Thursday, September 25, 2008

Earth Series – Deserts

Alright, today’s Earth Series…The Desert. What’s to know? They’re dry, sandy places uninhabitable by living creatures, right? Of course you know that’s wrong. I say this because I trust you, my readers, to know better. But…did you know that they come in second, only to rainforests, for diversity of species? Among those species is us, the human being. While huge portions of desert are unoccupied by people there are those areas that have remained inhabited for tens of thousands of years. Another species that exists there, termites. These guys (and gals) play a pivotal role in a desert ecosystem. The air is too dry to support plant and wood eating fungi so the termites are the source of recycling, without them the ecosystem would collapse.

The deserts of the world cover about 1/3 of its surface. They receive somewhere between 0 and 10 inches of rain per year. To put that into perspective, that’s how much rain we received here in South Bend within a 24 hour period after Ike blew its aftermath this way. None of the deserts on the face of the earth are completely lifeless, but there are areas within some deserts that are unable to support life. Nonetheless, life in a desert can be surprisingly evident. In most deserts many animals, reptiles, and insects are nocturnal due to the extreme heat and radiation of the daytime temperatures. The nighttime temperatures fall quickly. The lack of clouds allows the heat of the day to escape into the atmosphere. In the Sahara the temps can drop by 30 degrees. Some of the desert animals include species of fox, toads, scorpions, lizards, and bees. The Sahara even supports life for desert elephants and lions. They cannot survive in the large size herds and prides of the savannah, and they need to travel great distances to find food, but they are present.

So, speaking of the Sahara, it is the size of the United States. It is the world’s biggest source of sand and dust. Sandstorms, the size of Britain, occur without warning and may last for days. Single humped camels (Dromedaries) weather the storms there with little effort. As sands are blown around sand dunes are born. In the midst of these hazardous, life threatening conditions, though, sanctuary is sometimes found in the form of an oasis. These fountains of life exist where the ground water table is very close to the surface and water rises either in springs or is trapped in mountain hallows.

Getting back to the sand dunes here, some of the world’s largest are found in the Namibia desert. They can be as tall as 1,000 feet; grains of sand are blown up the flanks and across the crests of the ridges which means that only the tops of the dunes move. The main body of the dunes in Namibia has not shifted for 5,000 years. As the wind blows across the desert rocks, it carries sand which is continuously eroding the rock slowly turning it to more sand.

The Australian desert has some of the hottest temperatures on earth. Every hour of the day the temperature rises 5 degrees centigrade reaching 70 degrees centigrade (158 degrees Fahrenheit) in the full sun.

The Atacama in Chile is the driest desert on earth; some parts of it haven’t seen rain for 50 years. Still, there is life here. South American camels (Guanacos) survive by eating cactus flowers which provides them with a source of water. But, how do the cacti survive without rain? Hot winds deprive the land of moisture but there is a cold sea current that runs parallel to the land. The cold water cools the air above and fog is made. The wind sweeps the fog inland blanketing the cacti with dew. Many various creatures are dependant on this, the only, source of water in an otherwise dry land. Birds drink the dew drops refreshing and rehydrating themselves. As the winds move inland, though, the air becomes too dry to condense and so there is only a small strip of the Atacama that can support life. Without the fog this portion of the desert would also be uninhabitable.

The Sonoran Desert in Arizona sees more moisture. It receives infrequent and unpredictable rainfalls. Everything there must be ready to take advantage of it. Giant Saguaros, one of the largest cacti, use their large, shallow root systems to take up the water. The pleats on their trunks expand quickly and can store up to five tons of water. Woodpeckers nest in the trunks and the blooms of the saguaros provide food for migrating bats that would not be able to make it across the desert otherwise. BTW – many bats are now endangered throughout the world, and in our own back yard, including the Indiana bat. - This desert is home to some 3,000 plant species, 1,200 bee species, and more than 550 vertebrae species.

Not all deserts are hot, the Gobi receives snow fall instead of rain. The range of temperature here makes this one of the harshest environments on the planet. The snow in the Gobi never melts, the air is too cold and dry and the suns rays evaporate it before it has the chance to become liquid. The snow is the only source of water in the Gobi. It is also home to Bactrian camels (two humps) one of the rarest animals on earth.

