Human Nature Nuggets

Unlike sheer instinct, human nature involves individual thought as to how we should handle or improve various situations. As homo sapiens, we never know what will happen as a result, but each of us tries by doing what we think is the best solution. Here are some examples…

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Location: St. Paul, Minnesota, United States

I am a writer at heart, a proofreader by trade, but without a soul if it were not for the nuthatches crawling down my trees, the robins, chickadees, cardinals, and yes, the much-maligned jibbering starlings that create their own unique concerts. I have wildflowers and perennials squeezed into my front and back yards and along the curb of my house in the city. My greatest job: I was a reporter for a locally-based newspaper, where I wrote human interest and news articles, but now I am a freelance writer, both online and in print. See MY ONLINE ARTICLES on how to ATTRACT BIRDS and BUTTERFLIES, and the HEALTHIEST NATURAL FOODS at my contributor page

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Invasive Species: Birds, Plants, Insects, Animals, and Mankind

On July 23, Maureen, over at A View from England, made an entry entitled “Grey Squirrels vs. Red Squirrels.” Using the BBC News as her source, she explained how “a massive cull of grey squirrels is to take place across England to try to halt declining numbers of the endangered native red population.”

To quote Maureen, “Yes, here in the U.K. we have red squirrels as well as the American grey squirrels. The grey squirrels were introduced to this country from America between 1876 and 1929, and they are thriving, while the red squirrel population is declining. Consequently, the grey squirrel is considered a huge pest in this country because of the damage to trees and woodland it has caused and by squeezing out red squirrels. The government's planned cull of the grey squirrels will be carried out by woodland and wildlife managers.”

This got me to thinking. More and more we hear about various species of birds, animals, plants and insects that were introduced from one country into another and eventually became pests in that new country, driving out the native species and overtaking their habitat. Also, the “newcomers” eventually changed from being the minority into the majority of dwellers in that habitat.

Starlings, as an example, were introduced into the U.S. from Europe, and because they thrived, are now considered a threat to our songbirds. On a different scale, look what happens when wildlife, such as deer, moves from the country into our suburbs’, and even cities’ back yards.

Also, consider what has happened with our native ladybugs, those shiny red insects with black spots (also called lady birds and lady beetles), that gardeners have coveted because the larvae and adults eat garden pests such as aphids, mealybugs and mites. The “Asian” ladybug was introduced to "naturally" destroy the tiny soybean aphids that were destroying soybean crops in the U.S. and Canada. Some accounts say that in the early 1980’s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture experimented with the insect in the southeast U.S., trying to establish it as a predator against aphids and other soft-bodied pests of pecan trees, a valuable nut crop. In 2000, the soybean aphid, an exotic aphid from China, was discovered feeding on soybean plants. In 2001, the multi-colored Asian lady beetle fed heavily on the soybean aphids and likely saved Michigan soybean farmers millions of dollars in harvest revenues and insecticides that didn't have to be used to control losses to this aphid species.

Yet these orange, imported ladybugs have thrived and proliferated to such an extent, they not only are driving out our more passive native species, but they have become invasive pests that pile up in our windowsills, and bite us and our pets.

So which is more important to us—the benefits we are reaping as a result of these foreign species—or our comfort?

Perhaps the most vivid example of a species being “introduced” into another nation or country is mankind. All around the world throughout history, we humans have overcome natives of the lands we’ve invaded, introduced foreign species into “our” lands, and made like species into slaves, yet in most cases we also accept those from other countries who want to move into our own, and many have thrived to create inventions and technology that has made our lives easier. And what would life be like if we in the U.S. hadn’t been able to come to America in the first place? I wonder, no matter whether it’s man, insect, plant or animal, does the bottom line somehow become a matter of control?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Sunset Over Lake Titicaca

According to ancient Incan mythology, Lake Titicaca is the birthplace of all humanity and where its creator, the great god Viracocha, first appeared on earth.

This picture was taken by my daughter from a peak atop Isla Del Sol, believed to be the birthplace of the sun.

Mythology says the sun sent his son, Manco Cápac, and the moon sent her daughter, Mamo Ocllo, to surface from the lake and create the Inca Empire.

Monday, January 16, 2006

The Birthing Tale of a Wedding Ring

Here’s an interesting case to ponder: When my husband (of how many years I won’t reveal—suffice it to say, it was quite awhile ago) proposed to me (yes, romantically, on bent knee), he presented me with a delicate, curved white-gold ring, inset with three tiny diamonds. This ring was only half of the actual wedding ring. When we were married, the other half was attached, and that part had a larger diamond which, when connected with the engagement segment, became surrounded by the three small diamonds.

Some people only wear their diamond rings on special occasions, because they’re worried a diamond could be lost. Others keep theirs tucked away in safes and only wear them on special occasions, because their diamonds are so monetarily valuable. Although any diamond ring is costly, mine isn’t all that expensive. Rather, it is invaluable to me for the memories it holds, and what it signifies, including the bond made between me and the man I wanted to share my life with, and vice-versa. Therefore I never remove that ring from my finger.

