Archive for August, 2012

Hurray for Blue Tits!!

(No! Not THOSE kind of… oh, never mind!)

Could they be the key to solving a serious British environmental problem?

(THIS kind!! [1])

Yes, bird-watchers and tree huggers, the geeks and nerdlings over at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology have uncovered the wonderful truth about blue tits.

(A bird feeder sporting a nice pair of British blue tits)

The article begins, “Blue tits, a familiar garden bird, could be the salvation of our imperiled conker trees (horse-chestnut trees), which are under severe attack by a tiny non-native moth that has spread from continental Europe.”

Yes, the foreign illegal alien moth arrived in London just ten years ago, and has since spread across most of England and Wales. The moth caterpillars eat the leaves while hiding inside them, so damaging the leaves and causing them to turn brown and making the tree appear as if autumn has come early.

(Horse Chestnut Leaf-miner Cameraria ohridella. [Photo © Ian Kimber]) 

Experts at the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) and the University of Hull are asking today (August 30, 2012) for the public’s help to find out how many moth caterpillars are eaten by birds, such as blue tits. They are asking volunteers to check leaves from a horse chestnut tree for the distinctive damage caused by the birds to the leaf mines and report it through the Conker Tree Science website.

(Damaged horse chestnut leaf, showing whitish leaf mines [2])

Dr Michael Pocock, from CEH, said, “It’s a big mission and we’re reliant on people’s help to discover how much birds are feeding on the alien moths.”

Dr Darren Evans from the University of Hull added, “In discovering whether garden birds, like blue tits, can help to protect conker trees, we will also be learning more about the behaviour of the birds themselves.”

The alien moth, which was discovered in the 1980s, has caterpillars that live inside the leaves, forming distinctive patches of damage called “leaf mines”. Up to 700 leaf mines have been recorded on a single leaf and the damage caused by large numbers of larvae can be striking. A previous Conker Tree Science mission discovered that predatory wasps were not effectively controlling the alien moths, possibly explaining their rapid spread.

(Signs of a bird attack on the leaf mine home of the moth [3])

This project, where anyone can get involved with genuine scientific research, is one of the largest of its kind in the UK and is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Find out more by visiting the Conker Tree Science project’s website. People in Britain can take part in the new “Bird Attack” mission from August 20 to September 23, 2012.

Let’s keep those cute blue tits up front in our battle against these pesky moths!


[1] A blue tit in front of horse-chestnut leaves that are covered with brown patches of damage caused by the caterpillars of the leaf mining moths. (Photo Credit: Richard Broughton/CEH)

[2] [3]  Photo credit: Dr Michael Pocock/CEH


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Steel magnolias, they call them.

(“So… you say you’re a feminist. Inn’t that cute?”)

Sweet as jam…

(Hee Haw’s Cathy Baker)

and tough as nails.

(“Now.. Ah know yew are not gonna make me repeat mahself”)

 These girls brook no backchat.

(Ah cain’t wait to see the look on his face when I blow that hat off his head!)

They’re not bitchy. Far from it. They are the sweetest, kindest, most big-hearted girls you will ever meet.

But Lord help you if you do them wrong.

(Well, if it isn’t that lyin’, cheatin’ bastard coming up my driveway!)

A Southern Girl will tell you to go to Hell in a way that almost makes you look forward to the trip!

I miss their masterful flirting. I miss their refreshing honesty. I miss the laughter that comes straight from their hearts.

(The lovely Angela Johnson – one more reason to love Alabama)

I miss the way they talk and the sounds of their voices.

I miss the Belles and their strength of character. I miss the Redneck Girls and their passionate love of life.

In a very real sense, these wonderful women ARE The South.

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I had occasion the other day to spend a leisurely afternoon with my dearly beloved friend, Davka Frei. [1]

Davka is a stunningly beautiful Jewish girl who has zero interest in Yiddishkeit. [2]

It’s not that she hates Judaism or even dislikes it. It’s simply not on the radar with her. As such, she is continually flummoxed at the fact that I live an observant Jewish life.

I did not grow up Orthodox. I chose to become Orthodox later in life. And this is what gets her!

You see, while Davka can wrap her mind around someone being observant because he or she was raised that way and ‘did not know better’ (i.e. FFB – Frum From Birth [3]), she has a much harder time understanding why someone who ‘knew better’ (i.e. had a normal non-observant life) would choose a frum lifestyle.

