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Animals of Maine

It’s been a while.

With the beginning of school, peewee hockey, and lots of other stuff to keep me busy and/or exhausted, I haven’t had time to blog. I might as well do it now while iOS 6 is downloading in iTunes.

As promised, here is a small album of animal photos I took while in Maine nearly a month ago.

umbrata

The pink phase of the Heterocampa umbrata (white-blotched Heterocampa moth) caterpillar. The blotchy green caterpillars turn pink when ready to pupate.

monarch

A monarch chrysalis on day 11 of pupation. My iPhone focused on the background foliage instead.

tussock

This crappy photo doesn't do justice to this magnificent Orgyia leucostigma (white-marked tussock moth). See the video clip below.

skunk

Skunks are cute and a good way to attract them is to leave food on the ground.

toast

Although rare, the toast-headed Samoyed can be found nosing around campfires.

mulefront

This female bipedal pack mule shows none of the resentment common to the breed.

muleback

A rear view of the same.

snuggle

Snuggling teens can only be photographed when unaware of the process.

Here’s a much better look at the white-marked tussock moth.

YouTube Preview Image

What belated event will I write about next? Stay tuned!

Bonus iOS 6 aggravation:

When you move apps more than one screen, the iOS dims the screen and refuses to comply. Just move apps one screen at a time.

Nature red in tooth and fin

I’m in bed and not feeling so hot. By bed, I mean between two sleeping bags on top of an air mattress.

Crash and I woke up first this morning, around 9:30. I let him out of the tent so he could pee on our campsite rather than in our tent. I followed him out but didn’t leash him since he nearly always sticks close by and he can no longer run. He instead chose to wander to the next campsite.

He walked over there and he tried to crawl under a picnic table stocked with food. I ordered him to stop, which usually works but didn’t. I bent to gently guide him backward and and he snapped, literally.

His canine punctured the palm of my hand. It bled for 15 minutes and I put Ozonol on it. It was no big deal.

After breakfast, we went to buy some cheap fishing gear and two fishing licences. Child Three and I spent the afternoon fishing from the pier in Searsport where we acquired three mackerel from the waters of Penobscot Bay. We traded them to another angler for three cleaned squid. No cleaning? Definitely worth the trade. The squid had mantles about eight to ten centimeters long and – I just had a taste – are delicious. It’s much better than frozen. I guess $30 mackerel/squid is the fishing tourists equivalent of the private pilot’s $100 hamburger.

I noticed during the afternoon that my hand was hurting up by the knuckles and that worried me a bit. While the family set up for supper, I headed off to Waldo County Hospital. Elvi’s insurance covers travel medical care.

After a bit of difficulty registering my foreign address, I saw a nurse.

“What happened?” she asked.

“My asshole dog bit me.”

“I can’t put that on the form.”

“Sure you can. I’ll spell it for you.”

I explained why he’d bit me and over the course of my visit I must have told five people that the dog had all his shots so we unfortunately didn’t have to cleave open his head (standard procedure for a rabies test).

“Can you describe your injury, please?” the nurse continued.

I lifted up my palm. “Stigmata!” I was feeling punchy, I guess. She laughed.

The exam showed I had a fever and an infection. They debrided the wound (ouch), washed it with iodine, and gave me amoxicillin. I also got a DTP shot because I couldn’t recall the date of my last tetanus shot. Five minutes later, I remembered that I’d gotten one when the softball obliterated my finger last October.

By the time I got back to the campsite, I was feeling chilly, headachy, and nauseated. It may have been psychosomatic but I felt like crap. I’ve been in bed since (it’s 9:00 p.m. now). I have a large bandage on my hand and I’m under doctor’s orders not to lift anything or otherwise exercise my right arm.

Bonus excuse:

I put no links or photos in this post for now because I have better things to do than wrestle with the WordPress app on my phone.

This is nice

Sun, not too hot, no mosquitos.

Ahhh.

20120817-122850.jpg

A short stop home

No, that isn’t a baseball-related title.

Elvi and I have been travelling a lot lately. We drove to Boston on Thursday, Aug. 2 so she could see Amanda Palmer in concert while I played on Child 2’s laptop and fended off blondes on the terrace outside.

As you know by last post, we stopped Saturday night in New Hampshire.

I’ve had a lot of work this summer and I used the subsequent week to catch up before heading to Cornwall for our friends’ annual pieces-of-pig-and-lamb roast last Saturday. I DJed the party after dinner, per usual. Up until that night, I’d been bitten by mosquitos only once or twice all year, which is a rarity for me. Those bastards love my blood.

