Hello, you beautiful minds. Let’s take some brain candy, shall we? So put down your game controls for a brief yet splendid moment, and stuff your brain with tasty tidbits of information.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Sorry For the Delay

You may (or may not) have noticed my lack of activities on here lately. Well, I've moved to another state and it will take me a while to get settled in my new abode. It may still be a little while before my next post.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

More Than Just Buboes!

The illness caused by Yersinia pestis has had a few names, the Black Death, the Bubonic Plague, the End of the World. We all know the signs – painful pustules (buboes) near the lymph nodes, fever, chills, abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, and often death. But let’s not forget the other forms of plague. I’m speaking, of course, about septicemic plague and pneumonic plague.

When the bubonic plague invades the bloodstream, things go septic. Septicemic plague is even more deadly than the bubonic version. Victims can become delirious and their other symptoms are even more acute.

Ten to twenty percent of bubonic plague cases reach the lungs to become pneumonic plague. This is one of the deadliest and most easily transmitted forms of plague. Even with treatment, pneumonic plague kills about seventy five percent of its victims. Sufferers cough up blood, have difficulty breathing, and often develop acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).

And now we know! Hooray!
Always Prepared!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Where Did Science Go?

Warning: This post is a rant.

I was in Barnes and Noble the other day when I happened upon a rather worrisome sight. My first stop at any book store is usually the popular science section, so I sauntered toward the giant "science" sign. There, I found biography, social science, and current events, but no actual science. This bothered me. Why was there no science in the science section? I didn't panic. I just asked one of the employees where the real science was. It was at the opposite end of the store...near the children's books and the sex books (tee hee). I'm hoping this was just a solitary case of mistaken sign placement (although it did bother me that they put science toward the end of the store, like they were ashamed of it. Poor science, I still love you.). Then, as I finished browsing, I noticed something else that was amiss. The entire science section was less than half the size of the teen paranormal area. Now that really bothers me. Books about teens who have paranormal crushes are fine and all, but since when is this subject trump ALL OF SCIENCE? Forgive me my bold capital letters. Surely this situation is a lone, silly mishap. If not, and it acts as a harbinger of where society is headed, then stock up on dry goods.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Sexy Studs of Science: Neil deGrasse Tyson

Who’s sexier than Brad Pitt in his Thelma and Louise days? The answer is Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist extraordinaire. A graduate of Harvard and Columbia, Tyson is the current Director of the Hayden Planetarium. He is also a prolific science writer and has appeared on Nova, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and numerous television interviews. He was appointed by former President Bush to serve on two science committees and has won the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal – the highest award NASA grants to civilians. On top of all this, Tyson is also a wine expert and wonderful public speaker. And he has super powers. He destroyed Pluto. Seriously, look it up, Pluto is no longer a planet. This guy didn’t even need the Death Star to accomplish that. It is my theory that his power comes from his amazingly aristocratic mustache. Science should back me up on this.

Look into those eyes. You will get lost in those eyes. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Dinosaur Victims

According to Hollywood and popular dinosaur reenactment shows, herbivores such as Protoceratops and Edmontosaurus existed for the sole purpose of being hunted and eaten in an entertaining manner. This is hardly fair. I mean, who wants their legacy to be “victim of awesome T-Rex.” And it’s not like these herbivores only died by getting hunted. They died in other ways too! They died from disease and mudslides and falls of moderate distances. The methodology of dinosaur death is a topic far too varied and exciting to confine. So I shall list a few herbivores often victimized by the media and provide an alternative death sequence for each. Enjoy!

Edmontosaurus: Often called the “Cattle of the Cretaceous,” these duckbills were rather numerous. They are often depicted being torn apart by Tyrannosaurus or a group of raptors. But picture this: An elderly male Edmontosaurus has lost the safety of the herd after being injured in a fight with another male. The injury has turned septic. So far, this story is predictable. But, instead our old pal getting torn apart by ninja raptors, he simply dies of infection. That’s right, infection. It happens.

