Wireless

July 19, 2022

I think it is only fitting after my rant on distracted driving on Saturday that I was unable to access my cell phone when I got into the car this morning.  I had been playing my crossword app until late last night and had run the battery well below the 20% minimum charge level.  I plugged it into the charger last night, but it was too low to accept a charge.  When I plugged it into the car charger it was still too low, and it refused to take a charge.  I took the phone inside to my local electronic guru (Melissa) and when she put the phone on her wireless charger the battery immediately began to accept the charge.  I grabbed my own wireless charger and brought it to work so I could use my phone there.  Of course, the wireless charger did not have the proper interface and would not work in the car.  However, since the recharge had begun with the wireless charger the car charger now worked and the battery began to take the charge.

When I looked online, I found wireless power transfer (WPT), wireless energy transmission (WET), or electromagnetic power transfer, is the transmission of electrical energy without wires as a physical link.  In a WPT system, a transmitter device driven by electric power from a power source generates a time-varying electromagnetic field which transmits power across space to a receiver device.  The receiver then gets power from the field and supplies it to an electrical load.  WPT technology can eliminate the use of the wires and batteries to increase the mobility, convenience, and safety of an electronic device for users.  WPT fall into two categories, near field and far-field.  In near field or non-radiative techniques, power is transferred over short distances by magnetic fields using inductive coupling between coils of wire, or by electric fields using capacitive coupling between metal electrodes.  Inductive coupling is the most widely used wireless technology and its applications include charging handheld devices like phones or implanted medical devices.

Inductive coupling is the oldest and most widely used wireless power technology and is virtually the only one used in commercial products.  Inductive charging stands are used for cordless devices in wet settings (toothbrushes and shavers) to reduce the risk of electric shock.  “Transcutaneous” recharging is also used in biomedical prosthetic devices implanted in the human body (pacemakers and insulin pumps) to avoid wires passing through the skin.  Inductive coupling is also used to charge electric vehicles and to charge or power transit vehicles (buses and trains).  The fastest growing use is wireless charging pads to recharge mobile and handheld wireless devices such as laptop and tablet computers, computer mouse, cellphones, digital media players, and video game controllers.  In the US, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) provided its first certification for a wireless transmission charging system in December 2017.  Ordinary inductive coupling can only achieve high efficiency when the coils are very close together and usually adjacent.  With our wireless phone chargers, the electromagnets lock together when adjacent.

Thoughts:  An important issue associated with wireless power systems is limiting the exposure of people and other living things to potentially injurious electromagnetic fields.  Cell phones emit electromagnetic radiation fields like any other wireless power system and are regulated and are required to meet federal standards.  Cell phones are often cited as dangerous because of how close they are to the body when used (i.e., next to your ear or head).  Each country determines which local regulatory body governs safety of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation, often referred to as radio frequency (RF), and allowable radiation levels for exposure vary.  I use my wireless phone without giving much thought to the consequences.  Others chose not to use these devices.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Distracted

July 18, 2022

As I came out of our subdivision toward the main road of our town last week, I noticed a car sitting in the entrance of the sandwich shop.  There were three local police cars and about six officers milling around in the parking lot.  At first, I did not pay much notice as this was a common lunch destination for the local police.  Then I noticed several other people milling around in the lot as well.  As I approached the intersection, I noticed the looky-loos were slowing down to look at what was happening.  Since the lot was at the stop sign that I took to turn into town, I was able to “legitimately” stop and look at the action.  It turned out the car was not just stopped at the entrance.  The front bumper and grill plate had been torn off and was lying about a yard (1 meter) in front of the vehicle.  It made me wonder how distracted you need to be to sit in a lot with your front end sticking out onto the highway while another car is bearing down on your vehicle.

