Let’s Read “Where Is Baby Bear?”


Come read with the gringa for a 10 minute adventure playing hide-and-seek with Peter and his animal friends!

Let’s read children’s books together!

Ghostly Cats & Spectral Zookeepers


How many of the gringa’s dear readers believe in the existence of ghosts? According to the Pew Research Center, 18% of all Americans claimed to have seen a ghost, 29% claim to have felt a touch by a ghost, and more than 30% believe in the existence of ghosts. So, no need to feel embarrassed or alone if you are pro-ghost.

The gringa used to believe in the existence of ghosts until I became familiar with dark matter and learned that the human consciousness can exist outside the human body.

I even have two ghost stories of my own!

#1. When the gringa was in middle school, I spent a week at a lake cabin with a friend’s family. I got to have my very own room. The first night sleeping alone in this new space, I was awakened by the feeling of something jumping onto the foot of the bed. I then felt the sensation of what I assumed to be cat paws gently walking alongside my body then settling down to sleep beside me. It even felt warm. Since I was an animal lover and it was dark, I didn’t even bother to rouse myself enough to peek at the cat. I wanted to be a good bed partner and not disturb its desire to rest. This happened all week. I don’t remember what day during the week I mentioned my nightly visitor to my hosts. But I do remember their response and how tense my nights were after I found out that they had no cat. The gringa believed she was sharing her bed with a ghost cat, or, at least the consciousness of a cat. A friendly sort, though.

#2. My other ghost story is not really a ghost story at all, but a tale of how ornery the gringa can be. One of my sisters was a bit of a drama-mama. When we moved into a new house she was a bit freaked out by the news that the previous owner’s husband had died in the house. She was further convinced this was terrible news because, apparently, it had been his dream home, constructed according to his own design, and where he retreated for a pleasant retirement. Until he dropped dead just a few months into said retirement. She was convinced that an attachment like that could only mean that ol’ Mr. Walker would be haunting the place. The gringa was happy to oblige her imagination.

We shared a room so it was easy for the gringa to prank her. I would really step up my game if she annoyed me for any reason. She was a bit of a neat freak and very orderly. I would swipe things like a hairbrush or trinket box then put it in a strange place, like the closet shelf for her shoes or inside our shared stereo’s cabinet for the record player (yes, it’s been that many years ago). The gringa would then feign innocence, absolutely baffled and mystified how such things could happen. Then I would casually say, “Well, I guess it was Mr. Walker. Maybe he didn’t like it that you left your hairbrush out.” or something to that effect. It would get her every single time. And I have never told her different. Even now, as middle-aged adults, she thinks that old house is haunted or else she knows the truth and is humoring the gringa.

But is it possible for an old house to be haunted by a dead person’s consciousness who is so attached that they don’t want to leave? Can animal spirits inhabit the earth after their death? The gringa can only say that, according to what she knows of dark matter and conscious existence outside of our physical body, yeah, it’s possible. But it wouldn’t be a ghost as we traditionally know it. It would actually be that person or animal’s consciousness minus their physical body. Their consciousness existing in the dark matter universe, yet able, from time to time, to exercise whatever it is that allows them to somehow manifest themselves to us in this universe.

Now, the gringa doesn’t think that means that a person would be subjected to 24-hour surveillance by such. To exist in a state where physical form, or matter, doesn’t matter (pardon the pun), that means one could not exist in a world where the laws of physics makes matter, um, matter. What the gringa thinks happens is that hiccups in space or, perhaps, bursts of concentrated energy by a consciousness, allows for a breakthrough between the two worlds. A “ghostly” encounter then occurs.

For ghost-phobic individuals, there is good news if you are getting ready to re-locate. A website, DiedInHouse.com, is a database that links death announcements, certificates and law enforcement records to home addresses. It costs about twelve bucks for the service but you find out more than just if your prospective home might contain a ghost. You will discover if it was ever used as a lab for making methamphetamines, has a history of fire, if a sex offender was ever registered there and if it is in a flood zone. But I digress.

