Jonathan Crowe

My Correct Views on Everything

Threatened Status Proposed for Black Pine Snake

Lucifer eats a rat

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to list the black pine snake (Pituophis melanoleucus lodingi) as a threatened species. Popular in the pet trade (I’ve had a pair since 2000), the black pine snake has a limited and dwindling range: it’s disappeared from Louisiana and is now found in a handful of counties in Alabama and Mississippi. The FWS cites habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation, killing by humans and pine snakes’ low reproductive rates (they have small clutches) as factors in the subspecies’s decline.

Notably, the pet trade is not cited as a factor; it’s “currently saturated with captive-bred black pinesnakes.” I can’t quite figure out what impact threatened status will have on that saturated pet trade. But however much we enjoy our captive black pine snakes (and they really can be quite lovely animals: I frequently compare ours to black Labradors), the needs of the wild population must come first.

The snake has been on the cusp of being proposed for protection for decades. The proposal opens a 60-day period for public comments; the final listing would probably come some time next year. News coverage.

Gene Wolfe Interviewed

You know how I feel about sf author Gene Wolfe. Here are two recent interviews: one in the MIT Technology Review; the other in the Barrington Courier-Review (until recently his local paper). Attention must be paid.

The Evolution of Combat and Courtship Behaviour in Snakes

Male snakes of many species engage in ritualized combat during mating season, and snake courtship also has specific behaviours. A recent article explores the evolution of those behaviours. ScienceDaily: “The authors of this study analyzed 33 courtship and male-to-male combat behaviors in the scientific literature by plotting them to a phylogenetic tree to identify patterns. The authors identified the patterns in behaviors, which was not always possible, and then used the fossil record to match the behaviors to the snakes’ evolution.”

Moon and Comet Maps

OSIRIS map of Comet 67P/Churyumov-GerasimenkoTopography of Earth's moon

Maps of planets, moons and other objects in our solar system always get me excited, though truth be told they were among the less popular posts on my old Map Room blog. Here are a couple of rather colourful recent examples:

Image credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA (above left); NASA/Colorado School of Mines/MIT/GSFC/Scientific Visualization Studio (above right).

My Can-Con Schedule

Can-Con, Ottawa’s science fiction convention, is this weekend. For a while there we weren’t sure whether we were going to be able to attend due to ongoing medical treatment, but it looks like a go for now, right now. I’m even on a couple of panels, both on Saturday: at 10 a.m. I’ll be on the “Science Fiction: I Can’t Believe You Haven’t Read That!” panel with David Hartwell, Jo Walton, Peter Halasz and Liz Westbrook-Trenholm; at 3 p.m. I’m joining Peter Atwood, Kathryn Cramer and Matthew Johnson for “Space Opera — Its History and Its Place Today.” I’m likely to be the least impressive member of either panel, but I will do my best to be interesting, entertaining and even quite possibly relevant.

Neither Jennifer nor I are at our peak right now — it’s been a really draining month — but we’re looking forward to catching up with people we haven’t seen in a while. Be sure to say hello if you see us, and try not to be too concerned if we look like we’re about to fall over.

Fantasy Maps of U.S. Cities

Fantasy map of Cleveland (Stentor Danielson)

For another example of using fantasy map design language to create real-world maps, here’s the work of geography professor Stentor Danielson, who draws maps of U.S. cities in the style of fantasy maps and sells them on Etsy. Boston, Cleveland (above), Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Washington are available. His Tumblr. Via io9.

Previously: A Fantasy Map of Great Britain; A Fantasy Map of Australia; A Fantasy Map of the U.S.

This Deer Is Already Dead

I think she's following us Shawville is abuzz with reports of a tame deer approaching people in the middle of town. (She’s turned up at the high school on more than one occasion.) We encountered her ourselves last Monday evening during a walk: she followed us at a discreet distance for about 700 metres before we were able to shake her off.

There’s speculation that some family took her in as a fawn and fed her for a while, then released her when she was older. Now people are increasingly concerned for her well-being. (Ironically, in a town full of hunters, with deer meat in their freezers, and deer season around the corner.) The authorities apparently say (I’m getting this third-hand) that she’s too old to be placed in a wildlife rescue. As you can see from the photo, she’s awfully thin: she was probably “rescued” at too young an age, and does not know how to forage for herself.

Wildlife should not be fed, and this is one of the reasons why: now she can’t figure out how to feed herself, and will starve if we don’t do it for her. She’s running free in a town full of cars and hunters, a lonely herd animal with no herd to belong to: it’s only a matter of time before she is run over or is shot or starves. This is why “helping” wildlife doesn’t help: you damage the animal’s ability to survive on its own.

A Change in Cable Companies

Found out on Thursday that Eastlink is getting out of the Quebec cable market, and has offloaded us to DERYtelecom, a small Saguenay-based cable provider. Our high-speed Internet package remains the same: compared to their existing packages we pay a bit more, but have a higher bit rate and no bandwidth cap.

They’re promising equipment upgrades, so high definition may well be available over cable here — the lack of HD might have cost Eastlink some customers, if people around here switched to satellite providers to get it. Though we discontinued cable TV ourselves nearly three years ago, I can contemplate reactivating it, if the package and price are right. We’ll see.

Atheism in America

Only two percent of Americans self-identify as atheists, and Politico’s Nick Spencer argues, counterintuitively, that the U.S. Constitution’s separation of church and state “ended up being the nation’s strongest bulwark against atheism, denying the church the temporal power that had done it so much harm in Europe and effectively draining the wells of moral indignation on which atheists drew.” There is, in other words, a relationship between atheism and religiosity: atheism grows in response to religious dominance (rather than, say, scientific progress, much of which was accomplished by deeply religious scientists). The irony that keeping prayer out of school and church out of law has kept atheism at bay in the U.S. will probably be lost on American fundamentalists. Via Andrew Sullivan.

Open for Submissions Soon: Second Contacts, Tesseracts 19

Submissions will be opening soon for two forthcoming Canadian sf anthologies paying semipro rates:

  • Second Contacts (Bundoran Press), edited by Mike Rimar and Hayden Trenholm, seeks stories that explore “what happens fifty years after first contact, for us, for them, for our shared future.” Open for submissions from September 15, 2014 to January 15, 2015; up to 10,000 words (3,500 to 6,500 preferred); 2¢/word to a maximum of $130.
  • Tesseracts Nineteen (Edge), edited by Claude Lalumière and Mark Shainblum. Annual Canadian anthology with a different theme each year; this one seeks “any and all permutations of the superhero genre.” Open for submissions from October 30, 2014 to February 2, 2015; Canadians only; up to 6,000 words; $50-160.

Older Entries

Encountering Racers
Emergency Kittens, Creative Commons, and Me
Subaru XV Crosstrek: Three Months In
More Adventures in Snakekeeping
Adventures in Snake Missexing
Snake vs. Snake: Copperheads in Atlanta
Readercon Video: Books That Deserve to Remain Unspoiled
Geologic Map of Mars
Readercon 25
Astronomy in the Pontiac
Mapping It Out
Again with a Sinkhole on the 148
My Readercon 25 Schedule
Are Water Snakes Invading California?
It’s a Very Nice Ferry
Long Hidden
Finding Longitude
Heinlein and His Biographer
Montreal Reptile Expo