Protoceratops: Protoceratops is constantly getting owned by Velociraptor. Ever since that discovery of a Protoceratops and Velociraptor fossilized mid-fight, these two dinos are almost always together in the public’s mind. And that’s fine. I mean, Velociraptor had to eat something. But Protoceratops were killed in other ways too. Imagine a nest full of cute little Protoceratops eggs. Now picture a rainstorm. Picture that rainstorm creating a torrent of muddy water washing away all those eggs. Boom. They never even get to hatch.
I'm not going to lie, these guys do look tasty.

Triceratops: Okay, we can be reasonably sure that Tyrannosaurus took down a Triceratops a time or two. But Triceratops was a tough-looking tank of a dinosaur, so T-Rex would have had its tiny hands full. I mean, if I were a predator, the Triceratops would have to be pretty sick or wounded for me to risk attacking it. So here is another scenario: A juvenile Triceratops is frolicking with its herd when a scary noise is heard. The herd panics and makes a run for it…in the juvenile’s direction. The young dino tries to keep ahead but lags a bit, trips, and gets crushed to death by its family.

So there we have it, three scenarios in which herbivores died in a manner not involving predators. Now, these dead hypothetical dinos were probably later torn apart and eaten by predators and scavengers, but that doesn’t count. Of course, I still love dino hunting scenes. I’d really appreciate one where any sort of Pachycephalosaurus gets torn apart. For some reason, I don’t really like the bone-heads. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Seals vs. Sea Lions

Although they both look like overweight dogs with flippers, seals and sea lions are a bit different from one another. Both are classified in the superfamily of Pinnipeds. But then they break into three groups; Phocidae (true seals), Otariidae (sea lions and fur seals), and Odobenidae (walruses).

(True) Seals: Animals belonging to the Phodicae branch are considered "true" seals. They have ear holes (no external ears), furry front flippers, and use their back flippers to power themselves through the water. Members of this group include; harp seals, harbor seals, hooded seals, monk seals, and leopard seals. They are cute, blubbery, and dislike club-wielding Canadians.
Save me from Canadians
I eat penguins

Sea Lions (and Fur Seals): These guys are Otariids. This group has external ears, hairless flippers, and propel themselves using their foreflippers. They can also maneuver better on land using their large foreflippers. Sea Lions include: the California and Stellar sea lion. Fur Seals include; the Galapagos fur seal, the Antarctic fur seal, and the Northern fur seal. Otariids enjoy ballancing balls on the ends of their noses, and jumping into expensive yachts in the Newport Beach Harbor.
A common sea lion task

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show

As we all know, the Arabian horse is the greatest breed of horse ever to grace humanity with its presence. This is a fact proven by science* and I love science. As a fangirl of the Arabian, the Scottsdale show was my Comicon. This is perhaps the largest Arabian horse show in the world, and it was full of the good, the bad, and the … well, Arabians are never ugly. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Arabian horses (and I pity your sad, sad souls), the Arabian is the oldest breed of horse (the breed goes back nearly 4,000 years). Originally bred by the Bedouins, these horses are known for their stamina, heat tolerance, intelligence, beauty, and loyalty to people. The Arabian is also one of the most easily identifiable horses with its high-set tail, dished head, large nostrils, arched neck, and short back. Their faces are expressive; their eyes are large and dark. Because the Arabian horse was so important to Bedouin war and life, it was regarded with the highest honor and respect. With the arrival of Islam, the Arabian horse gained status as a gift from God.

Now back to Scottsdale. Some of the classes I got to watch were Reining, English Pleasure, Hunter, Native Costume, Halter, Liberty, Dressage, and Sport Horse in Hand. Because I was only there for two days, I missed a lot (the show lasts for two weeks). Nevertheless, I learned a lot.