Is haunting a serious problem in homes? The gringa’s research reveals that hauntings are commonly reported. Sometimes they even lead to lawsuits. However, many people live with ghosts just fine. And it’s not just houses that can be haunted. In the gringa’s neck of the woods even the Houston Zoo is reported to be haunted by its first zookeeper who was a bit of a peeping Tom.

Houston media has made the most of this local legend. Just about every area newspaper, radio station or television news syndicate has a story about Nagel in their archives. Considering that he wasn’t just a zookeeper, but also a trainer of big cats, the gringa suspects Nagel had a consciousness bigger than life with that kind of courage and steely nerves. Maybe he really is still inhabiting the space of the Houston Zoo on a dark matter level.

He survived an alligator bite in 1924. The following year he had to take some time off after a raccoon incident and, later, a monkey attack. In 1928 a 5-ton elephant stepped on him. Three years later a leopard took a swipe and laid him open. He was also nearly killed by a 450-pound lion but his trusty assistants came to the rescue. There are numerous accounts of painful encounters between Nagel and badgers, bears, porcupines, tigers and zebras. Once, a python tried to make a meal of Nagel but he got the snake in a headlock and beat him at his own squeeze game.

Locals would also call Nagel out for neighborhood wildlife problems. He captured a bobcat that was eating the poodles of the rich ladies living in River Oaks. He lassoed a wayward bull elk and a lioness that both escaped the zoo and were wandering city streets. A city filled with bayous, he was also a very popular alligator catcher when populations would become problematic.

Nagel was quite a character who also carried a pistol whenever he was on duty. His pistol came in handy when he saved a guest to the zoo from being mauled by a Bengal Tiger. This action earned him a gold medal from the City of Houston. And it may be his feisty character that ultimately led to his controversial demise and dogged refusal to leave the Houston Zoo even after death.

You see, he got himself into a bit of trouble with the law. He was accused of abuses of power by the City Park Commission. Upon the Commission’s recommendation, Houston Mayor, Walter Monteith, rescinded Nagel’s special commission as zoo police officer. But, true to Nagel’s strong-willed character (after all, when military life didn’t agree with him he ignored the rules, jumped ship and went AWOL), Nagel continued with his armed zoo patrol which ended up getting him shot dead by a legitimate law enforcement officer in 1941.

When Nagel noticed some youngsters going at in their car in the zoo parking lot, he crept into some bushes and watched. A police officer on patrol also noticed the amorous pair (and Nagel, the peeping Tom). Stopping to question the pair, the officer asked if they knew that they had an audience which, indeed, surprised them. As the officer approached Nagel, intending to handcuff him and take him down to the pokey for a firm discussion about where, exactly, his jurisdiction was (within the confines of the zoo’s grounds), Nagel decided he would not be treated in such a way. He resisted arrest. And, he was armed with his pistol. Which the officer claimed he began to reach for. So, said officer blasted him 6 times with his own pistol until Nagel lay dead in the road.

And what of Nagel? Some say he is still around, particularly hanging out in the Commissary, overseeing the food preparation for all the animals. This seems reasonable since the Commissary is the closest building to the area where he died. Staff reports hearing voices early in the morning and seeing a shadowy figure that resembles a man walking about. Zoo officials have even gone so far as to have paranormal investigators get involved. The only thing this produced were a couple of electronic voice phenomena (EVP) recordings that do sound like human voices.

But who would he be talking to? The gringa thinks maybe to the consciousness of animals that have died at the zoo. Maybe death was the most wonderful thing to happen to a zookeeper devoted to all of those animals. Now there will be no nasty misunderstandings leading to getting bit or sliced and diced. Kind of makes dying not seem so scary after all.

Sources:

Pew Research

DiedInHouse

Houston Chronicle

Texas Archival Resources Online

Image Credit:

Mr. Wallpaper

Video Credit:

CrashCourse

New Thinking Allowed

houstonartsandmedia

Are African Elephants Saving Themselves?


