Saturday, November 1, 2008

Otto the octopus wreaks havoc

Otto at the Sea Star Aquarium in Coburg, Germany
The culprit of the smashed glass and broken lamp is two foot seven inch Otto. Photo: EUROPICS

Staff believe that the octopus called Otto had been annoyed by the bright light shining into his aquarium and had discovered he could extinguish it by climbing onto the rim of his tank and squirting a jet of water in its direction.

The short-circuit had baffled electricians as well as staff at the Sea Star Aquarium in Coburg, Germany, who decided to take shifts sleeping on the floor to find out what caused the mysterious blackouts.

A spokesman said: "It was a serious matter because it shorted the electricity supply to the whole aquarium that threatened the lives of the other animals when water pumps ceased to work.

"It was on the third night that we found out that the octopus Otto was responsible for the chaos.

"We knew that he was bored as the aquarium is closed for winter, and at two feet, seven inches Otto had discovered he was big enough to swing onto the edge of his tank and shoot out a the 2000 Watt spot light above him with a carefully directed jet of water."

Director Elfriede Kummer who witnessed the act said: "We've put the light a bit higher now so he shouldn't be able to reach it. But Otto is constantly craving for attention and always comes up with new stunts so we have realised we will have to keep more careful eye on him - and also perhaps give him a few more toys to play with.

"Once we saw him juggling the hermit crabs in his tank, another time he threw stones against the glass damaging it. And from time to time he completely re-arranges his tank to make it suit his own taste better - much to the distress of his fellow tank inhabitants."

Original here

Reducing roads could boost bear population

Bear populations could increase by as much as five per cent if logging roads are restricted.
Bear populations could increase by as much as five per cent if logging roads are restricted.

A study conducted by biologists Scott Nielsen and Mark Boyce showed that, regardless of any ecologically friendly harvesting practices adopted by industry, if road density is not reduced in logging areas, the grizzly population may continue to decline. It is estimated that there are currently less than 500 grizzly bears in Alberta.

The study, conducted in a 9,800 square-kilometre area of west-central Alberta that includes parts of Jasper National Park, compared current harvesting practices that use small clearcuts in a checkerboard pattern, with one that would mimic a naturally-occurring disturbance like a wildfire, resulting in large clear-cut areas. The second method is thought to be more environmentally friendly to the animals, but was found by the researchers to have little benefit because of associated roads.

The U of A study tracked 40 grizzlies fitted with GPS radio collars. Their foraging and bedding patterns were monitored over a five-year period and the two potential future landscapes relating to forest harvest patterns were modelled for the next 100 years. The results showed that while both harvesting scenarios increased overall habitat conditions for the bears, that benefit was offset by increased risk of human-caused mortality associated with roads.

Roads in and out of logging areas increase the animals' risk of death though human-bear conflict, vehicle-caused collisions, poaching and displacement from feeding and habitat areas.

The results were published recently in the journal Biological Conservation.

"No matter what kind of forestry harvesting practices are used, without reducing human access to grizzly habitat, the population remains threatened," said Boyce, a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences.

"Road development, access management and human attitudes are far more important factors to Alberta grizzly populations than the size and shape of clearcuts," said Nielsen, an assistant professor in the U of A Department of Renewable Resources.

With controlled access to logging areas, Boyce estimated that the province's beleaguered bear population could increase by up to five per cent a year, based on a similar situation in the Yellowstone ecosystem. In 1983 road controls were placed on grizzly habitat there, and the population has since grown from 183 bears to more than 600. "With careful management, we should be able to achieve a similar growth rate in Alberta," he said.

"Ideally, unnecessary roads would be decommissioned or gated by industry and limits on road development identified."

Source: University of Alberta

Original here

Proposition 8: Gay Marriage on California's Ballot

Posted by DAN HARRIS

In a room on the top floor of an evangelical church in San Diego, dozens of Christians are engaged in 40 days of round-the-clock praying and fasting. They are asking God to stop gay marriage in California.

California's ballot sparks heated debate over gay marriage.

