Thursday, October 19, 2017

Oh my god, traveling can be fun (R-rated) (10/19/2017)

As many of you know, I travel frequently to give workshops throughout the state.  In the past year I provided 54 of them.  As you can see, it keeps me hopping.  Some of them are near my office in Richmond, others near my home, but a lot of them require me to travel. 

Of course, during my travels I stay in hotels and motels.  One of my fears is bringing home bed bugs, and knock on wood, I have not yet encountered any yet.  Getting to a new place I do a bed bug check, and then settle in.

My beautiful room in Wytheville, a great room with a view, great bed, and some interesting play by play.

The first night is usually somewhat rough.  It is a new bed, new pillows, a lot of light in the room, noisy air conditioning, you name it.  But often the second night is better: I am exhausted from a day of teaching, and somewhat used to the new room.

But sometimes it just does not work (see last week'spost on nothing being perfect).  This week I am staying in Wytheville at this absolutely wonderful hotel.  Things should be perfect.  Last night was my second night.  So I was looking forward to a great night of sleep.  But, there was a roadster meet-up in town and the hotel was full.  I went to sleep around 11 and by 12 I was woken up by the people next door.  They were having some serious sex and wanted to share the experience with me, at least through the wall.  The lady was screaming with every thrust and whether it was real or not had at least one orgasm.
Except for some of it's rambunctious guests this is a great hotel .  Oops, I left my window open, not that I have any plans.
Slightly amused and slightly annoyed did I turn around after their 10 minute love making session.  But then the people it the room on the other side entered their room.  There were at least two or three couples and they continued talking and meeting till 12:45.  I did fall asleep, but woke up when the guest left.  I heard a roadster start outside and thought:"Finally real sleep."  But then the bed started rhythmically creaking and after some loud moaning there was a very loud sighing: "Oh my God."  I thought: "Oh my God, maybe now I can get some sleep!"  

Well, how wrong was I.  He must have have satisfied her first in a non-penetrating way and now it was his turn.  Their bed was against our adjoining wall and boy he was like a jackhammer.  He went 15 seconds really fast, followed by 15 seconds slow, followed by 15 seconds really fast, etc., etc.  Thank goodness he did not last very long and was done in a few minutes and they were out.

Finally, by 1:15, it was quiet enough for me to get my beauty sleep, wake up by 6:45 and get ready to teach.  I did turn up the TV a bit when I woke up that morning, just to get even.

Friday, October 13, 2017

No, it does not have to be perfect (10/13/2017)

Wow, two posts so close together!  But I felt I owe you one.  I have been on political and environmental rants or soap boxes lately and need to get off it; although today's post started out from lots of anxieties including a lot of political ones.  Rest assured, I will not go into them.

Working from home today, I needed my "smoking" or maybe I should call it my "socialization" break (I don't smoke).  I had just pulled up a few websites and all kinds of news items stared me in the face, and then my arm buzzed.  "Ready to take me for a stroll?" my Fitbit asked me?  That darn thing has a feature that reminds me every hour at 10 minutes before the hour that I need to get my 250 steps in that hour.  At least it does that when I sit on my ass that entire hour.  So as any good slave to their activity tracker does, I obliged.

Being a student of "forest bathing" and, as I already mentioned, not in the best of mental shapes this morning, I go for broke.  What the hell, I think let's just go for a little stroll out back on the path in the woods behind our home, and ignore all the ticks and potential chiggers.  I need to forest bathe!  Somehow the dogs also think they should forest bathe.
On the forest trail behind our home.
This is partially a serious and a not so serious post, so let's get the not so serious one out of the way.  We do not put our dogs on the leash in this area (don't tell the park rangers, please!), it is behind our house, there is never anyone there and I was only going out for 10 minutes.  Our beagle Lucy started eating grass all the way; in other words it was slow going.  This would have been fine, I wanted to forest bathe, and really relax.  However, this is fairly difficult with a loudly gagging dog behind you on the trail, disturbing the peace and quiet of the woods.  So I just walked a little faster, figuring out she knew where I was going.  I also wanted to stop on the way to take some photos and take in nature, so I was planning to go slow anyway.  This confused our other dog Jake somewhat: "aren't we waiting for Lucy?"

At least I got my forest bathing in, the smells and the sounds were great (with the exception of the occasional gagging behind me in the distance).  We've had a wet couple of days; it actually rained over 3 inches two days ago, so I expected a wet mess.  To my surprise it wasn't: the pond behind our home was still dry.  These (Grafton) ponds are groundwater fed and we've had a dry fall, so I am not that surprised.  

