Sunday 28 January 2007

A plague of crows - dead or alive

Crows get rid of rotting food; they are good for the hygiene of the city, right? Well, read on:

One day in 2001 I stood in Brighton Road, Highgate Hill, Brisbane, and looked across the patch of land which is bounded by Appel Street, Vulture Street, Franklin Street, and back to Brighton. I counted 20 crows. As anyone can confirm standing in the same place this must be on the low side because of so many blind spots. Anyway, using a street directory it turns out that the patch measures 0.15 by 0.25km, or 0.0375sqkm; in other words, there were 20 crows per 0.0375sqkm.

If we look at the map of entire Brisbane and take an area which is defined in the southeastern corner by Shailer Park, in the southwest by Redbank, and in the northwest by Bray Park, we get a rectangle which has its northeastern tip over the water somewhere off Mud Island. But that's fine since we left out large sections in the east towards Redland Bay and in the north towards Redcliffe; therefore the resultant 1000sqkm would be on the conservative side. Dividing those 1000 by 0.0375 (the Highgate Hill patch) gives us 26,667, and multiplying this figure by 20 (the number of crows counted) results in 533,333 crows for the Brisbane area.

Now we know that crows can live to the age of 35, but assuming a median value of 25 years seems reasonable since we are dealing with animals in the wild. Therefore we can say that it takes approximately 25 years for over 500,000 birds to die off. Divide 533,333 by 25 and we get 21,333, which is the number of crows dying every year; this means 1778 crows per month. If the average crow weighs 0.55kg, the above amount translates to 978kg.

It is believed that in Brisbane the crow population has reached its plateau, although the last ten years saw a dramatic increase in their numbers. Let's say this happened five years ago, in which case every single month from about 2025 onwards the people of Brisbane will endure a mass of dead crow flesh to the tune of almost one ton spread across their city.

There you have it. The above assumes the birth and death rates are steady, but they are not if the population is still rising. This may well be the case because the human population is increasing and the main food source for the birds is the rubbish we generate. Then these figures are just the start and a larger fallout from their corpses is yet to come. And by the way, there are many areas where the pro rata crow numbers would be much greater. For example, there once was a colony of about 50 crows in one (!) of the trees at the University of Queensland.

Feel free to check the figures for accuracy.

By the way, so far there has been no response from the Lord Mayor or from Professor Jones.

And here's something else:

As it happens, on Friday 26th the Brisbane metropolitan daily, The Courier Mail, ran an article about sounds painful to humans, "Vomiting tops the sound of pain list". As the title suggests, regurgitating is the most repulsive of them all. Professor Trevor Cox from the University of Salford in the UK did not include crows in his survey, otherwise the birds' ability to simulate the gagging sound immediately preceeding the actual vomiting would have featured as well. It's part of their repertoire.

Monday 22 January 2007

In the name of the Crow: human abuse

One example of an incongruent system sitting uncomfortably within a larger domain is the status of the Torresian Crow in Queensland, Australia, more particularly in the Brisbane metropolitan region.

These crows are a protected species because they are deemed to be indigenous and seen as a valuable player within the environment. Fines for killing the birds can reach up to A$225,000 or two years' jail. The official justification for their protection is based on the argument that the crows are scavengers which dispose of garbage and therefore contribute to a cleaner environment around the suburbs.

Over the years they have become an issue because of the loud noise they make. A single bird can produce up to 82 decibels, not far from the 85db considered to be harmful for humans under prolonged exposure. In more practical terms this means a crow 20m away from a window and cawing away makes it impossible to understand the other party on the phone. Naturally, there could be many more birds in nearby trees. In summer they begin their ruckus from about half past four in the morning onwards and so make sure humans within hearing distance get woken up regularly every day of the week. From then on during the ensuing daylight hours the noise can last for half an hour, one hour, or two hours etc depending on their whim. By the way, the decibel data come from Associate Professor Darryl Jones, Director of the Centre for Innovative Conservation Strategies at Griffith University, Brisbane, a staunch defender of the bird's current status.

The Torresian Crow occupies a region stretching from the tip of Cape York in Queensland down to northern New South Wales along the eastern seaboard (a north-south distance of nearly 3000km) and latitudinally right across the upper half of the continent to the coast of Western Australia, (details - you can even download its call there and test it out on yourself making sure the volume is up). Over the last ten years the numbers have increased dramatically in the greater Brisbane metropolitan area and a conservative estimate would put them at about 4-500,000. Therefore extinction is not exactly an issue.

