Science and Sarcasm
30 June 2005
Osprey sightings in lower Michigan anyone?

Osprey & nestThe Michigan DNR is asking for help tracking ospreys in southern Michigan - especially in the Maple River area, which is north of St. Johns, and in southeast Michigan – Oakland, Wayne, Macomb and Livingston counties.


Ospreys from the program will be marked with a silver metal band on one leg and a green metal band with an alpha-numeric code on the other leg. The public is asked to look for these bands.

If any of these birds are seen in southern Michigan, the sighting can be reported to the DNR at (248) 328-8113, e-mail:; the Metropark office at (800) 477-2757, e-mail:; Lori Sargent at (517) 373-9418, e-mail:; or online at the DNR Web site.

Please report only those osprey observed in the southern part of Lower Michigan. Any information will be useful including location, time, activity (flying, fishing, etc.), and markings. It is especially important to note if the bird is banded and, if possible, the number on the band.

Little Manistee Fishing Report [June 20 2005]

Little Man @ LutherThe day was sunny and clear; B and I had all our gear packed for the week and the house in order for pet sitters by mid-morning. We drove north in good spirits and arrived at Ray Cejmer's rental cabin by 4pm. The 2 bedroom cabin was built in 1934 and after a period of disuse, was updated, re-sided and insulated a bit. Log construction is still evident on the inside. The wide stone fireplace and chimney is in the center of the cabin and the hallway connecting the 2 bedrooms and bathroom runs along the back side so the stone work can be appreciated on both sides. It was a warm week, so we never needed to use the fireplace however. Ray met us when we arrived and showed us all the many appointments in the cabin. He's an older gentleman (emphasis on gentleman), a really nice guy and a long-time resident of Luther. He lives next door with his wife, his large garden and his many 'projects.'

Ray's C's cagin near LutherThe cabin is located on the outskirts of town, underneath mature pine trees on a high bank adjacent to the Little Manistee River. The river is close enough that we could observe rising trout and the habits of a resident snapping turtle from the living room. We immediately noticed the wildlife activity. Several hairy woodpeckers and a few jays crossed the stream from the woods to the bank and back. Evidence of a raided snapping turtle nest remained on the bank. Twice, deer came to the stream and were frightened back into the brush by our presence. We unloaded the canoe and some of our gear into the cabin and headed outside.

Here near its headwaters just east of Luther, The Little Manistee is a narrow 10-15 feet across, inches to 2 feet deep and is lined with overhanging brush and forest. It is known for its strong runs of anadromous salmon and wild steelhead in the spring and fall, but it's also one of the 9 trout streams in Michigan listed as a 'Crown Jewel' in Michigan Trout Streams by Bob Linsenman and Steve Nevala. Downstream, it's bigger and much easier to paddle or to wade and fish, but we decided to try these upper stretches to begin our OCFF (Obsessive-Compulsive Flyfishing) vacation.

After a quick trip to Schmidt Outfitters in Wellston for some last minute supplies, we rigged up our smallest 3-weight rods and headed into town to check out the stream conditions. Here, the river flows over an impoundment from a reservoir and through a small municipal park. The reservoir appeared to be a popular fishing spot for warm water species and there was one young man trying his luck with a spinner in the little stream below. We observed plenty of little fish rising to surface insects, so we decided to try dry flies and nymphs. The little rainbows, steelhead and browns in this stretch were not at all particular and we caught several of each from 5 to 7" in size on an ant, a renegade and a squirrel nymph. The spinner fisherman, who had apparently not been catching anything, got disgusted and left. We caught one very nice 11" brown in the shallow pool below the impoundment - a monster for this small water I'd say, though we suspected there might be larger fish there also. As darkness approached, we headed back to the cabin and tried the same flies on the stream there. We caught a few more little brookies and steelhead smolts from above and below a little plunge pool and decided to call it a night.

TroutGrrrl's rating for Schmidt's Outfitters: 11 out of 10
(no wonder everyone speaks to highly of Ray Schmidt. What a great guy.)
Porchlight 'hatch': Hex, Gray Drakes, large stoneflies
Number of leeches encountered: 0
Did I get to use a spey rod? No.
Enjoyment score for the day: A+, a perfect start to a vacation

29 June 2005
This is waaay cool.

Baton Rouge Advocate, 6/29/2005The Newseum website displays the front page of local newspapers via an interactive flash map of the US, Europe and other regions of the world. All in all, they can display 438 front pages from 45 countries.

