Nov 30, 2012


I'm just on a roll lately.  Yesterday I finished my lineup of eight bears.  Today I finished my lineup of five rhinos!  Rhinos are totally fascinating and totally weird.  Also, almost all of the species are about to go extinct, which is really sad.

But, again, before the drawings, her are some facts about rhinos:
  • The name, "rhinoceros" comes from the Greek ῥῑνόκερως, meaning (go figure) nose-horn.
  • The closest relatives of rhinos are tapirs and horses.
  • The woolly rhino, one of the last of the great ice age megafauna, probably survived until around 8,000 years ago.  When it died out, humans had just started to get the hang of agriculture.
  • Rhino horns are made, not of ivory or bone, but of keratin, the same material as your hair and fingernails.
  • The first rhino to be seen in Europe since ancient times went on tour in 1515.  It died in a shipwreck at sea while being transported to its next stop, but not before being sketched for posterity.  It took over two hundred more years for another rhinoceros to make it there.

And, so, here's the lineup of the five extant species of rhinoceros:

Indian Rhinoceros

The Indian, or "Great One-Horned", Rhinoceros lives in (surprise!) India.  It and the white rhino vie for the top spot as the biggest species.  It is the second largest species in Asia, behind the Asian elephant.  It is notable for its skin folds, which look like armor.  It's estimated that around 1910 there were only around 100 left in the world.  There are now around 3,000.

Javan Rhinoceros

The Javan Rhinoceros (or "Lesser One-Horned Rhino") once lived throughout the large Indonesian islands and southeast Asia, but it is now the rarest large mammal in the world, with an estimated population of only around forty individuals.  It is part of the same genus as the Indian rhino and looks very similar, though it is quite a bit smaller.  There were formerly three distinct subspecies, but the Indian population died off in the 1920s, and the last of the Vietnamese population was killed by a poacher in 2010.

Sumatran Rhinoceros

The Sumatran Rhinoceros is the most distinct of the five species.  It is by far the smallest, and it is easily identified by its reddish coloration and the shaggy fur on its body.  It is most closely related to the extinct woolly rhinos of the Ice Age.  Like the Javan Rhino, it is also critically endangered, with a wild population estimated at around 200 individuals.

Black Rhinoceros
The Black Rhinoceros is one of the two African rhinos.  Its name is actually somewhat of a mistake, as explained below with the White Rhinoceros.  It was once found across western and southeastern Africa, but by the past decade, its numbers had dwindled (through hunting) from the hundreds of thousands to around 2,000.  The western subspecies was declared extinct in 2011.

White Rhinoceros
The White Rhinoceros is actually mistakenly named.  "White" is a mistaken English transliteration of the Afrikaans word "wijd" (meaning "wide"), a reference not to the animal's color, but to its wide upper lip, used for grazing.  This, as opposed to the black rhino's pointed upper lip, used for browsing leaves off trees.  Because it was deemed white, the other species in Africa was called 'black'.  White rhinos are one of the few success stories in the rhino world, having been hunted almost to extinction, but with a population now over 17,000.  However, the northern subspecies (which some have argued is its own distinct species) is almost certainly extinct in the wild, with only captive breeding programs maintaining its existence.

The full lineup

Nov 29, 2012


 So I was doing some bear designs, because bears come in all shapes and sizes.  But before the drawings, her are some fun bear facts:

  • There are only eight species of bears (more on that below)
  • There are 16 subspecies of brown bear, though some argue that there should be as many as 90
  • There is one subspecies of brown bear (the Tibetan blue bear) that has never been photographed before
  • Bears' closest taxonomic relatives are dogs, raccoons, and seals
  • Adult male bears are called 'boars' and females are called 'sows,' like pigs.  Cubs are called 'cubs'.

Sloth Bear

Sloth bears live throughout India.  They are highly likely to attack humans, and don't have particularly good relationships with other predators of India: tigers and leopards will attack them, elephants won't allow them into their territory, and rhinos will charge them.  Baloo from The Jungle Book, while described as a 'brown bear,' displays all the behaviors (and lives in the range) of a sloth bear.

Giant Panda

Giant pandas have only recently been added to the list of bears, after having been originally put in that category, then removed (and placed with raccoons).  DNA testing has shown that they are probably a breakaway from the South American spectacled bear.  They have a 'false thumb' that allows them to hold the bamboo they eat.

Sun Bear

Sun bears are the smallest member of the bear family, found across southeast Asia.  They are sometimes bred as pets, due to their docile nature. 

