Monday, March 31, 2008

On The Way Out?

The Earth is in the middle of its SIXTH MASS EXTINCTION in the  history of life.  Some estimates suggest that as much as 50% of all known species could be extinct by the end of this century.

So says the National Academy of Science, and they're not alone. 

 It's really a simple equation to ponder:  Our environment works in partnership with the life forms which inhabit it.  If, as is happening now, less and less plant life grows in diversity, then less and less species will survive who depend on that diversity.  The less life that exists on the planet, the less food nature will produce in its natural diversity.  Works either way:  The more plant life we kill out, the more probable extinction becomes for species not meant to die out en masse, since nature responds to environmental demand.  Man has demanded far too much.   


I'm thinking in particular of those mammals which depend on certain trees and their leaves.  They live in the trees and eat the leaves.  We cut the trees.  The small mammals disappear.  Where do they go?  Those that survive seek other habitats which, if history is any gauge, will also be distroyed.  Isn't it awful?

Imagine if there were no farms, no cows, no vegetation.  Would humans become extinct?  Obviously, science has already predicted that and every country on the planet keeps a "seed bank" composed of the seeds which make up every variety of grain on earth.  Wheat, rye, barley, there's hundreds of varieties of wheat alone.  We keep the seeds in the event of world catastrophe so whoever is left standing will be able to re-farm the planet.  We'll survive.  Sort of. 

But why can't we think this way about our fellow species, who share this spaceship earth with us?  Think about this :


HALF of all living bird and mammal species will be gone within 200 to 300 years, according to the Life Sciences Department of the University of Texas, Austin.  Although the extinction of various species is a natural phenomenon, the rate occuring in today's world is 100 to 1,000 times greater than normal.  Yikes.


Here's another one - little tree frogs.  They need trees, they live in them.  Rsearch done mostly by zoologists and biologist at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, discovered a deadly fungus that is killing off frogs all throughout Central, South and now North America.  This little guy here, the Red-Eyed Tree Frog, is only ONE of the 43% of all amphibian species at grave risk. 


Take a good look at this beautiful Sumatran Tiger because his forest home is almost gone, and your grandchildren's children will only have pictures like this to learn about such incredible creatures.  No less than HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS of acres of tropical forests and peat swamp have been totally cleared in the last 25 years. 

I haven't even mentioned what climate changes and unsustainable human activities are doing to our environment, turning forest into desert. 

Yet something encouraging, almost miraculous as nature itself, is happening - something to give us hope.  Do you know what a specialist is?  That's just someone who obsesses on a particular area of expertise long enough for it to become his whole life.  We have environmental specialists, zoological specialists, bio-diversity specialists, and just plain ethical specialists who refuse to let this scenario of total extinction happen.  While we look to them, perhaps we can join them in some way?  I'll give you an easy example:

Do you send ecards?  Course.  Think about how nice it would be if, each time you sent one, you saved a tree.  Yeah.  You can do that, this is the place to go   Care2 - the global network for organizations and people who Care2 make a difference! this is their home page.  Just click on "ECARDS" Care2 eCards, Free Online Animated Greeting Cards right here.  I know a few belong to this site, friend Maire (valphish) for example.  Really, it's so easy to do JUST ONE THING to help save our planet, ourselves.  I'm not going to "hope" the other guy does it first.   





Thursday, March 27, 2008

"Her Lover's Dead"

TWO LOVERS.  A man and a woman.

He loves her but it's not enough, he is too sad.

He takes a gun and shoots himself as she lies sleeping.

Leaves her to deal with feelings of guilt and emptiness.

She is crushed - is it my fault?  What made him so sad?

Wasn't I enough for him?  


"Gonna put my tender

heart in a blender..."

Now she's broken,

he can't mend her.

Comes too soon

and gone too fast ...

sounds like tomorrow

cannot last.

Look to shadows

in the corner,

what's that shape?

another mourner.

At the grave

a plea to save

what's come undone

with one small gun.

He took a chance

and took a shot

and now she's lost

what he forgot.

Her love, his life,

his hand did take

is it her fault?

was she awake?

Why such a sadness

in his heart?

And now she cries

she's torn apart.

Comes the grief

in disbelief

that he would leave

with no reprieve

for her.....

by Cathy S. Rapicano 3/27/08


Monday, March 24, 2008

Something In The Blood

They had been planning the murder for days.

All twelve had seen the stranger venture too close to their territory. And they didn't like it, in fact started to despise this stranger. They were used to their friends and relatives, those they knew, and held great suspicion for anyone they didn't. They didn't know him.

The planning began in earnest. One would be the lookout, others would take up positions on either side of the stranger, while the toughest would attack head on. It was pre-meditated, planned, and when the time felt right, they headed out to find their enemy.

