The Power of Smell.

Credit Ben FrantzDale – CC-BY-SA

Guest Post

From time to time I will be publishing posts from guest authors whose writings I think will interest people. Of course, all opinions and assertions in these posts belong solely to the authors and do not necessarily agree with mine. Please direct your praise and criticism to the author. — rjb

Today’s guest author is Laird Smith

Note: See my posts on smell, parts one, two and three.

Laird Smith

Apr 9, 2018, 8:48 PM

Lately we all have had enough of tragedy. The South Okanagan with its loss of Greg Norton and hockey with its loss of fifteen players and associates of the Humboldt Broncos.

I’m going to veer off into some self deprecating humor. As many of you know, I was born with a defect, a hormone deficiency which wasn’t discovered until I was in my early thirties. My medication treatment started with pills for four years, which gradually ceased their effectiveness, then shots for thirteen years, which created a lot of scar tissue in the injection site, then finally a cream to apply to my skin.

The cream was prescribed because it didn’t have to go through my liver like the shot serum had to. The cream was made up in the lab at the pharmacy. The pharmacist informed me that the skin didn’t absorb the cream easily so he would put a certain chemical in it for better absorbency. He went on to tell me that the chemical would cause my body to smell like garlic as the drug was being absorbed. I nodded in understanding and forgot about the matter.

Three years later I found myself working in an oil field truckers’ camp in Rainbow Lake, Alberta. My position was called Night Man, which meant that I worked from 6 pm to 6 am, and then slept all day. I kept an eye on the camp while the workers slept. I washed towels for the Camp Attendant, and I cleaned up the kitchen from the supper hour. I did that shift for fourteen days straight then went home for a week.

The medical plan of the trucking company had great coverage for my prescriptions. I switched my drug store manufactured cream to a commercially manufactured gel. The cream came in a big, clumsy, plastic jar while the gel came in individual sachets which were easier to administer.

I started the gel the day after finishing the cream. I walked into the kitchen at 4 pm to say hi to Shirley the cook. She looked at me and said, “You smell differently!” I thought for a moment, and said, “I’ve changed medications!” She said, “Oh, I thought you never bathed!” I replied, “Why didn’t you say something?” Her response, “I didn’t know how to word it.” She put up with that misunderstanding for three months, what a trooper!
I got an “aha” moment when I realized that it was the garlic smell from the cream medication that led her to assume I wasn’t bathing.

That reminds me of another time, many years ago, when I was a cook’s helper in Houston BC at a sawmill camp run by Northwood Pulp and Timber. One morning while I was preparing for lunch, the Millwright, who had worked all night, came in for his meal. I was cutting garlic close to the serving line when he asked me what I was doing. I told him and he asked for a garlic clove. Just for a joke I gave him the whole garlic corn and he took it. By the time I went back to get the corn from him he had eaten the whole thing! I was not amused but I took it in stride and went back to work.

When I got off shift at 5 pm and went into the bunkhouse, it absolutely reeked! Even my room stunk and I had the door closed and locked. The smell lingered for a week! Every pore in the Millwright exuded garlic stink, nauseateing us all. After three days the garlic had gone through the man but it took another four days to get the garlic air out the bunkhouse.

I’ve tried to avoid the overuse of garlic in my diet, but several times have failed to notice how much I’ve consumed. The smell always persisted much longer than I’d realized.
I think you would have to be nose blind to be a dentist or a doctor. I’m glad I’ve not been either considering the stink I’ve made others put up with.

Laird Smith

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Crossword Puzzle Decision

Credit Suzie Hudon – CC0

The crossword puzzle experiment will continue. I have learned that some people do like it and would be disappointed if it were to go away, so it can stay for now. I have found that it makes the site take longer to load, but only on the home page where the puzzle appears, so that is not enough to banish it. I also found out that the source site for the puzzles uses a tracking cookie. It shows up when I visit my own home page using Firefox. I don’t think they have any infernally nefarious motives for doing that, but there it is.

