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January 12, 2007

Nazi Raccoons on the March in Europe
Posted by Teresa at 04:05 PM * 291 comments

Really.

Here’s the story:

[It] begins in 1934, when a breeder asked the Reich Forestry Office, then led by future top Hitler aide Hermann Göring, for permission to release the masked-faced mammals to “enrich the local fauna” outside Kassel, a small city north of Frankfurt.

“Raccoon pelts were a popular trophy for hunters back then,” biologist Ulf Hohmann said. “They were also raised for their fur at special farms” after they were imported from North America early last century.

Seventy years on, the furry critters are now as populous in some areas of Germany as in the major urban centers of North America—a whopping one per hectare (2.5 acres), Hohmann said.

Somewhere between 100,000 and one million raccoons are estimated to live in Germany, making them prime targets for hunters. Some 20,000 were shot during the last season, according to official statistics. But unfortunately for the denizens of a growing number of European capitals, they like cities.

Furry blitzkrieg?

Hundreds of thousands have fanned out to Belgium, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic and France. The news caught the ire of Britain’s Sun tabloid, which warned its readers that “Nazi raccoons” were “just across the Channel” and “on the warpath … in a furry blitzkrieg”.

Snipped: an account of the raccoons’ antics in the city of Kassel, which have mostly consisted of denning in attics and refusing to be driven out—common stuff for anyone who lives in a raccoon-rich environment. More noteworthy are their depredations in the Brandenburg winemaking area, where last year they ate up the whole grape harvest. See also: Nazi Raccoons Wipe Out Vineyards in Germany.

Onward.

Since their introduction during the Third Reich, raccoons can trace their gradual conquest of Europe back to two other moments in history.

As Allied bombs rained over Berlin at the end of World War II, one struck a fur breeding farm, giving the raccoons there the opportunity to escape into the wild. They never looked back. And in the 1960s, NATO soldiers freed the raccoons they used as mascots after leaving their base in France, setting off a baby boom.

Hohmann says that in the coming years, raccoons are expected to spread to even more European cities.

“Kassel is just the beginning,” he said.

As usual: You can’t make this stuff up.

Addendum: as pointed out by AlyxL, and hailed with glee by Julia at Sisyphus Shrugged:

STALIN’S GIANT CRABS SET TO INVADE EUROPE.

And what happens when the Nazi raccoons meet the Stalinist giant crabs? Easy call: they eat each other. And may the best omnivore win.

Comments on Nazi Raccoons on the March in Europe:
#1 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 04:25 PM:

Godwin in one.

Score!

#2 ::: Laurence ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 04:40 PM:

I was wondering who would be thoughtless enough to import raccoons.

Now I know.

#3 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 04:46 PM:

If only someone had brought this up while the Nazis were coming into power...

"They say they'll bring order and stability? Well, there's only one party you can blame for your toppled trash, and it ain't the communists!"

#4 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 04:48 PM:

Environmentalists have to be tearing their hair out.

#5 ::: Chris Clarke ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 04:57 PM:
The news caught the ire of Britain’s Sun tabloid, which warned its readers that “Nazi raccoons” were “just across the Channel”

In between tearing my hair out* I'm savoring the image of Bandit and Rascal hanging Cape-Fear-style from the undercarriage of a Eurostar train heading into Folkestone.

*I've grown it long just for that purpose. Easier on the RSI.

#6 ::: Richard Parker ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 04:59 PM:

The "ate up the whole grape harvest" link in the post is broken (missing a trailing 'l').

#7 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 05:04 PM:

Thank you, Richard Parker. It's all fixed now.

#8 ::: Christian Griffen ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 05:48 PM:

I thought, when first seeing the title, that the raccoons were one of the Nazis' "secret weapons."

You know, like the bats that Americans equipped with miniature incendiary bombs to nest in and set ablaze Tokyo during WW2. :)

#9 ::: Cassie ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 05:58 PM:

It is one thing to introduce a nonnative and invasive species. It is quite another to introduce a nonnative invasive species with hands.

#10 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 06:00 PM:

I've always believed the Nazis were idiots. To have this confirmed yet again provides a certain melancholy pleasure.

Let me add (given Teresa's comment at #4 above), the following note. The mongoose was introduced into Jamaica in the late nineteenth century by a planter named Espeut. The purpose was to predate on the rats that were eating Espeuts canes. The little weasel-like creatures, far from their origins in Indian fruitcake, discovered that chickens were much easier prey than rats.

The great grandson of the man who introduced them, Peter Espeut, is now one of the leading environmentalists in the Anglophone Caribbean. It seems to be, in part, his way of atoning for his ancestor's blunder.

#11 ::: Adam Rice ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 06:06 PM:

Obviously these were not nazi raccoons, they were decent, freedom-loving, American raccoons, who went over as part of a covert plan to undo the Third Reich.

You know, sort of like that plan to bomb Japan...with bats.

#12 ::: Adam Rice ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 06:08 PM:

D'oh! I see that Christian beat me to it

#13 ::: Ben ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 06:12 PM:

Who's to say that this isn't the last, and most long term, of the V weapons? The doodlebugs didn't shake us, but if the racoons out-compete the good old British fox, I'm not sure my morale will hold up.

#14 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 06:48 PM:

Hey, the Japanese were sending killer balloons.

#15 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 07:10 PM:

Fragano, same thing happened out here in Hawai'i. Mongeese imported to kill rats, but one's diurnal, the other's nocturnal. Never the twain do meet.

I actually see a family of mongeese which take up residence under my hedge occasionally.

#16 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 07:35 PM:

When I showed Tom Womack around Fermilab, he enjoyed our billion-dollar superscience installations, but what really got him excited was seeing raccoons as we passed a dumpster.

I hadn't realized they didn't exist in the UK; he'd only heard about raccoons, never seen one.

#17 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 07:44 PM:

Superscience, Bill?

#18 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 07:56 PM:

If superscience doesn't exist at Fermi Labs, then where?

Bill, what do you know about this incident?

#19 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 08:00 PM:

Sorry, Teresa... It's just that I got a kick out of an actual scientist using the term in this day and age. No disrespect was intended. Au contraire.

#20 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 08:02 PM:

Four miles of liquid helium. The thunder of 750-kilovolt sparks. A torrent of ghostly neutrinos headed downward into the Earth toward Minnesota. A tower of light looming above the prairie. Two counter-rotating toroids, one of matter, the other of antimatter. Really high vacuums. Really fast computers. Stuff like that.

Tell me it's not superscience.

Plus, a lot of things around here are painted in Frank R. Paul colors.

#21 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 08:03 PM:

There used to be barriers in the Channel Tunnel to keep out those damn foreign rabies-drenched animals that would have worked for this too, but apparently they took them out after noticing that, um, there really isn't any rabies in France either. (Although generations of British children were raised in TERROR of being bitten by one of the hordes of RABID ANIMALS while on holiday in France.)

Where I grew up, near the Norfolk Broads, they had recently finished eradicating coypu that had been breeding like, um... coypu, I guess. There was an organization called "Coypu Control" devoting to hunting them down and many jokes about giant guinea pigs.

There's also an enormous wallaby colony in Derbyshire. And of course the omnipresent grey squirrel is the classic British example of the invading American species. Over-nutted, over-sexed, and over here? Doesn't quite have the same ring to it.

#22 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 08:04 PM:

Teresa, I was home asleep that night, but friends of mine were on the midnight crew that had to confront the assault.

#23 ::: CaseyL ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 08:04 PM:

First hamsters, now raccoons, eh?

Is ML taking upon itself the duty of chronicling the slow rise of the Despotism of the Cute and Furry?

(Anyone here remember Chad Oliver's story "King of the Hill" in ADV?)

#24 ::: JBWoodford ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 08:06 PM:

Tell me it's not superscience.

Ah, but does it coruscate?

#25 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 08:06 PM:

Of course, it is superscience, Bill. Like I posted to Teresa, no offense was intended. I'd better retire in the shadows of my lair now and wait until my social subroutines have rebooted.

#26 ::: Jacob Davies ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 08:07 PM:

(And I was very excited to start seeing raccoons when I moved from San Francisco to Oakland, which is I guess like being excited about seeing an extremely large rat if you're an American. We really didn't have raccoons in England. Promise.)

#27 ::: Joyce Reynolds-Ward ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 08:18 PM:

Heh.

Now if we *really* wanted to get something going, we could sneak a few coyotes over to prey on the raccoons....

(ducking and running)

Or oppossums to vie with the raccoons for resources, just as they do here in the Pacific NW.

Heh.

#28 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 08:37 PM:

The raccoons are seeking Lebensraum!

#29 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 08:42 PM:

Tell me it's not superscience.

It's not superscience.

Call me a cab.

You're a cab.

Greg "Ask and you shall receive" London

#30 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 08:49 PM:

Sometimes all I can say is "My God, humans are stupid."

Unfortunately, raccoons aren't. Neither are the razorbacks people imported to Skagit county. Starlings are, but they make up for it by being rapacious omnivores which out-reproduce most native cavity nesting birds.

And don't get me started about ivy...

#31 ::: Steff Z ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 09:28 PM:

When the live-action "101 Dalmatians" came out in the late '90s, I had to go see it with my vet-tech animal-lover sister. It was set, of course, in England. The animal antics prominently featured ostensibly wild raccoons. Grrrrrrrrr.

Essentially, a major - and intentional - continuity error.

It was like nails on a chalkboard; like toucans or prehensile-tailed monkeys in African jungle movies; like the noble, lonely scream of a red-tail hawk as the foley for a bald eagle. Like redwoods and Douglas-firs in an East Coast story.
Do they think we don't know this stuff???

(Bald eagles sound like overgown chickens. Not properly uplifting or dignified.)


PS to JESR: we have *razorbacks*? Am I safe, away to the south around Northgate? Wanna come over to my new yard and help pull ivy?

PPS to everyone in North America: please join my new trend for starling-feather capelets. Surely we must be able to trap *just* starlings somehow.

#32 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 09:39 PM:

Starlings? Are those like grackles? Because I *hate* grackles.

#33 ::: Nick Fagerlund ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 09:42 PM:

JESR: Or (good-lord-what-were-they-thinking) Japanese Knotweed. That one gets my dad started every time.

#34 ::: James Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 09:42 PM:

re: the British and rabies, you know where else doesn't have any rabies? California. Know what separates California from the rest of rabies infested North America? Nothing, absolutely nothing. Stupid! You so stupid!

(Sorry, UHF flashbacks)

Apropos of the last paragraph, i.e. nothing, I remember hearing raccoons fight in my backyard in Palo Alto. Freaked my cats out.

Speaking of cats, I found out about California not having rabies when I went to the vet shortly after arriving in the state to give my pets their annual rabies shot. My vet recommended against rabies vaccination since the last case of rabies in california was in 1972 and the vaccine had been correlated with some sort of feline leukemia.

In other news, as a resident of a German city I can't say I'm exactly looking forward to a raccoon invasion...

#35 ::: Nick Fagerlund ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 09:46 PM:

TexAnne: Naw, grackles are in the corvidae, so they're much smarter and more resourceful. (And more raucous, I think.)

#36 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 09:49 PM:

#20 Bill Higgins: I've got a new desktop picture on my computer now.

As far as transplanting animals and such, I just hope no one ever gets some kind of great idea to import poisonous snakes to Rhode Island. We don't have any now, and I'm sure there are better ways to get rid of rats. Like all those feral cats we have!

#37 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 10:01 PM:

Bill Higgins (20): Ooooh, shiny! What is it?

#38 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 10:09 PM:

TexAnne @32,

European starlings were introduced to North America by an idiot who thought it a grand idea to bring here all the birds mentioned in Shakespeare. (Good thing he didn't also want to bring the mammals- tigers in Central Park, anyone?)

They're like locusts, if locusts could contaminate granaries with droppings, and eat all the food out of feedlots.

Here's a picture of a Starling's nest. If you like starlings, only look at the first 3 pictures. If you don't like starlings, look at all 4 pictures. Yay nature.

#39 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 10:29 PM:

Kudzu. Kudzu. Definitely kudzu. You can actually see it grow on hot summer days.

#40 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 10:35 PM:

Nick Fagerlund @ #35 - Grackles are not corvids. They are icterids, in the same family as North American blacbirds, orioles, meadowlarks, and cowbirds. (European blackbirds are Turdus thrushes, like American robins.)

Ben @ #13 - Around here, red foxes coexist with raccoons, coyotes, gray foxes, skunks, opossums, and the occasional bobcat. They seem to all be doing fine. Not to say that things would go as well if raccoons invade Britain.

Supposedly we had a few emu running around Shawnee State Forest for a while. I don't know if they made it through the subsequent winter. The red foxes, grey foxes, possums et al may have et emu.

#41 ::: Bart Patton ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 10:39 PM:

Dang it. If only I'd been a few minutes earlier, I would have made the kudzu comment.

>> Superscience

Could I at least know what kind of soup before I choose?

#42 ::: Hick Girl ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 11:03 PM:

Actually, raccoons have been known to kill the dogs folk use to hunt them. A 'coon can drop out of a tree on a dog's head easy. That's why you hunt with a pack of dogs if you can borrow from your neighbors. Although if you use a Plott rather than a Walker hound, the odds shift somewhat in the hound's favor - they're bigger dogs. Coyotes are, I 'spect, too smart to go near a 'coon.

#43 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 11:17 PM:

Incidentally:

mongeese

It's "mongooses". Really. Nothing to do with the birds. ("Mongoose" was previously spelled "mangus", if memory serves.)

#44 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 11:23 PM:

Steff,

I've got my own ivy, which is seeded in the woods by birds (including starlings); I have to pull it, and Prunus laurocerus, and English Holly, as well as bedamned Himalya blackberries (which, I'm sorry, Kudzu dies back to the ground every winter, right?) and Tansy Ragwort, which has the extra fun quality of being poisonous to cattle.

The razorbacks seem to be limited to the area around Arlington, where they were originally imported by the same group of Appalachian immigrants which included Mooney and Loretta Lynn; the Washington State Department of Game hunts them twice a year to keep it so.

I'm going to stop before I even mention starlings. Because I'd never stop.

#45 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 11:29 PM:

Nick, luckily, Japanese Knotweed seems to hate where we live; the nearest patch is over on Carpenter Road. I think people were thinking the same thing they thought when they planted Purple Loostrife: it's pretty and easy to grow. Of course I'm now an ex post facto scofflaw, as I've got two huge Buddleias (butterfly bush) which were declared noxious plants well after my two became part of my privacy screen.

