Saturday, August 13, 2011

Seagull Hunting

Back between my junior and senior year, I spent about 10 days at a camp called Lead America. I took the engineering camp, and we had a lead instructor who is a physics professor who went to MIT. One day he told us about an underground group he was in at MIT, which performed pranks on campus. Multiple pranks involved disassembling cars and reassembling them in offices and on top of buildings (even running, and in the case of the police car, warm donuts).

One prank that he and his friends did was to go out every morning to a football field. They all would wear referee shirts and take with them a bag of popcorn. The would feed the seagulls, and the birds would flock to eat the popcorn. Over the corse of a few weeks, the seagulls learned. They knew that whenever someone in a referee’s shirt appears, food is on the way. During some home games, there would be so many birds in the stadium and field they had to stop the game for a while.
Here at the beach, we have seagull problems already. People feed them and they get to a point where they attack kids for food. Their poop, when washed from the ground and pilings they sit on, can raise the e-coli levels to a level where it is unsafe and we have to close the beach (also when the nearby creek that runs thru the city gets a lot of water and makes things worse at the beach). This happened already this summer after a heavy rain; we had to close shore, but apparently it was fine to go off the diving board. Made for a very boring lifeguarding day.

Normally we have to tell people to stop feeding the seagulls. Today I got to work and saw someone feeding seagulls. I asked her to stop feeding them, then I went hunting! I don’t know why, I just did.

I am not a gun person besides nerf guns, but I came to work on my bike, and being a lifeguard, I had my whistle. So I hopped on my bike, whistle in mouth, and tried to run them down on my bike, blowing my whistle the entire time. After a few passes, about a dozen, most of the seagulls left the area. On my break I did it again as another group of people were feeding the seagulls.

I am hoping over time the seagulls will learn to stay away for good. I doubt that will happen, but at minimum they will learn that crazy people on a bike wearing red with a whistle is something to avoid. What would really be great is instead being any time a biker goes by OR wearing red OR blows a whistle, then they will flee instead of bike AND red AND whistle.
If my cousins are reading this, they know what is coming because of OR and AND, but for the rest of you, well I just can’t leave enough alone. Yes, I am already brainstorming a program to write where each seagull and person is an object. Have hundreds of seagulls and hundreds of people, and on a given day most of the seagull objects and dozens of people objects with come into play on the “beach”. Each person is either walking, biking, or driving by, some people with group with other people to make “families” with different bonding levels. Each person might pass thru, stop, eat, swim. Those who stop and eat are most likly to feed the seagulls. Kids each have random excitment level, and the more excitable, the more likly to chase of seagulls. Each person also will have described color of shirt, pants, hat, glasses, whistle, and transportation (bike, skateboard, or car (which can’t leave the parking lot)). There will be special people (lifeguards) which stop any and all feeding of seagulls then scare them.

The seagull objects will keep track of when they are scared off people and what they are wearing or on. When scared, they will remember that they have been scared by those properties of the people. They won’t have the best memory, maybe three or four scares, depending on the health of the bird, and if they don’t get scared by say someone with a red shirt for 4 scares, they forget that they were scared by a red shirt. Every time they get scared by a red shirt after the first one, the memory countdown is reset, and they keep track of how many time they have been scared by a red shirt since they first started keeping track. The more often a seagull is scared by people, no matter what they are wearing, the more distance they keep from people. On the other hand, you can domesticate seagulls by feeding them, resulting them in being less likely to be scared. Where seagulls go, home to perch or to the beach to eat, or even elsewhere, depends how hungry the seagull is, and also other seagulls feel about that gull. Over time all seagulls like each other but if a seagull takes food from other another seagull or gets something good (fish from the lake) and other gulls are not able to get the food from them.

Where, what, and how much seagulls eat depends on the number of people in other areas (eat on beach or at Pamida), water temperature (fish), wind (strong wind makes it harder to hunt). Number of people and what they are doing is based on air temperature (amount of swimmers), wind speed and direction (water temperature), day of week (weekends have more travelers), and if there is a special event.
Oviously there is a lot there, and I plan to take it in small parts, and I have higher priorities, but this here is enough for me to remember what I want to do.
From the guy with his eye on the sky, Travis...the camping lifeguard

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