When I looked online, I found distracted driving accounts for 421,000 injuries and 3,000 fatalities each year.  At any given moment there are an average of 600,000 US drivers talking on phones, texting, or using electronic devices while driving.  Texting is widely considered to be one of the most dangerous activities as it involves all three types of distraction: visual, manual, and cognitive.  While the average text message takes less than 5 seconds to type and send, Distraction.gov states this is sufficient time for your vehicle to have traveled the length of a football field at 55 mph (88 kph).  When you take your eyes off the road to read or send a text, it is as if you have gone that distance blindfolded.  To reduce distracted driving as the result of cell phones many states have laws to regulate cell phone use while driving.

In Arkansas, using your phone to text, look up information on the internet, or check social media while driving is illegal and carries fines from $25 to $500.  The wide range of fines is provided to give law enforcement officers a lot of latitude when assigning fines, and second offenses are generally doubled.  You fine could also be doubled if the violation caused a collision.  Rules for cell phone use vary based on location and age.  Under Arkansas law, wireless interactive communication while driving is banned for all drivers.  While texting is banned, you can talk on a cell phone while driving unless you are driving through a school or work zone.  You can still use you phone in these areas if you are in hands-free mode.  In most cases, Arkansas’ texting and driving law is a primary law, which means the police can pull you over just for violating that rule.  However, restrictions on cell phone use in school and work zones are secondary laws.  In other words, you cannot be pulled over for talking on the phone in a work zone unless you were committing another violation.

Thoughts:  When a driver ahead of me is acting erratic my first thought is always, “get off the phone!”  Nearly every time as I pass, I see the person is indeed talking or texting on their phone.  While we know how easy it is to be distracted by a cell phone, research says the most common distraction is getting “lost in thought.”  When a driver’s mind drifts away from the task of driving it can result in an accident, and daydreaming accounts for a significant percentage of distracted driving fatalities.  Perhaps we should have paid more attention when the driving instructor tried to teach us to keep our hands at “ten and two”.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Cantaloupe

July 16, 2022

When I started my patio garden in earnest two years ago, I planted watermelon and cantaloupe with the strawberries along the back side of the house.  The strawberry plants have done very well and filled the plot I put them in.  Sadly, I get few strawberries and lose half of those to the birds.  The watermelon produced loads of blooms but only 4-5 set, and all but one got blossom rot and died before they were more than 3 inches (9 cm) in diameter.  The lone survivor grew into an oblong gourd that only ripened on one end.  The cantaloupe did even worse.  I planted a second set after the first ones died and those also died within two weeks.  I did not grow any melons last year but being the eternal optimist, I purchased another cantaloupe as a replacement plant this year.

When I looked online, I found the North American cantaloupe (Cucumis melo var. reticulatus) common in the US, Mexico, and some parts of Canada, is a different variety of C. melo.  This is also called a muskmelon and has a reticulated (“net-like”) peel rather than the smooth green shells of the European cantaloupe (Cucumis melo subspecies melo).  It is a round melon with firm, orange, moderately sweet flesh.  Cantaloupe range in weight from 1 to 11 pounds (0.5 to 5 kilograms).  The name cantaloupe was derived in the 18th century via French cantaloup from The Cantus Region of Italian Cantalupo near Rome after the fruit was introduced there from Armenia.  The cantaloupe most likely originated in a region from South Asia to Africa and was later introduced to Europe.  By 1890 cantaloupe had become a commercial crop in the United States.  Originally, the name cantaloupe referred only to the non-netted, orange-fleshed melons of Europe, but today the name may refer to any orange-fleshed melon of the C. melo species.  The state of California grows 75% of the cantaloupes produced in the US.

I had weeded the patio beds before I had planted the tomatoes, but it took another two weeks for me to purchase the bale of straw to mulch them.  During that time the heat had killed two of my tomatoes and I had replaced one with the cantaloupe plant I mentioned.  I was able to re-weed and get mulch around the six Cherokee purples, but the heat kept me from venturing out to finish the job.  I continued to water the tomato and cantaloupe at the far end of the bed and even though they were completely overgrown with weeds, several small tomatoes had set and there were numerous flowers on the cantaloupe.  Today I decided to take the plunge and weed and mulch this last area.  To my surprise there were two small cantaloupes on the vines hidden under all the weeds.  Perhaps what I had needed to do two years ago was ignore the melons.  Probably not, as that does not seem to work with anything else.   

