Rainy Day Desert

The plan today was to post photos from an event that was attended last week. However the Blogger web site does not want to allow this activity today. Strange.

It is raining in the desert today, the third time this winter. Unusual for this region where it rarely rains. But the desert loves it and is looking bright green and vibrant with new growth. The wild animals and free range cattle, horses and donkeys are quite pleased as well because the extra rain means that the grass will continue to grow on the hillsides. Normally by this time of the year there is no more grass left and they have to make due with the leaves of desert plants. During years when little rain has fallen, the cows will resort to eating garbage including cardboard. I suppose they recognize that the cardboard is made out of cellulose, the main ingredient in plants. But still, it can’t be very nutritious, or tasty. It breaks my heart to see them eating such things.

So the rain brings the plants and it also brings the insects. More food for the birds and the bats! Within a few days of the rains, there are so many different types of insects flying around in the desert that it’s quite unbelievable. Little yellow sulfur butterflies sail by on the breezes and there are so many it’s as though it’s snowing butterflies.

A week after the rains, the moths and termites have hatched out and at night there is a flurry of activity around the patio lights. In the morning there is a big mess of wings and dead bodies to be swept up.

The desert plants start to flower within two weeks of the rain and there is an explosion of color dotting here and there. Reds, pinks, magenta and white. The cardon cactus, which is only found on the Baja Peninsula and in one area North of Puerto Vallarta, develops deep red flower buds that explode into large white flowers that are pollinated by bees, birds and bats.

The rain, like an elixir, wakes the desert from its slumber.


Animal Insight

The day before I leave Mexico to go somewhere there are several preparations to be made. The packing must be done, the dog food moved to the bed of the pickup truck outside so that it is accessible, but not too accessible.

While I am gone, our caretaker, Felipe, will keep a large food bowl full, so the dogs can eat whenever they want to. Of course, what actually occurs is that the most dominant dogs eat to their hearts’ content and the lesser dogs must be content to steal a bite here and there when the others are not looking or are off hunting desert hare in the hills nearby.

Interestingly, even though I only just started preparations, yesterday the dogs already knew something is afoot. Normally, they are content, even happy throughout the day, lazing about near or in the house. Yesterday, this behavior changed and more time was spent hanging out at Felipe’s house. And today Zee, arguably the most intelligent of the group, lays in the garage looking quite depressed. Of course, as soon as they see the suitcase, they will all turn despondent and anxious.

Anyone who has spent enough time with animals will agree they are quite capable of feeling and expressing deep emotions. Thanks to people like Jane Goodall awareness is increasing that the intelligence and emotional capabilities of animals are far greater than the bulk of humans gives them credit for. It is actually pretty damned arrogant to think that we are the only ones capable of feeling emotion and possessing intelligence considering we all share a common ancestor.

Stacey O’Brien, in her best-selling book Wesley the Owl, explains that there is increasing evidence that animals use telepathy to communicate with and understand humans. She tested this theory when she realized she would have to trim the talons and beak of the owl she had raised from the time he was four days old. Due to years of prior experience with Wesley, Stacy knew that an owl, being incredibly sensitive to change and strange objects, wouldn’t submit to having ANY of its parts trimmed without a great struggle. The struggle, in turn, could lead to the death of the owl – anxiety can be deadly to these birds.

So, instead of using force, over the course of three weeks Stacey visualized what she wanted to do with the trimmers and beak file. She also demonstrated to him what they were for by using them on inanimate objects and herself (filing her nails for example). She reasoned that he had learned other behaviors from watching her, why not this one? At the end of the three weeks, when she approached him with the beak file, Wesley literally closed his eyes and let her go to work without a struggle. He remained calm throughout both procedures. Now anyone who has tried to trim their cat’s or dog’s nails knows what a feat this is, especially on an older animal who has never experienced it.

Afterwards, Stacey says that their bond had obviously deepened and he exhibited new behaviors indicating his increased trust in her. He even slept with his head tucked under her chin and his wings open and laid over her shoulders in a kind of “owl hug.”

In my personal experience, I have discovered that by talking to animals they gradually learn what the phrases mean. If I say “who wants chicken?!” they all come running, tails wagging, saliva running out the sides of their mouths. If I say “wanna go to the beach?” they similarly get excited and start heading out the door and down the path to the beach. On the other hand, if I say “watch the house puppies,” they know that I am leaving and they are supposed to stay home. The more I talk to them, the more they understand and the more mutually satisfying is our relationship. Treating animals with kindness and compassion, like the sentient beings they are, allows the depth of our relationship to grow.

Now I better get outside and explain to the dogs that I’m only leaving for a week.


