In my never-ending quest to decide between Other Minds and The Soul of an Octopus whenever one of them goes on sale, I found this pretty terrific piece by Amia Srinivasan for London Review of Books from a few years ago.

The question of what subjective experience might be like for an octopus is complicated by the odd relationship between its brain and its body. An octopus’s arms have more neurons than its brain, about ten thousand neurons per sucker; the arms can taste and smell, and exhibit short-term memory. Each arm acts with considerable independence from the brain; even a surgically detached arm can reach and grasp, avoid painful stimuli, and change colour. (In The Soul of an Octopus, Montgomery imagines an octopus testing human intelligence by seeing how many colour patterns our severed arms can produce in one second.) Yet an octopus’s brain can exert executive control, ‘pulling itself together’ when it needs to, for example when an octopus puts out only a single inquisitive arm to inspect a stranger.

I’ve asked this before elsewhere, I think. Which is the better book: Other Minds by Peter Godfrey-Smith or The Soul of an Octopus by Sy Montgomery? I’m asking because the ebook of the former is on sale right now.

Oregon Zoo email details what to expect when the zoo re-opens, although there isn’t yet a set date for that. It’s about what you’d expect: reserved-in-advance “timed entry”, limited capacity, physical distancing measures, masks required, most indoor spaces closed, a one-way path through the zoo. This is going to be the real test for me: the zoo is not nearby and requires a bus ride and a light rail ride. Even if I decide to make the trek, transit is operating with reduced capacity, and with the shortest bus route also the least-frequent, being unable to board one run could mean missing my “timed-entry” slot. It’s going to be an internal psychological battle between needing to get the fuck out of my neighborhood for the first time since the beginning of March and needing to not make an attempt to do so that could go completely awry and make me hate myself for even bothering to try.

Animals Live: An Open Letter To The Oregon Zoo

My new Posted Today page tells me that it was on May 30, 2018, that I sharply criticized the Oregon Zoo for only publicly caring about animals dying when they are marquee animals. Its first line: “Animals die.”

Animals also live, which is why my current point of contention with the zoo is its seeming focus only on certain animals in the public communications during its coronavirus shutdown.

Most zoo visitors likely have a favorite animal or exhibit. I get there are only so many hours in the day, especially with staff reductions and other challenges, but I honestly do not see a valid argument against simply having someone make the rounds to give us updates.

There are six exhibit areas (PDF) at the zoo. At one per day, the zoo could give an update from every exhibit in less than one week. Just walk the route. It doesn’t have to be an entire Facebook Live event; you have a YouTube channel.

Consider this a request from a dues-paying member who until March made a visit each and every week, on behalf of all the other supporters of the zoo, members and non-members alike, who have been waiting three months to hear about their favorites.

Link Log Roundup for May 14, 2020

In this edition: autism and actual masking, dining with mannequins, genetic drift, ousting Burr, cats and coronavirus, a new giraffe, black churches, reopening Oregon, COVID-19 and the brain, Oregon restaurants, the post-pandemic commute, bicycles, disability claims, the sage grouse, lockdowns and history, “Obamagate”, walking a trail, test failures, the privilege of escape, Multnomah County, the last Blockbuster, public shaming, and an invasion of goats.

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It’s weird that The Oregonian writes that the Oregon Zoo introduced Kiden, their new giraffe, to the public on Monday, given that the zoo is closed and their video of Kiden didn’t get posted until Wednesday, but mostly I wonder where they even have the room for a third giraffe, especially if they’re hoping that Kiden mates with Buttercup. Is there more indoor space at the giraffe exhibit than the part with the public-facing viewing window? My second-level concern is that now I need to learn to tell three giraffes apart, and it was only like last year, I think, that I finally learned how to distinguish Buttercup from Desi.