29 August 2007

One Then There Were ... One?

Back in December, I wrote this entry about the reported extinction in China of the baiji dolphin (pictured), once one of the most endangered animals in the world.

Today comes a report that one baiji might have been seen in the dirty, polluted Yangtze River that the species had called home for thousands of years.

At first, I was excited by the news; where there is one, there could be two, a third, a fourth, maybe an entire pod that escaped the determined effort of humans to kill them off.

Then, I started thinking about how sad it would be if this baiji was, indeed, the last single survivor of its species. How sad would that be?

Then, I started thinking about Martha.

Poor Martha.

Martha was the last known passenger pigeon. She died in 1914, in captivity, at the Cincinnati Zoo -- the last of her species. All alone.

The only thing worse than the demise of an entire species, is the demise of an entire species but one -- one last lone survivor. Martha, then, and this baiji, now, with not one of their species to cuddle with when it becomes afraid, or talk to when it is lonely, or interact with just like any other animal that needs companionship.

I really hope there is a secret pod of baiji living in some clean side pool of the river. If not, then I hope it really is gone, that the species is really extinct. I just cannot bear to think of another case like Martha.

Read the article here.

Read more about Martha, and the demise of the passenger pigeon, here.

26 August 2007

Books I Am Reading

Am reading "The Hollywood Reporter" (1984) covering the first thirty years (1930-1959) of reporting by the Hollywood newspaper.

Just finished reading this.

21 August 2007

I'm at 20

I read this really depressing story about how many people have read NO books in the past year. How sad is that?

Me, I read like there is no tomorrow. I went through and counted how many books I have read since January, and came up with 20.

How many have you read this year?

20 August 2007

L'eggo my Lego

Do you know who Hilary Page is? Neither did I until yesterday. He is the genius behind a great number of children's toys -- including the "Self Locking Building Bricks" that you and I know as Lego (pictured).

Page was a pioneer in using plastics for children's toys (go plastics!). He took out a British patent for his blocks in 1939, selling the rights to Lego sometime in the late 1940s.

You can learn more about the inventor here.

You can read about his original building bricks

18 August 2007

Accent on Accents

British programming and I have been fast friends since high school. I cut my teeth on "Monty Python's Flying Circus" and it did not stop there. I love British humor because it is wry, witty, subtle and smart -- rather like a description I would write of myself.

Here's an example of why I love the Brits so much: as a disclaimer to their new show "Hotel Babylon," they run this:

"The following program contains accents that you would have heard a lot more of if you hadn’t thrown our tea into Boston Harbor."

Followed by:

"To find out what on earth anyone is talking about, please turn on closed captioning."

Don't you just love that?

P.S. I understood them quite fine, thank you, without the assistance of closed captioning. I guess I dig foreign accents, and watching so many foreign television shows and movies probably helps.

13 August 2007

Grocery Store Refugees

On 25 July, a pretty sizable summer storm swept through the mid city. It did not last very long (they rarely do); but it wreaked a lot of havoc: streets were flooded, some trees blown down.

The damage was pretty routine, with one exception: the roof to our grocery store caved in. After shopping at that same store more than a decade, we were forced to find other accommodations.

The first week we tried another branch of the same store. Didn't like it. Too small.

The next week we tried another grocer near our damaged store. Didn't like it, either. (A mid-century modern building from 1956 when the average human stood 5' 6" and weighed 120 pounds.)

Last week, we went back to the store we visited the first week. Still don't like it, but we are resigned to not having much choice. There are plenty of grocers in Phoenix, just not very many near downtown.

At first, they said it would be a couple weeks until the store re-opened. I thought it would be more like four weeks. We now hear it will be eight weeks in addition to the three it has already been closed.

I miss my grocery store.

10 August 2007

Sambo's Mania

There's been a lot of talk lately about the wonderful restaurant chain called "Sambo's" -- which is, sad to say, no longer a chain. Where it once had 1200 stores in 47 states, it now consists of a single link -- in Santa Barbara, California.

There are lots of reasons why the restaurant went out of business, but that really doesn't matter.

What does matter is the fond memories many people seem to have of this unique place -- memories which I am fortunate enough to share.

I remember visiting our local Sambo's when I was a wee lad in the 1960s. I also remember stopping, when we traveled, at the various Sambo's along the way. This was in the days before the exact same fast food restaurants were perched on every single exit of every single freeway from sea to shining sea.

If you did not find a Sambo's, or maybe a Howard Johnson's (one of the few country-wide restaurant chains at the time) you would eat at a local diner, a little "mom and pop" place with four tables and mismatched chairs. (I have vague memories of those places, too. Including one where the nice old lady [probably only 50] gave me an extra piece of cherry pie because I was, as she so accurately noted, "A handsome little boy." I remember that like it was yesterday.)

But I also remember Sambo's. I remember the little stuffed tiger (like the one pictured) and the rubber baby tiger that (I think) came out later, I had an entire set of the post cards, and few other bits and pieces I only vaguely remember.

I actually still remember when my father bought me my stuffed tiger, at one of the Sambo's in California (where we spent almost every vacation). I was probably only six or seven, but I remember when we got into the car after eating, and it was so dark, and so late, and I fell asleep holding that little tiger that I loved so much.

More on the history of Sambo's.

You will find the web site to the original Santa Barbara store -- which opened in 1957 -- here.

06 August 2007

Evil Has a Name

Okay, let me see if I understand this correctly:

If you take carrots and give them a wrapper that says "McDonald's" on it, children aged three to five will think they taste better than carrots without a wrapper.

Is any more proof needed that McDonald's is evil?

Read the article here.

04 August 2007

Earth Alone

I will stand tall and proud and say that I love nature and wish humans would stop damaging the planet so much. Humans are the only animal species that can so dramatically alter its environment. I don't mind the altering, I just wish we would do it with a little more care and compassion for the other animals on the planet.

Earlier this week, NPR interviewed Alan Weisman, who wrote the book "The World Without Us" about how the planet would recover once human beings disappeared.

While it would be sad to see humans gone from the planet, it is intriguing to think what would happen once we are gone.

More about the book here.

Hear the NPR program here.

Here you can read about the "Voluntary Human Extinction" movement which, while unfeasible, is certainly interesting.