Lazy Saturday Reads: Just Human Interest Today

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Good Afternoon!!

I hope you don’t mind if I stay away from politics and other horrors in this post. I’m still feeling very overwhelmed by the Hillary hate, ignorance, and bias in the media, and the horrible tragedies happening in the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Feel free to post anything you want in the comment thread, but I’m going to sick to human interest stories for today.

The photo above comes from a Boston Globe article about mysterious hobby horses that have appeared in a field in Lincoln, Massachusetts, over the past several years. The photo above and many of the other photos in this post come from a link in this story.

A Lincoln field, a herd of hobby horses, and a whimsical mystery.

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Stories abound of how a herd of some 30 wooden and plastic rocking horses gradually appeared on a sliver of farmland in the town of Lincoln.

As far as Harold McAleer is concerned, it started some years ago with a lemonade stand, two kids looking to make a quick buck in the summer, and a pair of the antiquated children’s toys.

“The lemonade stand failed, and the kids went away. But the horsies stayed,” says McAleer, who has lived in Lincoln for 30 years. “Gradually over the years, it has grown and grown.”

Megan Kate Nelson, a Lincoln resident who has documented the growth of the hobby horses in videos and pictures, has a different recollection.

It began with a single horse in 2010, she says. Then, a second one arrived. Soon, the trusty steeds proliferated more quickly than the overgrown weeds and wildflowers that surround them. Visit https://houseofcannabis.ca for more information.

Another theory:

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James Pingeon, whose house adjoins the parcel where the plastic horses roam, says the first one was placed there as part of a holiday display.

James Pingeon, whose house adjoins the parcel where the plastic horses roam, says the first one was placed there as part of a holiday display.

“It started out where we had a little Halloween show, and they had a headless horseman in the field, and we didn’t know what to do with the horse afterward,” he said in a message to the Globe. “So we thought, ‘Oh, let’s just leave it in the field.’ ”

Then other horses kept arriving, flying in from everywhere, he said, and gradually the herd expanded.

“It’s a spontaneous art production,” Pingeon said of the dreamlike scene.

Isn’t it wonderful? I love that people in the Lincoln community did this.

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The next story–also from Massachusetts–really shouldn’t be funny because it’s about someone who apparently has psychological problems; but it’s bizarre enough to be sort of darkly humorous. The story played out over a few days.

WCVB Boston (September 3, 2015): Cop who claimed he was targeted by gunman fabricated story, police say.

MILLIS, Mass. —A rookie police officer in Millis who said Wednesday that someone shot his cruiser before it crashed and burst into flames fabricated the story, police said.

The officer, 24, said he was traveling on Forest Road when he saw a red or maroon pickup truck traveling in the opposite direction. He said when the two vehicles met, the driver opened fire on the police cruiser, police say.

“My cruiser’s been shot at. I’m at Forest Road. It’s going to be a dark maroon pickup,” the officer radioed to dispatch at 2:17 p.m.

The officer said he spun around, and in an attempt to avoid the gunfire and seek shelter, he slammed into a tree and the cruiser burst into flames.

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The incident led to a massive manhunt, with schools closed and residents told to stay in their homes.

From WCVB on September 2: Millis schools closed Thursday as hunt for shooting suspect continues. Residents told to shelter in place during manhunt.

Millis public schools will be closed Thursday while investigators continue to hunt for the man who shot a police cruiser, causing it to hit a tree and burst into flames Wednesday afternoon.

At a news conference Wednesday night, Millis police said a cruiser was traveling on Forest Road when an officer noticed a red or maroon pickup truck traveling in the opposite direction, and when the two vehicles met the driver opened fire on the police cruiser.

The officer spun around, and in an attempt to avoid the gunfire and seek shelter he slammed into a tree and the cruiser burst into flames.

The unidentified officer was able to escape the flames and began to return fire as the pickup truck fled south toward Medfield.

Unreal. Finally, from today’s Boston Globe: Millis officer’s story shifted in alleged shooting hoax. Confessed he ‘blacked out,’ police say.

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MILLIS — Less than three weeks ago, Bryan Johnson was beaming in a suit and tie as he stood before town selectmen, who had voted unanimously to make him a permanent police officer on the small force where he had been a part-time officer and dispatcher.

“This is a blessing,” said the 24-year-old Johnson, with the police chief and his parents sitting behind him at the hearing.

On Friday, police officials said he will be fired and face charges for allegedly making a false claim that he had been shot at by a passing driver, a report that triggered a massive response by heavily armed police who cordoned off parts of the town for hours on Wednesday and led authorities to close the public schools.

