Category: Technology

Things!

And I am not speaking of things that go bump in the night!

I switched from being a Microsoft Windows user to a Mac some time ago.

Apple products are not the cheapest by a very long shot but their operating systems are fabulous. So it was natural to follow-up having an iMac by getting myself an iPAD.

Not too many months ago I came across an application for the Apple Mac and iPAD that is called Things. As the website explains:

Things is the award-winning personal task manager that helps you achieve your goals.

This all-new version has been rethought from the ground up: it’s got an all-new design, delightful new interactions, and powerful new features.

I started off getting to know the app on the Mac and very quickly found it so useful and with such a clear and intuitive ‘user interface’ that I downloaded the version for the iPAD.

Here’s the little intro video that is on the Things website (and, please, understand that this review of this app is purely because of my own personal experience and has no connection whatsoever with the firm).

So if you are finding that keeping track of your to-do lists is becoming a bit of a headache and you are a MAC or iOS user, as in Apple MAC, iPad, iPhone or Apple Watch, then I really do recommend taking a closer look. Done so easily by looking at the features in the all-new Things!

Plus, the Things team offer great support!

For as Henry Ford is reputed to have said: “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.” (Thanks BrainyQuote.)

UPDATE: In the last 72 hours I received a newly-ordered iPhone and Apple Watch. The iPhone has had the Things 3 application installed upon it and, hey presto!, my watch now reminds me of the things coming up; even when the phone is some distance away from where I am. Plus it does tell the time rather accurately!!

Ghosts

Here’s that article I wanted to share with you.

But then I got sucked back to memories of sailing!!

Oregon’s lighthouses as recently published over on Mother Nature Network!

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The tallest lighthouse in Oregon has a haunted history

Yet there is more to Yaquina Head Lighthouse in Newport than these ghostly stories.


JAYMI HEIMBUCH   February 16, 2018

The Yaquina Head Lighthouse in Newport, Oregon has a long history, which of course means rumors of ghosts and hauntings. (Photo: P Meybruck/Shutterstock)

On a scenic basalt rock headland that juts almost a mile into the Pacific Ocean stands a beautiful white lighthouse. At 93 feet tall, the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, located in Newport, Oregon, is the state’s tallest lighthouse. It’s been guiding ships for 145 years.

First lit on August 20, 1873, the lighthouse has gained quite the storied history. And that includes two ghost stories.

The Yaquina Head Lighthouse is one of two in Newport, Oregon. (Photo: Dee Browning/Shutterstock)

One tale tells of a construction worker helping to build the tower who fell to his death. His body lodged between the double walls, never to be retrieved. He — and his ghost — have been sealed in ever since.

The second story is that in the 1920s, Keeper Smith went into town and left Keeper Higgins in charge. But Higgins fell sick and asked Keeper Story to take over. When Smith saw from Newport that the lighthouse beacon wasn’t lit, he rushed back to find Higgins dead and Story drunk. Story, overtaken with guilt, feared the ghost of Higgins and from then on would take his bulldog up the tower with him.

A view from the northern side of the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. (Photo: Jeremy Klager/Shutterstock)

As with most ghost stories, the authenticity of these is highly doubted. The first story is unauthenticated, and the second story is impossible. As Lighthouse Friends clarifies:

A great tale, but unfortunately not supported by the facts that Story and Higgins didn’t serve at the same time at Yaquina Head and Higgins didn’t meet his demise in the tower. Rather, Higgins left the Lighthouse Service before 1920 and returned to live with his mother in Portland. Second Assistant Keeper did die of a heart attack in the watchroom atop the tower in March 1921, but he too served before the arrival of Frank Story.

aquina Head Lighthouse stands tall under big cloudy skies. (Photo: haveseen/Shutterstock)

Fortunately, much more than ghosts can be seen at Yaquina Head Lighthouse. The lighthouse stands on what is now the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, one of the most spectacular

spots on the coast for viewing ocean wildlife such as sea birds and harbor seals at close range, as well as traipsing through tide pools at low tide. An interpretive center highlights information about these wild inhabitants and features exhibits on the historical details of the lighthouse.

Yaquina Head lighthouse by the Oregon Coast during a beautiful sunset. (Photo: RuthChoi/Shutterstock)

The original oil-powered light has given way to an automated first-order Fresnel lens and a 1,000-watt globe. It flashes with its own specific pattern: two seconds on, two off, two on, and 14 off. The pattern is repeated around the clock.

