Saturday, April 30, 2005

The Lies The Army Tells You To Tell

Just found this link in the comments over at It's Morning Somewhere. It requires Quicktime to play it. It is the work of a 17 year old high school journalist who is seeing how far the army will go to recruit him.

From the Dawkins Inteview in Salon

I selected two of Dawkins' answers that best reflect my joy and awe at being alive at all.

Is there an emotional side to the intellectual enterprise of exploring the story of life on Earth?

Yes, I strongly feel that. When you meet a scientist who calls himself or herself religious, you'll often find that that's what they mean. You often find that by "religious" they do not mean anything supernatural. They mean precisely the kind of emotional response to the natural world that you've described. Einstein had it very strongly. Unfortunately, he used the word "God" to describe it, which has led to a great deal of misunderstanding. But Einstein had that feeling, I have that feeling, you'll find it in the writings of many scientists. It's a kind of quasi-religious feeling. And there are those who wish to call it religious and who therefore are annoyed when a scientist calls himself an atheist. They think, "No, you believe in this transcendental feeling, you can't be an atheist." That's a confusion of language.

Some scientists say that removing religion or God from their life would leave it meaningless, that it's God that gives meaning to life.

"Unweaving the Rainbow" specifically attacks the idea that a materialist, mechanist, naturalistic worldview makes life seem meaningless. Quite the contrary, the scientific worldview is a poetic worldview, it is almost a transcendental worldview. We are amazingly privileged to be born at all and to be granted a few decades -- before we die forever -- in which we can understand, appreciate and enjoy the universe. And those of us fortunate enough to be living today are even more privileged than those of earlier times. We have the benefit of those earlier centuries of scientific exploration. Through no talent of our own, we have the privilege of knowing far more than past centuries. Aristotle would be blown away by what any schoolchild could tell him today. That's the kind of privileged century in which we live. That's what gives my life meaning. And the fact that my life is finite, and that it's the only life I've got, makes me all the more eager to get up each morning and set about the business of understanding more about the world into which I am so privileged to have been born.

Last Poem of April

The Consolations of Poetry

At four, William Blake saw God
in an upstairs window;
and angels in a tree at ten.
With me it's been the other

way around; glory flashes
on the pane and I see sunlight;
wings rustle in the aspens
and I see just the silver under-

sides of wind-tossed leaves.
And whereas Blake considered death
a mere "removing from one room
to another," I know that once

that door slams behind you,
there's no other room, and no
you to remove to it. So
Blake died singing and I won't.

But I don't whine about it either.
As Dr. Johnson said, it's foolish
to confound annihilation, which is
nothing, with the apprehension

of annihilation, which is dreadful.
I love the accidental, meaningless,
and temporary, and so (in case you
couldn't tell), I'm singing now.

Jim Crenner

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Invertebrates Dead and Alive







slugsex Posted by Hello

Minus tide and a week of life and death for us. Two photos are from around the house and the rest are what the sea left for us on the shore. Two of the photos are of animals that are no longer alive. Interestingly, the sanddollar is alive. The first time we've ever seen that.

Great News About A Woodpecker

We're tremendously excited about the sightings of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker, thought to be extinct. For the most comprehensive information about this great news please go to Living the Scientific Life. Hedwig the Owl has links, a Quick-time video, and history. Everything you'd want to know.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Shore Birds

Posted by Hello

These two photographs were taken a year and a thousand miles apart. The white bird could either be a Great Egret or a White Heron. The photo was taken last year while we were on a bike ride along the Monterey Bay in Santa Cruz. The Blue Heron photo was taken last week during a minus tide in Port Townsend Bay.
We always try to balance grief and sadness with beauty. It's all we have, that and love.

A Death in the Family

Posted by Hello

A short poem in memory of my step-father Sam Kaplan, who died tonight at the age of 94. Rest in peace, Sam, rest in peace.

These are the ravens of my soul
sloping above the lonely fields
And cawing, cawing.
I have released them now,
And sent them wavering down the sky.
Learning the slow witchery of the wind.
And crying on the farthest fences of the world.

