Resolutions

January 07, 2023

We are now officially one week into the New Year and today’s NY Times feed was about breaking this year’s resolutions.  It began say how many of us made resolutions saying we were going to live more in the moment, and how depending on which study you read “somewhere between everyone and everyone and their brother will have broken their New Year’s resolutions by February 14.”  The article went on to say January may be a bad time to make resolutions since the days are shorter, darker, and colder, and that may not be ideal for making (especially) fitness resolutions.  What was suggested was to resolve to make resolutions throughout the year.   Interesting, you can resolve to change anytime and not just on January 1st.

When I looked online, I found for many the New Year marks the beginning of a new phase.  Along with a new calendar we become psyched to improve ourselves and change our past habits.  It compels you to be the best version of yourself (sort of like watching a Rocky movie).   A New Year’s resolution is a promise you make to yourself to improve your life and work towards achieving a personal goal.  Researchers suggest that even if you do not keep the resolutions, it is a really good idea to make them anyway.  Being honest with yourself about your current condition and the distance to your preferred situation is key to improvement and being intentional about how you want to grow and develop will help you achieve results and contribute to your happiness.  Making New Year’s resolutions is inherently hopeful and optimistic as you expect things can get better for you, for your work experience, or for your community.  Most New Year’s resolutions impact others, and even if they are about individual self-improvement they affect families, friends, and colleagues.  When you seek to be or better, you also tend to inspire others as well.  You should work to keep resolutions, but even if you do not, the act of striving for them will have positive effects for you and for others.

Another suggestion offered in the Times article is to remember your resolutions do not have to punish you.  They do not have to involve curbing appetites or behaviors unless you want them to.  You can instead make resolutions to reward yourself more or to take more naps.  Resolutions do not have to be big changes that radically alter your life.  Your resolutions can be small and boring and meaningful only to you.  Setting resolutions throughout the year reminds you there can always be a clean slate.  The future is full of a day or month or year ahead with no mistakes in it (yet?). 

THOUGHTS:  I have never been big on setting resolutions on New Year’s Day.  It has always seemed too arbitrary and resolving to do anything “starting tomorrow” seems more like a delay tactic than something you really want to achieve.  When we give ourselves “one more chance to be bad” it is no wonder the resolutions are gone by Valentine’s Day.  Since I have already abandoned the two hard resolutions I made this year for January 1st, I might use today to set some easy ones.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Geotextile

January 06, 2023

One of the articles inside my local newspaper this week reported on the effectiveness of emergency berm installed on St. John’s County beach in Florida.  The FEMA Dune Enhancement Project was begun last year to create the berm to keep the beaches from eroding.  It was not yet finished when the beaches were hit by Ian and Nicole.  The berms were developed as a temporary protection while engineers worked on long term plans to prevent beach loss.  The county had installed 480,000 cubic yards of sand along the 11 mile stretch.  Rather than dredging the sand from the ocean floor, officials hauled sand by truckloads from 65 miles (104.5 km) away.  Beach managers are now focusing attention on where and how fast they can start repairing beaches damaged by last years’ storms.  The foundation of the emergency berm was geotextile.

When I looked online, I found geotextile tubes are large bags made of permeable woven geotextiles, which are stronger than standard sandbags.  The tubes are used in many civil engineering and erosion control projects like embankments, retaining walls, reservoirs, bank protection and stabilization, as well as coastal erosion control.  Geotextiles are permeable fabrics typically made from polypropylene or polyester.  The fabrics come in a woven (resembling mail bag sacking) and nonwoven (resembling felt) form.  Geotextile was intended to be a substitute for granular soil filters and use began in the 1950’s with R.J. Barrett using woven geotextile fabric in conjunction with concrete seawalls, control blocks, and under stone riprap.  Barrett used different styles of woven monofilament fabrics.  After installation, the area around the geotextile tubes must be further stabilized by sodding or planting.  Vegetation is highly important for erosion control because plant root systems help hold soil and sand in place and create a more natural look.  The geotextile also helps clean rainwater runoff of fertilizers and other harmful chemicals.