Thoughts:  Many believe the best cantaloupes come from Rock Ford, Colorado.  G. W. Swink grew the first melons beginning in 1887 and the Rocky Ford Cantaloupe was soon being distributed to distant local markets.  By 1896, train car loads of the famous cantaloupe were being shipped to markets as far as New York.  Their website informed me how to choose a ripe melon.  First, check to see if the netting on the melon is yellow.  Then look at the area where the melon was attached to the vine (the slip).  If you touch it with your finger and there is no stem left, it was ripe and ready to pick.  While my melon thrived even as I neglected it, this may have been the result of the plant being shaded from the intense sun.  Wild fruits and grains grow without human intervention.  However, they are smaller and are not as perfect looking like their cultivated hybridized cousins.  Even the vegetables from my garden are often eaten after first removing the “pecked at” parts.  Being willing to look beyond outward appearance to see the inner value is important for humans as well as crops.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Crepe 2

July 15, 2022

Last July I commented on the how the crepe myrtle bushes on either side of the driveway had decided to regrow after we had tried to eradicate them the previous year.  After removing the plant and as much of the root as I could, we planted a large agave in each of the two holes.  The mole we had been fighting appeared to take out both agaves, and then last year the crepe myrtles decided to regrow.  I decided to keep the bushes but wanted to shape them into single stem tree rather than the bushy mass they had previously been.  When Zena and I were on our walk I was taken by the myrtle plants that were in full flower on both sides of a mailbox planter.  This was exactly how I envisioned our crepe growing.

When I looked online for crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia var.), I found it is a genus of around 50 species of deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs native to the Indian subcontinent, southeast Asia, northern Australia, and other parts of Oceania, that has then been cultivated in warmer climates around the world.  It is a member of the family Lythraceae, which is also known as the loosestrife family.  The genus is named after Swedish merchant Magnus von Lagerström, a director of the Swedish East India Company, who supplied Carl Linnaeus with plants he collected.  These flowering trees are beautifully colored and are often planted both privately and commercially as ornamentals.  All varieties grow best in full sun.  The Red Rocket (Lagerstroemia indica ‘Whit IV’) variety of crepe myrtle appeared to be what we saw in the neighborhood mailbox planter. 

When I looked for tips on caring for my crepe myrtle, I found worst thing that can happen is pruning.  Crape “murder” usually occurs when an overly enthusiastic homeowner severely cuts back the top branches on crepe myrtle trees, ruining the natural shape and form of the plant.  Care should include limited pruning and little removal of growing branches.  Too much pruning from the top send suckers shooting from the bottom of the tree or the roots.  This in turn results in additional pruning and needless care.  Crepe myrtles are sometimes attacked by powdery mildew that can limit blooms.  Insects (aphids) may feed on the succulent new growth and create a substance called honeydew that attracts sooty black mold spores.  Getting rid of the aphids and mold is best done with a thorough overall spray of insecticidal soap or Neem oil.  It is best to limit pruning to thinning when needed.  However, this will not give me the shape I desire.  As mentioned last year, we have the crepe myrtle bush and not the tree in the neighbor’s yard.  That means I may never get the desired look. 