Although conservation groups have been trying to save the African elephants, could it be that now elephants are trying to save themselves? It seems that Darwin’s “Theory of Evolution” is being witnessed by humanity in real-time as an amazing biological transformation is taking place among elephants. Reports from researchers at Uganda’s Queen Elizabeth National Park indicate an alarming increase of elephants being born without tusks.

This Is No Accident

In 1930, out of all of the young bulls and cows born to mature elephants, only 1% arrived in the world without tusks. Here we are, less than a century later, and the number of tuskless elephant calves has risen exponentially. About 15% of female calves are born in the wild without tusks and about 9% of males arrive in the same condition. Evolution for any species is an extremely slow and gradual process that generally takes thousands of years. Scientists have never expected to see genetic mutation on this scale to occur so rapidly. It certainly can be no accident. Elephants have grown wise to the reason that they are slaughtered. They are responding biologically to protect their own future. This news is simply incredible.

Not An Isolated Incident

The elephants of Uganda are not the only ones exhibiting this amazing response to the threat to their survival. Elephants everywhere are giving birth to tuskless calves. North Luangwa National Park in Zambia reported an unusually high number of calves born without tusks. Kenya is not only reporting tuskless births but that, for elephants who retain their tusks, they simply do not grow to the same scale. Elephants are now either tuskless or sporting smaller than normal tusks as a means to survive the threat of ivory profiteer poachers. Researchers have compared these results with calves born to elephants living in relatively stress-free conditions. Elephants living without the threat of slaughter for their ivory generally experience a 2% rate of calves born without tusks. Threatened, wild elephants are sacrificing their tusks in order to survive. Here is video on the evolution of elephants:

 

What Tuskless Really Means

This may sound like wonderful news. Tuskless elephants would surely be elephants left alone in the wild to enjoy their natural lives, right? Actually, this may not the great news it would seem. There is actually a very high price to be paid by elephants who lose their tusks voluntarily as a survival mechanism. In essence, they become a crippled creature. Elephants have tusks for a reason. They are not just aesthetic. Elephants are not graced with tusks so trophy hunters have a prize. Tusks are needed to dig for water and food. They are used to root about trees and self-defense against predators. Tusks play an important role in attracting a mate. It is easy to say that a crippled elephant is still better than a dead elephant, but I don’t think an elephant would agree with you. At about the 1 minute mark in the next video, you see an elephant use its tusks to dig in the mud in order to reach water:

 

 

Saving Tusks & Elephants

How can a person help African elephants survive and thrive in a world where they are free to live as elephants should, un-threatened and with their tusks? There are numerous conservation initiatives designed for protection of the species. However, a novel approach to conserving the African elephant in the wild is to support a local artist. Historically, artists have been able to fulfill their potential through the generous patronage of others. King George III supported a small group of artists who established the Royal Academy in 1768. France’s Marie Antoinette may have very well have been the catalyst for the French Revolution with her patronage of the arts, as well as political activist groups. Many artists use their craft to draw attention to specific causes. By supporting a local artist who devotes their talent to the plight of Africa’s elephants, patrons can follow a great historical tradition as they endeavor to do their part to save these awe-inspiring and majestic creatures. Hang a painting and save an elephant! How awesome is that!

BBC

Image Credit:  Fan Pop

Video Credit:  InformOverload

Fitbit For Wolves


(Originally posted 1/16/17 on Read With The Gringa)

Nature and technology, they are not mutually exclusive passions. In fact, our planet may now be facing challenges that will require a marriage of the two in order for nature to be protected, restored and preserved. Whether it be strengthening endangered species populations or protecting habitat, nature lovers who may see the advances of civilization as a threat, might now experience an ideological dilemma. Because it is technology that must be used to save that which naturalists love.

