Glass

June 10, 2022

I made a quick run to the market yesterday and when I got back to the car, I noticed a grasshopper hanging onto the outside of the passenger side window.  This is hardly a rarity and I paid it no mind as I sped off for home.  When I got up to speed, I glanced over and even though the wind was blowing the hopper to one side, it was still clinging tenaciously to the glass.  The hopper held on for half a mile (0.8 km) as I drove through town.  It was not until I stopped to turn that the hopper finally jumped off the glass.  While I could not blow him off in the wind, I guess he decided the free ride was over.

When I looked online, I found glass is a non-crystalline, often transparent amorphous solid, that has widespread practical, technological, and decorative uses.  Glass is most often formed by rapid cooling (quenching) of the molten form.  While most glass is manufactured, volcanic glass occurs naturally.  The most familiar type of manufactured glass is “silicate glass”, which is based on the chemical compound silica (silicon dioxide, or quartz), which is the primary element of sand. Archaeological evidence suggests glass-making dates to at least 3,600 BCE in Mesopotamia, Egypt, or Syria.  The earliest known glass objects were beads.  Due to its ease of formability into any shape, glass has been traditionally used for bowls, vases, bottles, jars and drinking vessels.  Glass can be colored by adding metal salts or painted and printed as enameled glass.  The refractive, reflective and transmission properties make glass suitable for manufacturing optical lenses, prisms, and optoelectronics materials.  Extruded glass fibers have are employed as optical fibers in communications networks, thermal insulating material when matted as glass wool, or in glass-fiber reinforced plastic (fiberglass).  I have learned the hard way that glass wool cuts.

Numerous insects and certain amphibians and reptiles (tree frogs and geckos) can walk on and cling to smooth surfaces, including glass doors and windows.  In most insects, this is done by the large number of tiny bristles or hairs on the bottom of their feet.  Electron microscopes have shown “smooth” glass surfaces have microscopic bumps and fissures which serve as footholds for the tiny hairs.  The foot segments, or tarsi, at the end of insect legs also possess claw-like structures that help the insect hold on to different types of surfaces.  The tarsal claws grip the tiny irregularities of the surfaces.  Grasshoppers also make use of adhesion.  On a smooth glass, the insect hold on using the adhesive action of hairs located on sticky pads (known as the arolia or pulvilli) on the tarsi.  Grasshoppers have pads on each of their tarsal segments that contain numerous hairs that secrete an oily substance that causes the tips of the hairs to adhere to the surface.  The substance provides the traction and stickiness that allows hopper to hold on to the glass.  The combination of hairs, claws, sticky pads, and microscopic footholds let the hopper ride.

THOUGHTS:  While most see a window as a solid pane of glass, physicists looking at the glass on a molecular level have questioned whether glass is a solid or merely an extremely slow-moving liquid.  In physics, glass is a solid, but glass lacks the first order phase transition, meaning it does not have a volume (size), entropy (randomness), and enthalpy (heat content) throughout its transition range from sand to glass.  This sets glass apart from typical solids, and in this respect, glass resembles a liquid.  The atomic structure of glass is like that of a supercooled liquid and glass behaves like a solid when it is cooled below its glass transition temperature.  That means only the right questions can address (let alone find) the right answer.  When we deal with people, we often find the same is true.  We need to take time to learn the questions before we can expect to hear the answers.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Goat

June 08, 2022

Farmer’s Markets seem to be the ideal spot to walk you dog.  I have noticed this at our local market and other famer’s markets I have attended around the US.  Most of the dogs have been small breeds and puppies but I have noticed some large dogs.  Thankfully, the owners have been courteous and kept the dogs on a leash although it may be obeying the law as most cities and states require a dog be “under the control” of the owner when they are in public.  While the produce has yet to arrive at our market, several of the venders identify themselves as “farms”.  I have mentioned seeing them selling eggs and honey, but another staple seems to be cheese.  While one vender sells packaged cheeses from a friend’s Wisconsin farm, another sells a soft goat cheese they make from their own livestock.  Melissa bought some of this goat cheese and said it was very good.