William Everson

Monday, April 25, 2005

This bed is full

bed 1

the first of our four garden rows is completely planted. it is about 50 feet long and 3 1/2 feet wide. the picture above is looking east. starting at the near end we have planted potatoes (russets from the grocery), garlic (organic from the coop, sprouts are up already), peas(bush, two rows, the first is up), carrots, blue potatoes, white potatoes, and more garlic(from the regular grocery). the green patch is peas and grass because i was impatient to plant and didn't adequately clean out the turf that was tilled in. i have weeded since the picture was taken. the patches mulched with straw are trenches with potato buds in them covered with straw. most of the potatoes will form under the straw and above the dirt and so are very easy to harvest.

the northmost row has raspberries and artichokes planted. the plan is to put the lower plants on the southmost row, in the picture, and put the taller plants in the upper rows. so the next row up will get brocolli, bush beans, probably more carrots. then zucchini and yellow crookneck squash for fresh eating, and acorn and butternut squash to keep for winter. at the top we will plant corn and beans to climb on the corn.

the posts in the right foreground support grape vines. we don't know what sort of grape because the yard was not fenced before this year and the deer just love grape leaves. the vines are several years old and quite thick so we eagerly await actual grapes.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Water Contamination

The future is going to be all about water. So, just in case you don't get to read this story in Salon, here's one more reason why the EPA should not be trusted with evaluating our water supply.

36 states face perchlorate contamination

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Erica Werner

April 24, 2005 | RIALTO, Calif. -- An emerging threat of uncertain dimensions looms in this working-class suburb, where a chemical used in rocket fuel and defense manufacturing has befouled nearly half the drinking water supply. But Rialto is just one of many communities facing this problem. The choices faced here -- when to close wells, whom to sue and how not to get sued -- confront officials in 36 states where the Environmental Protection Agency says perchlorate has been detected.

In Rialto, concern spread along with the underground plume of water that carries the chemical from barren land that once housed World War II munitions, Cold War weapons-makers and, now, fireworks warehouses and a dump.

As one city well after another tested positive for perchlorate -- six of the city's 13 wells in all -- projected cleanup costs ballooned to more than double Rialto's $40 million annual budget. The town sued the Defense Department and dozens of other suspected polluters, pleaded with residents to conserve water and hiked water rates 65 percent.

Officials and townspeople, meanwhile, want to know just how hazardous perchlorate is. High amounts can be dangerous -- the chemical can interrupt the production of thyroid hormones, which are needed for pre- and postnatal development. But how much exposure should be permissible sparks debate in governmental and scientific circles.

The conclusion of city leaders: Piping any amount of perchlorate into homes posed an unacceptable gamble.

Rialto is a case study of what can happen when a community refuses to take that risk.

A majority black and Latino town of 98,000, Rialto has palm-dotted streets with small single-family homes, its downtown a mix of old-time churches, homes, businesses and strip malls. Residents work in manufacturing or retail jobs, some slogging through a 50-mile commute west into Los Angeles.

The source of Rialto's perchlorate problem is a 2,800-acre plot north of downtown, once isolated but now surrounded by new homes, notes Bill Hunt, a geologist consulting for the city.

The military used the site as a pit stop for weapons bound for the Port of Los Angeles and then the Pacific theater in World War II. Later, Cold War defense contractors built, tested and stored rockets and munitions. Then came the fireworks industry and the county dump.

With each successive tenant, city officials believe, came growing deposits of perchlorate, an oxidant used in fireworks and road flares and as an accelerant in rocket fuel.

''We'll probably never know definitively who did what and how much," says Hunt.

What the city does know is that 400 feet below ground begins a 7-mile plume of perchlorate that's polluting Rialto's aquifer, as well as groundwater drawn by residents of other nearby communities.

Standard filtering doesn't work on perchlorate, so the town has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment that uses a resin to rid water of perchlorate molecules. The water rate increases paid for those systems on two of the six contaminated wells -- the others remain shut -- and for the town's legal fight against the Pentagon, San Bernardino County and a host of corporations large and small, from General Dynamics to Pyro Spectaculars Inc.

''The city is trying to do their best, but by going after the polluters they've raised the water bills," said former Rialto resident Jan Misquez, who now lives in neighboring San Bernardino. ''Us taxpayers are having to foot the bill."

None of the 42 defendants has admitted liability and some of the companies no longer exist, leaving the city to battle insurance companies with only paper connections to the events of decades ago.

Perchlorate was little-known before 1997, when tests were developed that could detect it at lower levels than before. Soon afterward, the chemical was discovered in Rialto and found to be widespread around military bases and defense manufacturing sites.

