GPS Tracking Reveals the Secret Lives of Outdoor Cats

We track sharksrhino, and bears, so why not Boo Boo KittyPeanut, and Pumpkin?

The Long Island feline residents volunteered—or more accurately, were volunteered—by their human companions to participate in a domestic cat movement study as part of the international Cat Tracker project.

Each beast was outfitted with a GPS tracker-enhanced harness, which they wore for a week.

(Many cat owners will find that alone something of an achievement.)




In total, almost a thousand households in four countries took part—the United StatesNew ZealandAustralia, and the UK.

Scientists were particularly interested to learn the degree of mayhem these cherished pets were visiting on surrounding wildlife in their off hours.

Anyone who’s been left a present of a freshly murdered baby bunny, mole, or wingless bat can probably guess.

It’s a considerable amount, though by and large the domesticated participants stuck close to home, rarely traveling more than two football fields away from the comforts of their own yards. The impulse to keep the food bowl within easy range confines their hunting activities to a fairly tight area. Woe to the field mice who set up shop there.

Their movements also revealed the peril they put themselves in, crossing highways, roads, and parking lots. Researcher Heidy Kikillus, who tracked cats in New Zealand, reported that a number of her group’s subjects wound up in a fatal encounter with a vehicle.

Generally speaking, gender, age, and geography play a part in how far a cat roams, with males, younger animals, and country dwellers covering more ground. Unsurprisingly, those who have not been neutered or spayed tend to have a freer range too.

“Without the motivations of food and sex, most cats seem content to be homebodies,” zoologist Roland Kays, one of the US Project leaders, noted.

American citizen scientists who’d like to enroll their cat can find information and the necessary forms on the Cat Tracker website.

The cat-less and those with indoor cats can enjoy photos of select participants and explore their tracks here.

And what better fall craft than a DIY cat tracking GPS harness?

via National Geographic

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Central Park Bird Watcher Christian Cooper Writes DC Comics Graphic Novel: It’s Now Free Online

Write what you know.

It’s oft-cited advice for writers both beginning and established.

Thus, Jules, the teenage boy at the center of Christian Cooper’s It’s a Bird, the first entry in DC Comics’ digital-first anthology series Represent!, is a birdwatcher, like the author.

And the binoculars that were a 50th birthday gift from Cooper’s father, a Korean War vet and Civil Rights activist, serve as models for the ones Jules is none too thrilled to receive, despite his grandpa’s belief that they possess special powers.




Cooper, who was was Marvel’s first openly gay writer and editor, introducing a number of queer characters before devoting himself to science writing, also draws on recent personal history that is more fraught.

Although the location has shifted from New York City’s Central Park to a suburban green space bordered with large, well-kept homes, including Jules’, the young man’s encounter with an indignant white woman and her off-leash dog should ring any number of bells.

In late May, Cooper became the subject of national news, when he confronted Amy Cooper (no relation) over her violation of park rules, tired of the havoc uncontrolled dogs wreak on birds who call the park home. Ms. Cooper escalated things quickly by calling 911, claiming she was being threatened by an African-American man. Cooper recorded the incident as a matter of protocol, and his sister shared the video on social media later that day.

The same day that George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

What Jules sees through the lenses of his grandfather’s binoculars contains an element of fantasy, but is also deeply rooted in reality—the faces of Amidou Diallo, Breonna Taylor, Floyd, and other Black people who have died as a result of excessive, unwarranted police force.

When DC first approached him about tapping his experience for his first comic in over two decades, Cooper was reluctant:

I thought, “I don’t know, DC Comics? Superheroes? Not sure how that’s going to work.” We kicked around a couple of ideas. They said they had gotten the title, I’m not sure exactly from who, but somebody pretty high up in the DC food chain: “It’s a Bird.” It took me half a beat. “Oh…I get what you did there.” Once I had the title, the story wrote itself.

