Monday, September 1, 2014

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Sunday rerun: I think it's time we leave

Every year at about this time, I get the same question from friends and family.  It's always a variation on the same theme, but the question boils down to, "What the hell is the matter with you, anyway?"

No, just kidding.  You know I get that question all year long.  The question that pops up as the nights grow longer and people start looking around for the blankets and quilts they put away in May is, how come the leaves change color every year?

And I thought I ought to look it up, because until I just did, I would have to tell people to ask my friend Mr Damifeyeno.

I got this scoop from and, as with all things scientific, it wasn't quite simple enough the first time I read it, but after a couple of passes, it cleared up somewhat.

Here 'tis...

All spring and summer, plants (which trees are, after all) take water out of the ground through their roots, and they take carbon dioxide through the air. Through photosynthesis, the process we were supposed to learn about in high school science while we were trying to figure out how to get a date with the girl at the next bunsen burner, the trees use sunlight to turn water and carbon dioxide into oxygen and glucose. Like Jumpin Jack Flash, Oxygen is a gas gas gas in the air that we breathe.  Plants use their glucose as food for energy and for growing, as they are not able to shop for food on their own, and very few pizza places will deliver to "The Third Elm on Maple Street."  Chlorophyll is involved in this photosynthesis, and it's chlorophyll, along with envy, that turns plants green.

When autumn is on its way, days get shorter, and the trees get less sunshine, so they figure it's time to put on the winter clothes.  Meanwhile, we have people driving cars and owning property who can't figure out that it's not tank top weather anymore.

Photosynthesis takes off all winter, without light or water to operate, so trees live off the glucose they put in their little wooden pantries all summer long and stop preparing food. Well, there goes the chlorophyll!  And the leaves become yellow and orange.  It's not so much that the leaves turn yellow and orange; they lose the green when photosynthesis ends, and with the green pigmentation that used to cover up the golden colors no longer there anymore, we get what we get.

Red leaves, such as on maple trees, occur because glucose is trapped in the leaves when photosynthesis stops, and a combination of sun and cool nights turn the leaves red, just as reading The SUN on a cool night makes Robert Ehrlich turn red. For the same kind of reason, oak leaves turn brown from what's left in them when photosynthesis ends. We just don't know why a tree with like 200 leaves on it will drop 200,000 leaves to be raked up.

And that's what I got from the article.  I hope it sheds some light on the amazing natural process known as the changing colors of leaves in autumn.  Next week here on Science Corner with Uncle Mark, let's try to figure out whatever happened to Axl Rose.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Saturday Picture Show, August 30, 2014: Special "Things For Which I Am Grateful" Edition

Things for which I am thankful: my relatively good health, which means that most of my relatives are quite healthy and so am I. Access to good health care is a good thing, too.  Just look at the "D" section in my phone contacts...doctors from head to toe, literally!
I am very thankful for my home, seen here posing in all its winter finery.  The best part about it is that my Peggy lives here with me.  I would put more pictures of her on here, but she is modest and shy, and would only say, "What's with all these pictures of me? Who am I, Jennifer Aniston all of a sudden?"
Like any former DJ, I have a basement full of old 45s and album and cassette tapes of my playing old 45s and albums on the radio. My records are not this neatly organized, but give me a while and I'll find what you want to hear.  In the meantime, listen to this by T. Rex...
The joy of watching the Orioles play baseball is a treat.  I've been a fan since the days when Gus Triandos was lumbering around the bases, and I've been a fan through the great years and the lean years.  I know that football is the bigger deal now, but baseball is the thinking person's game, I think. Plus, as opposed to the hebdomadal scheduling of football games, as Earl Weaver said, in baseball, "We do this every night."
 I love Baltimore winters.  Sights such as this fill my heart with glee. I know they don't for many people.
As we come closer to the end of a week of things we're grateful for, I realize that the hard part for me was cutting the list down to a few each day.  I am a thankful person, grateful for so many things. One of them is the the ready availability of dictionaries. I like to just pick them up and rummage through them, learning new words and finding out the etymologies of others.  Many a person who looked up "greatful" in a dictionary was grateful that they did!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Gratitude, Three times Seven, #5

We have friends up in Canada who just adopted a doggie from a rescue agency. You ought to see this little guy, whose name is Mocha!  He's cute as a bug, with a great big grin.  He's really the ant's pants, and they love him.  But he was abused by his former "family."  He was abused, and the abuser's wife, happily, decided to find another, better, home for him, and so they have.  I am grateful that animals, many times more that humans, have the ability to forgive one abuser and trust other people not to treat them like footballs.

And of course I am also grateful for the people who take in a dog such as Brittany and Justin did, knowing that the pooch might need a little extra TLC because of his past.  They are giving him the love he needs and has deserved all along.

And for a third thing for which I am grateful today, how about LOVE?  The love of my wife is a greater gift than any I could dream of.  We have a friend who was patient enough to wait for love to come her way, and she is now living the dreams she had only dreamed of before.  And there are people who love their jobs, their hobbies, their baseball takes many forms, but we ought to spend more time enjoying it and seeing others do the same, and less time deciding if a certain love is right for a certain other person.

