Pigtails? You don’t say…

I read this article on CNN just this morning about your brain and paralysis.  Unfortunately, it was too full of technobabbly and ‘maybe possibly someday’s that it was completely unexciting.  Sure it will be great when paralyzed people will have new technologies that tap into their brains to help them move again.  But the experiment didn’t seem to really prove much to me, so what’s the point of getting excited?

I did find something of note, however – Pigtail Macaques.  Wikipedia has failed me on this particular issue, as they did not mention why these fuzzy things have th ‘pigtail’ name.  They don’t even have hair tufts, let alone actual ‘tails’ of hair.  I guess it could have something to do with the fact that their tails are shorter, but they’re not called ‘lion-tailed macaques’, which is more what they look like.

After careful further research, it is the tail.  “Pigtail macaques have an abbreviated tail, less than the length of the body from head to rump, which is often bare or covered only by sparse fur (Rowe 1996; Groves 2001). Pigtail macaques get their popular name from their tails, which are short and carried half-erect so that they somewhat resemble a pig’s tail (Choudhury 2003).”  I’ll let you decide:

The so-called ‘pigtail’ – is that half-erect?

The apparently unpiggish tail

Try, try again.

In recent news, a polar bear at a zoo fell into the moat surrounding his enclosure.  He was not injured, due to some netting rigged to protect from just such a fall.  Zoo workers cut him out of the netting so he wouldn’t hurt himself, but left him in the moat.  Eventually they think he’ll wander out of his own volition when he gets hungry enough.  And really, who wants to think of a polar bear starving himself to death?

But the facts of the case leave me puzzling (according to the town of Ravensburg, it’s a verb).  Evidently this same polar bear has fallen into the moat before.  Perhaps that’s why the netting was put in place.  Perhaps this particular polar bear has balance issues.  But the question still remains as to why the moat is there in the first place.  Is it cheaper than two sets of fences separating the bears from zoo goers by the necessary distance?  Is it there to provide shade?  Is it there for drainage purposes, or some technical aspect not readily apparent to the casual eye?  Because, to me, it looks like a waste and a danger to young, precocious polar bears.

Flop, flop, flop, SWIM!

Ok, I am a sucker for cuteness. Maybe not that artificial cuteness of Anne Geddes or kittens and puppies posed unusually.  But the natural, everyday cuteness and ridiculous awkwardness of life – babies who drool on themselves, old people who smile with few teeth, or almost any animal scrabbling on ice – really get me going.  In recent CNN/iReport news, its’ all about the baby turtles.

The turtles have it all – awkward limbs, a struggle to survive, and people cooing over them with video cameras.  It’s moments like these that documentaries were made for.  I could watch millions of baby turtles struggle to get swept out to sea over and over again. In fact, now that I have this video, that’s exactly what I plan on doing.

But the delicacy of the turtles in those first scramblings for the ocean is made all the more poignant in the video.  many will be eaten in-egg, many more upon hatching, and most will never reach the sea.  For this reason, many beaches have systems in place to preserve the hatchling sea turtles.  Individuals may dig trenches to lead the babies to the sea, or carefully watch egg clutches to protect them from predators.  I’m not sure if these individual effort have had any effect on the greater number of sea turtles.  Still, if there is an effect, I wonder if it’s a good one.  Cute as they are, are there dangerous or harmful consequences resulting from a little protection?


I walk quite a bit in Boston.  I like the feeling.  I like being outside, even in the rain, striding as if I had an intense purpose even when I don’t.  I like feeling the wind against my skin and observing the little thing – a violet beneath a bush, a thrush on a street sign, the tiny bud of some flowering plant just opening – that I wouldn’t notice in a car or bus.  I like feeling my heart pump even though I am moving relatively slowly to the rest of the world.

