Archive for the ‘trends’ category

Earth Day and The March for Science…

April 27, 2017


This past weekend brought the convergence of both Earth Day and The March for Science at a less than auspicious time for both science and environmentalism in American history. With protective environmental regulations being rolled back and scientific research and programs likely to face significant budget cuts, it’s time for those of us who are friends of the sciences to stand up and be counted, and push back against regressive and unwise trends in the current Washington administration…you can make a difference!

Bigfoot of Lee County: Raven Mocker, Parts I and II

March 16, 2016

Once again, we are off to the Bigfoot races on the S4/Ep08 installment of Mountain Monsters, the Raven Mocker. First seen by Cherokees in the early 1700’s, this Bigfoot variant is described as standing 7′ tall, weighing 500 lbs., and having black fur with all-white eyes. Where it gets freaky is that this Bigfoot is a kind of shape-shifter that can enter the soul of a raven, seeing from the aerial perspective of that bird, like the warg or “skin shifter” on Game of Thrones. Furthermore, they could change into any animal. Before a kill, the Raven Mocker is said to call out like a raven. They are said to consume the hearts of men. — Creepy, huh?

Well, our “hard-core hunters and trackers” first interviewed “Mike,” an outdoorsman who reported seeing a wrenched-off deer’ s head hanging in a tree. In the same vicinity, he reported seeing 16″ footprints, plus smaller ones apparently those of a human female! This raised the unanswered questions of whether the Bigfoot shape- shifted to a human female (a really bad date), or traveled with a human female who had a thing for big, hairy guys.

During their first night’s hunt, the team saw a tree structure, heard humming and then an “evil laugh,” perceived something running, and saw a number of humanoid-shaped stick constructions hanging.  The next day, they found raven prints, and when team member “Buck” made a raven call, tree knocks were heard in apparent response.  A bow hunter named “Scott” was interviewed who reported seeing a dead buck with a broken neck.  He produced a photo showing a blurry dark object against a dark background.  During the daylight hours, “Willy” with the assistance of “Wild Bill” had constructed a “steel cage raven wing trap” which was baited with deer meat.

During their final night’s hunt, the team followed their familiar tactic of dividing into two groups with the hopes of driving their quarry from different directions towards their trap.  One group found broken tree limbs and apparent wear to logs.  Things became freaky and the usual confusion ensued when team member “Huckleberry” claimed to feel the touch of hands on his back, and heard “Buck’s” voice imitated; the Mocker mocking, I presume.  A nasty foot trap was encountered in the ground, together with a deer head lodged in a tree, and a constructed structure on the side of that tree.  Team member “Jeff” claimed that he saw a face in front of him, with a ball of fire coming out of its mouth.  This was supposedly captured on a thermal camera image, which was again less than revealing…

Contending that they had found something that was “not human” and “supernatural,” the Raven Mocker saga was continued in another episode airing two weeks after the first.  Seeking guidance from recovering team leader “Trapper,” the team was admonished to go back to their “Native American roots,” and seek answers from where there was physical evidence of the Raven Mocker.  Returning to the woods in Lee County, Virginia at night, the team encountered again the “burning man” style tree structures, as well as footprints in the mud that were smaller and appeared to be those of a woman.  They heard mocking-type laughter, and then team member “Huckleberry” was brought down by a grapevine-type snare trap.

The following day, the team met with local researcher “Jeff,” who told them tales of the “Woman in the Woods,” an old barefooted woman who wears a cloak, and is supposedly followed by death.  They were advised to confront her in a Native American way.  As a lure, the team decided to take from the woman some of her possessions, and they rounded up some of the tree structure figures.  After gaining possession of these, a handprint was found on “Willy’s” arm, meaning that he, like “Jeff” and “Huckleberry” who had earlier been touched, had presumably been marked for death by the “Woman in the Woods.”

