Friday, July 31, 2015

I Won't Be Here

Our summer weather (not climate) has been unusually pleasant.  Hot but not hotter than hell, humid but not a sauna, and as a result we have enjoyed being outside for a change.  The other day my dear spouse wanted to "run the motor" on the boat to make sure it was still working.  (He really wanted an excuse to fish the Bay.)  We hadn't used the boat in weeks and he gets nervous if it sits/hangs on the lift too long.

The weather was predicted to have clear skies and the wind was minimal so we decided to take a longer trip across the Bay, and burn our share of fossil fuels,  a twenty minute ride to the other side which is part refuge and part old-school fishing village.

We first visited an eagle's nest.  The eagles had fledged months ago, but the nest remained in stark contrast against the sky.

The coast line is mostly marsh which is home to red-wing black birds, boat tail blackbirds, marsh wrens herons, and marsh ducks.  Most of the birds were not there when we coasted in.  You can see the crow(?) on the left snag in the photo above checking out the eagle's nest.  He is probably remembering a number of arguments on the wing as he chased the eagle incessantly this past spring.  I have seen three crows gang up on a bald eagle and cause him to have an emotional breakdown.  Really!  He/she sat crying on a lower branch of a tree in my back yard for twenty minutes that time.

Above we are cruising slowly into a wider mouth of a distant river off the Eastern side of the Bay.

On the other side of this river, the pine trees shown above have no lower branches because the trees that were on each side of them were hiding the inner trees from the sun.  What outer trees?  The ones that have now died and lay in the shrubs/small pines below.  These tall still-standing sentinels will be gone in a few years as well.

Above is a starker example.  Why are all these trees dying?  Old age?  Actually, this is real evidence of ocean rise, and brackish water intrusion to freshwater root systems.  Yes, the water levels are being measured by scientists and the water has been rising for quite some time.  Pines were the last to hang on at these little spots of high ground.

A new study ( by a NASA scientist who has studied the issue for decades) indicates that ocean rise is going to be even more dramatic than scientists thought.  Ten feet in fifty years is just one estimate, although bolder researchers say we will see dramatic coastal damage in fifteen years.  It is always an unpredictable thing, this research.  A Smithsonian scientist recently found that with marsh grass species one species likes a certain amount of the brackish water intrusion while another does not.  Scientists are always conservative in their approach to future predictions and welcome (intelligent) argument from their peers, so it may very well be worse than we hope.  If you do not live near the coast, it will still impact you because much of our industry and commerce happens near the coast in countries around the world.

Some people refuse to believe scientists.  These are the same people that questioned health experts about vaccines until we had a measles outbreak.  The same people that question researchers regarding dangers of living near fracking sites, even though an increase in fetal mortality has raised its ugly head.  Scientists "have ulterior motives" say politicians, who of course, have absolutely no ulterior motives nor expertise in the area.  A minority of scientists that are employed by the fossil fuel industry also chime in but I do question their motives since they are being paid by the fuel industry.  Even Senator Lindsey Graham, (R. SC) has seen the light and admits that we should listen to the experts, which seems to contradict the majority of his party's views.

What should you do?  What can you do?  Nothing.  You really can't do anything to slow this roller coaster ride now.   You are way to late to this crazy party.  You should have jumped on the bandwagon twenty years ago.  I talked to a scientist (researching this impact on the coastal grasses) the other day and he said that stopping CO2's emissions fully today would not show results for 30-40 years.  The ocean is currently absorbing all the heat and taking it deep below where it will be covered by glacial water from the big melt and it will be years and years before it gets released back into the air, all after ocean currents change dramatically, another long term impact of global warming.  Maybe it won't be so bad for me after all.  I don't live on an island.  My drinking water is 400 feet down, not 100 feet like most.  As a bleeding-heart liberal, I will miss all those cute little critters that crawl and fly and need the coast for their habitat and breeding.  Some of the more dire predictions envision turning London into an Atlantis!   By the way, if you have not seen Venice, Italy, you really should schedule a trip while it is still there or take up SCUBA lessons.  This is going to happen over decades and not fast enough to catch the attention of the reality TV generation that sees marriages dissolve in months, follows crazy celebrities crash and burn scenarios, and relishes how an other's life disappears in an instant.  I won't be here to see the transition anyway.  Maybe my grandchildren will be engineers, city planners, inventors, water chemists...we are going to need those big time!  And, yes, you can do something.  Tell your representatives, local, state and national, to begin planning for this transition NOW.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Wishes and Pipe Dreams

