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Archives for: October 2007

Trick or Treat

October 31st, 2007  · stk

My hurried post about our Halloween festivities. Dad and the Oop carve pumpkins

Alex is four years old and this will be her second year trick-or-treating on Vancouver Island. This year, Alex will be going door-to-door dressed as a unicorn. It's interesting to note that in Canada, the full-length costumes are a big hit (as they keep the young ones warm) on typically frigid Halloween nights. When Scott was a kid, in California, you just tossed a sheet over your head and BOOM! ... you were a ghost!

To finish the ghoulish tale ... you'll need to punch "read full story".

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Updated: 7-Nov-2007
Web View Count: 19482 viewsLast Web Update: 7-Nov-2007
Filed in:Noteworthy

Fame Name Game

October 26th, 2007  · stk

How would you like to have your name on a newly discovered species of Owl butterfly (Opsiphanes Group)? Skip a costly Ph.D., hours of studying, sweaty fieldwork, authoring scientific articles ... find out how!

Naming Rights for a New Butterfly Species Up for Auction

Do you fancy yourself as a budding naturalist? If so, now's your chance to make your mark on the scientific community. Win the right to name a new species of Owl butterfly, donate money to butterfly research and let your name live on forever ... all in one fell swoop.

Normally, the only way to name a new species would be to become a scientist, attend years of University classes to get a Ph.D., read (and write) a good many scientific papers, toil for countless hours in remote jungles (battling humidity and jungle rot) and be blessed with LUCK - being in the right place, at the right time. Here's your chance to skip all that and head directly past GO! Make your mark on history!

This new species of Owl butterfly is no piddling little cast-off. It's a big, colorful, showy specimen. The new species belongs to the Owl butterfly group, which are some of the best-known in the world because of their large size, striking colors and large wing eye-spots.

This is a rare opportunity. If slapping your name on this beautiful, new species of butterfly is appealing ... read on brave naturalists.

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Updated: 3-Nov-2007
Web View Count: 36044 viewsLast Web Update: 3-Nov-2007

California Wildfires

October 24th, 2007  · stk

Southern California wild fires have consumed 800 square miles and 1,600 homes. With ties to California, Vancouver Island, and fire fighting ... a unique perspective on the Southern California firestorms is offered (including video of the Martin Mars Bombers)

Santa Ana's | Martin Mars Bombers | Hollywood Sequel | A Proposal

Southern California continues efforts to battle massive wildfires. Weather forcasters have predicted that the strong winds fanning the flames, making firefighting impossible, will let up sometime this afternoon.

The final numbers won't be in for a while, but the current situation is: one dead, many injured, 1,600 homes lost and another 68,000 homes under threat. President Bush signed a document declaring the fires a "major disaster", releasing federal funds to help homeowners in seven affected counties. The president is expected to visit the region tomorrow.

Help is on the way from Canada, specifically Vancouver Island.

This fire season will be the most expensive in California's history. Each year the costs to fight these blazes has increased, the fires seem to become larger and the damage even greater. It's like a bad Hollywood movie sequel. What's Southern California to do?

Read on for a unique look at the Southern California situation, more detail and some recommendations that may surprise you.

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Updated: 8-Feb-2009
Web View Count: 63398 viewsLast Web Update: 8-Feb-2009
Filed in:Book Reviews

This Is Paradise!

October 15th, 2007  · Rachel

Rachel reviews "This is Paradise! My North Korean Childhood", an autobiography by Hyok Kang. The compelling autobiography provides a rare glimpse into life in North Korea, as told through the eyes of a child.

(Non-Fiction)Review of "This Is Paradise! My North Korean Childhood" an autobiography by Hyok Kang

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other international human rights organisations have asserted that North Korea, officially the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, has one of the worst human rights records of any nation. Human Rights violations include suppression of Freedom of Expression, Movement, and Religion, as well as the use of arbitrary detention and imprisonment, inhumane prison conditions, torture and the death penalty. However, North Korea is a closed society, with very little information making it into, or out of, the country. Consequently, first-hand accounts of the living conditions and reality of life in this totalitarian state are shocking, especially when told by a child.

Hyok Kang spent the first thirteen years of his life in North Korea and he describes many aspects of life in the socialist state. He describes how the children are taught to worship the party leader, “Great Leader Kim Jong-Il” and his deceased farther Kim Il-Sung. How total respect of these two leaders is an expectation of all citizens. He describes the conditions inside penal colonies, work camps and how public executions are carried out, as well as how the citizens are encouraged to denounce their peers, generating a society built on distrust. Hyok Kang talks about the impact of the great famine of the 1990’s, which lead to the death of hundreds of thousands of citizens, while making others lie, steal, cheat, and even resort to cannibalism, in order to survive. Despite all the hardships of life in North Korea, the party propaganda is so pervasive that the majority of citizens still believe that, compared to the rest of the world, “This is Paradise.”

It is not until Hyok Kang and his family escape to China that the North Korean political brainwashing begins to unravel and he appreciates the relative luxuries of life, outside of North Korea. Even still, his family is not safe, as the threat of forced repatriation and execution are constant. After years of living in China as a fugitive, Hyok Kang undertakes the dangerous journey across North Korean sympathetic states, such as Cambodia and Vietnam, before finally making it to safety in South Korea, where he now struggles to put the past behind him.

Click the link "Read full story" to continue ...

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Updated: 17-Oct-2007
Web View Count: 28717 viewsLast Web Update: 17-Oct-2007
Filed in:Humor

Galling Gull

October 11th, 2007  · stk

Randsco goes to the birds! Yet another story about one of our fine feathered friends - only this time, it's a "fiend" not a "friend". Video footage of a shoplifting seagull caught stealing potato chips in Aberdeen.