So, there you go. The daily crossword puzzle stays. You can find it on the Home Page.

rjb

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Jet Stream

Credit sleske – CC-BY-SA

Cloud of the Day – Jet Stream

The jet stream was discovered by Japanese meteorologist Wasaburo Ooishi when making over 1200 balloon observations of high altitude winds between 1923 and 1925. This information was later used when the Japanese launched nearly 9000 hydrogen-filled paper balloons to carry explosives across the Pacific Ocean to North America during the second world war. The remnants of one of these were found near Lumby, British Columbia, Canada as late as 2014.

Jet streams — see video here — form at the tropopause, the boundary between the two lowest layers of the atmosphere, the troposphere and the stratosphere. There are four major jets, two in each of the northern and southern hemispheres. They are referred to as the polar and subtropical jets and they form at the boundaries of the atmosphere’s major circulating air masses. The northern hemisphere’s polar jet flows at the mid- to northern latitudes and is a regular feature of television weather reports for many of us. The southern hemisphere’s polar jet mostly just circles Antarctica. The subtropical jets are weaker than the polar jets and don’t have as much effect on our weather patterns. There are other jets streams that form at particular times of the year or in particular places, but they don’t have much wider effect either.

Credit Accuweather

Jet streams form at the boundaries of air masses where there are steep pressure and temperature gradients. The tendency of the air to move rapidly from high to low pressure down this steep pressure gradient, and its diversion by the Coriolis force results in a strong current of air at the boundary between the air masses. This current flows generally from west to east in prevailing westerlies. Since weather systems also tend to form at the interface between air masses, it is common for those systems to follow the jet stream. The polar jet streams track north and south with the seasons in concert with the Sun. The streams are quite concentrated phenomena, being only a few hundred kilometers wide and less than five thick.

The wind speed in a jet is often a hundred kilometers per hour and can exceed four hundred. It is easy to see how this could affect the flight of aircraft by reducing or prolonging flight time, depending on whether the flight was with or against the flow. Before this was understood, aircraft were known to take longer than anticipated to reach their destination, sometimes running out of fuel before arriving.

The jet stream is not straight, but rather meanders in its flow from west to east. These meanders look like waves and are called Rossby waves. These waves also travel from west to east, carrying the different weather on their north and south sides across the land below. Recently, probably due to climate change, Rossby waves have been stalling their eastward movement for unusually long periods, subjecting areas to prolonged rainfall or heatwaves. These extreme weather conditions are becoming more common.

In a future post we will cover related phenomena such as the Southern Oscillation, el niño/la niña, the polar vortex and the Dust Bowl.

rjb

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Combating the Elements

Credit Ben FrantzDale – CC-BY-SA


Guest Post

From time to time I will be publishing posts from guest authors whose writings I think will interest people. Of course, all opinions and assertions in these posts belong solely to the authors and do not necessarily agree with mine. Please direct your praise and criticism to the author. — rjb

Today’s guest author is Laird Smith

Laird Smith

Just a quick mention about the GMO issue. The discussion is not likely to go away any time soon.

I came across an interesting web site which had a debate on GMO’s. During the debate I came to the understanding that the foundation of GMO’s argument is based on feeding the world and reducing pesticide and herbicide use. Who can argue with that? One hundred thirty countries have signed on to use GMO grown food. In the coming years we will know its impact, negative, positive or no change.

Combating the Elements

The coming spring is the time when tree fruit blossoms of soft fruits are most at risk from frost. On Wally’s farm, he planted the peaches on the highest part of the farm which was the ridge. He then planted pears on the west side of the ridge and cherries on the east side.

The term commonly known as “smudge pots” was frowned upon by Wally. He said the correct usage was “fire pots” because it was the heat from the fire which protected the fragile blossoms from the frosty air and not the smudgy smoke.

Wally would place the fire pots in all three soft fruit blocks. The pots were metal containers each capable of holding two gallons ( 8 litres ) of diesel fuel. If I remember right, the pots were about 30 feet apart and placed to the side of the tractor track for easy refilling.

Wally and Auntie Kay carefully listened to the evening radio frost report. If there was a chance of frost they slept little for they checked their thermometer regularly.

