Saturday, August 27, 2016

An off topic pet peeve

It drives me crazy to ask for water in a restaurant and have it come with a slice of lemon in it. When I order water, friends, in unison, will add "NO LEMON!" before I can. I know. In the scheme of all that can go wrong in one's life, this is silly. There are floods, fires, earthquakes, Zika, the Presidential campaign, what the hell is the big deal about a lovely slice of lemon in an icy glass of water?

First of all, I don't like the taste. I don't like bits of pulp drifting around in my water like mosquito larvae in puddle. I like water cold and crystal clear. But my main gripe is I don't know where that lemon has been. Was the skin washed before it was sliced? If not, what happy little, water-loving pathogens are swimming laps in my glass of water?

Ha! Vindication is mine! I'm not crazy, you lovers of lemon-in-my-water drinkers are.

You Should Never Ask For a  Slice Of Lemon In Your Drink 

Alice Sholl for Yahoo Health

Researchers  "found that almost 70% of those samples produced some kind of microbial growth, and included 25 different microbial species. . . Restaurant patrons should be aware that lemon slices added to beverages may include potentially pathogenic microbes.”

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Reposting of a blog by Maya Khosla

I know Maya Khosla from when she was a presenter at the Mendocino Coast Writers Conference a number of years ago.  Last week, a mutual friend sent this blog post of Maya's. I contacted her and asked to reprint it. It's been driving me nuts that every newscast about the fires here in California, and elsewhere, all refer how many acres have been "destroyed." Houses, businesses, and lives can be destroyed, but given time, the land rebounds, and there are native species that thrive after a fire. I hope you'll take the time to read this. It will give you a new perspective on wild land fires.
By Maya Khosla, posted on April 25, 2016

Fire Works

How valuable are forests of the American West that have experienced wildfire? With over 10 million acres that burned across the region in 2015, that question has sharply gained in prominence. Many of us understand that an average of 30 million acres burned annually in wildfires of the 1920s and 1930s – and acreages were even higher during prior decades (according to U.S. Forest Service records). 
Even so, the sheer power of today’s visuals often pose a challenge in accepting that wildfires –  with all their natural variables including low, medium and high severity – have been an integral part of western ecosystems for eons. 