Regarding their noise, although being woken up very now and then may not be that significant, having to endure this treatment day after day does affect the sleeping patterns of humans. Sleep deprivation has been identified as a form of torture by the United Nations and prolonged lack of sleep is considered detrimental to one's physical and mental well-being, comparable to illegal levels of alcohol in one's blood and even leading to psychotic states (details).

Let me state my personal interest in all this: I am one of those affected, but given their distribution across the Brisbane area there would be thousands of others in a similar situation (and no, as of now I haven't reached a psychotic state).

Furthermore, the Brisbane City Council issues several guidelines for noise levels that justify complaints. The maximum levels for inside the house are 20 to 30db, for daytime in a quiet residential street they are 35 to 45db, for a large busy office they are 50 to 60db, and for lawn mowers from 15m away they have been set at 70db - all well below the possible 82db from crows.

How then can an academic stand by his stance resulting in a situation that invited the label of torture by the UN and has been deemed leading to major pathological conditions by medical experts in the field? Or for that matter, how can a city council have a law against behaviour that goes against established standards when the culprits are human but actually enforces non-compliance through much more stringent legislation when even worse is committed by certain wildlife?

As to their assumed waste disposal function, what do cities do which have no crows, or what did Brisbane do before the numbers escalated? And in any case, in regions around the world where garbage is left for animals to deal with the state of hygiene overall is precarious precisely for that reason - exactly the opposite of the claims given to us by our local officials.

To answer these questions a letter each is sent to Professor Darryl Jones and the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Campbell Newman, referring to the above.

It is rational to be concerned about the environment, but the movement has sprouted a form of religion. Without that idiosyncrasy the crow problem could have been dealt with by now.

Brisbane is by no means alone. Below are just a handful of links out of hundreds, if not thousands.

Towns try new ways to fight annual invasion

Many cities have tried poisoning or shooting the birds, prompting protests. Some are trying more humane methods this year.

New earplugs isolate specific noise

Continual exposure to more than 85 decibels may cause hearing loss; pain starts at about 130.

Singapore home to 100,000 crows

Singapore is under siege by a huge flock of crows that is causing noise problems in the city's many high-rise apartment blocks.

City looking into crow problem

Officials with the city have requested an investigation into possible ways to change the roosting patterns of crows in our area.

Japan Crow Observation Logs

Other great cities battle rats or pigeons. But the scourge of Tokyo is crows.

Nothing to CROW about yet!

Just poison them already....

The Crow Must Go

Although there are relatively large numbers of house crows in the Metro area (and further afield), it is still possible to control their numbers effectively, although at this stage total eradication would be preferred.

Blackbirds and Blackbird-like Birds

The main concern about crows is their huge roosts, especially when these roosts are located near residential areas.

Emotion and identification of environmental sounds and electroencephalographic activity.

Even when the loudness and frequency component of the sounds were equivalent, there was big difference in pleasantness-unpleasantness estimation among the environmental sounds.

Bird Control

They will literally overwhelm trees and buildings creating tremendous noise pollution while harassing both people and animals in the area.

Defeating decibels - noise pollution - Greenwatch

More than a third of the 400 million inhabitants of the OECD countries are exposed to a daily dose of 65 dB, an unacceptably high level; 200 million live in an uncomfortable sound environment.

Crows: A 'nuisance' but one smart creature

No single solution, including poisoning with the compound DRC-1339 (currently under consideration by the City of Terre Haute), has yet proven effective.


Common problems regarding crows include: noise; damage to gardens, agricultural crops and trash.

Ann Arbor crows return in time for the holidays.

The crows may not be dangerous, but they are annoying, says U-M pest specialist Dale Hodgson, who has worked with Parr on the crow problem in Ann Arbor for the last three years.

Controlling Crows

It seems you have learned first hand why the North American migratory bird act needs to be modified.

Dispersal of Blackbirds, Crows, and Starlings from Urban Roosts

# Odor, noise, filth # Droppings deface equipment # Damage to trees # Health concerns - Histoplasmosis:

Pest Bird Species Crows

When crows are in their flocking phase, thousands of these very noisy pest birds can literally overwhelm trees or buildings in an area, creating a tremendous amount of noise and harassing both people and animals in the area.