The "photo-painting" above is deceptive in the story you think it tells.  Maybe this boat rarely gets a chance to raise its' sails?
One thing I have learned as I moved to this area near the water is that you can read the owners by their boats.  There are new fancy boats both fast and slow, well-used work boats, small pleasure craft and old, old boats.  Boats are usually (not always) like the Velveteen Rabbit.  They can be old and worn, but if well care for, they most certainly are used on a regular basis and used with respect.  If the boats are shiny and very new looking they are either NEW NEW or something that someone with more money than brains bought when his bonus came in.  But they sit idle representing a pipe dream that is slowly dying as the owners find they really do not like the regular outing on the water.  If the boat is worn and beaten down, maybe the owner cares less about life and just wants to make it through the day or has abandoned the effort to use the boat altogether.

I think the boats above are used on the old-fashioned and very wasteful passive fixed gill nets that the owner is supposed to check on a regular basis for trapped turtles, sting rays and other animals as well as make sure that they remove gilled fish before they die.  Fortunately these gill nets are grandfathered in and no new ones are being staked on the water.  They are also a boating hazard in the evenings when fishermen are supposed to put a solar or battery operated night light and do not!

Usually getting a boat ready for any outing and maintaining a boat while it sits idle at anchor or at the dock is for people who love the job or people who rely on the boat for food or people who have lots of money to hire help while they are raking in more money at the office.

But for many who depend on the wild harvest for income it is becoming a rare industry that provides little income as the prices of boat maintenance, fuel, and loss of animals in the ocean available for harvest bring profits down.  As few may know, most of our seafood comes from cultured places outside the U.S., some sustainable and some not.  It is even hard to get blue crab on the East Coast in the summer that does not come from Asia and you have to ask at the restaurants where the seafood comes from.  We always do that just to keep the restaurant owners on their toes.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

How Many Lives Do You Have?

Writer's block or blogger's block is not something I panic about.  I know that I will write about something eventually because it is an addiction for me and I am not dependent on income from what I write.  I love how words combine on pages, make nice rhythms or sounds, and paint rudimentary pictures of what I want to express.  When virtual readers join in with remarks or comments, that is the icing on the cake.  Well, this block thing I had was finally broken by death.  Not my death, of course, nor the death of anyone close to me, thankfully,  just several incidents that made death more real than usual.  It got me thinking.

I have been close to dying (in a vague way) several times.  Once when I was about seven(?) I had the mumps.  I got very sick and remember my throat actually swelling shut.  It must not have completely closed because I remember telling my mother that I  couldn't breathe and I remember clearly how frightened I was.  We were poor and did not visit hospitals or doctors needlessly, but this did cause piling brothers and sisters into the car, rushing down the canyon to the nearest village and seeing a doctor who applied cold compresses, gave me some medicine and advice, and I thus I lived!

Another time that I came close to danger and perhaps death (I did say these were vague encounters) was when I was playing alone at about the age of 10 in a big field below the foothills. A man stopped his car on the country road near the field where I had been collecting rocks.  He opened the passenger door and ask me to come over.  I did.  He asked if I would like to go for a ride and as I was wondering why this man was asking this, he tossed some pieces of candy across the car seat beside him.  A major warning light went off in the back of  my head---good survival instincts---and I turned and ran like a gazelle back up the hill toward my house.

