Archive for August 30th, 2010

Haas Hears A Who

Scientists searching for “lost amphibians” have discovered the Old World’s smallest frog, living in carnivorous pitcher plants in the jungles of Borneo.

As in the Dr. Seuss fable Horton Hears a Who, the pea-sized creatures were detected only because of the sound they made.

According to Malaysian herpetologist Indaeil Das, who discovered the frog with his colleague Alexander Haas of Germany, it was the wee beasties’ “harsh rasping notes” at dusk that drew their attention.

“We heard the calls of this frog and we knew the calls of all frogs in the area and this was different,” Das told AFP. “At first we couldn’t see it, but eventually we found it. I had to trap the frog in one of my baby son’s clean white diapers in order to really see what it looked like, it was so tiny.”

“You often get tiny frogs making quite a noise,” confirmed herpetologist Robin Moore, who is leading expeditions worldwide bent on rediscovering a hundred species of “lost amphibians” declared extinct. Das will join Moore in Indonesia in September, to search for the Sambas stream toad, last seen in the 1950s.

The frog heard by Haas and Das had not previously been classified; museum specimens collected more than a hundred years ago were misidentified as juveniles of another species.

The frog has been dubbed Microhyla nepenthicola, in honor of the Nepenthes ampullaria species of miniature pitcher plant that it needs to breed.

Although the micro-beast is “definitely the tiniest [frog] in Asia, Africa and Europe,” says Das, it is not as small as this frog, Eleutherodactylus iberia, which lives in Cuba, and as yet has no English common name.

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Peasant Palate: Knead Long And Prosper

The science people, they are always wondering: why don’t the French die?

The cheese they eat. The meat. The butter. The cream. The wine, and drinking it, all the live-long day. Why don’t their arteries fill with filth, causing them to keel over, gasping, ushered into death via coronary heart disease, like normal Americans?

There are many answers to this question. The first concerns the “Big Gulp.” Americans seem to believe that bigger is better. You think we would have learned by now, with our military. Though for more than 60 years the American military has been by far the biggest bully on the block, it hasn’t managed to prevail in any armed conflict since the close of World War II, with the exception of that little dustup in Grenada . . . and even there it was nearly run off the island by a handful of Cuban engineers. Oh, and Panama. Where the “bands of brothers” buzzed blithely around leveling hospitals, in pursuit of their own CIA agent, and incidentally abrogating the treaty that returned the Panama Canal to the people of the country in which it is located.

Anyway. Americans like their food, like their military, big. Big portions. Big steaks. Big drinks. But, just as our big military is killing us, so too are our big meals. When Americans eat, they eat too much. Which is bad for you. And Americans snack. All the time. Which is also bad for you.

The French do neither. The concept of the “Big Gulp” is unknown in that country, except in the hideous fast-food joints which Americans have imperialistically forced upon them, and which French patriots destroy whenever they get the opportunity. The French do not snack, and the portions they consume, when at table, are moderate.

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The Weight

As if the planet were not already under enough stress, now we learn that more than 30% of the people in 9 southern states here in the US are clinically obese. This is up from 25% just three years ago. Meanwhile, over 25% of the people in 38 states nationwide are obese. In 28 of these states, people are fatter today than they were a year ago.

Gravity exercises constant pressure on the earth; to this we must now add additional pressure from millions of lumbering fat people. As global warming inevitably raises the level of the oceans, so too shall global fattening lower the level of the land. Not good.

Animals, at least those in the wild, don’t become obese. A person may think an animal looks fat, but that’s simply a mistake in percep-tion. Sea lions may appear pretty obese, but in truth these creatures are built that way for a reason: to thrive in waters cold enough to freeze to death a human being in less than five minutes. Bears in winter go into the den “fat” so they don’t have to get up and eat for six months; when they emerge in the spring, they’re pretty darn gaunt. And grumpy. A mallard may seem to be carrying a lot of weight there in the chest: well, you try flying 3000 miles, under your own power, and then tell me how much poundage you’d like up there.

Ever notice that those motorized carts in grocery stores are these days occupied less by disabled people than by people so obese that they really ought to think twice about purchasing all those groceries? Animals are not able to avail themselves of these sorts of “fat carts.” An obese rabbit can’t crank up a fat cart to flee faster into the brush; s/he just becomes dinner. Just as an obese hawk will go without dinner.

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When I Worked

August 2010
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