Saturday, December 08, 2007

Stats and life

Ginkgo biloba, or the Maidenhair tree, once was thought to have died out with the dinosaurs, was discovered alive in a small grove in Central China. It comes in males and females and it's the females which produce the stinky fruit which contains flavonoid glycosides and terpenoids that are vasodilators and thought to help in brain function and in particular, memory.

I was recently told how to distinguish the difference between the sexes of the trees by a phrase, "... the girls wear skirts and the boys wear pantaloons." And it is true that some trees have split leaves that make each leaf look like two, and others have small slits or no slits at all. I have a girl tree and she produces the stinkiest fruit. It smells just like a mix of dog poo and vomit. What a combination! I can't imagine how people would think to try to eat them.... discovering their medicinal properties.... Only, perhaps if you think that if it smells bad it must be good for you!

Lagerstroemia, or Crepe myrtle have been planted all over Pasadena, California. It likes warm summers and nice rain and cool winters. When I lived in Ohio, I saw people try to grow these trees. They are quite beautiful. Their flowers, which cover the entire tree like a puff ball, come in purple, pink, red, and white. And in winter, their leaves turn red before falling. However, even when the people in Ohio wrapped their Crepe myrtle in blankets (which they did) the cold winds would either stunt the growth or kill the tree.

The leaves of both trees have mostly fallen off. I use them in the flower beds for color. I rake them up and sprinkle them over the bare dirt. I suppose that my neighbors think I am crazy, but the leaves provide the rich colors of red, yellow and orange in a normally brown ground, and eventually the leaves become mulch for the plants in the dry summers.

But, as I was looking at the fall of the leaves on the bricks, I could not help see how statistics work. My Crepe myrtle is older and has many more leaves then my Ginko and so the leaf drop is much more dense from the Crepe myrtle. One could see that if you were considering what the chances were for a particular incident, say of getting in an accident in your car, the more times you drive the chances increase. The fewer the times the chances go down. Or, how about.... the chances of winning the Loto or at Craps or at cards do go up if you play long enough.... but how much money do you loose in the end? Or... what are the chances of having cancer, or some other disease... the more exposure the higher the probability.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Opossums on my mind

Originally uploaded by r_neches
Okay, it has been a month or so since I let the opossums out into the world.... and I see one picture and I miss them.

You have to admit, they are cute.

My son is at his computer and I set this little guy on his head. The opossum liked crawling around on and in your hair and being close. Very wonderful animals.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Abbey Road revisited

My little girl was hit by a car two weeks ago while she was riding her bike. She is going to be fine. As a parent, I am deeply impacted by her accident in significant ways. I can not image being a parent of a child lost in the Bush's wars. How do people not understand the depth at which Bush and Cheney and their minions will crawl to do such evil? And the biggest evil to start wars, with lies, stealing the lives of our nation's children?

On this Veteran's Day, I am sadder then ever. The men and women who gave of themselves.... I am deeply saddened by this war of choice... this should never be! We need to stop it.

What have we as a Nation wrought? Here and elsewhere?


I went to Oklahoma in January to do what I could for my daughter's band and CD party. And I had to do this shot. I am sure that every band since the Beetles have had to do this pose, too.... but did you know that a very fine college textbook called, Molecular Biology of the Cell also had the authors pose for their back coversimilar shot? And guess who were walking down Abbey Road????

Funny how iconic images cross all barriers! (Whose that guy in the funny hat?)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Just walkin' cross the road...

Well, it all started when a dear friend asked if I would like to go to the Los Angeles Zoo's new exhibit on spiders, and I said. "Yes!" My life has become a bit crazy and that particular weekend I also promised I would take some shots of the first rain in the mountians.... This was the end of September....

My friend is very uncomfortable about spiders. She says it is because of the numbers of the large garden spiders that cover the garage doors and back doors of her parent's home in Ohio next to Lake Erie. She describes how you can wash all the spiders off in the morning with a hose, but the next day, they are back covering the doors and walls again. In the San Gabriel area we have large garden spiders that drape large webs in the evening and which are destroyed by morning light.

