Earwigs in the Apples

On this bright, warm, autumn morning, our youngest grandson visited our Littleton Farm.  Searching for an activity that might entertain him, my wife suggested picking some of our green apples and making cinnamon apple sauce.

He, of course, enjoyed the collection process and sampled quite a few of the apples before they were processed.  Since we do not use pesticides on the farm, a good number showed signs of insect damage and earwigs emerged from a few of the cavities.  Represented by about 2000 species across the globe, these elongated, flattened insects are easily identified by the pincers at the end of their abdomen.  Females lay their eggs in protected crevices by mid autumn and, in some species, overwinter with them to offer protection; after hatching in late winter, the juveniles undergo at least four molts before they mature to adults.  Throughout these stages, they feed on a wide variety of plant and animal matter, including flowers, vegetation, fruit, other insects and carri…

Autumn Chill in the Valley

While the afternoons are still summer-like along the Colorado Front Range, the mornings now bring an autumn chill due to the longer nights.  Down on the South Platte River just after dawn, that chill was especially intense and, in response, the wild residents were noisy and active.

Canada geese, mallards, magpies and cedar waxwings were especially conspicuous and migrant ducks were beginning to arrive from the north; this morning's visitors included blue-winged teal, American wigeon and gadwalls.  A few summer residents still remain and a lone snowy egret, huddled on driftwood in the shallows, seemed to be contemplating his escape to warmer climes.  Normally nocturnal, a beaver was active in the post-dawn chill, inspecting his dam before winter arrives.

We humans, like the wildlife, are also invigorated by the chilly air and the riverside path was filled with walkers, bikers and joggers.  After all, the fall equinox arrives this weekend (September 22) and the glorious month of Oc…

Flooding and Federal Policy

As we witness the tragic flooding from Hurricane Florence along the Southeast Coast, we are reminded of the devastation in Houston caused by Hurricane Harvey and the repeated spring flooding along some American Rivers (the Red River of the Northern Plains comes immediately to mind).

Having decided that flood insurance is a money losing proposition, private insurance companies have backed away from such coverage, donating that option to the Federal Government.  As is often the case, the U.S. Government accepted the challenge and is now billions of dollars in the red (even before the devastation caused by Hurricane Florence).

One wonders whether Federal dollars would be better spent buying up properties on floodplains and barrier islands and assisting with local engineering efforts rather than encouraging insurance holders to rebuild in those flood-prone areas.  After all, global warming is threatening coastal communities as sea levels rise and will likely intensify the power of tropic…

Love Songs

We often speak of "Love Songs" as one category of music.  But when you think about it, almost all pop, rock and country songs could be categorized as such; even the great majority of instrumental music (including jazz and classical) has been inspired by that emotion.  Exceptions seem to be limited to secular holiday tunes and commercial jingles.

Most of our popular music is devoted to the joy of love, the pursuit of love, the complications of love or the loss of love.  That love may involve another person, a pet, a place (including nature), an activity or a mystical being, among less common subjects.

It is no wonder that the most complex and intense human emotion has spawned so much creativity.  After all, nothing is more important in our lives.

Florence lashes the Southeast Coast

Florence, now downgraded to a Category 2 Hurricane, has grown into a broad storm with hurricane or tropical storm force winds stretching across 400 miles.  The outer bands have come ashore in eastern North Carolina this morning, igniting tornadic thunderstorms and producing heavy, wind-swept rain.

Due to "blocking highs" to its north and northwest, Hurricane Florence is expected to stall near the Coast and then drift southwestward along the southeastern coast of North Carolina and the northeastern coast of South Carolina, perhaps as far south as Charleston.  North of the storm's eyewall, which currently has sustained winds of 105 mph, onshore winds will produce a storm surge of 10 feet or more, as well as inland flooding from up to 2 feet or more of rain.

