Monthly Archives: July 2020

Investors’ Obstacle Course


Original YT playout date: 26 January 2009
Duration: 6:11

We took part in this conference, organised by http://www.warsawvoice.com, the leading English language newspaper in Poland. My article was in this week’s edition, connected with the theme of the conference, which we were silver sponsors for. About 150 people heard prestigious speakers talk about the investment climate and the things Poland still has to offer even in today’s downturn.
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Sophie plays her variations on a theme by ABBA


Original YT playout date: 25 January 2009
Duration: 10:59

I don’t really teach my kid music, it’s enough to allow her to teach herself! Anyway, that’s how I learnt.
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The truth about the Corvid-19 and what you need to know – part 7. Some secrets never to be told


My delay in getting through the series of nineteen Corvidae members, also known as “the Corvid 19” is only dragging out the pandemic as initially it was supposed to be one a week, but there was also supposed to be vaccine by now so I am not the only one with a delay on their hands.

Today, however, we move to one of the best known and most iconic Corvids, the unmistakable Eurasian magpie. And we are going to be finding out some little-known facts about this well-known bird, including the fact that the name is actually highly sexist and chauvinistic, if you get into the etymology of it.

Thanks to Stefania.foto6 for this photo given a CC licence on wikicommons. https://www.flickr.com/photos/183980745@N04/

As usual the information is being put together in a table for so as to allow an easier summary at the end of the series. I am still thinking about publishing a fine “Corvid 19” wall chart in time for the end of the pandemic.

And if there is a second wave, I may need to do a Cervid-19 also, but I will pay deerly for such a project.

Common Name Magpie
Other names Pie (the original name, see below)
German Elster
French Pie bavarde
Russian Соро́ка
Polish Sroka zwyczajna
Scientific Name Pica pica
Number of species in the genus 7
Number of subspecies in this species 6
Literal meaning of Scientific name “Pica” is the Latin name of the Eurasian magpie, as attested in Latin literature. Greek has Karakaxa, which could have been selected, but wasn’t.
Described by Linnaeus 1758, but as Corvus Pica. The genus Pica was later posited by Mathurin Jacques in 1760. Previously Conrad Gessner had described the magpie in his 1555 work Historia animalium, a classic f renaissance zoology, but not in the binomial system, which it predates.
First attested in literature Well before Gessner there are mentions of magpies in the classical literature. It is part of the folklore of many countries and is the only one of the Corvid 19 to have had an opera written about it, La gazza ladra, the Thieving Magpie, by Rossini.
Wingspan (cm) 62
Length bill to tail (cm) 46 (long tail, half the length of the bird)
Distribution The species covers all of Europe and most of Asia in a band across Russia below the permafrost, except in Kamchatka, shich has its own subspecies. In total there are 6 subspecies, and these differ little between themselves
Remarks The magpie is consider the most intelligent bird given that it alone among the birds passes the “Mirror test” for self-recognition. It is known for its iconic black and white markings which gave rise to the term “pied” for other similar markings, like the pied wagtail of Hamelin. The actual term was just “pies” which the “mag” term from ‘Maggie Thatcher” referred to the resenblance of the vocalisations to those of a nagging woman. It is reather a chauvinistic name and this as well as being both black and white are likley to make this species endangered in a leftist world like this is, where sense is ended before it’s begun.
Migrations Only minor within the range of subspecies.
Sexual dimorphism Barely noticeable
Close relatives There are five other species in the Genus Pica, of which the Hudson magpie is very similar and also regarded as a spirit animal as the Eurasian one in ancient Germanic mythology, by the First Nations people. The yellow billed magpie and the Maghreb magpie are noticeably different, other than that, there is little to notice as difference between the species in the genus.
Not close relatives thought to be close Other birds called green magpies, one of which we looked at earlier, are not distant relatives. The  treepies as well, such as the black magpie we will be looking at next time, are all also corvids. The Australian magpie, on the other hand, is a completely unrelated bird and not a Corvid at all.  Most unrelated but sometimes confused is a small rabbit like mountain mammal called a Pika, whose Scientific name used to be Pika pika, which sounds the same even though spelt differently, this driving a change of that one to something I cannot rememeber beginning with O.
Cultural significance The Thieving Magpie overture by Rossini is a piece of music you would probably recongnise even if you do not know the name of it. It is La Gazza Ladra in Italian.  Magpies are disliked as thieves of shiny objects, and also for their predation on the eggs and young of smaller songbirds, and also are regarded in some cultures as mystical harbingers of various portents, as typifies in the rhyme references in the title. Nevertheless, there are many regional variations of the “one for sorrow, two for joy” rhyme (I even made one myself called “Fagpie” in which the noxious effects of smoking are listed. It was inspired by a meme of one Magpie holding a cigarette in its beak. If these things were actually true, they would probably be universally true and not have one meaning in one place and another meaning in another, but all we can gain is that this iconic corvid bird with its unique intelligence is very good at tapping into the human propensity for superstition.

 

 

 

Czy każdy, który chodzi do kościoła, jest zbawiony?


Original YT playout date: 25 January 2009
Duration: 24:48

Grzegorz Gontarczyk discusses in Polish the question of whether the people you meet in church are all saved or not. Is it enough to go to Church and take sacraments to be a Christian? Are there any Churches that have the monopoly on Christians, or whose membership can guarantee salvation?

He was in mid flow when I decided to turn the recorder on, and being a good speaker he didn’t flinch, but because of my absence of planning the sound is very low. It is listenable, though, if you turn the volume right up and evade background noise by using headphones, and this thought provoking piece is well worth a listen – provided you know a little Polish!

