Kosmoss

As somebody famous once said, we are the pale blue dot. From far enough away, invisible. Insignificant. Tiny. An isolated speck in an isolationist universe. In the cold mountain air, I found the stars had an extra sharpness at night. Humans can go so far in that darkness, but it is laughably close on the grand scale of galaxies. Here’s a peek into the great universe, as taken by me in Austria:

Our satellite, our companion.
©rq, all rights reserved.

My favourite constellation, Orion. We call it the Hunter here, and I wonder if its variety of names is as diverse as that of the Big Dipper?
©rq, all rights reserved.

But as much as I want to be just excited about another scientific and technological achievement, it’s hard to disconnect from the news today. Humans can be so selfish, and inconsiderate, and greedy, and destructive. Anyway, here’s Muriel Rukeyser back in 1968:

I lived in the first century of world wars.
Most mornings I would be more or less insane,
The newspapers would arrive with their careless stories,
The news would pour out of various devices
Interrupted by attempts to sell products to the unseen.
I would call my friends on other devices;
They would be more or less mad for similar reasons.
Slowly I would get to pen and paper,
Make my poems for others unseen and unborn.
In the day I would be reminded of those men and women,
Brave, setting up signals across vast distances,
Considering a nameless way of living, of almost unimagined values.
As the lights darkened, as the lights of night brightened,
We would try to imagine them, try to find each other,
To construct peace, to make love, to reconcile
Waking with sleeping, ourselves with each other,
Ourselves with ourselves. We would try by any means
To reach the limits of ourselves, to reach beyond ourselves,
To let go the means, to wake.
I lived in the first century of these wars.

It appears to be the second century of these wars. And the universe goes on and will go on without us, because humans are just that important. I just wish we could be selfish enough to consider mutual survival.

Youtube Video: Are electric cars really green?

Potholer 54 delivers an excellently researched video, as usual. I have just watched it and since I have nothing better to post at the moment, here it is.

Unfortunately there is still one big hurdle in the way progress here. I wanted to actually buy an electric car, but unfortunately the upfront costs are still to prohibitive for me. No matter how much the prices of electric cars have fallen, the purchasing cost of an electric equivalent of my current car are three times higher. Whic means I would have to save up money for three years to get that car. And in the mean time I would not have any car whatsoever.

Signs of Autumn

 

The signs of autumn from Nightjar,

These are the four signs that I look for every year before I can safely declare autumn has arrived. Leaf colour, autumn snowflakes, mushrooms and green grass. I was able to check all four boxes by the end of October, which is good!

 

1. Leaves change colour and glow in the sun

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Macedonia 6 – This Place Rocks

Let me start off by saying that I miss rocks. I grew up on the Canadian shield, and granite outcroppings were a regular fixture of my childhood, along with mica-and-quartz hunting, breaking beaver dams and catching leeches in the pond.

And while I miss all of those things to greater or lesser degree, I wasn’t prepared for my own rather overly emotional response to seeing large pieces of rock (as in, cliffs and boulders you can stand on and not individual erratics but part of a mountain!). I went up the mountain in Macedonia expecting a nice view, but got a shoe full of quartz fragments (pocket, but nevertheless) and tears in my eyes. It was beautiful. Well, kind of dull and brown and grey, but beautiful.

And then! Coming down the mountain (I have a story about this but I will place it with some pleasant picture of flowers in a later post) I saw many more incredible rocky things that warmed the cockles of my heart. Behold.

This is actually the view that made me cry. Glorious, innit? ©rq, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

More after the break, but first, here’s your song.

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Foxmom

This photo is just a delight. It’s always a wonder when we can catch a glimpse of such a cautious wild creature. It came from Avalus who says,

A foxmother, that lives in an abandoned Garden just next to the house I live in. She has three cubs, but I only have this one image, as I usually meet them only when it is to dark for photos.

She has her eye on you, Avalus. Thanks for sharing.

foxmom, ©Avalus, all rights reserved

Funny Animals

The finalists of the 2018 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards are out, and they’re a blast. Here’s a couple of my favourites:

© Achim Sterna/The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2018

 

© Mary McGowan/The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2018

 

© Roie Galitz/The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2018

 

© Kallol Mukherjee/The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2018

 

And lots more

Today’s piece of music is more of a dance showcase, in the theme of colourful animals. Below the fold because spiders.

