31 October 2006

Six Legs

Please look at the image to the right. It is of characters from two animated movies featuring insects.

Notice anything awry? Of course you do. The bee at the top and the ant at the bottom each have four legs -- not six like ants and bees do in real life.

What's going on? Do the eminently talented folks at DreamWorks and Pixar not know that insects have six legs? When DreamWorks made "Antz" they knew it.

So, what happened? Is it that our country's education system continues its inexorable spiral down toward the very bottom of the barrel? that humans are better able to relate to anthropomorphic insects? is it just easier to animate four legs than six?

No, really. I would like to know.

30 October 2006

One Bee, Two Bee, Old Bee, New Bee

It's officially called Melittosphex burmensis; but for the sake of this entry, I will call him Bennie. Bennie is more than 100 million years old, and will spend the rest of eternity stuck where he has been all these years: in rock-hard amber.

Bennie (pictured) is not only a new species of prehistoric bee; he is also the oldest identifiable bee specimen ever found -- dating back 40 million years before the previous oldest known bee specimen.

What has scientists intrigued -- beyond the ability to date bees farther back than ever before -- is the fact that Bennie possesses features of both bees and wasps, making him an early proto bee. However, it is not likely that Bennie is actually related to modern bees or wasps; rather, he is probably from a branch that started with a common ancestor to our modern bees, but which led to the dead end of extinction.

More about this amazing find is in this article.

21 October 2006

11/09/2006 - Countdown

You might remember my posting here on 02 October 2006, in which I mentioned that a tabloid has indicated the end of the world will occur on 09 November 2006.

Well, here's a friendly reminder that, not counting today, there are only 18 days left until The End.

Please respond accordingly.

17 October 2006

Remember When

I don't remember when I first wanted to be a journalist. It would have to be when I was pretty young, because I remember writing little "news" stories when I was in fourth or fifth grade. I also don't know what sparked that desire. The work of Edward R. Murrow and his CBS crew was already long in the past, although I knew of it and worshipped at the Murrow shrine.

One thing I do know is that a certain person gave a little push to my love of journalism. His name is Christopher Glenn, and he just died.

He was one of the later CBS gods, starting there in the 1970s. I didn't know much about him then; but I certainly knew his work.

If you are old enough, and watched enough Saturday morning television in the 1970s, you might remember "In The News," the short news breaks between shows. These wonderful capsules of current events are the sole reason I got up early on Saturday, trundled down the hall to the living room, and turned on channel 10 (our CBS affiliate). I pretty much ignored the cartoons, but was right there when "In The News" started.

It's sad when one of our heroes dies. I just hope he knew how many young kids were influenced by his work.

More about Glenn's career will be found here.

15 October 2006

What, Me Worry?

Here we go. I do not get riled up easily. Under stress, I usually get calmer, not more hysterical. When auto accidents happen to other people, I am the first one out of my car (or the house, or whatever) to race over to try to help. This kind of stuff does not bother me. In fact, it is rather thrilling to be able to help.

BUT, and this is a big but, something has changed as evidenced by two recent events.

First, a couple weeks ago, I was at a meeting at work at a four-storey building I am not normally in. Our meeting was interrupted half way through by the loudest fire alarm in the history of fire alarms. We calmly gathered up our things and made our way to the stairs (the location for which I only vaguely knew). There I found all the men waiting in a line, and the women going into the stairway. My comment: "Women and children first? Are you kidding?"

So, we made our way down the stairs. Orderly. Calmly. Our group joined the group coming in off the second floor. Now the group was bigger. Things moving more slowly, but still calmly. Along the way I kept asking if this was a drill. No one knew. Finally, out the door, I saw a Facilities employee I knew. "This is a drill, right?" He nodded. Okay.

We gathered in the parking garage -- and I was shaking. Really. I told the others that I was actually scared. Why? Probably because, just a few days before, Matt and I had watched the 9/11 documentary about the fire department -- the one with actual footage of firemen in the lobby of Tower One. That was scary.

