Monthly Archives: May 2007

Why redpandas?

Why red pandas? Well, first off it was most likely the only domain name left, and I am probably the least creative person possible.

Here are a few interesting facts, pulled from Wikipedia, to familiarize yourself with the Red Panda.

– Its Latin name is Ailurus fulgens (“shining cat,” from a Latinized form of the Greek – ailouros, “cat,” and the participial form of the Latin fulgere, “to shine”).

Shining cat? Really?? That is the best scientists could come up with?  My Latin is not that great, but I’m sure even I could have come up with something better, but kinda like domain names, maybe everything else was out…

– Other names include Bear Cat, Bright Panda, Common Panda, Fire Fox, Red Fox, Fox Bear, Himalayan Raccoon, Lesser Panda, Nigalya Ponya, Panda Chico, Panda Éclatant, Panda Rojo, Petit Panda, Poonya, Crimson Ngo, Red Cat, Sankam, Small Panda, Thokya, Wah, Wokdonka, Woker, and Vetri, and Ye.

Lesser Panda? Ouch, that hurts. Himalayan Raccoon? They arent even related to raccoons. Red Cat? I know the Latin name is hard to pronounce, but did we have to take the opposite route? Wokdonka? See, now you are finally trying…

-It has a “false thumb” that really is an extension of the bone of the wrist, permitting them to seize fruit.

Ok, now that’s pretty cool.

-In order to survive on its poor-quality diet, the Red Panda has to select high-quality sections of the bamboo plant such as the tender leaves and shoots in large quantities (over 1.5 kg of fresh leaves and 4 kg of fresh shoots daily) that pass through the digestive tract fairly rapidly so as to maximize nutrient intake.

Wow. Well I guess that leaves little time for hanging out with the ladies.

– Red Pandas usually seek compansionship only for mating from the end of December to the middle of February.

Oh I get it now. Yikes. That’s a tight window to get it on. At least they are predictable.

-The term fire-fox, as used to describe the Red Panda, has been propagated by its use as the logo for the web browser Mozilla FireFox. The old Chinese designation of Red Panda as “fire fox “refers to the Red Panda’s fur color.

That is random as hell. But at least the company didn’t name the product Mozilla Wokdonka, I suppose.

My first contact with a Red Panda was in the Maxwell Zoo in England in 1993. Other than a visit to the Bronx Zoo in elementary school (man, did those polar bears look out of place…), this was the first time I had seen so many creatures in person from around the globe. One of these was, yes, the Red Panda, which stuck with me because it looked cool and I was fascinated that a panda could be, despite my teacher’s instruction in five years of public school education, red and so small. So before our group left a few of my friends headed to the gift shop and perused through, and while they ended up buying water guns or monkeys that made noises when you squeezed them, I walked out with a stuffed Red Panda tucked under my arm. I think this is the only stuffed animal I have ever bought, and while I must have had scores of them at home, they were mostly gifts from relatives and friends. The Red Panda was my travel partner for the rest of that trip (my first one without parents), and I enjoyed its company as well as proudly describing its origins (since most people thought I was a sketchy kid with a stuffed raccoon, which I wasn’t, I was a sketchy kid with a stuffed animal no one had heard of).

Well, many years later, as I took off for college, I rediscovered the Red Panda, and decided once again it would accompany me. It sat on my desk shelf for freshman year, where it collected name tags from orientation, college pins, a green and purple lei from some theme night, among other knick knacks. People still didnt know what it was, even at such a prestigious university, or maybe they couldn’t come to the realization why I just couldn’t be like everyone else and bring a poster of Beers of the World to decorate my personal space with…

As I visited the DC Zoo this fall, I once again came across the Red Panda. What had seemed so obscure to me as a child is now an attraction in the center of the zoo, and while the regular pandas are stamped on the back of every Metrocard and recieve the most publicity, the Red Pandas attracted as much attention by the kids, who were drawn in by their anomaly, activity, and accessibility. Sure, now, as my friend’s girlfriend said, “Eww..they look weird and scary,”, but as so often happens, so do many things as we become adults. We lose our sense of wonder and move on to the pandas and become enamored with the next big thing, what we supposedly came for. But I couldn’t help but wonder as I watched the little kids linger at the cages as their parents moved on if they, too, might walk out with a stuffed Red Panda under their arm, like I did so long ago…

Click on the pics below for a closer look…

Red PandaRed PandaRed Panda

My Blog Title

Picking a title for a blog is like picking a baby name – you don’t want it to be dorky, cryptic, antiquated, or too long. So I went with all the above. The Mouse That Roared is short novel written by Leonard Wibberly during the Cold War. I was a child of the glorious 90’s, when the biggest concern was Oval Office head, and my only real remembrance of the East West conflict was staying up late one night with my (German) parents to watch the Berlin Wall coming down on CNN. I didn’t understand the significance of that moment at the time, and I suppose I never will value it the same way my parents did, but I was old enough to appreciate it as a newsworthy event, or in any event happy enough my parents let me stay up and watch TV that late. Anyhow, my only momento of the Cold War that remains is this memory and a chunk of the Berlin Wall my dad brought home for me on a business trip and is sitting in my bedroom back home somewhere, collecting dust.

