Carp

March 4, 2023

One of the apps on my phone is called Fishbrain.  This app tracks fishing reports from other users.  I have set the reports to only cover my area.  My thought is to see what, and how, and where fish are being caught, and then decide if this might be a good place for me to fish.  Fishbrain also notifies me when someone I follow has posted along with other articles that might be of my interest.  I received an email this morning from Fishbrain on invasive carp in North America.  The article especially dealt with Canada’s attempt to keep all four species of carp out of their waters.

When I looked online, I found carp (Cyprinidae family) are a large freshwater fish native to central Asia that have been introduced in other countries.  Carp are the most widely distributed freshwater fish in the world.  Carp are extensively farmed in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, are a popular angling fish in Europe, but in North America, Canada and Australia, carp are considered invasive and a pest.  Asian carp were brought to the US in the 1960’s and 1970’s for use as biological control.  Bighead Carp (Hypophthalmichthys nobilis) and Silver Carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix) were used to control algae and Black Carp (Mylopharyngodon piceus) were used to control snails in aquaculture facilities in Arkansas.  Flooding allowed them to escape their controlled ponds and make their way into the Mississippi River Basin.  The spread of Grass Carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella) in the US is largely the result of stocking for aquatic vegetation control.  Grass Carp can either be fertile (called, “diploid”) or sterile (called, “triploid”).  Some states allow fertile Grass Carp to be stocked, some only allow triploid Grass Carp to be stocked, and some states do not allow them at all.  Bighead Carp primarily eat zooplankton, Silver Carp primarily eat phytoplankton, Black Carp primarily eat mollusks (snails, mussels), and Grass Carp primarily eat aquatic vegetation.  Fertile fish can spawn several times a year depending on the conditions, and large populations take food from native fish.

I previously mentioned how carp have overrun the Mississippi River and its tributaries, but the article said there are no established populations of carp in Canada.  There have been individual captures of carp in the Canadian waters of the Great Lakes.  Three single specimens of Bighead Carp have been collected in western Lake Erie between 2000 and 2003 and are believed to have been intentionally released.  There have been 29 captures of Grass Carp since 2012 in the waters or tributaries of lakes Huron, Ontario, and Erie, and 9 tested fertile.  It is likely that these fish were escapees from areas where populations were being used for aquatic plant control, or by live releases.  No Silver Carp or Black Carp have been found in the Great Lakes to date.  While Canada is concerned about all four species, Grass Carp are the most immediate risk as they appear to be naturally reproducing in two US tributaries of Lake Erie.  Grass Carp can weigh over 80 pounds (36 kg), reach lengths of over 5 feet (1.5 m), and can eat up to 40% of their body weight a day in aquatic vegetation.  Since they are not established in Canada, this presents a threat to wetlands already under stress.

THOUGHTS:  When I was a boy the town’s hardware store held a competition for the largest fish.  I was an avid fisher person and caught a carp which I brought in as an entry.  The 3 pound 6 ounce (1.5 kg) fish was the largest carp entered, and I won a rod and reel combo.  It was only years later that my father told me carp were not a category.  While carp are considered trash fish in the US due to their image and boniness, they are a staple in other parts of the world.  There are a few chefs who are trying to introduce carp to the American palate, but generally by another name and often ground into a patty.  This is a huge food supply that is unused because of perception.  We can reject other cultures or persons due to our own perception.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Sharkansas

March 3, 2023

In the lead story of the sports section of my local newspaper Christina Long reported on the origin of Sharkansas by the Razorback student section at basketball games.  The recent tradition of hundreds of Arkansas students clad in bright blue shark costumes has drawn both annoyance and adoration of fans.  This now typically happens when the Hogs play Kentucky at home.  Some fans believe the blue shark costumes are too close to the color of blue worn by Kentucky.  Others say the sharks remind them of the attempt by Ole Miss’ to switch from Colonel Reb to adopt the animal as its mascot.  Regardless, Sharkansas has persisted and is predicted to again make an appearance when the Hogs host the Wildcats for the last regular season basketball game this Saturday.

