Cats and Other Critters

We have three cats. Butterfly is a 16-year-old cantankerous old female. If she had her way the other two cats would disappear. If she was younger and still in fighting condition, she would make that happen. Our other two cats are mother and son, a 2-year-old and a 1-year-old. The mother is Daisy. The son is Shady.

We used to have four cats. Several months ago Shady lost one of his eyes in a cat fight. The cat that attacked him was his own father, Grady. There was too much competition between these two neutered males and we decided that one of them had to leave. We found a great home for Grady. He is the only cat in his new home, but shares the three acres with a dog and a bunch of chickens. He is very happy there.

With the help of a vet, Shady recovered from his injury very well. I thought having lost his 3-D vision might curtail some of his hunting, but I was wrong.

Recently, I was awaken by a persistent click-click noise. I figured it was some sort of critter, dragged in by one of my cats. My first thought was a bird, but I had never heard a bird make a sound like that before. I got out of bed, followed the sound and ended up in the livingroom. I turned on the light and found Shady lying on the couch, facing the wall, his focus near the ceiling. I followed his gaze and saw what he was watching.

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Shady’s prized capture escaped to the top of the livingroom curtains.

Perched on the curtain rod a few inches from the ceiling, was a little furry fellow about 4 inches long. He was dark-gray with a white face. His pink hairless feet grasped the fabric of the curtain. I even saw his curled up pink tail. I recognized the species right away. This little cutie was a baby opossum, except down here in North Carolina we say ‘possum. He appeared unscathed and seemed rather content on his perch. I’m sure he was relieved to discover that cats don’t climb curtains. At least, not this one.

Obviously, Shady’s plan was to wait patiently for the possum to come down from its safe haven. My plan was totally different. I wanted it out of my house, but alive and safe.

I couldn’t just reach up and grab him. I would surely be bitten. So, I considered my options. The best idea would make use of his instincts, and that meant coaxing him onto another perch. A broom handle was long enough, but too slippery for him to grip. I didn’t want him falling into the jaws of the ever vigilant Shady. I needed to give the handle some texture.

I remembered a roll of shelf lining that I bought recently which is designed to prevent dishes from sliding. It has a mesh design and would be easy for this little guy to grip.

I cut off a few inches of the fabric and wound it around the broom handle. Then secured it with rubber bands. Voila! I had my extraction tool.

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It was such an awesome moment when the possum curled his tail around my finger.

Now, the hard part, convincing this little critter to move onto the stick. I climbed onto a chair to meet him eye to eye. I spoke to him in a soft voice. He was already calm, I just didn’t want to do anything that would change that. I dared to touch his fur and allowed his tail to curl around my finger. This just might have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

He was quite calm for a critter who had climbed the curtains to avoid being eaten. Yet he seemed to trust me not to eat him. I positioned the handle next to him and gently nudged him from behind and he slowly moved toward the broomstick. It took only a few moments before all four feet were securely gripping the handle. He remained calm the entire time. I think he recognized me as his rescuer.

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The little critter held on for dear life as I transported him to a safer environment.

It was time to transport him to a safer place. I carried the handle horizontally through the house and through the backdoor, careful not to make any sudden moves. I considered the cat too late. I should have locked him in a bedroom. Because, now, he was following me with his eagle eye on the possum, just waiting for it to fall.

Shady followed me the good long distance I walked from the house to one of our smaller trees. It was actually harder to convince the critter to move onto the tree than it was the broom handle. All the while, Shady was watching and waiting for a mishap.

The critter finally moved on to the tree and clung to a branch. I said good-bye and good luck to the precious little creature, saying a silent prayer for his or her safety and a family reunion by daybreak. I then picked up the cat, carried him to the house, and scolded him for bringing home yet another critter.

I then locked the pet door so he couldn’t run back out to the tree that our little friend was clinging to. I was determined that the poor little thing would be safe for this one night, at least.