By Sunday morning, I had 44 more bites. I counted them. They were mostly on my feet and ankles with a few up my shins to behind my knees. You in Texas, in California, in Florida – you might think you know mosquito bites. They swell up a bit, itch for a day or so, then go away. The mosquitos in the northeast aren’t so kind. They bite and it itches like crazy for days. I can still feel these four days later.

These were incredibly itchy. Normally I use Gold Bond ointment to relieve the itching of bites, but it did nothing this time. Nothing did until I read that Orajel and its benzocaine could numb the skin. That worked for about two hours at a pop. Once I ran out, I switched to Ozonol and its lidocaine. That worked for three hours per slather.

I have not slept well. I haven’t slept through the night since Saturday, and that was helped by a nice dose of coconut rum.

I’m hoping to get decent rest tonight because tomorrow we are driving to the Maine coast to camp in some woods. I’ll be sure to bring the Deep Woods Off.

Bonus maternal exclamation after reading the previous blog post:

“Since when are you an atheist?!”

The “in the final turn” baseball post

I’m a week late on this, but things have been happening (see previous post) and Elvi and I spent three days in Boston so that she could attend an Amanda Palmer concert. Subsequently, we toured Beacon Hill, Harvard Square, and met my old WarBirds crony Tone to take the Rangefinder Challenge.

Currently, I’m on a porch on Lake Winnipesaukee while a Christian faith retreat goes on around me. I suspect I am the only atheist Jew here.

A week late on what? On a fantasy baseball update. Don’t you read headlines?

One week ago, I had fallen to eighth place, which sounds worse than it is. The spread between third and tenth is less than ten points, and the standings are dynamic day to day. I was able to grab young phenom Starling Marte with my pic. I don’t care what batting average he puts up so long as he keeps playing and adding to the counting stats.

I’m in a good position to move up if my team merely does what it should. We’ll see.

.286 batting average (in first by 0.11)
160 HR (3rd and nine out of 2nd)
622 runs (3rd, two out of 2nd)
605 RBI (3rd by nine)
86 SB (8th by two, five out of 7th)
3.78 ERA (6th, 0.10 out of 4th)
1.27 WHIP (8th, 0.16 out of 6th)
679 K (10th, 28 out of 9th)
46 wins (tied in 7th, four out of 6th)
12 saves (8th)

I’m in fifth, only four points out of the money with two months to go.

Bonus whine:

Why, when I’m retreating and hiding around Wi-Fi-enabled corners, do people keep seeking me out to chat?

Guns and death

Another month, another gun rampage, another anecdotal bullet in the clip of those who argue for banning guns and for those who advocate a thoroughly armed populace.

As tragic as massacres may be, they are rare and do not account for many casualties. Data from the Centers for Disease Control (National Vital Statistics Reports Vol. 60, No. 4; see p. 44) indicate that in the US in 2010 there were 118,043 accidental deaths, 37,793 suicides, and 16,065 homicides. US population in 2010 was 308,750,000, give or take.

The CDC breaks down the numbers further. Slightly more than half the suicides (19,308) and about two-thirds of the homicides (11,015) were caused by firearm.

Statistics Canada supplies similar data for Canada, although the latest available data comes from 2009. Accidents killed 10,250 people, homicide killed 574, and there were 3,890 suicides. Canadian population in 2009 is estimated at 33,894,000. The number of firearm homicides in 2009 was 180 or 30.5%. As the table shows, that number has varied between 30% and 34% in recent years.

It goes without saying that the total number of homicides is dwarfed by other causes of death. Even if you factor in the shock of an unexpected death, accidents are far more prevalent. The gun issue simply doesn’t merit the energy it consumes.

Here’s a table, with rate being number per 100,000 population.

Cause US total US rate Canada total Canada rate
Homicide 16,065 5.2 574 1.7
Gun homicide 11,015 3.6 180 0.53
Suicide 37,793 12.2 3,890 11.5
Gun suicide 19,308 6.3 622* 1.8*

* Although Statistics Canada has not released data with firearm suicides as a separate category since the early 2000s, 16% of all suicides was the rate then and is used here. This rate was higher in the ’90s, around 22%.

A huge difference between the countries lies in homicide rates. Americans (5.2/100k) kill each other three times as frequently as Canadians (1.7/100k) and they are six times more likely to do so by shooting a gun. But let’s remove all gun homicides. Americans kill each other without guns (1.6/100k) more frequently than do Canadians (1.2/100k) but the difference isn’t nearly as drastic.

