Sunday, December 31, 2006

Zoo Blogging

For Christmas this year, my family gave me a fancy new digital camera (Between this and and the Ipod that I recently purchased, I'm dangerously close to entering the 21st century!). Thanks to their generosity, I plan to start regularly posting pictures from my frequent trips to the San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park. It may not be as good as actually being there--heck, it's not even the next best thing--but you'll just have to take what you can get (unless, of course, you decide to come to San Diego, in which case, I'll take you to the zoo myself)! Here's the first batch, roughly grouped in chronological order (click each photo for a larger, sharper version):

Near the entrance to the zoo is a small lagoon with flamingos and quite a few ducks. Adeptly serving as the Zoo's unofficial visitors greeters, they are usually the first animals that visitors see.

Exhausted after a tiring wrestling match with his two-year-old son (not pictured because they were very close to the glass, and my attempts to reduce the glare were unsuccessful; you'll just have to trust me that it was hilarious.), Satu, a Sumatran orangutan--and quite possibly my favorite animal in the zoo--rests in the morning sunlight while eating a snack.

Memba, a 37-year-old silverback gorilla (of the western lowland variety) and head of a seven member troop, surveys his kingdom. . .

. . .and decides that it's time for a nap!

Mom carries her nine-month-old baby in typical gorilla fashion.

Mumba from an alternate view--they call 'em silverbacks for a reason!

A two-week-old Angolan Colubus monkey and its (the keepers haven't determined its sex yet) mother.

A bonobo mother and her son (I think!). Bonobos are the rarest--and quite possibly smartest--of all the non-human apes, and are closely related to chimpanzees (which makes them closely related to us, as well) . Located only in a small area of the Democratic Republic of Congo, these beautiful primates are on the verge of extinction.

A male bonobo is. . .well, I think you can figure it out.

A free-flying hummingbird looks for something tasty to drink.

Clyde, the magnificently nappy and adorable dominant-male orangutan. He is also the father of Satu.

Satu grooms Clyde before bedtime. Despite the lower qualiy of this picture, it's one of my favorites from the entire day. It's rare that I see these two orangutans interact (and when I do, it's usually because Satu has decided to antagonize his father), so I was very glad to be able witness them sharing an affectionate moment.

Well that's it for now, but don't worry--I've got lots more pictures from this visit that I will post soon; and I promise that the next set won't be quite so primate-centric!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

And may your eggnog be potent!

Thanks, Olduvai George. Nothing expresses the True Meaning of Christmas™ like an extinct, hairy pachyderm.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

In remembrance

Ten years ago today, famed astronomer and popularizer of science, Carl Sagan, died at the age of 62 of complications related to myelodyplasia. Though I had only the haziest awareness of Sagan's existence while he was alive, I now consider him to be something of a personal hero. More than any other single person, I credit Sagan--and specifically, The Demon-haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, the last book he published before his death--for my love of science and nature. An eloquent writer and brilliant--if often controversial--thinker, Sagan had an infectious enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge that I admire to this day. And I am hardly alone in this admiration; even ten years after his death, his intellectual patrons are legion.

In a post a few months back, I facetiously referred to Sagan as a "prophet." While I don't believe that he was sent from Heaven to fulfill a divine mission, he had a mission nevertheless, and I am grateful for his untiring efforts to increase the collective knowledge and wisdom of humanity. Although he held no naive doubts about our unique penchants for hatred and self-destruction, Sagan was an unfailing believer in humanity's potential for goodness. For this and many other reasons, he will not soon be forgotten.

Behold, the virgin shall be with child. . .

Now this is a seasonally-appropriate news story:
LONDON (Reuters) - Flora, a pregnant Komodo dragon living in a British zoo, is expecting eight babies in what scientists said on Wednesday could be a Christmas virgin birth.

Flora has never mated, or even mixed, with a male dragon, and fertilized all the eggs herself, a process culminating in parthenogenesis, or virgin birth. Other lizards do this, but scientists only recently found that Komodo dragons do too.

"Nobody in their wildest dreams expected this. But you have a female dragon on her own. She produces a clutch of eggs and those eggs turn out to be fertile. It is nature finding a way," Kevin Buley of Chester Zoo in England said in an interview.

He said the incubating eggs could hatch around Christmas.
It may not be a miracle, but I'm impressed nonetheless. Hallelujah!

(Thanks, Becka)

Monday, December 18, 2006

Winning is for suckers!

If the publishers of Time think shameless flattery is all it takes to get me to buy their mediocre magazine, they've got another think coming (although, if they changed the name of the award to "Bipedal, Naked Ape of the Year," I might reconsider).

(via everybody and their mother)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Feral Beauty

While the ants might think me a sadist for saying it, I got chills while watching this video I found at The Loom. It seems appropriate that this post immediatly follows my near geekgasm over the Alien dvd set. I don't believe it's necessarily always the case that truth is stranger than fiction (I've read some pretty strange fiction), but, when it comes to exciting awe, there is nothing in the minds of humans--as inspirational as they can often be--that compares to the sheer calamitous power and beauty that is found in nature.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Impulse buying--it's the reason for the season!

The 9-disc Alien Quadrilogy on sale at Costco for $31.99. In the immortal words of Private Hudson, "Game over, man. Game over!" That's an offer no self-respecting geek could be reasonably expected to refuse.

(I just wish somebody would tell me why the Fox execs felt the need to make up the word "Quadrilogy" when the the much cooler and already-extant "Tetralogy"could have been used.)

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Sounds like a personal(ity) problem!

For some reason, I've been in the mood for personality tests lately (and by lately, I mean this afternoon), but, frustatingly enough, I keep getting conflicting results on Myers-Briggs-style tests. In the past hour, I've scored everything from an INFP (which has traditionally been the personality type I most match), to an INTJ, and, most recently, an ISFP. These seemingly contradictory results have left me with one question: just what the hell is wrong with me?

Part of my problem--and this is something I've noticed about myself in general, not just in the context of personality tests--is that I tend to place a high value on being rational, analytical, and logical, but naturally tend to be more passionate, emotional, and sentimental; this, I think, has led me to over-compensate on the tests in order to get the score I would prefer, rather than the score that's most accurate for me. Alas, I, like Popeye, simply "yam what I yam." If an INFP is what I am, I suppose I'll just have to learn to deal with it--athough I mustn't forget the always popular option of becoming a miserable, self-loathing whiner!

One other thing I've noticed is that I really hate questions that require binary, yes/no answers. I'm just much more comfortable with grey than I am with black or white, I guess. Hmm. . .I wonder what that says about my personality?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

"AIMing" toward a definition of science

Is is just me, or is this instant messenger conversation about Karl Popper and the demarcation problem--ie., the philosophical effort to define what is and isn't qualified to be labeled as "science"--really, really fascinating?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Momma didn't raise no Benedict Arnold, or did she?

Your 'Do You Want the Terrorists to Win' Score: 100%

You are a terrorist-loving, Bush-bashing, "blame America first"-crowd traitor. You are in league with evil-doers who hate our freedoms. By all counts you are a liberal, and as such cleary desire the terrorists to succeed and impose their harsh theocratic restrictions on us all. You are fit to be hung for treason! Luckily George Bush is tapping your internet connection and is now aware of your thought-crime. Have a nice day.... in Guantanamo!

Do You Want the Terrorists to Win?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

Gitmo had better start subscribing to the New York Times and learn to serve high-quality lattes; if they don't, us disaffected, baby-eating liberals are going to make the U.S. Government wish longingly for the days when they only had to deal with Islamic Fundamentalists! Long live Michael Dukakis, Barbara Streisand, and Alec Baldwin!