Thursday, July 30, 2009
YES, WE'VE MADE OUR DECISION!
After a great deal of solemn thought, and with a lot of consideration to the privacy needs of the families involved, we've decided to give sainthood to NONE of the sailors recruited on the occasion of the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis. We are instead canonizing Herbie Robinson, Captain Quint's baseball-loving crewmate immortalized -- and bisected -- in Jaws. Because we had to give SOMEONE a sainthood after a lucky break like this, and to be honest NOT ONE of the recruits involved wanted his name used. That's a Shark recruit for you, always thinking of the other guy's feelings and DUCKING OUT OF THE LIMELIGHT. Thanks guys -- WE KNOW OUR SECRETS ARE SAFE WITH YOU.
We'd like to thank the Japanese submarine crew that brought us so very many meals, I mean recruits, in a three-day period, and we'd ESPECIALLY like to thank the radio operator who NEVER QUESTIONED ORDERS and NEVER SENT A DISTRESS SIGNAL as the ship was sinking.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Beach Disaster: La Jolla, California
It was an odd start to the morning Saturday in La Jolla, Calif.
Dazed Giant Squid Wash Up On La Jolla Shores
Giant squid litter La Jolla Shores after 4.0 quake shakes the ocean floor.
Squid Wash Up After Quake
First residents were jolted out of bed by an earthquake, which is not uncommon in San Diego, but what happened just minutes later was a little fishy.
First, residents were jostled out of bed at 7.34 a.m. by a 4.0 magnitude earthquake that was centered 19 miles out in the ocean.
“I was having coffee up on the balcony and I felt it shaking,” Kate Lutkemeier said.
She wasn’t the only one.
“I heard my doors and windows rattling, thinking that somebody was trying to get in my front door actually,” La Jolla resident Mary Skeen said.
The quake was felt all over the county, which isn’t uncommon in San Diego -- but what happened just minutes later was a little fishy.
“We just got here about 15 minutes ago and Lilly, what did you see on the beach?” John Feher asked his little daughter.
“Squid, Squid, Squid, Squid, Squid.” she replied.
Dozens of dazed Humboldt Squid, which were roughly three- to four-feet long and weighed close to 40 pounds, were found flapping around on La Jolla Shores beach.
“It’s like their equilibrium is all messed up and they don’t know what they’re doing and they can’t back out there,” said beachgoer Bill Baumann. “It was like they got -- I don’t know -- all shook up.”
It didn’t take long for the Seagulls to swoop in and start feeding on the Squid, so beachgoers ran to the rescue and tried frantically to save them by throwing them back in the water. That proved to be a difficult task for several reasons: they were extremely heavy, very slippery, and when the good Samaritans did manage to get them back them in water, the Squid didn’t know which way to go and kept washing back up on shore.
“Some people were saying it was the earthquake this morning that caused them to get disoriented, but who knows? Feher said.
He wasn’t the only person to mention that theory.
“A state guy was out and said the earthquake caused (it),” Baumann said.
Lifeguard Sgt. David Rains said that is one of several possibilities. Another potential cause is there were a lot of fishing boats in the area, creating a significant fish activity and Squid follow the food supply. He also said there have been a lot of water inversions, with the water turning from warm to cold, which could be the cause. But he doesn’t know for sure.
“Why are they here? Why are the squid here? I can’t honestly tell you,” Sgt. Rains said. “I don’t know if it’s tied or not to the earthquake.”
According to the lifeguard, swimmers should be wary of the creatures and keep their distance.
“The Humboldt Squid can be very big and very powerful and they may be dangerous,” Sgt. Rains said. “It’s just something I wouldn’t mess with until you’re sure that it’s dead. They’ve got a lot of suckers and claws and a parrot-like beak and they can inflict some damage.”
A spokesman for Scripps Institution of Oceanography said at this point they do not see a connection between the squid and the earthquake, but plan to look into it. Dozens of Squid washing up at the same time is unusual but it has happened before, according to Sgt. Rains. But Mary Skeen said it is a first for her.
“I have never seen Squid in the 42 years that I’ve lived here on the shores in La Jolla,” she said.
For now there are more questions than answers; did the earthquake cause the Squid to wash up or was it simply a coincidence? Just ask the little girl who helped daddy push some alien looking creatures back out to sea.
“Is it a mystery?” Feher asked his little daughter Lilly.
“Yeah,” she replied.
This disastrous incident of REVERSE LEMMINGDOM by our brave Squid operatives will never be forgotten. OR FORGIVEN.
