Monday, April 30, 2012

Koala Bears In Danger!

The Australian government has officially classified the Koala Bear as "vulnerable" in much of the country. The popular marsupial is believed to be in trouble because of habitat loss and strikes by cars. Badly controlled domestic dogs have also created great problems for the eucalyptus-eating animals. It is estimated that in some parts of Australia the little animals have seen their numbers collapse by 40% since 1990.

It is hoped that the Australian government measure will bring some succour to the Koala, although some have complained that the classification does not extend to all of Australia. The authorities are saying, however, that the reason why the furry animals are not classed as vulnerable in Victoria and South Australia is that they are thriving there.

Whatever the case there, everyone will be hoping that the Koala Bear pulls through. And of course, despite its teddy-like appearance, Koalas are not actually bears at all, but as a marsupial bear analogue they do have observer status at the International Bear Congress.

Koalas themselves spend more than 20 hours a day asleep, so they are probably not spending too much time worrying about their vulnerable status.

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Koala Bear Picture Gallery

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Great Tits Help Their Friends

Anyone who has ever seen Great Tits fussing at a bird feeder would not think of them as animals prone to cooperation. However, the popular garden birds commonly join together to chase away predators like weasels and woodpeckers who might be planning to make a meal of their young. Scientists have now discovered that Great Tits recognise alarm calls from birds who have nested beside them for several breeding seasons. The birds are then more likely to respond to calls for help from their friends than from birds they do not know.

Scientists suggest that the birds may not be acting altruistically when they respond to their neighbours' calls of alarm. They might just be thinking that if their neighbour's nest is being threatened then theirs could be next. Or they might be helping their neighbour to ensure that when they themselves are in trouble they will be able to call in the favour, something Ada Grabowska-Zhang of the University of Oxford describes as a "Great Tit tit-for-tat".


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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Jeff Mangum ATP Part 1: Executive Summary

I went to the recent All Tomorrow's Parties in Minehead, curated by Jeff Mangum. For the benefit of busy people I present these very brief accounts (23 words or less) of the artists I saw.

Matana Roberts & Sebastian Rochford: A jazz saxophonist roffler playing with winner of the ATP White Afro Competition 2012. Skronk-tastic and a great opener.

Young Marble Giants: Austere music from the post punk legends coupled with the guitarist's endearingly lame attempts at humour.

The Raincoats: The wrong kind of ramshackle. Songs too formless and tuneless even for the Under Fives Tin Drum Improv Orchestra. 'Lola' the only highpoint.

The Fall: An enjoyable performance, with the band now used to Mark E. Smith and his ways; but what did he say about Joanne Newsom?

Thurston Moore: Thurston solo is a bit Sonic Youth-lite. I wonder what or who that 'Queen Bee' song was about?

A Hawk And A Hacksaw: Faux folkies accompany a strange Soviet-era film about funny Ukrainians in a darkened room with invisible subtitles. Spectral.

Boredoms: Ten drummers and twenty guitarists, but are they really all that?

The Apples In Stereo: They play songs that sound like other people's songs.

Feathers: Art project all woman synth band fronted by Anastasia Dimou. Fascinating and worth further investigation.

Joanna Newsom: Impressive technique from the elfin sensation who is clearly not the idiot savant some might see her as. A slow burn.

Low: More sublime miserabilism from the Carter Family of our times. The only band to mention Syria. They invited everyone for a morning run.

Blanck Mass: I am not certain that I actually saw this band.

Mount Eerie: Quirky singer songwriter fellow with odd songs that sounded almost like works in progress and which ended very abruptly, whereupon he would curtsey.

Scratch Acid: The hardest rocking band to ever play ATP but not as interesting as that sounds.

Demdike Stare: Vaguely hauntological electronic music from Finders Keepers associates, combined with fascinating Apollo Rising type visuals.

American Contemporary Music Ensemble: By playing classical music at midday on Sunday they transported me back to the Hugh Lane Gallery. 'Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet'.

