Dog smell and sound
I might be on the spectrum, but either way I'm sensitive to strong smells and loud noises.  But only certain ones.  I have trouble going in stores that sell candles and soap and whatnot because it feels like my brain is so overly stimulated by the smell that I can't function.  But at the same time I love the smell of a nice fire-charred whiskey barrel, or a big greasy bacon cheeseburger.  It's the same with sound.  My human child occasionally likes to scream, and it's sort of like my ear drums go numb, except it's still painful.  But at the same time, I go to loud concerts and don't have a problem. 

It occurred to me recently that this is why I don't like dogs.  All dogs, literally all of them, have "the smell."  Dog people think their houses don't smell like dog, but I can identify a dog owner after spending a millisecond in their house.  And all dogs are loud, despite "Oh he doesn't usually do this" or "Wow she never barks this much."  Dogs are smelly and loud.  I don't like them. #nature

Snakes are weird.  I can never tell if my internal fear and disgust for them is genetic, as in "danger tube bad because hurty death," or if it's a more modern cultural thing.  But damn these animals are weird.  Like if you watch one move along the ground, it doesn't make sense.  I get it -- it wiggles and propels itself through some sort of black magic.  But I mean these things ain't got no legs.  It's just not right.  They're dry and scaly, but also wet.  And somehow they evolved the ability to store a poisonous substance inside their bodies without dying.  And the teeth.  And the rattle?  Like who's in charge of this whole business? #nature

Observing nature
One of my smaller joys in life is the simple act of observing nature.  I don't know if it's a hunter-gatherer lizard-brain sort of thing where I feel unconsciously compelled to watch animals in case I want to eat them or they want to eat me.  But I'm not thinking about that while I'm doing it.  I simply like to watch animals doing what they do in a natural setting.  Not for any specific purpose or end goal.  Simply to watch these little computers executing their algorithms -- fighting, fleeing, foraging, mating.  It's just sort of interesting and entertaining to watch them go about their lives, eating some grass here, chasing away a coworker there.  Watching how they move in specific ways, to avoid predators, or to look cool for their friends. #nature

Convergent evolution revisited
Two things to add to my post about convergent evolution
  1. Crabs have independently evolved so many times throughout history that there's a word for it:  Carcinisation (via Radiolab).  Put another way, Evolution Only Thinks About One Thing, and It's Crabs.
  2. New World vultures and Old World vultures aren't even really related, which means a flying animal that eats virus- and bacteria-laden decaying corpses has evolved on more than one occasion (again via Radiolab).

This Radiolab episode sort of blew my mind: 
Zoroastrians put their dead on top of a structure called The Tower of Silence where vultures devour the body in a matter of hours. It's clean, efficient, eco-friendly. It's how it's been for thousands of years.

I've been to one in Mumbai. It's this hill in the middle of this big bustling city, but when you get there it's like just this super forested quiet area. It almost feels like a jungle, it's so dense. And at the top of it there's a flat, like, cement slab in a circle that's open to the sky.

And there's walls around it but there's no roof on it. And there's different layers to it. The adult men go on the outer edge of this cement slab, women will go in the middle, and children, if they die, will go near the center.

And there's thousands of vultures surrounding this place, just waiting. And yeah, the vultures just devour the body, and within a few hours all that's left is just a few bones.

We call it a sky burial. And I don't know, I just think it's incredible. Like, in the religion the idea is that the second someone dies there's a corpse demon called Nasu. And they believe that that demon is what starts to cause the decay of the body. And so, you know, when the vultures eat the body, they're essentially protecting us from this demon.
The official term is excarnation -- "the practice of removing the flesh and organs of the dead before burial. Excarnation may be achieved through natural means, such as leaving a dead body exposed to the elements or for animals to scavenge; or by butchering the corpse by hand."