As you can see this pond is still dry despite all the rain we had the last couple of days.
It was just nice to slowly walk the trail, to smell nature, to observe the beauty and come to my senses.  Taking photos helps me see things more clearly.  The photographs do not need to be perfect it is just fun, it makes you slow down, look around and observe.  Get out there and do it.  Like my walk today, it was not perfect, but it was what I needed.  I would not want to change it for anything else.
The lichen on this tree grow on the north side of the tree that is mostly in the shade.  the south side has no lichen growing, probably because it is too hot and dry from the sun beating on it.
This oak had beautiful sloughing bark.  When I was living and working in the mid-West this was of great interest to us because this was where the endangered Indiana bat live under during the summer months. 
I just loved the seeds (nuts) of this sedge and how they hung like that.
And yes, even this post does not have to be perfect!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Sea level rise (10/12/2017)

Sunday's newspaper had an interesting article on how the coastal communities in our area have been experiencing more coastal flooding in the past two decades than in the previous years.  We live in a crazy area; having a perfect combination of contributing factors to sea level rise and flooding events.  It seems that Dr. Tal Ezer a professor at Old Dominion University found that in each of the decades 1950-60, 60-70 and 70-80 there was only once that there was significant coastal flooding.  In the 1990 this increased to 5 times, between 2000 and 2010 it was also 5 times and between 2010 and 2016 we already have seen it 6 times.  This year is not different, hurricane Jose even caused some coastal flooding and it did not even come close.
The water was really high in the York River during our kayaking trip this past July 30th.  I think the weather service called for minor coastal flooding that day.  
Please remember the King Tide event will hit Virginia on November 5 this year that day we are having the astronomically highest tide and we are being asked to go out and take photographs of the event using a special app.  Check when such an event will happen in your area and participate!
So what are some of the factors?  The article mentions an interesting one: "The Gulf stream is slowing down!"  A fast Gulf stream pulls the water out of the Chesapeake Bay and when it slows down, it seems that the water is backing up into the Bay; interesting isn't it?  I am sure that helps with the rise of some of the water here.
On September 3, 2016 the coastal flooding was so severe thanks to a tropical storm that we could not get to our sailboat; as you can see the dock was flooded.
The article never mentions why the Gulf stream is slowing down.  My research shows that it could be caused by global warming.  I learned it may.  This article suggests it has to do with the salt content in the water; fresh water from the melting glaciers from Greenland are impacting the circulation and slowing things down.

Other factors that affect sea level rise include that we live in a subsidence area, and of course the famous global warming.  Lately, I have been at a few conferences where we are told not to talk about global warming, since that is such a polarizing subject, people stop listening  We should talk about sea level rise or coastal flooding, that isn't controversial, people can see and experience that without needing to know what causes it!  Maybe that will sink in and maybe they will act or react.  Global warming is such a politically charged subject.

It is an amazing world we live in, everything seems to be politically charged and controversial nowadays.  It has become us against them.  Politicians trying to undo what the previous guy try to enact in good faith, what they thought what was best for the country.  It feels more like undoing thing for the sake of tying to destroy a legacy than something that is carefully thought through.  

But here I go again, entering the slippery slope of politics.  I should really concentrate on writing about my first loves: the environment and nature.  While thinking about that, I recommend we should all take a deep breath, go out in nature and meditate on the beauty of it, regardless of religion, sexual orientation or political leaning (how is that for a transition?).  We should all concentrate on the peace and quiet it brings to be out there and bathe in nature.  We need to appreciate and understand how important it is that our children and their children can enjoy it as well in the distant future.
Have you hugged a tree today? 

Monday, October 2, 2017

Not again ... Oh Las Vegas (10/2/2017)

Well, it happened again.  Another mass shooting.  What the fuck!
It is a horrible thing that happened, a thing that should never have happened.  I am absolutely devastated.

At least the gunman was not Muslim, nor some other minority; it seems to be a lone wolf.  Maybe an angry white guy (64 year old), who knows?  Not that this make it any better, nor that this is a thing to celebrate.  Actually, for me being a white guy of 64, it makes me feel horrible.  I know I am writing this way too early to come to real conclusions but I need to get this off my mind.
While I am glued to the TV trying to find out more about the crap that went on in Las Vegas, these two guys have not worry in the world.  They were fed and walked.  Daddy is home with a migraine and the news does not help.
It is amazing to watch TV and watch what went on and how everyone analyze it.  I just hear the automatic gun fire and wonder how people get these guns.  Honestly, you do not need them to hunt but you can use it to mow down people like I mow my lawn, but then he did it from a high-rise motel room.  