It’s a Bird artist Aletha E. Martinez, a pioneer whose 20-year career has included inking such superhero heavy hitters as the Black Panther, Iron Man, Batgirl, and X-Men, also pulled from personal experience when rendering Jules’ expression after the binoculars reveal the circumstances of George Floyd’s death:

I saw that look on my son’s face three years ago after we left North Carolina, and we were coming home to New York. We were stopped going into the airport. We travel so often—cons, in and out of the country. These two security guards started to harass us. They wanted to take my purse. “Where are you from?” You hear my voice, there’s no accent in my voice. It ended up with them saying, “You should travel with your passport.” This is after backing us up in the corner, and why? I’m an American citizen born on this soil, so is my son. I don’t need a passport to travel within my country. This is our day and age.

I watched my son’s face change, and he never quite walked up again looking happy going to the airport. Now he has on armor. That face you see? That’s my kid.

It’s a Bird can be read for free on participating digital platforms (see links below), and Cooper is hopeful that it will inspire young people to find out more about some of the real life characters Jules spies through his binoculars. To that end, an appendix touches on some biographical details:

We not only give the bare bones details of how they died, but also a little bit about them, because they were people. They weren’t just want happened to them. I hope young people (are) inspired to keep the focus where it needs to be, which is on those we have lost and how we keep from losing more. There are people who are invested in distracting us right now, and there are people who want to distract us from their failures on so many other things. That’s not what this moment is about. This moment is about the ones we’ve lost, and how we’re going to keep from losing any more. And if you’re not talking about that, I don’t want to hear it.

Read Represent!: It’s a Bird for free on readdc.comComixologyAmazon Kindle, Apple Books, and other participating digital platforms.

Read an interview with Cooper and Martinez, from which the quotes in this post are drawn, on DC’s blog.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Watch an Epic Drum Battle, Pitting a 9-Year-Old Girl Against Foo Fighter Dave Grohl

Foo Fighter Dave Grohl, formerly of Nirvana, and Nandi Bushell, an Ipswich elementary schooler, have something in common besides their incredible command of the drums.

By all appearances, both seem to have benefited from being reared by grounded, encouraging parents.

Nandi, at 10, likely has a few more years under her folks’ roof despite her growing renown—she’s jammed with Lenny Kravitz, gone viral in last year’s Argos Christmas advert, and most recently, matched Grohl beat for beat in an epic drum battle, above.




Nandi demonstrated a natural rhythmic ear at an early age, bobbing along to the Teletubbies while still in diapers.

Of course, everything she’s achieved thus far can be considered to have occurred at an early age.

On the other hand, it was half a lifetime ago when her father, a software engineer and self-described “massive music fan” introduced the then-5-year-old to “Hey, Jude,” as part of a weekly tradition wherein he makes pancakes with his children while sharing YouTube links to favorite songs.

She was immediately taken with Ringo Starr, and the joy he exuded behind his kit.

Shortly thereafter, she passed a math exam, earning a trip to Toys “R” Us to pick out a promised treat. Her eye went immediately to a £25 kiddie drum set.

The plastic toy was a far cry from the professional kit she uses today, but she’s shown herself to be adaptable in a recent series of video tutorials for Daniel Bedingfield’s “Gonna Get Through This,” encouraging viewers who lack equipment to bang on whatever’s handy—colanders, pot lids, biscuit tins… She recommends kebab skewers tipped with cellophane tape for the stickless.

Her YouTube channel definitely reveals a preference for hard rock.

Her father, John, dislikes playing publicly, but occasionally accompanies her on guitar, hoping she’ll grow accustomed to playing with other people.

Documenting his daughter’s performances lies more within his comfort zone as he told Drum Talk TV in a very glitchy, early-pandemic virtual interview. Asked by host Dan Shinder to share tips for other parents of young drummers, particularly girls, he counsels exposing them to as many musical genres as possible, nurturing their desire to play, and resolving to have as much fun as possible.

It’s clear that Nandi is having a ball twirling her sticks and whaling on the drum part of Foo Fighters’ hit “Everlong,” in a video uploaded last month.

Grohl got wind of the video and the challenge contained therein.

He took the bait, responding with an “epic” video of his own, playing a set of drums borrowed from his 11-year-old daughter:

I haven’t played that song since the day I recorded it in 1997, but Nandi, in the last week I’ve gotten at least 100 texts from people all over the world saying ‘This girl is challenging you to a drum-off, what are you going to do?’

