Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Oak abuse: Sean Hannity advocates spiking trees

I spend a lot of my time in my truck listening to the radio.  Depending on the time of day and my location, at any given moment I might be listening to sports talk, NPR, local San Joaquin Valley talk, Rush, Hannity or oldies (a.k.a. music I listened to as a kid).  The combination often causes intellectual whiplash.

In the last four presidential elections I have voted for candidates from three different political parties, all with equal conviction.  In my meanderings up and down the radio dial I come across smart liberals, dumb conservatives, dumb liberals and smart conservatives.  (In my world smart = pragmatic and dumb = mindless demagogue... and they come in all political stripes.)  There are two local right-leaning talk show guys in Bakersfield who are great - thoughtful, funny, and able to see other points of view.

Sean Hannity, on the other hand, is an idiot.

I was listening late last week as he proposed to provide a great service for the millions of out-of-work Americans who are disheartened by the weak economy and poor job market.  He actually said this:  If the average house in your area costs $400,000 (as if that's the median home value in most places), then the way to make money in a bad economy is to go out and buy a "fixer upper" that's a little run down for, say, $275,000.  Put another $25,000 and some elbow grease into it and you can quickly sell it for $350,000, turning a tidy profit.  Thank God for Hannity!  Because I am sure there are millions of Americans who are out of work trying to figure out what to do with that $50,000 they have sitting in the bank and the extra money that keeps coming in every month, and here comes Hannity with the answer:  Buy a house!  A $275,000 house!  Make a down payment, somehow get financing without an income, somehow make monthly payments, and somehow come up with the money for new cabinets, stainless steel appliances (yes, he said that) and other improvements.  As a bonus you could then employ all of your children who are also out of work, paying them a wage for helping with remodeling, thusly teaching them the value of hard work.  Jesus wept.

I must have been scarfing lunch on the fly and didn't have a spare hand, because for some reason I didn't immediately change the station.  Hannity segued from that stroke of economic wisdom to a brief - but mentally deranged - discussion of trees.  He decried the fact that he lives on a place where you can be fined $10,000 for cutting down a tree in your own yard.  (For the record I have mixed feelings about such ordinances, but I can definitely see why they exist - because it's because of guys like him.)  He went on to say that the way around these ordinances is to - oopsey! - prune the trees so heavily that they die or even to "spike" the trees.  And I quote, albeit loosely:  "Who's to know?  You can do that you know."

Triple moron!  Spiking trees is a horrific thing to do.  It's meant to injure/maim/kill anyone who cuts down or mills the tree.  It is terrorism.  It doesn't kill trees, but Hannity sure sounded like he thought it did, and was therefore a brilliant idea.  So the guy who hates the fact that he has to get permission to cut down trees on his own property is telling millions of (the most patriotic) Americans that the way to kill them without getting in trouble is to spike them.  Thus exposing tree care professionals in the future tasked with removing them to the possibility of grievous injury.  I wept. 

Thank God for intellectual stimulation of ESPN radio's 24 hour coverage of the latest sports scandal or my brain would literally melt out my ears while driving.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Child allergic to nuts, mom wants oaks in nearby park chopped down

It must be constantly terrifying to be the parent of a child with anaphylaxis-inducing food allergies.  Heck, it's terrifying being the parent of any child, then add to that the constant concern about exposure to foods - sometimes as hidden ingredients in seemingly innocent fare - that could have the direst consequences.

But really.  Read this. A mother of a child with severe nut allergies wants a nearby park to remove four large oak trees.  The mother says this is not a case of a parent simply wanting to bubblewrap her child.  The writer points out - correctly - that she's right; this is a case of a parent wanting to bubblewrap everything her child might be exposed to.

Is this really how we want to interact with our natural environment?

A blue jay can transport an acorn 2 miles.  OK, I made that up because I'm too lazy to find the research.  But the point is a blue jay can carry an acorn a long way.  And then drop it in this little girl's back yard.  What is the right "radius of safety?"  Do we eradicate every squirrel, chipmunk or blue jay that might spread disperse acorns?

This appears to be a case of a single mother (I mean one mother, singular - I don't know anything about her marital status ;-) misplacing her - very justifiable - concern, and it appears that the suggestion has met with an appropriate about of derision, so I won't pile on.  Which is a first for me.  I am not sure what is causing the sudden burst of understanding and kindness!

But it strikes me as terribly sad that even a single human being had this thought in the first place.

Thanks for sending this Lucas!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Ground acorn patties called Twinkies of the paleolithic...

