Thoughts, not always deep, rarely profound

In the Shallows

In the shallows, in soft, soft sand, you can stand very still and 
the little fishies will nibble at your toes.

In the shallows, in soft, soft sand, you can look down through clear, 
clear water and be master of all you see.

In the shallows, in soft, soft sand, you can laugh at tiny ripples of 
water lapping ineffectually at your ankles.

In the shallows, in soft, soft sand, you are God.

Until a big goddamn wave comes along and sucks you in, and you're pushed here and there at the mercy of energies beyond your control with Big Fishies wanting to do more than nibble at your toes in water that's murky and dark, and you think to yourself, "Holy shit! What just happened!?!", as your only hope is to ride along, follow the current and stay afloat, looking for an escape...

...back to the shallows, and the soft, soft sand.


Beauty in the Eye

Boing Boing re-published a photo found on Flickr of a hairless male chimp at the Mysore Zoo in India.

hairless chimp

Chances are this chimp suffered from the same hereditary disease that Cinder, the chimp who recently died at the St. Louis zoo, did: alopecia universalis. The condition is rare among chimps, so I'm not surprised that people aren't aware of what the chimp was suffering from. I was surprised, though at the reaction of the Boing Boing author, a person who is supposedly a science writer.

I am so sorry.

I ran across this image while searching for something to illustrate that last post and just can't not share it.

Again. My apologies. Rest assured, I'm going to have nightmares tonight, too. We're all in this together.

I would have expected some discomfort from some folk. After all, Cinder was once featured at Ugly Overload. But I also would have expected a science writer to be more fascinated by the chimp's physiology, then repelled. Or to note his similarity to humans, as PZ Myers noted, we don't expect someone with a scientific background to go, "Ewww. Ugggi!"

I was also a little surprised to read Short, Sharp Science's take on the photo: that the chimp is suffering from chimpsploitation.

But unless the poor animal is naturally bald, it seems that he is suffering from stress-related hair loss. From the expression on his face (and it is obviously a male) he doesn't looks like he's the most well-adjusted of animals. It's sure to spark more arguments about the welfare of animals in captivity.

It's true that hairless chimps are rare, but a single search of "hairless chimp" in Google returns thousands of references to our Cinder, and other hairless chimps. We need to be careful about reading our biases into interpretation of photos, particularly so if we call ourselves "scientists".

For instance, as to the charge of chimpsloitation of this hairless chimp, The Mysore Zoo in India is one of the oldest in the world, and the most popular in India. It did have problems a few years back, when a new Zoo administration eliminated corrupt practices, and several employees exacted revenge by poisoning several animals. In addition, the training of some of its personnel can be deficient, the result of which cost the life of a tigress and another female elephant. However, it is not a "bad" zoo, if we think of bad zoos as those miserable roadside attractions that occur all too frequently in the US. The Mysore Zoo just reflects the multi-cultural environment that makes up today's India.

I am glad to have seen these stories, as I've been trying to track other hairless chimps. I wish, though, that people would see beyond the "difference" of these hairless chimps—to admire their musculature, and accept our common heritage. And to answer another frequently posted question about hairless chimps: chimps are born with pale skin that tans to a darker shade as they are exposed to the sun.


The Thinker

The Thinker


The Rule of Small Deer

They were three, and rather than cower from me and take off through the woods, they stood and looked at me. Then, as one body, they moved: one pawed the ground; one began eating the leaves from a small bush; the third started walking towards me.

I didn't know what to make of it. Deer are supposed to run from people. I walked closer to the deer and it walked closer to me. I stamped my foot and it still came. I raised my arms and waved them and it didn't pause–didn't blink. I turned around to go back, and only then did the it stop, turn, and begin to head back to its fellows.

I turned around one more time, back towards the deer. It swung around back to me, as if it were on a string. I began to walk again, thinking this time, it would shy away. It didn't. I moved closer, until I could see the ragged edges of its fur, the black at the center of its eyes, but still it came.