May the lighthouse stand tall for generations to come. (Photo: Tomas Nevesely/Shutterstock)

While a little illumination causes the ghost stories to fade, visitors can still see a lot with a visit to Yaquina Head. Whether it’s grey whales at close range during their migration, or the sun setting over the ocean and silhouetting the tall structure, visitors are always happy they stopped to take in both the scene and the history of this special place.

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I really hope that despite the advance of digital GPS navigation systems it will still be a very long time before these magnificent lighthouses are turned off!

Our internet safety!

Completely overwhelmed by all you wonderful followers.

Yesterday, around mid-morning time, the number of good persons who are following this blog reached 3,000!

That is both wonderful and hugely generous of each and every one of you that ‘subscribes’ to this place.

I was going to publish another guest post but will delay that for twenty-four hours.

For as a mark of respect for all of you online people who have signed up to follow Learning from Dogs I want to republish a recent item that appeared on The Conversation site.

Here it is. Republished within the terms of The Conversation.

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Improve your internet safety: 4 essential reads

by    Science + Technology Editor, The Conversation US

On Feb. 6, technology companies, educators and others mark Safer Internet Day and urge people to improve their online safety. Many scholars and academic researchers around the U.S. are studying aspects of cybersecurity and have identified ways people can help themselves stay safe online. Here are a few highlights from their work.

1. Passwords are a weakness

With all the advice to make passwords long, complex and unique – and not reused from site to site – remembering passwords becomes a problem, but there’s help, writes Elon University computer scientist Megan Squire:

“The average internet user has 19 different passwords. … Software can help! The job of password management software is to take care of generating and remembering unique, hard-to-crack passwords for each website and application.”

That’s a good start.

2. Use a physical key

To add another layer of protection, keep your most important accounts locked with an actual physical key, writes Penn State-Altoona information sciences and technology professor Jungwoo Ryoo:

“A new, even more secure method is gaining popularity, and it’s a lot like an old-fashioned metal key. It’s a computer chip in a small portable physical form that makes it easy to carry around. The chip itself contains a method of authenticating itself.”

Just don’t leave your keys on the table at home.

3. Protect your data in the cloud

Many people store documents, photos and even sensitive private information in cloud services like Google Drive, Dropbox and iCloud. That’s not always the safest practice because of where the data’s encryption keys are stored, explains computer scientist Haibin Zhang at University of Maryland, Baltimore County:

“Just like regular keys, if someone else has them, they might be stolen or misused without the data owner knowing. And some services might have flaws in their security practices that leave users’ data vulnerable.”

So check with your provider, and consider where to best store your most important data.

4. Don’t forget about the rest of the world

Sadly, in the digital age, nowhere is truly safe. Jeremy Straub from North Dakota State University explains how physical objects can be used to hijack your smartphone:

“Attackers may find it very attractive to embed malicious software in the physical world, just waiting for unsuspecting people to scan it with a smartphone or a more specialized device. Hidden in plain sight, the malicious software becomes a sort of ‘sleeper agent’ that can avoid detection until it reaches its target.”

It’s a reminder that using the internet more safely isn’t just a one-day effort.

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So be safe all of you! It’s a very different world to that of twenty or more years ago!

Surfacing to a new world!

Slowly returning to normal!

As many of you read, last Friday I was discharged from the PeaceHealth Sacred Medical Center in Eugene, Oregon and returned home around 4pm.

It was quite a week as these photos demonstrate. (The background to the event is here and here.)

How I looked still in ICU on Boxing Day. Photo taken by neighbour Dordie who came up with Jeannie to visit me!
General view of a very happy chap!
Photo taken on last Wednesday after I had been transferred to the Department of Neurology.

So!!

It is important that I take it very gently and that means, inevitably, that my blogging is going to be very ad-hoc. Possibly for a few weeks!

The next important step is returning to the hospital this coming Wednesday to have the staples removed and a further cognitive check.

But I shall be OK and thank you all for your interest and concern in my escapade!

All of the dogs, especially Brandy and Cleo, are watching over me! (Over and beyond being loved beyond measure by Jeannie!)

Brandy – as pure as it gets!
Cleo living, and sleeping, in the present moment.

A Very Happy New Year to you all!

Consuming the living planet.

The eating habits of us humans have to change!

Funny how things go!

