August 01, 2022

The Nation & World section in today’s local newspaper carried an AP article on the emission problems caused from abandoned oil and gas wells in California.  California law limits the amount of climate pollution and every year the limit gets stricter.  California has historically been a large producer of oil and gas, and 35,000 inactive and uncapped wells now dot the landscape.  Even though the locations of these wells are known, regulators do not monitor the wells and their methane emissions are not included in the inventory of the state’s emissions.  The amount of methane (and other gasses) leaking from the wells is not known, but a 2020 study indicated the emissions from uncapped wells is “more substantial” than from capped wells.  A ton of methane was found to be 83 times worse for the environment than a ton of carbon dioxide over a 20 year period.  The Methane Accountability Project was signed into law in June 2022 by the State of California.  This authorized spending US$100 million on satellites to track methane leaks.

When I looked online, I found methane gas in its natural form has no color or odor, which makes methane exposure particularly concerning.  Methane exposure can cause health problems if you are exposed to concentrated quantities of the gas or if you’ve been exposed for extended periods of time.  Methane poisoning is a bit of a misnomer, as rather than being toxic it acts as an asphyxiant, depriving your body of oxygen.  Methane also poses a danger to the environment and is one of several greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming and climate change. ​ Greenhouse gases​ create a layer of insulation in the atmosphere that allows heat to enter the atmosphere then reflects the rays back towards the Earth rather than letting them escape again, increasing overall global temperature.  Approximately 80% of greenhouse gases come from carbon dioxide emissions, 10% from methane, and the remaining 10% from various other sources.

An oil or gas well is considered abandoned when it’s reached the end of its useful life and is no longer producing enough fuel to make money.  Many operators will then cap the well with a temporary seal.  These wells may sit in an “idle” or “inactive” state for months or even years posing a risk for methane to leak into the atmosphere and toxic chemicals into groundwater until it is properly plugged with cement.  If the company that owned the well went bankrupt, or if there is no owner found to plug or maintain it, the abandoned well is considered “orphaned.”  The cost to plug an orphaned well varies depending on its age, depth, and location.  In North Dakota, where some wells are drilled to depths of more than 20,000 feet, it can cost US$150,000 to plug a single well and restore the surrounding land.  In Pennsylvania, the state budgets about US$33,000 to plug each well.  Many states require companies to post bonds to pay for well plugging but the bond amount is generally far lower than the cost of plugging.  On federal lands, the average amount held in bonds was just US$2,122 per well in 2018.  Some groups are pushing states to tighten rules on how long a well can remain idle or to raise the bond amounts required of operators.

𝗧HOUGHTS:  An effort in 2005 to obtain funding from Congress for a federal oil and gas well-plugging program failed to secure much money.  States like Texas, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, and North Dakota, fund their plugging operations through fees or taxes paid by the oil and gas industry, but that money is not enough to plug all the abandoned wells.  Environmental restoration by other extraction industries is also neglected or deemed inexpedient or of a low priority, even though in much of the industrialized world it has been increasingly demanded by the public since at least since the early 1970’s.  If a company is allowed to make millions (billions?) of dollars by tearing the environment apart, should they not also be held accountable to make the site safe during extraction and put it back together once they are finished?  Act for all. Change is coming and it starts with you.


July 30, 2022

We have become increasingly dissatisfied with the pest service who has been treating our house.  They primarily spray for insects around the outside of the foundation and put granules in the yard to kill the grubs and worms which proliferate and attract the moles.  They last sprayed in May, and I mentioned when Melissa later went to work on the front bed, she was attacked by pavement ants (Tetramorium caespitum) that had gathered underneath one of her agave’s.  Early summer we were still having rain and the ants had also entered inside and were on the kitchen bar.  I had gone out and re-treated the front bed and sidewalk with both granules and spray and we put ant traps in several locations along the bar.  I do not know if this worked or whether the rains stopped, and the ants no longer had incentive to come inside.  Although they were no longer inside, we continued to have trails along the sidewalk and bed.  That was when Melissa had enough and told me to cancel the service. 

