City Rats, Barn Owls and Giant Eyes

During my travels I have utilized hundreds of trains, subways, buses and other forms of mass transportation. I have also gazed upward (tourist-image-be-damned) to take in hundreds (thousands?) of buildings. In every city, as well as more than a few suburbs or towns, I have found myself looking at evidence of the human futility known as rat and pigeon protection. Most of the time these consist of sharp spikes sticking out of building ledges, like the giant fangs of a vicious thorn bearing plant; or metal coverings placed over possible entry points. While it is obvious that none of these things work, the most perplexing among the most frequently recurring options is the giant eye.

Imagine a large beach ball hanging from a ceiling and decorated to look like a brown target with the darkest circle in the very center. It has a vague resemblance to an eye and it is meant to scare away pigeons by imitating the appearance of a bird of prey during an attack. I have yet to see a giant eye that was not covered in pigeon poop or acting as a perch for several pigeons and other random birds.

I really started to think about the giant eye while in the Philadelphia 30th street train station. I was fidgeting away the minutes, waiting for a commuter train, when I glanced up and noticed the poop-covered eye hanging from the ceiling and could not help but wonder how many generations of pigeons had come and gone without ever once encountering a bird of prey – ANY bird of prey. How can you expect a scare tactic to work when the instincts the fear is based in are so far removed from the animal’s reality that they have (literally) been forgotten?

When I ran across this article in Modern Farmer, I immediately thought about the giant eye and all of the pigeons, rats, bugs and heaven-only-knows what else simply waiting to be feasted upon by the first predator with both opportunity and a realistic chance of surviving in the midst of human-only habitation.

Of course, barn owls are interested in rats, not pigeons, but the train stations and subways have plenty of those. It would be an interesting challenge to create a realistic living space that provided the owls a safe place to live, free access to wild food sources and protection from oncoming traffic – including airplanes, trains, trolleys, buses, trucks and cars. I don’t know if it’s possible or practical, but it would be far more effective than the giant eye.


“Unlike other owl species, like great-horned owl or barred owl, barn owls have a heavy preference for rats and mice. And while they might be adorable, they are also natural killers…One barn owl can cover over a mile and will eat between three and six mice each night, approximately 2,000 mice yearly. A family, including chicks, in one nest box, can devour 8,000 mice in one year.”

“So how to get owls to take up residence on your property? Barn owls want homes that are cozy, warm and safe. Many live in rafters, tree cavities and in barns because they do not build nests. This gives farmers the opportunity to provide a home and enable owls to hunt rodents in fields, improving crop production, yield and profit.”

How to Build a Barn Owl Nest, Modern Farmer, by By


Fantasy Farming

I find articles like this one fascinating because I rather enjoy mulling over the possibility of owning my own self-sufficient farm – and all of the decisions that go along with that lifestyle.

The first, and most important, challenge in starting up a farm of any kind is deciding what will be raised or grown on the land. My family owned and operated an apple orchard. This is a far cry from cattle (of any kind) but an easy jump to Maple or fruit trees (of any kind), or even crop-based farming.

Yet, running a farm and running a self-sufficient farm are two very different things; which brings me back to this article: John Seymour was a well known and well-respected expert in self-sufficient agriculture. In these quotes, pulled from his 1976 book The Self-Sufficient Life and How to Live It, he presents a nice illustration of many key items to be considered when establishing a self-sufficient homestead.


“Cow or no cow? The pros and cons are many and various for a self-sufficient homestead.”

“If your garden gets plenty of cow manure, your soil fertility will continuously increase, along with your yields.”

“But a serious counter-consideration is that you will have to take on the responsibility of milking a cow…Milking a cow doesn’t take very long — perhaps eight minutes — and it’s very pleasant if you know how to do it and if she is a quiet, docile cow — but you will have to do it.”

“Bear in mind that practically any garden crop that you grew for yourself would be good for the animals too, so any surplus crops would go to them. You would not need a compost pile — your animals could be your compost pile.”

Start a 1-Acre, Self-Sufficient Homestead, Mother Earth News, by John Seymour


Appearance, Networking and Career

It is truly unfortunate that quality work does not move a person forward in a career. The advice being given in Ms. Hewett’s article (and soon to be published book) are effectively an admission that the academic and business worlds are made up of a ‘cronyism’ network – it’s not the quality of your performance (what you know), it’s the amount of power held by the people in your professional network (who you know). This is not ideal. Yet it’s both a reality and a topic the author has covered before in multiple publications, including Find a Sponsor (pictured here).