General Observations: Overall, I had a great time. The horses were gorgeous and in wonderful condition. Westworld, where the show was held, was spectacular. It is a HUGE facility. Even so, the show was crowded. It was nice to see so many non-Arabian horse people too. The competitors and barn representatives were a tight-lipped group that didn’t exude hospitality (the exception was Sheila Varian, of Varian Arabians, who is an equestrian Saint and High Priestess of Awesome). I was a bit disappointed that people weren’t as warm to visitors. I can’t really blame these people though, I mean, showing horses is stressful. On a philosophical note, I’m worried that the breed is getting too niche-oriented; halter horses only do halter, western horses only do western, etc. We are starting to see a major phenotypical divergence between say, park horses (who are starting to resemble Saddlebreds) and halter horses (who look like the offspring of angels and swans). One of the reasons I love the Arabian breed so much is that it can rock the performance world while still looking good. I just hope we can keep that up. A halter horse that can’t be ridden is almost useless; a park horse that moves, acts, and looks like a Saddlebred is…a Saddlebred with an Arabian pedigree.

Halter stance...but I liked this stallion. He didn't win...
Individual Classes: I didn’t get to see much dressage, reining or hunter, but what I did see was enjoyable. I found the English pleasure and park type classes to be fascinating, but I’m not too familiar with this style of riding to pass any judgments. It looked like people in tuxedos and bowler hats were riding horse-shaped rockets. Native costume was super fun to watch, definitely a crowd-pleaser. Liberty (where they let the horse loose in the arena for two minutes and watch it run around to music) was also popular, although I think the wrong horse won. Sport horse in-hand was really neat. I got to see the purebred gelding class compete and I found these horses to be of very high caliber. This class is a bit like halter, but focuses more on traditional sport horse movement (hunter, dressage, etc.) and sound conformation. The horses are presented in English bridles with their manes and tails braided. It is lower-energy than the “regular” halter classes, but I was impressed by the horses. Overall, they were solid, athletic horses who managed to keep Arabian “type.” The Sport horse handlers were also a bit more conversational. As for “regular” halter, I have a love/hate relationship with the event. I love how much energy and exuberance it exhibits. I hate how much rough handling went on and how much politics played a role in the rankings. By “rough handling,” I mean constant yanking on the lead rope and threatening with the whip. A number of the horses (yearlings especially) looked tense and frightened. Any incorrect movement, such as breaking into a canter or having the incorrect stance during lineup, would bring a crank on the lead and a snap on the back legs with the whip. I do not think this shows the breed in the best light. Outsiders don’t understand what’s going on or what the judges are looking for. A number of spectators asked me about judging criteria because they had NO IDEA based on what they were watching. And this is where politics comes in. To be fair, I can understand that the Big Name Trainers are going to get the Big Name Horses. This makes sense. But there is something amiss when I can name the top three places in any halter class based solely on who holds the lead line. Give me a list of the handlers/trainers and I’ll tell you which horses are going to place…I don’t need to see the horses. Okay, rant from the peanut gallery is over, time for pictures!
Native Costume
I could'a been a contender.
Halter Action
The crowd favorite.
Won his class and got Reserve Champion for Junior  Stallions. 

Nothing says "Arabian Horse Show" like an owl.
Yearling Halter


The Boggs himself. One of the top 3 halter trainers

Sport Horse. This handler lady was nice to me.
Half-Arab Native Costume

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Not T-Rex

This may come as a shock to many people, but there were more dinosaurs than Tyrannosaurus, Triceratops, Stegosaurus, and those long-necked ones (and for goodness sake, pterodactyl was NOT a dinosaur). It’s true. You see, T-Rex was the hot, popular, talented, athletic girl (or guy) of Mesozoic High (their mascot was the Trojan, oddly enough). Everyone knew her and wanted to be her, date her, or burn her (or, him, etc.). But let’s not forget the other cast of characters. Who could forget that super-geek-turned-billionaire-by-30, Troodon. Or that star quarterback who secretly wrote poetry, Lusotitan. Or that super-annoying drama student, Therizinosaurus, who went from hall to hall gesticulating and quoting Mamet. I’m going to end this stupid metaphor now. But the point is, there are a lot of interesting yet relatively unheard-of dinosaurs out there just waiting for a walk-on role in a Spielberg movie. Sorry for that metaphor too.

