Saturday, December 29, 2012

Any live moas out there?

(I wanted to title this, "Are there any moa moas?" but the pun was too bad even for me.)
New Zealand's ecosystem was dominated for millennia by birds, especially the giant moas. We mostly think about the giants, the predatory moas who dwarfed ostriches - and the early Maoris, who may have roasted the last giant moa over a campfire.  But what about the smaller ones, especially the meter-tall upland moa, known scientifically as Megalapteryx? Karl Shuker here discusses an impressive sighting from the 1880s and a scattering of other reports and rumors that might indicate the species survived until recent years - or still does. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Doubtful News - Sasquatch 2012

Sharon Hill of Doubtful News rounds up the skeptical viewpoints and weak/silly stories on the Big Guy for 2012.  The year was dominated by claims, from Melba Ketchum and others, that progress was being made on the most important goal of sasquatch-hunters: getting a DNA profile published in a scientific journal. We're not there yet.  Then there are the endless blobsquatches (Loren Coleman  should have trademarked that term:)  ....  she does not mention the interesting nighttime photo from Washington state (not conclusive, but interesting) or the Oxford DNA project, which promises to come as close as we ever have to a definitive Yes or No.  The story strides on....

Free book - NASA at 50

NASA turned 50 in 2008, so this might seem a little dated. But the History Office has made available a download of the book NASA at 50.  The description reads: 
"The 50th anniversary of NASA on 1 October 2008 found an agency in the midst of deep transition. In the closing year of the presidency of George W. Bush, only a month before the presidential election and in the midst of a worldwide economic crisis, the Agency was implementing a new Vision for Space Exploration intended to return humans to the Moon, to proceed onward to Mars, and to study the cosmos beyond.
It was in this milieu that the History Division at NASA Headquarters commissioned oral history interviews to be undertaken with NASA senior management. This volume is the result and provides a snapshot of the thinking of NASA senior leadership on the occasion of its 50th anniversary and in the midst of these sea changes."

If you want to better understand how our space program developed and the thinking of some of its luminaries on the past, present, and future, it's available here.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Review: The Journal of Cryptozoology

The Journal of Cryptozoology
Volume One
November 2012

It’s been over 15 years since there was a peer-reviewed journal of cryptozoology.  The often-excellent pioneering journal Cryptozoology shut down with its patron, the International Society for Cryptozoology, and other attempts have stalled. Now we have a new journal, with the well-known Dr, Karl Shuker as editor. (The peer reviewers are, as standard for a scientific journal, anonymous.)
If the first issue of this slender journal (3-4 papers accepted per issue) is anything to go by, it’s a worthy effort.  After Shuker’s introduction (in which I appreciate that he  specifies the Journal is only concerned with flesh-and-blood animals, no paranormal topics), we get to the first paper, on digital search techniques for finding an unknown object in its most likely range, using a probability map as a starting point for a Digital Search Assistant. This isn’t my area of expertise, so I’ll just say it makes sense the way it’s described. Malcolm Smith contributes a paper on identifying a “Queensland Tiger” footprint sketched in 1871.  That seems a slender reed on which to base analysis, but slender reeds are often the starting point for cryptozoologists (and for "mainstream" zoologists, too!), so the “true unknown” conclusion is intriguing. Markus Hemmler writes on “pesudoplesiosaurs,” the oft-reported carcasses of decaying sharks which tend to look like prehistoric or unknown animals. Hemmler explains how varied these carcasses can be and how easy it is to misidentify them, particularly with respect to skull features. Finally, the always-formidable Dr. Darren Naish takes on an odd mammal carcass in Australia and identifies it with certainty as a domestic cat.  
The journal is professionally done, with such features as keywords for each article, well-referenced entries, and drawings and B&W video/film images. It closes with Instructions to Contributors, the most notable of which specify that personal belief in a cryptid isn’t relevant to a scientific paper, and anyone who posits a particular identity for an unknown animal needs to argue scientifically for that identity, not presume it.   
Overall, this journal is a big step in the right direction for cryptozoology as a scientific field of study.  I’ll be getting every issue, and, hopefully, making some contributions in the future.