It’s a much different situation across the globe. I took data from the Guardian and added more relevant content. Take a look at my spreadsheet (it’s not a comprehensive list of countries as I removed any with incomplete data).

The spreadsheet is sorted by total homicide rate. Note that 17 of the top 20 countries are in Latin America or the Caribbean. Why would that be? These countries do not have particularly high numbers of guns per capita. Gun-lousy countries like Serbia, Finland, and Canada all have much lower rates of homicide. Gun prevalence is roughly equal to or higher than the top 20 in eight of the countries with the 20 lowest rates of homicide.

Conspicuously grouped at the bottom are France, Norway, Germany, Austria, Greece, Denmark, and Spain. A few other European countries are not too far away. Switzerland with the third most guns per capita ranks 21 from the bottom.

You can probably guess where I’m headed. I don’t think gun ownership has anything to do with homicides. Certain cultures are inherently more violent than others. Whether they have guns or not is beside the point. The non-gun homicide rates track extremely well with total homicide rates.

It’s a cultural difference. Some cultures are simply more violent. Sometimes the difference is huge. Other times it’s subtle – but I truly believe that Americans as a whole are more violent than Canadians. We do not share the same culture. We do not share the same approaches to the balance of community versus individual. The gun control question is practically moot, a secondary consideration.

American and Canadian national suicide rates are the essentially identical, and have been throughout the last decade – although Americans will use a gun more often. That’s not surprising. Roughly 3 million Canadians in 26% of households live with at least one gun, Justice Canada tells us. According to a recent Gallup poll, the corresponding figure is 47% in the US.

If Canadians owned guns at the rate Americans do, gun suicides would probably increase, but would the extra suicides pad the total or simply replace more cumbersome methods of offing oneself? Fortunately, researchers have studied this.

Miller et al (“Household firearm ownership and suicide rates in the United States”) found in 2002 that “a robust association exists between levels of household firearm ownership and suicide rates.” Many suspect that the immediacy of the act of shooting a gun versus more cumbersome and less successful methods leads to both more attempts and more successful attempts. A position paper from the Canadian Paediatric Society has more citations that lead to the same conclusion. In short, fewer guns means fewer suicides. (There’s a corollary: fewer guns in Canada means we would otherwise be killing ourselves more often. Blame Canada!)

Suicide is the forgotten variable in discussions of gun control. Far fewer folks shoot someone else than shoot themselves. I’ve maintained for years that the question of gun control is a question of suicide, not of interpersonal violence or home defense.

The rate of gun deaths among various nations follows the total homicide rate fairly well, which indicates not that guns are the problem, but that cultures of violence among countries are the problem. The only stat that defies the curves is gun suicide. Having guns around really does make it a whole lot easier to kill yourself. Those who consider suicide a health problem should find free gun ownership a problem.

(Actually, I lie. Accidental gun deaths also increase with gun ownership, but the number is so tiny, it’s not significant enough an event to base policy on.)

From the Canadian Paediatric Society paper:

The presence of a firearm in the home has been shown to increase rates of homicide and suicide compared with homes without a firearm. In studies of adolescent suicide conducted by Brent et al, the presence of a firearm in the home was found to be a strongly positive risk factor for completed adolescent suicide. Apparently, the adolescent without a firearm in the home is more likely either to use a less lethal method or to not attempt suicide. Birckmayer and Hemenway analyzed the relationship between suicide rates and household firearm ownership for four age groups. They found that firearm ownership was correlated with increased suicide rates for 15- to 24-year-olds and 65- to 84-year-olds, but not for 25- to 64-year-olds. This suggests that the availability of a firearm in the home is a suicide risk factor for some, but not all, age groups. It is likely that certain developmental characteristics of adolescents, such as impulsivity, sensitivity to peer pressure, and experimentation with alcohol and substances, are responsible for this effect.

Reach for the Top

Thirty years ago, I was preparing for my last year of high school (which in Quebec ends after Grade 11). I was also coming off my rookie year as a member of Bialik High School’s Reach for the Top team.

Reach for the Top was a Canada-wide high-school quiz show on CBC. Our school was always a strong contender in Quebec, but I had the misfortune of going to my high school at the same time as Gerry Moschopoulos, who was probably the best player in the province, attended Malcolm Campbell High School. In my first year, Gerry and three other people knocked us out of the competition.