Well, the team then constructed several Native American styled huts, protecting them with sage and accessories like dream catchers, snake skins, and turtle shells. They put on “warrior faces and battle uniforms,” which meant quasi-Native American garb and rather badly applied “war paint.”  The men marked for death assumed places in separate huts and performed protective ceremonies, after which time a Bigfoot roar was heard together with tree knocks.  “Jeff” the team researcher seemed to be targeted, with his dream catcher jerked and the roof of his hut brought down upon him.  In a daze he was led off by someone in a cloak, and found by the pursuing team members at the base of a tree, bloodied and freaking out.  Following a bit of a hysterical reaction, “Jeff” related that the “Old Woman of the Woods” had shown him how and when he was going to die, and then told him that he was free.  This presumably got the rest of the marked men off the hook, and his associates seemed to feel that “Jeff” had taken one for the team. – – Are you not entertained?

Perhaps more merriment and mystery will follow in the next episode, when we are promised the Phantom of the Woods…

Cloning a Neanderthal?

January 23, 2013

neanderthal– – Harvard geneticist George M. Church created waves recently when poorly-translated comments he made to a German-language magazine led to reports that he was looking for “an extremely adventurous female human” to serve as a surrogate mother for a cloned Neanderthal using developing technology.  With fragments of Neanderthal DNA in fossils, Church noted that someday it might be possible to assemble them into a complete genome that could be put into a human egg to create a cloned embryo, which in turn could be put into a human surrogate mother to bring back a human relative long extinct.

Church was simply discussing technological possibilities, holding that his remarks were badly misinterpreted, and that he does not advocate cloning Neanderthals… 

Competitive Eating vs. Fad Eating…

December 2, 2012

competitive eater– – With the Xmas season almost upon us and overeating indulgences likely to ensue, it might be worthwhile considering the differences between competitive eating and fad eating.   While it’s debatable whether competitive eating is really a sport, there are at least rules and regulations which govern it, and the items consumed tend to actually be conventional foods, such as hot dogs.  Fad or event eating in contrast tends to be less structured with at times potentially dangerous consequences to participants; the items consumed, while technically edible, tend not to be commonly found on family dinner tables, such as insects.  Other fad or event consumptions have involved normally harmless and indeed vital items, although even water proved fatal to one contestant when consumed to extreme excess over a short time.  Fad eating has been spurred in recent years by the advent of reality TV shows, and feed off of the gross-out factor involved.  If $100 is offered to someone to eat a worm, there will be takers and those who watch.

Competitive eating has been in existence in America since the early 20th century, with the first ever “Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest” at Coney Island occurring in 1916.  Some competitive eaters have won thousands of dollars for stuffing their gullets, sadly in a country where some still go hungry.  Items consumed at competitive eating contests have included pies, green beans, cheesecake, chicken wings, hard boiled eggs, lobster tails, oysters, and jalapenos…



Twinkie Termination?!

November 18, 2012

– – For better or worse, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Twinkies made me what I am today.  Although the humble yet iconic snack treat has been around since 1930, their maker, Hostess, plans to go out of business, selling off its snack cake and bread brands.  So as if losing Twinkies wasn’t bad enough, we are also going to lose Wonder Bread, Ho Ho’sSno Balls, and Ding Dongs…this is a heavy blow!

Assorted Hostess products have been around since 1888, but the company hadn’t invested heavily in innovation and marketing strategies, struggling also with debt, management changes, union issues, and healthier eating habits.  The price of the beloved snacks has skyrocketed on secondary markets such as eBay as of late, but we can always hope that another corporation will pick up the product line…perhaps Twinkie the Kid will yet live on! 

Owl Abandonment…

May 29, 2012

– – Too many people tend to adopt exotic animals as part of a spur-of-the-moment craze, only to abandon them when the realities of their ownership hits home.  Sadly owls are one of the latest examples of this trend, with their popularity spurred by the Harry Potter movies and Harry’s owl, Hedwig. 

Now owls can live for twenty years and take a lot of care, including ideally a 20 foot aviary.  They need to be able to flap their wings multiple times before landing on a perch, or they may get a chest infection.  In spite of this, some have tried to keep them in apartments, becoming additionally distressed at the amount of feathers and droppings generated by the birds.  The result has been that in England and elsewhere, hundreds of pet owls have been abandoned and released into the wild, where they either starve to death or at best take over territory inhabited by smaller wild owls.  Owls are also winding up at animal sanctuaries in significant numbers where normally they would be relatively rare.

