Archive for March, 2005

Let Bilbies replace bunnies

Saturday, March 26th, 2005

As equinox’s go, in Australia the relation of the full moon to March 25 means the onset of autumn, not spring. Aussies have had their summer and like us “Northers” they are moving on. Oh they celebrate easter, indeed, especially eggs and estrus and all that reproduction, with gusto. But Australians are not happy with the over sexed bunny which represents easter worldwide.

Introduced by European settlers in the 1800’s, rabbits cost the economy more than $400 million a year in damages to farmlands and cattle forage.

In 1979 a school teacher began her own method of eradication of the cuddly rodent. To Rose Marie Dusting, celebrating an animal that ravages the land denies the reality of Australia’s rabbit plague. The rabbit is a pest, damaging Australia’s fragile environment.

A movement across the continent offers a native alternative, the Bilby, a rare marsupial in danger of extinction. This nocturnal member of the Bandicoot family, once covered 70% of Australia. Today, numbers are only in the hundreds, as foxes and cats squeeze it out of its burrows and rabbits gobble its favorite foods – termites, beetles and grasshoppers.

Australians buy chocolate Bilbys instead and move to put all bunnies out of the Continent.

E is for Estrus

Saturday, March 26th, 2005

Easter – the first Sunday that comes after the first Friday that occurs after
the first full moon after the spring equinox.

Easter – the day that church leaders hope to fill their pews and keep
alive the income that gives them power.

Nature’s signposts set that significant day on our modern calendar.
The day is marked in various ways – egg-laying bunnies, egg decorating,
egg hunts, overeating, fancy dressing, and church attendance. It is
a true celebration of rebirth and the return of the sun to the northern
hemisphere – first noted in central Europe. The tradition migrated with
settlers to the North American continent.

American Indians celebrated the rising of the sun every day with the
lodge door usually facing east to get the first rays of the all-sustaining
star. From the sun we all get hope and a smile. Celebrate!

Grus canadensis is a Sandhill Crane, worth a good long look

Monday, March 21st, 2005

A wonderful festival occurs in Othello, a small town centered in the
farming area of east central Washington state. In March thousands of
gangly Grus canadensis, Sandhill Cranes, one of two crane
species native to North America, arrive in the Othello area specifically
on the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge, reaffirming marriage vows
or searching for the one and only mate of a lifetime.

Bird lovers describe them as tall, stately birds. They do march with
measured footsteps like a fussy banker lifting pointy shoes around horse
apples in a pasture. What is equally silly is the way the birds carry
on in pairs when their hormones go over the moon. Their stick legs jerk
up and down. Beaks point straight up as if verifying longitudinal readings.

Biologists tell me those actors are the males – females raise beaks
only up to 45 degrees and coyly bring them down to horizontal, appearing
embarrassed that they dared to get excited. But otherwise the birds
all look alike, with heavy bodies, long legs, and long necks – for craning,
I suppose.

Like 18th century dancers they bow and jump. Then they pretend to throw
sticks – better than throwing their weight around, I guess. A pair might
start the frolic but soon the whole crowd – just like humans – make
it a community activity with gusto. Can’t be left out, you know!

Such frolic at the 8th annual Crane festival is not only approved of,
but fostered by, the town businesses and surrounding communities that
support it with money, goods, and advertisements. Hundreds of volunteers
make the Crane Festival an outstanding educational and entertaining
environmental weekend for the thousands of visitors that come from around
the state and nation. Experts give lectures throughout the day and others
lead birding tours – sorry, crane tours (but guides do point out other
feathered friends). Art exhibits and children’s activities flourish,
dominated by a silhouette of that Sandhill Crane, standing 5 feet tall,
with a 5 inch bill and a wingspread of 6 feet. That IS impressive.

The event is over for this year. Go www
Othello
or just Google Othello and see what you missed. Put it on
your calendar for next March.

Cats should be licensed and kept on leashes

Tuesday, March 15th, 2005

Cats are beautiful creatures genetically altered for centuries until
individuals in many breeds cannot take care of themselves. Oh they can
lick themselves and they can most definitely dig and cover up evidence
of their passing. I think of Cleopatra and the cats shown in ancient
carvings of Egypt. How regal they appear. At one time cats probably
earned their keep catching and eating mice and rats. But not in this
century. Sweet kitties will bring dead birds to your door but they
give you the evil eye if you expect them to eat it for lunch. Then they
pout if you don’t pony up the Meow Mix. Do cats beg to go outdoors before
going to bed? In my neighborhood I see cats when I look out at 5am.
Are they going to the "necessary" for morning relief?

I just came in from cleaning the community cat box so I know whereof
I speak. At least 13 cats – I’ve documented that number but there may
be others unseen – that freely use my yard. One neighbor puts cat food
out on her back porch – the poor strays have to eat, don’t they? But
no one ever puts out a cat box so it is left to the helpless old lady
down the block. You see the neighbors all have thick lawns or driveways
of concrete so my carefully tended flower beds and gravel driveway are
like the wide open prairie free for the squatting.

Tiny little weeds are coming up through the gravel and I went out to
round them up and sanitize the prairie for tomorrow. What a sweet old
lady!

 

Caroitid endarterectomy – the surgical removal of plaque in an artery.

