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Saturday, April 19, 2014

THE book for anyone interested in details about World War 2.

I needed a break today when sitting and writing in the library ( a writing project with Jeannine for Wildgoose Publisher), I checked over books on the nearest book display. They were about World War 2.

I picked up and skimmed
WORLD WAR 2 in Europe, by Philip Gavin.

It's GREAT!!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A really interesting article in this week's Science Times...

The Moral: Aesop Knew Something About Crows
APRIL 10, 2014

ScienceTake: Those Clever Crows

Crows and their relatives, like jays and rooks, are definitely in the gifted class when it comes to the kinds of cognitive puzzles that scientists cook up.
They recognize human faces. They make tools to suit a given problem.
Sometimes they seem, as humans like to say, almost human. But the last common ancestor of humans and crows lived perhaps 300 million years ago, and was almost certainly no intellectual giant.
So the higher levels of crow and primate intelligence evolved on separate tracks, but somehow reached some of the same destinations. And scientists are now asking what crows can’t do, as one way to understand how they learn and how their intelligence works.
A useful tool for this research comes from an ancient Greek (or perhaps Ethiopian), the fabulist known as Aesop. One of his stories is about a thirsty crow that drops pebbles into a pitcher to raise the level of water high enough so that it can get a drink.

Researchers have modified this task by adding a floating morsel of food to a tube with water and seeing which creatures solve the problem of using stones to raise the water enough to get the food. It can be used for a variety of species because it’s new to all of them. “No animal has a natural predisposition to drop stones to change water levels,” said Sarah Jelbert, a doctoral student at Auckland University in New Zealand who works with crows.

But in the latest experiment to test the crows, Ms. Jelbert, working with Alex Taylor and Russell Gray of Auckland and Lucy Cheke and Nicola Clayton of the University of Cambridge in England, found some clear limitations to what the crows can learn. And those limitations provide some hints to how they think.New Caledonian crows, rooks, Eurasian jays and humans (past age 5) can do it, said Ms. Jelbert, who noted that great apes could do a slightly different version.
The birds, Ms. Jelbert and her colleagues reported in PLOS One last month, were wild New Caledonian crows trapped for the experiment and then released.
The crows were first trained to pick up stones; this is not something they do in the wild. They dropped the stones into a dry tube to gain a reward. Then they took the Aesop test, in several different situations.
The birds learned not to drop the stones in a tube of sand with a treat. And they correctly chose sinking objects rather than floating ones, and solid rather than hollow objects, to drop in the water.
But if part of the tube apparatus was hidden, the birds could not learn. They also seemed unable to learn that the water would rise more quickly with fewer stones in a narrow tube.
This suggested two things, said Ms. Jelbert. They weren’t just learning abstract rules, because otherwise they would have been able to learn where to drop the stones to make the water rise even if they couldn’t see what was going on.
And second, the need to see the results of the behavior suggested that they did seem to have “a level of causal understanding.” These were just hints, though, in terms of understanding how crows learn and think, Ms. Jelbert said. “We’re still very much at the beginning.”
Amanda Seed, who studies animal cognition at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, said in an email that the results were intriguing but still left open the question of whether the crows grasped cause and effect.
“The experiment raises a really interesting question: Why is intermediate visual feedback so important for learning?” she wrote. “But whether or not a representation of causality comes into this remains to be seen.”

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Leaping in the air

Bertie Boy

Princess Fiona
So, as I was telling Bertie and Fiona that the foxes and coyotes would chase them if I let them outdoors, I looked up in the sky............and see what I saw:

A FLYING fox!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Today's NYT editorial - Tuesday April 8

Hey, I'm back.............prompted by an editorial in the NYT today.

Take a look, especially if you, like me, see more and more plastic bags fouling up our countryside:

There’s something ridiculous about the life of a two-handled plastic shopping bag. The 20 minutes it spends cradling your groceries home is bracketed by two vast gulfs of time. First, thousands of years beneath the earth, in a natural-gas deposit, and then, after its conversion to a disposable polyethylene product, a second eternity as all-but-indestructible trash.
Derelict bags flutter from tree branches and power lines; they float in the ocean; they foul beaches and roadsides. If they are not offending the eye they are endangering fish, clogging storm drains or, most likely, bulking up a landfill. Some find brief second lives through reuse, like picking up dog droppings,but those noble detours, too, are short and swift, and end most often in the trash.
The New York City Council has a bill to limit the use of plastic bags. It would charge people a dime for them at retail and grocery stores. The money would go directly to retailers, who would use it to stock paper and reusable bags. The idea is to get New Yorkers to cut back on the 5.2 billion plastic bags they go through each year.
The measure, sponsored by Brad Lander and Margaret Chin, does not ban bags outright, as some cities and states have done. It exempts restaurants (bicycle takeout without plastic bags in New York City is hard to imagine), food pantries, street vendors who sell prepared food and customers using food stamps. This is meant to ease the burden on the poor.
The city should go farther and find a way to rid itself of a bad habit that prizes convenience over litter, wasteful energy use and environmental damage. Until then, 10 cents a bag is a start. The bags are no good. Their use should be curtailed. The bill should pass.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

The sad news.......and the good news....

I read in the NYT yesterday about the passing on Anthony Wedgewood Benn, a prominent Labour politician during the 1960s - and, later, according to the article. Reading his obituary reminded me of his claim to fame - an aristocrat who had very left wing beliefs - and underlined how the years are passing by.

The good news is that today I watered the garden!!

Hey, spring really is coming and gardening time is just around the corner.