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September 10th, 2006

Well....

I've been rambling about it, squeeing over it, and generally making a nuisance of myself with regards to it for about two months now. Well, it officially arrived today, so while I think it too much to hope that I will stop talking about it, at least I will hopefully direct my ramblings in a more productive direction with less hyperactive fangurlishness. (Can one fangurl SCUBA diving? I guess I just did....)

Today was the first day of training, and we are officially 25% of the way toward our open water SCUBA certification.

What I LearnedCollapse )

September 7th, 2006

Some grim news on the environmental/global-warming front today:

To start, yesterday scientists warned that Methane, a gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere, appears to be bubbling up from thawing permafrost at a rate five times faster than originally measured.
The effect, reported in this week's issue of the journal Nature, is seen mostly in Siberia in a type of carbon-rich permafrost that was flash frozen about 40,000 years ago. A new, more accurate measuring technique found that methane bubbling from that permafrost under Siberian lakes was higher than previously recorded. The effects of this, while still largely unknown, could be huge. In fact, science hasn’t even begun to think of the potential cataclysmic events associated with large-scale Methane release. But researchers are already warning that whatever the effects may be, they are certainly not going to bode well for the planet.
The full article: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14696694/

Next, ecologists have found male largemouth bass in the waters of the Potomac near Washington D.C., including one near the infamous Woodrow Wilson Bridge that have, quite abnormally, developed both male and female characteristics. Extraordinarily, male bass have been found to be bearing eggs. Ecologists believe that this phenomenon may be caused by an environmental contaminant that serves as an endocrine disruptor, which may interfere with chemical signaling processes, possibly causing female bodily processes to turn on in male fish.

The full article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/05/AR2006090501384.html

The bottom line to both of these stories deserves a serious dude, WTF? Not to sound too alarming, but this type of story is becoming all too frequent now. It seems like every week, there is a new report about the state of glacial melting, or the destruction of a particular habitat, or male fish developing eggs. Yet there are still those that walk about, like nothing is happening, all the while claiming that global warming is a myth.

The interesting thing about the D.C. fish is that those fish swim in the same water that is used for public drinking. If the contaminants are causing this type of havoc with the bodily processes of fish, imagine the possible effects on fickle human physiology (but rest assured the public water companies say the water is perfectly safe to drink). Personally, I’ll stick to Deer Park.

September 5th, 2006

Yesterday, Bobby and I took a four-mile hike along the Ridge Trail in the Orange Grove area of Patapsco Valley State Park. The trail was a nice mixture of hills and varied terrain that followed the rim of the Patapsco River Valley.

Ridge Trail (lots of pictures--dial-up warning!)Collapse )
Yesterday the environmental and conservation movement lost a true legend as Steve Irwin a.k.a “The Croc Hunter” succumbed to injuries sustained while snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef. Apparently, in what amounts to about a ten million-to-one freak accident, the barb of a bull stingray struck Irwin between the ribs and hit his heart as he snorkeled above the animal. If the barb had hit about an inch below where it actually penetrated Irwin, he would still be alive and well. Some have speculated that the stingray may have felt trapped between Irwin and the cameraman, who was filming a nature documentary, which may have caused the animal to deploy its barb normally reserved for self-defense. However, this information is purely speculative and we may not know the true events for quite some time.

Irwin, who had worldwide renown for his programs on the Discovery Channel, made a career of educating the public about the environment and wildlife. Looking back at the scope of his involvement and activities related to conservation, I am not sure if any other person has done as much as Irwin over the past decade to promote education, understanding, and compassion towards the environment and the animal kingdom.

In my opinion, education is one of the greatest ways in which we can promote conservation and care for the earth’s wild places. Simply, if people see something, they are more likely to give a damn. For this, Irwin was a true pioneer.

In the end, he died doing something he loved. I am sure that he would not have had it any other way.

September 1st, 2006

I am really pleased that my first official post to this community can be good news. It seems that Governor Ahhhnold Schwarzenegger--who, yes, I have dismissed as a fool in the past and mocked quite heartily--has backed the Democrats in passing groundbreaking global warming legislation for the State of California.

The original article may be found on the BBC website. I recommend checking out the original source, as they have cool global-warming- and climate-related links available.

But since articles tend to disappear on news sites, I've reprinted it here as well.

California passes emissions lawCollapse )

Now you know I have to comment on this....

...and here it is!Collapse )
Well, the week finally arrived. This week I started my Chemistry 102 class, and more importantly, I embarked upon the next stage of my life: pursuing my bachelor’s, and then advanced degrees in the biological sciences. The decision that Dawn and I made that day, standing along the shoreline in Ocean City Maryland, has brought a new sense of freedom, importance, satisfaction, and responsibility to my life.

With my highly anticipated government job turning into a three ring circus, I was down on myself for quite some time, trying to figure out what I was going to do for employment since I knew that a 45 year career in civil service just was not my idea of life fulfillment. My problem, simplified, was as follows: what does someone with a degree in political science do if, by chance, they find they cannot stand politics? It presented the ultimate catch-22, and posed a true dilemma. I began to rake my brain; I could go to another agency (but the problems in my current job could be much worse at another place), I could teach (which I still may do one day), or I could just search the employment ads in hopes of finding something that provided a solution to my problem.

Then came Puerto Rico….

Our trip to the island paradise, far away from the hustle and bustle insanity that is urban Washington D.C, really put me in touch with feelings about life, society, and my future. (The former two will be the subject of an entry at a later date).

Then, something else happened, we drove through a crazy town, and over a crazy mountain one rainy morning to reach Fajardo for a snorkeling cruise to the Spanish Virgin Island of Culebra. We were almost late but as luck, or fate, would have it, we arrived within about 15 minutes of the departure time.

There, amongst the turquoise blue waters and tropical fish, I rediscovered a dream of mine that had faded, like many things do, with the seconds of time that pass one’s life. While I am not religious, the experience of putting on a mask and fins, and swimming amongst fish and animals that one usually only sees in movies or magazines, was for me, how some describe a trip to Jerusalem or Mecca.

At one point, the dream was to be a marine scientist (not the dolphins are cute type either); I mean the real-deal, nitty gritty research type. Now here I am, this week, after a short preparation time and a tropical trip, realizing this dream, and once again pursuing it.

The professor is a really cool guy, and the class seems like it will be challenging and rewarding. We are starting out with chemical equilibrium, and for the first time in a while, last night, on a professional level, I once again felt at home working the equations of chemistry, and sitting in lecture.

It’s funny how you don’t understand how much you miss something when it’s gone. I studied science for half of my life and have missed it. Well, my friend, we meet again.
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