When I looked online, I found ant infestations are among the most difficult to eradicate.  There are four common species of ants in our state.  The banded sugar ant (Camponotus consobrinus), also known as the sugar ant, refers to the ant’s liking for sugar and sweet food, as well as the distinctive orange-brown band that wraps around its gaster (posterior).  They are often found in the kitchen looking for something sweet to eat and cause problems when they get into food and contaminate it.  Odorous house ants (Tapinoma sessile) are a species also called the odorous house ant, sugar ant, stink ant, and coconut ant.  This species can be brown or black and are known by the rotten coconut smell they emit.  Fire ants (Pogonomyrmex barbatus) refer to several species of ants in the genus Solenopsis.  These little red ants are aggressive and bite in unison, causing severe pain and anaphylaxis in people allergic to their bites.  Fire ant nests look like little mounds of sand in the grass, and they expand rapidly.  Carpenter ants (Camponotus spp.) are large (0.3 to 1 in or 8 to 25 mm) ants indigenous to many forested parts of the world.  They build nests inside (preferably) dead, damp wood and may be attracted to your property when there are wood piles or wet firewood stacked in the yard.  The site indicated ants are almost impossible to get rid of without turning to a pest control service.

Like most pest services, it is easier to sign up than to cancel.  After Melissa had asked me to cancel, I had gotten busy with other projects and forgot about the service.  Then I received a text this week saying I was scheduled for the next treatment.  I called and canceled and was told a supervisor would call back to see why I was dissatisfied.  Several days later I got a call and explained the reason we used the service was to get rid of the ants and moles that we had in the yard, and the service was doing neither.  I agreed to give them one more chance to try and eliminate the ants (the mole was not their problem).  They would complete a thorough service, check back in seven days, and if it had not been effective, they would respray.  If I was not happy, I could still cancel.  We will see next week.

𝗧HOUGHTS:  Regardless of what happens with the ants I admit the technician was more diligent than they have been in the past.  When I told him of the problem, he took time to spray the yard as well as scatter the granules.  I asked him to spray the interior porch and the entryways, and he placed gel on all the probable traffic areas.  I was guaranteed these were all plant based substances that would not harm our succulents or Zena.  The final deterrent was to place glue traps near entryways.  One failing I noticed throughout out the pandemic was a lack of customer service.  I seemed we were all so stressed out that taking care of the needs of other was not high on the list.  This technician was an exception.  Great service should be the goal for all.  Act for all. Change is coming and it starts with you.


July 29, 2022

When Melissa let Zena out to play on the porch yesterday, she ran to the back of the fence and began to bark incessantly.  Zena usually only barks when she gets excited when we play at night or if she finds some new object in her familiar surroundings.  When I put my jar of sun tea out the first time she barked until I finally went outside and introduced her to the jar.  She quit barking when she knew it was not a threat and now ignores the jar if it is outside.  Zena will also bark at strange dogs or people she meets on our walks, but again stops when she knows they are not a threat.  That led Melissa to believe Zena must have found something new and she went out to investigate.  There was a young armadillo frozen along the trees just off the back fence.  When it saw Melissa, it decided to take off and Zena quit barking.

When I looked online, I found the Great Pyrenees do tend to bark a lot.  They were initially bred to guard livestock, and they use their bark to scare away predators and to alert their owners of potential dangers.  This protective instinct is what makes them excellent watchdogs.  This same instinct can make them a difficult pet to raise.  Pyrenees have a deep, loud bark to scare away intruders.  They also tend to sleep more during the day and stay awake at night to act as protection.  The continuous night barking at the slightest unexpected noise or movement can make them a challenging pet to keep in urban or suburban areas.  Pyrenees also have a reputation for being stubborn, independent, and hard to train, and it can be difficult to control their urge to bark.  Early training, which rewards them when they stop barking may help, but Pyrenees are not very treat-motivated.  The site closed, “If you’re looking for a quiet dog, other breeds may be a better choice for you.”  Lucky for us, Zena does not tend to bark and is highly motivated by treats.  We also keep her inside at night, so she does not investigate and bark at strange sounds.