To buy a copy of Stacy O’Brien’s book Wesley the Owl CLICK HERE.


Blowing Wind Energy Theory

Industrial Wind Turbines are a polarizing topic – yesterday’s blog received a lot of feedback and discussions with friends make it clear people have strong opinions concerning this topic. I personally believe that it makes no sense whatsoever to tackle one environmental problem by creating another one, as is the case with Industrial Wind Turbines (IWTs).

It has become very obvious as well that a lot of misinformation and confusion exists regarding IWTs. Many people have expressed shock and disbelief when I express my reservations about their benefits. I feel therefore that it is important and useful to summarize some of the information upon which I have based my opinion.

Most of what is written here sumarrizes the information on physicist John Droz Jr.’s web site Wind Power Facts, The Problem with Wind by Eric Rosenbloom and Wind Concerns Ontario, an alliance of citizens’ groups concerned about the safety of IWTs.

Key Elements for Successful Energy Generation

There are six requirements for commercial energy generation that must be met in order for it to be successful. These elements have been used to evaluate the viability of potential sources of electrical generation since Edison first worked towards his dream of providing electric lighting to every household in America. I’m only going to discuss five of the six, as the sixth gets into grid demand elements (go here for that discussion).

1 – It must provide large amounts of electricity.
2 – The electricity generated must be reliable and predictable.
3 – It must be capable of responding to changes in demand.
4 – The generating facility must be compact.
5 – It must be economical.

Guess what? IWTs do not provide a single one of the requirements for successful energy generation. On the other hand hydroelectric, coal, nuclear, natural gas, and oil meet at least five of the six essential criteria.

Let’s go through the list as it pertains to IWTs:
1 – this is the one element that IWTs could satisfy theoretically, but does not from a practical standpoint. In order for wind farms to produce large amount of electricity, there would have to be SO MANY of them and they would cover such a large area that by comparison, a single nuclear or natural gas facility would have a much smaller overall environmental impact. There is also no way to economically store wind power for a calm day, so no matter how much you can generate today, the wind still has to meet demand tomorrow.

2 – IWTs cannot provide reliable and predictable energy because often the wind dies when we need it most. On hot summer days when there’s no wind you and all your neighbors turn on the AC. Wind can’t respond to the increase in demand that is directly related to its reduced output. As a result, a conventional electrical generating plant must remain on standby to avoid blackouts during times when the wind cannot meet demand. This requires that the conventional system is kept operating regardless of wind generation, with result that CO2 outputs continue, offsetting the benefits from wind energy generation.

3 – Due to its unpredictability discussed in item 2, wind can not be counted on to provide power on a human-defined schedule.

4 – IWTs need a thousand times the space needed by a conventional facility to produce the same amount of energy. Due to their height, they are highly visible over an area several thousand times greater than the visual impact from a conventional facility. Another “feature” of wind power is that most of the windiest sites (and available land) are a LONG way from where the electricity is needed. This results in thousands of miles of huge unsightly transmission towers and cables, at an enormous expense to consumers.

5 – If it is so economical, then why is wind energy generation throughout the world subsidized with taxpayers’ dollars? And why, after their installation to the grid, do ratepayers often see substantial increases in their electrical bills? Because in order for wind energy generation to be profitable, developers must increase rates and/or be subsidized. The cost of installation and maintenance on wind farms is astronomical!

But let’s say for the sake of argument that all of these limitations can be overcome in time…what are the other limitations and costs of wind generated energy?

Other Technological Considerations

Wind turbines’ generating capacity are typically overstated by the corporations promoting them. They typically only produce less than 25% of their stated maximum capacity. Furthermore, their generating capacities are significantly reduced by environmental conditions. In high winds, ironically, the turbines must be stopped because they are easily damaged. Build-up of dead bugs has been shown to halve the maximum power generated by a wind turbine, reducing the average power generated by 25% and more. Build-up of salt on off-shore turbine blades similarly has been shown to reduce the power generated by 20%-30%. In Northern climes, ice build up can damage the turbines and reduces their power generation significantly.

Environmental Impacts

As has already been discussed, IWTs require a huge area to operate. That means that large open spaces that include mountain top ridges, prairies and the ocean are required fro their installation. These “farms” are industrial developments – they don’t just pop up over night. They require the construction of new roads for transportation of huge towers, generators and turbines to the site, materials including tens of thousands of pounds of cement and gravel, and high tension wire delivery systems,. The result is the permanent destruction of natural habitats.

