Saturday, March 31, 2012

Bugs in Starbucks Drink

Credit: googles images
Cochineal beetles are harvested from cacti they grow on.

Sometimes it’s amazing how little we know. CNN did a BREAKING NEWS story this morning about Starbucks coloring a strawberry drink with ground-up bugs. Suddenly you hear sounds of disgust. Actually La Cochineal beetles have been used for hundreds of years, perhaps thousands of years, to color anything that needed to be red. We've been eating mashed beetles in our ice cream, cake frosting, candy, and anything else you can think of that's red all of our lives.  Red velvet cake must have thousands of bugs in it.  Artificial colors have come a long way, so the beetle juice has been replaced in some things, but only relatively recently. Besides recipes, one of the largest users of beetle coloring has been women’s cosmetics. If you’re repulsed by drinking a beverage with a trace of beetle coloring in it, think of the billions of women that have painted their lips red with ground up beetles for eons to attract men. And the guys then did their best to suck all that beetle juice off their lips. Ooooooo!! If anyone thinks this is scandalous, they couldn’t begin to imagine the amount of seaweed they eat every day. Seaweed is in everything, from ice cream, bread, pudding, salad dressing, many prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, skin lotion, hair shampoo, nearly every store retailed pastry, cosmetics, vitamins, soap, toothpaste, and this doesn’t even start the list. If it isn’t there already, you can expect to find seaweed in your gasoline.

Friday, March 30, 2012

On The Move

Sandhill Cranes on the move.

This may be of limited value for most of you, but it’s important, so I’ll add it for anyone who may benefit. I had notified the RV insurance provider that the trailer would be in storage for February and March, allowing me to get a rebate for the period that it would not be on the road. My understanding was that the coverage would go back into effect April 1. Just on a spur of the moment thought that I should check with GMAC before taking off, I found that it wasn’t effective again until the renewal policy began April 19. We were about to hit the road with no insurance coverage for 2 l/2 weeks. That was corrected, but my lesson was that it’s a good idea to check with your provider before making assumptions.

We had strong thunderstorms come through last night with a forecast for 70mph winds and baseball-size hail. We hitched up and moved the trailer under a nearby agricultural shed’s steel roof. We got the wind and torrential rain, but only enough hail to be barely heard above the noise of the rain.

We’re packing up, and I’m headed out to change the oil and filter in the Ram. The best sign of progress for me was removing the Oklahoma chart book from the chart case and sliding in the Pennsylvania DeLorme chart book. If you’re not familiar with these, they’re a great aid.


Thursday, March 29, 2012

Birds and Flowers

Eurasian Collared Dove

We have a bit over 300 feet of flower beds around our place. I had to get them all weeded and ready for our absence while paddling. Not being sure how much mulch I’d need to refresh the beds, I got 25 bags, which I spread yesterday. It wasn’t just a matter of spreading mulch. We had one large bed that we lost control of during our absence last year, and to make matters worse, it had gotten full of morning glory vines. That took two-days of digging to try to get the roots out. There’s a zero-percent likelihood that I got them all, so we’ll have to monitor that area closely.

Most paddlers love birds, like all wildlife, so I’ll pass on a recent discovery. Jean has raised birds for years, so keeps a pretty close eye on diet. She has been through a lot of wild bird feed formulations, but has found the best to date to be Purina Mills Wild Bird Chow “Bird Luver’s Blend.” A lot of mixes use high amounts of corn because it’s cheap, but corn is of interest only to larger birds (black birds and crows, though cardinals and jays will tolerate it if there’s nothing else).   The Purina blend has very little corn and a lot of various seeds. The birds have been going crazy over it, and best of all, there has been little to no waste. I know we’re getting beyond the winter feeding season when the wild birds depend on our help, but if any of you maintain outdoor feeders in the summer just to keep birds around, you may consider checking out Purina’s feed.