When I went online, I found the psychology for why we dress in costumes.  The adage says, “if clothes make the man, a blue polyester suit can make you Superman.”  The question is does dressing up really make you a different person, or does it just change your wrapping.  We realize we do not need to put on a costume to switch roles, and we do so several times a day as different situations arise (son, dad, co-worker).  We not only judge others depending on the clothes they wear, we also judge ourselves by the clothes we wear.  Clothes not only change your opinion about yourself but change your behavior.  Thinking you change your self-perception and behavior according to what you wear might seem ludicrous, it is another sign that we do switch roles according to what we are wearing, and each role influences your thinking and behavior.  This change may be slight, but it is enough to see yourself in a different light.  Sharkansas costumes encourage students to change their role from enthusiastic spectator to an active participant in the event.

The idea for wearing shark costumes began with two sophomores in 2017 who decided to “do something weird at a basketball game.”  They started a GroupMe chat that grew to nearly 100 people that decided on the awkward and clunky costume, then cut a deal with the seller for a pallet of shark costumes.  The participants concealed their outfits until the lights went down for the opening lineups, and when the lights came back up they revealed 120 sharks in the student section.  Arkansas went on to a 95-79 upset win over Minnesota.  Sharkansas returned in 2020 when the Hogs hosted Kentucky and this time was sponsored by the university and it appeared again for the Kentucky game in 2022.  The originators did not want this to become a sponsored event and envisioned Sharkansas as a one-time event.  While the originators have moved on (graduated) the prospect of Sharkansas lives on.  We will see on Saturday.

THOUGHTS:  While college may not be for everyone, participants find it a time marked by new freedom, new friends, and new experiences.  Some say one of the best things about college is how many socially abnormal things become acceptable.  It can be like entering a different world where normal adult rules do not apply because we are still figuring out how to be a proper adult.  Chase Arnold, one of the Sharkansas originators who now lives in Denver said, “Most of the Razorback community was just really confused, and that was the end goal.  We didn’t want it to make sense.”  This is at the heart of most college athletic traditions.  It is only the proper adults who are confused by these antics.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Door

March 2, 2023

On Tuesday I decided I would replace the door on our back porch.  It was rammed by a wheelchair before we moved in.  I had reattached the hinges with larger and larger screws on several occasions.  The plastic we placed over the door worked well but now Zena was going in and out several times a day.  Cold and rainy weather is forecast for this weekend, and it was time to replace the door while the weather was good.  I researched online and realized I needed to see the door before buying one, so I took off for the box store.  None of the examples were exactly what I wanted but I decided on a triple track with screen and sliding windows.  When we got home I decided to wait until the next day to install the door.  I figured that would give me the day and I would not have to worry about the critters getting into the bird feed as they did last year.  It was a good plan at least.

Day 1 – I got up late Wednesday and was hardly raring to go but the door needed to be installed so I cut it out of the box.  Loki has been driving Melissa crazy getting under the table, chewing on the pots, and knocking over the succulents along the wall.  She asked me to use the box to make a wall to keep Loki out of the plants.  While I did not know how to make a cardboard wall, I knew it had to be easier than installing the storm door (can you say procrastination?).  It took about an hour to cut the box and then attach the three 26 inch (65 cm) high strips together and then place the 20 foot (6 m) cardboard wall.  It worked, keeping Loki out and making Melissa happy.   By then it was time for lunch.  After lunch I installed the jamb kit to expand the 37.5 inch (95.25 cm) hole to fit the 36 inch (91.5 cm) door.  The jamb required finishing nails and caulk, so it was off to the hardware store.  After attaching the kit there was still a half inch (1.25 cm) difference.  I began to install the frame to the jamb before reading the instructions (wrong).  When I read the instructions, it said to first attach the hinge bar to the door so I took it all down.  I spent the next hour trying to figure out which way the bar had to go to attach it to the door.  I finally realized I had misread the instructions.  After attaching the hinge bar, I slid the door into the hall and fixed supper.  No door tonight.