Here's the front page from today's Baton Rouge Advocate... I am enjoying the juxtaposition of the headline and story on the preznit's speech and the large image in the center column. Well done. I did not see any other front pages with this much chutzpah in the handful that I looked at.

[The Newseum site is probably best viewed with a high-speed connection.]

Effective Natural DEET Alternatives

Lené at Leaning Birch kindly passes along some information about alternatives to DEET for repelling biting insects. The CDC and EPA have information available on the alternatives she lists.

This information was recently included on a mosquito-related listserv. I thought it might be of interest to those of you encountering biting insects this summer. Those of you who won't be, please let us know where you live. I'm sure we'd all like to come to your neck of the woods--at least I would. :) Today was a day filled with biting black flies, deer flies, and mosquitoes.

In early May 2005, the CDC released updated information about mosquito repellents. Through that release the CDC reported on two other repellents, picaridin and oil of eucalyptus, which demonstrate repellency comparable to DEET in either high or low concentrations, respectively. If you have not seen the CDC report, please visit:

Please note that the EPA web site on Repellents has been recently updated, now reflecting a link to the existing Oil of Eucalyptus factsheet, as well as a NEW EPA fact sheet on Picaridin. Please visit:

Eucalyptus Oil was registered in 2000. Although the fact sheet is a pretty poor example, here is a link to it:

OPP's web site has information about oil of lemon eucalyptus (see"eucalyptus oil" or "p-menthane-3,8-diol" under

Thanks Lené for providing this public service!


Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent from REIRepel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent is available from REI for about $5 per 3.5 oz. tube. They also carry a number of other repellents containing natural ingredients.

Here's some more info from 'Bug-Spray Info' comparing ingredients and efficacy of different insect repellent products.

I think it's worth trying some different options if it means I can enjoy the outdoors without repeatedly slathering myself in pesticides...

Hoo, I'm on a roll now...

Here's some info about DEET from the Sierra Club of Canada. They also provide a synopsis of some natural DEET alternatives here.

Here's some info from Boulder County, CO Public Health.

Here is a nice summary of DEET alternatives from the California-based Pesticide Action Network for North America.

28 June 2005
New entry for my life list...and a couple of nice brown trout from the Pine

Redstart in flight and perched

I had never seen an American Redstart (Setophaga ruticilla) before this past week. Now I've seen dozens of them. All in the same location of course. While we were fishing the upper Pine River along the Silver Creek Pathway, we were treated to quite a redstart show. We first noticed them in and around the campground. Later, they flitted back and forth across the small stream as we fished, flycatching the hatching insects. They are seriously hyperactive and brilliantly colored little birds. And they really seem to have a pretty strong tolerance for proximity to people. They came quite close to our heads while we fished and they didn't appear to be offended by the light campground traffic. I had to snap a lot of photos to come up with these 2 'good' ones. They just wouldn't sit still long enough for me to focus.

The Silver Creek Pathway is bracketed by the Silver Creek State Forest Campground at the south end and the Lincoln Bridge State Forest Campground at the north end. The pathway is about 8-9 miles round trip and provides good access to the Pine for paddling and/or fishing. Both campgrounds are 'rustic' and have fairly large, well-spaced campsites, several pit toilets and water pumps, and are located in picturesque pine and hardwood forests. The Pine River is a popular stream for paddlers and float tubers. The stretch within the Silver Creek Pathway is relatively small (15-25 ft wide) and shallow (1-4 ft deep) and is probably less popular than downstream stretches for these purposes. We fished this stretch on a weekday and were not bothered by passers-by.

Brown trout 2 of 3 on the upper Pine, 6-24-05

Oh, and the fishing was pretty good too. I caught 3 nice browns; the first and last were hunky 11" 'footballs.' All 3 were rising to some unidentified bug(s) and I was able to fool them with a smallish Turck's Tarantula. B caught 2 nice ones right off the bat in a fast, riffly section on her famous Power Ant. As the day wore on, we noticed that we never found any little, stupid trout on this stream. Most Michigan trout streams seem to have an abundant population of these guys to keep you occupied between nicer fish. Not so here. At least on this day.

ADDENDUM: This post was included in I and the Bird #2 hosted at Charlies' Bird Blog (7/21/05).