We happened on a flock of Sandhill Cranes that numbered
in the thousands.  Being rare, we reported them to a site that
monitors their numbers and movement.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Road Trip

This was a picture of the rig taken at Beck's Fish Camp, Pensacola, FL,  about this time last year.  It's a rather expensive way to go just to get the canoe in the water, but Mama says she's done with being cold, wet, hot, or otherwise uncomfortable, so it's the only way we can travel together.  To her credit, she's done enough of all the above in years past.

We brought the RV home today in preparation for the Pennsylvania road trip. I was happy to see that winter storage was kind to us this year. The batteries were in good shape, tires good, and no freezing problems with the water system. I got both water systems flushed of antifreeze, and the batteries reconnected and back on trickle charge. Everything is looking good so far except the fuel prices. Ouch!

We had a granddaughter born while I was doing the Florida Keys Challenge, so this will be our first chance to see her. While visiting there, I hope to paddle lakes in Eastern and Central Pa., so if any of you are near those waters, let me know. Perhaps we can get together.


Monday, March 26, 2012

Tweedle to Twaddle

Tweedledum and Tweedledee
Credit: google images

I finally had to turn the TV off this morning. At the same moment, the three major networks were featuring Dick Chaney, Kim Kardashian, and eating your own placenta. So much for freedom of choice through one’s remote control. The three are identical (at least for me) in producing equal levels of revulsion. I’m part of that rapidly diminishing generation that has followed television from its inception to today. It is at once the greatest blessing and the worst curse inflicted upon civilization. The difference is in the choices made by the producers, and by the public that allows itself to be lulled into mental noctambulism (sleep walking). The worst violation of public trust and intelligence is network news---the process of telling us what someone else wants us to know, think, consider important or trivial. If nothing else, television has largely killed the individual. We like to think we’re different, but we’ve been molded into clones of identical thinking in music, clothing, culture at large, the resignation of a nation of sheep that are told how to act, think, and even respond to what we know is happening around us. Even our political choices have distilled down to picking between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. After the election, regardless of the outcome, all we get is twaddle, while the one-percenters make our “leaders” dance like marionettes. And, at the risk of being called simplistic, yes, I’d say all this is from television---the tool that puts all power in the hands of society’s manipulators. The only freedom of choice we have, really, is on or off.

Whether sailing or paddling, this is one of my greatest reasons for a love of being on the water. It gives me a chance to escape all the thought control and allows me to concentrate on things that are really important and rewarding. And to think that people are even carrying TV’s into the woods and putting them on their sailboats. Incredible!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Death of The Senator

Credit:pseudoselfaware blog

I just learned of this incident from the Florida Paddling Trails Association Newsletter. For those not familiar with Florida history, The Senator was the world’s oldest pond cypress tree, and the fifth oldest tree in the world at 3,500 years of age. It was the largest tree of any species east of the Mississippi. Even during the peak of cypress logging around the turn of the 20th Century, this tree, which at 165-feet stood tall above all others, was left by the loggers in deference to its obvious age and also due to it having a hollow in the middle of the trunk. Located at Longwood, FL, it was for ages a landmark in Central Florida for Indians and settlers alike.

The name was relatively new to the tree. It was named The Senator in 1927 in honor of Senator Moses Overstreet, who had donated the lands in Seminole County to the state for the creation of a park to preserve the tree. The park was dedicated in 1929 by former President Calvin Coolidge.

On February 28th, police reported they had arrested 26-year-old Sara Barnes for the January 16 fire. She reported she frequently went to the park to do drugs, and had lit a fire in the base of the tree for light, so she an another person could see what they were doing while smoking meth. The fire went up the tree, then burned in the tree top, burning from the inside-out like a chimney. By the time the fire service reached the area, the fire had damaged the tree to the point that it collapsed. Barnes took pictures of the burning tree with her cell phone, posting them on line and bragging that she couldn’t believe she had burned down a tree that was older than Jesus.