Look, I’ve seen all your videos. I’ve seen you on TV. You’re an incredible drummer. I’m really flattered that you picked some of my songs… and you’ve done them all perfectly. So today, I’m gonna give you something you may not have heard before. This is a song called “Dead End Friends” from a band called Them Crooked Vultures… now the ball is in your court.

(Fast forward to the final thirty seconds if you want to see the ultimate in happy dances.)

The young challenger calls upon the rock Gods of old—BonzoBakerPeartMoon—to back her side for “THE GREATEST ROCK BATTLE IN THE HISTORY OF ROCK!!!”

(In addition to drum lessons, and participation in the Ipswich Rock Project and  junior jam sessions, it looks like her acting classes at Stagecoach Performing Arts Ipswich are so paying off.)

Five days after Grohl threw down his gauntlet, she’s back on her drum throne, clad in a preteen version of Grohl’s buffalo check shirt and black pants, her snare bearing the legend “Grohl rocks.”

That sentiment would surely please Grohl’s mother, Virginia, author of From Cradle to Stage: Stories from the Mothers Who Rocked and Raised Rock Stars.

A born entertainer in his mother’s opinion, Grohl didn’t take up music until he was around the age Nandi is now, after which it monopolized his focus and energy, leading to a disastrous 6th grade report card.

Rather than freaking out about general education dips, Virginia, a public school teacher, was supportive when the opportunity arose for him to tour Europe at 17 with the Washington, DC band Scream after the departure of drummer Kent Stax.

Wise move. Her son may be a high school drop-out, but he’s using his fame to shine a spotlight on the concerns of teachers, who are essential workers in his view. Check out his essay in The Atlantic, in which he writes that he wouldn’t trust the U.S. Secretary of Percussion to tell him how to play “Smells Like Teen Spirit” if they had never sat behind a drum set:

It takes a certain kind of person to devote their life to this difficult and often-thankless job. I know because I was raised in a community of them. I have mowed their lawns, painted their apartments, even babysat their children, and I’m convinced that they are as essential as any other essential workers. Some even raise rock stars! Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, Adam Levine, Josh Groban, and Haim are all children of school workers (with hopefully more academically rewarding results than mine).

He’s also leaving time in his schedule for another drum battle:

Watch more of Nandi Bushell’s drum and guitar covers on her parent-monitored YouTube channel.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

A Free Stanford Course on How to Teach Online: Watch the Lectures Online

Earlier this month, Stanford’s Online High School offered (in partnership with Stanford Continuing Studies) a free, five-day course “Teach Your Class Online: The Essentials.” With many schools starting the next academic year online, this course found a large audience. 7,000 teachers signed up. Aimed at middle and high school teachers, the course covered “general guidelines for adapting your course to an online format, best practices for varied situations, common pitfalls in online course design, and how to troubleshoot student issues online.”

The videos from “Teach Your Class Online: The Essentials” are all now available online. You can watch them in sequential order, moving from top to bottom, here. Or watch them on this Stanford hosted page. Day 1 (above) provides a general introduction to teaching online. See topics covered in Days 2-5 below.

Please feel free to share these videos with any teachers. And if anyone watches these lectures and takes good class notes (ones other teachers can use), please let us know. We would be happy to help share them with other teachers.

Finally, just to give you a little background, Stanford’s Online High School has operated as a fully-online, independent, accredited high school since 2006. Stanford Continuing Studies provides open enrollment courses to adults worldwide. All of its courses are currently online. For anyone interested, Coursera also offers a specialization (a series of five courses) on online learning called the Virtual Teacher. It can be explored here.

 

Day 2

  • Getting Specific: Situations and Tools
  • Science: Labs in Online Pedagogy

 

Day 3

  • Online Classroom Example Clips
  • Building and Maintaining a Classroom
    Community

 

Day 4

  • Review of Submitted Sample Lesson Drafts
  • Troubleshooting Obstacles to Success in the Online Environment

 

Day 5

  • Math: Using Writing Tablets and Whiteboards
  • Modern Languages: Tips for Highly Interactive Class During Which Students Actively Speak and Write in the Target Language
  • Humanities: Productive Classroom Conversations About Challenging Subjects
  • Closing Thoughts

 

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Behold Octavia Butler’s Motivational Notes to Self

Handwritten notes on the inside cover of one of Octavia E. Butler’s commonplace books, 1988

I was attracted to science fiction because it was so wide open. I was able to do anything and there were no walls to hem you in and there was no human condition that you were stopped from examining. —Octavia E. Butler

Like many authors, the late Octavia E. Butler took up writing at a young age.