When I went out to water my plants later, I saw the night critters had been active again.  I have had problems with something eating the tomatoes and strawberries but assumed these were the birds, especially since I have watched the blue jays flying out of my strawberry patch.  I have had problems with the soot cage being opened and knocked to the ground and have assumed it was the squirrel that I have seen nosing around the feeder.  I even had the raccoon that got onto the porch and into the bird seed bags forcing me to confine it in 5-gllon buckets.  With the heat most of my vegetables have only produced sparsely, but my pride has been the two small cantaloupes that have been growing on the vine near the house.  While one is still green, the other was beginning to ripen.  While I do not know, I assume the armadillo got to it, as it was torn off the vine and there were holes where something had chewed through the rind.  Maybe I should have left Zena outside to bark after all.

Thoughts:  The Arkansas Gardeners group that I am part of has two basic types of posts.  The first is the cool do-it-yourself projects.  These raised beds, makeshift greenhouses, and sun-shaded crop rows were prevalent as the growing season really got going toward the end of June.  Most posts now are of the second type, asking for advice on ridding the garden from insects and organic ways to eliminate weeds.  Now with the heat, there is a new category where people bark about the money spent preparing, planting, and watering plants without seeing any real produce.  One reason for my garden is an attempt to learn what it takes to be self-sustaining.  What has been re-impressed with this year’s vegetables is how fragile subsistence living can be.  Maybe I should go to the market for another cantaloupe.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.


July 28, 2022

I received an update yesterday from my Audubon Bird site touting the recent advances in determining what birds eat.  Until recently determining what different species were eating has been cumbersome and required close observation of the berries or fish included in the diet.  Now biologists are turning to genetic tools to eliminate the guesswork of figuring out avian diets.  This builds on methods scientists have used for the past decade to solve other ecological questions, like which animals use a specific environment by looking for samples of DNA.  The process used for birds works like a barcode scanner in a grocery store.  Scientists match chunks of DNA found in avian poop to a species identification database to pinpoint the plants or animals the bird consumed.  Those snapshots are providing a fuller picture of the health needs of species from the tropics to the poles.  I was amused as the site designer had set the page so wherever you clicked on the page it would produce a splat of bird poop.

Delving deeper, I found another article on baby bird poop.  While the ground beneath the nests may be littered, the nests often contain little evidence of poop.  Diaper duty is one of the most unique and understudied behaviors among birds.  A nestling turns its rear toward the parent and ejects a floppy white bag of poop encased in mucous (a fecal sac).  The parent then either flies away to dispose of, or at times eats it.  Fecal sacs are only produced by the nestlings and are common among passerines and other “altricial” birds (requiring 24-hour parental care at birth).  Videos of fecal sacs abound but scientists know relatively little about them and only a handful of studies have been done on the sacs.  Evidence suggests the fecal sacs have several uses.  A fecal sac is essentially a diaper that allows the parents to pick up feces and remove it from the nest keeping the birds healthy by isolating them from any potential harm from the feces.  Occasionally birds eat the sacs, allegedly because the nestlings cannot completely digest the food they eat and there are still nutrients available in the sacs.  The third idea is that poop free nests might be less noticeable by predators that are drawn to the sight or smell.  As said, there needs to be more research (scientist for, “I do not know.”).

The last poop article declared that in the hierarchy of animal droppings, bird poop stands supreme.  Where most poop is buried under grass, bird poop lands all over the place, including on our freshly washed cars.  Bird poop begins in the cloaca where instead of urine, nitrogenous wastes are excreted in the form of whitish acid and are expelled along with the feces.  The volume of droppings depends on the size of the bird, but the varying shapes of splat are all physics.  “Most bird poop has the classic smatter, that heavy drop with a slight sperm-like tail.  Other familiar shapes include the double-execution shot, the spiral galaxy, Philip Baker Hall eyes, the crater, the radish rose, the melted Dali clock, the wax postage seal, the two-dollar taco, and the halfhearted runny egg.  As a collective, the drops take on a feeling of abstract expressionism, channeling the drip paintings of Jackson Pollock.”  While the designs may be interesting, the uric acid can corrode the paint on your car.  Personally, I have never thought of the bird poop found after parking under a tree to be an expressionist work of art.