Far ahead in a clearing they spotted him. And the stranger spotted them - he started to run, yelling and screaming in fear. Somehow, he knew what they'd come for. The troop of murderers edged closer, some running up on either flank, others trying to get ahead of him. Soon the stranger could run no further, and he was pulled down to the ground. All twelve piled atop him, taking turns beating him with fists, clubs, even jumping on his body. They screamed their hate, their anger, their rage.

Even when it was obvious the stranger was dead, some of the members of this gang still punched and kicked him. They dragged him off to a rock and threw him against it, shouting in victory. It was a massacre. It was planned, pre-meditated murder.


This event is true, it happened, and more importantly, was filmed. Why? Because the gang of murders, the troop of pre-meditated killers, were our cousins: they were chimpanzees. And their victim? That's the incredible fact: it was another of their kind, their species - another chimpanzee. Now, it's a well-known fact that apes will now and again kill monkeys, not for meat so much as the answering of an urge borne deep in their evolution. But this incident was not about a monkey being killed by apes, these chimps were killing another chimp. A planned murder, considered with intelligent design and forethought. This behavior had never been witnessed before, not by Jane Goodall, or Bergit Gildicas, nor Dian Fossey, the pioneers backed by anthropologist Dr. Louis Leakey. No one had seen an ape plan out and murder another ape. And for no explicable, obvious reason. Just hate. Fierce, unreasonable, uncontrolled rage. It was very akin to what humans do: kill other humans. UP TO NOW, HUMANS ARE THE ONLY ANIMAL BELIEVED TO BE CAPABLE OF MURDER. That seems to have changed. This document of film was made one year ago, and has set anthropologists to thought.

Is it possible that a gene exists in our ancestral collective memory, a killing gene separate from the one needed to survive, composed of nothing more than the urge to murder one of our own kind? If it exists, as it seems to in our own cousins, who planned to murder then indeed, murdered one of their own species, then perhaps it is inherited by the human animal, perhaps it is not a trait evolved through the use of our over-sized, very complex brain.

Killing is not the same as murder.

Certainly it is common in nature for one animal to kill another of its kind, usually over territory, food, or the right to mate with females. These are not pre-meditated or pre-planned as we define it, they're usually not meant to be fights to the death, though on occasion they can be. And there is always a set purpose, nature's own calling, something instinctual, hence requires no planning. It's part of the natural world.

But so are we, people forget that humans are animals, though highest on the food chain, not always as successful as other species in social reasoning. Instead of adapting, we force the world and everything in it to adapt to us. We steal land we don't need, we allow other animals to go extinct with no thought but our own needs. Many foresee the time when nature will put things in balance. As cold as it sounds, events like tsunamis, droughts, starvation, wars which produce populations of sick homeless dying humans, these events which take many numbers from our populace just may be one way nature tries to keep a balanced order.

But humans have found ways around even that. Look at the Gulf Coast after hurricane Katrina. This is land so utterly unstable that to build there is courting ruin. Yet we're doing it again, rebuilding on very unstable land, we demand all the habitat we can find. After this planet's last Ice Age, the glacier ice sheet that covered the North American continent receded back to become our polar caps, forming our mountains, valleys, lakes, our whole topography. One area that was effected and extremely unstable, slowly being reclaimed by the sea, was the Gulf Coast States of America. But we drained the essential wetlands and built heavy houses on them. Those wetlands, if left alone, would've saved millions in lost lives and habitat. Geologists know that the outer shores of our gulf States one day, maybe as little as 8 to 10,000 years, will disappear back into the sea - the land simply cannot and will not obey man's selfish, unreasonable directives. And in that same vein....

If humans can thuart the natural progression of life, if humans can murder other humans for nothing, and if as it seems, it's an inherited evolutionary trait from our cousins, a killing gene, can we really say with certainty that we're a successful species?

I want to believe we can be.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

"Hail Holy Light"


Here be my heart, Lord,

e'er beating with love -

soft, pure and gentle

as wings from a dove.


Now do I think

upon this, Thy great deed -

of conquering death

for all souls in need.


Take then my gratitude,

I am but praise -

for one day my soul, from it's sleep

You will raise.

by Cathy S. Rapicano  Holy Saturday 3/22/08





Thursday, March 20, 2008

Latest Spitzer News

No, not that Spitzer, the IMPORTANT one, NASA's Space Telescope - named after Dr. Lyman Spitzer, Jr., the first scientist to propose putting high-powered scopes in space.  Anyway, here's the news:

The super-sensitive infrared eyes of Spitzer have picked up billions and billions of DIAMONDS in space, so rare on earth.  Although tinier than a grain of sand, their presence in space could help provide valuable insights into how carbon-rich molecules develop in the cosmos.  CARBON is the basis for life on earth.