27 June 2005
MIT Blogging Survey
Take the MIT Weblog Survey
Problem-solving Monday

I'm not sure why Blogger is forcing my posts to the end of the sidebar, but I'm working on it...

26 June 2005
We're back, we're tired and we're sore...

Car full o' fly fishing gear

Every day, all day fly fishing makes for a great vacation. We fished 4 or 5 different streams during the week. We even fished into the night a few times hoping to catch a hex hatch. Now we need a week of vacation recovery time before returning to work. The car's unpacked; everthing's put away; the laundry is piled next to the washer. We had a great time - I'll post some fishing reports and stories over the next few days.

20 June 2005
Crucifixion is still a darn good remedy for some folks

via Pharyngula:

A ROMANIAN Orthodox priest who ordered the crucifixion of a young nun because she was "possessed by the devil" and now faces murder charges was unrepentant today after he celebrated a funeral mass.

"God has performed a miracle for her, finally Irina is delivered from evil," Father Daniel, 29, the superior of the Holy Trinity monastery in north-eastern Romania, said.

He insisted that from the religious point of view, the crucifixion of Maricica Irina Cornici, 23, was "entirely justified", but admitted that he faced excommunication as well as prosecution, and was seeking a "good lawyer".

Sister Cornici was found dead on Thursday, gagged and chained to a cross after fellow nuns called an ambulance, according to police, who said she had entered the monastery just three months before, after visiting a friend who was a nun there.

Mihaela Straub, spokeswoman for the police in the province of Vaslui, said Father Daniel and four other nuns had claimed she was possessed and should be exorcised.

Before being crucified she had been kept shut up for several days, her hands and feet tied and without food or drink.

Vitalie Danciu, the superior of a nearby monastery at Golia, called the crucifixion "inexcusable", but a spokesman for the Orthodox patriarchate in Bucharest refused to condemn it.

"I don't know what this young woman did," Bogdan Teleanu said.

19 June 2005
Now, for some obsessive-compulsive flyfishing...

We're off again for a few days of OCFF this week. I probably won't post again until next Sunday - unless I happen across an internet cafe, which isn't very likely where we're headed.

RoseI just spent the weekend with 2 of my 3 cool sisters, Anne and Maureen, my new niece Rose, her big brother Patrick and Mike, my brother-in-law. I enjoyed Patrick's tee-ball game on Saturday morning (Mike is a great dad-coach.) and I met a few new friends at their family reunion on Saturday afternoon. There were a few relatives I definitely wouldn't mind hanging out with again someday. (I got through the weekend without changing Rose's diaper! Yesssss!)

Patrick's tee-ball gameIt was good to catch up with Anne and Maureen and get the latest stories about Nick, Michael and Chien. I look forward to seeing them at the next get-together later this summer. We'll definitely get Nick out for a kayak ride now that he's a big boy. Will this motivate him to start using the wastebaskets properly?

I left late for the drive home, but I made it home and to bed at 2AM this morning. The Chicago, IL - Gary, IN drive is a lot nicer at that time of day. I dragged myself up and made it to my soccer game this morning - we won by many goals to zip - but the other team is a fun bunch of women to play with. My left-footed crosses were not quite what I had hoped for, but it didn't really matter.

Today, we're readying the house and packing up the car with fishing and paddling gear to leave for a solid week of all day, every day flyfishing. I'm looking forward to a few days away from work. I know B is too. We've got a loose plan to fish two or three streams during the week and then we'll catch up with the Flygirls for their Wakeley Lake/AuSable outing next weekend. After an early morning on the lake, we're going to be participating in a 2-fish contest on Saturday afternoon. I've never fished the stream we'll be on, but I got a few tips from Shupac, so I'm set for fly choices. B also whipped up a couple of her semi-famous Turk's Power Ants for me. Now I just need to catch 2 fish...

I'll get the fishing reports up ASAP next week.

17 June 2005

Go vote on this poll at MSNBC.

I just did and, after 19,900+ votes, 94% had voted yes...

UPDATE: It appears that this poll finished with 50,000+ votes and a 95% "Yes" response.

15 June 2005
Fishing trip cancelled
Thunderstorms forced cancellation of a planned smallmouth fishing trip for Tuesday night. Maybe we can squeeze one in tonight if I have any energy left after a grueling day of plant sampling.
14 June 2005
In keeping with the 'reality-based' v. 'lies-based' approach to science government theme...