While beachgoers do not seem to care about the nature of sand used to cover the geotextile, and its color, are a major concern for sea turtles.  Scientists have recently seen a concerning ratio of males to females due to the hotter summers.  The temperature of the sand determines the sex or gender of a sea turtle, with more females born during warmer summers and males preferring cooler temperatures.  Florida’s average summer temperature is on an upward trend, with the past three years (2019 – 2021) being among the warmest on record.  That meant only females hatched, and only one in 5,000 sea turtles makes it to adulthood.  Males hit maturity around 20 years of age and females around 35.  They spend their youth in the open ocean foraging then return to the beaches where they hatched to breed.  Ladies breed every two to three years and will produce 3 – 5 nests with around 100 eggs each in a single season.  The Endangered Species Act classifies the Northwest Atlantic Loggerhead (Caretta caretta) as threatened, which means the species is likely to become endangered in the future.

THOUGHTS:  The beach on the lake where Melissa and I took Zena to last week is covered with black, fibrous layers of what appears to be rubber or fabric.  It had obviously been put down and then covered with sand to protect the beach from the waves that wash across the half mile (800m) wide lake.  I never knew what to call the fabric until now.  It is a nonwoven version of the geotextile reported in my newspaper.  As lake levels rise and fall (it is a reservoir) the geotextile protects much of the sand from washing away.  While we have no sea turtles, shore habitat is still critical for a healthy ecosystem.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Birds

January 03, 2023

I mentioned at the beginning of last year that I was going to make a more concerted effort to increase my bird count during 2022.  Although I did take one of two specific trips to find more birds, the rash of new sightings did not occur.  I even hedged a little this year by trying to include birds I saw on our trip to Europe.  From a birder perspective, those 15 days only produced six new species.  One of the problems was most of the birds I saw were either too quick for me to get a photo, or they were a species I had already seen in the US.  The one huge exception were the flocks of green parakeets (Psittacara holochlorus) I found in Cologne, Germany.  These birds were released into the wild as pets and have lived in this unique microclimate for the last 50 years, growing in numbers to over 4000 wild birds.

When I looked online, I found that generally pet birds released into the wild cannot survive because they do not have the skills necessary to find food and stay safe from predators.  These pets also need to learn what to do in extreme temperatures, and for some species, how to migrate.  These skills are taught by their parents and other familiar birds at a young age.  Pet birds are also unable to find food sources in the wild because they were never taught how to forage.  Another difficulty is that pet birds form bonds with their human families.  Releasing them into the wild can cause a great amount of stress and separation anxiety.  Most pet birds are bred in captivity, not captured from the wild.  This includes exotic species that are bred by the thousands and then sold to pet stores.  Unfortunately, there is no federal legislation in place to protect birds in the pet trade in the US.  Birds that are captured from the wild for life in a home or zoo appear to suffer a great loss being removed from their natural environments.

All that said has been leading up to the “great reveal” concerning my birder totals for 2022.  You may recall I recorded 26 species in my first year (2020).  I got off to a great start in 2021 with 29 species by the end of January and a total of 52 species for the year.  This year has been slower going, and I only recorded 44 different species, not counting the six European sightings (50 total?).  While I have been watching my feeders this year, I have not yet recorded any of the birds I have seen (for me, no photo, no count). 

THOUGHTS:  It is time to get back onboard and once again get prepared for the Great Backyard Bird Count 2023 (February 17, 2023 – February 20, 2023).  This annual event brings families and bird lovers together to count the birds.  A fun and great reason to fellowship.  Perhaps if I made my birding a “resolution” this year I may have more luck.  At least I might feel bad about breaking my goal two months into the year.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Happiness

January 02, 2023

When I pulled up my NY Times feed yesterday it was all about taking the happiness challenge.  For the last 80 years researchers at Harvard have studied what makes for a good life and have found the one proven predictor of happiness is developing warmer relationships.  This year a team at the Times set out to develop a seven-day challenge to help people increase their happiness.  The team worked with Robert Waldinger of Harvard to craft exercises to help people cultivate more happiness in their relationships.  One of the challenges suggested is the invitation to write a “eulogy for the living,” or to tell someone why you are grateful for them right now.   Another challenge encourages talking to strangers.  Asking questions can feel uncomfortable, and you risk rejection, but it can have a maximum reward for a minimal effort.  The road to happiness does not begin until you start.