When I looked online, I found the domestic goat (Capra hircus) is a species of goat-antelope kept as livestock.  The goat is a member of the animal family Bovidae and the tribe Caprini, meaning it is closely related to domesticated sheep (Ovis aries).  Goats are among the earliest animals domesticated by humans and archaeological evidence shows its domestication occurred in Iran around 10,000 years ago.  The most recent genetic analysis confirms the archaeological evidence that the wild bezoar ibex (Capra aegagrus) of the Zagros Mountains (western Asia) is likely the original ancestor of all domestic goats.  There are now over 300 distinct breeds of goat.  Goat is used for milk, meat, fur, and skins across much of the world.  Female goats are referred to as does or nannies, intact males are called bucks or billies, castrated males are called wethers, and juvenile goats of both sexes are called kids.  According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, there were more than 924 million goats in the world in 2011.

I was surprised when I noticed one of the farm venders walking what I thought was an ugly, skinny dog to their booth.  What I noticed first was that the animal walked with a limp and needed to be helped around.  Initially, the vender put the pet in one of the camp chairs they had brought to sit in.  It turned out the animal was quite agile as it was all over the three chairs, walking back and forth across them as they were lined in a row.  After they finished setting up, they put the animal on a leash and set it down in front of their tent.  When I took a good look, I realized it was not a skinny dog at all.  It was a goat.  The goat began to do what goats do and ate the grass in front of their booth.  While several children stopped to pet the goat, most paid it no mind.  Apparently, the goat became bored because when I looked over, it was eating the plastic tablecloth.  Again, that is what goats do.

THOUGHTS:  When I was at the archaeological site of Petra, Jordan, the Bedouin were still living in and around the abandoned city.  While they mainly sold drinks and trinkets to the tourists, the children spent most of their day raising small goats.  One day the boys noticed as I set off to hike to the top of one of the surrounding mountains.  It only took me 30 minutes to follow the path to the top, but when I arrived two of the boys had set up a stand selling cold drinks for my refreshment.  They not only beat me to the top by another route but had brought their goat herd with them.  Domestication of cereal gains (wheat, rice, and barley) and animals (sheep and goat) allowed the earlier hunter gathers of the Neolithic to settle down and form the beginnings of civilization.  While some now do not like the smell of domestic goat or the taste of goat milk and cheese, we might still be wandering nomads without them.  When other people are different it can take getting used to, but together we can change the world.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Crescent

June 08, 2022

I got another invader on my porch over the weekend when a butterfly came and joined the moth I wrote of earlier.  This was again located in the upper corner of the screened porch.  After I researched the two species I began to wonder if they were not there to take advantage of the bramble (Rubus trifidus) that was not only thriving on the outside of the porch but had pushed its way through the top of the screen into the porch itself.  The plant has not only flowered but has produced the red berries that draw the birds and insects that feed on the nectar and fruit.  I had chosen to leave this “weed” in the flower bed for this purpose, and I hoped it was accomplishing this goal.  One of the interesting aspects of this butterfly was the crescent shaped markings that surrounded the ends of the hindwings.

When I looked online, I found the pearl crescent (Phyciodes tharos) is a North American butterfly found throughout the US except the west coast, and throughout Mexico and parts of southern Canada.  Its habitat is open areas such as pastures, road edges, vacant lots, fields, and open pine woods.  The wing pattern of the adult pearl crescent varies, but all have orange wings with black borders with fine black markings.  The common name comes from a crescent-shaped, light-colored spot surrounded by a darker patch on the outer edge of the hindwing.  The first pair of legs are short, hairy-looking, and useless for walking.  The wingspan is from 1–1½ inches (21 to 34 mm).  Adults find nectar from a great variety of flowers including dogbane, swamp milkweed, shepherd’s needle, asters, and winter cress.  The species has several broods throughout the year, from April to November in the north and throughout the year in the deep south and Mexico.  The eggs are laid in small batches on the underside of the leaves of the aster species (family Asteraceae).  Larvae are brownish black with light dots, yellow lateral stripes, yellowish-brown spines, and a black head with a pale spot in front.  Larvae that occur in late season hibernate until transforming into the adult butterfly the following spring.

