Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Bird diversity in business and industrial areas

In short order we had seventeen new study sites, including business centers, multifamily housing units, and additional forest reserves. Don [Norman] began to survey these sites using the same point count techniques my students and I used in nearby residential and reserve areas.

. . . When Don finished the summer's work, he reported rather sheepishly that a keen birder could expect to see equal numbers of species in forests of the Cascade Mountains and in Seattle's industrial heart. Though not as rich as residential subirdia, the three forests surveyed yielded an average of twenty-nine species, whereas the twelve business sites averaged thirty-one species. In fact, one-third of the business sites equaled or exceeded the diversity Don observed in the richest forest reserve.
John M. Marzluff, Welcome to Subirdia: Sharing Our Neighborhoods with Wrens, Robins, Woodpeckers, and Other Wildlife (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 2014), p. 98

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Pigs make piglets!

The same quality that makes feral pigs a problem—prodigious fecundity—has delighted farmers. Cows, goats, and sheep provide milk, a bountiful and consistent source of protein. Oxen pull plows and carts, and sheep are shorn for wool. Pigs do not pull plows; they give no milk and grow no wool. Pigs produce only one thing: more pigs. Many, many more pigs.
Mark Essig, Lesser Beasts: A Snout-to-Tail History of the Humble Pig (New York: Basic Books, 2015), Prologue

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A generation ignorant of history?

Today 15 percent of all college students take a single course in history. Or, that is to say, 85 percent of them don't take one. And I think if you have a nation that doesn't have a sense of history, when they set out to send an army into a Middle Eastern country, and someone assures them they will be greeted as liberators, and flowers will be strewn in their path, they may not ask the question, "Are we really sure that's true?" And I think that's dangerous for our nation and for our world. 
Victor Ferrall  (former president of Beloit College, author of Liberal Arts at the Brink), in "Who Needs an English Major?," AmericanRadioworks documentary produced by Stephen Smith (fall 2011)

Monday, August 15, 2016

Parents and their kids' college experience

Middle-class parents, especially the mothers, appeared to embrace the idea that it was their responsibility to carefully manage every step of their children's transition to college. They gathered information, reminded their adolescents to sign up for tests, and watched for potential problems. By contrast, although working-class parents considered themselves as being involved and helpful, what they meant by being helpful seems different from what middle-class parents meant. Working-class and poor parents did not appear to see continuous monitoring as critically important. . . . With the exception of the financial costs involved, these parents generally knew little about the transition from high school to college. Their awareness of their child's SAT scores, the names of colleges the child visited, and the relative ranking of colleges was strikingly vague compared to that of middle-class parents. . . . Both parents and children in working-class and poor families considered post-adolescent children "grown." By contrast, in middle-class families, the young adults seemed to still rely heavily on their parents and, in crucial ways, the parents often continued to treat them as children.
Annette Lareau, Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life, 2d ed. "with an update a decade later" (Berkeley, CA: Univ. of California Press, 2011), ch. 13

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The poor are priced out of housing in Cambridge (just as in Seattle, Silicon Valley, and plenty of other places)

Nowadays even houses houses that were back-to-backs with their front doors opening straight onto the street went for a fortune in the area. The poor moved out to the likes of Milton and Cherry Hinton, but now even the council estates there had been colonized by middle-class university types . . ., which must really piss the poor people off. The poor might always be with us, but Jackson was puzzled as to where they actually lived these days.
Kate Atkinson, Case Histories (New York: Little Brown & Co., 2004), p. 64.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Former child soldier sums up the point of war crime trials

While I was doing my interviews [of former child soldiers in Sierra Leone], I had asked a few children what they thought of the Special Court, if the ones living far from Freetown even knew of it. One boy, not even thirteen at the time I met him, put it best: "For some of us, our lives were miserable, they trained us to come up in a bad way. By trying them, it shows people that if you do bad, there will be consequences."
Jessica Alexander, Chasing Chaos: My Decade in and out of Humanitarian Aid (New York: Broadway Books, 2013), p. 298.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Everyone has a right to a fair trial, even a war criminal

After hearing so many stories of pain and anguish from civilians [in Sierra Leone], I didn't understand how people—my friends—could defend the perpetrators. "Look, this whole international criminal tribunal thing would be a circus if there wasn't a good defense," my American friend Scott said. . . .

"Everyone—even a war criminal, Jess—has a right to a fair trial. The prosecution would have a field day with these guys if we didn't hold them to some standard. They might very well have been war criminals, but it was for particular acts at particular times. They didn't do everything in all places at all times, which is what the prosecution is throwing at them."
Jessica Alexander, Chasing Chaos: My Decade in and out of Humanitarian Aid (New York: Broadway Books, 2013), pp. 279-80.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Looking down on dog books . . .

Even today, despite the increasing importance of dogs in our lives, books about them are invariably dismissed as sentimental and lighthearted, lucrative but simplistic, the lowest form of literature. . . . Why can't we let ourselves take dog love seriously? Is it because, if we did, we'd have to think seriously about other nonhuman animals, including those on our dinner plates? One way to keep these anxieties at a distance is to make fun of people who've got their pets out of all proportion; this is how we can restore the balance, reassuring ourselves that of course although some people take their feelings for dogs too far, we know dog love isn't "real love" (if it were, what would stop us from choosing dogs over people?).
Mikita Brottman, The Great Grisby: Two Thousand Years of Exceptional Dogs (New York: HarperCollins), ch. 4.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Free children, protective parents

I thought about my own children and the world they were in now—how they rarely went outside; rarely rode their bikes. What happened? I wondered. What happened to my generation? How had we been the kids with so much freedom, who then grew up to deny this freedom to our own children? This adventure. This sense of discovery and danger and risk and recovery.
David Kushner, Alligator Candy: A Memoir (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2016), ch. 32.
And yet, when I looked at the Sunday Tampa Tribune [from] the morning Jon disappeared, I was struck by what I saw.

An article headlined "What Are Our Children Missing?" opened with a quote from a local art teacher and mother of two. "Children today have been shortchanged," she told the reporter. "When I was young, we could wander in the woods, we could breathe and run free."

She and other parents didn't think that life in the early seventies wasn't as adventurous as it seemed.Kids were getting overscheduled, they believed, confined by a regimen of after-school activities that was curtailing their independence and exploration.
Id., ch. 34.