In 2017, there was an interesting story published about the “windshield phenomenon”. Motorist were noting that, despite long summertime traveling vacations, they weren’t having to stop to clean their windshields as often. When I thought about it, I remembered having to clean not only my windshield, but the grill of my car and my headlights too. Yuck.
I could call this phenomenon the Canary in the coal mine but I’ll save that idiom for later.
The declining bug population has been recognized and studied for some time. In 2004, a ‘splatometer’ was applied to the front of cars to measure the bug population. One splat was recorded for roughly every 5 miles. This study has not been replicated so I’m afraid I can’t tell you the current splat ratio. Any splat testers out there?
Why in the world would you care about the decline in the bug population?
Less mosquitoes? That’s ok with me.
Less flies? Won’t miss them either.
Less bees? Wait a minute. I like bees.
And you should too. Insects are facing the most massive extinction of species since the dinosaurs...and it could have an impact on our food chain. Bees are the pollinators for 75% of our crops and much of the food we eat depends on bees. So what’s happening to the bees? (I should point out that I’m talking about bumble bees, not honey bees. If you’re interested, you can see the difference here.)
The short answer is : Us
Let me explain. Diseases and parasites are killing the bees. A parasitic mite, the Varroa destructor, is hurting the bee population in the US. While it sounds like the name of a video game villain, you can see the real parasite here. The Nosema Ceranae , this one a fungus, is hurting the European population.
Infections aren’t our fault, right?
Actually, experts believe that toxic chemicals are affecting the bee’s ability to resist these diseases and parasites.
Toxic chemicals like insecticides. Even at sublethal doses, like those found when the plant absorbs the chemicals, insecticides affect the navigation system and learning behaviors of insects that feed on the plants. Did you know that pollen, the main form of protein for a bee, has an average of 7 pesticides in it?
Lastly, climate change is causing increased temperature extremes and changing rainfall patterns and that’s having effects on every species of insects and animals. That’s our fault too.
Back to that Canary in the coal mine reference.
We’re not the only species at risk.
Hans de Kroon, a German scientist, noted that a specific bird population is at risk due to the declining insect population. But how did they prove it?
They compared museum specimens of Whip-poor-wills from many years ago to birds living now and discovered a difference in the chemical make up of their claws and feathers. Based on their research, living birds are not eating the same bug content and it’s having an impact.
The Whip-poor-wills won’t be the only bird affected. The same problem is likely to affect other insect eaters like nighthawks, swifts and swallows. Beautiful, graceful birds.
What can anyone do?
If you live in a home, add plants to your landscape that are friendly to bees. Plants like:
Lavender, sunflower Heather, Sage, Asters, Rosemary, Oregano and mint. You might want to also add plants that repel mosquitoes. Plants like: Lavender, basil, lemon balm, marigolds and lemon grass (Did you know that the oils from the the lemon grass plant are used to make citronella?)
Stop using insecticides and buy more organic foods.
If the idea of saving bees doesn’t motivate you…
What about fireflies?
After all, they’re half-magic and we all need a bit of enchantment in our lives.
Our lives are ruled by clocks. I wake to an alarm clock, wander into the kitchen with my cell phone clutched in my sluggish hand, and pour tea in a room surrounded with digital time keepers. On the microwave, oven and coffeemaker are more time keepers. My laptop has the time and date on the right upper corner. My car has not one, but two clocks. One digital and the other a round clock below the radio. I usually forget about that one. A clock greets me at the office. And then…
My electronic medical charting displaying my schedule has several different time notations. I can see when a patient checked in, when my visit started and when they were discharged from the office. My office phone also reminds me of the date and time.
I no longer wear a watch. For me, it’s beyond redundant.
Tempus vitam Regit. Time Rules Life.
We all regulate our lives with these timekeeping instruments. But is that a good thing?
And if not…can we make it stop?
You can read an interesting article on the ludicrous idea of stopping time here.
I didn’t actually mean to bring time to a halt. What I meant was...how can we stop our relentless obsession with time. Those measured periods during which something is supposed to happen. A fixed moment. A division of chronology.
