African Cat Rehabilitation Center

Continued from my previous post here. On our second day in South Africa, we took a ride about 10 miles up the road from our lodge to the Emdoneni Lodge Cat Rehabilitation Center. The center takes in injured and orphaned cheetahs, servals, African wild cats, and caracals, and provides care for them, generally with the hope of releasing them back into the wild. In some cases the cats become too tame and comfortable around humans and can not be safely released, so these guys live out their days at the center.

Somewhat surprisingly, after speaking with one of the center’s staff members, we learned much of the funding for these centers comes from hunting organizations. My understanding was that they typically want to help support sustainable population levels, across many species, such that “responsible hunting” does not pose a risk. These are obviously longer term objectives for currently threatened animals, and the dynamic seems nuanced and complex, but it felt a bit odd knowing a lot of the support for a great animal protection program had these underlying motivations.

Fascinating all around. With that, I’ve included a few highlights below.

Here’s an African wild cat:

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Shots of well-timed yawns always look viscous. They resemble house cats, and apparently house cats were bred from domesticated African wild cat ancestors beginning about 10,000 years ago, but these guys are just a bit more dangerous.

Here’s a caracal, named Bar One:

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A cheetah:
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And finally a serval:
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We were able to go into the fenced enclosures and walk right up to the all of animals. The cheetahs actually weren’t the most dangerous — apparently the caracals are most unpredictable and prone attacking if threatened. The guide wouldn’t let any children into the caracal area, and said that if Bar One started running around everyone’s legs, we should just remain still and let him do his thing as we wouldn’t want to see his reaction to fast movements.

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First Few Days in South Africa

Laura and I recently returned from a visit in South Africa, planned around a package we “accidentally” won in a charity auction. The Auction was for Girls’ Leap, an amazing organization Laura volunteers with that provides self defense and empowerment training to girls and young women in the Boston area. By “accidentally,” I mean that we weren’t the high bidders and didn’t necessarily intend to win, as it was clear the other bidders were more enthusiastic. But once the highest bidder won, the auctioneer had a “surprise” for us. She happened to have more than one package on hand and conveniently offered it to us — in front of 200 or so other people — for our bid. It’s obviously a great cause, was a great deal, was the price we bid, (and was a great auctioneer technique), so quite unexpectedly and without much thought, we were going to South Africa.

We planned the trip around the package, but took the opportunity to rent a car and explore the country a bit. Our first few days were in KwaZulu-Natal and Zululand, near Hluhluwe (pronounced shlushluwee) at a private reserve and lodge that were part of the package. We then traveled in and around St. Lucia and iSimangaliso Wetland Park, spent a day in Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park, then drove through Swaziland up to Kruger National Park.

The entire trip was incredible, especially for shooting, and it’s taken me over a month to sort through and edit my photos. Below I’ve included the first batch from the first few days. I’ll likely have some new presets to post as well, as I definitely came up with a few good combinations editing these.

Here was a sunset on the first night from our room:
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The private reserve at our lodge was small compared with the national parks, but still had some incredible wildlife and landscapes:
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On the second day we “spotted” one of the cheetahs in the reserve, along with her cub:
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Apparently elephants keep cool in the afternoon by filling their trunks with dirt and spaying it over their backs:
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More to come soon.

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iOS8 Dominating the Internet

Via Dan Rayburn, just a few hours after its release, iOS8 is representing a sizable portion of global internet traffic:one 1024x446 iOS8 Dominating the Internet

two 1024x626 iOS8 Dominating the Internet


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Robot Cheetah!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but just came across a fascinating MIT robotics project in Popular Science worth sharing. In short, this beast is now out of the lab, running around Killian Court:

 Robot Cheetah!

Here’s the video:

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Andrew Combs’ Rainy Day Song

I discovered Andrew Combs about a year and a half ago when he opened for Shovels and Rope at the Sinclair in Cambridge. He’s got a really nice country/folk/americana thing going on, and if you like that sort of sound, I recommend checking out his album Worried Man on Spotify, and his earlier EP Tennessee Time.

I recently saw him a second time at Atwood’s Tavern in Cambridge, and he opened the set with a folk song off his upcoming second album which brought the noisy bar room to silence. I just found a recording of it, and thought I’d share. Doesn’t quite compare to how it sounded live, but beautiful nonetheless:

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What’s the Matter with Small Biz?

The following is a guest post from Robin Bose.

There’s a truism that small businesses are the backbone of the American economy. I happen to think it’s true that small businesses make local economics more resilient to shocks and changes in the overall mix of market forces. If we accept that, then we should all be a little worried. A mildly alarming study The Brookings Institution published shows a 30 year decline in what the US census calls “new firm formation” (i.e., baby businesses getting formed) accompanied by no real change in “firm exits” (small business owners closing up shop). Some surprising highlights:

  • Troubling 30 year secular decline across multiple business cycles and political administrations
  • Trend is prevalent across all 50 states and all but a few of 360+ metros
  • No industry (not even high tech) has withstood the decline except financial services

I made a little slideshow pointing out some of the data the Brookings Institution used to make the case, as well as some of the reactions in the media trying to explain why this is happening. Will try to follow up with a post on my thoughts — feel free to leave thoughtful ramblings on why you think it’s happening.

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UberBoat Boston

This could be interesting. Starting this week, Uber began offering boat rides around Boston Harbor for $10/person:

“June 4 through June 15, you can use the Uber app to request a water taxi, powered byBoston Harbor Cruises. Make waves as you ride to your favorite Seaport restaurant. Sail over to the ICA for First Friday. Add a splash of fun to your morning commute – or even a quick cruise to or from Logan. Catching a flight has never been so easy!”

It actually seems like a reasonable deal to the airport from the Seaport, especially during rush hour. Or potentially as a quick way to get to Charlestown. Here’s a list of the pickup docks and destinations.

UberBOAT APP1 UberBoat Boston

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Some Nice Americana: Bruce Robison & Kelly Willis

MI0003734194.jpg?partner=allrovi Some Nice Americana: Bruce Robison & Kelly WillisI just discovered and really enjoyed Our Year by Austin-based Bruce Robison & Kelly Willis. The album came out late last month, and has a nice mix of Texas country and folk. The pace varies a good amount as well, with some upbeat tunes and plenty of mellow ones. And there’s some great harmonica and pedal steel work. The whole album’s on Spotify.

Here’s a blurb from All Music: “On their sophomore duet outing, this husband and wife deliver a soulful take on traditional (not retro) country music”

And here are a few tracks:

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Bullshit Detection Kit

Via The Big Picture, a brief excerpt from Carl Sagan’s book, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark Bullshit Detection Kit, on how to detect when people are spouting nonsense:

 The kit is brought out as a matter of course whenever new ideas are offered for consideration. If the new idea survives examination by the tools in our kit, we grant it warm, although tentative, acceptance. If you’re so inclined, if you don’t want to buy baloney even when it’s reassuring to do so, there are precautions that can be taken; there’s a tried-and-true, consumer-tested method.

1. Wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the “facts.”

2. Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.

3. Arguments from authority carry little weight — “authorities” have made mistakes in the past. They will do so again in the future. Perhaps a better way to say it is that in science there are no authorities; at most, there are experts.

4. Spin more than one hypothesis. If there’s something to be explained, think of all the different ways in which it could be explained. Then think of tests by which you might systematically disprove each of the alternatives. What survives, the hypothesis that resists disproof in this Darwinian selection among “multiple working hypotheses,” has a much better chance of being the right answer than if you had simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.

5. Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it’s yours. It’s only a way station in the pursuit of knowledge. Ask yourself why you like the idea. Compare it fairly with the alternatives. See if you can find reasons for rejecting it. If you don’t, others will.

6. Quantify. If whatever it is you’re explaining has some measure, some numerical quantity attached to it, you’ll be much better able to discriminate among competing hypotheses. What is vague and qualitative is open to many explanations. Of course there are truths to be sought in the many qualitative issues we are obliged to confront, but finding them is more challenging.

7. If there’s a chain of argument, every link in the chain must work (including the premise) — not just most of them.

8. Occam’s Razor. This convenient rule-of-thumb urges us when faced with two hypotheses that explain the data equally well to choose the simpler.

9. Always ask whether the hypothesis can be, at least in principle, falsified. Propositions that are untestable, unfalsifiable are not worth much. Consider the grand idea that our Universe and everything in it is just an elementary particle — an electron, say — in a much bigger Cosmos. But if we can never acquire information from outside our Universe, is not the idea incapable of disproof? You must be able to check assertions out. Inveterate skeptics must be given the chance to follow your reasoning, to duplicate your experiments and see if they get the same result.

All good rules of thumb for filtering through noise and distractions.

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A Flip iPhone

smartwatches A Flip iPhone

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