Problem solving ability in canines

Regis is a great dog and an important part of our household. The human-canine mutual relationship is alive and well.

Regis is a great dog and an important part of our household. The human-canine mutual relationship is alive and well.

Kelly, Regis (the wonder pup), and I were at a friend’s house. These friends have built a house that is nothing short of amazing. Kelly and I were on the second story back porch and Regis was down at ground level. Stairs exist to get up to the porch, but the stairs are located away from where Kelly and I were. Regis has used these very stairs multiple times. Regis wanted to get closer to Kelly and I, so he hopped up on a picnic table. While the picnic table did put Regis about three feet closer to Kelly and I, it did not exactly put Regis where we were. So Regis then did what any proud hound dog would do: whine.

Kelly and I then moved to a portion of this second story porch with a direct connection with the stairs. Regis ran right over and proceeded to try to use a swing set slide to get to us. This was a disaster. Once Regis had all four feet on the slide, he would slide back down to the ground. Regis really wanted to be with Kelly and I so he just kept throwing himself at the slide. While this was entertaining, this activity would not achieve the goal. So we walked over to the top of the stairs and called him.

REUNITED! Tag wagging ensues!

To me this was interesting because Regis was able to come up with solutions to his problem all on his own. Granted these solutions, did not solve the problem, but these were his own solutions. It is also of interest that when the picnic table was found to offer only a partial solution, Regis then called out to his humans. Regis, a descendant of wolves, is the product of thousands of years of a human-canine mutual relationship in which: dogs have provided shed hair to make cave-human’s stone couches furry and humans have provided the dogs with problem solving skills. He depends on us when the problem seems insurmountable, like when his tennis ball is under the couch and out of reach. It seems a fair trade, he is a good boy.

House Centipede

Last month, while walking in to work,  I saw this specimen of Scutigera coleoptrata (the house 2014-03-18 HouseCentipedecentipede). Centipedes are fast, but the morning was cold, so I was able to get a photo (hooray for a homeothermic metabolism!). This is a household predator, and can be thought of as beneficial (if you actually need to sort species as such – and if so, where do you place yourself?). I am always amazed that large household predators (e.g. spiders) always seem to exist at densities higher than one would expect given the household prey base (which seems non-existent). Perhaps this is because I am much larger, or perhaps I should study my household ecology a little more closely.

This is an introduced species and has done very well in North America because of our habitat manipulations. Being able to coexist with humans does have some advantages, but do not make the mistake of cuddling the house centipedes you may find – they can (and will) bite.


Why Cartoons?

It seems I have always been drawn to cartoons, even if I am not very good at drawing them. Strips that I have done or been part of that have seen the light of day in print: The Further Adventures of Captain Death, Johnny Asilid: Danger Force Nine, and Super-Mega Botanist Friendship Friends. The nameless strip that remains captive in this blog is useful for me, and I thank you for tolerating it.

I actually spend a fair amount of time reading comic strips. When I actually have a newspaper in front of me, the editorials and the comics are the first places I turn to. The Mark Trail strip was an early inspiration for me in comics that were about ideas. The Virtue of Vera Valiant was a newspaper strip I loved to read. It was a hilarious and absurd exploration of life that did not ‘try’ to be funny. This strip contains elements of every strip I have ever read, but not in a copyright infringing sort of way:

why cartoons

Bed Bugs

I have identified numerous bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) in the past few years, but I have never found my own. My first bed bug encounter was when I stayed at the Mizpah Hut in New Hampshire in 1976. The hiking was amazing. I did not get to see bed bugs, but a couple of the people I was with had marks that told of their nocturnal encounters with Cimex.

I first became aware of the resurgence of bed bugs in 2006 when Kelly Tindall showed me some live bed bugs that had been brought into the Twin Falls County (University of Idaho) Extension office. Since then it seems everywhere I go there are bed bugs, that other people show me for identification or confirmation of their identification.

2014-01-28 19.13.26-1Recently, Kelly and I were staying at the Stoney Creek Inn in Johnston, Iowa and in our initial room survey Kelly found a beautiful, adult bed bug and I got to see a bed bug in ‘the wild’. I am sure I will get to find my own before too long…

To learn how to avoid and deal with bed bugs I highly recommend this video. The bed bug registry allows you to see if hotels and apartments have had reported bed bug incidents, but not all incidents are reported.

The really cool thing about bed bugs is they depend on us. They have evolved to feed on our blood and have been associated with us for a very long time. They like us, they really like us, but their love of us is unrequited.


Scientific thought is a huge collaborative effort. The data, thoughts, hypotheses, etc. of others are fair game for any researcher to utilize in their work. The caveat is that all such work must be properly attributed. Students will often make ‘petit plagiarisms’ where it is clear that they are referring to a certain work, and then quote it verbatim without quotation marks. I have also seen where students will list references, but not cite within the paper. Occasionally, a reference may be omitted, but the student is not claiming to have developed the concept of niche partioning – all this is within what I would call an honest mistake. When a student hands in a paper that is the wikipedia entry verbatim, they are blatantly claiming another’s work as their own and this is bad.

In the huge collaborative effort called scientific thought there is peer review, where we read each other’s paper prior to review. This process is extremely flawed and helpful. There are the before submission reviews where the manuscript goes to friends who make comments and the post submission reviews where unknown reviewers make comments. The anonymity of these reviewers is essential, but also means that there is no credit given for extremely hard work – it is done for the common good of the collaborative effort.

By the time somebody has published a couple of scientific papers, and maybe gotten a Doctorate, it is assumed they should know how to avoid plagiarism. I still make mistakes citing items and very much appreciate when a reviewer helps me out. This is a very not funny cartoon about a very not funny subject. I am still trying to make sense of this paper I was asked to review that blatantly claimed another person’s concept as their own.