Archive for: June, 2005

NYC Tourist

Jun 14 2005 Published by under Uncategorized

I have returned to my blog after a brief absence. A friend, G, from England stayed with me this past weekend, ostensibly so he could attend his cousin's wedding celebration this past Saturday. While G was here, I was lured from my long social and emotional isolation and into the wilds of being a tourist in my own city.

Saturday, we visited the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The Statue of Liberty was not as interesting as I thought it would be because the statue itself is closed to the public. In contrast, Ellis Island was much more interesting than I thought possible. The entire facility on Ellis Island is currently being refurbished after it was allowed to fall into ruins after it was closed in 1954. Some of the refurbished areas are open to the public and comprise the Immigrant Museum, full of artifacts, photographs and video, sound recordings and other items of interest. Looking at these exhibits, I wondered if my grandparents came through Ellis Island? I will never know of course, because my family basically has shunned me since I was 15. Nevertheless, I like to think that my progenitors climbed the stairways and walked the hallways of Ellis Island as they went through the interview process before being granted admittance to this country.

Saturday evening, G and I ran through a brief but impressive downpour to attend the wedding celebration. I didn't know anyone there, except G, his cousin, J, and D, the man she married approximately six months ago. I tried to not give in to my usual shyness when confronted with this scenario. I met some of G's family, who were all very gracious to me. Finally, when we were seated, I noticed that there were disposable cameras all over the tables. Everyone else was too busy talking and catching up on old times, so I took pictures. And more pictures. And more. I took pictures of flowers, of candles, of food, fruits and cakes, of people talking, dancing and hugging. No one was safe from my roving camera, although I did my best to blend in with the furniture when I noticed anyone else holding a camera.

Sunday, my friend and I found some wonderful eggs Benedict (his favorite) at a great little restaurant on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and then we were awed by Hopper paintings at the Whitney Museum of American Art. When the Whitney closed for the evening, we walked along Fifth Avenue, which was liberally covered with many many tons of trash deposited by a million brown and black people who invaded that posh neighborhood to celebrate the annual Puerto Rican parade. Their presence must have nearly killed the uber-rich people who live there, people who have proven that they don't like Pale Male and Lola's litter, which is a very minor thing when compared to this reign of rotting garbage, up to a foot deep in places.

Blog pal, James, will be pleased to know that G and I went to a movie Sunday evening (theatres are great havens from excessive heat and humidity), the excellent English film called Ladies in Lavender, starring Judy Dench and Maggie Smith.

Monday, I brought G to the Natural History Museum's new Dinosaurs! exhibit, which I think is the best exhibit they've had since I've lived in NYC. Dinosaurs! is full of computer animations that illustrate how scientists explore issues such as how fast Tyrannosaurus rex might have run, how differing neck lengths reveal different feeding levels for Apatosaurus species, whether or not Apatosaurus species could stand on their hind legs to feed, as portrayed in the opening scenes of the film, Jurassic Park, and of course, the crowning jewel was the Liaoning Diorama (pictured below) filled with artists' renderings of the many newly discovered bird fossils, a real pond with giant waterstriders, cockroaches and cicadas creeping through leaves that had fallen from ancestral Gingko trees and ferns, ancient mammals and crocodilians. Unfortunately, two hours later, I reluctantly left G and the Dinosaurs! exhibit so I could teach my class.

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Birds in the News #14

Jun 10 2005 Published by under Uncategorized

Unfortunately, today's birds in the news is short because I have spent most of this week either teaching or trying to clean my apartment so I will not be embarassed to have a friend from England stay with me this weekend. Despite those commitments, I did manage to find a few links that might interest you.

Birds in Science:

How do scientists tell male from female Tyrannosaurus rex? Well, until recently, they couldn't, but thanks to an interesting discovery, scientists will now be able to identify males and females.

Ivory-billed Woodpecker News:

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has launched a new website for weekly Ivory-billed woodpecker updates. Be sure to bookmark this site for future reference.

This is an interview with Terri Luneau, who wrote a children's book about the Ivory-billed Woodpecker based on the video of the bird that her husband took after ten years of searching for the bird. Her husband was a member of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker search party.

Blogging Birders:

If you are a birder and blogger, you can start your own free birding blog at Surfbirds.com. If you like to read birder's blogs, then you can also access their index of birders' blogs for your reading pleasure. It's a great way to become more connected with the birding community.

Hollywood Birds:

This is a cute video link of a performing African grey parrot from my blogging pal, James, at Ruminating Dude. I hope you enjoy it!

People Helping Birds:

In May 2005, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Environmental Defense began an innovative program to protect the endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers in 1995 called "Safe Harbor." After signing up, this program rewards private landowners for managing their property to enhance the survival of rare and endangered species. The first private landholder to join the program was Pinehurst golf course, located in the Sandhills of North Carolina where the U.S. Open will be played June 13 through 19.