The U.S. National Park Service (NPS) is using SMART collar technology to track and study wolves. The gray wolves of Denali National Park and Preserve are sporting canine-customized “Fitbit” type collars so scientists can study how they patrol their territories, raise their pups, and hunt. Is such expense worth the investment? Can the world live without gray wolves? I mean, sure, it would be a sad thing if they ceased to exist but are they important enough to invest great time and expense to preserve their existence?

In 1978 the gray wolf was listed as a threatened and endangered species in 48 U.S. states. This has occurred due to man shooting, trapping or poisoning them virtually into oblivion. This, despite the fact that there are no known accounts of gray wolves attacking humans in modern history and occurrences of attacking livestock have been extremely rare. And, in such cases, by law the government has to reimburse farmers and ranchers for any livestock loss. Why, then, has man targeted the gray wolf with such hatred and violence? Who knows. But the gringa thinks we owe the gray wolf an apology. But do we owe the species the effort and expense of re-populating the country with gray wolves?

We do. A world without wolves is an eco-system out of balance and possibly doomed to failure. Let’s face it, although most naturalists are lovers of the peacefully co-existing grazers like white-tail deer, the reality is that predators are just as important if we want to keep herds of white-tail deer healthy.  And wolves do so much more than that.

In Yellowstone National Park a cascade of devastating effects followed the eradication of wolves in the mid-1920s. Elk populations became over-abundant which caused habitat damage due to overgrazing. This affected streams through erosion as groves of native trees and shrubbery were over-browsed. As the waters became more shallow, they warmed. The result was that many native fish species disappeared or became extremely scarce. As the trees and shrubbery declined, so did the native bird and beaver populations.

One species that did thrive with the disappearance of wolves were the coyotes. Too many coyotes meant fewer gophers and rodents. And, as coyotes glutted on small animals, other mid-level predators, like foxes and raptors, began to decline. With wolves missing from the eco-system, the animals who dine on the leftovers of their kills had to migrate elsewhere. Yellowstone also saw declines in the number of eagles, ravens, and even bears.

So what is life like without wolves? Decimated grasslands and tree copses, shallow rivers and streams, lots of coyotes and deer and little else. And, eventually, even the deer and coyotes will decline due to health problems related to over-population.

The good news is that mankind can right such wrongs with the right use of the right technology. In 1995 a program re-introduced wolves to areas of the American West. The results are dreams come true for every naturalist. The ecological balance was restored. Rivers and streams were re-shaped. Songbird populations blossomed. Trout and other fish flourished. The entire landscape of Yellowstone was re-structured into a healthier version, resembling its former self.

SMART collars deliver knowledge to researchers about wolf behavior, physiology, movements and interaction with ecology. This information can be used to develop better conservation measures. Developed at the University of California, Santa Cruz, these collars provide GPS information, 3D movement data, and distinct signatures for each wolf like acceleration, sleeping and eating habits. The metabolic rate of each animal can be calculated so that researchers know how many calories an individual wolf needs to consume for the expenditures made in activity. Scientists are even able to measure their oxygen levels. The information collected is answering questions such as what was the cause for an incident of pack starvation in Denali.

Saving wolf populations is just one piece of the save-the-planet puzzle. If you are a naturalist, the key to success in your mission may very well lie in technology that you might have typically been hesitant to embrace. The gringa sees the superheroes of tomorrow as being able to live in a tent as well as able to design and use sophisticated electronic equipment. Tomorrow’s planetary saviours need to study STEM disciplines as much as they need to study agriculture and wildlife.

Sources:

Pegasus Foundation

National Park Service

US Department of Agriculture

Living With Wolves

Sustainable Human

Image Credit:  National Park Service

Read With The Gringa “Fear in the Dark”, Chapt. 19, Part 1


We move along to another chapter of “Watership Down” by Richard Adams. Hazel and Blackberry explore the possibilities of changing their rabbit natures.

Read with the gringa here on WordPress or on Facebook!