"We believe it's a defining moment in American history," said Lou Engel of the evangelical group, The Call. "As California goes, so goes the whole nation. And in many ways, California is a leadership state for not just America but the whole world."

At a Unitarian church across town, Jan Garbosky and Bonny Russell, both retired educators, tied the knot after 20 years of partnership just a few weeks ago.

"We thought this would never happen in our lifetime, at our age," Garbosky said.

Religious groups across the nation -- including evangelicals, Catholics and Mormons -- have mobilized in support of Proposition 8, a ballot initiative that would overturn California's Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage.

If passed, the proposition would change the state's constitution, redefining marriage as exclusively between a man and a woman.

Since the Supreme Court's May decision, gay couples eagerly flew to California. Massachusetts and Connecticut also have legalized same-sex marriage.

The fight over California's Proposition 8 has become one of the most expensive campaigns in the country -- second only to the presidential race.

Groups on both sides of the issue have thrown millions into the race. Supporters include Focus on the Family, the Knights of Columbus and members of the Mormon church. Opponents include Hollywood celebrity donors like Brad Pitt, Stephen Spielberg and Ellen DeGeneres.

At least one prominent evangelical has been quoted as saying that the Proposition 8 campaign is more important than the presidential race.

Many Christians believe that scripture prohibits homosexuality. If gay marriage is allowed to stand, some evangelicals suggest, it would force churches to marry gays, force schools to teach gay marriage, settling off a snowball effect and opening the door to pedophilia and bestiality.

"A person could say, 'I love my dog, why should we not be married?'" said Anna Good, a member of the Skyline Westlean Church.

But the opposition says these arguments are spurious.

"We live in a democracy, not a theocracy," said Garbosky. "I'm just amazed that anybody of faith would say [to] take away somebody else's rights."

Polls show that the race for the proposition is tight.

Both sides say a loss would be devastating, but that the fight will not end with Tuesday's vote.

Original here

5 Candies You Hated Getting Every Halloween

By Justin Koenig

Every Halloween the youngsters' thoughts turn to candy. And minor acts of vandalism. But mostly candy.

But there was always a downside to trick or treating, and not just the juvenile diabetes that kicked in a few years later. We're talking about the barely edible candies that got handed out every year, products that thrived at Halloween because it was the one time when the person who bought it wouldn't have to actually eat it.

We're talking about...

Wax Candy

The Main Offenders:

Wax Lips, Wax Fangs

The Good:

Everyone remembers wax lips, and to a lesser extent, wax fangs. They were bright red, shiny and, technically, edible. Like a poor man's collagen, these oily enhancers were the closest many children would ever come to a somewhat presentable face.

The Bad:

It's admirable that the manufacturers didn't attempt to disguise the product with a misleading name or fancy packaging. They came right out and told you, "That's a candle in your mouth, dipshit."

Not to mention the fact that to keep the lips and fangs attached to your face, you were required to bite down (ever so gently) on an extra piece of wax protruding from the inside of the "lips," making speech unintelligible on top of everything else.

Likelihood of Being Physically Injured by the Candy:

This was pretty safe by itself, if you didn't mind shitting a turd-shaped candle the next day. Of course if you were smart enough to abstain from actually eating it, you and your friends probably still wound up passing it from mouth to mouth, spreading colds and maybe even a case of Measles. Or herpes, depending on the crowd you ran with.

We must also consider the danger of being physically attacked by someone else due to the candy. Since it prominently displays itself in the dead-center of your face at all times, you couldn't really hide the fact that you were eating something retarded. Like, say, a mouth-shaped candle.

On the plus side, the wax candy doubles as a mouth guard, which you most likely needed.

Candy Jewelry

The Main Offenders:

Candy necklaces, Ring Pops

The Good:

It's tasty! It's fashionable! It will gain you the respect of your peers, catch the eye of that boy you've been after, and give you a delicious reprieve from the sheer torture that is your adolescence. It's the best of both worlds!

The Bad:

The whole edible clothing/accessory thing is really better in theory than practice. Like those novelty edible panties, you don't put them back on after they're partially eaten.