Day 2 – Melissa was sensing my frustration and found a YouTube video on how to install a storm door.  I followed the instructions along with playing the video and hoped for the best.  As the video began the handyman mentioned installation should not take more than 30 minutes (really?).  Things did proceed faster, and with Melissa’s help I got the door attached to the jamb.  Even using the expander provided in the door kit, I was still short by the half inch I had noticed the previous day.  Back to the hardware to find a half inch (1.25 cm) by 2 inch (5 cm) by 80 inch (203 cm) shim.  While they did not have exactly what I needed, I found something close.  I used the finishing nails to attach the strip to the jamb I had installed yesterday.  The door kit had included a small bit to drill the holes for the various screws, but since it was a steel door it broke on Day 1.  I drilled the screw hole with bits I already owned (breaking one and bending another).  After installing the handle, I noticed there was the same problem with attaching the clasp to the jamb (half inch/1.25 cm by 2 inch/5 cm).  I tried everything I could think of to attach the clasp to no avail.  I finally used a small piece of the half inch shim and whittled it down until it fit.  The door was up, and once more Melissa was happy.

THOUGHTS:  As you can tell, I am more academic than manual.  I do like to at least try and perform simple electrical (fans) and carpentry (door) work.  This often results in procrastination and longer hours than a “normal installation”.  My brother-in-law is both literary and manual and plans extensive projects (building his house and his garage).  That means I do more writing and he does more building.  People have different skills but when we use those skills together, we can accomplish amazing things.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Flocking

February 27, 2023

When I recorded the birds for the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) I mentioned how one day I had seen a large flock of Northern Grackle’s (Quiscalus quiscula).  I rarely see this flocking behavior around our house, except in winter or early spring.  Melissa and I saw 1,000’s of Redwing Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) flocking together when we visited the wildlife preserve in the fall.  Later in the week Melissa called me to come see as the birds were flocking again, except this time it was in our front yard.  I quietly stepped onto the front porch to get a photo and they all took off together.  They did not go far and landed across the street in the neighbor’s yard.  Apparently, I was not too much of a threat.

When I looked online, I found Birds are social creatures that use flocking for protection and to make it easier to find food.  When a large group of birds take off at the same time, they form a group that is easily seen by predators.  The tighter the group the more birds can fit into a given area and a tight group makes it harder for a predator to pick out an individual bird.  When they move as a flock it allows the birds to escape when a predator attacks as the birds take off in the same direction at the same time, making it even more difficult to focus on a single bird.  This makes it more likely the flock itself will escape even if a few individuals are lost.  Birds also flock together for warmth.  When the birds are tightly packed together, they can share body heat and stay warm even in cold weather.  The last reason for bird’s flocking behavior is to help birds find mates.  Males actively looking for females often practice flocking with other males.  This makes it easier for the males and makes it more likely the females will find a compatible mate.

Flocking behavior in birds can create large numbers of birds flying together called a swarm.  The largest recorded bird swarm was in November of 2011, when between 200 and 300 million birds of 20 different species swarmed over Lake Texoma on the Texas-Oklahoma border.  The event lasted several days and was likely caused by a combination of bad weather and natural migration patterns.  While this swarm was extraordinarily large, most bird swarms are more modest and are not unusual.  The smallest recorded swarm consisted of just two birds.  This event was documented in a paper published in the Wilson Journal of Ornithology in May of 2009 and described how two Dickcissels (Spiza americana) were seen flying together near Lincoln, Nebraska.  This is the only known instance of this species engaging as an “aerial flock”.  The author theorized this was a courtship display as male birds often fly in close formation with a female, even touching beaks or clasping claws.  For whatever the reason, this remains the smallest recorded bird swarm with just two individuals.

