32 years ago tomorrow, Rama the elephant was calved. Yes, he was born on April Fool's Day to Rosy, the third calf born that year. Previously, Hanako gave birth to Look-Chai, and Pet delivered Sung-Surin, who I named (actually, not so - I was in the barn when my co-worker, Roger came in, looked at the calf, and piped "Good morning, Sunshine". That was when I told him we now had a name for that calf. Sung-Surin was the closest Thai we could find for "sunshine".
Rama came along on April first, which was kind of prophetic. Shine's mother, Pet, was really smart - and Shine took right after her. Rosy was patient and tolerant, and I don't know that Rama inherited a lot from her. Example:
Every Tuesday morning, we cooked the barn to expand veins in the elephant ears, and we drew blood samples. We had a very clear rule that there was to be no violence while we were so engaged, and Shine, born three months earlier than Rama, took advantage of it: while we were drawing a blood sample from Rama's mama, she'd head on over and grab a free lunch. Rosy didn't like it, but she tolerated it.
After a few weeks, Rama decided he could do the same when we were taking a sample from Shine's mom, and Pet wasn't about to put up with it. She couldn't hit him, so she quietly raised a foreleg. Baby elephants raise their trunks to nurse, and she grabbed his with hers and yanked. Well, as she didn't hit him, she technically didn't violate the rules. But she started him up like a lawnmower. He never went for the free lunch again.
When he was 18 months old, we moved him into a quarrantine building for 30 days, prior to sending him to Tacoma. Around 2 a.m. each day, he got loose. Since I was closest, I generally got the call to come round him up. Eventually, Roger and I agreed to take turns on that. We eventually moved him to Tacoma, where he was supposed to live until he hit his early teen years. It didn't end well.
For whatever reason, they started walking him through the public parking lot, prior to opening. I hate that stuff; for one thing, it needlessly exposes the animal to human pathogens, and for another, it's not an easily-controlled environment. Yeah, well, there you go: according to Gary the handler, a passing tractor backfired, which startled Rama. So Rama started to run.
At this point, Gary performed the worst possible of moves: he grabbed Rama's tail.
Rama, now convinced that whatever was after him had now in fact got him, was in full panic mode. He ran through fences, uprooted trees, and kept going. He paused briefly after running though a neighborhood fence and noticing an open window, where the resident was washing dishes. He stuck his trunk into the sink and blew, but then Gary came running through the destroyed fence, so Rama ran through the other fence.
Mile after mile, tree after tree, shrub after shrub, fence after fence, the chase continued until Rama, tired, took refuge in a Piggly-Wiggly parking lot, casually sniffing car bumpers. When Gary got there, he was pretty tired as well.
The Tacoma curator arrived, found them both, and told Gary to go into the store and get some bananas to keep Rama from blowing off again. "I don't have any money!", Gary whined.
"Then steal the freaking bananas!"
Well, as it happened, the store was happy to donate the bananas, but nobody wanted to get into their cars.
Rama was walked back to the zoo, but I knew the call was coming: "Come get your elephant".
So I drove up and picked him up, and Roger and the curator drove behind. Suddenly, headlights flashed in the middle of a fine August day. Must be a problem. We pulled over, and I walked back to see what was up. Roger rolled down his window: "Son of a bitch! I thought you busted a hose, but I see now it was just Rama taking a leak." The curator worried about his paint job, wondered if there was a car-wash close by.
So we got him back safe and sound - until the new hires at Oregon Zoo managed to kill him.
The science is yet again unsettled as recent observations invalidate the long-established Big Bang explanation of the creation of our known universe.
According to Big Bang theory, the universe exploded into existence from basically nothing 13.7-something billion years ago. But we're at the beginning of a wave of discoveries of stuff that's older than 13.7 billion years.
They're finding stuff that's older than possible, if the theory was accurate. Once again, we don't know nearly as much as we thought we knew. It's an issue that crops up rather often.
As an example: we've been on this little speck of dust for less than a split-second in terms of geologic time; at the time Jesus Christ walked upon our ground, global human population was less than ten million, and we'd only recently graduated from hunting and gathering to agriculture.