Thoughts:  When I was in Jr. High our driveway was lined with a row of trees and it was not uncommon to come out in the morning and find one or two splats of poop deposited as the birds took flight in the morning.  One morning we found the entire car covered by dozens of fresh droppings.  While there must have been a large flock of birds roosting in the trees above our car, we deemed this the work of Eddy Eagle.  This has continued to be remembered as part of our family lore to this day and is invoked when one of us encounters a large splatter of poop.  Childhood memories shape us all.  Whether they are good or bad (or just odd), they affect our thoughts and impressions as adults.  That is why it is so important to nurture each child with a positive upbringing.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.


July 27, 2022

Zena and I have been continuing to do our morning walks despite the excessive heat warnings.  We try to get out by at least 10 am (Melissa’s scheduled daily zoom call) to avoid the warnings which are typically from noon to 8 pm.  I check the temperature on my weather app and if the feels like is over 100F (33.7C) we try to shorten our time out.  We have found a runoff drain that is located about three-fourths of the way along the walk and this allows Zena a quick recuperative drink.  I have noticed that by the time we are through I am sweating profusely, and Zena tends to take a nap after I give her (and me) a cool drink of water.  When I came home from work yesterday, I felt exhausted and the two of us took a nap together.  After our walk today I began to wonder about the prolonged effects of heat (btw, I do not have heat exhaustion or stoke and quickly recover).

When I looked online, the Mayo Clinic defined heat exhaustion as a condition whose symptoms may include heavy sweating and rapid pulse stemming from your body overheating.  It is one of three heat-related syndromes, with heat cramps being the mildest and heatstroke being the most severe.  Heat exhaustion is caused by exposure to high temperatures, particularly when combined with high humidity (feels like), and strenuous physical activity.  Without prompt treatment, heat exhaustion can lead to the more life-threatening condition of heatstroke.  Heat exhaustion may develop suddenly or over time, especially with prolonged periods of exercise.  Symptoms include heavy sweating, faintness or dizziness, fatigue, weak or rapid pulse, low blood pressure on standing, cramps, nausea, and headaches.  The Mayo recommends if you have any of these symptoms to stop all activity and rest, move to a cooler place, and drink cool water or sports drink.  There was no mention of taking two aspirin and calling in the morning.

If fluids and rest do not resolve the symptoms, you will want to see a doctor.  With quick and effective treatment, most recover with little or no problems from heat stroke.  If heat exhaustion is treated promptly, the individual will usually be fully recovered within 24-48 hours.  As summer athletic camps continue and August practice days approach it is good to remember that heat illness during practice or competition is a leading cause of death and disability among US high school athletes.  An estimated 7.5 million students participate in high school sports annually.  A CDC study in the mid to late 2000’s reported high school athletes experience more than 9,000 heat-related injuries every year.   Football players are 10 times more likely to experience a heat-related injury, compared to other high school athletes.  Football players are also at a much higher risk of heat stress, accounting for about five percent of all heat-related visits to the emergency room between 2005 and 2009.  Since 1995 an average of three football players a year have died of heat stroke, and most of them were high schoolers. 

Thoughts:  Research shows that when signs of heat exhaustion or heat stroke appear, there is a 100% survival rate when someone with a 104-degree core body temperature is immersed in cold water within 5 to 10 minutes of diagnosis.  That is why it is important to keep an ice bath on hand when practicing in excessive heat.  Whether playing games or working outside, excessive heat poses a real threat.  Coaches need to be aware that athletes are not being lazy.  Employers need to allow workers the option to take frequent breaks and provide plenty of fluids.  Heat illness is preventable, if you have the luxury of being able to stay out of or not work in the excessive heat.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.