(Frum vs Frei)

Fortunately for the both of us, the Frum/Frei debate hasn’t affected our relationship in the least because for the most part we are completely dippy about each other. For all of our differences in terms of religious observance, we thoroughly enjoy each other’s company.

(Frei vs Frum)

And it is that genuine affection that trumps just about everything else.

In our own way, we are both as Loonie as they come… but we arrive at our loopiness from different angles.

(That’s not us, btw)

That’s what makes lunch (kosher, of course… my friend puts friendship over flavour! [4]) with Davka such a wonderful, delightful experience.

(Ahavas Yisroel! [5])

Love really does conquer all.


[1] Davka Frei (pronounced ‘DAHV-kah FRY’). Not her real name. Davka Frei is a pseudonym. Davka is an Aramaic word that has no precise English translation. The closest you can come is probably ‘very’ or ‘exactly’ or ‘precisely.’  Frei (lit. ‘free’) is a Yiddish/German word meaning ‘non-observant’or ‘not Orthodox’… as in ‘free’ from religious observance.

[2] Yiddishkeit (from the Yiddish; Lit. “Jewishness”) – the word is usually used to mean Judaism and everything related to Jews and Judaism.

[3] Frum (from the German fromm, meaning “devout” or “pious”. The ‘u’ is pronounced like the ‘oo’ in ‘book’ or ‘cookie’) meaning committed to the observance of  Jewish commandments and law, specifically of Orthodox Judaism. Frum is the opposite of Frei.

[4] Truth be told, our last lunch together was at the Oasis Cafe in downtown Toronto. I wasn’t expecting much. We both had the Eggplant Parmigiana with caesar salad and Peach Snapple. It was astonishingly good. Davka: “It’s so delicious, you’d never know it was kosher!” LOL

[5] Love for one’s fellow Jew.

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I’ve given this a lot of thought and have come to two conclusions.

One: most people don’t know how properly to flirt. This is because…

Two: most people don’t know what flirting is.

Flirting is as complex as it is fundamental.

Flirting is about communicating with a person through a careful procedure that involves a little curiosity, a bit of brevity and laughter, and some meaningful glances and smiles. While it can be aggressive and obvious, I personally put this overt style of flirting in the ‘hitting on someone’ category.

To me, flirting is quiet and subtle. A look that lingers a moment longer than it otherwise would. The tiniest of smiles. The most seemingly innocent double entendre or Freudian slip. A meaningful exchange of glances in reaction to what a third person says. The most subtle of body language. Ideally, only the most observant of bystanders would even know there was any flirting going on at all.

One popular fact that gets tossed around a great deal is that scientists believe there are as many as 52 “flirting signals” used by humans around the world.

I don’t know how or where the scientists picked up such information but speaking strictly for myself the Number One Undisputed Capital of Flirting, bar none, is The South.

There is something about the flirting that goes on south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

Flirting is not merely a skill way down yonder in the land of cotton… it has been elevated, refined and transformed into an Art!

It is through the art of flirtation that people in The South experience the pleasures of interacting with the opposite sex.

Flirting can be a means by which to get into a relationship, of course. It is certainly an enjoyable way to get to know someone initially.

But to me, flirting is an end in and of itself. It doesn’t have to lead anywhere else. To me, flirting is its own reward.

And when flirting with a Southern Girl… the rewards are immeasurable.

It’s been 12 years since I went down to The South. It’s been 12 years since I’ve experienced Flirtation as Art.

Nothing compares. Nothing comes close.

I miss it.

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The folks over at ScienceDaily.com have alerted us to a new and terrifying menace on the West Coast!!

Spider Version of Bigfoot Emerges from Caves in the Pacific Northwest

The new spider breaks new ground in arachnology!


The article begins, “The forests of the coastal regions from California to British Columbia are renowned for their unique and ancient animals and plants, such as coast redwoods, tailed frogs, mountain beavers and the legendary Bigfoot (also known as Sasquatch). Whereas Bigfoot is probably just fiction, a huge, newly discovered spider is very real. Trogloraptor (or “cave robber”) is named for its cave home and spectacular, elongate claws. It is a spider so evolutionarily special that it represents not only a new genus and species, but also a new family (Trogloraptoridae). Even for the species-rich insects and arachnids, to discover a new, previously unknown family is an historic moment.”

(Scanning electron micrograph – Trogloraptor spider claw)

As the boys over at Wired Science put it, “The spider is about 1.5 inches wide with its legs stretched out, bigger than a half-dollar coin. It was found living in loose strands of web hanging from cave ceilings and under forest debris. It wields a set of lethal-looking claws (right), but its hunting and fighting behaviors remain to be seen.”

