Sunday, 22 October 2017

European toad versus cane toad: a study in contrasting research

Rivalled by only the rabbit and red fox as worst and most dangerous introduced species in Australia is the cane toad (Rhinella marina; historically and familiarly Bufo marinus).
Adult female cane toad with human hand for comparison
The toad is absolutely lethal to the unique marsupials of the genus Dasyurus (quolls) which have evolved for 150,000,000 years with zero exposure to toad toxins, and demonstrably cannot coexist with bufonids anywhere.  This is seen in the fact that toad invasion has throughout the monsoonal tropics caused 97 percent declines in Northern Quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus) populations within a couple of years without any later recoveries. Bufonids also extremely dangerous to a number of predatory reptiles, such as goannas (Varanus) and elapid snakes, though unlike quolls these species can undergo behavioral or morphological changes to permit them to avoid eating toads.
Northern Quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus) – went from “Least Concern” to Endangered in a decade due to the spread of cane toads
It is well known that the cane toad was introduced into Australia to control a number of species of native “cane beetles” that were killing sugarcane by feeding on the plant’s sweet roots. It is also well known that, besides extirpating quolls and goannas, the cane toad did not reduce the numbers of cane beetles. In fact, the year 1946 saw the worst outbreak on record although toads had been released a decade beforehand!

However, it is almost unknown that at the very time the cane toad was released into Queensland, the CSIR was experimenting with the European Common Toad (then Bufo vulgaris; now Bufo bufo) as a pest control agent for Oncoptera grass grubs that were eating pastures in southern Australia. Proposals to import Bufo vulgaris (as I will call it for the rest of this post) and also the natterjack toad Bufo calamita date back to Western Australia in 1897. They were never executed in the first third of the twentieth century, but with increasing pest problems in the 1930s, the CSIR imported several specimens of Bufo vulgaris for a thorough test as a biological control agent against various Oncoptera. The CSIR found that Bufo vulgaris devoured all stages of Oncoptera (except, perhaps, the eggs) but that it could not dig down to reach them in their burrows. Consequently, the CSIR did not release Bufo vulgaris into southern Australia.
European common toad (Bufo vulgaris; now Bufo bufo)
If Bufo vulgaris (or the natterjack toad) had been released, it would have been likely more disastrous than the cane toad. This is because those few Australian species able to handle toad poison are almost all (Podargus frogmouths being a possible exception) immigrants from west of Wallacea – a group of islands with neither toads nor those predators (e.g. quolls) most affected by bufonid poison. Such species stand less likely to migrate into the Eyrean and Bassian faunal regions of central and southern Australia.
Eastern Quoll (Dasyurus viverrinus) now extinct on the mainland due to cane toads, and “Endangered” even in toad-free Tasmania due to rapid anthropogenic climate change
Were either Bufo vulgaris or the natterjack released it is practically certain that the spotted-tailed quoll (Dasyurus maculatus) and eastern quoll (Dasyurus viverrinus) would have been extirpated extremely quickly except – perhaps – from small islands where the toads might not have been released. Most likely those two species would have gone “Extinct” before the middle 1970s when the first studies of the cane toad’s impact on native fauna was published by Mick Archer and snake specialist Jeanette Covacevich. Even the Western Quoll (Dasyurus geoffroii) could quite possibly have been extirpated by toads before 1974 – although the drastic (87 percent around Perth) enhanced greenhouse gases decline in streamflow over southwestern Australia since then might ironically have protected it from introduced Bufo vulgaris. I have also imagined that poison in Bufo vulgaris eggs and/or tadpoles would have been a threat to the iconic platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus) which hunts purely by touch and possesses as little exposure in its evolution to toad toxins as Dasyurus.
Spotted-tailed quoll Dasyurus maculatus – the largest Dasyurus. The CSIR’s prudence in not releasing Bufo vulgaris has so far saved this species from either extinction or being “Critically Endangered” and confined to small islands
In contrast to the CSIR’s serious study of Bufo vulgaris – although it quite naturally failed to test the toad’s toxicity toward those species probably saved thereby – Bufo marinus was released into Queensland with absolutely zero testing on the cane beetles it was supposed to control! Rather, the release of Bufo marinus was done as an act of faith that it would eat the beetles consuming sugar cane – a method used to sell toads to farmers and gardeners for several centuries before 1935.

