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Collected editorials

This place is for the birds

Duck, it’s a duck

Some of our fine feathered friends are not all the paragons of morality that they ought to be. Perhaps scientists should exhibit a seemly lack of curiosity about the less savory behaviour of said fine feathered friends. Perhaps the search for truth trumps all. In any event they can scarcely be blamed for recording the sordid details when avian malefactors thrust their transgressions upon the attention of mild mannered scientists. For example, there is the following incident recorded in a scientific paper:

“On 5 June 1995 an adult male mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) collided with the glass façade of the Natuurhistorisch Museum Rotterdam and died. An other drake mallard raped the corpse almost continuously for 75 minutes. Then the author disturbed the scene and secured the dead duck. Dissection showed that the rape-victim indeed was of the male sex. It is concluded that the mallards were engaged in an ‘Attempted Rape Flight’ that resulted in the first described case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard.”
The particulars may be found in http://www.nmr.nl/DSA8-243.pdf. It is probably best if parents do not mention this incident to their small children.

The Pheasants Are Revolting

There is an old joke (I believe that it dates back to 1123 AD) that runs as follows: A messenger arrives at court and reports to the king, “Sire, the peasants are revolting.” His Majesty replies, “They certainly are!” In my opinion it isn’t the peasants that are revolting, it is the pheasants.

Why the pheasants, you ask. After all, isn’t the pheasant the state bird of South Dakota? Yes, it is. Doesn’t the pheasant season bring in a large number of out of state hunters who are a significant source of revenue in the state? Yes, it does. Aren’t pheasants decorative? Yes they are. Why then should Richard object to pheasants?

The ring necked pheasant may be the state bird of South Dakota, but the truth of the matter is that it originated in China. As such it is an interloper displacing native birds such as prairie chickens. No true ecofreak can be entirely happy with the pheasant. (I’m not an ecofreak, but I play one on TV.)

It is true that the prospect of shooting pheasants brings a large number of out of state visitors to South Dakota, visitors such as Vice President Cheney. Our illustrious Vice President is quite the avid hunter, hunting pheasants in South Dakota when they are in season and lawyers in Texas, where they apparently are always in season. South Dakota has much to learn from Texas.

It is true that pheasants, at least the males, are quite decorative. However this apparent beauty conceals a sordid truth. Male pheasants are sexist pigs. (Metaphorically speaking, that is – while pigs might fly, they definitely aren’t pheasants.) It is a simple truth of nature that in species with decorative males said males do nothing to take care of the young. No true rabid feminist can be entirely happy with the pheasant. (I’m not a rabid feminist, but I play one on TV.)

Such considerations, however, are merely moral considerations, and, as such, have no particular import save to provide cover in rhetoric for our true feelings. In this case my actual objection to the damned birds is simple – they are stupid and dangerous. Pheasants (particularly the decorative and rather stupid males) like to be on country roads. I’m not quite sure what they are doing there. It may be that they are just picking up grit for their gizzards or country roads may be a haven for insects or whatnot. Their favorite times for being on the road are dusk and dawn, the times of worst visibility.

Whatever the reason, there they are, and there they mean to stay until they it becomes absolutely necessary for them to move. Not being too bright, they aren’t too good at figuring out when they actually have to move, nor, for that matter, which way to move, being almost as likely to fly in front an oncoming car as away from it.

Spring is a particularly unfortunate time of the year. Spring is mating season. Rural highways aren’t leks as such, but they apparently are the next best thing, rather like an avian singles bar.

It should come as no surprise females are much less dangerous to the hapless traveller than are males. When danger impends the females head for cover immediately; males, on the other hand, have to strut their stuff and prove that they are cocks of the road. Every so often the stuff they strut turns out to be road kill.

Recently I was returning from Aberdeen SD the other day late in the day. This is a trip of 110 miles across the prairie, made because it is the site of a Menards, the nearest large building supplies store. (Menards is a midwest equivalent of Home Depot and Lowes.) The return trip was a horror, filled with sudden screeching halts as I avoided pheasant flock after pheasant flock.

Pheasants, bah, humbug.


For some reason South Dakota has sea gulls. I have no idea why. Actually I have some theories but I don’t know as I would grant them the status of ideas. They show up in the spring and follow the plows, picking off the low life turned up by the plow. At least that is what I suppose they are doing; maybe they just get high on tractor exhaust fumes.

I was mentioning this to a friend of mine back in Massachusetts; he flatly refused to believe me. I can’t imagine why; I am noted for the reliability of my descriptions of the world. Perhaps he thought I was testing his gullibility.

The house rampant

The renovation of the house continues. The entire central living area has been tiled. The floor cabinets (real wood interiors, cherry wood exteriors) have arrived, have been leveled, and are bolted to the walls. An electrician has come and gone, leaving behind him numerous new outlets and a bit of better lighting. All that remains is for the granite countertop to show up and the kitchen is ready to be functional.

The ant plague has been conquered. Every year sometime in the spring the sugar ants would appear from somewhere. Where they came from was hard to tell (there were so many places they might have come from) but it seemed as though they might have come from the kitchen window.

I had hoped that when I tore out the old cabinets and sealed off the holes in the floor and the walls that the days of ants would be over. Not so. The other day they appeared once again in force. This time, however, it was quite obvious that they were streaming out from under the trim of the window. We (me and Our Lady) knew what to do about that. Off came the trim, revealing an ant colony within the space around the window frame. Yuck. A vigorous application of Raid (TM) wiped out the colony. All of the trim was restained and replaced. As a bonus we finished insulating the window – apparently the chaps who had installed the window hadn’t quite bothered to stuff in insulation on one side.

There remains painting all of the remaining walls in the main living area and cutting and staining baseboards, and phase I will be more or less done. Phases II, III, IV, V, VI, and VII remain. They will have to wait until I get the wild mint dug up out of the gardens.

Oops, I have sundry shelving to construct also as part of phase I. Oh well. For those curious, I will post before and after pictures at some point.

The Ethical Hunter

On the evening news, Pres. George W. Bush said “We’ve been gathering intelligence…”

I guess he must practice “catch and release”.

April’s blow out

Those of my readers (you know who you are) that check my site daily noticed that the site was over quota for a day and a half in April. It seems that upwards of 3600 people were excited by the prospect of inefficient sort algorithms. The object of their fetish has been moved to annex D, durance vile for overly popular web pages.

This page was last updated May 1, 2006.

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Collected editorials