Thoughts:  While I am not yet resigned to our crepe never looking as good as our neighbor’s, I am beginning to lean that way.  The suckers I had cut away from our bush last year have returned to nearly overtake the bottom of the plant.  I am determined to give it one more year of pruning and shaping (can you say, “overly enthusiastic homeowner”?) and if it does not conform to my shape, will let it do as it will.  As I said last year, “At times you just need to bend with the will of nature.”  Last July we were thwarted by nature as we thought we were at the end of the pandemic.  Vaccinations were climbing and cases were falling.  Then we were hit with the Omicron variant.  Now we are resigned to live with the virus even as it drops from pandemic to endemic levels as BA.5 continues to spread around the US and world.  The variant appears to be more contagious but less lethal.  There are ways to protect yourself and others, but fewer seem willing to do so.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Tracer

July 14, 2022

I learned on last night’s news that the prescribed burn I wrote about yesterday was not prescribed at all.  The Arkansas National Guard is on maneuvers at Fort Chaffee throughout the summer and it was the Guard that started the fire.  While the military reporting was correct in stating it was a “fire maneuver”, when it was associated with an actual fire the initial report (and me) had mistakenly assumed the cause was a fire.  It turns out the fire maneuver was a military term and not a civilian one.  The Guard had been practicing on the shooting range.  They had taken the precaution of making a 10 foot (3 m) fire break and had cleared the brush around the range with a prescribed burn, but the grass still caught fire and the fire jumped the break.  The guard was practicing using tracer bullets.

When I looked online, I found tracer ammunition (tracers) are bullets or cannon-caliber projectiles that are built with a small pyrotechnic charge in their base.  The United Kingdom was the first to develop and introduce a tracer round in a version of the .303 cartridge in 1915.  The US introduced a .30-06 tracer in 1917.  Prior to adopting red (among a variety of other colors) bullet tips for tracers, American tracers were identified by blackened cartridge cases.  The pyrotechnic composition is ignited by the burning powder when fired and burns brightly, making the projectile trajectory visible to the naked eye during day, and as a bright light during night firing.  This allows the shooter to visually trace the flight path of the projectile and then make any necessary ballistic corrections.  Prior to the tracer the shooter would have to confirm projectile impacts to determine accuracy.  As the effective range of ammunition increased this became nearly impossible even during day light.  Tracer bullets are usually loaded as every fifth round in machine gun belts, referred to as a four-to-one tracer.  Tracer fire can also be used as a marking tool to signal other shooters to concentrate their fire on a particular target during battle.

During World War II, aircraft with fixed machine guns or mounted cannons would sometimes have a series of tracer rounds added near the end of the ammunition belts to alert the pilot that he was almost out of ammunition.  The problem was that this practice alerted astute enemies that their foes were nearly out of ammunition.  A more common practice was to load the entire magazine as a four-to-one tracer.  This was used on both fixed offensive and flexible defensive guns to help mitigate the difficulties of aerial gunnery.  Tracers were common on most WWII aircraft except for night fighters.   These fighters needed to be able to attack and shoot down the enemy before they realized they were under attack and without betraying their own location to enemy defensive gunners.  The US relied heavily on tracer ammunition for the defensive Browning M2 .50 caliber machine guns on its heavy bombers such as the B-24 Liberator.

THOUGHTS:  In the UK, use of tracer rounds are restricted on National Rifle Association of the United Kingdom-operated ranges because of an increased risk of fire.  Use of tracers is usually only authorized during military training.  In the US, tracer ammunition is legal for personal use according to federal law, but some states prohibit tracer rounds from being sold and possessed by the public.  The use of tracer ammunition by civilians in the US has no practical application.  Two well-known fires were started by tracer fire in the last decade.  On February 24, 2013, a fire was started at DFW Gun Club in Dallas, Texas, and on July 3, 2018, the Lake Christine Fire near Basalt, Colorado was started by tracer rounds fired at a gun range.  There is a non-incendiary tracer ammunition which provide illuminated shots that do not produce heat or fires and can be shot indoors.  This was obviously not used.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Prescribed

July 13, 2022

I got a text last night from a friend asking if we had been affected by the wildfire reported to be burning on the northeast side of our town.  I had neither seen nor smelled the fire when I was outside, but Melissa said the smoke was affecting her breathing.  County officials said the large fire that started at Fort Chaffee on Tuesday was 85% to 90% contained as of this morning.  Our mayor said residents on Hilltop Drive were evacuated for several hours because of the fire, but they were able to return later that night.  The area was still smoky this morning and small smolders could still be seen.  The Sheriff’s Office and local police are providing active patrols to make sure the fire stays contained.  Apparently, a “fire maneuver” (a prescribed burn) got out of hand at Fort Chaffee and spread up to the Hilltop neighborhood.  The county remains under a burn ban until further notice because of the heat and dry conditions.