Could be worse; my cousin feeds Eastern Gray Squirrels, and some of my neighbors put out dog food for the coyotes.

#46 ::: Gene O'Grady ::: (view all by) ::: January 12, 2007, 11:44 PM:

Will it rain on too many parades if I say that a few years back I saw a rabid raccoon in San Francisco. Rabies is considered endemic in skunks and raccoons in California; I have no idea where the notion it doesn't exist in the state came from.

Introduced animals taking over are nothing new. If I drive around Central Oregon where I live now the animals I am most likely to see are sheep, llamas, cows, buffalo, wild turkey, and deer. Only deer are native to Oregon. Not to mention that the dense flocks of geese, which are particularly fond of cemeteries, never existed in such quantities or spent the whole year here before human changes to the environment.

#47 ::: barry ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 12:04 AM:


"Naw, grackles are in the corvidae..."
Actually grackles are not corvids, although I think they are quite as lovely anyway. They are members of the Quiscalus family

#48 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 12:15 AM:

Even though large tracts of Europe, and many old and famous states, have fallen, or may fall, into the grip of the masked bandits, and all the hideous apparatus of compulsive food-washing, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight on the Sainsburys and the Tescos. We shall fight on the orchards and the market-halls. We shall fight, with growing scents and growing condiments, in the air. We shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight with our squirrels. We shall fight with our hamsters. We shall fight with our gerbils and guinea-pigs. We shall never surrender.

And even if this Island were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, infected and inhabited by the British tourist, would have the same trouble; until the Old World, with all its foxes and its stoats, should step forth to the rescue and the deracooning* of the Old.

*Obviously, the Grand Old Man had deracoonian measures in mind.

#49 ::: Laurel ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 12:16 AM:

I feel a bit of an idiot over planting an exotic - I put Mexican petunias in the yard, even though I knew they were incredibly hard to uproot and liked taking over territory, because I wanted something that would look decent without any attention. Now the beautiful little creek area/ nature reserve down the road is being overrun by them, although hopefully they didn't migrate from my yard, and I feel guilty every time I see them that I didn't go for a native plant instead.

#50 ::: CaseyL ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 12:19 AM:

Has anyone ever seen raccoons use their hands as hands? As in, say, grasp with their fingers, or pull things apart, or open things?

Because a family of them lives near me, and since I put kibble out (for them and for the neighborhood homeless cats) I frequently get a chance to watch them. And all I've seen them use their hands for is to pull food towards them like someone hauling in poker chips, and cup food between their palms to lift it to their mouths. They don't have opposable thumbs, of course, but they don't seem to use their fingers the same way primates do. (Contrary to folklore, I've also never seen them wash anything before they eat it - and I keep one of those self-refilling water dishes outside, so it's there if they wanted to do that.)

Maybe domesticated raccoons figure it out by watching humans?

#51 ::: Naomi Kritzer ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 12:34 AM:

Well, I didn't actually see them do it, but I did find the results of a couple of raccoons who opened a cooler left by my grandparents at a campsite one time. They opened the cooler latch to get inside and ripped open the bag of Oreos and ate all of them. They left the marshmallows.

#52 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 12:52 AM:

#16 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey wrote:
When I showed Tom Womack around Fermilab, he enjoyed our billion-dollar superscience installations, but what really got him excited was seeing raccoons as we passed a dumpster.

I hadn't realized they didn't exist in the UK; he'd only heard about raccoons, never seen one.

That's reminding me of watching some visiting europeans coo over the racoons on my back deck, while the locals winced, and tried to make sure they didn't feed them while they were at it. Pfeh. Between the squirrels and the racoons, I've got running water in the upstairs bedroom...

#53 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 12:54 AM:

#31 ::: Steff Z ::: winced:
It was like nails on a chalkboard; like toucans or prehensile-tailed monkeys in African jungle movies; like the noble, lonely scream of a red-tail hawk as the foley for a bald eagle. Like redwoods and Douglas-firs in an East Coast story.
Do they think we don't know this stuff???

... or like blue eyed, full blood japanese?

#54 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 12:55 AM:

On the subject of raccoons, there's a woman on flickr (yep, here I go with flickr again...) who has a whole family of semi-domesticated raccoons. Some of her pictures are quite amazing.

#55 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 12:59 AM:

James @ 34:

California definitely has a rabies problem. Here are reports of human deaths from rabies trasmitted from bats in 1995, 2002, and 2003. I have no idea how your vet formed a contrary opinion -- my vet would strongly disagree.

And don't get me started about some of the stupid things I keep hearing about sylvan plague.

#56 ::: Nick Fagerlund ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 01:34 AM:

Anne and Barry, 40 and 47: Egg on my beak; you're right. I suspect myself of confusing them with jays or something. Arg.

#57 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 01:47 AM:

Re Cassie @ #9: It is one thing to introduce a nonnative and invasive species. It is quite another to introduce a nonnative invasive species with hands.

Invasive non-natives with hands? Isn't that the definition of human?

The universal dislike of invading non-natives with hands should be considered carefully before embarking on any invasion. It explains so much...

#58 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 01:48 AM:

Paul @ #43,
I've been going back and forth on mongeese v. mongooses for two years, since they first started appearing in my yard. I've even used mongoose as plural. What I'm sayin' is, I'm no authority.

Hawai'i is very concerned about rabies, what with our rat population. We've kept the disease out so far; up until a year or so ago we even demanded that pets be quarantined for 120 days after their arrival on island, just to ensure they didn't have it. With changes in technology and vaccines, that's changed. Now if you can show proof that your pet has been vaccinated and otherwise shows no indication of rabies you can bring it straight in.

#59 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 01:54 AM:

Claude, the vet may have been considering only reports of rabies in domesticated pets.

A local SPCA worker made the same jump in logic just recently; they fostered a dog with behaviour problems to friends for the weekend. The dog nipped, breaking A—'s skin. When A— asked the SPCA worker if the dog was vaccinated for rabies, she was told no, that there's no rabies here.

Which is nonsense. Rabies has been reported in raccoons, squirrels, bats, skunks, etc, locally for many years. Three years ago it was so widespread there were warnings posted not to even think about interacting with any 'wild' creature that didn't show fear, and this in parks where they mostly exhibit fear that you've not brought the kind of nuts they like.

So anyway, there's maybe different stats being kept and circulated and confused.

#60 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 03:20 AM:

#50 CaseyL - First off... I'm glad I'm not the only one feeding whatever is brave enough to come into my back yard. We have 'coons, 'possum, squirrels, feral cats, rats and crows at our feeding stations and all of whom (except the squirrels) love Meow Mix.

We've watched our furry bandits use their hands more times and in more ways than I can count. Even without thumbs they seem to be almost as dexterous(sp?) as we are. They are smart enough to get the idea of a sliding deck door, and have used those little hands in an attempt to pry the door wider several times when I've been feeding them out a barely open door.

I pity those who don't see the beauty of these creatures, especially the raccoons (and yes, Anne, even the Grackles)...

Note to anyone who condones, advocates or practices live leg trapping on "pest" creatures: The Chinese have 9000 Hells in their mythology. You are cordially invited to find the one least pleasant to you, and rot there.

#61 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 03:22 AM:

Pericat, up here rabies is primarily a bat problem; a friend of mine and his son ended up having to get a series of shots the same summer that Governor Locke's children were exposed.

Unfortunately, racoons are fearless around humans as a default behavior; when rabid they are very aggressive. Which scares the heck out of me, because somewhere in the briar patch of Himalyas that's covered three sides of my barn there's a raccoon. Or several.

#62 ::: AlyxL ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 03:34 AM:

I suppose it's too much to hope that the Nazi racoons might eventually meet in a spectacular battle with the giant Stalinist crabs in the Norwegian Sea?

#63 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 04:26 AM:

While possums have more teeth than a raccoon (nothing like having one snarl into your face from two feet away while you're doing the laundry in the basement) I bet on the coon any day, nasty little barstuds that they are. I've had three different cats killed by raccoons, each time being a week or so after we'd had the cat fixed. This ads up to real money, and real depression over what's happened to the cat. Grumble.

#64 ::: platedlizard ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 04:26 AM:

Better raccoons then skunks, any day. At least when a raccoon is turned into road pizza it doesn't stink up the entire neighborhood.

What amazes me are the coyotes around here (Portland, Oregon). I saw one a few nights ago running down a street in a residential neighborhood while walking a stray dog we'd temporarily taken in. It ran into someone's backyard upon seeing me. Just one more reason to tell people to keep their cats inside, and make sure their small dogs are supervised at all times outdoors.

The raccoons native to the North West are the biggest subspecies, too. They can weigh 30lbs or more, and take on a black bear. Coyotes steer well clear of them.

I tell you what, if the UK and Europe promise to take back the starlings, we'll take back the raccoons and gray squirrels. Any takers?

#65 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 04:33 AM:

Has anyone ever seen raccoons use their hands as hands? As in, say, grasp with their fingers, or pull things apart, or open things?

I didn't see the raccoon open the zipper on my backpack and pull the bag of M&M's out, but the pack was shut first, then open. Unless you have a convincing argument about telekenesis or very clever tongues, we'll go with the hands. (That was the day I learned to dangle my food bag from a tree, on a rope, even if there weren't big bears about.)

What I miss us opossums, which I used to see waddling around the early morning streets of Oakland like vast white rats. I imagine I would miss them less had I been a homeowner at the time.

#66 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 05:35 AM:

The UK does indeed have rabies -- a bat conservationist died after being bitten by a rabid bat in 2002. However, the bats are notably non-aggressive and don't usually interact with humans, which is why it went unnoticed for so long.

Weirdly, the common house starling seems to be an endangered species. You used to see great swirling flocks of them at sunset, but their population seems to have crashed in the past couple of decades, probably due to changes in farming practice and a reduction in readily accessible food supplies in cities.

Raccoons ...

Has anyone ever tried breeding them for domesticity? I can see certain advantages to having a smart, trainable house pet with hands.

#67 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 06:00 AM:

The BBC famously made a documentary on the urban foxes in Bristol. About a year before the population crashed as a consequence of overcrowding and disease.

One thing is that predators tend not to predate other predators: there's too much chance of getting badly hurt. It's not a certainty, though.

#68 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 07:57 AM:

abi @ 65... What I miss us opossums, which I used to see waddling around the early morning streets of Oakland like vast white rats.

There were quite a few possums in Concord (*). I never saw one play possum, except for the one who did such a good job at it because it actually was dead. I came across one in the very early morning hours as I was bicycling to the train station. I remember a pale shape ambling around in the middle of the street, only a few feet away, but it was dark enough that I didn't get a good look. I knew it was a possum because otherwise it'd have to be a giant wiener, or a rat who'd mutated from gnawing at the missile silos not far from there.

(*) aka the hometown of Tom Hanks, further inland, for those who don't know the layout of the Bay Area.

#69 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 08:02 AM:

Cassie @ 9... It is one thing to introduce a nonnative and invasive species. It is quite another to introduce a nonnative invasive species with hands.

Someone actually introduced a species using their own hands?

#70 ::: Captain Slack ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 08:23 AM:

giant Stalinist crabs

RIIIIIIIIIIIDGE RACER!

#71 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 08:24 AM:

In New Zealand they introduced Possums from Australia to establish a fur trade. Of course, until the Maori arrived New Zealand didn't have any mammals at all (except Bats. And Seals and Sea Lions. And Dolphins and Whales. But that's it.) Supposedly that't what the NZ Department of Conservation is aiming for: first remove the possums and rats, then the deer and wild pigs, then the sheep, cattle, cats and dogs, and finally the people.

Or so I was told when I was there.

After all they don't want any recreation of what happened when the Romans (or maybe the Normans) introduced rabbits into Britain.

#72 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 08:46 AM:

Raccoons, I'm told, are nocturnal when healthy; if you see one active in daylight, steer clear and call Animal Control: there's a good chance it's rabid.

While I'm sure 'mongooses' is the correct plural, 'mongeese' is so much more fun that I'm going to use it from now on. But then you're reading a guy who calls one Kleenex™ a kleenek, then turns around and calls several of them kleenices. This is about equally a fun-with-words thing and a fuck-your-trademark thing.

And Neil #71: It's sure too bad the Normans came to Britain at all. Actually, the problems of that beknighted* isle go back even further: Saxons out of Britain! Britain for the Celts! Or...whoever was there before, Picts or Fair Folk or whatever. Slogans fail me.

*Yes, I do know.

#73 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 09:26 AM:

I believe the Beaker People were nothing more than a bunch of parvenu imperialists, too.

#74 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 09:31 AM:

Re rabid raccoons: I've tended to take raccoons as just part of the urban population, and was somewhat startled to hear, some years ago, of a rabid raccoon trapped three blocks from my home. I also read that the Northeastern U.S. raccoon population, which had been rabies-free, was reinfected after some idiot transported raccoons from another region so he could shoot at them, without checking their health. (A foolish idea anyhow: if you want to hunt coons, and you and the coons are in Virginia, why not do the deed at home? It's not as though New York State has more generous gun laws.)

Charlie (@ 66): I'm sure we could spare you a few (hundred thousand) starlings to re-establish a British population, once you get the habitat sorted out.

#75 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 09:39 AM:

Xopher, quite so. Send the Saxons back to Saxony!

#76 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 09:44 AM:

(Sadly, Kassel and Frankfurt are in Hessen rather than Saxony, which defeats my clever plan to bring the conversation full circle).

#77 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 09:50 AM:

"Has anyone ever tried breeding them for domesticity? I can see certain advantages to having a smart, trainable house pet with hands."

They're small bears. I have my doubts.

#78 ::: Juliet E McKenna ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 10:03 AM:

With regard to raccoons in the UK, I met a cryptozoologist* a while ago who told me he and his colleagues reckon there are indeed established and breeding populations tucked away here and there in remote areas, on account of the occasional sightings and road-kill findings being too frequent to be convincingly explained by zoo escapes and pet releases.

*as far as I gathered, cryptozoologists do the following:
determining a particular small insignificant brown bird on an Indonesian island is a different species to the small insignificant brown bird on the next island over;
investigating the spread of non-native species
finding creatures that have been thought extinct for years;
finding creatures entirely new to science, including quite big ones, not just bugs;
searching for things like the Yeti and/or Sasquatch;
developing fabulous theories to explain mankind's prediliction for myths about dragons and the like.

