Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 12:07 on 29-09-2009, Wardog
Only 7 books in the pile? You wuss! That's barely a pile at all. My ballycumber is taller than me.

You should read the fourth book in the pile. Blatantly.
at 11:55 on 29-09-2009, Jamie Johnston
Help! I don't know what to read next.

Normally I have either one or two books sitting in my bedroom waiting to be read, in which case I read whatever's on the top of that pile, or no books at all waiting to be read, in which case I go to the library and employ my customary semi-random book-choosing method. But now, having recently had a birthday and having also been foolish enough to go to the classics section of the top floor of Blackwell's, I have a rather large pile of books waiting to be read and it has perversely made me entirely unable to choose which of them to read or indeed whether to read something else entirely.

So should I read:

1) the first book in the pile;
2) the second book in the pile;
3) the third book in the pile;
4) the fifth book in the pile;
5) the fourth book in the pile;
6) the sixth book in the pile;
7) the seventh book in the pile;
8) another book that I can probably find in my local large public library (please specify)?
at 05:17 on 29-09-2009, Viorica
Dollhouse season two premiere: Paul programs Echo to boink some guy for information, and beats the crap out of her when she short-circuts. And at the end of the episode, she handpicks him to be her ally.

at 03:57 on 29-09-2009, Rude Cyrus
I suppose that PSA would be a little more appropriate if the subject were, say, schizophrenia, but it would still be an awful advert.
at 00:02 on 29-09-2009, Arthur B
This is possibly the most over-the-top Public Service Advert I have ever seen. It's hilariously bad.

Left Brain/Right Brain has some cogent thoughts as to precisely what is wrong with it. (Short version: it portrays autism as an evil demon which parents can drive out of their children if they fight it enough.)
at 19:37 on 28-09-2009, Dan H
Yeah, I found "of their own accord" a strange choice of words as well.

"Okay guys, we need to work out what to evolve into, on the table is 'opposable thumbs' or 'need to consume our own bodyweight in bamboo' - who's for bamboo?"
at 19:28 on 28-09-2009, Jamie Johnston
I have a vague feeling that the ancient Greek word is 'zoon' (animal) with two syllables (to rhyme with 'so on'), so it may be that technically we should be saying 'zo-ology' and 'zo-ologist', and hence shortening 'zoological gardens' to 'zo'.

However I have to concede that Arthur's 'spell it differently' suggestion is more practical than my 'make all English-speakers pronounce it differently'...
at 15:20 on 28-09-2009, Arthur B
It works if you spell "zoo'logist" with an apostrophe.
at 15:14 on 28-09-2009, Wardog
Also is anyone else peeved that zoologist doesn't have 3 os?

It should be zooologist, surely?
at 15:13 on 28-09-2009, Wardog
I don't think it means that a group of pandas got together in their Copororate HQ one day and were all like "hey, guys, let's go extinct." But if you so happen to evolve into not being massively into bonking with a tendency to roll on your own kids ... well ... although it's not *your fault* per se, I do think there's an extent to which you're nudging down that evolutionary cul-de-sac. Thank you very much, Kyra "Zoologist" Smith, signing off.
at 15:06 on 28-09-2009, Robinson L
(Coming in behind the conversation curve as per usual ...) I've had a glance at that "screw the pandas" article. I didn't read far, but I did come across this:
Here's a species that, of its own accord, has gone down an evolutionary cul-de-sac,

Since when have pandas either singly or as a group had control over the direction of their evolutionary development?
at 13:59 on 28-09-2009, Arthur B
Looks like someone at the Kremlin watched Dr Strangelove 25 years ago...
at 09:18 on 28-09-2009, Wardog
What the fuck is wrong with Bioware? They keep *putting me off their games* with the trailers that are supposed to make me want to play them. So first we get the cringe-inducing sex 'n' violence 'n' Marilyn Manson trailor for Dragon Age. And now they introduce this character from Mass Effect 2. Seriously - what's with the excrutiating "tough girl" wank fantasy.


