Daily Archives: April 28, 2009

Birding Binoculars

I am not an expert on binoculars, but that is not going to stop me from giving you some excellent advice.

Wildlife watching requires binoculars, and although I’m focusing on birding here, everything we’re talking about applies generally. So this advice may be useful for your Safari to Africa where birds will be only one component of your viewing.

Here are a few guidelines that I’ve found to be useful. I’d love to see people add comments.

1) The person in the store knows crap.

2) Bigger binoculars will always be optically better all else being equal. In other words, whatever you are looking for optically will be more easily achieved if the designers do not have to make it all happen in a miniature binocular. Or, putting it yet another way, similar optical results can be achieved for less money with a larger pair of binoculars. Bigger is better.

3a) Big binoculars are a pain to carry around, won’t fit in your carry on as easily, and in general are less convenient. Small is better.

3b) Almost all small highly portable binoculars under $150.00 are unsatisfactory, even if they carry a famous name brand. They might seem OK when you try them out, but once you use actually good binoculars you won’t like them so much.

4) You need to have one pair of binoculars per person, so if you are a couple, get two.

5) A really nice compromise between size, quality, and price is the Orion Savannah 8×32 Phase-Coated Waterproof Binoculars or one that is like it. This is what we use and we have a hard time switching to anything else. We only have one, and our other binoculars are small Nikons that are very nice. There are also some large klunky unknown name brand sets that work OK but you would not want to be seen in public with them.

For our second pair, I think we are going back to the Orions.

My final piece of advice: 7) Use the binoculars. Spend time looking at the creature. After you’ve had it in view long enough to get the distinguishing marks down, and to know what you are looking at and what it is doing, keep looking for a while longer. Interesting things sometimes happen.

A Tale of Two Trips

When I contacted Steve Kelley’s campaign director to arrange a meeting with Steve and Sophie Kelley, I suggested Tuesday. She responded that they had arranged their schedule to meet me on Wednesday. When I read her response, the part that I saw was, “They had arranged their schedule to meet with you at Pizza Nea, 306 Hennepin Ave…” The part that I missed was, “…Wednesday at 7.”…

I hate when that happens… Read the rest here at Quiche Moraine.

Grasping the function of the human penis

Gallup has taken on the task of explaining, in ultimate terms, the evolutionarily designed features of the human penis. He works this as an engineering problem from the perspective of evolutionary psychology, which is always a little bit dangerious, but gallup isn’t quite the arm waiver that a lot of other EP’s are, so he may be doing it right.

Gallup’s work is written up an an all-too-sophomoric Scientific American article by Jesse Bering which just barely falls short of explaining this important biological phenomenon in terms of a pair of headlights, a flashlight, and a little red waagon.

Here’s the money quote:

Magnetic imaging studies of heterosexual couples having sex reveal that, during coitus, the typical penis completely expands and occupies the vaginal tract, and with full penetration can even reach the woman’s cervix and lift her uterus. This combined with the fact that human ejaculate is expelled with great force and considerable distance (up to two feet if not contained), suggests that men are designed to release sperm into the uppermost portion of the vagina possible. Thus… “A longer penis would not only have been an advantage for leaving semen in a less accessible part of the vagina, but by filling and expanding the vagina it also would aid and abet the displacement of semen left by other males as a means of maximizing the likelihood of paternity.”

The other component of the work is the intriguing possibility that penises have evolved to carry semen previously left in one female’s vagina from another male to be deposited hours later in the vagina of a second female. Which I suppose could be called facilitated cuckoldry.

I’ve not read the original paper yet. I’m not quite up to it. But if I do, I’ll let you know if it is truly a seminal work, or if Gallup is just jerking us around.

The writeup is here.