The Atlantic's Ross Andersen recaps a mass murder at the Rock Creek Park Zoo in Washington, D.C.:
Tales of fox cunning are as old as culture. Aesop’s foxes were constantly involved in deceptions. In Apache lore, a thieving fox stands in for Prometheus, stealing fire for humans. I imagine that at the zoo, the fox walked back and forth along the flamingo fence, sussing out its vulnerabilities. Tunneling underneath wasn’t practical: A concrete dig barrier extends underground, too deep for a single night’s digging. If the fox tried to chip away at it over several nights, zookeepers would have noticed. Whether out of insight or frustration, at some point in the dark hours before dawn, the fox began to grind the fence mesh between his teeth. Like a spy cutting a circle of glass out of a high-rise windowpane, he was able to chew a softball-size hole in the fence and, with some wriggling, slip through.
Sara Hallager arrived at the Bird House just after 6 o’clock that morning. As the zoo’s head curator for birds, Hallager makes sure to check on the animals first thing when she works the early shift, methodically looking in on the cranes and herons. When she reached the flamingo enclosure, she was alarmed to find herself eye to eye with the fox. Not all foxes react skittishly upon spotting a human, but this one seemed to have consciousness of guilt. “As soon as he saw me, he ran away through the hole in the fence that he had created,” Hallager told me. Any hopes that the fox had just arrived were dashed when she saw that pink-feathered mayhem was strewn across the enclosure’s bare soil and in its shallow pool. “I could already see a large number of dead flamingos,” Hallager said.
Sad to say, it did not end well for the flamingos or for "a fox, but not necessarily the fox." Personally, I'd have rooted for Team Vulpes.
The storm predicted to drop 100 mm of snow on Chicago yesterday missed us completely. That made my Brews & Choos research a lot more pleasant, though I did tromp all over the place in heavy boots that I apparently didn't need. Of course, had I not worn them, I would now be writing about my cold, wet socks.
So while I'm getting two reviews together for later this week, go ahead and read this:
Finally, author John Scalzi celebrates the 25th anniversary of his domain name scalzi.com, exactly one month before I registered my own. But as I will point out again in a couple of posts later this spring, The Daily Parker started (as braverman.org) well before his blog. Still, 25 years is a long time for a domain to have a single owner.
Newspapers around the country finally chucked "Dilbert" into the bin after the cartoon's creator, Scott Adams, gave them the excuse:
Newspapers across the United States have pulled Scott Adams’s long-running “Dilbert” comic strip after the cartoonist called Black Americans a “hate group” and said White people should “get the hell away from” them.
The Washington Post, the USA Today network of hundreds of newspapers, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the Los Angeles Times and other publications announced they would stop publishing “Dilbert” after Adams’s racist rant on YouTube on Wednesday. Asked on Saturday how many newspapers still carried the strip — a workplace satire he created in 1989 — Adams told The Post: “By Monday, around zero.”
Adams, 65, also blamed Black people for not “focusing on education” during the show and said, “I’m also really sick of seeing video after video of Black Americans beating up non-Black citizens.”
I say "excuse" because (a) Adams has said a lot worse, and (b) "Dilbert" hasn't been funny for at least ten years. I stopped reading the strip about five years ago after (a) Adams said a lot worse and (b) it stopped being funny. Why his comments last week tipped the scales, I have no idea. But you only have to go back to the 2016 Presidential Campaign, with Adams calling the XPOTUS a "genius hypnotist" and praising his persuasive abilities the way Father Coughlin praised Goebbels.
So, for whatever reason, American newspapers have finally got shot of this boring, unfunny asshole. Only the timing was unpredictable.
The other "makes sense if you think about it" story concerns the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) between North and South Korea. I've visited the place; it's really creepy. But aside from the Treaty Village at Panmunjom, it's a five-kilometer strip of land with exactly zero humans in it. Yet NBC News seemed surprised that it has become a de facto wildlife refuge:
Golden eagles, goats and wild cats are among the 6,168 wildlife species were found in new street view images released by Google this week which offer a rare glimpses into life behind the civilian control line.
Away from landmines buried beneath the border zone’s soil, otters and endangered Manchurian trout swim freely in the Imjin river which flows from North to South Korea.
And animals such as long-tailed mountain goats, classified as endangered by South Korea’s environment ministry, can be spotted in the rocky terrain of the Taebaek mountains.
So, that's cool. A lot cooler than a washed-up, right-wing cartoonist losing his syndication deal.
As a bonus, here's Panmunjom, from about 10 meters from the North Korean border:
I spent the morning going over an API for standards and style, which will result in an uncomfortably large commit before I leave the office today. I prefer smaller, more focused commits, but this kind of polishing task makes small code changes all over the place, and touches lots of files.
So while I have my (late) lunch, I'm taking a break to read some news:
Finally, the Securities and Exchange Commission has fined the Mormon Church $5m for failing to disclose its holdings as required by law. As the Church has some $32 billion in holdings worldwide, that $5m fine will sure sting.
