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Owls Aren’t Wise & Bats Aren’t Blind – Warner Shedd

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Owls Aren’t Wise & Bats Aren’t Blind

A Naturalist Debunks Our Favorite Fallacies About Wildlife

Warner Shedd

Genre: Nature

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: June 27, 2000

Publisher: Crown/Archetype

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC


In this fascinating book, wildlife expert and enthusiast Warner Shedd refutes popular animal myths like squirrels remembering where they bury nuts, wolves howling at the moon, and oppossums "playing dead." Have you ever seen a flying squirrel flapping through the air, watched a beaver carrying a load of mud on its tail, or ducked when a porcupine started throwing its quills? Probably not, says Shedd, former regional executive for the National Wildlife Federation. Offering scientific evidence that refutes many of the most tenacious and persevering folklore about wild animals,  Owls Aren't Wise & Bats Aren't Blind  will captivate you with fascinating facts and humorous anecdotes about more than thirty North American species– some as familiar as the common toad, and others as elusive as the lynx.  Owls Aren't Wise & Bats Aren't Blind  is an entertaining dose of scientific reality for any nature enthusiast or armchair adventurer.

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Owls Aren’t Wise & Bats Aren’t Blind – Warner Shedd

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Don’t Blame Tech For Airline Woes

Mother Jones

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Farhad Manjoo says that airline travel sucks and Silicon Valley has made it even worse:

Travel search engines rank airlines based on price rather than friendliness or quality of service. Online check-in, airport kiosks and apps allow airlines to serve customers with fewer and fewer workers. What we are witnessing is the basest, ugliest form of tech-abetted, bottom-seeking capitalism — one concerned with prices and profits above all else, with little regard for quality of service, for friendliness, or even for the dignity of customers.

….What keeps deteriorating are comfort and quality of service for low-end passengers (i.e., most people). Legroom keeps shrinking. Airlines keep tacking on separate fees for amenities we used to consider part of the flight. And customers keep going along with it.

Consumers have shown that they’re willing to put up with an awful lot, including lack of legroom, lack of amenities, mediocre or worse customer service, dirty airplanes and more to save money,” Mr. Harteveldt said. “And the airline industry has evolved to meet that desire” for cheap fares

I’ll give Silicon Valley a pass on this. The flying public has demonstrated conclusively that it cares about only one thing: price. Airlines do their best to charge high prices when they can—usually for late bookings or on routes where they have a monopoly—but most of the time they can’t. So they’ve done everything they can to lower their prices. It’s either that or die.

Nor is it just airlines. Manjoo complains that the whole system of buying an airline ticket is “mercilessly transactional” thanks to tech, but that’s a broad trend. Even the tech companies he celebrates, like Uber and Airbnb, are pretty damn transactional. They aren’t quite up there with airlines, but their single biggest selling point is that they’re cheaper than taxis and hotels. (You think Uber is popular because it’s faster and more convenient? It is. But if price weren’t its paramount feature, Uber wouldn’t continue to lose billions of dollars subsidizing fares.)

I’ve long thought that one of the problems with air travel is the lack of a credible signaling system. If, say, American Airlines was 10 percent more expensive than other carriers, it might be able to make that stick if it truly offered better service. But how do you convince customers of this? You’d have to realign the entire company around service and then spend 20 years building up a reputation. There’s no other way. But who’s willing to risk the life and death of a huge corporation (probably death, let’s be honest) on a 20-year experiment?

So flying sucks because we, the customers, have made it clear that we don’t care. We love to gripe, but we just flatly aren’t willing to pay more for a better experience. Certain individuals (i.e., the 10 percent of the population over six feet tall) are willing to pay for legroom. Some are willing to pay more for extra baggage. Some are willing to pay more for a window seat. But most of us aren’t. If the ticket price on We Care Airlines is $10 more, we click the link for Suck It Up Airlines. We did the same thing before the web too. As usual, the fault lies not in the stars, but in ourselves.