While the pearl crescent is one of the most common and widespread butterflies in the eastern US, it is one of the hardest to identify with certainty because of the similarity to the northern and the tawny crescents.  The northern crescent (Phyciodes cocyta) was only separated from the pearl crescent in the last 25 years, and the distribution maps where the two overlap are suspect.  The females are very hard to distinguished in the field and it is best to check the males to determine whether the species is present.  While the male is like the female, the hind wing is more open and has a distinctive dark patch in the middle of the hindwing margin.  Tawny crescent (Phyciodes batesii) males and females are like the female pearl and northern crescents but are slightly darker because of the larger amounts of black markings.  The male of the tawny species is uniformly colored on the hindwing, with little or no darker spot near the middle wing margin as in the pearl and northern crescents.  The range is perhaps the best marker, as the tawny is found in Canada and the western US, but only occurs in the high mountains of North Carolina and Georgia in the East.  The northern crescent ranges from the Yukon Territory southeast across lower Canada to Newfoundland, and south into the US along the Rockies to Arizona and New Mexico, and along the Appalachians to Virginia.  Being in Arkansas, it is safe to say my sighting was the pearl crescent.

THOUGHTS:  Animal species like the crescents form and differentiate when breeding populations are separated by environmental factors and distance.  This may happen relatively fast as between the pearl and northern crescents, or it may occur over millennia.  Sapiens (modern humans) are said to have come from the Eden-like environment of the African Rift Valley.  From there they spread across Africa, into Europe, and Asia.  Finally, they took the boat or land bridge that brought them to Australia, the Americas, and Oceania.  Over time and distance humans began to developpe different traits and these have been used to distinguish races, yet we are all one species.  Humans like to think it is our intelligence that sets us apart.  Perhaps we should act like it.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Tote

June 07, 2022

My desire to feed the birds caught up with me over the weekend.  I have had occasional days when something got on the porch and found the seed.  I re-bagged the seed sack with the hole in it and that seemed to take care of the problem.  Now it became a nightly raid on my seed stores.  The only bag that seemed to be chewed was the one with corn kernels.  This caused corn to be strewn across the floor and Zena thought this was a new treat.  The problem is, she cannot digest the corn and it comes back, one way or another.  Melissa cleaned up the corn mess again on Sunday and put the bag in a plastic tote with a closable lid.  Apparently, there was another bag we missed, and corn was strewn across the floor Monday.  I had enough and went to the hardware store to buy five-gallon buckets, lids, and a sealable plastic tote.

When I looked online, I found the plastic tote is one of the most common ways to store and ship items in manufacturing.  A bulk box, also known as a bulk bin, skid box, pallet box, bin box, gaylord, or octabin, is a pallet-size box used for storage and shipping of bulk quantities.  The term gaylord is sometimes used for the triple wall corrugated plastic pallet boxes in the US and Canada, as the first bulk bins were made by the Gaylord Container Company of St. Louis.  Bulk boxes are often made of corrugated fiberboard now and many of the corrugated bulk boxes have covers.  Additional corrugated liners and reinforcement are sometimes used to control bulging of the box.  Wooden boxes are also used for bulk packaging, as are aluminum and steel boxes in heavy industry.  Still, a reusable plastic tote is cheapest and most convenient for many products and logistics chains.

Apparently, I am not the only one who struggles to keep seed safe.  The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a secure backup facility for the world’s crop diversity on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen in the remote Arctic Svalbard archipelago.  The Seed Vault provides long-term storage of duplicates of seeds conserved in gene banks around the world.  This provides security of the world’s food supply against the loss of seeds in gene banks “due to mismanagement, accident, equipment failures, funding cuts, war, sabotage, disease, and natural disasters.”  The seeds are stored in sealed three-ply foil packages, placed into a plastic tote, and put off the floor on metal shelving racks.  The storage rooms are kept at -0.4F (-18C).  The low temperature and limited access to oxygen ensures low metabolic activity and delays seed ageing.  The permafrost surrounding the facility will help maintain the low temperature of the seeds if the electricity supply fails.  This might be overkill for my porch, but at least I have my tote.

