Remember each day
The power of being present.
Of not speaking
but holding a hand
giving a hug
offering a smile.
life, love, and laughter.
Because today is a gift.
As I walked by Boulder Creek near the library the other day, the usual flock of ducks was happily cackling, swimming, and preening. The shoreline and rocks in the creek were covered in snow. I was bundled in boots, coat, and a hat – barely warm. As I watched them go about their duck business as usual, I was glad I was not one of them.
The more practical side of me, however, reasoned that ducks were adapted to deal with the cold (yes, 15° in October). They wear a down coat, after all. But what about those feet??? Lots of other birds will fluff up their feathers and hunker down to protect their feet. But ducks (and other water birds) swim in frigid water and stand right on the ice. How can they do that? The scientific name is a counter-current heat exchange system. For us non-scientists, this means that the veins and arteries in ducks’ legs are packed close together. So warm blood heading down to the feet heats up the cold blood returning from the feet. That way the bird can maintain a constant body temperature. Not only that, but their feet are specially designed to withstand the cold because they have little nerve tissue or muscle. Their feet are made of mostly bones and tendons. Still, I’m glad I’m not a duck.
On this cold and snowy day in Colorado, it’s time to talk about turtles. What do they do when it’s this cold (and their pond freezes over)? They are cold-blooded after all. Well, they hibernate. Painted turtles slow their body metabolism down by as much as 95% and spend the winter at the bottom of a pond. Except, wait, don’t they need some oxygen? They do! And that’s where this gets both interesting and funny.
Painted turtles have a cloaca – an all-purpose orifice. Basically, it’s their butt. Turns out that area has special blood-vessels that takes up oxygen directly from the water, so the turtles do not need to breathe air. So the next time you wonder what painted turtles are doing in the winter, know that they are taking a snooze at the bottom of a pond and breathing through their butts.
Anyone who’s ever been to my house knows that yard work is not high on our priority list. We like to go for the “au naturel” look. And we succeed marvelously. Luckily, we live in an area where that’s okay. Perhaps that’s why we live where we do. Anyway, I read an article earlier this week that slashed any guilt (there wasn’t much to begin with) I might have had about our lack of fall clean-up. The article, “To Help Birds This Winter, Go Easy on Fall Yard Work,” was published by Audubon. I’m happy to help birds!
My distaste for yard work aside, I’d always known on some level that much of the organic material did need to stay in place so the seeds could work their way into the ground and to replenish the soil. But I’d never thought about the birds and the bugs. Of course all of that stuff is good for them! Decomposing leaves, flowers, grasses, and the like all provide food and shelter throughout the winter. So, I’ll sweep the walkways, and trim and tidy a bit here and there. That’ll take an hour. After that, I’ll sit back and enjoy the fruits of my (lack of) labor all winter.
Let’s talk about vultures. They are definitely not the most glamorous of animals. After all, they’re a bit odd looking (even ugly?) and they eat roadkill. But they are oh, so cool. Let’s start with why many species of vultures are bald. That’s so when they stick their heads in that rotting, nasty roadkill, the festering blood full of bacteria doesn’t get stuck in their feathers! And now you’re probably wondering, how they can eat rotting meat in the first place and not get sick. Turns out that the stomach acid of vultures is so corrosive that it can dissolve some metals and therefore makes short order of any bacteria in the dead meat they feast on. That stomach acid comes in handy in other ways too. Once digestion is complete, vultures poop on their own legs. Disgusting? Most certainly. However, not only does that help vultures to cool down on hot days, but the acids help to disinfect their legs and feet after they’ve been mucking around inside a carcass. Yes, you read correctly. Their poop acts like a cleanser. The stomach acid of vultures is also useful when it comes out the other way – when they barf. Some vultures will projectile vomit when threatened. If the smell alone doesn’t send a predator running, the acid that is in their vomit will. No, vultures are not glamorous; but there’s no denying it – they are amazing.
Tomorrow I will celebrate a very important birthday…Crazy Contraptions: Build Rube Goldberg Machines that Swoop, Spin, Stack, and Swivel will (officially) be released. This particular book has had an interesting life leading up to publication…proposal, acceptance, contract, completion, submission, release from contract, anger, determination, a question, new contract, rewrite, and VIOLA! You can read the details from my blog on August 19, 2019 when the actual books arrived on my doorstep.
The takeaway, for kids, other authors, anyone, is that determination and hard work pay off. That, and physics really can be LOADS of FUN! Happy contraption building.
While you wouldn’t actually want to put this shark in your pocket, it would fit there. But that’s not how it got its name – it was so-named because it actually has pocket-like glands near the pectoral fins. And, it squirts a bio-luminescent liquid from them to attract prey!
This shark is remarkable not only because of its size (5.5 inches long) or the glow-in-the-dark liquid it produces, but also because it is so rare. In fact, only two have ever been found. In separate oceans. The findings highlight the amazing biodiversity of Earth and how much more there is to learn. And, how much there is to protect.
“…the climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions. All we have to do is to wake up and change.” (Greta Thunberg, November 2018)
Last Friday was the day of the global climate strike. I was both thrilled and dismayed by the events of the day. First and foremost, I was awed as I watched the news feeds that morning. MILLIONS of people all over the world gathered, marched, and made their voices heard. Streets were packed with strikers. Voices were heard. The movement is growing.
But. It still has a long way to go. Many people I talked to that day didn’t know about the climate strike. The strike I attended only had about 300 people. The vibe was strong and the message clear, but there simply weren’t that many people there. Then I watched the national news. The story about the NFL football player who doesn’t know how to treat people was three stories ahead of the news about the GLOBAL climate strike. On the local news the climate strike was buried five stories in, like it was a passing human interest story they felt obligated to cover. Don’t get me wrong. The movement IS growing. But Friday’s strike wasn’t, and shouldn’t be, a one time thing. It was one step on a long journey. Want to get involved? Check out these organizations:
The younger generation has not so subtly pointed out that past generations have done nothing to end the climate crisis. They are right. Among the many things that youth around the world are doing to incite change is this week’s climate strike. You do not have to be young to strike – these are inter-generational protests.There strikes organized all over the United States and the world. In Boulder there are two. There is a march in Denver. And, there’s a march starting at the gates of the White House in Washington D.C. If ever there were a time for action, it is now. Go to one of these sites to find a strike or march near you: strikewithus.org, National Children’s Campaign, 350.org, Zero Hour, Fridays for the Future, Global Climate Strike, or the Sunrise Movement.
To again cite Greta Thunberg, “The one thing we need more than hope is action. Once we start to act, hope is everywhere.”
When I saw the TED Talk by 16 year-old Greta Thunberg, I was awestruck, amazed, inspired, and grateful. This young Swede has become the face of climate activism, rallying youth and adults around the world. When she first heard about the climate crisis, she didn’t understand why it wasn’t on the front page of every newspaper and the headline for every news program. To her, if we were truly in a crisis situation, then we should be acting. That if our way of living is threatening the planet, then we should change our way of living and not carry on as always.
She also points out that we, as human beings don’t need to solve the climate crisis. We already have all of the solutions. We know what to do. What we do need is action. And in her words, “It has to start today.”