Scientists from the California Academy of Sciences, San Diego State University, and citizen scientists from the Western Cave Conservancy all helped discover the spiders. The California Academy of Sciences team led the study to analyze and describe the new arachnid family.

Well done, geeks. We didn’t need to sleep tonight, anyway!


Images: California Academy of Sciences

Journal Reference:

  1. Charles Griswold, Tracy Audisio, Joel Ledford. An extraordinary new family of spiders from caves in the Pacific Northwest (Araneae, Trogloraptoridae, new family)ZooKeys, 2012; 215 (0): 77 DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.215.3547

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One night when I was driving down from Canada to Arkansas, I stopped at Jackson, Tennessee.

A few months before, an old girlfriend of mine, LK, introduced me to a wonderful place in Jackson called Casey Jones Village and I thought I would pop by to see if it was still open.

As I pulled in and parked, I could tell they’d had some kind of festival or concert there and, sadly, it looked like I’d missed it. Everyone seemed to be packing up. Rather than head back out on the highway, I decided to get out and stretch my legs and have a bit of a poke around.

I’ve never had bad luck meeting people in The South.

I headed toward the Old Country Store & Restaurant as there was group of musicians gathered there just to the left of the store. Looked like maybe they were a family. Two young ladies on violin. Two older gents on guitar. A stand-up bass. A banjo. Perhaps a harmonica.

I’d almost reached them when they lifted their instruments.

And that is when I heard it.

That small group of musicians started playing the beautiful Tennessee Waltz.

I just froze in my tracks, taking it all in. I was transfixed.

I’m not sure if any of you have ever experienced a perfect moment. I did that night at that place.

The music. The night. The mild night air. A gentle breeze blowing the long blonde hair of one of the girls playing the violin.

I was in awe.

It was like looking at a Norman Rockwell painting come to life.

Although I know it’s not possible, it seems to me I held my breath the entire time. I was so afraid that if I spoke, if I moved, if I did anything… I would spoil the absolute perfection of the moment.

I’ve always liked the Tennessee Waltz. But on that exact night at that exact time and place… it was the most beautiful tune I’d ever heard.

When they finished, they began packing away their instruments.

As I quietly came forward, I noticed a big old mason jar with some money in it. Not a lot of money, I’m sad to say.

I took all the cash I had on me and rolled it up, put a $5 bill around the outside and placed it into the mason jar. It must have been around $400, I think. And I actually felt guilty for not being able to pay more… to pay them as much as they were worth in my eyes.

You see, I wasn’t giving them money. I was merely trying to pay back a small token amount of what they had given to me that night.

You can’t put a dollar value on perfection.

I’ll always remember that night… and The Tennessee Waltz.

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This is my 200th post on this blog site!

It is a happy coincidence that my last post is presently being featured in WordPress’s Freshly Pressed section. [1]

Thanks, WordPress, for the boost and vote of confidence. Youse guys are the most bestest ever.

Thanks to the many arts, cuisine, culture, entertainment, news and especially science sites out there in what we once called the information superhighway. [2]

(Kosher Samurai)

Special thanks to the geeks and nerdlings over at ScienceDaily.com and Scoop.it Science News. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, I am constantly flattering all y’all! [3]

Extra special thanks to the lovely, talented and all-round magnificent Chris Conrad who provoked me into publishing my works and words online after me noodging her for years to get her own writing published in what we once called ‘magazines.’ [4]

(Vampyre Fangs)

Thanks most of all to the many people who have been kind and curious enough to stop in for a look at Kosher Samurai and my sister blog, Vampyre Fangs, as well as my ongoing Twitter experiment, the zombie apocalypse journal fiction work The Great Dead North. Your readership, comments and continuing support are very much appreciated.

(The Great Dead North)

For those new to my writing… I publish posts in both Kosher Samurai and Vampyre Fangs every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. [5] I tweet on The Great Dead North daily. [6]

Please come back often. If you like what you see, please tell your friends.


The best of 378,679 bloggers, 810,546 new posts, 1,033,890 comments, & 209,529,601 words posted today on WordPress.com.

[2] Ask your parents.

[3] As I learned in law school, stealing from one person is plagiarism. Stealing from a dozen is ‘research!’

[4] See [2] above.

[5] Excluding national holidays and Jewish holidays.

[6] Excluding Jewish Sabbath (Friday evening until Saturday night after dark) and Jewish holidays.

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