Today's comic from Tom Toles:

Tom Toles 6/14/2005

13 June 2005

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

I'm working on recovering the lovely comments left by my friends...Sorry.

Bush Aide edited government climate reports - revisited

I originally posted about this article in the NYT a few days ago. Today, I've seen what John Cole has written on the subject:

Do they think this is a school project, and all they have to do is fool the teacher and climate change won't be an issue? I don't want junk science or unfounded claims going forward, either, but it is becoming pretty clear to me that faith-based governance simply means that anything you don't like or anything that might require a change in your policy position should be ignored or labeled 'junk science.'

Yesterday, it was reported that the fellow reposnsible for editing the particular climate report in quesiton, has been fired:

Philip Cooney, chief of staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, stepped down Friday without disclosing his future employment plans, announced presidential spokeswoman Erin Healy.

"He has accumulated many weeks on leave, and so he decided to resign and take the summer off to spend some time with his family," Healy told AFP.

She added the resignation was "completely unrelated" to the release of documents this past week that show Cooney had given a thorough editing to US government documents on global warming -- in what appeared to be an effort to make them look less dramatic.

Steve at The Carpetbagger Report comments further:

Cooney has no background in science — he's a lawyer by trade — but the Bush gang has made him the chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

In a memorandum sent last week to the top officials dealing with climate change at a dozen agencies, [Rick Piltz, who resigned in March as a senior associate in the office that coordinates government climate research] said the White House editing and other actions threatened to taint the government's $1.8 billion-a-year effort to clarify the causes and consequences of climate change.

"Each administration has a policy position on climate change," Mr. Piltz wrote. "But I have not seen a situation like the one that has developed under this administration during the past four years, in which politicization by the White House has fed back directly into the science program in such a way as to undermine the credibility and integrity of the program."

Credibility? Integrity? In the Bush administration?

Then again, maybe the White House is on to something here. Embracing a sense of denial to all inconvenient facts may be a good idea.

  • If terrorist attacks increase around the world, the government can simply stop publishing an annual report on international terrorism.

  • If the Bureau of Labor Statistics uncovers data about factory closings in the U.S., the administration can cancel the report and hide the data.

  • If an administration report shows that the feds aren't doing enough to help states in the midst of fiscal crises, the White House can announce that the report wouldn't be published anymore.

  • If Bush's Department of Education sees evidence that charter schools are underperforming, the agency can simply stop collecting data on charter schools.

  • Oh wait, the administration has already done all of this.

    Very, very well said. I should think the 'faith-based' community will/should start distancing itself from the Bush administration. They have many reasons to do this, but the reason I'm thinking of right now is how the American public may begin to see that 'faith-based' policy, as opposed to 'reality-based' policy, can appear to be essentially a willingness to lie

    Christian Coalition leader wants gays to wear warning labels, cites research from known hate group

    From John at AMERICAblog:

    The leader of a conservative Christian lobby group says that gays should be required to wear warning labels.

    "We put warning labels on cigarette packs because we know that smoking takes one to two years off the average life span, yet we 'celebrate' a lifestyle that we know spreads every kind of sexually transmitted disease and takes at least 20 years off the average life span according to the 2005 issue of the revered scientific journal Psychological Reports," said Rev. Bill Banuchi, executive director of the New York Christian Coalition.

    The journal regularly publishes articles described by many mainstream psychologists as misleading and faulty. The homosexuality morbidity study was conducted by the conservative anti-gay Family Research Institute.

    In fact, the "study" in question was done by Paul Cameron, the head of a hate group - literally, the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled Cameron's group a "hate group" - Cameron was thrown out of the scientific profession twenty years ago for his hate research. But that doesn't stop the Christian Coalition from using hate literature and proposing Nazi solutions to brand gays.

    You know, I might be convinced to go along with this Reverend Banuchi if we could be consistent about this labeling business. Let's apply this same brilliant prinicple more widely and also label everyone who participates in anything that any crackpot has determined to be 'unhealthy' or anyone who belongs to any group of citizens with a 'below-average' lifespan. I'd start with these characteristics and groups:

    1. poor
    2. uneducated
    3. without health insurance
    4. jobless
    5. has job, but not a member of a powerful labor union so no job security
    6. serving in US military
    7. hateful to the point of always teetering on the precipice of cardiac arrest
    8. gay, but in denial to wife and kids
    9. gay, but pretending to be a straight republican mayor, congressman or senator
    10. red state resident

    I'm sure there are more....anyone? What would be on your list?