Many deserts receive water from distant sources like mountains. The water from these places may run for a hundred miles or more causing a flash flood. It’s not called a flash flood due to an extreme amount of water, but rather because it only lasts for a flash. The water appears and then disappears in as little as the course of a day and only happens once, maybe twice a year. With the flood comes a renewal of vegetation that can support more life in turn. Some seeds may lie dormant in the soil for over 30 years, waiting for this moment. Some massive blooms occur as rarely as one time per century. The greenery will be short lived but it aids in the overall survival of all that inhabit the desert areas.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Earth Series – Rain Forests

The rainforest in Peru

So, the earth series is continuing. I’m thinking I’ll handle some of the bigger better known ecosystems first and then delve into some of the smaller ones on a more intermittent basis. I hope that suits everyone. As much as I adore the earth I never intended this Blog to be only an earth conservation type work. That said, I’ve been toying with the idea of introducing some economics to the Blog as well. Given the current situation in the country and the world today I think it’s certainly worth taking a closer look at. Today, however, it’s the earth’s rainforests.

This remarkable ecosystem traverses the equator. There are rainforests in Central and South America, Africa, Southern Asia, and Australia. The spread sounds bigger than it is, though, the rainforests of the earth actually only take up about 6% of the planets space. Now, here’s the big. Even though they make up only 6% of the earth they hold over 50% of the entire planet’s species of plants and animals. Devastation of these areas has an enormous impact on the entire world’s populations. Each individual rainforest is home to thousands of species that exist only in those specific environments. In fact, in Australia’s rainforest over 80% of all the species there exist only there, they can be found no where else on the planet.

Some of the characteristics that define a rainforest include; climate, precipitation, canopy structure, and complex symbiotic relationships. The latter is when you have two species that work together to benefit one another. For example, you may have a species of ant that lives exclusively in a specific plant. The plant provides the housing necessary for the ants, and in return, the ants defend the plant from other would be preying insects. If one disappears they both disappear. When you have large populations of symbiotic species in a limited area and you destroy that area the species will become extinct.

So why else are the rainforests important besides the fact that out of all of those unique species 1 of every 4 provides medicine of one kind or another? We already know from yesterday’s post that despite the vast number of trees present in the rainforests it is actually the ocean’s algae that provide the planet with its primary source of oxygen. So, what else could it be? There is also the idea of water, hello people, rain. Did you know that the trees of the rainforest are what create the
for the high
That humidity builds and causes rain which in turn feeds the planet’s hydrologic cycle (the water cycle). Rainforests receive anywhere from 80 – 430 inches of rain each year. That water is responsible for creating moisture in our atmosphere. When the forests are cut down, less moisture is replaced into the atmosphere, which means less rain, which means more droughts. Seeing the connection here?

Well, now we know…extinction bad, drought bad, no medicine also bad…rainforests good. I think I’ll close out today’s blog with a few pictures of plant and animal species that live in the rainforests. Until later then, enjoy.

The Jaguar of Belize - Endangered

The Tomato frog of Madagascar

The Praying mantis of Madagascar

Bromeliads - One bromeliad was found to contain several small beetles, crane flies, earwigs, a frog, a cockroach, spiders, fly larvae, a millipede, a scorpion, woodlice and an earthworm!

The Green bush viper

The Asian pied hornbill

The African forest elephant

Venus fly trap

Dragonfly - Recently scientists have discovered that dragonflies migrate like birds.

The Beetle - More than 450,000 species of Beetles exist throughout the world

Orchids – There are over 20,000 known species

Sunday, September 21, 2008


As many of you know I’m a rather adamant planet conservationist. I say planet, because I believe it is vitally important to preserve life on all levels. This includes not only the beautiful and majestic large animals of popular appeal, such as the whales, the tigers, and the polar bears. It also includes our vital sub-ecosystems, the insects and plants that drive those systems, and it extends to human life as well. Yes, we too are extremely important when it comes to conservation. Our development and population growth is never going to stop unless mankind is wiped from the earth by some apocalyptic event. Now, since that may, or probably may not, ever happen, who knows, I believe it’s a very big deal for us to learn to live effectively on our planet. That means looking out for ALL of the species on the planet. In light of this I’ve decided to post a series of entries dedicated to the earth.

