Entomology, chemical ecology, evidence-based environmentalism and science in general. I like big bugs and I cannot lie.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Americans - good at presidents, lousy at bureaucracy

There's about a three hour lag every morning between the time when my body wakes up and the time when my brain comes on line, so in order to function during this period I rely on simple rules rather than actual thought to function, such as "Positioning self behind stationary person in newsagent will eventually permit a transaction to take place, the result of which will be the acquisition of a Guardian". This was how I managed to spend ten minutes standing in Smiths on Friday behind a bloke perusing either the headlines or Lucy's tits rather than actually queueing up to pay. He eventually noticed me hovering behind him awaiting my next thought, turned and said "Gee sorry, I was so not in the line" in a broad Southern accent.

I almost hugged him and said "Don't worry about it, there's at least a 50% chance you voted for Obama". I didn't hug him, as this may have been taken the wrong way which would have delayed my purchase of a paper even longer, but the events of last week have left my with a warm and fuzzy sense of goodwill towards all Americans. This feeling is, however, in serious danger of dissipating following my dealings with the US Fish and Wildlife service.

I need to get hold of some Musca autumnalis, a fly that is very closely related to Musca sorbens and does pretty much what sorbens does in humans but in cattle. The University of Kansas has a colony, and rather naively I assumed it would be a simple matter for them to send me some. They offered me some free of charge as long as I promised to take care of the paperwork, which I thought was awfully decent until I found out what the paperwork entails.

To get insects out of USA you need an to fill in the form and pay the fee to get an export licence, then for every shipment you need to fill in a form and pay a fee to get an export permit. The form is very long and covers all animals, living or dead, up to and including pianos with ivory keys. It doesn't stop there either, the insects have to go out through a designated port and have a welfare inspection on the way out, all of which costs money. (Yes, a welfare inspection for a pest insect species that US universities have spent a lot of time working out how best to kill).I had got as far as trying to fill in the export license form and emailed to try and find out how much I needed to pay and how, and finally got a response saying that the University of Kansas, as a scientific research institution, was exempt and did not need a license after all.

After spending quarter of an hour attempting to bash my own brains out with my monitor, I sent a very polite email off asking what I should put on the application in the wee box that asked for export licence number, if the university of Kansas didn't need one. I have just had an email back saying that the University of Kansas should be filling in the form, not me, and am now giving serious consideration to a plan to hurl myself repeatedly against the insectary fly-killing grid and hope for electrocution.

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