Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Random Musings 2

A few weeks ago, news broke in Brooklyn that over 400 Canada geese had been captured in Prospect Park and gassed by the federal Wildlife Services agency. They claimed the birds were a threat to airplanes. Needless to say, this was a bit of a shock. Hunting itself is bad enough, but for a government agency to authorize a "goosicide" (as the act has been dubbed) seems nothing short of barbarism. But it gets worse. In New York Magazine's latest issue they note that the federal government has been performing animal control since 1931, first going after predatory animals, but now killing animal species that pose a threat to ranchers, farmers, and apparently now airline pilots. In 2008 Wildlife Services killed, for instance, 14,041 Canada geese. They also killed 898,704 blackbirds because they were crop eaters, 528 river otters because they ate fish that fishermen wanted to capture, and 5,284 squirrels simply because they can be a problem for personal property. Am I wrong in thinking there has to be a better way of controlling animal overpopulation that doesn't require slaughter? Can't we spay and neuter some of these creatures in much the same way we do for stray dogs and cats? OK, so a vegetarian might now argue with me that the slaughtering of cows for me to eat is no different. And I do have to admit that I am glad the government controls, say, the rat population in the NYC subway system. So maybe the issue is the degree to which any of these creatures spread disease or does not serve for human consumption? I'm not sure what the answer is, but there seems like there has to be a better solution to animal control than to gas 400 geese in a park simply because they fly.

In health news, The New York Times had an article by Gina Kolata this morning that relates to advances in the study of Alzheimer's disease. According to a report to be published in the Archives of Neurology, spinal fluid tests are now able to predict with up to 100% accuracy whether patients suffering from memory loss actually have or will develop Alzheimer's. Up until now, the only way to diagnosis a person with the disease is through a post-mortem examination of the brain, so this is good news. However, it also brings up at least one ethical issue: "Should doctors offer, or patients accept, commercially available spinal tap tests to find a disease that is yet untreatable?" Indeed, I have to admit, is there a point to having the test? Presumably one can help contribute to future studies that may lead to a cure, but who wants to endure a spinal tap, a painful procedure in which they extract fluid from the spine, to do this? Testing spinal fluid was actually available years ago, but not to the level of accuracy they now claim. My mother refused to have it done because of the pain and lack of accuracy. It is good news in terms of advances in the study of the disease, but the medical community is going to have a challenging time encouraging patients to consider getting it.

In art news, I was rather pleased to get an email recently that Sotheby's and the current Duke of Devonshire's family were working together to auction off an incredible array of material stored in the attic of Chatsworth. bklynbiblio readers know of my fascination with the Devonshires (e.g. Georgiana and her son William). This particular auction is bringing together approximately 20,000 objects in a 3-day sale starting October 5, with estimated prices ranging from £20 to £200,000. While it's fascinating to think there will be salvaged architectural pieces from Devonshire House (their London estate, torn down in 1925), Chatsworth, and their other estates, there are also long-forgotten personal items owned by the Devonshires, from tea sets to a Russian sleigh. The official press release from Sotheby's has full-color images and more information. Sadly, I won't be in England until after the sale is over, but maybe I'll bid online for Georgiana's snuff box.

And, finally, good news for the sci-fi geek in us: Torchwood is coming back! Yes, Capt. Jack and Gwen Cooper will apparently be back for a new version that (if I'm understanding the premise correctly) shifts focus to the US and not the UK (hence the reworked title Torchwood: The New World). Presumably there will be everything we've come to expect from the show: alien encounters, fast-paced action, and a heavy dose of sexual tension along with a shag or two. But why is it going to be on the Starz network? I don't even know what that channel is. They will definitely need to come up with a work-around for subscribing to a new cable network if they want to get their fans back. Still, it's tempting. The show is going to premiere in 2011. I'll close here with hottie couple Ianto and Jack from Day 4 of Torchwood: Children of Earth, although if you've seen the miniseries, you know how sad this photo actually turns out to be.

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