Friday, 23 February 2018

Plastic: What To Do, What To Do . . .

My home province of Nova Scotia in Canada is facing a question shared by many other North American regions since China stopped taking plastic bags for recycling: What do we do now?

The first "R" in Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is, of course, REDUCE.

To reduce the number of plastic bags that are in play, do we:
- ban all plastic bags?
- legislate that stores must charge for plastic bags at the checkout, to encourage shoppers to reduce or eliminate their use?
- educate citizens on the impact of the use of plastic and hope for the best?

Our provincial government's immediate reaction has been the first choice above: to call for a ban on the use of all plastic shopping bags in stores. They are requesting that all municipalities across the province get on board with this decision.

But will banning plastic at the checkouts actually reduce the use of plastic overall? If so, will there be a different but equally harmful cost to the environment?

Currently, we are required to place our garbage and recyclables in specific kinds of plastic bags for collection. Our newspapers must be in separate bags from the rest of our recycling. We usually put a total of five bags at the curb in each two-week collection period: three partial bags of garbage ("partial" due to weight restrictions per bag), most of which is used kitty litter, plus non-recyclable packaging for food and other supplies; one is newspapers; and one is other recyclables. If these bags are banned as well - as they probably should be if we are serious about reducing our plastic consumption - we will need to find alternatives.

Will we switch to using heavy duty plastic bins whose contents will be dumped directly into the collection trucks, the way our compost is collected? That's a lot of plastic bins to be manufactured for our use, which incurs different environmental impacts. Even if they are made from recycled plastics as opposed to new materials (but where will they get the plastics to recycle if we ban shopping bags?), there are other considerations such as water and energy usage during manufacture. On the other hand, they are durable and would not need to be recycled or put in the landfill until many years in the future.

Many folks here already shop with a recyclable bag in hand. Many of them use whatever plastic bags they do end up with as garbage bin liners in their kitchens, bathrooms and wherever else they have bins. We are part of this group. Since at least the 1980s we have been re-using our plastic shopping bags this way, and we also use them for discarding used kitty litter. We try to minimize the number of bags we need to re-use, by dumping the contents of the small bins into the large garbage bags that go to the curb, unless the garbage is quite messy. But we still go through quite a few of these shopping bags in a week due to daily scooping of the cats' litter boxes. If we didn't re-use these bags, we would be buying new bags for the same purpose, because plastic helps to contain the smell that inevitably becomes an issue when pickup is only every second week. And unlike food waste, which we are told to (and do) store in our freezers to reduce the smell, I have absolutely no plans to store used kitty litter in that same freezer until pickup. And I have yet to come up with an alternative plan for it.

Looking beyond our own household's use of plastic, I realize that dog owners must go through quite a few bags as well. Not picking up after your dog, in this town at least, is a fine-able offence. 

So we in the Donkey household have already made progress on reducing and reusing, and we are avid recyclers of all materials that are currently accepted. Even before our recycling program began, decades ago, I washed and stored glass and metal cans in our basement for two years because I couldn't bear to put them in the garbage and I felt the winds of recycling change were blowing our way. Sure enough, our municipality was among the first in the province to provide collection points for these items, and my two-year collection was not amassed in vain.

I tell you this only to illustrate that recycling has been on my list of Important Things To Do for many, many years, and that it has been on our region's list of Important Things To Do for nearly that long too.

Therefore, I am pulled in two directions regarding the banning of plastic shopping bags. Is it as good for the environment as it appears to be, considering that alternatives also have an environmental cost? Will giving people the choice to buy them or not at the checkout, combined with education, make enough of an impact? Is there a fourth (or fifth, or tenth) solution that has not yet been proposed? Not many people, and certainly not many governments, think outside the box in terms of solutions.

If you feel inclined, please give me your thoughts on the topic. What is the current procedure for disposal of compost, garbage and recyclables where you live? What would be your solution if you were running the world? Brainstorm with me, if you'd like. Who knows where the next really good idea will come from?

I hope you have a weekend free from too much stress over environmental issues (after you have left your comment here, I mean!) and free from too much thinking about stinky messes (after you have read this post, of course!). Here are some pictures to help you with that:



start with a donkey



add some kittens



and puppies



might as well throw in an optical illusion floor while we're at it



and a rainbow of coloured pencils



and cherry blossoms, just to cover all the bases




(Thanks to Pixabay for all pictures except the checkered floor. I neglected to record source details for that one . . . if I can figure it out, I'll edit later to include that. My thanks, and apologies, to the source in the meantime.)





Monday, 19 February 2018

A Break From Frost, Snow, And Ice

Our spring is still quite far away, but our winter has been mostly mild and "open" (meaning not much snow, or snow that disappears quickly). With all my talking about ice and snow and frost lately, you could be forgiven for thinking we've been snowed in since December. That is not the case.

