Thursday, March 22, 2007

The dramatic arts

The World-Renowned Tragedians
Of the Texas and Washington
In their Thrilling Tragedy of
Admission 50 cents.


(as reported by the Prophet of Hannibal, Mark Twain)

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

A handful of raisons

I think the last time the North Slope of my yard was mowed was when the builder was trying to sell the house back in 1982. Eventually, I even gave up trying to mow a path along the property line because saplings and groundhog holes made it too difficult. So now this small part of my property is experiencing secondary (or more likely, tertiary) succession.

There's a lot of poison ivy growing all over the property, so I rarely step into this area in the summer. It's much safer to enter in winter when there's snow on the ground (and, of course, the leaves have dropped). The other week, after the storm (which gave us more snow while points south got more ice), I walked back here and was somewhat amazed (yet not entirely surprised) at all of the piles of deer scat lying on the snow. Of course, the rest of the year the piles are hidden in the leaves and growth. Several (about three to six) deer are making themselves at home here, ranging across the road and up the hill to down back across the stream.

The snow also reveals more clearly the wanderings of the deer (as well as various other critters). I can see where they've been lying down, and I can see that they sometimes walk through areas that I would prefer to walk around. I see that they come right up to the house, but they usually don't get close if I'm around with my camera handy.

To return to the title of this post, I don't mow all of my property because I'm bone-idle, and because I have better things to do with my time. I don't want to burn fuel needlessly, nor pollute the air any more than necessary. And because by not mowing, I leave cover and food for the birds, critters, and deer. And I have a more interesting area to walk around in.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Keep an eye on ground water

National Ground-Water Awareness Week continues...

Where is the water? How much is there? The starting point for answering these questions and others is establishing sites where ground-water levels are monitored, such as the observation well pictured above. Water levels rise and fall in response to
precipitation or pumping (and sometimes other factors such as evaporation and uptake by vegetation). An observation-well network allows spatial and temporal characterization of water-level elevations. This information is useful to all kinds of agencies and scientists for a variety of purposes. These purposes include assessing aquifer extent, regional effects of pumping, resource management, and for understanding aquifer properties and ground-water behavior. Ground-water levels vary, so a network may be used to determine the range of normal conditions as well as departures from normal due to drought or withdrawals.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Ground-Water Awareness Week begins today

I'd like you to give some thought to an under-appreciated resource in celebration of Ground-Water Awareness Week. People with wells having low or marginal yields supplying their daily needs are keenly aware of ground water, but many others seem to have adopted the "out of sight, out of mind" point of view. After all, surface-water reservoirs are easy to see, and often serve multiple purposes including fishing, boating, and flood control.

Not only is ground water often ignored, but many people who do give it some thought commonly misunderstand it. The Dover, Pennsylvania, school board and Intelligent Design Creationism affair received a lot of coverage in the local papers. The papers tended to do a pretty good job presenting the issues. Unfortunately, several times they have missed opportunities to educate their readers in certain other matters, including occurrence and movement of ground-water.

One of the local papers did a story on dowsing, apparently impressed with this supernatural method of ground-water location. I did not agree that we needed a "Shucks, ain't we a quaint bunch of hillbillies" story in the paper, and sent a letter to the editor to say so. My letter also queried whether the "reporter" (one Robert Reilly) checked if the dowser in the story was a licensed professional geologist, a requirement for engaging in the practice of geology, which includes exploration for ground water.

The gentleman in the lower photo has also engaged in exploration for ground water. Like the Intelligent Design proponents, he has argued that his method is "scientific"--not by publishing results of a study in a peer-reviewed journal, but by writing a letter to the editor that contained as much geologic misinformation as any Creationist argument, ending with the assertion "Thank God for a rotating earth. As long as tides ebb and flow, there should be no depletion of underground, potable water supply." Well, at least his theory is amenable to testing, even if it is a load of cobblers.

See also Professor Pupdog's take on dowsing from a few years back. Since Pupdog mentioned the classic movie, I've placed a shot of Dave (Michael Landon), the albino in God's Little Acre, at the top of this post. As Pluto (Buddy Hackett) explained, it's not magic, it's science; albinos can see right through the Earth, "like looking through a glass of water." His explanation is just as convincing as the many explanations given by dowsing believers.

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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Boys and girls--Join Jihad for Jesus

The Mount Zion Baptist Church in southern Pennsylvania has come up with another bloodthirsty theme for Summer Bible Camp--The Holy War, with a Medieval Times setting. Additional activities include paintball and the rifle range.

Apparently Baptist Camp, which takes place at the end of June, is not to be confused with Vacation Bible School, which takes place in mid-July. This year's theme for Vacation Bible School is Soldiers in the Army of the Lord. Last year it
was Seafarin' Hearty Pirates.

Why let the Muslims in the Middle East have all the fun and get all the virgins? Holy War is for everyone! There are plenty of infidels to be killed, so drop by and enjoy the death and destruction.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

An itch for global warming

One of the reasons I have enjoyed tromping about the woods of northern Maine is that I have not encountered these guys. My guess is that's because they can't survive the winters there. Some folks wonder what's so bad about warmer temperatures; I don't see a benefit to the spread of poison ivy to this area.


Thursday, March 01, 2007

Bush politics in a nutshell

Here is a prime example of what is wrong with Republican politics as endorsed and blessed by President Bush. It's a transcript of the exchange between Sen. John Kerry and Sam Fox, Bush's nominee for ambassador to Belgium. The reference to "527s" is with regard to Fox's $50,000 contribution to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth [sic], the group that smeared Kerry during his presidential campaign against George Bush. The dishonesty and hypocrisy stand out like a fire truck among Mini Coopers. Here's just a taste:
Kerry: Well, you don’t think that's it's important as a citizen, who doesn’t like 527s to know where your money is going and how it’s going to be spent?

Fox: Well, I think with most contributors and if you go to the other side of the political campaigns and we give to individual candidates, we don’t know how they’re going to use that money and what…

Kerry: Well at least it's accountable to an individual candidate for whom people have to vote or not vote. 527s as you said are mean, ugly and not accountable.

Fox: I agree with that. I absolutely agree with that.

Kerry: Why would you give $50,000 to a group you have no sense of accountability for?

Fox: Well, because if 527s were banned, then it's banned for both parties. And so long as they’re not banned…

Kerry: So two wrongs make a right?

Fox: Well, I don’t know, but if one side is contributing then the other side…
(transcript from Bob Geiger)

This exchange came after Fox noted what a hero Kerry was in Viet Nam. So how much of what Fox says are we to believe? I wonder if Fox News covered the exchange.

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