Saturday, January 31, 2009

Ryan Adams Update

Howdy, y'all!

Here in Minneapolis we're experiencing a heatwave, which for Minnesota in January is 37 degrees. Lots of folks were out and about today, including Stella and I, trying out the waist leash for another run! It was a very muddy excursion. Only in Minnesota do you see joggers wearing both shorts and stocking caps!

In Critter-free Ryan Adams news:
(Oooh, HOT!)

Because my work commute is about seven minutes, I haven't been doing the extensive Ryan Adams listening that I've done in the past. So I've been revisiting their latest album, Cardinology, while doing the dishes. It is awesome, upon further listening.

Upon doing some interweb research tonight, though, I came across this horrifying article. RYAN ADAMS QUITTING MUSIC?!? Disaster.

I realize that I haven't given a report on the Ryan Adams and the Cardinals/Oasis concert I saw at the Target Center back in December.


It was mostly really cool; finally I got to hear The Cardinals perform "When the Stars Go Blue". They did a little bit of jamming on "Off Broadway" and a slow version of "Let it Ride", which were both sort of lame. Ryan acted crazy as usual, flopping down over his guitar and forgetting the words on "Natural Ghost" and giggling. Also he sounded great, also as usual.


The new Oasis album "Dig Out Your Soul" was awesome and it was great to hear a legendary band play in a huge venue. Noel Gallagher lived up to his reputation as a chode, sort of arrogantly strutting around the stage and carrying a tambourine for no reason. Although he did give it to a fan at the end of the concert! Liam was very polite and chatted with the audience, asking us why we all didn't move to California. When the we booed he said, "Yes, ok, but today they're wearing shorts in California!" It was really funny. More info on their tour together here.

Ryan suggested that his March 20th Atlanta show will be his last (for now) with the Cardinals! Currently they're in Australia but are finishing the Cardinology tour in the U.S. south.

Well, if Ryan does go on hiatus I hope it's not for too long!


Sunday, January 25, 2009

Critters and Kids: Part Two

Howdy y'all! I hope you all had a great weekend!

Wildlife news:

The Fish Empathy quilt. As an omnivore I'm not really against fish consumption. Especially when I see the cannibalism that sometimes occurs in my own aquarium! But resource management must be used in the fishing industry; some areas/species are becoming dangerously overfished.

More fishy news; a rock climbing catfish?!

Life on Mars?

Today's Critters and Kids feature is dedicated to Baby C! As you can see, Baby C happens to be adorable:

Approaching eight months of age, Baby C is an active baby. Her hobbies include napping with Mom, being flown around like an airplane with Dad, sitting up, considering crawling, sweet potatoes and her pet giraffe, Sophie:

I think Baby C's pet is an excellent excuse for us to feature this amazing African mammal, the giraffe!


Giraffa camelopardalis was given its Latin name from the old belief that it was a cross between a camel and a leopard. Now we know that giraffes are even toed ungulates, like many deer and antelope, although they share their family with only one other relative, the okapi:

In addition to being the world's tallest mammal, giraffes are the world's biggest ruminants, or cud-chewers. Like cows, giraffes have four stomach organs to help them digest the tough leaves and twigs they have for dinner.

Giraffes can grow up to 18 feet tall and weigh between 2500 and 4000 lbs. Females are smaller than males and there are nine varieties of giraffes spread throughout south central Africa.

Acacia trees are a favorite of these tall guys, and the giraffe's nimble tongue pulls the small leaves off the branches - up to 140 lbs of leaves a day! Giraffes have tough molars to grind the thorns of these trees. Okapis possess an even longer tongue than giraffes, being the only mammal that can clean the inside and outside of its ears with its big blue tongue! Evidence of the giraffe's wet-willy potential:

Even though giraffes only have seven vertebrae, just like us, they have other unique features. Giraffe (and okapi) "horns" are called ossicones. Unlike antlers, which are made of bone, ossicones are formed from cartilage. One way to tell the gender of a giraffe is to look at the skin and hair covered ossicones. Males "horns" (above in the tongue picture) are often bald, with the hair tufts worn off from fighting with other boys. Girls ossicones are hair covered:

In order to keep blood pumping through its giant body and all the way up to its brain, giraffes have very high blood pressure. An adult has a heart that is nearly two feet long and that weighs 22 lbs! The legs of the giraffe have very thick, tight skin to prevent this high-pressure blood from leaking out of their capillaries. A network of blood vessels called a rete mirabile (miraculous web) prevents too much blood collection in the giraffe's brain when he bends down to drink. This same type of venous web helps prevent waterfowl and penguin legs/feet/beaks from freezing in cold water.

Giraffes form loose herds arranged by gender; usually females and female calves stay together, with young males grouping separately. Older males may roam alone. Giraffes are not territorial and are often preferred company for wildebeest, other antelope and zebras, who rely on the taller mammal to spot danger far away.

In the mating season, male giraffes often fight each other by "necking", which is the act of swinging their heads and necks around to hit each other. These attacks can occasionally be fatal.

"Ew, gross!" Fact: Male giraffes taste the females urine to determine if she is in estrus!

Like some other animals (bonobo chimpanzees, seals, deer), male giraffes mount other males quite frequently.

