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Sunday, August 17, 2014

League Assignment: Comparrot and Con(ure)trast- Human vs Avian Intelligence     

     Let me say, by way of introduction that the words "compare and contrast" give me a twinge of 30 year old dread from my high school days. I feel like I suck at these types of writing, which is all the more reason to do it. I have been thinking a lot about avian intelligence, lately, both in terms of my housemates and birds I have experienced in stories or on videos

     Human Intelligence has reshaped the world. Where it is too cold to live, we build houses and install furnaces. Where it is too hot, we put in air conditioning...air conditioning- even the name talks about our attitude: we are just making the air tolerable. If where we are going is too far to walk, we learned to ride another creature or build a vehicle with "horsepower". To equalize conflicts with larger creatures, we threw rocks, and then made better and better rock throwers, like guns and bows. Where we want to go, we have laid paths. To tell us what paths to take, we have made maps and GPS units. To tell the time, we have made digital watches. To communicate abstract concepts, we have made an abstract language...lots of them in fact. We cluster together in colonies and Compete with our neighbors for status, better living space and more stuff

     Our intelligence seems to be based on our ability to imagine things that are not real. in some cases it leads us to make real what we imagined, such as a new tool, or a piece of fiction. In some cases it leads us to firmly believe in things for which there is no evidence, like "justice" or "truth" or "the American way". We have evolved to realize the ideal and to idealize the unreal.

     A Parrot or a Corvid is about as smart as a human toddler, as a point of reference. they can learn a large number of sounds, mimic a large number of words, and in many cases have a good grasp of the meaning of those words they have learned. Their play is imaginative, and in some cases seems highly complex. They are in many cases able to use simple tools, and to find efficient and swift methods for breaking our tools, such as de-keying a keyboard or shredding a laptops power cord to turn our attention back from such a device. I know that my bird seems to learn vocabulary like a human child does- repetition, imitation, and figuring out context- Depending on his mood and wants, I might be "daddy", "hey Shawn" or just "HEY!". I have a theory(not backed by any actual science, just anecdotal) that he has precise quartz time measuring equipment in his belly. This is mainly backed by the fact that he always knows mealtimes to the minute, and exactly when one is late.

     My observation tends to support avian intelligence being of a more pragmatic nature. they learn first what they need to survive. Even picking up words, which seems whimsical, is done to focus our attention on them, or to show off for other birds and increase their status. I know my conure trades noises with the neighborhood magpies, and my roommate has observed the magpies leading their young in "cool noise practice". One of the young magpies followed that teaching up by driving off a flock of attacking blackbirds with a hawks cry. To live in hostile environments, Birds can copy the successful strategies other birds that live there, or attach themselves to a flock that is unlike them, either other birds, or in the case of my parrot, to humans(oh, yes, I bought my bird, which is exactly what he planned to have happen). there are multiple reported cases of wild cockatoos adopting themselves into human homes in Australia, for a season at least, in order to have an easy ride and free meals. The biggest problem with pelican rescues is not keeping the injured birds in-it is keeping the uninjured birds out when they get the idea that other birds are getting "three hots and a cot"


     To Conclude, I started this off talking about how I was doing this despite the fact that this type of writing dredges up old fears. Fear is a perfectly rational response, even if it is a fear of irrational things, like essays. As humans, we try to control our fear responses, to belittle them, and sometimes force ourselves onto dangerous ground to prove our courage. Courage is another one of those little Ideals we treat as a real thing. Birds...well birds react to their fear. They flee, or gang up on a predator and chase it off, but they never try to pretend the fear isn't there or that it's something silly.

     It leaves me a little unsure as to which of us is truly the smarter

for more on birds- 

A few of my Co-leaguers had their own comparisons and contrast
Culturally Significant used the Venn Diagram to show us Pop Culture juggernauts old and new

Pop Rewind Compared Ytv with Nickelodeon with a little side of Canada vs USA

Brian from Cool and Collected compared the old and new of those "Damned, Dirty Apes"- Chuck Heston was not harmed in his post

Retro Robot Review gave us the turtles, through the years, in pictures

The Man who Stares at Toys gives us what I know as Jetfire, but you may call a Veritech Fighter

Kalem Klub touches base with the old Twilight Zone and the New one


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  2. Shawn,
    Normally I'd read a post like this and write, "Nice post," in the comments. You asked me to grade this blog entry, "I really want you to give it a grade." So, to fulfill your request, that's what I'm going to do. BUT keep in mind what you do with this information depends on what YOU want to do with this post.

    Pass Go - It's good enough to stand on its own. Don't do anything. This is a standard blog post. (Grade +)


    IF you want to do more with this piece work on it as if you were working towards publication for a viewpoint essay. Then take the next steps.

    1. Project Piece - Store it away for late and work on the fleshing the essay out more. Also work on flow and the 'near to far' aspects when the need to creatively write hits. There's technically no clear voice in this and no clear thrust, and some of the examples are just stuck in there. There is also some subject confusion in a few of the paragraphs. Obviously a rough draft.

    Once you're done playing with it and get serious about publishing this piece it becomes a:

    2. Portfolio Piece - Play with word substitutions and paragraph flow. Also, start looking for venues to submit this through. (Keep in mind this is currently considered a previously published essay at this point.) Edit, edit, edits and slave away at getting it just right.

    IF you do decide to work more on it, and get stuck, take it to Niece Megan (not Brat Megan) to help move forward with it. I heard a rumor Niece Megan is a teacher ;)

    If I had to put a grade on this as it stands right now (on 8/19/2014) the grade would be a 'D'. Too much work needs to be done on it.