In February, the EPA issued a safety standard that any amount of perchlorate less than 24.5 parts per billion in drinking water was safe. That was much higher than the 6 parts per billion California set as a public health goal, and higher still than EPA's original draft standard of 1 part per billion, a proposal environmentalists embraced.

Pentagon officials, who could face billions in cleanup costs, criticized the 1-part-per-billion standard, instead favoring 200 parts per billion. A Pentagon spokesman declined comment for this story.

Thus far no state has issued a final drinking water regulation, and the EPA, under pressure from both sides, hasn't decided whether it will take such a step. A regulation would force cleanup, while the agency's safety standard offers only its guidance on exposure levels.

With Rialto's detections ranging as high as 88 parts per billion, city officials decided to shut down any well where perchlorate was found.

''Until there's more clarity on what is the safe amount of perchlorate for the human body to ingest, our council has chosen not to serve any amount," said City Attorney Bob Owen. ''We can go online right now and find a Web site saying, 'Do you live in Rialto? Have you drunk water in Rialto? And if you have, join our group, we're going to all sue them."'

No lawsuit has been filed, said Owen, who credits in part the town's decision to adhere to a zero-tolerance standard, unlike some other municipalities.

So far, Rialto has also managed to avoid any water shutoffs, thanks to a combination of conservation, recycling wastewater for non-drinking uses and tapping supplies from neighboring water districts on high-demand days.

Town officials believe the only long-term solution is forcing polluters to fund a cleanup.

''For us it's critical," said Rialto's water superintendent, Peter Fox. ''We just don't have other water available to us."

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Random Ten-Saturday Edition

this is the third list we've made. lost the first two before we could post them. it was produced by the random function on our beloved ipod, drawn from the big list of everything there.

forever young---joan baez
red tail---city folk
oh lonesome me---neil young
fare thee well---fred neil
a bird that whistles---joni mitchell
two of us---the beatles
come in from the cold---joni mitchell
we can't make it here anymore---james mcmurtry
harmless love---ferron
looking for comfort that money can't buy---martin simpson

Friday, April 22, 2005

Scotch Broom

scotch broom Posted by Hello

i took this picture across the street from our driveway.

why is scotch broom (cytisus scoparius) a noxious weed? a native of southern europe and africa, it was introduced to the united states as an ornamental and as a stabilizer for road cuts. it most commonly has bright yellow flowers, sometimes with a touch of red. we met people in the california foothills who collected wild scotch broom with various other colored blossoms. they had solid red, pink, purple, orange, and many shades in between. fields or hillsides covered with bright yellow flowering plants look nice, especially when mixed or adjacent to native blue flowering ceanothus.

it is a noxious weed because it is a prodigious seed producer and the seeds are viable for up to 80 (yes--eighty) years because of their hard coating. the seeds are dispersed sticking to tires, shoes, and animals, and are carried by rain runoff to lower places. the seed pods also sometimes burst open in hot weather and shoot out seeds. it takes over grassland by growing a dense woody cover up to 6 feet tall. though i can't imagine anyone eating it, it is poisonous and listed as toxic to animals. it is very invasive. on train and auto trips between california and washington before we moved north we noticed vast swathes of scotch broom along the highway and along the railroad right-of-way. california, oregon, washington, idaho, hawaii, and british columbia all list it a a noxious weed.

the picture is of the as yet uninhabited area across the street from our place. the whole area, including our property, was logged about 15-20 years ago. native shrubs and trees, fir, alder, and madrone, have covered all but the areas along the road and the areas cleared around the scattering of houses. we are fairly well protected on the road side by a thick screen of fir and alder, and on two other sides by similar screens of trees and native shrubs. we do have one fairly open border with one neighbor and did notice them pulling up scotch broom along the property line, so we did our part by pulling all the small plants which had sprung up on our side.

Washington- Blue and Green and full of shame

One of the reasons that the bums love living in Washington is because it is a blue state. Very hip, cool, and progressive. It is also a green state. Seattle is going to have some very interesting "green" buildings. Environmentally sound and safe structures. This is such good news. We're so happy, except that the state of Washington also just voted down a gay rights measure. What this means is that state thinks that some of the people in these new innovative buildings don't deserve their civil rights protected. How sound and safe is that?
We already have Mac computers. What more can we do? What's with Microsoft meeting with the church leaders? Do they consult with church leaders on other pressing, legislative issues? Or do they reserve their bigotry for the gay community?
We echo the calls from other blogs. We have chosen our side. Let the fight begin.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Tarbo Lake Picnic

