How Would You Read These Signs?

 

It’s been a little over a month since Earth Day, but since environmental concerns should be addressed all year long, check this out…

As a lifelong Michigander (6+ decades), I’ve grown accustomed to an occasionally odd, illogical meteorological mix… in some instances unseasonal extremes spanning a 24 hour (or less) cycle.

This spring, my region has been experiencing the fifth wettest May since meteorological record keeping began. Even so, based on my observations, I don’t believe that precipitation, alone, is responsible for such a weird phenomenon.

In short, both professional and amateur groundskeepers have been finding it quite difficult to keep up with a botanical growth spurt.

To e.g. this… my next-door neighbor (who does over fertilize his weed free lawn) used to be on a mow once every 7 days schedule… but now? In spite his allowing only 2 days to elapse, today, his normally kickass power mower still found it difficult to deal with his lush lawn… it kept sputtering and, a few times, nearly stalled out.

To further e.g. this… yesterday, my own weekly, groundskeeping didn’t go much better. Naturally, I don’t use any of those nasty, toxic, carcinogenic lawn chemicals, so my own battlefield had involved heavy duty, grotesquely overgrown dandelions. Hmmm… might my weedy “lawn” act as the “control” to this field experiment?

And since I’ve noticed both above lawn types citywide, I do know that these problems are not unique to my neighborhood.

One final e.g… in spite of my electric trimmer’s best efforts, yesterday, I still spent over an hour sculpting my three car length hedge… a weekly task that… once upon a time… only required half an hour to complete. It’s almost as if these elm shrubs have been goaded into some sort of competition with America’s West Coast, 3,000 year old redwoods… and are doing their utmost to win the race in far less time. BTW, even under normal conditions, elm hedges have been known to grow into 60 foot tall trees.

Naturally, I’m curious as to whether this growth spurt is localized or widespread. Considering how WordPress is a global platform, I now ask anyone reading this post…

Has anyone else observed any signs of wildly accelerated plant growth in their “neck of the woods”? Might the goading factor be an increase of atmospheric CO2? If not, what do you believe is the driving force?

The comment box awaits your responses.

 

 

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Rising the Phoenix from the Radioactive Ashes?

 

It’d be an understatement to say January 2018’s events had been unnerving. It all started with a Tweet, posted by a cyberbully who, due to his well-known character flaws of self-importance, imprudence, impudence and ignorance, needs no further introduction. Said he…

 

“North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un just stated that the “Nuclear Button is on his desk at all times.” Will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2018”

 

How reckless of “Tweetie” to further engage and enrage his temperamental North Korean nuclear nemesis… particularly considering how their past rounds of infantile squabbling have already left the entire world on the brink of WW-III.

And to what end? I mean, here we witness the so-called prez, perhaps obsessing over not measuring up below his own bloated belly’s bellybutton? Maybe compensating for that shortcoming by boasting, online, about the size of his “nuclear button”?

As if that weren’t already bad enough, on January 13th, Hawaiians faced down what they believed to be a nuclear nightmare-come-true. Indeed, they had (erroneously) received the stark warning that a ballistic missile was already en route, inward bound… that thermonuclear exchange and the annihilation of humanity was imminent.

Then, on January 15th, I had unwittingly exacerbated my own anxieties… i.e., by switching on my FM radio at precisely the wrong moment. It had been quite disconcerting to hear the Emergency Alert System attention signal already blaring away… likely the exact same menacing monotone that had needlessly scared the crap out of my Hawaiian compatriots. My first reaction… “WTF did that numbskull narcissist do now?” Yep, I actually had groaned that aloud.

Of course, in that instance, it had been an actual alert… an AMBER Alert to help track down the whereabouts of a missing, perhaps abducted child.

My nerves, nonetheless, had become a bit frazzled. I was more than ready for some much needed escapism… perhaps courtesy of the Comet TV Network? However, once more, this proved to be ill-timed. I was now watching their feature presentation: Panic In Year Zero… a low budget, post apocalyptic film… a production that would have never won any awards for special effects. BUT it sure as hell did offer up a plausible portrayal of nuclear war’s grotesque side effect… societal breakdown… e.g. the male characters, first, becoming hunter-gatherers and, next… once their testosterone poisoning began kicking in full force… they further devolved into little more than knuckle-draggers… their predominant MO being pillaging, raping and manslaughter.