There are nocturnal orb weavers and diurnal orb spinners. When disturbed, the diurnal spiders use the 'bounce' (if you touch the web the spider vibrates in place in the center of the web for many minutes) as a defense against the destruction of their webs. Nocturnal spinners do not need to do this. Large moths like the the sphinx moth, are a large part of the nocturnal spider's diet and they tear the web apart. And the only thing that could fly through - bats rarely fly through their webs... The nocturnal orb spider just runs to its hiding place when under attack (the web attachment under a leaf or twig at the top of the web... or under the the light next to your back door!!!)... Rarely, will you find nocturnal orb spiders still in the center of the web in the morning from the night before. They usually are hiding in their special spot well before the sun comes up but will return to fix their web when dark falls.

Daytime is bad for spiders and their webs because of birds. Birds eat spiders and they fly through the webs which are woven in clearings to catch flying insects. The bouncing defense of the diurnal orb spider confuses birds - makes it hard for the bird while in flight to see the spider and ... diurnal orbs spiders weave heavy stripes radiating from the center of the web which looks more 'solid' while the spider shakes.

Well, back to my friend. I am real proud of her. She has come a long way from her days in Mugu when all spiders made her skin crawl... She used to kill all spiders that found their way into her bathtub or sink. But now, she wanted to see all sorts of spiders - live spiders - at the Zoo.

I had to take this small detour up the mountain and we visited the pipe-cleaner forest. This area on the mountain where the trees have been burned so many times though, still alive, have no limbs so the needles grow out from the tall main trunks. They look like they have had a 'poodle cut'

Well, I got the shots I needed and so we were set to drive to the Los Angeles Zoo. As we were zooming down the winding road my friend shouts, "STOP!! A TARANTULA!!" I turned around and then parked and sure enough, there was a wandering male hunting for his lady love.

(The poor male has to hunt around for the ladies who sit in their lair... and it's the males who become the meals for the tarantula hawks this time of year, too) And, of course... in harms way on the road.... These poor fellows tend to get into ALL sorts trouble looking for love in all the wrong places. So, we got out of the car and decided to prod the fuzzy guy back into the brush.... My friend helped scoop him up with a stick and not drop him (they are fragile!!! and these guys do NOT jump!!). The spider tried to entice us to touch his back end by waving it about and rubbing the stinging hairs with his back legs and with his long adroit spinnerets.

Needless to say we missed the opening of the Spider show that day, and we met the next weekend to oooggle at the black widows and brown recluse at the Zoo.... but, I think the best was meeting a wild and crazy 'guy' waving his cute hairy butt!!! In the street, no less!!!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Rocks - lots of rocks

The rock faces of the San Gabriel Mountains have a particular look. The shapes are sharp and they are made of very crumbly material. Grasses have a hard time growing between the rocks because there are so few nutrients and things to grasp with their roots to survive. When the rains come, anything that can get a grip grows fast and takes advantage of the short wet season. The canyon wren, Catherpes mexicanus, is peeking from under the large bolder. Click on the picture for a larger view.

This photo is becoming a painting. It is taking longer then I thought it would but I am finding so many wondrous things that live in this vertical quarry. Centipedes hide in the cracks waiting for a juicy beetle. Grubs, beetle larvae, emerge from their winter sleep. So, no wonder brown creepers and wrens hop about these places.

This rock face is adjacent to the face in the upper image. It is composed of completely different substances and is far more crumbly. It bulges as if it is about to pop - I did not alter the image or enhance it.

Many veins of speckled rock have very large boulders that project out over trails and roads. Considering how crumbly and loose the pieces are, these faces can be quite a hazard. But, oh, how dramatic they are.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Oh! Those opossums!

Oh my! My heart has been stolen! Stolen by five funny, smelly, wonderful little two month old opossums!