When I looked online, I found that prescribed burns, or purposefully setting fire to woodlands and brush land, has long been an accepted practice in forest management to prevent future unwanted wildfires.  The US Forest Service cites three reasons for the practice.  The prescribed burn is used to clear the underbrush that can fuel a later fire, the burn adds nutrients back to the soil, and the burn promotes the growth of trees, wildflowers, and other plants.  Even when they are carefully planned, prescribed burns can get out of control.  The Forest Service did a study of prescribed burns several years ago and found three common reasons firefighters lost control of the flames.  The first was starting the controlled burn during a drought.  Second was poor communication among the firefighters.  Finally, was underestimating the amount of fuel (brush and debris) on the forest floor.  The Coalition of Prescribed Fire Councils report less than 2% of prescribed burns get out of control, and most of those are minor spillovers.

When I worked at the convention center in Kansas, we returned 10 of our 61 acres back to Tall Grass Prairie.  We placed signs explaining the prairie ecosystem and cut trails through the grass to allow visitors to observe the flora (plant) and fauna (animal) as the grasses would be up to six feet tall.  We also burned the acres every other year as part of their natural life cycle.  Prior to the prescribed burn we would make sure to cut breaks around the outside of the fields and water down the mown grass.  We also had a crew of six volunteers and support vehicles to monitor the burn.  Despite precautions, one year the pampas grass the next door owner used to mark their property caught fire from the heat of the prescribed burn.  We were able to get the fire out and only burned an area of about 10 square yards (9m2).  We reseeded the area with grass and replanted two trees from our property.  They seemed fine.

THOUGHTS:  When our prescribed burn got out of control it was one of the scariest moments of my life.  I was sitting next to the area and the ATV I was riding ran out of gas just as it all happened.  I was sitting on the trail and the heat of the flames were lapping at my face.  I finally jumped off the ATV and ran out of the flames.  As I thought back on the burn, it was never close to getting out of control, but fire can be very unpredictable.  While there is always that 2% chance of a prescribed burn getting out of control, the benefits outweigh the risk, and can help suppress future fires.  My niece serves in a covid ward at a large hospital and has remarked on the people wanting to get the vaccine now that they have covid.  Being proactive with a burn is no different than being proactive in health care.  Both require people to make the right choices in advance.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Tires

July 11, 2022

I have put 50,000 miles on my Jeep and the tires were needing to be replaced.  While the tread was not bare, it was low enough that I had done some hydroplaning during the last two heavy rainstorms coming off the mountain.  That was solidified two weeks ago when I caught a nail and got a flat just as I pulled into work.  I had a meeting to attend so I left the truck in the lot and went to my meeting.  Several of the men offered to change the tire while I was inside.  I was very appreciative and when I came out the spare was on.  That was the easiest tire I ever had changed.  I called around (and procrastinated) trying to find a shop who carried the same tire so I would have a consistent set of five.  When I found a shop, I needed to special order the tire and the web page said it would be 10 days for the tires to arrive.  I was not happy about it but ordered them anyway.  Two days later they arrived, and I set up an appointment to have the tires installed today.

