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What book would you give away?

The documents do provide further evidence for what I call the psychocultural hypothesis. UFO sightings and encounters are certainly an interesting group of phenomena - but are they evidence of anything alien. Many people I talk to (including a documentary producer just recently) are left with the sense that there must be something going on. No explanation seems satisfactory to explain all the accounts, and there is a residue of unexplained reports.

This is the "where there is smoke there is fire" argument. But I think it misses an important question - there may be fire (a phenomenon) but what kind of fire? I think the fire is a multifaceted psychocultural phenomenon.



Did you know a bunch of crows is called a 'Murder' of crows? Maybe cuz anyone trying to share a place with 'm contemplates it.

I heard about the Seattle crow study. The researchers tried the test over and over again. Every time they climbed up into a nest to tag the crow chicks while wearing a particular mask, the person wearing THAT mask got dive bombed walking across campus. Other people with masks (even Dick Chaney masks), the birds left alone. Pretty amazing.

We happily don't have crows. There is a pair of ravens living in the gulch. They take care of all the ground squirrels I trap, drown and toss over the ravine. In the peak trapping season, when I'm clearing traps twice a day, these ravens figured out my schedule. Sure enough, 10 am and they were sitting on a branch of the oak tree behind the barn looking for the fresh squirrel carcasses.

They raised Holy Hell if I was late, or unproductive in my trapping that morning.

I like the Ravens ok. They don't hang around in a big group, they're usually a quiet pair. Mostly they just live in the gulch, coming out over the pastures now and then just to give the little birds the thrill of chasing them away.

You can watch the documentary on them here:

If anyone hasn't watched this yet, get to it.

"The selected item is currently not available."

How long is this video? Could be a weekend project.

After another attack by crows at the school, an argument erupts at the local bar. One resident believes the attacks are a sign of the apocalypse, but an out-of-town woman yells at them for scaring her children. An old woman (Ethel Griffies), an amateur ornithologist, insists that calling birds' behavior attacks is an exaggeration, and no bird species flocks and attacks. Despite her words, a motorist is attacked while filling his car with gasoline; he is knocked unconscious, and the gasoline continues to pump out onto the street. An explosion and fire result, and more deaths occur when there's another attack. While hiding inside the bar, the scared mother believes Melanie is the cause of these attacks. After this attack subsides, Melanie and Mitch find Annie dead on her front porch and Cathy crying at the window.

Ah yes. although I don't remember ALL of the deaths listed in this synopsis.

Where I live, on the Isle of Wight, we have Jackdaws (Corvus monedula) and they have demonstrated, in our garden, the ability to pull up a string holding a net of peanuts, put a foot on the string to keep it in position and then pull it up some more, until they can open the net and thus eat the nuts which fall on the floor. I have managed to stop them doing this by passing the string through an empty ballpoint pen case, so they are thwarted! And so the other, less cunning, birds have a chance of feeding on the net. A Magpie (Pica pica) once untied my shoelace while I was stopped admiring a view in Jersey. I have no idea why it did this but it probably gave it some pleasure. I have a great admiration for all corvids.

Do jackdaws love your big sphinx of quartz?

Nah, they just sit there and watch my quick brown fox ......

And do you know how to tell the difference between a crow and a rook? If you see one rook it's a crow, but if you see a lot of crows, they are rooks.

Sorry! I have been sampling Yalumba's "The Scribbler" this evening and it has had an effect on me.

Um, please forgive my prying, but why are you trapping and drowning wild animals and throwing them into a ravine?

I thoroughly disagree with the total douche bag ragging on Strunk and White's The Elements of Style. It's a great book and should be next to the laptop of every young writer. The beauty of the book is its short length.

The twat who wrote the article is a professor and a boring ass, or is that being redundant? In general writing professors have done more to destroy language than any Inquisition book burning.

Actually he's a linguist.

That's worse. It would be even worse if he were a cunning linguist!

I think that would be an improvement.


The twat who wrote the article is a professor and a boring ass, or is that being redundant? In general writing professors have done more to destroy language than any Inquisition book burning.

I'd say I resemble that remark, but I only resemble the prof part. Even as a teacher of music history I've helped students learn to write well.

Omit needless words!

I'll give the author some points on the notion that language is a fluid, evolving entity. I tell my students to learn to write with excellent grammar in shorter papers - a tight, concise style that will be lucid but still readable. This is a challenge for many of them, but completely achievable.

If the paper gets longer (12= pages), I'll allow more relaxation of grammar rules for the flow of prose.