Once when I was eighteen and on a first date with a local boy we drove up the canyon to a popular tourist dance hall.  We had both consumed too much beer over the evening and not been able to dance it off before heading home.  While going down the canyon we skidded around a curve and did a complete 360 before coming to the edge of the steep side of the road and were lucky no one was coming either up or down the canyon at that time.  Both of us were suddenly sober realizing we were inches from death as we headed on home.  I never dated the boy again, as I guess we decided we were not the best for each other.

In my early twenties while living on an island in the South Pacific I got food poisoning.  It was a dreadful case and there were no really suitable doctors on this island.  I went for almost a week unable to down much more than a tablespoon of water every now and again.  On the sixth day I actually remember thinking that I wanted to die.  I was tired of this horrible intestinal battle and just wanted to "give up the ghost."  The seventh day I made the turn around as luck would  have it and survived!

In my thirties my husband and I visited a ski place in New Zealand.  We had gone up just for the day and not even planned to ski.  We just wanted to see the scenery and enjoy the lodge.  During mid-day a big snowstorm started to fall.  It was so lovely and heavy and steady that almost all of the skiers came in to wait it out as you needed windshield wipers on goggles if you were heading down on skies.  In the late afternoon we boarded the bus to take us back down to the parking lot at the bottom of the mountain.  I  will never forget that trip as the bus fishtailed from side to side either threatening to dash us against a rock interface or throw us down the side of the mountain.  Even hubby who is pretty carefree said he was going to get off the bus and walk down several times getting louder each time.  We made it without serious incident, but it was really pure luck.

I have had other scares such as getting the early stage of the bends when SCUBA diving, getting caught on a rushing muddy trail during a torrential downpour in a tropical rain forest, being stuck on the canvas of a trimaran in an electrical storm while pregnant, etc. but none of these brought me close to death...injury perhaps..but not death.  All of the above were nothing like being caught in a war or riot or plague outbreak and many were the result of carelessness.  But they affected me enough to remember them clearly.

Please feel free to share in a comment below or link to a more lengthy blog post telling my why you are lucky to still be here!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Bloggers' Block

I have looked and looked and I've got nothin'.  Hang in there until I get back to you.  Thanks.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Problem

I have been trying to post something about a book I am reading, a minor controversial book, but a book which is important to us all and I cannot seem to get my thoughts into several cogent tangents or a few reasonable ideas or even some significant you are going to get some quotes from it.  (Tell me if you have read this book.)

" Calculating the background extinction rate is a laborious task that entails combing through whole databases’ worth of fossils. For what’s probably the best-studied group, which is mammals, it’s been reckoned to be roughly .25 per million species-years. This means that, since there are about fifty-five hundred mammal species wandering around today, at the background extinction rate you’d expect— once again, very roughly— one species to disappear every seven hundred years."

“I sought a career in herpetology because I enjoy working with animals,” Joseph Mendelson, a herpetologist at Zoo Atlanta, has written. “I did not anticipate that it would come to resemble paleontology.”

"But extinction rates among many other groups are approaching amphibian levels. It is estimated that one-third of all reef-building corals, a third of all freshwater mollusks, a third of sharks and rays, a quarter of all mammals, a fifth of all reptiles, and a sixth of all birds are headed toward oblivion."

"SINCE the start of the industrial revolution, humans have burned through enough fossil fuels— coal, oil, and natural gas— to add some 365 billion metric tons of carbon to the atmosphere. Deforestation has contributed another 180 billion tons. Each year, we throw up another nine billion tons or so, an amount that’s been increasing by as much as six percent annually."

I have only read a third of this book thus far and it carefully follows the extinction of species over billions of years as we have grown in our knowledge and comprehension and insight.  It discusses the causes, the patterns, the results.  It introduced me to thousands of living things I never new had existed.  Complicated life forms that hold my amazement at their survival.

Of course, there are those who say we will all go extinct anyway in the future, why focus on it?  My response is:   why go extinct sooner rather than later?  And why at the expense of everything else?

