Peacelike mongoose

The Peacelike Mongoose

by James Thurber

In cobra country a mongoose was born one day who didn’t want to fight cobras or anything else. The word spread from mongoose to mongoose that there was a mongoose who didn’t want to fight cobras. If he didn’t want to fight anything else, it was his own business, but it was the duty of every mongoose to kill cobras or be killed by cobras.
“Why?” asked the peacelike mongoose, and the word went around that the strange new mongoose was not only pro-cobra and anti-mongoose but intellectually curious and against the ideals and traditions of mongooism.
“He is crazy,” cried the young mongoose’s father.
“He is sick,” said his mother.
“He is a coward,” shouted his brothers.
“He is a mongoosexual,” whispered his sisters.
Strangers who had never laid eyes on the peacelike mongoose remembered that they had seen him crawling on his stomach, or trying on cobra hoods, or plotting the violent overthrow of Mongoosia.
“I am trying to use reason and intelligence,” said the strange new mongoose.
“Reason is six-sevenths of treason,” said one of his neighbors.
“Intelligence is what the enemy uses,” said another.
Finally, the rumor spread that the mongoose had venom in his sting, like a cobra, and he was tried, convicted by a show of paws, and condemned to banishment.

Moral: Ashes to ashes, and clay to clay, if the enemy doesn’t get you your own folks may.

Amazing that I cannot recall ever hearing this fable. It is truly appropriate!


Palin Revere Rides Again: Is Christianity About Learning the Truth or Making What You Already Believe “The Truth”? | Exploring Our Matrix

June 5, 2011 by James F. McGrath

In the hullabaloo about Sarah Palin’s lack of familiarity with Paul Revere, some of the attention seems to me to focus on what is a less important point. Everyone flubs historical details at some point, even major ones.

The bigger issue is one that I highlighted in another post recently, and which Scott Bailey also highlighted, namely an unwillingness, having been caught ill-informed, to admit that one was wrong.

Apparently fans of Sarah Palin have been rewriting the Wikipedia entry on Paul Revere, in an attempt to make it conform to her version of the story.

I would expect nothing less of politicians and ideologues.

But I hope that any and all will acknowledge that the attempt to fabricate history rather than admit that oneself, or one’s favorite politician, is wrong, is absolutely incompatible with the label Christian.

If you disagree, then just rewrite Wikipedia, so that instead of the Gospel of John having him say “the truth will set you free,” it said “you’re free to set the truth.”

On a related note, John Blake has an article on phantom Bible verses, which people have invented, misremembered, or misattributed to the Bible, and how surprisingly difficult it is to persuade people they have got it wrong.

Also, David Miller has a quote from renowned New Testament scholar C. F. D. Moule on the humility that should characterize Christians.

And in mostly unrelated news, Richard Hall has a parable about the difference between climate and weather, and Religion Nerd has a post about weather and religion. But you can connect them with the theme of this post by way of this cartoon, if you really want to.

Share and Enjoy:

I found this posting from a Christian Pastoral group’s blog to be very interesting. And while the commenters are less obnoxious than is the norm for climate change or conservative/liberal discussions, they’re still following the same pattern.

With a certain amount of ironic flair, I have to say this is another case of ideology trumping reality. *sigh*

Infographic: Secure Communities 101 | Deportation Nation

Unintended Consequences: A perverse effect contrary to what was originally intended (when an intended solution makes a problem worse), such as when a policy has a perverse incentive that causes actions opposite to what was intended.

Has legislative fear mongering caused us to give away our freedoms? Has anyone noticed politicians, especially conservative extremists, pushing xenophobia?

Are we really going back to “if you look or sound different you are the enemy?”

In creating DHS and subsequently empowering ICE, we have planted the seed of our own Stasi, our very own secret police… Better hang on to your papers citizen, or you might be deported…

Feel free to repost this infographic. We simply request that you credit Deportation Nation and link to our website. Please do not edit our content or repackage it for sale. Email questions to deportationnation at gmail dot com.

Back when we were facing off against the Sino/Soviet “threat” we were fighting against forces of repression, authoritarian groups that violated basic human rights, that strong armed populations into compliance.
The thing that we all knew, but couldn’t believe would happen is that we might become the thing that we opposed.