When I looked online, I found modern tires are made from up to 30 different kinds of rubber as well as other components such as textiles, steel, antioxidants, and fillers.  Making tires is a five-step process that begins as the rubber, fillers, antioxidants, and other ingredients blended to create the gummy compound that will become the tire.  The compound is milled, cooled, and cut into the strips that form the structure of the tire.  The other elements of the tire are also prepared, like the fabric cords and steel belts.  These materials are assembled into what is known as a ‘green tire’, with the casing built first, followed by the tread, shoulder, and sidewall.  The green tire is cured and vulcanized in hot molds which compress the parts of the tire together and give its final shape, including the tread pattern and manufacturer’s sidewall markings.  Curing enhances the tire’s flexibility and elasticity.  The final step is an inspection.  Some tires are pulled from the line to be checked by x-rays and randomly selected tires are cut open to ensure they meet manufacturing standards.  Other tires are run on test wheels, or road-tested to evaluate handling, mileage, and traction performance.  Tires are rated (and priced) based on the manufacturing process and can last from 40,000 to 80,000 miles (64,375 to 128,750 km), depending on the application.

The shop where I purchased my tires was located next to the big box store in town.  When I arrived for my appointment, there were two workers and only one car in the bay.  I paid for my tires and was told it should take an hour to complete the job and they would call me.  I left for the box store to do some shopping.  I only had two items I needed and an hour to kill so I putzed my way slowly through the aisles looking to kill time.  I got my items and a couple more spur of the moment buys (it may not be there when you come back), tried on a pair of light weight shoes (did not feel right), and grabbed some pre-made sushi I ate for lunch sitting in the snack area.  When I looked at my watch it had been 1½ hours since I dropped the car and I had not heard back.  Now I had to do what I was trying to avoid, sitting in the shop watching my car sit idly while other customers were waited on.  Maybe the ten days included the time I would sit in the shop waiting to get the tires installed.

THOUGHTS:  As I sat in the shop waiting for my tires, I decided to put the time to use.  We subscribe to on-line data storage that is connected to my phone.  I have used my phone to occasionally download files for quick looks but do most of my work from a computer.  Since I had time, I decided to write my blog from my phone.  This was a little more difficult as I did not have the keyboard or multiple screens I have come to rely on, but it was doable.  When I proudly told this to Melissa her response was that she has been doing this for years.  The hardest part of doing something new (different) is often just being willing to try.  That is true for blogging from my phone, and it is true for changes because of the pandemic.  Different does not mean bad, it means different.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Dewclaw

July 09, 2022

When I played with our previous dog Bella, I was often scratched by the small claw spaced about three inches above both of her front paws.  I wondered why this claw was there as it did not seem to serve any purpose.  When I asked Melissa about the claw, she said it was often vestigial in small breed dogs, and some owners have them surgically removed.  Melissa had not and said others warn against removal as this can be painful.  Now that we have Zena, I found she not only has the claw above her front paws, but also on both rear paws as well.  Again, the only purpose I have seen for this claw is to scratch us when Zena jumps into your lap (yes, she is a 50 pound lap puppy).  Melissa said this was called a dewclaw.

When I looked online, I found a dewclaw is a digit on the foot of many mammals, birds, and reptiles.  This claw commonly grows higher on the leg than the rest of the foot and does not contact the ground when the animal is standing.  The name refers to the dewclaw’s alleged tendency to brush dew away from the grass.  Dogs almost always have dewclaws on the inside of the front legs and occasionally also on the hind legs.  Unlike front dewclaws, rear dewclaws tend to have little bone or muscle structure in most breeds.  It is normal for certain breeds to have more than one dewclaw on the same paw.  At least one of these dewclaws will be poorly connected to the leg and is often surgically removed.  For certain dog breeds like the Beauceron used for herding sheep in France, a dewclaw is considered a necessity as it helps the dog navigate snowy terrain.  There is some debate about whether a dewclaw may help dogs gain traction when they run.  In some dogs, the dewclaw contacts the ground when they are running and the nail on the dewclaw often wears down the same way the nails on their other toes do.  In other dogs the dewclaw never contacts the ground, and the nail never wears away, and it is often trimmed to maintain the claw at a safe length.

