Find me anew @ katsuninken
July 23rd, 2008
May 19th, 2007
This will be the last post ever to this journal. Before it ended because I left for a year, and I had no internet access. This time, even though I'm still doing the gone for a year thing, I'm quitting this journal for different reasons. That's not to say I won't journal anymore; in fact, odds are I most likely will under another name at some point in the future. However, because I will be moving around so much and internet access will not be readily available, said posts will be few and far between.
In the meantime, here's what I know to be true:
As I predicted last year, Kentucky is on the way out. No one is even in denial about this fact anymore. In fact, all of the gubernatorial candidates regardless of party even agree on this fact. Kentucky had problems before, but Ernie Fletcher has turned out to be the George W. Bush of the Bluegrass, piloting a state on a comeback from coal devastation into the ground. Kentucky's backslide is pretty much the only thing on everyone's lips as far as political candidates go.
Since I moved here in 2000, Kentucky has gradually become poorer and poorer. We have fallen from the 11th poorest state in the Union to 6th. Anyone that has ever seen the depravity that is West Virginia or Mississippi can appreciate what those rankings really mean. To be in the top 10 poorest states is to be in the company of the condemned. Kentucky has just arrived in those ignominious and pitiable ranks.
And it gets worse.
Louisville has the highest rate of numerous kinds of cancer in the country and we trend toward ranking in the top 10 cities with the poorest air quality, yet our health care system is useless to those among the uninsured. So on top of being poor, Kentucky is sick. And on top of being poor and sick, we are rapidly becoming jobless as staples like GE and Ford either leave the area or are in the process of folding completely. Ford Motor Co. has three major automotive plants here, but the company recently posted a $12 BILLION (yes, I said BILLION) dollar loss and is in the process of closing all of their operations here. And thanks to the infamous Kentucky public education system, which also ranks in the top 10 worst in the country, the only infill jobs we get are low wage. In the last 4 years, Kentucky has lost over $2,000 in mean income across the board. The wages are dropping, the bring home pay is dropping, the benefits are dropping, even the number of available full time, non-contract jobs are dropping in spite of efforts to bring jobs to Kentucky.
It's starting to look like a death spiral.
There is a glimmer of hope on the horizon for Kentucky, but that glimmer is a faint one. Here we sit in the land of world famous distilleries. Here we sit in a state that is still vastly agrarian. Wait... I think I see something here... crops distilleries = biofuels! In fact, using that formula is a big issue with many of the gubernatorial hopefuls out looking for my vote come the May 22 primary. However, this is Kentucky, and I am well aware of what a dog and pony show the campaigning is. I still remember Anne Northup (formerly Republican US Congress, now Republican KY gubernatorial candidate) campaigning in the state's largest gay club rallying support in the gay sector to promptly give us all the shaft and support a Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage once she got to The Hill.
Everything in Kentucky has a catch. And a price.
The catch and the price here is Big Coal. As funny as that should be, Big Coal still has Kentucky by the gonadal region. Mountaintop Removal Mining is literally killing eastern Kentucky. Eastern Kentucky is also abjectly impoverished. So the touring politicians are talking out both sides of their head. They scare the eastern Kentuckians into thinking they'll be even more without if they restrict, legislate. or do away with Big Coal, and that the destruction of water sources and air quality is necessary for progress. Here in the bastion of reason that is Louisville, they go on and on about the scourge that is Big Coal and Mountaintop Removal Mining. Some hedge their bets, trying to please everyone with a plan that utilizes coal and biofuels.
Consider me a skeptic.
The sale of national forest land, the I-66 project, Beargrass Creek covered in foam. Kentucky's got a lot of problems. Most of which have some pretty simple solutions. But there's no money to be made in solutions. And that's why I'm leaving. I'm off to try to find a place where people actually want solutions and are willing to do what it takes to make those solutions happen. Idealist? Sure. Outside my mind? Probably, but I'd rather go out knowing I tried than turning a blind eye to the broken machine tearing this place apart. I also cannot sit here anymore while the greatest city in the nation (no, Louisville, you twit!) quietly dies. Without Louisville, there is no Kentucky. Period.
But like I said before, there is hope.
And if Kentucky steps up and does the right thing and uses that simplistic but golden formula, I'll be back. I'll be back not only ready to get in the trenches and help fight the fight to get this place back on its feet again, I'll be back armed with the weapons to fight that battle. And if it chooses not to step up, then I will take what I have leaned and use it somewhere where it will do some good. I still believe there are still places in this world where people still care about this mudball we live on.
