Home Invasion

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

Since our gracious host Anthony Watts has kindly turned a portion of the arts and entertainment section of WUWT over to me for the four-day weekend while he takes some well-earned time with his family, while I have the microphone I wanted to start by acknowledging him for what he has created in WUWT.

Among other valuable things, WUWT has become an arena for science as a blood sport, as science has to and must be in a realm where nothing is provable but any man’s claims might be falsifiable. Science is a funny creature in that it only thrives under transparency. Here on WUWT, I put out my scientific ideas up in the public forum as clearly as I can explain them, and I hand around the hammers, and people do their best to demolish my claims. That is science at its finest, nothing hidden, everything visible, all the relevant data and code available for any reader to either check my work, or to tear it to shreds, or to pick it up and take it further.

This gradual scientific migration to the web is well underway, moved forwards by things like journals with open review, and by other blogs. Science done in the dark by a few learned boffins is already dead in the 21st century, the practitioners just didn’t notice when they ran past their use-by dates, and as a result that dark corner of the scientific world is populated more and more by zombies. Zombies with PhD’s to be sure, but zombies nonetheless, everyone else is emerging into the light. Good news is, it’s somewhat of a self-limiting phenomenon, the best authors say that zombies can’t reproduce …

And Anthony, first through his creation and orchestration of the surfacestations project that compiled the first complete record of all of the the “official” weather stations, and then through his creation and unending support of this forum as a place for the free expression and constant demolition of scientific claims plus whatever curious things his fertile mind dreams up from day to day, Anthony has been a large and significant part of the gradual shifting of the serious scientific dialog to the web.

So Anthony, I’m proud to claim you among my friends, and I know you have much more than just my own poor thanks and appreciation for all you’ve done and continue to do, I’m sure I speak for many in my appreciation … and I certaily hope appreciation is enough to satisfy you, buddy, because we both know there’s no money in the blog game, and the Big Oil paycheck is always just mailed yesterday and will arrive tomorrow. In any case, my friend, you have my personal thanks for what you’ve done, and my acknowledgement for your remarkable achievements.

Now, Anthony promised you some of my sea stories, and at some point the ocean rolls in and out of many of my tales like a slightly demented uncle that lives upstairs who you only see occasionally, but since my last autobiographical piece was about tropical crime and punishment, I thought I’d continue the theme of crime and talk about home invasion on land. I live in a kind of isolated location, with some houses on one side of our property and none on the other side, just redwood forest. And thirty years ago, it was somewhat wilder. Before the kid was born, my wife and I used to keep a loaded shotgun by the side of our bed up in the sleeping loft. Never a shell in the chamber, of course, it was just for protection.

the beagle boysFigure 1. The Beagle Boys, canine career criminals, prepared for a break-in.

I only ever picked that gun up in self-defense one time. For some reason I was alone that night, my gorgeous ex-fiancee was off somewhere. There was moonlight, but the redwoods are thick, so it was patchy. The house was quiet. I went to bed and read for a while, then turned off the light and was drifting off.

Morpheus the God of Sleep and I were just exchanging business cards, his was made of black onyx with black lettering, when a soft rapping on the door made me sit straight up. “Hello?” I shouted. “Who’s there?”

There was no answer. I listened for a while. Nothing. I figured I’d heard branches on the roof or something. I settled back in bed, and started sliding downhill, when the rapping started up again, more insistent than before. “Who’s there?”, I yelled. No answer. Again silence.

So I grabbed the shotgun from the side of the bed there in the sleeping loft, and I went creeping down the stairs, “naked as a jaybird” as my beloved grandma used to say. I grabbed the flashlight from where it was stored. I noticed that my hands were unsteady. The pounding had stopped completely. I had no clue what was happening. I imagined and rejected a host of possibilities. The silence continued. I jacked a shell into the chamber of the shotgun. The snick-snick of the action was flat, foreboding, metallic. I waited. And waited. Finally, the pounding came again. I flung open the front door, and shined the flashlight out through the door from inside the house. “Come out right now!”, I shouted, “Don’t mess with me, I’ve got a gun!”.

Silence. Nothing. Well, not nothing. The cold night wind blew in on my privates, I was freezing. But other than the wind, silence.

Silence. I thought about stepping outside. Silence. I thought about my privates. Silence. “Perhaps I should reconsider my options”, I though, and I closed the door against the cold wind, and reconsidered my options. And my explanations for the pounding. I didn’t see that I had too many of either, unless hiding in my house with a shotgun counted as an option, and for me that didn’t cut it … the silence dragged on. I decided the next time, if there was a next time, I was gonna make my move, yes sirree, that’s what I’d do.

Suddenly, the pounding started again, and this time it was more urgent yet, slamming and thumping. I gritted my teeth, flung open the door and jumped through to the landing outside, my heart knocking against my ribs. I looked ahead. Nothing. I turned the beam of my flashlight and the barrel of my shotgun to the right. Nothing. I spun around to the left, shotgun and flashlight moving as one. Nothing.

Nothing?

Nothing? How could there be nothing? I looked wildly around, to the front, to the right, to the left, up, around, nothing, what had been pounding on my door scant seconds before? My mind leapt to the wildest possibilities …

It was only when I looked down near my feet, just to the left of the door, that I finally saw the two opossums. I hadn’t noticed them because they were both “playing possum”, unmoving, pretending to be dead as opossums do when startled … but unless opossum passion is a big feature of the opossum afterlife, the intertwined nature and disposition of their “corpses” left little doubt that they had been rudely and cruelly interrupted at what was clearly a critical time for the survival of the opossum species.

Now, there have been occasions when I have felt extremely foolish in my life. No one goes a lifetime without committing some monumental blunders, and I am assuredly no exception.

But this one was bizarrely crazy, because to my astonishment, I found that I felt exactly like in those dreams that I sometimes used to have as a kid. You might have had them too, the dream where you are involved in some kind of everyday public activity, maybe speaking to a crowd, when suddenly you look down and you realize to your extreme embarrassment that you forgot to put your pants or your dress on, and you are completely nude, and everyone is looking at you, and they start pointing and laughing, and you are completely humiliated and ashamed? You know that dream?

That’s exactly how I felt. I felt totally embarrassed and ashamed that the possums could see me naked, even though those opossums looked like some stuffed museum exhibit with the simplified explanation of opossum sex for the kids. And it was like the dream most especially because even though their beady little opossums eyes were closed tight, I could feel those little buggers looking at me anyways, they have their sneaky ways. They were neither dead nor sleeping, they were vibrantly awake, with all senses cranked out to the limit. They knew exactly where I was, they would know if I stepped towards or away from them. Eyes closed or not, they were wired to me, they could see my every move, and I was embarrassed that they could see my nakedness, I could hear the silent cackling of their demented interior opossum laughter, I could tell they were pointing at my exposed manhood and snickering, I melted under their unseen censure, just as in the dream.

And that all went through my head in an instant, and I was frozen in shock, just as happens in dreams sometimes, where you want to run and your feet are stuck, or you want to scream but your tongue is glued to the roof of your mouth and you can’t catch your breath, and I wanted to move, and I didn’t want to disturb them, and I wanted to melt through the porch in total embarrassment, and I wanted to scream and run, I couldn’t think, the gears were jammed, the lines were crossed, all the fuses were blown, I stood frozen.

The cold wind was more insistent, I could see it twiching and pulling at the hairs on the possums, and it was definitely freezing my whatchamacallit because just like in the dream I was I was indeed completely nude, and to my amazement I found myself mumbling incoherent apologies to the opossums, about how I didn’t know it was them, babbling that I was sorry about scaring them with the shotgun, the wind blew over my shoulders and through my legs, a nagging, insistent wind that was stripping the heat from my body, I remember saying I hoped they wouldn’t hold it against me but I’d understand if they did, wild words, meaningless incantations of apology. Finally the spell broke and I realized the madness was upon me, and I could move again, I snapped off the flashlight without another sound and ran back inside and closed the door and thrust the shotgun into the corner by the stove still loaded, still one in the chamber, and fled back up the stairs to my bed and dived under the covers, shivering.