For just two days ago I published a post under the heading of Meat is Heat. It featured an essay by Michael Greger. He of the website NutritionFacts.org. That essay promoted the message:

What we eat may have more of an impact on global warming than what we drive.

Just cutting out animal protein intake one day of the week could have a powerful effect. Meatless Mondays alone could beat out a whole week of working from home and not commuting.

Many of you read that post.

On the same day that I published that post, George Monbiot published an article in The Guardian newspaper that offered the same message, albeit coming at it from a different place but nonetheless just as critically important.

Here it is republished with Mr. Monbiot’s very kind permission.

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We Can’t Keep Eating Like This

This is the question everyone should be attending to – where is the food going to come from?

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 11th December 2017

Brexit; the crushing of democracy by billionaires; the next financial crash; a rogue US president: none of them keeps me awake at night. This is not because I don’t care – I care very much. It’s only because I have a bigger question on my mind. Where is the food going to come from?

By mid-century there will be two or three billion more people on Earth. Any one of the issues I am about to list could help precipitate mass starvation. And this is before you consider how they might interact.

The trouble begins where everything begins: with soil. The UN’s famous projection that, at current rates of soil loss, the world has 60 years of harvests left, appears to be supported by a new set of figures. Partly as a result of soil degradation, yields are already declining on 20% of the world’s croplands.

Now consider water loss. In places such as the North China Plain, the central United States, California and north-western India – among the world’s critical growing regions – levels of the groundwater used to irrigate crops are already reaching crisis point. Water in the Upper Ganges aquifer, for example, is being withdrawn at 50 times its recharge rate. But, to keep pace with food demand, farmers in South Asia expect to use between 80 and 200% more water by 2050. Where will it come from?

The next constraint is temperature. One study suggests that, all else being equal, with each degree Celsius of warming the global yield of rice drops by 3%, wheat by 6% and maize by 7%. This could be optimistic. Research published in the journal Agricultural & Environmental Letters finds that 4°C of warming in the US Corn Belt could reduce maize yields by between 84 and 100%.

The reason is that high temperatures at night disrupt the pollination process. But this describes just one component of the likely pollination crisis. Insectageddon, caused by the global deployment of scarcely-tested pesticides, will account for the rest. Already, in some parts of the world, workers are now pollinating plants by hand. But that’s viable only for the most expensive crops.

Then there are the structural factors. Because they tend to use more labour, grow a wider range of crops and work the land more carefully, small farmers, as a rule, grow more food per hectare than large ones. In the poorer regions of the world, people with less than 5 hectares own 30% of the farmland but produce 70% of the food. Since 2000, an area of fertile ground roughly twice the size of the United Kingdom has been seized by land grabbers and consolidated into large farms, generally growing crops for export rather than the food needed by the poor.

While these multiple disasters unfold on land, the seas are being sieved of everything but plastic. Despite a massive increase in effort (bigger boats, bigger engines, more gear), the worldwide fish catch is declining by roughly 1% a year, as populations collapse. The global land grab is mirrored by a global seagrab: small fishers are displaced by big corporations, exporting fish to those who need it less but pay more. Around 3 billion people depend to a large extent on fish and shellfish protein. Where will it come from?

All this would be hard enough. But as people’s incomes increase, their diet tends to shift from plant protein to animal protein. World meat production has quadrupled in 50 years, but global average consumption is still only half that of the UK – where we eat roughly our bodyweight in meat every year – and just over a third of the US level. Because of the way we eat, the UK’s farmland footprint (the land required to meet our demand) is 2.4 times the size of its agricultural area. If everyone aspires to this diet, how do we accommodate it?

The profligacy of livestock farming is astonishing. Already, 36% of the calories grown in the form of grain and pulses – and 53% of the protein – are used to feed farm animals. Two-thirds of this food is lost in conversion from plant to animal. A graph produced last week by Our World in Data suggests that, on average, you need 0.01m2 of land to produce a gram of protein from beans or peas, but 1m2 to produce it from beef cattle or sheep: a difference of 100-fold.

It’s true that much of the grazing land occupied by cattle and sheep cannot be used to grow crops. But it would otherwise have sustained wildlife and ecosystems. Instead, marshes are drained, trees are felled and their seedlings grazed out, predators are exterminated, wild herbivores fenced out and other lifeforms gradually erased as grazing systems intensify. Astonishing places – such as the rainforests of Madagascar and Brazil – are laid waste to make room for yet more cattle.

