Thursday, June 30, 2005

COM: Help these guys out

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

LIT: A Book Meme Compilation

What Science Bloggers are Reading . . .

I had hoped to finish this in time for last week's Tangled Bank at Geomblog, but i was too late -- perhaps best, as i've been able to add quite a few more details.

Update: We made the next Tangled Bank at Science & Sensibility!

After participating in the passing of the book meme, and then following up on the folks i asked to join in, i got tangled in the web of the whole thing and found some mighty fine (and some mighty strange . . .) recommendations.

Though i enjoyed participating, it occurred to me that some real use might come of it, and i (after challenging others to do this) decided i would try to compile as many of the various lists as i could to make a kind of master list of books being read by the group in which i am most bloggily entangled -- namely scientists.

Some of these folks are academics, others are what i call the non-academy academics, some writers, some just aficionados, but all that i have tracked thus far have been directly involved in science somehow. The interests are broad -- math, biology, chemistry -- but the group that seems to be involved in the time period of my own meme-ing seem to be largely interested in invertebrates (a fellow malacologist passed it on to me).

I am sure that most of these authors would caution that (especially in the "influential" category) just because a book is cited does not mean that one necessarily follows what is inside. This is about things that might have changed one's thinking, or even reinforced antithesis. So, caution.

In any case, for what it may be worth, and i sincerely hope something (perhaps as an interest-sparker for students who want to see what working scientists read; or scientists who want to find something new and interesting to while the time [or is it wile the time?]) here is a compilation. I am going to continue to add to this regularly as i come across participants, or as i find time to trace more of the threads -- it has already become highly unwieldy trying to keep track.

I ignored the how-many-books-do-you-have question. The important things i thought were the what-have-you-bought and/or read-lately, and the lists of influential books. A number of participants also added categories of their own or mentioned other books in passing and i felt compelled to add those as well. So you'll find those three categories below.

First is a list of the participants from whom i have collated lists thus far. The link there is to their actual meme participation post. I also heartily endorse reading the original posts -- many of them have extended descriptions, summaries and reviews and, of course, many lead elsewhere. And, of course, the blogs themselves are a wonder, so this might be a good introduction to the finest science writing on the net.

Then there's the list of recently bought and/or read books followed by the list of influential books, followed by the miscellaneous mentions.

I have bumped it to the top mainly for this week's entry in The Tangled Bank, but will likely do so again if i continue to add material to it.

Hope you find something worth reading . . .

AND, if you've done the book meme, and i missed you, and would like to be included here, post a link for me in the comments . . . tg

Snail’s Tales –

Bootstrap Analysis --

Culture of Chemistry --

Urban Dragon Hunters --

Thoughts from Kansas --

Kevin Nyberg – via comments at

Michigan Odonotes --

Henry’s Webiocosm --

Niches --

Stranger Fruit --

Pharyngula -- (plus various commenters on the post, which might mean that some non-scientists snuck in)

Darwin’s Little Darling --

gorejes528 --

Still Motion --

milkriverblog – (plus commenters)

NEW: Science and Politics --

Last Bought, Last Read for First Time:
The Seashell on the Mountaintop, Alan Cutler
The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms with Observation on their Habits, Charles Darwin
Wedding of the Waters, Peter Bernstein
Mr. Bloomfield’s Orchard: The Mysterious World of Mushrooms, Molds, and Mycologists, Nicholas Money
Evolutionary Ecology of Birds, Life Histories, Mating Systems, and Extinction, Bennett and Owens
Family Matters, Rohinton Mistry
Dragon Hunter: Roy Chapman Andrews and the Central Asiatic Expeditions, Michael Novacek
The Remarkable Life of William Beebe, Explorer and Naturalist, Carol Grant Gould
Spirit of Fire, Ursula King
I’d Wished I’d Made you Angry Earlier, Max Perutz
Dragonflies and Damselflies of Texas and the South-Central United States by John Abbott (2 lists)
Damselflies of the Northeast, Ed Lam
Damselflies and Dragonflies of Ohio, Bob Glotzhober and Dave McShaffrey
Dragonflies: Behavior and Ecology of Odonata, Corbet
A Dazzle of Dragonflies, Forrest Mitchell and James Lasswell
A Field Guide to the Grasshoppers, Katydids and Crickets of the United States, John Capinera, Ralph Scott and Thomas Walker
Down and Dirty Pictures, Peter Biskind
100 Great Curries
The Cook’s Encyclopedia of One-Pot and Clay-Pot Cooking
Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, Romeo Dallaire
Experts vs. the Sicilian, Aagard & Shaw
My Great Predecessors, Vol. IV: Fischer, Kasparov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies, Jared Diamond
Alias Grace, Margaret Atwood
The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood
Crimes against Nature, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
The Living, Annie Dillard
Field Guide to Insects, Donald J. Borror
Dark Tower 6: Song of Susannah, Stephen King
Dark Tower 7: The Dark Tower, Stephen King
Home Tree Home: Principles of Treehouse Construction and Other Tall Tales, Peter Nelson
For Love of Insects, Thomas Eisner
Three by Annie Dillard (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, An American Childhood, The Writing Life)
Before Darwin, Keith Thompson
An End to Suffering, Pankaj Mishra
On the Origin of Phyla, James Valentine (2 lists)
Letters from Earth, Mark Twain
Collapse, Jared Diamond
The Girl with the Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier
The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown
The Natural History of Religion, David Hume
Savage Run, C.J. Box
The Fossil Hunters, Adrienne Mayor
Adam’s Curse, Bryan Sykes
Cantata-140, Philip K. Dick
The Portable Door, Tom Holt
Changing Planes, Ursula LeGuin
Fundamentalist World: A New Dark Age of Dogma, Stuart Sims
Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter, Thomas Cahill
The Rise of the Indian Rope Trick, Peter Lamont
Brief Lives, Neil Gaiman
Flashman’s Lady, Ian McDonald Fraser
Unintelligent Design, Mark Perakh
Eight Men Out, Eliot Asinof
Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science, Atul Gawande
Tycho and Kepler, Kitty Ferguson
The Baby Book, William and Martha Sears
Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig
On the Origin of Species, Darwin
The Way We Never Were: American Families and the Nostalgia Trap, Stephanie Coontz

The Way We Really Are: Coming to Terms With America's Changing Families, Stepahnie Coontz
Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage, Stephanie Coontz
The Sex Lives of Teenagers, Lynn Ponton

Influential Books:
The Theory of Evolution, John Maynard Smith
The Seeds of Discovery, W.I.B. Beveridge
Creation Revisited, Peter Atkins --
The Invisible Man, H.G. Wells
The Bird Guide, Chester Reed
Why I’m Not a Christian, Bertrand Russell
The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins
The Beak of the Finch, Jonathan Wiener
Waiting for Fidel, Christopher Hunt
The Seven Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton
The Liturgy of Hours
Marie Curie, Eve Curie
Lady with a Spear, Eugenie Clark
Grassrott Jungles, Edwin Way Teale
Near Horizons, Edwin Way Teale
Golden Guide to Insects
Golden Guide to Butterflies and Moths
Dragonflies through Binoculars, Sid Dunkle
The Bible
A Paradise of Birds, Helen Cruickshank
House of Breath, William Goyen
Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern, Douglass Hofstadter
Le Ton Beau de Marot: In Praise of the Music of Language, Douglass Hofstadter
The Trumpet of the Swan
Geographical Ecology, Robert H. MacArthur
Macroecology, James H. Brown
Purgatorio, Dante
The Bible (King James Version, 1611; Aland et al., Greek New Testament, 1983)
The Complete Works of Shakespeare, 1623
Play Like a Grandmaster, Kotov
Aeneid, Vergil
Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Ed., 1908
The Foundation Trilogy, Asimov
Norton's Star Atlas
The Discarded Image, C.S. Lewis
A History of Rome, Cary
A History of Greece, Bury
The Demon-Haunted World, Sagan
My 60 Memorable Games, Fischer
Early Greek Myth, Gantz
Carmina (Poems), Catullus
Orationes (Orations), Cicero
An Introduction to the Study of Insects, 4th Ed., Borror, Delong, and Triplehorn
How to Know the Insects, H.E. Jaques
The Golden Guide to Insects, Herbert Zim
Peterson's Guide to the Insects of North America, Borror and White
Wasp Studies in the Field, Rau and Rau
Life on a Little-Known Planet, H.E. Evans
Wasp Farm, H.E. Evans
An Introduction to Entomology, J.H. Comstock
Insects and Their Ways and Means of Living, R.E. Snodgrass
Dragonflies of North America, Needham and Westfall
Odonata of Canada and Alaska, Walker
A Biology of Dragonflies, P.S. Corbet
Dragonflies of the Northwoods, Kurt Meade
Damselflies of North America, Westfall and May
Broadsides From the Other Orders, Sue Hubbell
Sociobiology, E. O. Wilson
Beginnings, Isaac Asimov
Time’s Arrow and Evolution, Harold F. Blum
Dune, Frank Herbert
Tarascon Pocket Pharmacopoeia, new ed.
The Diversity of Life, E.O. Wilson
Silent Spring, Rachel Carson
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard
The Midwich Cuckoos, John Wyndham
Contact, Carl Sagan
The Dispossessed, Ursula K. LeGuin
Timescape, Gregory Benford
A Problem from Hell, Samantha Power
Darwin, Adrian Desmond and James Moore
Science as a Process, David Hull
A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn (3 lists)
The Dhammapada
On the Genealogy of Morality, Nietzche
The Blank Slate, Steven Pinker
Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, Daniel C. Dennett
Arcadia, Tom Stoppard (2 lists)
The Grand Inquisitor, Dostoevsky
The Birth of Venus, Sarah Dunant
The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom
Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison
The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien
Behind the Mask, Dave Pallone
The Official Rules of Major League Baseball
The Stranger, Albert Camus
Einstein’s Dreams, Lightman
Existentialism is a Humanism, Sartre
Utopia, Sir Thomas More
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The Sea Hawk, Rafael Sabatini
Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke
Gilgamesh: A Verse Narrative, Herbert Mason
Sociobiology, E.O. Wilson
Developmental Pasticity and Evolution, Mary Jane West-Eberhard
Wind in the Willows, Grahame
The Histories, Herodotus
The Green Ma, Treece
The Age of Arthur, Morris
Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, Sassoon
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Jules Verne
Faust, Goethe
The Snail on the Slope, Strugatsky & Strugatsky
Labyrinths, Jorge Luis Borges
8-Bit Imbedded Controllers, Intel
The Future of Life, E.O. Wilson
Ethics: Inventing Right and Wrong, J.L. Mackie
The Shape of Life, Rudolf Raiff
The Mismeasure of Man, Stephen Jay Gould
The New Science of Strong Materials, J.E. Gordon (2 lists)
Essential Kanji, P.G. O’Neill
Use of Weapons, Iain M. Banks
Red/Green/Blue Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson
Without Guilt and Justice, Walter Kaufmann
Cadillac Desert, Marc Reisner
Q, John Kloppenberg
What If/What If 2, Robert Cowley ed.
The Mind’s Eye, Daniel Dennett and Douglas Hofstadter
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams
Stark, Ben Elton
The Usborne Guide to Computer Programming
Progress and Poverty, Henry George
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
Demon Haunted World, Carl Sagan
Cookery Book, Edmonds
The Night’s Dawn Trilogy, Peter F. Hamilton
Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
Model Selection and Multimodel Inference, Burham and Anderson
Goodbye Darkness: A Memoir of the Pacific War, William Manchester
Night, Elie Wiesel
Stalingrad, Antony Beever
Hitler’s Willing Executioners, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen
Doctors of Death, Philippe Aziz