THOUGHTS:  Using a tote to store my seed is not a new idea.  It became a necessity when I lived at the camp and stored seed for my bird feeders.  The problem was the mice who lived in the garage no matter how many traps and baits I set.  Since I did not have a lot of seed (two feeders) the lidded buckets worked great and kept any varmints out of the seed.  I now have more seed and larger bags and the tote was a good adjunct to the five-gallon buckets.  I have accommodated the squirrels getting into my feeders and even dedicated a feeder for them, but whatever is eating the seed on my porch is going too far.  Most people tolerate minor offenses against their property but will finally draw the line.  The secret is to weigh the impact of the offence against the needs of the other.  If that is true for squirrels, it ought to be true for other humans.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Moth

June 06, 2022

Melissa has the habit of keeping the door open to the back porch when she is working to allow Zena access to the deck.  This results in other visitors coming in as well as Zena going out.  Last week we had two House sparrows (Passer domesticus) that decided to check out the succulents that fill the porch.  I became aware of the birds when Zena became frantic and wanted outside.  When I walked out one of the birds flew out the door on its own, but the other franticly thrashed against the screen.  I went inside to get my butterfly net to coax the bird outside, but I did not close the door completely and it flew into the house.  I did get it back to the porch, but it flew behind some items stored in the corner and I could not get it to move.  I finally gave up knowing it would eventually get out on its own.  That was when I noticed an interesting moth near the ceiling that I do not recall having ever seen.

When I looked online, I found the eight-spotted forester (Alypia octomaculata), is a moth of the family Noctuidae found in the eastern part of the US and in parts of Canada and Mexico.  The wingspan of the adult moth is 1–1½ inches (30–37 mm).  Adult foresters have butterfly-like traits, meaning they fly during the day, drink from flowers, and have antennae that are thickened at the tips.  While the overall color is black, the forewings have two pale yellow spots, and the hindwings have two white spots.  The body is mostly black, but the front and middle pairs of legs have patches of bright orange hairs.  The flight is fast and darting and the black and white pattern creates a flickering effect like a strobe light.  Forester larvae are whitish lavender, with each segment having several narrow, black transverse lines and one wide orange band.  There are small black tubercles on the body, white spots in the abdominal area, and an orange head.  The moth flies from April to June in one generation in the north, while in the south it has two generations, one April to June and the other in August. 

The adult moth emerges in late spring to mate and the eggs are laid on grape shoots and leaves.  The larvae hatch and will feed until it reaches full growth in early summer.  The mature larvae drop to the ground and pupate in tunnels they construct just beneath the soil surface.  The next generation of moths emerge and lay eggs again in late summer.  There may be two generations, a partial second generation, or only one generation depending on the climate.  Both the wild grape (Vitis vinifera) and the Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) serve as alternate hosts.  Although commercial vineyards do not generally suffer severe damage from the moth larvae, small areas of a vineyard may have concentrated infestations and defoliation.  Damage is most severe along the perimeters of vineyards and near bushes, woods, or weedy areas where the wild alternatives grow.  The moth resting on my porch was a long way from habitat or food.

THOUGHTS:  When I was young it was easy to differentiate between a butterfly and a moth.  A butterfly had smooth wings and bodies and a moth was fuzzy.  I also thought butterflies were good (pollination) and moths were bad (eat clothes).  Both butterflies and moths are important pollinators and are a plentiful food supply for birds and people.  Caterpillars are packed with protein and healthy fats, and research shows 100 grams of the insects provides more than 100% of daily requirements of vital minerals like potassium, calcium, zinc, and iron.  Both are members of order Lepidoptera, but butterflies belong to the suborder (Rhopalocera – “club-antennae”) while moth antennae are quite varied (Heterocera -“varied-antennae”) and lack the club.  My fuzzy classification was not even mentioned.  A butterfly and a moth are similar and provide the similar benefits, yet as a child I thought one was good and the other bad.  Like people, we need to understand who and what someone is, not just whether they make us feel fuzzy.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Rodeo