When I looked online, I found happiness is an emotional state characterized by the feelings of joy, satisfaction, contentment, and fulfillment.  While happiness has many different definitions, it is often described as involving positive emotions and life satisfaction.  Since happiness is a broadly defined term, psychologists and other social scientists typically use the term “subjective well-being” when they talk about this emotional state, and subjective well-being tends to focus on someone’s overall personal feelings about their life in the present.  There are two key components of happiness.  The first is the balance of emotions.  Everyone experiences positive and negative emotions, but happiness is generally linked to experiencing more positive feelings than negative ones.  The second is your level of life satisfaction.  This relates to how satisfied you feel with different areas of your life including your relationships, work, achievements, and other things that you consider important.

The search for happiness is not new and has been spoken of in print since at least the ancient Greeks.  The philosopher Aristotle suggested happiness is the “one” human desire, and all other human desires exist to obtain happiness.  Aristotle hypothesized four levels of happiness: happiness from immediate gratification, from comparison and achievement, from making positive contributions, and from self-fulfillment.  It is important to remember that happiness is not a state of constant euphoria.  Happiness is an overall sense of experiencing more positive emotions than negative ones.  Happy people feel the whole range of human emotions (including sadness) from time to time.  When they are faced with the discomforts of life, they have an underlying sense of optimism that things will get better, that they can deal with what is happening, and that they will be able to feel happy again.

THOUGHTS:  Research shows that a lot of people take the attitude they will find happiness in the future “if” and “when”.  IF I get the job I want, I will be happy.  WHEN I get the money or WHEN I retire, I will have more time to do the things I like.  However, the idea of a time surplus is a fallacy. You can do something small and actionable today to create happiness right now.  I wish you all the happiness of the coming New Year.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

EOY

December 30, 2022

Since this is the last workday of 2022 for many, I thought I had better finish several projects that I have been putting off.  This began with several checks we had received that needed to go to the bank.  Melissa snap deposits them, but I am old school and take them to the drive thru.  I got them signed and put them in my pocket.  Then there was the linen closet I had cleaned out before Christmas.  When I pared down my clothes closet, I immediately took the items to Goodwill.  When I cleaned the linen closet, I was more tenuous and held onto the items.  I separated them, placed many in plastic bags forming sets of sheets and pillowcases, but then placed them on the spare bed in my office.  I wanted to get Melissa’s approval before I got rid of ten sets of bedding.  Now the end of year (EOY) is here, and I wanted to take them in on this year’s donation.  I packed up the remaining sets and put them all in the car.  Next, I loaded the recycling that had built up during December.  This was partly due to not wanting to go out in the cold, but also because of the number of boxes and cans from the holidays.  Finally, there was the router Melissa had purchased to improve our Wi-Fi.  She found when it arrived that it did not work on our system, and I needed to return it.  These projects had been waiting for several weeks, but I needed an EOY push to get things out of the house.

When I looked online, I found the term “end of year” refers to the conclusion of the business year’s closure.  In business, the EOY can be defined as the end of the calendar year or the fiscal year.  The calendar year is the twelve month period that starts on January 1 and ends on December 31.  A fiscal year is a twelve-month period defined for accounting purposes and may be different from the calendar year and can start on a day different than January 1.  This one-year accounting period is established to suit a particular need of the company, since sometimes issuing a financial statement at the end of the calendar year is a though task because of the high volume of transactions going on at the time.  This difference between a calendar year and a fiscal year is recognized by tax authorities and companies are normally free to declare and pay taxes at the end of their fiscal (not calendar) year.  I do not have that ability and the IRS expects my taxes to be paid every April, and usually on the 15th.   This will be on Monday the 17th in 2023.

