Amazing Radio Show

October 22, 2009

I love the show Radio Lab from WNYC. Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich explore science topics with a cool attitude and an edgy sound mix. Last week they ran a show called “New Normal”. It’s a must-listen for any Robert Sapolsky fan.

If you haven’t heard of Robert Sapolsky and have any interest in Evolutionay Biology, Human Origins, Animal Behavior, life in the African bush or the effect of stress on people and animals run out and get a copy of A Primate’s Memoir: A Neuroscientist’s Unconventional Life Among the Baboons.

Actually, you should read the book and then do the radio show because the interview with Robert Sapolsky gives away the wrenching ending to A Primate’s Memoir. Anyone who has read this book – you must listen to this show. There is an incredibly uplifting revelation about how things have worked out for Sapolsky’s baboon troupe.

The 3rd segment is about the Balyaev fox breeding experiments where Dr. Balyaev bred tame foxes in 10 generations and how that changed the animals.

Direct link to download the RadioLab MP3 podcast.

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Memorium for Sophie

October 3, 2008

In late 1996, my then girlfriend, Christie, found a puppy literally crying under a bush in the Bush in West Africa. The puppy had been culled and left out to die. Christie scooped up the tiny creature whose eyes had not yet opened and took her home. She named her “Sophie Touray” after the movie, Sophie’s Choice, and the African family name she had adopted.

Sophie and Me Circa Early 2007

Sophie and Me Circa 1997

At first we fed Sophie condensed milk from a can by dripping it into her mouth with a fingertip. She quickly learned to lap from a dish. She survived and was strong. As she grew, I was so worried that we could not feed her enough to keep her alive that I put a ton of oil into her food and made her kind of fat, especially for a Sahel hound.

Sophie loved us and she kept us safe. Twice in Africa she repulsed burglars. She once attacked a huge monitor lizard that wandered into our house. We lived in terror that she would be caught eating a chicken and someone would execute her for that crime. I distinctly remember rescuing more than one very shaken but not yet dead chickens from her jaws.

We brought Sophie back with us to Washington, DC. Life was hard for here here. For two years, the three of us lived in a one room studio apartment and Sophie was alone most of the time as we joined the DC rat race. The dogs here hated her on sight for some reason and she learned to hate them right back after being attacked and seriously injured several times.

Sophie was a fierce creature with a wild heart. Perhaps because she was younger, she could accept new people when we lived in Africa. Once we moved to the States, she only ever accepted one new adult: her “uncle” Barry. She was so fierce with people and crotchety as she aged that we were worried when our first child was born. It was an enormous relief that she accepted the baby immediately. She tolerated eye pokes and nose honks without a single growl.

Sophie died suddenly and unexpectedly in the summer of 2007. She was 11 years old. We were all crushed. My children cried every day for weeks. Sophie was not the sort of dog that would be right for most people, but she was our loyal protector and sometimes our reason to carry on.

I miss her every day.