Tag Archives: animals

Kvick Tänkare

Incredible piece about the attempts of researchers to understand the migration and behavior of Great White sharks.  What do you do after spending years of your life and lots of money and your conclusion is:  ““There’s no frickin’ pattern at all,”

The Scandinavians have been producing quality crime fiction for years.  Who knew they also produced some of the more intriguing crime reality as well.  GQ puts together a lengthy piece about a man who may be a serial killer, cannibal, sadist, pedophile…or he might be a really disturbed guy who was almost a killer, sadist and pedophile who was (intentionally or not) set up to take the blame for 30 homicides by an incompetent and overzealous judicial system.

The Boston Globe has done an amazing piece of investigative reporting about the Tsarnaev brothers (of Boston Bombing infamy).  Really, you don’t want to miss this.

In the daily to and fro of putting out fires and addressing the next crisis, is anyone thinking about out long (and I mean long) term survival as a species?  After all, over 99% of all species that have lived are now extinct and we continue to learn new ways we might get snuffed out all the time.  Here’s a piece about a group of people thinking about what our existential threats might be and how we should think about them.

I was really shocked when I saw Supersize Me! back in 2004 but now research is indicating it might not be quite as cut and dried as that documentary looked.
I really thought I enjoyed the first season of House of Cards.  The plot kind of went off the rails and it was almost like the writers ultimately felt like they couldn’t commit to a straight up political drama and so had to get all John Grisham in there.  If you’re looking for a good political drama I highly recommend the Danish series Borgen.  Really quality acting and plotting.  Check it out.
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I don’t know what’s going on but the past few years have seen an explosion of quality TV and film from Scandinavia.

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It’s been awhile so I thought I’d revisit the point behind Kvick Tänkare posts.  From the Swedish it translates roughly as ‘Quick Thinking’.  My intent is to provide a hodge podge (perhaps a smorgasbord?) of ideas from a range of sources and fields in one place.  I’ve always believed that exposure to disparate pieces of information helps make new connections and creates the opportunities to view old subjects in new ways.

Or, you could just look at is as a blogging miscellaneous drawer…

1) After 9/11 the CIA built a program to recruit people to be spies with ‘non-official cover’ (agents who couldn’t pose as embassy staff and instead appeared to be students, business people, etc.).  Well, ten years and $3 billion later and what’s the verdict?

“It was a colossal flop,” a former senior CIA official said in sentiments echoed by a dozen former colleagues, most of whom spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a classified program.

According to the story, some of the reason behind the failure was the lack of skills but it was also good old fashioned bureaucratic inertia.
“There was just a great unwillingness to put NOCs in really, really dangerous places,” said another former case officer. “If you’re a high-grade agency manager, are you going to sign off on a memo that puts Joe Schmuckatelli in Pyongyang? Whether you are a careerist or not, that is a hard decision for anybody to make.”
So, here’s to you Joe Schmuckatelli.
Of course, if you want to get your paranoia on, you could say this was all just a clever planted story so foreign intelligence services and terrorist groups (and foreign businesses perhaps?) would lower their guard.  I’m not sure the CIA has demonstrated that sort of skill in the past but it’s possible.
2) An interesting article by Dilbert creator Scott Adams about when we should simplify in order to get a task done and when we should focus on perfecting a process.  Too often it seems we simplify as a way to get the undesirable stuff done quickly and focus on the stuff that we find interesting but it’s not clear that results in the best outcomes.  Probably would have been useful to think about Healthcare.gov in these terms over the past couple of years.

3. About a year ago, Tell Tale Games put together a small game based on the TV Series/Comic Book The Walking Dead.  It was brilliant…in fact, probably better than both the TV series and the comic book.  Calling it a game, which technically correct, is a bit misleading since it was primarily a story in which the reader (or player if you must) could make some decisions.  In essence a ‘choose your own adventure’ story.  The trick was putting together a story which conveyed real depth and more character development than I’ve seen in the original products.  I was totally invested in the game.

So, it comes as a pleasant surprise to hear that the same company is making games based on the Game of Thrones book/TV series and the Borderlands game.  If they can keep up the high standards of plotting and writing this could be great.  Beyond simple gameplay I wonder if there isn’t a broader audience for something like this where the audience can directly influence the flow of the story.

4.  In New York state, a lawsuit was recently filed to grant chimpanzees the status of ‘personhood’.  The lawsuit is being brought by the Nonhuman Rights Project, led by Steven Wise (who I wrote about several years ago).  Before you get all wound up about chimps getting social security or voting, they aren’t talking about that.  In light of ever more compelling research about animal cognition and consciousness, Wise recommends essentially a sliding scale of rights to a wide range of creatures.  In our current legal system, animals are considered property (insert awkward comparison to slavery here)  yet that no longer seems tenable both in terms of our culture and the existing science.  Given that chimps are the closest to us physically and in evolutionary status they’re starting with them.
5. Prostitution in Nashville during the Civil War.  10% of Union troops had some sort of VD.  That’s pretty significant and the reason why the Union tried to banish and then regulate all the prostitutes from the town.

