Monday, February 06, 2006
After Celeste awoke and the book crowd cleared out, we headed off to the zoo for the first time in a long time. And, most excitingly, we saw The Stick himself (a.k.a. 黄油条 Huángyóu Tiáo (butterstick) or, as the zoo insists on calling him, 太山 Tài Shān). They've progressed quite a lot with the Asia Trail construction, giving viewers a much improved perspective in on the outdoor panda yards: We had a good view of all three bears and got to see some cute pawing around from The Stick.
After that, we headed down to Beaver Valley to see the seals, making a stop in the Elephant house so that Celeste could see Randle the giraffe and the Asian elephants, Kandula, Shanthi, and Ambika. I was also interested to see how the elephants were doing in the wake of Toni's death. The three elephants were together (while Toni was alive, Shanthi and Kandula were separated from Toni and Ambika), which was good to see, and they seemed to be acting fairly sedate.
Celeste was excited to see the giraffe. Randle didn't get as close as Kameel and the others did back at Thanksgiving, but Celeste had a mostly unobstructed view of a giraffe just two or three meters away and she made her kissy noise that signifies "giraffe."
Down in the valley, we were disappointed that the sea lions weren't out, that the grey seals were asleep, and that the sloth bears (who have a cub that isn't getting nearly the love from the public that The Stick is) also weren't out. The Kids' Farm was still open, however, so Celeste got some good time with a few goats, burros, cows, chickens, and ducks.
The funny thing about this trip to the zoo was that Celeste was even more interested in some of the statues in the park than the animals themselves. Sure, the giraffe caught her attention, but she started signing BEAR like crazy as we walked pass a bear statue on the way to Beaver Valley and she totally ignored the live prairie dogs behind her to pet the statues of prairie dog behavior on the edge of their enclosure ...
In the second photo (and I must say that while the camphone photos aren't the best quality, they sure are quick and easy to take and use), Celeste is signing APPLE because she wants a slice to "feed" to the statues. She did the same thing to the bear statue earlier in the day.
That evening, after Celeste went to bed, I ran out to the University of Maryland Observatory to hear a lecture by W.T. Bridgman about (mostly Young Earth) Creationist arguments about astronomy and a scientific response to them. Bridgman's made a bit of a hobby out of looking at the math and science behind the arguments and then pointing out the flaws in logic/science/nature behind them. His goal is to get science teachers to not "teach the controversy," but to teach critical thinking and to demonstrate how if argument A is correct, then all these demonstrably true things must be false.
Although dry in places, the lecture was interesting, particularly in light of this weekend's Washington Post Magazine article about evolution and its critics, especially since the Darwin/biology/evolution arguments are so out in the public eye compared to the physics, geology, and astrophysics arguments. It makes sense that those who can't accept the age of the universe is what it is would have a problem with astronomy, but I just hadn't thought about it.
The night sky was clearer than I expected, so after the talk I got to peek through the telescopes to have a good look at the surface of the half moon, as well as two views of Saturn and its rings and a sidelong look at Praesepe/the Beehive Cluster (M44).
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