Below a handful of the other (not T-Rex) big carnivorous dinosaurs;

Carnotaurus: This mid-Cretaceous carnivore grew to 25ft and weighed up to a ton. They were impressive, but also hilarious. You see, Carnotaurus had a short, yet tall head with horns over each eye. They also had stumpy arms…super stumpy arms. Carnotaurus arms make Tyrannosaur arms seem willowy by comparison. Plus their arms were fatter. They were still badass though. I mean, something with a name like “meat-eating bull” is going to be pretty badass.
 Allosaurus: I’m a fan of Allosaurus. Good old Al was a big player in the late Jurassic. This 45ft long theropod was widely distributed and is now one of the most well-studied dinosaurs. Allosaurus was smaller than a T-Rex, but still an apex predator. Its three-fingered arms were usable too! Plus it had a ridge-like crest in front of each eye, giving it a dash of exoticism, without the silliness of a flashier feature, like a sail on its back.
 Acrocanthosaurus: Speaking of things with sails on its back, Acrocanthosaurus was an early Cretaceous predator. I’m glad I wasn’t born in the early Cretaceous, because as soon as I would spot Acrocanthosaurus with its Allosaur-like body and thick fin down its back, I would laugh. Then I would be eaten. I just can’t take the sail-dinos seriously (Spinosaurus and I aren’t talking anymore).
 Megalosaurus: Megalosaurus was the first dinosaur to be discovered and properly (scientifically) studied. Because it was the first, it got the lamest name, which means “big lizard.” Personally, I think that name sucks. Another indignity this big lizard suffered was being the dumping ground of mistakenly-assigned Jurassic bones found in Europe. Fortunately, we haven’t been using this genus as a wastebasket in more recent years. You’re welcome, Megalosaurus. 
Updated Version
Victorian Version

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Sexy Studs of Science: Dr. Robert Bakker

When you first see him he looks rugged with his wide-brimmed hat and magnificent grey beard. But look closer. Look into those eyes. You’ll find the soul of the rock-star of paleontology. Men want to have a beer with him and women…want to have a beer with him. His name is Robert Bakker – man, myth, legend – and he kicks ass.

Bakker, paleontologist extraordinaire, along with his mentor, Dr. John Ostrom, sparked the “Dinosaur Renaissance” which continues to this day. He helped popularize the concept that dinosaurs were warm-blooded, that dinosaurs had feathers, found evidence that Allosaurus cared for their young, and worked as an advisor for Jurassic Park. Currently, he is Curator of Paleontology for the Houston Museum of Natural Science. He is also a sexy, sexy man.

Born in New Jersey in 1945, Bakker is no ordinary paleontologist. He is also an artist, writer (he wrote the FANTASTIC novel, Raptor Red), and Christian minister. That’s right; he is a paleontologist and a minister! Personally, I think that makes him magical. He finds no conflict between evolutionary science and faith.  I’m pretty sure he is the offspring of Gandalf and Indiana Jones.

As far as his personal life goes, he has supposedly been married four times. I’m not sure if he is currently married, but if not, hooray! Now sit back and enjoy some photos of the super-sexy scientist!
I love this man.
Even Gorgosaurus loves him. 
Just look into those eyes.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Lesser-Known Geniuses

Dolphins and chimps seem to get all the limelight, what with their fancy self-recognition and sign language abilities. But they aren’t the only animals smarter than your toddler, oh no! If dolphins are the NASA spokespeople of the animal world, then the following creatures are the homelier engineers and astrophysicists that do the real work. Please forgive these analogies.

Crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos): These grim-looking eaters of carrion are highly intelligent. Studies have shown that they can identify human faces, use tools to catch food, and learn by observation. Crows in Australia have been able to hunt the poison-skinned cane toads by flipping the amphibians onto their backs and eating their innards. This practice has spread from group to group via observation. It is also thought that crows have episodic memory. So the next time you look into the black eyes of the crow in front of your house, remember that it probably recognizes you.
I'm constantly watching you.
Pigs (Sus scrofa domesticus): These hideous and thoroughly un-kosher beasts are surprisingly intelligent. Pigs crave novelty and love investigating things with their snouts. As pets, they can learn tricks and are often compared to dogs. They can also be trained to hunt truffles, much as a bloodhound is trained to hunt murder victims. So, the next time you eat bacon, remember that you’re eating an animal that is likely smarter than your dog.
Smarter than your dalmatian.
Octopuses (Octopus vulgaris): Yes! The plural of octopus is octopuses and NOT octopi! Now that we know that we can move one. These eight-legged freaks of the deep are super smart, which scares me. They have both long and short-term memory and can learn to navigate mazes. In labs, they can identify different objects and shapes. They also seem to enjoy playing with toys. Unlike any other known invertebrate, octopuses can use tools. In aquariums, they are notorious escape artists. Perhaps the creepiest aspect of octopus intelligence is the fact they learn little from their parents. They just seem to know things.