Image Source: wikipedia

Oysters & Fortunetellers


Where the gringa lives in the gulf coast of Texas, oyster farming is big business. The gringa’s farming experience is limited to my father’s cattle ranch and my own egg farming. Is that how oyster farming works? Do you just leave the little guys alone most of the time to do what oysters do? Toss them a bit of feed, protect them from predators, stuff like that? Well, actually oyster farming has gone hi-tech. For young people who are interested in a beach bum lifestyle with the edge of technology, oyster farming or working with the technology related to the industry may be your thing if you love science as much as beach bumming.

Oysters don’t need their human overseers to bring them a bale of hay or toss out some nutrient enriched scratch. They are living filters that live on the bottom of a bay. Oyster farmers really don’t have that much to do, it would seem, unless it is harvest time. Sounds like the perfect beach bum job.

However, there is one thing that can happen that can interrupt an oyster farmer’s hiatus between harvests. If storm clouds gather, oyster farmers have to get out of their hammocks, put away the surfboard and forego the margaritas and head out for some serious relocating work in the estuaries.

You see, as bottom feeding filters, rain in this polluted day and age can be deadly for oysters. And even if contaminants in run off don’t kill the slimy, little buggers they could, in turn, kill a human if eaten. A local thunderstorm with a heavy downpour means one of two things:

  • Completely relocate their stock, or,
  • Quarantine the area and delay harvest until it is safe.

Now, even if an oyster farmer was willing to relocate their oysters, often weather conditions can change rapidly and unexpectedly in coastal regions.  Usually an oyster farmer simply doesn’t have enough time to respond. So, the oysters bide the storm and everyone hopes for the best. But considering how heavily polluted most of the soil is in populated areas around the world, it’s usually not good news when it’s all over.

The gringa doesn’t have the numbers for industry loss or farm closures in the Gulf of Mexico area I call home. However, I can tell you about what’s been going on in Tasmania. Since 2013 industry research has recorded a loss of over $4.3 million (Australian currency!) for Tasmanian oyster farmers due to contamination related farm closures, caused by pollutants in rainfall water runoff that entered estuaries.  This sounds awful, right? Well, take heart, dear readers. There is good news for Tasmanians as well as oyster farmers everywhere thanks to an agriculture technology start-up company, The Yield.

The Yield has designed a system of sensors that were tested in 14 Tasmanian oyster farm estuaries. This comprised about 80% of the entire oyster industry for the state. The technology measured:

  • Water depth
  • Salinity
  • Temperature
  • Barometric pressure

Oyster farmers use their smartphone, or other device, to access the handy little app that is updated every five minutes with new data about their squishy, little, hard-shelled babies. Access is also available to food safety regulators so everybody that matters is in the loop.

But the gringa wants to know if this has made oyster farming better. I mean, it’s always fun to have new gadgets but where business is concerned, is there a point to the expense? Here are the benefits of this new technology:

  • Reduces paperwork between farmers & food service regulators.
  • Food quality and safety has improved.
  • Accurate measurements has resulted in fewer farm closures.
  • Fewer farm closures has resulted in higher production, yields and profits.

Well, it looks like this technology is worth the investment for oyster farmers. It also looks like the investment of time and effort of scientists and meteorologists for more than a century was also a worthy investment. That is the backbone of the information that went into designing this system. If you have a habit or hobby of recording weather related “stuff”, who knows, one day what you may consider a hobby or pre-occupation could change the world! More than a hundred years worth of weather and tidal related data helped developers understand weather and tidal patterns, how they changed with the seasons, and how this would affect the performance of the technology to predict weather events. So, basically, Tasmania’s oyster farmers are more successful because of digital fortunetellers.

Sources:

www.techrepublic.com

www.theyield.com

oysterstasmania.org

Image Credit: oysterstasmania.org

 

 

Read With The Gringa “The Story of the King’s Lettuce” Chapt. 15’s Conclusion


We finish the chapter together as we continue “Watership Down” by Richard Adams. El-ahrairah proves what a clever rabbit he is.

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Image Source: www.gapphotos.com