Monday, March 19, 2012

COE Lake Camping Directory

Credit: Amazon

Closely tied to yesterday’s post is the directory titled “Camping With The Corps of Engineers.” When planning a canoe/camping lake trip, this is an indispensable tool. The Corps of Engineers(COE) operates more than 2,500 facilities of their own and leases another 1,800, and camping opportunities are provided for at most with spectacular scenery and services. The guide is easy to follow with listings by state, and then broken down by lake. For those with the “America The Beautiful” pass, the COE allows 50% discounts at their facilities.

Beware of two things. I saw a lot of these guides advertised on the internet that were years old, and at outlandish prices. The 2011 copy we purchased was the 8th Edition, yet 5th Editions are being sold on resale sites like Amazon and B&N, so be sure to check the year or edition to get the most up-to-date information. Also, we purchased the book at the price listed by the COE while making a stop at Camping World. That price was $17.95. Older editions are listed on the Amazon site from $124, and the Barnes and Noble site for $80 to $209, so buyer beware. While such pricing of used, out-of-date material may be despicable, I guess it can be viewed also as an endorsement of how highly this book is valued.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Canoeing/Camping Savings for Seniors

Credit: USGS site

The old Golden Age Passport is no longer issued, but has been replaced by the America The Beautiful Senior Pass. After age 62, you can apply for the pass for a $10 processing fee, and it is good for a lifetime, or until you lose it. If you misplace it, you have to buy a new one. It provides benefits that are accepted by the Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, Fed. Fish and Wildlife, USDA Forest Service and National Park Service. Since each agency, and even facilities within an agency, have different fee schedules, the amount of discount varies, but the point being that discounts are provided. These may include such things as admission, camping fees, special use permits, tours, and the services of concessionaires at over 2,000 facilities nationwide.

Access Passes are also available free for those able of document a permanent disability.

Internet sites still say you can apply by mail, but another fringe affect of 9-11, is you have to both apply in person, and pick the pass up in person with acceptable proof of identity. We used our passports. For us, this meant we had to travel over 400 miles to accomplish the two trips, so our costs for the pass were over a hundred dollars. It will take awhile to make that up.

When you visit a state or county facility, also ask if they will honor the senior pass. Some will, and others, like Oklahoma parks, will not.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

More Spring,More Wind

In spite of the calendar, the plants are coming on strong.  Even the Oklahoma Redbuds have bulging buds ready to break open.  I'll try to get you pictures of them.  If you're not familiar with the Redbuds, they don't last long, but are beautiful while they do.

The wind is still with us.  It's gusting to 37 today.  I keep the Corps of Engineers lake book with me and dream and plan.  As Jackie Gleason always said, "One a these days.  One a these days!"  Then I'm going paddling.  Now I weed and mulch flowerbeds, but one of these days.....

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Oklahoma Wind

We're just waiting on the wind.  The gusts forecast for the next few days are a bit much for open artificial lakes: tonight 38mph., Thursday, 30mph; Friday, 35mph; Saturday, 38mph; Sunday, 44mph, Monday, 39mph.  You get the picture.  It breaks my heart.  Other than for the wind, the weather is perfect with clear, sunny skies and temperatures around 80.  If there were any streams with some windbreaks, it would be great, but such a thing doesn't exist.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Spring!! Paddle!!

It’s that golden time of year, as seasons collide, to experience hail and tornadoes, as well as flowers, daylight savings, yard preparation, and warmer days and nights fit for paddling and camping. This coming week looks great for the paddling and camping part.. Today was spent reorganizing and checking all the gear, and making sure everything was in the truck and ready to go. The rain should end Sunday evening, so the hope is to get to the first lake, camp for the night, and be on the lake at sunrise Monday.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Florida Circumnavigation

You may recall Gus Bianchi and Carl Anderson, two who I paddled the Florida Keys Challenge with. Gus e.mailed me today to say that he and Carl were joining a group of four that are attempting the Florida Circumnavigation paddling trail. They started a couple years ago, but ran into troubles with strong storms, some illness and injury, and damaged gear that took their toll. Back with even more determination, they’ve pushed off again, and even started back at the beginning again at Fort Clinch, GA. I’ve added their trip blog to “Favorite Blogs” in the right margin. They enjoy the social interaction from readers that comment on their progress or wish to cheer them on. Just click on “Florida Circumnavigation.”

