Skunks and Possums and Deer, Oh My!

Pepe-Le-Pew-All in the past week Mother Nature has been unleashing her creatures on the streets and back alleys of the city. Bike paths too.

First, the route to a client took me past a forest preserve. On a stretch just outside the preserve, not far from some homes I saw my first skunk. Well at least my first live, not road kill, non-cartoon one. He (or she I did not get close enough to tell) was running? hopping? It was hard to describe. All I could think about was that I was glad this was miles from my home. But it was only yards from someone else’s home.

A few nights later we were trying to exit a parking lot. My wife was out of the car because the machine took dollars only, no credit cards, and it was not liking so much the singles that we had. From the corner of my eye, which like the rest of my body was safely in the car, I saw a creature too big to be a cute little mouse. It looked like a medium sized rat and it was heading our way. I suggested to my wife that she might want to hurry.

Once safely in the car we got close enough to see that it was a baby possum. We have an adult  that frequents our backyard and occasionally scares the bejesus out of me as I come in the back door at night. They are not attractive creatures when large. At least they aren’t rats.

Then last Sunday I was riding on the bike path about 20 miles north of where I live. Typically my eyes are focused more down than ahead. At one point I glanced up to see a deer straddling the two lanes of the path. In this area there is only a foot of grass on each side of the path and them woods on the other side of the grass. I hit the brakes. Being the great outdoors man that I am I surmised that I would not fare as well as the deer should we collide. The image of hooves crashing down on my skull also gave me pause.

Instead of a crash I slowed long enough to witness the deer bound off into the woods. They are beautiful creatures.

I love Mother Nature but that was more than enough nature for one week.

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What-Me Worry?

Today’s Headlines

  1. Big Belly Boosts Risk of Later Dementia. That’s where I have been storing 10-15 extra pounds for years.
  2. Bloodshed in Iraq. Not that this is new but now its Shia vs. Shia. I thought violence there was surging down.
  3. Skilling: Thundersnow, 2-4 inches possible. Will winter last until June in Chicago?
  4. ‘Cheese’ Heroin Hooking Young Users in Dallas. Great. Another cheap but potent and addictive drug on our streets.
  5. With bread at $7 million a loaf. Oh, wait. That’s Zimbabwe. Maybe at least they will finally get rid of that nut of a dictator.
  6. Connecticut-Sized Ice Shelf Crumbling in Antarctica. Will oceans rise and Chicago become a coastal town?
  7. Dow down 120 amid Lehman rumors. I finally take some risk in investing and I am in the red.

What – Me Worry?

Please Don’t Feed The Iguanas

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Interesting wildlife was all around us at our resort in Puerto Villarta. First noticed were the dive bombing pelicans. Pelicans have this fascinating approach to catching fish. They circle around for awhile and then dive straight down to the water. It was one thing watching this show from the beach but another to be swimming in the ocean and have one hit a few yards away.

A school of dolphin swam parallel to the shore during lunch one day. Two pairs of hunchback whales did likewise one afternoon. This is migration season for the whales. I wish I had been up close and personal. Still, we saw water spouting and a few hunched backs come out of the water.

One night a sea turtle came to lay eggs on our beach. She must have been at least 4 foot from head to feet. They lay eggs by finding one spot and then moving in a circle. We watched for several minutes. She was there when we came back later. We were told by another guest that the staff came by and removed over 100 eggs.  This hotel finds a safer place for the eggs, hatches them and then releases them back into the wild. We watched for a bit longer as the turtle finished circling as part of the egg burial ritual and then began to slowly make her way back towards the water.

Last but not least were the two iguanas that hung out on the rocks near one end of the pool. I have seen many an iguana in my day. These were two fine specimen. I watched them for some time as they lay in the sun and occasionally yawned. Not unlike myself. While the staff at the resort were generally very helpful and attentive there was one lapse of judgement. A 2 year old child momentarily escaped the watchful eyes of his parents and headed for the iguanas. One of the staff gave him a piece of fruit and suggested that he feed the iguana. Not the best of ideas. One bite, one visit to the doctor on staff, no serious harm done. For all you out there with little ones or if you find yourself facing an iguana after a day of all-inclusive resort alcohol consumption, I have only one piece of advice. For those moments have a copy of this post handy and remember to read the title.

Of Birds and Bees

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No this is not a sex primer. This is literally about birds and bees. Lets start with birds.

The condor, a majestic creature. One worth saving from extinction. True. But how do you feel about vultures. Yeechh. So why be concerned that the vulture population in India has fallen from 20 million to about 10,000? Should we care about vultures any more than pigeons? Yes actually.

I haven’t gotten pigeons figured out yet but vultures in India are actually an important part of the big circle of life. In a country where millions of Hindus do not eat beef but millions of cows exist, until they no longer do, what do you think happens to the cows when they die? Yep, the vultures eat them. Unfortunately for vultures diclofenic causes kidney failure. Diclofenic is an anti-inflamitory used to treat cows. How ironic.