Because there is not enough land to meet both need and greed, a global transition to eating animals means snatching food from the mouths of the poor. It also means the ecological cleansing of almost every corner of the planet.

The shift in diets would be impossible to sustain even if there were no growth in the human population. But the greater the number of people, the greater the hunger meat eating will cause. From a baseline of 2010, the UN expects meat consumption to rise by 70% by 2030 (this is three times the rate of human population growth). Partly as a result, the global demand for crops could double (from the 2005 baseline) by 2050. The land required to grow them does not exist.

When I say this keeps me up at night, I mean it. I am plagued by visions of starving people seeking to escape from grey wastes, being beaten back by armed police. I see the last rich ecosystems snuffed out, the last of the global megafauna – lions, elephants, whales and tuna – vanishing. And when I wake, I cannot assure myself that it was just a nightmare.

Other people have different dreams: the fantasy of a feeding frenzy that need never end, the fairytale of reconciling continued economic growth with a living world. If humankind spirals into societal collapse, these dreams will be the cause.

There are no easy answers, but the crucial change is a shift from an animal to a plant-based diet. All else being equal, stopping both meat production and the use of farmland to grow biofuels could provide enough calories for another 4 billion people and double the protein available for human consumption. Artificial meat will help: one paper suggests it reduces water use by at least 82% and land use by 99%.

The next Green Revolution will not be like the last one. It will rely not on flogging the land to death, but on reconsidering how we use it and why. Can we do this, or do we – the richer people now consuming the living planet – find mass death easier to contemplate than changing our diet?

http://www.monbiot.com

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As many of you know Jeannie and I changed our diet to a vegan diet some four weeks ago. It was done more for personal health reasons than from an awareness of the difference that it made to the future of the planet. But over the last few weeks we have had our eyes opened to the broader benefits of not eating meat. George Monbiot spells out the urgency of change for all of us, especially the richer people in the richer countries.

Am I hopeful that there will be a mass awareness of the need to change? I truly just don’t know. I will close be repeating Mr. Monbiot’s closing sentence.

Can we do this, or do we – the richer people now consuming the living planet – find mass death easier to contemplate than changing our diet?

Interesting times!

Picture Parade Two Hundred and Twenty-Four

Playing games with the camera.

I am a great supporter of the wonderful photography forum Ugly Hedgehog. I was grumbling the other day that despite me having had my Nikon D750 for some months now I was still struggling to know how to use it properly. One of the wise birds, JD750, on the Forum said (in part):

“Sit down and read the manual, from page 1 to the end, with the camera in your lap.”

That’s what I have been doing and, oh my goodness, has it helped. Here are just a few photographs taken in the last week as a result of me reading the manual.

Firstly, some from outside around the house all with a bit of an autumnal feel to them.

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Then a pic of Ben out in the paddock early on a rather brisk last Friday morning.

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Experimenting with aperture-priority shot when sitting more-or-less in front of the wood stove one afternoon last week.

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Plus some photographs from August of this year. Still using the Nikon but relying much more of the ‘automatic’ settings. Still neat photos in my opinion.

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What’s that saying about when all else fails read the manual!

It’s holiday time again

For our beloved dogs!

It’s a rare week when I don’t receive an email from a person representing an organisation that would like a mention here. That’s how it was a couple of weeks ago. In to my inbox came:

Hi Paul,

I hope this finds you well! My name is Sam and I’m a Community Marketing Manager at Rover.com–the nation’s largest online network of pet sitters.

While checking out your website, I was really taken by the DIY content and all of your fun and creative ideas. At Rover, we like to get creative too with everything from making your own dog treats, to celebrating custom dog houses.

It seems that your audience would like to learn more about DIY ideas for their dogs–affordable, adorable, and creative! Please let me know if you’re interested in getting some free DIY content from Rover. I look forward to hearing from you!

All the best,

Sam

I responded along the lines of not really wanting to be seen supporting this or that company when I had no experience or knowledge of what they were selling. Sam was very sensitive to that position and we agreed on the following guest post format. In other words, I was happy to allow the link to Rover.com in return for what I thought was a guest post that would be helpful to many readers.

Let me know, dear reader, if this is acceptable to you or whether you would prefer no ‘commercial’ contributions at all in this place.