After a male/female pairing, a giraffe calf is born after 14 or 15 months gestation. The momma giraffe gives birth walking or standing up, and often the umbilical sac bursts upon the calf hitting the ground, two meters down! Baby giraffes start walking and nursing at 15 minutes of age.


While adult giraffes are safe from most predators except lions, unfortunately it is baby giraffes that are the most vulnerable to predation. Hyenas, panthers and alligators often take giraffe calves. Only 25 to 50% of giraffes make it past their first year.

Thankfully, many of the varieties of giraffes are protected in Africa's giant nature preserves. Their height helps them survive when domesticated animals enter their territory, as they can reach the tops of trees for food. Like many animals, giraffes are threatened by poaching and loss of habitat.

But I think Baby C's giraffe Sophie will remain quite safe!

Hugs n snuggles to Baby C...and everyone else too!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wednesday Critters

Hey Critterfarians,

Hope your week is smoov! Here in MN we're having a warm snap, and yesterday Stella and I went on a run together. We saw:

Pileated Woodpecker flight.jpg

A pileated woodpecker in flight!

And a bunch of geese in the Mississippi:


I've been seeing flocks of robins near the river, but yesterday there was one in the tree outside my office window downtown.


Here are two robins near the river. Down by the Lake Street/Marshall Avenue bridge there is what appears to be some kind of wastewater treatment land, closed off with a fence. The ground must be quite warm, as it is snow-free and steam rises from it. There were about 30 robins rooting around in the soil; maybe worms were in there. Or maybe it was just a warm spot! Anyway, I'll have to photograph it.


Another Critters and Kids feature is coming soon!

Happy Thursday,

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Critter Attack!


This morning as Stella-kin and I took our walk, we headed into Brackett Park, where a murder of crows had gathered.

Unfortunately, as we walked under a tree populated by crows, Stella bore the brunt of their attack:

Mur! Stella seemed non-plussed by the poo and we continued merrily on our walk. But her coat is now in the wash!

Here is a photo of the crows taken last night from my backyard:


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Critters and Kids: Part One

January greetings!

The only thing cuter than critters are kids, so I thought why not combine the two? The first dedication goes out to Big W's daughter Phook! While more cute pictures of the Phookster can be found on her Momma's blog, here's one I snapped at Christmas:

I believe at this juncture Phook was chillin' with her Grandpa J and watching "The Wizard of Oz".

In addition to being a delightful two-year-old, Phookie has recently become an aquarist. Her betta's name is Steve-O. (Big W might have helped suggest the name!)


Betta splendens are common to southeast Asia, hence their nickname "Siamese Fighting Fish". Part of the Class Actinopterygii, or ray-finned fishes, bettas are in the gourami family, or Osphronemidae. Bettas, like other gourami, have developed a labyrinth organ in their heads that allow them to orally inhale oxygen from the surface of the water. This ability helps tropical species receive enough air from warm, oxygen-poor water. Bettas that cannot access the surface of their aquariums may drown!

The reputation of bettas as fighters is well-earned. Male fish will indeed fight to the death when they are enclosed close together. In the wild, the weaker fish will simply retreat to other territory. Wild bettas are actually gray-brown in color, with the males only gaining bright pigmentation during these battles. Breeders found a way to activate these bright reds, purples and blues in domesticated strains. Even the usually drab females have been bred to be colorful:


Even keeping females and males together in the same aquarium can be dicey; the boys are only nice during mating season! Male bettas can be placed in mixed aquariums, but ask a professional what kind of fish can handle these bullies.

Betta nooky involves the amorous couple spiraling around each other. During this "nuptial embrace" the female releases eggs, with the male fertilizing them. Then daddy fish creates a bubble nest for the eggs, and guards it for the three to four days it takes for the eggs to hatch! After the fry leave the nest though, they can be cannibalized by their parents.

As the last statement suggests, bettas are carnivores. In captivity they survive best with a protein-based food, but can be fed veggies cut into miniscule pieces. Bettas enjoy live food, too, such as mosquito larvae. Maybe Phook and her parents can collect some larvae this summer and feed them to Steve-O! But they better not put too many in there or the mosquitoes might hatch in their house....

One of the fancier bettas:

Well, big lovies to Phook, her little brother and the rest of the K family! I hope to meet Steve-O in person the next time I'm in the Motherland.


Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Walk

Happy New Year!

I hope everyone got to have a relaxing day like I did. We started the day late, but as you can see here Stella was ready to explore, starting by claiming the back of the couch!


It was a great day to take a long walk. We headed out to the Mississippi River Winchell Trail, just a block from our house.

In the distance you can see the Short Line railroad bridge over the river. In the mornings I can see the sun rising beyond it and the view is spectacular.

The Wild R and the Snow Dog under the bridge!


The view over the water:

The cawing of crows led us on. It was weird to see them on the Mississippi River ice!

Here you can see more of the murder of crows, the Short Line bridge and the Franklin Avenue bridge in the background.

We discovered this section of the Winchell Trail in the last few weeks. It heads south, popping you out at the Lake Street bridge. You can see how tall the bluff is in the following photo, along with some of its lovely limestone outcroppings.


I am on vacation now before the semester starts mid-month. Hopefully this will mean one million blog posts!