Monday, December 24, 2012

God and cryptozoology

There are cryptozoologists who think approaching crypto from a Young Earth Creationist (YEC) position leads to the truth, while some other cryptozoologists are adamant that it can't. A very budy thread on this on the Journal of Cryptozoology page has been removed, apparently because it became a repeated volleying of arguments over creation and science.  On cryptozoology itself - that is, searching for new or presumed-extinct species - my point was that one's motivation and viewpoints didn't necessarily have anything to do with the methods used to find animals. From a YEC viewpoint, finding animals that should not, according to the accepted scientific timeline, exist is ammunition for the argument that the timeline is wrong. As a cryptozoological researcher and a Christian who views the Biblical creation as allegory rather than literal, I have no problem with anything we learn from science, and I can't believe God does, either. We can debate  the implications of a discovery AFTER we make the discovery.

33 new spiders from the US

From the deserts of hte Southwest comes a reminder that we don't even know all the species in the US - far from it.  Would you believe 33 new trapdoor spiders?  Arachnologists have gone a little silly with trapdoors lately, naming them for Stephen Colbet, Angelina Jolie, and President Obama, among others. Best name among the new group?  Aptostichus sarlacc for the Star Wars creature you might call the ultimate desert-dwelling underground predator.

A Christmas trove of new species

From the Mekong Delta of Southeast Asia, the WWF announces the results of a recent survey (done in 2011: it takes a while after these efforts to sort out what's new and what's known.)   Here are "126 new species (82 plants, 13 fish, 21 reptiles, 5 amphibians and 5 mammals)." The Delta, which most Americans know as a site of savage fighting in the Vietnam War, also includes parts of China, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Thailand. 

Remember: that's ONE expedition to ONE area of this still-vast planet.  

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Pygmy right whale finds its family

That's one way to put it.  Media headlines, though, seem to be getting it all wrong. It's always a variation on "Living Fossil Whale Discovered." We need to straighten that out. The pygmy right whale Caperea marginata was discovered in 1846 and has been around ever since.  It's always been rare (it appears on CITES Appendix I, the list of the world's most threatened species) but we've always know it's out there.  What's new is research showing the pygmy should not be lumped taxonomically with the larger right whales (which, incidentally, got their name by being the "right whale" to kill, as they were easy prey for whalers and floated well when dead.)  Instead, the skull morphology points to a family called cetotheres which arose about 15MYA and were thought to have died out about 2MYA.    While scientists generally dislike the term "living fossil" (seeing as it's rather self-contradictory), it means this rare whale is a window into the past of the cetaceans. Here's the actual paper

Pygmy right as photographed by NOAA mammologist Robert Pitman. 

New species: Spider that makes its own decoys

Decoying is not unknown in the animal worlds, but a creature usually decoys an enemy (or food source with part of its own body, as those weird deep-sea anglers do by hanging little "lanterns" to lure prey in.  Actually manufacturing a decoy that looks like the original animal, though, is a new one.  This spider does that.  This species from the genus Cyclosa is only about 6mm across, but it makes a ghostly decoy of itself more like 25mm across.  Arachnologist Linda Rayor said exactly what I would have said.  “That’s really kind of cool."  It's hard to even speculate on what series of events over time led natural selection to produce a creature with this capability buried in a brain the size of a pinpoint.  Hundreds of new spiders are found each year - biologist Jason Bond just named one for his favorite rock star, christening a new trapdoor spider from Alabama Myrmekiaphila neilyoungi - but sometimes it's what a new species does, not how it looks, that's really mind-blowing.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Beware the robot swarm (actually, it's ok)

The University of Colorado has developed robots one inventor compared to living cells. The size of ping-pong balls, the 20 robots built so far form a mini-swarm, and cooperative mass like "a liquid that thinks." Future versions have a variety of uses in space, including assembling structures and reconnoitering planets for humans.  As the team points out, what are human beings but masses of cooperating cells - kind of like tiny robots?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

North Korea's first satellite kaput

Here's an excellent article recapping the North Korean satellite launch.  From this article and other sources, here's my FAQ on the launch:
 - Did they get a satellite in orbit? Yes.
 - Was the launch legal? Under a broad reading of the Outer Space Treaty, yes. According to specific UN resolutions, though, No.
 - Did the launch test components for a ballistic missile? Likely the first two stages and some other hardware, probably including the guidance system, were "dual use."
 - Will there be any consequences to North Korea? Not likely.
 - Did it function in orbit? No.
 - Is there any danger to the surface when it reenters? Possible, but unlikely: it's pretty small.

