Another Dose

January 30, 2019

BW photograph of wet snow clinging to trees while it is still snowing.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Awhile ago, I wrote a post about the concept of relativity.  Right now, we are experiencing another strong dose of that.

The weather in this area calls for a temperature of 0 degrees tonight-add in the wind chill and it becomes -17 degrees.  That is cold, frigid, arctic-like, whatever descriptor would appear to be appropriate.  Not at all comfortable to be outside-downright dangerous, in fact.

However, it is not quite the same as this.  These weather patterns are from the same system, but the Upper Midwest has been brutalized by the recent polar vortex.  This is another example of the importance of relativity.  It also points out that no matter how anything is, there is always something bigger, faster, stronger, and yes, colder.  This summer I am sure we will switch to discussing what is hotter.  (As an aside, check out the weather is Australia.)

According to that linked report, the Governor of Minnesota, Tim Walz, considered closing all of the schools in the state.  He did not, however, do this because “…one of the things that I’m concerned about is, is when you close a school sometimes, that is the place of warmth and food that is not available elsewhere.”

That summarizes the state of the human condition for far too many.

Take care.

UPDATE:  The Appalachian Mountain Club has these recommendations for dressing for extremely cold weather-this report on NPR brought that link to my attention.  It is quite clear why such temperatures and wind chill present issues for those without the resources to be safe.





Furlough or Not

January 26, 2019

BW photograph of wind-torn Maryland and U.S. flags laying in bushes.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The partial government shutdown ended, at least temporarily, after having reached 35 days in length-it was by far the longest in U.S. history to date.  According to Vox, “Approximately 380,000 federal employees are currently furloughed and 420,000 are expected to work without pay…”

BW photograph of wind-torn Maryland and U.S. flags laying in bushes.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

That quote came from this article, which provides graphics and details to summarize the effect-this is a “big picture” (macro) view.  A micro analysis of the shutdown would examine the individual stories of deprivation due worker’s lost wages and the shock waves extending outward to those who also depend on government employees for their livelihood-some of those are described here and here.

BW photograph of wind-torn Maryland and U.S. flags laying in bushes.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The members of Congress were being paid during the shutdown.

Beyond the financial impact, though, is the psychological toll being exacted on those furloughed workers, their dependents, and those who rely on federal employees for their well-being-this includes anyone flying via U.S. airports.  Earlier this month, the president said that the shutdown could last for “months or even years“.  Such language does nothing but exacerbate the stress and worry of all involved.  More on this point later.

Yesterday, the president announced an agreement to re-open the government until February 15, which is, indeed, important.  The president gave an address explaining his position on the agreement, which included his current description of the alternatives for border security and the need for such.  Should an agreement not be reached, the president stated the government would be again shut down and he would use executive power by declaring a national emergency to address the funding for the wall.  It is worth listening to the speech and then fact-checking the information for validity.  For example, the president repeatedly refers to the heroin being smuggled into the country from Mexico as one reason for the wall-the evidence, including the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) Drug Threat Assessment report, does not support that claim.  The definition of “wall” also changes.

The measures taken by Congress yesterday and last evening do not address the funding for border security.  As is usual, more will be revealed as this process continues.  For all affected by the shutdown, there is a temporary respite for many-federal contractors appear to not be getting lost pay.  In addition, the spectre of another shutdown hovers as work continues to find, and fund, a politically agreeable solution to address border security.  Should that not occur in the next three weeks, and the president declares a national emergency, more political and legal wrangling may be the result.  Federal workers and their associates may again be in the middle.  For them, this could be an intense three weeks.

What is also clear is that the appeal of working for the government, doing civil service, has taken a hit.  That may, in fact, turn out to be the longer term casualty for which there are higher consequences.

Take care.




January 21, 2019

BW photograph of a cemetary with a disused silo in the background.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Temperatures in the single digits at night and daytime lows below zero with the windchill factor applied have made for a frigid few days.

BW photograph of an old outhouse against a background of trees.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

It was quite useful to have had a warmer alternative to this particular facility…

Take care.

Not Spring

January 17, 2019

BW photograph of trees after a snow storm.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

I have written before about the migratory habits of robins, and that info is also readily available online.  This article is from 2013, but the comments about the warming of winters and availability of food drawing robins northward is quite applicable in 2019.

Yesterday, a local holly tree was quite literally inundated by robins in search of food-the berries were the attraction.  (Photographer’s Note:  the above are not holly trees, and I have no photographs of the robins.  The above photograph, though, was made yesterday and does document the conditions that follow.)  The ground here is still covered in snow, and frozen as an aside.  To make this worse for the robins, we are due for 1-3 more inches of snow tonight into tomorrow, and then a “wintry mix” of snow, sleet, and freezing rain for the weekend.  To cap that, nighttime temperatures are to be in the low single digits as the weekend itself ends.  In other words, this is not spring.  While this article is a bit dated, it does explain the fundamental impact of climate change (and other environmental issues) on bird migration and is therefore worth a read.

Robins in particular, and birds in general, are not the only species at risk.  This article by Bill McKibben discusses, in no uncertain terms, the current and future complications for humans as the planet warms.