What would it feel like to ignore the movement of the clock hands?
To wake when your body has reached its fill of slumber, to eat when you’re hungry, to pause what you’re doing when the sky is shot with the taffy colored light of a glorious sunset. To chat with a co-worker when they’re feeling down…for as long as it took.
It’s possible, you know. All you’d have to do is move to a small Norwegian town where they’re working to eliminate time. Really. You can read about it here.
In a land where the sun doesn’t set in the summer and doesn’t rise in the winter, they’ve determined that clocks and watches just don’t have the same meaning that we give them here.
They’ve already started disposing of time…symbolically anyway.
Like the Pont Des Arts bridge in Paris where ‘love locks’ used to be placed, the Norwegians attach their discarded watches to a bridge leading to the mainland. They’ve become more flexible with their work hours, school days, and get-togethers.
It’s fascinating to think of being freed from the confines of a time marker. To become a master, instead of slave, to a digital device.
According to Albert Einstein: “Time is an Illusion”.
It sure doesn’t feel that way to me Albert E., but maybe someday, I’ll make some time to try a different way of living.
I went to see Sherlock Holmes and it dawned on me just how popular that guy is. Movies. Plays. Netflix...it never ends. But what do you know about the author of the original books, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? I bet, like me, you don’t know too much about the guy. It turns out that he was pretty interesting.
Doyle was a doctor. (big surprise to me!) He went to medical school and later studied ophthalmology. It is said that one of his teachers, Dr Joseph Bell, inspired his Sherlock Holmes character and it was during medical school that Arthur Conan Doyle started writing short stories and introduced Holmes as a detective. His dual careers continued--one career flourished and he became world famous as an author. And the other career? Doyle decided to stop practicing medicine after a serious bout of influenza helped him clarify his future path. But--if I was a psychoanalyst…I would say that he put his medicine career on the back burner when Sherlock came into existence. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the good Doctor Watson was the side-kick and not the primary investigator.
Despite how successful the Sherlock Holmes series was, Doyle grew tired of the detective. He wanted to write more important, impressive work but his fans (and his own mother) did not agree with his decision. Shortly after killing the famous detective at Reichenbach Falls, readers of his works starting wearing black bands on their sleeves in mourning for the imaginary character. A distressed fan attacked Doyle with her purse. On the whole, it was an unpopular decision which he remedied by producing a new series, also staring Holmes, that was supposed to have occurred earlier in the detective’s career.
Did you know that Doyle used his detective skills to help solve real mysteries? His investigation led to the release to two men who were accused of different crimes. You can google: George Edalji for an interesting story of one of his cases.
Lastly, the part for which he’s become my personal hero.
He was vocal against the anti-vaxxers, who he called anti-vaccinationists. I thought that the opposition to vaccines was a new problem, but that is clearly not the case. Harriet Hall MD, in her blog, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle on Vaccination, came across letters that Doyle wrote for a newspaper in 1887. At that time the only vaccine available was for small pox—for which the risk of death from infection was 30%! Multitudes of survivors were left permanently scarred or blinded. Thank God that's gone!
Here are my favorite sections of her blog:
In the letters, he is responding to a Colonel Wintle, who objects to vaccination “upon two points: its immorality and its inefficiency or positive harmfulness.” Conan Doyle says “an enormous responsibility rests with the men whose notion of progress is to revert to the condition of things which existed in the dark ages before the dawn of medical science.”
If you practice medicine, maybe you’ve seen this too:
He says, “As to the serious effects of vaccination which Colonel Wintle describes as indescribable, they are to a very large extent imaginary … Some parents have an amusing habit of ascribing anything which happens to their children, from the whooping-cough to a broken leg, to the effects of their vaccination.”
I almost forgot to tell you about Holmes and Watson. It was great! Fabulous acting, lots of melodrama, several surprises at the end! It’s playing at the Stage West theater in Ft Worth. You should see it!
Here’s the link.