So North Korea can legitimately claims to be an orbiting space power, the first new nation to join that "club" since Iran.  But so far, there's not much of significance to the feat.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Moon and Sally Ride

NASA ended its GRAIL (Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory) missionlunar research mission by crashing two lunar probes, Ebb and Flow, into the moon yesterday. The probes were at the end of their useful lives and added one last data set by hititng the lunar surface, creating seismic shock waves that lunar-surface instruments could "hear" to learn more about the stucture of the moon (which is surprisingly complex for a onetime chunk of Earth that pretty much doesn't so anything except get hit by meteors and stomped on by astronauts).
The impact site was named for a national hero - America's first woman astronaut, Sally Ride. (If you find a new feature on the moon, you get to name it, and the same is true when you create a new feature. ) So it's the Sally K. Ride Impact Site.  Given that her whole life was about making an impact on science and exploration, I think she'd appreciate that. 

Loren Coleman's annual Top 10 Cryptozoology books list

Every year, America's best-known cryptozoologist, Loren Coleman, brings out a list of the ten best books on cryptozoology.  It's said, with some truth, than many cryptozoolgy books spend most of their length rehashing old cases: such historical cryptozoology can be important, but Loren also tried to find fresh material, which makes his list particularly worth reading.

This year:

 Best Cryptozoology Book of the Year : The Beast Of Boggy Creek, by Lyle Blackburn (investigation of the case that started a movie franchise)

Best Cryptozoology Encyclopedias of the Year

All-New: The Bigfoot Filmography: Fictional and Documentary Appearances in Film and Television, by David Coleman

Updated/Revised: The Encyclopaedia of New and Rediscovered Animals, by by Karl P.N. Shuker

Best Sasquatch/Bigfoot Book of the Year

Sasquatch in British Columbia, by Christopher Murphy

Best Lake Monster Book of the Year

The Untold Story of Champ: A Social History of America’s Loch Ness Monster by Robert E. Bartholomew

Best Sea Monster Book of the Year

Sea Serpent Carcasses: Scotland – from The Stronsa Monster to Loch Ness by Glen Vaudrey

Best Autobiographical Cryptozoological Book of the Year

Monster Diary: On the Road in Search of Strange and Sinister Creatures, by Nick Redfern

Best Cryptozoology Journal of the Year

The Journal of Cryptozoology: Volume One (Matt’s note: I’ll be publishing a separate review of this important publication.)

Best Skeptical Cryptozoological Book of the Year

Investigating the Impossible: Sea-Serpents in the Air… by Ulrich Magnin

Loren adds some regional cryptobooks as well: see the list on

Indiana Jones' journal found?

Well, sort of.  Strange things can be set in motion on eBay!    (EBay is turning up in plenty of fiction, as well. My favorite example so far: Harry Dresden, Jim Butcher's wizard character, is captured by an opportunist who descide to auction off Harry to his many enemies via eBay. If you haven't read the Dresden Files novels, there's no excuse not to: think part Spenser and part Buffy.) 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Book Review: Encyclopedia of New and Rediscovered Animals

The Encyclopedia of New and Rediscovered Animals

By Karl P.N. Shuker

Coachwhip Publications, 2012

Building on two of Shuker’s earlier works, The Lost Ark and The New Zoo, the Encyclopedia deserves its title. This is a mammoth collection of scientific achievements from 1900 to the present. It’s information-packed, sumptuously illustrated, and just plain fun.

Shuker does not, of course, try to include all discoveries, since the beetles alone would merit a library. He goes for creatures which are relatively large or scientifically important, and those are more than sufficient to fill this large-format 368-page book. Shuker is a highly knowledgeable writer (as you’d expect from a Ph.D. who’s been poking into the odd corners of zoology for four decades). He discusses both species and important subspecies (including those where there is some dispute about taxonomy: it’s not clear whether Rothschild’s giraffe is a subspecies, species, or just a local variation.) The zoologically inclined reader will enjoy every page of this romp through monk seals, giant stick insects, megamouth sharks, monitor lizards, and other discoveries simply too numerous to mention.