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DIY Holiday Gifts for your Pup

by Tracy Vicory-Rosenquest

The holidays are just around the corner, and there’s no need to go broke this year. If you love to spoil everyone in the house including your pups this season, consider a few DIY projects so you can celebrate without breaking the bank! Whether you’ve got lots of time to create a gift or just a few hours, here are a few ideas to get the creative juices flowing…

Fleece for Peace & Winter Gear

It’s time to make peace with winter and snuggle in for the season. Check out these winter gear doggie gift ideas:

  • What better way to get cozy than with fleece?! Grab a sewing pattern for a doggie jacket and roll out the fleece! Pick out your favorite holiday fleece pattern and get your dog fancy for holiday pictures.
  • Buy a little extra fleece and measure out your dog’s bed. Make a holiday duvet cover or throw blanket for their naps this winter.
  • More into knitting? Grab some wool or alpaca yarn for a doggie scarf or sweater. Alpaca is super warm and hypoallergenic if your dog gets itchy with wool.
  • If you’ve got a small dog, check out the baby clothing section for winter attire. You should find a few flannels onsies that will fit!

Personalize and Seasonalize your Doggie Decor

There’s nothing sweeter than a little doggie decorating this time of year. Consider these seasonal gifts for your pup:

  • Search your local craft store for a simple screen printing kit and go crazy. Screen print your holiday photo on the canvas bag you keep doggie toys in or create a seasonal design to screen print on patches of fabric for a quilted doggie blanket.
  • Embroider it! Get out your needle and thread for an embroidery project. Pick out a new towel that you toss in the back of the car for dog park adventures and stitch your dog’s name on it.
  • Create a seasonal leash cover (or collar cover) by sewing a few strands of holiday fabric inside out. Flip the fabric to the right side and iron on letters to spell out your dog’s favorite nickname! Then, thread your leash through the fabric for your next winter walk.
  • If you love holiday baking, get out the flour, oats, and peanut butter to bake homemade dog treats! There are tons of great recipes online–or just buy a pack of dog treats and mix up a dog-friendly frosting. In a small bowl, combine 1 cup of tapioca starch and ¾ cup of honey (or maple). Let it thicken in the fridge and then frost your dog treats! If your dog won’t go nuts, tie 12 treats to the tree like ornaments and celebrate the 12 days of Christmas with a doggie reward each day!

We hope you’ll enjoy one of these fun DIY projects this year. There’s nothing better than a happy pup during your holiday festivities!

More about Tracy. Tracy Vicory-Rosenquest is a Rover.com community member. Rover is the nation’s largest network of 5-star pet sitters and dog walkers.

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So good people, was this useful for you or too close to being a sales proposition? I have to add that I have no personal knowledge or experience of Rover. But did think the content of the article was of interest to you all.

Out Of The Wreckage: A Review

This is one powerful book!

(Please note that I am letting this post run until Sunday, 15th Oct.)

For many years I have both read George Monbiot’s writings, especially those published by The Guardian newspaper, and deeply respected his insight, intelligence and analysis of the world in which we now live.

So when I heard of his latest book, published by Verso Books both sides of the ‘pond’, it was ordered immediately. It was a book I badly wanted to read. I was not disappointed.

So what is Mr. Monbiot’s message?

To answer that question let me lean on a forthcoming talk being given by him in Edinburgh in eight days time. For he is speaking at a Scottish Green Party event on October 20th.
Here’s the thrust of what is to be covered at that meeting:

What does the good life—and the good society—look like in the twenty-first century?

A toxic ideology rules the world – of extreme competition and individualism. It misrepresents human nature, destroying hope and common purpose. Only a positive vision can replace it, a new story that re-engages people in politics and lights a path to a better world.

Join us for an evening of discussion with George Monbiot as he talks about his new book: ‘Out of the wreckage: a new politics in an age of crisis‘. New findings in psychology, neuroscience and evolutionary biology cast human nature in a radically different light: as the supreme altruists and cooperators. George argues that we can build on these findings to create a new politics: a ‘politics of belonging’.

So what does this mean for social and environmental justice campaigning in Edinburgh? How do we create a politics of belongings here in Scotland? There will be plenty of opportunity for George Monbiot and the audience to share their insights.

Doors open: 6pm

George Monbiot will speak from 7-7.30pm and there will then be a Q&A, plus a chance buy books, mingle and browse stalls.