Last weekend we went to Costco to stock up on supplies. Since it was lunch time, we decided a slice of pizza was a good idea. My husband stood in line and I sat at a table. Instead of playing with my phone, I started watching the people around me.
Directly in front of me was a table with a grandfather and two boys. He wore a faded baseball cap and his gray hair curled a bit underneath. His shirt, I noticed, was almost a match to one in my husband’s closet. Creases radiated from his eyes, he laughed and smiled a lot during those few minutes. Mostly he talked, but every once in a while, he’d take a spoonful of ice cream from the cup he held and slowly lick it from his spoon.
The boys looked like they might have just come from the swimming pool. Maybe seven and eight years old. One of them had hair that stood up in all directions. He wore cargo shorts and flip flops. The other had a neon green shirt over bright orange shorts. Bright riotous colors. I figured they had already finished their ice cream. Boys are fast eaters, right?
Just as I’d constructed a whole story in my head…their dad arrived carrying water bottles under his arms and several-plate loads of pizza. He was a large man, likely an ex-football player. “What’s going on?” he asked.
I didn’t hear the answer. Instead of grandpa sliding over to allow dad to sit down too, he got up and walked away from the table. I watched as he headed toward the exit. When I looked back at the table, I realized that I had seriously misinterpreted the situation...
The two boys were glued together on the bench, shoulders smashed against each other. Their twin gazes followed that man…obviously not their grandfather…as he left. Instead of smiling like the stranger had, their faces were serious and their eyes anxious. In fact, they looked scared. HOW COULD I HAVE MISSED THAT?
Within a few minutes of dad appearing on the scene, they were all joking. I remembered that when the stranger had been sitting, the man had done all the talking and the boys had not opened their mouths. Within minutes, the boys were mimicking the way their father held his pizza (folded) and trying to shove each other off the bench. Everything was normal again but I was disturbed.
Why didn’t I pick up on the fact that the boys didn’t feel safe? Their body language practically screamed they were nervous.
An article by Drew, Vo and Wolfe In Psychol. Science (2013), helped me to understand what happened. They reported that:
The tendency to let expectation be our guide can cause even those of us who are intelligent, experienced, and well-trained to overlook some startlingly obvious things.
Researchers have called this confirmation bias. We actively seek out and accept information that agrees with our preconceptions. The stranger’s shirt looked like my husband’s so he must’ve been a nice guy. Our brains will discount information that does not match up with our beliefs therefore I didn’t register their unease until after the stranger was gone.
Have you ever had any thing like this happen to you? There’s a rather famous experiment called The Monkey Business Illusion. You can find it here. You might want to try to test your own powers of observation.
And here’s a study of what happened when they hid the image of a gorilla in a CT scan. 83% of the radiologist missed seeing it!
Studies on are brain show that often, we see what we expect to see, despite the evidence around us. In other words, believing is seeing, instead of the reverse.
Years ago I took my young son to the Smithsonian museums in Washington D.C. He spent 4 hours in the National Museum of Air and Space and I thought it was going to kill me. Dehydrated ice cream in a foil packet was his favorite part. Yum. When we arrived at the National Museum of Natural History, something I was more interested in, he took one look at the exhibit of monkeys and explanation of evolution and declared it a “fake”.
At first, I thought he meant the bones. I doubted they were real too. Surely the actual pre-historic bones and fragments were locked in a humidity-controlled, pressure-sealed vault so that they wouldn’t be damaged by a careless accident.
But, one look at his face and I knew I was wrong. He’d learned in his Christian school that evolution was an elaborate hoax. That reading Harry Potter could endanger your soul. There was no sense in debate. If the Smithsonian museum wasn’t compelling enough...I doubt I could come up with a better, more convincing argument. We walked out and I decided to address this when he was a big older. (I’m proud to say he’s now read every Harry Potter book )
Fast forward to last weekend when I was was visiting the Smithsonian museums again. I was enjoying the experience, reading the informative descriptions and admiring the curated works. Beside me, a man approached a display case, pumped his fist in the air and called out, “You lied, Darwin.”
Here was the problem.
