Tuesday, 9 July, 2013
Neuronov, too, had a confidence-inspiring tale of the innate abilities of the metro dog. One morning, on his way to the office, he noticed a businesslike little puppy entering the metro station just ahead of him. “He didn’t ask for food, nothing,” said Neuronov, who followed the confident little puppy down the escalator. They boarded the same train, and got off at the same stop. “Then I had to go to work,” said Neuronov. “And the puppy went his own way. But he looked like he knew where he was going.” — Sally Mcgrane, “Moscow’s Metro Dogs,” The New Yorker
Tuesday, 28 May, 2013 Monday, 27 February, 2012

[C]an a crocodile really weep? The experts say yes: they have tear glands just like most other animals. And zoologists have recorded alligators, close relatives of crocodiles, shedding tears while they’re eating. This parallel may be significant—rather than being an emotional response, the shedding of tears probably happens because of the way crocodiles and alligators eat: when eating their prey they will often huff and hiss as they blow out air, and their tear glands may empty at the same time. The idea of crocodile tears being false was used both in Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene and in Shakespeare’s Othello. They provide just two of the many allusions in literature that have cemented the idiom in the language.

Incidentally, the word ‘crocodile’ means, literally, ‘worm of the stones’. It is from Greek, and is a reference to the croc’s habit of basking in the sun on the shingly banks of a river.

— An extract from What Made the Crocodile Cry? by Susie Dent (via OxfordWords blog)
Wednesday, 28 December, 2011

Theo Jansen’s Strandbeests

Monday, 18 April, 2011
The zebra on my bedsheets

The zebra on my bedsheets

Friday, 8 April, 2011

Attack of the bees

I found out that I am not allergic to bees. I discovered this when I was pegging wet sheets to the clothesline and was stung on my temple by a rogue bee tangled in the pillowcases and I suffered no grave consequences. 

This happened during the few weeks that our back courtyard was plagued by bees. A low hum reverberated around the walls, and every surface  the gravel, the bench, the ivy – seemed to shimmer until you looked a little closer and realised that it was just a dozen or so wriggling bees, animating the ground beneath them.

The source was a hive lodged like a football in our next-door neighbour’s tree. By the time we politely enquired next door as to whether they had noticed the swarming honey-pot in their garden, our sweet young neighbour’s nerves, as she put it, were shot. She could no longer go outside. Her landlord wasn’t returning her calls. And if, as I had suspected, our yard was where the bees went to die, theirs was the colony spawning ground. “When I switch on the bathroom light in the morning,” she said, “a wall of bees sleeping on the window shake themselves awake.” She added: “I find it hard to sleep.”

When I went outside this morning, I noticed the beehive was gone. I would have liked to see the removal operation, the capable apiarists in white bodysuits extracting the hive and taking it to a nice farm or wildlife reserve where the bees could romp and roam free.

At least, I hope that’s what happened.  

Friday, 25 March, 2011
A. Cordier, page (K) from Amusing Alphabet: Le Jardin d’Acclimatation (The Zoological Garden), c. 1863-65. 

Children’s picture alphabet of birds and animals in French with English translation. The fauna are anthropomorphised and dressed in the clothes of the common people. The kanguroo or kangaroo has four joeys in her apron.

From the National Library of Australia Australian Collection.
(Click through to see the rest of the alphabet…)

A. Cordier, page (K) from Amusing Alphabet: Le Jardin d’Acclimatation (The Zoological Garden), c. 1863-65. 

Children’s picture alphabet of birds and animals in French with English translation. The fauna are anthropomorphised and dressed in the clothes of the common people. The kanguroo or kangaroo has four joeys in her apron.

From the National Library of Australia Australian Collection.

(Click through to see the rest of the alphabet…)

Tuesday, 22 February, 2011
M. C. Escher, Reptiles, lithograph, 1943

M. C. Escher, Reptiles, lithograph, 1943

Friday, 12 November, 2010 Sunday, 1 August, 2010
George Logan, from Translocations photographic essay (via Smashing Pics)

George Logan, from Translocations photographic essay (via Smashing Pics)

George Logan, from Translocations photographic essay (via Smashing Pics)

George Logan, from Translocations photographic essay (via Smashing Pics)

George Logan, from Translocations photographic essay (via Smashing Pics)

George Logan, from Translocations photographic essay (via Smashing Pics)

Sunday, 25 July, 2010 Friday, 16 July, 2010

"A flawless cat!"

My cat caught a mouse today and, after waving its corpse at me from the other side of the flyscreen for a while, I then looked over to see him crunching down on what was left of its head…

My first thought was, “I bet he’s thirsty now. Should I offer him some water?”

And my second thought was, “I should google this.”

Thankfully, if you scan through the wonderful Q&A veterinary blogs out there you can find good advice on the subject, like this:

"That’s the essence of cat’s life on globe, to go after that type! Worry if he tries to catch an elephant, or voice a dog!"

And:

"Of course if he starts foaming at the mouth, embezzle him to the vet. Chances of that happening are low though because cats chomp through mice, they just do that. He’s a flawless cat!"

Saturday, 26 June, 2010

Parrot

I met a parrot today. I walked past her, and she cooed, in the perfect pitch of a middle-aged, middle Australian woman, “Hello!”

I stopped at the cage, amazed. “Hello?”

"Hello! Hello! Hi! Hi! Hello!" The parrot swung on a makeshift rope swing.

"Wow!" I marvelled.

"Wow-wow-wow-wow-wow!"

I laughed.

"Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!" The parrot mocked.