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Mike Bennett has put his vampire audio novel ‘Underwood and Flinch’ up on You Tube.  This is totally worth you time.  Mike does great stuff.

We’re coming up on Halloween so here’s a cool, creepy vid for you (h/t i09)

We’ll stick with the animal world with this brilliant infographic on cheetahs.  I include it here not only for its intrinsic value but as an inspiration into thinking about how other types of data (yes, I’m looking at you intelligence analysts) could be presented in different and (dare I say it) more effective ways.  Click on the image to see the thing in it’s big, animated glory.

huh…seem to be on an anatomy kick today.  Check out these amazing pics of animal skulls from the NYTimes.  Lesson learned today:  Do NOT screw with the Chinese water deer.

Estragon42 has  put up a bit of fiction asking the questions ‘What if Hemingway deployed to Afghanistan?‘ Check it out.

Finally, courtesy of Discover magazine, is this piece summarizing research that seems to indicate that people that sign their documents on the top of documents (before they’ve entered data or made a statement) their information is more accurate than if they sign at the bottom of the document (after they’ve already done the work).

People are often dishonest in little ways on forms, rounding numbers in a beneficial direction or failing to mention a relatively small item as part of a larger list. If they sign a form once they’ve done all that, they don’t go back and correct it; instead, they’ve already woven a story to themselves—consciously or not—about why what they did was perfectly fine.

It’s worth noting that most intelligence products do not have the author(s) names attached.  Now, there’s usually a very good reason for that.  Namely, that the analysis done is supposed to represent the agency’s position and not the individuals.  Additionally, there’s a security issue as well.  Knowing that analyst ‘A’ is the one who writes all the stuff about security issues in Outer Mongolia opens that analyst up to targeting and influence.

That being said, I’ve heard analysts say things like ‘I don’t care, my name’s not on this.’   There’s got to be a way to address both problems.

Scandinavian Roudup

Well, those pesky Russkies are at it again.  Finland has been flirting with the idea of joining NATO for years now.  I’m not sure how realistic of a chance that was but the talk has obviously gotten Comrade Bear a bit edgy and so they’ve moved to nix that idea before it goes any further.

General Nikolai Makarov, the commander of the Russian armed forces…warned directly that possible NATO membership for Finland would constitute a military threat against Russia.

Of course, given the current state of the Russian military I’m not sure what they could do about it.  I suppose they could do what they did to Ukraine a few years ago and just turn off the oil (Finland gets 64% of its supply from Russia) and natural gas pipelines (100%!).

A bit of nostalgia for Mrs. TwShiloh.  I asked if this made her homesick but she just looked at me in that odd way she does when I ask her if those helmets with horns were uncomfortable…

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The Scandinavian states engage in some rivalry that has been described as sibling in nature.  Case in point, is a recent survey of Swedes who air their complaints about the Norwegians.

They claim Norwegians “don’t know how to drive at roundabouts, they park in handicapped areas… are immoral and buy lots of tobacco and alcohol,”
according to accounts from the study, quoted by Expressen.

Sound a lot like Texans to me.  My Swedish contacts also tell me that Norwegians also have an inexplicable fondness for frozen pizza.  Go figure.  You think they’d be tired of frozen things.  Crazy Norwegians.

Bonus non-Scandinavian item!:  Some crazy Germans decided it’d be a good idea to import North American racoons into Germany in the 1920s.  Well, good luck to them because now there’s an estimated one million of the buggers knocking over trash cans and making a general nuisance of themselves.

Personally, I like racoons but they’re native here.  When they don’t have rabies, they’re pretty cool.  Just secure your garbage…

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Really interesting views of ‘animal overpasses‘ or “structures that have been built over roads to allow wildlife to cross safely to the other side of the road.”

Interesting description of a medical research labs final days in the chimp testing business.  There’s a lot here to motivate you if you’re an animal rights activist and demonstrates the effectiveness of joint action by activists across the spectrum of legality.

I’m not an obituary reader but this one deserves a read, it’s brilliant (h/t to BoingBoing)

I AM the guy who stole the safe from the Motor View Drive Inn back in June, 1971. I could have left that unsaid, but I wanted to get it off my chest. Also, I really am NOT a PhD. What happened was that the day I went to pay off my college student loan at the U of U, the girl working there put my receipt into the wrong stack, and two weeks later, a PhD diploma came in the mail. I didn’t even graduate, I only had about 3 years of college credit….Now to that really mean Park Ranger; after all, it was me that rolled those rocks into your geyser and ruined it. I did notice a few years later that you did get Old Faithful working again. To Disneyland – you can now throw away that “Banned for Life” file you have on me, I’m not a problem anymore – and SeaWorld San Diego, too, if you read this.

Well, Shiloh is no longer with us but this picture would surely have driven him to apoplexy. This dog is about to have his membership in the canine race revoked. A deer AND a cat mere feet away and he’s laying about? That dog should be in full chase mode. Outrageous.