July 26, 2022

Last Thursday I decided to go to the local market to pick up a few items.  What I was really after were electronics.  The mouse on my mouse/keyboard combo was fritzing and driving me crazy.  I also needed to pick up a mouse for one of the work computers, as well as ink cartridges for my printer.  When I went into the market it was overcast but still temperatures were hovering around 100F (38C).  I got the items I needed and then putzed around looking for ways to kill time as much as to find whatever food items I wanted.  I sent a message asking Melissa if she needed anything but never heard the responding ping on my phone.  I purchased what I knew we needed and as I walked out of the market it began to rain.  This was not a light rain, but a steady shower.  It seemed everyone else was also slowly walking in the rain enjoying the coolness.  I popped open the door of the jeep and started to put my items in the back seat.  Then I looked down and saw I had stepped in a wad of gum someone had spit onto the hot pavement.  It took several minutes for me to scrape it off my shoe.  I am sure I am not the only one who hates this.

When I looked online, I found chewing gum is a soft, cohesive substance designed to be chewed without being swallowed.  Modern chewing gum is composed of gum base, sweeteners, softeners/plasticizers, flavors, colors, and, typically, a hard or powdered polyol coating.  Although chewing gum can be traced back to civilizations around the world, the modernization and commercialization of gum mainly took place in the US.  The Indigenous Americans chewed resin made from the sap of spruce trees and the New England settlers picked up the practice.  John B. Curtis developed and sold the first commercial chewing gum in 1848, calling it The State of Maine Pure Spruce Gum.  A paraffin wax gum (a petroleum based product) was developed in 1850 and soon exceeded the spruce gum in popularity.  The chewer would often use a plate of powdered sugar to repeatedly dip the gum into to maintain its sweetness.  Today, flavor delivery is extended throughout chewing by timed release of different flavor components in the properties of the gum’s ingredients.  When the gum loses its flavor; people tend to spit it out.

Mayan farmers in the states of Campeche and Quintana Roo have become players in the global chewing gum market with their unique organic product marketed as Chicza Organic Rainforest Gum.  This (Vegan, Gluten Free, Kosher, Sustainable) biodegradable chewing gum was launched in 2009 and has since expanded to 26 European countries, Canada, and the US.  As members of Indigenous rainforest communities, Chicleros sustainably manage these ancient ecosystems as they harvest chicle for their livelihood.  According to the website, when you chew Chicza, you are supporting the livelihood of a Chiclero and his family.  In return, the Chiclero continues to preserve the forest where the family lives.  There are 56 cooperatives made up of roughly 2,000 Chicleros and their families (more than 10,000 Indigenous people) working in an area of 3.2 million acres of rainforest.  When disposed of, the gum takes about six months to degrade into a white powder.

Thoughts:  While gum is designed to be chewed and not swallowed, it is generally not harmful if it is swallowed.  The folk tale that swallowed gum will sit in your stomach for seven years before it can be digested is not true.  While the body cannot digest the gum it does pass it through your digestive system relatively intact.  When gum is spit out it can become a major waste problem.  A study in the United Kingdom estimates it costs as high as 400 million pounds (US$600 million) a year to clean up discarded gum.  Gum is a problem in the environment because it is not biodegradable, and it is notoriously difficult to clean up.  That is why I have refused to spit out my gum for several decades.  Perhaps I should just go biodegradable.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.


July 23, 2022

I received a post from the Arklahoma Trout Unlimited yesterday about the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC) Trout Management Program seasonal tagging event on Dry Run Creek this week.  This is part of a project to evaluate the growth and movement of trout on Dry Run Creek and Norfork Tailwater.  A total of 730 trout were collected, of which 85% were Rainbow Trout. There were 104 new trout tagged and 60 trout recaptured that were tagged during previous events.  Highlights included a 24 inch (60 cm) Rainbow Trout that was recaptured for the seventh time in three years, and a 30 inch (75 cm), 17 pound (7.7 kg) Brown Trout that has been recaptured 4 times and has grown 7 inches (17.5 cm) since it was tagged in 2020.  There will be one more tagging event this fall, which will conclude this three year project. The data collected on growth rates and trout movements will help to evaluate the current regulations on Norfork Tailwater and determine which environmental factors (e.g., flow, temperature, dissolved oxygen) may be driving trout movements.  Dry Run Creek is located next to a fish hatchery.