After packing everything in the car I began my EOY trek.  I had decided to make a loop to hit the four places I needed to go.  This began with the recycling and then looped back by the bank.  These were in the town where I lived, but the donation was 20 miles away.  While this is out of my way, I prefer to donate or give away household items and clothes when I can rather than throw them away.  I then swung through town to check on friends and on my way home the trek took me near one of my favorite restaurants right around lunch time.  The New Year always brings the question of diets and I wanted to make sure I was able to get a Thai Bun bowl before the EOY.  My last stop was the return.  While the router was ordered online, Melissa found I could return it to our local market, letting me complete my grocery shopping and avoid the New Year’s Eve rush.  As I pulled into my driveway, I was feeling smug about completing all my EOY tasks.  I picked up the newspaper from the seat to go inside and remembered the overflowing box of newspapers in our dining room.  The papers had been one of the main reasons I began my EOY trek.  Oh well, there is always next year.

THOUGHTS:  The EOY holidays serve to bring family and friends together.  We celebrate Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanza, and then end with a bang as the ball drops on New Year’s Eve.  New Year’s Day often finds us reflecting on the past year with its blessings and regrets.  Regardless, the EOY becomes the first day of the rest of your life.  Make it a good one.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Extremes

December 29, 2022

I had been working in my office all morning listening to the wind howl outside.  The weather has been so cold lately that I wait until afternoon to walk Zena.  By 2 or 3 pm the temperatures have usually gotten into the 40’sF (4.5’sC).  It warmed up to the 60’sF (16.5C) yesterday and made for a pleasant walk.  Still, with the wind howling all I could imagine was the bitter cold and wicked “feels like” that it must be today.  I finally got up the nerve to check and see if our walk would be possible, especially since Zena has been in my office begging to go out for the last hour.  I braced myself and pulled up the weather app on my phone.  It was 74F (23C) outside, and even with the with our wind advisory, the “feels like” was also 74F (23C).  It seems our extremes are out of whack.

When I looked online, I found some social media users are sharing an Instagram post that claims Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg was one of the many people whose plans were disrupted by recent winter weather extremes.  The December 25th post shows what appears to be a screenshot of an article from the Genesius Times with a headline that reads, “Greta Thunberg’s Global Warming Conference cancelled (sic) due to sub-arctic freezing temps.”  Exavier Saskagoochie is listed in the byline as the author.  At the time the post was shared, many parts of the U.S. were reeling from a winter storm that caused blizzard conditions and a dangerous drop in temperatures.  While many users appear to believe the article is authentic, it was published by the Genesius Times, an explicitly satirical news outlet.  The satirical article claims the canceled global warming conference was to be sponsored by the International Global Warming Trust, an organization that does not exist.  The picture of the article’s alleged author originates from a stock image website.  The article was originally published in 2019, then re-uploaded in December.  This was obviously fake news.

The Genesius Times is a satire website founded in 2018 by JSB Morse which delights in poking fun at the left.  Articles use fictional names such as Exavier Saskagoochie, the byline for the climate change satire.  The website does not disclose ownership and funding is derived through advertising and donations.  The text at the top of each page on the website labels it the “most reliable source of fake news on the planet,” while text at the bottom states, “We strive to provide the most up-to-date, accurate fake news on the Internet.”  In general, this is a satire source that would appeal to those on the right or perhaps those on the left with a good sense of humor.  The sources entirely use humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues.  These are also clear that they are satire and are not an attempt to deceive the reader.  Apparently, some either fail to read or just do not get it.

THOUGHTS:  This is not the first time climate change skeptics have suggested cold weather proves global warming is not real.  Julio Friedmann, chief scientist at carbon-management firm Carbon Direct, previously said climate change is making the overall climate more volatile, meaning extremes of heat and cold events are both becoming more common.  Gerald Meehl, with the National Center for Atmospheric Research, previously said extreme cold events are being offset by twice as many extreme heat events.  While the Genesius Times may provide humor and satire, the extremes we experience will continue to get worse until the entire planet decides to act.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Knees

December 28, 2022

When I examined the odd looking trees at the reservoir earlier this week, I thought at first that they were some sort of deciduous (not conifer) tree.  They were about 30 yards (27.5 m) away and they appeared to have leaves still hanging from the branches.  When I got closer these turned out to be the fern-like leaves that had died but not yet dropped from the trees.  The trees were both standing in water and situated closely along the shore, where they would have been inundated as the lake level rose.  Around each of the trees were a series of knobby protrusions sticking up through the soil.  These gave the appearance of knees supporting the large trees.