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Don’t Blame Tech For Airline Woes

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Aaron Lee Tasjan Brings His Circus to Nashville

Mother Jones

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Jacob Blickenstaff

At this year’s Americana Music Festival in Nashville, 30-year-old Aaron Lee Tasjan was getting considerable buzz as an artist on the rise, but his path has been long and unlikely. Growing up in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio, he took to guitar in his preteens and, after turning down a scholarship to Boston’s Berklee College of Music, moved in 2004 to New York City, where he became a founding member of the glam-punk band Semi Precious Weapons. From there, he became a go-to side man playing, among other other projects, with a latter-day New York Dolls. In 2013, he moved to Nashville, where he has concentrated on songwriting and leading his own band within the East Nashville music scene.

Tasjan’s music operates at more of a sly and observational distance than many of the heart-on-sleeve singer songwriters to come out of Nashville recently. His showcase performance at the Cannery Ballroom—bookended by sets from Wynona Judd and Lee Ann Womack—was exemplary of his subversive philosophy: During the performance of a song called “Success,” he was joined by two female impersonators doing Judd and Womack. The intent was not to mock, but more to celebrate weirdness of the moment and break down the pretense celebrity. The message was in the lyrics: “Success ain’t about being better than everyone else, it’s about being better than yourself.”

On his brand new album, Silver Tears, Tasjan employs a kaleidoscopic approach, drawing from influences such as Tom Petty, Electric Light Orchestra, Elliot Smith, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Harry Nilsson, and Roy Orbison—artists who more or less occupied their own musical categories while remaining reverent of their roots.

Mother Jones: Tell me about the East Nashville scene.

Aaron Lee Tasjan: It’s like every other place. There are people that are great, and their hearts are in it and you really root for them. Then there’s people that are putting on the costume of the scene and showing up, doing something that’s a little less thought about. Any scene is gonna have both of those things and most of it will be the second category. But we’re lucky, ’cause there’s a good healthy amount of people more in the first.

MJ: What was it like to come here from New York?

ALT: I mainly moved here because it’s cheaper. I didn’t come here ’cause I knew anything about any of the songwriters, other than the ones everybody knows: Todd Snyder, Elizabeth Cook, people like that. When I got to town, I didn’t want to find my peers. I wanted to find people who are way better than I am and go try to hang out with them and see why they were great, try to understand that and apply it. I love it here, but I don’t know that I’m a huge participant necessarily of the Nashville scene. I’m not a country singer. Most of those guys are country singers, and I celebrate that. I love singing that music, but it’s really not like what my music is.

MJ: On your album, it’s easy to hear your influences. I’ve read that you’ve been self-deprecating about that in the past via an alternate persona, “Captain Folk,” who’d come out in an opening set and make fun of whom you were “ripping off.”

ALT: Everybody’s influenced by something, right, whether consciously or unconsciously. I make fun of it because this is a genre of music that’s clouded in earnestness. Earnestness is great, but not everybody is Jason Isbell. That works for him, because that’s who he really is, and that’s why it’s good. But I see people mimicking that who aren’t really that. And you sort of want to go, “Man, just go up there and be yourself and be a little weirder, and people will probably be more into it.” And that’s our whole circus: When we play shows and have drag queens and all that, we’re encouraging people to go be as true to their real self as they can. Those are the kinds of artists that we need to hear.

Wynona, Aaron Lee, Lee Ann Brady Brock

MJ: “Success” feels like your most direct statement on the album in terms of a personal philosophy. Is that belief central to what you’re doing right now?

ALT: Definitely, but this is where it gets tricky. I don’t really want to get up there and yell at people to do something, or tell them that I think I have some sort of answer for how they should be. With that song in particular, I’m just singing to myself about something that has worked very well for me. There’s that part of you that goes, “Well this person got this gig; why didn’t I get this gig?” or whatever. But I’ve tried really hard. I came to Nashville being a songwriter and a singer and a front man of a band with a very working-man’s attitude, because that’s what I’ve been my entire life—a working musician, playing guitar for whoever I could play for, for 50 bucks a night, or $100, all the way up to gigs that I did with the more well-known bands.