They came into my life because a friend had found them, not abandoned but lost - their mother had been hit by a car and they were left wandering the street. My vet's secretary took them in and forced fed them until they were 3.5 inches long in body length until six squirrels were given to her to raise, too. I said I would look after the opossums and I knew they were almost ready to release....

.... but then I fell in love....

I picked them up and carried them about and they found that sitting on my head was the best place to be... second to finding a pathway through my hair.

I fed them dog food (wet and dry), apples, bananas, peas, beans, seeds, sow bugs, crickets on the hoof, worms from the garden, flies, grubs, and my favorite - cheese. They would grab with their dexterous hands their slice and chew and chew and chew and chew.... My next favorite food to give them were small snails. They would crunch and crunch and crunch....

Their jaws do not 'grind' their food like a cow or horse or even like us. Their bite is more like a lizard (on a couple of occasions once when one was frightened by something and another time when my finger smelled of food), biting straight down with a strong squeeze. Their tongues move their food around inside their mouths until the juice is squeezed out and swallowed. The solids are spun within their pointed shaped jaws and their very masterful tongue until the shape of the bolus is in a possum sized cigar, which is THEN swallowed. Lots of good food falls from their mouths eating in this fashion... but is then eaten by the next happy possum who does not have to work so hard to fill its tummy. Many times the possums would try to steal food from each others' mouths in the process of chewing.

Cheese is such a funny substance and they love it! Cheese really doesn't have much moisture so the jack cheese is studiously worked on for many many minutes. All five possums facing in various directions chewing and grasping and licking..... I have to say, it is much more amusing to watch opossums eat cheese then a dog with a tongue full of peanut butter or even.... a goose with a bill full of peanut butter! All of which I have observed.

Possums greet each other by touching noses after some huffing sounds. Everyday, I would call their names (BABIES!) snuff a bit by their cage and they would come to me to touch my nose with theirs. (- NOW! For YOU who are reading this....I would not do this with a wild un-introduced opossum!!... they might try to eat your nose! - ) And when I let them wander my yard they would come back to my back door to say hello... where we would do our greetings ("BABBIES!" snuff snuff, 'bump nose'). One little male called to me when he got worried (it sounded like a sneeze) and I would call back with kissing sounds - which seemed to calm him.

Well, tonight, I had to let them go out into the wilds of the San Gabriel Mountains. They were still sleepy from a big meal of cheese, apples and wet dog food. It was dark and I drove them to a place where there were still some people about (forest rangers and others who care for the Angeles Forest) but not too many. I put some dry cat food on the dirt and left their smelly blanket for them to return to if they got cold. The little guys had more then doubled in size and were ready to explore this world.... but it was hard for me to say 'Good-bye, Babbies!"

Be safe little Guys! And have many more babies!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

How do they do that?

Ever wonder how a cat can just become a body with a head and no legs?

Well, if Mouse could talk, he would say that all you have to do is tuck your elbows and knees up against your body so that they disappear inside your skin folds. then as you sit down completely cover your feet and hands with the rest of your skin and fur...

Fred will demonstrate. As you can see - he is sitting in this position on the netting covering the patio.

Every cat has a 'style' of sitting. Fred likes to leave one paw out. Now that you have taken a look, Fred wants you to practice.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Time changes all...

Originally uploaded by tardigrade
About an hour after finding this little tiger thrashing in the up ended wet sand, his color started to change. His elytra darkened. He still was not very strong and his legs were like noodles when he tried to walk. Eventually, he turned green... but he was not able to survive the day. That made me sad.

I am not sure why he died. Insects are very sensitive to the quality of food they eat. IF as larvae, they do not get all of the protein they need, as they develop into adults they will be smaller then their parents. If they do not get the special nutrients they need but plenty of calories, they may emerge as adults without legs or other malformations. You can see this very clearly if you buy commercially bread meal worms. They will develop non-survivable abnormalities because of the poor nutritional diet they are given in the factories.... And now, think of how those meal worms may effect the pets they are supposed to feed!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Cicindela sexguttta

Originally uploaded by tardigrade
My dear friend goes back to Ohio where she was born and raised and where her parents live, at least once a year. She helped me many times at Mugu catch tiger beetles. Then one year she and her mother were walking along the beach of Lake Erie on a path she had taken since she was a tiny person, and she spotted something familiar - TIGER BEETLES!