We took a ride today and explored the peninsula. We should have stayed home and worked in the garden; the garlic needed to be planted, and we have tons of weeding to do. But we turned a blind eye to the whole yard, and took a ride instead to explore a lake that we heard was great for swimming in the summer. We drove the most beautiful country road through Chimacum Creek valley for about ten miles. Small dairy farms and beautiful old country farm houses for a few miles, and then no homes at all. The road starts to head up into the lower hills, where very few cars come in either direction, even on as lovely a spring day as this. We were looking for a turn off on to Tarbo Lake Road where we would drive for three miles up a gravel road to the lake. After we turned, there were no houses anywhere for miles and miles. Every now and then the Olympics would come into view with their snow-capped peaks, as the road wound upwards toward our destination. The road reminded us of all the mountain roads we've ever traveled. The quiet is split only by the sound of our car.
Osprey Nest

Leland Lake Posted by Hello

When we arrived at the lake shore our anticipation is matched by disappointment. The lake is so pretty, but there's no trail to walk around it. There's only a small level spot for cars to park, and the ground is littered with the detritus and debris of youthful humanity-- red shotgun casings, empty beer and soda cans, and an old fold-out couch that has been set on fire. We've got our lunch packed, so we sit in the car to eat it. Across the lake is one large snag with a bird nest on top. While we eat our sandwiches an osprey circles the nest and lands in it. We watch it with our binoculars. The bird sits for a few minutes, takes off, circles, flies back. This is repeated a few times while we eat. We are glad we've come. That osprey has made this trip completely worthwhile. Its beauty diminishes all the degradation that has been done at its feet.
We leave Tarbo Lake to drive on to Leland Lake. Also quite beautiful, and no way to walk around its shores.

What's With The Ducks?

Posted by Hello

Why do we post pictures of ducks? In the face of all that goes on everyday in our world, we post pictures of ducks. Ducks swimming. Ducks eating. Ducks waddling down the path. Isn't it absurd? Yes, it is. But it is our antidote to the news of the world. It is our medicine, our therapy, our mood-enhancing manna. We take walks, and take pictures like these. It is our response to the new pope, John Bolton, energy bill, war, torture, stock market, homelessness, marburg virus, Sudan slaughters, theocracy, intelligent design, global warming, Time Magazine Ann Coulter, liberal-hating reality. Reality. Our reality feeds ducks.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Peace of Wild Things

Posted by Hello

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water,
and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief.
I come into the presence of still water
And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light.
For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry

Monday, April 18, 2005

Marla Ruzicka

Posted by Hello

When I look at Marla Ruzicka's face, I am reminded of all the young people I knew when I was an adviser at a university. Only this young beauty was so different. A 28 year old who trusted her sensibilities and did not forfeit her dreams of civility, for anything, not even her own precious life.
When I look at Marla Ruzicka's face I am struck by its youth. How many other people I know her age who are downing beers or shots, at this moment and would have never considered taking on the world in such a bold and magnificent manner.
When I look at Marla Ruzicka's face, I see my pitiful America in her eyes. I see the news, the tv cameras, the talking heads, the blogs, the proclamations, the recriminations. I see the patriot. I see the dreamer. I see the care-giver. I see the daughter, the sister, the lover. I see the promise. I see it broken.
When I look at Marla Ruzicka's face, I cry for everything that is wrong, that's always been wrong, that's never been right. The permanence of injustice is her face. Her face.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

The First Dream

In honor of poetry month, here is a poem by Billy Collins
Posted by Hello

The First Dream

The Wind is ghosting around the house tonight
and as I lean against the door of sleep
I begin to think about the first person to dream,
how quiet he must have seemed the next morning

as the others stood around the fire
draped in the skins of animals
talking to each other only in vowels,
for this was long before the invention of consonants.

He might have gone off by himself to sit
on a rock and look into the mist of a lake
as he tried to tell himself what had happened,
how he had gone somewhere without going,

how he had put his arms around the neck
of a beast that the others could touch
only after they had killed it with stones,
how he felt its breath on his bare neck.

