March 24th, 2010


Earth's Vanishing Forests

This article is disturbing.

What's Killing the Great Forests of the American West?
A Frightening Phenomenon Happening Across the Globe

By Jim Robbins

March 16, 2010,Yale Environment

For many years, Diana Six, an entomologist at the University
of Montana, planned her field season for the same two to
three weeks in July. That's when her quarry - tiny, black,
mountain pine beetles - hatched from the tree they had just
killed and swarmed to a new one to start their life cycle

It got me to thinking about something, though: Why does nature have an "erase" feature? Because basically that's what those pine beetles are, along with several other things in this article. They are capable of wiping out whole stands of trees at once. How can this possibly be a useful feature?

Then I recalled a basic tenet of organic gardening: bugs are attracted to unhealthy plants.  Okay, that's fairly obvious.  Huge numbers of trees are stressed out, so that basically summons the bugs to ... make the trees go away.

That clears the landscape for something else to grow that will be better suited to the current conditions.  It's a horrifying process to watch, but it works, and there's a reason for it.  Rather than letting an ecosystem limp along, if things get bad enough, there is a reset.  Something healthy has a chance to replace it.

The world is changing so much, right now, that the reset buttons are lighting up all over the board.  That is worrisome.

A Petition to Skip

I don't sign every petition I see.  I decided to skip this one:

Last weekend, Tea Party Patriots gathered in the Capitol and showered racist and homophobic abuse on Democratic Congress Members supporting healthcare reform. One Tea Party protester called the former civil rights leader and current Atlanta Congressman John Lewis the "n-word." Another spat on Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, also an African-American. Another called Congressman Barney Frank a "f****t." Back in his Texas district, yet another Tea Bagger called Congressman Ciro Rodriguez a "wet****."

SIGN OUR PETITION to the GOP: "Apologize for your hate-spewing proxies in the Tea Party Patriots. It is not acceptable for you to build your party's political fortunes by encouraging and defending bigotry and hatred among your supporters."

Video and Petition:

It's not that I think bigotry is okay; it's not.  It's vile behavior.  But when people are bigots, it's convenient if they show  that, because then it's easier to fight.  You know who your opponents are and what kind of ugly world they want to live in.  You can avoid supporting them, their businesses, their causes, their political parties and candidates, etc.

Also, I don't believe in pressuring people to lie.  Those folks clearly think those things about those politicians.  If they apologized, they wouldn't mean it -- they can't -- so they would just be lying.  That's a mockery of what apology is all about. 

Sometimes free speech is ugly, yes.  And sometimes that's very, very useful.  If the opposition is going to reveal itself as a bunch of bigoted nutjobs ... let them.


The Social Networking Job

Interesting article, has its ups and downs.  I think people are interested in new job categories because the old ones are decaying.  If it has a paycheck attached, people will check it out.

The Social Networking Job
Aaron Lake Smith, Truthout: "According to a recent ad posted on the Internet, the college student recipient of Pizza Hut's summer 'Twinternship' would be charged with 'attending advertising shoots, product meetings and other corporate events' as well as 'playing social-media defense, monitoring Twitter for any mentions of the brand and alerting superiors whenever anything negative about the Hut is being said.'"


Featured Community: sustainable_sos

Most folks on LiveJournal belong to a bunch of communities. Some of the good ones are kind of obscure. The "Featured Community" meme encourages people to share their favorite communities.

1. Cite a community that you enjoy.
Summarize its purpose and parameters.
Invite your audience to join the community and/or reply with their favorite communities.

Today's featured community is:

This community offers news and discussion about sustainable living, green building, and other Earth-friendly activities.  It's a good resource for people interested in shrinking their footprint.  The tone is usually upbeat, focused on what you can do to help or what cool projects somebody else is doing.

Further news on honeybee problems

This article talks about honeybees dying off, a worsening problem.

Interestingly, my wild honeybees woke up quite early this year, about the time the crocus bloomed.  Weeks early.  They are often not flying when the fruit trees bloom; those are usually pollinated by sweat bees, other tiny natives, and flies.  But no, the girls were out this year, quite busy, nearly mashing the crocus at the base of their tree.  They came back so laden with pollen that they could hardly stay aloft.  One of their scouts went nosing around Home Base and I shooed her away.  I really  do not want another hive in a high-traffic area.  However, I'm happy to see my wild honeybees thriving.



This article about dis-education cracked me up.  I know, it's not supposed to do that.  Here's what got me:

In what ways, we asked ourselves, ought K-12 lesson plans better address this issue?

I recommend not kicking kids out of class for pointing out that the book is wrong, the teacher is wrong, and bringing in photographic evidence or another book that is actually correct.

Yeah, like they're ever gonna make that  change.

Thoughts on High-Fructose Corn Syrup

The government is finally starting to notice that high-fructose corn syrup does bad things to those who eat it.  Here's a blog post that discusses a recent study on that, along with an old photograph showing a random crowd of people from the pre-HFCS days.

I'm frustrated that it's almost impossible to avoid the vile stuff.  There are whole category products that have no HFCS-free options anymore.  I would LOVE to take a grocery store and turn loose a photo crew on it.  First go through and remove all the HFCS products from the shelves.  I estimate that would empty over 90% of the shelves.  Film it.  Put everything back.  Repeat the process with MSG, any other artificial ingredients you want to avoid, and leading allergens such as nuts and gluten.  Shoot each version.  Now pull all the products that contain ANY ONE of those, leaving only the healthy edibles.

I bet damn near every shelf except the produce aisle and the little "health food" second would be almost barren.
jellyfish, weird

The 10 Strangest Moons

Read about our solar system's 10 strangest moons.

Writing Exercise

1) Set the time for your story at least a century in the future, in a positive direction.  Suppose that humanity has successfully removed its head from its haunches and has gotten into space where it belongs, settling much of the solar system.

2) Roll 1d10.  Count down the list (be careful, some moons are in the same paragraph) to find your story setting.

3) Roll 1d10 twice more, re-rolling if you get the same moon from line #2.  Count down to find these two moons.  In your story is a cargo barge, and its cargo consists of equipment for exploring and/or settling those two moons.

4) Skim this article about character types.  Roll 2d8 and count up from the bottom to find your character's basic type.  You may embroider as desired.

5) An extremely valuable piece of property has crashed on the moon from line #2.  Your protagonist, from line #4, must attempt to retrieve the mighty macguffin, using supplies logically derived from the information in line #3.