Quick! catch them! She told her mother. "WHAT?"
her mother exclaimed wondering whether there was some horrible animal coming after them. "Tigers!" yelled my friend. "What do you mean, TIGERS? I don't see any tigers!" her mother yelled back. "Down there on the ground next to the water!" "Those beetles????" as one jump past her. 'Woooooosh!' "How are we gonna catch these bugs??? They are too fast!" her mother said. "Like this!" and my friend jumped on a mating pair.

She showed the struggling beetles to her mother by carefully holding them in her fingers.

"Aren't they beautiful!" she said. "Yes, But now what are you going to do?" her mother asked. "Catch more for Terry!"

So, my friend and her mother caught about 18 tigers and then my friend brought them back for me - alive, well most of them. I put them in an aquaria and fed them flies, big and small, spiders and earwigs. Then I had an ant attack and many of the tigers died. Finally the last of the Ohio tigers passed, but they left a number os suspicious holes in the sand - larvae.

I raised fruit flies in my kitchen... this is not really recommended.... by letting a banana get over ripe near the tank. Then I put the spoonful of red wine in a spoon next to the larvae, but not too close.

Anyway, after over a year, and more ant attacks, I thought all I had was one larvae left. I didn't see the hole anymore.... and I was worried. I decided to dump the sand and see if there were any wiggling... and instead I found something white with black legs.. and it was alive!

I put it in the sun and the outer coating of the tiger started to harden so it could walk.

Isn't it pretty?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Bubbles, giant massive bubbles...

I saw this YouTube and I think it needs to go viral....

Saturday, October 13, 2007

You work real hard and then, ppllltttzzzz!!!

I enjoyed doing this mural for a friend. She and her husband bought a place in Santa Paula, California and with their own two hands and backs they created a wonderful little coffee shop. Ros asked me to create a painting that would capture the feeling of the surrounding mountains, and orchards. We thought a California Impressionist painting would be that might have been a label on some long ago box of freshly picked oranges.....

The Santa Paula Coffee Company still lives but Ros and her husband have sold the business. I wish them well. I don't know if the new owners have the painting, because I told Ros if she and husband want to start another one - "...just take the painting with you and I will put on another name....."

So thennnn......

Another time, and another super long day... no, a week of counting snails and other anal retentive type things. The mudflat had been inundated with water and it had been standing for weeks. The algal growth was ferocious and the mold was spectacular. I have to tell you I did not have to boost the saturation very much in this shot. These algae, cyanobacteria, diatoms, and fungus are really really cool!!!

Our fearless leader was a good sport and I posed her in this shot. The sky was created in a program called 'Bryce' generally used for 3D movies (simple ones) and single images, too. We thought of doing wedding shots in the mud... but that didn't turn out. Maybe one day I will..... this image is still hanging in the UCLA wetlands office.

Long time, no see...

I have not visited in a long time. I felt too guilty to visit. You, Blog, were just there waiting so patiently, I, feeling so guilty, I just let you sit and wait. But I am back.

Well, I have been looking after my mom, my cat, my chicken, and my tortoises. Sometimes, it just gets to be too much. I take my mom to her appointments - mostly to the dentist and the doctor and then to the pharmacy. Then, I inject fluids just under my cat's skin because his kidneys are letting too much fluid out. We sit in a chair while the fluids drip under his loose skin between his shoulder blades. It doesn't bother him too much and he gets to be rubbed and petted. Then, I force feed my chicken because she is old and thin.... I don't do that often because I find that when I offer her food on a chicken sized table she can see to eat. Yes, I have a mostly blind chicken. The tortoises just need looking after because they wander about wondering.... Very much like Alzheimer Reptiles. Oh, I forgot. I have a mostly blind finch that feels his way to his water dish and seed dish through a maze of his poop piles. OH! You think I am kidding? When I take them down he has a hard time finding his way around... until the piles "re-grow" at the floor, deposited from his perches.... If not for my mother I could call my household a geriatric zoo....