This event is jointly hosted by Global Justice Now and the Scottish Green party.

To my mind, this book not only addresses, full on, the madness (my word) of these present times but also offers strong, positive recommendations as to how we, as in the societies of all the major nations, can turn it around and offer a decent future for future generations. That’s why I am so strongly recommending it.

Take this extract from the review of George Monbiot’s book published by the Guardian newspaper on the 14th September this year:

For George Monbiot, neoliberalism should best be understood as a “story”, one that was conveniently on offer at precisely the moment when the previous “story” – namely Keynesianism – fell to pieces in the mid-1970s. The power of stories is overwhelming, as they are “the means by which we navigate the world. They allow us to interpret its complex and contradictory signals”. The particular story of neoliberalism “defines us as competitors, guided above all other impulses by the urge to get ahead of our fellows”.

Or this extract from the review published by The New Statesman:

It should be said at once that we are desperately in need of new ideas for a society and a democracy where trust in all established institutions is at a record low and even a Tory prime minister admits the country doesn’t work for everyone. Monbiot’s ideas are clear, well-reasoned and sometimes compelling. Many will mock his attempt at a “story of hope and restoration”; even some of his Guardian colleagues call him “George Moonshine”. Human beings, his critics will say, are inherently selfish and self-maximising. Give them the opportunity to freeload off others’ efforts and they will take it.

Such objections are easily dismissed. Yes, there’s a self-interested streak in all of us but, as Monbiot observes, we also have instincts for co-operation and sensitivity to others’ needs. Think of the hundreds who volunteer to run food banks and of the thousands more who donate to them. Think of those Europeans who, at great risk to themselves, sheltered Jews from the Nazis during the Second World War. The altruistic instinct can be kindled in almost anybody. It is suppressed, however, in a society that rewards the selfish but penalises – and brands as “mugs” – those who are more mindful of our needs, and the planet’s. That society has led to loneliness, high levels of mental illness and increasingly discordant political discourse. Shouldn’t we at least try developing a society that does more to nurture the better angels of our nature?

Better still, settle down with a cup of tea, put your feet up for fifteen minutes and listen to this:

This book struck me as the most important book I have ever read in my lifetime. Why? Because it gets to the heart of what is happening today. But it offers even more than that. For instead of a shrug of the shoulders or eyes turned skywards from a friend when one mutters about the fact that we are living in ‘interesting times’, George Monbiot offers hope and guidance.

Take the very last two paragraphs from the final chapter of his book.

Coming Home to Ourselves

Through restoring community, renewing civic life and claiming our place in the world, we build a society in which our extraordinary nature – our altruism, empathy and deep connection – is released.

When we emerge from the age of loneliness and alienation, from an obsession with competition and extreme individualism, from the worship of image and celebrity and power and wealth, we will find a person waiting for us. It is a person better than we might have imagined, whose real character has been suppressed. It is one who lives inside us, who has been there all along.

“- our altruism, empathy and deep connection -”

I see these persons every day of my life. Via the pages of this blog.

Yes, I am referring to all of you who wander in and out of this place, who demonstrate your compassion, your love and your dedication to the dogs and all the other animals of this world.

Read this book!

Foreboding times?

Something brooding in the air!

The smoke from the forest fires in Oregon and California has been thick in the air here in Merlin for days.

As can be seen in the photograph below. The photograph is as it was captured by the camera at 7:15 am yesterday morning. No changes by me made at all. The middle tree line is at the Eastern end of our property about a 1/4 mile away.

We are fed up with the smoke and the terrible air conditions.

But what drew me to grab the camera and take the photograph was that the image had some sort of, Oh, I don’t know, some sort of end of the world feeling about it.

It also seemed a most apt image to be an introduction to the latest essay from George Monbiot. It is republished here with Mr. Monbiot’s kind permission.

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Don’t Look Now

2nd September 2017

The media avoids the subject of climate breakdown – to do otherwise is to bring the entire infrastructure of thought crashing down

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 29 August 2017

It is not only Donald Trump’s government that censors the discussion of climate change; it is the entire body of polite opinion. This is why, though the links are clear and obvious, the majority of news reports on Hurricane Harvey have made no mention of the human contribution.

In 2016, the United States elected a president who believes that human-driven global warming is a hoax. It was the hottest year on record, in which the US was hammered by a series of climate-related disasters. Yet the total combined coverage for the entire year on the evening and Sunday news programmes on ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox News amounted to 50 minutes. Our greatest predicament, the issue that will define our lives, has been blotted from our minds.

