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Thursday, April 15th, 2004

Time Event
10:24p
The rainstorm and the river are my brothers

The little headline box over the Channel i news anchor's shoulder, reporting on current events in Iraq, asked the question, ``America's `Vietnam'?''

An absurd question, of course. Iraq is America's new Philippine Insurrection.

But since that's a depressing topic I'll go to more of my zoo pictures, this time things taken from the sea lion exhibit. The trainers explain they employ only positive reinforcement, and so never train sea lions to do things they don't do in the wild. This leaves the question, first brought to my attention by Robert Benchley, of when in the wild they need to balance beach balls on their noses. One may also wonder when they need to do Michael Jackson-esque Moonwalks, but I can imagine circumstances in which they need to stand up. I guess.

Kissing, of course, is a natural activity I'm sure they need to do plenty in the course of their sea lion obligations. And there's the need to leap out of the water at a ball on a stick in synchronized porpoise imitations. It's all in good fun, though.

As a sea lion show they naturally showed off an otter, sponsored by Nokia. Helena the Asian short-clawed otter was brought out to warn of the dangers of polluting the oceans. She therefore showed her ability to pick up empty bottles which the trainer scattered around. yellow3 proclaimed Helena's picking up of an empty can of green tea to be the cutest picture ever, though that faces some stiff competition. yellow3 also asked how otters can be trained to do anything, as ``they're like ADD elementals.'' She tried to revise that to ``ADD incarnate,'' but I like the first description better. The trainer did have to remind Helena after every bottle that there were more.

Otters picking up trash is an adorable feat, of course. As to how to train otters, I don't know; all I have is that comment about ``positive reinforcement.'' And it does force one to conclude that the polluting of the oceans wouldn't be a problem if the otters would just put down the fish now and then and clean the place up themselves. The show probably didn't want to leave that impression.

Trivia: Detroit is the only United States city surrendered (after independence, and not counting cities in the Philippines or other Pacific island holdings) to another power. Source: The Wars of America, Robert Leckie.

Currently Reading: Anti-Ice, Stephen Baxter.

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