Due to its slow forward motion (toward the coast and then down the coast), the high winds, storm surge and heavy rain will persist for a long period of time (perhaps 48 hours), increasing the risk of flooding and damag…

Treating Dementia

This afternoon, I attended a conference on the diagnosis and treatment of dementia.  Several crucial points were made, including the importance of an accurate diagnosis (only 65% of cases are actually due to Alzheimer's Disease).  Furthermore, a variety of treatable conditions may cause dementia-like symptoms (alcohol abuse, depression, certain vitamin deficiencies, sleep disorders, toxins, hypothyroidism and hyperparathyroidism, among others) and, for these, curative measures are available.

Advances in genomics and biomarker technology may assist with early diagnosis, and a healthy life style (a Mediterranean diet, regular aerobic exercise and tobacco avoidance) may diminish the incidence and progression of Alzheimer's Disease.  While certain medications may modify the severity and course of dementia, curative treatments are not available at this point (though ongoing research studies offer hope).

What was not discussed at this conference (and a subject generally avoided by …

Late Summer Heat Wave

Following two weeks of relatively mild temperatures and intermittent rain, the next (and hopefully last) heat wave is building along the Colorado Front Range.  Once again, it is the product of a high pressure ridge, expanding northward from the Desert Southwest.  For the next week or so, afternoon highs are expected to reach the lower to mid 90s F, well above average for September.

Fortunately, the recent rains have revived the vegetation and the longer nights, combined with our high elevation and thin, dry air, have allowed overnight temperatures to drop into the fifties.  In addition, rising hot air often ignites thunderstorms above the Front Range peaks, which then drift eastward to provide spotty relief from the heat.

Our risk of these heat waves will continue until the jet stream becomes less stable in mid autumn, undulating across the country and dislodging warm atmospheric ridges with cool atmospheric troughs.  Snow usually dusts the higher peaks by late September and upslope …

Fall without Football

Watching college football is among my earliest memories, gathered around the black and white with my father and uncles, enjoying both the snacks and their beer-fueled banter.  Throughout high school and college, that pattern continued as I joined friends on Saturday afternoons to watch the games and indulge in our favorite beverages.

My wife and I have also honored that tradition over the years, enjoying the pageantry and the legendary announcers (Jackson, Lundquist et al.) as much as the games themselves; however, other than her devotion to the Wisconsin Badgers, we have not been avid fans of any given teams.  Long disturbed by serious injuries suffered in the name of school pride and big money, we have lost our enthusiasm for college football as the evidence of sports-related CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) has become impossible to ignore.

Despite the enjoyment that college football has provided over the years, we can no longer lend our support by attending games or watching…

The Delusion of Simplicity

Nothing of consequence in life is simple.  Surely, no one would argue that love or personal relationships are uncomplicated.  And who would suggest that parenting is simple or that their career has been devoid of complications?  To imply that there are simple solutions to our social ills or to the threats that we impose on natural ecosystems is exceedingly naive.

Indeed, life itself is highly complex, having evolved into a vast array of species over the past 3.6 billion years.  Despite our technologic advancements, we still do not fully understand the countless biochemical processes that support life and are far from eliminating the many diseases that threaten its existence.

Those who offer simple solutions to the problems that confront individuals, human society or our environment are delusional, seemingly unaware that all interventions have potential side effects and unforeseen consequences; most of these individuals are poorly educated and prone toward mysticism.  Our Universe, ou…

The Published Word

Published writing, whether in the form of literature, a news article, an essay, a blog post or an email, must be owned by the author.  After all, it will be a permanent record of that person's ideas, experience, convictions and philosophy.

Those in the business of writing (authors, journalists, bloggers, etc.) come to understand this fact and personally read and re-read their material before it is published.  Subsequent to that publication, their writing (and its implications regarding the author) will often be questioned or criticized and may become fodder for lawsuits or various forms of social persecution.  In that respect, the willingness to produce published content (whether fictional or not) requires a certain degree of courage.

Unfortunately, those who publish via email, text or tweet, do not often understand the permanence and potential consequences of their comments.  Then there are those who publish anonymously, refusing to accept personal responsibility for the content…