Asian Black Bear

Described by Rudyard Kipling as "the most bizarre of the ursine species," Asian black bears are very closely related to the American black bear.  They are arboreal, having strong upper bodies with which they climb trees.  While they are more agressive than most Eurasian bears, they are also the most regularly tamed for use in circuses.

Brown Bear (Grizzly)

The brown bear is the largest land-based predator in the world and is spread across North American and Eurasia.  It comes in many sizes, varieties, and forms, from the smallish Syrian brown bear, to the huge Kodiak bear, to the shaggy, desert-dwelling Gobi bear.  It was the only bear species found in Africa until the late 1800's, when the African subspecies (the Atlas bear) was hunted to extinction.

American Black Bear

American black bears are found throughout North America.  They are medium-sized and rather docile. Their color actually ranges, from black (usually) to brown (sometimes) to blond (rarely).

Spectacled Bear

The spectacled bear (or Andean bear) lives in the Andes mountains.  It's the closest relative to the prehistoric short-faced bears.  They are docile and mostly herbivorous (they eat small amounts of meat).  The most famous spectacled bear (though I didn't know it until today) is the marmalade-sandwich-eating, British children's storybook bear Paddington.

Polar Bear

The polar bear is the largest bear species in the world.  It is entirely carnivorous (rare for bears) and has an incredibly sensitive sense of smell, which allows it to sense seals in dens between the ice and snow of the arctic.  They stay warm with up to 4 inches of blubber and thick underlayers of fur.

The full lineup: eight species of bears from around the world

Nov 13, 2012

Better Late Than Never

The series of elections across these United States is now over, but that doesn't stop me from finally seeing some of the political ads (yay for not having a TV!  One trip to the gym the day before the election had enough ads on the treadmill TV for a lifetime).  This one is pretty clever.  It's to remind people to vote in the 'non-partisan' section of the Michigan ballot, and it managed to get pretty much the whole cast of The West Wing back together.

My only question is, did all these people like this lady so much to do this pro bono, or did the candidate shell out a ton of money to get pretty much every actor from the show (Charlie seems to be the only major one missing)?

I guess my other question is: did she win?

Nov 6, 2012

Happy Election Day!

UPDATE: I was right on the electoral winner, wrong on the numbers, and wrong on the popular vote.  Romney got walloped.  Count me as one of the people who didn't expect African-American, Hispanic, and youth turnout to be as high as 2008.  Turns out, it was.

Also, fun fact--Barack Obama is the first president since Andrew Jackson to win reelection with a smaller share of the vote than when he won it the first time.  Weird, huh?

Carrying forward the American tradition literally as old as the Republic itself, we get to go choose a leader today.  Even Civil War couldn't stop it from happening.  Be sure to take the time to get out there and cast your ballots!

Here's my guess, for the little it's worth, and because prognostication is fun.  I think Romney wins the popular vote by a slim margin (1-2%), but I think in the electoral game, Obama has the edge.  Romney fails to succeed in wooing enough of the Rust Belt, so while they teeter on the edge, Ohio and Pennsylvania go barely to Obama.  Wisconsin does the same.  Romney pulls Florida and Virginia, plus surprises everyone with New Hampshire and Iowa.  He also gets Colorado.  Obama carries Nevada.  In the end, by a squeaker, it's 271-267, Obama.

I can also see the distinct possibility of either an Obama electoral blowout (over 300 EV's), as predicted by the poll averages right now, or a surprise clear win by Romney (but I have a hard time seeing a route for him to get over 300 EV's).

UPDATED PREDICTION: Nothing to do with who will win, but what happens after.  If Obama wins, there will be at least one article in the next week or two asking whether incumbency is so powerful to make a challenge impossible in the modern era (after all, if he wins, then there won't have been a losing incumbent since 1992).

Basically, like everyone else, I just don't know.

Also, looking up the election of 1864 (during the Civil War), I found this hilarious poster (published by Lincoln's allies as a 'this-is-what-will-happen-if-you-elect-my-opponent' thing).  These things never change, huh?

Nov 1, 2012

Spa Day

November 1 is All Saints Day.  No better way to spend it than as a Japanese Macaque, relaxing in your snowy spa.

Yeah, that segue made no sense.

How about this one: today I started listening to Christmas music, like a happy monkey in a snowy spa...?

Nope.  Still doesn't make much sense.

Either way, I drew this today: