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Showing posts from January, 2009

"Out of a job yet. . ?"

Have you seen this narrowly-interested bumper sticker around in Michigan? I believe it comes from the UAW. The punchline is "Keep Buying Foreign." While I'm glad people realize the interconnectedness of the U.S. Auto industry with the health of Michigan--a fact the last 6-8 months here has only been made stunningly real--it is quite short sighted. I'd like to engage one of the possessors of these stickers and ask the following questions:
1. Where were your TV, stereo, and DVD player made and what is their parent company?
2. Is the food you eat grown in Michigan and do you eat seasonally?
3. Why does the quality of American cars make buying foreign so palatble?
I imagine I'd receive either the bird, a narrowing of eyes, or a blank stare.

The Bias of "The Incredible Journey of Butterflies"

Another top notch show on PBS--this time about Monarch butterflies. Amazing creatures they are. However, in the beginning, the narrator (who can't pronounce "zoologist"--say Zo-ah-low-gist, dammit!--)claims that Monarchs are a miraculous--all because they make a 2,000 mile journey. Yes, yes, wonderful, awesome, etc., ad astra, but no one says any such thing about cockroaches or rats or even opossums. You know why? Fear! Aesthetic predjudice! Yes, I like butterflies better than roaches, but those crawly little bastards are no less special and miraculous. We just hate them, that's why they don't receive good press.

Why Invasions Succeed and Fail

The second class of Invasive Species Ecology was minorly intimidating--the prof broke out some graphs with formulae indicating how the lag effect affects population growth and geographic distribution of invasives. I didn't sweat, but am worried as to how much math will be on the test. Numbers--my Achilles heel. Well, not numbers themselves, but doing things with those numbers sometimes swamps my cerebral canoe.

Anyway we discussed why most contemporary invasions occur--accidental or deliberate importation by us and why most fail.

Most invasive species fail to establish themselves because of the "Rule of tens." For every 1,000 species imported, by natural or human means, only 100 may escape into the wild. Of those 100 species, perhaps 10 may establish a resident population. Of those 10, probably only one will reach sustainable levels that cross over into the pest category. So much works against exotics coming in and being successful in a new, foreign ecosystem. The …

What's that smell?

Nature's PBS program "Is That Skunk?" was pretty cool. Here is a fairly common animal that we know so little about. What did I learn? 1)Skunks are not part of the weasel family, they have their own branch. 2) Tomato juice is not a good remedy for skunk spray--hydrogen peroxide, baking soda(?), and laundry detergent are. 3) Skunk babies are photogenic and are born hairless with black and white skin markings.

My own skunk story--My friend J and I had finished a trip either in Pictured Rocks or the Porcupine Mountains and didn't feel like rushing home so we stayed at the Jellystone KOA (not the best place, BTW) in St. Ignace. After a decent night's sleep I woke to something scratching around the trash in our fire pit. It must have been around 6:30 AM because the gauzy dawn light was brightening. I kicked at the tent door to scare it away to no avail. After a few tries and some hissing on my part I finally sat up, crawled to the door, unzipped the tent, and sa…

A Time Machine. How Depressing.

I hope this will be the last post about Facebook. I can't get over it's people locating abilities. I found people that I haven't talked to for 20 years! There was a time when I could say I haven't even been around that long--in three months I'll be forty. I'm not sure how old my perception is now. For a long time, at least until I was 25, I perceived myself to be 18, and then the perception changed because I felt as if people were actually listening to me. So I think I "felt" 28 for some length of time, but since then. . . .

In geological time, I ain't nothin', but in human marking of time 40 is a collective chunk of something. Seeing how so many people have aged isn't a memento mori, but it sure is a quake to my sensibilities. Where does that time go? No, I don't think it has sped by as too many people fall into the cliched habit of saying and experiencing. Time just moves at the same pace for me--sometimes to fast, sometim…

A New Day

I wonder what Frederick Douglass would think of today? I have an idea, but who can speak for the dead? An interesting inauguration--probably the first I took the time to pay close attention to--solemn, hopeful, different.
President Obama's speech wasn't bad, but, of course, I have some problems with it. I'll tackle the three big ones:

the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness. (I'm not trying to take the remarks out of context, I just want to speak to them as they are).
We'll see if he thinks this extends to the unborn, the mentally and physically diminshed, and the terminally ill.