Then… just about when I thought it was safe to go outside, again, and get on with my life… on January 16th, a totally unexpected flash over my home state lit up my nighttime skies and generated an accompanying, minor, sonic boom… wound up fully backlighting my closed, thickly insulated kitchen and dining room curtains and “rocking” my home’s brick, mortar and drywall. Once more I groaned, aloud, “WTF did that numbskull narcissist do now?”

All the sudden I found myself desperately searching though my brain’s “files” for some “plain vanilla” type explanation… oh… say… thundersnow. However, just as quickly as I had hatched that theory, I had to debunk it. True, there had been a heavy  snowfall on that day… BUT… the extreme cold air mass, which had descended immediately afterwards, certainly would’ve made wintertime lightening… already a meteorological rarity… even more so.

The good news was that night’s 11 o’clock news story, which fully cleared up the mystery… a meteor had plunged to Earth. Yet, I could not help but wonder. Had that rocky space debris’ flight plan, instead, sent it streaking over Washington DC, how would “Prez” Tweetie have reacted / overreacted?

Factoring in his repugnance for intellectuals and all time honored, scientific principles (e.g. recall how he stared… sans eye protection… at 2016’s solar eclipse after being warned not to), it’s easy to see how his response would’ve been to trust his (cheeseburger glutted) gut and “go ballistic”.

The late astronomer / author Carl Sagan postulated along similar lines. From his book, Cosmos… Chapter IV – Heaven and Hell… I’ve condensed his observations from pages 73 – 76 (inclusive)…

 

“In the early morning hours of June 30, 1908, in Central Siberia, a giant fireball was seen moving rapidly across the sky. Where it touched the horizon, an enormous explosion took place. It leveled some 2,000 square kilometers of forest and burned thousands of trees in a flash fire near the impact site. It produced an atmospheric shock wave that twice circled the Earth.

This remarkable occurrence is called the Tunguska Event [and] was probably caused by an icy cometary fragment about a hundred meters across – the size of a football field – weighing a million tons , moving about 30 kilometers per second, 70,000 miles per hour.

If such an impact occurred today it might be mistaken, especially in the panic of the moment, for a nuclear explosion. The cometary impact and fireball would simulate all effects of a one megaton nuclear burst, including the mushroom cloud, with two exceptions: there would be no gamma radiation or radioactive fallout.

Could a rare but natural event… trigger a nuclear war? A strange scenario: A small comet hits the Earth… and the response of our civilization is promptly to self-destruct. It might be a good idea for us to understand comets and collisions and catastrophes a little better than we do… this is a real possibility and underscores the dangers in an age of nuclear weapons of not monitoring impacts from space better than we do.”

 

January’s unsettling events have since compelled me to seriously evaluate how I’d react IF… more likely WHEN… “Tweetie” provokes WW-III. One certainty… we could never expect a “prez”, ignorant enough to use social media for such an antisocial purpose, to ever effectively cope with the resultant nuclear wasteland… and far more importantly, even begin to sense the “survivors'” physical pain, mental anguish and emotional drain. Nope, he could never rise that phoenix from the radioactive ashes.

Under those dire circumstances, the “survivors”, most assuredly, would need flawless leadership… someone possessing the resolve, resourcefulness and reasoning power of Sci-Fi botanist / astronaut, Mark Watney… portrayed by actor Matt Damon… in the Hollywood big screen film, The Martian. To synopsize the plot and Watney’s plight, after winding up marooned on the otherwise barren of life, totally inhospitable Mars, he was left to figure out… every single minute of every single “Sol” (day)… all that he’d need to accomplish to survive. He wound up summing everything up, thusly

 

“So, in the face of overwhelming odds, I’m left with only one option: I’m gonna have to science the shit out of this.”

 

 

So what would the Trumpian response be? Well, once the fallout had settled, the holed up in his underground “prez” would emerge from his lead encased bunker… utterly clueless as to how to cope with an unearthly, uninhabitable Earth. He could never possess even a minuscule fraction of Mark Watney’s textbook knowhow and survivor instincts.