    ADDENDUM: Gay women are notoriously low contributors to the STD risk pool. Do we get gold stars?

    UPDATE: The ever-sharp Wonkette has weighed in on this topic and promises to "milk this one for a bit."

    11 June 2005
    'Secret Creek' Fishing Report [June 10 2005]

    B and I had been looking forward to a Friday night fishing outing all week - hoping to avoid last minute work assignments, crossing our fingers for a thunderstorm-free evening. The work week had been stressful, the weather hot. We had been planning to fish a nice stretch of the Grand River for some smallmouth bass. The first to arrive at our rendezvous point, B assessed the wading to be a bit treacherous however. Recent thunderstorms had obviously dumped enough rain into the watershed to cause a dramatic spike in water flow. We needed a backup plan.

    I had spent the day up north planting beans and was on my way to join B at the Grand when she called to report her findings. Out of curiosity, I had checked the conditions of 'Secret Creek' (not its real name) on my way south. The flow was a bit higher than normal which is very good for this creek. Secret Creek is a small, marginal trout stream that we like to visit a couple of times each spring. The fish are small but beautiful and kinda stupid. The creek is relatively small and does not maintain much of a flow in the summertime. The trout activity declines with the low flows and the water temperature warms to the point where we feel guilty releasing caught fish. We tend to avoid this stream in the summer for these 2 reasons. On this occasion, we elected to give it a try.

    'Secret Creek' pastureAnyway, we arrived to find our favorite access point available and chose to wet wade for the first time this season. The week had been a hot one and the thought of hiking around in a cold stream was very attractive - with our without fish.

    We both chose terrestrial dry flies to start. B is conducting an experiment to see how long she can fish with just one pattern this summer - Turk's Power Ant. So far so good. I tied on a rubber-legged Bugmeister. Fish were rising very infrequently but would willingly come to the surface for both the Ant and the Bugmeister once in awhile. We fished upstream aways and then back down. I switched to a lifted wet fly for the return trip. B again caught plenty more fish than I, but we each bagged a few chubs along with a handful of healthy browns and steelhead smolts. We were able to fish together often enough to carry on a good conversation - an accomplishment we don't always manage.

    At one point, the stream flows along a small cattle pasture and the animals were hanging out near the bank, watching us. A calf or two were on the wrong side of the fence, sampling bank vegetation. We had a pleasant evening sharing the stream with them.

    A wet-wading hazard - leechesWe called the evening complete at about 9:30 a few minutes before a vigorous thunderstorm opened up on the area. We drove eastward toward home through hard rain, looking ahead at frequent lightning. We eventually drove through the storm, turned south and the lightning continued to occasionally light up the darkening roadscape in front of us, from behind.

    During the drive home, B discovered that she had picked up a couple of leeches at the top of her wading shoes. She was able to remove one while driving. Pretty good feat I'd say. We removed the remaining offenders in the garage after she 'enjoyed' them all the way home. Yikes.

    Difference between weather forecast and actual weather: 0%
    Number of miles travelled by the 3 leeches on B's right ankle: 70
    Ratio of chubs caught to trout caught: 2:1
    Number of black-billed cuckoos spotted: 1, maybe
    Did I get to use a spey rod? No.
    Enjoyment score for the trip: A+ (even without the spey rod)

    ADDENDUM...Thanks to the man in the yellow front end loader who came out to push the downed tree out of the road. He provided a 'good Samaritan' service for us travellers by quickly pushing the whole thing safely off the road. Without his speedy rescue, someone surely would've crashed straight into it in the semi-darkness.

    Step AWAY from the potatoes....

    I'm a taking a little break from lawnmowing and gardening here in the house with a glass of iced tea. It's hot here again today - 88 degrees. We've just had a nice 15-minute dark cloud thundershower that brought us almost a half-inch of rain. We really needed it. My garden will really enjoy the moisture. Maybe we'll get a little more tonight. An all-day or a two-day gentle rain would be just the ticket, but we'll take what we can get.

