As noted last month, the column I'd started to write got sidetracked by a visit to Sanford Health Bemidji's excellent ER (Emergency “Room”: actually, department). Turned out my blood potassium (K) was a bit low. Remedy: daily banana plus frequent use of spinach or other high-K greens.
What do milk snakes, goatsuckers, and fairy diddles have in common? All are vertebrates (reptiles, birds, and mammals, respectively), and all occur in Minnesota. Milk snakes (Lampropeltis triangulum) inhabit only Minnesota's southern counties, mostly in the St. Croix, Mississippi and Minnesota river valley woodlands. They are harmless constrictors, happy to eat the mice around houses and barns.
(This account is partly fiction.) At "Red Owl" some time ago, I was talking to an alert young father whom I'd never met before, and it came up in that I was from Manhattan, Greenwich Village no less. "Cool!" (He hadn't spotted what remains of my New York accent.) My name also caught his fancy (likewise cool), and it was even cooler that I wrote for the Pioneer.
Among other interesting happenings March 26, I had Easter dinner at the home of two favorite ordained Lutherans, Mark and Linnea Papke-Larsen. Ham, multiple veggies, salad, potatoes, cake and ice cream. The cake was a good, dense cake, but bunny-shaped and frosted. As the oldest person there, I had the honor (?) of cutting the cake. Linnea was over dishing ice cream when I beheaded the bunny and set the piece on her plate. She was appalled at how big it was.
Pastor Rob Kopp had to be away on church business all day Friday and Saturday, Feb. 24-25, so asked me to preach that Sunday. It's OK; if memory serves, I've been a UMC lay speaker since ’87 (as had my wife Elaine). The sermon itself was more challenging than some, dealing with integrating faith with the findings of science from ancient times to today's cosmological insights, and with the probable existence of a transcendent realm "outside" of our physical universe.
As noted late last year, we live in a physical universe: space, time, matter, energy and such. Scientists have learned much in recent centuries about these physical phenomena, and also much about organisms that occur and evolve in great diversity and abundance on Earth, and we continue to learn.
The January 2017 “Sky and Telescope” arrived just after Thanksgiving, to give its readers a heads-up on next year's events. It always comes with the year's Skygazer's Almanac, a separate double-page diagram that will go on my office door on New Year's. I quit doing a star column over a year ago, but think maybe I should summarize some 2017 highlights for you.
Last month I painted an upbeat picture of extrasolar earth-like planets, often with "Life As We Know It" (LAWKI), and maybe sentient beings (self-aware, like ourselves, but likely different otherwise). Since that suggests UFOs disgorging green aliens, here are some caveats, biological and physical.
For months I've watched harbor seals, sea lions, sea otters, orcas ("killer whales"), humpback whales, gulls, storm petrels and phalaropes in British Columbia, all from home, in real time. Actually, not always real time. Wildlife sites sometimes run highlights, either when webcam is down, when the live feed is dull, or maybe at night.
As a high-schooler in Manhattan, and then a collegiate in Ithaca, N.Y., I was a teetotaler. I didn't like coffee, drank weak tea in Chinese restaurants, and didn't care for alcoholic beverages at all. It probably helped that Mom's favorite cocktail was Manhattans, among the worst-tasting concoctions I'd run into (I'd not yet tasted ouzo, raki or chartreuse). Dad rarely drank; he was foolish enough sober.