At 11, she was churning out tales about horses and romance.

At 12, she saw Devil Girl from Mars, and figured (correctly) she could tell a better story than that, using 2 fingers to peck out stories on the Remington typewriter her mother bought at her request.

At 13, she found a copy of The Writer magazine abandoned on a bus seat, and learned that it was possible to submit her work for publication.

After a decade’s worth of rejection slips, she sold her first two stories, thanks in part to her association with the Clarion Science Fiction Writing Workshop, which she became involved with on the recommendation of her mentor, science fiction writer Harlan Ellison.




She went on to become the first science fiction writer to receive a prestigious MacArthur “genius” award, garnering multiple Hugo and Nebula awards for her work.

An asteroid is named after her, as is a mountain on Pluto’s moon.

Hailed as the Mother of Afro Futurism, she won the PEN American Center lifetime achievement award in writing.

But professional success never clouded her view of herself as the 10-year-old writer who was unsure if library-loving black kids like her would be allowed inside a bookstore.

Identifying as a writer helped her move beyond her crippling shyness and dyslexia. As she wrote in an autobiographical essay, “Positive Obsession”:

I believed I was ugly and stupid, clumsy, and socially hopeless. I also thought that everyone would notice these faults if I drew attention to myself. I wanted to disappear. Instead, I grew to be six feet tall. Boys in particular seemed to assume that I had done this growing deliberately and that I should be ridiculed for it as often as possible.

I hid out in a big pink notebook—one that would hold a whole ream of paper. I made myself a universe in it. There I could be a magic horse, a Martian, a telepath….There I could be anywhere but here, any time but now, with any people but these.

She developed a lifelong habit of cheering herself on with motivational notes, writing them in her journals, on lined notebook paper, in day planners and on repurposed pages of an old wall calendar.

She held herself accountable by writing out demanding schedules to accompany her lofty, documented goals.

And though she wearied of the constant invitations to serve on literary panels devoted to science fiction writers of color, at which she’d be asked the same questions she’d answered dozens of times before, she was resolute about providing opportunities for young black writers … and readers, who found reflections of themselves in her characters. As she remarked in an interview with The New York Times

When I began writing science fiction, when I began reading, heck, I wasn’t in any of this stuff I read. The only black people you found were occasional characters or characters who were so feeble-witted that they couldn’t manage anything, anyway. I wrote myself in, since I’m me and I’m here and I’m writing.

Her brand of science fictiona label she often tried to duck, identifying herself on her business card simply as “writer”serves as a lens for considering contemporary issues: sexual violence, gun violence, climate change, gender stereotypes, the problems of late-stage capitalism, the plight of undocumented immigrants, and, not least, racism.

She sidestepped utopian science fiction, believing that imperfect humans are incapable of  forming a perfect society. “Nobody is perfect,” she told Vibe:

One of the things I’ve discovered even with teachers using my books is that people tend to look for ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys,’ which always annoys the hell out of me. I’d be bored to death writing that way. But because that’s the only pattern they have, they try to fit my work into it.

Learn more about the life and work of Octavia E. Butler (1947–2006) here.

I shall be a bestselling writer. After Imago, each of my books will be on the bestseller lists of LAT, NYT, PW, WP, etc. My novels will go onto the above lists whether publishers push them hard or not, whether I’m paid a high advance or not, whether I ever win another award or not.

This is my life. I write bestselling novels. My novels go onto the bestseller lists on or shortly after publication. My novels each travel up to the top of the bestseller lists and they reach the top and they stay on top for months . Each of my novels does this.

So be it! I will find the way to do this. See to it! So be it! See to it!

My books will be read by millions of people!

I will buy a beautiful home in an excellent neighborhood

I will send poor black youngsters to Clarion or other writer’s workshops

I will help poor black youngsters broaden their horizons

I will help poor black youngsters go to college

I will get the best of health care for my mother and myself

I will hire a car whenever I want or need to.