Meet the fire ant that pulled a groovy break-dancing pose | Mail Online

Is he listening to Adam Ant? Jungle insect shows amazing balance on one leg

By Daily Mail Reporter

Last updated at 8:11 AM on 13th May 2011

It’s like an audition for Insect’s Got Talent – marvel at the amazing photograph of a fire ant performing a break-dancing move.
Robertus Agung Sudiatmoko captured the pose when a trail of fire ants passed near him in the small village of Cibinong, Indonesia.
He took lots of incredible snaps, but the most spectacular was undoubtedly the dancing ant, which unexpectedly hoisted itself up onto one of its right-hand legs for a staggering 30 seconds.

Amazing dancing ant picture
Talent: It’s a safe bet that if this was an audition, this ant is through to the next round

In another of Robertus’ shots, one ant stands on top of a mini mountain, crossing his arms in prayer.

And just like the infamous biblical scene in which Moses receives the Ten Commandments from God, rays of light shoot from the sky, illuminating the tiny praying ant.
Another shows the animal’s super-human strength as it lifts a gigantic leaf – that measures more than 10 times its height – above its head, which is easily carried along on the ant’s journey.
Astonishingly, these pictures were Robertus’s very first attempt at close-up photography.
Robertus, who lives in Jakarta, said: ‘I only started doing macro shots in September, after saving up for the equipment – but I wanted to capture the best shots of the ant that I possibly could.
‘Then suddenly, when I least expected it, the ant just lifted itself on to its leg in a break dancing pose.
‘I’ve never ever break danced myself but instantly it reminded me of that.
‘I was really happy when I looked back through my shots to see the ant dancing as I was worried I had missed it.
‘For my first go it was a good shot – it will be hard to better that.’

Amazing praying ant photo
On a wing and a prayer: This ant seems to have found religion

He added: ‘I took the pictures when a group of us got together hunting for good macro photo opportunities.
‘I was really desperate to get a good first shot so stood out in a rain storm waiting for the ants to come back out once the sun reappeared.’
Robertus, 29, who captured the astonishing images on his trusty Canon 40D with a 100mm macro lens attached, added: ‘I like ants because they are so independent – living and working together.
‘Ants are just like humans in that they are very organised and all go to work.
‘In larger colonies the sterile ringless females form groups of workers, soldiers or other specialised groups just like us.
‘They are simply fascinating.’

Amazing leaf-carrying ant
Leaf it out: Ants can easily carry many times their own weight

Robertus has shown fire ants in their possible light, but rile them and you’d be very sorry. They possess a fearsome sting that victims have likened to being burnt by fire – hence their name.
What’s more, the fire ant uses its pincers to lock itself onto its prey so it can inflict the maximum number of stings.
Each fire ant nest normally contains several hundred thousand insects and sometimes multiple queens.
The U.S spends a staggering $5million a year combating fire ants and treating people they’ve stung.

American Idle – Compass

Traffic cops were required for the opening of a new In-N-Out burger restaurant in Texas this week. The video is pretty incredible. Watching it prompted me to dig out an old column by Mr. Green, Sierra magazine’s answer man:

In drive-throughs or anyplace, idling is, to summon the old saying, the devil’s workshop. Every hour you idle, you waste up to 0.7 gallons of gas (depending on your engine type) going nowhere. So it pays to turn your engine off if you’re going to be still for more than 30 seconds.

In a given year, U.S. cars burn some 1.4 billion gallons of fuel just idling. Not to mention idling trucks, which waste another 1.5 billion gallons. Collectively, we emit about 58 million tons of carbon dioxide while we’re essentially doing nothing.

Taking the fast-food industry as an example, and taking into account that the average McDonald’s drive-through wait is 159 seconds, we can calculate that the company’s consumers burn some 7.25 million gallons of gas each year. The figure for the entire U.S. fast-food industry? Roughly 50 million gallons.

It’s safe to say the drivers in this video are waiting a tad more than 159 seconds for their burger and fries.

(video via consumerist.)

— Brian Foley

US$200,000,000 a year just to wait in line for tacos/fried chicken/burgers? Someone tell the Conservatives we’ve got a place for them to start cutting. While they’re at it, how about the US $12 BILLION each YEAR we spend sitting in traffic jams?