As you might expect, the conversation got increasingly surreal. I will happily explain The Universal Monster Template theory to anyone who buys me a drink at a convention.

#79 ::: Jenny J ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 10:09 AM:

Also doubtful of the advantages of training raccoons to be helper monkeys - I can't help but imagine strange nocturnal murders and enslaved humans. In fact, are you sure the raccoons didn't put the idea in your head in the first place, Charlie?

#80 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 10:21 AM:

JESR, I share your views on ivy. I was thinking
of tac nukes, myself.

My parents had a story about camping at Big Basin Park, back around 1959, and returning from a hike to find raccoons rolling apples down the slope to the nearby stream. The other couple was exclaiming over the cuteness of the coons ... until they discovered it was their food the coons has gotten into (threw all the stuff out of the box, just to get at the apples). After that they used better containers.

#81 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 10:46 AM:

Linkmeister #15: They can be a real nuisance. I'd no idea they'd been introduced into Hawaii as well. One big problem in the Caribbean is that, small as they are, they instantly became the top predators because there were none larger than than them.

#82 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 10:47 AM:

Juliet @ 78:

I will happily explain The Universal Monster Template theory to anyone who buys me a drink at a convention.

You're on. One question though, will it work with MS Word?

#83 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 10:59 AM:

CaseyL@50: Has anyone ever seen raccoons use their hands as hands? As in, say, grasp with their fingers, or pull things apart, or open things?

Yes, all of the above. I've also seen them catch and eat frogs with their hands, and hold other food as they "wash" and eat it.

#84 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 11:15 AM:

Has anybody ever written a story where, maybe as a background detail, raccoons were genetically engineered to be part of a starship's crew, and would be especially useful in really tight spots of the engine room, or in their own Jefferies Tubes? It is a rather obvious idea.

#85 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 11:38 AM:

I can't help being thinking that a cryptozoologist ought to be someone who didn't know they were a zoologist. That's not much stranger.

#86 ::: CaseyL ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 12:41 PM:

Thanks for all the replies! Now I'm thinking of putting some kibble out in zip-lock baggies, or in boxes, to see if Mama and her kids can figure it out :)

Seriously, I wonder how much of what raccoons do and don't do is because they don't need to, or never saw it, or even variability in local customs. ("Bandit! Stop that! Only those striped-trash sorts from the country chew the box open. Remember your manners, and open it with your hands!")

#87 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 12:51 PM:

Oh, yeah, Fragano, they're here, alright.

#88 ::: CaseyL ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 01:31 PM:

Xopher #72: I think raccoons are crepuscular, not strictly nocturnal; i.e., active pre-sunrise as well as post-sundown. And urban 'coons might be involuntarily active during full daylight, if they're disturbed by traffic or construction or anything else that rousts them from their den.

#89 ::: rams ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 02:09 PM:

Garlic mustard. Alliari patiolaris. Goddamned garlic mustard, taking over the eastern woodlands from Canada south, driving out trillium, hepatica, bloodroot because deer won't eat it but eat it's neighbors, scuffing up the ground to receive the viable-for-5-years-seeds, though it can sprout from the taproot. And do NOT tell me "you can eat it!" You wouldn't die of the experience, sure, but if it tasted good the deer would have cleaned it out.

The proof that it is evil is that it is everywhere, yet people say vaguely "oh...I don't think I've ever seen it." However, to continue the parallel, just because you can't get rid of all of it doesn't mean you shouldn't fight the ones you see. (Did I mention that the taproot does a right-angled turn at ground level, so if you pull carelessly the -- stinking -- stalk comes off in your hand, leaving the root?)

Garlic mustard. Ptagh.

#90 ::: Evelyn Browne ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 02:21 PM:

Charlie Stross @ 66-- I can see certain advantages to having a smart, trainable house pet with hands.

You have clearly never owned a polydactyl cat.

#91 ::: theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 02:27 PM:

Hey! I just* saw a red fox in my back yard! In Washington, DC! In broad daylight! I'm getting used to hosta-eating deer, but foxes? This is ridiculous.

*Well, actually, it was Thursday afternoon. But the Demerol had fully worn off...

#92 ::: Varia ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 02:30 PM:

One of my friends lives in a somewhat sylvan area of Nashville. They kept finding cat food and peanut butter missing from the pantry (upstairs) and, being technologically adept, set up a motion-sensitive video camera outside the pantry. They caught mama raccoon and her six babies (all six!), presumably coming in through the cat flap in the basement, trooping up the stairs together, and opening jars of peanut butter (although not closing them back up), or opening large Tupperware bins of kitty food. So yes, they do definitely use them as hands.

W/r/t domesticating them: It's a bad idea on a number of grounds, but I know someone who had a raccoon with rheumatoid arthritis, brought into a wildlife hospital as a baby and deemed unreleasable, that kept him at home and used him as an education animal throughout his life. With constant, attentive, affectionate care, he (mostly) liked his owner and would barely tolerate, or sometimes charge to attack, any unrecognized human. He was quite bribe-able with grapes, however.

They are affectionate and sweet as babies but tend to become highly aggressive when they hit puberty. I don't know whether neutering would help (though I doubt it would hurt). The females are somewhat less aggressive but still very difficult to socialize. This is as opposed to oppossums, which in my experience have been sweet-tempered, docile, and playful throughout their lives (I'm not kidding. they're adorable, and make very very loyal pets. Not a particularly long life span, but fun while they're around; much like a rat, but less spastic and somewhat less likely to fry themselves investigating inappropriate electrical objects.)

#93 ::: Kevin Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 03:14 PM:

Actually, I fear the outcome of Strauss' release of the neo-wankers along the Potomac. The critters are especially disgusting as they bring down young bucks, leave it for weeks, feast on the rotted meat then regularly soil themselves. It gets so bad in the summer heat that everyone vacates the city in August.

#94 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 03:24 PM:

Ten or fifteen years ago, I started seeing patches of beautiful, dramatically colored flowers in gravel areas here in Kodiak, Alaska. They had long black stems, blackish-green leaves, and chrysanthemum-like flowers that were colored exactly like a burning ember. Gorgeous! People took them and planted them in their yards. I called them emberflowers because I didn't know what they were. I thought that they were growing from buried seeds recently turned up by construction because that has happened before, sometimes with seeds buried since the volcanic ash fall of 1912.

There is now a desperate campaign to get rid of this stuff. It's an invasive hawkweed. Nothing eats it. Its big flat leaves cover the ground, keeping everything else from growing. If you cut it, it regrows from the roots. If you pull it up, it regrows from root fragments. And it's been found inside the National Wildlife Refuge . . . .

Boy, do I feel stupid now.

#95 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 04:09 PM:

Varias's description of a pet raccoon sounds a lot like a neighbor's beast. When I visited their house, I stood on chairs so "Pappoose" couldn't get at me. Once he got out, cornered me on my back door step, and bit me on the foot.

#64: There are coyotes living on the grounds of the Intel plant across the street. I've seen them on a few occasions, after dark or early in the morning. A neighbor says he's seen them in the apartment complex in the wee hours, checking out dumpsters.

#96 ::: Kathryn sees a comet at noon in Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 04:13 PM:

On raccoons,

Yes, they eat cat food:
My great-aunt was feeding a feral cat by putting food on her back porch. The local raccoons got used to stopping by for the food. After a while, that cat was caught (or otherwise ended the food visits), and so it was time to stop the cat food.

The day she stopped putting food out, the raccoons immediately climbed up to the kitchen window and began to knock. Insistently. Imagine several 25 pound creatures tapping and watching, tapping and watching- that's why she started putting the food out again.*

But, they'll also eat...
Last year, the extended rains and cool temperatures delayed all the stone fruit crop. The local raccoons rely on fruit for food that time of year. They were hungry. Not only did they become more aggressive in taking cat food, they started eating cats.

Omnivores are clever, adaptable and easily bored. Feeding raccoons is like feeding bears, not birds.

As to mentioning the comet yet again-- how often do you get to see a comet in midday? Couple of times a century, maybe. McNaught is at perihelion and is brighter than Venus ever gets (-5). The east coast's sunset is soon, so carefully, carefully go look now.

* reducing the volume each day, but slowly.

#97 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 04:13 PM:

Our friend Lea grew up in northern Louisianna, where the older raccoons would deal with dogs by running out on a log in a stream. When the dogs tried to follow, they'd push their heads under and drown them.

#98 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 04:23 PM:

Bracken. It's a nuisance in California, it's a nuisance in Scotland.

Also in California, along the coast south of the Bay Area, pampas grass is the universal marker for disturbed soil. Once you disrupt the ecosystem, they spring up rather like triffids.

Here in Scotland, there is an extensive and unsuccessful effort to eradicate rhododendra that have escaped into the wild. I suspect, like Californians with eucalyptus (thank you, Jack London), they will eventually give up.

#99 ::: Kathryn from Sunnyvale ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 04:40 PM:

Also a problem in the Bay Area is Oxalis pes caprae (aka Demon Buttercup, Oxalis pestilence, Sourhellgrass, 3-leaf doom clover)

An import from South Africa, each plant has a main bulb and produces many tiny bulblets in its growing season. It crowds out everything else shorter than 12 inches.

Chickens will eat the bulbs, but that'll cause oxalate poisoning. Pulling leaves the main bulb in the soil. Digging gets the main bulb, and spreads the little bulbs further. Solarizing or roundup clears them for a season, and then they reseed from the neighbors' yards.

Evil, evil, evil, and it's now in my mulch pile. My necessary mulch pile, because living on a sand dune means the starting tilth of the soil isn't so hot.

#100 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 05:10 PM:

Serge #84: Not that I recall, but consider the 'watchmakers' in The Mote in God's Eye which do seem to have been based on raccoons.

#101 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 05:12 PM:

Linkmeister #87:

Slide, mongoose, dog know your name.
Mongoose sneak inna Bedward kitchen,
T'ief out wan o' him righteous chicken.
Slide Mongoose.

#102 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 05:16 PM:

Kevin Hayden #93: Straussian wankers, unfortunately, are not an endangered species.

#103 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 05:26 PM:

Regarding rhododendrons in the British Isles: I've been following the self-reintroduction of wild boar in the south of England with interest. It turns out that they find rhododendrons delicious. Who knew?

And regarding wildlife at Dumpsters: I can beat all of you pikers with three words, to wit:

Ursus arctos middendorffi.

Ha!

#104 ::: Keir ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 05:35 PM:

Possums, as was said above, were introduced for a fur trade. They then got out of control, and now eat native trees, birds, anything they can get their furry little faces into.

So, these days, in NZ, possums are regarded as the scum of the earth. If you see a sheep crossing the road, you swerve out the way. If you see a possum, you swerve to hit.

However, in Australia, the possum is a protected species. This leads to some odd mismatches when watching cross-Tasman nature documentaries.

Also, every now and again you get some idiot environmentalist from overseas who rants about how evil possum fur is, until someone has a quiet word in their ear.

#105 ::: little light ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 06:56 PM:

I will second platedlizard on the huge friggin' raccoons we get in Portland, OR--and they are indeed crepuscular, as I work the graveyard shift and see them, every workday, at the beginning and end.
I've heard stories of coyotes in inner Southeast, which, to non-residents, is a dense residential neighborhood close to the middle of the city. Still, I used to come from rural Oregon, and we'd get cougars roaming neighborhoods, some summers. There is nothing, I tell you, nothing, like being a teenager and realizing you're being stalked by a Big Cat.

Then, though, speaking of invasive species, Oregon's got nutria. And they infest the waterways, and I know I've seen 'em get the size of small dogs--and not the smallest small dogs, either. Something about a rat the size of a beaver--yeah, I know, beavers are rodents, too--is a hell of a lot more intimidating than a skunk or porcupine. You should see the teeth on 'em.

I'll second the Himalayan blackberry, too, at that. You have to remove the taproots with a pickaxe. I sued to work in an invasive-species-removal program for the parks service, and it's brutal labor on anything like a large scale.

And thank you, way upthread, for pointing out the red-tailed-hawk-scream-as-foley-for-bald-eagles thing. That drives me crazy, and nobody ever believes me when I insist it's so.

#106 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 07:58 PM:

JESR, #30, I have volunteer ivy under my kitchen window and I much prefer it to the three azaleas that were there before. Since I own a condo, someone else chops off the tentacles.

Steff Z, #31, Disney seems to put mooses in most of its animated movies, including Pocahontas. We don't have meese in Virginia.

theophylact, #91, I live in Manassas and we have foxes (and deer and such) in a small strip of woods behind the condos.

#107 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 08:21 PM:

Marilee, we used to have a volunteer palm in the middle of a coral tree.

#108 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 08:38 PM:

Fragano @ 100... Actually, as I wrote that post about starships and genetically engineered raccoons, I did find myself thinking back to The Mote in God's Eye. The creatures in that book were alien though. Still, yes, same basic idea. Darn. Niven and Pournelle beat me to it.

#109 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 08:53 PM:

TexAnne #32: I think the grackles keep the starlings out of Texas. I've seen one or two starlings here, but they're rare enough to be notable. In Tennessee, they're everywhere.

Paul #43: If I can't have mongeese, I will argue strenuously for "mongoose" being its own plural! :-)

Dave #48: You owe me a new keyboard! "Deraccoonian"...

Charlie #66: "Domesticated" does not necessarily mean "trainable". For the latter, you generally need an animal with a herding or pack instinct. Raccoons, as someone else mentioned, would be more like cats -- better at training their owners than at being trained themselves.

Juliet #78: You're on. What cons do you generally attend?

FWIW, the large bush outside our front window seems to have become the local Sparrowbucks. And while sparrows aren't as loud individually as either grackles or American robins, when there are 40 or 50 of them all talking at once, the result is... noticeable.


#110 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 10:13 PM:

And I noticed recently that our Barn Owl is back on the southeast corner of the house. He's a fall-spring visitor, I know the species because I have heard him when my windows were open, they have a peculiar vocalization.

And the white spatters on my deck will weather out by May. The pellets disorganize as they weather and blow away (well except for the one it left on the porch rail.... under the porch ceiling, can't figure that one out unless maybe it was raining and it decided to take it's leisure in the dry).