Yet, idealism aside, an interesting reaction can be found in the comments, which focus a lot of time and attention on a) the importance of professional appearance and b) the definition of professional appearance.

The comments that jumped out at me were those focused on how women must dress the part by locating designer clothes and bags, including heartfelt advice to shop at discount stores in wealthy neighborhoods. Mind you, I’ve done this many times over many decades – and I can spend loads of time talking about both the shopping techniques of non-wealthy women and the frustrations of being plus-size and/or curvy. To be more clear: when I am overweight it’s practically impossible to find appropriate new clothes. When I am not overweight I still do not have a fashion industry approved body. I can make it work but I rarely, if ever, manage to find clothes that actually fit correctly (new or used).

All of which sends me into a knee-jerk frustration-fueled reaction of: why…WHY….is it so important for women (not men, just women) to wear not only professional looking attire but labels?

Article Quotes:

“…I made the classic mistake of assuming that success was all about doing my job extraordinarily well. If I put my head down and worked as hard as I knew how, my value to the organization would be self-evident, and, of course, I would be recognized and promoted. Right? I couldn’t have been more wrong.”

“In addition to my not understanding the importance of dressing the part, I didn’t understand that at these beginning stages of a serious and super-competitive career, I needed a sponsor – someone with power who believed in me and was prepared to propel and protect me as I set about climbing the ladder. Don’t get me wrong: I did acquire a ton of supporters and developed mentors among several close female colleagues. But they had little clout where it counted: when I came up for tenure.”

Comments Quotes:

“‘m sorry – but I don’t see how your appearance was the problem here. It sounds more like not having made those crucial connections all the way up the chain of command is what damaged your chances at success. If it were your appearance – wouldn’t your own department have issues with you? You are selling yourself (and all women) short by suggesting you need to “look” a certain way in order to be considered for promotion.”

“Last but not least, dress the way that best emphasis’ you and project the image you want the world to see. Sorry jeans and a t-shirt are never appropriate except at home or after work. [Name], you got it right. Goodwill and Thrift stores in “upscale” or good neighborhood have designer brands that people donate. That was my secret years ago and still is when I need a good designer bag. Look the part without the price tag.”

“It’s sad but true, people judge you by your appearance first. As a minority woman, I know this truth first hand. It’s amazing the difference in response you get simply by your style of dress or hair style. You must look the part if you want to play the game. It pains me to admit it, but it’s true…Albeit, I agree we definitely have to make the right connections. Your appearance and connections can get you through the door, but it’s your knowledge and abilities that keep you there”

Career Curveballs: When Brains Only Get You So Far, posted to LinkedIn by Sylvia Ann Hewlett

Name Game: Lucifer

New Zealand has been creating a list of baby names submitted for approval and declined by The Department of Internal Affairs. Unlike the official banned name lists maintained by other countries, New Zealand simply keeps a tally of names the department has declined in the past – and will decline again in the future. As of May 2013, the list contained 71 names – including single letters and punctuation marks.

Before getting more stringent on acceptable baby names, parents in New Zealand selected the following for their children:

  • Benson and Hedges (brand of cigarettes), given to a pair of twins
  • Violence
  • Number 16 Bus Shelter
  • Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii

For this round of the ‘Name Game’ (details can be found on my first Name Game posting), I have selected the name Lucifer from the New Zealand banned (rejected) names list. What follows is a list of 50 alternatives to the name Lucifer. These options range from the mundane to the unusual, but they all have some similarity in meaning – minus the association with Biblical fallen angels.

Banned Name: Lucifer

  • Cultural meaning: A name attributed to Satan, devils and evil beings.
  • Translated Meaning:  Shining one, morning star, bright one, Venus (the planet).
  • Religious: Found in the Old Testament of the Bible and commonly interpreted to be the name of Satan before the fall of the Angels from heaven.

