The Perfect Swarm

An interesting idea about protein consumption and weight gain’s possible relationship to climate change.

Source: The Perfect Swarm

I Hate To Keep Bringing This Shit Up

Whale Shit

Whale Shit

Turns out the expression “lower than whale shit” is totally inaccurate.  Who knew?

There’s no getting the iron to the top unless a whale dives way down and gets it…by eating something iron-rich like squid. There’s too much pressure at the bottom of the ocean to allow whales to poop, so they have to hold it until they come up for air, and then they let fly, and do so abundantly. Now there’s a crapload of iron at the surface.  Read, learn, be amused all to hell…

Stuff I Saw On A Recent Walk Through The Scrub

All images were taken with my phone (Samsung Galaxy S III) using the “A Better Camera” app.  All are 3-exposure HDR (High Dynamic Range).


Sabal Palmetto


Scrub Oak Forest (you may have seen this elsewhere)


Gopher Tortoise Burrow


Scrub Oaks grow slowly and don’t get very big. This one, with a 6″ (15 cm) diameter trunk, is probably a hundred or more years old. Maybe a lot more.


Sand Pine — either a lightning strike, or hurricane damage


Silver Palmetto, Love Vine and Dried Fox Grape Leaves

Sand Pine Cones


Woodbine (Virginia Creeper)


Lichens love Scrub Oak. There are several varieties of lichen in the semi-arid scrub.


Things grow slowly in arid and semi-arid areas. If left untraveled, vestiges of this path would be visible for several decades or longer, depending on climate.


This is where amber comes from, but it takes a while.


Scrub Pogonia. These blossoms are about the size of a nickle.


This lady was about the size of a child’s hand. Full-grown, she might be nearly as big as mine. Golden Orb Weavers like to build their webs across trails and openings, where insects are funneled into the trap. Thus, they pose frequent surprises for careless hikers. She won’t hurt you, but she can make you hurt yourself!


Along the east coast of Florida, the ridge down the center of the state, and the Big Bend and Panhandle, we find the “scrub country,” meaning that it includes among its beaches, orange groves, sand- and phosphate-mining pits and fishing camps the remnants of a huge semi-arid scrub habitat that reached all the way around the Gulf coast to northern Mexico a couple of million years ago. The contiguity of the habitat has long since been interrupted by rising sea levels that produced, among other things, the bayou country. What remains are islands of similar plants and animals that have been separated from their brethren for a long time. The independent changes that have occurred in the fragmented plant and animal species are of tremendous interest to biologists and zoologists, and the information about mutations and short-term evolutionary changes could (and does) fill numerous books.


[Example: a species of jay called the Scrub Jay that’s genetically identical to its relatives elsewhere, but whose courting rituals have changed to a point of no longer facilitating breeding with birds from outside its own area. They could make babies, but instead ignore each other’s courting displays. Basically, they just don’t get the “come on”. This discovery alone has altered the definition of “species” throughout zoology.]

Well, unfortunately for the scrub in central Florida and along the east coast where another isolated stretch occurs, it’s not exactly prepossessing real estate. The predominant trees are dwarfed and shriveled-looking scrub oaks, some pines that tend to grow close to the ground and lean a lot, and pignut hickory. Beneath those are found some truly vicious cacti called “prickly pears” that sport four-inch thorns like needles, equipped with microscopic barbs that take a couple of cc’s of your flesh along with them when they’re pulled out. (Trust me on that.) In between the patches of cacti are scrub rosemary and all sorts of less noticeable plants. Dominant animal species tend to be exciting things like gopher tortoises (who eat the prickly pears) odd-looking striped lizards, the aforementioned jays, and numerous insects and other small critters. Foxes, cottontail rabbits and bobcats occasionally visit from surrounding lowlands. Essentially, it’s a pretty useless-looking place.

However, the scrub is home to more rare and endangered plants and animals in one area than most anywhere else in the continental US. These include the tortoises, lizards and–among the plants–the only known flowering plant in the world that spends its entire life underground, facilitated by the translucent quartz sand that allows light to penetrate the few centimeters to where the plant lives. Only the blossom of the tiny plant protrudes above the surface for a short time each year to allow pollination.

Historically, the well-drained and geologically stable scrub regions have been seen as prime locations for orange groves, highway and railroad rights-of-way, industrial areas, quartz sand mines and similar intrusions. Arid habitats are fragile, and despite the average 50 inches of annual rainfall in that part of Florida, the scrub is dry most of the time. Plants adapted to such environments grow slowly. A set of tire tracks from a model T Ford, laid down in the 1920’s, might still be visible in the disturbed ground cover. Once the system has been completely disrupted by–say–an orange grove, it will never exist again in its original form regardless of efforts to achieve that end.