Kolbert, Elizabeth (2014-02-11). The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History (p. 113). Henry Holt and Co.. Kindle Edition.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Dinner at My House

I am fortunate in that my husband likes to cook.  He is very good at making sure a steak or piece of fish is not overcooked...both of which require different attention.  The only thing he overcooks is scrambled eggs, but he likes them that way!  He also likes to make sauces and use spices and has a few stir fry Thai dishes he has developed.   He is an intense cook because he really does not cook  often enough to be a casual cook.

While I also like to cook, and am the primary chef in the house, I try to step back now and again to give him an opportunity to find his creative talents.

We finally caught some perch for bait the other day and were able to bait our crab traps appropriately to FINALLY catch blue crabs.  We did not get a lot, but were able to steam five big crabs for dinner.  Hubby was excited and so I asked if he would like cook dinner while I continued to photograph with my new tripod (my old one broke!)

He was excited.  We had our first harvest of eggplant, there was a bunch of lemon basil growing, blueberries on the vine, etc. etc.

I had forgotten that as a cook he gets easily distracted by reading a recipe or two or 40 for ideas, spending extensive time meditatively harvesting in the garden and then beginning the sauce or two!  An hour before we usually eat dinner he had a pound of lemon basil in the sink being washed.  A pound!  I am a medium fan of  lemon basil, preferring Italian, or red or many of the others, but he likes it.  And lemon basil was the only basil that had not been eaten to the ground by a rabbit or ground hog in my un-fenced herb bed.  Yes, I know!  Basil!  Never eaten before in my herb bed, but with the tons of rain, perhaps it is less pungent to the animals.

There was lots of chopping and mashing and slicing and dicing and steaming in the kitchen.  I  begged him to use one pesto recipe if he was going to try to make a pesto after he asked if he should  use sugar in it.   So there was walking back and forth studying the cook book and several thousand trips to the pantry.

While dinner was late we did have steamed crabs with a lime butter sauce, fried eggplant with a lemon pesto basil sauce, corn on the cob and freshly sliced cucumbers as our salad.  The pesto was a little strong in lemon basil, but complimented the gentle nutty flavor  of  fried eggplant nicely.  Crab is always good and the rest of the veggies were a nice change from the rich and spicy foods.

My payment for this good dinner was about an hour of cleaning a kitchen that looked as if six chefs had prepared some banquet and then left in a hurry.  I clean as I cook.  Men do not usually do that.  They just move to the next clean counter and begin again.  The counter was covered in tiny green  leaves, oily puddles, the floor in tiny garlic skins, the sink in corn husks and there were measuring cups and bowls everywhere.  But I stuck to my guns and worked off those calories nicely as I returned the kitchen to its former glory to use another day.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Sucked In but Good for the Elder Brain if Not the Pocket Book

I do not know how this happened.  I really do NOT, except for a fear that I would lose my precious data or lose my connection with the virtual reality in my life...FB, Blogger, email, RedBubble, etc., or be left behind in other ways...but I own all of this stuff below.

The big machine is close to 10 years old...maybe older, as I do not remember when it was purchased.  I have done one major back-up on it and then yearly just back up files, because I am not smart enough to figure out how to back it up correctly!  I own three separate hard drives.

The next in size (laptop) is a Gateway computer I purchased a long time ago.  I searched the drive properties and it said it was a 2006 version.  Almost ten years ago, and it WAS working pretty well until a small crack on one corner (near the electrical input) started to grow and now bits of plastic could fall off if I did not tape them with package tape, as I am doing, on the back and cannot be seen in the photo.  It also would overheat if I dd not check the position of the bits of plastic each time I use it...I even resorted to using an ice bag below at times!