King Solomon's Ring, Konrad Lorenz
[The Country Vet Series], James Herriot
The Natural Rider, Mary Wanless
Ontogeny and Phylogeny, Stephen Jay Gould
Moral Politics, George Lakoff
Gull No. 747, Mary Craighead George

Miscellaneous Mention:
Ontogeny and Phylogeny, Stephen Jay Gould
The Panda's Thumb, Stephen Jay Gould
Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes, Stephen Jay Gould
The Flamingo's Smile, Stephen Jay Gould
The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in an Age of Extinctions, Donald Quammen
Monster of God, Donald Quammen
Grass Dancer, Susan Power
Fuel, Naomi Shihab Nye
19 Varieties of Gazelle, Naomi Shihab Nye
She Had Some Horses, Joy Harjo
How We Became Human, Joy Harjo
Fool's Crow, James Welch
Killing Custer, James Welch
Lovesong of the Giant Contessa, Stephen Tye Culbert
Goedel, Escher, Bach, Douglass Hofstadter
A Parrot without a Name, Don Stapp
The Unified Neutral Theory of Biodiversity and Biogeography, Hubbell
Species Diversity in Space and Time by Michael L. Rosenzweig
Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey
Endless Forms Most Beautiful, Sean B. Carroll (2 lists)
Democracy Matters, Cornel West
The Civil Wars, Kenyon and Ohlmeyer
The Cousins’ Wars, Kevin Phillips
Intelligent Design Creationism and its Critics, Pennock
Captain Blood, Sabatini
Two Years Before the Mast, Richard Henry Dana, Jr.
Structures, J.E. Gordon (2 lists)
The Greeks and the Irrational, E.R. Dodd
Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki
What Is Marriage For, E.J. Graff

The Cat Who Walks Through Walls, Robert Heinlein
Guns, Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond
Collapse, Jared Diamond

NOTE: If you doubt this is possible, how is it there are pygmies & dwarfs??

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

ENV: Why we have problems to begin with

Somehow i have missed giving Jared Diamond credit as one of my favorite writers in the various compendia i have done recently on books, writing, etc.

I was just put on to this piece he did in 1987 for Discover Magazine in which he elucidates some things i've been saying for a number of years about why we have problems with obesity and health in general. But he goes much further than that by proposing that agriculture is the biggest mistake man has made in the history of the world. I have to agree with much of what he's said. Perhaps we can trace a part of that to "dominion over the beastes and fowles" . . .

COM: Fatalities in Iraq

Graphic little piece . . . just one more thing to bring it home.

COM: Old friend comes calling . . .

Claire Theriot was a camper (sorry Claire, that takes us back a ways) at one of the camps i worked at some 20 years ago, and we went on a ski trip for older kids that i still manage to dredge stories from on a regular basis -- it was certainly one of the eye-opening experiences of my life.

In any case, Claire was just destined to be a writer. Now these many years later she has found me by email, and pointed me towards her blog, which while new, is a delightful read. Oh the handle she has on her husband and kid.

So check it out here, and i'll blogroll it on the left side so you can keep up with her at ClarifiedChaos.

Monday, June 27, 2005

OBT: Chet Helms

Summer of Love organizer dead at 62
Chet Helms also launched Janis Joplin’s career
The Associated Press, Updated: 3:56 p.m. ET June 26, 2005

SAN FRANCISCO - Chet Helms, the revered father of the 1967 Summer of Love and a music promoter who launched the career of singer Janis Joplin, has died of complications from a stroke.

He was 62.

Helms, who once stood at the center of the 1960s Bay Area music scene, died Saturday surrounded by friends and family at San Francisco’s California Pacific Medical Center.

“It was a beautiful death,” said his wife Judy Davis. “It was a goodbye party. We all sang to him and told stories. He died as he lived — surrounded by love.”

Helms was the founder and manager of Big Brother and the Holding Company with Joplin as its lead singer. He was a rock-’n’-roll impresario who helped stage free concerts and “Human Be-ins” at Golden Gate Park that became the backdrop for what became known as San Francisco’s Summer of Love in 1967 at the height of anti-Vietnam War sentiment.

Helms was instrumental in helping to develop bands that delivered what became known as the San Francisco Sound.

“Without Chet, there would be no Grateful Dead, no Big Brother and the Holding Company, no Jefferson Airplane, no Country Joe & the Fish, no Quicksilver Messenger Service,” said Barry Melton, the lead guitarist for Country Joe & the Fish.

Helms hooked Joplin up with Big Brother for jam sessions in a basement in the Haight Ashbury neighborhood. They debuted in June 1966 at the Avalon, officially launching the bluesy rock-’n’-roll diva’s short career.

Helms eventually dropped out of the concert business for a time in 1970.

“Chet was a hippie,” said Mickey Hart, drummer for the Grateful Dead. “We were all hippies. He hated to charge for the music.”

Friday, June 24, 2005

ENV: Whale ID

Via Pharyngula

ENV: Not-Really-a-Cat-Friday

Last week i was brought a lizard in a zip-lock bag from the clinic here. I posted earlier that, before i even saw the thing, knowing where it was from, i deduced it was likely a Texas Alligator Lizard, Gerrhonotus infernalis. It was.

A couple of days later one of the kids brought me another lizard, this one trapped inside a green valgene water bottle. It was the same basic size (about five inches in body length, minus the very different length tails), and the same basic bulk, but otherwise the two lizards were about as different as lizards can be. This second lizard was a Texas Spiny Lizard, Sceloporus olivaceus.

While both are inhabitants of our rocky areas, about there the differences end. The Alligator Lizard prefers horizontal slab-like zones of limestone, a bit higher humidity, and shade -- thus it's being found at our clinic, a rock cabin of natural limestone laid in slabs, the natural humidity of an abode, and the shade of Escarpment Black Cherry and Texas Red Oaks. Before rock cabins the lizard would be likely limited to the one wetter canyon on our place.

The Spiny Lizard on the other hand is a denizen of bouldered slopes, where it may sun on exposed rock. Mostly it is arboreal though, it climbs trees well and can be seen on Plateau Live Oaks, Pecans, and Arizona and Mexican Walnuts in our area, all of which typically have angled trunks.

The Texas Alligator Lizard has only recently been split from the more widespread Mexican species Gerrhonotus liocephalus (many old guides will list our critter as G. liocephalus infernalis). Compared to the other lizard, Alligator Lizards are relatively smooth, a characteristic of the family Anguidae. They also have somewhat prehensile tails that may be equal to or longer than their body length.

It is basically a lizard of the Edwards Plateau in Texas, though it is also known from the Chisos and Christmas Mountains in the Big Bend, and down into Coahuila, and perhaps Chihuahua. There is also an isolated locality east of the plateau.