For myself - I have been writing, painting, taking pictures and going to meetings. While I was off-loading files from one computer to the next, I found some old goofy images. While working at Mugu counting endless patches of plants and snails, I would explode and do silly things. Most people, I suppose do, but maybe not...

Here is the first one in 2002, summer.... Oh!!! it was a super long day. I was tired inside and out of having to measure the height of, literally, acres of plants that only grew just below my knees.... and then... I thought, 'That stuff looks so nice and fluffy.... and soft .... and..." and in about two minutes I gave one friend my camera and then I threw myself into the Salicornia and making a mud angel.... "SHOOT ME NOW!!!" I cried! I am a bad influence because an undergraduate working with us had to do the same. Shame shame...

Friday, July 06, 2007


Originally uploaded by tardigrade
My brain has wrapped around how the physical body of an organism adapts to its environment. I can imagine how it might be programmed to eat and do things within that environment... But, what truly astonishes me is the part where an organism just knows how to do the most impossible things. For humans, myths and legends and stories that are handed down through the generations in hunter gatherer communities, is thought to be the way we 'remember' how to feed, cloth, and live with other humans. But, to have that all on board without communication from the parents.... There are finches - like zebra finches - that learn how to sing (the males) from their fathers. But, even that is amazing.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Fire in Los Angeles County

This is very early for fire.

Sicko pyromaniacs have hit us hard early, too, this year in Hollywood.

The smoke and ash are bad for young and old lungs. Add smoke and ash to our climbing smog and ozone concentrations from increased volume of cars on the road, and we have lethal atmospheric conditions.

Plant stomas can be blocked by ash and soot, cutting off the CO2 going in and O2 going out.

Ash and soot can be in small enough particles that can go deep into human lungs. These particles, PM10 (measurement of particle size) and below, go deep into our air sacks and we cannot be expel them by coughing... which causes irritation we cannot feel... which leads to inflammation, which causes blood vessels to break adding more damage, and more inflammation.... which leads to scarring and, can ultimately cause cancer. Also, the particles can be small enough (PM 2.5 ) to pass through the lung tissue cell walls and go right into the blood stream, perhaps causing clots which can impact more lung tissue and the heart.

I don't remember the radio stations, during this time, calling for people to saty indoors....

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Time to read

This Chicken is one of the sweetest birds I have ever known.She loves people and she feels she is one of the 'flock.' When new people come to visit, she will come to inspect things around on the ground and tell the new people in her flock all about all sorts of things. She has a sweet voice, mostly, with a particular upturn at the end of a phrase (yes, you can hear stops and starts in her sounds a like 'sentences') as if to ask questions. If you sit down she will walk about next to you.

My son has had chickens since he was small. Miss Chicken adores my son. He came over for dinner and found my Science News. The two of them read the article.

Red tailed hawk

Birds are nesting .... and so are the hawks. This image is one hawk from a pair flying circles over the city of Glendora.

If you follow the road (on the map...) up the mountain, and past a gated community, there are indications of farms and ranches that were owned by families from the 20s, 40s and 50s. In the early 50s the City of Glendora had only 3000 people. One particular family that bought land in the mountains owned a stone house next to a property owned by Charlie Chaplin. This family is unusual in that it is 5 generations Californian.

Apparently, from a story told to me by the son of the owner (generation four), his father used to say that Charlie Chaplin had 'orgies' next door.... probably just Hollywood parties... The stone house and Charlie's house are pretty close... about a quarter of a block away from each other. So, with enough music and conversations by those with thespian backgrounds, one could very well assume wild unfettered partying was going on.