And there, for the next while, I tried really really hard not to think about the colossally, stupendously embarrassing mental image, the picture in my mind that a pint of eyebleach hardly touched, the “god’s-eye-view” from above and to the side of a stark naked fully grown idiot with a loaded shotgun in his hand, shell in the chamber and finger on the trigger, shivering outdoors in the moonlight at midnight with a frigid wind blowing on his unmentionables, and babbling profuse apologies to a couple of unmoving opossums frozen solid right in the hottest, sweetest, and least optimal instant of maximal opassion.

After I lay there a while trying to convince the mental eraser to function just this once, the pounding started up again, and got louder and louder. I decided the part I had said about them holding it against me, that that was anthropomorphism, they couldn’t care less. Heck, I might have just upped their passion levels, danger does that, ask any adrenaline junkie like myself, we’ll tell you. I went to sleep contented, knowing the ospecies was going to survive.

And as you can tell from this story … the eyebleach never did work.

w.

…  from Willis’s autobiography, entitled “Retire Early … And Often” …

About these ads
This entry was posted in Willis Autobiography and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

97 Responses to Home Invasion

  1. RiHo08 says:

    No shotgun, no shell in the chamber, just a raccoon pulling the lid off a pot of stew left out to cool and forgotten. The night and moon plays tricks on a man’s mind, especially when naked and drifting off to sleep.

  2. A.D. Everard says:

    You’ve had some fun times – okay, and some embarrassing ones – in your life. This was a fun story. :)

  3. Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7 says:

    One Fourth of July many years ago (pre-kids) my wife and I were at the house of a co-worker and his wife. We were admiring the view off his back porch when my host said “since it’s Fourth of July, we can let one round off for fun”, or words to that effect. My host lived on 14 acres in semi-rural Connecticut, so it was not a totally inappropriate suggestion. Gunfire was not too uncommon in that area, not having been totally gentrified at the time.

    Anyway my host ducked back in the house and returned with his father’s old model 99 .300 savage rifle, chambered a round and aimed it his split hardwood pile about 50 feet from the deck. One suitably satisfying BANG later and he had made a piece of firewood jump off the top of the pile. Of course we had to see how many pieces of wood the jacketed 150 grain bullet moving at about 2600 ft./sec. penetrated, so we leaned the rifle against the deck rail and went over to the woodpile to see.

    The bullet had gone completely through the top piece of firewood and when we picked up the piece underneath we found not one but two snakes in the woodpile, very unpleasantly surprised in the act of making more snakes. The one shot had killed them both and continued on through the piece of firewood below.

    At least in your story, the opossums got to finish what they started.

  4. DaveG says:

    “naked as a jaybird” Will, your always entetaining thanks.

  5. tobias says:

    Thanks for the story LOL but what really grabbed me was your opinion about today’s old scientists and the speed of the net overtaking their lofty place that is now slowly filling with cobwebs like any lofty place will. Some body mentioned yesterday a interesting thought it was the fact that the majority of what goes on around all of us is nothing new. From the ISS to planes, boats, elevators, hydraulics, car engines and countries laws all of those daily things are based on what scientists and other exceptional people put into place decades if not centuries ago. The zombie scientist as you aptly named are a thing of the past ( some of them just do not know it yet) their territory is opened now through the net to any one and thanks to you and others it is a place of wonder.

  6. John F. Hultquist says:

    I’ll second all you say about WUWT and its host. Thanks.
    ~~~~~~~~
    Atmospheric temperature increase has stopped. Surprised and shocked by this natural event, CAGW fundamentalists have been “playing possum” but there will be a new awakening and rebranding with a new scary story. The new one will be number 27 or 28; yet to be named. Stay alert.

  7. Ray Donahue says:

    In Vietnam, at night, the bushes moved. Grenades were thrown. Oh well, better safe than sorry.

    You did good by being cautious, but this ain’t the Nam so one has to be especially careful in use of weapons. Your shotgun should have been safed immediately after the incident (chamber empty).

    Ok to prepare for the worst but never act rashly (ie, fire without a clear and threating target).

  8. Jeff Alberts says:

    “or you want to scream but your tongue is glued to the roof of my mouth”

    Willis, you’re a nice guy and all… ok most of the time… ok sometimes… let’s move on..

    But… I hope I NEVER encounter a scenario where my tongue is glued to the roof of your mouth. Eeew. Just Eeew.

    ;)

    [Fixed, thanks, hilarious comment, and it is an embarrassing world. The joys of working without a net. -w.]

  9. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    Ah, someone else who remembers the archaic spelling with an “o” before “possum”. It was quite distressing when I noticed people had stopped using that spelling.

    Have you ever woken up, gone about your day, and then noticed there was one thing different? That one thing you always knew as existing as one way only, a thing you were certain was true, is different?

    And the only possible explanation is your consciousness switched over, while you were sleeping, with one of your parallel universe selves, which was easily possible as both were completely identical except for that one thing that was different?

    Yeah, that’s what it felt like.

    Unfortunately, as we have lost one sweet unoffensive gentle cat who was outdoors to an opossum, and have had others mauled, I’m a bit less sanguine about their appearance around the house. I would have been contemplating o-possum o-stew. But I would have waited until they were done, and I had gotten some pants and earplugs.

  10. u.k.(us) says:

    I keep the chamber loaded with the gun on “safe”.
    The trigger won’t work till the safety has been released.
    It takes a concerted mindset to release the safety, then squeeze the trigger.

    No rugrats in the house, so no worries.
    Recently awoke at 2am, to percieved sounds of invasion.
    It sure spikes your heart rate (as noted).

  11. jack morrow says:

    I guess I’ll get some flack from this -I’m from the South and I have lived around opossums most of my life and I have never seen a “startled” possum play possum. Usually they have to be physically assaulted to do go into their “play dead” mode. To me this event would be highly unusual for these animals.But, when I learn something new after I know everything…….

  12. Steve in SC says:

    A friend of mine in Viet Nam, a claymore on the perimeter goes off in the middle of the night.
    The army lights up the entire world the rest of the night. They stop when they run out of ammo.
    The next day they investigate and low and behold what tripped the claymore was a tiger that had gotten tangled in the trip wire and was now quite dead. The captain came out and the tiger was skinned out and salted down within 30 minutes.
    I LOLed when I heard that. I had a guy shoot a water buffalo with a LAW. Swore up and down it was a tank.

  13. Well done for the tribute to Anthony.

    I know you have had some stick for putting your personal life stories on a “science” blog. I have thought a lot about the relationship between art and science and the nature of truth which is extremely elusive to pin down. I have come to the conclusion that truth changes with context, and truth for science is only truth in the narrow context of science.

    As an artist I have come to read a lot of books on neuroscience. Maybe some readers of this blog will be alarmed at the prospect of the arts becoming interested in a science. I can see their point of view, there is already too much pseudoscience around, but perhaps they should be aware of this cautionary tale.

    In one of your quick witted responses to a critic of your stories you wrote “dē gustibus et colōribus nōn est disputandum”, meaning that you cannot have an argument over whether blue is terrible colour, because no two people can ever know if they are discussing the same thing. The behaviourists, who dominated studies of how the brain worked in the 20th century used similar logic to declare that scientists could never discuss consciousness, because science is about drawing reproducible conclusions from empirical data, and you can never measure what someone other than yourself is thinking.

    If I understand it correctly Behaviourism was founded by followers of Pavlov’s famous experiment with bells and dogs, and they were trying to study the brain by applying traditional scientific methods that gave results that could be measured and replicated. Every school child knows how Pavlov rang a bell every time he fed dogs in his laboratory until they were trained to believe the bell was a signal for mealtimes, then he rang the bell without giving the dogs any food. Even though there was no food to eat the dogs salivated in anticipation, from this he showed how the subconscious brain could be programmed to react to stimuli in predictable ways. Behaviourists were trying to construct a rigid model of the mind that had no place for things that could not be measured, their science had no place for consciousness, neuro-plasticity and a brain that changed to adapt to experience, because for them the brain was a machine with no useful ghost in it. Behaviourists believed that consciousness was a chance by-product of the physical processes of the brain, for instance fear is a triggered response to a given stimulation (maybe seeing a snake). They argued that consciousness (the ghost in the machine), if it existed, plays no place in how we react to the snake, it is just a useless by-product and bystander of brain mechanics. This arid creed is called epiphenomenalism.

