Baby Birds for Breakfast?

My cat, Grisito, waiting to be let out. Photo credit: Beatrice Carletti

My cat, Grisito, waiting to be let out. Photo credit: Beatrice Carletti

Back in high school, I read a poem called “The Prize Cat” by E.J. Pratt. As a cat owner and lover, I delighted in Pratt’s descriptions of a pure blood domestic tabby cat with a soft-mannered, musical purr. “The ribbon had declared the breed, Gentility was in the fur.” Essentially, Pratt muses about the tamed majesty of the now-domesticated feline. And then, a flash of instinct:

I saw the generations pass
Along the reflex of a spring,
A bird had rustled in the grass,
The tab had caught it on the wing:

Behind the leap so furtive-wild
Was such ignition in the gleam,
I thought an Abyssinian child
Had cried out in the whitethroat’s scream.

I think that was the first time I considered the predatory instincts of my beloved pet and, though it was unsettling, I didn’t think about what outdoor cats might be doing to bird populations on a wide scale.

In her recent article for the New York Times, Natalie Angier offers a bird’s eye view. Although Angier definitely editorializes—describing cats as bored, carnivorous tourists and recreational, subsidized hunters—she raises some interesting points.

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UBC journalism students help map digital dumping grounds

The many macs of the UBC School of Journalism. Let's try to hold on to them for a long time!

The many macs of the UBC School of Journalism. Let's try to hold on to them for a long time!

“Waste is shipped here because nobody–meaning nobody in Europe or the United States–wants it in their own backyard”
~Mike Anane, Ghana-based environmental journalist

Do you ever think about e-waste? Do you wonder where your discarded cameras, cell phones, and computers go when you decide you want something spiffier?

In 2009, A team of UBC grad students tracked the trails of e-waste to three countries: Ghana, India and China. They did this as a part of the school of journalism’s international reporting course.

The students probably had no idea that they would end up discovering serious instances of cybercrime (which even put sensitive US government documents at risk) as well as exploring extreme human health risks in underprivileged communities.

Rather than re-hash their findings, I encourage you to watch their compelling documentary, which was created under the leadership of our professor, Peter Klein.

Click here to watch “Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground”

Words to the Wise

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The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.  ~Mark Twain


There are many words I can’t define.
This is disconcerting to an aspiring writer. When I come across an unfamiliar word, I pause and decide whether or not to ignore the confrontation. In fact, I used to think there was shame in not knowing but, as the saying goes, the shame is in not finding out.

I now share a recent list of words that I needed to look up, a list that I will update as often as I come across new words or remember old ones that once baffled me. Perhaps you will join me in my attempt at growing a grandiloquent vocabulary?

Click the links for pronunciation. All definitions from http://www.thefreedictionary.com

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How can I say this without offending you?

crucial conversationsI’m cleaning out my digital closet and I’ve come across a few useful notes.

A while back I read a book called  Crucial Conversations: Tools for talking when stakes are high. Indeed, figuring out how to effectively communicate sensitive messages is a vital skill (if we ever hope to get past the flushed cheeks and beating hearts).

Anyway, for what it’s worth, I thought I’d post the notes I made and spark some interest in the book and/or its raison d’etre. The notes are by no means complete–and they’re much less powerful out of context and without examples–but I think this short list still contains some useful information. Happy conversing!

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