I WILL NOT become jaded. I will not give up. I will do something or I will die trying. I still believe that home is worth fighting for. I still believe people can change. I still believe in higher powers. I still believe in miracles. And I still believe that people can be moved, be touched, be healed and be more than they are.
Most important, though, is I still believe.
May 13th, 2007
The constant needs of those around me are taking their toll, but I endure. It will all be over soon. Just one more week and freedom is mine. I have let their hunger cripple me in the past, feeling as though it was my duty to always try to quell their hungers and slake their thirsts. It's not, and I give no more.
Here in the still quiet, I have the option to think about the raging storm of anger inside my head, as I am always ine to confront whatever is within me to attempt to solve it, befriend it, or destroy it, whichever the case requires. It got me to thinking about how very much like the weather human emotions are.
For example, where I am it has been unusually dry. Humidity here is typically suffocatingly high. And because it has been so very low, storm systems that pass through here fizzle out and die, having all of their moisture sucked out upon impact with this dry pocket we are under. One particularly impressive storm system came though and looked promising, but it only managed a drizzle before the glowering clouds themselves were dissolved.
The rule of weather is simple- a set weather event will continue until A- it runs out of energy and the imbalance that created it is resolved, or B- another weather event causes movement or change.
All I know is, right now, I wish it would rain.
So much building up to lead to nothing, so much effort exerted just to dry up at the last minute. We need rain.
I am a great storm, trapped in a pocket of dry air, unable to release my energy and be resolved. My storm clouds boil only to dissipate. I want my lightning to discharge, my thunder to shake the windows, my winds to howl and my rain to swell the rivers. But the air is so dry, so the energy continues to build. It is not invisible, it is not unknown, in fact anyone can see it every day as the clouds try once more to form, only to fade back into the hazy blue once again.
One day, though, I know the winds will shift, and a system will move in from the south bringing high humidity and relief from the dry, stale air. And with that wind of change will come the storm. I will stand in the rain and I will be washed clean. And I will be free once again.
May 1st, 2007
Duck Penises Show "Arms Race" Between Sexes: Study
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Several species of ducks have evolved complicated genitals in what appears to be an "arms race" between the sexes, researchers reported on Tuesday.
And females may be coming out ahead, said the team of biologists at Yale University in Connecticut and the University of Sheffield in Britain.
Their findings not only open a window into a little-studied area of biology, but could help shed light on how evolution works to help both males and females control their own breeding, the researchers said.
Patricia Brennan of both Yale and Sheffield was trying to figure out why some species of birds have penises and some do not.
"Birds are the only group where it mostly has been lost -- 97 percent of birds do not have phalluses at all," Brennan said in a telephone interview.
"So if it is such a handy tool, why don't they have them any more?" Brennan asked.
Instead, they mate using what biologists call a "cloacal kiss" -- a brief touch of the single opening that birds of both sexes have for disposing of waste and that both eggs and sperm come out of.
Brennan noted that in many species, females choose a mate after he puts on an elaborate courtship display, and breeding pairs are often monogamous.
An exception is ducks -- especially mallards. Although mallards pair off to mate, females are often raped by stray males.
Yet studies show that these rapes do not pay off for the males. "Even in a species where 40 percent of the copulations are forced copulations, the ducklings still are mostly sired by the mates," Brennan said.
"That implies the females may have some kind of mechanism that allows them to keep control of the paternity."
So Brennan's team looked at a lot of duck bottoms.
What they found surprised them -- corkscrew-shaped oviducts, with plenty of potential dead-ends.
"Interestingly, the male phallus is also a spiral, but it twists in the opposite, counterclockwise, direction," said Yale ornithologist Richard Prum in a statement.
"So, the twists in the oviduct appear designed to exclude the opposing twists of the male phallus. It's an exquisite anti-lock-and-key system."
Brennan believes females evolved convoluted oviducts to foil the male rapists.
"You can envision an evolutionary scenario that, as the male phallus increases in size, the female creates more barriers. You get this evolutionary arms race," Brennan said.
Only if the female is relaxed and cooperative can the male's sperm get anywhere near the unfertilized eggs, the researchers suggest.
"What I think is really cool is this does speak a lot about the ability of the female to have these cryptic mechanisms of choice," Brennan said.
And it may mean something for people. "We can expect that these types of antagonistic traits are probably widespread and are likely part of the reproductive interactions of all sorts of animals, including humans," Brennan said.
The study is available online in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS One .