In Grade 11, there was turnover on our team. David Cape and Arnold Cohen graduated. I made the ’82-’83 team again. David Tanenbaum and the futurely infamous Kenny Hechtman joined us. Our star was Lorne Beiles. He was in my class, but I don’t remember if he’d been on the team the year before.

Our coach both years was Bryan Wolofsky, whose son and mine took a bar-mitzvah program together this past year.

One of the things I did while cleaning up my dad’s house was to look through old media. My brother Jeff hoarded all the film but I got to pick through some videotapes. Among the collection was a treasure that I’ve had digitized and I’ve uploaded it to YouTube. It’s about 110 minutes long, so you may want a snack.

May I present Bialik High School’s 1982-83 “Reach for the Top” performance in its entirety.

YouTube Preview Image

Even if you have no interest in my quiz-show history, you’ll love the vintage Canadian commercials.

Homo habilis

Man install new shower doors. Man handy.

My archives

Now that I have a Zip drive in hand and working, I’m going through a box of old Zip disks before I throw them out.

Scoff all you want, but I have found some treasures to hoard. I know have a backup of my CompuServe account (I was member 73144,2466). I found a few documents left over from my time as a sysop in the Dinosaur Forum. Here’s one:

Making Fossils – The Home Game

This recipe has been tested and actually worked. Still, I take no liability if you burn down your kitchen.

Get a thick wax candle and carve it into a bone with a knife. Try to get a bone that does not have wick in it. Get a big foil roasting pan (the size used for turkeys) and carefully cut a hole in the bottom just large enough for a piece of wide-bore heat-resistant tubing. Stick a piece of the tubing in so that about an inch sticks up, seal it in place with some heat resistant sealant and trim off the bottom.

Balance the wax bone on the top of the tube and seal it there with sealant.

Fill the roasting pan with enough plaster or something to cover everything. Be careful not to jostle the wax bone.

When the plaster is dry, stick the whole shebang into a hot oven (check the melting point of candle wax for how hot). Place the contraption over a dripping pan. If this works, the hot wax will run out the tube leaving a bone-shaped hole in the plaster. You might have to shake the thing to get all the wax to run out.

When the wax has run out, let the pan cool. Get a lot of castable resin and pour it in the tubing so that it fills the space where the wax used to be (I guess you can also use molten bronze instead). Let it dry.

After it dries – voila! The plaster is the sediment, the heat is the water leaching out the bone and the resin is rock minerals replacing the lost bone. Kind of.

Good luck.

I also found an archived copy of WarBirds 1.11r3, which measured a tiny 38 MB in size. I’d need a System 9 emulator to run it, but it’s neat to have.

Best of all, I found some photos I don’t have elsewhere, taken in the Bahamas in the winter of 2001-02. Here’s one.

Bonus strange conversation:

Elvi and I went out to a new bar with some of her choir mates last night. (Given its location, I guess the bar will have a lifespan measured in months.) We were the last of our group to leave but Elvi went to the bathroom just before we did.

I half-stood, reaching into my front pocket for my car keys but awkwardly sat down again at our table when I realized it would be a few minutes. A guy was standing there as if he wanted to grab the table for some other group of friends. I told him he was welcome to sit down.

He sat right next to me. A few seconds later he amiably said, “You look like you need to have a giant fucking shit.”

I explained that I’d decided to leave my keys in my pocket until my wife came out of the bathroom. At that, he got up and left.

The only thing that makes sense to me is that he had pitched me some sort of come-on. The bar was very gay-friendly. It’s the only explanation I can think of.

Paintballers

Child Two and I took I took Child Three and some of his friends to paintball today. A grand time was had by all, especially by those of us who escaped without wounds.

I was shot once in the neck (by Child Three!) but recovered quickly. I was shot once in my bad knee by a paintball that didn’t burst and that hurt for a minute.

Child Two and I formed an effective fire team in the latter games. We got ourselves into enfilade positions and ripped through the opposition like the killers we are.

My favourite moment of the day came when one kid crept up to the corner of a building to get a shot at Child Two. I let loose a volley of five shots and all landed. I saw my target dance a little and disappear behind the wall. I learned afterward that four of my shots had hit his hand and made him drop his gun – uh, drop his marker. My trophy:

Child Three got hit three times on the bicep in the last fight:

It look like two hits, but the top welt is two hits stacked. The lower, fainter welt shows up much better this evening than it did when I took the photo.

Here’s a masked “before” photo and one from a break in the action.

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