Then again, the first dream could have come
to a woman, though she would behave,
I suppose, much the same way,
moving off by herself to be alone near water,

except that the curve of her young shoulders
and the tilt of her downcast head
would make her appear to be terribly alone,
and if you were there to notice this,

you might have gone down as the first person
to ever fall in love with the sadness of another.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Grow Your Own

here are two very interesting websites.


the first is square foot gardening, a concept developed by mel bartholomew. someone gave me his first book many years ago. i admit that i have never been as rigorous as he advises in spacing and organization, but his book was an immense help to me in starting to grow flowers and food. the basic unit is a four foot square growing-bed, either raised, boxed, rock-bordered, or otherwise bounded. come on. you have a 4' by 4' space outside somewhere. ok. maybe you can manage a 2' by 4', or 3' by 5', whatever. mel divides his basic space into square feet, enforcing the structure by actual physical markers. he provides a spacing for everything you might want to grow in terms of a square foot: how many in a square foot at what spacing. bigger plants? no problem; use 2 or more square feet. climbing plants? put a trellis on the north side. the value i see in this approach is that it provides boundaries. there is no worry about the fringes. here is your basic 4' by 4' plot, subdivided into 1 foot squares. put 9 carrots or 9 zinnias in the first square and move on to the next square. you can weed this--really.

check out his website. i recommend the book for the diagrams alone, but he provides lots of useful ideas about soil and water. plus inspiring pictures of gardens.

michael Posted by Hello

the other is metrofarm by our friend from santa cruz, michael olson. he has a truly grand vision of growing food for profit as a business on small plots in or near cities. he also provides a wealth of information for us as citizens and consumers of food.

this is from his homepage:

"Abraham Lincoln said, "The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small parcel of land." That future is today with metropolitan agriculture. Consider the numbers: Where the average acre of farmland in Iowa earns $322, the average acre within the city limits of San Francisco earns $123,000 (Census of Agriculture)."

his weekly radio program is available live on many stations and on the internet. the website also offers streamed or downloadable recordings of recent programs. how about show #437 :
Guest: University of Texas Biochemist Dr. Donald Davis

Subject: Technology has made it possible to grow more crops in less space. Science, however, proves that we are getting fewer nutrients from those foods. And so we pause to ask, "Where have all the nutrients gone?"

Topics include how the nutrient content of five-decades of food were measured and compared; how today's foods have up to 53% fewer nutrients than foods of 50 years past; and what impact, if any, nutrient-light crops might have on the people who eat them.
other shows cover topics like "fairness in fair trade," "food as medicine," earthworms, olive oil, bees in agriculture, and fluoride. the current weekly highlight is a fascinating list of the relative pesticide residue on a long list of fruits and vegetables available at your supermarket.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Supermarket Syndrome

Posted by Hello

There have been times when we shopped at Costco. We bought memberships, and would go once to buy a year's supply of dental floss. Then we'd not go back for a year, our membership would lapse. Something else would call us back, and we would renew, maybe a year later, and buy another year's worth of something. We stand in the check out line with people who had pallet loads of merchandise, while we held our dental floss or a printer in our hands. We finally gave it up and never went back. When we shop at large box stores or malls, we always park far from the store entrances. It is our defensive action, not to protect our car, but so we can walk outside, collect our wits about us before we plunge into the neon-lit pandemonium and paean to the gods of consumerism. We dash in try to find what we came for in as short a time as possible, pay for it and run out quickly so we can see the sky again, and breathe the outside air. As I write this, I realize I use the same behavior in campground outhouses, only I am holding my breath the whole time (and I don't have to pay).
Why do we have an aversion to the mall or even the neighborhood supermarket? We have just been informed that we have Supermarket Syndrome. You might have it as well. Does it drive you crazy to go into a Safeway or Albertsons or Krogers? Does the food stuff there scream that you are eating more chemicals than nutrients? Read this fine editorial by Mark Morford in the San Francisco Chronicle and see for yourself.
Here's a taste:
...And then, when you least expect it, you find yourself in some situation or in some town with no other grocery options and you innocently walk back into Safeway to try to buy some organic hormone-free eggs (ha-ha yeah right good luck) - and WHAM. Sensory overload. Low-vibration overload. You get what in meditation circles they would call whacked, slapped upside the spirit by dank, malicious energy. Supermarket Syndrome.

Pork-like sausage in a can. Cool Whip with enough high-fructose corn syrup to caulk your driveway. Creepy chicken-flavored sauce packets, ten to a box. Precut celery. Precut cookie dough. Precut everything because you're too lazy to handle a knife. Nabisco honey-flavored Teddy Grahams shaped like Dora the Explorer. Dawn Wash & Toss. Crustless white bread of sufficient consistency to plug Hoover Dam.

