Cassie has bugged me for the last hour, even though we went out two hours ago. I assume she wants dinner. I will take care of that presently.
James Fallows and I share a hatred of the infernal machines:
Pound for pound, gallon for gallon, and hour-for-hour, the two-stroke gas powered engines in leaf blowers and similar equipment are vastly the dirtiest and most polluting kind of machinery still in legal use.
How can such little engines do so much damage? It’s all about technological progress, and the lack of it:
Over the past 50 years, gasoline engines for trucks and automobiles have become so much more efficient that they have reduced most of their damaging emissions-per-mile by at least 95 percent. This is not even to mention the rapid onset of electric-powered vehicles.
Two-stroke engines, by contrast, are based on long-obsolete technology that inefficiently burns a slosh of oil and gasoline, and pumps out much of the unburned fuel as toxic aerosols.
There is an obvious, rapidly improving alternative. That is battery-powered equipment (to say nothing of rakes).
I want them banned in Chicago. Let's start here.
Just as I did a year ago, I'm planning to walk up to Lake Bluff today, and once again the weather has cooperated. I'll take cloudy skies and 25°C for a 43-kilometer hike. (I would prefer 20°C and cloudy, but I'll take 25°C anyway.)
As I enjoy my breakfast in my sunny, airy office right now, mentally preparing for a (literal) marathon hike, life feels good. Well, until I read these things:
And hey, all you other Chicago athletes, good news! The City now has a website where you can find out the likelihood of the Chicago River giving you explosive diarrhea!
Eugene Wesley Roddenberry would have been 100 years old today. Star Trek and NASA have a livestream today to celebrate.
In other news:
Finally, sometime today I hope to finish reading Joe Pinsker's interview with author Oliver Burkeman about how not to get sucked into things that waste your time, like the Internet.
Remember the deer in the cemetery? He's getting bolder:
He (I think it's a male fawn) let me get pretty close, and held still when I took photos through the fence:
A local artist named him "Spooky Boi," which fits, I think. It's pretty spooky when megafauna stares at you through a cemetery fence at 7am as you pass by with a dog.
The Sea of Marmara, which lies between the Black and Mediterranean Seas, is covered in mucus:
[A] thick, viscous substance known colloquially as “sea snot” is floating on the water’s surface, clogging up their nets and raising doubts about whether fish found in the inland sea would actually be safe to eat.
Scientists say that the unpleasant-looking mucus is not a new phenomenon, but rising water temperatures caused by global warming may be making it worse. Pollution — including agricultural and raw sewage runoff — is also to blame.
As the Guardian and numerous Turkish news outlets have reported, high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in the Sea of Marmara, situated between the Black and Aegean Seas, are leading to an explosion of the phytoplankton populations that discharge “sea snot.” Though the mucus itself is not necessarily harmful, it can become a host to toxic microorganisms and dangerous bacteria such as E. coli. And when it forms a layer that covers the water’s surface, it can set off a harmful chain of events, preventing fish from being able to breathe, causing mass die-offs, which in turn leads to plummeting oxygen levels that choke other forms of marine life.
And if you're not up to date on your 16th-century madrigals, the headline of this post comes from this rockin' tune by John Bennett he released way back in '99. (1599.)
This morning while walking Cassie I saw a deer placidly grazing in St Boniface Cemetery by the Lawrence Ave. fence. Now, in most parts of the world, deer hang out in cemeteries about as often as corpses. And I have reported in these pages that St Boniface has a resident coyote population (which I expect the deer will discover at some point).
Coyotes are smart predators who typically eat rats and pigeons in urban settings. Also, coyotes can slip under low fences easily, as can most any 20-kilo canid. So while I always enjoy coyote sightings in my neighborhood (as long as they give me a wide berth), I am never surprised. But a deer? In St Boniface?
Since almost none of my readers lives in Chicago, let me show you a satellite image for context:
The nearest forest preserve is 6 km to the west. To the north and south, we have nothing but heavily urbanized Chicago, except for Graceland Cemetery four blocks away. And to the east, we have Lincoln Park along the lake—but also the 8-lane Lake Shore Drive.
Also, from dusk to dawn the cemetery is completely locked up. The east edge is a 4-meter concrete wall and the other three edges have a 3-meter fence. Deer can jump, sure, but 3 meters?
So how did the deer get into the cemetery, how did it get to the cemetery, and how are the cemetery staff going to safely exfiltrate the deer from the grounds before the coyote pack has a venison supper?
Long Island went from idyllic farmland to completely urbanized in 75 years, thanks in part to Robert Moses inability (or unwillingness) to comprehend that any form of transport existed except automobiles. Massive, car-driven development spread inexorably down the Northern and Southern State Parkways, and the Long Island Expressway, covering all those farms and forests with concrete and Walmarts. Even when I spent four years of college there in the early 1990s, one could still find open space east of Ronkonkoma.
Alas, in the past 17 years, all that open space has disappeared, and with it the Brood X cicadas:
Development, pesticide use and the presence of invasive species are destroying historic populations of Brood X cicadas, while climate change spurs bugs from different broods to come up years early, experts say. The disruption of these cycles means some places that were expecting cicadas this year will miss out, while others may be surprised by an unscheduled emergence.
Although these changes are likely happening across the cicadas’ range, they’re particularly visible on Long Island, said Chris Simon, a professor at the University of Connecticut who has been studying cicadas for over 40 years. Long Island was once New York’s last remaining stronghold of Brood X. But the population there has declined in recent decades, and was nearly absent during the last mass emergence in 2004. At the same time, some of the area’s Brood XIV cicadas — scheduled to come up four years from now — may make an early appearance this year instead.
In the past, Long Island has been the easternmost place that can lay claim to this eminent brood. As far back as 1902, New York’s state entomologist recorded Brood X cicadas in both Suffolk and Nassau counties, said Dr. Simon, who has been studying cicadas on Long Island for over 40 years. Their reign continued through 1987....
The brood was absent from more places where it was expected, including in the towns of Shirley and Oakdale, and made only a brief showing in other locations, such as Connetquot State Park, a 3,700-acre reserve south of the Long Island Expressway, said Dr. Simon. Steep declines like this often lead to a complete disappearance, she said — without strength in numbers, the whole population can be devoured.
This year, Dr. Simon and other researchers are encouraging people in and around Long Island to go searching for the insects, and to use an app, Cicada Safari, to report any findings. If they do show up, it will likely be in early June. But she is not optimistic. “I’m afraid that they’re going to be completely gone,” she said.
Chicago's Brood XIII should emerge in three years. I can't wait. At least here, we haven't destroyed their habitat as thoroughly as Nassau and Suffolk Counties have destroyed Brood X's.
I get to turn off and put away my work laptop in a little bit in preparation for heading back to the office on Monday morning. I can scarcely wait.
Meanwhile, I've got a few things to read:
OK, one more work task this month, then...I've got some other stuff to do.
Every morning I get an email from The History Channel with "this day in history" bullet points. A couple stood out today:
And now, the sanity. Via author John Scalzi, (conservative) attorney T. Greg Doucette explains why the president will leave office on January 20th no matter what chicanery he tries to steal the election: