Oct. 22-28, 2017 Riviera Maya, Cancun: One of a kind culinary extravaganza !
Combining 5 nights at El Dorado Royal Spa & Resorts by Karisma. Get Away
Travel featuring 5 world--class chefs to satisfy your spicier side of Mexican food
and entertainment. Yelba's Latin Band is scheduled for a return engagement !
Sat. Nov. 11 CAF Centex Wing Hangar in San Marcos inside the WWII Vintage
CAF Hangar. With the Sentimental Journey Orchestra bringing your favorites
from WWII for dancing/romancing. Details to follow. Info: 830-895-1535.
Sun. Dec. 31 New Year's Eve in San Marcos, TX: Dinner Dance with the
Sentimental Journey Orchestra @Embassy Suites Hotel & Conference Center.
Swing in the New Year with a Party ! Details to follow.
Conspicuous birds with black-and-white plumage, 2-foot-long bodies, 4-foot wing
spans, 15-inch forked tails, delicate facial features, small beaks, swallow-tail kites
are in the Accipitridae bird family that includes white-tailed and Mississippi kites,
as well as eagles and hawks.
Diet is primarily made up of insects but also eats frogs, lizards and snakes. Prey
is captured in flight by plucking it from trees, bushes or grasses and eats while
flying. Migrating hawks can be observed at Gulf Coast Bird Observatory's Smith
Point Hawk Watch Tower during Aug. 1-Nov. 15.
Info: gcbo.org/avian-research-and monitoring/smith-point-hawk-watch or call:
Houston Chronicle 7-29-2017 byline: Gary Clark, Texasbirder@Comcast.net
Total Solar Eclipse:
Mon. Aug. 21 Millions of eyes will be fixed on the sky when a total solar eclipse
crossed the U.S., and it's likely many of them will be safely behind the special
glasses churned out by a Tennessee company; American Paper Optics. The com-
pany ramped up production for this year's eclipse and expects to make 50 Million
paper and plastic eclipse glasses.
John Jerit, the CEO and president, said the company began preparing about two
years ago. It is a life experience, he said, having seen one in France in 1999. His
company is one of many businesses-hotels, campgrounds and stores-taking ad-
-vantage of the total eclipse-when the moon passes between Earth and the sun.
The moon's shadow will fall in a diagonal ribbon across the U.S. from Oregon to
South Carolina. The rest of the U.S. will experience a partial eclipse, along with
Canada, Central American and a bit of South America.
Cities and town along the
path of totality-where there will be about 2 ½ minutes
of darkness-are gearing up for the crowds. St. Joseph, Mo., population 76,000, is
in a prime location, and officials are bracing for Tens of Thousands to descend on
the city. The city's largest arts and music festival is scheduled on the weekend
leading up to the eclipse on Aug. 21.
Meanwhile at the Tennessee factory, a constant whirring sound fill the factory as
large sheets of paper are fed into the machines. About 50,000 glasses can roll off
the assembly line per hour, said Jerit. Paper glasses are sold retail for about $12.
The plastic versions are about $15. NASA lists four companies, including Ameri-
-can Paper Optics, whose glasses meet international standards.
Houston Chronicle//Associated Press 7-28-2017 byline: Adrian Sainz
DO NOT DISTURB ! ! Four Insects in Texas.
Across our state, hunters are beginning their annual pre-season trips to leases
where they mount tractors to mow shooting lanes through woods, pasture or along
senderos, clean and refurbish box blinds, set and fill feeders or build feeder pens,
use gas-engine grass/brush trimmers to whack the grasses and brush around cabins
and trailers and do the other chores their recreation requires.
Paddlers and anglers are plying the state's rivers and streams, spending much of
their time tight against the banks where they use the shade of shoreline trees to
hide from the brutal Texas summer sun.
With the enjoyment of these activities
also comes the chance of an unexpected en-
-counter with one of the state's three most common venomous winged insects, all
of which can and invariably do account for scores of episodes that prove, at best,
or worst, life-threatening.
Texas is home to well over a dozen species of winged stinging insects. But only
four-yellow jackets, baldfaced hornets, paper wasps and Africanized honey bees
--pose a significant threat, a function of their being colony0based creatures, that,
when incited, attack en masse and can inflict multiple stings.
Baldfaced hornets are
the easiest do avoid. The hornets-the only hornet found in
Texas-build 'paper' nests about the size of a football ad shaped like an inverted
pear. Often attached to tree limbs, usually are easily seen and avoided.