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Not Quite Tree Tuesday

The trees are doing something odd out in northern Ontario:

In the forests of northern Ontario, a “strange phenomenon” of large natural rings occurs, where thousands of circles, as large as two kilometers in diameter, appear in the remote landscape.

Via this link: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Aerial-photograph-of-forest-rings-with-diameters-of-approximately-150-m-in-northern_fig1_292337890, which leads to a very scientific article on the phenomenon.

The article assures us that this is nothing unnatural or particularly mysterious:

Indeed, as geochemist Stew Hamilton suggested in 1998, the rings are most likely to be surface features caused by “reduced chimneys,” or “big centres of negative charge that frequently occur over metal deposits,” where a forest ring is simply “a special case of a reduced chimney.”

Reduced chimneys, meanwhile, are “giant electrochemical cells” in the ground that, as seen through the example of forest rings, can affect the way vegetation grows there.

I’ve been out there and it looked fine to me, but things get even weirder and weirder the more I read – but that just might be the full article going in all kinds of directions, especially at the end. But the tree rings are cool. And maybe it’s aliens…

Jack’s Walk

The rolling hills of home, ©voyager, all rights reserved

Autumn is definitely in the air around here. The days are cooler and the nights are crisp and Jack couldn’t be happier. You see, the boy hates warm weather. His fur is thick and because he ocean swims in the summer he doesn’t lose his undercoat. He also has a bit of a fat pad that makes it even harder to stay cool. So when the weather turns and autumn comes Jack gets energized. Even now at 10 years old he is full of piss and vinegar. I don’t mind at all. Go ahead Jack and use that tail to clear the coffee table. Scratch my floors with those talons of yours and bark at every passing car. It was a long hot summer, but it’s finally time to have some fun.

Wot Lives in the Goldenrod

rq has sent us a little series about various flowers and their residents. First one is goldenrod, and it looks like  Solidago canadensis, which is quite common throughout Europe. Sadly this beautiful plant is not only strong allergen in the late summer, here it is also an invasive weed that is damaging the environment by outcompeting local species and creating essentialy monocultures in places.

But enough with being a killjoy – they are beautiful and that is important here and now.

©rq, all rights reserved, click for full size.

Harakka Island- Chapter 4

We’re on to chapter 4 of Ice Swimmer’s series, Harakka, an Island and today we’re heading toward the water. I’m always drawn to big, open water and these photos show off the sea beautifully. I’ll let Ice Swimmer fill you in on the details.

 

Chapter 4 – West

The western shore of Harakka is visible from Uunisaari and one conversation with Nightjar in the comments of a posting with a picture of Harakka from Uunisaari sparked the idea to go and explore the island.

 

1. Open Sea in the Southwest, ©Ice Swimmer all rights reserved

There is a path from near the northwestern corner of the Artists’ Building to the other side of the earthworks behind the building. The path leads to cliffs on the western shore of Harakka. When looking southwest from the path one can see some islands, but also open sea.

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Jack’s Walk

Terracotta Park, Pointe Claire, Quebec ©voyager, all rights reserved

This photo was taken in a place called Terracotta Natural Park and it’s right in the heart of Pointe Claire. It’s a huge park (almost 100 acres) with lots of connecting and well maintained trails. It’s one of Jack’s favorite places to go, but unlike our woods at home I won’t allow my boy off-leash here because of the threat of coyotes. We’ve never seen one ourselves, but there are signs posted at every entrance to the park advising extreme caution and noting that they’ve been spotted in the area. My husband grew up near the park and we’ve been taking our dogs to it for about 15 years and this is the first time we’ve seen such warnings. That probably means there’s an established population of coyotes. And why not? The park is exactly like their natural environment and it’s filled with their natural prey plus it has the added bonus of human leavings. As their environments shrink or die all animals, including large predators, will move ever closer to populated areas just trying to eke out a life and avoid extinction. I think they have as much right to the land as we do. Maybe more. At least they’re not destroying the planet.

Jack’s Walk

Malbaie Salt Marsh

This is part of the Malbaie Salt Marsh which is a federally protected nature conservancy. The marsh is the largest natural lagoon in Quebec and is an important habitat for over 200 species of birds and 25 species of fish. It’s also an important location for migrating birds. This photo was taken at low tide and you can just see the sandbar in the background that separates the marsh from the ocean. At high tide there are gaps in the sandbar which allow the fresh and salt waters to mix.