    In the late 1980s, with the advent of new non invasive scanning techniques and some enlightenment, science began to take more interest in consciousness. The “hard question” (as it is known) about how a machine can create a “rich inner life” is never far from the centre of studies of the brain. It may never be answered, but the understanding of how consciousness developed is being explained obliquely.

    Today Neuroscience is flourishing and has become a multi discipline dialogue between philosophy, psychology, physiology, evolutionery theory, chemistry and many others…… It is becoming very relevant to everyday life, and some people predict it will have a bigger impact on how we lead our lives that the invention of the Internet. It remains to be seen if these predictions are far fetched

    For myself I have first hand experience because I read many books on this subject, and it has answered many questions about the nature of illusion, which is at the heart of my craft which is drawing movement and capturing the essence of human gestures on paper. It has taught me how to learn and changed my view of how art fits into our social landscape.

    Of course the work of this forum is to debunk pseudoscience and alarmism. It is about seeking truth through the collection of reliable data and statistics, and understanding the physics that drives the thermodynamics of the biosphere (well something like that). But if this forum’s mindset is arid it will get stuck in a byway, like what happened to the behaviourists; fortunately, judging from the responses of your readers to your stories there is very little chance of that happening here..

  14. Richard of NZ says:

    It sounds very much like you were a more controlled :Smackwater Jack”

    Now Smackwater Jack, he bought a shotgun
    ‘Cause he was in the mood for a little confrontation
    He just let it all hang loose
    etc. (but not going there)

    Carole King

  15. Janice says:

    We live near the forest. OK, we live near what used to be a forest, except that the National Forest Service burnt most of it down (along with a portion of the town) about a dozen years ago. Anyway, just a few summers ago we had a bear come into the yard. Luckily, we were keeping both dogs in the house at that time, and didn’t have the dog door installed yet. The bear ate our ducks, and then came onto the porch and put several deep scratches into it at my eye level (which is 5 feet). By the time the dogs had woken us up to go out, the bear had gone back over the fence, bending a chain link fence gate in half. I found a paw print the next day that was much larger than my outstretched hand, so it was a fairly large bear.
    By the end of that summer we had put in a dog door onto the porch, though we did make sure we could lock it from the inside at night. However, one night we neglected to lock it closed. And we were woken up by the dogs having a fit, inside the house, out in the living room. My husband leaped out of bed, with just his skivvies on, grabbed the shotgun, readied it for shooting, and then (very very bravely) stepped out into the hallway. Just in time to scare the snot out of two raccoons that were trying to get away from the dogs. They looked at him and decided he was much scarier than any dogs, and turned and fled back to the relative safety of the living room, jumping up onto a file cabinet.
    We then contained the dogs in a different room, opened the door, and invited the raccoons to leave. They saw the sense in that, and promptly jumped down and scrambled out the door.

  16. Rocks thumping around.

    RECON Maries over the fence in Laos.
    Bedding down for the night.

    WTH,,?? Well seems the RECON Marines had found a nice little bed down place.
    Only problem,, local apes came home late figured it was trespassing.

    Rocks flying.

  17. D.B. Stealey says:

    jack morrow,

    Well, we live right in the middle of the big city, surrounded by about 8 million other urban jungle residents, and we still have opossums and raccoons in our yard almost every night.

    I have to say that a ‘possum is one of the ugliest critters in existence, with their pointy faces and hairless rat tails. And they hiss! But when they’re young, they look cute. Ours were calico colored when they were about 6 – 8 inches long: off-white, brown and black. I think they only live a few years. But they don’t cause us trouble, so we leave them alone. They’ve certainly adapted well to city living.

    Haven’t seen [nor smelled] any skunks yet. But the ‘coons are fearless — they march right up to our outdoor cat’s food dish and clean out what’s left in it. They use the freshwater runoff/sewer system to get around — sometimes they’ll pop right up out of the grate in the street in front of our house. They also have an agressive pose, where they rear up on their hind legs and spread their forearms wide. It’s effective, too; they look much bigger that way, and I wouldn’t want to tangle with one. But sometimes I’ll give ‘em the same pose right back, and we have a staring contest.

    Haven’t seen any coyotes yet, but it’s probably just a matter of time. Coyotes are where I would draw a line in the sand. I like our outdoor cat. For that matter, I like the ‘possums and ‘coons, too. Live and let live I say, but coyotes just see another meal.

  18. Elliot Justin says:

    Gird your loins for battle! One morning at my country home, I almost “jumped out of my skin” when a possum hissing behind the toilet interrupted my emptying my bladder. After pulling on my jeans and arming myself with broom and garbage an epic battle ensued culminating in a small victory for humankind.

  19. Willis Eschenbach says:

    jack morrow says:
    February 15, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    I guess I’ll get some flack from this -I’m from the South and I have lived around opossums most of my life and I have never seen a “startled” possum play possum. Usually they have to be physically assaulted to do go into their “play dead” mode. To me this event would be highly unusual for these animals.But, when I learn something new after I know everything…….

    No flack at all, everyone’s experience is different. I can only report my own experience, and that’s just how it happened me, but as they say, YMMV …

    Thanks,

    w.

  20. John Moore says:

    I used to catch ‘possums and sell them to a medical school for research in embryology. I never, ever saw one “play ‘possum.” We tried all sorts of things to elicit the response, with no luck what-so-ever.

    On the other hand, a Kansas hog nosed snake will roll over and play dead with little provocation. If you roll it right side up, it will roll over on its back and play dead again. Fun.

    BTW… agree that ‘possums are ugly, ugly. And they have more teeth than any other warm blooded creature in North America. On the other hand, their brain is the size of a pea – they have a bony crest above it so their head looks bigger – I guess so they can pretend to have some intelligence.

  21. u.k.(us) says:

    D.B. Stealey says:
    February 15, 2013 at 7:56 pm
    =======
    There is more, per wiki:

    Didelphimorphs have a plantigrade stance (feet flat on the ground) and the hind feet have an opposable digit with no claw. Like some New World monkeys, opossums have prehensile tails. Like all marsupials, the fur consists of awn hair only, and the females have a pouch. The tail and parts of the feet bear scutes. The stomach is simple, with a small cecum. Notably, the male opossum has a forked penis bearing twin glandes.[4]

    Opossums have a remarkably robust immune system, and show partial or total immunity to the venom of rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, and other pit vipers.[5][6] Opossums are about eight times less likely to carry rabies than wild dogs, and about one in eight hundred opossums are infected with this virus.[7]
    ===========
    They are old school.

  22. JPeden says:

    My closest experience, no nudity. Once in the dark of a moonless night around 11pm, and alone at a place quite isolated from people except for an occasional passing vehicle, I was genuinely startled by an increasingly loud scuffling noise inside my cabin which I first thought I’d localized to my stove…while I remained frozen solid in my chair with my hand clutching my revolver. Thus relieved, it sounded to me like something was probably only banging around inside the oven, perhaps a trapped mouse? But then I got up to find the noise was actually outside…some large animal was making a metallic bell-like noise while also stomping around in the front yard. Again I was a little frightened but then sheepishly realized that it must be some kind of “stock”, and I found a horse with a bell on it happily grazing away about 10 yd. off. It had apparently escaped from its owner and came to rest at my empty corrals. My chills having abated, I simply put the horse away in a corral and knew all I had to do was to wait for the owner to come looking for it.

    Nothing happened for about 24 hours, when this time I was surprised by a loud knocking on my door, again around 11 pm.. It was a very concerned-looking local Forest Service “guard”. Talk about “home invasion”, someone had turned me in for possible horse abuse! The horse had “looked abandoned” to some random passerby earlier. Yeah, it was all alone in there, but that was about it. So I explained the situation and thus evaded the possible charges. Finally about 18 hr. later a guy showed up actually named “Charlie Brown” and said it was his horse. He promised to buy me a fifth of something or other, apparently thinking I’d need to be bribed to give him his horse. He didn’t produce, though, and I haven’t seen either of them again.

  23. D.B. Stealey says:

    Wild creatures are everywhere. Listen to what happened to this guy. Bit in the neck!