Update: Regular reader Jeanette Scott (nee Carignan) sent an email to say that there is a Brewster County record from well north of the Chisos and Christmas Mountains -- in the Del Norte Mountains, east of Alpine -- and she has published the record: Carignan, J. M., 1988. Geographic range extension for Gerrhonotus liocephalus infernalis (Texas Alligator Lizard). Herpetological Review, Volume 19 (3): 60.

The Texas Spiny Lizard is a member of the family Phrynosomatidae (although until recently, the spiny lizards were considered to be in the family Iguanidae), and displays the typical familial character of rough, keeled scales -- in this case, projecting ones which give it its nomer. Texas Spiny Lizards occur from southern Oklahoma down into Mexico, including a wide swath of central Texas.

Largely these lizards are insect and small arthropod eaters, although the Alligator Lizard will take small rodents, and likely ground-nesting birds' eggs as well (it can grow to 20 inches). The Spiny Lizard hunts by watching and then running down its prey. The Alligator Lizard is a stealth hunter that stalks then lunges at its prey in the final millimeters.

Be sure to check out the weekly Friday Ark at The Modulator

Texas Spiny Lizard, Sceloporus olivaceus

Texas Alligator Lizard, Gerrhonotus infernalis

And some miscellaneous at my window things last night
included two species of Mayfly and an inch-long Cicada.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

ENV: Mosquitoes & Bodies

The Claim:
Mosquitoes Attack Some People More Than Others
By ANAHAD O'CONNOR, June 21, 2005, The New York Times

They're the unwanted guests that return every summer. They show up in droves, descending to feast on limbs and provoke fits of swatting and spraying. Mosquitoes will attack anything with a pulse, but why is it that some people seem more likely to become a target than others?

Female mosquitoes - the only ones that bite - are attracted to body heat and chemicals in sweat like lactic acid. But earlier this year, scientists at Rothamsted Research in England found that bite-resistant people also produce about a dozen compounds that either prevent mosquitoes from detecting them or drive them away.

Why some people have this built-in shield is unclear. And despite the old wives' tales, there is no scientific evidence that those who lack it can ward off pests simply by eating garlic, bananas or any other food.

Avoiding perfumes and using repellents made with DEET can make a difference. In 2002, a study in The New England Journal of Medicine found that sprays with even small amounts of the chemical protected wearers up to five hours, while special wristbands and sprays made with citronella lasted only minutes.

Some people produce natural chemicals that protect them from mosquitoes.

ENV: Fish Stock Depletion

Rules Altered on Depletion of Fish Stocks
By CORNELIA DEAN, June 23, 2005, The New York Times

The Fisheries Service has proposed fishing guideline revisions that it says will speed the restoration of depleted fish stocks. But in some cases, other fisheries experts say, the proposals could have the opposite effect.

The service, an arm of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, posted the proposed revisions yesterday in the Federal Register. They relate to provisions of a law that sets standards for the eight regional councils that manage fishing in national waters.

At a news conference, Dr. Rebecca Lent, deputy director of the fisheries agency, said that among other things, the new proposals would clarify existing guidelines, focus more closely on ending overfishing and manage stocks more realistically.

One of the most contentious changes involves the timetable that fishery managers are supposed to meet in restoring depleted stocks. As the law now stands, managers must act to restore stocks within 10 years, unless doing so is biologically impossible. Under the new rules, managers have the amount of time it would take stocks to rebound if there were no fishing, plus the time it takes the species, on average, to reach spawning age.

In many cases, Dr. Lent said, the new guideline would tighten managers' deadlines. In practice, restoring depleted stocks usually involves limits on fishing.

But Dr. Andrew A. Rosenberg, a fisheries expert and professor of natural resources at the University of New Hampshire, said this change could end up stretching the time managers have to restore some stocks. If that happens, he said, "you're taking a biological risk."

The proposed changes, Dr. Lent said, also call for managing fish in stock assemblages: "stocks that live together, have the same life histories and are caught with the same fishing gear." She said this was a more realistic approach, given that so much is unknown about many of the fish species the service manages.

But under the new proposals, said Dr. Rosenberg, a former deputy director of the fisheries agency, "we could end up seriously overfishing some minor stocks." As major stocks are depleted, he said, minor stocks assume greater economic importance in fishing, and "a species might be minor to a commercial fishery but still play a key role in an ecosystem; we are only worrying about the things we like to eat right now."

The public has until Aug. 22 to comment on the proposed rules. The proposals and other information are posted on the agency's Web site,

ENV: Warm Water & Salmon

Warm Water Temps May Be Harming Sockeye
Scientists: Warm Water in Seattle Ship Canal May Be Factor in Sockeye Decline
The Associated Press

Jun. 23, 2005 - As many as 200,000 sockeye salmon disappeared last year between the Ballard Locks and spawning grounds above Lake Washington. Scientists suspect rising water temperatures could be the culprit.

The signs were there early on. At the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks, which separate Lake Washington and Puget Sound, Mike Mahovlich saw salmon carcasses surface belly-up when water rose in the locks, and dying salmon lay gasping on rocks on the saltwater side.

"In my 15 years there was nothing as bad as last year, as far as just seeing dead bodies of sockeye," said Mahovlich, a fish biologist for the Muckleshoot Tribe, which helps manage the run.

Then came the startling data from beyond the lake, word that roughly half the run had not made it to spawning streams. Scientists are focusing on abnormal water temperature, worried that climate change could make the higher temperatures a new fact of life.

In the past 34 years, three of the four years with the biggest sockeye decline between the Locks and spawning beds have been since 2000. Recent research shows Lake Washington has warmed over the past 30 years, perhaps due to global warming.

But 2004 was the worst by far, convincing researchers the decline was not a matter of imprecise counts.

When the sockeye began heading through the locks in June 2004, the season looked good. Those counting fish at the locks' salmon ladder reported high enough numbers that a sockeye fishing season was launched.

Dead salmon began to turn up in significant numbers in August. The state tested some of them for signs of disease but found no indications of a major outbreak.

The magnitude of the problem became clear in October, when the fish were expected at spawning streams.

In Bear Creek, where as many as 40,000 sockeye spawned 25 years ago, just 1,500 arrived.
In the Cedar River, where most of the sockeye usually spawn, scientists waiting for a surge of fish saw only a steady, low flow.

By winter, the hot summer of 2004 and the absence of a disease outbreak led researchers to suspect high water temperatures in the Lake Washington Ship Canal a narrow, shallow waterway the sockeye must pass through to reach Lake Washington's cool, deep waters.

Sunny, warm weather last summer pushed the ship canal's water temperature to 68 degrees on June 21, two weeks earlier than ever recorded. On July 18, it was 71.6 degrees.

Water temperature above 68 degrees is dangerous for salmon, causing stress that makes them more vulnerable to disease. At 77 degrees, the temperature can kill them outright.

Warm water also was suspected in the disappearance of British Columbia sockeye last year. As many as 1.3 million fish failed to make it to spawning grounds on the Fraser River, one of the province's most important commercial salmon runs. The catastrophe there led to government inquiries.

The Lake Washington disappearance didn't generate as much controversy, but it is raising concerns about the state of the sockeye, Seattle's largest salmon run.

Chinook salmon, most of which go through the locks in August, didn't appear to suffer as much, said Eric Warner, another Muckleshoot biologist. They may not be as temperature sensitive.

The sockeye aren't native to Lake Washington. They were introduced in the 1930s.

But the fish have cultural and economic importance to the region. The Muckleshoot, Tulalip and Suquamish tribes have harvest rights. A good run draws hundreds of recreational anglers to Lake Washington in July. And tourists visit the locks in hopes of seeing sockeye pass by the big underwater windows.

Tribal and state scientists are preparing studies to try to determine what might be happening to the sockeye.

One study will tag salmon with sensors to measure the water temperatures they are enduring.
Another would use underwater radio receivers to determine how many pass through the ship canal.

Yet another seeks a more accurate count of salmon that make it from the locks to the spawning grounds.

"There's just a lot of `Maybe this is it,' and guesses," said Steve Foley, the lead Lake Washington salmon biologist for the state Fish and Wildlife Department. "We're looking this year to try to get some answers."

Water temperature remains the prime suspect. Evidence has linked rising air temperatures in the Seattle area to increased surface-water temperatures in Lake Washington. A 2004 study by University of Washington and King County researchers found that average summer surface-water temperatures have risen by about 4 degrees over a 35-year period, with air temperatures the strongest influence.

Last year's sockeye problems show "exactly why that study is relevant," said Michael Brett, a University of Washington scientist who co-wrote it.

Information from: The Seattle Times,

COM: Subvert your own denomination

Thanks to Aydin at Snail's Tales. Get your own here.

ENV: Wildfire Season

Major wildfires burn in California, Arizona
Evacuee: 'It's a helpless feeling'
Thursday, June 23, 2005; Posted: 7:30 a.m. EDT (11:30 GMT)

MORONGO VALLEY, California (AP) -- The first major wildfire of the summer raced across more than 5,500 acres of tinder-dry desert brush, destroying at least seven homes, threatening hundreds of others and sending residents of a sparsely populated Mojave Desert community fleeing for their lives.