Worse yet, the “prez” would know no real life “Watneys” and even if the scientific community did step forward to offer their advice and services, “Tweetie” would still turn a deaf ear… would denigrate and spurn them. Consequently, the “prez” would preside over his world… no strike that… rule over a shithole nation and planet of his own making. Even far worse than that, he would still expect high praise and applause from countless hordes of beleaguered walking cadavers who’d be sloughing off their burnt flesh, puking their guts out… and dropping dead.

Returning to the here and now… IF… more likely WHEN… our Emergency Alert System starts signaling the end of the world… I’ll be lacing up my Sketchers and jogging, full speed ahead, towards Ground Zero… not away from it. I mean, given the two options of…

A. Existing within Donald Trump’s virtually lifeless, hopeless, burnt to a cinder, irradiated shithole nation and planet.
B. Dying and taking my chances with attaining either eternal life or facing down godforsaken oblivion.

I’d opt-in to choice “B”.

So, my readers, my comment section is the venue to tell the whole world what you’d choose. It’ll only take a few seconds to type in your one character… either your “A” or “B”… response.

Of course, other lengthier comments are also welcome.

 

 

Footprints in the Snow

Just before the ’17 winter solstice, I had set forth on one of my early a.m. power walks, which upon arrival at my favorite park, typically transitions into a more contemplative, leisurely stroll.

On this particular occasion, it soon became evident that while we homeowners do a good job clearing snow from the public walkways we’re responsible for, the DPW does not always shovel those they’re required to maintain.

Judging from the neglected, snow-covered condition of that park’s asphalt paths, I presumed that some austerity program adopted by our city fathers had either furloughed some of their snow removal crews or had assigned them to less frequent work-shifts.

Looking glumly at the sorry state of affairs, I soon found myself wishing I had worn my boots instead of athletic footwear. My options were now limited to two. Either walk gingerly to prevent snow from collecting inside my shoes or do an about face and head for home. Since I normally slow my pace in this setting, anyway, I figured I’d be OK with cautiously staying the course.

As I soldiered onward, all the sudden, I spotted a trail of fresh footprints, ahead. My lucky day! Executing a slight course change and matching the previous park visitor’s stride, I had found that third option. In other words, my following in the footsteps of an anonymous, out of sight trailblazer had saved the day.

It was afterwards, on the return home leg of my fitness walk that I sensed something much deeper than those actual footprints in the snow. True, my observations are hardly anything unique and groundbreaking. But, upon factoring in how, our increasingly “What’s in it for me, Me, ME” driven society needs an attitude readjustment in that regard, my following “deep” thoughts are worthy of mention. Let’s refer to them as…

 

A Refreshing Refresher Course

  • In humankind’s walk through life, we are following in the tried and true footsteps of others who came before us. It’s that intergenerational continuity from where we learn what worked for our forebearers and what didn’t. In other words, if we watch where we are / where they were going, they’ll save us from repeating their mistakes… and, if nothing else… that’s a great time saver.
  • It’s our slowing down, thinking on our feet and… when appropriate… accepting someone else’s fresh, course of action (e.g. our following those footprints) that can work wonders whenever we’re trying to work through some unanticipated, problematic situation.
  • More importantly, regardless of our “shoe size” / our station in life, at any given moment anyone with a good idea has equal footing.
  • We humans are helping one another even when we don’t realize it. And that says much about each individual’s importance. Of course, this doesn’t even take into account how much better life can get when we do consciously cooperate / work well with each other. Words such as “offering a helping hand” and “walking hand in hand” do come to mind… that latter phrase possibly even adding the dimension of love into the equation of life.
  • Seeing how the person who had walked in the snow before I had, wore a smaller shoe size, as I enlarged that original trail of footprints, I may’ve even made life easier for the next person to follow in my footsteps. And maybe, someday, some newly arriving person (with even bigger feet) will do the same!
  • It’s safe to say that the spirit of human kindness and cooperation can have a snowballing effect…and that improves the quality of everyone’s life.

 

In spite of how those footprints in the snow had helped me, I do know they best serve us as a metaphor. Were that not the case, with the arrival of the warmer months everything would soon melt away and we’d lose our way. We’d then have to depend on the next snowfall to regain our bearings (and with global warming snow days could become rare).