When the thermometer dipped below the safe point, Wally would take the blow torch out and light all the fire pots. That was quite a task I must say!

When the frost threat was over, the flame was extinguished by placing a wooden shingle over top of each pot snuffing it out. On occasion, the pots were lighted earlier in the evening than expected. It was those nights when the pots burned all the fuel and had to be replenished before the night was over.

In the morning as the sun rose, the Valley air was laced with diesel smoke from another gallant fight with the killing frost. The work wasn’t finished though, for the pots all needed to be refilled before the grower and his wife sought the comfort of their bed to get a few winks before joining the ranks of the day workers.

Laird Smith

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Drought Conditions

“Enchanted Light | New Mexico” by Jim Crotty is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

In my area precipitation has been below normal for the last few months. This is the time of year when we would normally expect a good part of our annual rainfall, and the appropriate authorities have been warning us of the possibility of drought. The conditions are abnormally dry. If they continue abnormally dry then the criteria for moderate or worse drought conditions will be met, hence the warning. That’s what we pay them to do. We pay people to collect the data and we pay other people to interpret it for us so we can plan accordingly.

It’s not a perfect system. It doesn’t always get everything right. Sometimes the actual amounts of precipitation will differ from the forecasts used in their projections. It’s not a perfect system, but it’s the one we use. They have to work with the available data and this year the data is saying that it’s drier than normal. It would be wrong to criticize them for employing current best practises with an abundance of caution.

We’ve had some rain in the last couple of days. We’re still below normal for the period, and there are dry, sunny days in the forecast, but a local blog operator has made a post mocking the reports warning of possible drought conditions. He thinks it’s clever to sieze on two wet days and mock the efforts of the people we pay to watch out for us. This same blogger has used a cold snap in the winter as an opportunity to say, “So much for global warming, eh?”

What are you supposed to do with people like that?

rjb

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The Prime – Three-Quarter Report

Credit B4bees – CC-BY


I have been writing my current novel, The Prime, for four and a half months, and I’m three-quarters finished. Time for another report.

Unlike my last book, The Plainsrunner, this one isn’t being shared in a serialization as I write it. Serialization was good and I enjoyed it, but it was a lot of work, and the effort didn’t result in much return. Not many sales, no reviews, and I was left feeling, “What’s the point?”

I’m enjoying writing The Prime, but it still feels strange to not be sharing it as we go. The first one, Green Comet, was released whole and complete, but the second one, Parasite Puppeteers, was released as eight extensions, and the third one, The Francesians, as four. I discovered as I went that there’s a lot of work involved in proofing and formatting and releasing and announcing several different versions of a story, and four is easier than eight. Now, with The Prime, it looks as if I’ve brought it down to zero. Right back to the first one.

So, what am I enjoying about writing The Prime? What I always enjoy about writing. Thinking every day about the growing story and watching it develop as I write it, seeing what happens next. Learning more about my characters as I get to know them better. Showing them where we’re going, and following along as they take us there. And sometimes reining them in as they head off in directions of their own. It’s a bit lonelier this time, writing the whole thing without sharing it as we go, but a writer’s life is supposed to be a lonely one, isn’t it?

Three-quarters done. So far, so good. Another couple of months of writing, then the proofing, preparing it for publication and recording it. Oh yeah, and deciding if this image is right for it.

rjb

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Crossword Puzzle Follow-Up

Credit Suzie Hudon – CC0


I’ve been experimenting with running a daily crossword puzzle widget for almost two months. I’m pretty sure it’s not a trojan bent on taking over my website, but other than that I’m not sure how it’s working out. I don’t know if anyone has been doing the puzzles or whether or not anyone thinks they’re a good idea. This is your chance to let me know. If I don’t get a reasonable response asking me to keep it, then I’m going to delete the crossword puzzle widget.

Here’s a link to the puzzle, BTW.

rjb

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Irrigation for Tree Fruit

Credit Ben FrantzDale – CC-BY-SA

Guest Post

From time to time I will be publishing posts from guest authors whose writings I think will interest people. Of course, all opinions and assertions in these posts belong solely to the authors and do not necessarily agree with mine. Please direct your praise and criticism to the author. — rjb

Today’s guest author is Laird Smith

Laird Smith

Irrigation for Tree Fruit

This week I shall write about Wally Smith and his orchard irrigation.