In this day and age we are facing mass extinctions that haven’t been seen since the time of the dinosaur. Over 1/3 of our world’s species of frogs has gone extinct within the last decade. Most people know about the plight of the polar bear and rain forest. Did you also know that the arctic forest is now being threatened and that it produces so much oxygen that it can change

composition of the atmosphere? Global warming is a another serious issue that can no longer be avoided. To the skeptics, I say, recheck your facts. Scientists have been able to collect and analyze information regarding global warming in a manner and quantity that they were unable to do just 20 years ago. If that’s not enough for you…look at your own back yard. How many people have witnessed spring flowering trees blooming in the fall? I know I have. How many of you gardeners have been able to plant earlier and later than normal? Anyone whose livelihood is dependent on the earth through farming could easily tell you of the changes they have witnessed. But these posts are not about lecturing on global warming. It’s about opening up people’s minds to the knowledge of the world around them. It is only by experiencing the world that one can develop a connection with it and while reading about it and looking at pictures may be a poor substitute for actually touching and seeing it first hand, it’s better than nothing.

So, let’s begin with the poles. There are two of them. Yeah, yeah I know, you probably already knew that. The arctic (that’s the northern pole) supports such a vast quantity of wildlife that it’s practically incomprehensible. Over two million caribou travel over 2000 miles each year in the search for new grazing fields. That alone, can be astonishing but it’s only a minute portion of the land and sea animals dependent on this extremely fragile ecosystem. Male polar bears need the ice intact to be able to hunt. So, because the ice is retreating earlier each year the bears must go for longer and longer periods, sometimes 5 months or more without a single meal. Starvation is a serious possibility. Did I mention the trees? The conifers in the arctic support a species of bird that is specifically tailored to extract the seeds from the pine cones and survive the frigid temperatures of the north. I wonder how successful those conifers would be at repopulating themselves if the birds disappeared. Then, of course, I have to ask what would become of the rest of the planet if those trees disappeared?

The humpback whale, believe it or not, has not been saved. It is still being threatened even 40+ years after the “Save the Whales” campaign was started. This is primarily due to loopholes in the laws which are being exploited and so their numbers continue to decline. The humpback whales rely on the entire ocean as both their breeding and feeding grounds. Both of the poles offer breeding areas as well as feeding during given times of the year. The females use the tropical waters near the equator as baby nurseries to have and raise their calves. The female humpback whale gives birth in the tropics and then lives off of her fat reserves for 8 months before returning to the polar waters to feed. The entire time she is in the tropical waters she is nursing her calf; she will be almost to the point of starvation when she and her calf begin the long journey back. The trip through the ocean’s waters will be around 5,000 miles. Once she makes it back to the colder waters she will need to consume about three tons of krill every day while she’s there.

The northern polar waters go through an algae bloom each year during the brief spring/summer season. All life in the poles is dependent on the precise timing of this seasonal change because the change is so rapid. If the algae fail to bloom the entire ecosystem collapses. Everything from krill to seal to whale runs the risk of starvation. Algae, one of the smallest living organisms on the face of the planet are also vital to us. Did you know that the ocean’s algae create ¾ of our oxygen? The life cycle goes on and on and affects all the life on the planet. The poles are some of the furthest and most isolated of ecosystems on the planet, but carry a great deal of weight when it comes to our planet’s well being. In my upcoming posts I plan to take a look at some of our world’s other ecosystems, stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Birdy Birdy In The Sky

So, I wasn’t sure what to write about today. I’m in kind of a hurry. Then I saw some bird pictures in my email and I thought, “Gee, I haven’t talked about birds lately.” So, I deided to give a quick shpeel on my backyard birdies and then post the pics that inspired me today.

I’ve had several hummingbirds frequenting the feeder right outside my kitchen window. It’s very cool to watch them so upclose. The kids all get very excited, even the older ones, when they see them. It’s always, “Look! Hummingbird(s) at the feeder.” They really are something else. They’re so small and yet, you can hear the loudest sound coming from them as their wings flutter, it sounds like a hundred bees all buzzing at once. They also chirp. Did you know that? I didn’t realize they did but they do. It’s just a quick “chirp” that they repeat it a few times while they’re there. They move off to a sunflower or the electric line and perch for a bit and then they come back for more.

I read an interesting fact about Humming Birds not too long age. It seems that their metabolism is so high they will starve to death in a matter of a few hours if they are not almost continuously feeding. I thought that was interesting. So, with that said…on to the pics.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Writing, Writing, and Writing. Did I Mention Writing?

