Monday, May 28, 2007

A bit o' creative writing

A few weeks ago, I wrote a satirical essay for an assignment in one of my classes. I wasn't entirely pleased with the outcome, but my teacher really enjoyed it, and the class seemed amused when I read it aloud, so I'm posting it here.

Brave New Zoo

Attention, zoo-goers! After twenty years of closure due to the unavoidable mass extinction of its inhabitants, the San Diego Technological Society (formerly the San Diego Zoological Society), is proud to announce that on June 1st, 2075 the new and improved San Diego Zoo will be opening its doors! We are excited for you to experience the many amazing exhibits we have designed for you. Unlike our predecessors—who were inordinately focused on inefficient and misguided notions like animal well being and species conservation—we are pleased to inform you that every aspect of the new zoo has been created with the convenience and gratification of you, the entertainment consumer, in mind. Let’s take a look at some of the unforgettable experiences that await you at the Zoo of the Future®.

Here at the San Diego Technological Society, we believe that some traditions are worth keeping alive (only figuratively, of course!). That’s why, when walking through the entrance, the first thing you’ll see is the familiar sight of the zoo’s flock of flamingoes. But unlike the primitive flamingoes you may be used to (which were notoriously noisy smelly and messy), our flamingoes are quiet, unassuming, and sculpted entirely out of a fine pewter/copper alloy. As the zoo’s official greeters, our flamingoes* do what flamingoes do best—absolutely nothing!

While we like to uphold some traditions, we also believe in the need for constant innovation, which is why our teams of tireless and inventive R & D engineers are always on the lookout for substandard products worth improving. Take, for example, monkeys and birds—on their own, neither even comes close to meeting our rigorous excitement quality standards, but, we thought, what if they were combined? That’s right—the zoo’s robotic amalgamation team has created the world’s first mechanical bird-monkey hybrid! What’s more, our robot bird-monkeys have been programmed to serve as the zoo’s support staff. Not only are they entertaining to watch, but they’ll take food orders, deliver refreshments, and even give your car a full wash and wax while you enjoy your day at the zoo. Now that’s innovation!

If there was one thing we hated about the old biological zoos of the past, it was all of those nagging signs ordering the guests not to feed the animals. If, like us, you loathed this particularly egregious restriction, we have a real treat for you. In partnership with McDonald’s—now with sixteen locations conveniently disbursed across the zoo grounds—we are proud to present Mei Shung, the cyborg Panda. Mei Shung’s digestive system has been specially designed to function entirely on Big Macs, and you can feed her. Truly, it is a delight to witness the insatiable hunger in her eyes as she devours burger after tasty burger!

After feeding Mei Shung, why not visit our nearby education hub, the Conservation Irrelevancy Center? There, our knowledgeable and well-trained staff will inform you the many ways in which extinction and the loss of biodiversity have made the world a safer, healthier and happier place for humans. And we haven’t forgotten the kids! While you educate yourselves about the wonders of human progress, your children will experience the hilarious virtual reality high jinks of “Petey the Pathetic Platypus.” They’ll laugh at the outrageous trouble Petey gets into as he futilely attempts to keep from being “naturally selected” out of the gene pool, and they’ll receive an important lesson about not placing too much value on out-dated, non-human forms of life. Truly, the Conservation Irrelevancy Center is fun for the entire family!

All of these fabulous experiences—plus much more!—await you at the brand new San Diego Zoo. As if this was not enough, we would also like to invite you to the San Diego Technological Society’s newly-renovated sister site, the Wild Rubbish Park. Here, you and your family will scream with delight through your gas masks at the spectacle of our majestic used battery gardens, and you’ll have the opportunity to take a guided hover-tram tour (with recorded narration provided by the upcoming Hollywood starlet, Paris Hilton III) through a pristine, 65-acre rubber and plastics dump. By itself, the full scale replica of the Statue of Liberty made from three hundred thousand car tires is well-worth the price of admission!

The thrill of progress; the joys of convenience; the gratification of entertainment—the furtherance of these, our principles, is why the San Diego Technological Society exists. As you visit the ground-breaking San Diego Zoo and Wild Rubbish Park, we hope that you’ll take a moment to reflect upon the inspiring words of our society’s motto: “Life—it’s all about you.”

*Please note: In an effort to reduce the need for repainting after heavy rainfalls, we have altered the color of our flamingoes from the traditional pink to a pleasant orange rust hue. We’re sure you’ll love the new look.