My poor Parwan…Well, it’s not really ‘mine’ of course but it was where I was stationed and I find it hard to reconcile this with the (relatively) peaceful province of 2003. The Taliban in Parwan…how much ground we’ve lost…

oh tannenbaum

In Germany, zoos take discarded Christmas trees and give them to many of the animals for food or play.  Who knew?

…pine needles are rich in Vitamin C, noting that people have used pine needle tea as a natural remedy for scurvy.

As an aside, I’ve made pine needle tea and it’s quite good.  You want to get the younger needles and use hot but not boiling water to steep the tea.  Too long in boiling water will extract the turpentine which you definitely don’t want.  The tea is pretty good and reported to be good for coughs and sore throats.  And scurvy.  You really don’t want to get scurvy.

But I digress…

As cool as this tradition is, it appears to be threatened.

“The fact of the matter is that we hardly accept any Christmas trees anymore, because, increasingly, they are treated with chemicals to make them last longer or to render them inflammable,”

Check out the photo essay of the animals enjoying their Christmas trees.  Pretty cool.

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I, for one, welcome our new celephopod overlords

Immature octopods (Tremoctopus violaceus) have been found with numerous fragments of tentacles of [Portuguese Man o' War] attached to the suckers of their dorsal arms. The probable method of acquisition, the evidence of adaptation for holding the tentacles, and the possibility that the octopod uses these coelenterate tentacles as offensive and defensive weapons are discussed.

They’re smart, they use weapons they can breath underwater and they can walk on land!  Watch this one demonstrate his (her?) fearlessness of us puny primates by disposing of its trash in front of us (retaliation for ocean dumping, perhaps?)

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Ok…so Octopi can use tools.  Big deal.  I’ll just stay out of the water.  It’s not like we have to worry about dogs starting to OHMYGOD!

To move the table, Sterling clamped his mouth onto the strut between the legs of the table. He then walked backwards, dragging the table approximately 2 m, until it appeared that either his back leg or tail touched the enclosure mesh. He then jumped onto the table, but as he was still at least a body-length away from the envelope, he had to span the gap between the table and the enclosure mesh by propping his front paws onto the mesh gradually moving them towards the envelope.

Hyperbole and a Half has a brilliantly funny post that re-imagines the whole ‘Tell me how much pain you’re in on a scale form 1 to 10′ in a way that’s much more helpful than what’s out there now.  I really want to paste the whole thing here but that seems a bit cheesy.  It’s definitely worth the click-time though…

Popular Mechanics walks through the final moments of Air France 447 and explains the human errors that led to its crash.  Amazing description of a complete collapse of critical thinking skills during times of crisis.

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io9 has a cool post about abandoned places that are being reclaimed by nature.  This bit about Korea’s DMZ is worth a look.

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In related news, South Korea is applying to make part of the DMZ a ‘biosphere reserve’.   While North Korea is a terrible regime, let’s face it, the day it falls poachers and developers will drive the flora and fauna of the DMZ into extinction.  I’m sure some population will see a buffet of exotic food items, aphrodisiacs and folk remedies to plunder.

Forget the Planet of the Apes…we should be worried about the parrots.

Across parts of Australia, reports have been pouring in of strange voices chattering high in the treetops — mysterious, non-sensical conversations in English… It turns out that escaped pet birds, namely parrots and cockatoos, have begun teaching their wild bird counterparts a bit of the language they picked up from their time in captivity — and, according to witnesses, that includes more than a few expletives.

Can instructions about how to manipulate nuclear armed drones be far behind?

How’d you like to live in a country where a problem that makes the news is that the nation is in the second month of a ‘national butter shortage‘.

As Sweden’s butter shortage enters its second month, the dairy industry is still struggling to meet demand and shelves in supermarkets up and down the country remain empty. Blame is being directed at the new back to basics cooking trend, full fat diet fads and young people turning their backs on farming.

Scientific American has a blog post encouraging scientists to engage with social media.  Linked to that is a presentation the author gave setting forth her argument.  I can’t help thinking that most of what she writes is equally applicable to analysts.

Read this great (yet depressing) article about the winners and losers in Iraq.  Bottom line: It ain’t us…or the Iraqis.

11 severed feet have washed ashore in the Pacific Northwest since 2007.  i09 has a story about it which has this less than comforting line:

Although the mystery centers on feet, there are plenty of body parts that wash ashore all over the world.

Stupid cats fight to amuse their evil crow overlords

h/t i09

I would watch more TV is stuff like this was on…

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Picture of the Day – Jurassic Park edition

It’s that time of year when I start biking to work when I can.  The 12 mile trip is almost entirely along the tow path of the Delaware Canal system.  One of the best things about riding early in the morning and again in the afternoon is that there are all sorts of opportunities to see a wide range of wildlife.

The other day I came across a pretty big common snapping turtle and snapped the following pictures.

Looks like a dragon tail...