Belief in the magical power of toads to control pests was dogma among the globe’s closely-knit sugar growing fraternity in the 1930s. It is highly plausible that this fraternity feared science for the same reason that large landowners in Catholic Europe did – that it would undermine their political power by providing justification for wealth redistribution from them. While the large landowners of Catholic Europe turned to stigmata stories and Marian apparitions as their means of counting class war, sugar planters held firmly onto beliefs about certain predators as effective pest control agents whether they were or not. Thus, when the release of Bufo marinus in Puerto Rico coincided with reduced grub density and Raquel Dexter showed toads to eat grubs, it became dogma among the global sugar fraternity that toads would control beetles everywhere they be introduced. However, as demonstrated by Nigel Turvey in his Cane Toads: A Tale of Sugar, Politics and Flawed Science, the actual reason for the (temporary) decline in grubs in Puerto Rico was due to unusually wet rainy seasons pinching breeding by waterlogging soils.

The cost of this false belief to Australia’s unique native wildlife has been incomparably greater than for other landmasses without endemic bufonids. Oceanic island predators – even when living on a landmass without toads – were chiefly predatory raptors that evolved on continents with toads so they knew how to deal with them, unlike quolls or Pseudechis snakes. Thus toads could not reach the numbers they have in Australia even with vastly better soils and more reliable runoff.

Friday, 20 October 2017

“Karoshi” and hardest-working US cities

Although – despite their overall strong similarities in environment vis-à-vis the Tropical and/or Unenriched Worlds – I have long known that Europe and Japan have different cultures re work and employment.

However, these two studies done in recent days by Australia’s Business Insider suggest that cultural effects have caused Europe and Japan to deviate much more than mere environmental differences would suggest. Chris Weller has found that many Japanese workers, facing the problem of long-term employment security, have suffered “karoshi” (a Japanese term for death by overwork). In July 2013, a thirty-one-year-old journalist called Miwa Sado died of heart failure after reportedly lagging one hundred and fifty-nine hours of overtime. More than twenty percent of Japanese workers work over forty-nine hours a week, vis-à-vis only sixteen percent even in the US (and a much smaller proportion no doubt in Europe, New Zealand, Canada and Australia).

Weller says Japan has not been successful at ending karoshi via relatively conventional means involving improving leave for workers and encouraging women to work. This suggest something more radical is needed – or that a culture of fatalism means people feel they have a duty to work as hard as possible because they cannot improve their status by less other means. Unlike hierarchism or individuoegalitarianism, fatalism is not based on abstract ideals of equality before the law (hierarchism) or equality of result as in individuoegalitarianism.

In contrast, as I noted in a previous paragraph, people in Europe (according to WalletHub) work only four-fifths of the hours of American workers. WalletHub’s Nicholas Bode has listed the following as the hardest-working American cities:
  1. Anchorage, Alaska 
  2. Plano, Texas
  3. Cheyenne, Wyoming
  4. Virginia Beach, Virginia
  5. Irving, Texas
  6. Scottsdale, Arizona
  7. San Francisco, California
  8. Corpus Christi, Texas
  9. Washington, DC
  10. Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  11. Denver, Colorado
  12. Dallas, Texas
  13. Charlotte, North Carolina
  14. Gilbertt, Arizona
  15. Jersey City, New Jersey
This list is perhaps the first time I have seen a list without anything in common at all – and that includes (most if not all of) the major music lists I used to read fifteen years ago. The one thing lacking appears to be small, remote cities – a fact that reflects the cheapness of land and reduced requirement for hard work under such conditions. However, the list does not include only infamously expensive cities like those of coastal California or the Northeast – several of these cities are in hotter and cheaper southern regions, where one would expect hard work to be more difficult in high temperatures. It’s probable that low taxes and reduced welfare encourages hard work, but the list leaves almost everything unanswered.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

150 Worst Albums Made by Men by National Public Radio

Pink indicates own album, whilst pink on artist indicated I own other albums by that artist.