Not so with the candy necklace, which the little girl (or effeminate boy, we suppose) was sure to put in their mouth, then around their neck, then around their wrist, then on their friend's wrist, then in their friend's mouth. It'd be disgusting even if the candy didn't taste like chalk.

Disease-ridden shit machine.

The Ring Pop is no better, the whole point is to suck on the thing while it's still on your finger. Soon you wound up wearing a sticky glove of red saliva.

Likelihood of Being Physically Injured by the Candy:

Take all of the disease concerns we had about the wax candy and double it, since you've basically got a kid sporting a ring of loogies around his or her neck. Also, Ring Pops always scratched the shit out your finger.

Tobacco-Themed Candy

The Main Offenders:

Candy Cigarettes, Bubble Gum Cigars, Big League Chew

The Good:

Look at you, all grown up! Pretending to use tobacco and emulate the beautiful people like Marilyn Monroe, Pierce Brosnan, and Popeye.

The world has long since pussied-out on the whole "candy carcinogen" thing, but many of us still have fond memories of these from our childhoods. Until we started smoking for real at the age of 12.

The Bad:

Yes you think you look cool, but in reality you're just another poser, kid. That may sound harsh, but if you really thought chewing on the end of a bubble gum cigar would earn you the respect of your friends and strike fear into the hearts of your enemies a la Tony Soprano, you were in for one of those brutal lessons about growing up.

And it kind of looks like a dick.

Not to mention that once again the candy makers, confident that the fun shape would carry sales, didn't bother to inject any kind of flavor into any of these. We said the candy necklaces tasted like chalk? We're not completely sure that candy cigarettes weren't actual sticks of chalk.

Likelihood of Being Physically Injured by the Candy:

Big League Chew and gum cigars were just shaped bubble gum, no harm there. But as for the candy cigarettes ... you know you tried to light that shit.

Excessively Chewy Candy

The Main Offenders:

Now and Laters, Good n Fruity, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Salt Water Taffy

The Good:

Chewy candy has only one up-side: it lasts a long time.

The Bad:

It lasts a long fucking time! There's a limit to how long candy should be in your mouth, and that's four minutes. With the exception of chewing gum, no candy should force its flavor upon the user a moment longer.

Plus this stuff can glue your teeth together with the strength of some kind of dental adhesive. The whole tedious, laborious task was way more work than eating a piece of candy should require. Maybe that would be fine if it was the only candy you had and you needed to stretch out the experience. But during the post-Halloween binge, it only delayed the eating of more candy.

Likelihood of Being Physically Injured by the Candy:

Attempt to find someone who's ever managed consume a Now and Later in less than 20 minutes. You won't, because they choked and died.

Why do people keep buying this?

The upside is if some bully tried to take your candy, you could always bet him $10 that he couldn't eat one of your Now and Laters in less than 20 minutes.

All Novelty Pseudo-Candy

The Main Offenders:

Candy Buttons on Paper Tape, Fun Dip, Pixy Stix

The Good:

"Novelty" candy is known as such because it's cute and original... for a limited time. Its novelty packaging and novelty consumption methods make it, well, a novelty. And some kids are really, really easily amused.

The Bad:

The amusement however doesn't make this shitty candy taste any better. The "novelty" of this candy wears off about 10 seconds after you pull it out of your little plastic pumpkin. The disappointment, however lasts a lifetime. So does the shame that comes from eating the a row of candy buttons directly off the paper, feeding it into your mouth like your head was a fax machine.

Likelihood of Being Physically Injured by the Candy:

Every candy buttons customer has felt the sting of paper cuts on the corners of their lips. They should have a warning label about that but they know we wouldn't listen. Also, which of us didn't at least once try to snort some Pixy Stix or the powder part of Fun Dip?

Okay, maybe not all of us. Oh, also, don't make our mistake and look up "Fun Dip" on Urban Dictionary.

Trust us. Don't.

For some terrifying shit that's guaranteed to be in pretty much anything you choose to eat tomorrow, check out 5 Horrifying Food Additives You've Probably Eaten Today. Or check out The 6 Creepiest Marketing Campaigns Aimed at Children.

Original here