Readers of my blogs know that while I am not a hunter, I am pro hunting.  I am a naturalist/ecologist who believes like my hero Aldo Leopold that because of the extirpation of the natural predators we need to hunt deer, but we do not need automatic rifles to hunt for deer.  We use those to kill people as we saw last night!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Education is for weaklings, really? (9/26/2017)

As I have written about before, I spend a lot of time in cars while traveling throughout the state.  I have started to listen to podcasts in order to avoid having to be totally disgusted or angry by the time I get out of the car.  There are so many holes where there is no reasonable radio to keep me awake during my drives and I am forced to listen to extreme right-wing radio or even some religious stations.  I have written about this before (see my post <here>) and those podcasts are a great antidote for that.  I did not go in too much detail when I wrote my post on March 3, 2015, but here it is one and a half year later and I think things have gotten worse rather than better.  There are a lot of triumphant right-wingers now that try to whip up there base even more.  No wonder what is happening in our country lately.  

You may counter that this photograph has little to do with this blog post, but it was taken on my most recent trips to give two stormwater workshops out in the western part of Virginia.  I always take time out to take a walk or a bike ride on one of the rail to trail parks.  It is a great way to de-stress, relax, and blow off steam after the ridiculous statements on right-wing radio.  This one was on the New River Trail.
I am not really talking about what I encountered in the western part of Virginia.  Absolutely not!  I am really thinking about life in the U.S. in general.  Since March 2015 we have gone through an election.  Little did we know where that would lead us.  I reported about one of those incidents when I wrote about my visit to Charlottesville after the riots, something I could not have predicted back then.  In addition, we have had a travel ban that is being renewed, a war on poor people, on healthcare, on the uninsured, on the elderly, on Muslims, on blacks, on transgender people, on marriage equality, on education, on the environment, on the climate, I can go on!  

On my way back home the other day, my podcast ended and I did not want to stop to look up a new one.  I was between good radio stations so I got to a local “Family Radio Station”.  Family stands euphemistically for religious and ultra-right wing.   At the top of the hour a pastor came on to talk about Paul’s visit to Athens.  He described how Athens was the center of education, architecture, wisdom and philosophy, but how horrible it was because there was a temple on every corner that was dedicated to a different god or deity.  It was a city full of educated scum.  He went on telling the audience that it was just like here where the educated people, and in particular those from Harvard and Stanford, are the scum of the earth and cannot be trusted because they are godless heathens (he mentioned those two institutions by name).  A (university) education is the root to all evil.  Here I am driving thinking “and my daughter goes to Harvard Divinity School studying religion, and I have a Ph.D. and am an educator?” 

There seems to be such a fight or push against intellectuals, against education, for the common lowest denominator.  I think that is what Twitter has started and is so successful.  You really cannot have an intelligent discussion on Twitter, with 140 (or so) characters, which just fits fine with some well-known individuals; we can come out with statements like “fake news”, “poor rating” and that’s it. 

Another rails to trail visit, this photograph was taken during my walk on the Virginia Creeper Trail in Abingdon, VA.
Discussing this in church this weekend my friends and I wished we could tell this pastor that next time he is sick not to consult an educated person (doctor) to get better.  Maybe he should just have a snake bite him in the hope to get cured.  When he wants to cross a river with his car he should not to use a bridge that is built by an educated engineer, but build one himself with a few boards and rocks.

In the Swahili language of East Africa, they have a word called Mzee.   The literal translation is “respected old person”, or “title of respect to anyone older than oneself.”  When I worked there, I learned Mzee was also used to show respect for wise (educated) people.  I was called Mzee when I worked in East Africa.  I was 25 years old and the people that called me Mzee were double my age.  It showed their respect for me and for the education I had; and yes I called them Mzee as well.  Education was treasured in those countries; children would walk hours to go to school.  The story goes, that’s why they are so good at running marathons.

Folks, whatever your believe is: conservative or liberal, religious or atheist, show some tolerance for your fellow human being, be they from a different ethnic background, education, religion or sexuality!  Secondly, I have lived in countries where people have died to get educated.  It is a great privilege.  Education brought our society where we are right now, it allowed us to question things, out culture and our standard of living.  The day we start crucifying our educated people like we did in the middle ages will be the day that we will loose our civilization and our status in the world. 
This week I am giving lectures in Virginia Beach while hurricane Maria is skirting by.  It is nice and windy, and having a walrus mustache, it is definitively a bad (hair) mustache day.  It is the 3rd category 4 or higher storm in the Atlantic in one year.  Now who said there is no such thing as climate change?  Damn those educated people.