According to National Public Radio, the point of the list was to:

“shift “the assumption that a male perspective can stand for all perspectives,” and to recenter women as a vital, dynamic part of the musical canon without reverting back to that perspective.”
Whilst with some reservations I do agree with that perspective, the problems with the individuoegalitarian culture of today’s Enriched World are undeniable, particularly from a demographic perspective but also from an ecological one in that it encourages people and economics to locate in the most expensive low-latitude locations. Rod Dreher, as noted here, has shown that today’s younger generation has trouble interacting – a view I can certainly sympathise with even though I will admit it is my own flaw.

I will list the albums below and then make comments:

150 Worst Albums Made by Men:

150. Pearl Jam, No Code
149. Skinny Puppy, Too Dark Park
148. Mother Love Bone, Apple
147. Chris Brown, Graffiti
146. Ace Frehley, Ace Frehley
145. Dave Matthews Band, Before These Crowded Streets
144. Morrissey, Years of Refusal
143. Jay-Z and Linkin Park, Collision Course
142. Good Charlotte, Cardiology
141. Kanye West, 808s and Heartbreaks
140. Stevie Wonder, Characters
139. Big Sean, Finally Famous
138. Jay-Z and R. Kelly, Unfinished Business
137. Guns N Roses, Chinese Democracy
136. Diplo, Decent Work for Decent Pay
135. Dr. Dre, Dr. Dre Presents… The Aftermath
134. Tool, Ænima
133. Chief Keef, Finally Rich
132. Drake, Views
131. Phish, Lawn Boy
130. David Guetta, Listen
129. Jamie Foxx, Best Night of My Life
128. Slint, Spiderland
127. Pat Boone, The Greatest Story Ever Told
126. Flo-Rida, Wild Ones
125. Dee Dee Ramone, Dee Dee King
124. The National, Boxer
123. Snoop Lion, Reincarnated
122. Julio Iglesias, 1100 Bel Air Place
121. Daniel Powter, Daniel Powter
120. Yung Lean, Unknown Memory
119. Eamon, I Don’t Want You Back
118. Usher, Raymond v. Raymond
117. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Pig Lib
116. Warrant, Cherry Pie
115. Prince, The Rainbow Children
114. The Crystal Method, Tweekend
113. Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago
112. Soulja Boy, iSouljaBoyTellEm
111. Duran Duran, Thank You
110. Gene Simmons, Gene Simmons
109. Neil Young, Are You Passionate?
108. Michael Bolton, Soul Provider
107. Hoobastank, Every Man for Himself
106. Kula Shaker, Peasants, Pigs and Astronauts
105. The Weeknd, Kiss Land
104. The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
103. Vanilla Ice, Bi-Polar
102. Russell Crowe and The Ordinary Fear of God, My Hand, My Heart
101. Bo Bice, 3
100. Muse, Drones
99. Lifehouse, No Name Face
98. Bobby Brown, The Masterpiece
97. The Cure, Wild Mood Swings
96. The Shins, Oh, Inverted World
95. Philly’s Most Wanted, Get Down or Lay Down
94. Action Bronson, Mr. Wonderful
93. AC/DC, Fly on the Wall
92. U2, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb
91. Bee Gees, Living Eyes