Behind the Iron Curtain part 5 – Environmentalism

These are my recollections of a life behind the iron curtain. I do not aim to give perfect and objective evaluation of anything, but to share my personal experiences and memories. It will explain why I just cannot get misty eyed over some ideas on the political left and why I loathe many ideas on the right.


Today it seems like protecting the nature has become a leftist issue, and raping and pillaging it is the modus operandi of the right. This amuses me slightly, because the “left” that I grew up with was very different.

Unofficial motto of communist regime was “Poručíme větru, dešti.”. Translated into English “We shall take command of the winds and the rain.”. Humans were central to any policy and it was seen as imperative to take total control of nature and shape it to our needs and wants. In retrospect, some of it resembled christian ideas about humans being given dominion over the Earth.

One of the environmental abominations the communists did whose damage pays heavy dividends these last dry years had three steps.
First was connecting the by then relatively small fields divided by boundaries of bushes and small trees into vast fields. Second was to drain as many marshes and wetlands as possible so they can be ploughed by heavy machinery. Third was to straighten as many rivers and creeks as possible.

The negative consequences were visible within a few years but despite that these things were, to my memory, touted as a sucesses to the very end.

And those consequences?

Destroying the bush covered boundaries admittedly reduced slightly the occurrence of some infections affecting crops (especially the grass rust), and some insects. However it also drastically reduced the birds populations by depriving them of nesting places, and it exposed the soil in the spring and fall to heavy wind and water erosion. That took a few decades to be visible with naked eye, but today there are fields in CZ that have patches completely stripped of all topsoil.
Draining marshes and wetlands brought near to nothing to increase crop production. Thusly gained soil when dried was heavy infertile clay that did not want to take in water from rain and where nothing very much grew. The only things that seemed to prosper there were pioneering plants like birches and chamomile. What was lost almost immediately were multiple species of orchids and other wetland plants, many of which became endangered as a result and to this day grow only in few areas.
Straightening the creeks and rivers was perhaps the most damaging of these all. Together with the first two steps it created a landscape where water retention capabilities of the land are damaged beyond repair. Today we are seeing the consequences in the form of droughts and subsequent flash floods when rain water does not seep into soil, but flows away as quickly as possible across the uninterrupted fields and through the straightened water-bed. Oh, and salmon are mostly gone too.

Anther thing to consider is the regime’s contribution to acid rains and global warming, which were both acknowledged as real and both ignored on grand scale. In school we were taught that the success of a state can be measured in the tonnage of coal mined and steel produced. So coal was mined and steel produced even at a time when western European countries already realized that this is not the right way to go. And this was touted as an example of our magnanimous socialist countries outperforming those dumb evil capitalists.

Our (CZ) coal power plants burned sulphur rich coal and made no effort to filter out the sulphur oxides and fly ash even at a time when in neighbouring Germany many, if not all, such plants have been equipped with both sulphur and fly ash capture. Thus when the wind was blowing from the west, the air was fresh, when it was blowing from the east, it was foul. In a rare occurrence these facts were mentioned at school to us and I have asked the teacher why our coal plants are not equipped with the same devices. surprisingly I got what probably was an honest answer – it is expensive and our state cannot afford it. I did not ask further but I do remember the dissonance I felt thinking about it – we are outperforming those evil capitalists yet we cannot afford to protect our environment like they co?

Last thing I want to mention is the protection of animals against abuse. There was none. As a child I have read an article about this in one children magazine my parents were buying to me. The author somehow got through censors very sincere article talking about this problem, and demonstrated how wild as well as domestic animals are being abused and tortured on regular basis. He mentioned an instance where some state representative was asked why the regime does not try to enact such laws which again were common in many western countries at that time. The answer was “Socialist human does not need laws to be kind to animals.”. The author of the article finished with bitter words “Well, it is evident not everyone deserves to be called (not only) socialist.”.

The problem, like with many other things, was that whatever the regime has decided to do or not to do was correct by definition. The regime had all the smartest people, the bestest people, and was in possession of all the answers. Evidence was only acknowledged when it could not be ignored anymore, and even then very reluctantly. Remind you of something/one?

That made me wary of anyone who claims to have all answers.