One of my neighbors sent this to the HOA mailing list this morning:
Since the guy didn't have a box marked "Acme," and since the rabbit he seems to have under his paw looks quite dead, he's welcome to stay on our block.
We'll see a lot more of them in the next few weeks, it turns out. It's coyote cuffing season:
Late winter is coyote mating season, which reaches its peak toward the end of February. And that’s leading to more sightings than usual by humans — even in downtown Chicago — as the animals are a bit bolder and on the move in their search for a soulmate. (Yes, coyotes mate for life.)
“Just because you see a coyote isn’t a cause for alarm,” said Dan Thompson, ecologist with the DuPage County Forest Preserve District. “The more we can understand they’re just trying to live their lives, the more we can safely share our neighborhoods.”
Cities like Chicago have developed management plans that emphasize coexistence with coyotes, not their removal.
The Urban Coyote Research Project has been tracking coyotes in the Chicago metropolitan area since 2000. The project’s studies show that the animals are highly adapted to urban areas, except for collisions with cars, and they generally go about their business without attracting attention. Coyotes also provide benefits like helping to control the populations of rats, white-tailed deer and even Canada geese by eating their eggs.
Welcome to the neighborhood, Mr Latrans! And I hope you find the Mrs Latrans of your dreams. Just keep culling the rabbits, yes?
I've got an open research problem that's a bit hard to define, so I'm exploring a few different avenues of it. I hope reading these count:
Since none of these has anything at all to do with my research project, I should get back to work.
I've written before about urban highways, never favorably. Ploughing massive roads through dense urban areas has done incalculable damage to North American cities that tearing them down or burying them has only just started to fix—but usually with an order of magnitude more cost than their initial construction.
Today I got an innocent little email listing houses for sale around Chicago, both because I'm interested to see what's out there, and also because I've been too lazy to turn it off since I last moved. But one house stood out today: a beautiful, 4-bedroom Victorian built in 1898 with a lovely wraparound porch, tons of light and air, steps from everything.
I would love to live in a house just like this. In fact, there are similar houses near me, with price tags around $2-$3 million.
This stately lady in Old Irving Park can be yours for only $750,000. And that jaw-dropping difference in value is entirely due to its location.
You see, even though this house is steps from everything—only four blocks to the Metra, three blocks to the El, close to the shops in the historic commercial corridor along Elston—it's also just 200 meters from the 10-lane I-90/94 expressway:
I mean, holy hell. Getting to the El or to the Metra stations at Mayfair or Irving Park requires crossing all those lanes of traffic. I've done it; the Montrose and Irving Park bridges are soul-crushing for pedestrians. Worse, the Keeler underpass (which you'd take to the Irving Park station) requires you to cross two entrance and exit ramps on either side of a half-block-long underpass.
I'm not even going to talk about how loud the 10 lanes of traffic must be.
In short, this beautiful house, "the second built in the area," can't get anywhere near the price it would had the city not destroyed the neighborhood in the 1950s.
In other news:
And finally, a glimmer of hope that the 10-year project to build one damn railroad station near my house might finally finish in the next few weeks.
As we in Chicago enjoy (?) the 12th consecutive day with above-normal temperatures, and look forward to another 10 at least, it turns out ExxonMobil's own scientists predicted global temperature rises 40 years ago:
In the late 1970s, scientists at Exxon fitted one of the company’s supertankers with state-of-the-art equipment to measure carbon dioxide in the ocean and in the air, an early example of substantial research the oil giant conducted into the science of climate change.
A new study published Thursday in the journal Science found that over the next decades, Exxon’s scientists made remarkably accurate projections of just how much burning fossil fuels would warm the planet. Their projections were as accurate, and sometimes even more so, as those of independent academic and government models.
Yet for years, the oil giant publicly cast doubt on climate science, and cautioned against any drastic move away from burning fossil fuels, the main driver of climate change. Exxon also ran a public relations program — including ads that ran in The New York Times — emphasizing uncertainties in the scientific research on global warming.
In the new study, Geoffrey Supran and Naomi Oreskes of Harvard, and Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute, carried out a quantitative analysis of global warming projections made or recorded by Exxon scientists between 1977 and 2003.
Those records, which include internal memos and peer-reviewed papers published with outside academic researchers, make up the largest public collection of global warming projections recorded by a single company, the authors said.
Overall, Exxon’s global warming projections closely tracked subsequent temperature increases of around 0.2 degrees Celsius of global warming per decade, the study found.
The company’s scientists, in fact, excluded the possibility that human-caused global warming was not occurring, the researchers found.
And yet, people still believe businesses that tout research favorable to their own interests. Does this remind you of anything?
I'm on hold with my bank trying to sort out a transaction they seem to have deleted. I've also just sorted through a hundred or so stories in our project backlog, so while I'm mulling over the next 6 months of product development, I will read these:
And my bank's customer service finally got back to me with the sad news that the thing I wanted them to fix was, and we are so sorry, it turns out, your fault. Fie.