THOUGHTS:  The natural flocking behavior that results in bird swarms typically last around three to four days.  These flocks may reform, and with different birds, at later times.  Several days after the flock first arrived behind our house, I heard Zena barking franticly as she does when she encounters something new in her space.  This went on for several minutes until I went outside to investigate.  There was a single Grackle standing on our wood pile.  Zena did not attack, and the bird did not move.  I eased it off the pile and out of Zena’s sight.  Two days later I noticed it had succumbed to the cold.  It could not make it without the flock.  While humans are not prone to flocking, we are social animals.  This was proven again during the isolation of the pandemic as people joined in Europe to form nightly choirs singing from their windows.  Our species is made stronger when we come together in all our diversity.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Results

February 23, 2023

Photo by Jesse LeBlanc/Macaulay Library.

After all the hubbub I made over the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) I have to admit the sightings did not go well for me.  I kept my feeders full and would periodically check for birds.  While I did have a single bird on occasion, there were only two times worth recording.  I recorded the first list in the early afternoon on the first day.  When I walked outside to check the feeders there were 8 Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) soaring in the sky above our house.  I went inside and the feeders were quickly filled by 6 Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) and 4 House Sparrows (Passer domesticus).  I watched for a while, but no additional birds arrived.  The second sighting happened on Sunday morning as a flock estimated to be 185 Northern Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) flew over the house in successive waves to land in the field just to the north.  As I watched the flock feeding in the field, I noticed a single American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos) standing in the middle.  These ground birds were joined in the trees by a single Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) and a lone Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos).  The rest of the weekend was a bust.

When I looked online, I found the Cornell Lab eBird site reported the GBBC resulted in over 306,000 lists submitted (so far) identifying 7,444 species.  Arkansas submitted 1,466 checklists and observed 141 species.  The top birder in the world (by species) completed 16 lists and recorded 298 bird species.  He was an obvious traveler as the list locations came from three different continents.  He lived in Oregon, so he was also the top birder in the US and in North America.  I came in close behind (NOT) with 2 lists and 7 species.  I have tried to submit two lists during each of the last three years.  When I checked my stats, it indicated I spotted 15 species during that time.  Just stocking my feeders did not seem to work this year.  I may have to be more purposeful with my lists next year.

While I was on the eBird site I found another challenge issued last year.  At the start of 2022, the birding community was challenged to take their eBirding to the next level and submit an average of one complete checklist a day.  More than 7,700 eBirders submitted at least 365 eligible checklists during 2022, or nearly a thousand more qualifying eBirders than in 2021.  From thousands of contenders, three eBirders were chosen at random to receive a pair of Zeiss Terra ED 8×42 field glasses to help with their eBirding.  The Checklist-a-day Challenge is on again this year (2023) and will provide another chance at free Zeiss binoculars and to have your name and story featured in next year’s post.  I only need to submit 363 more lists.

THOUGHTS:  It is interesting how getting involved in one activity can lead to participation in others.  My interest in birds has connected me with online groups in Arkansas for birds, photography, and then gardening.  I got involved in container gardening as an example of a way to provide food to the community.  That led me to the director of our community garden, another who started an Urban Food Initiative to grow food along your building available to the homeless, and a third who ran a rain barrel business to provide the water.  Far too often we concentrate on the vitriol evident in politics and society.  If we take the risk to look for and get to know others, we find there are many diverse people who share at least some of our interests.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Golden

February 22, 2023

When I arrived home last night I found Melissa sitting in my chair with a strange dog in her lap.  I was taken back as Melissa said, “Say Hi to Zena’s little brother!”  I assumed this was a friend’s dog who we had been asked to puppy sit.  We had talked about the possibility of getting a second dog to keep Zena company and had gone back and forth over the extra work and the need to expand the fenced portion of our back yard.  When we took Zena to meet the two year old Pyrenees female we were considering they were not compatible, and I thought this was the end of the conversation.  I was apparently wrong.  The 12 week old Golden Retriever sitting in Melissa’s lap was our new addition.  My first thought was this puppy may have been designed to serve as my penance during Lent as it will take about that long to house train him.  We named him Loki, for the Norse trickster god.

