Sunday, October 28, 2007

Is there an arachnologist in the house?

For your viewing pleasure--or, possibly, displeasure if you suffer from arachnophobia--allow me to introduce you to my newest neighbor (click the image for a much larger and more detailed photo):

Sadly, the beautiful details of its posterior were hidden in shadow:

According to this paper, there are around 30,000 known spider species in the world, but only about 200 of them are known to harm humans. In all likelihood, my new neighbor is not part of the dangerous bunch, but just to be safe, I would recommend against attempting to steal anything from my patio for the time being!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

How about a real challenge?

Sure, this cockatoo can keep an easy 4/4 beat, but can it groove to the frenetic and irregular time signature changes of Tool?

(Via Laelaps)

Monday, October 22, 2007

In the line of fire

I woke this morning to find that the area that I live in, San Diego County, is ablaze. Stoked by strong, warm winds and dry air, fires are, quite literally, ravaging the countryside. Apparently everything started last night, but I spent much of yesterday following a conflagration of another sort--a major dramatic episode over the sacking of a popular member at a message board I frequent--and I guess I wasn't paying attention to much else.

The good news is that the fire burning closest to where I live is pretty well contained. The bad news is that there are six other fires in this county alone that are not contained! I already talked to a friend of mine who lives quite a bit further east than I do, and she told me she is safe, but had "lost everything." She will not be alone in her loss; thousands of people have already been evacuated, and I'm sure more will follow--perhaps even me.

Our local NPR affiliate, KPBS, is doing a fantastic job of providing the public with vital information concerning the fires. I'm listening now via the web (The one radio I own is the one in my car.), but due either to problems with my internet connection or difficulties are their end, the broadcast is constantly cutting out, making the updates difficult to follow.

Today will be difficult for all and tragic for many. And by all accounts, things are only going to get worse.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

On the prospects of my continued blogging

Allow me to apologize for this blog's silence over the past several months. Life has been stressful and often busy for me, but that's no excuse. Actually it's not even why I haven't been blogging--the real reason is that I've just been feeling too lazy and uninspired to bother. I'm going to try to change that, though. I don't want this blog to die on me.

With that in mind, I have a request for you, my readers. If you visit this blog on anything resembling a regular basis, would you mind posting a comment every now and then to let me know who you are? It will be a lot easier for me to keep this up, if it doesn't feel--as it often has--like I'm just talking to myself (I'm not counting you, Cath; you're my sister, you have to comment!). Perhaps that's an unreasonable request, but I'm going to make it anyway.

If nothing else, please feel free to correct my grammatical mistakes (I know you grammar Nazis are out there and you just love to make the rest of us toe the hard line!), argue with my points, and call me an idiot for all the dumb things I undoubtedly say. Of course, if you think something I've said isn't entirely stupid, feel free to mention that too!

Anyway, I'm taking A History of Histrionics off of life support. Let's see if, together, we can not only keep this thing alive, but make it lively!

Primates, reptiles and children! Oh my!

Contrary to the received wisdom of old adages, timing isn't everything, but it certainly isn't nothing, either. Much to my chagrin, upon arriving yesterday at San Diego Zoo I found that I had been preceded by what must have been every child under twelve in the tri-county area (in Coastal California, "tri-county area" is a rather meaningless geographical concept, but I was raised as a rural Midwestern boy, so I'm allowed to use it). October, you see, is "Kids get in Free" Month at the Zoo, and schools apparently use this as an opportunity to take their students on a fun and relatively cheap field trip. I had known this ahead of time, but had obviously not sufficiently pondered the dire consequences the Zoo's generosity might have for me. Luckily, my exceedingly awesome ipod music selection was able to muffle the worst of the cacophony, but the excessive number of screeching references to apes as "monkeys" still managed to grate on my ears like a shotgun blast of nails onto a chalkboard (obviously our public schools are failing utterly in the area of primate taxonomy--aren't the standardized exams mandated by the "No Child Left Behind" Act testing for this?).

Despite the hardship of being surrounded on all sides by a broiling sea of prepubescents , I still managed to have a wonderful time. I think, actually, that short of personal tragedy, it would be very difficult for me to not enjoy myself immensely at the San Diego Zoo. But enough of my inane babbling--onto the pictures!
This is Satu the Orangutan; you've seen him here a few times before, but he's my favorite animal at the Zoo by far, so I can't help but include him again. Oddly enough, it seems to be a law of the universe that if one waits around at the orangutan exhibit long enough, something highly interesting--usually involving Satu--will happen.

There also exists another tangentially-related law which states that juvenile siamangs--who share the exhibit with the orangutans--must always be compelled by some unfathomable genetic directive to harass the nearest available orangutan (usually Satu). As evidence of my claim (hey, I've just discovered two universal laws within a 24 hour timespan--isn't that enough to get me a PhD and a high-paying science job, or something?), I submit the following video:

Okay, I've been trying to upload this clip to
Google Videos for a few hours now, but it isn't
working. I'm losing patience, so I think I'll just
get this post up now and hope I can get the
video to to work later.

The playful harrassment of poor Satu (actually, I think he kind of likes it) lasted a lot longer than what I could catch on video. At one point, Satu climbed the fake bamboo poles to look out at the crowd. The infant siamang climbed right up after him and hung from his dangling legs like a useless appendage. It was very amusing, to say the least.

One of the keepers told me an amusing--amusing to me, at least, but perhaps not to the people involved--story about this female bonobo. Recently, while in one of her frequent aggressive moods, she bit off the top joint of one of the keeper's fingers. Doctors were able to reattach it, but only after the severed appendage was confiscated by the dominate female of the group and then traded to the keepers for raisins!

Moving away from the primates for the moment, here is are two Galápagos tortoises. I don't know their ages, but the Zoo has tortoises that are well past 100 years old.

Here is some sort of parrot--or a relative thereof. Judging by its guilty look, this bird is obviously up to no good.

Here, one of the Zoo's brown bears (commonly called grizzly bears) emerges from a relaxing bath in his (?) pool.

Ah, and here we come to the most exciting part of my Zoo visit, the baby bonobo! You can't really see it from this photo, but bundled in her blanket and resting on a giant bonobo stuffed animal, it was amazing just how much like a human baby she appeared to be (minus the obvious physical differences, of course).

Here she is from a different angle. Alas, due to thick glass and prohibitively poor lighting, it was difficult to get a good shot of her.

This video, I think, more than makes up for the low quality of the pictures:

On my way home, I saw this car on the freeway, and I couldn't resisting getting a picture of it. I guess it is that time of year.
And on that note of macabre humor, we come to the end of this post. I'm off now to see the movie 30 Days of Night. Mmmmm. . .vampires!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Attenzione, attenzione!

We interrupt your regularly-scheduled blogging lethargy to bring you this bit breaking news: the San Diego Zoo has seen the arrival of a baby bonobo! Mali--which, according to CBS, is the Swahili word for "something valuable"--was born on September 4th, but I just learned about her birth a few minutes ago. Happily for me, I had already decided to take Friday off to spend a much-needed day at the Zoo, so I won't have to wait very long to see her. I'll post pictures when I get back, I promise (unless, of course, they have her sequestered somewhere out of the public eye, but the Zoo's website says she's accessible in their nursery, so I'm hopeful that this won't happen). In the meantime, you'll have to settle for this disgustingly cute stock photo I found online.

One. . .two. . .three, "Awwwwwwwww!"