Boredoms: OK so maybe they are all that but still have not surrendered to them in the way my friends have.

Roscoe Mitchell: Old jazzer still has it.

Sun Ra Arkestra: More old (and some young) jazzers, this time space jazzers, who still have it.

Rafael Toral
Rafael Toral: Possibly analogue electronic post-free jazz improvisation or something unwisely scheduled at same time as the Arkestra. Interesting.

Tall Firs: Two rofflers who play guitars and sing songs. And whose fanzine talks about how Thucydides is freaking awesome.

Group Doueh: Desert guitars. Less trippy than on record, but Mr Doueh still awesome. Nice to see modestly dressed not thin women strutting their stuff.
All Star Jam
All Star Jam: Various bands of the festival appear on stage together and serve up some crazy Arkestra-style space jazz. The right kind of ramshackle.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Magnetic Hamster Sticks To Cage

The Meech family of Bugbrooke, Northamptonshire, were astonished when they came home do find Smurf, their pet hamster, stuck to the bars of his cage. The tiny rodent was trapped by the cage's metal bars by some mysterious kind of magnetic force.

The furry pet's secret identity as a robo-hamster had not been revealed. Rather it turned out that the curious and greedy animal had eaten a magnet that formed part of a Spiderman toy that a foolish child had left in Smurf's cage. A vet was able to extract the magnet and now Smurf is as right as rain and no longer sticking to the bars of her cage.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Workplace Dogs Reduce Stress

Scientists have discovered that having dogs in a workplace reduces employee stress. This is the case both for employees who bring their own dogs into work and for other employees who do not have their own dogs. The presence of dogs generally improved morale and led to more interaction between workers as people came over to pet the dogs or offer to take them for walks. The dogs also liked coming into work rather than being left home alone all day.

It is however possible that the presence of dogs may lead to increased stress levels in bad people who do not like dogs.


See also:

Hearing dogs are changing deaf children's lives

Dogs help families with autism, RSM conference told

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Monday, April 23, 2012

Do you have a blog?

In the long years in which I did not have working home internet access, I neglected your blogs. It turns out that many of you have done the same. So now I have deleted links here to blogs that have not been updated this year. I have added them to Google Reader, so if they spring back into life I will notice and re-link to them.

Are you writing a blog that I could link to? Maybe you could link to me and we could be blog friends.

Or maybe it is all over with blogs. If you know of any blogs that are worth reading, post the URL in a comment.

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The Return of Poldi

Near the German village of Aying an emaciated ginger cat was recently found sitting on a log in the woods. The bedraggled cat was taken to an animal sanctuary, whose staff noticed that his ear bore a faded tattoo of identification. When this was matched against a cat database, they discovered that the ginger tom's name was Poldi and that he had gone missing in 1996 – 15 years ago.

Poldi has been reunited with his old owner, who had understandably given up all hope of seeing him again. It is believed that Poldi originally left his home because he did not get on with the owner's other cat. It is not reported as to whether Poldi has outlived the other cat or whether he will once more have to confront his Kattenfeund.

Poldi's 15 year absence is nearly four times that of the Devon cat Willow, who went missing in 2007 but was recently found and identified from her microchip. Willow was also a bit bedraggled when she was recovered. On her return home she was very nervous and had to sleep on the tummy of her owner, Mrs Cristel Worth.

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Sunday, April 22, 2012

The World's Smallest Puppy

A very small little puppy was born recently to a female dachshund in California. The miniscule puppy, so small she can sit on an iPhone (or a similar device owned by less brand obsessed smartphone users), was the runt of her litter and was born without a heartbeat, but vets gave her heart compressions and then mouth to mouth resuscitation to get her going on her own. The brave little puppy has then gone from strength to strength, despite initially being so small that she could not suckle on her attentive mother. In honour of her status as a survivor the tiny canine has been christened Beyoncé.


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