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The British Nanny Nazis are at it again:

Rob Rees, chairman of the School Food Trust, said parents are hampering efforts to cut obesity in children by sending them to school with crisps, fizzy drinks and biscuits.

Mr Rees said the best solution would be for parents to pay for their children to eat healthy hot meals in canteens rather than giving them lunch boxes.

And he also suggested chocolates, crisps and sugary drinks could be banned in packed lunches altogether by tightening the rules on what children can bring into school.

Stricter measures on what can be included in school dinners were implemented by the SFT following a campaign by Jamie Oliver five years ago, but Mr Rees said many middle class parents remain unconvinced that packed lunches are less healthy than canteen meals.

“It doesn’t matter what class you are from, some of the packed lunches I’m seeing are pretty poor and are not doing the kids any favours,” he said.

“The most important thing is the hot school meal. It is the best value alternative.”

Wouldn’t it be most efficient just to ban parents altogether?  Don’t think that idea hasn’t crossed some people’s minds……

Because our conversations have a habit of taking such turns, the Mothe and I found ourselves discussing the Mother Carey’s chicken the other day.  (Which the bird’s mentioned in the Aubrey/Maturin novels now, ain’t it?)  I believe the Mothe mentioned that somebody had seen one in her neck of the woods, and she was wondering about it in general.

As it happens, Mother Carey’s chicken is another name for a particular type of stormy petrel, Wilson’s Storm-petrel, according to the Audubon folks.

Wiki says of Wilson’s Storm- petrel that it is:

a small bird, 16-18.5 cm in length with a 38-42 cm wingspan. It is slightly larger than the European Storm-petrel. It is essentially dark brown in all plumages, except for white rump. It differs from that species by its pale bar on the upper wing, plain underwings and longer legs.

This species breeds on the Antarctic coastlines and nearby islands such as the South Shetland Islands. It nests in colonies close to the sea in rock crevices or small burrows in soft earth and lays a single white egg. This storm-petrel is strictly nocturnal at the breeding sites to avoid predation by gulls and skuas, and will even avoid coming to land on clear moonlit nights. Like most petrels, its walking ability is limited to a short shuffle to the burrow.

It spends the rest of the year at sea, and moves into the northern oceans in the southern hemisphere’s winter. It is much more common in the north Atlantic than the Pacific. It is strictly pelagic outside the breeding season, and this, together with its remote breeding sites, makes Wilson’s Petrel a difficult bird to see from land. Only in severe storms might this species be pushed into headlands.

Wilson’s Storm-petrel is common off eastern North America in the northern summer and the seasonal abundance of this bird in suitable European waters has been revealed through pelagic boat trips, most notably in the area of the Isles of Scilly, Great Britain.

So there you are.  Normally, if you’re not pelagic, you’re out of luck trying to spot one.

A Victorian by the name of Theodore Watts-Duncan (1832-1914) wrote a poem entitled “On Seeing A Storm Petrel In A Cage On A Cottage Wall and Releasing It.” I give you the last two stanzas by way of flavor (If dizziness occurs, do not induce vomiting):

Yea, lift thine eyes, my own can bear them now:
Thou ’rt free! thou ’rt free. Ah, surely a bird can smile!
Dost know me, Petrel? Dost remember how 100
I fed thee in the wake for many a mile,
Whilst thou wouldst pat the waves, then, rising, take
The morsel up and wheel about the wake?
Thou ’rt free, thou ’rt free, but for thine own dear sake
I keep thee caged awhile. 105
Away to sea! no matter where the coast:
The road that turns to home turns never wrong:
Where waves run high my bird will not be lost:
His home I know: ’t is where the winds are strong,—
Where, on her throne of billows, rolling hoary 110
And green and blue and splash’d with sunny glory,
Far, far from shore—from farthest promontory—
The mighty Mother sings the triumphs of her story,
Sings to my bird the song!

Apparently it’s “Embrace Your Geekness Day.”

Of course, by the standards embraced by the people pushing this little exercise I am not a geek myself, given my Luddite-like fear and ignorance of technology.  However, since I do occupy a place somewhere along the Great Nerd Spectrum, I suppose they count as fellow travelers, and so I have no problem cheering them on.


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July 2010