#111 ::: oliviacw ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 10:51 PM:

Speaking of ivy, I have just put in a bid on a house previously belonging to an elderly couple who didn't invest much in gardening. The entire front yard is ivy. With some climbing 15 feet up the large evergreen in the middle of the yard, too. Any guidelines for eradication will be welcomed!

#113 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 13, 2007, 11:51 PM:

little light, I do believe (consulting the garden book) that 'Himalaya' is for whatever reason the name of the blackberry. It's still a pain to deal with (I've seen the thorns on wild blackberries. Loppers and elbow-length leather gloves look like a really good idea.) The garden book uses the euphemism 'extremely vigorous'. (I translate 'vigorous' as 'takes over if you give it a chance'; 'extremely vigorous' means 'keep a tac nuke handy, because it wants your continent'.)

#114 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 12:40 AM:

I remember when, in an effort to help the state, Paul Prudhomme introduced nutria dishes in his restaurant--the idea was to eat them out of existence. As I remember it the only ones that would order it were tourists that hadn't ever seen a nutria.

#115 ::: platedlizard ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 12:59 AM:

#111 First of all, go through and cut the stems of all the tree-climbing ivy and pull as much of it off as you can. You need to kill that stuff first since climbing ivy fruits quicker then ground-growing ivy.

Then you need to start pulling up the ground stuff. The roots will form a mat which you should roll up like a giant carpet. DON'T let this mat stay on the ground, if it is on any earth it will root itself. Haul it off and burn it, if you can. Pulling up ivy is back-breaking, so I recommend hiring a bunch of strong high school students over several weekends. Try to pull out as much of the roots as possible. You won't get them all, but when the roots re-sprout they will be easier to pull up. Fortunately the roots don't go too deep...usually. You will need to keep pulling anything that pops up in the cleared area, probably once a week for a couple years at least.

Roundup is not effective, according to my mother who has been battling ivy for years. It might kill a bit, but not enough to really make any kind of dent in the overall amount. Mom tried dipping the cut ivy ends in a bottle of Roundup, and the plant only experienced very minor die-back.

#116 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 01:18 AM:

Paula @ 110... I noticed recently that our Barn Owl is back on the southeast corner of the house...

When we were living around the Bay Area, there was a barn owl living in the palm tree in the backyard next door. Come evening, we'd hear the sound of a squeaky bicycle, we'd check our watches and sure enough it was 8pm and our flying neighbor was off to his night shift.

#117 ::: hamletta ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 01:37 AM:

Oy. I'd be happy to offer some recipes to help our Norwegian friends consume their Stalinist crustacean overlords, but I'm from Maryland, and our crabs are tiny and delicately flavored. Not to mention scarce, these days.

Re: Possums. Possums are gross, y'all. They're nasty little prehistoric-lookin' creatures who eat your phone lines. I rememember descending into my scary basement-cum-coal scuttle and coming face-to-face with one of the little fuckers. We both screamed bloody murder. One of them ossified right next to my furnace. I think I need to mount his skeleton as a warning to others of his icky kind.

Re: Invasive plants. My dad once plotted to plant kudzu around the house my mother bought. For me and my brother to live in. He didn't follow through, but really. Divorce is ugly, y'all.

My backyard is consumed by Japanese honeysuckle. That's what it's called, but it doesn't flower like regular honeysuckle. It just sends runners everywhere and vines that have a conveniently slippery outer casing that makes it hard to pull.

And then there are the Fuckin' Mimosas.... I love their frou-frou, powder-puff-lookin' blossoms! But the ones that take root in your yard don't bloom, they just get in the way, and they have tap roots all the way to China.

#118 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 02:19 AM:

Recipe for Stalinist king crab:

Catch crab. Keep in confined area while you heat water to boiling in your biggest pot. (They can live out of water for hours.) Meanwhile, make garlic bread, extra melted garlic butter (or olive-oil-butter-and garlic), and either an undressed crisp green salad or a lightly dressed coleslaw.

Put crab on a stump so it can't crawl away. Whack in half with large axe in order to kill it instantly and make two chunks small enough to fit into the pot. Pull out gills and anything else that doesn't look like meat. Throw crab halves into boiling water. They will cook in a few minutes. Serve with the side dishes, individual bowls of garlic butter for dipping, nutcrackers and kitchen shears to open the shells, and a lot of napkins. Lobster bibs would not be a bad idea.

#119 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 04:02 AM:

Roundup is not effective, according to my mother who has been battling ivy for years. It might kill a bit, but not enough to really make any kind of dent in the overall amount. Mom tried dipping the cut ivy ends in a bottle of Roundup, and the plant only experienced very minor die-back

That isn't a very good way of getting glyphosate into a plant. And it needs the plant to be actively growing to be effective.

Now, it's quite possibly illegal to use application methods not listed on the label, and you're likely to be using pre-diluted glyphosate if you get it for gerdening. But if you have a sponge soaked with a strong solution, with added detergent, you can wipe it onto the leaves of a target plant, rather than spray it on.

To be honest, if it's that dense a mat, spray it and let anything underneath take its chances. Actively growing, remember. Leave it two or three weeks, at least. It may be worth using a professional contractor, who can get the undiluted chemical, and add surfactants, and tailor the application to the problem.

Sodium Chlorate, the weedkiller you don't want to mix with sugar, is a better answer for gravel paths and cracks between paving slabs. It persists.

Note: "Round-Up" is a Monsanto trademark, The actual chemical, glyphosate, is out of patent. Guess why Monsanto make such a fuss about GM crop plants that are "Round-Up Ready".

#120 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 09:19 AM:

Purple loosestrife, which was introduced originally as a medicinal herb and has since been sold as an ornamental and an apicultural plant, is taking over wetlands in every state but Florida.

It's still sold to gardeners and beekeepers in 47 states. At least some of the cultivars are supposed to be sterile. In practice, generally they're not, and if they were, they still spread by the roots at a rate of a foot a year.

#121 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 09:48 AM:

Steff Z@31: I don't know what that's called, but I don't \think/ it's a continuity error; more like artistic licentiousness. I vaguely recall Gaiman grumbling that skunks are also not found in the UK.

I remember, a few steps into our first visit to Kew Gardens, one of us observing that the fauna obviously included geese; surprisingly but fortunately, the weather had been dry enough that the spots of poop all over the sidewalk were desiccated rather than on our shoes. One of the you-may-see-this-wildlife signs explained that branta canadensis had been imported because they were ornamental; apparently nobody knew what efficient grass-converters they were. At least the geese haven't become endemic (not to mention non-migratory) outside Kew, as they have all over New England. (Even if they had, the geese, which will take on anything, would help against raccoons, due to the same diurnal/nocturnal issue as mentioned above for mongoose.) Sometimes being stupid doesn't get its proper reward.

Gene@46: wrt geese, the \environment/ changes may not be the factor; the year-round geese here are the descendants of live decoys, released when the practice was outlawed but long after they'd lost the urge/knowledge to migrate.

CaseyL@88: raccoons are either active throughout the night, or encouraged by streetlights to treat the entire night as twilight; I remember one giving me a how-dare-you-interrupt-my-meal look when I came home after 11pm.

#122 ::: john ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 10:29 AM:

CHip @ 121:

Canada geese are endemic in most of the UK, not just Kew. Yet goose is still expensive in the shops. Humph.

#123 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 11:44 AM:

I am amused by the grape-harvest story's referring to raccoons as "rodents".

I've lived in Georgia (prime raccoon habitat, they even live intown in Atlanta) all my life but was an adult before I ever heard the weird whooping sound the babies make--it sounds just like a bunch of small children going "wooop, wooop,wooop", with each "woop" ascending through about a half-step.

#124 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 11:46 AM:

Goose is still expensive in the shops here in North America (including Canada) as well; I'm guessing that the nice butcher is selling domestic goose, not Branta canadensis, but I'm not the one ordering the geese (I just carry them home and eat them).

#125 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 11:49 AM:

CHip #121: Canada geese are endemic in Georgia, which is a fair way from New England.

#126 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 11:57 AM:

I'm not very high-tech in the garden. I just keep pulling up bindweed. And pulling up bindweed. And pulling up the bindweed shoots that ran under the edges of the aluminum frame of the basement window and into the house. And pulling up the shoots that managed to force their way between the foundation and the wall and into the downstairs studio and wrap themselves around a sword that my wife has models pose with occasionally for paintings that require a sword. And the little office building my sister and I own has an old rosebush from a house next door that fell apart (My folks bought the site later for the land) which has an old rosebush so big that it would put Jon Singer into shock, and the rose has so much bindweed wound into it's middle that I can't even pull it out.

I'm so tired of bindweed.

#127 ::: Jack Ruttan ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 12:03 PM:

Started typing my own raccoon-and-cat story, which I remember firsthand as a child in Toronto, but don't want to be typed myself as delusional. So here's one which has at least appeared in a newspaper, about crawling goats invading a British village:

http://www.sundaymirror.co.uk/news/tm_headline=crawl-of-the-wild-&method=full&objectid=18467337&siteid=62484-name_page.html

Too bad John Wyndham's not still alive to write about it.

That super-collider thing in message #20 rocks my socks!

#128 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 12:10 PM:

Jak Ruttan... crawling goats invading a British village

First, Basil the Killer Sheep, now this...

#129 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 02:30 PM:

Charlie Stross (66): "Has anyone ever tried breeding them for domesticity? I can see certain advantages to having a smart, trainable house pet with hands."

Let me add my voice to the chorus. Did you see the bit in the BBC Hamsters thread where I said that Brits have no idea what they'd be getting into with raccoons?

Start with an animal that has the basic bear nature: shrewd, laid-back, sloppy, gluttonous, opportunistic, adaptable, brazen, deceptively humorous, and capable of turning into a terrifying bundle of pure fight.

Remove almost all of its fear of humans. Give it the ingenuity of a crow or otter, a housecat's sense of entitlement, some limited ability to work together in groups, and a robust breeding cycle.

Scale it down to "medium dog". Give it hands. Rewire its brain so that fully 64% of its somatic sensory cortex is devoted to processing information from the palms of its hands.

Finish by making the little suckers cute.

I don't think you were reading rec.arts.sf.fandom when people there got to talking about raccoons. You don't want to read the whole thing -- this was in the context of one of those epic 6,000-message rasff threads -- but here are three ten-message strings that'll give you a good sample of the stories that got told: 1, 2, 3. Be sure to click where it says "show quoted text".

#130 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 02:52 PM:

Edward Oleander @ #60 - I believe it was TexAnne who objected to grackles. I merely objected to classifying them among the corvidae. To my eye they are elegant looking birds, though rather unmelodious.

#131 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 02:57 PM:

Anne @130: Yes, it was I who objected to grackles. I still do. I always will. Anyone who thinks grackles deserve to live are invited to stand under a Texas tree at sunset.

#132 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 02:58 PM:

Gah. "...is invited..."

#133 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 03:11 PM:

Marilee @ 106: Disney seems to put mooses in most of its animated movies, including Pocahontas. We don't have meese in Virginia.

According to this book (which also has recipes for passenger pigeon), the natural range of moose and elk used to extend down to New York and Iowa. Virginia still sounds to've been rather out of their way, though.

#134 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 03:40 PM:

Mooses, Julie L? Not meese?

#135 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 04:10 PM:

TexAnne: In favour of grackles is the fact that the Great-Tailed Grackle is a tick-eater. As someone who spent a chunk of his life living on a cattle farm in the tropics, this is an important consideration.

#136 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 04:51 PM:

I concur with TexAnne on the grackle situation. It's not even just what comes down out of the tree; it's all the screaming that accompanies it. Sort of Hitchcock combined with oh dear, I'm not sure what: was there ever a movie on the lines of _Attack of the Giant Guano_? The local campus sidewalks have slick pebbles embedded; when the live oak pollen and the grackle droppings combine and get wet, the resulting mess is, as the expression goes, slicker than snot. I actually fell down a couple of times.

We used to fantasize that grackles were the low-lifes of the bird community, no doubt sitting round in folding lawnchairs in their undershirts, drinking cheap canned beer and making rude remarks.

On the other hand, they do have one behavior that's very funny: in really hot weather, they'll sort of spread their wings out a little, stand on one leg, and cock their head sideways. This looks both remarkably stupid and highly pitiable.

#137 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 04:56 PM:

Fragano, 135: Our grackles have small little scrawny tails.

#138 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 05:19 PM:

TexAnne #137: But do they eat ticks?

#139 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 05:38 PM:

TexAnne - are you sure you're not confusing them with starlings? All the grackle species in my bird book have long tails. Both grackles and starlings are dark, noisy, and apt to be found in flocks, sometimes with each other, but the grackles are long tailed, sleek birds with yellow eyes and black beaks, while starlings are short-tailed scruffy birds with black eyes and yellow beaks.

Not that I'm telling you not to dislike grackles, since they may be what's messing up your neck of the woods. It's just that your description didn't sound quite right.

#140 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 05:50 PM:

Anne #139:

I had thought TexAnne was talking about Austin grackles until the tail size thing. The Austin grackle is known as the Texas Boat-Tailed Grackle, and the tails are at least as long as the body.

The other interesting thing about them is that their habitat stops a mile or two east of where I live. There's a ridge that marks a change from urban to suburban/hill country, and that's where they quit. Here, we get mourning doves and owls. I regard the doves as a plague because they wake me up earlier than I would care to be woken.

Sorry anybody, I never heard about ticks.

#141 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 05:59 PM:

When I said "small little scrawny tails," I meant "tails missing half their feathers, and half those remaining are broken off short." It's a wonder they can fly straight. Healthy grackles do indeed have tails as long as their bodies, but we don't have many healthy grackles around here. (I'm pretty sure they don't eat ticks, either.)

#142 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 06:09 PM:

You could sell recordings of grackles for use in car alarms. Or for background noise for jungle and alien-planet scenes in movies.
Yes, grackles live in CA. We have great-tailed grackles (and those tails are something else). We also have the itty-bitty ones known as Brewer's blackbirds.

#143 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 06:37 PM:

Serge, #134, I'm the one who said mooses and meese. I was being silly.

#144 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 06:43 PM:

Shorter URL for the current UK Sunday Mirror story about crawling goats and the £40,000 cattle grid in Exmoor. (I hope everyone can see the pound sign.)

preview.tinyurl.com/yxzq34

Have cattle ever learned to crawl? Or do you think there's a physical difference here, not just mental?