    Colorado Potato Beetle - adult, egg mass, larvae

    Before I came in, I scouted my 3 rows of potatoes and discovered that the beetles are already in full swing. I spent 45 minutes removing egg masses and squashing adults. I've not seen any larvae yet, but lots of adults and eggs. The high numbers of bugs I'm seeing are most likely a direct result of the serious outbreak I had last year. The beetles got so far ahead of me that I actually resorted to a chemical assault, but still lost the battle. I was seriously outnumbered and outgunned. Ultimately, they denuded my red potato plants almost completely. Fortunately, the tubers were mostly developed already and I still had lots of bright, fresh potatoes to enjoy. But now, I've got a large population ready and waiting for my new young plants. Last year, I couldn't bring myself to squish a beetle with my bare fingers - too crunchy and gross. This year, I'm ready, I'm willing. I'm going to hunt 'em down, smoke 'em out, and I'm smashing every last one I can find...

    09 June 2005
    $15.00 Ivory-billed Woodpecker Conservation Stamp designHedwig writes today of a new Ivory Billed Woodpecker Conservation Stamp program designed to help raise funds to study the newly re-discovered birds and to help acquire and protect its natural habitat.

    Hedwig says:

    Funds raised by the IBWO Conservation Stamp program will go where they are needed most; The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, The Nature Conservancy and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. These three entities have all have endorsed this program and all net proceeds will be equally shared between them.

    Pholph's Scrabble Generator

    My Scrabble© Score is: 26.
    What is your score? Get it here.

    How about a little more sarcasm and a little less science?
    OK, it's not politically-correct to perpetuate the 'blonde' joke genre, but dang it they're funny. Here's a few that were forwarded to me in an email yesterday. I don't know their origin, but they were new to me.

    Did you hear about the two blondes who froze to death in a drive-in movie?
    They went to see "Closed for the Winter."

    Did you hear about the near-tragedy at the mall?
    There was a power outage, and twelve blondes were stuck on the escalators
    for over four hours.

    A blonde went to an eye doctor to have her eyes checked for glasses.

    The doctor directed her to read various letters with the left eye while covering the right eye. The blonde was so mixed up on which eye was which that the eye doctor, in disgust, took a paper lunch bag with a hole to see through, covered up the appropriate eye and asked her to read the letters.
    As he did so, he noticed the blonde had tears streaming down her face.

    "Look," said the doctor, "there's no need to get emotional about getting glasses."

    "I know," agreed the blonde, "But I kind of had my heart set on wire frames."

    A blonde was shopping at a Target Store and came across a silver thermos.
    She was quite fascinated by it, so she picked it up and brought it over to the clerk to ask what it was.

    The clerk said, "Why, that's a thermos..... it keeps some things hot and some things cold."

    "Wow, said the blonde, "that's amazing.... I'm going to buy it!" So she bought the thermos and took it to work the next day.

    Her boss saw it on her desk. "What's that,' he asked?

    "Why, that's a thermos..... it keeps hot things hot and cold things cold, " she replied.

    Her boss inquired, "What do you have in it?"

    The blond replied, "Two Popsicles, and some coffee".

    A man entered the bus with both of his front pockets full of golf balls, and sat down next to a beautiful (you guessed it) blonde. The puzzled blonde kept looking at him and his bulging pockets.

    Finally, after many such glances from her, he said, "It's golf balls".

    Nevertheless, the blonde continued to look at him thoughtfully and finally, not being able to contain her curiosity any longer, asked "Does it hurt as much as tennis elbow?"

    08 June 2005
    No wonder it's hard to convince everyone of this iminent problem...
    It's a lot easier to convince the public to go along with your hare-brained schemes if you're willing to flat-out LIE. In today's New York Times:

    Bush Aide Softened Greenhouse Gas Links to Global Warming

    A White House official who once led the oil industry's fight against limits on greenhouse gases has repeatedly edited government climate reports in ways that play down links between such emissions and global warming, according to internal documents.
    Mr. Cooney is chief of staff for the White House Council on Environmental Quality, the office that helps devise and promote administration policies on environmental issues.

    Before going to the White House in 2001, he was the "climate team leader" and a lobbyist at the American Petroleum Institute, the largest trade group representing the interests of the oil industry. A lawyer with a bachelor's degree in economics, he has no scientific training.

    title text again

    Then again, maybe all their lies aren't working so well.

    Why do I continue to be amazed by these people?