I never saw the possum again. I checked the tree. If I ever see it again it would have been because Shady had found it. It may not fare as well a second time. I like to imagine that the little cutie found its mother and siblings by daybreak.

~~~

Not surprising, this episode did not end Shady’s hunting. Early this Saturday morning I took an injured bunny away from him with the faint hope of nursing it back to health. But, sadly, its injuries were too severe. It died less than 24 hours later.

These adventures don’t always end with a “happily ever after.”

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Pretty in Pink — Hillier Lake, Australia

You are probably thinking that this little lake was the unfortunate target of some prankster or maybe it was a crazy publicity stunt for Breast Cancer Awareness. But you would be wrong to think that.

This is Hillier Lake, a small (1/3 mile long) salt lake located on Middle Island, one of the larger islands in the Recherche Archipelago, off the coast of Western Australia, just south of Cape Arid National Park.

Hillier Lake was first discovered in 1802 by navigator and map maker Matthew Flinders who took samples from the lake and wrote about it in his journal.

The water in this lake is actually captured ocean water. For eons the process of water evaporation and regular refilling of ocean water has caused the salt content to become extremely high, evident by the thick rim of salt on its shoreline. Not surprisingly, salt was extracted for human consumption in the early 20th century. But that practice ended after six years.

Hillier Lake’s only real claim to fame is the other-worldly color of its water. Depending on the time of year, and the angle at which you view it, the water may appear as though someone just stirred a little Koolaid into the water, or that someone replaced all the water with Pepto-Bismol.

The reason that this little lake sports such a unique color is still in debate, but most scientists studying this lake, suspect a micro-algae known by its scientific name, Dunaliella Salina. Its probably a good guess, because this lake is filled with it. Dunaliella produces carotenoids, a pigment which is responsible for making carrots orange.

The north side of Middle Island is lined with eucalyptus and paperback trees. A narrow strip of land, about 150 feet wide, separate the lake from the Pacific Ocean. The water is safe for swimming, but you won’t have the pleasure of doing so. It is not possible for tourists to visit the island.

You may, however, consider booking a charter plane and flying over Middle Island to capture this blushing beauty in pictures. In fact, the best way to view the little lake is by air. The colors are more intense when viewed from above. As unique as Hillier Lake is, it is not the only naturally pink lake in the world.

Here are a few others:

32. salt fisherman to work. Ten A twelve hours per day Oumar is extracting the salt of the pink lake. its only protection vis-a-vis with salt: the oil of shea tree of which it coats its body. It scrapes the bottom of the lake to extract the white gold. the lake is not very deep one at two meter at the major places.- Retba lake.

 Retba lake in Senega

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Hutt Lagoon in mid-western Australia

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Warden Lake near Esperance, Western Australia

Who Would You Like to Eat Today?

In 1931, Winston Churchill predicted a future in which all the world’s meat would be grown in labs. Churchill asked, “What, was the sense in raising a whole chicken merely for the sake of its wings or breast meat?” Where did he come up with that idea? What kind of mad science was he privy to in the early 1930s that caused him to predict lab-produce meat? Can you imagine the funny looks and the gossip that followed such a statement?

That would be the equivalent to President Obama predicting that in the future we will be visiting cantinas on Mars and taking honeymoon trips on the actual moon.

Its been 84 years since Churchill’s odd prediction, but he has finally been vindicated. He wasn’t crazy after all, he was quite the visionary. Because, right now, there are several labs working on that exact problem. The world’s population is growing, yet the earth has only a finite amount of land. 30% of the Earth’s inhabitable land mass is used for the production of meat. If we could reduce that to 5%, new villages, towns, and cities could take the place of factory farms.

Most people who witness the way animals are treated in factory farms would categorize it as cruelty. These farms also have a measurable negative impact on the environment. Antibiotics are used on these animals to reduce loss from disease. Growth hormones are given to animals to fatten them up so they can get the to market quicker. As consumers of this meat, we also ingest these antibiotics and growth hormones to the possible detriment of our own health. On the other hand, lab grown meat removes all these issues. The amount of land needed to produce the same amount of meat is drastically reduced and other environmental issues are eliminated.

The process of growing meat in the lab still requires an animal, but the animal is not killed. One cow would replace many thousands. The process starts with a small biopsy of a cow’s myoblast cells (also known as stem cells). The cow is not slaughtered. These myoblast cells multiply, increasing in volume until they have reached the desired mass. Once the first batch of meat is grown, the next batch could be started with a sampling of the first.