We are amazing beings, us bipeds. We adapt. We can endure the most unlivable crap and the most unhealthy exposure and think it's completely fine and normal...

To continue reading Mark Morford.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Today's Work




water tank

humming bird Posted by Hello

Light posting. We're busy outside today. Here are some photos of what the day looks like. The water container is a hot-tub we're converting to test for our rain catchment system. That's our sauna next to it. The lettuce is in the greenhouse; there are two rows of mesclun planted next to it, not up yet. It's our little batch until we can plant more outside. The raspberries have been tied to runners in the local style. The columbine just looked so pretty in the sun, and the feeder is still attracting the hummingbirds.
We're shocked that the House of Representatives voted to permanently end the estate tax. We're working off our disgust with labors of love.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Aaarrgghhh... the book meme again

I heard via the grapevine that someone else handed off the book meme to me again. Since I have already answered those questions in our post of April 11th, I'm just going to send the book meme request to our good friend grrlscientist over at Living the Scientific Life. My apologies to her if she's already been hit by the meme.


We are reprinting this in its entirety from Just received this email and thought it worth sharing.

Pandemic-causing 'Asian flu' accidentally released
14:21 13 April 2005 news service
Debora MacKenzie

The virus that caused the 1957 “Asian flu” pandemic has been accidentally released by a lab in the US, and sent all over the world in test kits which scientists are now scrambling to destroy.

There are fears the virus could escape the labs, as the mistake was discovered after the virus escaped from a kit at a high-containment lab in Canada. Such an escape could spread worldwide, as demonstrated in Russia in the 1970s.

The flu testing kits were sent to some 3700 labs between October 2004 and February 2005 by the College of American Pathologists (CAP), a professional body which helps pathology laboratories improve their accuracy, by sending them unidentified samples of various germs to identify.

The CAP kits - prepared by private contractor Meridian Bioscience in Cincinnati, US - were to contain a particular strain of influenza A - the viral family that causes most flu worldwide. But instead of choosing a strain from the hundreds of recently circulating influenza A viruses, the firm chose the 1957 pandemic strain.

This is a problem because of the way pandemic flu strains edge each other out of circulation. The most lethal flu pandemic on record, in 1918, was caused by an influenza A of the H1 type, named for the haemagglutinin, a surface protein, it carries. After 1918, H1 flu evolved into an “ordinary” flu, and continued to circulate.

Bird flu

The 1957 pandemic started in China before spreading worldwide, killing an estimated two million or more people. It was triggered by the hybridisation of human H1 flu with flu viruses from birds which carried another surface protein, H2. It was more lethal than the then-circulating H1 strains because no human had ever encountered the H2 protein before, and so lacked any immunity to the new strain.

Immediately after 1957, all traces of H1 flu in humans disappeared, to be replaced by H2 strains. A similar process occurred again in 1968, when another hybrid virus emerged - again in China - carrying another haemagglutinin, H3. This caused the “Hong Kong flu” pandemic, which killed an estimated one million people worldwide.

But after 1968, H2 flu disappeared - so anyone born after that year will have no immunity to H2 flu and any escape of the virus in the test kits could be as lethal to them as the Asian flu of 1957.

A similar event happened in 1977, with the sudden reappearance of an H1 flu identical to one that had been isolated in 1950. It is believed that the virus escaped from a faulty batch of live flu vaccine prepared in Russia. But fortunately that strain had evolved into a much tamer creature than its 1918 predecessor. Unfortunately, the 1957 H2 virus is the most lethal variant of its kind.

Already escaped

A few of the CAP kits were sent to labs in Asia, the Middle East and South America, as well as Europe and North America. The kits’ originators had to know what they contained, in order to evaluate the test results. However, when Canada’s National Microbiology Lab in Winnipeg identified the strain on 26 March, it alerted the US Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. Worryingly, it initially found the potentially deadly virus in a sample unrelated to the test kit - meaning it had already escaped within the lab.

Test kits for flu are not handled at a high level of biological containment as it is generally assumed they do not carry unusually dangerous viruses. But its escape in the Winnipeg lab is worrying, as the lab contains facilities with the highest level of containment and its staff is expected to maintain high levels of lab hygiene. Its most probable route of escape into the outside world would be if a lab worker catches the Asian flu, then passes it on.