From the Greek for ‘totally new’, the Holocene is an eyeblink in geological time. In its nearly 12,000 years, plate tectonics has driven the continents a little more than half a mile: a reasonably fit person could cover the scale of planetary change in a brisk eight-minute walk. It has been a warm time, when temperature has mattered as much as tectonics. Sea levels rose 115 feet from ice melt, and northern landscapes rose almost 600 feet, as they shrugged off the weight of their glaciers.
Humans haven't been here all that long. Certainly, our populations have grown exponentially, but that's nothing when compared to the growth of our collective ego. Many of us truly believe that we can Save The Planet™ by taking this course of action or that. Here's a trail tip:
This is just bizarre: rather than admitting that their managers screwed up by exposing animals to disease, they claimed that they killed a 31 year-old Asian elephant this morning because he was pushed into a moat and suffered damage to his left leg, and then claimed that they had "immediately redesigned the facility." That's an outright lie.
First, they did nothing to the facility for many years. Second, they killed the elephant because he was not responding well to drug treatment for management-caused tuberculosis infection. It was, after all, upon their orders that the animals were exposed.
Gosh, ODOT seems to have a teensy little cash-flow problem. Not only are they challenged when it comes to roads - like the little issue on their highway 20 "straightening "project, wherein half a dozen brand new bridges and pavement had to be ripped out because they built the things on an active landslide - it also looks as though they won't have enough money next year to keep the Cascades AmTrak route running between Eugene and Seattle.
Those spiffy new Talgo trains that the state bought last year? Looks like they might be headed to the auction block. Maybe ODOT can claim they need more money For The Children™! Hey, it works on Porkland/Multnomah County voters every time.
Well, I honestly didn't expect it to happen quite this soon, but I wrote here a while back that one of the elephants Oregon Zoo staff managed to infect with tuberculosis was likely on a fast-track to death, as he's not been responding well to treatment.
They killed him this morning. It's got to be a special treat, cutting up an 8000-pound elephant while wearing full hazmat gear; the fact that it's a warm day makes it all the better. They deserve the discomfort and the sweat.
Rama, the elephant, didn't deserve what he got from them.
That girl who moved here from California so that she could legally kill herself because she had brain cancer might, as it happens, have jumped the gun:
Like many original ideas, Matthias Gromeier's notion that polio might kill cancer tumors was met with disdain. But two decades later, the use of the virus known for crippling and killing millions is showing promise against one of the most virulent forms of cancer -- glioblastoma brain tumors. Two patients Scott Pelley meets in the first clinical trial for the treatment have been declared cancer free by doctors.
Gromeier and his team genetically modified the virus, rendering it safe for use in animal models and in humans.
He explains how it works. "All human cancers, they develop...protective measures that make them invisible to the immune system and this is precisely what we try to reverse with our virus," he says. "We are actually removing this protective shield...enabling the immune system to come in and attack."
The modified virus actually begins to kill tumor cells, but the resulting detritus spurs the patient's own immune system into action by enabling it to recognize the cancerous cells as the threat they are. And so it is a two-step process, initiated by the virus and then carried to completion by the immune system.
What we have here, then, appears to be yet another case in which "settled science" becomes unsettled; everyone thought he was a lunatic - you simply don't use a paralytic agent to cure cancer. Unless, of course, you do.
Two men tried to ram their vehicle through a gate at the Maryland security installation early this morning. They didn't make it, and the NSA isn't saying much.
One person was killed and at least one other was injured Monday when shots were fired after two people in a vehicle tried to ram a gate at Fort Meade, a military installation in Anne Arundel County that houses the National Security Agency, according to officials with knowledge of the investigation.
NSA officers shot the intruders, according to other police.
The men were reportedly dressed in womens' clothes. Them transgender folks are breaking down barriers left and right.
According to the FBI, your encrypted phone represents a danger to the American People, and so last week the director went before the House Appropriations Committee to ask that a law be passed that would require manufacturers to install a back-door into any communication device that employs encryption.
Never mind that they can track your location using tower data, and never mind that they can retrieve metadata from your carrier. We're talking National Security here! Oddly, they were all for encryption until they suddenly weren't.