Wally described the land he chose to buy, and I quote from his column dated December 22 1977: “…I had acquired 11 acres of what was classified as raw marginal land…” That meant wild rose bushes and poison ivy. The date of the purchase was sometime in 1934.

Wally had the good sense of purchasing land where the entire east side of the property had a creek, now named Park Rill, as its boundary. By this time “The Ditch” — a government financed concrete irrigation ditch which carried water from the Okanagan River through the central fruit growing areas in the Oliver BC district — had been built so that anyone wanting to use the river water could.

For Wally, his land was too far away from The “Ditch” and in 1934, Wally did not have the financial means to run pipe from The “Ditch” hookup to his land anyway, so he had to rely on Park Rill to provide irrigation for anything he planned to grow.

Wally built a water wheel which ran fine until the beavers objected to him interfering with their activities and plugged it up with mud and sticks. That was a constant battle ground until electricity came along and Wally installed a pump.

The actual watering of the trees involved making shallow, narrow, ditches in the ground along the tree rows. A flume carried the water from the water wheel to the earthen ditches and as the water flowed it soaked into the ground at each tree. The last tree in the row would get flooded while the others each got some. Sometimes the ditches plugged up so they had to be monitored. This was an inefficient way to equally water all the trees.

At some point Wally hooked up to buried pipes and brought the “Ditch” water to his property. I remember the metal flume running along the ridge, which was the highest part of the land. The end of the flume was blocked off forcing the water to back up to be released out of the flow holes. The flow holes spilled the water into the earthen ditches and down along the trees.

I know Wally was not happy with the job the earthen ditches did because as soon as he could he installed pump houses and sprinkler pipes. We had one pump house utilizing The “Ditch” water and two pump houses utilizing the water from Park Rill.

Using sprinkler pipes meant he could run five lines at the same time on twelve hour cycles and get the whole planting of eleven acres watered once a week.

During the late sixties or early seventies, he sold all but three acres. It was on those remaining acres that he decided to install a solid set irrigation system, all underground with just the sprinkler heads on short stems of pipe showing.

That was the best he could do as far as efficiency goes, turn on a valve, turn off a valve. There was a huge reduction in labor and waste was virtually eliminated, as long as you didn’t damage the sprinkler heads.

Incidentally, when I worked in the USA during the 1990’s, some tree fruit growers in north eastern Oregon were still using ditches to water their trees. I was appalled at the time, and remember thinking that Wally had abandoned that inefficient method by the early 1950’s.

Wally spent a lot of money on improving the land, but over the years of successive owners, most of the planting has returned to raw marginal land.

Laird Smith

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How Science is Reshaping the Race Debate


I’ve written about racism before. I think I’ve made it clear that I don’t think science can justify dividing us into “races.” The similarities among us are too great, and the differences within the “races” are also too great. As I have said, if you see races, you’re racist. Here’s a link to an article that covers the subject more thoroughly, including the admission that racists are not idiots. Not all of them, anyway. They know about the science too, and they know how to bend it to support their bias.

via How Science and Genetics are Reshaping the Race Debate of the 21st Century – The Seattle Star

Over the last decade, there have been hopes that the US has become a post-racial society, free of racial prejudice and discrimination. However, the most recent months indicate the contrary: race remains an incendiary issue. Race and racism are not new issues, but in today’s 21st century Trump-era, discussions about race are distinct from those of the past in that they possess an entirely new dimension: that of genetics and DNA.

Ancestry test kits are the new “it” item—and with their success is the tacit admission of our belief that our DNA can sort us into categories like the “five races:” African, European, Asian, Oceania, and Native American.

If separate racial or ethnic groups actually existed, we would expect to find “trademark” alleles and other genetic features that are characteristic of a single group but not present in any others. However, the 2002 Stanford study found that only 7.4% of over 4000 alleles were specific to one geographical region. Furthermore, even when region-specific alleles did appear, they only occurred in about 1% of the people from that region—hardly enough to be any kind of trademark.