In my garden, under the sea.

Other smarty-pants animals include; mockingbirds, elephants, and rats. Hooray!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Inbreeding, its a Bad Thing

The above statement may seem obvious enough, but many animal breeders practice it with alarming frequency. The topic of inbreeding (or “linebreeding” if the baby turns out okay) has been on my mind for a while now. I know it was utilized to “fix” desirable traits in many registered purebred horses, but I didn’t really ponder the frequency of inbreeding until recently. And it’s not just horses. The family tree of most purebred dogs is now a bush. A tiny, tiny bush. The BBC documentary, “Pedigree Dogs Exposed,” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJQdYG2WHoE&feature=related) really opened my eyes to the problems of severe inbreeding in dogs. These problems include; bone and joint disorders (German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Great Danes, many more), obsessive compulsive disorder (Dobermans), epilepsy (Boxers and others),  Mitral valve dysplasia (King Charles Spaniels), brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome (Boston Terriers, Pugs, Pekingese), deafness (Dalmatians), Dermoid sinus (Rhodesian Ridgebacks), and many types of cancer. Wonderful. An article in this month’s National Geographic Magazine about dog traits proved to be quite illuminating. Discussing genetic disease, the article states that “because dogs have been genetically segregated into breeds developed from just a few original individuals, each breed has a much smaller set of errant genes – often only one or two – underlying the disease.” The article continues by stating “the possibilities are especially abundant for cancer, certain types of which can show up as often as 60 percent of the time in some dog breeds but only once in every 10,000 humans.” A 60 percent cancer rate? That is CRAZY! Can’t we do some outcrossing here to improve the health of dogs? Will the world end if we cross our German Shepherds with a few Belgian Malinois to boost genetic diversity? I admit, I am not a dog person, so I’ll leave it up to the dog fans to figure out what sort of breeds should be “genetically expanded” with what.
A German Shepherd show dog. Look at those back legs.
What the German Shepherd used to look like. 
Back to horses. My favorite breed, the Arabian, exhibits lots of “linebreeding” in certain horse families. Egyptian Arabians are particularly linebred. Trying to find an Egyptian Arabian without Nazeer (a popular stallion who produced other popular stallions) in its pedigree is like trying to find a skinny person in Houston – they exist, but just barely. Most linebred horses turn out fine. Others are not so lucky. SCIDS (severe combined immune deficiency disorder) crops up from time to time within the Arabian breed, as does CA (Cerebellar Abiotrophy). Now, disease and disorders will exist up in any group of animals, but inbreeding tends to increase the frequency of problems. If a mare has X disorder and is bred to an unrelated stallion without the disorder, the baby may be healthy (depending on the disorder). But if we breed that same mare with her grandfather who also happens to be a carrier of X, then the resulting foal is more likely to inherit the disease. This is an oversimplification, of course. Determining the likelihood of disorders depends upon many more variables.
Nazeer, the "Father Abraham" of Egyptian Arabians.
Let’s turn to Quarter Horses now. HERDA (Hereditary Equine Regional Dermal Asthenia) is a disease that affects this breed (and related breeds). This disease causes the skin to separate between the superficial and deep dermal layers…which means the skin stretches and sloughs off! That is nasty. The disease is caused by a homozygous recessive gene that has been traced back to ONE stallion, Poco Bueno. A horse must have two copies of the gene in order to express the horrifying skin condition. Another genetic horror story that plagues Quarter Horses is HYPP (Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis). This condition is similar to epilepsy and can be traced to another popular stallion, Impressive. This condition is dominant, so even one copy of the gene will cause symptoms. Apparently, HYPP occurs in one in fifty Quarter Horses. All of these horses can be traced back to the same stallion. Fortunately for Quarter Horses, they are the most popular breed in the world and have numbers on their side. It should be fairly easy to find outcross pedigrees to breed with. Egyptian Arabians aren’t so lucky. I’m glad Nazeer didn’t carry any of these diseases or the Egyptian Arabian would be in hot water.
Boco Bueno
Are there solutions to these genetic problems? An obvious answer is outcrossing. Simply breed more non-related or super-distantly related individuals. Horse and dog breeders should also utilize the wonders of modern science and get their breeding stock tested for genetic disorders. All of the above-mentioned horse disorders can be discovered through DNA testing. Testing animals will cost a little bit more money, but the health of the animal is worth it. Plus, no one said horse breeding was a cheap hobby.  Rant over…for now.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