A second fire, about 35 miles away, burned across more than 2,000 acres but did not threaten any structures, authorities said. The larger blaze started when a single home went up in flames Wednesday afternoon and those flames quickly spread into nearby desert brush and tall field grass.

Elsewhere, fire crews fought back fast-moving flames approaching Arizona communities near the Tonto National Forest. Two lightning-sparked brush fires blackened 12,500-acres, forcing the evacuation of 175 people from homes in the area. No injuries were reported.

"It's a helpless feeling," said one evacuee, Bill Victor. "It's something to see the flames come over and shocking to realize that you could lose everything. It's a feeling everyone should have in their lives once to get their priorities straight."

In California, wildfires hopscotched up and down hillsides and canyons about 100 miles east of downtown Los Angeles. The fires threatened as many as 700 homes for a time, and hundreds of people fled their homes, some with nothing, others with just a handful of possessions.

As her husband, Tom, hosed down their house, Ann Lee grabbed their birth certificates and medicines and rounded up their six cats. She then turned to him and said, "Let's get out of here because even if the fire takes everything we own, I don't plan on dying here."

The couple, who headed to an evacuation center in Yucca Valley, had no idea if their home had been spared.

"I'm worried, but it's not going to do me any good throwing a fit or crying," said Lee, 46. "It's in God's hands."

By midnight only a few dozen homes remained under threat, with much of the fire having moved into the Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, a sparsely populated wilderness area. Earlier in the day, part of the fire had also moved into Joshua Tree National Park.

Bill Peters, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection in San Bernardino, said the blaze was 10 percent contained. No estimate for full containment was available.

More than 300 firefighters were tackling the blaze, with more reinforcements being called in, Peters said. One firefighter suffered a minor knee injury.

Among the homes destroyed was a trailer that Julie Brunette shared with her husband on a horse ranch.

"We pretty much lost everything," she said. "Most everything we had wasn't very valuable but it was memory stuff, pictures of our grandkids."

Weather helped spread the fire rapidly, with sustained winds of about 10 mph and afternoon temperatures that topped 100 degrees on the second day of summer. As the flames raged out of control, those evacuated included residents of a mobile home park and children at a day care center.

"I'm very scared right now. I just want to get out of here as fast as I can," said Morongo Valley Mobile Manner manager Janice Cochrane.

Staffers at Sharon's Playhouse Child Care drove two carloads of children to a safe rendezvous point where they were turned over to their worried parents.

"I let them know that we were in no danger," said Sharon Aiken, the center's owner.
In neighboring Riverside County, a fire burning in the San Jacinto area had blackened more than 2,000 acres.

Firefighters aided by aircraft and bulldozers were carving fire lines and no homes were immediately threatened, said Cassandra Burleson of the Riverside County Fire Department-California Department of Forestry.

Wildfires raced through a national forest in Arizona and a desert community in Southern California on Wednesday, burning several homes and threatening hundreds more in an outbreak fueled by gusting winds and scorching temperatures.

COM: Disgust

Senators Hear of a Wink-Wink Lobbyist Move
ANNE E. KORNBLUT, June 23, 2005, The New York Times

WASHINGTON, June 22 - David Grosh was living the mellow life of an off-season lifeguard in Rehoboth Beach, Del., when his childhood friend Michael Scanlon called from Washington in 2001 with a proposition.

"Want to be head of an international corporation?" Mr. Grosh said Mr. Scanlon asked him, almost in jest.

"I was like, sure," Mr. Grosh said.

Collecting less than $2,500, he became director of the American International Center, which used his rental beach house as its official address. "I was not really taking it seriously."

Four years later, Mr. Grosh, 36, wearing jeans and sideburns, recounted that tale before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, as part of its inquiry into Jack Abramoff, the high-rolling Republican lobbyist.

The Senate panel and a federal task force are investigating whether Mr. Abramoff defrauded several Indian tribes while charging them more than $80 million in fees and expenses to promote their gambling interests.

The Rehoboth center, purportedly a think tank, turned out to be one of several nonprofit groups used by Mr. Abramoff and Mr. Scanlon, his business partner, to funnel money from the tribes to themselves and to pet projects, according to documents and testimony at the hearing on Wednesday, the third on the matter.

In what they frequently referred to as their "gimme five" scheme, Mr. Abramoff and Mr. Scanlon repeatedly talked about inflating their billable hours and shifting money between groups - a move investigators think was intended to avoid taxes and hide the origins or recipients of the money - to pay for travel, personal loans and a friend's political campaigns.

Many of the exchanges were by e-mail, giving Senate investigators concrete evidence to release to the public as they continued to build a case against Mr. Abramoff that has been mounting for nearly a year.

Referring to the conservative leader Ralph Reed, Mr. Abramoff said to Mr. Scanlon: "$100K to Ralph; $25K to contributions ($5K immediately to conservative caucus); rest gimme five."

One e-mail message from Mr. Abramoff directed his assistant to "pump up Scanlon," a reference to padding their billable hours for the Choctaws to meet an artificial $150,000 monthly target that the tribe testified it had never agreed to.

In 2001 alone, the Choctaws paid $7.7 million to Mr. Abramoff and Mr. Scanlon for lobbying work. But the pair spent just $1.2 million on the designated projects, keeping the remaining $6.5 million for "gimme five" - themselves - according to the e-mail and witnesses.

The tribe ultimately paid Mr. Scanlon as much as $15 million, and he gave Mr. Abramoff $5 million in kickbacks, said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and the chairman of the Senate committee.

"Mr. Abramoff betrayed a longstanding client, betrayed his colleagues, betrayed his friend," Mr. McCain said.

The notes, many dashed off on BlackBerry devices, showed examples of greed and deceit "that even by Washington standards are breathtaking," said Senator Byron L. Dorgan of North Dakota, the leading Democrat on the committee.

"I'm past anger and bitterness," Nell Rogers, the administrative planner for the Choctaws, said in her testimony on Wednesday. "It's an extraordinary story of betrayal."

Among the transactions discussed by the Senate was a $1 million payment from the Choctaws to the National Center for Public Policy Research, a nonprofit educational group that organized an overseas trip for Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, the majority leader, in 2001.

Amy Ridenour, the group's director, said she had agreed that her group would sponsor a trip to England so Mr. DeLay could meet members of Parliament, but she testified that she learned only later that a lavish golf outing in Scotland had been included. Ms. Ridenour said she had been misled by Mr. Abramoff, whom she considered a friend for nearly 20 years, as he funneled money through her organization.

Ms. Ridenour, who testified at length, said Mr. Abramoff first helped her secure the Choctaw donation and then instructed her to cut checks to a nonprofit group, the Capital Athletic Foundation, and to a company, Nurnberger & Associates, that he said would do legitimate educational work.

Neither Ms. Ridenour nor officials from the Choctaw tribe knew that the foundation was run by Mr. Abramoff, they testified, or that he owed the owner of the Nurnberger & Associates $50,000 in unpaid personal loans from his days as a filmmaker. The testimony showed in much more detail how closely Mr. Abramoff worked with Mr. Reed, the former head of the Christian Coalition, who received some money from tribes that participate in casino gambling to run a campaign to shut down rival casinos. Mr. Reed, now a candidate for lieutenant governor in Georgia, has insisted he did not know he was receiving money from Indian gambling entities.

The panel members remarked that Mr. Abramoff had routed $10,000 from the Choctaws to Mr. Reed's campaign fund for chairman of the Georgia Republican Party, without the tribe's knowledge.

Mr. Abramoff also appeared to have a closer working relationship with Grover G. Norquist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform, than had been known. The lobbyist refers more than once to payments made by the Indian tribes to Mr. Norquist's group in exchange for visits to the White House.

"Last year Grover set a meeting for certain select tribal leaders (Coushatta and Chitimach were the only ones) and the speakers of the House of several legislatures to meet with the President in a small meeting for photos, etc.," Mr. Abramoff wrote to Chris Petras, an official from another tribe he represented, the Saginaw Chippewas, on Aug. 12, 2002. "The tribes paid for the event (total cost was $100k for the entire thing, and each tribe put in $50k). Grover has asked me to line up a few tribes to do so again."

Ms. Rogers, the Choctaw official, testified that the tribe had not intended for its payments to go to Americans for Tax Reform to gain White House access, and that in fact no one from the tribe had been part of the visit. Mr. Norquist has denied any link between the donations to his group and the West Wing visits he organized.

Some of the e-mail and testimony provoked laughter in the hearing room.

"I hate to ask your help with something so silly, but I have been nominated for membership in the Cosmos Club, which is a very distinguished club in Washington, DC, comprised of Nobel Prize winners, etc.," Mr. Abramoff wrote in an e-mail message on Sept. 15, 2000, to Rabbi Daniel Lapin, a prominent social conservative who runs Toward Tradition, an alliance of Jews and evangelical Christians.

"Problem for me is that most prospective members have received awards and I have received none," Mr. Abramoff wrote. "I was wondering if you thought it possible that I could put that I have received an award from Toward Tradition with a sufficiently academic title, perhaps something like Scholar of Talmudic Studies?"

In another e-mail message , Mr. Abramoff joked about his listing in the alumni directory for Preston Gates & Ellis, his former law firm. "I'm just surprised I am not under 'dead, disgraced or in jail,' " he wrote in the message, dated June 26, 2001.