#145 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 07:37 PM:

joann #140: They are the bane of people who raise animals in the open. They carry disease, and they have a tendency to climb up the limbs and settle on the tender parts in the fork of the body. This can get very embarrassing for a teenage lad who has to ask his mother for help, and has to walk around naked from the waist down for a while.

#146 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 07:54 PM:

Serge 108 -- I'm surprised nobody mentioned Steve Boyett's The Architect of Sleep, the only volume of a projected 5-novel series actually published, where humans are succeeded by slightly mutated raccoons. Fine book, and I'm pissed the series never continued.

And as for invasive plants, don't forget giant hogweed. I saw it a couple of times in Seattle: about 12 feet high, growing very rapidly, with sap caustic enough to burn one's hands. It's an impressive plant.

I saw a hillside near where I lived in cohousing in Seattle which had thistle, Himalayan blackberry, and morning glories covering it. I wanted to take a picture and call it either "The war of all against all" or "Evolution in action", but I figured nobody would really get either reference....

#147 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 08:15 PM:

Tom Whitmore #146: Perhaps they would if you credited the photograph to 'Hobbes Pournelle'.

#148 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 08:47 PM:

Fragano 147 -- well, many here would anyway.

#149 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 09:00 PM:

Tom Whitmore #148: That's true.

#150 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 09:16 PM:

Tom Whitmore @ 146... The Boyott books about the raccoons. Right. I remember my wife telling me about those.

#151 ::: Missy K. ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2007, 09:25 PM:

Anyone from South Florida can tell stories about all sorts of invasive species. In my neighborhood, for instance, a four-foot long iguana trundling along the street is a common sight. I have amievas, another lizard species, living under my front stoop. They're very pretty--brown heads, bright iridescent green bodies, and brilliantly, flagrantly, purple tails. The first time I saw a pair of them sunning on my blacktop driveway, I was stunned by their sparkliness; the green and purple scales are highly reflective and make the lizards look as if they are wearing jewels.

But my favorite has to be a species known locally as "Jesus Christ Lizards". These live near canals and ornamental lakes, and when startled they stand up on their hind legs and run like heck for the water. By the time they get there, they are moving so fast that they can actually run across the water's surface for a few yards before submerging. Their popular name comes from this fact--and also from the fact that if you startle some of them and aren't expecting this trick, your natural reaction is to shout, "Jesus Christ!" when they suddenly stand up and take off.

#152 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 01:25 AM:

abi @98: Bracken is a bad neighbor, and can kill cattle. One of the worst thing I saw, as a child, was thirteen beautiful, heavily pregnant two year old Holsteins (Freisians) bleed out, one after another, from bracken poisoning. However, Scotland's plague on the west coast, starting at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge and proceeding up well into BC, is broom. There's a rumor in the further reaches of its range that it was introduced by the Interstate Highway beautification program, which is nonsense; it came from the botanists working with Hudson Bay Company, notably David Douglas, who sent seeds of various PNW plants to Menzies in Edinburgh and in return received broom seed that was planted at Fort Victoria, Nisqually, and Vancouver sometime before 1840. I have family photos from before 1900 where the broom is shoulder high to the plow horses. Its worst effect, to my mind, is fixing nitrogen, because all the best native grassland plants are averse to the stuff, so native prairie gets replaced by non-native broom, bracken, and blackberry.

little light @105, the Himalayas in my yard were planted on purpose, during the time the land grant universities were promoting them as "an easy and fruitful family garden plant;" my sister and I have used a tractor to pull out burls that were as big as an oil barrel. And the use of red tail calls instead of the baldies whimpy chittering is shameful, but the use of the call of the flicker as the classic "jungle bird" foley fills me with glee at its absurdity.

There has been talk of barn owls. If anything needs encouraged, that's what I'd pick. They're living expressions of grace, and they eat rodents; they're also native throughought the Northern Hemisphere. Coyotes are supposed to eat rats, field mice, and gophers, but they seem to prefer garbage, pet food, and cats, as well as the apple pulp from the cider mill that we give to our cattle.

#153 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 01:27 AM:

You could sell recordings of grackles for use in car alarms.

Other way around. They're easily as good mimics as mockingbirds, and if there's a Houston grackle that can't imitate a standard car alarm by now, I'd be very surprised. It's really bad over on the UofH campus, which has a lot of commuter students, many of whom are older retreads who drive expensive cars equipped with alarms set to "cat whisker". The alarm noises literally never stop near some of the larger parking lots.

#154 ::: Juliet E McKenna ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 06:32 AM:

Claude #82, and Lee #109, I'm England-based so mostly frequently go to FantasyCon in UK, P-Con and Octocon in Dublin and others in UK and Ireland as and when invited. I've made two thoroughly rewarding visits to Boskone but can't get there this year, unfortunately. I am planning* on getting over to World Fantasy Con in Saratoga this year.
(*for values of planning applicable to a woman with two school-age children and a husband whose work regularly takes him abroad)

To return to non-native animals, our biggest pest in the Cotswolds used to be mink, released from fur farms by animal rights folk. The mink proceeded to slaughter the native otters, birdlife, water voles, you name it, driving many to local extinction. Eradication of the mink by an alliance of naturalists and game-keepers protecting their pheasants has been a long, laborious process, now enabling local wildlife to recover. The pheasants still get shot but field sports are a fact of life round here.

Now we just need to deal with the American Crayfish that's wiping out the native variant in our rivers.

I did hear some qualified good news on invasive plants a while ago though. Apparently the nightmare scenario for botanists was a hybrid of Russian Vine and Kudzu. And this was found somewhere! Only it turned out to be a totally rubbish plant as it inherited the most useless characteristics of both parents and ended up in a tangled floppy mess.

Though of course, that's only good news until genetics throws up a hybrid that wins the lottery on the pernicious characteristics. But apparently lab experiments suggest this is unlikely for assorted genetic reasons - at this point the radio programme outstripped my secondary school biology knowledge.

#155 ::: Jakob ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 06:46 AM:

Juliet @ 78:

If you're going to be at Picocon this year, consider yourself taken up on that offer.

#156 ::: Naomi ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 07:58 AM:

"Apparently the nightmare scenario for botanists was a hybrid of Russian Vine and Kudzu. And this was found somewhere! Only it turned out to be a totally rubbish plant as it inherited the most useless characteristics of both parents and ended up in a tangled floppy mess."

To quote Flanders and Swann:

'Poor little sucker, how will it learn
When it is climbing, which way to turn?
Right-left-what a disgrace!
Or it may go straight up and fall flat on its face!'

We're in the midst of conquering the alien invaders in our back yard (we live in North Carolina): lots of ivy, some Japanese honeysuckle, and periwinkle all mixed up together. Fortunately, there's no wisteria or kudzu. Nor, even though it's native, poison ivy.

We're doing the rolling-up-the-mat-of-roots method, and will then cover up the place where it was with a layer of cardboard and then mulch on top of that. According to our local arboretum, this helps cut down on the number of ivy plants you get from the roots left in the ground. We shall see.

#157 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 09:15 AM:

Lee #153: A friend told me years ago of a car she saw. It had been stripped of its wheels, all its windows smashed, and across the side in spraypaint were scrawled the words "CAR ALARM."

Thought that might amuse you.

#158 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 10:21 AM:

I don't think anyone here has yet mentioned that fine 'Peter Shandy' mystery novel by Charlotte MacLeod, Curse of the Giant Hogweed (1986).

#159 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 12:29 PM:

Missy #151: I thought I was the only one who thought there was a similarity between those lizards and The Big JC. I had no idea anyone called them Jesus Christ lizards.

Although my thing is more to imagine that Jesus walked on the water the same way, with his arms all flying around and frantic.

#160 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 12:42 PM:

Fragano #145:

I meant I didn't know what grackles did or didn't do to ticks, particularly around here. It's never been mentioned. From which I infer that they don't do anything useful.

#161 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 01:16 PM:

In twenty years, we'll wish we had raccoons, after the polar bears have moved south. They'll find our garbage, cats, dogs, and people much easier pickings than hunting seals on the ice.

[No scientists are actually predicting this is going to happen; it's just a passing fantasy. But it would serve us right.]

#162 ::: Juliet E McKenna ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 02:17 PM:

Jakob @ 155, ooh, Picocon, now there's an idea for a really fun way to spend a Saturday in London (February 17th in case anyone's curious).

And it just so happens that one Charles Stross, as seen upthread, is a Guest of Honour.

I shall consult family calendars and see if it can be managed!

#163 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 02:20 PM:

joann #160: OK!

#164 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 02:48 PM:

Joann @136: Grackles on campus come up on a current MetaFilter thread.

#165 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 02:55 PM:

Tom @ 146:

That was an interesting novel. Although as I recall, it was an alternate universe where humans had never evolved, and there were two moons. I've always wondered where he'd been planning to take it from there: there were hints that there was going to be a nasty war of some kind.

#166 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 03:10 PM:

TexAnne - Gotcha. Grackles with shabby tails.

And now I'm forgetting who mentioned the use of a flicker's call for a jungle bird. For my money, the woodpecker with the jungliest scream I've ever heard is the pileated. I'm in a small enough town with extensive enough wooded areas that I occasionally see and hear them in my yard.

Raccoon stories - I spent a quarter of an hour one summer evening trying to catch a young raccoon that was running around my neighborhood with its head stuck in a jar. Since I know the little suckers are dangerous, my plan was to grab the scruff of its neck with one hand and the jar with the other, and try to yank the jar off and fling the raccoon away with one motion. Couldn't catch the poor thing, though.

#167 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 05:14 PM:

Rob #164:

They missed the bit where various methods of removal were tried.

(I was somewhat surprised, during last week's Great Dead Grackle Mystery, to discover that it *is so* legal to kill the buggers; I'd always been under the impression that they were protected migratory songbirds.)

Anyhoo, the only successful non-fatal method of degrackleization turned out to be carbide cannons. Brave men from Buildings and Grounds would fire them off at sunset, and they'd all fly away, leaving mass droppings. Eventually they got the message and migrated down to the Governor's Mansion. From there they were chased down to Town Lake, and I don't know what the great majority of them do now, although I've heard rumors that some have dared to return to campus.

At least one, in its purple poopberry phase, has recently been decorating the tree over a parking spot I use at a coffeehouse (and decorating my car, too).

#168 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 05:29 PM:

Hahahaha, Grackles on Campus. People are using phrases that crack me up today.

#169 ::: Paula Lieberman ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 05:31 PM:

The reason for the crab explosion in Norweigan waters is because the Russians went out of their way to stock the sea not that far from where Norway is with king crabs, because they meant income and food from the sea for Russia.

Population explosion and spread doen't occur instantaneously, it's an exponential progression. E.g., if one breeding pair generate a million fertile eggs in a year and half of those survive to reproduction age, that's 500,000 offspring from that one pair from one year, that will reproduce. If half of those are female and each generates 500,000 survive-to-reproduction offspring, that 500,000 X 250,000 more crabs of reproduction age just from the offspring of the offspring of -one- year of one pair of fertile crabs... the population growth, again, is exponential. If they were food for other sea life, it would be a different story, instead of them omnivorously consuming all and churning out more crabs.

They're rather larger than the crabs that e.g. Massachusetts seagulls go fishing for and leave mostly emptied shells of on Cape Cod docks (seagulls can be amazing. I watched stupified as one unusually dimwitted specimen went clam fishing and then failed to crack open the hardshell clam, as it initially repeated flew up into the air, dropped the clam on -sand- instead of rocks, and after that, swam over to a wooden dock and walked around dropping the clam onto the wooden dock, from its beak to dock. Then it tried the same thing with a second clam, and eventually flew off carrying the first, leaving the second to stay on the dock, where it still was the next morning!

See also, "Soviet fish trawlers on the Grand Bank" back in the 1960s. Yes, some of them were looking for other harvests besides fish, but most of them were trolling the seas sucking up every fish they could find--the Norweigans were doing much the same as regards sucking up fish, and still do.... note that the "country of origin" of e.g. frozen fish tends to not be where the fish get caught, but where they get processed--haddock and cod from "China" don't tend to be caught off the coast of China!

#170 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 05:39 PM:

I'll see your grackles and raise you turkey vultures. So to speak.

For some years, a group of turkey vulures have made a group of tall eucalyptus trees here in Merced their home. One of the main streets near my home started as an old ranch road. The narrow lane was flanked on either side by blue gums planted some time in the 19th century. As the city grew north along this street, the central lane was converted into a bike path, with the street divided and relocated on either side of the lane of trees. The street runs through a mile or so of housing subdivisions, including ours.

There are so many vultures in these trees that the blacktop street below has large patches where droppings have turned the pavement white. Those who live close to the trees find droppings and scraps from the vultures feeding on their yards and patios. The homeowners continually complain to the city, and every couple of years the city hires a contractor to come in with carbide cannons or fireworks to try to drive the vultures off. Results have been mixed. One time the noise managed to drive the birds to another group of eucalyptus. Unfortunately (for the vultures) that grove already had a flock of crows resident, who quickly drove them back to their original trees.

Don't mess with the crows around here. The're big, agressive, and sure about their territory. Also, they may be smarter than the raccoons . . .

#171 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 05:44 PM:
... the basic bear nature: shrewd, laid-back, sloppy, gluttonous, opportunistic, adaptable, brazen, deceptively humorous, and capable of turning into a terrifying bundle of pure fight.

Teresa, I really hope my wife never sees that description. If she does, it will be permanently attached to me. Probably by rivets.

#172 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 07:42 PM:

Hahahaha, Grackles on Campus. People are using phrases that crack me up today.

It does sound like bird-pr0n, doesn't it?

#173 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 09:49 PM:

I was off in Peoria this weekend, attending, alas, yet another family funeral.

Teresa writes in #37:

Bill Higgins (20): Ooooh, shiny! What is it?

It's the 2000-ton central hunk of the Colliding Detector Facility. More pictures here. Public information page here, including a link to the nobly-intended "Plain English Summaries" where physicists have penned simple descriptions of important CDF results. You tell me how well they work.

CDF was retconned to "Collider Detector at Fermilab," presumably when somebody figured out that we weren't actually colliding detectors together, and that is the name you will find on Web pages today.