“You Look Delicious” –any cat

The domesticated housecat may seem innocuous, but deep inside that feline brain lurks an opportunistic genius. This is part of the reason why I love cats. Don’t get me wrong, dogs are nice, but I want a pet that isn’t afraid of eating my corpse if I die inside the house. And that’s exactly what a housecat would do.  Of course, this is a broad generalization. Some cats are sweet little angels that would mourn the loss of their human forever while others, including my cat, will get hungry if their human is still for more than a minute.

The cat’s pragmatic nature probably explains why they are the most popular pet in the world (also, their small size makes them easier to hoard). It is believed that cats domesticated humans at least 9,500 years ago in the Fertile Crescent or Egypt. The African wildcat, or Felis silvestris lybica, is believed to be the ancestor of today’s housecat. Unlike the easily manipulated dog, cats have not undergone much physical or behavioral change after 9,000 years of human tinkering. Aside from a few color and coat changes, the housecat still looks (and acts) remarkably like its wild counterpart. Currently, there are two main theories as to how the cat left the wild and ended up in our house. Some believe that humans actively selected cats to hunt vermin. Others believe that humans gradually accepted the presence of cats as the felines hunted vermin in the increasingly infested human habitations. In other words, the relationship was symbiotic. I tend to agree with the latter theory. After all, who would actively try to “train” a cat to do anything? Cats don’t care what you want them to do. As Eric Cartman would say, they do what they want.

Fun Fact: Cats walk with a “pacing” gate. This means the legs on the same side of the body move at the same time. Camels and giraffe do this too. So do many standardbred harness horses.

Housecats have learned many new traits during their time with humans. They are much more vocal than their wild counterparts, exhibiting a wide range of vocalizations. A simple “meow” means “please feed me,” while a longer “meeeoowww” means either, “feed me now,” “it’s been literally minutes since I was last fed,” or “I’m in heat.” Some cats will make short “eep” sounds. These sounds roughly translate to “food?” A growl means “get the f*** back!” and a purr indicates happiness at having been fed. If a cat swishes its tail back and forth while making short “ack ack ack” noises, it probably wants to kill and devour something. Remove any delicious babies from the vicinity if the cat starts exhibiting this behavior.   

Cats have played an important part in human mythology. The Egyptian goddess Bast is associated with felines, and is often depicted in cat form. Freyja, a Norse goddess, is also a “cat person.” In fact, her chariot is pulled by cats, which is hilarious. Even the Islamic prophet Muhammad was a fan of cats. His favorite cat was named Muezza. So let’s all love cats, shall we?
The cat depicted above is Lady Toes, Oracle of Irvine, Queen of the Galaxy, Commander of Fear, Keeper of Secrets Under the Mountain, Grand Poobah of Existence. Gaze in awe at her magnificence. 

Friday, January 20, 2012

La Brea Tar Pits: the Happiest Place on Earth!