The PayPal Scam

A crab spider working his web on Long Key.

There’s always somebody out there ready to catch you in a web of deception, and there are a couple things that haven’t changed over the years. If you post a boat for sale on the internet, the fraudulent scammers will come out of the rotten woodwork from almost every country on earth. Another thing that hasn’t changed is that, in the field of investigation and funding for investigation, no one cares. The criminals are given free rein to victimize the public at will. The one thing that has changed, however, is the degree to which they have perfected their con. They’ve become much more artful and convincing, but if you know the red flags to look for, they are still there.

I had a prospective buyer contact me about purchasing Thistle, the Dufour 25. He presented himself as working on an offshore drilling rig, seldom getting ashore, but was interested in getting the boat as a surprise birthday gift for his Dad in Michigan. He asked all the right questions that you would anticipate coming from a thoughtful and thorough buyer. His responses were reasonable and believable. After keeping me engaged for nearly a week of back and forth e.mails, he put his con in play. Since he couldn’t get ashore to the bank, he wanted to pay for the boat with PayPal. He ran into a problem with the shipping agent that was going to pick up the boat for him. They wouldn’t accept a bank transfer or cashier’s check, only Western Union. Since the added $1,250 put the total above the listed purchase price, PayPal wouldn’t release the funds until the shipping agent was paid and provided PayPal with the receipt and invoice number to confirm that the extra money was indeed for shipping. PayPal sent me two e.mails indicating that the funds had been transferred to them, and the funds had cleared, but were being held until they received the documents from the shipper. Since they had all the funds, I’d have to wire the shipping fee to the agent in London. The flags were (1) me having to advance money, (2) the shipping agent being offshore, and (3) a couple misspelled words in the PayPal e.mails.

I called PayPal’s securities and fraud department. They could not find an account for the buyer, and were not holding any funds in either the buyer’s or my name. They also had not sent me any e.mails. Having confirmed that it was a fraud, the next issue was what to do with it.

That’s when the fun began. I called the local police knowing they wouldn’t handle such an investigation, but to see who they would direct such an internet fraud case to. They told me to call the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. The OSBI told me to call the State Attorney General’s Office. The AG’s office told me to call the FCC. The FCC told me to call the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC told me to call the FBI. The first FBI number I called has been disconnected. The second number I got rang busy all day. No one really knew who handled internet fraud. Why should they? It’s only one of the largest types of criminal activity existing for the last few decades. The man I talked with at the FTC said they basically don’t do anything until they get a file on such a large number of people being victimized from one obvious source that they can feel confident of a successful investigation. Why go searching for the criminals? Just wait until they get so over-confident that they identify themselves.

The other thing that disturbed me, other than the blind leading the blind response from all the agencies I called, was every Federal agency answering my call with, “If you wish to continue in English, press 1.”

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Blown Away

I can sit and dream about paddling, but that's all I can do.  The wind has been screaming for nearly a week---25mph in the lulls, 50 mph in gusts.  The mean is probably high thirties.  On the seven-day forecast, we're facing three days of rain starting tonight, and then two more days of wind.  Ho-hum!  At least I'm not spending all my time loading trucks with bits and pieces of my home, like the folks in Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, and elsewhere, so all is good----so far.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Everglades: River of Grass

Marjory Stoneman Douglas
Credit: wikipedia

The Everglades: River of Grass by Marjory Stoneman Douglas
(390pp., 1947, pub. By Rinehart & Co., New York.)