June 04, 2022

I had mentioned last month that Melissa had signed up for a stall at our local Farmer’s Market.  Today was the second month and I was surprised that numbers were down for the vendors.  I assume since your fee paid for the season that the vendors would show up each time the market opened.  Maybe the other vendors knew something we did not because the number of attendees were down as well.  It is still too early for most local farms to provide fresh fruits and vegetables, so most vendors were selling either craft items, baked goods, or eggs and honey.   Every egg vendor also sold honey, or vice versa.  I did not know if that was attributed to a kindred entrepreneurial spirit or coincidence.  I did see politicians who attended last month to hand out fliers before the primaries.  Another interesting attendee was a young girl decked out in her rodeo costume selling raffle tickets.  When I asked, she mentioned whoever sold the most tickets got to be the queen at our local rodeo.  Melissa bought five.

When I looked online, I found rodeo is a competitive equestrian (horse) sport that came out of the working practices of cattle herding in Spain and Mexico, and later expanded throughout the Americas and to other nations. The events were originally based on the skills required of the working vaqueros and cowboys in northern Mexico, the western US, and western Canada.  It is now a sporting event that involves horses and livestock and is designed to test the skill and speed of the cowboys and cowgirls.  American-style professional rodeo generally includes both timed events (tie-down roping, team roping, steer wrestling, and barrel racing) and the rough stock events (saddle bronc riding, bareback bronc riding, and bull riding).  Depending on sanctioning organization and region, other events may also be included.  According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the “world’s first public cowboy contest” was held on July 4, 1883, in Pecos, Texas, between cattle driver Trav Windham and roper Morg Livingston.

Professional rodeos in the US are governed and sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) and Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA).  Other associations govern children’s, high school, collegiate, and other amateur or semi-professional rodeos.  Associations also exist for Native Americans and other minority groups.  The competitive rodeo season runs from spring through fall, while the professional rodeo circuit runs longer and concludes with the PRCA National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Nevada, every December.  Rodeo has provoked opposition from animal rights and welfare advocates who argue the competitions are animal cruelty.  The rodeo industry in America has improved the welfare of rodeo animals and have requirements for veterinary care and regulations to protect animals.  Some local and state governments in North America have banned or restricted rodeos, certain events, or types of equipment.  Internationally, rodeo is banned in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, with other European nations placing restrictions on certain practices.  Unlike circuses, the livestock is the show in rodeo and cannot be removed from the event.

THOUGHTS:  One of the preliminary events at local rodeos is “mutton busting”.  This enlivens the crowd and gets them ready for the stock events to follow.  The rules of mutton busting are simple.  Children between the age of 4 or 7 climb aboard a wild, wooly sheep and try to hold on for six seconds.  Like bull riders, mutton busters are scored on a scale of 100 points.  The rider must stay on the animal for six seconds, at which point the judges award half the points for the style of the rider and half for the aggressive qualities of the sheep.  While mutton busting is an American Tradition, it is essentially a version of bronc riding turned into a game lasting six seconds.  Rodeo parents say riding a sheep is a confidence-building activity, while non-rodeo parents argue it is child abuse.  Tradition by itself is neither good nor bad but does need to be judged by current ethical and cultural stands.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Anxiety

June 03, 2022

Zena is scheduled for another session with the “treat man” (trainer) this morning.  I mentioned that her inner ear has yet to fully develop which causes vertigo and vomiting in the car.  One way we deal with this is to not feed her prior to the trip to training, thinking at least there will be less to clean up after the ride.  We have found that not eating causes anxiety, and she was on a tear this morning.  Melissa needed to go into work which did not help.  We went outside hoping to distract her with play.  As I sat and drank my coffee Zena proceeded to dig holes in her section of the yard, another sign of anxiety.  We played tug with one of her toys to distract her and then went out front to get the paper.  Zena immediately took off to investigate the cul-de-sac.  I got her lease and started after her.  Luckily, Melissa arrived just as she was going down the street and this gave her a new distraction.  I put her leash on her, and we walked back to the house.  Attention seems to be the only way to alleviate her anxiety.