There are a variety of people who agree with me: joggers, hikers, runners, dog walkers.  I would guess that all of them feel the same type of draw – the combination of joy in the outside world and reveling in the feeling of their own movement.  It’s a powerful draw – there are some who would use almost any excuse to be outside.  However there is an occasional unintended consequence, a misfortune resulting from such outdoor activity that could not have been predicted.  One would be the death of your leashed dog by street sweeper.
Pedestrians get hit by cars all the time.  Dogs get hit by cars even more often.  I would guess that even street sweepers hit people and cars.  But one of the purposes of a leash is to prevent such mishaps.  A leash ostensibly gives an owner the power to prevent dogs from going where they shouldn’t – whether due to privacy issues and social norms of respect, or for the dog’s own safety.  It’s possible that accidents occur when the owners of such dogs are being less than mindful.  However, there is a question of whether a street sweeper should not even notice something as big as a dog getting tangled in its machinery.  Sure, it was a small dog, and those machines are loud.  But considering that the driver didn’t even notice for two and a half blocks that something was amiss with people chasing him and screaming, it makes me wonder if he would’ve noticed if he’d swept up something more precious.  Like a child.

I won’t stop walking.  I certainly won’t stop getting angry at cars that invade MY sidewalk space, or people who don’t bother to check the sidewalk before edging out into an intersection.  But a little care please, on the part of drivers (especially street cleaners) would be appreciated.

I want hippotherapy.

While I’ve never really been an avid fan of horseback riding, there’s something appealing about it.  I have gone riding a few times.  I do like horses.  I never importuned my parents for a pony, as I knew it would be more realistic for me to run away and join the circus than for my mother to allow any more pets.  But there’s still an attraction.  I collected unicorns.  I learned to draw a horse realistically before any other animal.  I fantisized about being The Man from Snowy River.

While it’s too late in life for me to be a champion jockey now, there is something still there.  I think it has something to do with syncing the rhythm of your body to that of another being.  It’s the same kind of exhilaration that comes from being part of a smooth crew team.  Pulling in that rhythm as one does something to the mind, connecting you in sensation and experience.  You and the horse or you and the team are feeling the same movements, feeling the same air stirring around you, adjusting your bodies to fit each other’s movements.  While I don’t quite understand how that adjustment connects us, it indicates some sort of subliminal ties.

Perhaps that’s why therapy on horseback, or hippotherapy (not hypnotherapy), is becoming more popular for children.  Now, i know all of you are asking what the ‘potamuses have to do with horses, but never fear, I will explain.  Hippos means horse in Greek, and hippopotamus means ‘water horse’.  Personally I think they could’ve gone with something closer to manatee, like manapotamus (water cow) or ‘river beast’, however you say that in Greek.  Calling a hippo a horse is like calling an elephant a dog.  Sure, they could both be pets named Rover, but one can nap at the foot of your bed and the other one needs a barn to sleep in.

So far hippotherapy being used in conjunction with other forms of therapy to correct problems with vision and sensory perception as well as balance.  If you think about it, it makes sense.  You need an acute sense of balance to stay on top of a moving object like a horse.  Some of us (Hello, my name is Stacey) need an acute sense of balance to continually stand upright.  Same thing goes for sensory and visual perception.  Horseback riding broadens the range of experiences in these areas, forcing your brain to learn.  But what most parents are saying is that the therapeutic value is even more intense in regards to emotions.  Children might not necessarily be excited to go to therapy.  It can be frustrating, and can ruin a good mood.  But what kid doesn’t want to get up on a horse?  It’s a mood booster as well as a therapeutic exercise.  a) I want that and b) when and for how long will my health insurance cover it?

What can you buy for two beaver hats?

This morning, i bought a Nantucket Nectars Half and Half.  It was delicious, as well as educational.  For example, I learned from the cap that Nantucket was purchased in 1692 for 30 pounds sterling and two beaver hats.  It makes me wonder who amongst the crazy islanders (aka English, who I assume are the ones most likely to traffic in English pounds) would buy an island or sell one using money AND beaver hats.  How much worth does a beaver hat really have?  It’s no longer a highly profitable pelt, and it’s nowhere near as fashionable or as warm as a coon skin cap.  What does a beaver hat even look like?