My two older brothers, however, born in the early seventies, were more the product of the time period, and I suppose this accounts for my discovery of an old copy of The Mouse That Roared on the bookshelves that I had inherited when my brothers left for college. Being an avid reader growing up, I had moved on from the adventures of Henry Huggins and Dahl, digesting everything from James Dickey’s Diliverance to history textbooks that abruptly ended around the Carter administration, and one lazy summer I happened to settle on this novel.

The book takes place during the 1950s, and revolves around a fictional country named Grand Fenwick nestled in the Alps of Europe (think Lichtenstein). Five by seven miles, with under 5,000 people, the country is suffering economically, and much like Lichtenstein relies on sales of postage stamps, it suffers when its one exportable good – wine – is undercut by an imitationwine produced by a vinyard in California. When diplomatic attempts to settle the conflict come to no avail, the Duchy of Grand Fenwick declares war on the United States, with the full expectation that they will lose. However, they hoped the US would have to invest money in them following defeat and save them from their woes (much like Germany and Japan were rebuilt by US following WWII). I’ll spare you the details, but the little nation ends up being more successful than they intended in their invasion of the US, aided in part by their coincidental landing in Brooklyn during a routine fallout drill. They ultimately use their acquistion of the Q-Bomb to reshift the entire world power paradigm, and establish a global peace.

There is a lot to take from this work, which clearly satirizes the situation at hand at the height of the Cold War, and the phrase has caught on since and gained a greater meaning, but I think what I took away at the time I was reading it was how absurdly close to the truth the book really was, and how exposed we can be to even the tiny Grand Fenwicks of this world.  My history teachers always reiterated that the fall of communism was something unexpected, and the Berlin Wall falling was the one final act of many, set off by a chain of much distant events. That chunk of the Berlin Wall, chipped out by some East German, collected by a passerby, and then sold off to my dad in such an opportunistic manner any capitalist would be proud of, ended up thousands of miles away, bringing a certain life to an event I had, along with the rest of the world, somehow managed to have taken part in.

The blogosphere mirrors this, becoming a beacon and forum for the most snoopy to the most educated among us.  At any moment, the latest in news is not spread to the masses via the traditional media powers, but by a savvy 25 year old grad student, a stay at home wife, a man with a passionate hobby.  It is through these voices, distant but instant, that our culture will revolve and evolve around, and it is happening at an unbridled pace.

So this is my baby, and after much deliberation (ok, well…clearly not) I am naming it The Roaring Mouse in honor of these sentiments.

Why blog?

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I didn’t quite get why I of all people should write a blog. Sure, I use the google blog search feature every now and again to look up the latest random person’s opinions on topics (such as people trying to convince themselves the Hoyas won’t go all the way in ’08) or for the random tidbits of information ignored by the general press (such as the latest Lindsay Lohan sighting). But writing one? My biggest questions were ‘why would anyone be reading this?’ and ‘should I worry about people taking my comments personally?’. But when I thought about it, I came to the swift conclusions 1) people are generally as bored with their lives as I am and will dedicate time to anything as long as it is counterproductive, and 2) my friends have better things to do then read a blog, and since they I know they wouldn’t listen to two cents anyway, why in the hell would they force themselves to read about them? and if I’m wrong, and they really don’t have better things to do, well…wow, I may just have to admit computers are becoming man’s best friend. So I figure why not? It’s what all the “cool kids” are doing these days anyways, and far be it for me to deprive myself of the current cultural norms (kinda like my parents did when rearing me, but that’s for another day…)

Bloggers today, whether they realize it or not, hold termendous sway as disciplines increasingly depend, and thrive, on the online community. Internet was in its nascence as I grew up, and I didnt have AIM until sophomore year of college, and nowadays half my friends describe their job roles in terms of knowing how to “Google”. A friend of mine wrote a thesis on the blogosphere – when the answer to “You can really do that?” was “Yes”, I realized blogging was also here to stay. Tech geeks look for the latest product rumors, politicians look for the latest election trends, teens know where to find the lastest celebrity news, and the voyeur in all of us revels in the intricate details of our friends’, and even complete strangers’, lives.

Some blogs have mission statments or themes, or are even halfway coherent. This is none of those things, and I sincerely doubt it will ever be. In fact, given my level of devotion to most things, I guarentee it won’t be. But that won’t stop me from writing entries, and it won’t stop (the few of you) from reading it.