When I looked online, I found these knees are not exclusive to the Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum).  This distinctive structure forms above the roots of various species of the subfamily Taxodioideae, of which the bald cypress is one.  Their function is unknown, but they are generally seen on trees growing in swamps.  Current hypotheses state they might help to aerate the tree’s roots, create a barrier to catch sediment and reduce erosion, assist in anchoring the tree in the soft and muddy soil, or any combination of these.  The knees are woody projections sent above the normal water level, roughly vertically from the roots, with a near-right-angle bend taking them vertically upward through the water.  One early assumption of their function was that they provided oxygen to the roots that grow in the low dissolved oxygen (DO) waters typical of a swamp.  This was thought to act as a specialized respiratory root in certain aquatic plants that grows upward and protrudes above the water or mud into the air (pneumatophores).  Mangroves (Avicennia marina) are another tree with a similar adaptation. 

There is little actual evidence for the assertion that knees provide oxygen to the trees root system.  It has been noted that swamp-dwelling specimens whose knees are removed continue to thrive and lab tests demonstrate the knees are not effective at depleting oxygen in a sealed chamber.  Despite the fact there is no expert consensus on their role, the belief that they are pneumatophores is repeated without comment in several introductory botany textbooks.  Another more likely function is they act as a structural buttressed support for stabilization.  Lowland or swamp-grown cypresses found in flooded or flood-prone areas tend to be buttressed and have knees, while cypresses grown on higher ground may grow with very little taper.  This was the case with the cypress grown in my back yard at the camp.  I was in a dry and even slightly elevated section of the yard.  It was over twenty feet high (6.5 m) and had been there for a while.  There were no knees associated with the tree.  Despite there being no evidence, this theory has continued to be passed through the scientific community.

THOUGHTS:  Cypress developed during the Mesozoic era when the continental crust was concentrated in a single huge landmass, the supercontinent Pangea.  This was a time of ferns and fern-like trees buttressed by knees and was often depicted as swampy grounds of early illustrations.   This era is also associated with the Jurassic Park dinosaurs of the movie franchise.  I grew up enthralled by these dinosaurs and their habitats.  This love was passed on to my son, and he in turn passed it on to his two children.  Knowledge and culture are passed from one generation to the next through a combination of oral tradition, observation, and imitation among family members.  This results in the shared traditions that form the basis of our actions.  That emphasizes how important it is to pass on love and compassion rather than fear and hate.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Cypress

December 27, 2022

Melissa had the day off yesterday since Christmas was on a Sunday this year.  She was wanting to get out and knew I had not been able to fish as much as I liked since we have gotten Zena (yeah, blame the dog).  We decided to go to one of our favorite reservoirs that is just over an hour away.  This has a flat beach where Zena could run as well as an outlet and tailrace that I like to fish.  Zena now loves to ride in the car and was excited as she hopped into the back seat.  We stopped for sandwiches (and a dog treat) and then took off on our journey.  When we arrived at the cove with the beach it was filled with ice, although the deeper parts of the lake were ice free.  We stepped out of the car and let Zena check this new environment.  The wind was biting and brought tears to Melissa’s eyes, which froze on her cheeks.  We decided to get out of the wind and drove to the swimming beach.  I noticed trees along the shore and in the water that I was unfamiliar with.  When I checked my Google app, it identified them as a grove of bald cypress.

