Can Smart Make You Dumb?

Well, lately I’ve been looking at new cars from various manufacturers and I found that they all seem to have gotten “smart” to one degree or another. They all came with power windows, door locks and no key starting. Some had cameras looking out the back and front, lane wander warning systems and a few even braked and parked for you. One car maker boasted that it’s cars had eight air bags. All the cars had a feature that tells you when the tire pressure is low. What does all this do for the driver?

Don’t get me talking about the rolling music concert hall, GPS and Bluetooth that they come with. Hell, when I first heard some guy say he had just gotten Bluetooth I felt sorry for him because I thought he had some kind of dental problem.

GPS! What about maps and a compass. A compass is not an Apple web browser. If the navigation system fails or is out of satellite range what happens then?

Music? Look I’m not saying bring back eight-track tapes or anything but how does someone concentrate on driving when they’re more concerned about pairing a cell phone to the car’s music system or plugging a thumb drive into the aux port than staying in their lane. All that in between text messages. I still have a dent in head from my father getting my attention while driving and looking at a pretty girl at the same time.

All the “smarts” in newer cars are dumbing-down drivers and giving them the attitude that the car will do everything for them. That they don’t have to learn to do the basic maintenance checks that their car’s need.

To that point – I was getting my tires rotated and balanced two years ago and was talking with a few women in the waiting room who were having the same thing done. I thought – HUMMM? I asked the group of women did they know how many tires their car had? They all said, in harmony, four ‘you silly man’. I told them they were wrong, a car has five tires. The four touching the road and a spare. I then asked them when was the last time they’d put air in the spare and said that if they didn’t know the spare was either flat or very low and useless when needed. You’d have thought is was Halloween because they all turned white as a ghost. One even ran to the tire shop supervisor and very loudly insisted that he check her spare tire.

My point in all of this is that people are letting their technology do their thinking for them. Focusing more features than function, comfort instead of quality and thereby putting themselves out on the proverbial limb.

Is this how the descent of man begins?

Think Global – Act Local


Marine Biology: What it takes

After spending many years as a marine biologist I ended my career as the assist Chief of a southeastern state. Over the years hundreds of students, if not thousands, came through my lab. They ranged from grade and high school students to college undergraduates and graduates.

While I’ve never been one to rain on someone’s parade but all of them, except for the graduate students, had an unrealistic view of what it took to become a marine biologist and what kind of positions were available. Grade school and most of the high school students had a strong desire to work with dolphins, whales and sea turtles at marine aquariums. I told them marine mammal and turtle efforts were a small niches in the spectrum of marine biological work and that jobs were few. There are scientists with multiple graduate degrees lined up ten deep to work at places like Sea World for free or for a non-living wage. My work with dolphins and sea turtles was solely to answer calls about dead dolphins and turtles on the beaches, identify the carcasses to species and call our conservation enforcement officers to haul them away. I would then tell the students what it took just to get in the door as a marine biologist.

I came from working class family with no money to send me to college. So, I sat down and thought of a way to earn it (education and a skill set). With that as my focus, I dropped out of high school after the eighth grade (1965) with my father’s enthusiastic permission and started trade school for electronics. I progressed quickly from vacuum tubes and transistors to the first digital integrated circuit chips (one nand gate on a single chip!). Learned not only fix TV’s and radios but digital logic and circuit design. On graduation I joined the US Navy (at 17) and was assigned to communication intelligence for four years. My naval service provided me with the GI Bill (the old one) to fund college and kept me out of Vietnam.

Pausing for a moment, you can see that I worked on my backup plan first, electronics, so I would always (eat) have a career if I was unable to continue on the marine biology track. After the Navy, at 22, I started college earning an AA, BS, MS and PhD over ten years. Whew, what a rush!

The pursuit of letters after your name takes a lot time, money and effort. Economizing in every facet of your life to have the money for things you need to reach your goal rather than for things you want will become second nature. Included in these are vacations, new anything, a spouse, children and pets. Sounds rather draconian but that’s what I and a majority of my colleagues did. Remember, no Daddies’ money!