Unfortunately for India the vultures also keep down the feral dog population in a country that has 80% or the world’s cases of rabies. Lastly they are needed to clear human carrion. Parsees, a sect of Zoroastrians, believe that the elements are sacred and the body corrupt. Therefore they lay corpses on towers called dokhmas for the vultures to eat thereby they profane neither earth nor fire.

There is a vulture safe alternative for diclofenic. However it will take more than a decade just to get the environment back to being vulture safe. Far more time to rebuild the populations. In the meantime there is a hard out-of-pocket cost to society to replace what vultures did for the pure pleasure of dining al fresco.

As for the bees, I reported months ago that bees were leaving the hive at colonies around the globe. In the U.S. beekeepers were losing 30% to 90% of their populations. Again, why care about bees? Don’t they just sting people? And who uses honey instead of Equal anyways these days?

Actually bees are critical to populating crops including fruits, vegetables and nuts. They add $15 billion to the economy each year. Scientists have been working for over a year on the reasons for why adult bees would walk away from a perfectly good queen bee in her prime. They have recently discovered bacteria, fungi and viruses in the hives. According to The Economist, bees infected with Israeli acute paralysis virus shiver, their bodies become frozen and they die. There is a second one, the Kashmiri virus, and they suspect that a new strain of this virus found in abandoned hives may also be driving away bees. To top off this bee hell, a parasite called the varroa mite has been found hanging out with the Israeli virus. This mite weakens the immune system of the bees making them more susceptible to the virus.

While these are new ideas of what may be causing colony collapse disorder, no one knows what to do while billions of dollars of crops go unpollinated.

 You may not care about either birds or bees. You should. These are just two small examples of man-made unintended consequences with potentially huge effect on the cost of living in this world. Multiply this by millions of other little things. Scary. Very scary.

Maybe I should have kept this to a primer on sex.

It Killed the Dinosaurs

Baptistina. Actually, a portion of this asteroid striking the Earth is what is currently believed to have led to the end of dinosaurs. As reported in the Economist, the collision 160m years ago of two space rocks, albeit quite large ones, resulted in the stormy death almost 100m years later of the dinosaurs and many other species on Earth.

The link to the story provides an interesting and quick read on this phenomenon. Mostly though I wanted an excuse to post the picture. Quite cool.

Sunday Night Musings

  1. I hope the weather on September 16, the day I go for 100 miles, is exactly like today. Sunny, low 70s and no breeze.
  2. I have ridden 65 miles twice now this summer. The fact that once I do that I will still have 35 to go is a bit daunting. I do, however, feel much more ready this year than last and I managed 85 last year. This will be the year.
  3. I have been one crabby dude lately.
  4. I am planning my first SCUBA trip in almost 3 years to happen sometime next spring. When I say that I am planning it, I mean that my buddy Harold is doing all the leg work. He is outstanding at that.
  5. The storms last week were wild. We got lucky and lost neither power nor trees. Trees were down all over the area. On my way home Thursday I had to drive through water that was over my tires. I am thankful my car did not stall.
  6. I haven’t been blogging as much lately. Don’t know why.
  7. After biking 65 miles I am wiped out for the day.
  8. I hope that no work emergency happens on September 17 so I can sleep the day after riding 100 miles.
  9. I love to talk about the century ride coming up because this much riding is one of the few things I do that not every one does. The exception is when I run into someone several years older who races bikes, runs marathons and completes the full Ironman competition (a 2.4-mile ocean swim, 112-mile bike race and 26.2-mile run.  Competitors have 17 hours to finish the race).  Then I tend to be quiet about my biking.
  10. I would rather sleep in tomorrow than get up for work.

Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.

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There are far too many scary things in this world. These are two I uncovered recently that are near the top of my “Its Keeping Me Up At Nights” list.

First Russia. Yes the still have tons of nuclear bombs. True, they can turn off crucial natural gas supplies to former Soviet Union countries and western Europe. Old news.

We all know that hackers can cause hi-tech havoc. I did not realize that even small countries can be brought to their knees. This was the case in Estonia last month. They blamed Russia for bombarding state websites with enough bogus requests that they crashed. Their crime? They moved a Soviet war monument. If it can be done to Estonia, I bet it can be done here. The wonderful technology that makes us more efficient, effective and in may ways more connected is fragile. Shutting down of key websites could cause havoc. Why bother with dirty bombs?

If Russia doesn’t get us Mother Nature will. The Earth’s magnetic fields not only makes a compass point in the right direction but it reaches far out into the space surrounding our planet. It directs the flow of solar winds protecting us from much of the sun’s harmful radiation. The Economist reported that the magnetic field may be about to flip which it does every 500,000 years or so. When it does, our protective shield will be down and everyone will get permanent 10th degree sunburn. OK, we may have another few centuries but it will happen sooner than you probably thought. (Cool picture though of how this  phenomenon works.)

I may not get much sleep tonight.