When I looked online, I found the Bald Cypress (Taxodium distichum), or swamp cypress, is a deciduous conifer in the family Cupressaceae.  The native range extends from southeastern New Jersey south to Florida and west to Central Texas and southeastern Oklahoma, and inland up the Mississippi River.  The tree is hardy and adapts to a wide range of soil types, whether wet, salty, dry, or swampy.  The cypress is a slow-growing and long-lived tree that usually grows to 35–120 feet (10–40 m) and has a trunk diameter of 3–6 feet (0.9–1.8 m).  The main trunk is often surrounded by cypress knees which jut through the soil from the roots around the tree.  The bark is grayish brown to reddish brown, thin, and fibrous with a stringy texture.  The cypress is noted for the russet-red fall color of its lacy needles.  The tree has some cultivated varieties and is often used in groupings in public spaces (like our reservoir) and can tolerate atmospheric pollution.

Ancient bald cypress forests once dominated swamps in the Southeast, with some trees more than 1,700 years old.  The tallest known specimen, near Williamsburg, Virginia, is 145 feet (44.11 m) tall, and the stoutest in the Real County near Leakey, Texas, has a circumference of 475 inches (368.3 cm).  The National Champion Bald Cypress is recognized as the largest member of its species in the country and is listed as such on the National Register of Champion Trees by American Forest.  This Cypress is in the Cat Island Nation Wildlife Refuge, near St. Francisville, Louisiana, and it is 96 feet (29 m) tall, 56 feet (17 m) in circumference, and is estimated to be 1,500 years old.  The oldest known living specimen, found along the Black River in North Carolina, is at least 2,624 years old, rendering it the oldest living tree in eastern North America.  “Big Dan” is one of the oldest living specimens near High Springs, Florida at Camp Kulaqua, and was estimated to be 2,704 years old in 2020 and is more than 35 feet (10 m) in circumference.  “The Senator”, a bald cypress near Sanford, Florida, was 165 feet (50 m) tall before the hurricane of 1925, when it lost about 40 feet (12 m) in height.  It had a circumference of 47 feet (14 m) and a diameter of 17.5 feet (5.3 m) and was estimated to be 3,500 years old.  It was burned down by vandals in 2012.

THOUGHTS:  At the camp where we lived, we had a bald cypress in our back yard.  I had never seen one as they are not native to any of the places I lived or traveled.  The tree was clearly a conifer, and I was surprised that first winter when it dropped its leaves.  We had struggled with dry conditions during the summer and bitter cold as we began the winter, and I assumed the tree had died.  I was pleasantly surprised when the foliage returned the following spring.  The resilience of nature always surprises me.  Sadly, the ignorance of human vandals does not.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Donut

December 26, 2022

Melissa forwarded me a text from an NPR article by Michaeleen Doucleff concerning the strange ability of Donut the dog.  Donut was a stray who arrived at the family’s house when the two boys were young.  She was a hound mix, with big, brown floppy ears and giant white and black spots on her flanks. When the two boys went to school, Donut would spend most of her day lying on the living room rug sleeping.  However, without fail Donut would hop up just before the bus dropped the boys off and go to the back porch and sit by the window, waiting for the boys to arrive.  She was never early, and she was never late.  The writer decided to solve the mystery of how Donut knew what time the boys would arrive.

Alexandra Horowitz studies dog cognition at Columbia University and Barnard College.  Horowitz says dogs (and people) use many environmental cues to estimate the time during the day.  They listen to their body’s physiological signs, and they have varying hormones that create a built-in clock in their bodies and minds.  Even the amount of light in the room or angle of the sun can tell the passage of time.  Another trick dogs have is called olfaction.  Dogs are living in an olfactory world, and Horowitz suggested they can track time with smell.  Smelling time for Donut likely began with the boy’s unique bouquet of scents.  Humans stink, and dogs can recognize their owners by their smell (that is why they constantly sniff you).  Humans also leave a smell signature everywhere we go.  As the boys rushed out the door to catch the bus in the morning, they left their smell in the living room.  Over time the scents changed as the odors would deteriorate.  It was likely Donut noticed the shift in smells and used it to predict when the school bus would arrive.  Donut literally smelled time pass.