Southern yellow jackets are much less obvious. Most Texans understandably, but
incorrectly, call yellow jackets 'ground hornets', a nod to the insects' propensity to
build their nests underground. Those subterranean nests, which can contain as
many as 4,000 insects, are accessed via an entrance hole usually about the size of
a silver dollar or slightly larger.
Yellow jackets, like hornets and wasps
, are not unilaterally aggressive insects.
But: they are short-tempered creatures that mount mass attacks on anything they
deem a threat to their colony. That includes a Brush Hog mower pulled over a nest
entrance by a deer hunter cutting a shooting lane, the hum of a grass-powered grass
trimmer or even the opening of the door of a deer blind where the wasp-like yellow
jackets have taken up residence. The result is a massive defensive attack that can
inflict dozens of stings within seconds !
Paper wasps-'red' wasps to most Texans-are also a threat, although not to the
degree of yellow jackets. Paper wasp nests, usually about the size of a fist, but
sometimes larger, typically harbor a couple of dozen adults, so mass attacks are
not an issue. But an angler who bumps into a paper wash nest attached to a tree
limb overhanging a stream (a fave place for these wasps to nest) or the hunter who
opens the door to a blind holding a nest or tree will feel the wrath of aggrieved
wasps-often repeatedly, as a wasp can deliver multiple injections of venom,
(unlike bees which leave their stinger/sac when they sting) and consequently die themselves.)
THEN: there are the Africanized honey
bees, without doubt the most dangerous of
the lot. These mutant honey bees are, by far, the most aggressive and persistent of
the stinging winged insects and account for the most severe injuries and deaths.
If you are mowing: wear protective clothes-long sleeves, long pants, gloves and
face protection. Better to sweat than to suffer stings. Try not to be alone in iso-
-lated spots on property; have an escape route, a fast exit strategy. Remember,
many hunting leases and other isolated areas have poor or non-existent cellphone
coverage. Plan for that !
For those who have allergic reactions to insect venom, things are not so easy. If
stings result in hives, dizziness, weak or rapid pulse or, breathing problems,
things are deadly serious; these are signs of anaphylactic shock. Get medical
help ASAP ! Get a prescription from your doctor for injectable epinephrine, a
form of adrenaline that could counteract the life-threatening effects of insect
venom. The most common such injectable goes by the brand name EpiPen.
Generic forms are also available; they are expensive-the 'cheap' generic versions
run about $300 for a pair of injectable doses. Deaths from insect (bee, wasp)stings
average about 70 per year, nationwide. Annually, about five people die from snake
bite in the U.S. It is Best to Be Prepared !
Houston Chronicle 7-27-2017 byline: Shannon Tompkins
Robot Looks at Damaged Reactor:
An underwater robot captured images of solidified lava-like rocks inside a dam-
-aged reactor at Japan's cripple Fukushima nuclear plant, spotting what is be-
-lieved to be nuclear fuel that melted six years ago. The lava-like debris apparent-
-ly containing fuel that had flowed out of the core into the primary containment
vessel of the Unit 3 reactor. The plant was destroyed by a massive earthquake and
tsunami in March 2011.
Experts have said the fuel melted and much of it fell to the chamber's bottom and
is now covered by radioactive water as deep as 20 feet. The fuel, during meltdown
also likely melted its casing and other metal structures inside the reactor, forming
rocks as it cooled.
The robot, nicknamed '
Little Sunfish' went inside a structure called the pedestal.
TEPCO plans to send the robot farther down in hopes of finding more melted fuel
and debris. Experts have said the melted fuel is most likely to have landed inside
the pedestal after breaching the core. (Then What ?)
Houston Chronicle//Associated Press 7-22-2017 byline: Mari Yamaguchi
Atlantic Canada's 'Iceberg Alley' has been clogged with an usually high number
of icebergs this spring and summer, with many still floating through the Gulf of St.
Lawrence and along the Labrador coast. About 1,000 icebergs have been counted
so far this season in Atlantic shipping lanes, due in part to accelerated melting of
Arctic sea ice and the Greenland ice cap. EarthWeek 7-23-2017
Found: Bodies Buried in Glacier.
Last week, a ski resort worker came across two mummified bodies, buried in ice
and dressed in well-preserved clothes from WWII era, near the 2-mile-long Tsan-
-fleuron glacier in the western Alps.