That means we must take great care to heed the wisdom of our past and present, actual, venerated trailblazers… many of them brilliant scientists, who are ignorantly ridiculed by the present DC regime. After all, it takes trailblazers to hurdle political speed-bumps and roadblocks… to help us stay the correct course upon humanity’s path to survival.

 

 

Guest Blogger: My Late Father, George

 

On this day, 29 years ago, my father died at dawn. For 37 years, he had been the consummate educator… delivering his Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Mathematics lectures to two generations of teenage students residing in Minnesota and Michigan.

As a sophomore and junior I had answered, “Here” during each of Dad’s Monday – Friday morning role calls… as a senior I had been his lab assistant. Of course, I had also benefited from his home schooling, which encompassed life’s lessons.

As most of us know, historically, public school teachers have been underpaid and under-appreciated. So, to supplement his meager income, Dad expanded his lecture circuit… his byline appearing beneath our weekly, local newspaper’s front page column: “The Science Corner”.

Had Dad been born a bit later and lived longer than his 75 years, I’m positive he’d now be an enthusiastic blogger… perhaps even setting up his “lectern” right here @WordPress. I know he’d be thrilled by the prospects of his wisdom and wit spreading outward… at the speed of light… to all four corners of the Earth.

Keeping all the above in mind and with my saved and cherished, time-yellowed, brittle, actual hard copy newspaper propped up before me, I’ve decided to transcribe one of Dad’s lectures. And since 23 of my 46 chromosomes are my father’s… in a sense… 5 of my 10 fingers are his as I… no strike that… as we both… type it out.

I cannot think of a more fitting way to honor my father this day… than to afford him a bit of Internet immortality… resurrect his thoughts… restore his “voice”…  allow him to mind-meld with countless other minds, anew.

 

The Science Corner

DATELINE Thursday, July 2, 1953

 

The age old question – which was first, the chicken or the egg – has been used as a debate-ender, a counter dilemma, and even as a joke. If one discounts the dissertations of the debaters and philosophers and the quips of the comedians and truly strives for a scientific answer, then both the meaning and answer become crystal clear.

All living things, both plants and animals, are made up of tiny bits of protoplasm (living matter which looks very much like raw eggwhite). These bits of protoplasm are called cells. In animals, including the chicken, there are skin cells, muscle cells, bone cells, sperm cells and egg cells – to name just a few. All of the types of cells mentioned above except sperm and egg cells are ordinary body cells and are called somatic cells. The sperm and egg cells (collectively called germ cells) differ from the somatic cells in that the former are used to perpetuate life.

When a sperm cell unites with an egg cell, fertilization takes place. All cells, including new somatic cells and new sperm or egg cells, originate from the fertilized egg cell through processes of division and differentiation. In keeping with these principles, both the new chicken (somatic cells) and all of the eggs (germ cells) that the new chicken will ever lay come from the same egg. To put it still another way, the fertilized egg produces both the body cells which will make up the new chicken and all of the new eggs which the new chicken will lay during its lifetime.

The answer, then, to the original question is: the egg must have been first, because it came necessarily from the previous egg and not from the new chicken.

This concept, first enunciated by the German biologist – August Weismann, is known as the continuity of germplasm theory. According to this concept, the germ cells are immortal if reproduction takes place.

Next Week: Why Does Smoke Rise in a Chimney?

 

 

Irritants Get Under Humanity’s Skin

 

Three summers ago, upon repeatedly donning the gardener’s equivalent of a Hazmat Suit, I sweltered through the entire season eradicating the poison ivy / sumac / oak, which had been thriving all along my backyard, chain-link fence. FYI, at times, some of these plants had attained the height and trunk width of small trees. I suspect perching birds had been culpable for originally sowing the seeds of my discontent.

My game plan also included the prevention of regrowth and new implantation, respectively, requiring my thoroughly digging up the complex, extensive root systems and carefully containing the (literal) thousands of seeds that were all ready and raring to rain down upon the fertile soil.

Had I not acted when I did, these plants could’ve easily overtaken (overthrown) my entire little corner of the world.

