Identifying poison ivy

May 22, 2014

This may become a series.

Found a good infographic today, on how to identify poison ivy — the bane of every Boy Scout and Scouter west of the Mississippi, and east of the Mississippi, too.

From TreksInTheWild.com, via Daily Infographic

From TreksInTheWild.com, via Daily Infographic

Poison ivy leaves turn a beautiful scarlet in the fall.  This beauty prompted English ship captains dropping off colonists in New England to take the potted vines back to England.

It is my experience that, while everyone can become allergic and react to poison ivy, no one reacts on first serious exposure. If you’re in the woods, it’s good to know what this stuff is, and avoid it.

If you’re exposed, wash it off.  Wash your clothes with some sort of oxidant (oxygen bleach for colors, or chlorine bleach if you don’t care); I use a 3:1 solution, water to chlorine bleach, to shower with after serious exposure.  The active chemical, urushiol, remains active until it is reacted chemically or by ultraviolet light — and so a young Scout who gets some ivy sap under his fingernails can continue to spread the exposure everywhere he scratches, until his hands are really washed clean.

Study the poster, learn to identify the stuff.  There’s a lot more to say.


U.S. spends $38 billion on foreign aid? (Not nearly enough)

May 22, 2014

Glenn Beck got all worked up over this chart, as if it revealed some great, cardinal sin:

Chart on foreign aid as a part of the U.S. budget, from http://www.financedegreecenter.com/foreign-aid/

Chart on foreign aid as a part of the U.S. budget, from http://www.financedegreecenter.com/foreign-aid/

FinanceDegreeCenter.com is a mysterious organization that does no-one-really-will-say what on the internet.  A few months ago I got a series of e-mails from the group, telling that they were changing their name from an earlier iteration and claiming my links to one of their charts jeopardized all the good work they did for people seeking higher education, merely by accurately citing where I got the chart.  That sounded fishy, so I asked them what they did, really, and I got a barrage of e-mails . . .

I think they get paid to steer people to for-profit, on-line schools.  That doesn’t mean their charts are inaccurate, though it does mean I don’t post them without a lot of checking first (this is the first one I’ve posted since then).

Which is a long way of saying, Beck sure has crumby sources.

Bad as the source may be, the information isn’t far off.  But there’s the problem.

Beck’s audience probably believes, as Beck has told them, that the U.S. pays way too much in foreign aid.  Polls repeatedly show most people think we spend anywhere from ten times to a hundred times what we do.  A great little article with charts at the Washington Post explained:

The poll result that seems to most frustrate budget analysts is the apparent belief among Americans that foreign aid is a huge cost to the federal government. The latest poll that my colleague Ezra Klein cites finds that the average American thinks the United States spends 28 percent of the federal budget on aid to foreign governments — more than the country spends on Social Security or Medicare or defense.

In reality, we spend only 1 percent on foreign aid.

This gap between perception and reality is ridiculously large. That’s depressing, but it also presents an opportunity. The case that 28 percent of the budget should go to foreign aid is very strong. And if Americans already think we give that much — well, the least we could do is accommodate them!

We don’t spend enough.  Yes, we spend $38 billion.  That’s less than 1% of total U.S. outlays, and it’s been declining as a share of our Gross National Income and Gross Domestic Product since 1960.

Glenn Beck gets outraged, and shouts away, “$38 billion,” hoping that his shouting will make the number appear larger than it is.  He thinks, and says, it’s too much.

$38 billion?  Less than 1% of the budget.  Less than one penny of every dollar.

As a nation, the U.S. does not spend enough on foreign aid.  We should spend more.

Think of the good that could be done, if our nation actually did increase foreign aid to equal 25% of the federal budget (without taking it out of the hides of poverty-struck, homeless newborn babies and baby ducks as GOP legislators would insist).  How would the world be different?

More, and resources: 


Night heron in the Ding Darling NWR, by Errickson

May 22, 2014

Love this photo for many reasons.

U. S. Department of Interior on Twitter:  Amazing photo of a night heron in J.N.

U. S. Department of Interior on Twitter: Amazing photo of a night heron in J.N. “Ding” Darling NWR by intern Libby Errickson. @USFWSSoutheast #Florida pic.twitter.com/PA04nE4hhD

Let me count the ways I love it:

  • It’s a great photo, of a beautiful bird — a pose you won’t see often.
  • An intern took it.  Management of our great natural treasures, the Wildlife Refuges, the National Parks, the National Monuments, is flat enough that an intern can get great experience, and spend a lifetime — and score a great picture that the poobahs in Washington like and promote.  It’s a career photo; let’s hope Libby Errickson has (or had) a great internship, and this is just the first of many career photos or studies or whatever.
  • At a time when federal management of public lands is under fire, generally unjustifiably, simply for doing a good job but not having billionaires running their press operations, this is one more small example of something done right, for a long time.  The J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge is one of the oldest in the U.S.  It was created by Executive Order from President Harry Truman in 1945, and is now one of more than 500 units of National Wildlife Refuges under the management of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other federal agencies.
  • Bonus:  Ding Darling was a political cartoonist, and a conservationist.  His pen, in pictures and words, convinced authorities to stop the sale and development of Sanibel Island in the Gulf of Mexico, preserving unique and valuable bird habitat.  This refuge celebrates one of our greatest political cartoonists.  It was renamed from Sanibel to Ding Darling NWR in 1967.  If you ask me, we don’t honor our political cartoonists enough.

More:

Video on the refuge, from the Ding Darling Society:


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