I just plod along at my own speed, and that works for me. That song is more of what was actually driving me to do it, because I use all these lessons to basically try to kill my ego every day, and just say, “This is making me a better person.” And that goes through every aspect of my life, not just music.

MJ: How else do you apply it?

ALT: I have two things that I go by. The first one is, the work will never fail you. You can hire the wrong publicist, sign to the wrong record label, have a bad manager or a booking agent who might be awesome but doesn’t necessarily understand what you do. But I guarantee you this: If you get really good at singing and playing the guitar and writing songs, someone will give you a job to do it somewhere. Always. So I focus on writing songs. And business people in my camp sometimes get mad at me, because I don’t really pay attention to a lot of that other stuff. But at the end of the day I think they know that the product they have to sell is better for it.

Also, I always try to have the feeling that I’m a student. I don’t have any of this figured out. And I really believe that! It’s hilarious to me when people ask me to explain the process. You’re like, “How can I explain something to you that I’m just learning myself?”

MJ: And now you’re getting some attention. Is that an odd place for you to be?

ALT: Yeah, it’s kind of right where I’ve always been, to be honest. I’ve been fired from bands as a guitar player because I got too much attention. This is the God’s honest truth: All I ever wanted to do was be Keith Richards in somebody’s band. And I could never find a singer or a band that was cool enough to let me do it. In Semi Precious Weapons, the singer and me were writing all the songs and coming up with the sound of it all. But when a critic would pick me out it would get on everyone’s nerves. It keeps you in this place of not really ever being able to break through to another level. I can sit and contemplate the whys and the whens and hows of that until the cows come home, but I’d fuckin’ rather just write a song that’s going to make people go, “Holy shit man, did you make that up?” And whether people understand me or not, I can make up a good song. I want to be as good of a songwriter as Guy Clark. I don’t even know if that’s possible; it’s probably not.

MJ: Well, at least one person did it.

ALT: That’s right. Isn’t that cool? Isn’t that cool enough? It is to me.

Jacob Blickenstaff

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Aaron Lee Tasjan Brings His Circus to Nashville

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Think Bats Are Creepy? Well, Check Out These Adorable Photos.

Mother Jones

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Lots of people think bats are downright frightening. After all, they do seem to check all the creepiness boxes: They come out at night; they live in dark, scary places; they communicate via high-pitch screeching.

Now multiply that by 10.

Flying foxes, also commonly known as fruit bats, are the largest flying mammal. Their wingspans stretch up to five feet. They can weigh more than two pounds and eat three times their body weight in nectar in just one night. Just check out this video from National Geographic:

With Halloween fast approaching, bats are the subject on this week’s episode of Inquiring Minds podcast. Host Indre Vikontas talks with bat expert and educator Merlin Tuttle about these somewhat cuddly creatures that often get a bad rap. “We invariably fear most what we understand least,” he says. And it turns out that we actually have a lot to thank bats for: These long-distance migrators pollinate a lot of the fruit we eat.

Tuttle, whose recent book is called The Secret Lives of Bats, has been fascinated with all kinds of bats ever since a classmate brought one for show-and-tell way back in the fourth grade. He started exploring caves near his home in Tennessee to learn more and ended up devoting his life to bat conservation. Tuttle has photographed more than 300 species on every continent where they reside.

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Click above to hear Tuttle as he tells his best bat tales, explains his most interesting findings, and recounts how his childhood fascination led to strange friendships with shot-gun-toting Tennessee moonshiners.

And while you’re listening, check out these amazing photos from Tuttle’s close-up collection:

A juvenile male Wrinkle-faced bat from Trinidad

A lesser long-nosed bat pollinating saguaro cactus in Mexico

Foot of Rickett’s Big-footed Myotis

A pallid bat catching a giant desert centipede in Arizona

Minor epauletted bat from Kenya

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Think Bats Are Creepy? Well, Check Out These Adorable Photos.

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Ben Carson Just Made a Completely Bogus Argument for Not Raising the Minimum Wage

Mother Jones

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Flying in the face of what most economists believe, GOP presidential hopeful Ben Carson announced that raising the minimum wage would cost America jobs.