The lack of snow does make for a rather barren landscape, though. Most of nature is looking either gray or brown these days. Evergreen trees such as spruces, pines, and rhododendrons are still green, but on one of my walks this week I took a closer look around our yard and found a few other green things, too.




Moss like green velvet in the cracks of our brick walkway



More moss, of a different kind - more feathery - although it's hard to tell from an overhead shot




Can you see the hardy little dandelion leaves right in the middle of this picture? I know, I know - we should have cleaned those old leaves away. But then maybe the dandelion wouldn't have had enough shelter to stay green under the snow and freezing rain we've had this winter. Laziness benefits other living things sometimes.



Brown, not green, but intriguing:  a vine has sent out its tendrils to cling to the vinyl siding of our house. Who'd think something so dainty would be strong enough to stand up to four months of ice, snow, and wind?



Yellow, not green, but bright is bright - I'll take it:  lichens on the concrete of our verandah



Back to green (ish):  Ignore the spruce branches to the right - those are from our Christmas tree, laid over a tender plant to help protect it from the weather. This picture is all about the plant in the middle of the shot. It came from a summer planter we were given a couple of years ago. The planter was advertised as being good for a southern exposure where it would get direct sun and lots of heat. It had several kinds of succulent and cactus types of plants in it. That fall I noticed that several sprigs of this plant had escaped the pot and were doing well in the garden. Two years later, it's gotten much larger and is still thriving. What does a desert-like plant think it's doing, looking so healthy in mid-winter??? Imposter!!


We won't see any green tree buds or green grass until well into April, but the lack of snow has opened my eyes to the green that exists even when snow covers the ground (or should be doing so).

For all of you who have had more than your share of snow this winter, rest assured that we usually share your pain. Spring is coming! Only 30 more days until the equinox! I hope you stay warm and cozy.

For the rest of you, who are labouring under heatwave after heatwave in the southern hemisphere, Fall is coming! Only 30 more days until the equinox! I hope you get some cooler weather soon.

And to help take everyone's mind off the weather:



Duct-taped pavement:  this is what we get to look forward to AFTER Winter has frozen, heaved, and cracked our roads!! Not really; our roads always look worse than this, and duct tape is not an option :)


Happy Week, friends!

Friday, 16 February 2018

More Cold Stuff

Thank you for helping me out with words to describe the ice in my last post. I ended up following a few Google trails to learn more about ice and frost (see here and here) but after trying to read sentences like "The patterns in window frost form a fractal with a fractal dimension greater than one but less than two. This is a consequence of the nucleation process being constrained to unfold in two dimensions, unlike a snowflake which is shaped by a similar process but forms in three dimensions and has a fractal dimension greater than two" mostly what I learned was that I am easily overwhelmed by too much technical information and names and cannot remember any of it long enough to actually write a post on it.

But I did snag a couple of pictures that I liked, which I'll share here:

Hoarfrost crystals (from http://www.its.caltech.edu/~atomic/snowcrystals/frost/frost.htm)




Hard rime on a tree (from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_rime)


Soft rime (called soft because it is more fragile than hard rime) (from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soft_rime)


Then there's this, which pretty much blew my mind:

Electron microscope image of Rime ice on both ends of a "capped column" snowflake (from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hard_rime)

THAT IS A SNOWFLAKE, PEOPLE. CAN YOU EVEN BELIEVE IT??

It looks like some kind of heavy duty metal machinery to me.

That's as far as I got into the realm of snow, and I may never go further, as I must now spend an undetermined amount of time recovering from researching ice and frost.

I think some elephant jokes might help my recovery.  And they might amuse you, too.

***
Q.  What does Tarzan say when he sees a herd of elephants in the distance?
A.  "Look! A herd of elephants in the distance!"

Q.  What does Tarzan say when he sees a herd of elephants with sunglasses?
A.  Nothing. He doesn't recognize them.

Q.  What does Tarzan say when he sees a herd of giraffes in the distance?
A.  "Ha ha! You fooled me once with those disguises, but not this time!"

Q.  What is the difference between an elephant and a plum?
A.  An elephant is grey.

Q.  What does Jane say when she sees a herd of elephants in the distance?
A.  "Look! A herd of plums in the distance!" (Jane is colour-blind)

***
These jokes borrowed, with thanks, from http://homepage.eircom.net/~cronews/elep/elep.html
If you want more, just follow that link.

***

Hope you have a good weekend, people!

One final snow-related thought:








Monday, 12 February 2018

Icy Lace

I've been trying to get out walking again, but lately the air always seems to be filled with either snow, rain, or freezing rain, none of which are very much fun to go out into. On Sunday alone, we had freezing rain, rain, freezing rain, and rain, in that order. I had to go to the pharmacy for my mother during the second round of freezing rain, and it took ten minutes to scrape the ice from my car windows when I set out. In the few minutes I was in the store, the car iced up again. And again while I was taking the items into my mother's house. It's especially interesting to scrape vigorously at one's car windows while standing on an icy lane or parking lot. But -- free exercise!! It's all about perspective, my friends.