This family who lived near Charlie, donated about 40 acres of their 400 to the San Gabriel Mountain Regional Conservancy and is planning to sell the Conservancy more using various funds from local cities. The family was divided about this. One part of the family, which made lots of money in the drilling oil in Southern California, wanted to sell the parcel off... While the other sector (headed by the matriarch whose one son is a doctor) wanted to give it to a non-profit group to preserve the open land.

As with many of these sorts of large and valuable parcels and family issues, it was hard to make the decision to preserve. All around the parcel, many other landowners have sold to builders who are grinding away at our common heritage with bulldozers. The 8 thousand square foots monsters set on little mountain peaks, built for people who need monuments to themselves, have to have water pumped up to them. In the end, the city and the state of California, which has few reserves of natural sources of water, will pay for the 'parties' or more appropriately, orgies that the builders are enjoying on our future dime.

The Conservancy had a day on the Ranch and got to listen to the matriarch of the family. One of her son's... perhaps the one not happy about the gift, flew his plane over our heads.

Other people representing conservancies from other parts of Southern California, came that day to rejoice in the gift to the future. They wanted to know how to preserve more and to protect lands from the building orgies and their lawyers who constantly push weak government bureaucrats. They wanted to meet successes to give them courage. In Southern California we are loosing not only sensitive ecosystems but farming land to houses. Soon, we will need to go abroad for most of our food. Hope that it won't be harmful and expensive..... what do you think????

When the property was a ranch, 50 years and more ago, the cattle ate the chaparral. The cattle have not been on the mountain for many many years but you can still see where their hooves scared the soil. There are trails that cut the surface of the mountains ... the trees are gone, only grass is dominant, and the medium sized brush is mostly gone. You can see the pattern in the soils - it looks like the wire mesh used for stucco on the outside of homes.....

Friday, March 30, 2007

It IS Spring....

The flowers are blooming on the fruit trees. Weeds are as high as my knees. Birds of all sorts, are tearing up my Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) for their nests which drape all the outside lights. Acorn Woodpeckers (Melanerpes formicivorus) were hitting my neighbor's Liquidamber styraciflua so loud it echoed inside my house. There were two males hopping around at top of the tree.... actually hopping on their tails.... over a single female which was flying around them. I guess one male looked cuter and flew off with the 'girl' which left this poor guy for me to take a quick picture of it in its confusion.

Then just inside the garden two male Xylocopa sp. or Carpenter bees were making a ruckus. The males have longish hair that is yellow-brown. They seem very mean and aggressive, but I caught this one to examine it up close - It hated that! They do not have a stinger and these two males were demonstrating their ability to find a good home for the shiny black female just up in the tree near-by. When I happened along this one male was petrolling his prime spot. A second male tried to take it but, the first one shooed the usurper away. This wonderful little guy kept his eyes on me as I took this shot. He knew I was trouble! I love his antenna.

Then I heard the sound of .... oh, I can't explain it.... I have a chicken and my neighbor came over to report that she heard my chicken coughing or having a hairball or something.... Then she noticed that my 50 pound tortoises were.... um.... She was shocked. I tell you ! Shocked!

But the best part of my spring day was at the market. This young lady was scurrying into the florist shop and said something about getting her stuff for her friend's babyshower.... OH, how she fussed! Two men from the market came out to help her. She was late and the florist was late and and and what was she to do!!!!!.... "Yes.... just bring your car around and we will put the balloons in your car...." The gal ran off and drove up in this small car.... or did she order too many balloons???? The guys had to stuff the balloons into the car while the lady was in the driver's seat and STILL she had to drive off with balloons coming out of her windows ..... Everyone stopped to look and laugh....

Spring brings out the silly in all of us...

One last shot.... This little shop has been here for ages. This was the first time my son saw it. He had my camera and thought it a hoot. Enjoy your spring.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


Funny story.... you know how it is. You hear one thing and then another and the next thing you know they all connect.... into one big cluster f**k. (an aside; I learned that term from an esteemed Caltech person who will be nameless.... Caltech folk have very interesting colloquialisms for describing horrific mistakes.)

