Saturday, February 23, 2013

Iwo Jima Day

On this date in 1945, five U.S. Marines and one Navy corpsman raised the American flag on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima.  Photographer Joe Rosenthal captured the moment in this famous photograph.

Semper Fi!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Pilfered Cod

One of the more legendary pranks involved some Harvard students stealing the Sacred Cod from the Massachusetts House of Representatives.  This five-foot pine carving of a codfish hangs suspended above the entrance to the chamber of the House.  It was there as a symbol of the importance of the cod on early Massachuetts history.

It's a quirky decoration; the kind that's tempting to mess with by irreverend college students. 


By James J. Montague

From Winthrop Beach to Bunker Hill,
From Cambridge to Revere,
The voice of happiness was still,
One heard no note of cheer.
A pallor whitened every face.
All eyes were red and swollen;
A dreadful crime had taken place —
The Codfish had been stolen.

The Fish that symbolized a trade
Which, in the days of old,
The shores of old New England made
A strand of shining gold,
The Fish that millions came to view
With ardent admiration,
The Fish whose fame has echoed to
The Corners of the nation.

When first I set my roving feet
Upon Bostonian sod,
I hastened blithely up the street
To view the Sacred Cod,
And in its dull and glassy eyes,
The instant of our meeting,
I fancied that I saw arise
A glance of cordial greeting.

Today there is an end of grief;
No more the skies loom black;
A chastened and repentant thief
Has brought the Codfish back.
No Stygian gloom now broods around,
No heart with woe is freighted;
Bostonian pulses leap and bound —
The Cod is reinstated.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Kitten Killing and More

No, this is not about that internet euphemism for mastrubation; it's about the recent spate of alarmist articles that allege that cats are bird- and wildlife-killing machines that account for much mortality.

The solution sometimes proposed?  Eliminate large numbers of cats; or at least spay them.  Especially feral cats.

Let's put things in perspective.  Some cats are efficient killers; most are not.  Certainly, the domesticated, well-fed cat has less motivation and opportunity to engage in aviacide.  Moreover, this is a skill that is partly learned by observation.  The typical housebound kitten has much fewer opportunity to learn this.

Plus he has regular access to food. 

So what does a house kitty do?  He sits on his butt, or he sleeps.

And, seriously, where does that data come from?  One thing that I've learned over time is that some people are very impressed with numbers; and they should be, if the source is valid. 

The fact that humans do domesticate several species of animals and make a select number of species does tinker with nature, and possibly the course of evolution.  But so does feeding the birds! On the average, more birds are able to survive and breed because humans kindly feed them.  The rigors of natural selection are lessened to some degree, some less vigorous birds may survive into adulthood.

And so does every silo or warehouse shift the balance.  Basically, these are unintended places where rats and mice have more access to food than would be present in nature.

And cats are not the only species that preys on birds.  Even other birds, such as hawks and owls. 

But, wait!

We're part of nature too.  And we screw with it for our own advantage.  And thank god that we do, sometimes.  Advances in agriculture, animal science, medicine, and public health are examples of our tinkering with nature. 

So I would not lose much sleep over some lardass housecats offing a few birds or rodents. 

As a matter of fact, the PETA crowd does not come out strongly pro-rat.