Marjory S. Douglas (1890-1998) lived to the age of 108, She was a journalist, activist, feminist, environmentalist, and advocate for civil rights. She received numerous awards for her writing, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and was inducted into several halls of fame. In 1907, she received her first award from the Boston Herald for “An Early Morning Paddle”, a story about a boy who watches a sunrise from his canoe.

This is not a biography, but aspects of her life are just too interesting to be passed over. She moved to Miami in 1915 when the streets were dirt, the population was only 5,000, and the city-to-be was referred to as “no more than a glorified railroad terminal”. She became a reporter for the Miami Herald. When sent to write an article about the first woman to join the Navy from Miami, the subject of her story failed to show for the interview, but while there Marjory decided to join the Navy herself as a yeoman first class. Marjory was later granted a discharge when it became obvious to all concerned that she and the military were not a match. She hated getting up early in the morning, and her superiors got tired of her constantly correcting their grammar. She later became assistant editor and book review editor before giving up the newspaper business in favor of freelance writing. Many of her articles appeared in the Saturday Evening Post. In 1940, Ms. Douglas was approached about writing a segment on the Miami River for the book “Rivers of America.” Her research lead to a love for the Everglades that would last her lifetime. When “The Everglades: River of Grass” was published in 1947, it sold out of print the first month after its release. It has since undergone a number of editions and sold over a half-million copies. A book review as late as 1997 wrote, “Today her book is not only a classic of environmental literature, it also reads like a blueprint for what conservationists are hailing as the most extensive environmental restoration project ever undertaken anywhere in the world.”

The book proved interesting on a number of other fronts. For example, it gives a good glimpse into Florida’s early history, the lives of the people that settled there, from ship wreckers, pirates, and freed slaves to railroad tycoons, and land speculators. One of the interesting things I gleaned from it was the realization that there was no such thing as a Seminole Indian tribe. Seminole was actually a fabricated word of the white man to describe all the tribes living on the Florida panhandle and peninsula. It came from a couple words of the Muskogee tongue meaning “free man”. It included the Indian nations of the Creek, Micasukis, Muskogee, Talasis (from which the name Tallahassee is derived), Choctaw, and Calusa. As their numbers dwindled during the Seminole Wars and they were forced to relocate, the various groups banded together and began to identify with the white name. The name Seminole became prophetic, as the Indians of the Everglades were the only ones undefeated and never totally subjugated by the whites. (To interject a more recent history, in the 1950’s the Federal government moved to abolish tribes, but the tribes fought back against having their identities erased, and were allowed to self-govern as Federal corporations. The Seminoles organized as a legal corporate entity with their tribal council administered from Hollywood, Florida. Each tribal member has equal ownership of the tribe’s holdings in cattle ranching, wholesale and retail operations, sugarcane, and tourism.)

There’s a lot of interesting Indian cultural history. From the beginning,their only goal was to be left alone and allowed to keep to their own ways. One of the pre-Civil War government’s objections to them doing that was the Indian’s accepting in their midst the slaves that escaped from plantations in Georgia and the Carolinas. The plantation owners screamed hard and loud about the loss of their “property”. The Indians would be told by the government that they would be left free if only they would hand over the slaves that had settled among them. The Indians refused to do that, and even began to attack slaving parties that landed their human cargoes on the coast of Florida to march them over land to the plantations. The Indians would free the slaves and steal the property of the slavers. This Robin Hood kind of activity is only a small part of what you’ll find interesting in “The Everglades: River of Grass.”

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Soccer Photo

As I posted earlier, I got a new camera (Canon EOS 60D) and took a couple photography courses to benefit the quality of the blog.  Today I got a chance to experiment with some of settings while Lucie, granddaughter #2, played her soccer match.  Lucie, of course, is front and center.  This was at 300mm, 1/4000 of a second, as she was running down the field.