Law, politics, pop culture, sports, and a touch of Oregon.
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We've recently had a problem with a mole (or maybe more than one) in our front yard. In addition to the raised tunnels in the mulched side areas, tufts of dirt started showing up on part of our lawn. At first, we were hoping that we could maybe engage in some non-lethal methods to make the moles go away, but Internet research suggested that ultrasonic speakers, smoke, and other such methods were not particularly effective.
So I headed down to Home Depot and bought some of these brutal but effective traps. My dad happened to be in town and has dealt with gophers, so he had a good idea of where to look for the tunnels. The traps are so robust, though, that he wasn't able to overcome the spring's tension to set it, so I armed the traps.
We hadn't had any new tunnels or dirt clumps, so I thought maybe the moles had left, or perhaps the trap worked. I uncovered the first trap and found it still armed, so I replaced it and moved on to the second trap.
Success! It had gone off, so I put on some gloves and pulled it out. Sure enough, there was a mole crushed in between the trap's jaws. I felt kind of bad, as it was a fellow mammal, and how was it to know that it was disturbing our yard? And yet, there it was, tunneling freely one moment, and then the next, BLAMMM!
Oh well. I still have to clean the trap (it wasn't really bloody or anything, but I should disinfect it all the same) and then reset it in case there are any more moles around.
When I'm not reading law-related non-fiction books (mostly about terrorism/national security), I have a fondness for adventure thrillers, especially those by Alistair MacLean, Desmond Bagley, Lee Child, Michael Connelly, and others. But I have a special weakness for a particular subset of thriller fiction that basically asks "what could possibly go wrong with that idea?"
The prime example of this kind of story, of course, is Michael Crichton's "Jurassic Park." Recreate dinosaurs on an island as part of a dinosaur zoo? What could possibly go wrong? Many of the techno-thrillers by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child are also prime examples, as well as Childs' solo effort, "Terminal Freeze," in which a reality TV crew journey up to the Arctic to record the thawing out of what's believed to be a sabertooth tiger carcass in a block of ice. I suppose the whole alien-government conspiracy mythology of the old "X-Files" would qualify too.
Anyway, cloning mammoth DNA and then impregnating a female African elephant with the embroyo . . . what could possibly go wrong?!? Not to mention, with global warming and all, would you really want to be a massively furry woolly mammoth in today's world? (Yes, I know that the scientists are saying they'll decide whether to go through with the implantation after they see if it works.)
Years ago, back when I was still living in Los Angeles, I visited the San Diego Zoo and felt really bad when I saw that the elephants had a relatively small amount of space. Then I felt really bad when I saw one of the elephants reach around the gate and tug on the giant padlock that kept it locked inside. After that, I stopped going to the San Diego Zoo and went instead to its sister facility, the San Diego Wild Animal Park.
Over this winter break, I headed down to Southern California and, having heard about the remodeled elephant exhibit at the San Diego Zoo, decided to give it another try.
This is only part of the exhibit! For a zoo, it's a big exhibit, where seven elephants can roam without feeling crowded.
I have always wondered, though, when zoos put Asian and African elephants together, what do the elephants think? I mean, they're not even the same genus -- Asian elephants are elephas maximus, while African elephants are loxondonta africana. Sure, they're in the same family, elephantidae, but it would make more sense to put, say, lions and tigers in the same exhibit, since those are both in the panthera genus. Put another way, humans are in the family hominidae (and genus/species homo sapien), along with chimpanzees (genus pan). Putting Asian and African elephants together because they look kind of the same (tusks, trunks) is like putting humans with chimps . . . .
In an effort to live up to its reputation as a "green" city, Portland has decided to try a new system of garbage collection that will force residents to compost. It used to be that our trash and recycling bins were picked up once a week, and yard waste was picked up once every two weeks. In the test zone, which includes our home, the yard waste and garbage schedules switched. In addition, the city dropped off a small gray "Portland Composts!" bucket for collecting discarded food and the like. You're supposed to collect food waste in the bucket, then dump the bucket's contents into the yard waste bin.
In the beginning, I was fairly vigilant about emptying the bucket every night and then cleaning it. Then I got less vigilant, and this morning, we awoke to a kitchen counter full of ants . . . . AHHHH!!!
By the way, we discovered a homemade ant-icide formula -- 1 part boric acid, 2 parts sugar, dissolved in water, soaked into cotton balls. Ants come for the sugar and take boric acid back to their nest. Boric acid is lethal to ants. (Yea for chemical warfare?)
I have a fascination with hybrid animals, like ligers, but I also wonder how many of these unusual offspring matings are in any sense consensual. I mean, I realize that consent in the animal world is going to be judged by different standards than in the human world, but still, you have to ask what the female is thinking when approached by a strange creature. . . .
Anyway, a zedonk (zebra-donkey hybrid) was born recently in an animal preserve:
Donkeys and zebras don't usually mate, but zedonks turn up occasionally.
Yesterday evening, I saw two rabbits in our backyard, which is not uncommon in the spring. How sweet, I thought, they're playing together.
I was filling the tub for my son's bath, so I had some time to relax and watch the rabbits. One of the rabbits kept sneaking up from behind on the other one, sniffing the other one's butt, and then . . . was it trying to mount the other rabbit?
The second rabbit did not appreciate these advances, and spun around quickly. The first rabbit actually stood up briefly on his back legs in a defensive posture. The second rabbit then moved away and started nibbling on grass. The first rabbit again crept up and attempted to engage in the same behavior as before, prompting the same reaction from the second rabbit.
I started wondering, do rabbits engage in sexual harrassment?