May 21, 2013 § Leave a Comment
In case you haven’t heard it yet, we are swimming in shit.
Don’t take my word for it: This comes straight from the mouth of the Centers for Disease Control which, according to its most recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, spent a chunk of last summer bottling filter gunk at 161 Atlanta-area public pools. Results? Fecal matter, as identified by gastrointestinal-loving bacteria E. coli, showed up in 93 of them (58 percent).
Now, yes, it’s true: these are only a few pools around Atlanta, GA, so no one can guarantee for sure that national public pools bear this cocoa letter. However, the growing number of recreational water-related illnesses across the country suggests that they do. The CDC would like to remind us all to not crap in the pool and to please start cleaning both themselves* and the pool water more thoroughly.
Are you freaked out? Relax—it’s not all bad. For one thing, none of the E. coli was of the sort to make anyone sick (that’s only the O157:H7 strain), and only two pools out of the whole 161 had any sign of other diarrhea-causing bacteria, like cryptosporidium and giardia. By and large, you see, though we swim in shit, we swim in safe shit.
Besides, it’s not like this is the only shit we deal with everyday. We’re already covered in it and so is everything else—and for the most part, we’ve been handling it pretty well. « Read the rest of this entry »
May 4, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Yesterday, the New York Times reported on the Chinese government’s crackdown on a 63+ person crime ring that has spent the past few years selling the citizens of Shanghai and neighboring areas $1.6 million dollars’ worth of lamb that was, in fact, rat.*
Now, the Chinese officials appear to have made this announcement to assure their residents that the problem was being forcefully addressed, and that the government had its eye on this sort of thing, etc, etc. But the effect was to alert anyone in the region who’d eaten lamb in recent history that they probably ate rodent instead, and isn’t that a delightful thought from which there’s really no going back.
I have so many questions. Where did the rats come from? Was nobody suspicious about how very, very tiny their legs of lamb had become? What is the nutritional content of a rat anyway?
The first question I leave to the Chinese government. The second—no, probably not: according to the Daily Mail, at least one vendor was selling the stuff as “lamb rolls,” i.e., not necessarily sheep-shaped at all, which I suggest you try to not think about next time you’re in a mystery meat situation. But as far as nutritional content goes, turns out I’m not the first one who’s ever asked this. Rat calories are in fact, an important point of concern for the conscientious ophidiophile who doesn’t want his snake’s dinner going straight to its not-exactly-waistline. « Read the rest of this entry »
November 28, 2012 § Leave a Comment
For two weeks of the year, every year, the banks of the Doyang Reservoir in northeast India become the most deadly place in the world for Amur falcons. Thousands of birds die, killed en masse by the region’s hunters, who string fishing nets through the trees to tangle the birds as they swoop to and from their forest roosts. From there, the falcons are tied — still alive — to poles and carried into town to be sold for barely 40 cents a day.
Largely unaware of the killings, Ramki Sreenivasan from Conservation India had gone there with a few wildlife and media friends, hoping to document the legendary Amur migration. Instead, they saw this:
November 2, 2012 § Leave a Comment
“It is a farewell gift from the dolphins,” said Wonko in a low, quiet voice, “the dolphins whom I loved and studied, and swam with, and fed with fish, and even tried to learn their language, a task which they seemed to make impossibly difficult, considering the fact that I now realize they were perfectly capable of communicating in ours if they decided they wanted to.” — Douglas Adams, So Long and Thanks for All the Fish, 1985.
Boy howdy have there been a lot of talking animals lately. And by a lot, I mean two, which is still a lot when we’re talking human imitations by animals. First came Noc, the burbling beluga whale who told his trainer to get out of the pool. A week later, we have Koshik, the Asian elephant who takes Noc’s burbles and raises him a very understandable six-word Korean vocabulary. « Read the rest of this entry »
November 1, 2012 § Leave a Comment
In principle, I always imagined deserts as lands of silence. With few trees to rustle and most of the animals hiding away from the sun, what could possibly make the standing level of burble that you find in say, a forest or an ocean coastline?
The sands, as it happens: they fall, they hum, they boom.