Of course there have been instances where I’ve absolutely had to. A couple times throughout the years I had the ring polished. In fact, over a decade ago I lost the large diamond during the time I was working at my favorite job—as a reporter. We had to have it replaced. Then, I’m guessing it was eight years later, my boss died and the paper was closing. I was going through my file cabinet, and in between my papers was the original diamond! My husband had it set in a bracelet and gave it to me as a Mother’s Day or birthday present; can’t remember which.

Well, over a week ago I glanced at my hand, and the large diamond was missing! I can’t find it anywhere. I kept wearing the ring, while waiting to find out what the deductible will be if our insurance will cover it. But meanwhile, the empty prongs were tearing the skin on my fingers on each side of it. I had to take it off.

I couldn’t. For some “strange” reason, my knuckle had grown and the ring wouldn’t slide over it. I tried lotioning up my finger; that didn’t work. The ripping of skin continued.

Eventually, I had to get it off! My husband suggested using Vaseline, so after soaking my hand in cold water, I swathed the finger with it. Then I pulled, and twisted, and turned the ring, watching the portion of finger in front of the ring turn red, then blue.

“Come on, you can do it. Turn it like a screw,” my husband urged. I looked at him in agony and kept at it.

“You don’t have that much further to go,” he coached. I looked closer; he was right. The ring was nearly at the top of my knuckle. Bearing down, I twisted and pulled and turned it some more.

“You’re almost there. Keep pushing!” he cried. Screwing up my face in pain, I persisted, refusing to push the ring back to home base and give up. Finally the ring was on top of my knuckle, but the skin in front of it was bunched up. I tried mashing it down while still turning. The agony grew but I refused to stop. Then I pushed it, kept trying to force it over the obstacle, and voila—the ring slid off! I ran to my husband and hugged him in joy.

I honestly think birthing my daughter was easier than removing that ring!

I’m not sure if the will, the sheer persistence and stubbornness, to fight against pain is normally in my human nature. There were so many times I wanted to give up. But the goal I was reaching was the impetus. My ring will probably have to be cut so it can be made bigger, but I couldn’t bear having it cut off my finger. It means too much to me.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

RFID Tags—Big Brother is Getting Under Our Skin and Growing

Imagine you’re a small business owner, and the police have called to say a first-time offender has broken into your store. At this moment, he’s pilfering your goods. They’re still on their way there, yet they already know he has taken $50 from your cash register. There are no witnesses, yet they know the looter has blue eyes, a moustache and short blonde hair. They even know his name, weight, and where he lives and works.

Obviously there’s peace of mind knowing the criminal will be apprehended. But since you haven’t installed any cameras or even an alarm, and there aren’t any witnesses, how did the police know he was there? If this is his first offense, he isn’t on release from prison and wearing a bracelet. Also, how do they know he’s taken $50, or anything about him?

Welcome, not to the Twilight Zone or George Orwell’s fabricated society, but to the real world, where Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is threatening to obliterate the last vestiges of privacy in our lives.

In the January 2006 issue of National Geographic Magazine, there’s an article entitled “Who Knew?” written by Joel Achenbach, a Washington Post staff writer. To best explain RFID, he uses the premise that you’re alone at a party and want some romance, but don’t know anyone there or anything about them. “You’ve got a gizmo that beams energy at microchips in everyone’s name tag,” Achenbach writes. “The chips beam back name, occupation, hobbies, obsessions, phobias…” This, in essence, is how RFID works.

“An RFID tag with a microchip can be embedded in a product, under your pet’s skin, even under your own skin,” Achenbach continues. “Passive RFID tags have a tiny antenna, but no internal energy source—batteries are not included because they’re not needed. The energy comes from the reader, a scanning device that sends a pulse of electromagnetic energy that briefly activates the tag.

“Unlike traditional bar code label, a tag carries information specific to that object, and the data can be updated.”
At this point I envision a slew of live human bodies being dragged like a sack of potatoes across a grocery store scanner. The feeling of invasion increases when Achenbach goes on to say, “Already, RFID technology is used by highway toll plazas, libraries, retailers tracking inventory, and it might appear in your passport.

“Doctors can implant a silicon chip under the skin that will help locate and retrieve a patient’s medical records. Coroners are using the chips to keep track of Hurricane Katrina victims. At a nightclub in Barcelona—and at its counterpart in Rotterdam —the same implant gets you into the VIP lounge and pays for a cocktail with the wave of an arm.”

True, there are so many humane ways in which this new electromagnetic energy technology can be beneficial. So perhaps I’m being overly paranoid, but I find it alarming that every bit of our personal identity can be included in those chips. Our entire lives will become vulnerable to anyone who learns how to scan, download and take advantage of the information stored there. As is, computer hackers keep finding new ways to break into online accounts. Eventually, hackers will also be able to crack into the data on our chips. Do the benefits of RFID technology outweigh what could happen to us due to misuse? Then again, how we feel about it probably doesn’t matter, because the invasion has begun and is growing, and we can’t do anything to stop it.