Saturday, February 15, 2014
We spent Christmas day in Baton Rouge Louisiana. Clare Brown's college professor invited several students, who couldn't go home for the holidays, over his house for a lavish Christmas Dinner. Clare's parents, Rachel Lawson and Joseph Brown as well as Terry and I were invited as well. After dinner the professor showed Clare a blow dart weapon he had picked up on his travels. The blow tube was perhaps three feet long. The darts were lethal metal with a plastic disk expansion at the end. He put a cardboard box across the room as a target and raised the tube to his lips. He exhaled quickly and the dart ripped through the box leaving a tiny clean hole. Students in his class study ornithology and they travel the world looking for exotic birds. One of their tasks is gathering specimens and that means cleanly killing birds.
Apparently Clare is rather good at killing, documenting and properly stuffing the birds for display. Using a gun to kill a bird would result in a highly damaged specimen with a large hole ripped through it. Nets capture most birds which are then killed by hand. Clare described one gruesome situation in which a bird just wouldn't die. A quick clean kill is preferred to reduce suffering. Clare took a turn with the blow dart. She missed the box. Terry, who had once been a professional French horn player, wanted to test her chops. Sure enough all those years of blowing into a horn payed off. Her dart ripped cleanly through the center of the box. There was talk of darting the foot high Santa statue but the fun was stopped short by the level headed.
We ended Christmas day in the lobby of the hotel. Clare discussed the premise of her thesis research and Joseph seemed intrigued to use the population estimate theories to figure out how many Sock eye salmon migrate to the rivers of Washington State each year. The more varied the genome sequencing in an animals DNA, the larger the population. So with a rather small sampling of genome sequences it could be possible to estimate a species population.
On a different note, Rachel gave me a stuffed animal monkey whose arms are made of rubber. He has a red cape and if you wedge your fingers in his hands, you can pull his legs and tail to slingshot him into flight. The first time I did it I was shocked when he screeched loudly as he arched in flight. This was definitely a memorable Christmas present.