I wasn’t at the National Museum of Natural History, I was at the new National Museum of African-American History and Culture.
The display didn’t not mention Darwin. I know because I’d just walked past it. I didn’t pay too much attention because the title was something like “…proved the African-American was not inferior to the white race.” It wasn't exactly earth-shaking news to me.
But this man was transfixed by the exhibit and he was very angry at a man who’d been dead for 137 years. So while my husband walked through the rest of the exhibits, mostly on athletes, I snuck off to find out what this stranger had against Darwin.
I have to tell you, I’m disappointed in what I discovered.
First, let’s start with the title of the book as I learned it: The Origin of Species
The original title was: On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life. That second part was dropped in later editions.
The book taught that natural selection, those better adapted to their environment (stronger, faster, bear more children) will be selected out by nature and have an increased survival rate. That's the part I remember but Darwin also had some specific ideas about race that were never mentioned to me in school. (maybe it's taught now?)
While Darwin felt that slavery was wrong, he did not consider slaves as his equal.
Steven Rose, in “Darwin, race and gender” wrote,
He was also convinced that evolution was progressive, and that the white races—especially the Europeans—were evolutionarily more advanced than the black races, thus establishing race differences and a racial hierarchy.
Phil Moore’s article titled “What Your Biology Teacher Didn’t Tell You About Charles Darwin” is even more distressing.
What’s astonishing is how little they understand that Charles Darwin and his theory of evolution provided the doctrine behind its white supremacism. Whereas the British Empire of the early 19th century had been dominated by Christian reformers such as William Wilberforce, who sold slave badges that proclaimed, “Am I not a man and a brother?”, Darwin’s writings converted an empire with a conscience into an empire with a scientific philosophy. Four years after Darwin published The Origin of Species, James Hunt turned it into a justification for slavery. In his 1863 paper, “On the Negro’s Place in Nature,” he asserted: “Our Bristol and Liverpool merchants, perhaps, helped to benefit the race when they transported some of them to America.”
According to this Moore, Darwin’s work has not only been cited to justify slavery, but by other groups seeking to justify their actions. Hitler, for instance.
After reading everything I could about the subject, I have this to say…
You lied, Darwin.
The pituitary gland is known as the master gland of the body. It’s about the size of a pea and located behind the bridge of the nose between the two hemispheres of the brain. It controls many of the hormones in our body…thus the impressive title.
It’s responsible for regulating our thyroid gland, breast milk production, adrenal glands, ovaries and testes, and even how much urine we produce (depending on how hydrated we are). In medical school, the pituitary gland received a lot of attention and a lot of test questions.
The pineal gland, situated a little behind the pituitary gland in the middle of the brain (and above the pons in the image), didn’t get nearly as much consideration. Its primary duty is melatonin production. You’ve probably heard of melatonin--you can buy that at the store, right?
Melatonin is a hormone that helps our body recognize when it’s time to sleep. Synthetic melatonin is used to effectively help sleep disorders. That pretty much sums up what I learned in medical school. I could identify the location of the pineal gland in the brain and could describe its role in the body.
But what if there’s more to the story?
René Descartes (1596–1650) was a philosopher and mathematician but he had a special interest in anatomy. He believed the pineal gland was important because…
“this gland is the principal seat of the soul, and the place in which all our thoughts are formed.”
His logic might have been a little flawed…
“The reason I believe this is that I cannot find any part of the brain, except this, which is not double. Since we see only one thing with two eyes, and hear only one voice with two ears, and in short have never more than one thought at a time, it must necessarily be the case that the impressions which enter by the two eyes or by the two ears, and so on, unite with each other in some part of the body before being considered by the soul.”
The reality is that the pineal gland (named for its resemblance to a pine cone) is believed to be an atrophied photoreceptor. What does that mean?
It means that scientists believe this light-sensing organ used to have a more significant role but over time the gland’s importance has diminished. Because of its ability to respond to light, it has been referred to as the parietal eye…or the third eye.