Once commissioned, the turbines generate noise. Specifically, low frequency noise that has been demonstrated to adversely affect wildlife and human health. In humans, Wind Turbine Syndrome has been described as a constellation of symptoms including, but not limited to insomnia, nausea, vertigo, headaches, bloody noses and heart palpitations. People experiencing these symptoms often must escape from their homes to sleep elsewhere and regain their sanity. People exposed to low frequency noise from IWTs are abandoning their homes.

Go here for more on the science on the effects of low frequency noise on human health.

A 2002 study in Spain estimated that 11,200 birds of prey (many of them already endangered), 350,000 bats, and 3,000,000 small birds are killed each year by wind turbines and their power lines. In California alone, it is estimated that 10s of thousands of birds are killed annually by IWTs.

Unlike for birds, bat kills are not simply the result of collisions. In this case, the changes in air pressure caused by the turbine actually cause the bats’ lungs to hyper-expand, bursting all the tiny blood vessels found there. The animals drown in their own blood as a result. Bats are important pollinators and help keep insect populations in check. They are considered by many biologists to be a keystone species – one that the disappearance of which would cause the extinction of many more.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is that wind turbines produce too little energy, too unpredictably, to offset carbon dioxide production by conventional energy generating systems. The environmental impact of their construction and operation negates any positive contribution they could have.

Put all the resources and energy that is being thrown at wind energy and use it to improve existing technologies that actually work and to support research into new and efficient renewable energy technologies.


See these links to get more indepth information on the effect of low frequency noise.

Greenbacks Send Alien Forces to Destroy Canadian City

A visit was made recently to Kingston, Ontario. The city where a total of eleven years were spent living, going to university, working as a research scientist. As a result of the time spent there, many friends and fond memories reside in the City of Kingston.

Kingston is a beautiful city located on the northeastern shore of Lake Ontario. It is the original capital city of Canada and our first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald was raised and evolved into a successful lawyer and then politician there. It is also home to Queen’s University, my alma mater and the first degree-granting institution in Canada (actually, “Canada” as a nation had yet to be founded when Queen’s was granted its charter by Queen Victoria in 1841).

The architecture of the city including the university is greatly influenced by its origins as a British colony. Scottish masons constructed buildings out of limestone, the locally available material similar to what was used in their homeland. The result is a city filled with stately grey stone buildings and quaint stone cabins, in which the original inhabitants of the city lived. In winter, smoke from hearths pours forth from chimneys and in summer ivy hangs like thick green curtains over cool stone walls.

I hadn’t been back to Kingston in several years, so I was excited to see old friends and familiar haunts. There is a vast waterfront in Kingston – it sits at the eastern end of Lake Ontario. And a favorite spot to run, walk and just sit and enjoy the scene has always been Lake Ontario Park. I pulled into the parking lot near a quaint little gazebo that overlooks the water. There was snow everywhere and the lake was partially frozen over, but some ducks were paddling by in the unfrozen section near the shore. Despite temperatures well below freezing and a light snow falling, people were out enjoying the scenery and the fresh air.

I took a narrow path cleared of snow joining the parking lot and the main path, nearer the lake, and headed towards the gazebo. Part way there, I stopped dead in my path, taken aback by what I saw. There were lots of them and they were huge and industrial looking. I blinked and rubbed my eyes, not believing what they were telling me. I think I even shook my head in disbelief. There on the horizon, dominating it, standing like a bunch of aliens out of War of the Worlds were dozens of wind turbines.

They were erected on Wolfe Island, a formerly bucolic little member of the Thousand Islands chain, an archipelago of 1793 islands that extend for 50 miles from Kingston in Lake Ontario down the Saint Lawrence River. Wolfe Island is accessible by ferry and was a place I went to bird watch, especially in winter, when it was a haven for Snowy Owls. It is also the home of the Wolfe Island Bakery, a haven for delicious pastries and breads. People used to jump on the ferry just to visit the bakery and to take in the scenery along the island’s dirt roads.

Looking at the scene before me, I found it hard to believe that the Snowy Owls were still there and, if they are, that they aren’t being killed off slowly, brutally by these monstrous towers with spinning tops. I found it even harder to believe that the City of Kingston and its citizens had not put a stop to such a plan to mar their beautiful waterfront. Kingston is, afterall, a major tourist destination and people flock there in summer to sail, kayak, windsurf and to enjoy the spectacular scenery.

“Something has gone terribly wrong,” I thought to myself.

Later that day I asked the friends I was visiting what they thought of them. “Oh! I think they’re great!” said the wife. Her husband looked less convinced and muttered something under his breath. The wife continued, saying that it was so great that they were providing sustainable energy to the city? “Maybe,” I thought, “but at what cost?”

