Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Links & Opinions: Miscellany

I am working on two chapters for a new book, but have been searching out new links for your delight or dismay in my off time. Let's see...

Before the usual, congratulations to Rebecca, who is moving with her menagerie to Northern California to take up a high position in Ducks Unlimited. If anyone has ideas on housing in the Sacramento area please contact her through her blog or mine.

Serious first: Registan gives a balanced and temperate view of events in Georgia. As anyone who knows me can tell you, I am FAR from a pacifist, but it always amazes me when people who couldn't find Georgia on a map if their lives depended on it are vigorously ready to go to war over its fate. Putin is not Stalin and deservedly or not is the most popular leader Russia has ever had. In these times we need Machiavelli more than we need... certain candidates, whether naive or belligerent.

OK, enough politics, which I tend to avoid (Georgia, more Asian than European, makes it in by virtue of that, and as a plug for Registan which any student of Central Asia should bookmark). Let's stay in the Russo- Asian area for a bit. Here is a tour of Baikonur Cosmsodrome in Kazakhstan, oldest and biggest spaceport in the world. I don't know but I find the desert spacepunk esthetic of working rockets, cosmic trash piles, and camels irresistible, and hope to go there someday.

And here is a gallery of American license plates made to spell out phrases in Cyrillic, often with no connection to English. I find it interesting that so many are on luxury cars-- are Russians natural entrepreneurs or are these the vehicles of.. let's say, people in shadowy trades?

Somewhat linked in subject: New Mexico SF writer Walter Jon Williams takes a tour of Cheyenne Mountain, which used to be the place from which a nuclear war would be fought (he brought back a Teddy Bear). You should also read his new novel Implied Spaces, which is a post- Singularity tale that is technically dazzling, utterly original, and often funny.

Vegans are now debating the morality of honey. " The bees are forced to construct their honeycombs in racks of removable trays, according to a design that standardizes the size of each hexagonal chamber... keepers control the animals by pumping their hives full of smoke, which masks the scent of their alarm pheromones and keeps them from defending their honey stores. And some say the bees aren't making the honey for us, so its removal from the hive could be construed as a form of theft...any vegan who eats honey but avoids milk is making the tacit assumption that the pain experienced by a bee counts for something less than the pain experienced by a cow. It's exactly the sort of compromise that so appalled Watson and the early vegans. Once you've allowed yourself to equivocate on animal suffering, how do you handle all the other borderline cases of insect exploitation? What about silkworms and cochineal bugs."

Actually, as Konrad Lorenz knew and Ingrid Newkirk doesn't, there ARE differences in suffering between such extremes. Anyway, it doesn't bother me much if they all try to photosynthesize, and die...

Speaking of diets: efforts to make Komodo dragons eat "naturally" have turned them into maneaters. HT David Zincavage.

Pythons may not take over the southern half of the US. Though the part of me that loves monsters is just a bit disappointed, I never quite bought the idea-- the arid parts of southern Texas and New Mexico seem too barren for a reptile from southeast Asia.

Carl Zimmer discusses bizarre rearing strategies in Penduline tits, and why they make evolutionary sense. Pluvi, this one is for you!

For lack of a better word. society: Michael Blowhard discusses why suburbs may be something new in human history.

Chas wonders why crime fiction writers can't get guns right, (especially since the characters they write about WOULD). I suggest that honorable exceptions are Michael Gruber and Steve Hunter.

Finally, art: Lord Whimsy pauses in his perusal of flowers and arthropods to look at a maker of classic decoys.


Matt Mullenix said...

“We don’t want the Komodo dragon to be domesticated. It’s against natural balance,” says Widodo Ramono, policy director of the Nature Conservancy’s Indonesian branch and a former director of the country’s national park service. “We have to keep this conservation area for the purpose of wildlife. It is not for human beings.”

There is a great tale in this, probably told already in a hundred different versions.

Find an island where people and dragons have been living sustainably by complex cultural interactions; ruin it by separating them. What's the more natural state? All the humans on Komodo should just move, I suppose. I'm sure the NC and Indonesian Park Service would retain all the dragon profits.

I am harping on a theme lately, but this seems to fit it also. We can't deny our relationships. We can't be separated from each other. We live in a global stew of shared responsibility that includes everything. There is no other world for us.

Yet so many today would make a place where the separation is complete---where all the people somehow live in cities and all the wilderness surrounds them. Where no animal is tame and no people are wild.

dr. hypercube said...

"Where no animal is tame and no people are wild." And that's the false separation that vegans and PETAs and some wildlife managers make that drives me crazy. There is no us and them - we're all animals, subject to the same constraints. There is no wild and civilized (see Gary Snyder) - there are gradations of human influence (I think there should be more places with less influence, but that's because I'm likely on the poorly-acculturated end of the spectrum). As you say, it's all of a piece, from parrots and pigeons in Brooklyn to griz in Alberta.

Steve - killer Baikonur link. I'm in - a few days among the camels and spacejunk, then off to pick up taigan (I suppose I should wait for the invite, huh?).

On the topic of silk - already a vegan topic: Sometimes the lengths people will go to to avoid doing what every non-green plant/non-black smoker bacteria does - steal someone else's energy - makes my jaw go slack. Vat raised artificial meat because you don't want to kill a critter? Cripes - time to compost yourself.

Peculiar said...

Re. the Cyrrilic license plates: it can work with Greek, too. There are a few in Santa Fe. Some St. John's tutor of course snapped up XAIPE (for which he gets no points for originality), and a lady at the Greek church unfortunately has Mrs. P's name, NIKH.

Peculiar said...

Also, here's the working python link:

Steve Bodio said...

Matt, Doc-- EXACTLY. And I am working on K'Stan-- either paid for this year or on our own next. Taigans in the mix, from Shakula!

P-- I often lose track of the links on the long posts. And tell NIKH-- a little different in Russian but not on my keyboard-- that I'll be linking her Cthulhu soon.

LabRat said...

I was planning to use the Komodo thing for postfodder, up until I got hauled off to what turned out to be basically a small but lengthy party.

After reading Matt and Doc Hypercube's thoughts though, it may turn out to be a lot longer than I thought... or I may decide it's already been said better than I could elaborate on.

Matt Mullenix said...

LabRat (and Doc) please do blog on this if you're up to it. I'd love to read more.

Tiger said...

"The bees are forced to construct their honeycombs in racks of removable trays, according to a design that standardizes the size of each hexagonal chamber... [...] any vegan who eats honey but avoids milk is making the tacit assumption that the pain experienced by a bee counts for something less than the pain experienced by a cow."

Somebody must've rented the DVD for "Bee Movie" earlier this week, and thought it was a documentary...

cpbvk said...

Wow. That WSJ article is so filled with fabrication and mistaken notions I don't know where to start my rant. A future blog post there, for sure.

Steve Bodio said...

Let us know when you post.

I think a lot of the responses here-- essentially that we too are a part of nature-- are right even if the original article got it wrong.