When I looked online, I found the Golden Retriever (Canis Lupus) is a Scottish breed of retriever dog of medium size characterized by a gentle and affectionate nature.  It is a common pet and is among the most frequently registered breeds in several Western countries.  The Golden is a frequent competitor in dog shows and obedience trials, is used as a gundog, and may be trained for use as a guide dog.  Males average 22 to 24 inches high (56–61 cm), females 20 to 22 inches (51–56 cm), and weight for both ranges from 55 to 75 pounds (25–34 kg).  The breed was created by the Baron of Tweedmouth, Sir Dudley Marjoribanks, at his Scottish estate in the late nineteenth century.  The Baron cross-bred Flat-coated Retrievers with Tweed Water Spaniels, along with infusions of Red Setter, Labrador Retriever, and Bloodhound.  The breed is intended to be a superior hunting dog that retrieves dead game from rugged terrain on land or water.  The Golden is a hardy dog breed with a lustrous double coat of orange, golden, or light-colored fur that can tolerate cold water during winter hunting months and deal with felled fowl.  The breed was recognized by the Kennel Club in 1913.

I was surprised when Melissa told me she had bought Loki without allowing Zena to meet him first.  She had read that bringing a smaller male puppy into Zena’s environment would let him be more readily accepted.  When I got home the two had been getting to know each other for two hours.  They mostly get along, but Zena plays rough, especially with her power paw whacks she has recently learned.  I warned Zena she had better be careful since Loki will grow to be nearly her size.  They got along well the first night and although we keep them separated while feeding, they share the water bowl without problems.  Perhaps Melissa was correct in thinking this would provide an outlet for some of Zena’s energy, as the two sat in my office today and played an extended game of “tugga” with one of Zena’s ropes.  Now I just need to get the fence installed.

THOUGHTS:  Golden Retrievers are a generally healthy breed with an average lifespan of 12 to 13 years, but the breed is unusually prone to cancer.  One US study found cancer to be the cause of death in approximately 50% of the population, the second highest in the study.  The high prevalence of cancer deaths among Golden retrievers may partly represent a lack of other congenital diseases.  There is some research that indicates if males live long enough, they will eventually get prostate cancer.  Risk increases as you age, and it is most common after the age of 50 years.  Although it is not known why, Black men have a greater risk of prostate cancer, and the cancer is likely to be more aggressive.  Obesity can cause the same risk and aggressiveness.  The Golden is described as a great family dog with a comparable lifespan as other dogs their size, despite the prevalence of cancer.  The key is to monitor and keep them healthy.  The same could be said for protecting human males.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Battery

February 21, 2023

Last weekend my car would not start.  Although I was perturbed, I had prepared for this probability.  When I was younger, I constantly locked my keys in the car, had flat tires or a dead battery, or was getting towed.  While my regular insurance says it will cover these events, I rarely use it and have a tow package from a national carrier, but they seem to take at least an hour to arrive.  I purchased a handheld charger unit just in case.  When I attached the small unit to the car it did not start.  I noticed it was not fully charged and thought that might be the culprit.  I hooked Melissa’s jumper cables to my car, and it fired right up.  I did the safe thing and took the car to our local battery dealer to have it checked.  The shop found the battery was low, but still good.  I remembered the AUX Battery light I had gotten earlier in the week.  The shop told me I needed to take the car to the dealer to have the auxiliary battery replaced.  That was the first time I knew my car had an auxiliary battery.