They could looksomething like this.  Diamonds are formed deep inside the earth under emmense pressure and high temperatures, while space diamonds are found in cold, molecular clouds where pressure are billions of times lower, and temperatures reach -400 F.  Very different!

This discovery can teach us about how the basic ingredients for life as we know it formed in space. 


Some details courtesy of Spitzer Science Center, NASA.



This Comet Won't Give Up!

Remember Comet "Hale-Bopp" blazing through our night sky ten years ago, before it headed out into the far reaches of the cold, Neptunian space?  We all expected it would've frozen over by now.


This image of Hale-Bopp was made last October when the comet was nearly 2.4 billion miles from the sun.  Looks pretty startling to me!  Researchers have determined that the nucleus is still releasing carbon monoxide gas into a coma more than 100,000 miles wide!  Not bad for an ice cube. 

Friday, March 14, 2008

Bee Alert !




Everyone on earth knows we've mysteriously lost almost 70% of the honey bee population to something called CCD.  I just thought I'd drop a few other details, talk about bees, here at my virtual platform <smile>

Killer bees, as they're called - "africanized" American honey bees - are no more vicious than any other bee.  If you swat at them, they'll get annoyed.  That's it.

Honey bees are over 30 million years on this planet.

They fly at speeds up to 5 mph.

They have 5 eyes.

A typical hive contains over 60,000 members.

The disappearance of so many honey bees is called Colony Collapse Disorder, and is most alarming to all the sciences because of the incredible range of influence these insects have. 

One-third of our diet is dependant upon a healthy honey bee population.  And here they are, almost on the brink of exhinction with no exact cause.

Scientists have found no pathologies, no pathogens, they've even investigated the effects of cell phone frequencies in the atmosphere - all to no real conclusion.  We do know that a bee will leave the hive to collect pollen but seems unable to find its way back. 

Honey bee use is a $15 billion dollar a year industry.  I think that's the real reason so many agencies are looking into this phenom seriously.  Money shouts - nature whispers her warning. 






Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Smile On, Elizabeth

This is the happy fifth anniversary of the return to her parents of Elizabeth Smart, remember her?  The little girl who was abducted from her own bed as her baby sister watched a man crawl through the window and steal her away into the night, the brave girl who withstood all manner of insult to her person at the hands of this man and his woman, she stayed alive, learning at too young an age how to survive in the face of horror.  Today she's a 20-year old college student and blessedly, a very well-adjusted, secure young woman.  And her younger sister, Mary, who saw it all?  She had to somehow live through those nine months while her sister was missing, not knowing what happened to her and indeed, in the quiet hours before dawn..."was it my fault?"  For she did wonder at the tender age of nine if she could've stopped that man from stealing her big sister.  Imagine living with such a thought, at any age!  But she doesn't, she hasn't, she too, has come out of all this a surviving beacon of smiling light.  If only that were all that mattered....

I remember this story out of Utah and kept close tabs on what I thought would be the upcoming trial of the abductors.  To this day, they have yet to stand before their peers and be judged for their acts.  Elizabeth and her sister know that someday they'll be required to appear in the media circus once again, take the stand in open court and testify to what they know.  Slow-going is the justice for Elizabeth Smart - but her life is full and she smiles on.  I have another problem, and it may certainly create one when I tap it out:

Is not justice delayed justice denied?  Don't we all still believe that?  Or is it only for criminals whose deeds don't hit us in the gut, as this crime did.  No one is concerned that the accuseds' attorneys have used the psychiatric avenues of law to postpone their clients' trial lo these five years now, and they're doing it simply to let the fires of rage die down while building a solid case for insanity.  This will make for a more even-tempered jury, and so it should be but I can't help wondering, as a paralegal myself, if I commited a crime and was caught I'd expect to be tried swiftly and fairly.  The right to a speedy trial is ours by virtue of law and though they be scoundrels, this has been denied to the abductors of Elizabeth Smart.  No one cares, especially the accused.  This is to their benefit.  As long as their mental accuity is being questioned, they cannot stand trial.  Who knows how long this protracted situation will continue.  Why care? 

It's not right.  Not for anyone involved, and not for you or me.  When you sit on a jury you're asked to weigh evidence and make an informed, objective decision.  But if you're looking at decades-old evidence, listening to testimony about an incident which, like any, dulls with time, the immediacy of the process is lost.

I understand that a mentally unfit person cannot be forced to stand trial, no matter the crime.  It's the abuse of this fail-safeguard in our justice system which gauls and disturbs me.  Clinicians and specialists paid to submit ongoing progress reports on the accused, on behalf of same and at the behest of their attorneys, will by nature be biased in their favor.  Where is the balancing act of the prosecution?