Although DNA tests were being conducted to verify the identities of the bodies, it
may be a missing couple; Marcelin & Francine Dumoulin, who left home on Aug.
15, 1942, possibly to milk their cows, and were never seen again. The mystery has
haunted a sleepy village in the Swiss Alps for 75 years.
One of the couple's two
surviving children; Marceline Udry-Dumoulin, 79, ex-
-pressed certainty that her parents had at last been found. She was only four years
old; and barely remembers her aunt weeping at the bottom of the stairs in their
house. After two months, the children-five boys and two girls-were divided
among families in the neighborhood.
The discovery of the bodies was a matter of chance. A worker for Glacier 3000,
which runs cable cars and ski lifts, was walking in the picturesque area off the
trail when he spotted two 'black rocks' he had not noticed before. When he got
closer, he suddenly realized that it was bodies.
Several forensic police
specialists were dispatched to the scene; broke through the
ice and discovered a book, a backpack and a watch. The discovery appeared to
have been made possible by the effects of global warming, which he said was
causing the glacier to lose up to half a meter a year.
It is believed the couple were walking while traveling to a chalet in Bern; and fell
into a crevice, although family lore has it that they had gone to milk cows.
Houston Chronicle//New York Times 7-19-2017
byline: Dan Bilefsky and Nick Cumming-Bruce
Residents in the central Mexican town of Pueblo Viejo fear a volcano may be form
-ing beneath their feet as subterranean heat rising to the surface has burned some of
their goats. The soil temp in parts of the small Michoacan community has soared
to more than 480 degrees F., causing the local soccer field to break apart while re-
-leasing steam, ash and vapor into the air. (Yikes ! Barbequed alive ?)
Pueblo Viejo is about 200 miles from a relatively new volcano called Paricutin. It
emerged from a cornfield in 1943 and within a year had grown to more than 1000
feet tall. EarthWeek 7-23-2017
Florida Mourns Manatee:
Snooty, the longest-living manatee in captivity, died recently, a day after a huge
party to celebrate his 69th Birthday, according to the South Florida Museum in
Snooty ate about 80 pounds of lettuce and veggies every day to sustain his 1,000
pound body. He loved to greet his visitors and ham it up for the cameras. He and
other manatees are identified by unique scars from boat propellers.
Snooty helped educate the public about manatees, like hearing and vocalization.
He will be missed .
Houston Chronicle//Associated Press 7-24-2017 byline: Kelli Kennedy
Where is Noah ?
Thousands of wild animals are being moved across parts of Africa in an attempt
to restore their populations in Mozambique, where a bloody 15-year civil war
nearly wiped them out. Neighboring Zimbabwe is donating and transporting 50
elephants, 100 giraffes, 200 zebras and 200 water buffaloes to Mozambique's
Zinave National Park in one of Africa's largest ever wildlife transfers.
In total, about 7,500 wild animals from Zimbabwe, South Africa and elsewhere in
Mozambique will be relocated during the next three years.
Archaeologists Unearth: Tower of Skulls. (Warning: Not for faint-hearted !)
The 400 Spanish conquistadors who walked into the Aztec capital in the 16th cent-
-ury were initially welcomed as friends. They were amazed by the splendor of
the people of Tenochtitlan-and their cannibalistic brutality. They found temples
soaked with blood and human hearts being burned in ceramic braziers, according
to the Archaeological Institute of America.
The conquistadors and the Spaniards who followed them wrote of the victims of
human sacrifices rolling down the steps of the temple, where they were dismem-
-bered, then eaten in a stew with chilies and tomatoes. (I warned you !)
But one thing terrified the European newcomers more than almost anything: a
rack of human skulls that towered over one corner of the temple to Huitzilopoch-
-tli, the Aztec god of the sun, war and human sacrifice. Andres de Tapia, one of
Hernan Cortes soldiers, wrote that there were so many human skulls, he had to re-
-sort to multiplication to count them all.
Those skulls,( there were over 136,000 heads), the conquistadors assumed, were
what remained of men who had been defeated in battle. Nearly 500 years later,
scientists digging in Mexico have unearthed the skulls. Their biggest finding:
The skulls were not just heads of male warriors who had been defeated by the
Aztecs. Some were the smaller, thinner skulls of women and children.
Why did the Aztecs display them in one of their holiest places ? A detailed ex-
-planation has eluded researchers and may have died with the Aztecs.
Houston Chronicle//Washington Post 7-5-2017 byline: Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
Extinction Alarm !