When I looked online, I found the Jeep Wrangler JL has the Electronic Start Stop System (ESS).  The idea is to save fuel by shutting the engine off automatically to prevent idling when the Jeep is sitting stopped.  The auxiliary battery keeps the accessories and computer alive when ESS stops the engine.  The dimensions for the battery are 5-3/4 inch (14-1/3 cm) x 5-7/8 inch (14-2/3 cm) x 3-7⁄16 inch (9-2/3 cm).  The battery weighs around 11.5 pounds (5.2 kg) and can produce 200 cold cranking amps (CCA).  The auxiliary battery is insufficient to provide cranking power to the starter motor and only keeps systems alive when the alternator is not making current.  While the average 12-volt car battery typically lasts three to five years, the auxiliary battery is smaller and has a lifespan of two to three years.  I guess I should feel lucky as I have had the vehicle for nearly 5 years.

While I did not know my vehicle used an auxiliary battery, I heard hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) and electric vehicles (EV) used an additional battery.  The difference between HEV and EV auxiliary battery systems and conventional vehicle systems is the method used to recharge the battery.  Instead of using an alternator to charge the auxiliary battery, HEVs and EVs are recharged by the HV battery using the inverter/converter.  Many HEVs do not use the 12-volt auxiliary battery for starting the gas powered engine or for the traction motor(s) which is charged by the traction battery.  While the auxiliary battery usually supports all 12-volt electrical systems on the vehicle, exceptions are the air conditioning and heating systems.  An auxiliary battery may also be used as a safety backup to support the main battery when required or to provide constant voltage for specific vehicle systems.  Many vehicles with ESS and ADAS (Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems) systems may also utilize an auxiliary battery alongside the main vehicle starter battery.  That is the case with my car.

THOUGHTS:  As a child I learned dinosaurs had a second brain.  The idea comes from an 1880’s cast of a Stegosaurus’ brain case.  Despite the massive size (5 to 10 tons), its brain was a little bigger than a walnut.  Scientists theorized the large, hollow space near the hip of the spinal cord contained a “second brain” to help control the back half of the animal.  Similar hollow spaces were later found in the rear of other sauropod dinosaurs and the myth of the second brain was born.  While the two brain myth persists, it is incorrect.  Birds are the closest living relatives of dinosaurs and have a similar space at the base of their spinal cord which stores energy-rich glycogen.  We do not know what the space is used for, but it is not a brain.  I was told my vehicle’s auxiliary battery was also in the rear of the vehicle, and that is also a myth.  I found an illustration of the placement showing the battery next to the larger 12-volt battery under the hood.  At least this battery does control the vehicles’ secondary functions.  Just because someone says it, and we all believe it, does not make it true.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Icefin

February 18, 2023

It is appropriate since I mentioned the Doomsday Clock several days ago that the back section of my local newspaper carried an article about the ice melt of the Doomsday Glacier.  Two studies in the journal “Nature” were from scientists from the UK-US International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration (ITGC) who were able to measure the bottom of the Thwaites Glacier by inserting cameras and probes through a borehole to study the ice from underwater.  The images showed that while the glacier is melting slower than projected, the warmer water underneath the ice is creating cracks and crevasses where the ice melts faster than the rest of the glacier.  One group made observations of the grounding line (where the ice first meets the ocean).  Over nine months the ocean became warmer and saltier, but the melt rate only averaged 6.5 to 16.25 feet (2 to 5 m) per year or less than had been modeled.  Oceanographers with the British Antarctic Survey took measurements through a 164 foot (600 m) deep borehole created by a hot water drill in late 2019 that is around 6562 feet (2 km) from the grounding line.  These measurements were compared with melt rate observations taken at five other sites underneath the ice shelf.  All these measurements were taken by a robot called Icefin.

