Saturday, September 15, 2007

catching up

what with feeling so sorry for myself the last few days because of a measly cold (no no no no spots) and i do actually have a temperature sniff sniff ANYWAY here are a couple of items that i want to note:

alex the parrot is dead.

this news stood out for me because the report mentioned brandeis and you know me and birds and brandeis. it also seemed to stand out for the independent:

"Alex the parrot could do a lot of things. He could count to six, and was working on counting to seven. He could name 50 objects, seven colours and five shapes. Scientists who kept him in a lab at Brandeis University near Boston, said he had the emotional maturity of a two-year-old child – they meant that as a compliment – and the intellectual capabilities of a five-year-old. He was, in short, no bird-brain. But Alex is no more. The 31-year-old African grey, one of the great treasures of US scientific research, has joined the squawking choir invisible. Last Thursday, his chief keeper, avian researcher Irene Pepperberg, said goodnight to him as always. "You be good, I love you," she said. "I'll see you tomorrow." Alex responded: "You'll be in tomorrow." But next morning he was dead in his 2ft by 3ft cage. A veterinarian who cut short her holiday so she could examine him found nothing obviously wrong."

the new york times also devoted column inches to the life of this parrot:

"In 1977, when Dr. Pepperberg, then a doctoral student in chemistry at Harvard, bought Alex from a pet store, scientists had little expectation that any bird could learn to communicate with humans, as opposed to just mimicking words and sounds. Research in other birds had been not promising. But by using novel methods of teaching, Dr. Pepperberg prompted Alex to learn scores of words, which he could put into categories, and to count small numbers of items, as well as recognize colors and shapes. “The work revolutionized the way we think of bird brains,” said Diana Reiss, a psychologist at Hunter College who works with dolphins and elephants. “That used to be a pejorative, but now we look at those brains — at least Alex’s — with some awe.”"


of course the family of ravaj has known about such things for many years, for we were once regular birdsitters for a parrot named mervyn. there are many stories about the feats of mervyn. when i find a pic of him i shall return to that subject!


ok forget about the spanking we got today but what about my yankees last night, eh? down 2-7 in the 8th inning at fenway and coming back to win 8-7!!!!!!!!

excuse me for a minute, i have to go blow my nose ...

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