At home I did some research. I couldn’t believe there hadn’t been a loud hew and cry over the implementation of this plan. Sure enough a great debate was found on the internet concerning this plan and several others like it yet to be completed. From the information available it quickly became apparent that once again, we humans had lost our minds. Thrown common sense out of the window and made a major decision without using all the facts, scientific and otherwise.

The bottom line is that there is an overwhelming body of evidence that wind turbines, especially the huge industrial sized ones looming on Wolfe Island, are not the great panacea that Global Warming Alarmists would have us believe. According to John Droz Jr,, a physicist who has also been an environmental activist for 25 years, “the only thing green in this whole matter is the substantial profit being made by the developers and their paid supporters.” The developers making money on the back of the green movement should therefore be labeled Greenbacks!

The benefits (renewable energy) in this case are not nearly as great as the people selling wind turbines would have you believe and the costs are many. Some costs are obvious, like aesthetic impacts, bird kills and destruction of habitat. Others are less so, like increased costs of electricity to the consumer to cover the costs of incentives paid to developers and owners of land on which turbines are located. Some people say aesthetics shouldn’t be a factor in the battle to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. But imagine, if all of a sudden the value of your nest egg, the land upon which your home is built, plummets because your neighbors decide to build monstrosities all around you. The turbines can be seen more than two miles away. And there are plans to build more on several islands in the U.S. side of the islands – islands containing national and state parks and a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.

The power house at world-famous Boldt Castle in the Thousand Islands

Meanwhile, in Europe, they are dismantling wind turbines or relocating them because they have discovered the costs of operating them are too great to justify their visual and environmental impacts. Why then in North American must we fling ourselves headlong into repeating their mistakes?


I encourage you to review the material and opinions expressed on John Droz’s web site and on the Thousand Islands Life online magazine.

The Problem with Wind – an excellent compendium of facts relating to wind energy

Wind Concerns Ontario is a coalition of 41 citizens groups trying to “bring sanity to wind development in Ontario, Canada.”


Flowing streams of consciousness

Readers of this blog have very likely noticed that there is a seriously long lag time between postings. In fact, after starting this blog in April of 2009, only 44 postings were made in that year. The main reason for this is that, as a beginning blogger, the time it takes to compose a blog can be considerable and in a life that is full of fun and responsibilities, that time is too great to justify the ends. One thing that really increases the time it takes to write a blog, has been the desire to keep things as impersonal and humble as possible. This is a hard task. One method was to avoid the use of the words “me”, “mine”, and “I” following the method used by a friend and fellow blogger who is known as the Permanent Pilgrim. While he has perfected this technique and manages to write his blog faithfully, using only 45 minutes of time each day to do so, this was not possible for me. The technique requires so much thought and finesse that it increases the time it takes to write this blog considerably. Yesterday, it was necessary to travel to town to buy groceries and pay property taxes and the land trust (fideo comiso). The Permanent Pilgrim accompanied me on the trip, so that he could replace a broken tea pot and provide company on the long trip to Cabo San Lucas and back. A lively conversation is pretty much guaranteed when these two bloggers get together and the drive seemed to take a tiny fraction of the time it actually does because the mind was engaged as we traveled across the desert. Eventually the conversation turned to my writing. And how the blog writing was not being particularly successful, in large part because it takes so long to write a single blog. The Permanent Pilgrim suggested that my background as a scientist and academician was stifling my creativity. “’Strangling it’ might be more accurate,” was my thought. The Pilgrim, who is an artist and not a scientist, considered this some more and suggested that a writing exercise should be undertaken. One in which the writer abandons all rules and notions about “how to write” and just writes nonsense. He pointed to the author Dylan Thomas, of whom he had recently written, and how this famous author had often written in a manner that was nonsensical. Admittedly, this was in part due to his extreme alcoholism. But it seemed like an idea that had merit. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. The results were posted last night on this blog. Two examples of what turned out to be stream-of-consciousness writing rather than actual nonsensical writing. A manner of writing which requires that every thought regardless of its origin or content be written down quickly and without consideration. Like vomiting on the page really. As a technique for writing it has been employed by many writers. As a means to harness creativity, overcome writer’s block and to convey thought processes in fictional characters. A well-known example is Jack Kerouac‘s On the Road and William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch is a personal favorite. The human brain is incredibly fast. It can be difficult to get thoughts down on paper as quickly as they come. Jack Kerouac, writing in the age before the computer, taped together strips of tracing paper to make a sheet 120 feet long that he then fed into his typewriter, allowing him to write uninterrupted. The manuscript for On the Road is one long uninterrupted sequence, without paragraph or page breaks. Stream-of-consciousness writing was discovered to be fun and exciting. A little bit intimidating from the letting-go-of-control standpoint. And the results? Well, I leave it up to the reader to decide what you think of the results.


