Friday, August 19, 2016

10 fascinating facts about ravens

Edgar Allan Poe knew what he was doing when he used the raven instead of some other bird to croak out “nevermore” in his famous poem. The raven has long been associated with death and dark omens, but the real bird is somewhat of a mystery. Unlike its smaller cousin the crow, not a lot has been written about this remarkable bird. 


When it comes to intelligence, these birds rate up there with chimpanzees and dolphins. In one logic test, the raven had to get a hanging piece of food by pulling up a bit of the string, anchoring it with its claw, and repeating until the food was in reach. Many ravens got the food on the first try, some within 30 seconds. In the wild, ravens have pushed rocks on people to keep them from climbing to their nests, stolen fish by pulling a fishermen’s line out of ice holes, and played dead beside a beaver carcass to scare other ravens away from a delicious feast. If a raven knows another raven is watching it hide its food, it will pretend to put the food in one place while really hiding it in another. Since the other ravens are smart too, this only works sometimes.


In captivity, ravens can learn to talk better than some parrots. They also mimic other noises, like car engines, toilets flushing, and animal and birdcalls. Ravens have been known to imitate wolves or foxes to attract them to carcasses that the raven isn’t capable of breaking open. When the wolf is done eating, the raven gets the leftovers.


Many European cultures took one look at this large black bird with an intense gaze and thought it was evil in the flesh … er, feather. In France, people believed ravens were the souls of wicked priests, while crows were wicked nuns. In Germany, ravens were the incarnation of damned souls or sometimes Satan himself. In Sweden, ravens that croaked at night were thought to be the souls of murdered people who didn’t have proper Christian burials. And in Denmark, people believed that night ravens were exorcized spirits, and you’d better not look up at them in case there was a hole in the bird’s wing, because you might look through the hole and turn into a raven yourself.


Cultures from Tibet to Greece have seen the raven as a messenger for the gods. Celtic goddesses of warfare often took the form of ravens during battles. The Viking god, Odin, had two ravens, Hugin (thought) and Munin (memory), which flew around the world every day and reported back to Odin every night about what they saw. The Chinese said ravens caused bad weather in the forests to warn people that the gods were going to pass by. And some Native American tribes worshipped the raven as a deity in and of itself. Called simply Raven, he is described as a sly trickster who is involved in the creation of the world.


The Native Americans weren’t far off about the raven’s mischievous nature. They have been observed in Alaska and Canada using snow-covered roofs as slides. In Maine, they have been seen rolling down snowy hills. They often play keep-away with other animals like wolves, otters, and dogs. Ravens even make toys—a rare animal behavior—by using sticks, pinecones, golf balls, or rocks to play with each other or by themselves. And sometimes they just taunt or mock other creatures because it’s funny.


They lie in anthills and roll around so the ants swarm on them, or they chew the ants up and rub their guts on their feathers. The scientific name for this is called “anting.” Songbirds, crows, and jays do it too. The behavior is not well understood; theories range from the ants acting as an insecticide and fungicide for the bird to ant secretion soothing a molting bird’s skin to the whole performance being a mild addiction. One thing seems clear, though: anting feels great if you’re a bird.


It turns out that ravens make “very sophisticated nonvocal signals,” according to researchers. In other words, they gesture to communicate. A study in Austria found that ravens point with their beaks to indicate an object to another bird, just as we do with our fingers. They also hold up an object to get another bird’s attention. This is the first time researchers have observed naturally occurring gestures in any animal other than primates.


Evolutionarily speaking, the deck is stacked in the raven’s favor. They can live in a variety of habitats, from snow to desert to mountains to forests. They are scavengers with a huge diet that includes fish, meat, seeds, fruit, carrion, and garbage. They are not above tricking animals out of their food—one raven will distract the other animal, for example, and the other will steal its food. They have few predators and live a long time: 17 years in the wild and up to 40 years in captivity.


Despite their mischievous nature, ravens seem capable of feeling empathy. When a raven’s friend loses in a fight, they will seem to console the losing bird. They also remember birds they like and will respond in a friendly way to certain birds for at least three years after seeing them. (They also respond negatively to enemies and suspiciously to strange ravens.) Although a flock of ravens is called an “unkindness,” the birds appear to be anything but.