                                    Rim fire spotted owl. Credit: Maya Khosla
The curious conservation biologist who hikes through post-fire forests will inevitably be rewarded with a number of sights that attest to their high ecological value. A more focused way to understand the forests is to venture out in search of rare birds. In 2014 and 2015, teams of biologists worked on protocol surveys to quantify the nest density of black-backed woodpeckers, which are increasingly rare in the Sierra Nevada-Cascades Region. With their glossy black backs, the woodpeckers are ideally equipped to live in burned forests abundant with high densities of snags (standing dead trees), each of which quickly grows rich with wood-boring beetle larvae – the woodpeckers’ preferred food source. Also colonized by bark beetle larvae, the “snag forests” support Lewis’s, pileated, hairy and white-headed woodpeckers, sapsuckers, northern flickers, nuthatches, an astonishing bustle of wildflowers, buzzing insects, song birds and other wildlife including deer, bears, and even Pacific fishers. Mornings are little short of dazzling.
The teams of biologists who began their surveys in 2014 were led by Dr. Chad Hanson (Director, John Muir Project of Earth Island Institute) and senior biologist Tonja Chi. For a thorough study, both burned and unburned forest plots were randomly selected across national forests of the Sierra Nevadas. Surveys were conducted in triplicate, within 300-hectare plots. Each plot contained three 100-hectare subplots, making it convenient for three biologists to survey one subplot at a time. 
                                                 Black-backed woodpecker.
Preliminary results indicate that nesting black-backed woodpeckers are found almost exclusively in recently burned forests. The woodpeckers are also found in unburned, “beetle kill” forests (with snags that are abundant with beetle larvae).  In both forests, the common denominator for black-backed woodpeckers is high densities of snags. True to their reputation as keystone species, the woodpeckers provide nests for a host of other birds including mountain bluebirds, western bluebirds, wrens, nuthatches, mountain chickadees and even for squirrels. During the 2015 surveys, team members also documented other rare birds in the post-fire forests, including the northern goshawk, California spotted owls, and Williamson's sapsucker – all in post-fire forests.
These forests typically include areas that have burned with high severity (where most trees turn into snags), moderate severity (anywhere between one quarter and three quarters of the trees had turned into snags) and low severity (where it’s mostly the understory that has burned). While fires may scorch large patches, many trees charred by the flames remain alive at the crown. They flush with new growth soon after the burn. However, post-fire forests are still misunderstood and routinely logged, so they are highly threatened habitats.
                                                 Pileated woodpecker
According to many experts, fire and black-backed woodpeckers are inextricably linked. The long-term black-backed woodpecker study will continue through the 2016 field season and is anticipated to corroborate results of existing data from other sources, and to provide valuable data about the woodpecker’s habitat uses.  Solid estimates of the Sierra Nevada-Cascades population of black-backed woodpeckers are also expected to result from the study. 
Many other observations are revealing the high value of post-fire forests. A year after the King Fire in El Dorado National Forest, carpets of conifer seedlings were observed rising from the ashes along with three rare plants. One of them, the longfruit jewelflower (first described by Glen Clifton and Roy Buck in 2007), had never been sighted in El Dorado before. Two years after the 2013 Rim Fire in Yosemite National Park and the Stanislaus National Forest, vast areas with mature pines that were presumed dead had bounced back to life. Seedlings were popping up everywhere in the high-intensity burn areas. 
Authors Jon Keeley and others demystify the abundance of regenerating plants by explaining the “fire-generated chemical stimulus for germination” found in many plant families.” An exciting new book, The Ecological Importance of Mixed-Severity Fires: Nature’s Phoenix (edited by Dominick DellaSalla and Chad Hanson), gives us dozens of examples of the high biodiversity found in post-fire forests, and an ever-increasing number of studies are speaking reams about the value of forests after wildfire.

Author Bio

Maya is a biologist and writer who worked with the black-backed woodpecker team in 2014 and filmed them in 2015. She has written Web of Water: Life in Redwood Creek and Notes from the Field (Golden Gate Parks Conservancy Press); Tapping the Fire, Turning the Steam: Securing the Future with Geothermal Energy (World Wide Fund for Nature); Heart of the Tearing: Poems (Red Dust Press); and Keel Bone (Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize; Bear Star Press). She has received writing awards from Flyway Journal, Headlands Center for the Arts, Hedgebrook Foundation, and Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation and filming awards from Patagonia, Sacramento Audubon Society (for the Searching for Gold Spot project) and the Save Our Seas Foundation (For the Turtle Diaries project).

Monday, August 15, 2016

Playing Environmental Jenga


Jenga is a game . . . where players take turns removing one block at a time from a tower constructed of 54 blocks. Each block removed is then balanced on top of the tower, creating a progressively taller but less stable structure. The name jenga is derived from a Swahili word meaning "build".   From Wikipedia


Here on the north coast of California, August usually sees all the coves filled with floating masses of Bull Kelp, Nereocystis luetkeana, which is an annual, and food for at least 50 organisms. It covers rocks and washes ashore on the beaches, attracting birds to the flies it draws. Down the coast in Monterey, it's where the sea otters nap. 

This summer the coves look more like this.
photo by Ron LeValley
Bull kelp has been disappearing, presumably eaten by an abundance of spiny sea urchins. Sea urchins are preyed upon by starfish, properly call sea stars, but there has been a die-off of sea stars from what has become known as "Starfish wasting syndrome."

"As voracious predators on the ocean floor, sea stars are ‘keystone’ species that have a large role in maintaining diversity in their ecosystem."

In a study done at the Cornell University , the disease was found to be a parvovirus commonly found in invertebrates.  

"There are 10 million viruses in a drop of seawater, so discovering the virus associated with a marine disease can be like looking for a needle in a haystack. . .Not only is this an important discovery of a virus involved in a mass mortality of marine invertebrates, but this is also the first virus described in a sea star.”