Given that this post ended up covering food, climate change, and species adaptation, this piece from the BBC about the flexitarian diet is apt-there is more about the connect between diet and climate change here.  Truth in disclosure, I am vegetarian and have been for decades-a decision made long before I became aware of the interaction between diet and climate change.  My concern then was about the use of hormones and antibiotics and the general conditions produced by industrialized agriculture, which, by the way, has spread to aquaculture.  From where food comes and the method by which it is transported are yet other issues for consideration.

My goal here is not to preach.  My desire is to present scientific information for serious consideration as there is much still under our human control.  What we choose to eat can be one of those factors.  I say “can” for a reason:  those living in food deserts often have a very limited choice of what is available and affordable-that is another issue.

It is also painful to see robins at this time of year.

Take care.


January 15, 2019

BW photograph of the recent snow at Morgan Run.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The photographs included here are part of a series made when temperatures were in the low 20s, some while it was still snowing-a snow that resulted in about 4-6″ of depth depending on the location.

BW photograph of snow covered rocks at Morgan Run.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

That evening, time was spent reading the latest Dave Robicheaux novel from James Lee Burke.  Detective Robicheaux works in the New Iberia/New Orleans area of Louisiana, which is generally weather-wise a world away from the location of these photographs, especially at this time of year.   That dimension is specifically mentioned due to its importance in Mr. Burke’s writing.  His style is quite descriptive and evocative, and brings both the characters and region to a tangible existence.  As such, the climatic conditions become another character that helps drive the narrative.  As these stories unfold, the weather often mirrors or tends to exacerbate the emotions of the moment.  In some cases, the weather is the subject.  That, in fact, is the issue:  when it is this cold and with the white stuff flying, reading about heat, humidity, and thunderstorms makes one long for a different season.

Perhaps it would be best to go back and re-read the Harry Hole series by Jo Nesbo.  At least the weather in those novels would make what is seen here almost cozy by comparison.

Take care.


Record High

January 10, 2019

BW photograph of a downed tree bleached by the weather.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

2018 set the record for CO2 emissions.

We are now a bit more than a week into 2019, and there is enough going on nationally and globally to draw attention away from climate change.  Indeed, reading a 401(k) statement or a stack of bills without a paycheck to balance them is enough to focus one’s attention on the immediate.  That is understandable.

Meanwhile, the ice is melting…which sets the stage for even more hardship.  It can be difficult for some to visualize and appreciate the impact of rising seas and volatile weather and that accentuates this predicament.  In that sense, climate change is nowhere near as tangible as the rent being due.  However, for those in 2018 affected by the consequences of rising greenhouse gas emissions (locally, nationally, and globally), the current political/financial turmoil in the U.S. that decimate savings or liquidity underlines the stress and loss.

Will emissions again break the record in 2019?  That will hinge on the manner by which countries continue to abide by their Paris commitments.  Even if the U.S. government continues with the pull-out of the process, individual persons and state governments, like California, for example, can continue to exert downward pressure on emissions via lifestyle modifications.

Focus and the will to do so are required.

Take care.

Time Passing

January 4, 2019

BW photograph of the Sands Motel and its marquee.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The Sands Motel was in business from 1948 until 2018-that is quite a run.  It is now being demolished and is to be rebuilt and updated.

As per the info from that second link, it must not have aged gracefully.  Indeed, a brief review of feedback indicates that it was in need of renewal.  So it would seem to be of almost anything of that vintage, especially one subject to a fair amount of wear and tear from weather and occupation-the marque seems indicative of that.  Still, it makes one wonder how many people stayed at the Sands over that 70 year history.

BW photograph of a door at the being demolished Sands Motel.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

From where did they come?  How long did they stay?  What did they do while here?

BW photograph of the lower level of the being demolished Sands Motel.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

What must have happened in these rooms over the years?  Were the visitors happy or sad to leave?

BW photograph showing the bucket of the crane this is being used to demolish the Sands Motel.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

While the physical structure is soon to be no longer there, those that did spend time at the Sands Motel will have their memories of the experience.  That is unless they, too, have deteriorated…age will do that.

Take care.

2019 Begins

January 2, 2019

BW photograph of the NPS closure notice about the "lapse in federal appropriations".

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

More than a few people most likely awoke with a bit of a hangover yesterday morning to greet the year.  That is an unpleasant way to start this new beginning.  On a much larger, and considerably more important, scale, the federal government continued its shutdown, which goes well beyond the short-term effects of a headache.  Hundreds of thousands of federal employees ended last year and began the new with furloughs or are working without being paid.  The effects are not limited to federal employees as per this report.  Indeed, after making the above photograph, a gentleman approached and asked if the rest rooms were open-they were not.  Fortunately, there was a port-a-pot a mile or so up the road.  As per that linked report, some in the national parks are doing their business (which is itself a euphemism for relieving themselves) elsewhere because visiting centers are closed due to the “insufficient appropriations”.

That is, perhaps, an effective metaphor: without an appropriate, functional outlet, excrement spreads.  That, in turn, creates many other problems down the road.

A briefing is being held today to take stock of the entrenched positions regarding governmental funding.  Democrats officially take charge of the House tomorrow.

Take care.

UPDATE:  NPR’s 1A aired this program on the government shutdown on 1/3/19-it is worth a listen.