A Fine-Feathered Fiend that Filches Food shoplifting seagull

shoplifting seagull

It would appear that Randsco is going to the birds, as this is our third post in a row about some type of fine feathered friend. The first was about our recently acquired baby chickens (which are doing well, by the way), the second about a really smart parrot named Alex and now this story about a comical seagull in Scotland who, over the course of the summer, has developed a penchant for potato chips (or "crisps" as they're called there).

 shoplifting seagull steals chips

The seagull began nicking bags of Doritos brand tortilla chips, from inside a local store in Aberdeen, Scotland, in July. The shop assistant reported that the gull had his stealing "down to a fine art. He waits until there are no customers around and I'm standing behind the till, then he raids the place."

The shoplifting seagull has been nabbing snack-sized, tangy cheese flavored Dorito brand tortilla chips. Once safely away from the store, the seagull rips open the bag to share with pigeons and other seagulls. Apparently, he always steals the same brand of crisps.

Customers have warmed to this fine-feathered fiend, often paying for the seagull's stolen loot ... (cause they think his stealing behavior is a hoot!) Locals have nicknamed him "Sam - the Shoplifting Seagull".

Makes me wonder though ... why do people pay for the stolen chips? Couldn't they just put it on his bill? :)) :roll:

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Updated: 12-Oct-2007
Web View Count: 18509 viewsLast Web Update: 12-Oct-2007
Filed in:Noteworthy

Alex the Parrot

October 9th, 2007  · stk

Alex died a month ago. NO! Not our Alex ... an African Grey Parrot. NO! Not just any parrot. A very special bird that could THINK! See the video proof. Amazing.

Alex the African Grey Parrot Dies at Thirty One

A month ago, on September 6th, Alex, an African Grey parrot, died. It was surprising - because African Grey parrots generally have a lifespan of 50 to 60 years in captivity. It was devastating - because Alex wasn't your normal, run-of-the-mill African Grey parrot. Alex was special - he demonstrated he could THINK.

Purchased by Dr. Irene Pepperberg in 1976 at 13 months of age, Alex (short for "Avian Language EXperiment") became part of a scientific team. For the past 30 years, Alex has been the focus of research into the cognitive abilities of African Grey parrots. The goal was to see if Alex could "think".

The hypothesis was simple. Humans have developed complex brains and language, partly because they live complex social groups. Primates, our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, who also live in complex social groups, are generally thought to be the only non-human animals having brains with the ability to perform complex tasks. If "thinking" and language are tied to animals living in complex social groups, then perhaps parrots, which are much further removed from humans on the evolutionary chain, have the ability to think and communicate? (On the plus side, they can mimic human speech!)

The results from the experiments with Alex were both amazing and controversial, partly because it challenged the notion of human-centric intelligence. Regardless, I invite you to read on and see what Alex had accomplished. Some claim it's simply a very adroit form of mimicry, while others believe that Alex could actually think. Watch the videos on the next page and do some thinking of your own. Was Alex actually thinking? They might even challenge you to change how you view mankind's place in the world. ;)

alex african grey pepperberg alex african grey parrot pepperberg

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Updated: 11-Oct-2007
Web View Count: 39865 viewsLast Web Update: 11-Oct-2007

Four Chicks for City Slicks

October 7th, 2007  · stk

The Kimler's add four fuzzy new members to their growing country clan. Read about the four baby (five-day-old) chicks that are living in a cardboard box, in the dining room

Four Fluffy New Chicks Arrive at the Hutton House

Things came in fours this week. Maybe it's because Alex turned four and we're sensitive to the number? It shouldn't have been a surprise that we were given, not half-a-dozen, not two ... but FOUR, four-day-old chicks, by our neighbors.

(Actually, I'm making up the 'four-day-old' part. I have no idea HOW old these chicks are. They could be 8 days old, for all we know about chickens). We're city-slickers, not chicken ranchers!

All that changed, yesterday, when we carted home four fuzzy (loudly chirping) chicks, in a cardboard box. Even our kitty is from the city. He barely glanced up from his favorite napping spot, when the brood of chicks arrived. We held one to his nose and he was more interested in the hand, than what was in the hand.

"Is that hand, holding that fuzzy thing, going to pet me?" he probably thought to himself.

For more pics of fuzzy chicks ... carry on.

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Updated: 7-Oct-2007
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Filed in:Alexandra

"The Oop" Turns Four

October 5th, 2007  · stk

Our little girl celebrated her 4th birthday, on Wednesday. According to her, she's now a "big girl". Read about her birthday celebration. (Oh yeah, and see the great birthday cake Scott made!)

A Low-Key Family Birthday Celebration!

On Wednesday, Alex had her fourth birthday. Rachel and I were a little apprehensive about the event, because Alex kept asking the same question, in the day's preceeding her birthday:

"Is [so-and-so] coming to my birthday party?"

Besides the fact that Alex's birthday was mid-week and all of her school-age friends would be away, we weren't planning a party for Alex. She seemed so intent on a party that we began to feel guilty and were worried that her birthday, instead of being fun, would be a big disappointment.

We needn't have worried. If there's one thing about the Oop - she takes it as it comes! Her family-only birthday was a huge success and she was so tuckered out from all her excitement that she even went to bed an hour earlier than normal, at 7 PM, instead of 8 PM.

Our little girl is FOUR! What's next, University? Geez! :roll:

Continue on to read about the Oop celebration.


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Updated: 5-Oct-2007
Web View Count: 35050 viewsLast Web Update: 5-Oct-2007