Monday, August 14, 2017

The Fabulous Fisher Cat...

 ...who lives in trees and doesn't like fish.

            The fisher is found only in North America. Historically, it ranged the northern forests of Canada and the United States as well as forests in the Appalachian, Rocky Mountains, and Pacific Coast Mountains.
    The fisher is the largest species of marten. Some males can weigh as much as 20 pounds. It is a large arboreal weasel, and an omnivore, feeding on a wide variety of small animals and occasionally on fruits and mushrooms. It prefers the snowshoe hare, and is one of the few animals able to prey successfully on porcupines.

But how did the none fish eating Fisher get his name? One theory is that the animal gets its name from the trade name for its fur. The French fur-trappers sold the fur of this animal as European polecat fur. (A European polecat is a wild ferret, not a skunk. How skunks became known as polecats in this
country is something for which I so far have found no answer.) The French word for a polecat pelt is fichet or ficheux.
The females are pregnant for almost a year, giving birth in the spring to a littler of three or four kits. 

Fishers have five toes on each foot, with unsheathed, retractable claws.Their feet are disproportionately large for their legs, making it easier for them to move

on top of snow packs, and allows them to maneuver well in trees. The fisher is one of relatively few mammalian species with the ability to descend trees head-first.

Because of their highly prized fur, the Fisher was trapped and hunted almost
to extinction in the 1700's. Conservation and protection measures have allowed the species to rebound, but their current range is still greatly reduced from its historic limits.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Shut the Box...Did your historical hero play this game?

   As far as anyone seems to know, Shut-the-Box originated in France, perhaps in Normandy, and possibly existed as early as the 1100's. 

   Shut the Box, also called, Canoga, Klackers, Batten Down the Hatches, kingoball, Trictrac and Jackpot, is a game of dice for one or more players, commonly played in a group of two to four for stakes.Variations exist where the box has up to 10 or 12 tiles.

Lore tells fables of ancient Norman sailors playing the game in the moonlight as their ship bobbed and swayed across the sea. 
                   "Pay up mate, you lost again!"
    The game involves a wooden box (hence the name Shut-the-Box) characterized by an arena to which dice are thrown and wooden sliders or shutters representing the numbers 1 thru 9. These sliders are closed, or shut, to arrive at the total shown on the dice. Play ends when the either the numbers have all been closed, or when the sum of the dice cannot be achieved by closing any combination of the available numbers. 

Even the upper-class enjoyed a game or two. Trictrac players, in a painting attributed to LĂ©onard Defrance

There is a Chinese version of the game called, " Boc-Tin". It is unclear whether or not Boc-Tin and Shut-the-Box originated from singular or separate ideas.

   Obviously a gambling device, the game is used today for fun as well, and is touted by educators to be a useful game for teaching elementary mathematics to children. Of course, mathematicians have also shown interest for the game. As Shut-the-Box presents an interesting, yet reportedly solvable, model for probability and best-strategy analysis. 


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

A castle on the Kansas Overland Trail

For me, the great state of Kansas conjures visions of wheat fields and sunflowers, and Old West tales of Dodge City. 

And of course The Wizard of Oz and scary tornadoes. 

But they also lay claim to the first landmark chosen by the US Department of the Interior as a National Natural Landmark.
Who would expect to find such monumental structures in the middle of the flat-lands?

 The chalk formations reach a height of up to 70 ft and include buttes and arches. The carbonate deposits were laid down during the Cretaceous Period in what was then the Western Interior Seaway, which split the continent of North America into two landmasses. 
    Castle Rock was a landmark on the Butterfield Overland Despatch route (Overland Trail). The chalk was deposited in the area by an ancient inland sea,and the formation was formed by the weathering of the chalk by wind and water. 

   Sadly, weathering of the rock formation is increasing due to visitors climbing on the rocks. In 2001, following a thunderstorm, the tallest spire fell.
          Will Mother Nature have her revenge?
                          (not at Monument Rock)

  About 80 million years ago, when the central interior of the U.S. was covered by a seaway several hundred
feet deep, the water contained single-celled animals that drifted to the sea floor for eons, creating a mucky ooze. This material was perfect for trapping and preserving the remains of animals that lived in that ocean, such as fish, turtles, sharks, swimming
reptiles, swimming birds, as well as invertebrate animals such as giant clams. 

Probably the best-known fossil from these beds is the famous "fish-within-a-fish" on display at the Sternberg Museum in Hays. 

Should you visit this wondrous place 
(which is on private property)
please respect the land and formations.

       Monument Rocks (Chalk Pyramids) is located 4 miles east of US-83, 25 miles south of Oakley, Kansas. Camping and fossil hunting are not allowed.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Quokkas of Rottnest Island

How cute is this little critter?
It's a Quokka. 
     In regard to their name, apparently North Americans usually pronounce it kwo-ka (rhymes with “mocha”), and everyone else says kwah-ka (rhymes with “wokka wokka”). It’s really up to you. Quokkas don’t care

 Quokkas come from the same family as the kangaroo
(called Macropodidae) and they live on a handful of small Australian islands such as Rottnest Island and Bald Island.

