Podcasts of the Week Ending December 2


The Story Collider :: The Bats and the Bees

A reluctant field researcher finds purpose in showing drunk 17-year-olds how to tag bats with microchips, and a bee researcher who is allergic to bees.  Science!

Radiolab :: Stereothreat

Research into the effects of negative stereotypes and the difficulty of replicating that research.

Hit Parade :: The Queen of Disco Edition

Things I learned about Boston’s own Donna Summer: 1. she got her start in the Munich production of Hair where she became fluent in German, 2. she wrote or co-wrote most of her songs, 3. she and her producers basically invented electronic dance music, and 4. she continued to have club hits into the 2010s.

Afropop Worldwide :: A Brief History of Funk

A brief but beautiful story of funk with many funky classics and interviews with Bobby Byrd and George Clinton.

Slow Burn: A Podcast About Watergate

A new podcast that tells the story of the Watergate scandal with an as-it’s-happening approach focusing on long-forgotten key players in the scandal.

30 for 30 Podcasts :: The Lights of Wrigleyville

The story of the contentious battle between theChicago Cubs and their residential neighbors to install lights in Wrigley Field in the 1980s.

More Perfect :: Mr. Graham and the Reasonable Man

The story of a legal case that underlies our current crises in policing in America, and the legal fiction of the “Reasonable Man.”

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Photopost: New England Aquarium


My daughter and I took advantage of the chilly holiday Friday to visit the New England Aquarium.  The Giant Ocean Tank is always awe-inspiring and we got to see divers film the animals up close and listen to them answer questions.  We also spent considerable time at the shark & ray touch pool, the tidepool touch tank, and with the penguins.  As a novice photographer, I found that adjusting for white balance and shutter speed in the Aquarium was challenging, so there’s not so many great photographs, but still a record of our fun visit.

Related post: Photopost: Whale Watch

Book Review: The Secret Lives of Bats by Merlin Tuttle


AuthorMerlin Tuttle
TitleThe Secret Lives of Bats 
Publication InfoHoughton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015
Summary/Review:

I remember one time as a child playing lawn darts at dusk in my neighbors’ yard.  I lost sight of the dart and then noticed that it seemed to be flying up, only to realize that it was actually a bat.  My friend and I ran screaming indoors, not realizing that game we were playing was probably more dangerous than our neighborhood bats.  Over time, I grew to admire bats partly for their contributions to a healthy ecosystem, but mostly for being marvelous creatures.  In this wonderful memoir, Merlin Tuttle, founder of Bat Conservation International, details his lifelong love of the flying mammals and constantly running up against the fear and hatred of bats in his fellow humans.  As a child, Tuttle crawled through local caves to tag migrating bats, his descriptions giving me vicarious claustrophobia.  All through the book Tuttle extols the virtues of bats, from consuming tons of pestilent insects to spreading the seeds of plants, and even affecting the mating rituals of frogs.  In addition to traveling the world to study bats, Tuttle taught himself how to photograph the animals, inventing tricks of the trade to create compelling photographs published in National Geographic, or elsewhere.  If you love bats, you’ll love this book, and if you fear bats, well this book may change your mind.

Rating: ****

Photopost: American Museum of Natural History


Last weekend my son & I made a whirlwind visit to my mother in New York and we stopped by to visit the American Museum of Natural History. Highlights include:

  • the 3-D movie Earthflight where it felt like birds flew threw the theater and included an exciting sequence of gannets, dolphin, and fish all interacting underwater.
  • the mind-blowing comparisons of sizes of cosmic objects in the Rose Center of Earth and Space
  • The Willamette Meteorite (my son still doesn’t believe it’s real)
  • paleontoligical remains of dinosaurs and ancient mammals of unusual size

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Related post: Photopost: American Museum of Natural History (2015)