March 27th, 2007
More than 6,000 minks were "liberated" by the Animal Liberation Front from a British mink farm. A spokesperson claims the group was attempting to save the predators from death by fur coat. The animals, which are known as voracious hunters and killers, terrorized an area around the town of Ringwood, killing pets, farm animals and endangered wild animals, and even attacking a fisherman. Many of the animals returned to the mink farm, where it turned out they were safer than their brethren, who were gunned down and run over by locals. According to BBC News, other animal rights organizations condemned the release as an environmental disaster and a severe setback for their cause.
What follows is one of the representative news articles about this invasion brought on by good intentions gone horribly wrong:
In what must have seemed like a brilliant idea at the time, British animal-rights activists sneaked onto the grounds of a mink farm, cut through wire fences and gave
6,500 minkstheir freedom instead of a future as fur coats.
But the illegal act has backfired as few British animal-liberation missions ever have. Released into the rich countryside of England's southern coast, the thousands of minks have gone on a rampage driven by insatiable hunger and equally insatiable mink-like curiosity.
Domestic pets and farm animals
--including cats, hamsters, chickens, guinea pigs and hens --have been pursued and killed. Wild animals --including the endangered water vole, a type of water rat --are under attack. Local fisheries are threatened.
And local residents, including the owners of a wild bird sanctuary where three birds were killed in mink attacks Sunday and Monday, have taken up arms. One of the dead birds was a beloved, 14-year-old kestrel named Spitfire who made countless educational trips to local schools.
The bird sanctuary "has become a restaurant for mink," said angry sanctuary manager Chris Milsom, who has armed himself with a shotgun to join other residents on mink hunts. Monday, Milsom showed the results of his latest foray: He upended a plastic grocery bag and five small, brown, furry and very dead minks fell onto the ground.
A group called Animal Liberation Front is believed responsible for the mink release from the Crow Hill Farm, although no one has stepped forward to formally take responsibility for the action.
Robin Webb, the group's news-media spokesman, defended the release Tuesday
--even though hundreds of the freed minks are now being gunned down by locals, except for those that are being run over by cars. Hundreds more have been returning on their own to the mink farm, though about 3,000 were believed still on the loose.
"Certainly some people may disagree with it, but the mink which have been shot and killed, had they remained where they were, they would have been killed in a barbarous manner to make fur coats which nobody needs," Webb said.
Webb said the released minks could be expected to "disperse" among an existing British wild mink population already numbering in the tens of thousands. Those wild minks are, ironically, the descendants of earlier fur-farm escapees imported from America to England by mink breeders in the 1920s.
But rather than mix with local wild minks, the newly freed minks seem to have minds all their own.
Several have wandered nonchalantly into local homes, including that of Crow Hill resident Christine Pinder. She was shocked when a mink
--which she at first thought was a kitten --appeared in her bedroom and jumped at the throat of her pet dog.
"I took my husband's walking stick and I whopped it," she said.
Other minks have walked into a local 17th-century pub, the Crown Tap, with pub-goers unsuccessfully giving chase.
In the charming, thatched-roof village of Burley Lawn, resident Ed Gurd was alarmed to find a mink inside his house intently studying the cage of his daughter's pet hamster, Honey, as if it were contemplating lunch.
Those who freed the minks, Gurd said, "are totally irresponsible because of the destruction they're causing of the local wildlife. "
Great Britain has seen many animal-rights actions in the past: Wild cats have been released from Scottish zoos; the export of British veal has been blocked at French ports; even domestic salmon have been freed from Scottish fish farms.
But few actions have upset the British as much as this one.
"Wanted Dead or Alive: 3,000 Vicious Killers" said the headline in The Daily Telegraph.
Officials and police were advising residents in the Crow Hill area to keep small domestic pets indoors
--though they were quick to assure locals that children are safe from mink attacks unless they grab at the long, thin animals, which have sharp teeth.
In addition to the various beloved pets and indigenous wildlife killed by these predators, three extremely rare owls also fell prey to them. Minks broke into the wildlife sanctuary where the owls were housed and made short work of them.
A fisherman was also attacked in that "liberation."
You'd think one such ecological disaster would be enough to convince even the most diehard animal rights activist that releasing minks into a countryside is less than a brilliant idea. Ah, but you'd be wrong.
In a later incident, the Animal Liberation Front set yet another 8,000 minks loose on Britain. Most of the vermin remained within the farm's boundaries, but an estimated 2,000 got out into the neighbouring area. Homeowners were warned to keep their doors and windows locked, and pets and children inside for the duration.
A similar "liberation" took place in Finland. Thousands of minks there were released into the wild by an unnamed animal activist group. Many of the minks were soon killed on highways or fell to preying on each other.
~ Statue of Liberty Inscription
By Emily Bazar, USA TODAY
full article here.