Now that’s a justification for mass transit if I’ve ever seen one!

Dalhousie biologists interpret the language of sperm whales

Whales have accents and regional dialects

When they dive together, sperm whales make patterns of clicks to each other known as “codas”. Recent findings suggest that, not only do different codas mean different things, but that whales can also tell which member of their community is speaking based on the sound properties of the codas. Just as we can tell our friends apart by the sounds of their voices and the way they pronounce their words, different sperm whales make the same pattern of clicks, but with different accents.

Caribbean and Pacific whales have different repertoires of codas, like a regional dialect, but the “Five Regular” call—a pattern of five evenly spaced clicks— is thought to have the universal function of individual identity because it is used by sperm whales worldwide.

These discoveries were recently published in the journal Animal Behaviour, in an article authored by University of St. Andrews PhD student Ricardo Antunes, Dal alumnus Tyler Schulz, Mr. Gero, Dal professor Dr. Hal Whitehead, and St. Andrews faculty members Dr. Jonathan Gordon and Dr. Luke Rendell.

Mr. Gero and Dr. Whitehead explain that the sperm whale’s biggest threat is human pollution. Not only do humans introduce toxins into the ocean, but they also generate harmful sound pollution. Increased shipping traffic, underwater explosions caused by searching for oil, and military sonar all contribute to ocean noise that masks communication between whales. “No one wants to live in a rock concert,” says Mr. Gero, adding that noise pollution is especially troublesome in the ocean because “it is a totally different sensory world.” The sperm whales can dive to depths of over 1000 metres and depend on sound for communication and navigation in the pitch black of the deep water.

The Dominica Sperm Whale Project hopes to understand more about sperm whale society because, as Mr. Gero says, “it is infuriating that we know more about the moon than the oceans.” He hopes to communicate a better understanding of life in the oceans to people by using these beautiful whales as examples, and by placing an emphasis on “how similar their lives actually are to ours.”

The whales live in matriarchal social units composed of mothers, daughters, and grandmothers. Once males reach adolescence, they are ostracized from the group and travel towards the poles until they are ready to breed. Consequently, little is known about the males, but the roles of females in relation to their young have been studied extensively by Mr. Gero and Dr. Whitehead. Female whales will baby-sit each other’s offspring while mothers are diving, forming a strong community that revolves around the upbringing of calves. “They are nomadic,” explains Dr. Whitehead, “so the most important things in their lives are each other.”

Dr. Whitehead enjoys researching sperm whales because of their “fascinating and complex social lives.” He hopes the Dominica Sperm Whale Project will be able to trace how whale communities change through time.

Part of Mr. Gero’s PhD includes studying how calves acquire their dialect. Baby sperm whales babble at first, and Mr. Gero is interested in discovering how the babies’ diversity of calls gets narrowed down to the family repertoire.

“One of the most exciting parts [of returning to Dominica] is to go down and see who’s around,” says Mr. Gero, admitting that he has “become attached to the individual whales.” For the first time, sperm whales can be studied as individuals within families, with such lovable nicknames as “Pinchy” and “Fingers”. The family that includes these two whales is recognized as “the best studied social unit of sperm whales in the world.”

Mr. Gero would like to continue working with the same groups of whales because a long-term project will offer a better understanding of their social developments. He “feels a responsibility to speak on [the whales’] behalf” and hopes to move toward conservation, while still remaining in the field of biology.



Why Mississippi floods were expected : Nature News

Published online 13 May 2011 | Nature | doi:10.1038/news.2011.289

News: Explainer

Why Mississippi floods were expected

A combination of bad weather, ocean conditions and land development conspired to produce high waters.

Richard A. Lovett

floodsFloodwater engulfs a farm after the Army Corps of Engineers blew a massive hole in a levee at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers near Wyatt, Missouri, to divert water from the town of Cairo, Illinois.Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Last year, it was Pakistan and Russia. This spring, all talk of disasters attributable to freak weather conditions turns eyes to the United States.