Book Review: The Celery Stalks at Midnight by James Howe


Author: James Howe
TitleThe Celery Stalks at Midnight
Narrator: Victor Garber
Publication Info: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group, 2004
Summary/Review:
A more direct sequel to the first novel as Bunnicula escapes from the house leaving a trail of dead, blanched vegetables in his wake.  Chester’s suspicions are again aroused and he draws in Harold and the new dimwitted puppy Howie into his investigation, leading to mayhem.  It’s very silly and funny.
Rating: ***

Book Review: Howliday Inn by James Howe


Author: James Howe
Title Howliday Inn
Narrator: Victor Garber
Publication Info: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group, 2004
Summary/Review: To build on my belief that this series should be called “The Harold and Chester Mysteries,” Bunnicula doesn’t even appear in this story.  Instead, the Monroe’s go on vacation and Harold and Chester are sent to a kennel called Chateau Bow-Bow.  There, Chester immediately begins to share his suspicions of the other dogs and cats and their human caretakers.  It turns out that there is something suspicious going on even if Chester’s earliest assumptions were way off base, but it does lead up to a wonderful Holmes and Watson moment for Chester and Harold.  Another fun book with a bit of mystery.

Rating: ***

Book Review: Bunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery by Deborah and James Howe


Author: Deborah and James Howe
TitleBunnicula: A Rabbit-Tale of Mystery
Narrator: Victor Garber
Publication Info: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group, 2004
Summary/Review:
My family enjoyed listening to this book on a long Thanksgiving road trip.  The premise of this series is that the Monroe family discovers and adopts a young rabbit with fangs who apparently can escape his cage and drain the vegetables in the kitchen of their juice and color.  But in all honesty, Bunnicula is a minor character in his eponymous book and this series could be called “The Harold and Chester Mysteries.”  Harold is the good-natured family dog who narrates the book and Chester is the egoistic and conspiracy-minded cat who stirs the pot with his suspicions of Bunniculas’ vampiric powers.  All in all, it’s a funny and entertaining family tale.
Recommended booksBeezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary, Stuart Little by E. B. White, and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg
Rating: ***

Movie Review: Dolphins (2000)


Title: Dolphins
Release Date: 14 April 2000
Director: Greg MacGillivray
Summary/Review:

Watched this at the Mugar Omnimax Theater at the Boston Museum of Science.  It kind of falls into every cliche you’d expect of an animal-themed IMAX film, but who can complain  about seeing larger than life dolphins leaping and diving?  Pierce Brosnan provides the narration but often yields to the featured scientists who share their knowledge and passion regarding these aquatic mammals.  On the odd side, the soundtrack is by Sting which makes me wonder what dolphins did to deserve this (especially since most of the music is reggae-tinged instrumental arrangements of Sting’s hit songs which have nothing to do with dolphins).
Rating: ***1/2

Photopost: Bronx Park


My family and I finished up the summer with an extended long weekend visiting my mother in the Bronx.  We took the time to explore New York and have a lot of fun.

On our final day, we visited the New York Botanical Gardens and the Bronx Zoo, both in Bronx Park.

Photopost: Bronx Zoo Redux


Since my mother’s recent move back to New York, we’ve become Bronx Zoo members and now will be visiting one of our favorite places frequently.  On a crowded Memorial Day weekend, I went to the zoo with my mother, my kids, and for the first time ever, my wife.  We visited the World of Birds, Tiger Mountain, the Bengali Express, Jungle World, and the new Children’s Zoo.  We also waited a long time for the Zoo Shuttle to ride from one side of the zoo to the other.  It was a good day.  

JP A to Z: Z is for Zoo #AtoZChallenge #JamaicaPlain


Z is for Zoo

Franklin Park Zoo is part of the large Frederick Law Olmsted-designed park on the border between Jamaica Plain and Roxbury.  It’s a popular destination for local families. Although it’s not a particularly great zoo compared to others I visited, it does have some strong points.  One is the African Lion exhibit, once home to the late & lamented Christopher whose roars echoed through the city, and now home to the brothers Dinari and Kamaia. The premier exhibit is the Tropical Forest which is home to a troop of gorillas including the baby Azize born last May.  The Franklin Farm contains a petting zoo, and we’re eagerly awaiting the opening of the new children’s zoo Nature’s Neighborhoods.

