Archive for: January, 2006

2005 Koufax Awards: Best Post Category

Jan 31 2006 Published by under Uncategorized

I was nominated for a 2005 Koufax award for the "Best Post" category. Nominees are listed in alphabetical order so you'll find a link to my essay somewhere close the top of the (incredibly long) list. (I was nominated as "GrrlScientist" for this category). There are 222 or more nominees, including some of my fellow ScienceBloggers so get ready for a lot of great reading as you work your way through this list.
Add this nomination to another for Scientific Life, "Most Deserving of Wider Recognition."


One response so far

What Does Your Birthdate Mean?

Jan 31 2006 Published by under Uncategorized

Your Birthdate: January 31

You're a pretty traditional person. If it's lasted, it's probably good.
You seek stability - both in your career and your romantic relationship.
In return, you're very loyal and predictable. Which is usually a good thing.
Without a partner, you feel lost. Being with someone is very important to you.
Your strength: Your dependability
Your weakness: You hate being alone
Your power color: Midnight blue
Your power symbol: Shell
Your power month: April
What Does Your Birth Date Mean?

Another stupid internet quiz. It's good for a laugh, but it is absolutely completely inaccurate.

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8 responses so far


Jan 31 2006 Published by under Art & Photography

Magnolia Warbler, Dendroica magnolia (Wilson)
(Detail) By Tony Henneberg.

This birdday card was sent to me last year by my friend, Tony, who is a very talented artist (click on the image to be magically transported to his beautiful webpage). This card is a detail from a larger painting of his. Tony is currently wandering through the jungles of Suriname, where he will be for approximately six weeks, "looking at birds, big trees and giant otters" as he told me before he left. He promises to share any interesting photographs of birds with me upon his return in February, which of course means I will share them with you!

28 responses so far

Atheist Universe: Why God Didn't Have A Thing to Do With It

Jan 30 2006 Published by under Book Review, Godlessness

Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.
-- Isaac Asimov (1920-1992)
You can't identify an atheist simply by looking at them and in fact, your group of friends probably includes at least one atheist in their number. Even though belief in some sort of supernatural being is the dominant philosophy in the Western World, atheism still persists. Why? This book specifically addresses these questions, and many more;

  • What, precisely, is atheism, and why is it misunderstood so thoroughly?
  • Do atheists believe that human beings evolved through blind accident from lifeless matter?
  • Can atheists prove that God does NOT exist?
  • Does the fact that energy cannot be destroyed lend credibility to a belief in eternal life?
  • Without God, can there be a valid system of ethics or an objective "right" and "wrong"?
  • What is the meaning of life without God?
  • When we die, are we simply dead like dogs?
  • Even if you believe that all life evolved from a single cell, how could complex cellular life originate without a Creator?
  • Is atheism a totally negative philosophy, leading only to cynicism and despair?
  • Was America really founded upon Christian principles by Christian believers?

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18 responses so far

A Friend Has Left Me

Jan 29 2006 Published by under Uncategorized

Mt. Rainier, Washington State.
Photograph by Pastoret.

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5 responses so far

100,000 Dead Mice

Jan 29 2006 Published by under Uncategorized

Yesterday, Scientific Life surpassed 100,000 visitors. In fact, visitor number 100,000 popped into here shortly before 6pm. What brought this visitor here? Dead mice, that's what! This person googled the phrase, "how long does a dead mouse smell" and guess whose blog pops up?

Okay, for those of you who want to know about dead mice, I will tell you that they smell horrible for approximately 3-4 days. After that, they still smell but it's not as bad as it was -- perhaps because your sense of smell has been so severely compromised that you are no longer aware of it?

Also, I've noticed that dead mice smell differently, depending upon how they die. Mice that died after being stuck in sticky traps tend to smell like really dirty laundry, whereas mice that die after eating poison containing warfarin tend to smell like, well, dead mice, but there's a sweet smell mixed in with the stench. I hope this answers all your dead mouse questions. If not, feel free to ask and I will provide the answers because we all know that I am the internet expert of dead mice.

So, those of you who know that I was mirroring Birds in the News here are probably curious to know if attaining the magical 100,000 visits was personally satisfying to me, if all my problems are solved as a result. I'd like to say that yes, having more than 100,000 visitors who have looked at my site for information about dead mice (and other things) that polite people don't talk about is tremendously satisfying to me. I think my next step will be to use my new-found confidence to run for the presidency of this country so I can forevermore eradicate evil house mice and the landlords who love them.

6 responses so far

23-5 meme

Jan 28 2006 Published by under Uncategorized

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I was tagged with a meme by my good friend, Philaelaethes, author of Bouphonia. Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that Phila is the man who single-handedly puts together the world-famous Friday Nudi Blogs, which recently began incorporating poetry (an especially fine touch, in my opinion). The meme goes like this;

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7 responses so far

Which Movie Star are You Most Like?

Jan 27 2006 Published by under Uncategorized

According to the Which Movie Star Are You Like? quiz, you're ..

.. most like George Clooney

Everyone loves you, and you're only getting better (and better-looking!) with age. You're a generous, loyal and fun-loving friend, and you also seem to really care about your politics, consistently putting yourself on the line for your beliefs. We wish there were more of you out there.