CDF is at intersection B-zero in the Tevatron tunnel. A couple sectors away, a second massive detector operates at D-zero. Despite years of discussion, nobody could agree on a name even as good as "Colliding Detector Facility" for this experiment, so the facility is still named D0. Here is an entertaining account of the difference between the two detectors. The D0 folks were first to start the Plain English thing.

#174 ::: Howard Peirce ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 10:39 PM:

GRACKLES ON CAMPUS

[Interior: College dormitory. SKYLER, a blond, wears a cheerleader outfit that reads "STATE." MADISON, a brunette, wears a plaid miniskirt and white blouse. TAYLOR, a redhead, wears a pink teddy.]

SKYLER: I'm sure glad you ordered that pizza, Madison. I could use something large, hot, and filling.

TAYLOR: I'll say. I hope you ordered extra pepperoni.

MADISON: Me, too.

SKYLER: You said a mouthful!

ALL: [laughter]

[SFX: A knock at the door]

TAYLOR: Who's there? The pizza guy?

SKYLER: The pizza guy?

GRACKLE: [off-camera] Bra-a-a-a-a-i-i-i! Bra-a-a-a-a-i-i-i! Pokkapokkapokkapokka.

#175 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 15, 2007, 10:53 PM:

Ann Sheller, that was me; Pileateds do, indeed have a wild and exotic call, but I'm pretty sure the jungle-bird call is only a flicker, not the mad and noble Pileated.

I write "only" and shudder; last spring I was leaning on one of the hollow apple trees in the orchard, watching something else entirely, when a flicker came out of the hollow only a few inches from my face, and then took off so close I got a very good idea just how very large it was. There was also a certain intuitive ACK! involved in having a beak that large and sharp and pointy so close to my eyes.

#176 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 12:28 AM:

Howard Pierce #174: Turns into a bit of a horror movie at the end, there, doesn't it? Or at least something along the lines of the land shark from SNL. "Unicef!"

I doubt I'll ever laugh that hard at the word "pokkapokkapokkapokka" again.

#177 ::: Howard Peirce ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 01:02 AM:

ethan (176): Everything I write turns into a horror movie eventually. It's a blessing and a curse.

Would you believe I looked up mp3 grackle samples online so I could try to render the grackle's song phonetically?

Bra-a-a-a-a-i-i-i! Bra-a-a-a-a-i-i-i! Pokkapokkapokkapokka

I'm not sure I was entirely successful.

#178 ::: Howard Peirce ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 01:18 AM:

By the way, Dan Mennill's Bird Songs of the Yucatan Peninsula is an incredible thing -- the sort of thing that makes one love the Internet.

The Ferruginous Pygmy-owl (mp3) cracks me up. I teleconference with a guy who talks like this bird sings.

#179 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 10:41 AM:

You know, like the bats that Americans equipped with miniature incendiary bombs to nest in and set ablaze Tokyo during WW2. :)

Yeah, but the thing about the bat bomb was that it actually worked. They tried it on model towns built for the purpose, and in at least one case lost a big chunk of an army base when the bats roosted in the wrong spots.

(Bald eagles sound like overgown chickens. Not properly uplifting or dignified.)

They look awfully silly on the ground, too. They do this kind of hop-trundle thing.

mongeese...It's "mongooses".

Personally I think the plural of "mongoose" ought to be "polygoose".

I will happily explain The Universal Monster Template theory to anyone who buys me a drink at a convention.

Could I persuade you to explain it here, as I don't go to conventions?

My own least favorite invasive species are Rose of Sharon (which I was astonished to discover some people lack and actually have to buy, because it's edible) and the variety of morning glory I've taken to calling "the pernicious weed".

#180 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 12:32 PM:

Howard Pierce #177: I think you done good.

#181 ::: Meg Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 12:40 PM:

Ooh, misimported wildlife - a favourite Aussie topic. The tricky bit is where to start.

Well, let's start with the most obvious example - the rabbit. The story is that some nong decided to import a couple of pairs to practice his shooting on. As the old joke goes, he was a lousy shot. Rabbits are now one of the main pest animals in Australia. Just to add to the fun, some aristocratic nit decided to introduce foxes (so there could be some proper huntin', doncherknow) and they're now a fairly established pest as well. Unfortunately the foxes aren't in the same area as the rabbits, so we can't get them working for our own benefit.

Then there's the cane toad, brought in to act as a predator on a pest of sugar cane, and then discovered to be a right nuisance since all parts of the animal (including its spawn, what's worse) are toxic to eat. So much for it being controlled by native predators - it controls them into oblivion instead. It started off in Queensland, has made its way across the Northern Territory, and is now threatening Western Australia's tropical areas. It's also heading south (with the whole "global warming" bit giving it a bit more territory to roam over).

Then we have the camels which were brought in (along with their Afghan handlers) in the nineteenth century to help with exploration and supplying places like Kalgoorlie, Alice Springs, and pretty much anywhere arid inland (historical note: if you're in an Australian town where one or two of the streets is apparently ten lanes wide, that's because there used to be deliveries by camel train there. Apparently they're a bit of a whatsit to turn). Once railways were created, the camel trains weren't needed. So the camels were just turned loose - and now they're a major pest in the Australian dessert as well.

Oh, and the escaped domestic animals - feral pigs, feral cats (which apparently get to a very large size), feral goats, feral donkeys, feral cattle, feral water buffalo - you name it, if it could escape, it did, and we've got them running wild all over the place. Not to mention the starlings (another one we're attempting to stop at the border in Western Australia), the cockroaches (they're imports, and boy do I wish they weren't).

And don't get me *started* on the plants...

#182 ::: Juliet E McKenna ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 02:02 PM:

Um, Carrie@179, it's a bit lengthy and I fear I'd be offending against local custom and practise by going majorly off-topic, even if it does involve lemurs and some of those have stripey tails like raccoons...

I shall aim to write up a concise summary and follow the linkage through to your own blog and get in touch with you there, OK?

Only that'll have to be tomorrow (UK time) as I'm about to leave to spend a couple of hours throwing grown men around a padded room - I practise the Japanese martial art of Aikido.

#183 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 02:09 PM:

Way back at #92, Varia wrote:

. . . mama raccoon and her six babies . . . trooping up the stairs together, and opening jars of peanut butter (although not closing them back up), or opening large Tupperware bins of kitty food.

. . . I will never complain about the mice in our kitchen again. At least they just used _teeth_.

(I think they've gone away now. I hope. A week of no visible signs of their presence and I still feel like Mr. Tweedy, convinced those mice are up to something.)

Carrie S. @ #192:

My own least favorite invasive species are Rose of Sharon

Vertically-inclined bushy thing, blooms in August in mid-state New York? Where is it invasive to, and should I feel guilty about liking ours?

#184 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 02:21 PM:

I shall aim to write up a concise summary and follow the linkage through to your own blog and get in touch with you there, OK?

I'd be delighted. I'll make you your own posting that you can comment in.

[Rose of Sharon is a] vertically-inclined bushy thing, blooms in August in mid-state New York?

Yes. Pretty purple-through-red vaguely-morning-glory blossoms.

Where is it invasive to, and should I feel guilty about liking ours?

I see no reason for you to feel guilty about it. I don't even know that it's "invasive" in the technical sense around here; I live in western Pennsylvania and it may be native for all I know. But it sprouts like mad; my dad has a perennial (no pun intended) battle trying to keep the stuff out of his tomatoes, because the neighbor has a hedge of it on the other side of the fence.

I think Rose of Sharon is reasonably attractive, but it has a habit of showing up where it isn't wanted, the definition of a weed. :) And when I discovered that some people purposefully buy and plant it, I was just gobsmacked. Not that someone thinks it's attractive enough to buy, but that you'd have to. In my experience it's enough to stop fighting it, and soon you'll have all the Rose of Sharon you want...

#185 ::: Annie G. ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 02:23 PM:

My husband and I spent a year living on Cayuga Lake in New York, and had the usual problems with raccoons getting into our trash. But our Big 'Coon Event took place in downtown Boston: a raccoon walked across our open skylight and fell into our condo. And then co-habited with us for some three days before we realized it. It drank out of the upstairs bathroom and foraged for food, and we didn't know it was there until I went upstairs to do laundry.

For all that they look cute, those are some nasty critters. It growled at the nice man from animal control when he came to pick it up, and urinated all over the wall. The kicker? State law requires animal control to release the raccoon within a certain distance (100 yards?) of the place of its capture. Because although they're vermin, they're considered helpful vermin because they eat trash as well as smaller critters, like mice.

#186 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 02:30 PM:

Meg Thornton @181: Cane toads. A pair of Australian animators (Andrew Silke and David Clayton) did a 4 min. 3D CG cartoon, inspired by the documentary Cane Toad, an Unnatural History.

This page is the first page (of four) of cane toad facts from their site. If you have never heard of cane toads, read these first.

This page has the links for the movie (available in 400x200 QuickTime, or 720x576 Divx AVI).

Several copies of this animation have also been put on YouTube; here's a link to one of them.

#187 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 02:34 PM:

Okay, the link to the cane toad facts got botched. Try this one.

#188 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 03:37 PM:

(Has grave doubts that Carrie's rose of sharon is actually the Rose of Sharon known as such in horticulture, because in 15 years online, mostly in garden communities, I've never heard that complaint.)

#189 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 03:40 PM:

(Has grave doubts that Carrie's rose of sharon is actually the Rose of Sharon known as such in horticulture, because in 15 years online, mostly in garden communities, I've never heard that complaint.)

It is entirely possible that I've got the wrong name. Tomorrow I'll see if I can dig up a picture of my RoS.

#190 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 03:43 PM:

Thanks, Carrie, because it's driving me nuts trying to figure out what it could be, and I am about to send out a call to my thirty closest gardening buddies to find out if any of them have had that problem.

I'm suspecting a close Rose of Sharon relative like Lavetera, since you mentioned vaguely morning-glory-ish flowers, which puts the well known thug Rosa rugosa right out.

#191 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 04:10 PM:

Yes, we have three bushes in our yard id'ed as Rose of Sharon, and none of them have gone anywhere.

In fact, we have a couple somehat overly-sunny pictures of them.

#192 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 04:11 PM:

Hmm -- the Rose of Sharon I'm familiar with is in the same family as the Hibiscus beloved of Hawaii. I'm allergic to the pollen of all that tribe. (Mallows, I think.)

They are often called 'hardy' Hibiscus.

#193 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 04:40 PM:

I worked at a nursery that sold Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus sinensis) in pink, white, and 'blue', both single and double. It isn't a spreading plant, but there's rose mallow, which is. (Rose mallow is (quick Google) Hibiscus moscheutos or Lavatera trimestris, and I couldn't tell you the difference, but I've seen plants with two different leaf shapes. After it dies back and the bark peels off, the stems would be good for dry arrangements, being smooth and glossy.)

#194 ::: cmk ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 04:54 PM:

The old unimproved H. sinensis would seed itself readily, it used to be an over-the-fence gift plant. Popular modern varieties may be triploids, which pretty much does away with that propensity.

Another "Rose of Sharon" which I didn't encounter until I moved to California is a common groundcover variety of Hypericum; the specific name escapes me but that one's a spreader and has definite under-the-fence tendencies.

Flowers are white-to-orchid, and yellow, respectively.

#195 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 05:12 PM:

PJ Evans, "Rose mallow is (quick Google) Hibiscus moscheutos or Lavatera trimestris" The first is the one I was thinking of, which is also sold as Marshmallow; I haven't had it root-run but I've got a nasty case of hollyhock rust here, and it might in other places less cursed.

I have had Lavatera olbia "Rosae" air-layer freely, so it might also be the spreading menace.

My sister has a white Rose of Sharon and the one called "Bluebird" both of which are nearly columnar in form and stay nicely where they're put, at least in her yard, on her soil, in Thurston County, Washington. So few things are thugs everywhere and always; I can't keep plume poppy alive to save my life, for instance.

#196 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 05:57 PM:

Plume poppy?

I think cmk's Hypericum is 'St John's' something-or-other, but there's something called 'blazing star' which might be the same thing. My train station has it as part of the ground cover, along with creeping rosemary and some honeysuckle - they clearly were going for 'pretty and smells good'!

#197 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 16, 2007, 07:44 PM:

Carrie S, #184, I love Rose of Sharon. You can cut it to the ground after it blooms and get six-foot stems of blooms the next year. And the blossoms open for the day and close for night. It doesn't spread in Virginia, though. I've lived in two houses with it and haven't had a problem.

Ah, I've had Hibiscus syriacus.

#198 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 09:18 AM:

OK, it appears that my Rose of Sharon is Hibiscus syriacus. I knew it wasn't Rosa rugosa; I can spot a rosa at a hundred paces.

#199 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 09:26 AM:

And doing some further searching, I discover the following:
"It may be pretty, but it self seeds and is highly invasive in gardens on Long Island."

"too invasive -- I spent too much time pulling up new tiny trees all over my yard"

"Unbelievably irritatingly invasive. It self-seeds at a fantastic rate, and can be very hard to pull out the seedlings."

"It may be pretty, but it self seeds and is highly invasive in my garden"

Out of the seven negative comments on the linked page, four were about how invasive it is (the other three were generally "takes too long to leaf out in spring"). The "invasive" ones seem to be from places with climate similar to WPA, so it might just be my climate zone that has the problem.

#200 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 17, 2007, 03:00 PM:

P J Evans asks about Plume Poppy:

Macleaya cordata, a member of the frumitory clan (as are poppies), allegedly a self-seeding root-running seven-foot thug, but something I can't get established as something lives in my soil and tunnels in the fleshy roots.

I'm told I should be thankful for the favor.

#201 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 07:20 AM:

Juliet McKenna (182), whatever gave you the idea that digressions and long posts are contrary to local custom?

#202 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 08:12 AM:

It is, after all, a knitting blog.

The threads on Making Light are known to drift --
In that, it's just like any other place.
But they do more. They tangle, twist and lift,
Then knot and unknot, twine and interlace.
We spin threads out to unexpected length
And tug them sideways till they interact.
The intersections give the site its strength:
It stretches when it's stressed, but stays intact.
And if our needled comments don't create
Harmonious intarsial designs,
Our crotchets still keep threads from running straight,
Since we prefer to write with crooked lines.
When topics tangle, we rejoice. We'd whinge
If threads hung straight, since all we'd have is fringe.

#203 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 08:20 AM:

(Apologies for the raggedness of the above. It came in a burst, but I have kids to care for and no time to polish.)