A defense attorney is not there to defend you.  The presumption of innocence is yours, that's the law.  So you have no need to defend yourself.  Your defense attorney is there to force the prosecution to do their job and prove their case.  A good example of this not being done is the OJ Simpson trial, where the prosecution failed miserably.  When Elizabeth's abductors eventually go to trial, if they ever do, they'll have that same presumption of innocence and the State will be forced to prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  And that's where the problem of delayed justice comes in - I've no doubt they will plead not guilt by reason of insanity.  That seems to be the focus of their direction these five years, amassing psychological protocols supporting this premise.  And the longer these persons remain in the limbo of "unfit to stand trial" the better their chances of circumventing due process.  

But hey - it's a sunny day and just look at Elizabeth Smart today just look at this girl.   She's living in the secure, loving embrace of her family and community, a survivor, not looking back, fully focused on her future.

              Smile on, Elizabeth, and God bless you.      



Monday, March 10, 2008

The Fiction Of Science Fact?

It all started with a question about zebra stripes.

Someone asked why they have such uniform-looking, distinct markings, and naturally I jumped in with the flourish of a long-time busybody.  With facts.  So I explained it has to do with the lion that eats them.  That nature, in cooperation with evolution, had evened the playing field for predator and prey by making it difficult to discern one single zebra amongst a whole herd.  Any lion looking at a herd of zebra cannot make out the one it will stalk, hunt, and rip apart, because of all those stripes.  That's evolution.  Then nature comes in and determines the lion should at least have a chance, and through trial and error, the lion learns that if it charges the herd, they scatter everywhere which makes it easy to find the weak or young ones.  An evolved trait is balanced out by a learned behavior. 

So that makes sense.  And look at the predators, their evolved eyes are always dead-center, keeping keen vision at the most proximate advantage to chase and catch prey.  Look at most prey - think of a gazelle.  As grazers, they don't need to focus straight ahead, their eyes are on either side of the head giving them the peripheral vision needed to find and eat the best grasses.  This mode of sight also makes it easier to turn on a dime while being chased by that hungry lion.  Evolved traits.

This is a pretty common fact in most species.  If you examine the placement of their eyes, you can usually determine what their diet consists of.  Except one...

Apes carry 97% of all the constituents found in our DNA.  They are chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans, and gorillas (all the rest are monkeys and have tails).  Look at any ape, their eyes are close together but they are grazers and fruit-eaters.  In the natural world, they don't hunt for their food, they're walking on it, climbing in it.  Why are their eyes fixed in an evolutionary position dictating a predator?  Wouldn't their eyes be more advantageous if situated on either side of their head?  It would seem ... except for that one item which, after 240,000 years of evolution, we possess with such reckless pride:  our oversized brain

Could it be imbeded in genetic codes still to be discovered that evolution is somehow predisposed to the knowledge of certain traits, to appear later in a developing species?  Almost too neat, too tidy.  But look at us: 

We are long-since past the hunter/gatherer stage, we don't need to stalk and kill for food anymore, we do that at the Shop-Rite.  Our eyes, however, betray a predator species needing front-focused vision having nothing to do with survival.  Or does it? 

We're the only species besides the bonobo ape who procreates face to face.  You need front-focued eyes to do that, if you're human, because our instinctual need is to gaze at our partner - it enhances the sex act thereby securing a better chance of continuing the species.  (Oh Cathy you're so cold about this...)  So part of insuring our survival dictates that we be able to see each other.  Not all, but part. 

Then again:  Would we make better drivers if our eyes had better peripheral vision, placed farther apart?  Or is it best to keep the narrow focus we now have?  Certainly driving for humans determines something of our survival, as does so many of our big-brained inventions.  Nevetheless, we're of the belief that more people benefit from our discoveries than not, and when thinking of penicillin I agree.  In part.  Penicillin also introduced many weak but uncontrollable viruses.  But back to the point:

Do we look the way we're "supposed" to, like zebras? 

Clothes are the conceit of modesty, another product of the human brain.  Then nature steps in to defend evolution and tells us that without clothing we'd freeze and die.  Seems to balance out.  I think I'm nearing the point:

Does some equation exist in evolution that has a kind of forecast as to what a species will require, far into its future?  And if so, how does nature know for certain a species will be successful?  I can't imagine any thing or act going to waste in the cool waters of natural selection, so perhaps there exists some factor we'll never understand but still be able to question. 

And as long as we question, that's enough for me. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Apology And Answer

Now that I finished that last book, I can get on this machine and go Journal-jumping.  But first, an apology for all the headaches I caused with my paradoxical question!

Neither sentence can be the "true" one, since they both cancel each other out - they negate each other.  It's a paradox, unanswerable, and I'm so pleased that so many of you dear friends tried to find what couldn't be there!

Now to complain about the rain which washed away the snow and is settling into my bones...and brain.

           PEACE!!       Enjoy your week....