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I mentioned over on Facebook a while back that I did something I’ve wanted to do for over a decade, but that I couldn’t talk about it yet. I can talk about it now.

Behold, a two day old Pallas Cat* kitten from Red River Zoo. I just happened to be there shortly after the birth and, because I have worked with the zoo before, we found a way for me to take photos without bothering the mother. Pallas Cats are notoriously grouchy and frightful and if the photoshoot distressed the mother, it could have boded ill for the kittens. Because the kittens are at high risk in their first 21 days, they are kept off exhibit and monitored from afar.

To get this shot, I was about fifty feet** away. The kittens were in a very dark part of the enclosure and were so very tiny. I am going to guess that this kitten head was about the size of a large grape*** when I took the photo. I didn’t have my best lens with me and I couldn’t use a tripod, as it could scare the mother. Really, I am quite lucky to get this shot.

In looking through the other photos, I thought I counted about five fuzzy lumps, which seemed like a lot. Nonetheless, I told the zoo that I was pretty confident that I saw three**** heads and there might be as many as five**** in there. As it turns out, the magic number was actually five. See official announcement here: https://www.facebook.com/redriverzoo/photos/a.121326804573286.8147.102563593116274/1397393543633266/?type=3

Like much wildlife, Pallas cats are facing a declining population due to habitat destruction, being hunted for their fur, and poisoning campaigns that are intended to control the pika. The Red River Zoo has a strong history of helping to preserve this species. I was fortunate last summer to take photos of their new male, brought in to add genetic diversity to the reserve population in zoos. It’s very nice to see that he’s been doing his job.

Cute as they are, you don’t want them as pets. The Pallas cat has been described as being one of the meanest cats out there, having evolved in extreme isolation. I have been told that the kittens are born growling. Then a few weeks later, their eyes open and they start growling *at* things.

So while it’s not the world’s greatest photo, I am extremely pleased to be able to share it.


* “Manul” for those of you from northern Asian countries

** 15m for those of you from civilized countries

*** A kumquat for those of you from delicious countries

**** III and V for those of you from ancient countries

Originally posted at stories.starmind.org.
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Making dead wood more bless’d than living lips.

Since saucy jacks so happy are in this,

Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss.

Originally posted at stories.starmind.org.
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Sometimes I can’t come up with a good caption but want to share the photo anyway.

Originally posted at stories.starmind.org.

People Zoo

Apr. 9th, 2017 02:01 pm
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It was opening day for the season at People Zoo and the goats were visiting. The kids liked to visit and play with the people, feeling safe with the barriers in place. Some of the older animals sometimes thought it cruel to keep the people trapped but when they looked at the widespread devastation they had wrought when previously unchecked, they realized that things were better this way. Besides, the people got better food and health care in captivity than they had been able to get in the wild. They lived longer. They seemed happier. It was probably a good system. After all, it was better than letting them go extinct, right?

There were still the debates. A radical people rights activist group once broke into People Zoo and let several people free. However, unable to provide for themselves in an environment devoid of fast food stores and malls, they were eventually re-captured, dirty and starving, and re-introduced to their clans. Some falsified documentaries were made to drive interest in the cause, which caused a bit of hubbub for a while before the animals realized what had happened and came to their senses before anything catastrophic was done, that could have risked the long term survival of the people.

Eventually, some animals got the bright idea to ask the people if they were doing okay, both individually and as a species.

The people blinked at them a bit, then grabbed a bag of chips, a soda, and went back to watching TV.

Originally posted at stories.starmind.org.
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… and, umm, these.

You should come to ChalkFest. It’s not creepy. I promise.

Originally posted at stories.starmind.org.

Chalk Fox

Apr. 8th, 2017 02:01 pm
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Last year, the zoo got a second fox …

Originally posted at stories.starmind.org.


Apr. 7th, 2017 06:00 pm
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Every summer I drive out to Fargo to photograph people vandalizing the zoo with chalk.

Anyone want to join me this year?

It’ll be August 10th. (Yes, I do have to schedule these things this far in advance.)

Originally posted at stories.starmind.org.


Apr. 7th, 2017 02:01 pm
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Bird contemplating the ideas of a rabbit distributing eggs in the spring, of partridges (ground-nesting birds) being in pear trees, of pumpkins (a gourd not found in Europe) being used to celebrate mid autumn and the pilgrims having a massive feast right before winter came instead of celebrating afterward.

Bird is starting to think that humans ain’t so bright.

Originally posted at stories.starmind.org.
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Prairie Dog_5

Fair ladies mask’d are roses in their bud;

Dismask’d, their damask sweet commixture shown,

Are angels vailing clouds, or roses blown.

Originally posted at stories.starmind.org.

Pallas Cat

Apr. 6th, 2017 06:01 pm
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Pallas Cat_v2

I can tell that I got the focus right on an animal portrait when I can see the texture detail in the iris. This works because, if the animal is looking directly at you, the iris is on a two-dimensional parallel with the sensor in the camera. If it’s perfect, you can see the detail all around both irises (assuming a two-eyed animal).

It’s surprising how many photos out there wind up being out of focus when you know what to look for.

It’s also surprising which animals have more and less iris three-dimensionality. (And which ones don’t really have eyes that work that way at all.)

Originally posted at stories.starmind.org.


Apr. 6th, 2017 02:00 pm
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Just your random reminder that the books and movies you grew up with were wrong and that many dinosaurs had feathers, though their colours usually did not fossilize.

So yeah, T-Rexes may have looked like this.

Originally posted at stories.starmind.org.


Apr. 5th, 2017 11:01 pm
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Bees seal all their honeys in little cells so no one else can get to them … just like pop singers seem to want to do.


Originally posted at stories.starmind.org.


Apr. 5th, 2017 06:01 pm
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Ever have those dreams when you’re back in school?

Originally posted at stories.starmind.org.
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Prairie Dog_11

You have made me offer

Of Sicily, Sardinia; and I must

Rid all the sea of pirates; then, to send

Measures of wheat to Rome; this ‘greed upon

To part with unhack’d edges, and bear back

Our targes undinted.

Originally posted at stories.starmind.org.


Apr. 4th, 2017 11:01 pm
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Despite strong temptation, I did not tickle the feet.

Originally posted at stories.starmind.org.


Apr. 4th, 2017 06:01 pm
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You know it’s April when the deer start to sprout.

Originally posted at stories.starmind.org.


Apr. 4th, 2017 02:01 pm
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Some days, he would just sit and look out at the world. He wanted nothing more than to finally be alone to finally be himself. But he feared casting aside his family. For though the constant demands were exhausting, there was a comfort in the buzzing busyness and weight of the certainness of expectation.

So he watched and waited, wanting a world that would never be his.

Originally posted at stories.starmind.org.


Apr. 3rd, 2017 11:01 pm
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An man from Abdera is dreaming about a pig he’s selling. He is asking 100 denarii for it, but people are only offering 50. Eventually, he wakes up. Keeping his eyes closed, he holds out his hand and says ‘OK, I’ll take me the 50’.

(Sometimes my jokes aren’t exactly new. ;) ;) ;) ;) )

Originally posted at stories.starmind.org.


Apr. 3rd, 2017 06:00 pm
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Horse walks up to a bar.

Bartender says “Why the long face?”

(Sometimes my jokes aren’t exactly new. ;) )

Originally posted at stories.starmind.org.


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