#204 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 08:31 AM:

Abi has got it, I think, mostly right
about the way that sub-threads intersect,
we're here to learn, communicate, connect;
the final product? This is Making Light.
All of us here are smart, well-read, bright,
we're not the prisoners of some closed sect
(except for knitters, if I may interject),
and you'll find us here any day or night.
Science fiction, politics, the cost of thread,
on all these topics we'll expatiate,
we're in a Symposium, an intellectual feast.
With effort each turns away to earn some bread,
somehow we get there, never running late;
and hamsters serve as our heraldic beast.

#205 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 09:51 AM:

Abi, no need to apologize for #202! It's so utterly appropriate, I ran out a copy to keep. And that quality of "Making Light" is what I love most. Even threads on subjects that don't interest me (fruitcakes) or depress me after a time (the morass of current politics) will always mutate, or veer wildly away from the original subject at some point -- wasn't there a discussion of Cyd Charisse in "Wingnut Spam"?

That's why I'm utterly addicted to this blog.

#206 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 10:11 AM:

Faren,

I am very touched that you wanted to keep a copy of that sonnet! Thank you for telling me so.

I agree that the thread drift is what makes ML so enjoyable - and time-consuming. I can't let an active thread go unread, no matter what the original topic, lest I miss a classic discussion. Who knew I would be reheating my Latin prose composition to discuss weasels and Crassus on that fruitcake thread?

The only real reason I regret posting the sonnet so soon is that I keep coming up with more puns and images that I could have used. Purls of wisdom. Fabricating things. [K]nit-picking. Arran-t knavery. Socking a point home. Ribbing one another.

On the other hand, perhaps it would have ended up being overly cute.

#207 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 12:36 PM:

Abi #206:

So save the overflow for another poem. Looks like there's more than enough material to go around.

#208 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 12:41 PM:

joann @ 207:

There is always enough material* to go around, round here.

---------
* pun?

#209 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 12:51 PM:

abi #208:

You have to ask?

#210 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 02:30 PM:

abi - in other words, why knot?

#211 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 02:49 PM:

I am sew enjoying this.

#212 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 03:56 PM:

It keeps me in stitches.

#213 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 04:04 PM:

How I yarn to write sonnets like Abi's! But in all my years of roving, I've never seen anything to top them.

#214 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 04:04 PM:

Somewhere there probably is a man called Alexander Gordon Knotts.

#215 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 04:14 PM:

Serge (214) wrote: Alexander Gordon Knotts

I think that name would belong with the abusonyms over in the other thread.

#216 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 04:20 PM:

Re: 214 & 215 -

He mentioned Knotts, and this is a thread. I think we could weave it in.

#217 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 04:21 PM:

It was a tough decision, Mary Aileen. Too many threads to choose from, especially when one can talk about Cyd Charisse (sigh) in the "Wingnut Spam" thread.

#218 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 04:24 PM:

Or maybe somewhere there is also one Alexander "Accordion" Knotts.

#219 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 04:27 PM:

Well, it is sort of on the fringe of the topic.

#220 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 04:31 PM:

Let's just sleeve it at that.

#221 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 04:37 PM:

I'm not good at this off the cuff humor.

#222 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 04:46 PM:

Let's call it a tie, Stefan.

#223 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 05:46 PM:

As long as no one gets hot under the collar.

#224 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 05:50 PM:

Next thing you know, Fragano, you'll be telling us we're all the same collar under the skin. That's it. I'm quitting this thread. It's become a bad habit.

#225 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 05:55 PM:

So you'll button your lip, Serge?

#226 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 06:05 PM:

My lips are sealed, Fragano. From now on, I shall remain otterly silent.

#227 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 06:24 PM:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I hereby declare this string of puns clothed.

#228 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 06:34 PM:

And Abi makes a naked grab for power!

#229 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 06:45 PM:

That's a somewhat garb-led interpretation.

#230 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 06:56 PM:

She's awfully crochety, isn't she? But a purl of great price. I just can't resist needling her. But if I keep it up I'm gonna get kilt, though perhaps I can cobble together a few more; I don't want to shirt my duties as the bodice punster around. My whole family (the Hattons) does it; it's in my jeans, an intrinsic part of my sole. We sure have gathered to ad-dress this topic; can the thread be selvaged, I wonder? I don't know; it's gotten pretty seamy. But I've hemmed and hawed long enough.

This is getting to be a drag. Time to slip out before abi really wigs. She'll accuse me of terrible puns, and I'll have to pleat guilty, and it's time tunic over to the kitchen anyway. Wool have to see if she cottons to this post.

#231 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 07:38 PM:

I suspect Xopher of left-wing inclinations: Marxism-Linenism.

#232 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 07:49 PM:

Oh, Abi, must you be so crewel? I know that I bargello in on these things, but I will try to mend my ways. Darn it.

PS - Xopher, that was brilliant.

#233 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 07:55 PM:

I'm a'frayed this has gown on too long.

#234 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 09:06 PM:

Is someone going to get a dressing-down?

#235 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: January 19, 2007, 11:10 PM:

I have to bare myself and admit that my husband* has not felt this sari about a thread dyeing in quite some time. Those are the flax, as I know them.

*yeah, he's throwing puns about bolts, fat quarters, and embroidery as fast as he can.

#236 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2007, 05:05 AM:

Let me dart in and apologise for dropping out of the thread. Lest anyone get shirty with me for so doing, I should mention that I wasn't woolgathering - I was asleep. Had I known Xopher's masterful post was looming, I would have stayed up weave-en longer.

It's satin-ly been a good string of puns, worth the time invested in it. This thread, and it-silk suit me more than the political discussions that others are lining up to join. To each her p-lace, I guess.

#237 ::: Juliet E McKenna ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2007, 01:54 PM:

Teresa @201, believe me, the infinity diversity (in infinite combinations) of this blog makes it an ever-rewarding entertainment and not infrequently, an education.

But there's a difference between adding one's pennorth to a discursive debate and one unilaterally heading off on an unrelated tangent.

So as one brought up in the finest traditions of English reserve*, one decided discretion was the better part of good manners.

(*unless something kicks off the fighting Irish half of my heritage)

#238 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2007, 02:08 PM:

Juliet @237:

But there's a difference between adding one's pennorth to a discursive debate and one unilaterally heading off on an unrelated tangent.

Not really. Except, of course, to the author of the comment in question, if she is of a nervous disposition about the community. Don't be.

discretion was the better part of good manners

Yes, but diversion is the better part of good discussion.

#239 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2007, 03:14 PM:

#237: Juliet, I think you're just trying to beg off writing the big ole post you "politely refrained" from writing. Wassa matta? Chicken?

Please note that this is a transparent attempt to kick off the Fighting Irish half of your heritage, rather than an actual attempt to insult you!

#240 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2007, 04:18 PM:

Xopher @239
In my usual internet persona of evilrooster, I resent the use of the word "chicken" as a pejorative term...

#241 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2007, 08:04 PM:

abi...there was a sign in a Greenwich Village butcher shop window for years, showing a little redheaded kid holding a drumstick that was almost bigger than he was. It said "Take home a tender young chicken today."

It vanished a few years ago. I think someone bought it from the butcher.

#242 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2007, 10:48 PM:

abi - My father had a scar on one cheek. We used to refer to it as his duelling scar. It was actually the result of a run-in with a rooster when he was about 4 years old. The rooster became chicken stew within a day or so.

If you must be an evilrooster, watch out for angry Hungarian mothers.

#243 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2007, 11:13 PM:

I'm resisting the temptation to chime in about my current project - a nice shaved beaver muff ... should be delightfully warm and satiny inside, and swallow my arms at least to the elbows...

#244 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: January 20, 2007, 11:30 PM:

xeger - yup. My gaff - asking a friend if I could pet her beaver. Conversation stopped. She has a wonderful sheared beaver coat that is soft and WARM.

#245 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 06:35 AM:

Anne @242:
I have been told by two different chicken farmers that evilrooster is a redundant term.

Of course, what is evil in rooster terms may not be evil in human terms. Eating eggs, for instance...

#246 ::: Juliet E McKenna ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 08:12 AM:

abi @ 238, thank you kindly.

xopher @ 239, ok, you asked for it, pal.

ahem

The Universal Monster Template Theory – bearing in mind that I’m summarising from a talk given by a cryptozoologist who was in turn summarising the presumably considerable quantities of thought and argument that went into developing this.

Cryptozoologists are always interested in myths, since they seek out mythical creatures, and it has become apparent to them that that wherever one goes in the world, there are common themes in monster myths. The six universals are giant hairy humanoids, little people (often magical), big mysterious dogs, big dangerous cats, giant snakes and flying predators – which are variously expressed as birds or dragons, which also encroach on the giant snake theme.

One puzzle about this is while fear of enormous lizards or predatory cats may be perfectly reasonable in areas where crocodiles or tigers are part of the local fauna, these six archetypal monsters crop up everywhere, including in places that have never had even faintly relevant animals. And anyway having myths developed from local animals still doesn’t explain the persistence of giants and little people in folk lore.

NB the Homo Florensis discoveries happened since I heard this talk, and I imagine have had cryptozoologists hopping up and down with excitement.

At which point, we move to Madagascar, a place of considerable interest to cryptozoologists on account of its unique wildlife, its extinctions (or not) and its rich mythical culture. And lemurs, some of which have stripey tails which is thus the most tangential of links with raccoons.

One puzzle there for zoologists, crypto and otherwise, is one behaviour of lemurs, which are, please note, a primitive primate. If something blots out the sun, be it a cloud or a plane or anything, lemurs will freeze and exhibit classic prey-animal not-wanting-to-be-eaten reactions. But there’s nothing flying around Madagascar that is big enough to carry off a lemur, certainly not the largest species but even they still exhibit exactly the same response.

But recent fossils discoveries have shown a truly massive eagle once lived there, umpty-thousand years ago. So it’s suggested that this prey-animal behaviour in lemurs is a very ancient instinct, carried over from the days when something could indeed swoop out of the sky and eat them.

So we return to the persistence of the six universal monsters in human myth. The theory goes that all these stories have grown out of the subconscious because Homo Sapiens still has primitive instincts lurking in the most basic bits of the brain.

When we were Australopithecines living in the African savannah there were indeed other humanoids bigger and smaller, who didn’t make the evolutionary cut. At about 4'6", our remote ancesters were certainly preyed upon by big dogs, big cats, giant snakes and big eagles all quite capable of carrying us off - these megafauna are in the fossil record along with the humanoid variants that similarly died out, and together with plain evidence of Australopithecines being eated by such things.

That’s the theory anyway. Make of it what you will.


#247 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 08:32 AM:

#246 Juliet: I believe the correct phrase is "Now that's what I'm talking about!"

That's truly fascinating. It makes a lot of sense. In fact, it's stirring my fictional instincts. Thanks for posting it.

#248 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 09:41 AM:

Juliet (#246): Nifty post!

When we were Australopithecines living in the African savannah there were indeed other humanoids bigger and smaller, who didn’t make the evolutionary cut. At about 4'6", our remote ancesters were certainly preyed upon by big dogs, big cats, giant snakes and big eagles all quite capable of carrying us off - these megafauna are in the fossil record along with the humanoid variants that similarly died out, and together with plain evidence of Australopithecines being eated by such things.

Were there humanoids larger than those australopithecines who were our ancestors? That is, do we have fossils of such critters, or this part just speculation (if you know)?

(Actually, I don't think the idea of bigger and smaller versions of humans in folklore needs to depend on some "racial memory" of actual alternate hominid species; after all, children grow up surrounded by bigger, stronger (and often hairier) versions of themselves, so it's really not such a strange idea to imagine even bigger humanoids somewhere.)

My guess would be that big eagles weren't a great danger to adult hominids, but certainly could be to children. (And if the sight of vultures gathering around you induces enough fear to get you moving to the next waterhole, then that's a useful instinct to have as well.)

#249 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 10:01 AM:

Peter, there's evidence for Gigantopithecus. It was a long time ago when I looked into this, but I seem to recall that they would have had to sit around all day eating, very like Gorillas. If they did contribute to a racial memory, then they would have been more aggressive than would be expected for a vegetarian.

Juliet - Fantastic! Dragons as racial memories of giant eagles and snakes! Just when I thought a post on Nazi Racoons couldn't get any better!

#250 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 11:00 AM:

abi #245: Not to mention what happens when you have more than one rooster in the yard. Cockfighting, after all, derives from what happens when two roosters are contesting for dominance in the pecking order.

#251 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 11:49 AM:

Neil (#249) -- Wow. Very cool. It would be awesome if they could find a more complete skeleton.

#252 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 11:59 AM:

Neil @ 249... Wasn't a gigantopithecus in the Riverworld stories? I seem to remember Mark Twain seeing his big buddy sleeping and obviously having nightmares, probably about nasty little things biting at his constantly sore feet.

#253 ::: Stephen Sample ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 01:49 PM:

Randolph Fritz @#77: As a occasional volunteer at a facility with kinkajous (fairly closely related to raccoons), and someone who's done a lot of reading about carnivore evolution, I've got to say: raccoons are small bears?

Sure, they're both carnivores, but there are a lot of well-known carnivores that raccoons are more closely related to. Picking just three, there are: weasels, skunks, and seals (in order of how recently the groups split, and thus in some sense, how closely they are related). Raccoons are more closely related to bears than to dogs or cats, but within the carnivora, that's about all you can say.

Now if you're talking about temperament, then bears may be the best analogy. But raccoons are in a completely different family than bears (procyonidae rather than ursidae), and it's been a long time since those lineages split. They may be like small bears, but they are not bears.

Ok, end of carnivore cladistics geek rant...

#254 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 02:13 PM:

#246, Juliet E McKenna:So it’s suggested that this prey-animal behaviour in lemurs is a very ancient instinct, carried over from the days when something could indeed swoop out of the sky and eat them.

Ooooooo. I hadn't thought about the cryptozoology angle, though (brief pause to rummage through bookshelf) iirc similar atavistic fears were discussed by Dudley Young in Origins of the Sacred: the Ecstasies of Love and War; more specifically, ISTR an anecdote in the book that monkeys always display a fear reflex toward snakes or close simulacra thereof like wiggling hosepipes, even if they were raised in captivity and have never been threatened by (and have possibly never even *seen*) a real snake.