 

Post for “Z” in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Click to see more “Blogging A to Z” posts.

JP A to Z: A is for Arboretum #AtoZChallenge #JamaicaPlain


A is for Arboretum

Our first day in Jamaica Plain for JP A to Z brings us to the Arnold Arboretum.  A link in the chain of green spaces that make up Boston’s Emerald Necklace, the “Ahbs” is part Harvard University tree museum.  Whether you’re studying trees (or the animals that inhabit them) or just going for a walk or bike ride, Arnold Arboretum is a place enjoyed by JP residents in all four seasons.

Post for “A” in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Click to see more “Blogging A to Z” posts.

Photopost: Return to Bronx Zoo


Over the weekend, the family returned to visit the he Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo, a place I’ve visited dozens of times over the course of my life, and enjoyed by previous generations of my family as well.  This was a unique visit for three reasons:

  1. It was the first ever visit for my daughter Kay
  2. It was the first time we visited on two consecutive days
  3. It was the first time we visited as members!

The membership was a gift of my mother, who having moved to a new home in walking distance of the zoo is ready to visit the zoo again and again with her children and grandchildren.

Here are some of the best photos from our visit:

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Movie Review: Over the Hedge (2006)


TitleOver the Hedge
Release Date: 2006
Director:Tim Johnson & Karey Kirkpatrick
Summary/Review:

The kids picked out this movie about a ragtag group of animals who awake from hibernation to learn that their forest has been surrounded by suburban development.  A scheming raccoon teaches them that they can get food by raiding the human’s trash but he has ulterior motives.  Ultimately it’s a movie about family and who we chose to be family.  There’s a lot of good satire of humanity’s sprawling development and the devastation to the natural world, but the villains in the movie (a bear, a homeowner’s association leader, & an exterminator) are broad caricatures so no one will really see themselves in them.  Ultimately, this is a funny and entertaining movie – the kids got a lot of laughs – but it’s not going to be a family classic.
Rating: **1/2

Photopost: Lion Brothers Birthday


On Saturday we went to the Franklin Park Zoo to celebrate lion brothers Dinari and Kamaia’s seventh birthday. We missed the cake, but we saw the lions lounging in the sun. We also saw the newborn Nigerian Dwarf Goat, Chewbacca, and the dramatic flapping wings of a flying condor.

Podcast of the Week: “Zoo Chef” by The Specialist


I just started listening to a new podcast called The Specialist and the first (and so far only) episode I heard is the fascinating behind the scenes story  about the staff at a zoo who prepare food for the animals.  The series is described as “A podcast about work we don’t think about and the people who do it.”  When I have time I’ll have to go back and listen to the earlier episodes.

 

Photopost: Alligator Adventure


One of the highlights of our visit to Myrtle Beach was a day at Alligator Adventure.  The initial impression one my get of a place with this name is a roadside attraction, but Alligator Adventure is actually a small zoo with a large number of animals in spacious enclosures, mostly alligators and crocodiles, but also a good number of reptiles, birds, and some mammals from all over the world.  It helps to visit with an 8-year-old gatorphile and absorb his enthusiasm, but I think it was a fun place to visit and learned a bit about the animals.  Another highlight was the animal demonstrations where we go to touch and hold a small gator, turtle, and a ball python.

Photopost: Giving Thanks for Nature and the Senses at Drumlin Farm


We spent the day after Thanksgiving at Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary.  There were a number of art and music activities for the day to engage the senses, but the kids were content to make their usual round of visits to the farm animals, taking a hay ride, and then a hike up the Drumlin.

It was a perfect day for it!

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