When I looked online, I found while everyone occasionally feels anxious, some people feel so worried or fearful that their feelings negatively affect their school, work, relationships, or home life.  Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental illnesses in the US, and it is estimated that 1 in 5 adults will be affected by an anxiety disorder every year.  These disorders range from a generalized anxiety, to panic, fears, or separation and can cause a great deal of distress, including emotional problems, sleep issues, and other physical symptoms.  Anxiety commonly runs in families, so if a close family member has an anxiety disorder, you are more likely to have anxiety.  Stressful events or a shy temperament is also associated with anxiety, and 60% of females are more likely to develop anxiety disorders than males.  While anxiety disorders can be debilitating and make life challenging, they are also the number one cause of emergency room visits each year.

One way people deal with anxiety is to eat.  However, there is a difference between eating comfort food (processed carbohydrates high in fat) and eating food that provides comfort.  Research has found seven foods that reduce anxiety.  We can replace our craving for sugar with berries (blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and gooseberries) which are filled with Vitamin C and antioxidants.  A substitute for alcohol is tea (lavender, chamomile, and green tea) which contain antioxidants that calm your nerves.  Dark chocolate contains compounds of nutrients that make up antioxidants which will soothe you.  Dry nuts (Brazilian nuts, walnuts, and almonds) are another excellent source of antioxidants, proteins, and most importantly magnesium which help maintain the body’s neurotransmitters and supports brain functioning.  Vitamin C is a great stress reliever (oranges, limes, and grapes) and help the nerves, as do green leafy vegetables (spinach, cabbage, lettuce, and parsley).  Several varieties of fish (sardines and salmon) contain high levels of Omega-3, a fatty acid that maintains the cognitive functioning of the brain and balances hormones.  Yoghurt has an abundance of probiotics which help with anxiety and depression.  These foods not only reduce levels of anxiety but are also part of a health diet.  A win/win.

THOUGHTS:  The pandemic has had a tremendous impact on society.  In the US alone, the need to isolate led to the loss of over 22.0 million jobs, pushing the comprehensive measure of unemployment to over 20%, and the share of women working below 50%.  In terms of physical health, worldwide the pandemic has resulted in nearly 535 million cases reported and over 6.3 million deaths, and it is far from over.  This has caused a lot of anxiety.  While attention reduces the anxiety Zena feels waiting to be fed, treatment for anxiety disorders in humans is more complex.  These may include talk therapy, medication, stress-management techniques, self-care, or support groups.  Regardless of what is used, these treatment methods can reduce distress and help people learn how to effectively manage anxiety symptoms.  Paying attention to each other is not a bad idea either.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Schools

June 02, 2022

I saw an article in my local newspaper reprinted from an AP story addressing the thousands of unmarked graves associated with Indigenous boarding schools in the US.  A federal study of Indigenous boarding schools has identified more than 500 student deaths and officials expect that to grow exponentially.  The Interior Department report identified more than 400 schools that were established or supported by the US government, starting in the early 19th century, and continuing in some cases until the late 1960’s.  The identified deaths represent records for about 20 of the schools.  Many children just never returned home, and the Interior Department said with further investigation the number of student deaths could climb to the thousands or tens of thousands.  Causes include disease, accidental injuries, and abuse.  Accounting for the deaths will be difficult as records were not always kept.  A second volume of the report will cover burial sites as well as the federal government’s financial investment in the schools and the impact of the boarding schools on Indigenous communities.  The Interior Department has so far identified at least 53 burial sites at or near boarding schools, not all of which have marked graves.

When I went online, I found the primary objective of these schools was “civilizing” or assimilating Native American children and youth into Euro-American culture.  In the process, these schools denigrated Native American culture and made children give up their languages and religion in the effort to replace it with a basic Western education.  Children were immersed in European-American culture and forced removal of indigenous cultural signifiers like cutting children’s hair, wearing American-style uniforms, forbidding the use of indigenous languages, and replacing tribal names with the English names used at the schools.  This was part of an effort to assimilate and “Christianize” the children.  The schools were usually harsh, and especially for younger children who were forcibly separated from their families and made to abandon their Native American identity and culture.  Investigations during the later twentieth century revealed many documented cases of sexual, manual, physical, and mental abuse occurring mostly in church-run schools.  Investigations are now increasing across the US. 

