Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Global warming debunked?

So they find some emails and all the sudden global warming isn't happening? It doesn't surprise me that there are some dishonest and biased scientists, but there is a large body of evidence supporting the global climates changes we have been observing. Birds fly south later and come back north earlier, polar can't hunt because sea ice is declining, plants and animals are expanding their range northward - these facts cannot be disputed. However, the amount of impact from anthropogenic sources can be disputed, but I still think that to think that there is no consequence from pumping tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is delusional. We know that one of the main factors that makes earth inhabitable versus Mars or Venus is the presence of greenhouse gases that trap radiation and moderate the planet's temperature.
I did some modeling for my turtle research, granted it was much more rudimentary, but I did have to understand and state all the caveats to the process and frankly, it is all a bunch of bullshit. So that the climate changes models are incorrect is not surprising at the least. However, there is still a lot of evidence that says the climate is slowly warming, even if average temperatures seem to be holding steady lately. The climate is warming, there is little debate over that. The question is, how much, if any, effect do humans have on altering the natural processes related to climate? To that I would repeat, to think that there is no consequence from pumping tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is delusional. It is gonna catch up to us someday.
Furthermore, there are many other reasons to phase out fossil fuels - pollution, political instability, long term availability, etc. The combustion engine is so inefficient, and burning coal, isn't that what people used to heat their homes before electricity? This is how far we have progressed? I find it amazing that we don't move away from burning fossil fuels simply because the alternative is much cheaper. For example, there is a free source of energy that comes up every morning. Hopefully, someday when energy is basically free and widely available, mankind will look back at our primitive sources of energy and think how dumb we were.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Big Trucks and Bud Light

I love meeting different people and I have had a diverse enough life to the extent that I can relate to a little bit about everybody. I've been talking with my neighbor Ben lately, or more accurately the son of my neighbor. I first met him when I noticed him standing inside the engine compartment of his 1979 Ford Pickup 4x4. "Gonna hafta pull 'er," he said, referring the clutch assembly.
The other day he helped pull my car out of the driveway after a snowstorm. The damn city apparently feels our taxes are inadequate and neglected the plow our alley. After a lot of loud engine revving and spinning tires, we succeeded. I invited him over to check out pictures of my 1968 Bronco and shoot the shit. Then he asked me, "Hey, what kind of beer do you like?" I told him I liked light beer, and lagers, then I realized what he really meant was do I prefer Budweiser or Miller. "I like Bud Light," he told me and I said I was down with that.
Ben is a truck driver and after running long hauls for years, he now runs coal locally. Gets paid by the ton he said and on a good week can clear $750. I told him that's comparable to what I make and I have a master's degree. He got a real kick out of that.
He wears a "redneck by choice" hat and used the expression, "it was like shitting in a field of tall cotton," referring I assume to something pleasurable. I thought it was hilarious. And I am far enough south that the real locals have a slight southern drawl and I think that makes it sound even funnier. Just like people laugh when I say "Minnesota."

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The Del McCoury Band

I am a subscriber of Mediacom for internet and cable services and in my last bill they had a flyer for a RootsNBluesNBBQ festival in Columbia, Missouri. Because of sponsors like Mediacom and others, the event was free and I could think of no better excuse to visit a friend I had there and see a great, free, outdoor show.
The Del McCoury Band was awesome, we went right up to the front before the show and took it all in. They didn't play any of my requests, but they rocked it and ended with My Love Will Not Change.
After the show, we wandered around a little and decided to check out the merchandise tent because I wanted to meet Del. Low and behold, there was the band signing copies of their new CD. I waited my turn and told Del how when I found his music I asked myself, how have I lived this long without Del McCoury in my life? I asked him for a photo and here it is...YEAH!!!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Bad Luck?

To some it seems like I may have bad luck. Bad, good, exciting, dull, my life doesn't really seem that dramatic as it happens, yet I find that I have more stories to tell then time to tell them. So much has happened...yet I fail to write. Here's the latest craziness.
Last weekend Meg and I were en route to hike at Robert Norbit State Fish and Wildlife Area, cruising along Highway 106 in Pike County, Illinois when all of a sudden a turkey took off from the left hand shoulder and flew right into the side of my car, ripping off the side mirror and denting the car and front quarter panel. We went back to the scene, collected my mirror and looked for the turkey. It was still alive under some brush in the ditch, but was badly hurt. I looked for a stick because I knew what needed to be done. While I struggled to move the bird into a position where I could get a good whack at it, it flailed and fluttered and then it stopped. Its eyes closed and lay motionless, the poor bird's life ended by a flying bird of another kind...a 2 ton hunk of metal moving at 60 miles an hour. I wish I knew what to do with the turkey, but I had no choice but to leave it there, wanting to be mad at it, but yet feeling sorry for it and my car as well.
The bird ended up doing quite a bit of damage, $1500 damage to be exact. However, I had a previous fender-bender that I was thinking of fixing and the auto body shop said it would straighten it out no extra charge. The whole mess will only end of costing me $100 so that's the bright side I guess. I've never owned a car worth fixing before, and I suppose that's what insurance is for.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ozark Winter Thunderstorm