The dewclaw is not a dead appendage.  They can be used to lightly grip bones and other items the dog holds with its paws.  In some dogs, these claws may not appear to be connected to the leg except by a flap of skin, and the claw does not have a use for gripping, as the claw can easily fold or turn.  Others suggest dogs like the Great Pyrenees (Zena) use the dew claw to aid climbing on rocky mountain slopes.  The dewclaw is also used by the dog to scratch itself to remove irritants from around eyes, ears, and fur. The technical term for these additional digits on the rear legs is hind-limb-specific preaxial polydactyly (now you know).  Several genetic mechanisms can cause rear dewclaws; they involve the LMBR1 gene and related parts of the genome.  Rear dewclaws of the mountain dogs do have phalanx bones and can be used for a variety of purposes.  Dewclaws are also recognized as the breed standard for the large shepherd dogs by the American Kennel Club as well as Britain’s Kennel Club.

THOUGHTS:  While a dewclaw may seem superfluous for smaller breeds of dogs, they appear to provide an advantage for large breeds that typically navigate rough or snowy terrain.  A similar vestige is evident with some larger snakes who have stunted legs beneath their skin and tiny, claw-like spurs on each side of the single opening where waste and reproductive fluids exit the body (the cloaca), which include remnants of what used to be leg bones.  Male snakes use these spurs during courtship and for fighting, but not for locomotion.  There is a common belief that the human appendix is a vestigial organ, but recent research has shown the appendix has several important immune effects in the womb and as an adult.  Whether a dewclaw, the spur on a vestigial leg, or an appendix, what we keep finding is that the answer is, “I do not know.”  The ability to admit what is not known and question what is known is the essence of the human quest for understanding.  That also works for understanding other people.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Bison

July 08, 2022

We went out to dinner with friends last night and were shared a photoshopped version of “Dirk the Bison” from Yellowstone National Park.  The video came in response to the four bison goring’s in the park over the last two months.  The video depicted a bull bison loping along the prairie with four stylized human figures with arms raised spaced across the hump of his back.  The caption read, “Rapidly approaching ‘Ace’ status!”, referring to the number of victories needed by fighter pilots in modern arial warfare.  The video was first posted with only two humans, then upgraded to three, and now has four figures being tossed into the air along its hump.   While this may have been a long month for the humans, Dirk seems to be thriving.  Sadly, I could not get the actual photo to download (but it is on FaceBook).

When I looked online, I found the American bison (Bison bison) is a species of bison native to North America often referred to as buffalo.  It is one of two extant species of bison along with the European bison.  By 9000 BCE the American bison’s range (or the great bison belt) covered a tract of grassland from Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico, east to the Atlantic Seaboard as far north as New York, south to Georgia, and some say even further south to Florida.  North America has two subspecies of bison.  The plains bison (B. bison bison) is smaller in size with a more rounded hump, and the wood bison (B. bison athabascae) is larger with a taller, square hump.  The plains bison has been suggested to consist of the northern plains (B. bison montanae) and southern plains (B. bison bison) subspecies, but this is not generally supported.  The wood bison is one of the largest wild species of extant bovid in the world, surpassed only by the Asian gaur (Bos gaurus).  Among extant land animals in North America, the bison is the heaviest, the longest, and the second tallest (after the moose).  It is also known as the most likely to attack tourist.

While bison once roamed in vast herds, the species was nearly extinct from commercial hunting and slaughter in the 19th century and introduced bovine diseases from domestic cattle.  The population was more than 60 million in the late 18th century, but the species was culled to just 541 animals by 1889.  Recovery efforts expanded in the mid-20th century, with a resurgence to roughly 31,000 wild bison by 2019.  The population was primarily found in a few national parks and reserves, but reintroductions allow the species now freely roam wild in several regions in the US, Canada, and Mexico, and they have been introduced to Yakutia in Russia.  The Indigenous tribes of North America have had cultural and spiritual connections to the American bison for millennia and the bison is the national mammal of the US.  The National Park Service takes visitor and animal safety seriously and the front page of the Yellowstone website tells you to stay 25 yards (22.8 m) from bison and elk and 100 yards (91.5 m) from bears and wolves because the park’s animals “are WILD and DANGEROUS” (emphasis NPS).  Despite the precautions, warnings, and guidelines, bison attacks are on the rise inside the park.

