Monthly Archives: April 2009

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.

The basic North American bird book

You’ll notice that I’m reviewing bird books. (Don’t worry, not all will be US based.) Please feel free to chime in with your suggestions and comments.

The ultimate bird book for North America has always been two books: both Peterson’s field guides, one for the East, one for the West. Now, the new Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America (Peterson Field Guide Series) combines the two. I do not own a copy, and therefore can not review it for you. (Note: I don’t normally review books that publishers are unwilling to send me, and Houghton Mifflin has not been a good partner lately.)

Anyway, even though I find myself not liking the publisher too much, the book is a standard and you need to have one.

The Young Birder’s Guide: A Bird Book for the Middle Schooler

This is a repost of an earlier review.


Bill Thompson’s Young Birder’s Guide
The Young Birder’s Guide to Birds of North America (Peterson Field Guides) is a book that I highly recommend for kids around seven to 14 years of age. (The publishers suggest a narrower age range but I respectfully disagree.)

This is a new offering written by Bill Thompson III and published by the same people who give us the Peterson Field Guide to the Birds and many other fine titles. The book includes excellent illustrations by Julie Zickefoose.

A birder since childhood, Thompson says he would have loved a book like this one when he was just getting interested in birds. Now a father of two, he spent many hours over a two-year period with his now eleven-year-old daughter’s class getting their advice on what to include in the book.

Bill Thompson III is the editor of Bird Watcher’s Digest, a bimonthly magazine with 70,000 subscribers and the author of Identify Yourself: The 50 Most Common Birding Identification Challenges. He lives with his wife, author and illustrator Julie Zickefoose and their two children on eighty birdy acres in Ohio.

Continue reading The Young Birder’s Guide: A Bird Book for the Middle Schooler

Swine Flu Threat Update

The most significant thing that has happened over the last 24 hours or so is that the CDC has confirmed a handful of Influenza A (H1N1) Swine Flu cases in new locations. Previously, cases were only identified in Texas and California. Now, there are cases in Ohio (1 case), New York (8 cases), and Kansas (2 cases). In at least some cases, there is a Mexico connection. I think it is reasonable to assume that new cases will start showing up in other locations over the next day or two.

WHO has some updated information on the situation in Mexico:

…as of 26 April, the Government of Mexico has reported 18 laboratory confirmed cases of swine influenza A/H1N1. Investigation is continuing to clarify the spread and severity of the disease in Mexico. Suspect clinical cases have been reported in 19 of the country’s 32 states.

This is not a lot of new information from 24 hours earlier. Reuters has reported that a teacher visiting Mexico from New Zealand has returned with a flu. Of course, a zillion people have the flu every day, so this may not mean anything….

At the moment no travel or trade restrictions are being recommended by WHO.

One question I have that I have not seen any information on is this: We see cases showing up in the US with an apparent Mexico connection, suggesting that this flu may have an origin in Mexico. What about Central America and other points south? Is there any movement in that direction? (And could that explain the family of people I know of who returned form Panama with the “flu” a few weeks ago???) I wonder how good reporting is in countries south of Mexico …

The CDC web site is here.

The WHO web site is here.

Possible Cleopatra Tomb?

A tomb in Egypt, on the sea coast, is being investigated by Egyptian archaeologist Zahi Hawass, who claims it is the final resting place of Cleopatra and her main squeeze, Mark Antony. One of the pieces of evidence used to make this claim is a mask with a cleft chin, just like Richard Burton’s.

It seems that most non-Egyptian archaeologists are claiming that this is incredibly unlikely. Most of the actual relevant evidence that would address the likelihood has not been examined by anyone, so I won’t take this disbelief any more seriously that I’m taking the claim.

Details can be found here in what is actually a pretty funny news report.

Minnesotans Want Coleman To Give Up in Senate Recount

Only 28 percent of Minnesotans think Coleman’s current appeal to the Minnesota Supreme Court is appropriate. Sixty four percent think he should give up now. Seventy three percent feel that he should not go beyond the State Supreme Court if he loses there. The will of the people has been heard in both the voting booth and the polls.

This will not affect former Senator Norm Coleman’s strategies, because the will of the people is of no concern to him. Coleman will continue with the State Supreme Court appeal, and when he loses there (and he will) he will continue on to the US supreme court. Coleman’s strategy is to delay the seating of Franken for as long as possible. Why? Because Coleman is under various Federal and Senate investigations and owes a huge pile of money for the legal costs of this recount. He needs the Republican party to help pay off some of these debts (to the extent that they can … they may not be able to help much give their overall loss of support) and to yield their political clout to blunt the effects of some of these investigations (which of course, they can’t really do but Norm has never been the sharpest knife in the drawer and probably does not know this).

It is now time for Republicans whose careers are not over to stop openly releasing statements supporting Coleman. Personally, I don’t care whether they do this or not. What I’m saying is that you will stop seeing the support Pawlenty and others have been mouthing over the last few months. Furthermore, this latest poll is likely to prompt Pawlenty to issue an election certificate once appeals have been exhausted at the state level, possibly in July.

The state Supreme Court proceedings being in June.

Continue reading Minnesotans Want Coleman To Give Up in Senate Recount