The lobbyists under scrutiny did not comment on the hearing on Wednesday. A phone call to Mr. Scanlon's lawyer was not returned. Andrew Blum, a spokesman for Mr. Abramoff, said in a statement: "With an ongoing political investigation being directed by the U.S. Senate and an investigation at the Department of Justice, Mr. Abramoff is put into the impossible position of not being able to defend himself in the public arena until the proper authorities have had a chance to review all accusations."

Mr. Grosh, now an excavator for a construction company, described the American International Center as essentially a phantom organization. After accepting the post of director to pay off a few bills, Mr. Grosh said he began to grow wary when he heard Mr. Scanlon talk about the rest of his business enterprises. Mr. Grosh quit after about five months out of a "gut feeling," he said, that if "it involved the federal government, Indian tribes and gambling, I knew that was headed down the wrong way."

Mr. Grosh testified that he did little work for the center - which paid $1.5 million to Greenberg Traurig, Mr. Abramoff's lobbying firm - other than to install some computers in his house.

"Did you have any board meetings?" Mr. McCain asked.

"Um, I recall one," Mr. Grosh replied.

"How long did that last?" Mr. McCain continued.

"Fifteen minutes," Mr. Grosh said, drawing titters from the room.

"Do you recall any business that was discussed at these meetings?" Mr. McCain said.

"Off the top of my head?" Mr. Grosh said. "No." Then, he added: "I'm sure we discussed something."

ENV: Gay Damsels . . .

A greater part of my current quests afield has been dedicated to searches for Odonates. Greg Lasley and I have spent many days afield trying to fill in gaps in distribution for dragonflies and damselflies in Texas. I'd have to say our interests have assortatively distributed themselves somewhat -- Greg into Anisoptera, me into Zygoptera. Anyway, it's always nice to see some public plugs for these finest of fliers.

Pharyngula today posts comments on far-flung island Zygops, some of which might be parthenogenic (quoting from Sherratt T. N. and C.D. Beatty. 2005. Island of the clones. Nature 435:1039-1040), which leads to a comment about males choosing males to "bond" with. The latest National Geographic Online has weighed in with further research.

All of it's fascinating reading of course.

From Pharyngula: (be sure to read the comments)

A Damsel Doesn't Need Any Knights

And from National Geographic Online:

Damselfly Mating Game Turns Some Males Gay

Disguises used by female damselflies to avoid unwanted sexual advances can cause males to seek out their own sex, a new study suggests.

Belgian researchers investigated why male damselflies often try to mate with each other. The scientists say the reason could lie with females that adopt a range of appearances to throw potential mates off their scent. In an evolutionary battle of the sexes, males become attracted to a range of different looks, with some actually preferring a more masculine appearance.

The study, published recently in the journal Biology Letters, says such evolutionary selection pressures could also explain homosexual behavior seen in males of other animals whose females assume a variety of guises. Such "polymorphic" species are seen in dragonflies, butterflies, hummingbirds, and lizards.

. . .

ENV: Bilateral Gynandromorph

While we're talking about the sexual proclivities of invertebrates, i thought i'd throw in something else.

In the 1970's, a researcher with the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute picked up an American Kestrel, Falco sparverius, that had been hit by a car, and brought the specimen to me at the Department of Biology at Sul Ross State University (i was research director at CDRI and teaching in the department at the time).

I had a student prepare the specimen and place it in the collection. It had been frozen and i did not look it over very closely except to identify it and pass it along. Not long thereafter i came across the specimen in the collection and, with Steve West, noticed something rather odd about it. If you lay it on it's left side it appeared to be a female. If you lay it on it's right it appeared to be a male.

Examining it a bit more closely you could see that it was split right down the middle dorsally and ventrally -- and it was easy to see because American Kestrel is one of the few Falconids that is markedly sexually dimorphic (that is, the sexes differ in coloration and patterning -- in most raptors this dimorphism is limited to differences in size). This bird even had half it's tail feathers slightly shorter than the others, the same for the wings. The colors of each were intact on the respective sides.

These anomalies, known as bilateral gynandromorphs, are known in several other species of birds, and in other vertebrates. We attempted to publish this record, complete with a fine series of pictures. The paper was rejected however. According to the reviewers a true gynandromorph is one in which the internal cell-producing organs (the ovaries and testes) are bilateral, and since the carcass had been discarded and not dissected there was no way to know if our specimen was indeed a true gynandromorph.

My fault, of course, for not checking the specimen more closely before turning it over.

That was some time ago, and i don't remember the details my literature search turned up, but i was surprised to find an invertebrate gynandromorph pictured on the blog The Biology Refugia today. It's a Blue Crab and you can read more about it here.

Here's an enlarged picture of the creeper.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

ENV: More hot Odonate days

Martin Reid, this time in company with Dr. John Abbott and Aaron Smith, continue to make rarified finds in the sweaty South Texas brush. This time, they became the fourth, fifth and sixth humans to ever see Leptobasis melinogaster alive, and Martin obtained the first ever photos in the wild -- and in the drainage basin of a pond at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in South Texas. This species was barely known to science from Mexico when Tom Langschied found a small group on the King Ranch last year -- now it pops up again on the border. And Martin et al. located several other bugs still considered rarities. Here's part of his post to the TexOdes listserv, rec'd today (be sure to check out the pics of Leptobasis, a very cool, cool bug):

Update: Jim Sinclair wrote TexOdes to correct that there were previous photos in the wild. While he didn't claim it in that post, i suspect the photos are his. If so, congrats to Jim as well, and to Dr. Abbott who has now posted pics on his Odonata Central (see Odonata links to the left).

. . . No sign of Anax concolor, Tramea abdominalis, or Microthyria didyma, but we are not complaining (again) . . . Yesterday in the late morning I found a male Leptobasis melinogaster at Willow Pond #1 - next to where the pump outlet pipe is located. We proceeded to see six males yesterday, with a further three sightings this morning, but no definite female (I briefly saw one with an orange abdomen-tip - young male?; female??). The first photos of the taxon in the wild are here:

Also seen there were a few Aeshna psilus, including this male and this female:

and at least two Coryphaeschna adnexa:

This afternoon I also found a male Gynacantha mexicana in the same
spot - but it twice flew just as my camera was coming up to my eye. I saw it
very well in profile with binoculars, seeing the two small dark anterior lateral
thoracic spots plus the posterior latero-ventral dark bar.

Yesterday afternoon we did some scouting around the Bensten/WBC vicinity,
and at one spot found three male Phyllocycla breviphylla:

Water levels are critical at San Ana; Willow Pond #1 has just been filled
to the brim, and the Entrance Pond has also just been filled (it had gone
completely dry by yesterday lunchtime.

Martin Reid
San Antonio, Texas

OBT: Allison Crews

From The Blog of Death, a tale of courage and misguided morality . . .

Allison Noelle Crews, a freelance writer and the Web editor behind, committed suicide on June 11. She was 22.

[* Please check out the comments about whether Crews committed suicide. This article was sent to me, I am not the author, and have no firsthand knowledge of her death. Republishing was meant to honor her. On receiving the comment, unfortunately by someone who chose to remain anonymous and thus i can't contact for accurate sourcing, i tried to do some research. I cannot confirm her view of the cause of death, but i can say that the original document has been changed to reflect that the cause of death is being investigated. I suspect my anonymous poster played a part in that change of language. I could not locate other confirming information, and so i am leaving this original document up, and adding that there is dispute over the cause of death. If i find out better information i will update here.]

Born in Westminster, Calif., and raised in an evangelical Christian home, Crews became pregnant during her sophomore year in high school. After considering abortion and adoption, she decided to keep the child. At 15, Crews had a baby boy she named Cade. However, the condemnation she received for this decision inspired her to become an advocate for young mothers.

For nearly five years, Crews worked as the editor of, a Website dedicated to empowering, educating and supporting "young mamas." She encouraged these women to meet online and in person, and to share the trials and joys of parenting. The Website also offers suggestions on the best ways for teenagers to tell their parents about a pregnancy, tips on applying for government aid and basic information on the benefits of breastfeeding.

Named one of Top 30 Under 30 Activists for Choice by Choice USA in 2003, Crews attended pro-mom rallies and helped launch the National Day to Support Teen Parents (Oct. 11). Her essay, "When I Was Garbage," (see below) was published in the 2001 anthology, "Breeder: Real-life Stories From the New Generation of Mothers." She is survived by her son and her partner, Julie Cushing.

When I Was Garbage

Last year, when I was in 10th grade, I skipped a week of school. I was too scared, too humiliated, too sick and weak to leave my house. A week away from school earned me two weeks of "in-school suspension." Ten full school days I had to sit in a boxed-in desk, in a 6-by-20-foot room. Yellowing posters of needles and bottles of beer proclaiming "JUST SAY NO!" hung crookedly on the walls. I was allowed to go to the bathroom only twice daily, for 15 minutes. When you are five weeks pregnant, 30 minutes a day is hardly adequate for throwing up.

