Monday, March 30, 2009

Visitors That Would Not Leave

A pair of Carolina Wrens (a unique, but not rare species this far north) appeared at the feeder in November, and have hung around ever since.

They appeared appreciative of the seeds in this past weekend's slight covering of snow, and we have appreciated their presence over this long snowy winter.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

What Matters

I am currently reading a book by David Elliot Cohen called What Matters. In it some of the world's preeminent thinkers depict essential issues of our time. All pictures and facts are from this book.

The first chapter is called Meltdown. In this visual age that we live in it is not surprising that we went 15 years knowing about global warming and doing nothing, because we had no pictures. Now the pictures have started to come, and they will not cease.

Some facts:
  1. Americans make up 4% of the population, but produce 25% of the carbon dioxide. China's emissions have caught us, but there are four times as many people there. We have been doing it for a hundred years. This one's on us.
  2. A stack of 40 billion one-dollar bills is 10,856 miles high. That is how much profit ExxonMobil made in 2006. It takes but a small fraction of that haul to buy the political juice that keeps Congress from acting responsibly.
  3. Our greatest climatologist, James Hansen, has given us eight more years to reverse the flow of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, or else soar past the red lines that guard the great ice shelves. There is 25 feet of sea level rise in the ice above Greenland alone. Can we change that fast? It is not clear we can.
  4. The next few years are a kind of final exam for the human species. Does that big brain really work or not? It gives us the power to build coal-fired power plants and SUV's, and thereby destabilize the working of the earth. But does it give us the power to back away from those sources of power, to build a world that isn't bent on destruction?
  5. At some level, the answer depends on our imaginations. We can and will dream up new technologies. Lets just hope it is in time.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

First in the Neighborhood

Our daffodils burst into color before anyone else this year.

We are planting seeds today (in the flower pots).

Friday, March 27, 2009

A Wilderness Win

Wilderness bill Clears the House shouts the headline of the New York Times. For once a headline that generates good feelings and hope instead of dire predictions and gloom. Our letter hopefully played a part in its passage.

The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to grant wilderness status to two million acres of public land in nine states from California to West Virginia, the largest expansion of protected national wild lands in 15 years.

The Omnibus Public Land Management Act, which has already been passed by the Senate and is expected to be signed by President Obama, was approved in the House by a 285-to-140 vote.

“It gives higher protection to environmentally sensitive, outright beautiful lands that deserve protection,” Ms. Bono Mack said. She was one of 38 Republicans voting in favor.

The bill, an amalgam of more than 160 proposals, expands the nation’s protected wilderness areas, which receive the highest level of protection from development, vehicles and commercial activities like logging and drilling, to 109 million acres.

Among the lands winning protection:

470,00 acres in the San Gabriel Mountains in California.

517,000 acres in the Canyonlands

11,799 acres of Lake Superior shoreline

1.2 million acres of the Wyoming range are shielded from oil and gas drilling

It also protects more than 1,000 miles of scenic rivers and streams from commercial development and creates new conservation areas and national parks.

It is the largest amount of acreage added to the wilderness system since 1994. Sometimes the good guys win.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sweet 16 Times 2

It was wonderful having the Spartan men's team advance to the Sweet 16, but as a #2 seed, not a great shocker, but the Spartan women's team and their upset of Duke was one for the memory books. Being there in person to catch the atmosphere and emotion cannot be beat! Thanks Gary and Tom.

Izzo and the boys will play Kansas Friday night in Indianapolis, while Suzy and the girls take on Iowa State on Saturday out in California. It was just the third time ever that a #9 seed has beaten a #1.

Some quotes: Suzy said:
"Obviously there was a little bit of a game-plan clearly, but the bottom line is the players. ... For us to have 14 turnovers is borderline a miracle against anybody. And for us to do it against Duke is pretty spectacular."

Star of the game Mia Johnson said:
"When we come to play, anything can happen and that is what we were all banking on," Johnson said. "Last night, we got together as a team and we talked about what we wanted to accomplish today. With the grace of God, we are here and executed "

"We're feisty," Johnson said. "We weren't going to back down."

"It was never about playing coach P. She was a great coach and did a lot of great things here," junior Aisha Jefferson said. "It was all about us today. ... We all came out and played with heart and played harder than them. We knew we would be the better team tonight."

I have had season tickets to this team's games for three years now, and have grown to really care about them, though admittedly at times some of their games have been painful to watch. Last night's jublilant success story is one I will long remember. They reached down inside themselves for something extra, found it, and made history.

Good luck in California!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Becoming McLane Stadium

Michigan State's baseball field, known as John F. Kobs Field, is in a great location, along the Red Cedar River, but it has been in need of some updating for a long time.

In June of last year, Drayton McLane, a 1959 graduate, successful business man, and current owner of the Houston Astros baseball team, gave $4.5 million to bring the field up to date. He had only two conditions: that the new stadium would be ready for this season, and that it would be something he would be proud of. It looks like both are being met, with the first game scheduled for April 3rd in the Big Ten opener vs. Northwestern, and the stadium looking truly impressive.

We took a look this weekend, and here is what we saw.

Looking at the stadium from across the river.
It just looks incredible right now, too. I can't wait to see how it looks when it's finished," said senior pitcher Nolan Moody of East Lansing. "It's such an improvement over what we had. The facilities have gotten so much better every year."

When complete, McLane Stadium will feature 400 chair-backed seats, the number needed to host an NCAA regional, along with 2,100 bleacher seats.