One Christmas I got an old Kindle as a gift which just stopped working after a few years!  So I went to Amazon and got a new one (turquoise turtle covered) and they still have all my reading purchases in their cloud and transferred to the new Kindle.  Then in a weird fit of jealousy, greed, fear of being left behind(?) I followed hubby when he decided he wanted a Nook a few years ago and since they were on sale...I also got one (orange)!  I have a bunch of books on it, some in the cloud, and I also check out from the local library when I do not mind being rushed to finish a read. It works for blogging, FB and other stuff as well.  Easy to transport, uses the charge pretty fast.

Since my old laptop was scary, I decided I had better get a new one and back up stuff from the old laptop.  I researched and bought a laptop/tablet...Lenova (the silver gray).  No detachable keyboard,but folds completely back and works like a tablet.  Geek squad was supposed to transfer stuff, refused to transfer software, etc.  Now I have to figure out how to do that.

Oh, I also have a phone where I can pretty much do virtual reality stuff on a tiny keyboard if I am in a self-flagellating mood and even do some photographic stuff on a very small scale.

BUT, this story is not over yet.  I want a graphics tablet!  I want it so badly I can see it...just out of reach.  My photography hobby is reaching new levels that only a graphics tablet can meet.  I have limited time on this earth and want to try that out!

I will need a larger surge protector to keep all of these charged!  So much for a small carbon footprint. I have to label and keep together all charging cords...a real nightmare.

Now, you may ask, why is this good for an elder brain?  Well some of these devices have touch screens, various devices use various control key commands (and while most are OS Windows, they are still different), menu drop downs are sometimes sideways, ESC key works for some and only for others in certain windows, in some cases I have to remember some other key combination, some are touch screen and I forget others are not, one uses a mouse and two others a touch pad....I find that my brain strains to learn each of the subtle language differences when communicating with, through, and on these devices.  That must be good for the brain if not the pocket-book, right?  And, just think of all the extra  chances to have my ID stolen, now that the Federal database has been broken into and my Social Security number is available to some nefarious Chinese entities!

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Dedicated Servants

So thankful to all the policemen and policewomen and firefighters and medics that gave up their holiday yesterday to keep us all safer.

Just thought I would add some photos of future dedicated dudes, you know, the preview of help to come. I was sitting on one of the tiny local beaches with grandson when a larger boat anchored at the side of the channel and these young men jumped in the water and swam towards us.

The shallow shore can have pockets of sea nettles (stinging jelly fish) this time of year, so these guys were pretty brave.

Maybe it was ignorance, because as I heard their conversations, they were not too smart about the waters because they were complaining about the jelly fish.

When they reached the beach we talked to them and realized they were taking the afternoon off after a day of training at the Sheriff's office...our future Deputies.

I feel safer already, and other stuff...;-)

Friday, July 03, 2015

Geography or Finding Your Way Home

On the restroom wall at the Newseum in Washington, DC.

My world grows even smaller in this little county of mine on a daily basis.  Some days I feel as if I have crawled back into a little cave and rolled back a large stone behind me as I settle in with the strange but nice cave people who are afraid of bright white lights because no one ever told them about electricity or perhaps even the sun.

What has brought on this perspective you might ask?  While I was talking to my doctor of less than one year (who did indeed give me a referral/transfer to another female doctor in the same practice and from whom I already have an appointment for follow-up blood work in a few months) we discussed the culture of this county that she was gleefully leaving---see prior post.

The doctor and I are both well educated and have opportunities that allow us to seek answers to our questions in this universe and to which we can sometimes add actual experiences. We also do not fear questioning our experiences.

I had mentioned to this Doctor that upon our return from France my husband had been talking to one of the landscapers at the museum, a young man of about 35 with a pleasant disposition and a happy personality.  The young man asked my husband where we had gone.  When my husband told him "France" the young many looked up and then asked, "France?  Where is that?"

Hubby had the good grace not to laugh or ridicule or disbelieve and said it was in Europe.  The young man said. "Oh..,"  and we will never know if any of this made any sense to him at all because the subject of the conversation changed.