First, it was snowfalls that never seemed to end. After that came tornadoes. Now, a massive slug of water is working its way down the Mississippi River, forcing the US Army Corps of Engineers to deliberately flood farmland to spare riverside towns such as Cairo in Illinois, and threatening near-record water levels all the way to New Orleans. Nature looks at the underlying causes of these extreme events, and how the surge might have been predicted.

Why did it happen?

The simple answer is because it rained. A lot. Parts of the US Midwest reported rainfalls up to four times the norm in April. And that came on top of a winter that saw some regions receiving unusually high snowfalls.

But that’s only part of the answer. For decades, people have been building shopping malls and parking lots that cause water to flow quickly into rivers, rather than soak into the ground. They’ve built levees that constrict the flow of rivers, forcing water to travel downstream faster. In places, this has been referred to as a ‘levee war’, whereby one town’s levees funnels water downstream to become the next town’s crisis.

“People don’t realize how dramatically humans have altered many of these river systems,” says Len Shabman, an economist at Resources for the Future, a think tank in Washington DC.

But the much-publicized diversion of water into Missouri farmlands to spare Cairo was actually a success, Shabman adds. “That was always part of the plan,” he says. The federal government long ago purchased easements — the right to flood the land — from the farmers who own it, precisely for this purpose. “The farmers may not have remembered they had an easement,” Shabman says. “But they were there.”

Has anything like this happened before in the United States?

Yes. The greatest flood of the twentieth century occurred in 1927, but there were also large floods in 1937, 1973, 1993 and 2008, although only the 1927 flood compared to this year’s.

“This is the blessing and curse of farmers in the American Midwest,” says Bill Patzert, a climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “They’re blessed with rich farmland and the rivers that irrigate it. The downside is that sometimes they overflow.”

Could this have been predicted?

Of course. Large snowfalls and heavy spring rains are a classic formula for flooding. All of the water has to go somewhere.

“By January or February, everybody should have known we were going to have May floods,” Patzert says. “To be shocked and awed by these kinds of events is disingenuous. It means you haven’t read your history.”

But that’s only after the snow and rains hit. Forecasting the weather patterns that produced them is still a science of the future.

It may not be so very far away, however. Even before the storms hit, a research group led by Upmanu Lall at Columbia University in New York had been trying to correlate a century’s worth of floods in the Midwest to continent-wide weather patterns.

What they found, Lall says, is a surprisingly consistent pattern whereby a pair of high-pressure systems — one over western Texas and another off the US Atlantic coast — conspire to force moisture inland from the Gulf of Mexico “like a funnel”.

It is possible, he adds, that these persistent high-pressure zones may be produced by two well-known oceanographic patterns: La Nina and El Nino in the Pacific Ocean (which mark alterations in warmer and cooler conditions between that ocean’s eastern and western equatorial waters) and the North Atlantic Oscillation (which results from weather patterns between Iceland and the Azores).

If so, he says, it may someday be possible to predict weather patterns likely to produce flooding in the Midwest, perhaps 30–90 days in advance.

So why were people taken by surprise?

Partly because conditions have changed since 1927. The population has soared and urban development has encroached onto many areas that were once farmland. There are simply a lot more people, and a lot more infrastructure, in harm’s way.

Nicholas Pinter, a geologist at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, who works on flood hydrology, has a word for this: “hydro-amnesia”. It causes people to build in places that were flooded a generation ago and will be flooded again a generation hence.

“In 1927, everyone had a boat,” Patzert adds. “They knew it was coming. One thing I noticed about this particular flood was that all these people living in harm’s way didn’t have boats in their backyards.”

Did global warming play a part?

Maybe, but not a big one. In Northern Europe, Pinter says, it’s clear that global warming is producing bigger floods. But in the Midwestern United States, the impact is less clear.

Not that this lets us off the hook. A much bigger factor is the degree to which we have altered the rivers. “The river dynamics in no way resembles what it did 200 years ago,” Pinter says.

In The Netherlands, Shabman adds, there is an official policy of leaving room for rivers. “In the US, we’ve done the opposite,” he says. “Then we’re horrified when the inevitable occurs.” 

Well balanced reporting. I grew up on the banks of the Mississippi. Everyone knew there was gonna be a flood this year, it was just hard to gauge how big it was gonna be. We all knew it wasn’t going to be small.