In the biological and social sciences, the consensus is clear: race is a social construct, not a biological attribute.

… the broader public is not convinced of this. After all, if an Asian person looks so different from a European, how could they not be from distinct groups? Even if most scientists reject the concept of “race” as a biological concept, race exists, undeniably, as a social and political concept.

Despite the scientific consensus that humanity is more alike than unlike, the long history of racism is a somber reminder that throughout human history, a mere 0.1% of variation has been sufficient justification for committing all manner of discriminations and atrocities.

Mounting scientific evidence has shown that humans are fundamentally more similar than different from each other. Nonetheless, racism has persisted. Scientific findings are often ignored, or otherwise actively misinterpreted and misused to further racist agendas of extreme political groups.

If you’re interested in a synopsis of the current state of “race” and the science around it, follow the link to the original article.

via How Science and Genetics are Reshaping the Race Debate of the 21st Century – The Seattle Star

rjb

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Hummimgbirds

Credit Ben FrantzDale – CC-BY-SA

Guest Post

From time to time I will be publishing posts from guest authors whose writings I think will interest people. Of course, all opinions and assertions in these posts belong solely to the authors and do not necessarily agree with mine. Please direct your praise and criticism to the author. — rjb

Today’s guest author is Laird Smith.

Laird Smith

Hummingbirds

Wally and Auntie Kay Smith appreciated hummingbirds. Wally pointed out a hummingbird nest in one of the apple trees with two tiny eggs in it. I was a child then and it was such a thrill to see them! We put up feeders where we could observe hummingbirds from the comfort of our house. Wally even put up a white backstop so he could photograph them at the feeder. Who doesn’t like hummingbirds? I don’t know of anyone who doesn’t like the remarkable little creatures.These birds however, are in jeopardy, even though they are protected under the Migratory Bird Act.

Recently, CBC radio interviewed a man named Pepper Trail, a criminal forensic ornithologist with the US Government, who spoke of the current problems besetting our beloved humming birds. But that is part of the problem, they are too beloved! Apparently the Mayan culture once looked at the hummingbird as a love charm and that frame of mind has been resurrected with the Mexican people as well as the Spanish speaking communities throughout the United States and Canada.

People in countries south of the U.S., are paid to harvest hummingbirds by the hundreds. Border Security has intercepted packages destined for the United States of America with at least 300 dead hummingbirds in each, all neatly and individually confined, complete with a verse or poem for each hopeful lover who buys the dead hummingbird.

Yes, these dead birds are being marketed as good luck charms, just as the lucky rabbit foot has been marketed here. The companies involved in this practice are very well organized according to Mr. Trail. The question is, how do you stop a cultural practice such as this love charm operation?

There are only so many hummingbirds to go around before they become extinct along with the many different species of wild flowers that are pollinated solely by hummingbirds. Then what are the people going to do for a love charm? They will use a fake one, but by then the irreparable damage will be done.

A solution then is to flood the current market with fake, cheaper hummingbirds. When you look around at what is available for fake birds, there are many that look incredibly realistic! There are other solutions too that I don’t know of. Perhaps make another bird a popular love charm such as the Starling, and when they become extinct, there will be no tragedy abounding!

How much time is there before our hummingbirds are all gone ? Two years, five years, certainly no more than ten years. When you really think about, it is inconceivable that our hummingbirds could all die as love charms by an uneducated humanity!

My hope is that the powers that be, financial powers in particular, will take notice of a potential love charm market available in fake hummingbirds for the Spanish speaking communities throughout North America; thereby preserving the lives of hundreds of real, live hummingbirds.

Just a note of clarification. There are readers who will take this article all wrong by thinking I’m blaming this problem on the people of North and South America who speak Spanish. The Spanish speaking communities just happen to be the ones I know about; there may be others who are involved in this ignorant decimation of our hummingbird populations. No matter who is partaking in this, it must stop as soon as possible, to avert the inconceivable.

Laird Smith

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