hey, maybe one of you two cubs is small enough to reach in there..."

“Hey, maybe one of you two cubs is small enough to reach in there…”

This is our daily Open Thread – if you’re reading this from somewhere with no snow, please think warm thoughts towards the rest of us!

The Watering Hole, Saturday, February 14th, 2015: Intelligence

happy_valentines_day_by_plusonedead cupid

And with that tribute to Saint Valentine out of the way, let’s move on…

Last night on Bill Maher, David Duchovny was the second interview guest, promoting his new novel, “Holy Cow!” The book, according to USA Today, is “…about a talking cow, pig and turkey that go on the lam when they discover they’re destined for the dinner table.” During the interview, Duchovny discussed (in part) animal rights, and briefly mentioned that cases were being brought to court regarding captive chimpanzees.

His mention of the chimpanzee cases coincided with an article from BuzzFeed that I was in the middle of reading just before Real Time started. The article, “People Are Animals, Too” by Peter Aldhous, opens with a couple of paragraphs about the Nonhuman Rights Project’s Steven Wise, who is arguing for “personhood” under New York State law for a chimpanzee called ‘Tommy.’ Here’s an excerpt:

“Central to Wise’s arguments in Tommy’s case, and to similar suits his organization has filed on behalf of other captive chimpanzees, is the assertion that apes are highly intelligent and self-aware beings with complex emotional lives. “The uncontroverted facts demonstrate that chimpanzees possess the autonomy and self-determination that are supreme common law values,” Wise told the five judges hearing the case.”

The article discusses aspects of various studies on animal intelligence, touching on crows, scrub jays, wolves, even octopi and cuttlefish. And, of course, no article on animal intelligence would be complete without a mention, however brief, of my co-worker’s friends’ son, Josh Plotnik, whose college studies and subsequent career I have been made aware of, and have been jealous of because he gets to study elephants. From the article:

“Some researchers working on vertebrate cognition, meanwhile, are starting to reject the field’s anthropocentric biases. In Thailand’s Golden Triangle, Josh Plotnik of the University of Cambridge works at a luxury resort that is home to a group of elephants, which, when not giving rides to tourists, take part in his research. Plotnik started with the usual roster of experiments tried on young children and chimps, including the mirror test. But he now realizes that he needs to better understand the elephants’ sensory world — dominated by odors and low-frequency sounds — before he can work out how to explore the full scope of their cognitive abilities.

“It would be very unethical of me to take all of the chimp experiments and just run them on the elephants,” Plotnik says. “I’d be publishing all these negative results, saying: ‘Elephants can’t do this. Elephants can’t do that.’ When in fact, they probably could, if we asked the questions the right way.”

Speaking of elephants, it was on a Valentine’s Day, maybe 35 years ago, when an Indian elephant wrapped its trunk around my arm to pull me closer, and a tiger thoroughly washed my hand – certainly the most unusual Valentine’s Day I’ve ever experienced. So I guess this turned out to be a sort of Valentine’s Day thread after all. Oh, well!
Happy Valentines Day Wallpaper

This is our daily Open Thread, so, open up!

The Watering Hole; Thursday February 12 2015; The Week That Just Was

It’s been a weird week. Last Thursday, the fifth of February, Obama attended the National Prayer breakfast, and when he spoke, he included a condemnation of all who ‘hijack religion’ and use it for tyrannical purpose even as they consider there actions justifiable by said religion. He was duly critical of the Islamic State aka ISIS, calling them a “death cult.” He was also critical of all religions who have, in their respective histories, irrefutable evidences of tyrannical behavior. He said, for example, that

“Unless we get on our high horse and think that this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. “In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.”

“So it is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a simple tendency that can pervert and distort our faith.”

From that point forward, the shit hit the fan bigtime in Wingnuttistan. In the days that followed, there clearly was more ‘Christian’ (I use the word loosely when it refers to far right wing adherents) outrage — more virulence — than most of us have seen in years, and it all came thundering down within a few days. I won’t bother to quote the vitriol, but for the curious, a quick peek here should satisfy: it’s where one Janet Mefferd Slams Interfaith ‘Garbage’ At National Prayer Breakfast and reveals a fairly good-sized chunk of wingnut Christian misinterpretation, especially of each and every word spoken by their arch-enemy — that Muslim-commie-fascist-Nazi-usurper — President Barack Obama.

OK, enough of Wingnuttistaniarrhea. There were other ‘happenings’ in the week that were a whole lot more interesting, happenings that I managed to record with my Sony (boy, do I like that 64X optical zoom and 20 megapixel resolution!) digital camera.

Here are a few captured moments from the past week. First, from February fifth (and note that even after the National Prayer Breakfast, the universe appears relatively undisturbed) a humble attempt at Monet-style impressionism with this inverted scene of shore and goose reflections in our slowly thawing local lake:

Geese 817 flipNext, the big event on the evening of that same day, the full moon rising behind the thinnest veil of winter’s hazy sky. Notice how, in spite of Obama’s earlier-in-the-day National Prayer Breakfast ‘blasphemy,’ the surface of the moon remains dutifully scarred, and even though it’s our nearest ‘heavenly’ body, it has obviously NOT been tossed from our view by a vengeful and merciless G– . . . Oops, never mind. Sometimes I tend to get carried away when the nuts come out — during the full moon, y’ know..

Rising moon 824On Feb. eighth (temp in the 70’s) most of the surface snow on the ice had melted, leaving behind only a series of goose tracks, dutifully recording the ‘pathways’ upon which they walked to/from the grassy area on the the shore where they like to hang out, and to/from their island roosting places:

Icy goose prints 827On the ninth — another mid-70’s day — the ice was melting fast and the honkers were, predictably, enjoying it. Most interesting was something I’d never before noticed in the local goose population which has been forever staffed with typically light brown Canadians. I don’t know whether these near-black critters are a variety of Canadian or another type altogether, but whatever, they seemed to get along with the more common locals, no problem. Here are a pair of the dark guys standing one rock away from a typical Canadian in the process of catching forty winks.

Geese rocks water ice 862Here’s a closer view, one of each.

Geese Canadian and dark 857 William Wordsworth once managed to sum up the enduring nature/human disparity when he wrote (in Intimations of Immortality) —

Earth fills her lap with pleasures of her own;
Yearnings she hath in her own natural kind,
And, even with something of a Mother’s mind,
And no unworthy aim,
The homely Nurse doth all she can
To make her Foster-child, her Inmate Man,
Forget the glories he hath known,
And that imperial palace whence he came.

Long story short: I can’t imagine why it is, but for some reason my tendency is to enjoy the natural world “out there” far more than the non-feathered two-legger’s domain — you know the place, “that imperial palace whence [we] came.” It’s where, according to Rick Santorum, ‘Sexual Activity’ Rights are Encroaching On Religious Rights.  Funny how geese and most other wild critters never seem to have that problem. Wonder why that is?

OPEN THREAD