I've mentioned before my preference for resomation after I die, but this is an even more all-natural method. #nature

Snakebite deaths
I heard this statistic the other day, and I still can't believe it:  Somewhere around 100,000 people die every year from snake bites.  That's easily more than any other animal on earth, if you ignore things that simply spread disease like mosquitoes and whatnot.  Snakes kill directly by biting and "envenoming".  People are scared of shark attacks and crocodiles.  But snakes kill orders of magnitude more people than pretty much everything else combined. #nature

Bees vs. wasps
As I stood next to my blooming cherry tree the other day, bees were happily buzzing around the flowers, doing their pollinating thing and generally disregarding me.  Bees serve a very obvious, beneficial purpose.  Humans and bees can happily coexist. 

Wasps (and yellow jackets and hornets), as far as I can tell (though I haven't done the research), serve literally no purpose other than to get mad and sting you when you disturb their conspicuously-placed nests.  They're like the little man of the bug world, always looking for a fight and using their tried and true sucker punch to win on a technicality. 

Bees and wasps are both flying, stinging insects.  But bees are fuzzy and good.  Wasps are angry and evil.  This is how I justify using Raid to gleefully massacre an entire wasp nest. #nature

Cormorant design by committee
Cormorants look like they were designed by a committee of non-experts, probably at an old government office full of mid-level managers and underpaid engineers.  Here's how I imagine the process went: 
Person 1:  We want a bird. 
Engineers:  No problem. 
Person 2:  But the bird can swim. 
Engineers:  Uh ... yeah we can do that.  Webbed feet and whatnot. 
Person 3:  But it needs to swim underwater to catch fish. 
Engineers:  Oh ... hmm ... ok.  Just remove some buoyancy so it can sink better.  It'll need to have gills so it can--
Person 1:  No, it needs to breathe air! 
Engineers:  Ok ... I guess we can have it resurface every so often.  But it's just gonna stick its head and neck out of the water because it's midsection is too dense to float, so it'll look like a snake. 
Person 3:  That's fine.  And then it can fly away and do other bird things. 
Engineers:  Not exactly.  Because of its extra density, it'll have a hard time taking off out of the water. 
Person 2:  But it can fly, right? 
Engineers:  Yes, but it'll need to dry its wings before any amount of extended flight.  The decreased buoyancy and underwater swimming mean its entire body gets soaked to the bone, so it'll need to stand around with its wing outstretched, which is a perfect time for predators to attack it. 
Person 3:  Can you put a gun on its head? 
Engineers:  We'll try that in version 2.
Thankfully version 2 never made it to market. #nature

Avian reincarnation
If I could reincarnate as anything, I'd obviously want to be a bird, because ... flying.  But not just any bird.  I'd want to be a water bird.  Not a water bird like a stupid penguin, which can't fly.  But an actual flying, swimming bird.  Birds like ducks, geese, and seagulls can walk, they can fly, and they can swim.  Fucking badass. 

Ducks are cute, but lack a certain fearsomeness.  Geese have those long necks and they just look at you like they want to cause you physical harm.  But only a seagull can survive just as well near the ocean as in a random suburban parking lot.  I think it's due to their ability to eat anything and everything, including garbage.  As hated as they are, they have possibly the best chance of surviving the near-certain apocalypse that awaits our dumb bipedal species. 

Seagulls:  Land, sea, and air.  And garbage dumps. #nature

Capitalism vs. environmentalism (3)
I'm a bit ignorant on the topic of economic policies, but it seems from the outside that capitalism is pretty good at making people rich by sort of exploiting other people and things.  That's fine and all, because it enables class mobility.  But I think an even bigger issue is the exploitation of things that don't have a voice, namely the environment.  Capitalism has a tendency to bleed things dry, like oil wells and forests.  As long as people make money, it's deemed a success.  I think -- and I'm pretty sure I'm right about this -- there's a limit to how much capitalism can exploit the environment.  It's fine for now because there's a lot of nature and a lot of money being made.  But at some point, the wells will dry up and the forests will disappear, and no amount of money will be able to undo it.  I like capitalism, but I think it should be regulated to an extent. #nature

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