I didn't know what to make of the deer. I imagine it had run from humans one too many times. Run from the food and the best footing and the last of the sunshine. Run back into the trees, and the shadows, and the low branches waiting to trip it, and the bushes already picked clean.

Probably decided to hell with it. Yes, that's it. To hell with it. You push anything hard enough, even a small deer, and they'll think to themselves, to hell with it.


Nostalgia: Reversed

Nostalgia doesn't fit a reverse chronological format, so I'll refrain from indulging in sweet stories of pig-tailed cherubs wearing gingham, skipping about in the late afternoon sun. I did enjoy my trip to my hometown after these many years, but it didn't seem all that much different than the towns I visited in Missouri, or Vermont, or Arizona, or any other of the states in which I've lived. My mom enjoyed the photos I brought back, though, so that's a goodness.

Kettle Falls hasn't changed much. Any new development tends to be along the highway rather than through main street. The only change was the addition of a median with trees down the street. Oh, and to shame big city libraries, this little town's tiny little library offers free wireless.


The old grocery store was still standing but, like most of the businesses, closed. I spent many a penny on candy in that store during its time. When I was about a year old, my mother had gone into the store leaving my brother and me in the car outside. My brother released the brake on the car and managed to hit another car before we stopped.

Hodgkiss Grocery Store

The old Assembly of God church I attended is now painted a bright blue and is a union hall; I imagine the union workers are timber company employees. Timber is still the big trade item in the area, though the old saw mills are gone and the new ones burn 'cleaner'. Not so clean, though; I saw too many dead fir trees, most likely killed by acid rain.


When I lived in town, I and a friend used to climb Gold Hill, which formed one side of the main bypass highway. In my mind, I remembered it as steep and rather expected it to be less rather than more. However, my childhood memories do not lead me false–it is a steep hill, and a tough climb. Yesterday, I could barely climb the road much less the hill.


And Ralph's is still Ralph's. Every town has a Ralph's, and while Ralph's lives, the town still exists. If you grew up in a town like my hometown, you know what I mean.


In the country outside of town, the road to my old house hasn't changed much. A few more homes, but the area is part of the Colville National Forest system, which has kept growth down. I stopped at the old bridge crossing the Colville river as it made it's way to the Roosevelt. This is about two miles from my old home, and hasn't changed even a little in 40 years.


I followed the old dirt road below our old house, where I spent most of my time growing up. How odd to see the land more wild than when I was a kid. Along the sandy shore next to the Roosevelt lake, I noted footprints: skunk, deer, and dog. It was the dog that sent me back to my car: dog prints without a matching human are never a good sign.



I almost passed the house I lived in until I was nine. My old science teacher bought it from us, and his widow still lives there. Sometime in the last few decades, they moved the driveway from the right side of the house to the left, took out the fruit trees, and cleared the forest behind the garage. It's the same garage I almost burned down when I played with matches as a kid. I'd post a photo, but it's a garage and posting a photo of a garage exceeds acceptable sentimentality. So I'll just post a photo of the house, instead.


There was an nice looking, sightly older man mowing the lawn when I pulled up, and I asked him if I could take photos of the house, as I used to live there once. I identified myself and he offered to get his mom, but I didn't want to disturb her. When he said 'mother', I asked him if he was my brother's friend Mike, astonished to see the mature man where last I'd seen a teenager. He was visiting from his home in Hawaii, of all places. He was one of the many Mikes that were all of an age (it was an uncommonly popular name). Odd thing is, all the Mikes that moved away, lived, all the Mikes that stayed, died before 25.

I missed getting a picture of the sign leading into the town– Kettle Falls: 1255 friendly people and one grouch. Oh, in case you're wondering, yes, I'm sure I'm related to the grouch.

It was interesting seeing the place, but I felt no connection with the area. As they say, you can't go home again.




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