May 10-17, 2006

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Nice Guys Finish Last: Blue lizards keep watch while yellow lizards have all the fun.

Nūz: Santa Cruz County News Briefs

Scaly Samaritans

Want to know what it takes to be a good person? Just ask a lizard. Last week, researchers at UCSC announced that they will be publishing a paper in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Science concerning altruistic behavior patterns in side-blotched lizards, a species indigenous to the Santa Cruz area. The side-blotched lizard, named for the colorful markings on its neck and sides, has been observed engaging in seemingly selfless acts for the good of the species as a whole.

The discovery was made by Barry Sinervo, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UCSC, who has studied the side-blotched lizards for over 20 years.

"Everyone has a feeling for altruism," says Sinervo. "So to have an animal that expresses altruistic behavior is very interesting."

Sinervo has observed unrelated male lizards who form cooperative partnerships whereby one lizard mates with a female while the other male protects the pair from intrusions, fathering few offspring of its own.

The lizards who engage in this kind of self-sacrifice can be identified by the color of their blotches. Side-blotched lizards with blue marking are the watchful altruists, while orange and yellow markings indicate lizards who seek mates through either aggression or deception, proving that even in a cooperative society, some animals (like some people) are just jerks.

As tempting as it is to think of the blue side-blotched lizard as acting out of the goodness of its heart, Sinervo and his team have proved its motivation to be far more basic, having already mapped the genes responsible for the lizards' impulse to protect one another.

"On the surface it's a selfless act," says Sinervo, "but in reality it's propagated by the gene."

Arrive Early for Free Bagels

You've waited all year for it, and now that the time has finally come, you can hardly contain yourself. The joy! The excitement! That new conference room smell! The free food! Oh, can it really be that the Community-Wide Economic Prosperity Summit is upon us already? Yes, it's true, but please, try to remain calm. Take some deep breaths.

The Santa Cruz Community-Wide Economic Prosperity Summit, which is the culmination of almost a year's worth of planning, will take place this Saturday at the UCSC Inn. Scheduled summit activities include panel discussions and videos on the topic of, you guessed it, the future of the Santa Cruz economy, as well as presentations by city notables such as County Treasurer Fred Keeley and Assemblyman John Laird.

Attendees should be warned that this Saturday's event is not for the weak of heart, as summit enthusiasts are anticipating all the thrills of a City Council meeting coupled with the spine-quivering excitement of a freshman economics seminar.

The summit is free and community members who wish to attend are encouraged to pre-register in order to obtain a free lunch at the event. Those who haven't pre-registered will still be welcome at the event, but will be responsible for providing their own sandwiches and cookies. Bagels, however, will be provided to all prior to the commencement of the day's activities, regardless of registration status.

The Community-Wide Economic Summit will take place Saturday, May 13, from 9am to 3pm at the UCSC Inn at 611 Ocean St., Santa Cruz.

Fair Weather Guerrillas

Now that the weather has turned warm in Santa Cruz, the Guerrilla Drive-In is preparing to re-emerge in the great outdoors after a long winter's hibernation.

Although not actually dormant during the winter months, the Guerrilla Drive-In did not attract quite as large of a crowd at its indoor location at the Bike Church on Pacific Avenue as it has at previous outdoor venues. Nüz speculates that low winter attendance may have resulted from the feeling that within the safety of the Bike Church, the Guerrilla Drive-In had become a sanctioned activity, and therefore, not very "guerrilla" at all.

But back in its summer location, along the railroad tracks behind the Bonny Doon Vineyard warehouse on Fair Street, which is being promoted by drive-in organizers as "a suburban wasteland," that crazy counterculture damn-the-man fun is ready to resume.

The Guerrilla Drive-In is kicking off its summer season with the classic shoot 'em up comedy, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The movie will be followed by the Midnight Mystery Ride, a popular nighttime ride for bicycles and Humvees through the back streets of Santa Cruz to an undisclosed location.

Guerrilla Drive-In will take place on Friday, May 12, at 8pm. Participants are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets. The Midnight Mystery Ride will begin immediately after the show.

Nūz just loves juicy tips about Santa Cruz County politics.

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