Deep unplowed snow pellets. Bursts of thunder and lightning. Downpours of rain on snow. Ice crusted wipers. Yesterday was an exhilarating experience. I bought a new car, a 2005 AWD Subaru Outback Sport, and have been conducting an involuntary evaluation of the car's capabilities in adverse weather. It doesn't snow often this far south in Missouri but this was the second snowstorm in 11 days and I ended up driving through both.
The first time my car handled exceptionally well on the slick, curvy, hilly Ozark backroads. Progress was thwarted 10 minutes from home, the final hill after crossing the Eleven Point river a tanker truck had slid sideways and across both lanes. The Oregon County sheriff informed me that "gonna be 2-3 hawers 'fore we gets this mess cleaned up, got a rig comin' from damn near Cabool." We turned around, crossed the bridge and went to the next most viable road across the river. That cost us over an hour when we were so close to home!
Yesterday the roads were more intense. Another truck had troubles heading up a hill and I was asked to wait when the plow I was following stopped to help. Everything continued to be okay until it wasn't and then it's usually too late. Approaching the current river I saw a large sky to ground lightning bolt followed almost immediately by a thunderous ka-boom and then it started to downpour rain. Once I crossed the river a plow went by going the other way and my lane became increasingly covered by a thick layer of small ice crustlets. I straddled the center stripe, keeping two tires on cleared pavement and the other two plowing through the globulous snow. Highway 106 from Ellington to Eminence was not the best choice of roads considering the conditions. It is very hilly, curvy, with deep ditches, and no shoulders. My lane got so deep I had to move all tires to the plowed surface, which meant I had the whole car proceeding the wrong direction on the left side of the road. Pulling over anywhere was risky, I had to keep the inertia going to avoid getting stuck. Luckily, no one else was dumb enough to be out driving in the middle of nowhere in a snow/ice/rain storm and I managed my way to a friend's house where I waited an hour for the plow to go by the opposite direction and then gave it another shot. The roads were still ice covered but my car seemed to handle that well, it was the deep accumulations that sent my car sliding. It continued to rain and freeze, and lightning and thunder most of the night. I can't remember ever experiencing a winter thunderstorm like that before.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

New Job

Down with Assistant positions! No longer am I the Assistant Natural History Biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation. I accepted a new job as a Regional Ecologist for the Illinois Natural Area Inventory (INAI) Update. In 1976 Illinois embarked on a task to identify, catalog, and map the remaining natural features present within the state. Since so much of the state's natural communities were heavily destroyed, they recognized the need to undergo this momentous task and as the first state to do this, they set a precedent and the framework for other states to follow. Now over 30 years later, they are updating the INAI by scanning the entire state looking for new natural areas. Some biologists expect that we will find even more than the original inventory although the remaining sites will probably be much smaller. The ecologists that were responsible for the original INAI are nothing less than superstars, and we have huge shoes to fill, a fact that has been emphasized by almost everyone involved in the project. They have hired 5 ecologists and I have region 5, the southernmost 15 counties in Illinois; Perry, Franklin, Hamilton, White, Jackson, Williamson, Saline, Gallatin, Union, Johnson, Pope, Hardin, Alexander, Pulaski, and Massac. I intend to relocate to the Carbondale area within the month. This may be the most diverse region in Illinois and definitely the region with the greatest potential for new natural areas. This is a full time salaried position with benefits that will last for 2 years. I will be in training for the next several weeks and then the work will begin, which will involve scouring topo maps, aerial photographs, and reconnaissance in low-flying aircraft, eventually culminating in a site survey of the biota. We will be supplied with digital cameras so wait for photos of the exciting work!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Day Crisis

I haven't attended a Catholic mass in some time. But my girlfriend Meg is a tremendous musician and has been playing gigs over the holidays as a classical percussionist. She lives in St. Louis where Catholic churches are on nearly every street corner. We both were raised in the Catholic faith, but being scientists and freethinkers, we haven't exactly ascribed to the ways of religion. Anyway, I found myself at mass, supporting her musical passion, and couldn't help but think of something I heard my favorite folk singer say the last time I saw him in concert. He said, "I have been thoroughly churched out as a child." But that is really here nor there.
We were looking forward to cuddling up with a movie before we had to attend the usual family Christmas dinner. I went to use the bathroom before laying down to relax when disaster struck. The toilet reservoir wasn't filling up with water after flushing so I removed the lid to manually depress the flapper. Instead of placing the lid on the floor, I rested it on the edge of the toilet reservoir and stuck my hand in to fix the flapper. That is when the porcelain lid fell behind the toilet and shattered into pieces. But that wasn't the disaster. The water input line to the toilet was poorly constructed and consisted of 3 inches of PVC pipe sticking out of the wall. The lid hit this pipe and broke it completely off. Immediately water began pouring out of the wall. Imagine a garden hose on full blast. This was the amount of water spilling out onto the bathroom floor. I reached behind the toilet to turn off the shutoff valve, but the valve was in between the toilet and the broken pipe and not in between the broken pipe and the wall. I called out for Meg and she ran into the basement to find and turn off the main water valve to the house. While she was doing this, a major amount of water was shooting out of the wall and running into the hallway, flowing down the basement stairs and into a floor vent nearby. While she acted fairly quickly, the 5-8 minutes to took to locate the main water pipe was long enough to release a substantial amount of water. I had tried to put some towels over the pipe and even grabbed a pot from the kitchen in a vain attempt to catch the water and dump it into the bathtub. The only pot that would fit behind the toilet was so small that it hardly mattered. We went into the basement and water was dripping from the ceiling and even through the light fixtures. Once the water was turned off, the crisis was over, but only after was several minutes of sheer panic. To wrap up the story, her dad came over and helped me locate the pipe to the toilet in the basement rafters. Being Christmas Day, we couldn't find any stores open so we cut the PVC pipe and stuffed it with a random lawnmower axle bolt and copious amounts of epoxy. This temporary fix held and we were able to restore water flow to the rest of the house and began mopping up the water in the basement. This fiasco took the rest of the afternoon. I went on to the party and had the best possible time I could have with lots relatives I wasn't related to. The bottle of Jack Daniels her brother-in-law received for Christmas helped me put the past behind me. Luckily, Meg's roommate and owner of the fairly old house was very understanding and mentioned she planned to remodel that bathroom for some time. Now that time has come.