Writing, writing, and more writing. I’ve been a busy little beaver over the last few days. Of course, I’m working on my blog entries but I’ve also been working on a new book. (Since the other three I had going were lost due to screwed up life situations) I have the first chapter rough draft finished. I wrote out the plot lines and a thirty chapter outline. I also wrote another article for InMichiana’s November issue. I’ll have an article in the October issue too when it’s released.

I still have an article to write for Inside Granger, but I have a few weeks yet before the deadline. I’ll begin making my contacts for that tomorrow. I figure I’ve written somewhere in the neighborhood of 7 to 10 thousand words over the last couple of days. Is that a lot? It feels like a lot. My fingers are sore. So, I think I’m going to take a break for the remainder of the evening and curl up with a good book.

I’m currently reading “Breaking Dawn” by Stephenie Meyer. It’s the fourth (last) book in her “Twilight” saga. The other two books are “New Moon” and “Eclipse”. I have really enjoyed all of them so far. I’m about 1/3 of the way through this last one and liking it as well as the others. “Twilight” is being made (has been made) into a movie and will be coming out in theatres in November. Yes, I have plans to see it. If you haven’t read it give it a shot. And now, off to the book.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Tagged...tagged like mice...rats

Tagged by Charmi

Six Unspectacular Things About Maeve

1. I love all things Victorian. That includes clothing, home décor, homes, fabric, gardens, books, politics of their era, food, science…you name it. If I had the means I would live in an old Victorian manor complete with a widow walk and the full Victorian décor. Ironically, I own practically nothing that is Victorian.

2. When I was six years old I brought home a huge bouquet of flowers, maybe 70 or 80. My mother asked me where I got them all and I told her Peter G. and Steven A. (both my age) gave them to me. She said “Oh, that was nice of them” and put them in water. What never came up was the fact that I had given each of them a kiss for every flower.

3. I love playing RPGs, role playing games, which many of you already know. I like to go all out for the games making it a special evening for everyone. So, I normally cook a nice dinner (last game was meatloaf, spiced potatoes, corn, with chocolate birthday cake and chocolate ice cream for dessert) and then set out yummy munchies snacks for all. We eat, munch, play and laugh all night.

4. I like crafting of all kinds. I sew, garden, crochet, knit and I’m constantly learning new things. My current interest is decoupage and basket decorating. I plan on learning how to do hat decorating and wreath making. I’m sure I’ll want to pick up other things as well. I find, though, that because I’m so easily drawn to new interests that I leave many projects half finished.

5. I had Coco Crunchies for breakfast this morning after I took two of the kids to their bus stop and walked around the block, and fed the birds. I do this every morning with the exception of weekends (no need for the bus stop) and my breakfast usually changes every day. Sometimes it’s eggs, sometimes oatmeal, sometimes toast.

6. One of my cats has a tendency to cling to my shoulder as if she was hanging onto a tree limb by only her front paws. She does this whether I’m sitting, standing or lying down. It’s as if she's fighting an invisible person who is trying to pry her away from me. She does this so often that my left shoulder blade and shoulder have tiny scars all over them and they always have fresh scratches. She particularly likes to cling when I’m at my computer working.

Meme terms & conditions!
1. link the person who tagged you: Charmi (see above)
2. mention the rules on your blog: (these are them)
3. list 6 unspectacular things about you: (see above)
4. tag 6 other bloggers by linking them:

Mr. Spectacular
And last but certainly not least (although he's already been tagged by Charmi)
The Big Bad (Poetry) Wolf

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Vampire Update

Salright, we played last night. It was good. I went out hunting for the first time; it went well. In other words I didn’t kill my prey and I also made my willpower roll which kept me from frenzying. All in all it was good.

On a slightly side note. We realized, as an uptight human lawyer bitch who graduated from Yale by age 20 and was almost a Jr. Partner in her law firm by age 26, that I had never had the deflowering moment take place. What might this mean for a single, pretty yet uppity, vampire lawyer? Simply this, that due to my restorative healing powers even if (when) I lose my virginity by the next day I’ll be a virgin again. Yes, my hymen will grow back now, each and every time, I have a sexual encounter of the intercourse kind. And, yes, we tried it out (role playing people, just make believe…jeez, get your heads out of the gutter).