Surely not this type of third eye…
Well, it depends on who you talk to…
Madame Blavatsky (1831-1891) contended that the pineal gland was the “eye of Shiva”. Blavatsky founded theosophy, a religious movement in the nineteenth century that drew upon religions like Buddhism and Hinduism. Shiva is one of a trio of gods, the triumvirate, in the Hindu religion. He’s typically depicted as a blue-faced man with a third eye on his forehead.
What is the significance of the third eye? It’s believed to be a gateway to a higher consciousness. The “third eye”chakra allows us to transcend our human senses of sight, taste, smell, sound and touch…and utilize our intuition or gut feelings. To see the unseen.
Is the pineal gland a left-over organ that produces a hormone we can buy at a local pharmacy or a mystery gland that allows us to see beyond our normal dimensions? Hmm...
My husband says that there are only two types of snakes.
Those that slither away from him and choose life…
and those that dare to approach and choose death.
According to a snake removal service, it can be difficult to tell a venomous snake from a non-venomous snake. The characteristics that I’ve heard before: triangular head, distinct pattern, and even the rattle, can be confusing. (up to 99% of snakes have triangular heads) Elliptical eyes can be a sign of a poisonous snake but who wants to get that close?
Maybe my husband’s approach is the best after all...
I don’t find snakes very appealing but I’ve met people that do. I was at a fair recently and found several men who draped their pets around their necks like fashion accessories.
Snake charming is the practice of appearing to hypnotize a snake. It likely started in India but it’s a dying custom. (animal rights activists) Years ago I saw a charmer while visiting Jaipur. An old man sat cross-legged in front of his basket playing music from a flute-like instrument. The snake didn’t respond until he thumped the container with his foot. Snakes don’t hear so when they rise up, they are not hypnotized but adopting a defensive posture to what they perceive as a threat.
In the past, snake charmers would remove the dangerous reptiles from private homes and were known as healers for snake bites. It was only later that they became known as a tourist attraction.
Did you know that snake charming is even in the Bible?
Psalm 58:3–5: "The wicked turn aside from birth; liars go astray as soon as they are born. Their venom is like that of a snake, like a deaf serpent that does not hear, that does not respond to the magicians, or to a skilled snake-charmer.”
It turns out the job is not always as dangerous as it looks. Charmers often remove the poisonous glands and fangs from the snakes they work with. Some will actually stitch the mouth closed, allowing only room for the tongue to wiggle out. Those snakes are doomed to die of starvation.
There are all types of ideas of how to treat snake bites. Here’s a story of a policeman in India who relied on a “snake stone”. Other traditional measures have included incising the site, sucking out the venom, applying a tourniquet, and applying ice. One therapy that I’d never heard of was using electricity. I’m a little vague on that one but I wouldn’t like to experiment with it.
The correct treatment of a snake bite:
Seriously, I'm beaming with joy! Writing a conclusion to a series is hard work! So many ends to ties up. Secrets to reveal, battles to fight and magic to discover.
Reading this review (I swear she's not related to me) has positively made me giddy....
The final book in “The Oath” series is a wild adventure and a wonderful ride!
Lorica, a young female unicorn, witnessed the senseless murders of her herd decades ago. Now the sole surviving female, and pursued by attackers determined to kill her, Lorica flees, chased through the ages by the three assailants.
Centaurs, vicious, cunning, and cruel, have entered the human world, focused on destroying the remaining unicorns. Our heroines and heroes from the previous books - Maddy, Ashton, Mirabella, TJ, and Gideon - work together as they attempt to find a way to contain the threat posed by these dangerous immortal creatures. However, as the friends continue on their quest to stop the supernatural evil that is haunting their world, each is beset with individual fears and troubles: Maddy struggles with strange and shadowy nightmares. Mirabella, vulnerable without a unicorn protector, seeks to uncover the mystery of her birth mother after learning she was adopted. Ashton grapples with fears that she has a dark side and adjusting to her new powers. Gideon feels helpless, unable to protect his friends against such potent and seemingly indestructible foes intent on harming them. It’s their turn to protect their defenders, to save the unicorns from compete annihilation, and stop the kidnapping of girls - but how do you best an enemy with no discernible weaknesses?