Ravens mate for life and live in pairs in a fixed territory. When their children reach adolescence, they leave home and join gangs, like every human mother’s worst nightmare. These flocks of young birds live and eat together until they mate and pair off. Interestingly, living among teenagers seems to be stressful for the raven. Scientists have found higher levels of stress hormones in teenage raven droppings than in the droppings of mated adults. It’s never easy being a teenage rebel.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Underachieving can be ok

via: by: Ananya Pattnaik

It doesn’t take a life-altering epiphany for most people to become aware of just how “common they are,” to know that you might not be the best at anything. I grew up in a generation of overachievers, in a world littered with benchmarks for everybody’s self-worth, where people eagerly step on one another to get to the top. Meanwhile, I mastered the knack of being idle on my couch, binge-watching unremarkable TV shows, and gorging myself on cold Chinese food.
In today’s world, being ordinary is almost equivalent to being a nobody.
Some people are the flawless embodiment of perfection. They walk through life as though they owned the world and have all the answers. I am not one of them. I do not have a defining talent. I am not the prettiest one in class, or the smartest, or the funniest. I don’t even know enough curse words to be an intimidating badass, nor am I charismatic enough to be a girl-next-door. I see myself oscillating between personas now and then, wearing whichever suits me best in any given situation. I don’t know what people remember me by when they meet me for the first time. I don’t know what I would like them to remember me by. I don’t know whether I say what naturally comes to my mind during interactions or what the other person expects to hear. Most of my life has been like living in a haze, trying to grasp portions of something tangible and real. My mind is a jumble of jigsaw pieces I can barely piece together, so much so that I am confused as to how I should scale my own value. I don’t know whether it’s jealousy for the ones who are gifted or a plain lack of self-esteem.
Still, I give myself credit where it’s due. I know the world is full of possibilities and that I won’t end up being an unemployed gambler on the run – knock on wood. I may even do pretty well in life. What are the odds for someone as average as me to, say, star in a movie or climb a mountain? How likely is it that they will name a constellation after me or write a biography for me? But do I even want this? Not really.
The fact that I am aware of my limitations can also mean that I have more clues as to what direction to head in. Before I attempt to strive for anything, I am confronted with a reality check. I amend my bucket list every now and then, convincing myself that I am a pragmatist. It is not even sad. It’s that feeling you get when you have a superior sibling or your friend wins a lottery.

Monday, August 1, 2016

How to get out of bed and do something

via: artparasites by: Alexandru Alec

All of us want something. We have dreams that are more or less clear, desires that burn our insides, and objectives we reach for. But instead of burning passionately towards our dreams, we are slow, sluggish, and, all too often, we just give up.
This happens because our generation has a big problem with motivation.
We complain about what the world looks like when we could change it. We refrain from actually doing things because of this frustrating feeling of lack of motivation: the one that keeps us scrolling down our Facebook feeds, glued to our bed, in a state limbo, between misery and joy, in a false comfort zone.
Still, we all have goals. Or at least I hope we all still have them. And therein lies the secret for solving this motivation crisis.
Even if the thing you desire is money – as un-romantic as it sounds – that craving can unleash a power inside you, whether you want a lot of money or just enough to have a big happy family.

Whatever you crave, use it to get moving. It sounds simple and logical, but so many people talk themselves out of it. They use arguments such as, “You know, I would like to be a doctor but I don’t like studying for days and taking exams.”
It would not be a goal if it were easy to achieve; you would already have it. We want things but we do not like the work. It’s time to understand that hustling is part of the goal.
For example, let’s suppose you really want to get home and, to get there, you need to take the bus. The bus is slow, packed, and hot inside, which makes you hate taking it. If you really want to get home, you take it anyway. You do it because you think about the goal, not about the hustle.
When you feel like you have no motivation, think about the goal. Don’t think about why you started, because you might be in a completely different situation now. Think about what you are doing and what you are doing it for. And then simply do it.
It will be easier some days and very hard other days, but never lose sight of what you want. Go at full speed, with everything you have.
Motivation comes from within. I can tell you what to do, but I cannot want it for you. Once you train your motivation it will be much easier for you to find it again on days when you really feel empty.
It’s about cultivating a sort of hunger. Hunger for knowledge, hunger for better, longer lasting love, hunger for change, hunger to be a better person. If you grow that type of hunger, the motivation will come to help you satisfy it.
Another place you could find inspiration is time. We are here for such a brief period and we have no power to go back and change how we acted. Do what you feel like you will appreciate looking back on towards the end of your life. Of course, in 5 years it may seem that what you were sure was the right thing wasn’t. It’s okay to fail as long as you get better at it. It’s okay to believe in something and still fail, as long as you try even harder the next time.
Perhaps the real problem our generations have is that we don’t want to set goals and we don’t want to cultivate that hunger. So many of us feel like everything has already been done, everything has been discovered, painted, written, invented, loved.
And yet we complain about the lack of great lovers, honest leaders, a book about this, a painting expressing that. There is always need for talent in this world. Always. There are so many things that need changing and so many issues to solve.
Stop wasting time doing things that don’t make you happy but merely make you feel less bored. Learn that language you want to learn, write that book you’ve been thinking about, and finish that project you were working on. Stay hungry!
Now, go change the world in your way.