90. Ray J, Raydiation
89. Jack White, Blunderbuss
88. Twenty One Pilots, Blurryface
87. The-Dream, IV Play
86. Swedish House Mafia, Until Now
85. Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
84. Moby, Destroyed
83. Jet, Get Born
82. Jason Mraz, We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things.
81. Gavin DeGraw, Gavin DeGraw
80. Deadmau5, Random Album Title
79. Radiohead, Kid A
78. Fun, Some Nights
77. One Direction, Four
76. Korn, Korn
75. Coldplay, Ghost Stories
74. Papa Roach, Infest
73. Elvis Presley, Today
72. Robbie Williams, Swing When You’re Winning
71. Giorgio Moroder, Déja-Vu
70. Weezer, Make Believe
69. Ed Sheeran, +
68. Daughtry, Leave This Town
67. Calvin Harris, I Created Disco
66. Maroon 5, Hands All Over
65. Metallica, Death Magnetic
64. Steve Miller Band, The Joker
63. Lil Wayne, Rebirth
62. Mötley Crüe, Generation Swine
61. Timbaland, Shock Value
60. Sufjan Stevens, Illinois
59. The Rolling Stones, Dirty Work
58. Borgore, #NEWGOREORDER
57. Sting, Ten Summoner’s Tales
56. Chingy, Hate It or Love It
55. Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
54. Toby Keith, Shock’n Y’all
53. Uncle Kracker, No Stranger to Shame
52. Plain White T’s, All That We Needed
51. Imagine Dragons, Smoke + Mirrors
50. Staind, Break the Cycle
49. Miles Davis, Doo Bop
48. Cee Lo Green, Heart Branch
47. 98 Degrees, Revelation
46. Ted Nugent, Cat Scratch Fever
45. Oasis, Standing on the Shoulder of Giants
44. Brad Paisley, Wheelhouse
43. Savage Garden, Savage Garden
42. Josh Groban, Closer
41. Nelly, 5.0
40. Sting, Sacred Love
39. Belle and Sebastian, Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant
38. Orgy, Punk Statik Paranoia
37. The Black Eyed Peas, Elephunk
36. Jack Johnson, In Between Dreams
35. Magic!, Primary Colours
34. Charlie Puth, Nine Track Mind
33. The Strokes, Comedown Machine
32. Enrique Iglesias, Sex and Love
31. Placebo, Placebo
30. Nickelback, Silver Side Up
29. Rapeman, Two Nuns and a Pack Mule
28. Limp Bizkit, Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water
27. Lou Reed, Metal Machine Music
26. The Doors, Strange Days
25. James Blunt, Back to Bedlam
24. 311, 311
23. Jay-Z, Kingdom Come
22. Barenaked Ladies, Stunt
21. Matchbox Twenty, Mad Season
20. Robin Thicke, Paula
19. Trapt, Amalgamation
18. Methods of Mayhem, A Public Disservice Announcement
17. Train, Bulletproof Picasso
16. James Taylor, Greatest Hits
15. Justin Timberlake, 20/20 Part II
14. Creed, Human Clay
13. U2, Songs of Innocence
12. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, This Unruly Mess I’ve Made
11. Joe Scarborough Band, Mystified
10. Maná, Drama y Luz
9. Eminem, Relapse
8. Bruce Willis, The Return of Bruno
7. Bob Dylan, Christmas in the Heart
6. Kevin Federline, Playing With Fire
5. Toby Keith, 35 MPH Town
4. Chainsmokers, Memories... Do Not Open
3. Lou Reed and Metallica, Lulu
2. Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Last Rebel
1. Kid Rock, Rock N Roll Jesus