I sat at my desk, 15 years old, failing in school, pregnant, sick and terrified. I sat at my desk, rubbing my still-flat stomach and clenching my jaw tightly to hold down my vomit. "Two more hours and I can throw up," I reassured myself. I replayed the moment of truth in my mind millions of times during those two weeks. The moment I saw the second line appear on the pregnancy test stick. POSITIVE. POSITIVE. POSITIVE. But from that moment on, I wasn't positive about anything. Except the fact that I needed desperately to vomit. I wrote furiously in my blue velvet covered journal, tearing the pages with my Hello Kitty pen and smearing the ink with my tears. Fantasies of virgin-white wedding dresses and sponge painted nurseries unfolded on those blank pages, in the brief moments after bathroom breaks, when my fears were purged and flushed away. Incoherent poems and pessimistic single line entries poured out during the rest of the long days. Many pages read only "NO!" in bold letters, traced over and over, the impressions appearing on the next several pages.

I remembered facts I had learned as a freshman in "sex-education" about teenage pregnancy.

Teenage mothers are a burden to society. The children of teenage mothers inevitably become crack-addicted gang members. Teenage mothers never successfully complete high school, let alone attend college. These weren't just statistics, I was led to believe, but invariable truths. I had become garbage, worthy only to sit in my isolated desk and cry to myself and throw up in a dirty bathroom stall. I was a pregnant teenage girl.

After my two weeks of suspension, I forced my pregnancy to hide in the depths of my mind.

Thoughts of my future and of becoming a mother all but disappeared, forced to linger with memories of childhood and homework assignments. It was forgotten. My boyfriend and three friends who knew of my pregnancy assumed I would abort. I was not the type of girl who becomes a mother. Months began to pass, and the only sign of pregnancy were my swollen breasts and an infrequent fluttering in my belly. These signs, undetectable to anyone but myself, dredged up the fears that I thought I had buried so well. I was actually pregnant, I began to realize again, more clearly than I had since those two weeks I had spent in isolation, with only my thoughts and my morning sickness. I continued to hide my pregnancy, even as it became more and more obvious.

School was dismissed during my sixteenth week of pregnancy. My boyfriend and I were engaged in another vicious, mud-slinging fight. He threw the lowest blow. At the time I was so enraged and angry that I could not imagine a more evil act being committed. He told my parents I was pregnant. I realize now what an amazing thing he did for me, although his intent at the time was only to cause me pain. My pregnancy was real. Not only to me, but also to my parents, to my sister, to my relatives, to my newly appointed obstetrician. I was having a baby. There was no turning back. I watched a fuzzy little worm of a baby dance across a television screen, as I lay on a long sheet of wax paper, my stomach exposed and covered in chilled jelly. This was what had been causing me to vomit. This was what had been causing me to outgrow every bra I owned.

This was what had caused me so much heartbreak and pain those first few weeks. What appeared to be a hand raised up, next to what appeared to be a head. "Hello mommy!" my 60-something year old OB said in a squeaky voice that I assumed was supposed to be a baby's. "I'm a baby boy." I realized then that this little worm that had caused my life to turn upside down in a matter of weeks was no worm at all. He was my son.

It was assumed my son would be given up for adoption, just as a few weeks earlier it had been assumed he would be aborted. I am not sure who made this decision. But it was not me. I wanted to be a good mother. My beautiful, fuzzy black and white son, who swam inside of me like a fish, deserved only the best. No mother under that magical age of 18 could provide that, and, being that I was only 15, I would have to let somebody else raise him. That was the 'right' thing to do. My boyfriend and I met with a lovely couple. A very rich, childless couple. While I enjoyed their company at dinner, and definitely enjoyed the food that they bought for me, I did not want them to be the parents of my son. I wanted my boyfriend and I to be his parents. We WERE his parents. The boyfriend and I left dinner that night, walking ahead of the lovely couple and my parents.

"We can call your lawyer and work out the rest of the details this week," my mom cooed to the lovely wife.

"I guess we made our decision," my boyfriend whispered. I was trapped.

I did call the lawyer, we did work out details. I cried myself to sleep every night for the next four months, staining my navy blue pillowcases. I wanted desperately to be a mother, not simply a baby machine for such a lovely couple. The lovely wife, I learned one night after Lamaze class, was pregnant. Relief flooded my swelling body. 'I can keep my baby!' I silently rejoiced. 'I have diapers to buy, clothes to wash, car seats to find, nursing bras and slings to sew!'

"We still want to adopt though. You know our history of miscarriage."

'Oh well. I guess I can't keep my baby after all.' I was deflated.

Sure enough, the lovely wife miscarried at 12 weeks. She called me nightly, crying and thanking me for giving her my son. I was, she told me, the only thing that kept her from giving up on life.

My son and me. "OUR baby" became his name while she talked to me on the phone. She gave me weekly reports of how the nursery was coming along (complete with a 2,000 dollar classic Pooh mural, which I am sure would make a world of difference to a newborn), the hundreds of dollars they were spending on clothes, how excited their family was, and how much they loved "our baby" already. The hole got deeper. I couldn't crawl, scratch or shovel my way out. By law in California, birth mothers must meet with an 'adoption facilitator.' This mediator 'counsels' you and explains the process of adoption too you. I repeatedly told her, over the course of two months "Lisa, I don't want to do this! I want my baby!"

"Well, I want to take a cruise to the Bahamas. But if I took a cruise to the Bahamas, I wouldn't have money left for rent or food. Sometimes what we want isn't what is best."

Oh, yes, babies and cruises are so similar! How could I have been so blind? I later learned that adoption facilitators, while required by the state, are not employed by the state. Prospective adoptive parents employ adoption facilitators. At the time, I wasn't aware of this. I believed this woman. I was selfish to want to raise my son. How could I be so selfish? (She did use the word "selfish"). Pregnant teens are garbage. Once the baby is born, the mother becomes even smellier garbage, dependent on her parents and society's tax dollars to support her children. I had to do something to hoist my son above the metaphorical garbage bin. I had to give him to this lovely couple; they were not garbage, like I was.

I grew during those weeks, not only physically (60 pounds!) but emotionally and spiritually. I meditated, prayed, screamed, cried, slept, wrote, read and thought. I realized I was more capable than I was being led to believe. I made my decision, 38 weeks into my pregnancy. I informed my boyfriend of this decision. "I am keeping the baby. I don't care what anyone says or feels. I WILL NOT lose my son. They want any baby, and I only want mine!" My boyfriend and I were going to tell my parents the next evening at dinner. I fell asleep quickly, not sobbing into my pillow like I had grown used to doing during those pain and growth-filled three months.

I was keeping my baby.

I woke up to go to the bathroom that night at around 2 a.m. As I waddled to the bathroom, I looked down the hallway and saw my boyfriend typing away at the computer, talking to some stranger on the internet, like he usually did while staying the night. Then came the gush.

"JOHN! MY WATER BROKE!" I panted, attempting to jog down the hallway. Then came the pain. "JOHN! I AM HAVING CONTRACTIONS ALREADY! It wasn't like this in the Lamaze videos! The women in those never got contractions so fast- there must be something wrong with me! I gripped the edge of my kitchen counter, and watched the clock on the microwave. Six minutes apart, the orange numbers informed me. I stayed calm, just like I had planned. I packed my bag, brushed my teeth, wrote e-mails to all of my pregnant friends online, wrote in my journal and cried. I forced my mom to drive me to the hospital at 5:15 am. She didn't believe I was really in labor, but still told me "OK, I will call the lovely couple and let them know to start driving down." She said this in the middle of a contraction.


She told me we would "Talk about it after the baby came."

The baby came at 8:02 a.m., November 20, 1998. My labor was natural, painful, and beautiful. I held my tiny infant son in my shaking arms, tears running off of my face and on to his still purple hands. He was so much more than I could have dreamed, so much more than a fuzzy little worm ultrasound baby. He spent three days in oxygen as a result of inhaled amniotic fluid. I was terrified of the lovely couple stealing my new son from the nursery, so I woke every hour to walk quickly and quietly down the hall, into the nursery, to see if he was still there.

He was. I checked the machines he was hooked up to, making sure his oxygen saturation levels and heart and breathing rates were what the nurses expected them to be. They were. I would pad down the hallway, back into my room, rubbing my soft, wrinkled tummy and pull out my new breast pump. I pumped and pumped, watched TV, and imagined that it was my tiny baby extracting milk from my breasts. I had an abundance of precious golden milk that only a mother could make. That is what I was.

My father told the lovely couple that I decided to keep my son. The lovely husband cursed at him, cursed my boyfriend, told my father I was a piece of trash and hung up. The lovely wife called a few days after I brought the baby home to say that she did not hate us. She also said that when I "changed my mind and things got too hard," I could always call them to adopt him.

We never spoke again.

Cade Mackenzie is now a happy 24-pound, 8-month-old. He sleeps in my bed, and is happiest when he is nursing, watching Teletubbies, or listening to Bob Marley. I am not a burden to society, my son is not a burden on me. I have received the "Teen Mom Look" from anonymous strangers more times than I can count, but have learned not to be offended but to turn the other way and hold my son even tighter to my chest. I am graduating a semester early, and attend a wonderful homeschool program, which allows me to spend my days at home, raising my son.

And contrary to what fear-based sex education classes, lovely couples and wonderful counselors had led me to believe in the past, contrary to what I had written so many times in my blue velvet covered journal, I am not garbage. I am a mother. I may not have blown out 18 candles on a birthday cake, but I am an excellent mother.

