Friday, February 13, 2015

Man's Best Friend

One of the key events in human history and civilization was the domestication of animals. A number of species have evolved to cohabitate with humans. Chickens, cats, pigs, cattle, horses, camels, elephants and even some fish possess a trait in which they rely on humans and in return humans can rely on them.
Some are called Beasts of Burden. Typically these are thought of as the pack mules, oxen, and elephants that handle the heavy loads and allowed humans to change their habitat. The manipulation of fauna for human use dates back long before Christ to the very beginning of our ability to create civilizations.
Wolves were likely the first to be domesticated. No wonder, dogs are considered man’s best friend.
We use dogs in a variety of ways. Growing up, I mostly thought dogs were primarily used for hunting. My grandfather had several bird dogs. We had several breeds of hunting dogs through my early years.
Kodi, our beloved husky. We will miss you.
They may have been more companion than hunting dog, but the hunting trait was why we had them. We had Labrador retrievers, red Irish setters, and golden retrievers. At one time we had one dog that was less a hunting dog and more of a guard dog with Ranger, our German shepherd.
Ranger was a great guard dog too. Once, I am guessing I was around three or four years old at the time, I had wandered to the other side of the pond from our house. Underneath a pine, amongst the straw and cones, was a perfectly disguised copperhead. The scene that inhabits my mind now is an overhead view with a small boy screaming without a sound coming out of his mouth. I was frightened to that stage.
From the house, Ranger took off like a cheetah after a gazelle, sensing my danger. He jumped between me and the serpent and shoved my out of the way with his body. The poor snake didn’t stand a chance.
There is a special connection between a human and dog. One that only the thousands of years of friendship can explain. Though there are the numbers of species in which we have taught to work for us and with us, the dog is the only one in which both species have gracefully created a bond of more than just a Beast of Burden.
Dogs are our companions through both of our existences. They provide their abilities for things such as hunting, retrieving, and tracking. They also provide a source for rescue, leading the blind, sensing disease, smelling for illegal substances, and protection. We depend on them in countless ways. In return we offer a caring home, easy food, and the same love for them as they offer us.
I write this with a heavy heart with the loss of a companion, friend, and family. Our Siberian husky, Kodi, provided these things to my kids, my wife and I for the last 14 years. She was a beautiful creature and while she has been a part of my wife and my life for a decade and half, we were with her for all of her life.
She was perfect for our kids as they grew up, tolerating tail pulls, bareback riding, and of course hugs and kisses without so much as a growl. And we all loved her for it.
She will be remembered throughout our lives and immortalized in everything from Christmas photos over the years to vivid memories etched into our minds.
And over time, our other three rescues and time will help ease our hearts’ pain, as our love for these animals has been established for thousands of years.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Weather Forcasting


Snowmeggedon. Snowpocalypse. These words are created to inspire fear and dread of events to come. They are also there to create hype for coverage of the said events. Or they could be the name of the next bad SyFy movie.
The meteorologists predicted gloom and despair upon the Northeast with snow accumalations of two to 3 feet. While some places did see that much fall, the hub of media, New York City, fell well short of the mark. This caused several forecasters to come out and publically apologize over the airwaves and social media accounts for their miscalculations.
Luckily, we are in the United States. As recently as this last summer, North Korea’s dictator-in-charge threatened his meteorological staff for getting the weather wrong. North Korea was in a three year drought and he was perturbed that the lack of competence of his weather scientists caused the country’s businesses to suffer. By threats, I mean possible death, by the way. It seemed to play right into the much talked about movie, The Interview.
Meanwhile, back home, we have our own, much hyped, prognosticator of Mother Nature. Since 1841, we Americans have relied on the weather prediction skills of a ground hog.
In case you do not know, the ground hog is one of the largest rodents in North America. Not THE largest, that title belongs to the beaver, but an oversized rat nonetheless. Rats are not very trustworthy as the slang form of the word attests to.
The ground hog is actually a large ground squirrel according to biologists. Of course, the squirrel is a rodent as well. Just as squirrels play havoc to nut bearing trees and anything with electrical wiring (I have seen a squirrel’s nest built in the air filter box of a vehicle with the engine harness chewed in two), the ground hog like to terrorize the earth, burrowing deep cavernous holes that can collapse when the ground gets soft enough and enough weight is placed on top.
Get it right, or this could be your fate Phil!
 
Farmers despise them exactly for this. A good number of heavy farm equipment has toppled to the side or become stuck after hitting these rodent made sinkholes.
But each year, there are gatherings throughout the United States, most notably Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to see what our beloved ground hogs say about the extension of winter or the premature coming of spring.
The sensible person would think that with this being merely a tradition with absolutely no scientific background, that a ground hog such as Punxsutawney Phil would get the prediction correct at somewhere around half the time.
But after much research by someone who had way too much time on their hands, and probably funded by an enormous amount of tax dollars, it comes to bear that the ole wood chuck may know what he is doing after all.
You see, since the tradition can be dated back in America to the 1800’s, and we have historical weather data where we can correlate what the ground hog predicted with how the following weeks actually played out.
The thing is, since the ground hog is a rat, a very large rat as previously determined, it would only make sense for him to deceive us humans. And many of us humans are as ratty as Phil.
While Groundhog Day organizers declare Phil is correct three out of every four years on average, the study showed different results. In records kept since 1887, Phil from Pennsylvania has only been correct 39% of the time. A similar study in Canada showed their celebrations and results were slightly worse, with only a 37% accuracy rate.
Good thing Phil does not live in North Korea.