People Hurting Birds:

In an example of astonishing human cruelty towards birds, charges were filed against a nursing home operator who maimed and starved Canada geese in Loomis, California.

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Special Announcement: Ivory-billed Woodpecker Fundraising Effort

Jun 09 2005 Published by under Uncategorized

"Elusive Ivory" by Larry Chandler.

Many people have asked where they can contribute money to help save the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (IBWO) and its habitat. There now is a way that you can help this bird and also receive a reward for doing so; an Ivory-billed Woodpecker Conservation Stamp Print Program was just initiated with this purpose in mind. Basically, you purchase a copy of the IBWO stamp or print and your money will be donated to three agencies that are working to save this magnitficent bird and its habitat.

I interviewed Bob Chapman, webmaster for wildlife artist Larry Chandler, and he said that the IBWO Conservation Stamp program will be similar the Federal Duck Stamp and print program in its scale and importance. As you probably know, revenue from Federal Duck Stamps (required for all waterfowl hunters 16 and over since 1934) fund the majority of National Wildlife Refuges across the country. In fact, the Federal Duck Stamp program is one of the most successful conservation programs ever devised. Since 1934, revenues from the sale of Federal Duck Stamps have been used to acquire millions of acres of natural habitat for America's waterfowl in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

Even though some people think that federal money will provide enough funds to protect the IBWO, establishing strong private sector funding is very important for several reasons; there is much that can be done with private sector funds that cannot be done with federal monies and federal conservation programs tend to be victims of political pressure. So strong private sector funding to provide long-term support for preserving this species is vital to its continued existence.

Funds raised by the IBWO Conservation Stamp program will go where they are needed most; The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, The Nature Conservancy and the Arkansas Game and Fish Foundation. These three entities have all have endorsed this program and all net proceeds will be equally shared between them.

Of course, these three agencies have their own set of priorities for use of their fund shares; Cornell needs more money to research the bird and its habitat. The Nature Conservancy will use their share to purchase additional land to protect the birds' habitat (their specialty) and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission will hire more game wardens to protect these areas as well as provide more public education.

The great thing about this program is, rather than just making a tax-deductible contribution, people who buy the conservation stamp or print will get something back for their contribution. The print (pictured above) is proof you have done something tangible to help this bird's cause and further, it will make a lovely addition to your decor, too. The limited edition prints are expected to become more valuable in the future on the secondary market, which is an added bonus. For example, the earliest Federal Duck Stamp Prints and the First of State Duck Stamp Prints, which initially cost $15 to $125 each are now worth thousands of dollars.

The lowest print numbers will be assigned to the earliest orders. Each print number is similar to a serial number for your print. As any print collector can tell you, having a low print number doesn't really make a print more valuable per se, but everyone prefers owning a lower print number anyway. There will only be 20,000 signed & numbered Regular Edition prints available. Search team members Tim Gallagher, Gene Sparling, Bobby Harrison and David Luneau and IBWO artist Larry Chandler will sign 2,400 numbered special Search Team Edition prints. There are other options available, too.

Brochures for the Ivory-billed Woodpecker Conservation Stamp Print Program that explain everything in detail will be available soon.

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Blog Carnivals and Scrabble Score

Jun 09 2005 Published by under Uncategorized

Here are the latest incarnations of some blog carnivals that I have contributed to in the recent past, linked for your reading pleasure. Unfortunately, I have not written anything recently that is appropriate for inclusion in any of them, but hopefully, I will be back to some serious essay writing soon.

The 10th Skeptics’ Circle, a collection of skeptical writing, some humorous, all serious.

Grand Rounds XXXVII: Commencement. The theme of this collection of medical-related essays is pomp and circumstance.

The Carnival Of Education: Week 18. Stories about education .. this blog carnival will be hearing from me again in the future, as soon as I get my courage up, that is.

This blog carnival is new to me, hosted by a Craigslist pal of mine, Hermit the Crab;

Storyblogging Carnival XX, a collection of short stories and book chapters.

For those of you who love words, what's your Scrabble score? Here's mine;

Pholph's Scrabble Generator

My Scrabble© Score is: 16.
What is your score? Get it here.

Feel free to add yours in the comments section!

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Owl Messenger

Jun 08 2005 Published by under Uncategorized

aloft on soft wings,
messenger in darkness, light
of knowledge she brings

push back shades of night
before ignorance and hate
smother brilliant sight

Photo link sent by a friend and is linked from here.

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Blog cartoon

Jun 07 2005 Published by under Uncategorized

Think again! People are being fired for blogging. I know this is hardly new news, but the fact that an Adjunct assistant professor, whose profession already pays at or below the poverty wage, with no benefits (including no sick leave and no health insurance), is fired for blogging is just .. too .. much.

cartoon linked from here.