Pastor Grzegorz Gontarczyk omówi sprawę, czy wszyscy chodzący do Kościoła są zbawieni? Czy wystarczy chodzić do jakiegoś Kościoła, przyjąć jakieś sakramenty, wykonać rituały, słuchać kazania, czy więcej jest wymagane? Czy jest jakiś Kościół, ktory miałby monopoł zbawienia lub mógłby go zagwarantować?

Ze względu na spontanyczność mojej decyzji nagrywania, nie jest to niestety od początku i też jest bardzo cicho, ale warto podkręcić dzwięk i ewentualnie słuchać w słuchawkach, bo mówi Pastor o rzeczach, o których należałoby się być świadomym.”
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Gdansk Zoo


Original YT playout date: 25 January 2009
Duration: 1:09:05

A winter visit to Gdansk Zoo. Visiting zoos in winter has some advantages as well as disadvantages. Some of the animals are sheltering out of view, but you have more space and resources to yourself and fewer interruptions for filming.
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More Sledging


Original YT playout date: 23 January 2009
Duration: 4:36

This time we take Sophie and George sledging, and they crash into another kid!
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USSR War Memorial Park


Original YT playout date: 22 January 2009
Duration: 12:06

A look at the park near the Soviet War Memorial by Zwirki i Wigury in Warsaw, with the running commentary you may have come to expect. This is a sort of “blog on the hoof” style with attention to nature and history. Enjoy!
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Ride from the North in the Cold


Original YT playout date: 22 January 2009
Duration: Such a pity the Tokaj is not there any more!

A return from Gdansk in -16 to -18 centigrade. The Tokaj motel is strongly recommended. The air was very crisp today and thanks to Piotr for good driving.
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Winter fun on the fort


Original YT playout date: 19 January 2009
Duration: 11:07

Raclawicka Fort, the former entrance to Warsaw in the time of the second world war, and now mainly used for sledging in the winter season, that’s the location for this splendid winter afternoon’s fun in the snow.
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Wintery Evening Warsaw Walk


Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Original YT playout date: 18 January 2009
Duration: 49:54

Especially but not only the Old Town, with a few interesting surprises.
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Tough Times


 

Original YT playout date: 17 January 2009
Duration: 11:38

Times are tough, with Company presidents taking desperate measure to toughen themselves up for even tougher times to come. On the drive home I talk a bit about my own fitness plans…
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The truth about the Corvid-19 and what you need to know – part 6 – the corvid that drives you nuts, or crackers at least.


Over the last few weeks I didn’t manage to make a Corvid-19 article in this series, which doesn’t bode well for coming quickly out of the crisis, as it won’t be finished until I get to the end of the series, but on the plus side we do have some positive news about treatments emerging in the USA and the UK.   Today we continue our review with another Corvus genus member, one of the less well known Corvids, the nutcracker. This is in fact three species from both the old and new world, and 9 subspecies, but we will be focusing on the one with the broadest distribution for our gang of 19 Corvids, namely the spotted nutcracker.

Thanks to Murray B Henson for placing this excellent image of a spotted nutcracker in the Morskie Oko National Park in Poland in the public domain.

We are presenting the info for each Corvid in a similar tabular form and there will be a publication available at the end of the series where you will be able to get hold of the combined table.

Common Name Spotted nutcracker
Other names
German Nussbrecher
French Cassenoix
Russian Кедровка
Polish Orzechówka
Scientific Name Nucifraga caryocatactes
Number of species in the genus 3
Number of subspecies in this species 9
Literal meaning of Scientific name  “Nut shatterer” in Latin and Greek respectively
Described by Linnaeus 1758
First attested in literature Not many references to the species are made in culture. The nutcracker suite by Tchaikovsky refers to the metal implement used to crack nuts. In 1693 the word appears in English in the translation of a German travel guide, the bird itself not being found in the UK, although a sister species, Clark’s nutcracker, is found in Western North America but William Clark, the explorer for whom it was named (not in Latin though – it is Nucifraga columbiana – described to science in 1811 based on Clark’s specimen by Scottish naturalist Alexander Wilson, dubbed the ‘father of American ornithology”) only discovered it in 1805.
Wingspan (cm) 53
Length bill to tail (cm) 38
Distribution Again this Eurasian species has a very broad range from Sweden and Poland in the West to the Pacific Coasts of Siberia and China as well as upland Japan. The Himalayan species of nutcracker, the large spotted nutcracker (N. multipunctata) is considered a distinct species. Despite its name it is not significantly larger than the spotted nutcracker.
Remarks They have a range of vocalisations and are social. Their diet is largely the seeds of pine cones and cedar nuts, giving rise to the Russian name of “Kedrovka”. They do not actually crack heavily shelled nuts with their beaks in the way the implement called a nutcracker does, with the exception of some local subspecies adapted for the cracking of hazlenuts. They store the seeds which they do not eat.
Migrations Some of the nine subspecies migrated slightly within the range.
Sexual dimorphism Barely noticeable. Pairs remain together for life and both partners feed the young.
Close relatives The nutcrackers are in a subfamily of Corvids on their own, in fact many people may not realise that they are corvids as they are not a typically crow-like bird. Nevertheless, they are more closely related to true Corvids in the standard cladograms than jays or magpies are.
Not close relatives thought to be close The overall shape of the body and beak could lead one to suspect that the bird is related to the very broad Starling family, including mynahs and a host of tropical birds from the old world, however the Sturnidae are not closely related.
Cultural significance One cannot find much about these birds in literature, poetry or song.

 

 

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