This is not an accident. But nor (with the exception of Fox News) is it likely to be a matter of policy. It reflects a deeply ingrained and scarcely conscious self-censorship. Reporters and editors ignore the subject because they have an instinct for avoiding trouble. To talk about climate breakdown (which in my view is a better term than the curiously bland labels we attach to this crisis) is to question not only Donald Trump, not only current environmental policy, not only current economic policy, but the entire political and economic system.

It is to expose a programme that relies on robbing the future to fuel the present, that demands perpetual growth on a finite planet. It is to challenge the very basis of capitalism; to inform us that our lives are dominated by a system that cannot be sustained, a system that is destined, if it is not replaced, to destroy everything.

To claim that there is no link between climate breakdown and the severity of Hurricane Harvey is like claiming that there is no link between the warm summer we have experienced and the end of the last ice age. Every aspect of our weather is affected by the fact that global temperatures rose by around 4° between the ice age and the 19th Century. And every aspect of our weather is affected by the 1° of global warming caused by human activities. While no weather event can be blamed solely on human-driven warming, no weather event is unaffected by it.

We know that the severity and impact of hurricanes on coastal cities are exacerbated by at least two factors: higher sea levels, caused primarily by the thermal expansion of seawater, and greater storm intensity, caused by higher sea temperatures and the ability of warm air to hold more water than cold air.

Before it reached the Gulf of Mexico, Harvey had been demoted from a tropical storm to a tropical wave. But as it reached the Gulf, whose temperatures this month have been far above average, it was upgraded first to a tropical depression, then to a category 1 hurricane. It might have been expected to weaken as it approached the coast, as hurricanes churn the sea, bringing cooler waters to the surface. But the water it brought up from 100 metres and more was also unusually warm. By the time it reached land, Harvey had intensified to a category 4 hurricane.

We were warned about this. In June, for example, Robert Kopp, a professor of earth sciences, predicted that “In the absence of major efforts to reduce emissions and strengthen resilience, the Gulf Coast will take a massive hit. Its exposure to sea-level rise – made worse by potentially stronger hurricanes – poses a major risk to its communities.”

To raise this issue, I’ve been told on social media, is to politicise Hurricane Harvey. It is an insult to the victims and a distraction from their urgent need. The proper time to discuss it is when people have rebuilt their homes, and scientists have been able to conduct an analysis of just how great the contribution from climate breakdown might have been. In other words, talk about it only when it’s out of the news. When researchers determined, 9 years on, that human activity had made a significant contribution to Hurricane Katrina, the information scarcely registered.

I believe it is the silence that’s political. To report the storm as if it were a entirely natural phenomenon, like last week’s eclipse of the sun, is to take a position. By failing to make the obvious link and talk about climate breakdown, media organisations ensure that our greatest challenge goes unanswered. They help push the world towards catastrophe.

Hurricane Harvey offers a glimpse of a likely global future; a future whose average temperatures are as different from ours as ours are from those of the last ice age. It is a future in which emergency becomes the norm and no state has the capacity to respond. It is a future in which, as a paper in the journal Environmental Research Letters notes, disasters like Houston’s occur in some cities several times a year. It is a future that, for people in countries such as Bangladesh, has already arrived, almost unremarked by the rich world’s media. It is the act of not talking that makes this nightmare likely to materialise.

In Texas, the connection could scarcely be more apparent. The storm ripped through the oil fields, forcing rigs and refineries to shut down, including those owned by some of the 25 companies that have produced over half the greenhouse gas emissions humans have released since the start of the Industrial Revolution. Hurricane Harvey has devastated a place in which climate breakdown is generated, and in which the policies that prevent it from being addressed are formulated.

Like Donald Trump, who denies human-driven global warming, but who wants to build a wall around his golf resort in Ireland to protect it from the rising seas, these companies, some of which have spent millions sponsoring climate deniers, have progressively raised the height of their platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, in response to warnings about higher seas and stronger storms. They have grown from 40 feet above sea level in 1940, to 70ft in the 1990s, to 91ft today.

This is not, however, a story of mortal justice. In Houston, as everywhere else, it is generally the poorer communities, that are least responsible for the problem, who are hit first and hit worst. But the connection between cause and effect should appeal to even the slowest minds.