Since the 1970’s, tribal nations have carried out political activism and gained legislation and federal policy that gives them the power to decide how to use federal education funds, how they educate their children, and the authority to establish their own community-based schools.  Tribes have also founded numerous tribal colleges, and universities on reservations.  Tribal control over their schools has been supported by federal legislation and changing practices by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  By 2007, most of the schools had been closed and the number of Indigenous children in boarding schools had declined to 9,500.  While the Native American Boarding School era has ended, the US government still operates off-reservation boarding schools.  As of 2020, seven boarding schools continue to be federally funded, three of which are controlled by Indigenous community leaders.  Native youth still face challenges within the education system and rarely have access to curriculums that are culturally relevant to them.

THOUGHTS:  I have interacted with two Indigenous schools as an adult.  The first was playing football against what is now Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, in the mid-1970’s.  This was a boarding school prior to becoming Haskell Indian Junior College in 1967.  By the late 1980’s Haskell had developed into a four-year, bachelor’s degree university.  I later received an advanced degree from a school cooperating with Bacone College in Muskogee, Oklahoma.  Bacone began as Indian University in 1885 as a mission school.  After restructuring in 2018-2019, the tribal nations in Oklahoma collaborated to take control of the college as a consortium and revive the school’s history as a tribal college established for Indian education.  During the 1970’s I heard rumors about the “cheaters” we faced.  In the 2000’s I interacted with fellow students and educators.  I like to hope this is a fundamental change in the perception of society and how we treat “others”.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Weights

June 01, 2022

I lifted weights much of the first half of my life and gained the benefits this provides.  Even now that I do not lift regularly, I keep smaller sets of weights around the house and occasionally get inspired to use them.  While Melissa has never formally exercised with weights, she keeps “toning” weights in the living room along with my small sets.  Like any small child, since we brought Zena home, we have found it necessary to put things out of her reach.  She constantly comes into the room with a stream of packing paper or a towel hanging from her mouth.  Usually, we are not even sure where she gets the items from, but they do seem fun for her to carry around.  Recently, Zena found Melissa’s toning weights behind one of the chairs.  Now the green 2½# (1.14 kg) barbell has become a treasured toy.  Zena will pick it up and carry it around.  She takes it outside and tosses it into the air on the patio.  At least someone is using it.     

When I looked online, I found several websites touting the benefits of lifting weights.  While the obvious reason is to get stronger and build more muscle, there are other reasons to lift that could make your life better.  While physical attractiveness is subjective, most people look better with a well-balanced body, and muscle gives your body shape and stature which makes your clothes fit better.  This also increases metabolism, improves heart health, and boosts the endorphins that make you feel better (dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine).  Finally, lifting weights can give you more self-confidence.  While ideally self-confidence should be grounded in an unshakeable sense of self-worth regardless of your current state of health, the reality is that feeling and looking good physically goes a long way to make you feel better about yourself.  These benefits do not require you to be in the gym all day, every day.  Committing to 3 days per week, at around 45 minutes per session, can have a positive impact on your strength, health, and general sense of well-being.

I read a NY Times article saying lifting weights can have positive effect on aging.  Weight training by older people not only builds strength and muscle mass but also provides motivation and confidence which potentially spurs them to continue exercising.  There is plenty of evidence that lifting weights can help us age well.  By our early 40’s, most humans are losing muscle mass at a rate of about 5% a decade.  This decline often precipitates a long slide toward frailty and dependence.  New research shows older people who lift weights can slow or reverse the decline.  Older people who start to lift weights typically gain muscle mass and strength, as well as better mobility, mental sharpness, and metabolic health.  However, statistics indicate only 17% of older Americans regularly lift weights.  The study found there were those who enjoyed lifting weights, while others preferred different forms of exercise, but concluded, “unless you try weights you will never know.”  The overarching lesson is older adults need to exercise.  Maybe I will join Zena and break out my weights.