Scientists say Earth's 'Sixth Mass Extinction' has been underway over the past
century in a 'biological annihilation' that has seen Billions of regional or local
populations lost. Gerardo Ceballos of the National Autonomous U. of Mexico,
who led a study, said: 'The situation has become so bad it would not be ethical to
use strong language.'
He found habitat destruction, overhunting, pollution, invasive species and climate
change had caused half of the 177 mammal species survey to lose more than 80%
of their distribution between 1900 and 2015. (Really !) EarthWeek 7-16-2017
Longevity Barrier ?
New research suggests the maximum human lifespan could far exceed the 115-year
limit cited in a previous study, after decades of increasing longevity. Geneticist
Jan Vijg of New York's Albert Einstein College of Medicine authored a contro-
-versial report last year that says humans have reached our maximum allotted life-
-span for the first time.
But other researchers quickly argued that Vijg's findings were skewed by flawed
calculations. Siegfried Hekimi from Montreal's McGill U. argues that under more
optimistic interpretations of longevity data, the oldest person alive in 2300 would
be about 150 years old. (Ehh, what did you say ? My hearing is not so good….)
Unprecedented Arctic warmth this year virtually ensures the summer will bring the
greatest melt of the Arctic's sea ice on record ! Melting as of July 2 had equaled
that seen in 2012, which had the lowest sea ice coverage ever observed.
But when scientists factor in the thickness of the remaining summer ice coverage
this month, the ice volume is at a record-low level, according to researchers from
Washington U. A new study finds that Arctic winter warming events have be-
-come more frequent and are lasting longer than they did three decades ago.
High Plains Drought:
Drought in North Dakota is laying waste to fields of normally bountiful food and
hay crops and searing pastures that typically would be home to multitudes of graz-
-ing cattle. Some longtime farmers and ranchers say it is the worst conditions they
have seen in their lifetimes.
Agriculture in North Dakota is an $11 Billion a year industry, and the state leads
the nation in the production of nearly a dozen crops. Simple survival has become
their goal as a dry summer drags on without any relief in sight. The latest Drought
Monitor map shows nearly all of western North Dakota in severe or extreme
drought, conditions that extend into northern South Dakota and northeastern Mon-
-tana. The drought's impact likely will be felt not just by farmers but at the gro-
-cery store counter. Dry beans, canola, corn, field peas, soybeans, beef, hay are
some of the crops that are suffering; with production about a fourth of normal.
Houston Chronicle//Associated Press 7-16-2017 byline: Blake Nicholson
Mormon Cricket Invasion:
Experts say the swarms of Mormon cricket that can decimate crops and cause
slippery, but-slick car crashes as they march across highways and roads could be
particularly bad this year in Idaho, Oregon, Nevada and other Western states.
The ravenous insects, which invade about every eight years, number as many as
70 per square yard in some areas, according to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.
(A Biblical Plague ?) Houston Chronicle Wire Reports 7-14-2017
Roadrunners Found in Houston, too.
Folks frequently report seeing roadrunners in parking lots at grocery stores, shop-
-ping centers and even in the neighborhoods. They used to be a regular sight
around Houston before the city boomed with buildings and roadways that dis-
-placed the prairies and fields. Nowadays, parking lots provide open, vegetated
habitat roadrunners prefer; provide ready meals of insects, mice and human food
Roadrunners are the mortal enemy of snakes. Residents living in master-planned
communities within forests should appreciate that. No matter what the suburb, we
welcome the paisano, the Spanish name for roadrunner. Piasano means 'fellow
countryman' or neighbor.
Real roadrunners don't beep, as the iconic cartoon character does. Instead, they
sing a hollow, gurgling coo-cooo-coooo sound like a dove; or utter the rattling
whirr call. Females can make a barking sound, while both sexes have a variety
of other sounds.
The birds can race 18 mph on their long, powerful legs and have big feet. Its feet
have two toes facing forward and two backward, leaving tracks shaped like X's.
When running, it stretches 2 feet horizontally from beak to tail, holding its neck
straight out like a sword's hilt for the robust hook-tipped beak.
Roadrunners form long-term monogamous pairs and renew the relationship each
spring with courtship display. Both sexes vigorously defend breeding and foraging
ground. They range from Southern California across to Texas, Oklahoma, Arkan-
-saw, Missouri and Louisiana. They are a member of the cuckoo family, like the
migratory yellow-billed cuckoo.
Houston Chronicle 7-22-2017 byline: Gary Clark