COM: Yep again . . .

NOTE: If you doubt this is possible, how is it there are pygmies & dwarfs??

ENV: Bush whacking endangered species

From Thoughts from Kansas via Orcinus on the current state of our administration's stand on endangered species. And also from Thoughts from Kansas -- at least the courts have some understanding of the issues.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

OBT: Jake Pickle

From Andrew Dobbs at Burnt Orange Report

. . . The 32 year veteran of the House retired in 1994 and died this Saturday at 7:30 in the morning. Pickle was one of only 5 congressmen to serve the 10th District in the course of 105 years (until redistricting mangled the district). . . He was a superb representative for Austin, a tireless advocate in Congress and a lifelong and unwavering Democrat. . .

More here.

From The Los Angeles Times

J.J. Pickle, 91; Former Congressman Aided Social Security Reform

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

J.J. "Jake" Pickle, 91, a former Texas congressman who helped pass major Social Security reform in the 1980s, died Saturday of natural causes at his Austin home.

Pickle was elected in 1963 to the House seat once held by President Lyndon Johnson. As chairman of the Social Security subcommittee, Pickle helped pass reform in 1983 that helped ease the system's financial troubles by raising the age for full benefits from 65 to 67.

On Pickle's first day in Washington as a newly elected congressman, Johnson sent a limousine to meet him at the airport with a surprise invitation to sleep at the White House. But Pickle said he had already accepted accommodations with a friend. Pickle kept in close touch with his constituents, returning to Austin so frequently that the nonstop Braniff flight from Washington to Austin was dubbed the "Pickle Express."

Pickle served in the Pacific as a Navy officer during World War II and surviving three torpedo attacks. With other veterans, he started an Austin radio station still known as KVET. Pickle published his memoirs, "Jake," in 1997.

From the Austin American Statesman

J.J. 'JAKE' PICKLE: 1913-2005
The people's politician
Gentleman Jake was Austin's congressman for 31 years.
Chuck Lindell, Sunday, June 19, 2005

Jake Pickle loved politics, from the handshake hellos to the knock-down fights.

He loved Austin, the adopted hometown he represented for 31 years in Congress.

And he loved telling a good story, especially when he was the punch line.

Pickle's story came to an end Saturday morning, 91 years after his birth in the West Texas town of Roscoe, and after a 14-year fight with prostate cancer and a four-year battle with lymphoma. He had spent the past month confined to his Austin home, still entertaining guests until recently, and that's where he quietly died, in his own bed, with his wife, Beryl, nearby.

"He had a formidable will," daughter Peggy Pickle said. "Every time somebody said the situation looked bad and there was a certain number of months (left), he just hunkered down and decided he wasn't going to die."

Pickle, who caught the political bug as a Depression-era student at the University of Texas, years before he became a protégé of Lyndon Baines Johnson, never lost the down-home courtliness that earned him the nickname "Gentleman Jake."

On Pickle's first day in Washington as a newly elected House member, President Johnson sent a limousine to greet him at the airport with a surprise invitation to sleep at the White House. Pickle sent the limo back, explaining he had already lined up accommodations with a friend.
"I was raised in West Texas. If you accept an invitation, you're gonna do it, you know. So I did it," Pickle explained later.

Pickle was involved in politics, either professionally or peripherally, from the day he was elected UT student president in 1937 until the day he left Congress in 1995. In between he earned a reputation as a prodigious worker, a politician with a common touch and one of the true characters in Congress — the guy who tossed thousands of "squeaky pickle" rubber toys in countless area parades.

"He always delivered as best he could. He was indefatigable," said Roy Butler, who worked on every one of Pickle's congressional campaigns, then worked with the congressman as Austin's mayor from 1971 to 1975.

"You'd walk down the halls up there in Congress with him, and of course he knew every single soul," Butler said. "He walked at a great stride and with great energy. He always had a smile, always had his hand out, always had a kind word for everybody."

Pickle chose to retire after winning 16 elections to the U.S. House, often losing weight during fast-paced campaigns that exhausted volunteers one-third his age. Anybody who questioned Pickle's hard-charging style received a terse reminder that the campaign graveyard is full of overconfident politicians.

His home phone number was always listed, and he returned from Washington most weekends to answer calls. The nonstop Braniff flight from Washington to Austin was nicknamed the Pickle Express, and the man who called himself a natural ham worked the aisle as if each plane was his personal political rally.

"Other than the long commute to and from Washington and, starting in the 1980s, the increasing partisanship of Congress, there was little I didn't like about being Congressman Pickle," he said in his 1997 book, "Jake," which he co-wrote with Peggy Pickle. "Despite the stress, long hours and the lack of personal and financial privacy, members of Congress are given a truly fabulous perk: the opportunity to get things done."

Best, proudest votes
Pickle said his greatest accomplishment was the 1983 Social Security reform bill, which he guided as chairman of the Social Security subcommittee to rescue the program from insolvency by raising the retirement age to 67, raising the tax rate and taxing benefits.

But his proudest vote was for the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He was one of only six Southern representatives to vote aye. On the job only two months but determined to vote his conscience, Pickle figured he had guaranteed himself a one-term career, because Old Confederacy sentiments still reigned in Central Texas.

Pickle recalled returning to his hotel at 2 a.m. after meeting some friends for late-night drinks to soften the gloomy mood. The hotel operator stopped him in the lobby and demanded that he call the White House. President Johnson, she whispered in a shaking voice, had called personally looking for him. Several times.

Despite the late hour, Johnson came to the phone and admitted that he had failed to vote for several civil rights bills so he could wait for a more auspicious time.

"I just couldn't bring myself to do it," Pickle recalled Johnson saying. "But you did today. On your first big vote in Congress. And I just said to myself that I wasn't going to let this night go by until I had called you and told you personally that your president is proud of you."

That was one of Pickle's favorite stories — he had hours of them — and it usually ended the same way. "Pretty heady stuff for a young man," he would say, choking up.

To the end of his life, Pickle always referred to himself as a "Johnson boy."

"There is a hole in our family's heart with the loss of Jake Pickle," former first lady Lady Bird Johnson said in a statement. "He was a master storyteller, a can-do public servant, and a most loyal friend this family ever had.

"They simply don't make better citizens or friends than Jake. Four generations of Johnsons will always be his forever fans," she said.

By the time he retired, Pickle was the third-ranking Democrat on the influential Ways and Means Committee — leaving just before Republicans claimed majority control of the U.S. House.

Back in Austin, Pickle settled into an emeritus role. He refused to pick a successor, who ended up being Democrat Lloyd Doggett. He passed the time with friends (usually at the now-closed Holiday House restaurant), made the occasional speech and delivered many a eulogy for a fallen friend.

"He really set the standard for accessibility and integrity in office," Doggett said. "I saw just an incredible adaptability to a changing city and a changing constituency."

One thing never changed. Everywhere he went, Pickle continued to work the crowd, listening to people talk about their lives and asking what he could do to help.

At Westminster Manor, a life-care facility where the Pickles lived, Jake would take forever to walk through the dining hall.

"He would find out who was doing what, ask what they needed," said Luci Baines Johnson, daughter of the former president. "You just wanted to say, 'Jake, you're not running for anything anymore.' But he was always running for how to be a friend for those in need."

With Pickle blind in one eye and often fighting vertigo, Butler frequently served as his taxi service — with Jake still calling him Mayor Wonderful. Like others who drove Pickle, Butler would extract a promise before agreeing to drive.

"I used to tell him, 'Now Jake, I am not going to take you unless you agree that when it's time to leave, you'll leave. I am not going to stand around anymore while you work the crowd,' " Butler said. "He truly loved people. If you went to a restaurant, he would stop at every table."

A rascal at heart
James Jarrell Pickle was born in 1913, the fourth of five children. Mischievous by nature, he was 4 when he earned his nickname while his family was acting out a drama for entertainment. His character, Jake, was a rascal; the name stuck.

Pickle began a love affair with the University of Texas when he arrived in Austin in 1932 with hopes of becoming a lawyer. The Great Depression was in full swing, and Pickle lived in Little Campus, the "poor boy's dorm" that was the former Texas Asylum for the Blind. He delivered milk supplied by a Manor farmer, clearing about a penny a bottle — enough for one good meal a day.

For his junior year, Pickle moved up to a job as night watchman at the Capitol, delighting in riding a bicycle over the newly laid terrazzo floor — until the skid marks were discovered and he was fired (only to be rehired when a Lubbock state senator lobbied on his behalf).

Pickle enjoyed moderate success on UT wrestling and swim teams, but law school proved a bit tougher. He failed a few classes and lost interest in a legal career.

He filled his extra time with a run for student president, defeating future U.S. Rep. Bob Eckhardt with help from future Texas Gov. John Connally. (Pickle would manage Connally's successful campaign for UT president the next year.)

"This university opened the doors of the world for me, and I love it dearly," Pickle said in a 2001 interview. And he repaid that debt by directing millions of dollars to the university for research, technology and educational programs. Pickle also steered money toward the new Austin-Bergstrom International Airport and to Sematech, a consortium of semiconductor companies that helped transform Austin into a high-tech mecca.

It was Connally who introduced Pickle to perhaps the greatest influence on his political life, Lyndon Johnson, who was then the congressman representing Austin and the rest of the 10th District.