Work as a marine biologist encompasses a wide range of training, abilities and talents. As an undergraduate you’ll need to include courses most people in the sciences don’t take including public speaking, writing, statistics, accounting and personnel management. Don’t forget computer courses not only for use online but for doing quantitative analysis of data from your projects. Oh, there’s more. I don’t know of any state conservation department that doesn’t require an MS degree for an entry level position, so … grants and assistant-ships as an undergraduate and graduate student will come in very handy. Volunteering or working on your off time in an area that’s related to your interests in the field will come in useful later on. Sleep is optional.

Become a member of the American Fisheries Society – it’s our professional ‘club’. The contacts and friendships you’ll make there will be helpful throughout your career. Be very flexible in where you look for a job. I wanted to stay North of the Mason-Dixon Line but that was unrealistic given what was available at the time. Getting in the door is what matters.

In the beginning as a junior biologist you’ll be primarily involved in field data collection and may have your own specific project to work on. You’ll be supervised by a senior biologist and usually work with biological aides in the field – listen to them – they’ve probably been doing sampling for many years. Spending a lot of time in an open boat in all kinds of weather will be at the center of your operational wheelhouse. There are no rest stops at sea. If you’ve never handled a small boat, learn – there are courses. You’ll probably be using a pickup truck to haul boats on a trailer and be backing them down boat ramps. Never backed a trailer? Learn and don’t jackknife the trailer. It bends them and will bend your boss out of shape.

Let’s talk money. To be right up front about it you’ll be paid considerably less than if you had a master’s in other fields like electrical engineering, marketing or nursing. The only field where the pay is worse is teaching. Federal and state governments, which are by far the major employers, are short on funding so there will be freezes on raises and hiring. Medical and retirement benefits vary widely by organization. Do your research into each one because you and your health will change. The Winter of your life comes much sooner than you’d like to think. I’ve not been as emotional supportive as many might have liked in this article but I’ve given you the truth about a career in Marine Biology as I and many others have experienced it.

Where’s the up side? You’ll see and do many things that others have only dreamed about. They can include watching sea turtles hatch, dolphins playing around your boat for hours and seaweed glowing in the dark to name a very few. Once you start rising in the hierarchy within your organization and AFS there will be travel both nationally and internationally. Publishing professionally and for the public is something you’ll do. Public speaking will be part of your job and you’ll be asked to speak constantly. Ever been on TV? You will be.

I feel the most satisfying thing about being a marine biologist  is knowing that the work you did helped to make a difference in our world. And, that in the fullness of time as you lay dying, you can smile knowing you left the world a better place than when you arrived.

Good Luck!!

Think Global – Act Local!

Alt is New again

What is written below is paraphrased from Martin Niemöller’s
work to be found by following this link.

In America, the Republicans came for the Muslims and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Muslim
and then the Republicans came for the Hispanics and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t an Hispanic
and then the Republicans came for the LGBT and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t an LGBT

and then … they came for me . . .

Are you going to wait until then to speak up  – until they come for you?
Kind of like global warming – isn’t it?

Sometimes do not is better

From the smallest act of kindness can come a large problem. Apparently, some individual(s) dumped their pet goldfish in Lake Tahoe rather than feed them to the cat. Now they are taking over the ecosystem and growing to massive sizes. This not the only place where goldfish have become a problem. Vasse river in Australia is being overrun with them.

It is through seemingly innocent acts of humanity that problems crop up. Like feeding squirrels. This leads to over population and the potential for the spread of disease and the infestation of homes. Animals, like us, will do whatever it takes to stay alive.

Follow the link below to learn more about the ‘goldfish apocalypse’.

Think Global – Act Local

Time Mechanic

If you could travel back in time would you try and make things right by taking some kind of action? Or, would you learn from what was done wrong and not do it again? I know this has been written about by many people over the last 200 years but just go with me for awhile.

If you went back would you try and right the great wrongs of history by – say … killing Hitler’s mother before he was born and the same for Stalin, Pol Pot and Genghis Khan to name a few? Would their nonexistence then be filled by someone else we don’t know about? Their positions in time just being shadows of systems of thought in the greater population.

There are other people who have caused far greater damage to Earth and Humanity by the massive negative impacts of their work on the environment than these other men ever did. Their work was done with the best of intentions and hailed as breakthroughs but the long term negative results we have seen and will be seeing for centuries.