MSU is hoping that the Old College Field project - coupled next to Kobs Field alongside the indoor hitting and pitching facility - will give the Spartans an edge in recruiting."

"Things are moving quick," new MSU coach Jake Boss said. "This is a top-of-the-line facility"

I plan to spend many hours here, and this is where I plan to introduce the fun of baseball to my grandson.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

"A Gloomy Assessment"

One of the joys of our morning walk this time of year is the wonderful collection of songbird calls that are almost continuous. It always encourages me to learn which song comes from which species of bird.

There fore it was upsetting a few minutes later to pick up the paper and see this headline: Nearly a Third of Bird species In US Are Found Declining. The New York Times article stated that nearly a third of the nation's 800 bird species were endangered, threatened, or in serious decline, most due to habitat destruction, pollution, urban sprawl, and "a barrage of exotic forest pests and disease."

But there was also an upbeat side to the news conference. The study found that herons, egrets, ducks and other birds that benefit from wetlands conservation were rebounding. Findings like this “show us that conservation can really work,” Mr. Salazar said.
The report urged ordinary people to assist conservation by:
  • drinking shade-grown coffee
  • donating unused binoculars for distribution to biologists in the tropic
  • keeping pet cats indoors
  • landscaping with native plants
Education is urgently needed to make the public aware of the toll of pet cats,” Darin Schroeder of the American Bird Conservancy said at the news conference.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Signs of Spring

The robin is overrated as a sign of spring. Today on my run I saw or heard the two true indicators: a red winged blackbird and a spring peeper.

Then in our front yard the garden is coming alive.The crocus gives us our first color.

The shooting stars are coming as are the daffodils.

Maintaining the Retaining Wall

Time and the elements collapsed our retaining wall around the Burr Oak in our side yard. I wish I had a picture of it before we removed all the stones.

We had a beautiful day with sunshine and 70 degrees. Another project completed!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Upside Down Tree

Recently at the library I picked up the book Remarkable Trees of the World by Thomas Parkenham, and have been enjoying it. My favorite so far is the Baobab.

Some baobab fun facts:
  • You can find baobabs in 20 African countries south of the Sahara.
  • Nobody knows, within 1000 years, how old the more ancient specimens are because the old trees are hollow, and the the surviving tree rings too faint to count.
  • It apparently can suddenly disappear when it succumbs to spontaneous combustion.
  • Among many African peoples the tree is believed to be the home of their ancestral spirits.
  • It appears that the tree has its roots sticking up like branches, hence the nickname:upside down tree.
  • The leaves are shaped like the human hand, therefore the species name: digitata.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Tadpole - Lincoln's Youngest

I have recently been reading some books on Abraham Lincoln's family, most notably The Lincolns, A Portrait of a Marriage by Daniel Epstein, and The last Lincolns by Charles Lachman. I have become fascinated by their time in the White House.

Thomas Lincoln was born in 1853, and Abe described his extremely large head as resembling a tadpole, and the name stuck. During the time his father lived Tad was impulsive, unrestrained, and did not attend school. Growing up, Tad had an appealing boyish face with dark hair like his dad's. His eyes were dark. Tad was quick in his movements and talked rapidly. He was imaginative, sensitive, exasperating, loving, and highly emotional. Tad's behavior and manners were often unpredictable and sometimes difficult to deal with.

In the White House, Tad sprayed dignitaries with the fire hose, broke mirrors, locked doors, interrupted Cabinet meetings, constructed wagons and sleds out of chairs, set up a food shop in the lobby, rang the call bells, and drilled the servants (as if they were soldiers). Abraham generally laughed at his sons' tricks, and any kind of discipline was generally lacking.

After his father's assassination Tad spent his teenage years traveling in Europe with his mother. During their voyage home in 1871 Tad became ill and passed away at age 18. The cause of death is generally attributed to pleurisy caused by tuberculosis.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Simple Pleasure Everyday

I am fearful for the future of the print editions of newspapers. On our thrice weekly morning visits to coffee shops we seen to be the only one actually reading a newspaper. Everyone else is plugged into a laptop. They may be at a newspaper website, but it is not the same thing.

I love my morning time with the New York Times, which has become the "nation's newspaper." First it is a glance at the headlines and index, while outdoors with the dog, to get an idea of what's ahead. Then someplace warm and comfy, preferably with coffee, and then it is the international section (often this takes the longest), followed by the national section, and the obits. (sometimes the most interesting items in the paper), a short spin through the business section (lately pretty depressing), and a look at the sports, and arts. Each day brings its own special stand alone section. My favorites are Sports on Monday, Science on Tuesday, Circuits (technology), on Thursday, and Escapes on Friday.

I know the future looks bleak for print editions, and I know it takes trees, but I am hopeful I can avoid the day when the morning paper is not there waiting for me when I get up.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Meeting and Exceeding Expectations

It is time to honor and sit back in awe of what the Michigan State men's basketball team accomplished this season.

We were at Breslin at Midnight (very out of character for us) last October when the team was introduced, and the hopes were high. We were at the Green/White game after an exciting football victory, and got to know the team during the early season wins. It was a fun season with a lot more highs than lows. The comeback victory over Wisconsin in front of Magic Johnson and the returning 1979 National Championship team was my personal highlight.

The honors are rolling in:

Player of the Year-Kalin Lucas, Coach of the Year-Tom Izzo

Defensive Player of the Year-Travis Walton

And the talented freshman: Delvon Roe, Korrie Lucious, and Draymond Green

Good luck to the team in the upcoming tournaments