“It’s the experiment of the century for marine ecologists,” said Harvell (of Cornell.) “It is happening at such a large scale to the most important predators of the tidal and sub-tidal zones. Their disappearance is an experiment in ecological upheaval the likes of which we’ve never seen.”

This may be one block too many pulled from the stack.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Act locally, Think globally

Second Chance Rescue started out finding homes for old, mostly small dogs, often ones whose owners had died. It was started in Hayward, California, by Jeanne Mocker and Steve Sapontzis. The idea being that small dogs would be easier to find new homes for, and that there were older people out there who would benefit from having a companion. 

I remember my mother saying, when our last pet died, that she was too old to get another one. I pooh pooh her. Now I am her. I'm not quite at the age where I don't buy green bananas, and I'm as drawn to kittens and puppies as the next person, but to be fair to the animal I take in, it doesn't make sense to adopt a baby anything. (If you've read this blog before, you know I have a 35 year old parrot,  Parrots & PTSD, who can expect to live another 50 years.)

Jeanne and Steve also linked up with animal rescue groups in other counties. For example, the Fresno County shelter couldn't readily find homes for small dogs but could for larger dogs. Steve and Jeanne created a swap program. 

Some of the dogs left at shelters had treatable illnesses, but were virtually un-adoptable. Destine to be euthanized, Steve and Jeanne took them. When they reached eight in number, they decided to attempt to provide medical care for people who wanted to keep their dogs but couldn't afford to treat their illnesses. Then came the recession. People were losing their jobs and homes, and more and more dogs were brought into shelters and humane societies by owners who could no longer afford their pets. Steve and Jeanne realized if they could help low income people keep and care for their animals, fewer would be given up. They linked up with the Fort Bragg Food Bank, and the rest is history. Below is a link to a seven-minute video produced by one of the many volunteers now helping fulfill the needs of low income pet owners on the Coast.

Fundraising efforts and donations have kept this program alive, but Steve and Jeanne absorb most of the cost. To donate, please go to 
and if you know of grants available please let Steve know. 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

I try not to be political in public...

In April of this year, four friends and I did a houseboat on the St. Johns River in central Florida. It was too warm to see many manatees: they congregate in cold weather in 74 degree springs, but disperse when it's warm. We saw one and were thrilled. A few weeks before we went to Florida, there was a huge die-off of fish south of where we were going. According to a CNN article, this was due in part to an abundance of El Nino rains in January, rainwater that eventually picked up fertilizer and other pollutants on it way in the Indian River estuaries. This, coupled with a warmer than usual winter, allowed toxic algae to bloom, deleting water of oxygen.
fish kill in the Indian River
This breaks my heart, but what pisses me off is it gets blamed on Obama by Florida's governor, Rick Scott.
"The same suspect (toxic algae) has been linked to the mortality of more than 150 manatees in the area over the past four years, as well as the deaths of brown pelicans, bottlenose dolphins and many species of fish. Earlier this year, an algae bloom in the same waters caused the area's worst fish kill in memory — yet another chapter in the horror story." 

"While dike repairs are years overdue, the pace on the project depends on funding set by Congress, not by the president or the corps. And the condition of the dike would be less critical if state leaders did more to reduce pollution in the water entering and leaving the lake (Okeechobee), along with other waterways throughout the state."Orlando Sentinel Star

The above are quotes from an editorial in the Orlando Sentinel Star. Perhaps, if you're not in Florida, or from Florida, like I am, it won't mean much to you, but it should. Florida may be the canary in the coal mine. But I, for one, am sick and tired of the politicians, like Florida Governor Rick Scott, switching blame for their politically motivated actions to Obama. We are going to be the ones paying the piper for the leadership we select.
In Florida, it gets worse.

Take precautions to prevent deadly bacteria infection  from Florida Today 7/15/16

And how about Climate Change. Even some Republicans, with the exception of Marco Rubio, are getting on board in Florida, and with good reason.

