Matt in the Weeds

I work for a large public University in the American South. It’s easy to learn which, considering I’ve been there ten years, serving most of them as a Web administrator. It’s too hard to hide on the Internet…

I’ll have a new job on campus, effective early next month. It’s in large part a press job, helping bring attention to new discoveries and the research our faculty conduct. I’ll produce a glossy, quarterly publication and assist with others. But there are enough additional duties attached to this position that I expect to be snowed in like a winter at Reid’s house for the next few months.

Moreover, my writing of inflammatory missives on this blog and elsewhere will probably need to stop. Some of my favorite topics are inflammatory, so I know I’ll miss that. But the potential to write myself out of a job, or at very least embarrass my bosses (which may be close to the same thing), will be high. Therefore I plan to lay low.

I’ll still help Steve with image posting and will probably write an obituary for Kato when he finally kicks the bucket. If I don’t do much more than that for a while, now you’ll know why.

Drop me an email sometime—I’ll still be reading!

Ataika’s Career

Steve, why didn’t you tell us that Ataika was moonlighting as a supermodel?

Did you have to pay to get headshots for her portfolio?

I certainly hope she’s working for more than just kibble!

Minor miracle

Lest we forget why animals are more amazing than you and me, in general, and why we love to have them around: Witness Kato, my cat since 1986, killer of squirrels, rabbits and birds a plenty; the world’s only (known to me) hawking cat, who followed the hawk and me on numerous hunts in my high school days; who remained steadfast through several of my girlfriends’ departures and my wife’s continuing tenure; who outlived two dogs; who suffered the indignities of my toddlers without biting them; who bit me too many times to mention yet still purrs in my lap.

This ancient cat just jumped three times his own height onto a chair in my den.
From a sitting position.

You go, Kato.


I saw this small “chimney” of uneroded soil in the middle of a small arroyo east of the house yesterday.
Closer examination showed that a matt of prickly pear had anchored the soil in place while everything else around it eroded away. Looking at the size of the arroyo and the stability of the vegetation in it, I would guess this was a decades long process.
When I went over to take the close-up of the cactus, it was also evident that this
“cactus island” is a favorite place for owls to hang out, as the ground around was littered with these pellets.


Last Saturday’s predicted high of 52 with a chance of thundershowers turned into a high of 35 and a Spring snow storm. Native Southern Californians Sadie and Maggie ask: What is this stuff?

Squirrels Gone Wild

This item is a little old, but it happened while I was busy moving and couldn’t get to it. The LA Times reported that the city of Santa Monica has been faced with a problem where one of its parks has been overrun by a population explosion of ground squirrels.

And what did the city do? Trap and kill some to keep the population down? Trap some and move some to another area? Encourage natural predators to hunt there and keep the population down? – we have recommended to some clients with ground squirrel problems that they build perching spots for raptors in the area – it works.

No – Santa Monica is going to catch the ground squirrels and give them birth control shots.


This NY Times piece on an auction of fossils and antiquities has it right – it is painful for paleontologists and archaeologists to watch these things. Artifacts and fossils taken from the context of their deposition lose much of their ability to contribute to scientific analysis.

Mullahs Dis 300

The mad mullahs aren’t very coherent about it, but they sure don’t like the new movie “300”.

A couple of reactions:

“The government spokesman referred to the movie as part of the extensive cultural aggression aiming to degenerate cultures of world states.”


“The Iranian embassy in Paris has termed the film an insult to the rich Iranian culture and civilization and shameless fabrication of history.

“The statement further reads, “This is surprising that Hollywood cinema, in a hostile manner and in pursuit of unhealthy objectives and with a commercial look in compliance with the militarist policies of some ill famed and domineering powers, has initiated to propagate hatred and terrorism in the world instead of attempting to diagnose the real problems gripping the present world.


“The director of the film ‘300’, Zack Snyder is 40 years old with no significant professional record.”

Oooh– that hurts..


A real find for evo- wonks: a likely case of sympatric speciation in finches.

“Examples of sympatric speciation in nature are rare and hotly debated. We describe the parallel speciation of finches on two small islands in the Tristan da Cunha archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean.”

For a fascinating book on the subject– by a scientist who allegedly convinced evo- maven Enst Mayr that sympatric speciation, the splitting of a population into two species in one place, was possible– see menno Schilthuizen’s Frogs, Flies, and Dandelions: The Making of Species