While this may seem an unlikely explanation, this precision is what enables dogs to follow scents through space when tracking missing people.  According to cognitive scientist Lucia Lazarowski, “Tracking and trailing dogs are probably using the intensity of odors, based on how old the odor is, to determine the direction of a track or a trail.” That means more recent odors are going to be more intense than odors that have dissipated over time.  When dogs are keeping track of physical space, they’re also tracking time, and for dogs, time is inseparably woven into space.  Doucleff suggested This is reminiscent of the way physicists describe and think about time and space, as two inseparable ideas combined in one four-dimensional continuum.  If this is the case, dogs are smarter than we give them credit for, and Donut was displaying a mastery of astrophysics.

THOUGHTS:  One reason I found the article about Donut and his ability to tell time interesting was because I see similar behaviors in Zena.  When the clocks “fell back” this fall Zena would come in at the same time and place her head on my knee letting me know it was time for supper.  It took her several weeks to understand I was not going to feed her until 5:30 pm (clock time), regardless of what time she knew it to be.  Einstein’s Theory of Relativity determined that time is relative and depends on your frame of reference.  Time is even relative for the human body, which is basically a biological clock.  Time can speed up when you are trying to finish a project by a certain date but can slow to a crawl when we are waiting for a certain hour to arrive.  Since time is relative, we should relax and let time pass, relishing each moment.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Temperature

December 24, 2022

The temperature has hovered between 0F to 20F (-17.7C to -6.6) for the last week.  While Northwest Arkansas did get 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.5 cm) of snow, all we got in the River Valley was a dusting.  With the temperature this cold we are technically going to have a white Christmas as even our snow has not melted.  The cold has been accompanied by wind gusts that have driven the ‘feels like” down below 0F (-17.5C).  I have not been taking Zena for her daily walks and she is getting antsy being cooped up inside.  Today the winds dissipated, and the sun was out, so Melissa decided to let Zena out back to run.  I watched the birds clamor over our feeders and thought I had better refill them.  When I opened the back door to the patio the vinal I had placed on the door of our makeshift greenhouse came loose.  When I looked, I saw almost five feet of the sticky backing had separated from the plastic.  The temperature had gotten so low the glue would no longer hold.   

An AP article in my paper reported the cold temperature has hit Germany as well.  Churches have joined in the country’s efforts to save on heating costs this winter, forcing congregations to wear increasing layers of clothing.  At the same time, the churches are providing warm spaces for the homeless and for people who are struggling to pay their bills.  Germany is trying to reduce energy use to head off a potential energy crunch after Russia stopped gas supplies.  Many German churches have decided to switch the heating off completely or limit the temperature.  At Martha Church in Berlin, worshippers are being offered extra blankets and heated cushions to keep warm during services as the capital endures a prolonged spell of below-freezing temperature during Advent.  Pastor Monika Matthias says the church is currently between 12 and 14 degrees Celsius (53.6 and 57.2 F).  She said the temperature does not bother her as she is active during services, but other worshippers have found it a struggle to stay warm.  Coffee and tea are offered to heat them up afterward.  During a recent service, most members of the congregation continued to wear their thick winter coats, and many wore hats, scarves, and gloves, with blankets draped across their laps.

While worshippers wrap up to stay warm, churches continue to run shelters for the homeless and for people who are otherwise in difficulty.  There is a focus this year on providing warm spaces for people who do not have access to adequate heating to fight the low temperature.  Ralf Nordhauss of the Diakonie Deutschland charitable organization said the situation is “critical” for people struggling to pay bills amid soaring inflation.  Many prefer to turn the heating down or off rather than get into debt, and more people are expected at shelters.  “Here, it’s not just the homeless, but people who are simply looking for companionship or advice, or a coffee and a warm room,” Nordhauss said.  There are all kinds of warmth needed in times of shortage.

THOUGHTS:  When the temperature drops, I can complain and stay inside where it is warm, but others are not so lucky.  Each year, more than 100,000 people die from cold in the United States, and 13,000 in Canada.  That is more than 40 cold deaths for every heat related death (2,500).  Globally, 1.7 million people die of cold each year, dwarfing the 300,000 heat deaths.  Tackling cold deaths is much harder than heat deaths because it requires well-heated homes over weeks and months.  Heavy-handed climate policies only increase heating costs and make cold deaths more frequent.  Climate change is about extremes, and not just about getting warmer.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.