Triumphant Day For Security Leaks
Yes! It's finally happened -- one of our lesser-known aquatic operative species has successfully undertaken to DISTRACT THE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY by making themselves known:
If you startled a deer, you might not expect it to jump into the nearest pond and submerge itself for minutes.
But that is exactly what two species of mouse-deer in Asia do when confronted by predators, scientists have found.
One other African Mouse-Deer species is known to do the same thing, but the new discovery suggests all ruminants may once have had an affinity with water.
It also lends support to the idea that whales evolved from water-loving creatures that looked like small Deer.
There are around 10 species of Mouse-Deer, which are also called 'Chevrotains'. All belong to the ancient ruminant family Tragulidae, which split some 50 million years ago from other ruminants, the group that went on to evolve into cattle, Goats, Sheep, Deer and Antelope.
Each is a small, Deer-like creature that unusually does not have antlers or horns. Instead they have large upper canine teeth, which in the males project down either side of the lower jaw.
The largest species, which stands no more than 80cm tall, lives in Africa and is thought to be the most primitive of all Mouse-Deer. Known as the Water-Chevrotain, this animal likes to live in swampy habitats. When alarmed, it dashes for the nearest river where it submerges and swims underwater to safety.
All of the other species of Mouse-Deer, which live in southeast Asia and India and Sri Lanka, were thought to be dry-land animals.
That was until researchers witnessed some remarkable behaviour during two separate incidents.
The first occurred in June 2008 during a biodiversity survey in northern Central Kalimantan Province in Borneo, Indonesia.
During the survey, observers saw a Mouse-Deer swimming in a forest stream. When the animal noticed the observers it submerged. Over the next hour, they saw it come to the surface four or five times, and maybe more unseen. But it often remained submerged for more than five minutes at a time.
Eventually the observers caught the animal, which they identified as a pregnant female, then released it unharmed.
Among the survey team was the wife of Erik Meijaard, a senior ecologist working with the Nature Conservancy in Balikpapan, Indonesia.
Meijaard knew of anecdotal reports by local people who described Deer hiding in creeks and rivers when chased by their Dogs. When he saw photos of the Deer he identified it as a Greater Mouse-Deer (Tragulus napu).
Coming up for air
The same year, Meijaard also heard reports of a Mouse-Deer in Sri Lanka that had also been seen swimming underwater.
Three observers saw a Mountain Mouse-Deer (Moschiola spp) run into a pond and start to swim, hotly pursued by a Brown Mongoose. The Mouse-Deer submerged itself, and eventually the Mongoose retreated. The deer left the water only to be chased straight back into it by the Mongoose.
"It came running again and dived into the water and swam underwater. I photographed this clearly and it became clear to me at this stage that swimming was an established part of its escape repertoire," says Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, who saw the incident.
"Seeing it swim underwater was a shock. Many mammals can swim in water. But other than those which are adapted for an aquatic existence, swimming is clumsy. The Mouse-Deer seemed comfortable, it seemed adapted," he says.
Origins of whales
Meijaard, Wijeyeratne and Umilaela, who saw the submerged Bornean Mouse-Deer, describe both incidents in the journal Mammalian Biology.
"This is the first time that this behaviour has been described for Asian mouse-deer species," says Meijaard. "I was very excited when I heard the mouse-deer stories because it resolved one of those mysteries that local people had told me about but that had remained hidden to science."
"The behaviour is interesting because it is unexpected. Deer are supposed to walk on land and graze, not swim underwater. But more interestingly for the zoologist are the evolutionary implications," he says.
The behaviour bolsters one leading theory regarding the origin of Whales.
In 2007, scientists led by Hans Thewissen of the Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine in Ohio published details of a remarkable fossil called Indohyus.
This fossil was of a ruminant animal that looked like a small Deer, but also had morphological features that showed it could be an ancestor of early Whales.
Although speculative, that suggests that all early ruminants may also have led a partially aquatic lifestyle.
The discovery that two Asian species of Mouse-Deer are comfortable underwater shows that at least three species of modern Tragulid share an aquatic escape behaviour.
Because these species diverged at least 35 million years ago, their ancestor also likely behaved in the same way, again bolstering the the idea that a Deer-like ruminant may have evolved to produce the modern cetacean group of Whales and Dolphins.
Hippos, the closest modern relative of Whales, also dive for water when threatened, a behaviour that may have been lost over time by other modern species such as Sheep and Antelope.
Wednesday, July 01, 2009
Oh dear Cod, the pain!