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Movie Meme

Jun 05 2005 Published by under Uncategorized

I was tagged by James at Ruminating Dude with this movie meme. Unfortunately, I am much more boring than he is with regards to movies, as you will realize here (maybe I should write a truthful answer and then write the answer that I think you all wish to read?)

Total number of films I own: One! I own one! It's a DVD that a friend of mine, a minor actor whose biggest claim to fame are several small parts on TV's Law and Order, gave to me for Christmas a couple years ago. He gave me a DVD of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. This was when it had first been released, I believe. Anyway, I have never watched it because I don't own a TV, DVD player nor a computer. I hope to eventually purchase a laptop of my own for many reasons, not the least of which is because I'd like to sit in the dark in bed, watching DVDs, starting with this one.

The last film I bought: Um .. I've never purchased one. Although, if I had the necessary equipment and money, I'd go nuts and buy all the HP DVDs that I don't yet own and of course, I'd also purchase the complete Lord of the Rings series (I have only seen the first film, and loved it)! I'd also buy all my favorite films that I describe below.

The last film I watched: Um .. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. (Have any of you noticed a theme yet? It's okay, you don't need to answer that question if you don't want to).

I know, I am pathetic. I need to get out more, especially to movie theatres. A friend has been bugging me mercilessly in email about seeing The Parrots of Telegraph Hill because he is certain that the star, Mark (?) Bittner, and I are somehow related. But I haven't seen it, so I cannot comment. Hrm, come to think of it, this is another film I'd add to my "buy right away" list.

Five favorite films: (in no particular order)

Hombre mirando al sudeste (Man Facing Southeast). A wonderful and underrated Argentinian film that explores what happens to people who are labeled "different" by society. I am still surprised to know that this story was filmed, produced and released in Argentina, considering the general state of governmental paranoia in the 1980s.

Schindler's List. A masterpiece (and a true story) that looks at a small-time businessman/con artist in Nazi Germany who, when he had the opportunity, rose to meet the challenge of a lifetime and actually made a difference in many people's lives.

Stand and Deliver. Another fabulous movie and true story, this film tells the story of Garfield High School in east LA and the teacher who changed the lives of poor inner city youth. This teacher ignored everyone's advice and taught calculus to his students. They learned it so well that almost all of them scored well on the Advanced Placement Calculus Exam for college.

Mr. Holland's Opus. Another wonderful film that tries to show the audience that no life is ever truly wasted if it is spent pursuing one's true passion. I try to believe this message every day, although it has been difficult to hold on to that during this past year. I especially loved how this film ended. Does anyone know if this a true story?

Awakenings. Another true story about a medical scientist who "awakens" a group of patients by giving them L-dopa. These patients, whose bodies seemingly turned to stone decades after they suffered from sleeping sickness, suddenly were transformed from statues into whole, living and loving people for a brief shining period of time.

Of course, I also love watching the Harry Potter films and I want to watch the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy. I also love anything with Bill Murray in it, especially Groundhog Day, and I cannot forget to mention Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, with Gene Wilder. I love anything with Gene Wilder in it (I almost peed my pants because I was laughing so hard when I first saw that scene in Blazing Saddles when a group of cowboys were gathered around the campfire eating beans, for example).

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Birds in the News, Interrupted

Jun 03 2005 Published by under Uncategorized

Today's edition of the Birds in the News is suspended until next week. Please accept my apologies (all three of you, dear readers, who read each week's issue).

I have a job interview today with the very best college I've interviewed with yet. Needless to say, despite all my recent Adjunct Professor interview activity, this is the position that I want the very most, so of course, I have completely psyched myself into a state of near panic over it. It's a four hour interview and they wish me to give a 45-minute lecture for an animal behavior class that describes the genetics or physiology of a behavior. Because this is the first time I have actually given a real full-length "job talk", this additional demand helps increase my panic because all the other interviews were .. well, short. Easy. My biggest challenge was to remember to smile a lot.

On the good side of things, I am talking about one of the most fascinating bird breeding model systems that we know of, and I will likely write a more detailed account of these birds for you all to read after my adrenaline levels drop to normal once more. Also good; they are feeding me lunch (yippee! free lunch! I hope I don't barf).

I am ready to set off. My powerpoint presentation is burned on a CD, I actually know how to get there already so I don't have to worry about getting lost, and I am dressed to the teeth.

I hope I am not forgetting anything ...

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Revised Smithsonian Statement Regarding the Discovery Institute's Film Screening

Jun 02 2005 Published by under Uncategorized

Thanks to a friend and colleague at the Smithsonian Institute, I just received this updated statement regarding the Discovery Institute's film screening in their Baird Auditorium (see yesterday's statement here). The take-home message? The Smithsonian is returning the money to the Discovery Institute but they are still honoring the contract. What do you think of that, dear readers?