One of these men is Thomas Midgley. He was the inventor of Freon and tetraethyllead (which is used in leaded gasoline). These inventions are two of the greatest environmental threats of the twentieth century. It was never his intention to cause environmental disasters and human suffering but rather to help the world. Midgley’s work has “had more impact on the atmosphere than any other single organism in Earth’s history.” The results were millions of tons of lead released into the air and the Earth’s ozone layer depleted.

What would I do? I don’t think I could leave my principles behind me when I went through time but I might try and turn a young Midgley’s mind in the direction of becoming an insurance salesman.

What would you do?

Follow the link to learn more about Midgley.

Act Local – Think Global!

River on fire – Frack it!

Fracking in Australia has caused the release of methane gas into a river one mile from the site of the mining.

The gas was set alight by an Australian politician using a stove lighter to make the point that fracking is not good for the environment. DUH! He gets burned a bit with the usual expletives uttered.

What do you think?

Think Global – Act Local!

Zen and art of Earth maintenance

If sirens rang, bells clanged and whistle blasts pierced the night but no one was listening  – would they be heard? Apparently, we’re not listening as the Earth’s average temperature jumped 1.21 degrees Celsius last month (February, 2016). This is a HUGE increase! The temperature broke records everywhere on the planet except Antarctica.

Tick, tick – tick …

Think Global – Act Local!

Silence in the coal mine

Years ago, I remember – so it wasn’t that far back, coal was mined underground by men with picks and shovels. It could be dangerous work with the ever present threat of cave-ins. Besides tunnel collapses another danger was poisonous gases like methane, carbon monoxide and dioxide. Back then electronic detection devices weren’t available to check for deadly gases so what we now call old school indicators were used – canaries.

Canaries were brought down into the mine in cages which were set in places where toxic gases were likely to accumulate. The canaries were normally singing or actively moving around in their cages. When a canary was doing these things all was good in the mine relative to gas buildup. When the birds weren’t doing any of these things or had died, and they would died quickly from toxic gases, it was time to leave the mine quickly before the miners passed out or there was an explosion.

Like the canaries there are many warning signs in our daily lives. Some examples being – yellow traffic lights, shortness of breath and the weight reading on our bathroom scale to name a few. The majority of us heed these warnings and if there’s are established protocols for dealing with the problems we follow them. These help us to live longer and healthier lives.

As a species we have been ignoring the warning signs of climate change for many years. Signs including: more hurricanes and typhoons; spring starting sooner; distributions of animals, plants and insects changing and global temperatures hitting new highs year after year.

The miners were always listening for the canaries’ song.
Are YOU listening?

Think Global – Act Local!

I’m Melting! Methane ice

Just when you thought you understood all the things that added to global warming one comes along that had been waiting for centuries under the oceans to surprise you.
When water freezes it forms a square crystalline structure. In the center of each square there is empty space . When, ice forms under pressure in the oceans in the presence of methane that gas is forced into the empty space. It’s called methyl hydrate. The methane stays inside the ice until it melts. With the oceans warming methane ice is starting to melt.
Methane gas is many times worse for global warming than CO2. Worldwide the amount of methane contained in methyl hydrates is conservatively estimated to contain twice the amount of carbon found in all the known fossil fuels on Earth.
There are major deposits of methane hydrate in Siberia which were discovered as part of drilling operations for natural gas. The are also large amounts in the ground below the permafrost on the northern slope of Alaska. Methyl hydrate has and is being discovered under ocean sediments by oil drilling operations and scientific exploration work all over the world. It’s distribution is worldwide but the largest deposits are found in the arctic and along the margins of continental shelves. If the methane hydrate is under the ocean when the methane is released a plume is formed.
Over the last ten years 160+ plumes of methane have been discovered off the coasts of Oregon and Washington. For more information follow the link below and search my BLOG using the key word methane – there are some dramatic videos.

Think Global – Act Local!

They ‘re Here!

Previously, I’ve written about water resource problems in California and some possible associated issues. One of these issues was the movement of California’s population elsewhere especially to the Northwest. It’s started.

Californians are buying up property in North Portland at over asking price and as a result bidding wars are now common. Native Portlanders and Oregonians are not receiving this influx of new California buyers too well. They are showing their concern by putting stickers with the shape of California covered with a circle and a line through it on home for sale signs. Check the ‘Oregonian’ article for more details.

Think Global – Act Local!