Where do I begin? OK, this attempt at a Lovecraftian horror novel about TERROR FROM THE DEEP was co-written by J.F. Gonzalez and Mark Williams and was copyrighted to both of them in 1999. It was published by the Hard Shell Word Factory.
PLOT SUMMARY: GIANT KILLER CRABS, or are they LOBSTERS, or are they SCORPIONS, come ashore to wreak havoc on a small coastal town in Maine. Anyone stung by the business end of one of these "clickers" swells up, then EXPLODES for easier dining. One unlucky Naked Ape after another falls afoul of the chitinous horde. A determined man, new in town, who naturally is a writer of cheesy horror novels, SEES THE PROBLEM when he collides with a "clicker" and totals his car. Soon the entire town is under siege...BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE! What's with the scaly green bipeds chasing down first the "clickers," then the Naked Apes, with tridents? WILL ANYONE SURVIVE?
>> This should have worked. It has all the elements of a good piscatorial romance. But it's one of the most painfully bad books I've read in years. I hardly got through it at all.
>> The writing was unbelievably clumsy. That's the last thing I expected from a book plastered with raves about all the awards the authors have won. I can't help wondering what kind of comment they were making when the main character dismissed his own book awards as nonsense pushed on him by a bunch of "know-nothing committees."
>> There was NO respect for either the title characters or their green, bipedal pursuers. The net loss was disastrous, in fact -- the clickers eat the recruits, then the Gill Men eat the clickers as is only natural, but here come more shaved mokeys who blow away the Gill Men! Until the epilogue I thought ALL WAS LOST.
>> The Gill Men and their chitinous prey exist in this story only to be shot by shaved monkeys so that the wimmenfolk will look up to them and bat their eyes prettily. At the moment the humans discover that the Gill Men are intelligent enough to use tools, as well as looking vaguely human, the title characters suddenly become TOTALLY UNIMPORTANT. At the same time, the author makes a valiant effort to make the Gill Men look as LUNKHEADED AS POSSIBLE, too stupid to know what a gun is and too clumsy to do anything but charge the shaved monkeys on open ground. Why? So the shaved monkeys can feel like a MORE ADVANCED SPECIES as they BLOW THEIR HEADS OFF.
>> To make a story like this go, you need to anchor it in utterly believable, normal details. So why do we have a smalltown doc shaking his head anxiously because when he ran DNA TESTS on the captured claw of a "clicker," in the office he runs out of a converted residence in the sticks, he couldn't get the findings to match any known species of crustacean? Does your family doctor have a DNA testing facility in his office? Does he have access to a database that would allow him to compare something he found embedded in someone's front tire to every known similar species? I realize the home computer is a mighty powerful tool, but GIVE ME A BREAK.
>> There was no recruiting going on here at all. None. So why did they come ashore in the first place, simultaneously getting themselves killed and blowing their own cover? Huh? Huh?
>> I no longer have separate fingers, which makes typing a chore, but ON MY WORST DAY I can do a better job than these two. It's very hard to concentrate on the story when you're constantly being jolted out of the narrative by one of their idiotic mistakes. Here's a hint, guys: when a cheetah, spelled with a small C, brings down an Impala, spelled with a capital I, you're describing the death of a car, not an antelope. Also: "adjourn" and "adorn" are two completely different words that cannot be used interchangeably. And: when making a noun plural, you add an "s." NO. GODDAMNED. APOSTROPHE. But if you're going to add the apostrophe, do have the consistency to use it every time, if only to give the impression that you think you're following one of the rules of English punctuation. Another hint: The titles of books, movies and epic poems, as well as the names of boats, are italicized. It REALLY makes you look sloppy if you do it only half the time. Oh, and you really ought to brush up on what's called subject-verb agreement. It's really NOT THAT HARD.
>> "...she went limp as the creature swooped in and buried its maw over her face." HOW MANY THINGS CAN YOU FIND WRONG WITH THIS HALF A SENTENCE? By the time I got through explaining to the authors, President Obama would be a great-grandfather.
>> Why am I belaboring these points, you ask? Well, it goes RIGHT TO THE HEART of a major conflict within our ranks. NOT ALL SPECIES ARE EQUALLY GOOD ACTORS, and regardless of species it is not that easy to simultaneously evolve into a finer, more glorious life-form AND disguise yourself as a victim of the American public school system. I think, I KNOW this can be solved, but it is a complex problem that demands a complex answer. WE ARE WORKING ON IT. Meanwhile, CARRY ON speaking correctly. Some potential recruits will think you're stuck up, but that's THEIR LOSS.
Meanwhile, do NOT spend a DIME of conspiracy funds on this book.