Thursday, April 25, 2013

Aquatic cryptids - don't even bother!

The Near Futility of Searching for Aquatic Cryptids

                While I am a fan of searching for new terrestrial megafauna, I am very against spending too much looking for anything aquatic for several reasons:

Misidentification:  Humps in the water or a strange shape get you all excited when it could be seals, a school of fish, log, whale blubber, etc.  Possibilities are endless, whereas the more possible identified land species are well known.  You think you saw a dire wolf?  It could have been a... uh, timber wolf.

Real ‘Monsters’: When people hear ‘sea serpent’, they think new weird species, but there are tons of monstrous fish/mammals in the sea already that are fascinating.  You saw a big long sea serpent?  You mean a 50 foot long oarfish?  A creature like an island? You mean a blue whale?  A big shark, a giant squid, a fish with a light hanging on its head – those already are known and catalogued, so don’t expect a lot of scientific reaction.  Massive eels and sturgeon could account for most fresh-water cryptid sightings. Pretty cool, but not a world-shaker.

Massive area: There’s a lot of water on the map, and we are talking 3 dimensions, not relatively 2.  Unless it breaks the surface, you probably won’t have a clue it is there.  The Hoan Kiem Lake turtle was thought to be a legend – in a 25 acre lake in the middle of Hanoi, Vietnam – until a 200 kg 6 ft long specimen was confirmed – in a lake less than 7 ft deep.  If a large turtle can hide in a city-locked pond for centuries with tons of people on the edge of it, what chance do you have in the ocean?  Loch Ness is 22 square miles and 400 feet deep = good luck, friend. 

Danger: My 8 year old son pointed out the danger of aquatic cryptid hunting to me. You could drown, never mind the sharks, crocodiles, storms, running out of gasoline, exposure, seasickness, etc.  I might get lost in the woods, but I still findable by a forest ranger; not such good odds in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle.

Access: it may seem hard to helicopter into a remote area on land, but if someone saw a Megalodon in the middle of the Pacific, how gas do you burn getting there and still have time to search, for a creature that could have immediately travelled hundreds of miles of away? 

False Positives & Negatives: A school of fish in a weird shape on sonar= OMG!!!  A giant squid on the ocean floor = just a bump.

Specimen Loss: Unless you have a strong harpoon or net, you may have a vague picture in the end and a story of “I found this amazing thing but it fell overboard or...” at which time, everyone will call Shenanigans on you and you are dead to them.  It is bad enough when people purport to have a land sample and “can’t find it again” or “it was moved and I didn’t bring a piece with me back to the truck.”  It least in the 2D land world, it theoretically is in the square area, not in a miles deep cube of water. Sadly, capturing a aquatic cryptid means death or at least endangering it.

Mobility: Unless it is in a small area, like Lake Hoan Kien, the specimen could move up and down rivers of fresh water and be nowhere near first seen.  And as for the oceans: it could conceivably be anywhere – moving without being seen on the surface.  (This is why aquatic cryptids by definition cannot be mammals or plesiosaurs: if they were air breathers, there would be a lot more sightings.  A crocodile can stay submerged for over an hour; but not forever.  If Nessie’s an air breather, we’d have her already.
Lack of permanent evidence: You might get a poor picture either way, but at least Sasquatch leaves cast-able footprints, poop, and hair; sea monsters only leave a wake.  Maybe a sonar blip.  The best you can hope for is bloated corpse. 

Three good reasons to hunt aquatics:  Harpoons, nets, and TNT.  If you really have a specimen identified, nasty methods like those three could produce an interesting and previously-living thing.  If you don’t think so, you just don’t have enough dynamite.  Of course, killing the creature in order to preserve it is an ethical quagmire you might not like as well.

In short, stick to the land animals, unless you are really confident and over-prepared.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Being Meanings

We are Meaning Beings.

We exist in a physical world but graft to ourselves purpose. Life is not just existing but having a reason to exist. A theist finds no purpose in the Benign Indifference of the Universe, just as agnostics find no purpose in What is God for You; each tribe has it's own meanings and purposes and whether it matters at all is always a debate of dust. Whether you contemplate spirituality or your own reflection, you are still contemplating.

Because everyone is so different, we are all the same.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

In defense of Menno's

Thinking about Mennonites.

In the 1500s, they refused to participate in war – even though they faced death and my father’s ancestors would have called them immoral.  Menno’s tolerated other’s actions, but didn’t accept war as justified ever.

In the 1700s, they went to Russia at the Czarine’s request, settled the land, but eventually were again pushed to join the army.  They didn’t condemn the Russians, they just wanted to leave.  My father’s ancestors would have called them cowards.

In 1911, a Mennonite church in Netherlands had a female pastor; in Canada women were not persons until 1929.  Everyone’s ancestors would have called that radical and against the social order.

In WW1 and 2, they were asked to fight, and did jail or alternative service – and all of our ancestors called them immoral.  Since then, they’ve been among the first in Peacemaker teams, anti-captial punishment, mediation, HIV hospice care, and famine relief.  In the 80s while my church was debating gay ordination, my Mennonite friends were curious, polite, and perhaps disagreeing with it, but rather tolerant. It was secular friends who said ‘Why do you want THEM leading your church?’

In 2013, society has leaped forward and is now asking the Mennos to not just tolerate gay students but impose accepting school groups.  I think the Mennos are wrong on this one... but in the light of history and to beg forgiveness for the sins of my non-Mennonite ancestors, I’m willing to tone down the rhetoric and condemnation a bit.  I’ve attended and worked in Mennonite schools and if I was worried about my kids being bullied, I would choose to put them in a Mennonite school.  My kids in public school have been taught since Kindergarten that bully=terrorist... and yet it still happens. 

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

I AM United Church (like the Molson beer commercial)

Y'know.... I always thought sermons should be like beer commercials:
I`m not a charismatic
Or a hippie
And I don`t live in a gated community
Or own a Hummer
With a fish on the back of it
And I don`t know
Thomas Aquinas, or St Augustine, or John Wesley
Although I`m sure they wrote real good
I have a Moderator, not a Pope
She speaks on lots of issues
But no one wants to really listen these days
(But someone has to preach the social gospel)
I can proudly say we were touting gay rights before it was fashionable
We believe in peacemaking, not guilt trips
Questioning, not disciplining
And that the Christian is a servant, not a dictator
And its `love your neighbor`, NOT your banker
And we apologize for EVERYTHING!
We are the largest Protestant denomination!
Jesus`s biggest fans
And the nicest people to eat potato salad with.
I am a United Churcher... and I - AM - Canadian.
by Myles S. Hildebrand from Meadowwood United