  24. My observation about the Internet and science is that we going back to the time prior to around the mid to late 19th century when a scientist was anyone who chose to be a scientist, and of course could afford to indulge his hobby. Prior to that time the government’s involvement in science was restricted to offering prizes for inventing things and activities that had a direct, usually military, payoff, such as astronomy (payoff = navigation).

    Up until the 1950s or 1960s, government direct involvement in science, apart from military applications, was mostly at arms length. Then governments decided that they needed to make scientific research more relevant to society. This had the perverse effect of requiring scientists to convince politicians and bureaucrats that their research was relevant to society.

    It’s effect on climate science is obvious and every day we see papers that are little more than pitches to fund further studies of Arctic Molluscs or whatever, because they are going to tell us something vitally important to society.

    We amateurs have no such need to demonstrate relevance in order to obtain money, so are free to pursue whatever we find of scientific interest.

  25. William McClenney says:

    “And Anthony, first through his creation and orchestration of the surfacestations project that compiled the first complete record of all of the “official” weather stations, and then through his creation and unending support of this forum as a place for the free expression and constant demolition of scientific claims plus whatever curious things his fertile mind dreams up from day to day, Anthony has been a large and significant part of the gradual shifting of the serious scientific dialog to the web.”

    Well said.

  26. Me says:

    Book smart and common sense are two different things, so PhD’s means your just book smart.

  27. Mario Lento says:

    unfortunately, these zombie scientists can and do reproduce. After all this is real life. I love your views Willis. Thank you.

  28. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    Mentioned by u.k.(us) on February 15, 2013 at 8:25 pm (from “wiki”):

    Notably, the male opossum has a forked penis bearing twin glandes.

    We live in strange times with young people engaging in ever-stranger “body modifications”, hoop earlobes are popular, I’ve seen surgically split (forked) tongues.

    You may have inadvertently mentioned the next “hot new trend”, PP, short for possum penis. Relatively easy to do for the first inch, BTW.

  29. Gary Hladik says:

    Could’ve been worse, Willis.

    They could’ve been skunks.

  30. sophocles says:

    Heh. Nice one Willis. You have to feel the breeze just there to appreciate not just the condition but the weather!

    North America has the opossum, Australia and New Zealand have the possum. These are two different species, and hence the two different names. Possum is NOT an abbreviation for opossum down under!

    In New Zealand, the Australian bushy tailed possum (a protected animal in its home habitat, Australia) is an exotic (aka non-native or introduced) pest. It was introduced in the 19th Century to create a fur industry. It has no natural predators except man and its population is burgeoning. It considers NZ’s forests to be “ice cream.” Possums strip the native flora. They are a menace to native fauna (bird life), too, raiding nests for the eggs and nestlings.

    If you want to help save NZ’s forests and native birds, buy a possum skin or possum fur coat today! It’s the highest quality fur grown on the best of our forests. If you holiday in New Zealand, be sure to go to the South Island and find the Possum Pies. They are delicious!

  31. James McCauley says:

    P. Bradley,
    It seems that if/when science may de-government will be determined shortly. Increasing numbers of folks say the $16+Trillion debt is unpayable. If that turn out to be the case more than just science will de-government!

  32. paullm says:

    Everyone,
    Anthony and family – enjoy your Roasting In Absence by Willis, Mods and Friends! You well deserve it all.
    Keep eyes & ears sharp for meteors!

  33. Rhys Jaggar says:

    Whilst I agree with you Mr/Dr/Prof Eschenbach that the vast majority of what this site does is good, it has also occasionally betrayed a naked, political hatchet job persona totally out of kilter with the word ‘science’. Mr David Archibald has clearly not studied UK history from 1979 to 2012, for example. If you wish to challenge that, then unfortunately you are not a scientist….

    I suggest very strongly that Mr Watts keeps his butt out of UK political life and sticks to meteorology.

    If you think otherwise Mr Eschenbach, then I suggest you examine the genocidal murdering of your nation, all over the globe, for 75 years, perpetuated by fascists and underpinned by religious hatred.

    It won’t be a very happy awakening, if of course you are capable of being awakened, being capable of focussing on facts not MSM bullshit and if you can value a human life of a non-American the same as one with an arbitrary piece of paper.

    Gentle hint to you: 3000 American dead on 9/11 is less of an outrage than 500,000 dead Iraqis.

    I know that’s difficult for you Americans to understand, but you can’t be scientists without understanding it.

  34. Luther Wu says:

    Rhys Jagger-
    You mention MSM BS in the midst of your rant. How ridiculous.
    Go away, propagandist.

  35. Mike Borgelt says:

    Rhys Jaggar:

    The US has been involved in worldwide genocide since 1938? Who knew?

  36. Willis Eschenbach says:

    Rhys Jaggar says:
    February 15, 2013 at 11:01 pm

    Whilst I agree with you Mr/Dr/Prof Eschenbach that the vast majority of what this site does is good, it has also occasionally betrayed a naked, political hatchet job persona totally out of kilter with the word ‘science’. Mr David Archibald has clearly not studied UK history from 1979 to 2012, for example. If you wish to challenge that, then unfortunately you are not a scientist….

    My dear friend, I fear I don’t understand what this, or any of your further points, have to do with me. I know nothing about how David Archibald, UK history, or the other things you mentioned might relate to a story about opossums, or the acknowledgment of Anthony for his work.

    If you have a problem with the way Anthony runs the site, I’d suggest you start your own. On the web, everyone can be king and have their own kingdom.

    But still, even if you have a beef with Anthony … what does this have to do with me?

    Let me invite you to enjoy the good tales …

    w.

  37. Luther Wu says:

    I had a ‘possum living under my shed out back for a number of years, right here in the middle of this city. I’d catch him now and then and rub his soft fur. He never went full play- possum mode, but his movements would get very slow- as if in a slow motion film and he’d show me his teeth and talk tough, unable to really move much. Possums are ugly as can be, but have irresistable fur. The neighbor kids came running to me wide eyed and excited one time, telling me that they’d treed “a giant rat”- the old possum. I explained possums to ‘em and showed them where this one lived under the shed.
    We caught possums as kids, growing up in the country. Some would never slow down and some would get a case of the slows and play possum immediately.

  38. Larry Wirth says:

    500,00 dead WHAt? Cite your sources, please, Oh brother of Mick…

  39. Keitho says:

    I have read most of your recent posts Rhys Jaggar, and I’m afraid that most of it is just agitprop. Your political stance is simple left wing stuff and your hatred of the USA and Mrs. Thatcher and conservatives in general shines through.

    Now regarding the UK politics. I lived between Pontefract and Castleford in the dark days of the 70′s. I worked in the construction industry and rubbed shoulders with many miners there so I know a little of what I am talking about. Every strike I saw and was affected by were over trivial things yet the union bosses managed to inflate them into national issues. Regarding the miners strikes run by Arthur Scargill, they were always portrayed as being between noble brave miners working for a pittance down t’pit and uncaring bastard management screwing them in a dangerous workplace. Their strikes spread across all industries and flying pickets were the norm. The CEGB ( Central Electricity Generating Board ) had made plans to keep the power stations running till their employees went on strike too. We ended up with a three day working week and garbage piling up everywhere. Schools, hospitals, sewage and water treatment were all shut down for extended periods.

    Every pay rise won by the miners and others had one result, they would go on the lig and work fewer hours for the same pay and so could afford to spend more time down the pub. There was nothing the employer could do about this and any attempt at discipline was thwarted by the union.

    This was a direct conflict between hard left labour and employers initially while the very useless Callahan was Prime Minister. Thatcher campaigned and won the general election based on her pledge to smash the unions. It was very popular with the majority who had become disgusted by the labour unions ever increasing distance from reality. She did exactly as she said she would and the union movement in the UK will never regain the power Scargill and others abused. Britain went back to a five day week and an enormous modernisation of industry began.

    Unfortunately the Conservatives didn’t realise that Mrs. Thatcher only had one idea and once that was achieved she just began to thrash about in her second term that she won thanks to Argentina. They finally scrunched it up and fired her and replaced her with the extremely quiet but competent John Major. When the MSM ganged up on him and the Tories we got T Blair.

