Cats, cannabis, kilts and kori bustards

Highland Security The fashion of wearing nothing beneath a kilt has been condemned by the Scottish Tartans Authority, which has called the practice “childish and unhygienic,” The Times of London…

March 24, 2011 | | Back Issues | Countryside Digest | Departments | Environment | Spring 2011

Highland Security

The fashion of wearing nothing beneath a kilt has been condemned by the Scottish Tartans Authority, which has called the practice “childish and unhygienic,” The Times of London reports. Brian Wilton, the director, said: “The idea that you are not a real Scot unless you are bare under your kilt should be thrown into the same wastepaper basket as the idea that you are not a real Scot unless you put salt on your porridge.” Some kilt-wearers have rejected the advice, but Jamie McGrigor, a Scottish politician who campaigned for the introduction of a Scottish Tartan Register, said: “I have normally worn underwear with my kilt. In the West Highlands, midges can mount alarming and unexpected attacks on so-called true Scotsmen.” From Michael Kesterton’s column in The Globe and Mail, Nov 24/10.

Pulp Fiction

“It is not necessary to use trees for pulp. All vascular plants can produce pulp. There are 250,000 plants that can make pulp for paper. Unfortunately this just represents 10 per cent of what was there before the various extinctions of past climatic changes. Some of these vascular plants are outstanding for fiber quality and others can be processed for a further recycling capacity. Most of these vascular species have been used in the past in North America and in Europe. One of these is the urban criminal Cannabis sativa, hemp.” From The Global Forest, by Diana Beresford-Kroeger (Viking Penguin, 2010).

Atheist Spirituals

“Some folks sing a Bach cantata
Lutherans get Christmas trees
Atheist songs add up to nada
But they do have Sundays free.”
From the song “Atheists don’t have no songs,” by Steve Martin. Yes, that one, an accomplished bluegrass banjoist. From Garden and Gun, Feb-Mar/11.

Green Volcano

“Eyjafjallajökull, the volcano that closed Europe’s airspace and stumped English-speaking newscasters trying to pronounce its name, is estimated to have emitted between 150,000 and 300,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a day. That’s less than the grounded flights would have emitted, making it the first carbon-negative volcano.” From New Scientist, Jan 1/11.

We’re Number One

“Canada now has the dubious distinction of being the No. 1 country or region in per capita energy use, averaging 96,000 kilowatt-hours (KWh) per person per year. The United States is the second highest per capita energy use, at 89,000 KWh, followed by Australia (75,000), the EU (48,000), China (19,000), the Global South (5,500), Tanzania (4,000), and Nepal (3,500).

“It is possible, according to the Centre for Alternative Technology, to live a comfortable ‘Northern’ lifestyle on just 15,000 KWh of energy per person per year – or only about one-sixth of the average energy use of Canadians. This could be provided entirely from existing renewable technologies. The U.S. and Canada could get down to 22,500 KWh/person on hydro, wind, and geothermal alone.” From CCPA Monitor, Feb/11.


“The world has been placed on a heightened security alert following reports that New Age terrorists have harnessed the power of homeopathy for evil. ‘Homeopathic weapons represent a major threat to world peace,” said President Barack Obama, ‘they might not cause any actual damage but the placebo effect could be quite devastating.'” From New Scientist, Nov 6/10.

For The Children

“Children are people. They are filled with dignity. They are little people who love and live too. They and their fairy folk will inherit this planet. They look to the adult generation ahead of them with confidence that they will be protected and cared for. They must believe that the pictorial landscape drawn by them as children is cared for, too. This is called human inheritance. It is a belief system on which our cultures rest and have rested to mold the societies in which we live. To cut down the global forest is a deep and personal betrayal of every child on this planet. It is a robbery of their imagination and a looting of their future.'” From The Global Forest, by Diana Beresford-Kroeger (Viking Penguin, 2010).

Heads Up

“If only birds would watch where they’re flying, power lines might not be such a menace. But for species with an expansive blind spot, that’s not so easy. Working with a handful of fowl from South African zoos, researchers performed eye exams on species that suffer high mortality from powerline collisions. They discovered a large blind spot in kori bustards and blue cranes. When these species look down to spot roosts or other birds while flying, their blind spot is dead ahead, obscuring dangerous wires. Distracting such birds away from power lines – rather than adding flags and reflectors to the wires themselves – may be a good conservation strategy.” From American Scientist, Jan-Feb/11.

Cat’s Tongue

“Dogs and other animals lap up water by curling their tongues into a cup-like shape, but high-speed cameras reveal that cats rest the tips of their tongues on the liquid’s surface without penetrating it. The water adheres to the cat’s tongues and is pulled upward in a column as the cat draws its tongue into its mouth – a complex maneuver that pits gravity against inertia.” From Science, Nov 12/10.

Comic Evolution

“It is not often that the books I am asked to review go missing. After hours of searching, I found the errant item, with the spine cracked, in my teenage son’s room – an otherwise book-free zone. I can offer no higher recommendation.
“This superb comic book tells the story of terrestrial evolution… I am not sure why comic books make words like alphaproteobacteria less daunting, but they do. Every classroom should have this book.” From Clint Witchalls’s review of Evolution: The story of Life on Earth, by Jay Hosler, illustrated by Kevin Cannon and Zander Cannon (Hill and Wang, 2010), in New Scientist, Jan 15/10.

About the Author More by Douglas G. Pearce

Douglas G. Pearce is a retired scientist who lives in Mono, you can read more miscellany in other issues of Countryside Digest.

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