THOUGHTS:  While the streak of goring’s may not be common, bison are the biggest threats to humans in Yellowstone Park.  Between 1978 and 1992, 56 people were injured and two were killed by bison, and from 2000 to 2015, 25 people were injured by bison.  The recent uptick can be chalked up to an increase of bison within the park, an increase in visitors, and the number of visitors willing to get up close and personal with a bison to securing an Instagram-worthy shot.  I guess it is no longer enough to loss control of a vehicle or fall off a cliff in quest of the perfect shot.  Perhaps this could be an example of evolution.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

Almonds

July 07, 2022

I came across an article from the LA Times this morning about almonds being stuck in port.  This year California almond growers are looking at a 2.8 billion pound harvest to match the 2.9 billion pounds in 2021 and an all-time high of 3.1 billion pounds in 2020.  California produces about 82% percent of the world’s almond supply, and 70% of those almonds are exported for sale.  However, exporting requires shipping containers, and it has reached a point where demand for containers in Asia was so high that after dropping off their loads in Southern California, the containers were being sent back to Asia empty instead of taking the time to head north to the Port of Oakland where the almonds are exported.  That means California’s almond production is exceeding export demands, and 1.3 billion pounds of almonds are sitting unsold in California storehouses.

When I looked online, I found the almond (Prunus amygdalus, syn. Prunus dulcis) is a species of tree native to Iran and surrounding countries.  The almond tree prospers in a moderate Mediterranean climate with cool winter weather (California central valley).  The almond is also the name of the edible and widely cultivated seed of this tree.  The almond is classified with the peach in the subgenus Amygdalus, distinguished from the other subgenera by corrugations on the shell (endocarp) surrounding the seed.  The fruit of the almond is a drupe, consisting of an outer hull and a hard shell with the seed and is not a true nut.  Almonds are sold shelled or unshelled.  Blanched almonds are shelled almonds that have been treated with hot water to soften the seedcoat, which is removed to reveal the white embryo.  Once the almonds are cleaned and processed, they can last in storage for around two years.

Agriculturalists are saying due to high acreage and water demand for cultivating almonds, and need for pesticides, California almond production may not be sustainable.  That is especially so given the persistent drought and heat caused by 21st century climate change and some producers have left.  To grow one almond requires 1.1 gallons of water, and to grow a pound takes 1,900 gal/lb.  Nuts like walnuts, hazelnuts, pistachios, and cashews all use roughly the same amount of water, but the demand for almonds has been high.  California is amid a 5 year drought that has everyone blaming the nut industry as farmers shift towards growing more almonds.  The drought has also sent the per pound price of almonds to US$6 a pound, as opposed to US$2 a pound in 2010.  Almond exports are down about 13 percent this year, with around 1.3 billion pounds of almonds left undelivered.  California Almonds’ May data shows that the uncommitted almond inventory was over 660 million pounds, or up 52% over the same period last year.  That is bad news for the state, as almonds were California’s last year’s top agricultural export, worth about $4.7 billion.  Now they cannot seem to get rid of the almonds.

THOUGHTS:  The almond industry has recently been making a push toward sustainability, reportedly cutting water usage by 33% with plans to reach a total 53% reduction by the year 2025.  This effort might not solve the shipping problem, but it will make a difference for California’s drought.  It is hoped more sustainable farming practices and a shift in global distribution trends will relieve California’s almond surplus.  Inflation and drought have driven the cost of producing the nuts up even as the average price has dropped.  The average US farmer feeds 155 people, up from only 26 people in 1960.  Today’s farmer grows twice as much food as their parents using less land, energy, water, and fewer emissions.  Farming has always been a risky business regardless the crop, both financially and physically.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.