Pickle would send Johnson weekly reports from the district, which he traveled extensively for his Depression-era job with the National Youth Administration. But he wouldn't meet LBJ until a year later during a trip to Washington to discuss a local highway project. It was a memorable meeting. Called into Johnson's apartment through an open door, Pickle found LBJ holding court on the toilet, pajama bottoms at his ankles.

It was vintage Johnson.

"He was always testing you. He was always testing his power," Pickle wrote later.

Regardless of LBJ's quirks, Pickle joined Johnson's re-election campaign in 1941 — gathering 30,000 signatures "urging" LBJ to run even though he was serving in World War II — then helped Lady Bird run the congressional office.

In 1942, Pickle joined the war, serving in the Navy as one of the "90-day wonders," officers who were trained quickly for a rapidly expanding military. With a 10-day leave before shipping out, Ensign Pickle returned to Austin to marry Ella Nora Critz, known to all as Sugar.

Pickle served on the USS St. Louis, which was torpedoed but didn't sink, and the USS Miami, a light cruiser that also was torpedoed without sinking.

Daughter Peggy was on the way when Lt. Pickle returned to Austin in 1945. With Connally and eight other veterans — and with help from LBJ, who needed his "boys" in positions of authority back in Austin — Pickle established the city's third radio station. All were veterans, so KVET was born, and still exists.

The radio business couldn't pay enough, so Pickle co-founded a public relations company in Austin. He also scratched his political itch by joining the State Democratic Executive Committee as organizational secretary, putting him in the era's version of Texas-style partisan politics — liberal Democrats versus conservative Democrats, with divisions as nasty and volatile as Democrat versus Republican today. Pickle was on the conservative side and became known as the party's hatchet man for helping two governors ruthlessly purge liberals from the party's executive committee in the 1950s.

Though Pickle would reform his rough-and-tumble image, a quip from the time personifies his place in politics: "Do you know Jake Pickle?" Answer: "No, but I suspect him."

Sugar died in 1952 of breast cancer. Left with his 6-year-old daughter Peggy, Pickle filled the void with work, running campaigns that revealed a love and skill for politics.

He would remarry in 1960, wedding Beryl Bolton McCarroll, a widow with two sons. (They celebrated their 44th anniversary Dec. 17.)

Life took another turn in 1963, when U.S. Rep. Homer Thornberry, D-Austin, resigned his House seat to become a federal judge. Pickle campaigned so hard for the seat that he lost 40 pounds, won the special election on his third anniversary with Beryl and was called to Washington early by Johnson, who had assumed office the month before, in the wake of President Kennedy's assassination.

Johnson wanted his protégé to accumulate seniority on incoming freshmen, so Pickle was sworn in on Christmas Eve and quickly cast his first vote, supporting Johnson's sale of wheat to the Soviet Union.

Pickle caught on quickly to the ways of Congress, aided by his ties to LBJ and his political savvy.

He also became one of the institution's characters, tooling around Washington in a 1959 Chrysler New Yorker with massive tail fins. It was dubbed the White Shark. The car's engine once caught fire in the circular driveway of the White House while Pickle was inside the mansion; Secret Service agents doused the blaze.

Pickle's annual venison chili giveaway on Texas Independence Day or San Jacinto Day grew so popular it almost capsized under its own weight. By the time Pickle left office, his staff was rustling up 300 pounds of deer meat — enough for about 1,500 bowls cooked with three-alarm heat, because no way could Yankees take the four-alarm Texan variety.

But the private side of Pickle was equally larger than life.

Every Christmas morning, Pickle would conspire to arrive home via a different form of transportation, sporting plaid pants, a striped shirt and a Santa coat and beard. Once he arrived on a 1930s-era firetruck. Then there was a Bentley, a donkey and a motorcycle with Beryl in the sidecar.

"He would have gifts in his pouch and drive up with them to great fanfare," granddaughter Bergan Casey said.

The family, a blending of offspring from Sugar and Beryl, was fully united, Casey said.

"He took a great interest in what the kids and grandkids were doing, how they were doing in school, what trips they were taking," she said. "Even when he was in Congress, he always made a point to come to my high school activities and all the important milestones in my life. I don't think a lot of politicians would choose to do that.

"Family was as important as his constituency was, and believe me, they were important because we got dragged to a lot of those events," Casey said, laughing and fighting tears at the same time.

Services for Jake Pickle
Viewing: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home, 3125 N. Lamar Blvd.
Memorial service: 4 p.m. Wednesday, First United Methodist Church, 1201 Lavaca St.

MSC: Graffiti Archaeology

From The New York Times

Digital 'Antigraffiti' Peels Away the Years
By SARAH BOXER, June 21, 2005

This month the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences awarded its annual Webby (the online equivalent of an Oscar) for the best art site to Graffiti Archaeology,, a pictorial study of graffiti-covered walls as they evolve. At first entry, the site looks like Batman's cave bathed in blue light. You go spelunking along a railroad track until you reach the heart of Graffiti Archaeology. There you will find a list of eight locations in California (most in San Francisco) where graffiti grows, gets erased and grows again.

The creator of the site, Cassidy Curtis, a San Francisco animator in his 30's, isn't just being cute when he calls it "graffiti archaeology." It really is archaeology. You start at the surface and then peel away layers to look into the past. When you choose one of the locales and pick which wall you want to see, you are shown a recent photograph first. Then you can move backward in time or hop around, using a timeline at the bottom of the page. You can also zoom in to see details and navigate around the surface of the walls.

In effect, Mr. Curtis has made antigraffiti. He uncovers the layers that each successive graffiti artist has covered up.

What's amazing is that Mr. Curtis, who was a character animator for the movie "Madagascar," constructed his archaeological site not by taking all the pictures himself (though he did take a lot of them) but by finding other photographers' work and stitching together a history. At the top of each picture is a label saying when the photograph was taken and by whom.

Take the case of the he Belmont Tunnel wall in Los Angeles. The most recent photograph, taken on Nov. 6, 2004, by Jonathan Tobin, shows huge letters, CAR, arched over a bricked-up tunnel. Below are blobby blue and white letters and, farther down, scribbles.

Peel a layer back, to August 7, 2004, and CAR is still there, but just about everything else is different. Instead of blobby blue letters, you see the blocky black and white letters, LSC, about to be flooded by a rising tide of shapes, colors and alphabetic flotsam.

Moving back through time, to March of 2004, you see that the word CAR is gone, replaced by DES. Two years earlier, CAR is there as part of an official-looking sign over the tunnel: RED CAR TUNNEL. Back in 2000 the word isn't CAR but CASH.

You can keep stripping away layers (there are 10 for this particular wall) until you get back to a picture of exactly the same place taken by Bill Volkmer in June 1955, before the tunnel had even been bricked over. The photo shows a train on the tracks with a placard bearing the words, "To Oblivion." Next to it a man stands at attention, the last conductor.

It seems that it took a while for graffiti to take up residence here. A photograph dated 1983 shows the tunnel blocked with bars rather than bricks. At the edge of this picture, you can see a band of youths climbing down from the hills to the tunnel. It looks like a historic moment: the first tribe of graffiti artists coming down to set up camp.

The whole spectacle of Graffiti Archaeology has a kind of protozoan beauty about it. The fiery flowery walls at Bluxome, a street in San Francisco, are particularly brilliant. Indeed, it makes you want to see Mr. Curtis's time-lapse collages turned into time-lapse movies.

But Graffiti Archaeology, for all its elegance and ingenuity, looks a bit lumpy. Since these photos come from various sources, Mr. Curtis, who put up the site a few years ago, had to correct for point of view so that he could stitch the photographs and superimpose them, one on the other, into a coherent history. "If a photo is shot from an angle, it must be stretched out into a trapezoid so the wall will look flat," he writes on his Web site.

Mr. Curtis also declares that he corrected for lighting, color and some obstructions: "If there's something in the way of the camera, I edit that out, which leaves irregular holes in the outline."
The site wears its methods on its sleeve. Each photograph is edged with a jagged orange line showing how it has been stretched and cropped and how it fits into the whole historical picture. It's nice to be able to see where each photo ends against the larger background, but it would be even nicer to have the option of erasing those jagged orange lines. You want to be able to see each year's wall unperturbed.

As for the holes in the wall's outline, you have to wonder whether it would have been better just to leave in the obstructions. Isn't it paradoxical that a site devoted to graffiti would have such a passion for purity?

The few extraneous things Mr. Curtis did leave in at the edges of some pictures - people, signs and parts of nearby buildings - are a relief. They give the site its few points of context, allowing time and history (not just graffiti history) to enter.

For the most part, though, these walls seem to float in a netherworld. It's hard to tell where they are. And there's no map provided. Graffiti Archaeology has a touch of anti-archaeology about it. What archaeologist would omit or obscure the context of his dig?

Which brings us back to the opening of the site. Maybe there's a reason that the welcome page looks like Batman's cave - forbidding, cut off from the rest of the world, with all kinds of cool stuff inside.

There's a battle going on for the soul of this site. Which will it be: archaeological dig, with all the context and transparency you could want, or mysterious grotto? Tune in and see for yourself.

Same Bat time, same Bat channel.