Orlando, Dallas, Las Vegas and Wilmington, N.C., began enforcing such laws last year. Some are being challenged.
Last November, a federal judge blocked the Las Vegas law banning food giveaways to the poor in city parks. In Dallas, two ministries are suing, arguing that the law violates religious freedom.
"Going after the volunteers is new," says Michael Stoops of the National Coalition for the Homeless. "They think that by not feeding people, it will make the homeless people leave."
City officials say the rules were prompted by complaints about crime and food safety. Some say they want control over locations so homeless people can also get services such as addiction counseling and job training.
"The feedings were happening several times a week" in parking lots and sidewalks downtown, says Dewey Harris, director of Wilmington's Community Services Department. "A lot of the merchants said, 'We feel uncomfortable when you have all these homeless being fed downtown when we're trying to attract tourists.' "
Last March, the city restricted meals on public property to designated locations and required a permit. One spot has been approved: a city park parking lot.
Dallas also limits outdoor food giveaways to approved locations. Those distributing food must take a food-handling course and get a city permit, says Karen Rayzer, director of environmental and health services. A violator can be fined $2,000.
Orlando adopted an ordinance in July that requires a permit to serve more than 25 people in a park within 2 miles of City Hall, where most food giveaways were taking place. An applicant may serve twice a year in each park.
"This ordinance wasn't established to ban feeding," says city spokeswoman Heather Allebaugh. She acknowledges that some groups ignore the law.
City Commissioner Robert Stuart voted against it. He is executive director of the Christian Service Center for Central Florida, which feeds 325 homeless people a day but, as private property, is not affected.
"It's not fair to take a population without a home and make them criminals," he says. "And I don't think we ought to be limiting the opportunity to help others."
March 21st, 2007
I'm having a Whiskey Tango Foxtrot moment...
Pimp Your Dragon with Eragon's "Volksdragon"
Give your dragon an amped-up sound system, an advanced warfare package, or just polka-dots if that's your style.
Pimp Your Dragon at Volksdragon!
article link here.
The "chick-a-dee" call can have 10 to 15 "dees" at the end and varies in sound to encode information on the type of predator. It also calls in other small birds to mob the predator, Christopher Templeton of the University of Washington said in a telephone interview.
"In this case the nuthatch is able to discriminate the information in this call," said Templeton, a doctoral candidate.
The findings by Templeton and Erick Green, an associate professor of biological sciences at the University of Montana, are reported in this week's online edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Templeton had been studying chickadees and noticed their varying response to different alarm calls so he recorded them and watched the responses.
He found the songbirds warned of greater danger from small, agile raptors such as the pygmy owl rather than something larger and less maneuverable, like the great horned owl.
Since chickadees and nuthatches live in many of the same areas and are similar in size, he decided to see how the nuthatches reacted to chickadee warnings.
He placed speakers at the base of trees where nuthatches were present, but where there were no live chickadees, so their actions wouldn't tip off the nuthatches.
When the recorded warning calls were played, he reports, the nuthatches reacted appropriately.
The nuthatches formed into mobs, flicking their wings and swirling around the speakers when the warning was for small predators than for larger ones.
Mobbing is a defensive behavior, Templeton said, when large groups of small birds pester a predator.
"They're not enough to kill you or hurt you, but they are enough to make you want to go and sit somewhere else," he said.
"Mobbing seems to be a way of teaching birds which predators are dangerous. But we have no idea how nuthatches learn to interpret the chickadee calls," he said.
But, he added, it appears to be learned behavior because the mobbing calls of the two songbird species are very different.
So, does it work the other way? Do chickadees understand the warning calls of nuthatches?
"It wouldn't surprise me, but no one's looked to see if nuthatches have a similar amount of information in their call. Perhaps that's a project I should do," he said.
Charles Eldermire of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology called the finding "another interesting example of interspecific communication brought to light."
However, he said, "There is no way to tell if they are responding to 'encoded' information, or simply to intensity of the call."
"My main criticism hinges on the fact that they tested two categories of very different sounding calls, one of which averages twice the number of D notes than the other," he said.
"In many ways, I would consider these two calls as distinct, and that, it would seem, might be where the argument of importance gets a little murky," said Eldermire, who was not part of the research team.
Andre Dhondt, a professor of ornithology at Cornell, noted that "birds in general respond to each other's alarm calls."
Also, said Dhondt, who was not part of Templeton's research team, black-capped chickadees have been known to produce false alarm calls, causing other birds to fly away, leaving the cheating chickadees to enjoy a food source by itself.