Where's Marco?  From Newsweek

"While the Greater Miami area’s mayors cast around for a big mascot to lead the community on climate change—maybe someone like a pro wrestler—their junior senator has been a no-show, and was so even before primary politics took him away from home and the Senate. Area civic leaders, facing the greatest threat in history to the future of their community, if not their state—rising sea levels—are asking, Where’s Marco?"

“This is an issue for people in our party that takes some courage and some coming to terms with, because for so many years it’s been expected that Republicans disregard these concerns,” Curbelo says. “But members are getting there. A few have even come to me with suggestions. More Republicans are coming around to our side. Unfortunately, time is not.”  Newsweek

  In June, Trump, was in California. 

From USAToday "Trump said state officials were simply denying water to Central Valley farmers to prioritize the Delta smelt, a native California fish nearing extinction — or as Trump called it, "a certain kind of three-inch fish.”
Crap like that might actually be given credibility by FOX News buffs, but I, and 37 million other people, live in California. I live on the north coast where we are least affected by the drought, now in its fourth year. I'm on a well. To conserve water, there is a bucket in my shower to catch what would otherwise go down the drain. There's a jug in my sink to keep rinse water from being wasted. I'll spare you the rules on toilet use. But the Donald said, no such dry spell exists.

Trump said, “We’re going to solve your water problem. You have a water problem that is so insane. It is so ridiculous where they’re taking the water and shoving it out to sea. . ."

I sure hope that BS seals Trump's fate in California, and that the next gubernatorial election, Florida finally comes to its senses and gets rid of its buck-naked emperor.





Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Guest Blog: Jill-Michele Lewis, photographer and poet



Life leaves it marks, all sizes and shapes
Some are hard to see and some you notice at a glance

Some are by nature and some are by hand
Some are deliberate and some are by chance

The Eagle on my shoulder is the freedom I crave
The Ying Yang below is the hope I long to save

The one on my knee is from a slide into third
it’s a jagged line from side to side

The one on my calf really hurt,
but oh what a ride

The dolphin tail on my back began as an escape
that lead me to find true love

The peace I yearn for shines from the sun
artfully scribed just up above

The scar on my soul is vivid but ensconced
It was left by my stolen youth

The symbol on my hip resembles a butterfly in flight
It is a reminder of the truth

The scar on my heart reminds me that you’re gone
Poignant and permanent, like the words of a song

The design on my stomach is fire and words
Consumed by passion and flame is where I belong.

What keeps me going after so many markings
Is the hope and light I see in you

It’s the desire to know the who or the what
That will design the next tattoo


So long as I am of this earth
A beat left within my heart
Whether from near or from afar
There will always be someone that loves you
Heart and Soul, more than life itself

But when my time is done here
If it is to the sky that I do fly
There will be an angel watching over you
I’ll be the flicker of light from up high

But if in heaven they don’t want me
If it is the fire that calls me home
I’ll be the breathe of heat upon your neck
You feel when you’re alone
The tepid breeze at your back
That always keeps you warm


Jill-Michele Lewis was born April 1969 in Florida.  Although she left Miami to further her education, her love of the ocean brought her back.  No matter how far she travels or resides …  She will never be too far from the Florida shores.

She loves sports; softball, swimming, jogging, any and all forms of exercise (although her two left feet keep her from dancing anything more than a VERY SLOW sway) and will pretty much take on any sport that requires a racquet.  She practices martial arts, Tae kwon Do and Jujitsu, as a means of exercise, self-discipline and self-defense. 

A lover of words:  Since she was able to talk, the freedom of expression was always a key point in her life.  The spoken word, words that were sung and eventually the written word.  Recently her love of expression and the desire to communicate on an even larger scale led her to the study of the Spanish language.  Although still not perfect, this is now another language of words to choose from as means to express herself.  Words are like butterflies.  They are cocooned until they mature to full thoughts and sentiments and then long to be set free and to share their beauty with the world.