I'd really love that.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Gratitude, Three times Seven, #4

It's a lot easier to find my way to places I have never been with a GPS device, and with Google Maps on the cell phone, I get turn-by-turn directions to any place I want to be...around the corner, or around Eugene, Oregon, if need be.  Our new phones have a new female voice giving out the advice, and she is sort of, well, breathy, in that way that certain actresses use instead of acting. Which is ok by me; it's sort of entertaining, but what happened the other day with the GPS never happened to us before.  We were looking for a house on a block where the numbers ran in the opposite direction of the next block, and there was a left turn to make that left us on the same street even though we turned, and it was too much for the GPS, which then said, "You have ARRIVED." It said this as we sat in the middle of an intersection, waiting for the light to change, so I was pretty sure that my cousin and his family did not live in an invisible house right on the street.  We found it the old-fashioned way -we called them, and a real live nice human voice directed us to the house, where we had a wonderful brunch.

I'm grateful for the people who run the UK 1940s Online Radio Station, which is on the net 24 hours a day, serving up the music that the world at war listened to, and more.  They not only play the authentic old music of the era, but also news broadcasts and relevant speeches.  I recommend it to anyone who runs around today with their arms in the air, fearing the end of the world could come any day.  We've been at that precipice before.

Image from the Cape May beach camera
I'm grateful for beachcams and webcams  that take us worlds away. I'm no voyeur, not at all interested in watching what people are doing in Hong Kong, Baluchistan or Nome, but I like those live webcams that allow you to see traffic in Scotland, a giraffe preparing to give birth somewhere in Europe, the beach at Cape May NJ, or a water cooler in some office someplace.  We Skype with our friends in Canada and that's about it for us appearing on camera.  Hollywood has yet to devise a reality show that would feature us...but there's always tomorrow!  Hear me, The Learning Channel?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Gratitude, Three times Seven, #3

Continuing the Seven Days of Gratitude...

The last big picture he made
I love winter, and all that comes with it...the chill, the downright cold, the need for wool sox and long johns and scarves and stocking caps and gloves and all that.  You can always put on more clothes if it's cold.  This also entitles me to dislike summer like Nick Nolte dislikes having his picture taken. I do not like heat or humidity or gnats or mosquitoes or any of the 101 horrible things about the season that everyone else loves, leaving me alone to love winter, the ugly stepsister of all seasons.  Therefore I am grateful to Willis Haviland Carrier (November 26, 1876 – October 7, 1950), father of modern air conditioning, and the man who made it possible to survive summer south of the Yukon. Not that I would want to make this choice, but if it came down to having a stereo in the car or A/C, I'd do the singing for myself, windows up and cool.

Farnsworth in 1939, looking miffed
because nothing good was on TV
 that night

While we're thanking great people of industry and invention, let's mute the TV for a second and give it up for Philo T. Farnsworth (August 19, 1906 – March 11, 1971), holder of some 165 patents, many of which were crucial to the development of television. Without Mr Farnsworth, what would we know of the magical world of professional football, giant spinning wheels of fortune on game shows, and news accounts of "people who make a difference" in their communities? Television makes it possible for an entire nation to be terrified of the same things at once!

And we all can be proud to live in the land that was home to Henry Ford, inventor of the new car smell! Fun fact: when you load up the briquets in the charcoal grill this Labor Day, remember that the charcoal industry was started by Henry and a distant relative named E.G. Kingsford as a way to get rid of the wood scrap generated in the Ford Motor Company plant in the 1920s. Ford hated waste, and when he saw wood chunks being tossed out from the assembly line, he said, "Let's scorch the wood and grind it up and add coal and sawdust and borax and I don't know what-all else and make little briquets that will burn in a bowl-shaped metal tub, so that everyone can enjoy a smoky hamburger outside." Henry is also thought to be the first man ever to say, "Don't be getting all up in my grill."

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Gratitude, Three Times Seven, #2

"You're never too old to learn," someone said to me, probably someone who was about to deliver a painful lesson.  But the point was well taken.  You know the old expression attributed to Mark Twain: "When I was sixteen, my father was the stupidest man I ever met.  Now, five years later, I'm amazed at how much the man has learned."  When we're sixteen, sure, we think we know everything.  That sort of youthful zest and zeal sounds like an Italian salad: Bravado à la Braggadocio,  but we need it to deal with being sixteen.  Face it, the time you're in your late 40s, you don't have to worry about zits or having your voice crack, so you can settle down a little.  This summer,  I learned lessons about mourning, lessons that I should have learned earlier in life, I suppose, but "what's learned last is learned best," as Ralph Waldo Emerson never said.   What Pastor Bruce Wilson said at my dear Deanna's funeral got past the veil of tears I wore.  He told us that her work on earth was done, admittedly much sooner that we would have liked or expected, but she wouldn't trade places and come back from the Kingdom of Heaven for anything.  Glory be, she has reached the mountaintop, and no matter what I used to think, I'm grateful to have learned to appreciate a loss in a new way. 

I put a picture in every blog entry.  This place has
nothing to do with anything in this page today, but if
 you ever find yourself a) hungry and b) in Lusby,
 Maryland, may I suggest the Frying Pan Restaurant? 
And I'm grateful that a wonderful woman named Holly Jackson happened to read my blog entry about an odd woman who taught me and a whole roomful of baby boomers in third grade. Holly had just been to an estate sale of the belongings of a woman with the same name. Was she the same woman? We don't know. But Holly wrote to me and therefrom sprang a friendship which, not even a year old, has already seen us share ineffable loss and sweet joy in dizzying turns of fate. 

And I am grateful for the online Merriam-Webster dictionary . which reliably informs me that the word "therefrom" is, indeed, a word, but it is archaic, along with most of my vocabulary. Consarn it all!