A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Archive for October 2006

[LINK] On the intelligence of elephants

The Los Angeles Times reports that past suggestions that elephants are actually highly intelligent seem to be correct, for at least some elephants have passed the mirror test.

Cats may try to pick a fight with their image in a mirror. Dogs may bring a gift of food to what they think is a newfound friend. But humans and chimpanzees — and maybe dolphins — have long been thought to be the only species that primp and groom before the mirror because they recognize themselves.

Now elephants can be added to the list, researchers from the Yerkes National Primate Research Center and the Wildlife Conservation Society reported Monday in the online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Three female elephants at the Bronx Zoo in New York examined the insides of their mouths, studied their ears and showed other signs of self-awareness, said Yerkes graduate student Joshua M. Plotnik, a co-author along with Frans B. M. de Waal of Yerkes and Diana Reiss of the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Most important, one of the elephants, Happy, used her trunk to touch a mark on her head that she could see only in the mirror — a standard test of self-awareness developed 35 years ago by biologist Gordon R. Gallup Jr.

On a related note, Barbara Gowdy‘s The White Bone–about a community of elephants caught in a land ravaged by famine and hunting–is a good novel indeed.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 31, 2006 at 2:53 pm

[NON BLOG] FreeCell

Since we started dating back in May, I’ve picked up quite a few things from Jerry. A month ago or so, bitterlawngnome observed (jokingly?) that our speech patterns have begun to converge. I’ve not noticed that so much myself–I think–but I can attest to the enjoyment I’ve begun to take in the FreeCell. My success rate can still be measured in single-digit percentages after too many dozens of games, but I think that I’m hooked.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 31, 2006 at 2:47 pm

Posted in Assorted

Tagged with ,

[MUSIC] Cansei de Ser Sexy, “Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death From Above”

I’d heard Cansei de Ser Sexy‘s debut international single “Let’s Make Love and Listen to Death From Above” broadcast a couple of weekends ago on CBC Radio’s Saturday afternoon show Definitely Not the Opera. The video, thankfully, has been uploaded to YouTube.

I think I quite like the discopunk genre. Recommendations?

Written by Randy McDonald

October 28, 2006 at 2:47 pm

Posted in Assorted

Tagged with ,

[LINK] “There’s something about Oriana”

Oyvindstrommen’s takedown of Oriana Fallaci, “There’s something about Oriana”, makes for fantastic reading.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 25, 2006 at 9:25 pm

[BRIEF NOTE] Portable mp3 players: A force for community breakdown?

Monday, during their continuing visit to Toronto, my parents gave me a portable mp3 player, SanDisk‘s m240. By iPod standards, this player might not have that much capacity, capable of storing only a gigabyte’s worth of data in the form of several hundred songs. Still. I spent all last night transferring Eurythmics mp3s to this wonderful player, cursing my inability to locate a third USB port on my desktop as I transferred B-sides, remixed, live versions, and the like over. I’m using it right now. (1999’s “I’ve Tried Everything” sounds nice.)

On the subway ride to work today, I suddenly remembered Andrew Sullivan’s contentious argument that iPods and their kin are directly contributing to the breakdown of social capital, by ensuring the fragmentation of listening audiences and crowds into individuals each intent on living out the requirements of their own highly specific tastes. This argument has been criticized abundantly elsewhere for a variety of reasons, and I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that Sullivan was wrong. And yet, I also wouldn’t be surprised to discover that, yes, I was the first person to listen to “Grown Up Girls” on the Bloor-Danforth line.

Go figure.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 25, 2006 at 2:55 pm

Posted in Assorted

Tagged with ,

[LINK] They really don’t like us

Via thebitterguy, a news report on a recent outburst of (admittedly) passive Canada-bashing by the United States’ Republican Party.

A Republican attack ad stirring controversy in the U.S. mid-term elections does a drive-by smear on Canada, suggesting America’s northern neighbour is a do-nothing country on world affairs.

The television ad has sparked denunciations from both the Democratic candidate it targets and the Republican candidate it is designed to help.

Produced by the Republican National Committee, the ”man on the street” ad features a hefty man wearing suspenders and a ball cap, commenting sarcastically on his view of Democratic foreign policy.

”Let Canada take care of North Korea. They’re not busy,” the man says.

[. . .]

Just how Canada got caught up in the mid-term mudslinging remains a mystery. The Republican National Committee did not respond to calls from CanWest News Service.

But the ad fosters stereotypes about Canada’s engagement in international affairs that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has tried hard to dispel.

Earlier this year, the Canadian Embassy in Washington mounted an advertising campaign highlighting Canada’s role as America’s ally in Afghanistan, where 43 Canadians have died since 2002.

David Wilkins, the U.S. ambassador to Canada, voiced outrage in the last federal election campaign when the Liberal party criticized President George W. Bush.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 25, 2006 at 2:40 pm

[BRIEF NOTE] Return of the Terran Trade Authority

Quite a few of my readers are familiar, as I am, with the Terran Trade Authority books. Designed and illustrated by Stewart Cowley, the Jane’s Fighting Ships-style presentation of a space oepra future history over several books managed to acquire a large global fanbase.

The Terran Trade Authority is back. A RPG, reportedly incorporating more than four hundred pages of new material approved by no less a person than Cowley himself, is now out in production, with an associated Wiki and discussion group.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 23, 2006 at 11:47 pm