It may be hard to believe, but I was a rather odd child growing up. Instead of going to amusement parks and vapid moving-picture shows, I was taken by my father to museums. One of my favorites was the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. I still love that place and look fondly back on those wondrous and mystical outings. I remember the shine of the sun reflecting off of the tar, the plucky bubbles constantly forming on the black surface water, the fiberglass mammoth sinking to its artistically-rendered death as its mate and baby watch from the shore. Ah, the fond memories of childhood! I used to wish that all of Los Angeles could be a vast Pleistocene plane dotted with gleaming pits of tar. Actually, that is still my wish.

For those of you wishing to experience joy and excitement for yourselves, I suggest you pay Rancho de la Brea a visit. The park is nice, but the tar pits are nicer! Pit 91 is especially interesting as it is the only one being actively excavated. It’s basically a treasure trove of awesome. Occasionally, new bubbles of tar will emerge from under the parking lot or lawn. They are usually marked off with an orange cone. If you see one, be sure to point at it and giggle.  

The Page Museum is the (mostly underground) building where the fossils are sorted, cleaned, mounted and displayed. It is a small but abundant museum complete with extinct bison, smilodon, camel, prehistoric horses, a colombian mammoth, and a TON of dire wolf skulls. Seriously, if dire wolf skulls were currency, the Page Museum would never have to ask for donations.

So now that you know this place exists, drop everything you are doing and go visit it! I assure you, it is magical. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Red Bucket Equine Rescue

This is a random post, but Red Bucket Equine Rescue is being forced to leave the Huntington Central Park Equestrian Center. There will be a story about their situation tonight at 10pm (Pacific) on Fox News (it may just be local news, not sure). Red Bucket is a great non-profit. They save and rehabilitate neglected and abused horses and then try to find them homes. Their adoption policy is very strict, which is good, and they do background/facility checks. You can read more about their situation here: http://redbucketrescue.org/media/rescued-horses-given-30-days-to-leave-h-b-home/

If you have some spare change lying around waiting to be given to a good cause, Red Bucket would appreciate any donations. Consider donating your monthly Starbucks allowance.

I will be back to "regular" posting soon.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

An Assortment of Antelope

Because I like antelope…in no particular order.
Lesser Kudu (Tragelaphus imberbis): The lesser kudu, although not nearly as famous as their “greater” cousins, are still pretty cool. They are slightly smaller than the greater kudu, standing at about 35 to 43 inches tall at the shoulder. Males are grey-brown in color while females are more reddish. Both sexes have white stripes going down their backs. Both lesser and greater kudu males have spiral horns. Lesser kudu can be found in East Africa eating leaves, playing badminton, and trying not to let their population dip below 118,000 individuals. Although considered the less-interesting accountant cousin to the greater kudu, the lesser kudu are one of the fastest antelope. So take that greater kudu.
Sable Antelope (Hippotragus niger): Another inhabitant of the woodland of East Africa is the sable antelope, so named because the male of the species is sable (a fancy way of saying “really dark brown”). Females are slightly less dark and roam in herds led by a single bull. More progressive than other antelope, the sable antelope exhibits horns in both sexes, although those of the male tend to be longer (insert joke here:____________________________). Their scimitar-shaped horns make the sable antelope quite formidable, and are used to fight off predator attack. Unfortunately, other creatures, notably human hunters, have found those horns useful too (for wall decorating), and sable antelope numbers are in a slight decline. Sad day.

Gerenuk (Litocranius walleri): If E.T. and Janice Dickenson had a baby, and that baby was also an antelope, it would be a gerenuk. These creatures are the freaks of the antelope world, but they are awesome freaks. Gerenuk are a long-necked antelope found in East African scrubland. The male and female look similar, although only the male have horns. They are the only member of the genus Litocranius, which is sad. As their long necks suggest, gerenuk eat leaves from bushes and trees that are high up. The look super cute when they eat. They stand on their little skinny legs and lift their little skinny necks and stretch out their little skinny tongues and eat leaves. They also tend to go up on their hind legs if the leaves are too high. If I ever become a crazy multi-billionaire with a menagerie, I want some gerenuk in that menagerie.

Well, that’s enough antelope for now. A few more may show up on this blog eventually, but antelope information is best acquired in manageable batches.