In the years leading up to this reclamation project, I’d have rated myself as a grade-F groundskeeper. I had excessively exploited that old motto, “leaves of three let it be” as my poor excuse for not dealing decisively and expeditiously with the problem at hand. Had I done so, early on, when everything had been at a far more manageable stage, I could’ve quickly nipped the entire problem in the bud.

SIDEBAR: My reluctance stemmed out of fear, as well. You see, decades earlier I had suffered from a (figurative and literal) brush with such plants… resulting in a severe case of contact dermatitis, which required extensive recuperation time.

But, I am happy to report my yard work, report card’s GPA has improved, dramatically, since. Phrases like, “learn from your mistakes” and “live and learn” do sum up the transformation to my new proactive attitude.

So why bring up my true, garden-variety tale?

Because this story serves well as a metaphor.

You see, the nasty seeds of poison ivy, sumac and oak are akin to the ugly seeds of intolerance… those that grow and branch off into a multitude of deplorable directions… e.g., discrimination based on ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, infirmity, disability, religious beliefs and economic class.

Once planted in society, these deeply rooted, reprehensible, mind-warping ideas grow, and become intertwining vines. Their poisonous effects get under the skin to irritate unfortunate individuals… and, eventually… spread to asphyxiate an entire nation’s sense of equality, freedom and happiness.

Dealing proactively and positively to end discrimination, however it manifests itself, requires an expert groundskeeper… and most assuredly, the current, un-american [sic], so-called prez does not possess such qualities.

Worse yet… while I was able to mend my errant ways… it would appear he cannot. In fact, it’s doubtful that he’s even aware he’s nearly always wrong about nearly everything.

Each time that grade-F groundskeeper hesitates to expeditiously and unequivocally nip societal irritants in the bud… be that out of neglect… be that out of his fear of reprisal (e.g., from mental vegetable Nazis and Klansmen)… be that out of his opportunistic desire to save his own political skin… the result is the same.

The longer such “vegetation” is allowed grow the more it thrives, threatens and proliferates… the more the chances grow that a scum of the earth entity will rise up to overthrow the entire world.

And were such a story to ever hit our world history books, it certainly would be no garden-variety tale!

 

 

Rush’s Hot Air Rushes Don’t Ease Global Warming

 

Just in case there might be one or two of you, out there, who may not have heard (or heard of) that archconservative, broadcasting blowhole, Rush Limbaugh, here’s the skinny…

Limbaugh is a pathetic, stick figure quasi-human being… a deplorable, unconscionable, unprofessional phone-in, talk show host… no strike that… parasite. He’s a professional media whore who shills for / sucks up to each and every one of his kindred spirits… i.e., the ghoulish, gluttonous, Orwellian corporate “johns” who pay him, handsomely, to (figuratively?) drop his soiled, bunched up / loaded up drawers.

These “johns” will stop at nothing to grant that self-aggrandizing, propagandizing warper of public opinion ceaseless, limitless, national level, media exposure… allow him to fully expose himself… i.e., to indecently expose mindboggling levels of his ignorance.

To that end, Limbaugh routinely takes to the airwaves to incessantly bleat out his unintelligible, screeching, grunting, oinking noises. In a nutshell… that nut rails out against common sense… spits, claws and fights, tooth and nail, against mental health… especially his own.

More to the point, as of late, he’s been throwing around his considerable rhetorical and actual weight while… pulling out from his ass… his fiercely biased and uniquely ignorant notions about hurricanes and climate change.

In the wake of hurricane Harvey and while hurricane Irma is presently raging away in the Caribbean… check out how the climate change denying, know nothing, know-it-all Limbaugh recently raged on…

“Here comes a hurricane, local media goes on the air, ‘Big hurricane coming, oh, my God! Make sure you got batteries. Make sure you got water. It could be the worst ever. Have you seen the size of this baby? It’s already a Cat 5. Oh, my God, oh, my God, it’s bigger than the island of Haiti. Oh, my God.’ People run to the stores, they stock up everything, and they hoard. And they end up with vacant stores, nothing there. And it’s a big success. TV stations got eyeballs, the advertising businesses have sold out of business, gotta restock and the cycle repeats.”

