The Great White Whale Fight

01-beluga-whale-mystic_68032_600x450“This reverses a trend. There have been no imports of wild-caught whales or dolphins into the United States for 20 years. One constraint has been the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), which requires that captures be humane and not endanger wild populations—a standard that the marine parks find difficult to meet. Another has been a rise in public opposition to whale captivity, a growing PR problem for the industry that may well prove existential.

The beluga proposal, predictably, has ignited controversy. Environmental and animal-rights organizations argue that these 18 wild-caught whales are destined for lives of isolation, sensory deprivation, and mental derangement. The environmentalists suspect that the belugas may just be pump-primers—Trojan whales, in effect—pawns in an industry strategy to resume the interrupted flow of killer whales, the prime moneymakers in marine theme parks.”   — more —

via The Great White Whale Fight.

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Standard Digital News – Kenya : How the turtle got its unique hard shell

209118-1 turtle“The shell evolved over millions of years and was gradually modified into its present-day shape.”

A turtle fossil 210 million years old had a fully developed shell similar to those today, but 10 million years earlier, a fossil discovered in China, named Odontochelys semitestac, had an incomplete top shell, called a carapace.

via Standard Digital News – Kenya : How the turtle got its unique hard shell.

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Henry James’ The Reverberator, reviewed. – Slate Magazine



Photo: Henry James

“Pretty pre-socialite May Marcy McClellan’s father had run for president against Abraham Lincoln in 1864 and later became governor of New Jersey. Her brother would, in 1904, become the mayor of New York City and beat William Randolph Hearst for his second term; he had “drifted” into politics, as his Times obituary hilariously put it, upon becoming close with Tammany Hall figures while a politics reporter. Which is to say, she was fancy.” — more —

via Henry James’ The Reverberator, reviewed. – Slate Magazine.

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I love Spam: Hawaiians are ahead of the curve in their celebration of the canned meat. – Slate Magazine

130517_FOOD_SpamMusubi.jpg.CROP.rectangle3-large[1]Why, America, do we treat Spam like the school outcast who’s just too square for our liking? We’ve been buddy-buddy with hot dogs and pepperoni for ages just because they’re the sporty meats at carnivore college. If more people gave Spam a chance, they’d see that it not only tastes better than hot dogs, it also aligns quite nicely with current foodie trends. They’d also see that it’s an exciting ingredient with boundless culinary potential. (Hint: You’re an idiot if you eat it straight out of the can.)

via I love Spam: Hawaiians are ahead of the curve in their celebration of the canned meat. – Slate Magazine.

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My Master’s Hip Replacement by C. Tobin Tortoise

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Drawing by Carolyn Milliken


For the past several weeks my master here at The Tortoise Factor has undergone successful hip surgery.  I’ve had to secretly fill in for him.  The operation went as well as the dual knee replacement of several years ago. The hip joint like the buns that surround it, unlike the leaner neighborhood of the the knees, is harder to access and less painful in the end because of all the muscle in those climes.  So, according to Master, the knee trip was briefer but a little more  painful. The hip job just takes longer.  He took very few pain pills and Tylenol did the job.  Three days max in the hospital.

Although the tortoise has a hip, it has to have industrial strength due the long life of tortoises — sometimes over 100 years.  Then, too, I don’t suppose we tortoises subject our bodies to the risks of strenuous, unnatural feats of athletic prowess.  We sleep a lot in winter, too.  We don’t mow the lawn and experience a lot of rotation at the end of each cut.  We don’t bowl and crouch either. I can’t ride a bicycle as Master does.  I don’t know whether pumping uphill does good or bad for the hips.  Mostly I think Master just sat on his can too much and didn’t work out the arthritis, but I’m only a tortoise not a doctor.  Master is a bookworm.  He told me he’s going to look into one of those new desks with the elevator(crank or electric) that enables a sedentary man to at least stand at his computer.

Master didn’t want to write this article, because “There’s nothing more boring than an old fart rambling about aches, pains and travails of infirmity and inconvenience.”  Master was lucky to have those cheerful nurses and a long suffering wife stepping and fetching for him now for weeks.  By the way he says that tool called a reacher was a blessing as a man isn’t able to bend or allowed to bend more than 90 degrees).  It’s a wonderful tool.  Unlike the plastic urinal and the horrible surgical stockings, Master will keep the reacher  — but I wish he’d quit teasing me and the dogs with it.  Well, he feels good anyway, snapping away at all of us with his reacher.

While he was pretty diligent about his therapy, he groused a lot, especially at the leg lifts,  bridges and crotch crunchers.  He was great at wiggling his toes.  The walker made him feel really elderly and just as clanky as the device itself.  When cane time came, he was surprised at the challenging art of using a cane.  If you ever have to use one, remember to put it on the side opposite the injury  — seems strange but it works.  Master has trouble remembering this.  Truly he found caning as troubling  as walking and chewing gum at the same time.  Regardless of using a cane or  walker, a man has to look out for sleeping dogs and cats.  After surgery it’s all about balance and minute caution.  Oh, and Miller High Life. That rule he broke.

With the blessings of God, medical technology, a great wife, Medicare, books and the company of terriers and Toby. Master is very happy and thankful.  Oh, one last caveat, if you buy ankle weights add them VERY slowly.  A success with an effective half pound weight is no invitation to add five too soon. Easy does it. This is tortoise wisdom at its best: incremental, careful exertions.  Let the hare get the shin splints.

Steadfast and cautious,

C. Tobin Tortoise

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Gopher Tortoise — Keystone Species

“The gopher tortoise is a keystone species, meaning its extinction would result in measurable changes to the ecosystem in which it occurs. Specifically, other animals, such as gopher frogs, several species of snakes and several small mammals, depend on tortoise burrows. For the gopher tortoise to thrive, the animal generally needs three things: well-drained sandy soil for digging burrows, plenty of low plant growth for food and open, sunny areas for nesting and basking.”  — more —

via Gopher Tortoise.

I posted this because I’m  learning something about the meaning of  a “keystone species.”  A keystone species is one whose extinction would greatly affect its ecosystem, its environment, other species, other systems — and severely.  The loss of the gopher tortoise would be nothing like the loss of the imperious human species, but I suspect nature would go on.  Just imagine what would happen if Pennsylvania, the Keystone State, went missing.  Who’d miss Pennsylvania?  For starters Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, New York, and New Jersey.  Think about it and think about how important the gopher tortoise is in his “little world.”  David Milliken

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Oldest water on Earth found deep underground – Science

“Geoscientist Barbara Sherwood Lollar at the University of Toronto and her colleagues have investigated deep mines across the world since the 1980s. Water can flow into fractures in rocks and become isolated deep in the crust for many years, serving as a time capsule of what their environments were like at the time they were sealed off.   — more—

via Oldest water on Earth found deep underground – Science.

Tortoise asks, “What might fracking  do to such investigations?”

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Preparing for a Future of Perpetual Drought – State of the Planet



A Missouri cornfield. Photo credit: Theresa L. Wysocki

“While not every American feels the direct effects of the drought, we will all eventually feel it in our pocketbooks when food prices rise.  As much of the U.S. faces a future of perpetual drought, we all need to understand the true value of water and conserve it. Here are 100 ways.For more information about the drought, including up-to-date conditions, forecasting and how to prepare for drought, visit the U.S. Drought Portal  . . . ”    More

via Preparing for a Future of Perpetual Drought – State of the Planet.

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