Orangutans on the brink

Today, Reuters published an excellent (if sad) in depth article on the plight of orangutans and other forest-dwelling animals of Borneo and Sumatra:
Bound hand and foot, disheveled orangutans caught raiding Borneo's oil palm crops silently await their fate as a small crowd of plantation workers gather to watch.

Lacking only hand-cuffs and finger-printing to complete the atmosphere of a criminal bust, such "ape evictions" have become part of life for Asia's endangered red apes.

Thousands have strayed into the path of international commerce as Indonesia and Malaysia, their last remaining habitats, race to convert their forests to profitable palm crops.

Branded pests for venturing out from their diminishing forest habitats into plantations where they eat young palm shoots, orangutans could be extinct in the wild in ten years time, the United Nations said in March.
Please, follow the link and read the whole thing.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Red in tooth and claw (and horn)

Dear Diary,

Today was not a good day. It started off well enough; after a restful morning, my friends and I managed to sink our teeth into some tasty buffalo meat. We were all set to have a nice meal when who should arrive? That mean ol' nasty crocodile, that's who! We played tug-of-war for a little while, but my friends and I were tired from the hunt, and that croc has jaw of steel. Yes, that thieving bastard stole our meal! I was pretty depressed at this point, but things just got worse. As soon as I managed to come to terms with the fact that I probably wouldn't eat today, our would-be prey's family showed up--and they were pissed! I don't care how big my claws and teeth are; when I'm face to face with an entire herd of angry, horned buffalo, I'm going to do what any sensible person would do--run! They say that I'm the Queen of the Jungle, and maybe I am. But today, on the savanna, I got my ass kicked. Oy vey, I need a drink.

(hat tip to The Voltage Gate)

Odds and ends

As of last Thursday, I've finished the two classes I was taking this semester, so, in theory, I'll have more time and brainpower available for blogging. In actuality, my blogging habits are the result of complex calculation involving highly-volatile variables ([time + urge + current mental faculties]/laziness = probability of blogging), so whether or not you'll see a substantial increase in my blogging output is anybody's guess.

I should note that my sister, in an act of rank nepotism, has presented a "Thinking Blogger" award to me. Leaving aside for the moment the fact that I can't shake the feeling that the whole thinking award meme--though well-intended--might just be more than a bit ridiculous, I'm going to have to be a contrarian jerk and say that I don't feel like I'm much of a deserving recipient. Hell, I barely even blog, much less blog with thoughtful consideration. Nevertheless, thank you, Cath.

The standard response to receiving the "Thinking Blogger" award would be for me to nominate five people who I think are also deserving; I'm not going to do that. Most of the blogs I read regularly are written by professionals or semi-professionals writing--at least some of the time--on topics related to their areas of expertise. I think it would be misappropriately pretentious of me to nominate any of these blogs. Instead, I'm going to link to a few relatively recent posts that I've found especially enjoyable:

PZ Myers argues against the pervasive notion that the history of life--from "simple" single-celled organisms to the obvious pinnacle of evolution, walking and talking apes--reflects a pattern of ladder-like increases in complexity.

In his typically lucent and well-written fashion, Carl Zimmer has a great article on the findings and implications related to the sequencing of the opossum genome.

Kambiz writes an interesting and informative post about the new Digital Morphology Database, a great tool for people interested in skeletal anatomy.

Sean Carroll explains his reasons for believing that the rumours of string theory's demise have been greatly exaggerated. While my ability to consistently comprehend complex arguments related to theoretical physics is rather limited, the folks at at Cosmic Variance do an outstanding job of keeping things both informative and readable for both experts and novices.

That's it for now. Barring a case of uncontrollable lethargy, I hope to have more new content--if it can be justifiably called that--up within the next few days.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Overheard on the internets

I got a pleasant chuckle out of this:
Darwinism is something of a misnomer. Darwinism has been with us ever since the serpent beguiled Eve. Darwin was inspired by his father the devil to write his books much like Jesus inspired Moses and Paul.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Oh glorious, long-awaited day!

Tomorrow, I see Tool live in concert.

I've been crawling on my belly
Clearing out what could've been.
I've been wallowing in my own confused
And insecure delusions
For a piece to cross me over
Or a word to guide me in.
I wanna feel the changes coming down.
I wanna know what I've been hiding in my shadow
- forty-six & 2