Then, last night, we went out with Matt's family for a belated birthday dinner for Matt. As we were leaving I heard the unmistakable sound of a fighter jet. Looking up we saw a fighter jet very low to the ground flying right over us. That was scary. Know what was even more scary? When the second sound started, louder this time, and a second fighter jet flew over, even lower to the ground. It was so loud I could not hear my own voice. Car alarms started going off all around us.

Know what was even worse? The comments from the others that "Maybe we are under attack." Okay, that is not funny. We've been watching the totally wonderful series "Jericho" and I am telling you that is not funny.

So, we drove home, seeing no evidence of an attack. No mushroom cloud over downtown Phoenix (which would be, ironically, over our house, too) The restaurant we were at is near a university stadium, so maybe the fighter jets were part of some half-time show or something.

Or, something...

07 October 2006

My Dinner with a Murderer

In 1982, while I was still living in the San Francisco Bay Area, I was dating this really cute guy. He was a live-in worker on a doctor's estate in Danville. Sometime during the year we were together, he mentioned that a woman also lived on the estate and cared for this aging doctor.

"Do you know who Winnie Ruth Judd is?" he asked.

Of course I knew.

Back in 1932, in Phoenix, Judd (pictured) was tried and convicted of having murdered and cut up a couple people, stuffing their bodies in a trunk. My father had often told me stories about Judd, including that our family had a distant connection to the case: His mother worked at the state mental hospital while Judd was housed there (after she was declared insane). She was the stuff of Phoenix -- and family -- legend. (It is probable that she was innocent of the crimes, and had taken the fall for her boyfriend.)

I explained all this to my boyfriend, and asked why he asked. "I know her. She works on the estate." At this I nearly fell over. What a coincidence! He said she was using the name "Marian" and had invited us both over for dinner sometime.

There was no way I could refuse. A date was selected, and we went to her little apartment off the main house. Here was the nicest elderly woman I had ever met. She made us fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and peach pie. We sat and talked, and then said good night. I had been warned not to mention her past; so, despite the fact it was eating at me, I did not say a word. I always wondered whether this wonderful woman was really Judd -- or if my boyfriend was playing a joke on me.

About 10 years later, I heard that a journalism acquaintance of mine was writing a book about the case. I telephoned her, told her the story and asked: "Is it possible this Marian really was Winnie Ruth Judd?" She said not only was that the name Judd had been using, but that Judd was living in Danville in 1982.

I was stunned.

This telephone conversation occurred while Matt and I were still employed by our respective newspapers (me, the afternoon "Phoenix Gazette"; he, the morning "Arizona Republic") both owned by the same family. He suggested we go to the newspaper morgue and look at the official newspaper photographs of the case.

We did. We saw the coroner's photos of the chopped up bodies, photographs of the trunk, the official court photographs of Judd, everything. It was as if my father's tales had come full circle taking us right back to the time Phoenix was abuzz about the murders.

The story about Winnie Ruth Judd will be found here.

A recent newspaper article about an unofficial retrial for Judd is here.

03 October 2006

Butterflies Are Not Free

Here you will find an interesting article about a man who researches Monarch butterflies trying to help them survive.

You know I love animals -- all kinds of animals; but especially those animals whose lives are threatened by the accidental (or intentional) things humans do to them or their environment.

I was born and raised in Phoenix. I remember being a child in the 1960s; and how, during Spring, the citrus trees in our backyard used to be full of butterflies -- I think, Monarchs. Who cares? They were gorgeous, and I loved watching them, and their eggs, and the larvae and the cocoons, etc. Now, in Spring, we are lucky if we see one Monarch or even a dozen other butterflies.

I am part North American Indian, and I very much value the Indian attitude that we are care-takers of the world. It is a world that is much less beautiful with fewer butterflies in it, and we humans are a poorer species because of it.

A very extensive history of these gorgeous creatures can be found here.

02 October 2006


We were at the grocers Sunday, and saw some tabloid with a headline that the world was going to end (for sure, this time) on 09 November 2006.

Thought I would share that with you -- in case you have any last-minute chores you need to take care of.