“You can accomplish a lot just by creating fear and panic. You don’t need a hurricane to hit anywhere. All you need is to create the fear and panic accompanied by talk that climate change is causing hurricanes to become more frequent and bigger and more dangerous, and you create the panic, and it’s mission accomplished, agenda advanced.”

So there you have it… in one breath… Rush (likely intentionally) further fuels the already existing public panic. He lambastes the media, meteorologists and climate change scientists as if what? Any attempts at protecting the public and saving lives is a bad thing? As if what? He believes such reports muscle in on his absolute blackout of information? OMG, must his monopolization of the media be inclusive of no weather warnings, too?

Would it surprise anyone if… with his very next breath… while airing / airing out his rank sponsor’s commercials… we’d find the off microphone, giddy, greedy, opportunistic Limbaugh placing an on the QT phone call to his Wall Street broker… bleating buy orders for mega-shares of Eveready™, Duracell™, Evian™, Figi™, Perrier™, etc.? You know… for the express purpose of fattening up his already obese portfolio.

Stunningly, Limbaugh actually did make one spot-on comment…

“I wish that not everything that involved news had become corrupted and politicized, but it just has.”

What a pity that, all the while he’s been tirelessly working towards the wholesale detriment / destruction of our global society, Rush Limbaugh has been oblivious to the fact that it’s HE, who has been corrupting and politicizing damned nearly everything!

 

A Lack of En-LIGHT-en-ment?

As much as I loathe politicizing what, inarguably, is Ma Nature’s most magnificent display (yesterday’s solar eclipse over the North American continent) that astronomical event did present the perfect opportunity for us to armchair psychoanalyze an un-american [sic] so-called prez.

As seen in the above YouTube clip, little Donny stared directly at the sun… a YUGE [sic] NO-NO!

The one word question: WHY?

The three word answer: Ignorance… Arrogance… Defiance

To shed more light on that…

Ignorance: As is the case with too many of #45’s closed-minded, corrupt colleagues and cronies, he’s a know-nothing know-it-all. Such backwardness likely backdates to his salad days… when he was vegging out / sacking out in school classrooms… where… when he did open his eyes… he probably, openly, obstinately confronted each teacher with his Oh Yeah? You cannot possibly teach me anything ‘tude!

These days, there’s ample proof of his empty head. He incessantly screeches and rails out against time honored, basic scientific / medical principles… deems any factual media coverage of these disciplines to be “fake news.” A few examples…

There’s a direct correlation between usage of birth control and reducing the demand for abortion… mental illness and gun ownership make for a dangerous, deadly mix… global warming is manmade and, left unchecked, will eventually devastate Earth / render humankind’s home world uninhabitable. He cannot even grasp the obvious dangers of nuclear WMD. I kid you not… he actually had to ask, “If we have nuclear weapons why can’t we use them?” And, in keeping with my main blog topic… yesterday only confirms he doesn’t believe that staring at a solar eclipse can irreparably damage human eyes.

Arrogance: Stated quite simply, delusional #45 fancies himself as some sort of “god” and, as such, feels there are absolutely NO rules, which could ever, possibly, apply to him. He’ll flip off all theological commandments, economic safeguards and best practices, constitutional checks and balances and natural laws (inclusive of the fact that staring at a solar eclipse can irreparably damage human eyes).

Defiance: Probably the YUGEST [sic] reason #45 stared at yesterday’s eclipse was because SOMEONE HAD THE AUDACITY TO TELL HIM NOT TO… had forewarned him that staring at a solar eclipse can irreparably damage human eyes.

Now, in spite of the disagreements, we, the people of good conscience, have with #45 (and there are many)… despite his misogynistic, xenophobic, homophobic, religiously intolerant and avaricious attitudes, which make it damned near impossible for decent folks to “warm up” to him… believe it or not… we can still be compassionate. We must hope that, yesterday, #45 didn’t do significant damage to his eyes.

After all, long before yesterday’s solar spectacle, he already had considerable trouble seeing humanity and our world clearly. Indeed, his vision for America’s / the world’s future has been myopic. And far worse, his admin has been akin to an autocracy, which by its very nature, severely lacks the level of optimism, decency and transparency, which only sunshine can provide.

No doubt about it… #45 needs to stick his Dark Ages dictatorship where the sun don’t [sic] shine!