    Fierce field work in hot climates...
    Experiment #1I've spent the last couple of days on my hands and knees counting and sampling plants in my first stand-alone field experiment. The weather has become suddenly very hot here - 90+ degrees in the afternoon - so it's been a few days of sweaty, gritty, dirty work. I've got a couple of great students helping me though; I'm very lucky.

    My plots are adjacent to a narrow wooded area between more open areas and a highway. Lots of wildlife manages to squeeze into this woods, using our research plots for recreation and occasionally for food. Identifying tracks while we work is a fun distraction. This week, we were treated to brief visits by a deer, a few turkeys and a recurring male baltimore oriole while we worked. Orioles are not exactly an 'exotic' species around my neck-of-the-woods, yet I always feel like I've seen something rare when I catch a glimpse of one.

    07 June 2005
    People Cause More Soil Erosion Than All Natural Processes Combined...

    Mississippi River Delta, from U of Michigan

    Human activity causes 10 times more erosion of continental surfaces than all natural processes combined, an analysis by a University of Michigan geologist shows. [...]

    "If you ask how fast erosion takes place over geologic time—say over the last 500 million years—on average, you get about 60 feet every million years," Wilkinson said. In those parts of the United States where soil is being eroded by human agricultural activity, however, the rate averages around 1,500 feet per million years, and rates are even higher in other parts of the world. Natural processes operate over areas larger than those affected by agriculture and construction, but even taking that into account, "the bottom line is, we move about 10 times as much sediment as all natural processes put together," he said.

    Because soil formation proceeds at about the same rate as natural erosion, Wilkinson's results mean that humans are stripping soil from the surface of the Earth far faster than nature can replace it.

    "This situation is particularly critical," Wilkinson said, "because the Earth's human population is growing rapidly and because almost all potentially arable land is now under the plow."

    Here is the USDA's fact sheet on erosion.

    Calling all bloggers, surrender your weapons...
    Could this happen in the US?

    The Chinese authorities have ordered all weblogs and websites in the country to register with the government or face closure in Beijing's latest attempt to control online dissent.

    Commercial publishers and advertisers could be fined up to 1m yuan (£66,000) for failing to register, according to documents on the Chinese information industry ministry's website.

    Private bloggers or websites must register the complete identity of the person responsible for the site, and the ministry - which has set a June 30 deadline for compliance - said 74% of all sites had already registered.

    The Chinese government should take a lesson from the Bushies. It's easier to control information distribution from the top rather than from the bottom.

    06 June 2005
    Flower physiology, taxonomy and anatomy
    Niches has a very nifty description of flower (inflorescence) anatomy and taxonomy. His essay is complete with homemade diagrams...

    An inflorescence is a cluster of flowers, all produced on the same floral stem, the peduncle. There are a bewildering variety of names for these inflorescences, but the key to figuring them out is to watch what happens to the floral meristem. Remember the floral meristem? It’s that little patch of versatile rapidly dividing cells in the tip of the stem that throws off all the organs as it grows.

    Here’s a short tutorial, with My Own Drawings, to run through some of the major types of inflorescences. There are a lot more subtypes, but these are the common ones you run into in field guides.

    pikes, racemes and panicles

    Wayne goes on to describe and diagram corymbs, umbels, and cymes and also describes and diagrams the floral meristem in a subsequent post.

    05 June 2005
    Agriculture News
    I think, like news for any other segment of American or global commerce, agricultural news stories need to be read with a scrutinizing eye. Many 'news' blurbs are simply press releases from commodity organizations attempting to divert consumers' attention toward or away from a particular food or product. Many are press releases from one particular corporation needing to promote a new or existing product in the eyes of the public. Few stories are actually 'reported' with proper investigation and balance, most are simply restated press releases. Some are verbatim press releases. These facts do not make them all meritless, just similar to most other types of news articles. You decide.

    Here are a few recently published news articles that I found interesting:

    GMO corn may be causing health problems. I noticed this news story via a post on the Organic Matter blog. I agree with Chris at Organic Matter, the 'statistical variation' argument is hooey. This is a topic where the danger of wrongly declaring dangerous foods to be safe is far, far greater than the danger of wrongly declaring safe foods to be hazardous. Statistical analysis forces the prioritization of one of these two errors over the other. For matters of public health, the choice should usually be the latter. Subsequent statistical conclusions are then black and white. I suspect these GMO corn safety results fall into a 'gray' area where the opposing sides of commerce and public health disagree on which potential error to accept. To me the answer is obvious. Though as Chris points out, the point is almost, but not quite moot. These modified genes cannot be 'recalled' from the environment. Findings like these may well impact the future release of new genetically-modified organisms though.