Part 1: Shining or Bright

  • Light: Abner, Ignatius, Kiran, Lucian, Lux, Lucius, Raiden, Zohar
  • Shining: Alucio, Chan, Dalbert, Kasi, Munir, Seabert, Uberto
  • Bright: Akeno, Albert, Berwyn, Birch, Brighton, Colbert, Delvin, Morgan, Robert, Sherwin, Wilbert

Part 2: Star, planet or Venus

  • Star: Merrit, Rigel, Sirius, Starr, Altair
  • Planet: Cairo, Saturnin, Ares, Marcus, Mark, Martin, Joven, Atlas, Astro

Part 3: Angel, trickster (clever or wise)

  • Angel: Angel, Cael, Michael, Raphael, Racheil
  • Clever: Pratt, Wylie, Rasmus
  • Wise: Conrad, Sage

(C) Adora Myers 2014

Name Game: Burger King

The Mexican state of Sonora has instituted a baby name black list, which legally restricts the names that can be given to children born in that area. You can see the entire list on and a discussion of the politics (in Spanish) on

When I see stories like this, I like to look at the black listed names, root out something particularly unusual, and try to come up with a reasonable alternative – something I call the ‘Name Game.’ So, here we go…

Banned Name: Burger King

Part 1: Burger

  • beef: Reuben, Wellington, Angus, Chuck, Kobe
  • cow or cattle: Birley, Boyne (Boine), Gobind, Vachel

Part 2: King

  • king: Roy, Arthur, King, Ryan, Leroy, Malik
  • royal: Auberon, Basil, Royal,

In the United States a list of potential boys name (first and middle) that are reasonably standard and have the hidden meaning of Burger King would be:

  • Reuben Roy
  • Angus Ryan
  • Kobe King
  • Chuck Leroy
  • Wellington Arthur

The meanings behind most of these names were pulled off of the internet, so please take the ‘definition’ with a grain of salt. Also, I am not well versed in Mexican or Spanish naming conventions so the list might be different if the game were played by someone whose native language is Spanish.

(C) Adora Myers 2014

Job Curious: Wolf conflict-resolution manager

While surfing through outdoors and wildlife articles, particularly those focused on the fate of wolf pacts, I stumbled across this quote:

“Stephanie Simek, wolf conflict-resolution manager, said the department investigated 20 reported attacks on pets and livestock last year, but found that wolves were actually involved in only four of them. Confirmed wolf attacks left one calf dead and three dogs injured, she said in the release.”

via State’s wolf population grew last year | Outdoors | The Olympian.

It left me with a single burning question: What exactly IS a wolf conflict-resolution manager and how did Ms. Simek land the job?

One of my side fascinations over the years has been the identification of jobs I never would have thought about. These are things that no one talked about back in school (when the world was screaming ‘what will your career be?’) because a) it never occurred to us that such a thing existed, b) obviously someone had to be doing that job but it didn’t become obvious until someone pointed it out, or c) we had no way of knowing the field, much less the need, even existed.

A few more examples:

  • Naming paint colors
  • Painting false eyes (custom painting geared toward perfectly imitating the remaining real eye)
  • Tattooing breasts after reconstructive surgery (medical profession geared toward realism, not decor)

If I run across additional ‘who knew?” job titles, I’ll be sure to post them here.

(C) Adora Myers 2014

Naming Politics: Messiah

The controversy surrounding the naming of a Tennessee child is interesting on two fronts: 1) the right to choose a child’s first name, and 2) the right to give a child the mother’s last name.

The child was originally named Messiah Deshawn Martin. The father initiated a court battle because he wanted the child’s last name changed to match his own: McCullough. The judge rules in favor of changing the boy’s first AND last name, despite the objection of both parents. So the child was (briefly) named Martin Deshawn McCullough.

The judge was fired over this decision because she specifically cited Christian-specific reasons in the courtroom (you can read all about the mess former judge Lu Ann Ballew created for herself here and here).

The press has focused on the first name because Messiah is an unusual choice, but I have found the combination of decisions concerning both first and last names particularly interesting. If you step back and look at the ruling (minus the invocation of Jesus Christ) there is a simple logic – both parents want their last names attached to the child’s legal name and Messiah is very close (in sound and appearance) to Martin, so give the mother the first name and the father the last. If this suggestion was made by friends or family members, in the manner I have just described, it would not seem offensive. In fact, it would have been an excellent opportunity for arbitration or alternative dispute resolution. For example:

Take this out of a courtroom and discuss it in private with a mediator – here are a few naming suggestions to get you started. If you still can’t come up with a mutually agreeable decision, bring it back to the courtroom. From what I understand, this has become something of a standard procedure in family courts in the United States.