This method of growing meat in a lab can offer so much more than just replicas of beef, pork, and chicken. Imagine tasting the meat of a rare species, like Polar Bear or Python. Artisan blends created by famous chefs could be developed.

One of these meat producing companies, Bitelabs, is adding an even wilder twist to this concept. And to be honest, it is a little creepy. Bitelabs is going to offer celebrity meat. That’s right, meat cultured from a biposy from a celebrity donor. I am not aware of any celebrity who has signed up for this, yet. But Bitelabs is urging tweeters to tweet their favorite celebrities and urge them to offer a little of piece of themselves in the interest of science.

This idea may have the unintended consequence of shining daylight on vampires, cannibals, necrophiliacs, and Jeffrey Daumer wanna-bes. We may be sorry we opened up that can of worms.

If you decide to tweet some celebrities about this novel way to connect with their fans, make sure you are selecting the right celebrity. I would personally not tweet the likes of Charlie Sheen because of all the bad stuff he puts into his body.

It might be a better choice to convince someone like Ellen DeGeneres who became a vegan after watching footage taken at slaughterhouses and dairy farms. Since she is so opposed to the way livestock is treated, she might be the first celebrity to get behind this science. She could go down in history as the first edible talk show host.

If Bitelabs is looking for a catchy product name they might consider “Soylent Green”. That’s the title of a 1973 sci-fi movie, starring Charlton Heston. It takes place in our not too distant future (the year 2022) and portrays an overpopulated world facing food shortages and starvation.

With our global population tipping the scale at 7-billion people, the dystopian world depicted in this movie may be predicting our real future, which includes a bio-engineered food source called Soylent Green that is distributed to the population on Tuesdays only.

Below is a very short clip showing Charlton Heston’s character revealing the secret ingredient in the government-supplied food, Soylent Green.

The Land of the Rising Sun Flowers?

“Fukushima is the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind,”
Arnold Gundersen, a former nuclear industry senior vice president

The earthquake and resulting tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, 2011, left in its wake 23,000 people dead or missing. But, the damage that occurred to the Fukushima power plant will continue to negatively impact the country and its people for a very long time. Its not getting better, in fact, the Fukushima power plant meltdown which began in March 2011 continues to this day. More than four years later, the resulting negative health consequences are only growing.

But something else is growing at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant.

Within weeks of the disaster, a program was launched by civil servants and independent entrepreneurs to plant sunflower seeds in and around the contaminated area. Soon the fallout zone was covered in bright cheerful sunflowers. Was this just a symbol of hope to the people of Japan and the world, or was there more to it than that?

These cheerful flowers covered an area so large that the sunny yellow patch could be seen from passenger airliners, and maybe even from the International Space Station on a cloudless day.

But, sunflowers have been touted to do more than just brighten up an area. The sunflower project was promised to save Japan and their people. It is said that sunflowers absorb large amounts of cesium from the soil.

A similar project was implemented in the radioactive cleanup of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the Ukraine. This historic reference gave the Japanese people a string of hope to hang onto.

So far, more than 100,000 packets of sunflower seeds have been sold to approximately 30,000 people at the equivalent price of just under $6 each.

One of the major patrons of the sunflower project has been the city of Yokohama, which planted sunflowers in 200 of its parks.

Seeds were also sold to volunteers who took the responsibility for planting them in contaminated soil. This involvement of the Japanese public has given the people hope and a sense of pride by being part of a noble cause.

But, has this amazing claim been proven? Is this a scientific fact or has somebody pulled a fast one?

What were the results at the site of the Chernobyl disaster? To this day, the area around the Chernobyl power plant is fenced off and access to the site is prohibited, due to high levels of radiation still present.

Four years have passed since the Fukushima Sunflower project began, and the results are in. Sadly, sunflowers just don’t do the job. The roots of the sunflower grow too deep to absorb the cesium which is concentrated in the top 3-4 inches of soil.

The soil in the sunflower fields, when tested, showed a .05% reduction in the amount of active cesium. On the other hand, planting the area with shallow rooted grass, then scraping and removing the top 3-4 inches of soil was far and above more efficient. With this method, the amount of active cesium was reduced by 97%.

Somebody pulled off a huge hoax on an entire nation at a time when they needed real solutions. How many hundreds of thousands of dollars have been swindled from well-meaning Japanese citizens buying seeds and risking their health to plant them in contaminated soil?

As a symbol of hope for the “Land of the Rising Sun” the sunflower falls flat. The hope still lies in the stopping of the meltdown. To this day Fukushima continues to contaminate the air, water, and soil, not just in Japan, but to a lesser degree, throughout the entire planet.