November 7-13, 2010: In Brief

TV Quote:
 "I find zombies dancing in choreographed synchronicity implausible.  And also it’s really scary."
[Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory explaining why he can’t watch Michael Jackson’s Thriller video]

Non-Fiction Audiobooks:
Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver, with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver (****) [2008] Writer Barbara Kingsolver describes her family’s yearlong experiment growing most of their own food and raising their own chickens and turkeys on their Virginia farm.  The book isn’t so much a how-to manual as an overview of what’s possible and what this endeavor looks and feels like in its day-by-day realities. Her biologist husband and college-age daughter also add their own short entries to the mix.

This is a wonderful introduction into the world of local foods, gardening, canning, and animal husbandry.   Yes, Kingsolver can get a bit literary and preachy at times, but I could forgive those elements because of her storehouse of information, inspiring you-can-do-it spirit, and general thoughtfulness about local eating.  She narrates her own book with a pleasant reading voice that sounds a lot like actor Mary Steenburgen. Her husband and daughter narrate their short entries too.  [Listened to in audiobook form from]

Web Links:
Dog Evolution – Check out this short blog post about how the domestic dog can help you understand evolution. 

In her blog, Observations of a Nerd, Christie Wilcox says, "While we usually think of evolution as a slow and gradual process, dogs reveal that incredible amounts of diversity can arise very quickly, especially when selective pressures are very, very strong. It’s not hard to see how selection could lead to the differentiation of species — just look at the breeds of dogs that exist today." She briefly takes us on the journey from early man’s experiences with wolves to our present day situation with 400 different and very specific breeds of domestic dogs. 

Then Wilcox explains how feral dogs (the great-grandchildren of dogs that had been abandoned and are now wild and raising their own families in the wild) can teach us more about how the environment continues to shape the selection process.  She describes a study of the four different types of wild dogs in Russia: guard dogs, scavengers, wild dogs, and the Moscow dogs.

The most interesting sub-group of Moscow dogs is called "metro dogs".   Wilcox explains, "In these packs, the alpha isn’t the best hunter or strongest, it’s the smartest." 

Evidently these dogs are able to navigate the subway, know the stops by name, and have specific stations in their territories.   They rarely get hit by cars, cross streets with people, and have even been observed waiting at a street corner alone until the light turns green to cross the street.  Because their presence in Moscow has reduced the number of "pack wars" with more violent wild dog groups, the city allows them to stay.

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