Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Small fuzzy mammals and more of my first blog

Yet another highly-assorted post for my readers -- first, some material that I left on the cutting room floor, virtually speaking. You may remember that post I did upon discovering a Mysterious Rodent by the grocery store, and had no clue what it was until later!
` This event was surprising to me since I normally could tell what type of fuzzy mammal I was looking at. In this bit of edited-outness, I describe the surreality of learning that this ability is not very common:
Years ago, I saw a rat foraging through a dumpster in broad daylight, and mentioned this to someone. When he asked me whether I thought it could have been an opossum, my mind just about crashed trying to figure out how someone could ask such a nonsensical question. After much perplexed stuttering, a stab of insult helped to force out an intelligible answer, along the lines of; "What kind of ignoramus do you take me for?"
` Since then, I've found the reason for this question is probably because so many people around here don't know the difference between a rodent and a marsupial. Even more shockingly -- to Australians in particular -- several have even said they'd never heard of a marsupial! Others have thought that the word "rodent" means "pest", and so have referred to cockroaches as "rodents".
Which brings the question -- why would anyone be so passionate about identifying some small mammal, anyway? It's because the more you understand what you are looking at in the world around you, the more you can appreciate what you see (or hear, or smell...).
` When you know about our atmosphere's various layers, for instance, you can literally see more when you look at the clouds, because now you have a specific way to interpret what they're doing. One could say, understanding adds layers of interestingness.
It's easy to see why this section was distracting to my article, although I've included it here because it's a good illustration of my values when it comes to writing. Granted, now I am so inundated with science news, particularly in my email, that I don't seem to have the time to read most of it.

Back in 2005, however, I had such a low amount of email that keeping up with the latest wasn't that difficult. This fact was evident in my second post on Land of the Big Wingy-Dingy, which is entitled:

Tyrannosaurus Cells and Elephant Mimicry

That is, supposedly preserved cell remains and mimicry by elephants. If you haven't heard of either of these things, then by all means, take a look! (Also, you may want to follow the latest research that's been done on these topics...)
` Originally, I was reluctant to mention religion on a science blog, but since ideological extremists are a good discussion topic, I did comment on the unreasonable behavior of a religious extremist in the third post:

Unwholesome extremists -- gotta love 'em!

By the way, 'Jonathan' is now a psychologist and lives far enough away from his mother that it would be hard for her to persecute him for being gay as well.
` I was also reluctant to write about such insane people as my PsychoDad, but then figured that it might be somewhat relevant in that it shows ways in which one can be tricked/brainwashed, which is relevant in the fields of reason.
` So, already by post four, I have a rant/description about my dad's psychotic behavior, which is alright (if you can stand the craziness of it all) except that it has no explicit connection with critical thinking:

The importance of recognizing abuse... An unbelievable tale of insane people in my life

And what is the importance of recognizing abuse, you ask? It is knowing enough to realize that you have been duped by a complete nutcase, and that your model of the world doesn't really fit what's there. Thus, I had thought it might go well with the skeptical blogging theme.

Next up, having left off from the sciencey second post, I finally had written about the plants that do weird genetic things -- apparently, the discovery of a bizarre epigenetic effect.

Plants that correct their genetic mistakes!

Research has soared since 2005, of course. Right. I should get to poring over that. In the meantime, if that isn't enough for this post, I have also saved some snippets of the aforementioned rodent article which involve links to YouTube videos:
The largest rodents in the world, the water-roaming capybaras, are related to guinea pigs although they can weigh upwards of a hundred pounds (45 kg, 7 st). Thus, it does not surprise me that some people are kooky enough to have them as pets, although as tropical species, they don't much like the snow.
Also, a mention of shrews (for not being rodents), led me to this:
I found this video of venomous short-tailed shrews, slugging it out, even killing and eating a snake. It's really cool. Apparently around 8,000 years ago, there was once a species that injected venom, much as solenodons do.
There's even one more part of this damn article, but I'll save that for next time.

Next time, Gadget! Next tiiime!!

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