As the Crow Flies

They roost on power lines, foul the sidewalks with excrement and pollute the air with a loathsome, sleep-killing wall of noise.

Get rid of Crows?

i'll tell ya whatcha need some rat poinson and some garbage....problem solved

Sunday 14 January 2007

What's the main message?

When it comes to the sustainability and/or survival of a system, especially of the type addressed in the context of cognitive dynamics under Otoom, several criteria become apparent:

- the more harmonious the system is within itself, the greater the potential for growth; or, the larger the system the greater the need for congruence within its domains (in other words, rational thinking is favoured over ideology);

- it is a measure of a system's quality whether it is capable of organising itself according to the above;

- the larger the extent of a system's congruent domains, the higher the probability that useful information can be gathered, processed, and disseminated;

- in addition, the larger the extent the higher the probability of useful abstraction processes taking place, which in turn feed back into the general information stream;

- defining a system's value in terms of the above, its inherent potential is directly proportional to: (1) the environmental resources, (2) the number of functional elements, (3) the inherent variance of those elements, (4) the degree of connectivity between its elements, (5) the variance of its informational units (in other words, the units' granularity in relation to the entire information volume).

Expressed less technically it means that a large-scale population in a resource-rich environment, its members understanding each other with reference to commonly recognised standards, a well-organised infrastructure covering education, health, and welfare, a minimal amount of censorship, a self-administered control over the growth of ideology, and a lively language, are the recipe for long-term success.

All of these criteria are independent of what has been termed culture or race under conventional views. For that reason the term 'demographic' is preferred since it refers to what a domain actually does at the moment of observation, rather than what some label presumes it would do.

It shouldn't be too hard to find examples of viable systems and others more or less dysfunctional.

Sunday 7 January 2007

It's not a philosophy!

Otoom is not a philosophy!

It describes the underlying dynamics that make up the mind, and it enables an observer to analyse their occurrences in the real world.

Hence a particular scenario is not identified in the positive or negative because of one's culture, religion, or personality. Under Otoom, what is functional or dysfunctional depends on that dynamic's situatedness within its domain. As always, this goes for any scale.

The application of Otoom sits atop culture, religion, or personal preferences. Just as electricity behaves the same regardless of who the user is.

Under the auspices of Otoom large or small behaviour opens itself up to scrutiny: The West, the Iraq war, religion, morals, how we digest the news, women and men (why do they bother??)... and much more.

Monday 1 January 2007

What to do?

What to do when you've discovered how the mind works? For so long many have argued about its nature and processes, and what it all means.
Let's be clear on this. I am not talking about the brain, that physical mush consisting of billions of highly interconnected cells. The mind is the system that sits above the bio-mass and comes into being once those cells act according to their dynamics. The result too has its dynamics; they can be observed, defined, analysed.
What happens in detail is explained on the Otoom website. Here's a very general description. Think of the entire system as a dynamic entity consisting of smaller units, they in turn made up of smaller units again... and all of them capable of receiving signals, responding to them, and sending out more to each other and beyond. The whole scenario resembles a vibrant, flexible feedback loop which continues for as long as we are alive.
Is there any rule set that governs the system? Yes - it relates to the playing out of affinity relationships in terms of attractor-type behaviour in the context of chaos. Hence the Otoom emblem is the fractal to the right.
As far as human behaviour is concerned, from an individual's thought structures to group behaviour to society and culture at large, what has been described above holds at any scale - but in the realm of chaos one would expect that. In fact, this would be the major proof the Otoom model is valid.
Obviously such knowledge has ramifications. It becomes possible to examine our behaviour at varying scales and test it for its ultimate usefulness. But what is 'useful'?
The only definition that makes sense in the long run is this: a culture works if it has managed to settle into a harmonious state within itself.
Just as a bicycle can afford to be slightly wobbly but a high-performance car can definitely not, so can smaller groups afford to be idiosyncratic but larger ones must be more rational. The adherence to ideology is a major obstacle to growth and cohesion.
Since it's all scalable, any system can be considered as part of a still larger one, and so the same considerations apply. Domains co-exist harmoniously or they grate against each other to the point where one may get destroyed. Under Parallels over 140 examples from around the world are listed that show how this works.
The more time goes by the more apparent it becomes how important this kind of information actually is. Therefore the question: what to do with it?