Thursday, May 25, 2006

Not Like home, Pt III

Apparently you can do a lot of things with a bucket of building blocks.


Monday, May 22, 2006

Top Ten this that will not happen to you in my burrow, No 9

9. The driver in the car behind you will not be overly annoyed if you stop at a red light

I was going down to Batangas and ran into a red light at a crossing, where I, as a result of my previous schooling, stopped. (I would have done it even if it were no traffic. Here there were cars coming in from both sides). The car behind immediately started honking and my Filipino friend J, who was sitting next to me wondered what I was doing, stopping in the middle of the road like that.

– “Is something wrong”
- “It´s red”, I said, pointing at the lights.
- “Oh, that. No, nobody takes notice of the traffic lights here. Just go with the flow”

Traffic in the Philippines is nothing like home but it basically boils down to one single aspect:

A brief acquaintance told me about the first mail he ever received in the Philippines. It had a short tag in the end, like a randomly selected word of wisdom, which read: ”Welcome to the Philippines – where the law is just a suggestion”. When you realise that what you learned about traffic rules are just suggestions, driving is much easier. Here are some tips:

1. There is the general right of way if you’re coming from the right. But it’s modified to include the size of your car. Thus, if you have a big car (= high status) the right-rule only applies if you meet another big car. Otherwise you get right of way from the I-got-a-bigger-car-rule.

2. Traffic lights, if you can find them, has the following colour code
Green= GO!
Yellow= GO!
Red= Look before you GO!

3. Stop signs, where I’ve learned that you must come to a complete stop has been modified to mean ”you might consider shifting down to third gear before you GO!”

4. You communicate by honking and flashing. Don’t be afraid to use it. This span from the courteous “I’m coming”, “Thank you”, “Please pass” to the usual “Get out of my way” and “…and your mama” honks.

5. Streets, even highways, are public spaces inhabited not only by cars, jeepneys, tricycles and motorbikes but also children, basketball matches, food vendors, and dogs. All non-vehicles except dogs will move when you come.

The picture shows the signs telling you how to get out from SM Southmall. I tried to stop to take the picture, but a security guard had other ideas so I had to go around to get this fantastic paparazzi shot.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Tits and Boobies

For G, who gave me the chance

About half way down to the resort I told G:
- Elegant tit right there.
And it was an elegant tit, nicely displayed, full frontal. We stopped to look at it for a minute or so.
- Not exactly something you go home and tell your wife.
- Nope

G’s wife of course was standing three feet away, and the tit was a Parus elegans, one of 175 or so endemic bird species in the Philippines.

The birdworld is full of innuendos. The Paridae family of course have created numerous imaginative names: Great Tit, Sultan Tit, Stripe-breasted Tit, Sombre Tit, Varied Tit, Turkestan Tit and my favourite the near pornographic White-Necklaced Tit. Then there's the more enigmatic Tit-Like Dacnis, Mouse-Colored Penduline Tit and Fluffy-Backed Tit-Babbler. (I think I’ve seen one or two of those in various bars).
And if you’re not in the forest looking at tits you can always go to the beach to see the Boobies or Shags.

It does make you wonder what bird taxonomist get off on:
- Look Donald, I found a brand new species of bird in Borneo!
- Kickin' ! Watcha gonna call it?
- Haven’t decided yet. I’m thinking 'bout ‘Golden-Breasted Jug’, or maybe ‘Melodious Hooter’
- Sweeeet.

What about the ladies? No, there are no hunks, no beefcakes, no Georges' and no Clooneys. There are an extreme amount of –peckers and –cocks, but to my experience this has never been a key factor in female first impression towards male. Rather has it been an icon of masculinity thus further emphasizing the chauvinist naming of birds as general. The penis-innuendo birds span from the male-fantasy flavoured Guianan and Andean Cock-of-the-Rock, Cock-tailed Tyrant and the elusive Dickcissel to the more patronizing Jameson's and Woodhouse's Antpecker. One might wonder if Jameson and Woodhouse named these birds themselves, and if so, why?

Bird taxonomist has not been so outspoken with their affection of the humour of the rear end. You have to explore the Latin names to find the Arses (monarch flycatcher), Poospiza (warbling-finch) or Turdus (thrushes).