One thing Shuker does not do is set all the material into a context by showing any species discovery curves or discussing just how many new vs. known species are being found. He does, though, amply demonstrate his main theme: that discovery didn’t end with the “golden age” of the 1800s – indeed, it’s continued at a steady and often surprising pace right up to the present day.

Being a Shuker work, this book has plenty of mysteries along with the definite discoveries. Some are well-known: some, like a slow loris with a thick bushy tail, not yet recognized although it’s been held in captivity and photographed, surprised even a well-read aficionado like myself. Likewise, some of the stories of discovery, like the coelacanth’s, have been told many times (though Shuker always tells them well), but how many know the tragic tale behind the discovery of Flecker’s sea wasp jellyfish, or how Rudie Kuiter saw a flounder swimming along and discovered it was the most amazing mimic in nature: an octopus pretending to be a flounder?

Shuker also includes stories of animals which didn’t quite live up to their hype as new species, like Mexico’s onza (not a new species of big cat, just an odd puma.) He closes with a few words on possible future discoveries, a note on taxonomy, and a bibliography running 33 pages.

There are hundreds of images here to go with the text, ranging from photos to Bill Rebsamen’s wonderful color illustrations.

This is one of the classic books, not just of cryptozoology but of modern zoology and conservation biology. Readers will love it enough to revisit it many times. It’s a great achievement.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Saving the slow loris

For those who enjoyed the article on the discovery of a new species of primate, here's the attempt by one of the scientists involved to make the world realize just how much trouble these creatures are in.  The pet trade, hunting, deforestation... the name loris always makes me think of Dr. Suess' Lorax, who said, "I speak for the trees." God bless Professor Anna Nekaris for speaking for the Loris.

Meet a new primate

Yes, we still find new primates! (I say things like that a lot, because I think they bear repeating.)  Meet Borneo's newest known inhabitant, a cuddly big-eyed nocturnal member of the group called the slow lorises.  Nycticebus kayan, take a bow! The lorises are the only primates with poison glands, but they are so cute they're being critically endangered for the pet trade anyway. 

Off topic: The Questions of Connecticut

As a parent, I did my share of crying yesterday. All of us did.  When you get into the policy - and medical/scientific - questions of what to do now, here's one that sticks in my head.   People are calling for gun restrictions and access to mental health services, and I see some merit in both. But turn the clock back 50 years. There was no gun control at all - you could buy a Tommy gun with no ID. There were no public mental health services (and psychiatry was still taking baby steps.) ). All the modern causes of stress: crime, unemployment, illness, poverty - were present. And yet, these kinds of school shootings were not only unheard of but unimaginable. What was different? A more widely shared Judeo-Christian moral system? A belief in self-reliance? The absence of pervasive violence-glorifying media? What prevented such things back then and is no longer working? 
It seems out of place in a blog devoted to science, but it's a day that makes me think about my mother's Catholic belief that the material universe is a fallen world, one where supernatural as well as natural evil has free reign.  We may never "understand" this shooter.  All I can say to my fellow parents is, "Love your kids."  
But Jesus called them unto him, and said, "Suffer little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God."

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Ecology: A message from Midway

For those of us who are history buffs, Midway Atoll is a name always associated with the crucial battle in 1942 when the U.S. Navy turned back the Japanese.  Some accounts of the period mention how personnel stationed on  Midway's two islands liked to watch the "gooney birds" - albatrosses, which are designed for life primarily in the air and are humorously clumsy in takeoff and landing.  This film is showing a new battle - one we're not winning.  Midway is Ground Zero for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, maybe the biggest blot we humans have made on the world's oceans, and plastic pollution is endangering the albatross and many other species. This situation is worse - a LOT worse - than I knew.  Filmmaker Chris Jordan is asking for contributions to finish post-production.  
Thanks to Dr. Cherie McCollough for posting this on Facebook, where I first saw it.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Cryptid Canines: Unknown Predators?