THOUGHTS:  As I aged, I found my emphasis shifting from physical to intellectual endeavors.  When I was younger, I spent hours lifting weights, running, biking, and playing hand ball.  This was often while not completing the studying or planning needed to accomplish future goals.  Now that I am older, I spend hours researching, writing, and planning, but struggle to find time to pursue the exercise that was such a part of my life.  Melissa and I joke that Zena has two speeds, full out and collapse.  What Zena knows naturally is that you need balance in your life.  While my full out may be less than Zena’s, balance is still required to keep both body and mind functioning.  This is a lesson we all need to remember.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Thistle

May 31, 2022

When I approached the small overflow dam on Saturday there were four women already fishing the area.  I noted they spread further along the bank when they saw me, a clear fisherperson way to claim a wider area as “where I am fishing”.  After discovering the green heron feeding on frogs at the riverbank, I decided to walk around the small park to see if there was another place to fish.  I had not brought my fly rod, or I would have probably stopped at several places.  Instead, I kept walking.  That was when a glint of purple caught my eye across the stream.  I crossed a bridge that allowed access to the disc golf course and checked out the flower.  It was a thistle plant lying just off the mowed area of the bank.

When I looked online, I found the musk thistle (Carduus nutans), or nodding thistle, is a biennial plant in the daisy and sunflower family Asteraceae that is native to regions of Europe and Asia.  The thistle usually requires two years to complete a reproductive cycle.  Seedlings emerge any time from spring to late summer and develop a rosette.  The plants overwinter in the rosette stage, sending up a multi-branched flowering stem in mid spring of their second year.  Mature plants reach 3.3 to 4.9 feet (1 to1.5 m) in height and have sharp spiny stems.  The dark green leaves grow to 12 to 24 inches (30 to 60 cm) long, and are coarsely bipinnately lobed, with a smooth, waxy surface and sharp yellow-brown to whitish spines at the tips of the lobes.  The reddish-purple flowers are 1 ¼ to 2 ½ inches (3 to 5 cm) in diameter and commonly droop to a 90-to-120-degree angle from the stem when mature, giving the alternate name “nodding thistle”.  The plant is declared a noxious weed in many US states, Canadian provinces, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia.  A single flower head may produce 1,200 seeds and a single plant up to 120,000 seeds, which are wind dispersed.  The seeds may remain viable in the soil for over ten years, making it a difficult plant to control

The musk thistle was accidentally introduced into eastern North America in the early 19th century and has been an invasive species since.  The thistle is common and thrives in disturbed and agricultural settings, and typically grows in meadows and grasslands, in heavily grazed land in areas such as pastures, and on open disturbed soil such as roadsides and building sites.  Musk thistle is not a serious weed problem in crops requiring a spring seedbed preparation as tilling eradicates the rosettes established during the preceding summer or fall.  The plant can be a problem in fall-planted grains, alfalfa, or clover if the conditions are favorable for seedling establishment and winter survival.  The economic impact of musk thistle is greatest in pastures and rangeland.  Moderate infestations of musk thistle reduce pasture yields an average of 23 percent.  Livestock usually won’t graze infested areas but occasionally feed on the flower heads.

THOUGHTS:  The words “milkweed” and “milk thistle” are often used interchangeably by those who do not study plants, but they are two very different plants.  Milkweed usually grows to about 2 feet tall with large, bright clusters of flowers on the tops of its stems.  The milk thistle is stout and ridged and can grow to over 6 feet tall.  The top of a milk thistle is crowned with a large purple flower head that is surrounded by ridged sharp bracts.  The bright flowers of milkweed attract a plethora of fauna, whereas milk thistle is an invasive weed that takes over poorly tended fields and roadsides and has become a nuisance in areas of North America.  It seems the value of either species depends on the beholder.  As they say, “One person’s weed is another’s flower.”  The same could be said of humans.  Value seems to come from “worth to me,” and ignores the innate value of all.  Chose to act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.