But there has been no sign of the virus infecting humans yet, says Klaus Stöhr, chief flu scientist at the World Health Organization in Geneva. But as the usual northern flu season is just ending it is not clear if any cases would have been noticed.

“If this incident doesn't cause a major reassessment of the safety of flu research, a lab-sponsored pandemic may well be the only thing that induces sobriety,” comments Ed Hammond of the Sunshine Project, a biosafety pressure group.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Pirate Shovels It

it starts here

not the metaphorical crap we have to wade through to get actual info about the world, nor any of dear leader's stuff about privatizing social security; not the dominionist vision of a theocracy replacing the constitution, nor the looming environmental disasters; not the defunding of medicaid and community healthcare; not the undeclared, optional war; but the very real eight cubic yards of composted cow manure we bought and had delivered. we rototilled four 3' x 60' foot strips in the field of garden dreams that was a major reason we bought this property. there is about 6 inches of decent dirt on top of rocky, sandy alluvial former forest floor, so we decided to augment the garden rows. the pile in the picture is about 100 feet from the garden. after moving 5 or 6 wheelbarrow loads we realized that we would be done moving the shit by 2006 or maybe next tuesday when our backs gave out, so we got a nice dump cart that gets pulled behind our lawn tractor. every load of the cart equals maybe 4 wheelbarrow loads and the pirate gets to ride all that 100 feet instead of muscling the wheelbarrow. well, actually, Rexroth's Daughter did the first wheelbarrow loads while the pirate lazed around in the house reading blogs. the pile is just outside the fence behind the fir tree in the upper right of the picture below.

it goes here Posted by Hello

the pile we're working on is amenable to a shovel. we need more than a million virtual shovels for that metaphoric pile, and we won't be done by 2006 or next tuesday.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Hummingbird Feeder

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We hung a hummingbird feeder in our yard late Friday afternoon. The hummingbirds showed up within ten minutes, and literally have been stopping by every few minutes for a sip of the nectar. They are the most photogenic little creatures, but our camera does not have a remotely activated shutter, so I have become a human biped tripod to get these shots. It would be great to have more light on them so you can see their iridescent reds and greens, but for now, here are their elegant silhouettes.

Also, if you have not see it yet, check out this link from Living the Scientific Life, which has the most incredible photographs of hummingbirds from egg to fledgling. It is well worth the trip over.

The Book Meme

we have been passed the famous book meme by afarensis. as there are two of us we will both provide our answers, but will the pass along thing together.

the pirate's answers:

what book would you memorize (ala the plot of "farenheit 451) to save for us all?
the collected stories of philip k dick, although maybe "the man in the high tower"

have you had a crush on fictional character? no

what is the most recent book you purchased?--- "the secret chief" by myron stolaroff

what are you reading now?---- "guns, germs, and steel" by jared diamond. rereading "six easy pieces" by richard feynman. "be here now" by ram dass.

what 5 books would you take on a cruise?--
"true hallucinations" --terence mckenna
"illuminatus trilogy" robert anton wilson
that's enough for a cruise
it seems that the meme has evolved from deserted island to a cruise, so for the deserted island i would add some science stuff and maybe survival info.

Here are Rexroth's Daughters answers:

You are stuck inside Fahrenheit 451. Which book would you be?

East of Eden or Fugitive Pieces *(which no one else would probably ever think of memorizing, East of Eden may have a chance with someone else)

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?

I think I'm a little bit fickle, because I tend to have a crush on one compassionate, well-drawn, humane character in every book I read.

What is the last book you bought?
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

What are you currently reading?
Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood

Five books for your desert island cruise package (I answered as if we were on a deserted island).
Owls and other Essays by Mary Oliver
The Sibley Guide to Birds
Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants by Steven Brill
The Story of Civilization by Will Durant (because I always said I would read it)
A Collection of Japanese Haiku

what three* people will you pass this on to and why?
We're passing it on to *four because there are two of us and we couldn't limit ourselves to three!

