Ice Follies: The South Georgia Freeze

My mailbox, covered in ice from the ice stormWell, thanks to yesterday’s meteorological mayhem–very low temperatures, precipitation coating weak pine limbs and ice! ice! ice!–I didn’t get to post.

I live in Statesboro, Georgia, a location that rarely gets snow or ice. I’m thankful for that. Although my city isn’t experiencing weather-related upheavals like other, far colder places around the country, what my city did endure on Monday was rather unpleasant. Pine trees laden with ice began sloughing off their weakest branches. Amid cracking sounds that were similar to gunfire noise, limbs fell from tall trees damaging house. Our house lost a window to one of the plummeting pine bombs and our wood fence was smashed in a couple of places.

All in all, though, it was remarkably tolerable.

Sure, I’ll be cleaning up pine limbs for weeks; however, doing that beats dealing with week-long power outages, months of shoveling snow, and permafrost.

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Soaring Back from Certain Death: the Cahow

Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés

Oviedo

In 1515, not too far from Bermuda, aboard a sea-going vessel bound for San Domingo, an anxious 37 year old fellow paced up and down the deck. Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo y Valdés wanted very much to make landfall. The nearby island fascinated Oviedo. Before 1505, no one in Europe had even known of its existence. The isle was so close. Yet, Oviedo’s ship was held at bay by less than accommodating winds. To pass the the time constructively, he observed a peculiar species of bird that was adept at feasting upon flying fishes.

The avian object that pleasantly distracted Oviedo’s is now known as the cahow (Pterodroma cahow or Bermuda petrel). In the year Oviedo observed the species, the birds most likely probably numbered well over a million. Though fun to watch, the birds were a source of an eerie nocturnal cries that spooked early Spanish seafarers. Owing to superstition–the sailors thought the isles were inhabited by devils–the Spanish steadfastly refused to colonize the islands. This turn of events bought the cahow a little time.

The respite was very brief.

The English had no problem settling down in the area. What followed was bad news for cahows. The birds and their eggs were easy prey for British inhabitants and the invasive dogs, cats, and rats that were brought over with settlers. So many birds were lost to predation that, by 1615, they were thought to be completely extinct.

But then, something remarkable happened. young cahow

In 1945 a full-grown cahow washed up on the beach at Cooper’s Island, Bermuda. The event prompted a noted ornithologist named Dr. Robert Cushman Murphy of the American Museum of Natural History to mount and lead an expedition to search for evidence of the bird’s existence. Being an amiable fellow, Murphy invited a thoughtful, adventure-seeking boy to come along. On January 8, 1951, that 15 year old boy helped Cushman re-discover the bird. The event was so moving to young David Wingate that he dedicated his life to bringing the cahow back from the edge of destruction.

Image of David Wingate as a young man

David Wingate

The story is related in Lucinda Spurling’s moving 2006 documentary Rare Bird. The exciting documentary tells how a species of bird and a determine boy teach the world about the power of perseverance. Despite invasive species, the poisonous pesticide DDT, and unbridled development and the looming threat of climate change, the cahow and its champion refuse to give up.

Related resources:

  • Official site for the Rare Bird documentary
  • Audubon works to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity.
  • ARKive has an amazing collection of organisms from all over the earth, including the cahow

A Little Older, A Little Boulder: Celebrate Old Rock Day

Today is Old Rock Day. It’s a perfect time to take a few moments and appreciate rocks. What the heck? Think some good thoughts for fossils as well! Just don’t get stoned.

Image of The Rock, aka Dwayne Johnson and the Rock Cycle

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Bonus:

Life Is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me) a ginchy 1974 song by a very talented group of studio musicians called Reunion (Joey Levine, Marc Bellack and Paul DiFranco ), isn’t really about anything sedimentary, igneous, or metamorphic but the tune is entertaining and quite catchy.

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This wonderful video comes to Preclectic via abmcw’s most excellent Youtube Channel.

A Thirst for Understanding: Waterfootprint.Org

Image of a footprintThis year I am trying to be more cognizant of my impact on the planet. I want the world to be a beautiful, clean, and sustainable place for my daughter’s generation and those who will follow. An important part of maintaining life on our world is drinkable water. It’s more scarce than many imagine. Don’t believe me? Step over to Waterfootprint.org and see for yourself.

Something Old, Something New

Three years ago I purchased an Asus Eee PC 900 series computer. Since that time, I’ve taken it with me on a lot of trips to conferences and meetings. My little companion often served as a secondary computer for note-taking and another means of web-browsing while my other computers were busy being used for digital video editing.

Although the Eee PC came loaded with a useful Linux-based operating system known as Xandros, I couldn’t keep myself from installing any number of other operating systems (both Windows and Linux) to see what my little netbook could and would do. I enjoy experimenting. I made bootable USBs and loaded operating systems such as Eeebuntu (the Aurora Project has links to old and new versions of this OS) , Puppy Linux, Xubuntu, as well as Hexxeh’s hugely popular ChromiumOS build, Flow, on the machine. Each time I did, I learned something new (like how and why to use Windows Image WriterUNetbootin, and other related resources).

After my numerous fits of tinkering, I began to understand that the Eee PC needed a restoration back to its original factory settings. Unfortunately, I misplaced the restore DVD that came with the machine.  Ugh! Thankfully, after visiting the eeeUser Forum and reading a number of posts (and learning about tips like the nifty F9 trick), I was able to get my machine back to its original settings. After getting everything back to its original state, I dropped by the Ubuntu site and downloaded the netbook version of the Ubuntu OS.

A Warm Welcome for a Cold Month

Welcome to 2011!

In January
it’s so nice
while slipping
on the sliding ice
to sip hot chicken soup
with rice
Maurice Sendak illustration of boy skating on ice and drinking a tilted bowl of chicken soup and rice
–Maurice Sendak
Chicken Soup with Rice (A Book of Months)
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