... this herd of Ibex goats seem right at home on the near-sheer face of Cingino Dam in northern Italy. In the photos, the animals appear to be licking the stones for the salt and other minerals, though some folks have suggested the goats are simply practicing their climbing skills on the 160 foot stone wall.

—TreeHugger.com, Gutsy Goats Caught Scaling Super-Steep Dam

*not actually a tumblr, yet.

Meerkats & melons, together at last

The further adventures of giving cute animals unfamiliar foods that hopefully will not poison them:

Leviathan Melvilli comes for you


Today’s sperm whale has no functional teeth in its upper jaw and only small ones in its lower jaw (which are mostly used in fights). It feeds through suction, relying on a rush of water to carry its prey into its open mouth. But Leviathan’s mouth was full of huge teeth, the largest of which were a foot long and around 4 inches wide. This was no suction feeder! Leviathan clearly grabbed its prey with a powerful bite, inflicting deep wounds and tearing off flesh as killer whales do, but with a skull three times bigger….

The skull is beautifully adapted to capture large, powerful prey. The snout was short and wide, allowing it to bite more strongly with its front teeth and resist the struggles of its prey. Its temporal fossa – the shallow depression on the side of the skull – was enormous and could old huge jaw-closing muscles. The bite would have been the largest of any tetrapod (the animal group that includes mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians). And the teeth were deeply embedded in the jaw bones for each support, and interlocked to give the animal a shearing, meat-carving bite. They were also angled forwards, giving Leviathan a better grip on prey with curved bodies.

Behold Leviathan: the sperm whale that killed other whales

Annals of law, ursine marijuana dept.

A Montana court has ruled that if you smoke marijuana at your job at a private park, and then you get attacked by a bear, the marijuana use in of itself does not disqualify you to receive worker’s comp:

Judge Shea concluded that “[w]hen it comes to attacking humans, grizzlies are equal opportunity maulers; attacking without regard to race, creed, ethnicity, or marijuana usage.” The judge characterized Hopkins use of marijuana to “kick off” a day of working with grizzly bears as “ill-advised” and “mind-bogglingly stupid.” There was no evidence, however, that the pot smoking contributed significantly to Hopkins’ injuries.

This is great news for my friends at 420bears.com.

Squirrel monkeys, jello. Jello, squirrel monkeys.

Take some time to get to know each other:


Hey, honey, I think these pictures will be perfect for the baby’s room, what do you think?

More on Flickr.

In fire and in flood, extra help for the rich

Another installment in the continuing series of Francis linking to embargoed content that you probably don’t have access to online, but which you should, because it’s Harper’s dammit, and you’d pay money for it if you cared about the world of letters at all you philistine.

Writing for Harper’s, McKenzie Funk reports that AIG and other insurance companies are offering enhanced private firefighting services for those who want to pay extra:

... Firebreak has a proprietary system to coat houses with liquefied Phos-Chek—the same chemical retardant used by the Forest Service and first developed in the 1960s by Monsanto. The spray is colorless and harmless, Chief Sam said, and it can protect your home for up to eight months, far longer than rival gels and foams.

In 2005, Firebreak went to work for AIG’s insurance division, now called Chartis Insurance, increasing the fleet of the division’s Private Client Group from two to twelve trucks and expanding its reach from fourteen elite California zip codes—90049, 90077, 90210, etc.—to nearly 200, plus zips in Vail, Aspen, and Breckenridge, Colorado. Chief Sam joined the company in 2006, after five years as fire chief in Monrovia. He’d been planning a second career in executive coaching until he read about AIG’s new wildfire unit in Fortune. “It was the thing of the future,” he told me, “and I wanted to get in on the ground floor.”

Firebreak was growing—Chief Sam’s friend George had just started a two-truck pilot program for Farmers Insurance—but now there was competition. Chubb insurance protects policyholders in thirteen western states through Montana’s Wildfire Defense Systems, which sprays homes with rival Thermo-Gel retardant. Fireman’s Fund contracts San Diego’s Fireprotec to clear a defensible space around clients’ homes, and offers evacuation services to its richest customers. San Diego’s Fire-Pro USA sprays homes with patented FireIce gel. Wildomar’s Pacific Fire Guard deploys “the Navy SEALs of firefighters” to spray homes with GELTEC retardant.

And the services aren’t simply limited to firefighting:

AIG has Firebreak, but where rich policyholders are clustered on risky coastlines, the Private Client Group is offering the Hurricane Protection Unit: men with GPS units and satellite phones who are on the scene after a storm blows through, boarding up broken doors and windows, patching holes in roofs, covering skylights with tarps, evacuating valuable artwork.

For what it’s worth, nothing in the Harper’s article seems to indicate that these private operators were at all interfering with the actions of government firefighters. Also, I’m one of those people who thinks that maybe California needs to set an explicit zone past which the assistance of government firefighters can’t be counted on, and maybe that the federal government shouldn’t be implicitly subsidizing development in hurricane zones either. Obviously a situation in which the poor can’t live safely in these troubled areas, but the rich can do so if they’re willing to pay for the luxury, certainly makes income inequality more glaring. But I’m not sure that governments should be funding further encroachments on unstable climes either.

Taxonomy run amok

Jesus H. Christ.

... a ban on certain breeds—such as Britain introduced—might not work. Fanciers of muscular hounds with big jaws could circumnavigate the law by crossing, say, a mastiff with a pit bull, to create a perfectly legal canine nasty (as, indeed, has happened in Britain).

To meet the difficulty, Flemming Moller, a veterinarian who took over the parliamentary seat vacated when the former prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, went off to run NATO, proposed a logical, if drastic, solution: kill all mongrels. Mr Moller claims this is the only way to eliminate aggressive traits from the doggy gene pool. Only dogs registered in the national stud book have a record of their parentage and genetic traits. Other puppies, he says, could be the products of anything from joyful encounters in leafy suburbs to deliberate breeding by thugs.

So this parliamentarian is suggesting killing all mongrels not because they’re likely to be violent, but because they are harder to categorize? And completely ignoring the fact that pure-breeding can often have its own horrible consequences. Luckily, nobody else in Denmark seems to be taking him seriously.

But I can’t help but wonder: What sort of veterinarian recommends a policy like this? If you’re down with systematically killing tens of thousands of dogs, how’d you become a veterinarian in the first place?


Because cuteness aestheticizes helplessness and deformity, it almost always involves an act of sadism on the part of its creator, who makes an unconscious attempt to maim, hobble, and embarrass the thing he seeks to idolize.

—Daniel Harris, Cuteness

Fuck yeah.


With casts.

Artificial Owl

Seriously, this blog has been going for a year and I’m just hearing about now? I’m doing something terribly, terribly wrong. I’m talking about Artificial Owl, a site dedicated to abandoned man-made creations. It’s only the awesomest new thing ever. To wit:

Mexican church consumed by lava:

Abandoned ships in the dead Aral Sea:

Acoustic mirrors:

Communist flying saucer monument on a mountaintop:

The giant hand of the Atacama desert:

(via JWZ)