This is one of my favorite topics in cryptozoology: I'm not sure why, since the evidence is pretty thin, but maybe I just like dogs and wolves and doglike critters. Karl Shuker writes here of some predators reported across North America, from New Mexico to Greenland. They form a mixed bag of real wolves, spirit wolves, and something called the waheela which has been labeled a dire wolf (Canis dirus) or an amphicyonid, or "bear-dog," which is a really fierce-looking creature kind of like a short-legged wolf after some serious steroids and weight-lifting.  To add confusion, there is the wolf-like, or maybe hyena-like, Shunka Warakin, a stuffed specimen of which has actually turned up, but I can't find any report that testing has been completed.  Chad Arment, in his book Varmints, also chronicles some weird sightings of a scary carnivore from Arkansas.  To summarize, some of these look like giant wolves, some like much more robust canids, and some barely like canids at all.
There may be nothing unusual behind all this business. After all, humans just about wiped out the known wolves, so it's problematical that larger relations could have survived.  But I'm not quite ready to write off all the creatures of this type.  All you need is one big, really remote valley....

Cascade of new species

Are we finding new species? Heck yes. The California Academy of Sciences alone described 137 in 2012.  In environments from California to China, CAS scientists described  83 arthropods, 41 fish, seven plants , an amphibian, a reptile, and.four sea slugs. The descriptions came in 29 papers and included the first new spider family from North America in a century and a small deep-water shark nicknamed the "jaguar catshark" because of its similarity to the fictitious "jaguar shark" from the movie The Life Aquatic

Friday, December 07, 2012

The strangest ever "sea serpent"

It's the 107th anniversary of the most authoritative and puzzling sighting of all time concerning what appeared to be a long-necked unknown species of large marine animal (a sea serpent, if you must).  The only suggestion that this thing, well attested to by two British naturalists of major accomplishments and repute in a scientific journal, might be a known species is Richard Ellis' notion in his excellent 1994 book Monsters of the Sea that a giant squid might have been swimming tentacles first (they certain do that when approaching  prey) and might have been holding one tentacle out of the water (a possible but puzzling notion).  I think this one is still unexplained, and highly suggestive of something we still have not caught or classified. 

Bigfoot and Big Confusion

Well, the Bigfoot DNA thing is not about to quiet down. Dr. Ketchum asks everyone to calm down:  "The paper is still under review and the rumormongering is counterproductive. The science will speak for itself once the manuscript publishes."  OK, I say yes to that, but some people think the process is over, or will be soon.  Doubtful News reports the paper was rejected by one journal. Igor Burtsev in Russia, who keeps popping up in this thing, says it was rejected in the US and is now in submission to a Russian journal.   Unfortunately, he also has hauled out the "science refuses to give sasquatch a fair shake" card.  I'm tired of that one. Yes, the bulk of scientific opinion can be very conservative, even unreasonable: but if your evidence is undeniable, you will eventually "win." 
I don't know what's left to do here except hope some form of publication gets the data out.  Now Ketchum says she has good Sasquatch video to go with this, but I can't figure out any reason to not release the video now - it would make reviewers take her paper much more seriously. 

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Sasquatch DNA Circus continues

There seems no end to the articles and comments in the online world on the claims about sasquatch DNA.  Sharon Hill's always-worth-a-read Doubtful News is one example.  Most coveraged has leaned to the skeptical: not just because of doubts sasquatch can exist, but because of the atmosphere of oddity that surrounds the project.
Here is my unsolicited advice to Dr. Ketchum and everyone else involved in the current sasquatch DNA kerfluffle: go quiet. Drop off the radar. Don't even give interviews. If you think you have something important, keep working keep gathering data, but do it with no reality-TV cameras, no press conferences. Be patient. Let the peer review process and the Oxford DNA study work, and make no more announcements about anything until final, hard, unquestionable results - one way or the other - come out. Peer review isn't perfect or sacred, but it should at least tell us whether there's any foundation for new investigations. Likewise the unrelated Oxford work: those folks will be cautious and only publish results they think will stand up. Being patient is hard if you genuinely think you have something earthshaking, but it's the right course if you want the end result to be respected.

Touring Loch Ness

People often send me links to their business or books, and ask me to post them.  (OK, not all that often - this isn't here). Anyway, Tony Harmsworth sent his collection of links on Loch Ness, and I found them to be a lot of fun. Tony runs the kind of tours I'd like to take if I ever get over there. He has a judicious eye for monster hoaxes, a broad knowledge of the local history and culture, and the good sense to not guarantee you a sighting of any strange creatures.  He has been doing this for a long time and so has many tales to tell.  Enjoy!