    Britain very nearly was consumed by a Marxist/Stalinist onslaught which was thankfully repelled by Thatcher. For you to try and extoll the imagined virtues of the left goes completely against the tide of history. Todays stasis , politically, is a result of the defanging of the lunatic left done Mrs Thatcher. The insane Gordon Brown brought about this coalition today purely because he was trying to shift away from Blairs pragmatism back to a more hard line leftist government. A government that believes in buying the votes of the poor with money made by the able and hard working resulted in the austerity of today. Austerity driven by an unpopular government that is refusing to buy the votes of the slackers with other people’s money and rather trying to build an economy that rewards those with guts and initiative while slowly weaning people off of the national teat. You know, like all those folk who are now on the lig perpetually because they get given money every week to do bugger all. Mrs Thatcher got it when she started but had no idea how to progress it further. Cameron and Osborne and May certainly do but their battle against the MSM makes it harder than it needs to be.

    Your closing swipe is beneath contempt. America is not genocidal anywhere. You talk glibly, as so many lefties do, of 500 000 Iraqi dead as if to say that America did that and yet you and I both know that is a lie. The vast majority of dead Iraqis were killed by Iraqis of a different branch of the religion of peace, Islam. You see America as a bully on the world stage when in fact they are the global lifeboat. Wherever there is a natural disaster there is America doing more, spending more and being more effective than any other nation. You also conveniently overlook the technological achievements that America has given to the world free of charge, telegraph, telephone, GPS, Internet and so on and so forth. Hatred of America by the left would be called racism if it were aimed at other nations or groups and it is as mindless.

    I see you for what you are Rhys Jagger and you are right in one respect Willis and David haven’t encountered people like you but I have. You are a menace to society.

  40. viejecita says:

    Dear Mr Willis Eschenbach
    I’ve loved this:
    First the homage to Mr Anthony Watts for the information and the pleasure this Blog brings to us “aficionados” all over the world.
    Then for the story about the opossums. When we came to live in our new house , almost 40 years ago, there were about 8 houses scattered around a long meadow with lots of trees and grass, and all sorts of wild animals. We decided we were the trespassers and not the local animals, so, we fenced our plot, but let the gates permanently open wide, to let them come and go at their convenience.
    We used to leave milk in a jug for a hedgehog (it came pittypat do drink it every night ), and feed for the different birds and for the squirrels hanging in baskets from tree branches. But the ones who gave us a fright, were the wild cats. They used to come to mate around this time of the year, and the noises they made while at it, were like the cries of a baby. We thought a baby had ben abandoned on our doorstep, and went out to rescue it from the cold, to realize it was just the cats…
    Now there are many many homes in the area, and there are very few squirrels, and no hedgehog, only the wild cats still come to mate. But now we know it is them, and go on sleeping.

    Thank you again
    Your old admirer from Spain
    Maria
    P.S.
    I also loved what Philip Bradley says at 8’49. Great post.

  41. Carrie says:

    Well said Keitho, spot on and we are ‘up North’ too! Don’t be too harsh on Jaggar though as it seems this was written late at night and was more than likely just before the munchies kicked in, I doubt he even remembers writing it now!

  42. spinifers says:

    In a sort of opposite story, I once spent 12 hours walking through some of the finest bear country Alaska has to offer, confident beyond belief in my ability to protect myself with my .44. Saw bear tracks, bear droppings, bear claw marks, and the occasional distant bear. But I was not the slightest bit worried, for I had my .44!

    Couple days after getting home I realized the gun had been loaded with blanks the whole time.

  43. anna v says:

    Well , it is better to think the sounds of opossums were the sounds of a thief then to have a thief on the roof and think it is the sound of the feral cats, which has happened to me.

    My summer cottage is on an incline, and its roof comes a meter over the path leading to another cottage some meters above and away, where my son with his family stayed for vacation. I was woken up very early in the morning by noises on the roof, and thought: “darn cats at it again”. By the time the noise stopped I see my son running down the path.

    My son woke up and saw a fellow on the veranda through the open window and asked him
    :”are you looking for something?”
    The thief got scared and ran down the path jumping on the roof of my cottage to get out of the plot from the side. On the way it was fortunate he was not decapitated since he brought down an iron frame that used to support a windmill.

    The neighborhood woke up and one family in rented cottages next door had lost their vacation cash, about 2000 euros, because they had not locked the doors, the night being very warm.

    This happened about ten years ago and the crime rate has been going up and up. Everybody is careful about locking up. We used to be able to sleep on the verandas during the hot nights of the year, thirty years ago, before the fall of the soviet block. It has been going downhill ever since.

  44. Mindert Eiting says:

    Rhys Jaggar: not much to comment on but note that the power of states is a variable. So at any moment there is a most powerful state on the earth. If it should not be the USA, tell us which state should play that role. If it is Russia, China, or Syria, explain to us why we are better off.

  45. S. Meyer says:

    Hi Willis:
    What a wonderful yarn! For most of us mortals the story would have been:
    Woke up from a noise, grabbed my gun and went out naked, found two opossums, apologized, went back to bed. From your pen, this becomes a story that shines and sprinkles. Thank you! Thank you!

  46. dave says:

    Willis, I am glad you started with “Science is a funny creature in that it only thrives under transparency.” You did not limit the comment to just climate science. The recent book by Henry Bauer, Dogmatism in Science and Medicine, describes how the problems frequently observed here in WUWT about confirmation bias and suppression of dissent are definitely not limited to just climate science.

  47. Alan D McIntire says:

    When I was a child, my family lived with my uncle on his farm, located in the “thumb” of Michigan.
    Late one autumn night my Uncle Melvin heard his dog barking, and afraid there might be prowlers, about, including stray dogs which had been attacking sheep in the area lately, grabbed his shotgun, and went outside in just his longjohns. He listened, looked around a bit, and figured it had been a false alarm when all of a sudden he was startled into firing his shotgun when his dog,, Jack, put its cold wet nose against my uncle’s butt.

  48. Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7 says:

    sophocles says:
    February 15, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    If you want to help save NZ’s forests and native birds, buy a possum skin or possum fur coat today! It’s the highest quality fur grown on the best of our forests. If you holiday in New Zealand, be sure to go to the South Island and find the Possum Pies. They are delicious!

    Valentine’s day has passed, but this would make an unique gift:

    possum fir nipple warmers

    You can help save NZ’s forests and in a symbolic way help those possums keep on “keeping on”.

  49. Alan Watt, Climate Denialist Level 7 says:

    I forgot this. WIllis especially might appreciate: another NZ possum fir product.

  50. Doug Huffman says:

    In re science done in the dark, Fair Access to Science & Technology Research Act, or FASTR

    https://www.eff.org/sites/default/files/fastr.pdf

  51. Doug Huffman says:

    The sound (not noise!) of a Remington 870 chambering a round is an iconic sound. Beyond being a good safety enhancing practice, the opportunity to so clearly announce your intentions are good reason to keep an 870′s chamber empty. Even gun-averse wives understand the action and logic.

    Good people are armed as they will, with wits and guns and the truth.

  52. Steve in SC says:

    Then there is the football team from my alma mater.
    We wanted to change the mascot to the possums because they got killed at home and played dead on the road.

  53. Ian H says:

    My wife and I woke in the middle of the night to sudden very loud knocking on the window right next to the bed. Heart racing I swept aside the curtain to look out and confronted … a face looking back at me about 1 foot from the window. Absolutely scared the living crap out of me. I was wearing about what Willis was wearing when he confronted the possums but that was the least of my concerns. However the guy then immediately got down on the ground and bowed to me … as in forehead on the dirt bowed. Told him to stay put and tossed on a dressing gown and went out to find what on earth was going on. Turned out to be a Korean dude from down the road so drunk that he was barely able to walk, unable to find his own house in the dark, lost and in danger of freezing to death. He was able to remember his house number though. So I hauled him to his feet and walked him home with him leaning on my shoulder the whole way. Knocked on his door and an appalled looking woman opened up and quickly hustled him inside.

    By coincidence I met him and his wife again at a social function about a week later. Lovely people. By unspoken mutual agreement however we all pretended that we’d never seen each other before. Mind you he was so drunk at the time I doubt he could remember me. I’m pretty sure she did though.