“Every time we raise the minimum wage, the number of jobless people increases,” the retired neurosurgeon said during the fourth televised GOP debate. “If you lower those wages, that comes down,”

Only one problem: this claim is seriously contested. More than 600 economists signed a letter to President Barack Obama and Congressional leaders last year urging the government to raise the federal minimum wage.

“The weight of evidence now shows that increases in the minimum wage have had little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum-wage workers, even during times of weakness in the labor market,” the economists wrote.

There are some forecasts that support Carson’s view: the Congressional Budget Office last year said that raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 would cost the US economy 500,000 jobs.

But many economists disagree with these estimates and so does the US Department of Labor. State-by-state hiring data released last year by the Department of Labor showed that the 13 states that raised their minimum wages at the start of the year gained jobs faster than their peers.

The federal minimum wage was last raised in 2009.

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Ben Carson Just Made a Completely Bogus Argument for Not Raising the Minimum Wage

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Video: A Drone Shoots Hauntingly Beautiful Footage of Buffalo’s Snowstorm

Mother Jones

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James Grimaldi/YouTube

Flying personal camera-equipped drones directly over big events like the Hong Kong protests and Independence Day fireworks is becoming commonplace. Now come these amazing aerial images of Buffalo, New York, besieged by snow for the third day in a row. The Buffalo area was coated with up to six feet of snow on Wednesday and there’s been even more today. The eighth storm-related death was annouced this morning.

When the storm first set in, James Grimaldi of West Seneca, New York, sent his drone into the blizzard to film a bizarre world drained of color, and uploaded the stunning results to his YouTube channel. (Grimaldi has also posted his drone videos to his CNN’s iReport page.)

Grimaldi’s second-day video reveals the vast extent of the snow, the result of a massive “lake-effect snowfall event“. The houses now look like giant mushrooms:

And finally, posted today, a new storm bearing down on Grimaldi’s suburb:

This weekend’s forecasted rain won’t help recovery efforts. “We’re going to have a lot of water running off quickly,” the Weather Channel’s Wayne Verno told NBC News. “We’ll more than likely see some flooding.”

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Video: A Drone Shoots Hauntingly Beautiful Footage of Buffalo’s Snowstorm

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Liam Bailey’s “Definitely Now” is Sneakily Addictive

Mother Jones

Liam Bailey
Definitely NOW
Flying Buddha/Sony Music

Liam Bailey’s smoky rasp of a voice would enhance any setting. On this sneakily addictive debut, the UK singer skillfully mixes slick modern pop, old-school soul, torch ballads, and a dash of reggae, creating a familiar yet fresh brew reminiscent of the great Amy Winehouse, an early champion of his. Where some young vocalists tend to emote excessively in an attempt to show off their skills, Bailey makes a virtue of understatement. He’s thoroughly engaging on uptempo numbers like “Villain” and “Fool Boy,” but especially effective on slower late-night tunes such as “Autumn Leaves” (not the pop standard) and “So, Down Cold.” Make it mellow, Liam.

Also read: Bailey spoke to photographer Jacob Blickenstaff about making the album and his split with Jimi Hendrix’s old label, Polydor.

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Liam Bailey’s “Definitely Now” is Sneakily Addictive

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Flight 370 Pilot Rejected Boston Marathon Conspiracy Theory

Mother Jones

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On Wednesday, Malaysian police announced that a flight simulator belonging to Zaharie Ahmad Shah, the captain of Malaysia Airlines flight 370, was missing data that had been erased about a month before the plane disappeared, potentially as part of routine computer maintenance. In an investigation that has produced precious few clues—on Thursday Australian officials were investigating debris found via satellite imagery—Shah’s background, naturally, is being closely analyzed by authorities, including the FBI. But Shah—who liked to cook, watched atheist videos, and who was a fan of a democratic opposition leader in Malaysia—didn’t express any suspicious sentiments on his public Facebook page. On the contrary, in an exchange that occurred shortly after the Boston Marathon bombings, he criticized his Facebook friend, Muhammad Khatif Mohd Talha, a self-identified former captain at Malaysia Airlines, for promoting the conspiracy theory that the bombing was a “False Flag attack by the Satanist elite.”