I will travel whenever and wherever in the world that I choose

My books will be read by millions of people!

So be it! See to it!

via Austin Kleon

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Why Should We Read Pioneering Sci-Fi Writer Octavia Butler? An Animated Video Makes the Case

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Watch a 5-Part Animated Primer on Afrofuturism, the Black Sci-Fi Phenomenon Inspired by Sun Ra

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

 

Explore 1,100 Works of Art by Georgia O’Keeffe: They’re Now Digitized and Free to View Online

Lake George Reflection (circa 1921) via Wikimedia Commons

What comes to mind when you think of Georgia O’Keeffe?

Bleached skulls in the desert?

Aerial views of clouds, almost cartoonish in their puffiness?

Voluptuous flowers (freighted with an erotic charge the artist may not have intended)?

Probably not Polaroid prints of a dark haired pet chow sprawled on flagstones…

Or watercolor sketches of demurely pretty ladies

Or a massive cast iron abstraction…

If your knowledge of America’s most celebrated female artists is confined to the gift shop’s greatest hits, you might enjoy a leisurely prowl through the 1100+ works in the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum’s digital collection.




A main objective of this beta release is to provide a more complete understanding of the life and work of the iconic artist, who died in 1986 at the age of 98.

Her evolution is evident when you search by materials or date.

You can also view works by other artists in the collection, including two very significant men in her life, photographer Alfred Stieglitz and ceramicist Juan Hamilton.

Each item’s listing is enhanced with information on inscriptions and exhibitions, as well as links to other works produced in the same year.

If your explorations leave you in a creative mood, the museum’s website has devised a host of  O’Keeffe-inspired, all-ages creative assignments, such as an advertising challenge stemming from her 1939 trip to Hawaii to design promotional images for the Hawaiian Pineapple Company (now known as Dole).

Visit the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum’s online collection here. And watch a documentary introduction to O’Keeffee, narrated by Gene Hackman, below:

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

 

Construct Your Own Bayeux Tapestry with This Free Online App

A wise woman once quoth that one man’s adult coloring book is another’s Medieval Tapestry Edit.

If taking crayons to empty outlines of mandalas, floral patterns, and forest and ocean scenes has failed to calm your mind, the Historic Tale Construction Kit may cure what ails you.

Programmers Leonard Allain-Launay and Mathieu Thoretton and software engineer Maria Cosmina Etegan created the online kit as a tribute to a late, great, early 21st-century application designed by Academy of Media Arts Cologne students Björn Karnebogen and Gerd Jungbluth.




They separated out various elements of the Bayeux Tapestry, allowing you to freely mess around with 1000-year-old images of warriors, commoners, beasts, and buildings:

Craft thy own Bayeux Tapestry

Slay mischievous beasts

Rule the kingdom

Rotate, resize, clone

Choose a background, add some text in your choice of Bayeux or Augusta font and you’ll have done your bit to revive the fading art of the Medieval Macro (or meme.)

The original tapestry used some 224 feet of wool-embroidered linen to recount the Battle of Hastings and the events leading up to it.

You need not have such lofty aims.

Perhaps test the waters with a Father’s Day greeting, resizing and rotating until you feel ready to export as a PNG.

The interface is extremely user friendly, kind of like a tech-savvy 11th-century cousin of the online drag-and-drop graphic design tool, Canva.

The Historic Tale Construction Kit’s most impressive bells and whistles reside in the paintbrush tool in the lower left corner, which allows you to lay down great swaths of folks, birds, or corpses in a single sweep.

Your palette will be limited to the shades deployed by the Bayeux embroiderers, who obtained their colors from plants—dyer’s woadmadder, and dyer’s rocket (or weld).

The text, of course, is entirely up to you.

It pleased us to go with the eminently quotable David Bowie, and only after we groped our way into the three fledgling efforts you see above did we discover that we’re not the only ones.

Presenting Early Pre-Bowie References to “Space Oddity”


Throw on some Bardcore and begin reworking the Bayeux Tapestry with the Historic Tale Construction Kit here.

If you are interested in something a bit more technical, the designers have put the opensource code on GitHub for your customizing pleasure.

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Why Knights Fought Snails in Illuminated Medieval Manuscripts

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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