  54. Paul Coppin says:

    The comments about anecdotes of humanity not belonging in a “science” blog, are really just juvenile. All science is, is our collected current “wisdom” viewed through the lens of our “modern” existence. It will be different tomorrow, as it was different yesterday.. In the cosmic scheme of things, the only things we get to carry us through life are our experiences, regardless whether they have the stamp of ritual methodology, or the enrichment of memory and language. Hey, if your mind is open enough to possibilities, it’s maybe all a figment of sombebody’s imagination… :)

    Tallking about possums reminds me of an old biologist’s joke: Why did the chicken cross the road?
    To show the possums it could be done…

    Thanks, Willis for the tales, it brings up old dead memories from my own existence, to relish and retell anew.

  55. Pamela Gray says:

    Nasty hissing things! And there is no chasing them away. They won’t run! I had one park it’s slow self on my front porch for a week and would hiss at me every time I walked outside. During the week I live in town so I just had to live with it else I would have done it in. Fortunately it tired of hissing at me and left for some other greener pasture.

  56. Doug Huffman says:

    Latitude says: February 16, 2013 at 6:48 am “well…since you’re more likely to die from cold”

    So, what does {selected circumstance}/1 mean? I suspect chart junk.

    I see that “Assault by firearm” is worth “24,974/1″ while “Firearms discharge” is worth “514,147/1″ on a chart of “Danger of death”. An assault by firearm not discharging doesn’t usually cause death. Indeed, legally, assault is unwanted contact short of physical, unwanted touching is battery. Chart junk.

    I see “Cycling” is worth “340,845/1″ and my mind is boggled, having exceptional bicycling miles, more than 50K miles when I stopped counting them up.

    In my career in Navy Nuclear Power, the fundamental unit of acceptable risk is that accepted in ordinary daily life. Many of these ‘selected circumstances’ are encountered without a second thought.

    Chart junk for the credulous.

  57. beng says:

    Rhys Jaggar, you are history-ignorant. No other warring nation/empire has ever made more effort to minimize civilian casualties than the US, at least since WWII. Tragic, but the Iraqi casualties are almost all by their own hands.

  58. Pamela Gray says:

    Goodness Rhys! I suggest a warm glass of milk and a tummy rub! You’ll feel better in no time! Your own country has quite the Empire history. In fact we all have our dirty underwear. So if I were you, I wouldn’t be pointing that finger. You just pointed it in a mirror.

  59. Alec Rawls says:

    Having once had occasion to realize that armed-and-pantsless puts a severe crimp in one’s range of possibly needed options, I now keep a pair of shorts near the bed with a non-empty holster on the belt, along with a flashlight and pepper spray.

  60. clipe says:

    Paul Coppin says:
    February 16, 2013 at 7:08 am

    Talking about possums reminds me of an old biologist’s joke: Why did the chicken cross the road?
    To show the possums it could be done…

    Why did the chicken cross the road?

    For some fowl reason.

  61. G P Hanner says:

    “Science done in the dark by a few learned boffins is already dead in the 21st century, the practitioners just didn’t notice when they ran past their use-by dates…”

    Thomas S. Kuhn observed in his The Structure of Scientific Revolutins that progress is not usually achieved by established researchers in a line of inquiry. The established boffins, as Willis likes to call them, are busily defending the paradigm they grew up with and learned to love — even though it doesn’t do all that great a job of explaining whatever phenomenon is being studied. It is the outsiders, newly arrived with a fresh perspective that make the real progress and open up new insights.

  62. anna v says:

    Ian H
    February 16, 2013 at 6:46 am

    Fun story.

  63. D.B. Stealey says:

    Lots of good stories in this thread. Keep ‘em coming!

  64. M Simon says:

    ask any adrenaline junkie like myself,

    No wonder you had an affinity for the gang from Olema. I rode with them for three years before I got over the most intense part of my addiction.

  65. M Simon says:

    Climate science is not the only one that has trouble with politics.

    Immune System Modulation – Cannabis Science

  66. Willis Eschenbach says:

    G P Hanner says:
    February 16, 2013 at 10:03 am

    “Science done in the dark by a few learned boffins is already dead in the 21st century, the practitioners just didn’t notice when they ran past their use-by dates…”

    Thomas S. Kuhn observed in his The Structure of Scientific Revolutins that progress is not usually achieved by established researchers in a line of inquiry. The established boffins, as Willis likes to call them, are busily defending the paradigm they grew up with and learned to love — even though it doesn’t do all that great a job of explaining whatever phenomenon is being studied. It is the outsiders, newly arrived with a fresh perspective that make the real progress and open up new insights.

    I heard someone, can’t remember who, express your thought much more succinctly than either you or I could. They said

    Science advances, one death at a time …

    w.

  67. M Simon says:

    My February 16, 2013 at 11:48 am and February 16, 2013 at 11:58 am appear to have hit the bit bucket.

  68. clipe says:

    No marsupials in my story. A one-eyed snake maybe.

    About thirty years ago I arrived at London Heathrow after an overnight flight from Toronto and checked into a nearby hotel. Later on that day I made my way to the town of Staines to meet-up with some friends who had a riverboat tied-up next to the Swan hotel/pub?
    After 30 odd hours of no sleep and almost as many beers I returned to the hotel room, stripped off my clothes and crash landed on the bed..
    So at some point I have to get up and pee, right?
    Right.
    Except I forgot I wasn’t at home and took my usual route.
    CLICK went the hotel room door behind me.

    Willis, I lived “that dream”.

  69. Pamela Gray says:

    Alec, I also keep a loaded revolver at my bedside. BUT! One look at a naked, raging, cursing, redheaded, just-woke-up, packin elf coming at you would send any man back where he come from! I wouldn’t need to fire off a shot. Good thing. Can’t hit the broad side of a barn with that snub nose thing.

  70. G P Hanner says:

    The oppossum story is interesting. Like some other observers, I’ve never seen an oppossum actually “play ‘possum.” The dogs and I see them, usually at midnight (when the dogs go out for their ‘last chance’ pee), and the oppossums are invariably doing a slow shamble along the top of the back fence. The dogs sense them before I do and immediately rush out to bark. The oppossums invariably freeze, sometimes in mid-shamble. They remain stationary until I go out to try to get the dogs back inside. Then, usually, they resume their shamble along the fence top. Although oppossums don’t seem all that bright, they know that dogs can’t climb fences. A friend told me that when her dog ambushed an oppossum, the critter actually did play ‘possum. The dog sniffed the critter and moved on. When the dog was out of sight the oppossum got up and went on its way.

    We’ve also had oppossums take up residence beneath our wooden deck. One morning I was power washing the deck and happened to look out toward the back fence to see what at first appeared to the the scruffiest Siamese cat I have ever seen. On second look I realized that it was a momma oppossum with her brood clinging to her back. All except one, that is. We found one lone baby hiding by the base of the fence; it hissed and bared its teeth when we approached. We left and checked back about an hour later; the baby was nowhere to be seen. We assume momma came back and picked up her baby.

    BTW, oppossums are the American version of what are called possums Down Under. There are many differences between the two orders.

  71. Doug Huffman says:

    Alec Rawls says: February 16, 2013 at 9:46 am “Having once had occasion to realize that armed-and-pantsless puts a severe crimp in one’s range of possibly needed options,”

    Robert Anson Heinlein argued for naked adventuring for just that sort of reason in one of his Scribner’s juveniles, Tunnel in the Sky. The protagonist’s survival skills are tested on an inhospitable planet. He is advised to go naked for the heightened awareness and induced reticence.

    Heinlein is author of “An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.” The latter sentence is often elided.

  72. Annie says:

    keitho @ 12:29 pm:

    Quite so, I thoroughly agree.

    ——-

    WUWT is my favourite blog and Willis ‘contributions are wonderful. Thank you to Anthony et al.

  73. Annie says:

    Keitho @ 12:29 AM I should have written. Sorry.

  74. Peter in Ohio says:

    Rhys Jaggar says:
    February 15, 2013 at 11:01 pm

    “Gentle hint to you: 3000 American dead on 9/11 is less of an outrage than 500,000 dead Iraqis.”