Harper, the vampire who has been teaching me to hunt, took the liberty of taking me to this well…shall we say…an underground establishment where I was able to select my deflowerer from a fair sized selection of willing young men show chained with golden chains to the wall. Harper actually selected the one for me since I couldn’t decide. By the way, Harper is an NPC, she works at Lady Imogen’s Burlesque show. She’s very, how shall I put this, uninhibited. So, yeah…I’m forever a virgin.

Then the story shifted a bit and I had to go hunt down a clue at an abandoned insane asylum with the other newbie vamps. It was a wicked thing. The whole situation, it was wicked. We ended up falling through a burnt out floor. Everyone but me went through this tunnel like thing they found to look for what we came for. I on the hand took a different path. When we entered the hospital we came across many, many, and I do mean, many rats. They all watched us very closely and moved and did things that just weren’t normal. It gave us the idea that they were being controlled by someone. Then music began to play, no one seemed particularly interested in this which is why they went their way and I went mine. You see, it occurred to me that we’re in an ABANDONED building, no electricity people. Where was the music coming from? I ended up following several extension cords back to our car to find them connected to a power cell and our car battery. Someone was messing with us.

I saw some lights on the second floor and went to investigate. It turned out the perpetrator had attached flashlights to several cats, yes cats. This quickly became a problem for me, as I had previously taken a particular flaw. (Flaws allow you to get benefits in other areas by taking them) My flaw, a horrible, horrible, phobia of, yes, cats. So, of course failing my willpower roll, I went screaming and running away in a fox frenzy of panic. I never really did find out who the perp was. My companions did, however, but that’s out of game knowledge to me, and so I can’t use it. And that’s basically where we’re at. More fun to come I know it. Out of game knowledge, between you and me, the perp is a Maulkavian vampire; they’re the crazy ones and man oh man she’s playing the role well. Fun, fun, fun….yippy, Vampire!

Friday, September 12, 2008

It’s Hard Drive City

Yeah! I’m finally up and running again. It took forever but in the end I got the new hard drive and have basically reinstalled everything I need. I managed to pull up a few things that I had posted on various websites that contained some of the work I had lost when the old drive was torn so suddenly from its young life. So, even though it’s no where close to what I had, it’s not completely over.

I still want to post some pics of the aprons and clothes that I’ve been working on. I haven’t looked into it too far, but I think I may have to buy a cord before I can download the pics from my phone to my computer. Is anyone out there cell phone proficient? Oh, and willing to help? My cell phone is very new to me. The last time I had one it was like 1997 or something so…I’ve been a bit out of touch. I think I may be able to email them to myself if nothing else but I haven’t really explored that possibility yet. I think I would prefer a quick and painless method if possible.

Speaking of pics…I should take some of the garden out back. I recently added a new plot to the yard. This is strictly a show garden, no veggies, well…no edible veggies, ok…maybe there will “technically” be something there that can be eaten but…the main purpose of this spot is for aesthetic pleasure not practical food supply. On that note; I planted some hardy mums (red & orange), some flowering kale, and some black arugula (if I remember correctly). There was already a small lilac bush beginning to grow in the same area. I’m planning on adding some bulbs around the end of the month, maybe some lilies and tulips. I’m not 100% sure yet. Hopefully the spot will be fairly carefree so that when we move the next people won’t have to mess with it if they don’t want to.

I’ve gotten the birds and squirrels so used to a steady food supply that I’m afraid when we move they’ll have trouble fending for themselves so…I’m trying to put some shrubs and trees in the ground that will offer both food and shelter should the next people not offer the buffet they have grown accustomed to. I’ll be adding Bittersweet to the new plot, I know that. I’ve planted some flowering crabapples, a flowering dogwood, and a couple of hawthorns. I think they’ll help. We don’t have any solid plans, yet, regarding a move but we do know one will be coming within the next three years sometime. It could possibly be as soon as next year depending on children’s school situations, R’s job, and the, “I can’t take living in the city any longer” factor. Until then, I’m trying to plan ahead. Yes, I’m consumed by the thought of the innocent little birdies going hungry, laugh if you must.

On that note, I shall call it a day for today. I look forward to being able to write again on a more regular schedule so it would be nice to see all of your smiling web addys show up on my blog log ;-) on a regular basis as well…no hint there…hint, hint…hint.