Friday, April 29, 2005


It was with a mixture of joy and sadness that I heard about the Nature Conservancy announcement, verifying the continued existence of the legendary ivory-billed woodpecker in the bottomland forests of eastern Arkansas. How amazing is it that this bird has persisted, in spite of the incredible loss of habitat starting in the 1880s that lead to the extinction of so many species?

Other species were not so lucky. I think of one bird in particular, the only year-round resident parrot of the United States, the Carolina Parakeet. The last known bird died in the Cincinatti Zoo in 1918, near the time the last passenger pigeon also died. Most Americans don't even realize that we had our very own native parrots in the United States - the species has faded from memory just that fast.

When I was growing up in the 60s and 70s, the blue whale was also thought to be extinct. But then, in the 1990s, there were sightings once again of the largest mammal that has ever lived. There may now be as many as a few hundred of them in the eastern Pacific. The gray whale, once endangered, is now, at about 18,000 animals, probably at the maximum level that the habitat along the U.S. coast and the Bering Sea can support (though the western Pacific stock, which roams the coast of Siberia, is in deep trouble). These reprieves from extinction, like that of the ivory-bill, are bittersweet, because we remember the species that didn't make it, and really won't be seen again.

And because so many species (spotted owls, anyone? salmon? marbled murrelet?) will surely follow if we can't get our shit together.

Day of the Tiger

Today is the release day for Mac OS 10.4, otherwise known as Tiger. I was on the Apple web page the other day, looking at new features. Spotlight might be nice, though I have a pretty organized filing system on my disk.Dashboard, though it probably has some nice doo-dads, really just looks like so many X-Windows mini apps.

The thing that caught my interest was Automator. As someone who really wants to use AppleScript (and I do have a few scripts that I do use), I just wish it was more user-friendly, especially to generalize scripts so they can be called from within another program (specifically, FileMaker) - on any old Mac, not just my Mac (because I am developing in a multi-user environment - as much as I might like to at times, I can't disregard my other users!). looks intriguing enough to take a chance on, though I will probably wait for 10.4.1. Do I think I'll get it at work? Ha ha! Maybe if I get it at home and can make Automator do some real tricks, I could talk my boss into it. After all, I did get FileMaker 7 before nearly anybody else at work....and that turned out rather well.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Short rants

Boosh sez: "Nuke-yoo-lar power doesn't cause pollution!"
('Cept for that waste that stays hot for thousands of years, of course. Oh wait - just send it to Hanford!)

Iraqi official sez: "The government is now complete!"
(Oops - 'cept for the Assemblywoman who got assassinated this morning!)

Bill Gates sez: "Well, we didn't expect that kind of visibility" [for pulling support for a Washington state anti-discrimination measure after being pressured by anti-gay bigots]
(Yeah, especially the part where we all find out that you are paying that slimy turd Ralph Reed $20K a month!)

Oh, and check out this photo of Bill. Either he's really, really embarrassed at being outed as a coward - or he's just being outed. ;-)

MoDo (hehe)

I don't usually read Maureen Dowd, but this column did have a funny:

If John Bolton is unfairly denied a chance to ply his diplomatic talents at the U.N., maybe he can work for Bill Gates.

After Mr. Gates shamefully backed down from supporting gay rights legislation - a Washington State preacher had threatened to boycott the company - Microsoft could use a feral muscleman to face down the evangelical bully.

That's a job - or an ankle - Mr. Bolton could really sink his teeth into.

And she refers to John Bolton as "wooly bully." I think "wally bully" might have worked as well, though I have more respect for walruses than that.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Those activist judges!

I'm not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV. But this story on today's Supreme Court ruling caught my eye:

The case was of an American who smuggled guns into Japan and served 3 years, then did not report this fact when he tried to buy guns in the U.S. On the federal forms, when asked if he had been convicted "in any court" of a crime punishable by a year or more in prison, he answered 'no.' His argument was that the from refers only to courts in U.S. jurisdictions. The majority agreed, saying, among other things, that other countries apply different standards to crimes, and so something that would get a lenient sentence (less than a year) might get several years in another country (vandalism in Singapore, which has a penalty of up to 3 years, was cited as an example).

In dissent, Justices Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Anthony M. Kennedy said, among other things, that "any" means what it says. "Indisputably, Small was convicted in a Japanese court of crimes punishable by a prison term exceeding one year," Justice Thomas wrote. "The clear terms of the statute prohibit him from possessing a gun in the United States."

Now, if I were filling out that form, I might be confused about what "any court" meant as well, and it could reasonably be construed to mean only courts in U.S. jurisdictions, simply because that's the scope of most federal laws.

Aside from the fact that the Court pointed out a big loophole in our gun control laws which I expect was not anticipated by Congress, I was struck by the idea that the most conservative Justices were arguing in a manner that was not only inconsistent with conservative views on access to guns, but also with their dissent in the recent decision striking down the death penalty for minors.

Those up-tighty righties in tighty whities claimed, in that decision, that we have activist judges who put the laws of foreign countries on the same level as our own laws (never mind that we sign treaties with other countries which, once ratified, are supposed to be the law of the land). I wonder what they think of the fact that their darlings, those most conservative of the Supremes, are doing exactly that? I guess it's only beyond the pale when you happen to be noting the fact that most civilized countries don't execute children.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Springtime bird blogging

This weekend I watched as a northern flicker excavated a nest hole in a snag next to the driveway. Last year, this same pair of birds nested in this snag. After hearing chicks for several weeks, we noticed that the flickers seemed to be making their alarm call a lot. It took us three or four days to finally figure out the source of their distress, but one evening we found a Cooper's hawk perched high in a fir across from the nest hole. We scared it off by throwing a fir cone at it, but we never heard the chicks calling again. I was sure the flickers would try to find another spot.

I was surprised and a little awed watching the hen work. First, the hole would be a blank, but if you listened closely, you could hear a slight "tap-tap-tap-tap." Then, you would see her head, then her head and breast, and then, "foomf!" a bunch of woody debris would fly out to the side as she kicked it out of the hole. Lather-rinse-repeat.

In spite of cars moving past the nest several times a day, in spite of the fact that a hawk found them last year, they are trying again in this spot. We are going to be listening very carefully this year for distress calls, and hope they manage to fledge some chicks this year.

Bush boom

Why I (heart) Paul Krugman:

What's going on? Actually, it's quite simple: Mr. Bush and his party talk only to their base - corporate interests and the religious right - and are oblivious to everyone else's concerns.

Damn straight.

First post!

Well, I hadn't really intended to start a blog of my own, but I wanted to post a comment on another blog, and in getting to that point I ended up with an account! So I will have to try to make this interesting for someone.