Tony's message:
I have a number of Loch Ness websites including: my Loch Ness Information website my book and info about me a way to read my book free of charge.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Lazarus species... back from the abyss

I'm not sure how the author picked a Top 10, but the species on this inventory of rediscoveries are a good mix, demonstrating that extinct species can reappear on any continent (the Bavarian pine mole, missing for almost 40 years, qualifies) and after very long times - over a century in some of the cases here.  (The all-time champ among warmblooded animals, the Bermuda petrel or cahow, is not mentioned here - it spent some 300 years on the "presumed extinct" list. )   The record here belongs to the La Palma Giant Lizard Gallotia auaritae, which had been thought extinct for as much as 500 years before it was found in 2007.  We should never give up. 

Cryptozoology: Some mysteries will never be solved

Cryptozoologists, concerned as we are with the rare and the missing species of the world, have a very unsettling dilemma on our hands. And it’s not one we’ll ever solve. More than anyone else, even the mainstream of zoologists and biologists and paleobiologists and so on, we live in a world where some answers will never be found.

Cryptozoologists have a habit of endlessly mulling over some classic cases of animal sightings that don’t fit known species. The Shipton yeti tracks, the Valhalla sea serpent, Steller’s sea ape, and other examples of encounters that, in and of themselves, are compelling, but have never followed up by better evidence, or in some cases, any good evidence for continued survival.

Take one of my favorite cases, the Valhalla sea serpent. Two well-qualified naturalists, members of the Zoological Society of London, got a good look, directly and through binoculars, at an animal which didn’t fit – remotely – with any known species. Despite my respect for Richard Ellis, his suggestion of a squid behaving bizarrely doesn’t convince me at all. This is either an unknown animal or – well, there really isn’t another explanation. It’s a better case than any of the individual sea serpent reports before or since.

But if it’s an unknown species, why have we gone 107 years without proof? It may be this is a huge deepwater eel seen only on rare and fortunate occasions. I tend to think it is. But there’s another explanation: it’s a rare species, already on the way out when encountered. If, as one witness suggested, it was a mammal, I think it likely there are few of them left, and maybe none. Dr. Roy Mackal once wrote that the long-necked sea serpent, presumably related to the pinnipeds, might be an ascending species. He may have had the animal right but its status wrong. If so, cryptozoologists a hundred or a thousand years from now may still be debating the animal’s existence.

That’s the conundrum cryptozoologists must exist with. That no matter how hard we work, we won’t resolve every case. In some situations, no one will ever be certain.

It’s our duty to science, though, to think about such things. If we don’t run the risk of exploring what may be blind alleys, we run the bigger risk of writing some important discoveries – and that includes discovering a species is recently extinct.  Finding that yarri skull, or the skin of one of those parrots in a museum, will still tell us much. Even negative investigations matter in science. If a given creature did not survive in a given era or environment, that tells us something about nature as well.   Still, there have been, by one count, 13 recent mammal rediscoveries. Another study found only 36 percent of reported mammal extinctions were definite. So if it was there – whether established by a type specimen, or only hinted at by sightings—it may still be there. And that’s why we keep looking.

North Korea at it again?

Those wacky North Koreans.  Now they are going to launch a polar-orbiting satellite.  It will, of course, be "peaceful."  I would not bet my losing Powerball ticket on their chances of success.  They have failed repeatedly to launch a lower-inclination satellite, and a polar one is harder, not least because you are giving up roughly 1000 miles per hour from the Earth's rotation that you get as a free bonus of you launch eastward. So the rocket needs to be more powerful for the same payload weight.  (Israel, for political reasons, has to launch west, or retrograde, over the Mediterranean, so their Shavit booster has to add power to overcome what is in essence a 1000-mph headwind.) Also, an Earth observation satellite is going to be more complex and presumably heavier than the little propaganda-broadcasting satellites they've already dumped in the Pacific (I call this achieving CLO, or Clam-Level Orbit.)  So I think they have approximtely the same chance I do of being named the next Secretary of Defense (if you're reading this, Mr. President, I actually would take that job.)