Subject: Statement * June 1, 2005

National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

The Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History recently approved a request by the Discovery Institute to hold a private, invitation-only screening and reception at the Museum on June 23 for the film "The Privileged Planet." Upon further review we have determined that the content of the film is not consistent with the mission of the Smithsonian Institution's scientific research. Neither the Smithsonian Institution nor the National Museum of Natural History supports or endorses the views of the Discovery Institute or the film "The Privileged Planet." Given that the Discovery Institute has already issued invitations, we will honor the commitment made to provide space for the event, but will not participate or accept a donation for it.

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My Summer Reading List

Jun 02 2005 Published by under Uncategorized

Thanks to PZ's recent article at Pharyngula, I found a list of books that I will devote my four hours' each day commute time to this summer. Interestingly, I made an early start on this reading list (unknowingly) by reading some of these titles, including Mein Kampf (when I was 15), The Communist Manifesto (when I was 18), and the Kinsey Report (when I was 20), but then I stopped. Why? It wasn't as though I stopped reading, but I guess I became interested in more trivial matters. So, I had a strong start by reading three out of ten books on this list by the time I was 20, but none since then!

My numbers are worse for the "honorable mentions"; out of 20 books on that list, I have only read four; The Origin of Species (I read this book three times; do I get extra credit for this?), The Second Sex, Silent Spring (I read this book twice and I read it the first time when I was working in Japan. Is that worth extra credit?) and The Descent of Man.

I am surprised that The Handmaid's Tale is not also included as an "honorable mention", but after I've read them all (provided of course, that the library has copies available), I will be a better judge for what else I think ought to be on these lists. Can you name some books that you think ought to be included on either of these lists, dear readers?

Overall, I am terribly disappointed to realize that I am so poorly read, despite spending most of my lifetime immersed in books. Fortunately, beginning Monday, I will be spending four hours each day in the gaping maw of a speeding subway train. That should provide me with plenty of opportunity to read (or in some cases, re-read) them all. I think a quick trip to the library is in order today even though I am still struggling and sweating over my presentation for my job interview tomorrow.

The List;

    1. The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels (1848) Score: 74*

    2. Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler (1925-1926) Score: 41

    3. Quotations from Chairman Mao by Mao Zedong (1966) Score: 38

    4. The Kinsey Report by Alfred Kinsey (1948) Score: 37

    5. Democracy and Education by John Dewey (1916) Score: 36

    6. Das Kaptial by Karl Marx (1867-1894) Score: 31

    7. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan (1963) Score: 30

    8. The Course of Positive Philosophy by Auguste Comte (1830-1842) Score: 28

    9. Beyond Good and Evil by Freidrich Nietzsche (1886) Score: 28

    10. General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by John Maynard Keynes (1936) Score: 23

Honorable Mention:

    1. The Population Bomb by Paul Ehrlich Score: 22

    2. What Is To Be Done by V.I. Lenin Score: 20

    3. Authoritarian Personality by Theodor Adorno Score: 19

    4. On Liberty by John Stuart Mill Score: 18

    5. Beyond Freedom and Dignity by B.F. Skinner Score: 18

    6. Reflections on Violence by Georges Sorel Score: 18

    7. The Promise of American Life by Herbert Croly Score: 17

    8. The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin Score: 17

    9. Madness and Civilization by Michel Foucault Score: 12

    10. Soviet Communism: A New Civilization by Sidney and Beatrice Webb Score: 12

    11. Coming of Age in Samoa by Margaret Mead Score: 11

    12. Unsafe at Any Speed by Ralph Nader Score: 11

    13. Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir Score: 10

    14. Prison Notebooks by Antonio Gramsci Score: 10

    15. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson Score: 9

    16. Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon Score: 9

    17. Introduction to Psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud Score: 9

    18. The Greening of America by Charles Reich Score: 9

    19. The Limits to Growth by Club of Rome Score: 4

    20. Descent of Man by Charles Darwin Score: 2

* A title received a score of 10 points for being listed No. 1 by one of our panelists, 9 points for being listed No. 2, etc. Appropriately, The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, earned the highest aggregate score and the No. 1 listing. These 15 scholars and public policy leaders served as judges in selecting the Ten Most Harmful Books; Arnold Beichman, Prof. Brad Birzer, Harry Crocker, Prof. Marshall DeRosa, Dr. Don Devine, Prof. Robert George, Prof. Paul Gottfried, Prof. William Anthony Hay, Herb London, Prof. Mark Malvasi, Douglas Minson, Prof. Mark Molesky, Prof. Stephen Presser, Phyllis Schlafly and Fred Smith.

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