Mientras que yo sea de esta tierra
Un latido aun dentro de mi corazón
Ya sea de cerca o de lejos
Siempre habrá alguien que te ama
Corazón y alma, más que la vida misma

Pero cuando mi tiempo aquí ha terminado
Si es para el cielo que yo vuelo
Habrá un ángel que velara por ti
Voy a ser el parpadeo de la luz desde lo alto

Pero si en el cielo no me quieren
Si es el fuego que me llama a casa
Voy a ser el soplo de calor sobre tu cuello
Que sientes cuando estás solo
La brisa tibia en la espalda
Que siempre te mantiene cálido


La vida deja que marca todos los tamaños y formas
Algunos son difíciles de ver y algunos que notan a simple vista

Algunos son de naturaleza y algunos son a mano
Algunos son deliberada y algunos son por casualidad

El águila en el hombro es la libertad que anhelan
El Ying Yang a continuación es la esperanza me largo para ahorrar

El de mi rodilla es de una caída en la tercera
es una línea quebrada de lado a lado

El de mi pantorrilla realmente duele,
pero oh qué un paseo

La cola del delfín en mi espalda comenzó como un escape
que me llevan a encontrar el amor verdadero

La paz os añoro brilla el sol
ingeniosamente descrito justo arriba

La cicatriz en mi alma está viva pero ensconced
Se dejó por mi juventud robada

El símbolo en mi cadera se asemeja a una mariposa en vuelo
Es un recordatorio de la verdad

La cicatriz en mi corazón recuerda que te has ido
Conmovedor y permanente, como las palabras de una canción

El diseño en el estómago es el fuego y las palabras
Consumido por la pasión y la llama es donde pertenezco.

Lo que me mantiene después de tantas marcas
Es la esperanza y la luz que veo en ti

Es el deseo de conocer el quién o el qué
Eso será diseñar el próximo tatuaje


Jill-Michele Lewis nació abril 1969 en Florida. Aunque salió de Miami para continuar su educación, su amor por el mar la trajo de vuelta a Miami. No importa lo lejos que viaje o viva ... Nunca estará demasiado lejos de las costas de la Florida.

A ella le encanta el deporte; softbol, ​​natación, correr, cualquier y todas las formas de ejercicio (aunque sus dos pies izquierdos le impiden bailar nada más que una influencia muy lento) y sin lugar a dudas jugara cualquier deporte que requiera de una raqueta. Ella practica artes marciales, Tae Kwon Do y jiu-jitsu, como una forma de ejercicio, la autodisciplina y la autodefensa.

Amante de las palabras: Desde que era capaz de hablar, la libertad de expresión siempre fue un punto clave en su vida. La palabra hablada, las palabras que se cantaban y, finalmente, la palabra escrita. Recientemente su amor por la expresión y el deseo de comunicarse en una escala aún mayor la llevó al estudio de la lengua española. Aunque todavía no es perfecto, este es ahora otro lenguaje de palabras para elegir como medio para expresarse. Las palabras son como las mariposas. Están en capullo hasta que maduran a pensamientos y sentimientos completos que luego ansían ser puestas en libertad, para compartir su belleza con el mundo.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Happy Hunters

Years ago, my friend Teresa and I took her then 15 year old son, Robbie, to kayak the Johnstone Strait in British Columbia. We had two desires: to see Orcas and to see a Spirit Bear. Orcas we saw in abundance, once so close it was nearly heart-stopping. And we saw a black bear, but not a Spirit Bear, the unique white subspecies of the black bear.

Here's a link to more information on Kermode, the Inuit name for the rare white bear. This is a quote from

"Due to their special color and rarity, the kermode bear is revered by local Native American culture. They are referred to as the spirit bear or ghost bear. According to Native American legend, the spirit bear is a reminder of times past, specifically the white color of ice and snow. The master of the universe created one white bear for every ten black bears as a reminder of the hardships during the ice age. During this period glaciers and cold blanketed the planet. The spirit bear also symbolizes peace and harmony."

The odd-looking bear killed by a hunter last month is finally identified.
A week or so ago, I saw the story about hunters killing what they thought was a cross between a polar bear and a grizzly bear. My first thought was they had killed a Spirit Bear. It turns out, according this article, that they had "harvested" a blonde grizzle bear.
Odd-looking bear killed by hunter isn’t a grolar or pizzly after all  

I'll leave it to you to be sickened or not. 

Spirit Bear video