#255 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 03:31 PM:

All this talk of cryptozoology makes me miss Grover ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grover_Krantz ); the acquisition of that link also led me to greater understanding of why he did a spit-take when, during a discussion of voluntary human extinction, I suggested reflooding Lake Bonneville.

#256 ::: Juliet E McKenna ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 04:01 PM:

Xopher @ 247 - and everyone else - you are naturally most entirely welcome.

It's good, isn't it?

Peter @ 248, according to the 2003 BBC series on human evolution, Walking with Cavemen, there were quite a few humanoids around at the same time as australopithecenes, smaller and bigger, like gigantopethecus as referenced by Neill @ 249. There's quite a bit of info accessible via BBC Online.

Julie @ 254, apropos instinctive behaviours about snakes etc, one of our cats has major switches flipped by black and orange stripes and also by anything that looks like a snake. So when younger son acquired a foot-long plastic millipede striped, yes, in garish orange and black, the cat in question was found trying to kill it in exactly the way you'll see mongooses* attacking snakes in wildlife films. You know, dart, bite, leap backwards, dart, try to flip it over etc.

The other cat couldn't have been less interested, naturally.

* nope, not going near the plural question.

#257 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 04:14 PM:

My cats had spectacular responses the first time they ever saw my self-coiling measuring tape rewind; both of them vertically launched several feet into the air (one from a feetless catloaf position) and came back down fluffed up to approximately twice normal size and with eyes that seemed larger than their entire heads.

#258 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 04:37 PM:

On the other hand, my parents had one cat that would cheerfully bring in small checkered garter snakes (at least until one managed to twist around and nip her nose).

#259 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 21, 2007, 07:00 PM:

Anne, #242, my father's "dueling scar" was exactly that -- in an alley with broken bottles.

#260 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2007, 09:31 AM:

feetless catloaf position

That's the "full loaf". The one with feet visible is the "half loaf".

#261 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2007, 02:21 PM:

P J Evans #258: When I lived at home, my mother and I had an agreement: I would take care of anything that came in with the cats, and she would take care of anything that came out of the cats.

We each thought we had the better half of the deal.

#262 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2007, 02:31 PM:

wrt #260: Any feet at all? According to local nomenclature, a catloaf-with-arms is a "sphinx", though our cats also have some intermediate positions such as the elbows-out pawless "mandarin" and the one-armed "Napoleon".

Also, sitting upright with tail wrapped around feet = "Bast"; quasi-melted into a straight line with head slumped into extended arms and only ears sticking up = "catslug"; curled into circular mass = "croissant" etc. Not sure whether two intercroissanted cats qualify as a "challah", though.

#263 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2007, 02:32 PM:

A few days late - Juliet @ 246 - Thanks for a fascinating read. Now I should go look for something similar to explain my bug related heebie-jeebies.

#264 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2007, 02:44 PM:

Lexica @ 261

Throwing the rodent remains (left on the mat in the garage) into the ditch for the cleanup critters to deal with. (They occasionally got a baby jackrabbit, but we don't know if it was team hunting or ignorance on the part of the prey.) Trying to get the live critters out of the house.

#265 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2007, 03:44 PM:

CarrieS #260:

What do you call a catloaf with back feet visble, just because the creature's so fat that they sort of splay out? (Fatloaf? she says, attempting to answer herself.)

Mostly we don't do names, but there is the position known as "the long arm of the paw" where one arm protrudes as far as possible from a catloaf.

#266 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2007, 03:48 PM:

Julie L., 262: I now feel compelled to adopt another cat for the sole purpose of saying, "Look at my intercroissanted cats!"

#267 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2007, 03:49 PM:

P J Evans re: getting the live critters out of the house.

Here's my most memorable experience

July 4, 2000
4 AM
I hear a scrabbling in the other room. Familiar with the sounds of my house, I swear and roll out of bed, hunting for a towel. Grumpy and resigned, I find myself confronting a red-backed vole that a cat has brought into the house. I throw the towel over the vole, gently capturing it in the terry cloth folds. The vole and I now venture to the front porch, where I put the towel down, carefully unfolding it so the vole can be free.

The vole won't move. Not thinking straight (it is 4 AM), I want to take my towel back inside and go back to bed. I shake the towel. The vole sits in place, obsidian eyes glaring. I reach down again to shake the towel. The vole, traumatized enough, chose to strike back. Teeth bared, it ran toward my hand, and with a swiftness that one should expect from a rodent (remember, it is 4 AM) sunk its tiny little incisors into my thumb, and then finally ran off my towel.

I was shocked. I was stunned. I was in pain. I yelled "F&*#! You ungrateful bastard rodent, biting the hand that frees you!!"

The doctor laughed when I explained why I wanted a tetanus booster. Now I wear gloves when dealing with vindictive little critters.

#268 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2007, 03:59 PM:

Tania @ 267

Never had that one happen.

There was the rat that got brought in. My mother went to the store for a trap. The clerk said ' If you got a cat, you wouldn't have this problem.' My mother said to the clerk, 'If I didn't have a cat, I wouldn't have mice.' (The house was well-enough built that the only way they could get in was if the cats rought them.

There was the rat that got brought in, and hid in my mother's casual shoe. She put it on in a hurry and didn't take it off, even though it felt strange. The smell (eeww! dead rat!) never did come out, and she had to toss the pair.

(There was also the fun of watching the cats watching birds on TV, even jumping up on top of it to look for them!)

#269 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2007, 04:10 PM:

Tania #267:

I'm very afraid I misread "ran off my towel" as "ran off with my towel."

When I was much younger, we had a cat that liked to leave presents on the back step. Never brought them in, as ingress/egress required human intervention. Some of the presents included fish and crayfish from the creek at the edge of the lot.

#270 ::: Tania ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2007, 04:15 PM:

ugh! I've become very skilled at recognizing textures with the soles of my feet, because of a few nasty incidents.

I love it when we have a moose outside, and they are looking at, making the little kitty growls and twitching their little butts. My standard reply is "Yup, you go ahead and try to take on the moose. I will miss you when you are gone."

I don't think my two are clever enough to think to look in the TV for birds.

#271 ::: Steff Z ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2007, 04:19 PM:

Julie L. (#262), what you're calling a "croissant" is more properly known as a
catloop.

And if the cat has looped up, but turned its head over so its chin is up and its ears don't show, it's a moebius catloop.

#272 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2007, 04:35 PM:

Ah, "look what the cat brought in..."

My mother is deathly afraid of snakes. As her cats were indoor/outdoor sorts, they occasionally rewarded their humans with the fruits of the hunt (mice, rabbits, birds--often still alive and kicking). One of the Balinese almost got renamed "Renfield," his specialty being bugs, the larger, the better.

One morning Mom saw what she thought was a fat rubber band on the floor. Mom bent over to pick up the rubber band...and it slithered away from her fingers. Mom went the opposite direction, screaming as she fled.

My stepfather had to remove the little black snake from the kitchen. They did try to discourage the pride from hunting snakes, as that part of Virginia (Nokesville/Catlett) did have copperheads.

#273 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 23, 2007, 07:02 PM:

Spirit used to like to watch birds, figure skating, and basketball on the TV, but she's going blind now.

The cat we had when I was a teen was really my mother's cat and when Mother decided to stay home and not substitute-teach*, she would cook chicken livers for lunch and share them with the cat (none of the rest of us liked them). The cat started bringing her the heads and livers of birds.

*Arlington Co., VA, wouldn't hire her full-time because she was a master teacher and they would have had to pay her too much. So they hired her to substitute every day she'd teach (mostly long planned stints for pregnancies and major surgeries) and she actually made more money. She didn't get benefits, but Dad was in the Navy, so that was okay.

#274 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2007, 09:35 AM:

Cat position nomenclature:

My idiolect has no term for the catloaf with only one protruding front foot, as I don't think I've ever seen a cat do it except as an intermediate position. Both front feet protruding is either the half-loaf or the sphinx; both front feet tucked under is the full loaf.* Nor do I have one for the elbows-out posture, though I agree it's not quite the same as the full loaf. Having back feet visible due to fatness doesn't have a name because it's not a posture change so much as an idiosyncratic implementation of a common posture.

I'm with you on "Bast", however.

*Both my cats are shorthaired, so the "wrist" portion of the leg is generally visible no matter what.

#275 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2007, 09:49 AM:

Regarding cat positions, what about leaning back with splayed back legs, one leg high in the air? Sometimes this occurs during a vigorous self-washing, but for a while last evening Horton just sat on the sofa like an immensely shaggy deranged ballerina, one sock-white lower leg jutting at a remarkable angle, staring rather than washing. (And that's why the mighty Emperor also reminds me of a Dr. Seuss critter, though not always the elephant.)

#276 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2007, 11:35 AM:

Serge (@252) - I think they were gigantopithecus in Riverworld (there were definitely giant hominids of some sort, but it's been years since I read it).

More recently they've appeared in 2 Stephen Baxter books (Evolution and Manifold:Origin) and 3 Ken Macleod books (The Engines of Light series), but I don't recall them doing anything especially interesting.

#277 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2007, 11:36 AM:

#271: *Love* the "Moebius catloop" term.

One of our cats (fondly nicknamed the "evil genius" cat; we had to resort to locking internal dooknobs around him after he figured out doorknobs, and no, afaik he isn't polydactylly thumbed) persistently Napoleons for long stretches of time. He also has this lolling position with his back legs extended almost straight out and his front torso partly rotated upward: odalisque/mermaid?

#278 ::: Glenda P ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2007, 11:55 AM:

(Lurker decloaking 'cause, well, cats!)

One of my current feline masters^^^ companions has an unusual napping position.

Start from the basic sphinx, but then extend the neck and lower the chin until said neck and chin are stretched flat on the floor. Take one front leg--either will do--and angle it outward from the body at about 45 degrees. Point the toes of that same leg rearward in such a way that the paw is at a right angle to the foreleg. Hold position for one hour or longer. Repeat twice weekly.

#279 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2007, 12:55 PM:

Carrie S #174: My idiolect has no term for the catloaf with only one protruding front foot, as I don't think I've ever seen a cat do it except as an intermediate position.

This is not an intermediate position; it can be assumed for upards of fifteen minutes. It looks as though she's reaching for something, or maybe was caught in a stretch from which she can't retract. Paw is extended like nine inches or more from the body, and a side view makes you speculate seriously about hairy kitty armpits.

#280 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2007, 12:57 PM:

Faren #275: for a while last evening Horton just sat on the sofa like an immensely shaggy deranged ballerina

I'm sorry, this made me laugh even harder than the thread du jour.

#281 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2007, 01:14 PM:

My Badb Catha sleeps like a flying cat, only on her back. Front and back limbs extended before and after, tummy exposed, head often at a seemingly impossible angle (like she got tossed there after she was broken).

She's very trusting.

#282 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2007, 01:46 PM:

Regarding cat positions, what about leaning back with splayed back legs, one leg high in the air?

A friend dubbed that "cello-playing cat". And scritching a cat at the base of the tail while it's standing yields "high-heel cat".

One of the amusing positions mine does is sort of a half-loaf, except it's the rear legs stretched out fully. It seems to happen when he gets halfway through a good full-body stretch and decides to just stay like that.

#283 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2007, 05:15 PM:

I'm still wondering about the cat which lies in a supine flying position with one paw over his eyes; is there a term for that?

#284 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2007, 05:55 PM:

JESR @ 283: I've never seen mine in that pose, but from the description I'd say that cat has a case of the vapors.

Though come to think of it, cats' cranial orientation may rather confuse the prone/supine definitions; in most horizontalish positions where people would be face-up, cats are face-down and vice-versa. Are "prone" and "supine" primarily defined by the face or the body?

#285 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: January 24, 2007, 06:48 PM:

Julie #284:

I was assuming body. Prone on tummy, supine on back. I don't know what you'd call it if the cat were on its side, which mine likes to do a lot.

She likes to sleep on her side with one (or sometimes two) paws over her face; this is the only position in which we can see her twitch in deep dreaming. I suspect that if she were human she'd be the type who clutches their pillow and burrows into it.

#286 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: January 25, 2007, 09:37 AM:

Horton also sleeps on his side or back with one paw over his eyes. Since all his forelegs and paws are white and his face (down to the top of the nose) is black, the effect is particularly charming -- or cute; yes, I'll admit it, he can really look cute, all 20 pounds of him!

#287 ::: Jln ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2008, 08:56 AM:

Nw m f th prssn tht rcns nd sknks plyd mjr prt n rly Brythnc hstry fr plts nd vn fd.

Thr r n rsn t sggst tht whr w hv sknks nd rccns n cnd thr wrnt ny vr hr n rp. nthr cvr p -- why nt sknks n th K ... w hd brs nd wlvs wthn th lst 2000 yrs.

Y s hstry f crs s slctv bt wht w s s s vry ftn th brwn yd dsrt nvdrs cvrng p th trth d t thr gntc mmry trrr f wdlnds nd frsts.

Rgrds
Jln
www.whffysknk.cm

#288 ::: Jörg Raddatz smells a stink ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2008, 11:14 AM:

... that must be a skunk, using dubious phrases like brwn yd dsrt nvdrs.

(A quick googling shows that this whffysknk guy has sht already in other parts of the net with terms like fggt etc.)

#289 ::: Xopher agrees with Jörg on Julien being an icky racist ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2008, 12:18 PM:

Nasty. Off with his head! Or at any rate, out with his vowels.

#290 ::: Ginger looks at older posts on this thread and can't resist ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2008, 02:18 PM:

Cat anatomy can't be described in human terms. We have a few extra words to use, and they are all words that can be used on tv.

Assume a standing cat position, facing forward. The spine is dorsal, the belly is ventral. The head is cranial (the nose is rostral) and the tail is caudal. The paws have palmar or plantar surfaces (ventral side) and dorsal surfaces. Towards one side is lateral; towards the middle of the body is medial.

For humans, the rough equivalents in order would be posterior, anterior; superior, inferior; palmar/plantar, superior; lateral and medial, plus we also use axial and abaxial (where one would rotate).

The sphinx position is a variant of sternal recumbency (along with bread loaf). Cats have amazingly flexible spines, which allows them to assume positions that we couldn't even imagine as our brains would break.

#291 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2008, 06:28 PM:

Now, that's a more interesting driveby. Disemvoweled rather than removed, because it's rather a goofy read if you want to piece through it, all the way to the racist line at the end.

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