When I looked online, I found Icefin is an 11 foot (3.35 m) tube-like underwater robot used to provide pertinent details regarding the conditions beneath the freezing waters.  Icefin was developed at Georgia Tech and the prototype dates to 2014, but now Icefin has a home at Cornell University. The robot is capable of characterizing below-ice environments using a suite of sensors.  Icefin is equipped with HD cameras, laser ranging systems, sonar, doppler current profilers, single beam altimeters (to measure distance), and instruments for measuring salinity, temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, and organic matter.  The torpedo like craft can dive to depths of 3,280 feet (1,000 m) and squeeze through narrow cavities in the ice shelf.   The robot is modular and can be broken down, customized, and reassembled according to the needs of the mission.  Researchers can remotely control Icefin’s trajectory, or let it set off on its own. 

Icefin isn’t alone in the cold Antarctic waters.  It is part of ITGC’s fleet that includes other radars, sensors, and vehicles like Boaty McBoatface.  Boaty McBoatface (also known as Boaty) is the British lead boat in a fleet of three robotic autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs).  Boaty was launched in 2017 and is carried on board the polar research vessel RRS Sir David Attenborough, and is a focal point of the Polar Explorer Program of the UK Government.  The name Boaty McBoatface was originally proposed in a March 2016 #NameOurShip online poll to name the £200 million polar scientific research ship.  James Hand of BBC Radio coined the humorous suggestion for the poll, and the name quickly became the most popular with 124,109 votes.  Although Boaty McBoatface was the popular suggestion with more than ten times the votes for Sir David Attenborough, the suggestion to use the name for the mothership was not followed.  The name was said to be an homage to Hooty McOwlface, an owl named through an “Adopt-a-Bird” event in 2012 that became popular on the Internet.  Who ever thought science is not fun.

THOUGHTS:  In 2020, Icefin ventured out to the critical point where the Thwaites Glacier joins the Amundsen Sea, and the ice starts to float.  The data gathered showed the glacier had retreated up the ocean floor, thinning at the base, and melting outwards quickly.  The Thwaites Glacier is roughly the size of Florida and is nicknamed the Doomsday Glacier as over the last 30 years it accounts for 4% of global sea level rise.  If the glacier collapses it could add 25 inches to sea level rise in the coming centuries.  While this information will improve model predictions, a collapse would inundate our global coastal cities.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Anticipation

February 17, 2023

I have been waiting in anticipation for the beginning of the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) for the last two weeks.  Last night I decided rather than filling my feeders I would wait until this morning.  The birds often come for breakfast early and I wanted to make sure I was awake before they arrived.  While that was a good plan, it did not go as expected.  I stayed up later than usual watching a series I follow on one of the streaming services.  Melissa always closes the door and takes Zena with her when she gets up in the morning.  Zena arrives back in about an hour to push the door open with a loud bang and then jumps on the bed to make sure I am awake.  I somehow missed the excitement and slept late.  When I did get up, filled the feeders, grabbed my paper, and sat down to watch the birds arrive.  Apparently I was too late as I sat for an hour without seeing a single bird.

When I looked online, I found anticipation is an emotion involving pleasure or anxiety while considering or waiting for an expected event.  Anticipation is excitement leading to an event as we eagerly wait for what you know is going to happen.  Anticipation can also be described as a nervous expectation.  For most events where we find pleasure, it is not so much the experience as the anticipation that makes the event enjoyable.  Anticipation can be accompanied by other emotions, including fear, anxiety, hope, and trust.  When the event fails to occur, it can result in disappointment (for a positive event) or relief (for a negative event).  Regardless, we wait in anticipation. 

Philosophers have several established schools around the role of anticipation in our psyches.  Robin Skynner (16 August 1922 – 24 September 2000) was a psychiatric pioneer and innovator in treating mental illness.  Skynner considered anticipation as one of “the mature ways of dealing with real stress . . . You reduce the stress of some difficult challenge by anticipating what it will be like and preparing for how you are going to deal with it.”  Anticipation is a mature defense that tends to increase with age.  Edmund Gustav Albrecht Husserl (8 April 1859 – 27 April 1938) was an Austrian-German philosopher and mathematician who established the school of phenomenology.  For Husserl, anticipation is an essential feature of human action. “In every action we know the goal in advance in the form of an anticipation that is ’empty’, in the sense of vague . . . and [we] seek by our action to bring it step by step to concrete realization.”  It is hard to envision any anticipation in sitting through class with either of these philosophers.