Another issue is the need for fire. The smaller plants and trees of the scrub, including the sand pines and oaks that help to stabilize the soil, are adapted to periodic burning (usually caused by lightning strikes in this, the thunderstorm capital of the world.) The seeds of the sand pines won’t even germinate unless they’ve been subjected to high heat. Generally speaking, fires in areas of orange groves and housing developments are frowned upon. Thus the necessary periodic burns are rarely permitted to happen. As much as that bodes ill for survival of the ecosystem, it gets even worse. Vines and bushes, unburned, get too big, grow up too far on the trees, create too much easily-burnable undergrowth, and when the inevitable fires finally do occur they burn so hot and high that they permanently kill the plants they ought to be helping. And once an arid or semi-arid habitat is gone, whether Florida scrub or Tibetan high desert, it’s simply gone. Finis. Never to return.

Why is this important? Simple. We find uses every day for plants and animals that were never dreamed of previously–not the uses, and often not even the organisms. Who knows what is being destroyed in the scrub? A cure for cancer? The answer to questions about genetics and heredity that might lead to valuable knowledge about human behavior? An ability observed in one of those highly specialized lizards that might lead to our being able to live on (or in) the arid surface of Mars? We never know from what source the next discovery will spring. In the case of the scrub habitats some discoveries will never be made. Others are at risk. So are thousands of undiscovered species and their undiscovered benefits elsewhere around the world, from the rain forests of Indonesia and the Amazon to the windy deserts high on the slopes of the Himalaya and Alaska Ranges. We evolved on this planet. It’s only logical that many of the living things we evolved with could be of use to us, if we knew about them. If we ever know about them.

Learn about scrub from the experts… 



 GO AVIDLY amid the smog and waste, and rejoice in the comfort of owning a piece thereof. As far as possible, neither surrender nor otherwise kiss ass, except for profit. Avoid quiet, boring people, unless you are badly in need of sleep. Their stories are pointless. Practice consumerism. Speak glowingly of those who perceive themselves to be greater than you: it puts them at ease, and if you then play your cards right they will soon be sucking up to you. Avoid loud, aggressive and poor people, lest they harm your image. IF YOU compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter. This will provide incentive to achieve more. Remember that two wrongs never make a right, but that a third may well work to your advantage. Rotate your tires. Spread the news of your achievements, but hold close your ambitions until you have sufficient leverage. Whenever possible, put people on hold. CONCENTRATE on your career. It will not always be humble — nor will you. Along with your home, the Beemer and your family, your job scores you points in the game of life. Remember that he who dies with the most toys wins. IF YOU have not yet learned that the world is full of trickery, wake up already! But let this not blind you to what virtue there is: many people strive for high ideals, and they are ripe for the plucking. BE YOURSELF, but let no one know who that is. Do not feign affection, nor be cynical about love; buy people, so that you know where you stand at all times. Remember that in the face of aridity and disenchantment, avarice is as perennial as the grass, and that catering to someone’s greed will always give you the edge. TAKE KINDLY the counsel of the years, but take care not to surrender the things of youth. Distress yourself not with imaginings: many fears are born of fatigue or loneliness. A new trophy spouse will keep you company and help you sleep, and a good surgeon can help you keep from looking like a middle-aged fool when the two of you are in public. DESPITE TIME’S changing fortunes, continue to buy low and sell high. Beyond a wholesome discipline in the market, be lavish with yourself. So far you can’t take it with you, although in a manner of speaking you may end up doing so yet. YOU ARE a fluke of the universe. By destroying the trees and dimming the stars you have forfeited your right to be here. And whether or not you can hear it, the universe is plotting behind your back. Be careful. Paybacks are hell.


We speak of “leaf litter,” but when we look attentively at the tiny world of a lichen, or the minuscule jungle of a bit of moss, or consider the complex chemistry that turns decaying leaves into the soil that supports their own tree, or the tree’s seedlings, it becomes clear that “litter” is not the right word.


Gorbachev on the Rio+20 Conference

“I feel bitter when I look at the cavernous gulf between rich and poor, the irresponsibility that caused the global financial crisis, the weak and divided responses to climate change, and the failure to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The opportunity to build a safer, fairer and more united world has been largely squandered.”
~  Mikhail Gorbachev

Read the entire statement