Thursday, May 12, 2016

Bloodroot in Bloom
Trout Lilies

Collection of shelf fungus, sea shells, pine cones, fossils and hardened cherry sap.
Reindeer Moss Lichens, White Pine cone, Cedar bark and Ferns

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Presumpscot River Preserve

Today we hiked the Presumpscot River Preserve, an easy jaunt in the vicinity of Falmouth/North Deering neighborhoods, just north of Portland, Maine. The trail-head is well marked with a sign and runs through a 60 acre preserve starting from Summit Street.  There is a metal gate in place to prevent vehicles beyond the mountain bikes from entering.   Summit Street doesn't offer parking, but the nearest side street to the trail head is a quiet residential neighborhood just footsteps away.  There were perhaps 10 or so other people enjoying the trail today.

This trail offers an easy mile-or-so hike to the Presumpscot river, with one area at the river that's uphill for perhaps 20 yards. There are several more trails branching off once you're down to the river, but we didn't venture more than that first mile and then back again, since I had been to the dentist this morning, so I was feeling a little uncomfortable.   It was around 65 degrees, a little hazy but sunny, and far less windy than it's been on the Portland peninsula.

It's a mixed woods, with primarily a few small Eastern Hemlock, White Pine, White Birch, Beech, and Oak.  Several small streams, and other runs, low-lying marshy areas are all along either side of the trail, but mainly to the right, or river-side of the trail.
It is obviously an area that experiences a lot of drainage and was quite moist despite the recent dry, clear weather.   Solomon's Seal is up, we saw a few dozen to the side of the trail, about 6” high with 5 or so leaves. This is typical timing for them in the region. A thriver, they extend all the way from Sasketchewan south to Florida, Montana to New Mexico. They come up in May and bloom from late May through June.

We saw one patch, about a square meter, with around a half dozen Sessile Bellwort in bloom. This very common early bloomer from the lily family, Uvularia Sessifolia, get to be about 6”high, and have a range across nearly all of wooded North America.

Yellow Trout Lilies are a favorite of mine, not for their graceful drooping flowers, but for the speckled patterns on their waxy, wide leaves. There were quite a few of these....
"Troutlily Gaggle"

Exceptional specimens of  Erythronium americanum Ker-Gawl.

The Trout Lilies we saw were all 6" in height.   Common Violets were in the lawns in the residential area, but we only saw purple,  no canadian, white or yellow varieties.  One chipmunk was spotted.

Strangely, there were no song birds. Not a lot of undergrowth to attract them, and with a hundred bird-feeders in the residential area flanking the trail, it's likely they've got it pretty good...Nik did think he saw a Turkey 

They were new, also about 6" tall, stems perhaps 1/2 inch diameter, tops. I had, in fact, never seen horsetails before, but knowing that these are prehistoric fern-like plants with unique and interesting characteristics and taxonomy, I was pleased to run up on them.  I would love to re-visit them to get a good look as they grow and as the season wears on. Today I was very interested to learn that their rhizomatic root system outweighs the tops by a 100 to 1. 

Everything seemed at the same height, about 6".  Probably everything shot up at once about 1 week ago.  

Along the trail today, we saw that a number of trees were downed, or otherwise done-for,  most likely broken off in wind storms,and hanging in precarious positions. We have had a rough, long winter here in Southern Maine, with temps below F. 0 for a good week, and one of the worst blizzards ever, so it's not surprising to see this amount of downed wood.  Wind provides a cleansing of weaker branches, a natural pruning, if you will.  These trails are maintained by volunteers, and I'm sure they are always happy to have helping hands or donations. If you live in Maine, or a frequent visitor, and value access to the outdoors and experiences in natural setting, support Maine Trails, a very good cause, methinks.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Warmer Springs Mean Less Snow Cover, Disruptions for Plants and Animals, and More Allergies, Scientists Say | Union of Concerned Scientists

The Ecology of Snow
Maine is famous for Tourmaline, and it is the official Maine State Mineral.

Tourmaline is a group of similar mineral species varying in composition and color. 

Two species of the tourmaline group are widespread in the igneous rocks of southwestern Maine. 

Schorl is a black iron-rich variety, and by far the more common of the two.

Elbaite is a lithium-bearing tourmaline that forms beautiful crystals in pink, green, blue, or combinations of these colors.

Attribution: Rob Lavinsky,

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Unjust, Conscience and Happiness...

It's been said that ignorance is bliss, because when the unjust remain ignorant of the nature of their acts, they can be happy.  But the deliberate unjust seek temporary and selfish satisfaction sowing seeds of strife with others and abide with the knowledge of the harm that they do.  We have conscience and laws to answer to.  Where either is lacking, injustice thrives.  Some are of the mind that appearances and self satisfaction are enough to be happy in life.   Others believe that freedom to act within our personal rights is a greater good than justice for all.  When we are shown to be self serving, we may be just if it does no harm to anyone, but where these interests compete, the greater good must be determined and must prevail for society to function.  Individual interests do not a happy society make. 
The more injustice a society has injected into it, the unhappier it becomes for all.  I  believe the unjust man is not ultimately happy.  The actions of the unjust create suffering for the just and the unjust alike.  Suffering injustice leads the unjust to become so.   The unjust do not trust others or situations enough to be just or believe that being just is going to bring happiness.  I believe that the unjust experience happiness in a selfish and temporary way.
  The unjust seek personal ends, but have a kind of contempt and distrust for their fellow man.  Their actions may provide temporary gains to themselves, but would not make for the most happy circumstances necessary to constitute a happy life. Their actions take away from happiness in society. 