When I looked online, I found Norfork National Fish Hatchery is in the mountainous terrain of north Arkansas near Mountain Home.  It was established in 1955 and opened in 1957.  The hatchery is a result of the construction of dams on the White River, which altered the waters from a warm-water system to a cold-water system.  Norfork is the largest-producing federal hatchery and is the largest trout hatchery in the country.  The cold-water hatchery is used primarily to produce trout to restock the tailwaters below Norfork, Bull Shoals, and other dams.  The hatchery is responsible for raising three species of trout, rainbow (Oncorhynchus mykiss), brown (Salmo trutta), and cutthroat (Oncorhynchus clarkii) which are all members of the Salmonidae family.  The hatchery also provides trout to reservoirs and in cooperation with state game and fish agencies distributes fish throughout Arkansas and nearby states.  

In August 1989 the hatchery was offered a challenge grant to build a park along Dry Run Creek.  By that November the committee had recruited input from representatives of advocacy organizations for several disabilities and settled on design criteria of the park to be for those confined to wheelchairs and the blind.  Dry (Branch) Run Creek carries the hatchery effluent (32 million gallons/day) and has large numbers of large migrating trout, along with beaver, mink, muskrat, and other animals that use or live in the stream.  It is well shaded and has an easily navigated trail system. The main aspect of the park was an elaborate “ramp” to allow the disabled (and anyone else) to get to the water level. The AGFC accommodated the project by allowing the wheelchair bound to fish on a catch and release basis.  A total of US$91,000 was raised and construction began in August, with the dedication ceremony on October 28, 1990.  This catch and release stream is one of the top streams in America and designed to accommodate easy access fishing for the mobility impaired and youngsters under the age of 16. 

Thoughts:  Dry Run Creek starts at the hatchery and runs roughly 3/4 mile (1.2 km) to its confluence with the Norfork River.  With its specially designed walkways, ramps, and fishing platforms, the Dry Run Creek construction project completed in late 2010 made it even easier to navigate the waters by both land and water allowing the angler to stalk the huge trout living in the depths of Dry Run Creek.  The creek is not only catch and release, only artificial lures with a single, barbless hook are allowed to fish.  The park has allowed the hatchery to reach out to a fishing community normally restricted from our rivers and streams as well as spark the excitement of the next generation of fisher people.  Through fish stocking they have given the rest of the fishing community hours of enjoyment on these beautiful tail waters and throughout the state.  I would call it a win/win.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.


July 22, 2022

Back in the Nation & World section of our local newspaper was an AP story about the reversal of an endangered species rule by a federal judge in California.  The rule was put in place in 2019 by the last administration to gut the landmark Endangered Species Act of 1973.  The reversal vacated that administration’s changes and restored protections for hundreds of species.  One of the overturned measures required regulators to not designate areas of critical habitat if there would be greater economic benefit from developing them.  The measure had forced the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to disprove speculative claims by mining, logging, and oil and gas industries who sought to extract resources from public lands.  The 48-page ruling stated this gave outside parties a major role in determining which areas were needed to be preserved for endangered species while undermining the authority of FWS.

When I looked online, I found critical habitat is a habitat area essential to the conservation of a listed endangered species, although the area need not actually be occupied by the species at the time it is designated.  This is a specific term and designation within the US Endangered Species Act (ESA).  Contrary to common belief, designating an area as critical habitat does not prevent that area from being developed, but only affects federal agency actions.  Such actions include federally funded activities or activities requiring a federal permit.  When a species is proposed for listing as endangered or threatened under the ESA, efforts are taken to identify specific areas that are essential to its conservation. These are the species’ critical habitat.  Unless deemed necessary for the species’ continued existence, critical habitat do not include the entire geographical area occupied by a species.  Department of Defense (DOD) lands are also exempt from being designated as critical habitat.  Both public and private land can be specified as critical habitat.