... by a researcher who has never eaten - or even seen - one.  Actually, by a reporter making a "clever" comment based on the "research" of a researcher who has never tried one.  Read this and weep for the level of what passes for research and reportage.

Louise Humphrey, a paleo-anthropologist at the Natural History Museum of London, is shocked - SHOCKED I TELL YOU - that paleolithic people who made their home in a Moroccan cave 12,000 to 15,000 years ago exhibited significant levels of tooth decay.  I know!  I am as blown away as you that people living thousands of years before the advent of modern dental hygiene (as opposed to us, living as we are about a hundred years before the advent of modern dental hygiene) might have had the odd cavity... or ten.

To Humphrey this apparently is proof that the so-called Paleo Diet isn't as healthy as its adherents claim.  Here's a tip Louise:  NO DIET is as healthy as its adherents claim.  No eating regime with the word diet attached to it is healthy.  Apparently "we" all thought that tooth decay started after the advent of agriculture. Apparently "we" are idiots. No Louise, agriculture spawned moral decay and environmental decay, not tooth decay.

Humphrey based her conclusions on two facts:  These folks had really bad teeth (insert British dental care joke here) and they clearly ate a lot of acorns.  She added two and two... and came up with 137, that acorns cause massive tooth decay.

Here's the part that drives me crazy:

"There's not one kind of paleo diet," Humphrey says. "I think wherever people lived, they had to make best of the wild food resources available to them."

In this case, Humphrey believes, ground acorn patties. She hasn't tried them herself, but she plans to.

"I would like to," she says. "I imagine that they would be something like sweet chestnuts."

Kind of like the Twinkies of the paleolithic.

This is a perfect example of the one-two punch of modern environmental and food reportage:  The researcher with no first hand experience with the subject matter making sweeping conclusions based on what she "imagines," and the reporter summing it all up with a glib turn of phrase.

You know what causes tooth decay?  Food.

You know where paleolithic people would have been without acorns?  Dead.

You know where we would be if acorns once again became a significant part of our diet?  A whole lot better off, teeth and all.

You know where the planet would be if we relied more on permanent woody tree crops like acorns and less on beating the soil to death to grow cereal crops?

... now I am off to go eat a Twinkie.  Then visit my dentist.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Bearded old man

No, I'm not talking about myself.  I'm talking about this stalwart valley oak (Quercus lobata - aka California white oak) growing on a hillside along Old Creek Road between Paso Robles and Cayucos, CA.

(Click to enlarge)
The hillsides are still brown in this, the driest year ever in many parts of California.  Liberally hung with Spanish moss (nature's own t.p.) I'm guessing that given the crown-to-bole ratio this old gent - like so many of us - once had a lot more foliage up top than he does now.
Sorry about the lighting in the photo.  Getting my back properly to the sun would have required that I play in traffic even more than my parents used to encourage me to do.

If that a fleck of light you see coming through base of the tree?  Yes, yes it is:

(Click to enlarge)
Dude is completely hollow, probably after wounds caused by fire, lightening and cattle hooves.  Hollow, but solid - it that makes any sense. 

Cash Cache

So I'm driving along Old Creek Road between Paso Robles and Cayucos, CA today, completely unable to think of too many places I'd rather be.  Out of the corner of my eye, in the hollow of an old dropped branch/pruning wound of an oak I'm passing, I see a flash of fluorescent green.  Of course I have to turn around and see what's up.  And this is what I see:

(Click to enlarge)
A pack of "Ice Breakers" and a Titleist.  And what was behind them?  This:
(Click to enlarge)
58 cents and a toothpick (don't worry, I didn't take either).  
Any theories?  The most likely explanation is a cache left by a cyclist while on a ride, Old Creek Road being a popular bike ride.  I get the bright green candy container - makes it easy to find (too easy, if a dude with iffy eyesight driving by at 30mph can see it, although granted I pay a lot more attention to the passing oaks than most motorists).  I am a little unclear on the reason for the golf ball.

And 58 cents?  Might buy you a phone call, but when's the last time you actually saw a pay phone?  And sadly it's not enough to buy a Coke at the end of the ride.  Now the toothpick I get.  It can get a bit uncomfortable biking up and down hills with a toothpick in your pocket.  Oh, you mean why a toothpick in the first place?  Well our hypothetical cyclist no doubt stopped along the way for a quick snack of acorns!

If it's still there next time I pass I'll leave a note with a pen for a reply!