Evidently it was not so much the pelt of the beaver itself that was valuable, but the felt that could be made from it.  This felt was in vogue at the time, and versatile, being molded into a variety of shapes.  So a beaver hat could be a top hat, or a brown derby, or even a cowboy hat, depending on your inclination.  I wonder which shape was worth an island?  Eventually silk hats became popular and replaced beaver felt as the hat making material of the time.  Today, on eBay, such hats can range from $10-100 in a variety of shapes and styles.  So be sure to ask your local spinsterish haberdasher if the latest style is made of real, 100% beaver.


There is an international rule that babies are cute.  Of course, this is not always actually true, but we say all babies are cute as a kind of acceptable lie.  Many babies in fact look like little old people – but then, little old people are considered cute and given all kinds of special permission to break social norms.  Except for dirty Frenchmen.  It doesn’t matter how old they are, they still think they have a chance, so you can’t afford to let them hit on you.

There are also the related corollaries that have to do with certain features of the infants resembling that of their parents or grandparents.  While others (thank you, Sarah) may think this is just an accepted lie perhaps to assure the legitimacy of fatherhood, there are other possible reasons behind the early commentary.  An offhand example is the ‘got your nose’ game.  What child would realistically ever be fooled that his uncle’s visible nose was replaceable with his own cute little button unless he’d heard from infancy that he had Uncle Hershel’s snoz?

But what I’d really like to mention is the puppy corollary.  Even the word itself is cute – ‘puppy!’  How can an infant dog not be adorable, even if it does grow up into a disgusting-looking bulldog?  I mean, look at those biggly paws!  And this really applies to the entire animal kingdom.  Baby polar bear?  Cute.  Baby panda?  Cute (I have video evidence I’ll try to include later).  Baby giraffe, all gangles and purple tongue?  Still cute.

A Story

So Mike gave me a story idea, and then I was thinking about interactivity and such, and treasure hunts. So I’m going to ‘have a go’ at linking them all together. I’ll bold the story parts below so you know what is story and what is instructions to the next part of the story.

I was born in the space between a white picket fence and a giant weedy tangle of evergreen bushes. After being run off by some angry suburbanites, my mother had really no where to go. Wherever she went, she was treated as a leper, as a thief, as something unclean. She was alone, and near to giving birth to me and my 3 siblings.

I don’t remember opening my eyes at first. I don’t remember the brightness of that first day. I don’t even remember the sense of loss I must have felt at being separated from my sister, my brothers, my mother. Perhaps the shock is lost somewhere in my memory, occasionally brought forward as nostalgia or melancholy, brought on by a familiar sound or smell.

My early life was hard – scavenging, moving all the time, living off the leavings of others. It wasn’t that bad though. I didn’t have time to be envious, to watch the twinkle and gleam of inside lives. I had my family. We kept each other warm, looked out for each other. But it was always a little different after the first time I heard my mom get really angry.

It was an odd sort of situation. My brothers, Cerne and Cassis, were trash diving at a local park for some useful odds and ends and maybe some food. The whole family was there. My mother and sister Cassy were washing up a bit after their own ‘dives’, and I was playing lookout. The park was mostly deserted at this time of day – late afternoon – except for a few bums lounging.

A woman trotted towards us with her dog. Seeing us, the dog went crazy – barking, tugging at the leash, and generally furious. I called to my brothers, and they quickly turned to face the danger. But still the woman approached. She tried to contain her dog, but he was a big dog. Despite our family outnumbering him, we were all small. And afraid.

But we were quick. Cassy darted around the dog and away, and Cassis quickly followed. Cerne jumped up on top of a garbage can and made to go up into the trees, but the branches were too small. One splintered beneath him, knocking him back onto the ground. The dog moved in to wring him by the neck, but my mother stopped him. She deliberately put herself in front of my brother and snarled.

I’ve never heard such an ugly sound. I couldn’t believe it, coming from my own mother. The hairs stood up all along my body. Even the big dog was a little afraid. He stepped back, and looked around for his master. She tried to quiet him, but I knew that his courage was coming back. While his attention was distracted, it was now or never.

The story continues with perspectives from a variety of sources on the events.

To complete this story as if the narrator runs away and escapes, click here.

To complete this story as if the narrator stays to help his family, click here.

To complete this story on your own or give opinion on the process thus far, please  comment below.