The truth is that many students don't write well period, and it's not because of the Elements of Style, it's for many reasons: the primary one being that many teachers have a limited sense of how to create cohesive essays, so they are crippled when it comes to critiquing the writing of others. The lucky students who go to college and get pummeled on their style improve benefit, and those who go to college and are coddled perpetuate the incoherent excuse for prose that I and my colleagues lose sleep grading.

It sure sounds like the guy is trying to teach writing in his boring article. He's a bitter grammar dork who is probably angry because he wrote a similar book on writing and it didn't sell.

I held The Elements of Style as a sort of bible when I was young. As I stated before, it's genius lies in its brevity and clarity. It's easy to use and mercifully concise.

Someone once said that a statue was never made in the image of a critic. If anyone ever made a statue of a grammar bore I would shit on the head like in that great scene in The Gulag Achipelago when one of the little camp hoodlums crapped on Stalin's likeness.

re: clownfish: "Um, please forgive my prying, but why are you trapping and drowning wild animals and throwing them into a ravine?"

Ground squirrels are bad pests. They dig deep burrows that the cows (and people) can step into and break legs. They also breech walls in the irrigation ditch and the birms on the stock ponds. The squirrels also eat tons of chicken feed if not controlled. I trap and destroy them to keep the local population to a manageable size. I also trap civits and fox around the chicken house, especially in early spring. Those I relocate about 10 miles away and on the other side of the river. We don't use poison on the squirrels because that's neither Organic nor specific to the squirrels. By using humane (Haveaheart) traps I can get the perps without affecting any other critters. Don't worry, ground squirrels are not endangered, they can have several huge litters in a season. I had to put down one of my best old brood cows late last year when she stepped in a ground squirrel hole and broke her leg. She'd delivered us close to a dozen calves over the years and was the sweetest thing. It was pretty sad to lose her, all because of a damn ground squirrel. And so, part of my morning routine is making peanut butter sandwiches for the squirrel traps.

really liked clownfish's matter-of-fact question, and betty jo's matter-of fact answer. an impressive example of communication done right.

re:Pedantsareus: Rooks, Crows and Ravens - i'm so confused. What I think we've got is the "Common Raven (Corvus corax). I think there's a pair, I rarely see more than two at a time.

re: Norm: thanks for the Murder of Crows show. I think it's totally true that conversations that occur between non-human species are often as rich in their way as those that occur between us. Different to be sure, but rich nontheless. Did I tell you about the Jay?

I used to think that Blue Jays were birds with no redeeming value. Then I realized that they perch atop the fir trees in the both road and gulch. Then, like watch fires of old lit along the coast warning neighbors that Viking Raider Dragon ships were slipping through the fog for attack, the Jays mark the progress of Mt Lion or Coyote as the predator approaches. The chickens listen, they run for shelter. Likewise, the chickens react not only to the shadow of a hawk or eagle above them, but also know the sound of a hawk's "scree" and run for cover.

One of the jays learned to imitate a hawk's scree. This is a true story. He's so bad. He perches where he can watch, starts to imitate a hawk, then chuckles as the poor birds scatter.

The Jay who cried Hawk. He said "scree" just for fun.

I've heard the Scrub-Jays do that at my feeders to so as to have the feeders to themselves. Most of the smaller birds don't even need that encouragement, the Jay comes in squawking and they take off.

European Starlings do a lot of mimicking also, they are bullies running off the Warblers and Downy Woodpeckers from the suet feeders. A Northern Flicker held his own for a while but eventually got tired of the harassment and left.

I've always considered The Elements of Style a quick reference for writing and not some grand, philosophical treatise on grammar and linguistics, which the author of the article Norm cites seems to imply. He's basically just made a 1500-word strawman argument that completely misses the intent of the book.

Most people who write are not artists. Most writing is utilitarian in nature, not artistic. Journalism. Technical writing. How to manuals. College papers. Critical essays. And so forth. So a quick set of simple rules for this kind of utilitarian writing isn't such a bad thing, and The Elements of Style works well in this context as a reference.

Strunk and White were just establishing a baseline for good, clear writing, and I think their book does this quite well. They offer suggestions, not absolutes.

Obviously, for artistic writing, Strunk & White's book is wholly inadequate. Artistic writing is, by its very nature, a direct challenge to the rules and convention of language and grammar. Great writers basically should say a healthy "fuck you" to any and all rules. But this kind of writing makes up a tiny percentage of all writing.

So to criticize The Elements of Style for what it's not, and was never intended to be, is, to me, a stupid argument.


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