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Today in My History

2001:  The Courage to Change
2002:  Falling Leaves
2003:  Catching Up on my Reading
2004:  Written in Stone
2005:  Stop the Presses!!!

2006:  A Flurry of Excitement
2007:   Jack's Back!

2008:  Plasticss

Hello, Dolly

Books Read in 2008
Updated: 12/28
"The Black Echo" 


Tater and Tot from Bev Sykes on Vimeo.

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16 January 2009

I've been watching the reports of that plane that went down in the Hudson River today, after impact with a flock of geese.   From all reports, it was a masterful piece of flying by the pilot and, at least as of this writing, there don't appear to be any fatalities, or even serious injury.   It's nice to have a tragedy like this turn out good

But I was surprised by one comment that I heard on one of the interviews.  Someone asked how often this sort of thing happened and the interviewee said it was extremely rare.

I guess it surprised me because I once typed the transcript of a conference about the danger of birds to airplanes.  It was a very long transcript and I learned a lot about it (most of which I have forgotten, since this was a job I did more than 20 years ago).  But I remember being amazed that it never occurred to me that birds could be a danger to aviation.  I especially remember being amazed at the size of the bibliography, which was the size of a small book all by itself. 

I remember was that there are whole areas of study devoted to the kinds of bird repelling things you can do around airports, things like the vegetation to plant, noise makers, "bird spikes," and lots of other things I have forgotten.

I did a simple Google search, trying to remember the kinds of things I typed at that time.  (I was amazed at how many web pages had gone up on this subject just since the accident today.)  One report says that they cause an estimated $600 million in damage yearly.  Another report about the experience of the Air Force says, "bird strikes are blamed for killing about two aircrew members every three to five years, downing a couple of USAF aircraft annually, and costing the service between $50 million to $80 million each year."

Lorenz.jpg (16379 bytes)Have you ever heard of Konrad Lorenz? (It's only serendipity that this happens to be a picture of Lorenz with a flock of Canada geese!)

I read Lorenz's book on imprinting when I was working for the Physics Department back in the 1960s and pictures like this have stayed with me all these years.   His experiments showed that baby animals imprint on the first figure that they see.   The geese adopted Lorenz as their mother and they followed him everywhere.

Lorenz's experiment was sort of recreated in the movie Fly Away Home, where a little girl becomes the "mother" to a flock of geese and she has to teach them how to migrate, as their mother would have done (I'm sure you've seen the movie...it's a wonderful tear-jerker.)

I'm feeling a lot like Lorenz these days.  I don't think we've ever had a group of puppies who have imprinted on me so strongly as Tater and Tot have done.  These little guys stay where I put them, huddling together in sleep, but if I walk by, they are up in an instant, begging to be let out.  When out and in the house, they stick pretty close to me most of the time.  If they go off on their own to investigate all I have to do is call them once and they come racing (again--can they please give lessons to Nicki?)

But the most fun thing, I have to admit, is how much they like sleeping on me.  Yesterday they were just fussy.  Not hungry, not really ready to go into the playpen, so I put them both in my lap.  They start treating me like they would do a mother, sniffing at my mouth and licking me (which is nice now, since they still have "puppy breath").  Tater is determined she is going to give me additional piercings, since she likes to crawl up on my neck and nibble at my ear.   Tot would occasionally whimper and I would whimper right back at her.  She'd stop crying and pull her head back to search my face for a long time, as if she was trying to figure me out--why I looked like such a strange dog.

The two puppies slept in my lap for a couple of hours yesterday (which was nice, because I napped too).  And today they did it again.  When they wake up, they wrestle a bit in my lap, but there is no eagerness to get down.  It's all very sweet, very much like Konrad Lorenz.  I feel the need to "teach" these puppies how to be dogs.  (Tot and I had "climbing out of the cage" lessons.  Tater figured out how to lift her legs over the lip at the bottom, but it was too complicated for Tot, so I had to show her how to lift her legs one at a time over the lip.)

I'm sorry that they'll have to go away for a week (or permanently).   They grow so fast that they will be all grown up (relatively speaking) by the time I'm able to bend over at the waist again.


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