Before designating critical habitat, careful consideration must be given to the economic impacts, impacts on national security, and other relevant impacts of specifying any area as critical habitat.  An area may be excluded from critical habitat if the benefits of exclusion outweigh the benefits of designation, unless excluding the area will result in the extinction of the species concerned.  Identifying critical habitat informs landowners and the public which specific areas are important to a species’ conservation and recovery.  It also raises awareness of the habitat needs of imperiled species and focuses the efforts of conservation partners.  Critical habitat designations for threatened or endangered species can result in limitations on energy development (mining or oil drilling) that could disturb a vulnerable species, while the consultation rule and a separate rule on the scope of proposed federal actions help determine how far the government may go to protect the species.

Thoughts:  The administration’s actions in 2019 rolled back protections for the northern spotted owl, gray wolves, and other endangered species.  The current administration vowed to review these rules, and to reverse the decision to weaken enforcement of the century-old Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which made it harder to prosecute bird deaths caused by the energy industry.  The bird law reversal was among more than 150 business-friendly actions on the environment that are being reconsidered, including withdrawal last month of a 2020 rule that limited which lands and waters could be designated as places of critical habitat where imperiled animals and plants could receive federal protection.  Identifying endangered species and protecting critical habitat is not anti-business, it is pro-Earth.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.


July 21, 2022

Last Monday Melissa sent an invitation to our sibs to join us this weekend for a hot vacation getaway.  This included swimming in ice cubes in the puppy pool, a large misting fan, and cases of antiperspirant and baby powder.  Surprisingly, no one took her up on the invitation.  Our area is currently on an eleven day streak of 100F+ (37.8C+) temperatures and 17 of the last 18 days have topped the 100F (37.8C) mark with the hottest day last Tuesday at 109F (42.8C).  After a cool down (99F/37.2C) tomorrow we are forecast for another 5 days in the 100’s.  This is not a localized phenomenon or even confined to the US, as the European countries are also getting hammered by high temperatures.  We have seen excessive heat warnings every day of July from noon to 8 pm and the nightly news is almost entirely focused on the temperatures.  The weather person has repeatedly said, “today is the hottest day on record.”

When I looked online, I found that scientists mark modern global record-keeping for temperatures at1880.  According to NASA, that is because earlier available climate data does not cover enough of the planet to get an accurate reading.  While the record of land-surface temperature predates 1880, the level of certainty before that year drops considerably.  People have been measuring the temperature since the time of Galileo (born February 15, 1564, Pisa, Italy – died January 8, 1642, Arcetri, Italy), and the modern mercury thermometer with a standardized scale was invented by Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit in 1714.  Before the mid-1800’s most formal weather stations were in Europe and the US but by 1880 they became expansive enough to provide a picture of global temperature.  It is not that weather data was not collected prior to 1880, but that most other older climate data has not been digitized.  We do not have an accessible record of how hot it was.

Millions of weather records sit in old weather offices and in ships’ logs around the world and researchers are continuously crowdsourcing efforts to dig up and digitize historic weather data.  Efforts are underway in Uzbekistan to digitize 18 million pages of hydrometeorological data from as far back as 1867, and similar efforts have begun in El Salvador, Malawi, and Tanzania.  The British East India Company not only traveled extensively between 1789 and 1834 but collected enormous amounts of weather data.  Philip Brohan, a climate scientist at the UK’s Meteorological (Met) Office, has worked to collate hundreds of thousands of those records and digitize them to be added to the pre-1880 global climate record.  As more historic data gets incorporated into the global record, the 1880 benchmark could be pushed back into the mid-19th century.  How hot the “hottest day” is means in the last 137 years.