I lived in Dayton, Ohio, the home of General Motors truck division and the birth place of two very interesting chemicals that will dog humanity until the day we disappear. In the city of Dayton there is a smaller community called Kettering named after the man who developed the starter motor for all motor vehicles today. The starter motor was key to selling all those cars we have on the road today. Before his nifty devise, you had to have some strong person crank over the engine to start it. Lots of people hurt themselves badly. Mostly rich people, with expendable help, had cars.

Kettering, and a number of other people, felt that oil was not going to be the way of the future of automobiles. He and many others felt that ethanol was going to be it and that the US could produce enough for our automobiles and be independent of foreign oil. Does this sound familiar?

Charles Kettering hired Thomas Midgley, a chemist, to devise a way to stop the 'knock' in our cars engines. Midgley created tetra-ethyl-lead (TEL), an additive to gasoline, which aerosoled lead from millions of tailpipes into the air, water, and soils. This period, geologically speaking, is like a fraction of a second in time,... yet... our children's children's children will be 'less' for it. Lead deforms and disfigures and causes mental retardation and destruction of brain functions. Lead doesn't just do its work on humans. Along the main road from the airport to Johannesburg, South Africa, I found ornamental trees filled with butterflies that could not complete their pupation cycle and emerged deformed. Hundreds and hundreds of dead butterflies at the base of the trees year after year should alert people to stop using this poison, you would think..... But then... many people died in the labs of Dupont/GM/Standard Oil creating tetra-ethyl-lead and many sickened including, Thomas Midgley.

Midgley also developed a 'safe' refrigerant which today, like TEL, is banned by many countries. It allowed for people to have refrigeration in their homes and air conditioning.

What is interesting is that these two chemicals allowed everyone and anyone to own cars and to enjoy air conditioning and have refrigeration. There is no doubt that the devices gave us some short moment in our human history of comfort and fun .... But because of their popularity - you can do a one-to-one association with numbers of humans to numbers of devices - the damage done to our only home, earth, is incalculable.

But what really happened? For generations it has been understood that lead was the poison that destroyed Ancient Rome - not Christianity (sorry, I had to study these roots myself in Catholic school). So, why did we think it was 'okay' to use the stuff? How about the connection between Standard Oil, Dupont (which took over GM) and dropping ethanol for the US fleet ....ethanol did not knock - gasoline did.... Then the next question that bugs people who wanted the electric car for economic and ecological reasons.... Why did GM drop the EV1 and pay off a member of the Californian Air Resource Board and buy up the patents for the really good car battery that could be used for electric cars????..... Let me see.... Oil companies on the boards of GM that made the EV1..... hmmmmmmmmm??????

But I still don't get it why these dudes think that they will be unaffected by their own actions? Do they have some sort of ticket to another world? One without global warming? What???? The super rich during the European Plagues were NOT immune from getting sick. They did try to avoid it by building their castles far away from the great unwashed (oh, right, they, too didn't like to bathe...). Only those who had a particular genetic predisposition to avoid dying of the infection from the black plague were safe ... which to this day, protects their descendants from AIDS (don't go around hoping you are a descendant).... Perhaps, it is thought by the super rich that patting and rubbing and wallowing in lots of greenbacks will protect against the verisimilitudes of bad actions.

When I lived in Dayton there was a big celebration for the birth of Midgley. I was commissioned to paint a mural of a CFC molecule. I was allowed a lot of creative freedom - hence the swirls and such. I asked about the celebration, and what was said was ... CFCs saved a lot of lives because ammonia was the refrigerant of the large ice factories. People used the chunks of ice in their homes to cool and partially preserve their food. The concentration of ammonia in the factories was toxic when it leaked and it was explosive. There was good with the bad...I was on the cover of the Dayton Daily News with this mural......

Friday, March 02, 2007

2005 to 2007, San Gabriel Mountains

My grandmother would say, " should always have a reference point from which to compare...." and so to understand my last post, I have to go back to my photos of the San Gabriel Mountains from a couple of years, at least. Is my reaction to the condition of the SG River valley from February 24, 2007 just because I have not visited the area for a while... or is there something very different seasonally and perhaps 'globally'? The top picture was shot February 2005.