    More offensive rambling from the morality squad. Proportional outrage? Wow!!!!

    I think most decent people are outraged by any innocent death. As hard as I try I just cannot comprehend what kind of person experiences outrage proportionally.

  75. Peter in Ohio says:

    Pamela Gray says:
    February 16, 2013 at 7:15 am
    Nasty hissing things! And there is no chasing them away.

    ————————————————

    I was actually about to ask if anyone knew how these critters reacted to people. I’ve had a couple wander past my patio door at night; one was HUGE. Since the patio happens to be my designated smoking area I wondered how the monster possum would react if I happened to exit the house at the same time as he was passing.

    Now I know – he’ll probably hiss, and I’ll probably smoke less.

  76. Gary Pearse says:

    Some 15 years ago, a client engaged me to evaluate placer gold and gold quartz deposits in northern Benin in French West Africa. He had obtained some prospecting leases and had to finalize some paperwork in Cotonou, the capital which took a few days. A contact there ran around getting vehicle, driver, provisions, etc. and before we left, he invited us to dinner. He asked us if we liked wild game -’gibier sauvage’- to which we replied an enthusiastic yes. We had wine, french baguettes and avocado with shrimp filling – a promise of some gourmet delight to be put before us. What came in from the kitchen on a metal platter was an opossum ‘complet’, fur burned off and roasted, his teeth protruding, tongue stiff and eyes milky cataracts. I tipped my wine glass up and drained it, quickly refilling it again. Of course the tongue and eyeballs were ceremoniously removed and served to the two guests. Diluted with the last of an avocado, a big bite of bread and washed down with half a glass of wine, I don’t recall the taste. Anyway, it made it easier to demolish the rest of the poor beast. I actually worried that the opossum may indeed be in danger of extinction in West Africa, like much of the other wild animals, except for the warthog,

    http://animals.timduru.org/dirlist/warthog/wffm042-AfricanWildPig-Warthog.jpg

    who abounds in the Muslim north where pork is not touched.

  77. Gary Pearse says:

    G P Hanner says:
    February 16, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    “BTW, oppossums are the American version of what are called possums Down Under. There are many differences between the two orders.”

    In my blurb above I mentioned the West African cousin of the opossum and had forgotten I had another ‘possum’ story. The patriarch of my New Zealand inlaws, “Jim” (who has since passed away) was a possum trapper, sometime logger, fisherman, farmer and rabbit bounty hunter at the south end of the South Island at Papatowai. You may have heard the colloquialism ” to be full of piss and vinegar” meaning boundless energy – that was Jim. The epithet sprang to mind because he used piss and honey as an attractor to the bait which was poisoned. I went ‘possumming’ with Jim, who had me helping him with the possumming gear, skin boards and supplies. He kept rum and port in the possumming shed out of sight of his wife who was a teatotaler so it was a bit of a tippler’s refuge. Taking a ‘stranger’ on the rounds seemed to be bad luck as we had no possums to collect on this trip. He told me that possum fur was in great demand in the artificial textile fiber manufacturing business. They lined the pathways in the machinery for the nylon, rayon, etc. thread with possum fur because it did not build up a static charge. I never heard that before or since. Probably today they have some other way to prevent build up of static charge. Anyone ever hear of such a thing? On the journey, we crossed a recently cleared field planted in turnips (swedes – the yellow ones). It was a bountiful crop and I said we should pick up a couple on the way back. He asked what I planned to do with them. I told him mashed turnips with butter was pretty hard to beat and he laughed and said this kind of vegetable was not for human consumption but was to break up the freshly cleared land for cultivation and that it was used as cattle feed. I argued with him and we took a few home with us and I converted the family to a new vegetable.

  78. Gary Pearse says:

    I forgot to mention that the NZ possum was transplanted from Oz.

  79. Lil Fella from OZ says:

    Quote: R.C.Sproul argues persuasively that, for science and philosophy to continue in fruitful fashion, the modern penchant for chance must be abandoned once and for all. If not, the stakes are not insignificant—the very possibility of doing science lies in the balance. Essentially, when logic and empirical data are neglected or neutralized in the doing of science, then “mythology is free to run wild.”

  80. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    From Peter in Ohio on February 16, 2013 at 2:38 pm:

    I was actually about to ask if anyone knew how these critters reacted to people. I’ve had a couple wander past my patio door at night; one was HUGE. Since the patio happens to be my designated smoking area I wondered how the monster possum would react if I happened to exit the house at the same time as he was passing.

    Now I know – he’ll probably hiss, and I’ll probably smoke less.

    Keep something with a long handle handy, can be left just outside the door. Shovel, ice scrapper, whatever.

    Step outdoors. And hiss at the possum. A loud hiss, also like that from a cat. Because when the possum hears that, he thinks it’s another possum claiming territory. And you’re trying to sound like a larger possum. So he will run away. Might be a response hiss first, but you look large and hiss louder and he will run away.

    Do it even if you don’t see the possum. You could well be surprised by the sudden sound of scurrying, and how close it was when you weren’t seeing it.

    If it doesn’t run away, even though you left it clear paths of escape, and it sees your much-larger self, hissing and waving your arms? It stands its ground, looks ready to fight, or even if it just ignores you? That is not natural, could indicate rabies. Grab the handy long-handled implement with steel on the end, and remove the threat. Dispose of remains and clean up with appropriate care (avoid contacting blood).

    BTW, I don’t know about “playing dead”, but possums have problems recognizing they are dead. I once plugged one with about seven .22 shots. It would “come alive” some minutes later, start walking off, I’d shoot it again, it’d come alive and crawl off some more… Should have gone for a head shot. Ending up putting on heavy gloves, grabbing its tail, swinging it, and banging its head against a pole until it stopped moving. Then threw it deep in the woods.

    Presumably it didn’t walk off after that, but I didn’t bother to check afterwards. It probably didn’t. I don’t think it did.

    Just make sure you’re prepared to finish what you start. A few years ago I gave one that got too close to a cat some heavy whacks with a handy chunk of branch, drove it off, let it run away. Next day, while we were on the back porch, a possum came right up to us, hissing, looking aggressive. Pretty sure it was the same one, and it was pissed I left it alive, wounded and sore. Took care of it, had no choice.

  81. John Moore says:

    The problem with the head shot is that most of the head is bone, with a teeny tiny little brain hidden in it. A head shot with a 12 gauge shotgun should do the trick, though.

    I think hissing is preferable if it works :-)

  82. Willis Eschenbach says:

    kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:
    February 16, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    … If it doesn’t run away, even though you left it clear paths of escape, and it sees your much-larger self, hissing and waving your arms? It stands its ground, looks ready to fight, or even if it just ignores you? That is not natural, could indicate rabies. Grab the handy long-handled implement with steel on the end, and remove the threat. Dispose of remains and clean up with appropriate care (avoid contacting blood).

    Good advice in general, KD. They’re not something to mess with, they will bite if cornered. However, they rarely get rabies, supposedly because their body temperatures are quite low compared to similar sized animals.

    And great animal stories, humans and animals have had a long and hilarious relationship …

    w.

  83. Duster says:

    Coming west through Placerville with my wife on Highway 50 late one evening, I came to the Bedford light and stopped at the red. A possum was crossing the highway through the intersection and simple dropped, right there in the headlights. I got out of my car and chivvied him off the highway by boosting him along with a boot toe. He never moved a visible muscle except to snarl and growl through entire process. Happily, it was late at night and back then Placerville pretty well rolled up the sidewalks at 9:00 PM. There was no traffic throughout the fun.

  84. Gene Selkov says:

    Pamela Gray says:

    > Nasty hissing things! And there is no chasing them away.

    As a few of us have already noted, your experience may vary. Opossums play dead for Willis, hiss at Pamela; in my experience, they have always retired towards where they came from, slowly and somewhat ceremoniously, with their heads turned back at me, making them bump into an odd tree in their path (which apparently troubled them less than the prospect of losing sight of me). Every time I tried to give one a chase, he would increase his speed, but only enough to keep the distance. Maybe they were not the same kind of opossums; maybe it’s me who is not the same kind.