Harry Potter author JK Rowling has pleaded with fans not to keep an owl as a pet, urging them instead to sponsor an owl at a bird sanctuary where they may be secured a healthy and happy life…


Freeze-Drying Fido…

March 9, 2012

– – Up until recently, people had to relegate deceased animal companions to the grave or cremation; a few even chose to have deceased animals stuffed, although traditional taxidermy involves stretching the animal’s hide over a three-dimensional mold, which tends to yield a rather generic appearance.  Requests by grieving owners, however,  have led a handful of taxidermists to pioneer animal preservation through freeze-drying, which results in a more individualized, natural appearance. 

Freeze-dry chambers lower air pressure to the point that ice turns directly into gas without going through the liquid phase; internal organs and fat don’t freeze-dry well, and accordingly must be replaced with artificial fillers.  The machines themselves are incredibly expensive and require lots of electricity to run; the process is also a slow one, requiring perhaps six months to prepare a ten-pound cat, and up to a year for preservation of a large dog.  The process costs hundreds of dollars for even the smallest of animals, and thousands for a larger dog. 

Despite the high cost, businesses piloting freeze-drying animal preservation report handling between 150 and 200 deceased pets per year…

Mainstream Misfit Toy?

November 7, 2011

– – As most of you are probably aware, kids have an almost endless fascination with bodily functions, so I suppose it was almost inevitable that a game was developed that involved a plastic dog and, err, bodily function number two.- – I swear that I am not making this up!  Contestants feed the dog plasticene, work a pump, the plasticene is processed through the plastic dog, exits the appropriate end with flatulent sounds, and the player who winds up with the most doggie doo’s wins the game!- -Won’t that be a great preparation for adult life?- -Should be a real winner at church functions and below the old Xmas tree this year!


The concept for the game has been in existence for about 15 years, although rudimentary standards of taste and questions of corporate image kept it from being further developed and marketed in the U.S. until recently.   Europe, however, knew how to appreciate a toy dog with excremental functions, and the game has been a runaway hit there.  Now you too can buy Doggie Doo in this country, and the game featuring a poopy dachshund is poised to be an American hit, available at major retailers this year…


September 14, 2011

 – – People with entirely too much time on their hands have always found something to do, often by inventing fads or trends, for example cow-tipping or planking.  One of the latest ones is simply called Batmanning, and it basically involves hanging upside down by one’s feet from a door, bar, gate, ledge, or whatever.  It may be done by individuals alone, or in a group of any size as illustrated here. 

To hang like a bat requires a fair degree of athletic and acrobatic skill to say nothing of lower-body strength.  We do not recommend that you try this, or you may experience Emergency Rooming

Stun Gun Hunting?

April 14, 2011

– – As technology continues to advance, it can lead us into ethical considerations previously unconsidered and perhaps unexplored that were in the past gray areas at best.  One such area is that posed by the possibility of the stun gun hunting of animals...

The value of Tasers and other electronic stun devices has been well established in police work and security applications as a non-lethal way of subduing and controlling non-compliant suspects.  Likewise, one can readily see the potential value of a Taser Wildlife Electronic Control Device such as has also been developed as a non-lethal way of immobilizing wildlife that has perhaps blundered into a human habitation area where its presence poses potential danger both to the animal itself as well as to humans present.  This non-lethal weapon can temporarily incapacitate moose, bears, and other large animals, and could be helpful to park rangers and wildlife officials; it’s a heavy-duty device which packs quite a wallop and costs about $2,000.

A disturbing question that has arisen is whether such a weapon might be used deliberately by private individuals seeking to practice “catch-and-release” hunting.  While it is unclear whether stun guns have already been used for this purpose, the potential for such abuse is real.  While stunning an animal without need is preferable to shooting it, such an action could easily be considered cruelty.  Human test subjects who have experienced stun guns almost universally describe the experience as painful and unpleasant, and the United Nations considers stun guns instruments of torture as they inflict pain.

The state of Alaska is accordingly moving to proactively outlaw the use of stun guns to zap wild animals for “catch and release” hunting in the state.  The weapon may still be used defensively, in emergency situations, or for purposes of further research by trained professionals.  State biologists have been using electronic animal control devices in Alaska since 2005.  Additionally,  while wild animals usually flee when hit with the current, there is no guarantee that they will do so…and one does not want to severely aggravate a grizzly!

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