Tuesday, March 15th, 2005

An obstructed artery is discovered when a person visits a doctor with
complaints of being overtired and listless and perhaps a suspicion of
a lack of blood circulation in a specific region of the body. Does this
bit of information affect me? Maybe. Maybe not.

Because I do not perceive a problem for myself, I wondered if I could
do anything to prevent one from occurring. Probably not. But I can once
again look to my activities and decide if I exercise ALL of my muscles
which has the effect of circulating blood from my small intestine to the
heart. Once again I can look to my diet and decide if the food fills my
blood with good stuff or not. Diet pushers provide enough conflicting
information to choke the proverbial horse. Most doctors give very few
clues because they are trained to dispense medicine, although all agree
we must drink lots of water.

A close acquaintance of mine, who is 84 years old, went to a doctor complaining
of being overtired among other things. Non-invasive diagnostic tools such
as an electrocardiogram, treadmill, and echocardiography were performed.

Peripheral vascular disease was the resulting diagnosis. Peripheral vascular
disease is a circulation disorder. Often, it is a narrowing of the blood
vessels that carry blood to leg and arm muscles.

The problem, 95% blockage of plaque buildup, was discovered in the artery
in the right side of the neck. To remove that plaque an endarterectomy,
the term for the surgical removal of plaque in an artery, was deemed imperative.
It is called a caroitid endarterectomy when performed to remove a neck
artery blockage.

As I understand it, a small incision will be made in the neck and the
plaque will be removed. The most advanced technology will be used to guide
the surgeon who will use advanced tools to do the deed. Science is so
fantastic it boggles my mind. Makes me aware that human brains can solve
the most unusual problems when they get together with the determination
to improve our health and longevity.

 

Nightmares, dreams of horror

Tuesday, March 15th, 2005

Do you have nightmares? Do you remember ever having nightmares? I can’t.
But then I can’t remember my dreams although I’ve wakened and reflected
on one or two for a moment. A nightmare is a frightening dream, accompanied
by a sense of oppression that usually wakens the sleeper. Centuries
ago they were considered evil spirits thought to oppress people during
sleep. My Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary explains that the word may
stem from the French, Middle English, Old English, or Croatian languages
meaning an evil preternatural spirit that oppresses one during sleep.
A 1967 World Book Encyclopedia suggests it had been considered punishment
for something the dreamer had done.

But the term persists more deeply in our everyday descriptions – such
as: "Driving in traffic is a nightmare" or "Don’t talk
about that trip, it was a nightmare" although those expressions
are being displaced by "screaming meemies" or "blue devils."
The word "mare" brings to me a vision of a female horse usually
high-spirited with dancing hooves and flying mane.

A friend described me as self-actualizing – whatever that means – because
she couldn’t imagine anyone not having nightmares. Her childhood nightmares
are still vivid in her memory. Modern sleep studies find no connection
to premonition or real experiences so you can put yours away as being
caused by witnessing a horrible scene, by stress, or by something you
ate.

I’ll just go on dreaming.

Science is most fantastic

Tuesday, March 8th, 2005

A scientist in Britain studies large disasters. Simon Winchester researched
the 1883 volcanic eruption in Indonesia and published in 2003 a book
titled: "KRAKATOA – the day the world exploded – August 27, 1883".
He covers the science of the eruption and the physical results in terms
of humanity.

But in his research he discovered a social phenomena. After the human
element was assessed the Islamic clerics made profound announcements
– mankind was being punished for their sins. The Dutch had colonized
Indonesia and the government was quick to jump in with money and resources
to rebuild their businesses on Sumatra and Java. The rebuilding was
of course going to help the local economy so the natives should also
benefit.

However, the Dutch government did not hold the natives in the highest
regard and probably only indulged the religious fervor that swept the
islands. Thousands converted to the Islam religion. But it was not the
opiate to put the people in a prayerful catatonic state as Marx and
Hitler practiced. The clerics pointed out that the greatest sin was
to have let the Dutch rule and the uprising began. The Dutch were driven
out. The Islamic religion dominates Indonesian society today.

Winchester researched other disasters with the same in-depth manner
and discovered that religion often overtakes reason in the aftermath.
An event in China resulted in a resurgence of a religion in that area.
Most recently Winchester is deeply into the effects of the San Francisco
earthquake on April 18, 1906. In studying the social repercussions in
the aftermath of that disaster, Winchester discovered data on religious
activity. In a small Pentecostal church the week after the quake, followers
numbered under one hundred. The minister boldly and widely announced
that god had sent a message – you have sinned – repent. The following
week the church was overflowing with hundreds of worshipers. And the
unreason has spread nationwide.

On a Public Television interview, Friday, January 7, 2005, Winchester
stated that he believes the fundamental movement in the US began in
that moment. The message was spread and embraced. The bible is the word
and the word is clear. We are upon this earth to prepare for the Armageddon.
Use the natural resources, when they are gone, Christ will return.

The interviewer had one last question – Is the recent earthquake and
tsunami in Sumatra likely to spawn another such resurgence of religious
movement?

Winchester responded with a no. Technology of communication is almost
instantaneous. The news and the scientific explanations are quickly
spread around the world. There is no time for social growth of fanaticism.

We can only hope.