Look at February 24, 2007... this is not of the same angle of the valley and the reservoir as in the upper shot, but if you could look to the left up into the upper tributary of the River... this what you would see..... today....

Late November to March is our rainy season (give or take a month) so in February the rains should have stimulated growth of not only the weedy grasses but also the oaks and the Laurel Sumac (Malosma laurina).

The picture on the left was shot after the 100 year storm in March of 2005. The reservoir was being drained. The mountain face with the most green vegetation on the right, was taken at the higher elevation approximately a mile or so from the area seen on the left.

In April of 2006, the valley was still green with some patches of dry. The picture on the left is at a higher elevation (above 2500 feet above sea level). The picture on the right is just above the dam (seen in the upper image)and around the thousand foot level.

The larger picture below was shot in December of 2005. This is looking north past the valley. I hiked with a friend on the 26th to enjoy the cool air of winter. The toyon trees (Heteromeles arbutifolia) were covered in red berries and lots of birds were enjoying the feast.

Now, the question is, is the valley being impacted by something that is drying out the vegetation faster then in other areas? I have been driving the last few days around through in the passes and I find some spotty drying, but not the wholesale valley as seen in the surroundings of the San Gabriel River.

I called this picture '80% dead'.... I am not sure if it is.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Record dry year - so far....

I have been pining for the mountains. I have been to busy to visit. The bug study, for me, is over but there are a few this and thats to do. I had to see what the few rains had done - if anything - to encourage weedy grasses and such.

As I drove up Highway 38 I noticed that the face of the hillside where the new community was built a few years ago in the mouth of the San Gabriel River as it leaves the foothills, was particularly dry looking. The soils around the vegetation was obviously exposed and light colored (dry), but the brush was brown. I stopped to shoot this image just as the local police were coming down the hill. The highway to the top veers to the right.

As I drove up the mountain, the slant of the faces were brown - I did not see much green from the Laural Sumac which dots the landscape. All around me, the valley looked dead.

The lower part of the San Gabriel Dam had water, but above, there were only tiny streams.

A section of the running water had red algae and the deeper section had green. The Forest Service and County people suspended a red tape so that the Off Road Vehicles would not run through our drinking water.

I just could not get over how bad the valley looked. How much of the vegetation was dead and how deep did the plants die? If we don't get more rain this could be the worst fire season ever. And, even if we do get enough rain to bring these plants back from the brink, there is something else needs addressing. Slides.

Roads into forests bring people with their weedy non-native grasses and other invasive plants, hitchhiking on shoes, tires, clothes, dogs, and hair. Roads also bite into the basic fragile structure of mountains and hillsides. It is normal for areas around roads to look different then areas without roads. This spot shows that the construction of the road plus the erosion and weeds, have created a situation where the integrity of the slope is becoming weak and, in a sense, is becoming fluid. This section of the slope near the road even looks like it is pouring and ready to slump onto the road below.

This area is were a hill slide occurred last year and the year before. There is nothing to prevent further erosion. Plants that could prevent further slumping do not have the time to grow and set roots. This area will continue to degrade until the flat stabilizes as a deep furrow... However, that may undermine the road and other hill side structures.

And... there is something else going on here.... The rains that did come may have caused more slumping and slides. The weather has been so dry for so long that plant roots are shallow. The dirt below the plants are bone dry and very friable. When the rains come, the soils at the surface become wet and heavier then the soil below, and the loose dry dirt act as ball-bearings carrying the plants and the hillside with them.

This slide is brand new. It was not there this last summer. You can see the dead sumac rinding down the slope on their shallow rooted toboggans.

Just as I turned around to go back, I noticed that there was the beginning of a new slide. The dust was rising and little cones of piled dirt had just formed. Sometime, soon this section will have a great bite out of the face of the mountain.

The mountains look sick. The vegetation seems not to be doing well. We need to do better.