However, the judge did not make those suggestions or decisions. Instead she simply ruled to give the child the father’s last name and, while she was at it, changed the first name to something that he could live up to (yes, she actually said the child could not live up to being Jesus Christ) – which is where the politics of last names enters into the discussion.

While it is never mentioned in the news articles that I have read, there is a strong possibility that this judge also believes that children should not be given the mother’s last name – and married women should not keep their last name (and women should not have children outside of marriage). These are all standard opinions of the politically conservative and Christian fundamentalist/evangelical communities within the United States. There are those who consider a hyphenated last name, a double last name (e.g.: Messiah Deshawn Martin McCullough or Messiah Deshawn McCullough Martin) or the use of the mother’s last name to be offensive for political, cultural and religious reasons.

Regardless of her personal opinions, these are not decisions that the judge can make for the parents in question. In fact, it is specifically stated that she can not use her religious beliefs as the basis for decisions made on the bench – therefore, she is now out of a job.

But, the American legal system aside, the question still remains: would either the first or last name prove to be a burden on the child? Personally, I don’t think the community at large (or other children) would think twice about the child’s last name unless the parents entered into a loud and much talked about battle within that community – then the gossips would have a field day. Using the mother’s last name is no longer the hot button issue it once was, and it is possible that a reasonable compromise could have been reached (on that issue) through mediation (e.g.: talking it out with the help of a trained ‘referee’) – as mentioned earlier, I really think this issue should have taken out the courtroom in the first place.

The first name is unusual, but it’s neither brand new nor as uncommon (in the United States) as you might think. According to the Social Security Administration, the name Messiah was number 904 in popularity (1 being most popular and 1000 being the least popular among those common enough to be counted) in 2005 and has steadily increased in popularity, reaching number 387 in 2012. By comparison, Jesus was number 73 in 2005 and 101 in 2012 – leaving the top 100 for the first time since 1999.

Again, that is in the United States. In New Zealand, Messiah is one of the officially blacklisted names and, therefore, not legally allowed as a baby-naming-option.

Here in the USA, Messiah might result in some teasing and bullying on the playground, but I suspect the child’s friends and peers will simply shorten it to Messi (pronounced meh-SIGH), which would make it easier (faster) to say, less formal and less religious. It would be interesting to hear what a child given the name Messiah in 2005 (reaching age 9 in 2014) has to say about his or her experience.

While I find this naming problem fascinating I am of the opinion that it never should have made it into the courtroom, much less the press (yes, that is the third time I’ve said that).

(C) Adora Myers 2014

Personal and Professional in Blogging Business

One of the things I find most fascinating about individuals running professional blogs online, with an entrepreneurial perspective, is the combination of very personal and heart-touching articles published beside real-world (cold?) advice. This was something that I found myself mulling over while perusing the Ask Vixen blog. She provides business advice, travel articles, and many other things – including commentary on her miscarriages and current pregnancy.

It’s a good blog and an excellent example of the personal aspects of a small town brick-and-mortar being transported into the virtual world. I am often sad that we are losing this personal touch in our real world lives. Is the prevalence of personal in online small-business ventures (blogging and other web-based businesses) proof that we, as human beings, both crave and need this personal touch?

It’s something to think about.

Here are a few quotes from the Vixen:

“To make money blogging, always remember that your blog is a business. It’s taken me a while to inculcate this into my brain, but it’s just as true for me as it is for you… To me, making money blogging is like finding a job. We’ve all had to look for employment several times in our lives. Use the steps to finding a job as your template.”

Guaranteed Way to Make Money Blogging by Catherine Gacad on Ask Vixen

“Mama readers, I need your help. I’m stumped. Everything I’ve read so far has led me to believe that cloth diapers (over the duration of diapering your child) are less expensive than disposables. If that’s the case, that cloth is cheaper and also better for the environment, why don’t I know a single person who has ever used cloth?”

Pregnancy Question #2: Diaper Decisions by Catherine Gacad on Ask Vixen

“I attended a blogging webinar sponsored by a design brand. The Head of PR said she was looking for blogs that were well-designed with page ranks 3 and above. That’s not me. I shrugged and figured I’m not a design blog so I wouldn’t have been the right fit anyway. Hours later, the company contacted me about advertising on my blog. The takeaway? Don’t reject yourself before companies have the chance to consider you. Have confidence!”

How I Make Money Blogging by Catherine Gacad on Ask Vixen

(C) Adora Myers 2014