Three Glasses

Raging running, wreaking havoc, pelicans protruding progress on parallel parallelograms, grunting, running, ramming their rouccous rammifications of whatever it is you seek this day my friend because I, sir, am your servant, in the eyes of the lord, whatever it is you seek, I am here for you, unless you leave. Scratch scratch, she scratched her head wondering “maybe I should change my shampoo because this itching is either my scalp dislike this shampoo or I have cancer….” the big C….cancer. According to statistics and Joe Jackson everyone gets cancer. well, not THIS one. Not yet anyway. But the sun is strong in the tropics and my stream of consciousness may keep me sane, but the big C is always around the “little c” corner. What to do? they said I’d always amount to something. I was a contender, couldda knocked it outta da park. But then reality set in, and distraction. WAVES. The bigger the better, ya, I’m still talkin’ about waves, but you might have thought I was being crude. Ya, I’ve seen and had them big, but they never tell you that it’s like a glove. Too big is just TOO big. Why don’t you try to eat an entire loaf of bread in one gulp. I’m telling you it’s just about choking. That’s not pleasant no matter how good the bread.

So my mother tells me almost nothing. Basically it’s like she’s mute. I might as well learn sign languange, but then, with our history she will likely go blind the moment I can communicate a sentient idea. Oi vey. I’m not Jewish, but sometimes I think I was in another life, or meant to be in this one. How do you explain the love of pastrami? And the suffering? Ya, “that’s life” they say. Well, they’re right, but they forget to mention all the beauty in between the bouts of suffering. Ya, well, how ‘bout that then? What does it all mean. Am I insane to think that there is a purpose greater than us all….man my head moves way faster than my fingers on this keyboard. And by head, I don’t mean that I mean to give it, but that my brain is frighteningly quick in it’s stream of consciousness. Where does it all go? Youth beauty, resilience – I watched a young kid playing on the beach – running and playing with a soccer ball – he had legs like elastics, like Gumby, and I remembered what it felt like to be so limber. “Youth is wasted on the young” – a statement I always responded to with complete disdain and now I understand it. Age. Inevitable. Irrepressible. Ignitable? Definitely irrequitable. However, also inevitable and embraceable.

The grey hair starts very subtly. You don’t even see them especially when you have the sun-kissed blond hair of a surfer “girl”. Unfurl. In the curl. Curt. oh, I can’t possibly write the next word in the sequence. god help us all. And he does. May you be struck dead if I am wrong. Lightning. It hurts when it travels through your arm, down into your body, out your arm and down your core, into your legs and out your feet into the thankfully wet ground….leaving no burn marks…could it be a miracle. how could this be? Miraculous? or just damn lucky. You decide. Again, was consciousness altered maybe some neurons fried and others welded in a way that only divinity could?

Never mind. It’s all just a crap shoot anyway.


Muddy Waters

Running through the streets she saw that she was out of luck. The rain fell through the grates and into the sewers in great sloshing explosions of grey liquid putrid disgusting yawning flowing masses of vomit. There were cats there and dogs too. Pantry filled with vile bags of encrusting coral, like a reef. And jelly fish everywhere – great blue air-filled sacs of stinging, tentacle waving arcs of eating wands and small jello-like, clear undulating bodies with dark eye-like spots.

“What? What’s that you say?”

She turned around again to hear the sound of footsteps. Moving away this time. The dogs were there, the cats followed. And now the birds swooped down in great descending death-like spirals of black feathers. Brains with huge parts where ours are undeveloped. Senses completely stood on their heads.

They ran and ran through a desert filled with snow and then the rain came. And lightning without thunder. Filling the sky with light, making the whole world look like a discotek floor. Red liquid running down her throat, intoxicating and mellow-inducing, inhibition killing….like a gun, dead…right there on the floor, they die along with the music.

He had grey hair and an honest smile. Reaching across the table, he offered her an old black and white photo. She thought she recognized the people, and even the dog that were there looking back at her, as though it was yesterday. “Who….?” she began, but he waved the question away like a fly that was annoying him and his smile turned down to a serious expression. He handed her another photo…

The next day the sky was calm and she was too. The waves were lapping at her feet, and the sun, though it was not yet risen, woke her as it lit up the morning sky. It was clear now. And the only evidence of the insanity of the night before was a crumpled piece of paper in her hand and scratches etched in blood across her calves where the cactus had grabbed her like cats playing for keeps. The sun seemed to make it all seem like…Was it? Was it just a dream?