Take this quiz at

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2 responses so far

Birds in the News #45

Jan 27 2006 Published by under Uncategorized

Female Snowy Owl, Bubo scandiacus.
By Bill Ferensen, Seattle.
(click image for Bill's site)

People Hurting Birds

Deceived by all the bird flu sensationalism, an Egyptian farmer abandoned 10,000 newly hatched chicks to their fate on a desert road east of Cairo fearing they might be infected with the deadly bird flu virus, a police official said on Wednesday. Shocked motorists travelling on the road about 130 km (80 miles) east of Cairo contacted police after seeing the chicks running loose on the tarmac on Tuesday, the official added. Health officials gathered the chicks and confirmed after testing that they were not carrying the virus.

Birds .. proving once again that People Really Are Monkeys

There's nothing that stirs man's blood like the thrill of the hunt. The fact that the object of this hunt, a feral monk parrot, Myiopsitta monachus (pictured), was destined to become a pet to this particular man's girlfriend only added to this thrill. I don't want to spoil this story for you by elaborating further, except to say that it is an Honorable Mention on the Darwin Awards website. GrrlScientist observes: it's amazing what a little testosterone can do to a person.

Ivory-billed Woodpecker News

As scientists debate whether the ivory-billed woodpecker, Campephilus principalis (pictured), still exists in the Big Woods of Arkansas, environmentalists have enlisted the bird as a key soldier in their fight against a massive irrigation project. The irrigation project has been on the table since the mid-1980s, when studies showed that groundwater aquifers in the area, which lies in east-central Arkansas, were being depleted by rice growers. To solve that, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Grand Prairie Area Demonstration Project is working with farmers to build reservoirs on their land and elsewhere that will be filled via a canal and pipeline network with water pumped from the White River. But Lisa Swann of the National Wildlife Federation and other groups have long fought the Grand Prairie project as a federal boondoggle that poses serious environmental threats and squanders tax dollars to deliver huge subsidies to farmers. This “mammoth sucking machine” would hurt wetlands, degrade water quality and threaten species in the region from ducks to mussels, the National Wildlife Federation says in one publication about Grand Prairie.

Avian Influenza News

Scientists who have made a big leap in unraveling the genetic code of bird flu viruses (pictured) found a new clue that may help explain why the notorious H5N1 strain is so deadly. St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee (USA), is home to a remarkable viral library, housing samples of about 11,000 influenza viruses that Dr. Robert Webster has gathered from around the world since 1976. These flu viruses have infected people, pigs and other animals, and includes approximately 7,000 bird flu viruses gathered from poultry, ducks, gulls and other species. Yesterday, St. Jude researchers reported in the top-tier journal Science that they have completed the first large genetic analysis of more than 300 of these bird flu viruses. They identified 2,196 bird flu genes and 160 complete viral genomes, doubling the amount of genetic information available to scientists studying how these viruses evolve and spread over time. Decoding all the influenza genes instead of select ones will help scientists learn how these constantly evolving viruses change and spread, and why some are so much more virulent than others.

Turkey accused its neighbours on Friday of hushing up outbreaks of bird flu, complicating the fight against a virus that has killed four Turkish children. "It is unofficially known that this illness exists in our neighbouring countries which are ruled by closed regimes, but these countries do not declare this because of their systems," Agriculture Minister Mehdi Eker told a news conference. He did not name the countries he had in mind, but Iran and Syria are two likely targets of the criticism. Turkey has culled more than 1.1 million wild birds and poultry since the outbreak began two weeks ago. The outbreak has hit the $3 billion poultry industry hard. The Turkish government unveiled a $40 million aid package on Friday for poultry firms hit by bird flu, including compensation for culled chickens and postponement of tax and debt payments. However, poultry industry representatives said the measures did not go far enough. GrrlScientist complains; this story does not describe what poultry industry officials wanted that was not granted by the government, so this makes it impossible for me to rant about the situation here.

Do the wild birds that fly through cold winter skies to warmer lands silently carry deadly bird flu around the world? Or are they simply potential victims? "Scientists are increasingly convinced that at least some migratory waterfowl are now carrying the H5N1 virus in its highly pathogenic form, sometimes over long distances, and introducing the virus to poultry flocks in areas that lie along their migratory routes," the World Health Organisation said in its latest bird flu fact sheet last week. It said scientists found that viruses from the most recently affected countries, all of which lie along migratory routes, were almost identical to viruses recovered from dead migratory birds at Qinghai Lake in China. The viruses from Turkey's first human cases were also virtually identical to the Qinghai Lake strain, it added. "I think that wild birds may introduce the virus but it is through man and man's marketing systems (the poultry trade) that the disease spreads. It is also possible that poultry can transmit the virus to wildlife when they share the same ecosystem," said Juan Lubroth, the senior officer for infectious diseases with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). "The pattern of outbreaks between Asia and eastern Europe do not follow any known pathway for migrant birds, which tend to fly on northerly-southerly routes. They don't go east-west, Dr Richard Thomas of BirdLife International points out. Wild birds that were discovered to have the H5 virus, such as swans found in Croatia in October 2005, were already dead -- suggesting they were victims rather than vectors.