“I know I speak for the entire department and the police community when I say that we were shocked by what’s happened,” said Sergeant William Dwyer, who has been running the Millis Police Department this week.

I’m very sad for him and his family. At least he didn’t shoot anyone.

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Johnson’s alleged confession to State Police came after he told them several false stories about what happened, according to a Millis police report filed in Wrentham District Court. The report said Johnson will be charged with misleading a criminal investigation, communicating false information to emergency services, malicious destruction of property, and unlawfully firing his gun.

Johnson is in an undisclosed “medical facility’’ and will remain there for the next six to 10 days, Dwyer said at a news conference Friday afternoon. “As soon as he is cleared at the medical facility, we will execute the warrant,’’ he said. He did not say what Johnson was being treated for.

Read more at the link. Apparently, no everyone who knew Johnson is shocked and mystified. The police have no idea why he did this.

What does this story say about human nature?

Fox News: ‘One hell of a pillow fight’ West Point tradition turns violent; 24 concussions.

An annual pillow fight by freshmen cadets at the U.S. Military Academy turned bloody this year when cadets swung pillowcases packed with hard objects, injuring 30 cadets, including 24 who suffered concussions.

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Photos and video have circulated on social media showing the Aug. 20 brawl, which The New York Times reports West Point did not confirm until Thursday.

Lt. Col. Christopher Kasker told the newspaper the annual fight is organized by first-year students as a way to build camaraderie after a grueling summer of training to prepare them for plebe life.

He said upperclassmen overseeing the fight required cadets to wear helmets, but video shows many did not. Some cadets swung pillowcases believed to be packed with their helmets.

The Times noted one freshman posted on Twitter: “4 concussions, 1 broken leg, 2 broken arms, 1 dislocated shoulder, and several broken ribs. That’s one hell of a pillow fight. #USMA19.”

What the hell? So far no one has been disciplined, the administration is “investigating,” and they’re not going to cancel the annual pillow fight.

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British researchers say their study shows that cats are more independent than dogs. Really? No sh*t, Sherlock. The Economic Times reports:

LONDON: Domestic cats do not generally see their owners as a focus of safety and security in the same way that dogs do, according to new research.

The study by animal behaviour specialists at the University of Lincoln, UK, shows that while dogs perceive their owners as a safe base, the relationship between people and their feline friends appears to be quite different.

While it is increasingly recognised that cats are more social and more capable of shared relationships than traditionally thought, the latest research shows that adult cats appear to be more autonomous – even in their social relationships – and not necessarily dependent on others to provide a sense of protection.

OK. I think most people who have provided grain free choices and homes for cats would agree with that finding, but The Daily Mail headline goes too far. Face it, your cat doesn’t care about you: Felines are more independent than dogs and don’t miss you when you’re gone, study reveals.

Um . . . no. If that’s the case, why do rush to the door when they hear their human’s car or footsteps approaching? Why do cats freak out if they figure out you’re going away for a few days–for example, you they see you packing suitcases?

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The researchers based the study on Attachment Theory, and used the Strange Situation (developed by Mary Ainsworth to study relationships between young children and their caregivers), adapted for use with cats and dogs.

The research, published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, was led by Professor Daniel Mills, Professor of Veterinary Behavioural Medicine at the University of Lincoln’s School of Life Sciences, along with Alice Potter – who studied as a postgraduate at Lincoln and now works with the Companion Animals Science Group at the RSPCA.

Professor Mills said: “The domestic cat has recently passed the dog as the most popular companion animal in Europe, with many seeing a cat as an ideal pet for owners who work long hours. Previous research has suggested that some cats show signs of separation anxiety when left alone by their owners, in the same way that dogs do, but the results of our study show that they are in fact much more independent than canine companions. It seems that what we interpret as might actually be signs of frustration.”

Well, why would cats be frustrated if they don’t care what you do or whether you leave them alone?

From phys.org.

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The study observed the relationships between a number of cats and their owners, placing the pets in an unfamiliar environment together with their owner, with a stranger and also on their own. In varying scenarios, it assessed three different characteristics of attachment; the amount of contact sought by the cat, the level of passive behaviour, and signs of distress caused by the absence of the owner.

“Although our cats were more vocal when the owner rather than the stranger left them with the other individual, we didn’t see any additional evidence to suggest that the bond between a cat and its owner is one of secure attachment. This vocalisation might simply be a sign of frustration or learned response, since no other signs of attachment were reliably seen. In strange situations, attached individuals seek to stay close to their carer, show signs of distress when they are separated and demonstrate pleasure when their attachment figure returns, but these trends weren’t apparent during our research,” said Professor Mills.