The problem is not confined to the United States. Across the world, the issue that hangs over every aspect of our lives is marginalised, except on the rare occasions on which world leaders gather to discuss it in sombre tones (then sombrely agree to do almost nothing), whereupon the instinct to follow the machinations of power overrides the instinct to avoid a troubling subject. When they do cover the issue, they tend to mangle it. In the UK, the BBC distinguished itself in customary fashion this month, by yet again inviting the climate change denier Lord Lawson onto the Today programme, in the mistaken belief that impartiality requires a balance between correct facts and false ones. They seldom make such a mess of other topics, because they take them more seriously.

When Trump’s enforcers instruct officials and scientists to purge any mention of climate change from their publications, we are scandalised. But when the media does it, without the need for a memo, we let it pass. This censorship is invisible even to the perpetrators, woven into the fabric of organisations that are constitutionally destined to leave the major questions of our times unasked. To acknowledge this issue is to challenge everything. To challenge everything is to become an outcast.

www.monbiot.com

ooOOoo

Dear people, I sat staring at the screen for 10 minutes and then went off when Jeannie called lunchtime. Returned to the screen a little after 2pm yesterday and still couldn’t come up with a closing thought that merited being shared with you all.

See you tomorrow!

Visiting the Vet – More on Ruby

A need to re-check Ruby.

On Tuesday the Visiting the Vet post was about our Ruby. As was explained in the early part of that post:

Back on the 11th August Jean and I took Ruby into Lincoln Road Vet because there was blood in her urine. Ruby is one of our six dogs that we have at home. Ruby is the last of the Mexican ex-rescue dogs and is an eleven-year old Sharpei mix.

Dr Jim thought that Ruby had a straightforward Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) and that a course of antibiotic would fix that.

All of that was reported in my previous post and, indeed, it did look as though it was all resolved.

Then on Tuesday night we discovered a pee in the house that had blood in it. Repeated yesterday. Although we hadn’t caught Ruby in the act, so to speak, we were pretty sure that it was her with the blood in her urine (again).

So yesterday morning back we went to Lincoln Road Vet Clinic to be seen by Dr. Jim.

Jim and his assistant, Cianna, first took Ruby through to a lab at the back of the clinic to take an X-ray and draw some of Ruby’s urine directly from her bladder.

That urine was going to be cultured by Three Rivers Hospital in Grants Pass for that was the only reliable way of seeing what might be the cause of the infection. A quick web search found more information about a urine culture:

A urine culture is a test to find germs (such as bacteria) in the urine that can cause an infection. Urine in the bladder is normally sterile. This means it does not contain any bacteria or other organisms (such as fungi). But bacteria can enter the urethra and cause a urinary tract infection (UTI).

A sample of urine is added to a substance that promotes the growth of germs. If no germs grow, the culture is negative. If germs grow, the culture is positive. The type of germ may be identified using a microscope or chemical tests. Sometimes other tests are done to find the right medicine for treating the infection. This is called sensitivity testing.

In no time at all the images from the X-ray were available to be viewed.

Jim was delighted to report that there was no sign of stones or a tumor. Ruby is an eleven-year old dog and what Jim did see on the X-ray was ‘bridging’ along parts of Ruby’s spine. The technical term for this is spondylosis and, again, a quick web search found more:

Spondylosis in dogs, also called spondylosis deformans, is a degenerative condition that usually occurs most along the spine in older dogs. There, degenerative disks cause bone spurs to develop. These bone spurs can form bridges from one vertebrae to the next, limiting flexibility and range of motion.
Most cases of spondylosis require minor pain relief, and dogs can live out healthy, comfortable lives with this condition.

It’s not a very good image but here is an enlargement of that first X-ray picture (or rather my photograph of same) showing that bridging.

Jim offered some general information regarding idiopathic cystitis that is more commonly seen in female cats but can also be seen in dogs. In cats the cause is more likely to be stress but in dogs the more likely cause is an infection; as in a UTI. In both cats and dogs the signs are frequent peeing but cats are more likely to incur some pain when urinating compared to dogs.

Back to Ruby.

The second X-ray image (below) did nothing to change Jim’s mind that Ruby might have a UTI that requires a change of antibiotic to accurately combat the infection.

While waiting for the results of the urine culture, Jim recommended putting Ruby on a second course of Amoxicillin.

When we get those results I will add the details to this post.