Like so many lists, there exists an element of predictability here. Many of these albums have been favourites for critical bashing ever since I read writers like Robert Christgau, Joe S. Harrington and David Keenan now over a decade and a half ago.

Spiderland – which is a brilliant work highlighted by ‘Don, Aman’ – was no doubt included as an effort to be hip for no reason. Tool’s Ænima, which although I have not heard it seems from what I have read to have a similar emotional perspective to the utter, solitary desolation of Spiderland, could be similar since Tool do have some critical credibility.

Wilco may be the sort of effort I read from one amateur named “janitor-x” a decade and a half ago, whereby metal and hardcore are emphasised over anything new from other genres. Sgt. Pepper’s is much more emphatically this – when Rolling Stone listed it as the best album of all time this “janitor-x” wrote a one-star review titled “‘Sgt. Pepper’ Grows Cold and Smells Bad”. The Nation and Kanye West are also potentially of the same school as “janitor-x” – indeed there are a few hints of what he would have said in 2003 and 2004.

Nonetheless, there is little to recommend this list, at least in the absence of well-argued reviews which I do not imagine as present.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

The silliest and simplest quiz ever

Although I admit I laugh for too much at the silly debates between soccer and gridiron fans over the word “football”, the quiz approximately painted to the left and originally found at BuzzFeed is just so simple as to be ludicrous.

I will note there that there are a few differences from the original BuzzFeed post:
  1. Spacing could not be done perfectly even due to memory issues
  2. Seashore did not provide enough space (maximum 8000 pixels vertically) to be sure of putting everything in, so I have not included the answer to the last question
  3. I could not join the pictures in the fourth question together perfectly, so a grey line is retained
  4. In the last one, an effort to colour properly the .tiff file led to one of the answers that was originally grey going white (8)
As with so many “real football” people, “football” is rigidly defined to mean soccer and contrasted exclusively to gridiron. No mention of other football codes – rugby, Australian Rules, Gaelic Football – is ever given. Only in the answer to the third question (where gridiron is called “handegg”) is gridiron given any name. This is rather strange if the writer wants to define football rigidly as soccer and insist that the word “football” not be used even as part of the name for any other sport. It would be more logical to explain it in the first answer rather than only in the third.

Alternatively, if the questionnaire had not the smallest intention of conveying so much as knowledge about gridiron or any other non-soccer sport called “football” by its fans, it might have been correct to not show “handegg” as the name for gridiron at any point in the list. By this means at least the taint of being pejorative – which means in practice being unable to defend one’s preferred sport against any other – would have been avoided. However, there is no effort to show why soccer is a better sport that gridiron (let alone other “football” codes like Australian Rules) at any point in the questionnaire. BuzzFeed’s questionnaire is one hundred percent about identification of “football”, which in turn is rigidly identified as what most Australians, and almost all Americans, Canadians and New Zealanders call “soccer”. Once one can get the first question correct, the rest is so easy as to be ludicrous.

At the end, the quiz says that the reader will never call football “soccer” again – and is presumably expected to call gridiron “handegg”. However, I am in no way fooled that the quiz is utterly ludicrous and serves no purpose but the doctrine that “football” must be used to refer exclusively to “soccer”.

The means used to make the questions could serve no other purpose but indoctrination: to make the reader into someone who wants soccer renamed football in the US, Canada and New Zealand, and wishes for the NFL – and presumably the AFL and the GAA – to become obliged to rename their own codes of football in order to meet demands from soccer to exclusive title to the word “football”. This is called a copyright on “football” by another advocate of this policy. Renaming would be troublesome for fans of those sports, and would no doubt be severely challenged by the NFL and the AFL if soccer forced it on them – with terrible costs for the sporting industry as a whole.

The ultimate goal of such a silly quiz is not clear. No person used to viewing “football” as gridiron would change their minds – indeed they would see it as jealousy on the part of soccer fans towards a sport that is more entertaining and demanding than gridiron fans believe soccer to be. For soccer fans, it could only deepen existing prejudices.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Hot, dry northerly winds in Melbourne

Last Thursday, as I had a now-fortnightly day of “galloping” around on buses (something everybody concerned about global warming should do to see a key cause in Australia’s dreadful pro-freeway transport policies) I was always expecting heavy rain from the seemingly dense grey clouds as I rode the 901 bus from Dandenong to Greensborough. However, very little rain fell – most of it on a return-home 250 bus trip. Then, Saturday saw warnings from high winds and showers – yet, again no rain fell.

Whilst the rapid poleward spread totalling about 800 kilometres (seven-and-a-but degrees of latitude) in the past fifty years of the winter Hadley cell is a key factor – and remember it is known that at Mesozoic and Paleegene CO2 levels of around 2,000 ppm there was no winter Ferrel Cell and hence no winter “storms” whatsoever – most of Victoria this May and July has not been so dry as Melbourne.
March 2017 rainfall percentages
Here, for March 2017, is a pattern not far removed from some super-monsoon months in the past where storms interact with weak fronts to produce rain over South Australia and western Victoria. This was seen as early as 1903 after the driest calendar year in Australia’s history.
April 2017 rainfall percentages
Like March, this is not inconsistent with super-monsoon months with heavy rainfall in western Victoria. Vis-à-vis past wet Aprils like 1932, 1935 and 1974, there was fewer than half as many fewer actual rainy days – which should have been more of a warning about runaway, largely Australian-caused (both directly through actual emissions and indirectly through selling coal and hugely CO2-intensive lithophile metals) global warming continuing.
May 2017 rainfall percentages
Here is something rather different. One can see that southeastern and central Victoria were very dry, yet the Wimmera, Western Plains and Tasmania (except the south and Derwent Valley) were wetter than average. So was the south coast of New South Wales, although the north and central coasts (not shown) were dry.