"You turn a scared kid into a real bitch..." Great. Yeah. That's total a strong woman, Bioware. Because women are capable of being bitches when they've first been broken and then transformed into something else. Fuck you.
at 19:23 on 27-09-2009, Sister Magpie
Yup, that's me! Magpies are notorious cat killers!
at 19:18 on 27-09-2009, Rami
You mean you want to kill the kitties? You HEARTLESS MONSTER!
at 18:29 on 27-09-2009, Arthur B
Ah, I can't have much sympathy with people trying to keep feral cats feral. Considering that (unlike wild cats) they're only that way because somewhere down the line a cat owner was irresponsible, I can definitely see the case that they are in no sense a natural part of the ecosystem.
at 17:01 on 27-09-2009, Sister Magpie
I did see what you did there--clever!

It's not really about domestic cats, the article, but about feral cats. There's these programs called something like Alleycat Allies or something, and it's people who are cat lovers who think it's great to feed feral cats, which crop up everywhere cats exist.

They have this catch-neuter-release program, claiming that this will make colonies die out, while the feeding keeps them from hunting other things. Only none of those things actually work. They can't catch nearly enough to have any effect on the population and feeding them just makes them strong when they hunt anyway, as cats do.

Domestic cats only contribute to the problem when people let them run loose or don't neuter them, or abandon them--which is another thing these programs kind of encourage if people know there are people caring for stray cats.
at 22:40 on 26-09-2009, Arthur B
Is that a US-based article, Magpie? I can't imagine domestic cats have much of an effect on the ecosystem over here in Europe, since we've had them for millennia (and the ecosystem as a whole is, if you look closely, pretty damn artificial, or at the very least domesticated, across great swathes of the continent), but I can see how they might have an impact in somewhere like the US (I know they've been pretty cat-astrophic in Australia - SEE WHAT I DID THERE???)
at 03:42 on 26-09-2009, Sister Magpie
The article was in the most recent issue of Audubon magazine.
at 00:36 on 26-09-2009, Shim
...a disturbing article I read recently about all the cat rescue groups...

Do you have a link? Or a citation if it's plant fibre. I'd like to read that.
at 20:52 on 25-09-2009, Sister Magpie
One of the biggest dangers in conservation is focusing too much on saving "cute" animals, rather than actually preserving biodiversity. There's ultimately no reason to save the panda rather than, say Reindeer Lichen or the Rameshwaram parachute spider.

This reminds me of a disturbing article I read recently about all the cat rescue groups who've basically bullied even conservationist groups into accepting them when they're terrible for the ecosystem. When scientists explain why catch-neuter-release programs don't work and how feral cats destroy endangered species etc., cat-lovers just refuse to accept it. One woman who pleaded with cat owners to at least keep them inside got the angry response of "If you're so worried about the birds, why don't you keep them inside?"
at 20:41 on 25-09-2009, Sonia Mitchell
"One of the biggest dangers in conservation is focusing too much on saving "cute" animals, rather than actually preserving biodiversity. There's ultimately no reason to save the panda rather than, say Reindeer Lichen or the Rameshwaram parachute spider.

That said, there's a strong case to be made for preserving "iconic" species simply because they raise awareness."

The thing about saving the big species in their natural environment, though, is that it the biodiversity tends to come with the package. I'm not familiar enough with panda conservation to talk about it, but the other example Packham uses is tigers.

The main thrust to preserving tigers in India is in protecting land, which obviously benefits the rest of the species in that patch. Tying funding too closely with the one species does create issues, for example that the authorities in charge of parks may stretch the truth about how many tigers are actually living in the park. However the international attention it attracts is very beneficial and it does make pretty good sense. Generally speaking, the amount of tigers the national parks have is a good indication as to how healthy they are, because they need x amount of other species to support them. Funding the tigers in their natural environment is also funding the deer, the monkeys, the birds, the insects and - crucially - the people.

It's kind of like the Oxfam charity gifts. If I give you the goat package I'm not actually paying for a particular goat named Dave - I'm helping fund all their projects.
at 18:25 on 25-09-2009, Rude Cyrus
Maybe these pandas would have more babies if the tourists and zookeepers stopped bothering them all the time.
at 17:42 on 25-09-2009, Jamie Johnston
You have to respect a man who... says "screw the pandas."

Well, a lot of conservationists and zoo-keepers have been saying this for a long time. To other pandas. But the response is usually, "Nah, I'd rather lie on my back and eat bamboo." Hence the lack of baby pandas.