Streaming Birds

This week on BirdNote you can learn more about Western Scrub-Jays, Aphelocoma californica, on the Move; The Comeback of the Peregrine Falcon, Falco peregrinus (featuring Ruth Taylor's photograph of Bell, the resident female peregrine falcon, nesting on the Washington Mutual Bank (WAMU) tower in downtown Seattle); Nesting Great Horned Owls, Bubo virginianus (first of a series about the nesting season); How the Robin Got its Name; and on Friday (today), you can learn more about the upcoming Skagit Bald Eagle Festival (February 4-5). BirdNote programs are two-minute vignettes that incorporate the rich sounds of birds provided by Cornell University and by other sound recordists, with photographs and written stories that illustrate the interesting -- and in some cases, truly amazing -- abilities of birds. Some of the shows are Pacific Northwest-oriented, but many are of general interest. BirdNote can be heard live, Monday through Friday, 8:58-9:00AM in Western Washington state and Southern British Columbia on KPLU radio and now also in North Central Washington state on KOHO radio. All episodes are available in the BirdNote archives, both in written transcript and mp3 formats, along with photographs. Listener ideas and comments are welcomed. [rss mp3/podcast].

You might be interested to follow the birding adventures of David and his wife, Gayle, as presented on their audio magazine of birds and birding, On The Wing. They index a variety of their birding adventures in the UK and other places, including some of my old stomping grounds in the Pacific Northwest. [mp3/podcast].

Miscellaneous Birds

The parents of Toga -- the penguin chick whose disappearance last month was followed around the world -- have a new egg (pictured), British zookeepers said this week, prompting dozens of well-wishers to send congratulatory e-mails. Toga, a 3-month-old jackass penguin, Sphenicus demersis, disappeared in December from Amazon World, on the Isle of Wight in southern England. Despite scores of reported sightings and an on-air confession from a man who called a television station to admit to stealing the bird, Toga has not been found and is presumed dead. Zoo officials have installed closed circuit television cameras and motion sensors to make sure that Toga's expected sibling remains safely with his parents, who are a rare species of penguin found on the southern coast of Africa.

While the cost of chasing birds to the far corners of the earth is high, virtually everyone afflicted with this obsession claims the rewards -- beauty, mystery, awe and longer lists -- are well worth it. ''A tiny warbler that weighs maybe 3 ounces and is not more than 3 inches long can fly from the edge of the taiga in Canada to Costa Rica and Puerto Rico. The more you see them, the more amazing they are to you. You can't ever get enough,'' says Financial reporter Christine Williamson, who lives in Chicago when she is not chasing birds across the globe. American birders spend over $32 billion annually on their hobby and about 18 million travel to see birds, according to a 2001 study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The average birder that year was 49 with an above-average income and education level. ''In addition to seeing these incredibly beautiful and diverse birds, ranging from flightless penguins to little tiny hummingbirds, it takes you to places that are just stunning and show a diversity of life and the diversity of this planet,'' said Tom Snetsinger. Tom is the son of legendary birder, Phoebe Snetsinger who saw more birds -- 8,450 of the world's approximately 10,000 species -- than any other person who ever lived. Phoebe Snetsinger was already an avid birder when she was given less than a year to live after a diagnosis of malignant melanoma, so she hurled herself into birding trips more than ever. She ended up living another two decades before dying in a bus crash in Madagascar. ''Birding is a lens to look at the world. It guides me to places I'd otherwise never go,'' said Tom. GrrlScientist note: I absolutely agree with Tom. I have experienced more habitat types, learned more about ecology and geology, met more people, seen more animals and had more incredible experiences as a direct result of birding than most people I know -- except other birders with more money!

There is an epidemic of bird ticks this winter in the Carolina Piedmont, and it's right on schedule. For some super-close-up photos and intriguing information about these gloriously repulsive ectoparasites, please scroll down on the link provided to This Week at Hilton Pond. As always, they include a list of birds banded during the period, including several mugshots of a partial albino American Goldfinch, Carduelis tristis (pictured). Fortunately, they also include suggestions for dealing with a tick-infested bird.

The Fine Print: Thanks to my bird pals; Dawn, Joel, Bill, Larry, Ellen and Ron for some of the news story links that you are enjoying here.

I also appreciate long-time readers, Jamie, Tony and anonymous blog reader, for nominating Birds in the News for a 2005 Koufax Award for Best Series! Voting will probably begin at the end of January. There will be an announcement here, along with more details, when voting begins.

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Academic Job Applications: none sent this week, but I am preparing to send out several postdoc applications soon.

Survival Job Applications: none this week. The academic semester has begun, so I can plan on becoming quite lean over the next five months unless someone decides to hire me.

Survival Job Rejections: 1

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Birds in the News #45

Jan 27 2006 Published by under Birds in the News

Female Snowy Owl, Bubo scandiacus.
By Bill Ferensen, Seattle.
(click image for Bill's site).

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14 responses so far

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