    Potatoes make USDA's list of top 20 anti-oxidant-rich foods. All potatoes are relatively high in vitamin C - about half a day's dose per spud. Red, yellow or purple varieties are also high in carotenoid and anthocyanin pigments. All these compounds fall into the anti-oxidant category.

    USDA expects job opportunities in agriculture and natural resources to increase through 2010.

    Small, local farms rise in popularity in Iowa and midwest.

    New food pyramid increases emphasis on fruits and vegetables. I don't think I'm meeting my dietary objectives.

    Wisconsin is losing farmland to urban/suburban sprawl.

    04 June 2005
    Old Farmstead reclaimed by nature

    Read this beautiful little story from a blog called 'A WhipPoorWill'. It's about one formerly agricultural landscape making its way back toward a natural state. The story was included in Tangled Bank #29, hosted at Organic Matter this week.

    Kids at the ClubhouseI think this story caught my attention because it reminds me of the 110-acre home where I grew up in central NY. In 1970, my parents built a new home in what had been an orchard on an big old family farmstead. We moved in when I was 7. The house and all the barns and outbuildings still stood, for the most part. We slowly took them down, burned them, removed them, bulldozed them over the next 20 years. But as kids, my 6 siblings and I played in the Old House and the barns almost daily - making up adventures and stories to fit our environment. We converted a small pigshed in the orchard into our 'clubhouse.' That's some of us posed at the clubhouse in the picture. Cute dorks. That's me adeptly holding a kitten.

    Inside the house, skunks had taken up residence underneath an old davenport left in the livingroom. We were scared to return to the livingroom after we startled one away one afternoon. Most everything else had been removed from the house. For fun, we jumped on a naked bedsprings that remained upstairs and we climbed out onto the front porch roof for the adventure of it. One extra dark, shaded room on the back side of the first floor still had intact wallpaper - pale cream background with big pink roses and smaller flowers between. The green shutters were still on the window. We called this room the 'scream room' because if you stood in the middle and screamed, a faint echo would reverberate for a couple seconds. We enjoyed this.

    A few fruit trees and vines, an elderberry bush, a few ornamental plantings all went on as though the old caretakers were still looking, picking, planting, watering, etc. These reclaimed-by-nature farms are somehow very beautiful places and I'm not sure why.

    03 June 2005
    Ecology of the Back Porch

    Grey Tree Frog (Hyla versicolor)

    These little Grey Tree Frogs [Hyla versicolor] are fairly numerous around my house. We hear their loud trilly voices almost every night - especially if they're near an open window. We normally see them only during dark hours when they crawl on the sides of the house with their sticky feet and hang out around the porch lights to catch incoming bugs. Pretty good strategy I'd say. We rarely see them during the day since it seems that they like to hide where it's cool and shady and maybe even a little damp. I've seen them sitting on top of the downspouts just underneath the eave or in the slim gap between the downspout and the siding. I found this guy in a small arborvitae-type bush while we were working in our front flower garden. They are quite bold and do not retreat from the face of a big human.

    This little tree frog has a decent capacity to change colors to blend in to its immediate environment. Our house is sort of a light bluish gray color - these frogs are able to get their color quite close and they lose most of their dark markings when perched on the siding. He pretty much looks like arborvitae bark here. What's the physiological mechanism for this ability to change appearance to suit the surrounding? Does anybody know?

    Browser problems
    I think I've fixed some of the problems noticed when viewing this blog with IE 6.0. Let me know if I haven't...
    01 June 2005
    One heckuva fisherman...
    B and I are lucky to get to go fishing once in awhile with our friend J. He's a very skilled flyfisherman and he's partial to his spey rods. He's turned me on the the whole spey thing too. He emailed me a link to a cool story about a rather innovative technique he employed last night that resulted in a 16" rainbow and an 18" brown (in addition to a bunch of smaller trout).

    Here's his description of his technique.

    And here's his catch...

    Here's a link to more of his fish pictures.

    Thanks J!

    BTW, J- I think you need to practice the 'Supinski' pose to make these look even bigger...

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