The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth.
That's right everyone, time to bow down and worship G.O.D. Can anyone name me one politician today who thinks that constant, i.e. infinite, economic growth is…

It's WORSE than I thought

Oh man, Facebook. It's like the frakkin' pod people. They're everywhere. Does this mean I have to give up my first born child (some days not a bad idea)? Supply a genetic sample (Ohhhh, honey. . . !). I shall swear in French now--Merde!

Inauguration Fatigue

According to a Google search, only one other listing shows up for this topic. Am I the only one tired of hearing how G.W. Bush is the WORST PRESIDENT EVER and Barack Obama will be one of the GREATEST PRESIDENTS EVER? Please don't say I'm a sore loser--I wrote in Wendell Berry in symbolic protest to the binary choices offered me. I tired soon after the beginning of the longest presidential campaign ever and I'm not interested in all the brouhaha surrounding the "anointed one." I don't want Obama to fail because that only makes our mess worse, but given his choice for Ag. Secretary and his commitment to FOCA, I can't help but hold back a "hurrah" for this--yes--historic inauguration.
Perhaps I'm just feeling burned after thinking G.W. Bush would be a good choice, but besides a few exceptions, I really don't like his policies. Why would a Democrat do any better? I expect too much and thus need to work on what can I do to make th…

It's a Miraculous Life

So says Wendell Berry as he gives the metaphorical finger to E.O. Wilson and all philosophical materialists.

In the pictured book, Berry takes Wilson and his reductionistic tendencies to the whipping post: ". . .[H]e cannot suspect, the possibility that relgious faith may be a way of knowing things that cannot otherwise be known." J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis said the same thing of myth. Wilson, in his book, Consilience, wants to make every human endeavor subservient to science and conform to the scientific method as a way of understanding all things.

A minor problem, perhaps, is the tendency of materialism to objectify the world, dividing it from the "objective observer" who studies it. The world thus becomes "the environment," a word which Mr. Wilson uses repeatedly when speaking of conservation, and which means "surroundings," a place that one is in but not of. The question raised by this objectifying procedure and its vocabulary is whet…


I can't think of anything more wonderful in the winter than virginal snow. Especially at night when your ears absorb the swoosh as your steps kick the powder out and the rubbery scrunch as the sole of your boot packs it underneath.

Too many people complain about snow, but there's something magical about those white flakes dripping from the heavens.

Farewell Christmas

Today, by some reckoning (ours included), is the 12th day of Christmas. The chillen opened their last few gifts, the tree will become a bird shelter on Saturday. Life resumes a less sparkling pace. Epiphany is today too. I find the build up to Christmas (Advent) usually more enjoyable than the great feast itself (like Holy week is more "exciting" than Easter Monday and so on). I don't know if that's a personal failing or just a human thing. As I continue to grow up, I do take comfort and pleasure in the rhythms of the liturgical calendar, and I must admit that 12 days of Christmas completely beats the orgasm of one day, one hour of Christmas that I grew up with. Still. . . the anticpation somehow is sweeter than the honey itself.
Now, how to celebrate Epiphany? Perhaps flashing?

Greed, thy name is Martin.

That title is perhaps overstating things a bit--perhaps ignorance should be substituted for greed. In reviewing the family finances, we found, unfortunately, that we only give about 3.5 percent of our income to charity. Rounding down, (and guessing at the same time)unscientifically to after tax dollars the percentage only increases to 3.9%. So, we resolved to finagle numbers to move that up to 5% this year, if not more. That is still less than a "tithe" and frankly disappointing, but it is best not to make gigantic moves. The idea is to get to the magic 10 (or even 9) percent within the next few years.
Providentially (perhaps) today, I picked up the November/December issue of Books and Culture and read "A Lot of Lattes" by Ron Sider, his review of Passing the Plate, a sociological study of why American Christians aren't all that generous. He says there would be an extra $46 billion a year available for "kingdom work" if "committed Chris…