The Oath: The Death of Magic is the final heart-pounding ride in The Oath series and is, in my opinion, the crown jewel of the series. The story threads from the previous three books weave together into a dramatic tapestry of friendship and war as the adventure comes to a close. Although - judging by the epilogue - the door is slightly ajar for potential sequels!
We tend to believe that our generation is the first to make important observations about ourselves. For instance, I’ve been intrigued as I read articles that refer to a “Nature-Deficient Disorder”.
Richard Louv introduced the term in his book, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.” It discusses the outcome when our children are not exposed to nature enough. Obesity and mental health disorders. This is what he says on his website:
“The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.”
He wasn’t the first to notice that being in nature has a profound effect on us.
Let me introduce to you John Muir. He lived from 1838 to 1914 and he was also affectionately called “John of the Mountains”. Born in Scotland, his family came to the United States when he was still a young boy. He was irregular in his class attendance with the exception of classes on botany and geology.
On one of his first jobs he suffered an eye injury—serious enough to make him concerned that he’d never see again. Fortunately, after months of staying in the dark, his vision was restored. The experience had a profound effect on him, he left his job as a supervisor making wagon wheels and went for a walk.
A thousand mile walk.
He rambled in unmarked trails from Kentucky to Florida, eventually succumbing to a malaria infection that almost killed him. But that didn’t stop him from continuing to explore America’s wilderness.
His work history was as “irregular” as his education. He worked in a saw milll, as an officer in the US Coastal Survey, managing orchards and taking care of sheep. Mostly, he was unemployed. So what makes this John Muir such a significant part of our history?
He wrote essays that explored the majesty of nature and man’s relationship with it. His writing came to the attention of someone important. Theodore Roosevelt. Maybe it was this quote by Muir:
"Living artificially in towns, we are sickly, and never come to know ourselves."
That might have struck a nerve with President Roosevelt. He had been a delicate child who often suffered asthma attacks from the air pollution in Manhattan. Doctors had warned Roosevelt that he had a weak heart and he should stick to sedate activities. But, as my grandmother would say, Roosevelt was hard-headed, and instead of staying in bed as he was told, he started exercising and spending more time outdoors. He developed a love for natural sciences.
After reading about their mutual interests, Roosevelt wrote to Muir and asked if they could get together. Muir agreed and then took Teddy Roosevelt to his favorite place in the world—the Yosemite wilderness.
“The mighty Sierra, miles in height, and so gloriously colored and so radiant, it seemed not clothed with light, but wholly composed of it, like the wall of some celestial city.”
The night was clear, they set up camp under a tree thought to be 2,500 years old, ate fried chicken and drank black coffee by the fire. They talked for hours. In the following days, Roosevelt ditched the 40 blankets that were supplied by his aides and learned to rough it like Muir. Together they weathered snow storms and each other (they found each other annoying at times).
In the end, Roosevelt came back to Washington enthusiastic about conserving America’s forests and wilderness. According to Wikipedia, Theodore Roosevelt signed “into existence five national parks, 18 national monuments, 55 national bird sanctuaries and wildlife refuges and 150 national forests.”
He described the importance of the conservationist movement in a speech:
“We have become great because of the lavish use of our resources and we have just reason to be proud of our growth. But the time has come to inquire seriously what will happen when our forests are gone, when the coal, the iron, the oil and the gas are exhausted…”
“…It is time for us now as a nation to exercise the same reasonable foresight in dealing with our great natural resources that would be shown by any prudent man in conserving and widely using the property which contains the assurance of well-being for himself and his children.”
His words are still true today.
John Muir, a man who couldn’t quite find a job to fit him, helped save our national parks because he recognized…
"In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks."
We have a lot of work to do, we have to change the way we're living. Decrease our waste. Decrease our emissions. Use more renewable resources. And….protect our wilderness. We can do it.
"Between every two pine trees there is a door leading to a new way of life."
Click here for more quotes by John Muir.
Image of John Muir from Dec 1906. Public Domain