To their defense there are some true jesters:
- a recently extinct parrot from the Marquesas Islands got the name vidivici (Steadman & Zarriello, 1987). The genus of course was Vini (in use since 1831).
- a Hawaiian Harrier Hawk in the genus Circus got the name dossenus (Olson & James, 1991). Dossenus means clown or jester in Latin, “without which one cannot have a circus."
- The Father of Natural History Linnaeus named the Hoopoe Upupa epops, almost 250 years before this activity became popular. (The Upupa part of course being street for "your papa" thus making the name into a question, alledegly from the male Hoopoe's desire to have a mate with a technically advanced father). The same year he named the Roseate Spoonbill Ajaia ajaja. “Aj” is equvivalent to “Ouch” in Swedish, which makes me wonder if his secretary misheard him when he dropped something heavy (e.g. a spoonbill) on his toe.

Since there’s usually a valid etymology to the names it’s hard to accuse taxonomist of being sexist or chauvinist, but would the names be different if the natural sciences historically would have been a foremost female affair? Would the Pitta be named Pitt instead (incidentally, Pitt is slang for penis in Swedish so there we go again)? Would we have stood in awe admiring Bulge-Chested Banderas, Tender Lovebirds or Dark Italian Strangerbirds? One will never know.

/ J.

The ornithological meaning of the word tit allegedly has Scandinavian origin but according to wikipedia is derived from 14th century English denominating something small. (We have two regular Parus species in Sweden called –tita. The other members of the Parus-genus save for one is called –mes, which means wimp. Another great example of Swedish chickenhood). The word Booby is possibly based on the Spanish slang term bubi, meaning “dunce”, as these birds had a habit of landing on board sailing ships where they were easily captured and eaten. Shag refers to the bird's crest as in the hairstyle meaning of the word.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Not Like Home, Pt II

Yes it’s a Waldorf salad. Yes of course it should be small pastel coloured marshmallows in it. Whadduya mean it looks tacky? Nooooo


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Top Ten things that will not happen to you in my burrow: No 10, May 17 2006

If you compare Fairydale with my usual burrow you’ll find it hotter, dirtier and infinitely poorer (in the monetary sense of the word). You’ll also find that gophers are still gophers with the same need for love and confirmation, who go about their lives with the same general elements of work, family, friends and the occasional chewing on tree roots. The most interesting differences lie in the small things.
Here’s the Top Ten List:

10. If you take a walk in the rain no one will kindly inform you about the current weather condition.

This has happen to me numerous times, especially if I bring the Gopher Juniors, which generates the following conversation:

Kind person with masters in meteorology: Sir, It’s raining….

Me: Yes. (Oh, it that what it is. Back where I come from we don’t have rain you see. I thought somebody was offering a free shower. You mean there’s no sprinkler? How does it work then? Where’s the faucet? Rain, you say, interesting word...does it happen often?)

Kind person with masters in meteorology and apparently not totally blind and def: Sir, you have kids…

Me: Yes. (Oh, is that what they are. Thanks for informing me. It’s really good that you told me ‘cause they've been following me around for quite sometime now, and I really don’t know what to do with them. They keep asking me for “ice cream”, do you know what that is?).

Kind person leaves since I am clearly beyond rescue.

Yes, of course I know it is important to be clean here, and bringing your progeny to the mudpool they call playground will not leave them in a shiny state, but really. I might be a Gopher, but I’m not that stupid.

Not Like Home, Pt I, May 17 2006

Please make sure that you do not wipe your ass with unhygienic recycled paper. Go for that rough feeling from a right-from-the-pristine-forest, you-can-almost-smell-the-endangered-species roll.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Smooth Ride, May 16 2006

The season’s first typhoon - Caloy - just left Laguna leaving a body count of 23 and rising. On our behalf it meant brownout (that would be blackout to the rest of the English speaking world) for 36 hours. Less than 100 kilometres away 5000 families were displaced. A couple of hundred people die every year from typhoons, floods and landslides in the Philippines.

The war stories from our neighbourhood would be something like:
“There were leaves everywhere, man. They just came right off the trees. Some of our plastic garden chairs even fell over.”
“The power was gone for so long we had to eat all our ice cream….”
“It was so cold I had to turn off the aircon in my car…”

The worst trauma was the kids anger when the TV broke down right in a Thomas and Friends episode.


Lone Gopher, May 15 2006


/J. (Gopher)