This is very different from May 2003 (below) whereby – although there were some similarities within Victoria – the north and central coasts of New South Wales were wet and northwestern Tassie much drier:
May 2003 rainfall percentages. Note the different patterns in Tasmania from last May.
May 2003, like May 2001, reflected depressions much further north than in last May, as reflected by wet conditions on the edge of the Western Australian Wheatbelt. In that sense it is quite similar to a month like June 1963, during a period when the Hadley cell ended at Carnarvon or more northerly (as in that winter which was one of the wettest rainy seasons on record in southwestern Australia) rather than nearer Bunbury:
June 1963 rainfall deciles (most precise figures to avoid the massive influence of Australian greenhouse gas emissions)
One can see the maximum all along the New South Wales coast rather than just on the south coast from one storm on 20 May this year. In June 1963 there was a long run of low pressure systems for the first ten days between Perth and Sydney, bringing essentially continuous rain. The diagrams below illustrate just how profound the shifts in pressure systems have been due to Australian freeway building and consequent greenhouse gas emissions:
Comparative synoptic positions for this year’s May and June vis-à-vis pre-AGW June 1 to 10 1963. Note how the subtropical ridge has shifted ten degrees poleward all through the southern hemisphere in the lower chart. Note also the Tasmanian block in June 1963 
Australian rainfall figures for June 2017 itself are a graphic illustration of the changes in climate due to the Lonie Report and other efforts to fund roads rather than constitutional amendments to ensure every solitary cent of Australian public and private money be spent on more greenhouse-efficient rail rather than on road or air transport:
June 2017 rainfall percentages
In accordance with theories making Australian transport and energy policies the primary and most essential culprit for observed climate changes, the extreme dryness over so wide an area as shown on the June 2017 composite chart is quite unrivalled. Perth, Canberra and Hobart were especially dry, but only the coast of New South Wales directly in the Trade Winds received substantial rain.

The daytime weather in Melbourne was a delightful 15˚C for the opening two weeks of June before we left for hot and humid Taipei – which I did not enjoy at all – but the nights were so cold as to virtually freeze my right hand in our poorly insulated plasterboard home when I sat at the computer until 01:00.

July 2017 rainfall percentages
The map above is apart from the eastern coast of Tasmania and the southern coast of New South wales very like May. It’s striking how dry those areas with a southerly aspect are vis-à-vis the Wimmera and even those areas on the opposite side of the Divide from Melbourne – which are by no means so wet as they would be if such obscene projects as CityLink, EastLink and other freeways and highways had had their funding redirected wholesale in 1980 to mass public transit.

The map is very much drier than remotely similar maps from before the Lonie Report. The famously windy September 1941 – probably the windiest month ever in most of southeastern Australia – is a good illustration:
September 1941 rainfall deciles. These are a bit like last month shifted 800 to 900 kilometres (by removing Australian greenhouse gas emissions) equatorward
Notice that the basic pattern is not that different if one realises that vis-à-vis today’s climate largely controlled from the headquarters of Australia’s largest coal and mining companies – and their allies in VicRoads – the Hadley Cell’s limit lay about eight degrees closer to the equator. That is roughly the distance from Melbourne to Walgett, or from Northcliffe to Shark Bay, or from Adelaide to Coober Pedy!

So, if we place Melbourne near Bourke, one can almost imagine the dry, hot westerly winds New South Wales had in September 1941. These dry winds seen here in Melbourne would still be around Bourke if Australia had had a sane transport and energy policy for the past four decades!