Thoughts:  The official highest registered air temperature on Earth is 134.1F (56.7C), recorded on July 10, 1913, at Furnace Creek Ranch, in Death Valley in the United States.  The hottest day I experienced was in Egypt’s Eastern Sahara Desert.  We were camping at an excavation site and the director had gone into his tent during the afternoon.  He came out with a thermometer telling us it read 130F (54.5C).  As the thermometer came out of the tent’s shade, we saw it visibly climb to 135F (57.2C).  While this was not an official record, it was hot.  While I got used to the days being hot, the night temperature dropped to around 85F (25.5C).  The 50 degree shift meant I nearly froze every night.  While temperature is relative, and many humans have found ways to adapt to both extreme heat and cold, the human body has limits.  Normal internal temperature is 98.6F and above 104F (40 C) we can become hypothermic, leading to symptoms like rapid pulse, a change in mental status, a lack of sweating, faintness, and coma.  We can tolerate external heat of 140F (60C) for only about 10 minutes before suffering from hyperthermia.  Keep yourself and others (and animals) cool.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.


July 20, 2022

We are gradually preparing for a trip to Europe this fall.  I say gradually because we have already been collecting things for two months and we still have a way to go to be complete.  Luckily, we had both renewed our passports several years ago so that was not a rush.  Many of the other items I never knew I needed.  Melissa has been talking with my sister and she has been providing tips to make travel easier.  We decided to travel light with only a carry on, but that means we need to pack wisely.  I have small bottles of over the counter medications (aspirin, acetaminophen, etc.), easy wash and dry clothes items, and compression bags to separate different types of things.  We checked to make sure our phone plan is covered for overseas and got the proper plug adaptors for charging.  The biggest difference was financial.  We have already paid for most things on the guided tour, but there will be other expenses.  That meant getting a credit card that does not charge foreign transfer fees.  While we were told it was not necessary, we also decided to take some foreign currency.  All the areas we are going use the euro.

When I looked online, I found the euro is the official currency of 19 out of the 27 member states of the European Union (EU) called the eurozone.  The name euro was officially adopted on December 16, 1995.  The euro is also used by the institutions of the EU, by four European microstates that are not EU members, the British Overseas Territory of Akrotiri and Dhekelia, unilaterally by Montenegro and Kosovo, and outside Europe by several special territories of EU members.  The euro is the second-largest reserve currency as well as the second-most traded currency in the world after the US dollar, and one of the highest combined values of banknotes and coins in circulation in the world.  The euro was introduced to world financial markets as an accounting currency on January 1, 1999, replacing the former European Currency Unit.  Physical euro coins and banknotes entered circulation on January 1, 2002, making it the day-to-day operating currency of its original members.  By March 2002 it had completely replaced the former currencies.

The most obvious benefit of adopting a single currency is to remove the cost of exchanging currency, theoretically allowing businesses and individuals to complete previously unprofitable trades.  For consumers, banks in the eurozone must charge the same for intra-member cross-border transactions as purely domestic transactions for electronic payments (credit cards, debit cards, and ATM withdrawals).  Between December 1999 and December 2002, the euro traded below the US dollar, but since has traded at or above the US dollar.  The euro peaked on July 18, 2008, at US$1.60 but has since returned to near its original issue rate.  On July 13, 2022, the two currencies hit parity for the first time in nearly two decades due in part to the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.  While the exchange rate will fluctuate, this makes it easier for me to consider the value of the euro to be that of the US dollar when I buy things on our trip.

Thoughts:  When I picked up our euro notes from the bank last night, I did not pay them much attention.  Melissa also purchased notes for my brother and his wife who will be on the trip with us.  When I got the notes out to divide them today, I noticed how small the euro is compared to a US dollar.  I also saw what appeared to be two different designs for the note.  I contemplated keeping the more colorful notes and giving the drab ones to my brother.  Then I flipped a note over and realized the drab was the backside of the same euro.  I was impressed by the first impression the colorful euro made but did not care for the drab euro.  The first impression another person makes is usually based on appearance, and often only on a limited set of characteristics.  When we base our likes and dislikes on how you dress, your hair style, or color of skin it is easy to get the wrong impression.  Sometimes you need to flip your viewpoint to understand we are more the same than different.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.