Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Elephants

My painting of elephants at a dusty African watering hole is based on a National Geographic photograph.

Researchers at the University of Washington tell us that elephants face the risk of extinction as soon 2020 as a result of habitat loss and poaching.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Artic Sea Ice Retreats

This map shows the extent of sea ice on September 17, 2008, measured by the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR-E) on NASA’s Aqua satellite.

The extent on September 17 was clearly much smaller than normal. Although this is not the first year the Northwest Passage has been navigable, it is the first year on record that both the Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route, on the opposite side of the Arctic, were both open.

For more information, go to NASA's Earth Observatory.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Path without Form

I painted this after reading the book, The Dancing Wu Li Masters -- An overview of the new physics, by Gary Zukav.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hiking the Horse Heaven Hills

I climbed the Horse Heaven Hills today. The elevation gain is only 1000 ft., and the climb was gradual. I’d spotted some antennas on top and wanted to investigate. I carried my camera, 2 jugs of water, some trail mix, and my cell phone (I was expecting a call from my banker reassuring me that despite the market collapse my money was safe – the call never came). It took me only 20 minutes to reach the top. I found some odd stuff up there, like the erratic in this photo that someone felt it necessary to protect from graffiti artists by erecting a triangular wire cage around the rock. Not to be denied their canvas, the artists tore the front of the wire fence out and had their way with the rock.













But really, what looks worse, the cage or the graffiti?

I’m not a geologist, but the rock is probably a glacial erratic. I know that some 15,000 years ago glacial ice blocked what is now the Clark Fork River and water level rose to some 2000 ft. When the ice dam broke, the resultant flood was catastrophic and literally moved mountains and shaped what you can see in this photo of the Columbia Basin. That’s Rabbitbrush in the foreground. Botanists call it Chrysothamnus Nauseous and it is apparently a member of the Aster or Sunflower family. I’ve read that the nauseous adjunct comes from the plant’s aroma, which smells like cloying room freshener, cooked broccoli, and formaldehyde. The hills are part of the area’s shrub-steppe, and are covered in sagebrush, bitterbrush, wheatgrass, Indian Rice Grass, and Idaho fescue, among other things. I was careful to stay on the trail (a road, really), but stepped to the side to see the crust of algae, lichens, liverworts, and mosses that cover the soil and is a critical component of native grasslands and shrub-steppe communities.

I stumbled across this small grave up there on that windswept hill. I stood there looking down at the handcrafted cross wondering...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

National Issues

The issues facing our nation are complex and interrelated. All center on a government that works and works for we the people. Thus, our first priority must be to strengthen and preserve our democratic form of government.

I've circled the issues in the above diagram that are most important to me, realizing all the while that we must ultimately address all those things threatening the country we cherish, whether it be the massive debts sapping the strength of our economy, the terrorists threatening our safety, or human influenced climate change that threatens the entire world.

Click on the diagram to enlarge it.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Badger Mountain

I hiked Badger Mountain this morning -- a beautiful, sunny, cool morning. This area was once shrub-steppe, a quilt of sage brush, tumbleweed, prairie grass, and various wild flowers, depending on the season. The foothills below the mountain are being developed -- lots of upscale homes are being built. Fortunately, some farsighted people established a grassroots effort, Friends of Badger Mountain, to preserve the trail and over 500 acres for hiking and recreation. If you're lucky, you'll see coyotes, deer, jackrabbits, rattlesnakes, and other wildlife, plus beautiful desert flowers in the spring. It's a steep climb -- 800 ft in a little over a mile, but the views are well worth the effort.