That’s interesting, but it sounds like the results demonstrate that cats have a insecure attachment–possibly an avoidant attachment.

In a child, avoidant attachment is demonstrated in the Strange Situation by the child ignoring the caregiver and feigning disinterest when he or she leaves the room. When the caregiver returns, the avoidantly attached child appears not to notice. But studies have shown that these children are internally stress–showing increases in vital signs like heart and pulse rates. They have simply learned not to expect much positive attention from their caregivers.

Is it possible that the cats in the study had caregivers who simply assumed they were independent and autonomous, based on the popular stereo type, and thus formed an insecure attachment with their pet cats? I think it’s an interesting question. Too bad researchers couldn’t interview the cats.

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Here’s another interesting study–this time on big cats. The Christian Science Monitor: Where are all the lions?

When Ian Hatton, a McGill University PhD student, began studying lions and their prey in protected parks in East and Southern Africa, he found himself looking for more lions.

A veritable feast of gazelles bounded around and Zebras trotted freely – easy pickings for a pack of hungry lions. But there were fewer than Mr. Hatton expected.

Upon further research, Hatton and the other scientists discovered that this was a pattern. Prey-crowded areas had fewer lions than expected. More prey did mean a few more lions, but the lions did not increase proportionally to the gazelle population, for example.

When they examined studies on other animals, the researchers saw the same pattern. Large populations of prey did not lead to a significant increase of predators.

This wasn’t limited to carnivores. The same pattern appeared among herbivores and the plants they eat.

Why would that be?

Researchers surmise that this pattern emerges because of prey reproduction rates. In crowded areas, prey reproduce at slower rates. Thus the prey population is made up of many healthy adults.

It’s easiest for predators to capture and kill younger prey or older, weaker prey. As such, a crowded population of prey that is reproducing at slower rates makes getting a meal more difficult for predators to find.

More from the Washington Post:

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By conducting an analysis of more than a thousand studies worldwide, researchers found a common theme in just about every ecosystem across the globe: Predators don’t increase in numbers at the same rate as their prey. In fact, the faster you add prey to an ecosystem, the slower predators’ numbers grow.

“When you double your prey, you also increase your predators, but not to the same extent,” says Ian Hatton, a biologist and the study’s lead author. “Instead they grow at a much diminished rate in comparison to prey.” This was true for large carnivores on the African savanna all the way down to the tiniest microbe-munching fish in the ocean.

Even more intriguing, the researchers noticed that the ratio of predators to prey in all of these ecosystems could be predicted by the same mathematical function — in other words, the way predator and prey numbers relate to each other is the same for different species all over the world.

“That’s what was very surprising to us, to see this same pattern come up over and over,” Hatton says. But what’s actually driving the pattern remains something of a mystery.

Hatton and his colleagues suspect that different aspects of different ecosystems may drive the predator-prey ratio: For example, Hatton says, competition for space might be a major factor controlling animal populations, but changes in the nutrients used and produced by plankton might have more of an effect on some marine ecosystems.

Read more fascinating stuff at the link.

How did this post get so long? I hope you enjoyed reading these stories as much as I did. See you in the comments, and have a great Labor Day Weekend!

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23 Comments on “Lazy Saturday Reads: Just Human Interest Today”

  1. Riverbird says:

    I feel overwhelmed by the same things. Thanks for this post, especially the hobby horse story.

  2. Sweet Sue says:

    My cat follows me wherever I go and comes when I call.
    She head buts and licks me all the time.
    Yes, she’s a little neurotic but she makes it very clear that she loves me.
    I, of course, adore her.

  3. roofingbird says:

    Empty or “waste” places are the most interesting things. They offer such opportunity and are a source of contemplation. I suspect there is a common denominator amongst some of us that find landscapes, without live humans or with human residue, attractive in stressful times.

    This is my current “waste” place of interest:

    http://tcpermaculture.blogspot.com/2011/06/importance-of-edge.html

    • NW Luna says:

      Just now catching up …. Eastern WA is often different than the western side. Lots more rednecks and gun-rights nuts. The university in Pullman is probably seen as a hotbed of gawdless libruls by a lot of those people.

      I didn’t know about the school’s atmosphere — had some acquaintances who went there but not good friends. Interesting.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Why does Whole Foods need armed “security guards?”

    Oakland Whole Foods Security Guard Fired After Allegedly Assaulting Customer

    http://gawker.com/oakland-whole-foods-security-guard-fired-after-allegedl-1728914636

    An armed security guard employed by a Whole Foods market in Oakland has been “permanently removed” after an altercation with a customer ended in violence, SF Weekly reports. “He was trying to buy groceries with his EBT card and ended up in a stretcher,” one witness, Zoe Marks, wrote on Facebook.

    “In Oakland less than four hours and I just saw a young man violently assaulted by an armed security guard at Whole Foods – slammed repeatedly against concrete pillars, put in a chokehold, restrained, and suffocated until he was thrown face down on the pavement unconscious,” Marks wrote in her post, published yesterday morning. “The guard locked him out of the store despite the fact he was immobile. Not a single employee called the paramedics.”

    The Oakland Police Department told SF Weekly on Friday afternoon that they are “investigating an assault that occurred on September 3, 2015, at 9:42PM, at Bay and Harrison Street,” and that the victim is in stable condition at a local hospital.

    Marks posted three photographs of a man lying on the ground, covered in blood. “Armed private guards cannot be tolerated in our grocery stores and communities when this is what they do to paying customers. Whole Foods needs to be held accountable – security is NOT selective, it is collective,” she added.

    Initially, the security guard involved in the incident was simply suspended, but later on Friday a Whole Foods spokesperson said, “The security guard involved with this incident has been permanently removed from Whole Foods Market.”

    The customer was black, of course. I’ve seen people use food stamp cards in Whole Foods. They take them. The cashier should be fired too.

    • NW Luna says:

      That’s an awful incident. How could the other WF employees just watch that and not intervene?

    • roofingbird says:

      My younger daughter and her family just bought a home in Oakland. The area, especially around Lake Merritt and south, is under enormous pressure from the advancing techies who can’t find housing in SF. Much as Dak has discussed, regarding NOLA, I think this invasion is creating a culture clash and long time residents are losing.

      There is no excuse for this. Whole Foods is not a gated community. It’s the return of the “Ugly American” local style.

  5. NW Luna says:

    Washington State Supreme Court strikes down charter schools in their entirety

    Late Friday afternoon, the state Supreme Court struck down as unconstitutional the 2012 law that allowed his school, and eight others so far in the state, to operate with taxpayer dollars, even though their boards aren’t elected.

    The court’s long-awaited ruling — the first in the nation to strike down charter schools in their entirety — shocked parents, advocates, legislators, lawyers and government officials who huddled in the midst of the Labor Day weekend to figure out what happens next. The parties have 20 days to ask the court for reconsideration before the ruling becomes final and wipes out the law voters narrowly approved three years ago. ….

    In the 6-3 decision, Chief Justice Barbara Madsen wrote that charter schools aren’t “common schools” as defined in the state constitution because they’re governed by appointed rather than elected boards. All the justices agreed. They disagreed about whether the Legislature could use the state’s general fund to pay for charter schools. The case will be sent back to King County Superior Court for “an appropriate order.”

    Disappointingly, most of the article seems to be in favor of charter schools

  6. bostonboomer says:

    Imagine If Hillary Clinton’s Security Detail Had Done This

    One of Donald Trump’s security guards punched a protester in the face outside of Trump Plaza yesterday — in front of a large crowd of reporters — during a protest coinciding with Trump’s official pledge of loyalty to the Republican Party. Many of the protesters were Latino, demonstrating against Trump’s track record of racist anti-immigration comments.

  7. Beata says:

    Excellent new #HillaryMen essay about women who speak out. They quote Hillary Clinton’s 1995 speech at the United Nations’ Fourth World Conference on Women when she famously said: “If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights once and for all. Let us not forget that among those rights are the right to speak freely – and the right to be heard.”

    Daou and Watson then write: “We are men. Quite frankly, we are used to speaking up and used to being heard. It comes with the unequal and unjust chromosomal alignment in our society. Yes, it’s easy to take it for granted. But we know that the women in our lives do not. We know that a woman speaking loudly and firmly and with conviction can still be a startling sound on our public commons.”

    http://www.hillarymen.com/latest/2015/9/5/silence-woman-silence-women-hillary-beijing

    • Beata says:

      As women, who among us has not experienced being ignored, interrupted, and insulted when speaking out while at the same time men are heard and respected? It happens at school, at work, at home, in the political arena, and online. And it’s not always men who try to silence women. Sometimes it is women treating other women that way. I have found online ( not here! ) that I can post something and be ignored or insulted. Later, a male poster can say basically the same thing and be listened to like he is G-d’s gift to the planet.

      In their essay, Daou and Watson cite a NYT article from January entitled “Speaking While Female”. It’s worth reading again.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/11/opinion/sunday/speaking-while-female.html