After relating this tale to my Doctor she responded with another more disturbing tale.  She had been in line in the local hardware store, and while waiting, struck up a conversation with another customer.  The customer asked where she lived.  She responded with the name of a small town in this area (let us say for this story's sake it was called Colorado).  The person she was talking to responded, "Oh, that is across the bridge and by the military base."  She smiled and said, "Yes.  Some people think I mean the state Colorado when I say that."

The person said, "The state?"

She turned to them,"  Yes, you know, the STATE of Colorado, not the town."

The person responded in all seriousness with," Oh, is there a state named Colorado?"

In both of these cases the persons in these stories were well dressed, bright eyed, spoke English without an accent, and would give no indication they were tremendously sheltered or unsophisticated or part of a dysfunctional education system.  Anecdotal stories like these help me understand accept why some people can take seriously a Presidential candidate such as Donald Trump while people in Europe shake their heads in wonder at us and our backwardness and wasted prosperity.  (I do not live in Appalachia or the Deep South, I live in a place much like where you live.)

"Public education does not exist for the benefit of students or the for the benefit of their parents.  It exists for the benefit of the social order.  We have discovered as a species that it is useful to have an educated population.  You do not need to be a student or have a child who is a student to benefit from public education.  Every second of every day of your life, you benefit from public education.  So let me explain why I like to pay taxes for schools, even though I don't personally have a kid in school:  It's because I don't like living in a country with a bunch of stupid people. " John Green

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Three Letter Word

Some people who read this blog may remember that last year I was looking for a new doctor. I had a good doctor but I felt he had social issues. He never asked me to take a single item of clothing off in the eight years that I saw him. He listened to my heart through my clothes and diagnosed me mainly by what I said my symptoms were.  He also spent more time looking at his laptop than me.  While I am an elder, I was in good enough health to ignore this. Then I decided it was time to change doctors. I live in a county where it is not easy to find a good doctor, a doctor who takes my insurance, a doctor who is still taking patients, and I also was hoping to find a woman doctor for a change.

After a six month's search I found my female doctor (a geriatrician but that is OK) and have been seeing her for about a year. Prior to changing to her, I had heard a rumor she was leaving but I ignored that, and sure enough, last week was my last appointment with her.

I asked her where she was going and she said to a medical practice up north affiliated with one of our Universities that maintained a better budget. She then opened up to explain that this county, in which I live, (very conservative and never going to raise taxes) was just too backward for her. Her heart patients had to drive almost two hours to the north to get decent care. She said that the elderly could not get decent care, elderly that were used to good health care, not poor elderly.  County health support was nil and she felt she could no longer do her job.  She also added that at least five doctors she knew were also job hunting outside the county further reducing our limited selection of doctors and putting strain on our one hospital.

Our county once had a surplus budget years ago and continues to have a record number of wealthy residents with the highest of incomes, mostly retired, but some working. What happened?  Is it that we have a large population of very poor and uneducated people. Was it the recent recession from which it never recovered? Was it because the state moved education retirement funding responsibilities to the counties without warning? Is it because two of our seven elected county commissioners are owners of liquor stores rather than something reflective of a broader view of society?  Is it this conservative county's refusal to even consider raising taxes as we plunge in tighter budgets?

Salaries of teachers have been flat for two years. How long before the more mobile and smart ones also head to parts up north putting our children at risk?

The county is in the process of supporting the development of a liquid natural gas facility within walking distance of many homes.  No other facility of this kind exists so close to where people live in the United States.  There were months of protests, but like Texas, these were overridden.  Do they think/hope this will save the day?  Maybe by blowing a number of taxpayers sky high?  I wait to see how our conservative liquor store owners work this out.  I am afraid it will be like sports stadiums that never create the job markets they promise while forcing the move of lower middle class home owners elsewhere.

No, I would not want to be Commissioner.  Since I do not run, maybe I should not complain.  Since I do not have a clear cut solution, maybe I should just sit down.  But I would accept a ding in my taxes.