Archive for June, 2006

What a difference a tree makes

Wednesday, June 28th, 2006

June 27, 2006 set a record — a record for high temperatures, that is. Officially the thermometer reached 104 degrees. Quite hot for my skin, to be sure. Wouldn’t fry an egg, though, except on black surfaces. (I didn’t research that). The nighttime reading was down near 60 degrees. That was the official temperature and what I had in my backyard. Ninety four was the top. So my thermometer is 40 years old. Not accurate? Perhaps. More likely the explanation comes from the dozen trees that reach over fifty feet up to cool the air. And a six-foot board fence surrounding the yard to keep still air around many bushes. Adding up all the leaf surfaces gives the equivalent of a million square feet of surface to absorb the heat. (I didn’t research that either). Well I don’t know the physics of it but the temperature is lower. Whatever the science I am spared the heat.

Appears to be magic, doesn’t it?

In a way I suppose it is. I would be content to call it that if I didn’t know better. Trees are more than pretty to look at — a darned nuisance to clean up after, like a husband or kids but the rewards are almost as great.

Hands down

Monday, June 12th, 2006

There is just no substitute for helping hands. Of course the fact that they work according to the brain that instructs them makes the difference in time well spent or not. These thoughts are totally related to the past hours where my daughter packed up her clothes and snacks in anticipation of her return to her home. It might help you to understand if I begin at the beginning – well only insofar as it is related to her surprise visit which occurred on Friday. She called the day before with her arrival time. I had preparations to make at McNary NWR Education Center and I was as thorough as I could be in that regard because of the monthly event I call Second Saturday the next day. (By my own hands)

Nancy arrived in the late afternoon and we shopped for food. Naturally that is a foremost consideration to assure carefree hours of whatever else we would decide to do. Saturday morning was taken up with the subjects of water safety, water characteristics, stories of animals living near our McNary wetlands and a hike along that water which has been designated by US Fish and Wildlife as a resting/feeding/nesting area for waterfowl. It was exciting, interesting, and, by the time the Center was put in order, a tiring morning. (By hands besides my own, of many visitors and volunteers.)

I was perfectly willing – especially after a filling buffet luncheon – to sit and ruminate, which is impossible since only mammals with a odd stomach can do so. (so my stomach may be odd.) But many times certain foods and fortunately certain people can not sit still with a full stomach. Especially when it is obvious that certain acts ought to be accomplished. One was cleaning of my eave spouts. Sound simple? Well not too complicated. We got up on the roof and swept the Douglas fir needles off the interlocking shingles. Several bushels of needles. They are fine mulch for acid loving plants like my rhododendron. The neat little aluminum channel that keeps water runoff from dumping on my head was packed with leaves from deciduous trees and fir needles. And I mean packed full. Packed so tight and long enough to nurure seeds of tumbleweed and maple trees. True they were tiny but reminders that my rooftop would revert to a wild place in a few years. At the least it never went to moss.

So the helping hands cleaned the roof and runoff channels. Pretty good for a day’s work, I thought. Washing the channel required solving a different problem. I wanted the runoff to drop into my plants not on the gravel driveway. What that required was changing the angle of the channel. Not a big deal. Well, it wouldn’t have been if the ladder fit easily where required and more specifically at the angle allowing right handed hammering of the replacement nails. We did it anyway. The channel is flushed and the water falls on appropriate plants.

OK so that brings us to Monday morning and a living room full of books. Really full. Stacks of books laying sideways stuffed creatively in the bookshelves. And piled in corners on the floor. And piled on table tops. Helping hands were not enough. I needed brain directions to choose which to keep and which to throw. Not an easy task when I collected them because I passionately found them intriguing sometime past. But it has been done. Also video tapes sorted and beta tapes taken for transfer to an alternate medium.

So there you are. That’s the story. Helping hands are crucial in my case because I made earlier decisions I could not bring my hands to rescind. Actually it is all in my head. And the hands became active because I made the comment that perhaps I ought to demolish my house and build a new one!!!! Or sell and rent!!!! And regardless of the final decision I would have to choose what to keep or not.

Intellectual Whiplash?

Monday, June 5th, 2006

Drinking too much coffee stimulates in me what Carl Zimmer calls intellectual whiplash where thoughts jump from one subject to another so quickly they are distractions. It occurs in my head often especially when I should be going to sleep. The immediate cause tonight is a book called “At the Water’s Edge” which is the easiest reading of hard science – biology, actually – that I recently came across. Not all the evolutionary biology is easily understood by me and my lack of education but what makes it easy reading are statements after explanations of deep science such as – Darwin’s heart sank. What a picture of disappointment that describes! Or Jarvik would have wept. Or in the changes in gene switches he likens one to slices of a loaf of bread. And there are many others. Relevant diagrams are included to clarify descriptions.

I came across reference to “At the Water’s Edge” when reading “Endless Forms Most Beautiful” as well as several other references to Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins. They are also good reading. Time is the restriction. At least for me.

Every new description of evolution makes science exciting! And evolution moreso. Not nearly the letdown some folks consider as too much revelation of reality that spoils the fantasy. This reality is truly fantastic in the truest sense of the word.