Their favorite daytime activity is sleeping. They can live up to ten years, and just like other Macropods, the Quokka is herbivorous. Unlike many other animals however, the Quokka, which has a "vulnerable" conservation status, isn't very scared of humans.

   They’re the only land mammal on Rottnest Island, and have become a tourist attraction. Quokkas were first described by Dutch sea captain Willem de Vlamingh, who reported finding “a kind of rat as big as a cat.” The squeamish seaman named the island Ratte nest (“rat’s nest”), then sailed away, presumably toward more genteel wildlife.

             They don't seem bothered by selfies.

     But remember, anybody caught even handling or feeding them can be issued a fine of up to A$300. And no, before you ask, you cannot keep Quokkas as pets.

    And beware, cute as they are,the Quokka can cut you. Their big feet are tipped with very sharp claws. 
   The rat-tailed clan makes its home in swamps and scrub-lands, tunneling through the brush to create shelters and hideouts, emerging at night to find food. And again, no you cannot have one as a pet.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Cover Contest Results and a surfing goat

A HUGE thank you to all of you who              took the time to vote for 
               A COWBOY'S FATE 
    in the Almost Kiss cover contest. 
We just missed being in the top three. 
Boo hooo.
   Still, we were happy and proud to do that well. Having so many people vote was a gift in itself, and was truly appreciated. 

Now for something completely different
        and sure to make you smile.

                     A surfing goat. 
           Really. Here's the video.
                      Pismo beach, surfing goat
           No need to alert PETA, 
       the goatie seems to enjoys this.             

        Do not show this to my goat. 
      She may want to try surfing, 
           or possibly snorkeling! 
               If nothing else, she's 
             bound to want a pretty 
                yellow life-vest. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A Cowboy's Fate is Semi-finalist

         in the Almost Kiss Cover Contest. 

      No signup required and you can vote everyday. 
          Keep the romance of the Old West alive! 
 Vote early and vote often. @ Affaire de Coeur   

When East End London, 
meets the Wild West, 
sparks fly.
                Winner of The Maple Leaf Award,
                        5 STARS from NetGalley.

Available at Amazon 
Barnes and Noble
 The Wild Rose Press

Thursday, June 29, 2017

To poison, or not to poison, that could be the question.

   Looking for a different way to kill off a character in your book? How about tetrodotoxin. It's more toxic than cyanide, and can enter the body of the victim by ingestion, injection, inhalation, or through abraded skin. 
   Tetrodotoxin (TTX), a potent neurotoxin, derives its name from Tetraodontiformes, an order that includes pufferfish, porcupinefish, ocean sunfish, and
triggerfish; Also found in several other
aquatic animals such
as the blue-ringed octopuses, rough-skinned newts, and moon snails.

Moon Snails! How could a critter that sounds so cute be so deadly. 

   The mechanism of toxicity is through the blockage of fast voltage-gated sodium channels, which are required for the normal transmission of signals between the body and brain. As a result, TTX causes loss of sensation, and paralysis of voluntary muscles including the diaphragm and intercostal muscles, stopping breathing.

The therapeutic use of puffer fish (tetraodon) eggs is mentioned in the first Chinese pharmacopoeia. The Book of Herbs   
  The first recorded cases of TTX poisoning affecting
Westerners are from the logs of Captain James Cook from September 7, 1774.

   On that date Cook recorded his crew eating some
local tropic fish (pufferfish), then feeding the remains to the pigs kept on board. 
   The crew experienced numbness and shortness of breath, while the pigs were all found dead the next morning. In hindsight, it is clear that the crew survived a mild dose of tetrodotoxin, while the pigs ate the pufferfish body parts that contain most of the toxin, thus being fatally poisoned.

     For your reference, symptoms typically develop within 30 minutes of ingestion, but may be delayed
by up to four hours; however, if the dose is fatal, symptoms are usually present within 17 minutes of ingestion. 
 The tingling, prickling, or burning numbness of the lips and tongue is followed by developing, hypersalivation, sweating, headache, weakness, lethargy, incoordination, tremor, paralysis, cyanosis, aphonia (inability to speak), dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), and seizures. 

   The gastrointestinal symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal
pain. There is increasing respiratory distress, speech is affected and paralysis increases, leading to convulsions, mental impairment, and cardiac arrhythmia. 

  Does your Villain have revenge in mind? TTX would seem the perfect poison. Although completely paralyzed, your victim may be conscious and in some cases completely lucid until shortly before death, which generally occurs within 4 to 6 hours (range ~20 minutes to ~8 hours). 

   If your character survives 24 hours, recovery without any residual effects will usually occur over a few days.

   To save your hero, should he/she be poisoned, assure airway support, or if ingested, treatment would be to empty the stomach, and feed the victim activated charcoal to bind the toxin. 

   Forensic detection may be a concern or a help depending on whether you are the villain or the hero of the story. Tetrodotoxin may be quantified in serum,
whole blood or urine to confirm a diagnosis of poisoning. And can be found using mass spectrometric detection following gas or liquid chromatographic separation.

   The use of tetrodotoxin as a plot device for characters to fake death, or ambitious evil-does to cause death has been used in several books and films. But I'm sure your creativity can give it a new twist, and your mad scientist can find someway to refine its use, or your hero will find an antidote.   

                           Happy writing...