    Regarding things we do under the influence of adrenaline, they can be funny, and are often revealing of our evolutionary history, if one cares to pay attention.

    On a dark, moonless night, I walk home on a seldom-used forest path. Suddenly, I hear intense rustling in the bushes on my right, then the darkness in front of me grows significantly darker for a moment, then the rustling on my left indicates that something massive has just crossed my path. A moment later, I feel a whiff of disturbed air loaded with the smell of a moose. I must have nearly run into one. A really interesting aspect of that encounter was how scary it was. For a few long seconds, I could feel intense tension in the skin on my back, on the back of my neck, and on my arms. If I had any hair on my back, I am sure it would stand stiff, making me look bigger. That would have been superfluous, because I knew I was the largest animal in that forest. I am taller than a moose. I am so big that if you hit me on the road, your car will be totalled. But this little defence routine that I inherited, perhaps, from an ancestor the size of a shrew, kicked in nonetheless. Just in case…

    In a similar, but much funnier incident, I was accompanied by a colleague on my nightly trip to a nearby farm to pick up fresh milk for my daughter. We had an unfinished conversation about multiplexing twenty serial data lines on a single PC board he was designing, and he chose to join me on my trip to the farm so we could keep discussing his stuff. Like during the moose event several years prior, we were crossing a dense forest in near-total darkness. While listening to my friend, I accidentally stepped on a fallen tree lying across the path, rustling the dead leaves in its crown some distance away. Immediately, I heard a distressed shriek and I found my friend hanging on me, with his hands latched around my shoulders. To him, it was not the obvious sound of a dead tree trodden upon. It was the sound of something invisible rushing towards him. The transition from peaceful walking and talking to a somewhat unexpected pile-up of the smaller man on top of the larger one took no time at all. Apparently, one of the automatic routines we have inherited is to jump high and hold on to something when startled.

  85. Goode 'nuff says:

    Years ago I was hunting the thirty pointer. Got in the ground blind before daybreak. Two hours passed and nothing happened. The deer showed, I screamed and the deer runnoft! I told my wife (I was married for a pretty good while) sorry I didn’t mean to do that. I was real quiet when the skunk squirted me. And when the snake went slithering between my feet. And when the opossum hissed at me. But when that squirrel ran up my leg and started storing for the winter…

  86. schistophrenic says:

    That word “opassion” is genius. :-D

  87. Willis Eschenbach says:

    schistophrenic says:
    February 16, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    That word “opassion” is genius. :-D

    Thanks, Cap’n Stonehead. I was very happy with that word, especially gently balancing the sound of it against the sound of the preceding “optimal”. I’m glad you picked up on that. I was calling it “optimal opassion”, but then I decided that was too obvious a play, so I chose to split them up to make a more subtle connection …

    I had also used “opassion” further upstream in the piece, but then I decided to pull it out above, to increase the power at the end when it does appear. And finally, I echoed it in “survival of the ospecies” …

    Dang … usually I just do this writing stuff, I don’t think about it much, just move it around ’til it works. I have a huge advantage, in that I never took a lesson …

    w.

  88. trailing wife says:

    O Lord, not the Lancet study again. The Iraq Body Count people debunked that most beautifully in 2006, but your true believer can’t be bothered to keep up with events. Once upon a time The Lancet was a reputable journal, but that was before they published that Iraq study, and the series blaming autism on infant innoculations, and a number of other studies they also had to subsequently withdraw. Very sad, really, to see a journal founded on sharing the truth of science descend into falling for the truthy.

    See http://www.iraqbodycount.org/analysis/beyond/reality-checks/ for eight pages of details. And this article and discussion thread at PJ Media as well http://pjmedia.com/blog/joisting_with_the_lancet_the_p/ Not that Mr. Jaggar will bother — his sort never do.

  89. LazyTeenager says:

    Science done in the dark by a few learned boffins is already dead in the 21st century, the practitioners just didn’t notice when they ran past their use-by dates, and as a result that dark corner of the scientific world is populated more and more by zombies. Zombies with PhD’s to be sure
    ————
    Willis, you haven’t a clue about science or the people who do it. This is just tired old anti intellectuallism.

    Science is not done by arm chair philosophers or in this case blog philosophers. Science is done by people who do stuff, not by BS artists sittin on their backsides glued to a keyboard. Very few of the WUWT crowd have actually done any experiments, with a few notable exceptions, to prove or disprove their wonky ideas.

    Sure Anthony has his surfaces stations thing but we have yet to see that put together as a publication.

  90. Steve Keohane says:

    LazyTeenager says:February 17, 2013 at 5:00 am

    Science done in the dark by a few learned boffins is already dead in the 21st century, the practitioners just didn’t notice when they ran past their use-by dates, and as a result that dark corner of the scientific world is populated more and more by zombies. Zombies with PhD’s to be sure
    ————
    Willis, you haven’t a clue about science or the people who do it. This is just tired old anti intellectuallism.

    Science is not done by arm chair philosophers or in this case blog philosophers. Science is done by people who do stuff, not by BS artists sittin on their backsides glued to a keyboard.
    Glad to see you declare yourself not doing science.

  91. kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:

    From LazyTeenager on February 17, 2013 at 5:00 am:

    Willis, you haven’t a clue about science or the people who do it. This is just tired old anti intellectuallism.

    (…) Very few of the WUWT crowd have actually done any experiments, with a few notable exceptions, to prove or disprove their wonky ideas.

    Sure Anthony has his surfaces stations thing but we have yet to see that put together as a publication.

    Oh good, you’re still ignorant and indolent. Please don’t change, we enjoy laughing at you.

    The Surfacestations project was previously written up, peer reviewed, and published as Fall et al 2011. Whatever you’re imbibing, apparently it made you forget the many times it’s been referenced here before. Feel free to keep doing whatever substances you do. You’ll only need those spare brain cells in your 60′s and older, and why would you want to plan to live that long?

    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2011/05/11/the-long-awaited-surfacestations-paper/

  92. Peter in Ohio says:

    kadaka (KD Knoebel) says:
    February 16, 2013 at 5:18 pm

    kadaka – thanks for the advice. If my neighbors don’t already have doubts about my sanity, (and I’m quite sure they do), waving my hands and hissing is bound to seal the deal. It’s a good thing I let my pride go a long time ago.

    I was born and raised in suburban South Africa and we didn’t have all these nocturnal creatures roaming the night.

  93. Willis Eschenbach says:

    LazyTeenager says:
    February 17, 2013 at 5:00 am

    Science done in the dark by a few learned boffins is already dead in the 21st century, the practitioners just didn’t notice when they ran past their use-by dates, and as a result that dark corner of the scientific world is populated more and more by zombies. Zombies with PhD’s to be sure

    ————
    Willis, you haven’t a clue about science or the people who do it. This is just tired old anti intellectuallism.

    And yet my work is published in Nature magazine … and yours?

    You’ll have to send a letter to the Editor of Nature to straighten them out, tell them I haven’t a clue about science … then they can pass the word over to the the scientific journal “Diversity and Distributions”, where my scientific work has also been published … and yours?

    You see the problem, Lazy? I’m a published scientist, and you’re an ignorant random anonymous internet gadfly, who never contributes anything to a discussion but is always willing to try to tear someone down, to slime someone’s work or motives

    Go away while you still have some shred of dignity, little boy, you are just making yourself look very, very foolish, and people are starting to point and laugh … does your mom know you’re still up, by the way?

    w.

  94. john robertson says:

    Great tribute to Anthony, may his ears burn for years.
    I share your perception of the evolution of science, here science lives and grows.
    I love this aspect of WUWT, I am happy to donate, I had to abandon the “science”magazines when they abandoned science.
    In academia something else moulders, their collective dismissal of the common mans intelligence speaks volumes about their own. .
    The inability to acknowledge ignorance in oneself prevents wonder and discovery.
    Willis you write beautifully, keep it up but please do not try to convince Lazy to smarten up or go away, I get a cheap chuckle and sense of self satisfaction from Lazies comments.
    Its always nice to know someone is even more stupid than I.

  95. LazyTeenager says:

    [snip. — mod.]

  96. LazyTeenager says:

    [snip. — mod.]

Comments are closed.