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Family life among the animals can get up close and personal with a webcam aimed 24/7 at a mud wallow in the forest claimed by a pack of wild boars, or a nest of sticks atop a telephone pole where a couple of storks have laid their eggs. But that was last summer and the summer before--this year, in Estonia, the webcams are mounted at an ostrich farm. One clutch of baby ostriches has hatched now, and you can watch the fluffy little bird-brained things squirming and snuggling under a heat lamp. Mom and Dad are outside in a paddock, incubating another nestful of eggs--looks like the male and female take turns sitting on the nest.

Go here to get your fill of ostrich video eye candy. The website is in Estonian, but even we Amurricans can figure out how to click on the pictures.

Hey, it's free--watch those ostriches all you want. The heatlamp is left on round the clock, so time zones won't keep you and those babies apart. Outside in the paddock, it gets light in Estonia around 10 or 11 p.m. Eastern daylight time. If you're up late, you can turn on the ostriches and watch them sitting on the nest and bobbing their heads a little, strolling along the fence line, grazing in the grass. Will you get bored? Yes--you're not an ostrich. But technology can hold your interest: instead of watching the ostriches in real time, you can click on another date and hour, and see what they were up to back then. By dragging your mouse across the bottom of the video frame, you can watch everything the ostriches did that hour in just a few seconds, and you can even watch them in reverse. Clouds will race across the sky, the sun will leap up from the horizon, and the ostriches will hop about right smartly.

If you could speed up the entire first year of video of a baby ostrich's life, you'd see it gain 100 pounds and grow as tall as an adult human. By age 3 or 4, mature ostriches can be 9 feet tall and weigh 350 pounds. They have three stomachs but no gall bladder, in case you were wondering.

There would be little point in speeding up video of an ostrich running; they can go from 0 to 27 miles per hour in a couple of seconds. Sometimes people race ostriches, with jockeys on their backs using saddles and bridles. They are said to be much more difficult to control than horses, but also much faster.


 

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They wanted a picture of themselves at their lakeside campsite in Banff National Park, so they put the camera on a rock and set the shutter for a delayed snapshot.

The whirring sound made by the camera as it prepared to snap attracted a squirrel, who chattered right back at it and got himself nicely pixellated for his 1/250th of a second of fame.

Or so it said on the National Geographic website. Hat tip to John "J.J." Stein for this fine submission to our irregular summer series of cute animal pictures. (Yes, there are more....)

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Even in the leafy dapple of New York's Central Park, these are dog days for horses.. The inscription on the trough reads: "Presented to the S.P.C.A. by Edith D. Bowdoin, 1912."

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If you believe what you read in Earth Imaging Journal, which you shouldn't, there's an 86.6% chance that bin Laden has been living here in Parachinar, Pakistan, ever since he was last seen by Western intelligence agents--not seen, actually, but heard from, on VHF radio--in December 2001. The mountain ridge at the top of this picture is the border between Pakistan's Kurram tribal region and Afghanistan's Tora Bora district,

 A couple of UCLA professors wrote recently in Earth Imaging Journal that they had used high-resolution satellite imagery, similar to the imagery we are familiar with in Google Earth, to identify the three buildings in Parachinar most likely to be inhabited  by bin Laden and his close associates. The professors looked for defensible structures of appropriate size that are on the electric grid or served by generators, with trees and shrubbery to complicate surveilance from the air. One of the three likely compounds turns out to be the local prison--and why not? The tradition of fugitives seeking refuge in prisons is long and illustrious.

But the good professors claim to have no actual evidence concerning his whereabouts; it's all an exercise in geospatial modeling, utilizing distance-decay theory and island biogeography. Ivory tower stuff.

The only thing is: I just googled Parachinar, and for the last couple of weeks now, the city has been bombed by the Pakistani Air Force, presumably at our direction. They say they're targeting Taliban, not al-Qaeda--whatever they're doing, please let it not be based on distance-decay theory and calculations at UCLA of an 86.6% slam dunk.

Perhaps you're like me and don't remember exactly what went down back in December 2001, when we invaded Afghanistan and announced that we'd pinned down Osama bin Laden in his cave in Tora Bora. We knew all about the caves there because a generation ago, we'd helped some anti-Soviet Afghan warlords forttify them and build a complex of underground bunkers.

We asked Afghan army troops to go in there and kill all the bad guys, backed up by our air support, Special Forces, and CIA operatives. As soon as the Afghan forces arrived in the area, they announced that the bad guys wanted a temporary cease-fire, so they could gather their weapons and surrender. It is said that our response was "What the hell? Go on in and get 'em." At that point, the Afghan soldiers turned their weapons on the U.S. "advisers," and it took 12 hours before they agreed to resume the mission. Evern after the end of the "cease-fire," it is believed that some of the Afghan soldiers staged a diversionary action to further delay and weaken the attack. Several hundred Taliban were eventually killed or rounded up in the caves of Tora Bora, but no major weapons caches or "training camps" were found.

It is possible that bin Laden escaped into Pakistan during the fake cease-fire, hiking through the December ice and snow, up and over a 14,000-foot mountain pass. It's also possible that he had already escaped by then, or that he'd never been there in the first place.

U.S. General Tommy Franks blamed the Pakistanis for not telling us that their border wasn't very secure near Tora Bora. Where in the world is Tommy Franks these days?

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Last weekend, Taiwan was hit hard by Typhoon Morakot.

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Monday was hot and sunny in Concord, New Hampshire, a good day for a Clean Energy and Green Jobs Now Beach Party in front of the capitol dome. The idea was to encourage New Hampshire's U.S. senators to help pass a clean energy jobs bill when they go back to Washington this fall. Among those beaching it in Concord were  environmental activists from the Sierra Club, 1 Sky, and other organizations, including our friend Cathy Goldwater and these girls with their big bear.

 

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Hank is on the observation deck atop Rockefeller Center, and I've got a new software painting thing to play with.

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When the Custom House tower opened in 1913, tthe zoning code for the city of Boston limited building height to 125 feet. Because the Custom House was a federal installation, it could flat-out ignore the restriction; this tower is 496 feet high, making it the tallest building in Boston until 1964. The exterior is essentially unchanged to this day, though the interior has been drastically redesigned. It's now a time-share condo complex operated by Marriott.

Underneath the tower is a large Doric temple built in 1847, an imposintg structure that housed the warehouses and regional  financial offices of the customs service. Most of the federall government's income in those days came from import levies, so in port cities such as Boston, custom houses were typically the nicest buildings in town.

In this picture, the clocks at the top of the tower have no hands. This is probably because repairs were being attempted; the wooden minute hand was so big and heavy--22 feet long--that the clock mechanism struggled to push it up from the 6 toward the 12, often failing. Until the hands were replaced with plastic a few years ago, the clocks rarely kept good time.

 

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Midtown Manhattan, looking south from the 68th floor of Rockefeller Center.