To convince Shah, Talha posted a clip from a press conference during which Boston authorities ignored a shouting conspiracy theorist who claimed that local officials had called for public calm before the bombings. Shah didn’t buy this, and he told Talha it would have been natural for authorities to request calm and order during a large public event.

In the second part of the discussion thread, Talha posted a tweet from the Boston Globe, reporting that Boston officials had announced a controlled explosion as part of post-attack bomb squad activities, as if this supported the notion that the Boston Marathon was some sort of inside job. Shah replied, sarcastically, “Wow now we get to believe the police (GOV) of blewing up people.”

The public Facebook postings do not indicate what kind of relationship Muhammad Khatif Mohd Talha and Shah maintained, if any, in real life. (Talha is one of Shah’s 239 friends.) But they do have several mutual Facebook friends who work in the airline industry. On his Facebook page, Talha, who refers to himself as a former pilot for Malaysia Airlines, expresses support for a wide range of conspiracy theories: “satanic” symbolism in Katy Perry videos, weather warfare, and vaccines and autism. He writes often of a coming apocalypse and is a member of a “Malaysian Preppers” Facebook group, and he posts regularly about his religious beliefs (including his support for Islamic law) and what he believes is the imminent collapse of the global economy. Shortly after the plane’s disappearance, Talha posted, in Malaysian, “Thank you all for your wishes for me. God- willing, I pray for the best for everyone.” Talha did not respond to requests for comment.

Yazran Ahmad, who replied to Talha’s Facebook post above, was Facebook friends with Talha and Shah, and he notes on his Facebook page that he studied at the Malaysian Flying Academy. On March 8, he wrote a poignant note regarding the missing airline. (Ahmad did not respond to request for comment.)

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Flight 370 Pilot Rejected Boston Marathon Conspiracy Theory

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Solar plane completes cross-country trip despite torn wing

Solar plane completes cross-country trip despite torn wing

Solar Impulse

Solar Impulse approaches John F. Kennedy Airport.

You know a plane is hot when wing damage actually hastens its arrival.

That happened Saturday night, when the solar-powered Solar Impulse completed a historic stop-and-start transcontinental voyage across America that began May 3 in San Francisco.

Total flying time: 105 hours and 41 minutes
Distance flown: 3,511 miles
Average speed: 33 miles per hour
Gasoline consumed: 0 drops

From Reuters:

The Solar Impulse, its four propellers driven by energy collected from 12,000 solar cells in its wings to charge batteries for night use, landed at John F. Kennedy Airport at 11:09 p.m. EDT, organizers said.

The experimental aircraft had left Dulles International Airport outside Washington for its last leg more than 18 hours earlier, on a route that took it north over Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey.

The spindly aircraft had been expected to land in the early hours of Sunday, but the project team decided to shorten the flight after an 8-foot (2.5 meter) tear appeared on the underside of the left wing.

The wing damage forced organizers to cancel a planned Statue of Liberty flyover, but it wasn’t enough to prevent them from achieving their dream of coast-to-coast solar-powered flight.

Between San Francisco and New York, the plane stopped over at Phoenix, Dallas-Fort Worth, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and Washington D.C., holding public events and meeting public officials.

Solar Impulse

Solar Impulse’s pilots, Andre Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard, celebrate after reaching New York.

“Flying coast-to-coast has always been a mythical milestone full of challenges for aviation pioneers,” Solar Impulse copilot and chairman Bertrand Piccard said. “During this journey, we had to find solutions for a lot of unforeseen situations, which obliged us to develop new skills and strategies. In doing so, we also pushed the boundaries of clean technologies and renewable energies to unprecedented levels.”

Read more about the Solar Impulse: Solar plane crosses U.S., injects sexiness into the green conversation

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants: johnupton@gmail.com.

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Solar plane completes cross-country trip despite torn wing

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