Socrates asked if the just compete with the just, and Glaucon determined that they do not.  So the just can abide with the just, and increase harmony, or happiness for a society.   He also then postulated that the unjust will compete with the unjust or the just, the same.   This part of Socrates reasoning resonates with me as key to understanding how competing interests create strife.  I think it's important to consider that "The Republic" is utopian theory, or a view toward a perfect society.
I think that the views of Socrates are not flawed, but are inconclusive.  Socrates does not offer perfect reasoning, but reasoning can never be perfect because nature is not consistent.  Instead, he provides a framework with several ways of viewing what can be considered best practices.  He is correct in that to be just and to have the knowledge that one is just is beneficial to many in the most circumstances, and creates the most good relations in society, which in turn leads to the most possible "net" happiness.   Even if our "gross" actions are thought unjust by some, we can gain personal satisfaction and happiness knowing we did our best to do the right thing.  However, this personal satisfaction must not be the goal of the just, as that gives no thought to the benefit to society, or what is for the good of the whole.  What others perceive is relative to their position on the matters at hand.  Thus we are presented with the Allegory of the Cave.

The Allegory of the Cave holds much relevance to society today.  Particularly American society, where we are now each exposed to so much of the same things through the media. Our reality is subverted in this way, but few pause to consider the implications.  We must remain alert to things that would chain us to concepts, ideas, conclusions about ourselves, each other, and about the world.  When thinking becomes outdated and no longer useful, or worse, harmful to our fate, it's because we fail to consider the nature of things from a different perspective.  We do things how they've always been done.  We stick with ideas that we are taught by our parents and grandparents.  We vote the same way our neighbors vote.  We believe things because of popular sources, not because of the substance.   When crisis comes, do we have the capacity to solve problems, or might our “little world” shatter because we cannot think outside the box?

Friday, June 1, 2012

Greatest Danger to Capitalism?
(Hint: It isn't "Treehuggers")

The main dangers to the success of capitalism are the very people who would consider themselves its most ardent advocates : the investors who insist on profits, the management of these companies, and the politicians who tirelessly insist that they are 'pro-business'."

From The Economist:

"Many of the corporate scandals that America, especially, has endured in recent years reflect outright criminality. A lawful order knows what to do with criminals, and pro-business politicians are in truth militantly anti-capitalist if they flinch from cracking down on bosses' crimes."

"...widespread and quite outrageous abuse, by capitalists, of capitalism... The danger exists everywhere in the world, but it matters most in the United States."

The Economist, Special 160th Anniversary Issue, A Survey of Capitalism and Democracy, June 26-July 4, 2003
Politicians strain to outdo each other with promises to 'get tough' on crime and to bring law and order back to the streets.There is no question that common street crime is an important social concern. But its image has become so bloated in the mirror of public opinion that it blocks our view of the white collar crimes which are both more costly and more dangerous to society."

James Coleman. The Criminal Elite. 1985. St. Martin's Press

Here's an example of what happens with unfettered capitalism...

Groundwater depletion and sustainability of irrigation 
in the US High Plains and Central Valley. 

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA
Bridget R. Scanlona,  Claudia C. Fauntb, Laurent Longuevergnec, Robert C. Reedya, William M. Alleyb, Virginia L. McGuired, and Peter B. McMahone

Bureau of Economic Geology, Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78713-8924;
Geosciences Rennes, University de Rennes, Rennes Cedex, France

Edited by William A. Jury, University of California, Riverside, CA, and approved March 14, 2012 (received for review January 10, 2012)

Aquifer over-exploitation could significantly impact crop production in the United States because 60% of irrigation relies on groundwater. Groundwater depletion in the irrigated High Plains and California Central Valley accounts for 50% of groundwater depletion in the United States since 1900. A newly developed High Plains recharge map shows that high recharge in the northern High Plains results in sustainable pumpage, whereas lower re-charge in the central and southern High Plains has resulted in focused depletion of 330 km3 of fossil groundwater, mostly recharged during the past 13,000 y. Depletion is highly localized with about a third of depletion occurring in 4% of the High Plains land area. Extrapolation of the current depletion rate suggests that 35% of the southern High Plains will be unable to support irrigation within the next 30 y. Reducing irrigation withdrawals could extend the lifespan of the aquifer but would not result in sustainable management of this fossil groundwater. The Central Valley is a more dynamic, engineered system, with north/south diversions of surface water since the 1950s contributing to higher recharge.  However, these diversions are regulated because of impacts on endangered species. A newly developed Central Valley Hydrologic Model shows that groundwater depletion since the 1960s, totaling 80 km3, occurs mostly in the south (Tulare Basin) and primarily during droughts. Increasing water storage through artificial recharge of excess surface water in aquifers by up to 3 km3 shows promise for coping with droughts and improving sustainability of groundwater resources in the Central Valley.


So we can see how capitalism will push businesses to eat their seed stock to maximize profits in the short term.  I suppose those trading in derivatives of these markets are thinking they can gamble their way out, or perhaps this leads to businesses who need to be bailed out by the taxpayers later on.  This is obviously unsustainable, and will inevitably be challenged.  Investors and those profiteering from the depletion of non-renewable resources are their own worst enemies.