THOUGHTS:  When no birds arrived, I felt disappointment that my anticipation had not resulted in the expected event.  This did not cause me stress suggested by Skynner, but last night’s planning and this morning’s preparation seemed to have been for naught.  Then I realized according to Husserl the step by step groundwork for my personal GBBC had been laid for a concrete realization.  The feeders were full, and I was ready to wait in anticipation for the evening feeding.  Doing the work to prepare for a desired result is critical for it to occur.  That is true for the arrival of my birds, and for building diverse relationships that will last.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Lobster

February 16, 2023

Today’s Nation & World section of my local newspaper reported on the rising temperatures in the Gulf of Maine.  During 2022, the Gulf recorded warming that was faster than most of the world’s oceans.  Last year was the second-warmest year on record with an average sea surface temperature of 53.66F (12C), or more than 3.7F (6.6C) above the 40-year average.  The accelerated warming is changing an ecosystem that is host to numerous important commercial fishing industries, especially the American lobster (Homarus americanus), in addition to the rare North Atlantic right whales (Balaena australis).  Last year fell short of setting the mark for hottest year by less than half a degree Fahrenheit, said scientists with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, a science center in Portland.  Warming is driving species more associated with southern waters into the Gulf of Maine and altering its food chain.  That includes species like the black sea bass (Centropristis striata) which prey on the Gulf’s lobsters.

When I looked online, I found the Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA) and environmental groups have been locked in a fierce debate over lobster regulations for over a decade.  Ecological groups have warned the near-shore vertical fishing lines that connect the seafloor traps to surface buoys can snag whales and call the lines a primary culprit in the devastating collapse of the right whale population.  The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) introduced new rules for catching lobsters last year that limit the number of fishing lines in the right whales’ habitat, requiring knots in the lines that can break free when a whale is entangled, and implementing two seasonal fishing ground closures when the whales migrate to northern waters.  The July ruling by the US District Court judge in Washington D.C. found the 2018 regulations from the NMFS failed to protect the right whale population, and the agency had violated the federal Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Protection Act.  Lawmakers in New England have been split on regulations targeting the lobster industry, with Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) accusing Seafood Watch of “literally trying to put these people out of business”.  During 2021 Maine’s lobster fishery took in US$724.9 million, a 75% increase from 2020 and the most profitable year in the state’s history.

Interestingly, Right whales earned their name because they were once considered so abundant they were known as the “right whale to hunt” and because they floated when they were killed, a plus for 18th and 19th century whalers.  Whale numbers plummeted due to overfishing during the 1900’s, and dropped to 268 individuals in 1990, although they slowly rebound to 481 individuals in 2011.  The numbers have subsequently dropped each year.  Scientists have been concerned with low birth rates, with only fifteen calves born this year.  According to the North Atlantic Right Whale Consortium, less than 18 were born last year and only an average of 24 a year in the early 2000’s.  Scientists at National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries estimate 85% of right whales have been entangled in fishing gear at least once and efforts to disentangle whales from the gear can be deadly. 

THOUGHTS:  Protection of any species is a delicate balance between competing resources.  The Gulf of Maine’s ecosystem is being disrupted by warming waters that are allowing black bass to migrate north.  Overfishing of the Right whale went unchecked for centuries.  Now politics and competing lifeways are being used to create a desperate patch to resolve a crisis that had been ignored for too long.  In January 2023, the Doomsday Clock was moved forward to 90 seconds (1 minute, 30 seconds) before midnight.  Ninety seconds is only an eternity when your team is holding a precarious lead in basketball.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.