Getting back to the topic of walking, during one of the mid-afternoon "rain" cycles I decided to venture out. It wasn't bad until near the end of my walk, when the temperature had dropped just enough that the wet pavement had started to freeze, and then I had to mince home like a waddling duck to make sure I didn't end up on either my anterior or my posterior, or maybe even worse than either of those, doing the splits.

Along the way, I took a few pictures. The moisture on the ground and at the edges of the puddles was starting to freeze as the temperature dropped, and it made for some lovely, fragile lace-like formations on the ground.

 










I can't find the right words to describe how sheer and delicate the ice in the last shot was. It was thinner than paper-thin or razor-thin, and I couldn't find any synonym for "extremely extremely thin" online. Does anyone have the word I'm looking for??

I only wish the extremely extremely thin ice showed up better in the photo. Ah, the limitations of a point-and-shoot camera!

I hope you all have a good week, free from doing "the splits" or "the splats" or any other kind of unplanned athletics :) 



Friday, 9 February 2018

This Week

It's been a mish-mash of a week here. So here's a mish mash of a post to fill you in.

Have you seen the news about the discovery of extensive ancient Mayan ruins in the jungles of Guatamala? (If not, you can read about it here.)  This appeals to the latent archeologist in me, but it also makes me glad I didn't follow that career - the jungle is probably even worse than the desert in terms of working environment. I'm glad there are people who pursue this line of work even under such adverse conditions. Our world's knowledge base and understanding of our history is much richer for finding lost sites like these.

Also in the news (although it was a few weeks ago, so maybe it should be called "olds"), a research team in Australia has released a paper about raptors intentionally spreading fire in order to flush out prey, something that the team says has been known by indigeneous peoples for more than 40,000 years (so maybe it should actually be called "ancients"?) For the full story, click here.

And in a warmer, fuzzier story from Australia, go here for a YouTube clip from The Kangaroo Sanctuary. If it doesn't melt your heart, check to see that you still have one. If you live nearby, you can even book a sunset tour, meet their kangaroo family and (swoon) HOLD A BABY KANGAROO. Now I have three things that I would do if I were a traveller and won the lottery (two things that unfortunately will never happen, but that doesn't keep me from making a list): (1) visit the giant redwoods in California, (2) visit the tabletop mountains in Newfoundland, and (3) HOLD A BABY KANGAROO.

Closer to (my) home, I am about to be driven batty by a neighbour's dog that barks constantly. About two years ago I undertook to check out this barking dog in case it was a reportable case of animal neglect or cruelty. From my clandestine observations it seemed that the only issue was that the dog liked to bark. And it has probably been driving its owner batty, too. But in the winter I am always thinking that pets (even barky ones) are too cold and my brain can't shut out the sound.

Add to that the fact that one of our cats has become extremely needy, and my head feels like it may explode any day now. Our kitty is only nine but before we got her she had been hit by a car and had a serious leg injury. It has occurred to me more than once that she may have had a brain injury as well. She has always been an extreme meower, as I've mentioned before (here). But the last couple of years, and ramping up the last six months or so, her ability to find her food dish or to realize that there is food in her dish is not a sure thing. Sometimes I have to bring her to her food, or put her dish right under her nose. Her eyesight is fine. Her hearing is fine. She just seems confused. And the resulting meowing is making my eye twitch. That's not true. My eye is twitching because I've been reading too much and sleeping too little, but the meowing is not helping. At least she can still find the litter box, thank goodness.


No, I would never do that!


Speaking of reading too much, I've been having a hard time finding a good book from our collection bought at the second hand sale in the fall. I've started three since the first of January which I've had to give up on partway through. And I've read another three that were only so-so. Is this what comes of my greediness in buying so many? The year before, we had such good luck with our finds. I'm hoping this was just a string of unfortunate picks and that I've now read or dumped all the duds and gotten them out of the way.


And hopefully good to read, too, kitty!




Lately we've been EXTRA lucky here because we are getting both the frozen AND the non-frozen forms of water falling from the sky! Yes, that is sarcasm, the lowest form of humour! Constant temperature swings and the possibility of breaking a hip on the ice or drowning in the puddles will do that to a person!




Good news - we're over our technical difficulties. Our computer problems have been fixed by our son, the computer whiz. Somehow a setting got changed and the wrong DNS (domain name system) was being used whenever we tried to access the internet. We aren't sure how this happened, but it had a clear starting point and when our son changed it back to the original settings it had a clear ending point too. So I've been catching up on a month's worth of internet surfing and, you know what, that might have something to do with my eye twitching too.








 Over and out, people! Hope you have a good weekend.



All funnies gratefully borrowed from icanhas.cheezburger.com