Huitzil at stone bridge for his zen illuminated view.
Wayne at niches springs because he loves the natural world
Kathy at freshman44 because she is an obvious lover of poetry and literature.
Cervantes at Staying Alive because he thinks so deeply about the world.

of course, we see all four as appreciating the natural world and the world of letters.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

When A Living Will Is Not Enough

Sometimes even a living will and a "Do Not Resuscitate" will not suffice. What are you going to do at the end of your life, when you can not will yourself to die, but your life is simply over?
My step-father is 95 years old. He spent last night crying, wailing, screaming for his mother. My twin brother, sister, and mother were with him and yet he wept, moaned, and begged to be hit on his head to end his misery. My step-father has Alzheimers, a pacemaker, congestive heart failure, prostate cancer (in remission), and hypertension. Why he is still alive is both the miracle and curse of modern medicine. The doctors have done all that they can, and I do mean ALL to keep him alive, but no one-- NO ONE-- can or will help this poor man die. He can't will himself to death. He can't ask us, the family he has known for only the past 13 years (yes, my mother married an 82 year old man when she was 67 and a new widow herself) to help him end his life, and his two sons live far way and don't seem involved. My step-father is a lovely man. Good natured, kind and sweet. He worked hard all of his life. He was a plumber, and then had his own plumbing company. When we first met him, he was already old but fairly healthy, although he had already had prostate cancer. Whenever we spent time with him, he would awaken in the morning, come out in his robe, and sing to us:
Good morning to you
Good morning to you
We're all in our places
With bright shining faces
Good morning, teacher.
This was a song he memorized in first grade. My step-father is an innocent. He is lost in time. He is the living dead, a man with a pacemaker, but dreamless and futureless, and hopelessly alive. He is suffering an agony that makes him weep and wail long into the night. "Mother help me" he cries. "Mother help me."
You think this won't happen to you or someone you love? Think again. And with this new culture of life being jammed down our collective throats, we won't be able to pass "assisted suicide" legislation without endless court battles. In the meantime, the elderly in our culture are living their end of days in hell.
What would you do?

dpr's words

RD's stepfather is dying, and having a difficult time of it. he is a kind and decent man. he was a tradesman, a plumber, a big, strong man. i had the pleasure of carrying some awkward, heavy things with him. he had that sense of a working man of feeling the inert thing and the person on the other end.

i met him in 1992, when he was 82, just before he married my widowed mother-in-law. i was honored to carry a corner of the chuppah. i did know my wife's father. he was a gentle, loving man and sam is the same sort. sam and i got to be close pretty quickly. he appreciated that i worked with my hands, although i have also done business stuff at a desk. he gave me his tools that he had kept after retiring long ago. my own grandfathers were nice but a bit distant. one died when i was young and the other i got to know longer but he was a bit gruff. i was 50 when i met sam and he was like a new grandfather, kinder and closer than the ones i remember, even though the actual age difference would have made him more my father. i came to understand that i was the son/grandson he never had. he did have actual sons and grandchildren, but for whatever reason they were not so close emotionally.

so my friend sam is dying and i am a thousand miles away. he has been in decline for many months. now he is scared, barely lucid, probably has some degree of alzheimers. last night was the worst yet. my wife's twin brother and her sister are with sam and my mother-in-law. they are in tears. sam is in dire distress. he asked, in a very rare moment of semi-calm lucidity to be hit on the head. he has lived so long on modern medicine's miracles of pacemakers and drugs, and modern medicine can't legally help him with the inevitable end of life. of what use is compassion if we can't use it?

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Larry Scott Memorial Trail




we came upon these wonderfully whimsical bike sculptures walking on the Larry Scott Memorial trail in Port Townsend. Larry Scott was one of the original Church of the Rear Derailleur High Priests and helped start the Peninsula Trails Coalition. the trail begins, or ends if you come from the other end, at the boat harbor and runs along port townsend bay for a mile or so on an old railroad right of way along port townsend bay toward the paper plant. we see seagulls and spotted sandpipers (actitis macularia) and dunlins (calidris alpina) on the bay side of the trail, as well as smaller birds such as white-crested sparrows (oops--that should be white-crowned sparrow, Zonotrichia leucophrys---thank you grrlscientist). for a third of that distance on the land side there is what was originally a tidal marsh. it is now a freshwater marsh full of cattails with some open water where we see ducks (scaups, teals, mergansers, buffleheads) and great blue herons (ardea herodias). red-winged blackbirds (agelaius phoeniceus) like the cattails too. the remainder of the trail as it borders the bay is at the base of sandstone bluffs about 100 feet high. there are owl burrows near the top and we often see bald eagles soaring high above or on their favorite perch in a fir tree on the crest of the bluffs. the trail it turns inland by the paper plant for another mile or so through forest. we find little treasures like coyote scat full of hair and bones, and early flowers.

we noticed a similar sculpture on the highway with a sign pointing to a bike shop and found the source of the sculptures.


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