Thursday, June 17, 2010

Coming Out of the Water

I didn’t realize last time, when I called my post Reflections, that I would soon be reflecting on my 18 months of writing this blog, but that’s what I am doing today. If you have been a follower of this blog, even on occasion, you know that I have not posted anything in almost three weeks and now I have decided this will be my last post, at least in this spot.

It’s not because I don’t continue on a daily basis to watch the water outside my door. I do. It’s not because there aren’t issues about the Great Lakes to write about. There are. It’s not because I don’t have time to write (writing this blog doesn’t take much time) or that I am no longer interested in my environment. I definitely am.

I think it is more because I don’t want to become like the old lady who repeats and repeats and repeats herself to the point where no one hears her anymore. I could post more pictures about my neighborhood. I could post more reports about use or misuse of our waters. I could muse more about how I love where I live and how I am a Great Lakes Gal, but I think the time has come for me to stop.

That’s not to say that my interest has waned – far from it. Writing this blog has only increased my passion for the Great Lakes. I still plan to see more, learn more, and act more, and I will continue to follow other blogs, which do such a good job on informing me on my passion. If I have sparked your interest in this topic, I urge you to follow them, too. The sites I will continue to follow are the ones listed on my Blog List (see margin at the left).

In my very first posting, It’s Day One, I wrote that when I go swimming at the lake, I first wade in slowly before I take the plunge. What I didn’t comment on was how I come out of the water, but I could have said is that when I’m done swimming, I am wet and maybe even cold, but happy that I took the plunge. That’s how I feel about this blog. It’s time to come out of the water but I am leaving it glad I came in. I learned so much these past months, and I hope you have learned a little along the way too.

I’m glad I went swimming. Thanks for coming into the water with me.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Water has reflective properties. That may not be exactly how a physicist would describe the way light changes direction at the water's edge, but I am sure you know what I mean. Who has not stood at the edge of a pond or a lake or even a bowl of water, and marveled at this phenomenon?

A poet would have different words and thoughts on reflection. Reflections on reflections, so to be speak. For now, I prefer to follow the advice given to writers – show, don’t tell, and I am going to show you three water pictures that show reflection.

The first two were taken this weekend in Western Massachusetts at a place called the Bridge of Flowers. Look carefully to see how the ovals are formed. The third photo was taken in my own backyard, at the local marina.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

More on the Eco-Nightmare

Today I am following up on two things I mentioned in my last post about the BP Gulf Coast Oil Disaster.

1. It seems that Rush Limbaugh is blaming the Sierra Club for the whole thing. Why? Because he says the “greeniacs have been driving oil drilling offshore.” If you can stomach hearing Rush rant (it’s only a minute but a minute of Limbaugh seems like an eternity) you can click here. You can also click here to make a contribution to Sierra Club in their attempt to make Rush their top fundraiser. It’s worth $10, or even more, to send Rush a message on this issue.

2. I made reference to as a place to go for more information on what is happening in the Gulf. I didn’t realize that this website is sponsored by BP. The same website is listed in the BP ad today on the back page of the first section of the New York Times, where BP tells us what they are doing . Not exactly an objective third party are they?

Monday, May 24, 2010

The BP Eco-Nightmare

A while back, I wrote about changing the name of the Asian carp to make it sound better and therefore less threatening – and maybe even edible. (See January – What’s in a Name?) But changing the name of this invasive and destructive fish will not change its impact on the Great Lakes. What’s in a name that can change things?

However, right now I am not thinking about fish. I am continuing my thoughts about the disaster in the Gulf Coast. This morning I read two commentaries on naming this disaster. If you’ve noticed, in some places it is referred to as the Deepwater Horizon Blowout. That’s what CBS’s Sixty Minutes called it.

Joe Romm in his acclaimed blog Climate Progress wondered what we should really call this disaster. He then referred his readers to Dominique Browning who has an excellent post in her blog Personal Nature. Browning makes a connection between the floods in Nashville and the Gulf Coast disaster, which she says we cannot call either a leak or a spill. Neither do justice to the geyser that, hour after hour, day after day, is pouring out in the water. Both posts are worth reading.

Joe’s blog received several comments about the name. Everyone seems to agree that BP needs to be in the description just like Exxon Valdez was and still is following that disaster. Hear Exxon and what do you think? Oil Spill. Hear BP and what do you think? Not just the corner gas station anymore, that’s for sure.

There are several places you can go to learn what the public can do about the disaster, which I am afraid is not much. One place is the Sierra Club website. I found that the Wisconsin Chapter, named after Sierra Club founder John Muir, who was from Wisconsin, site is the easiest to use for contacting officials. Another site is the Deep Water Horizon Response site, but notice how they are not calling it what it really is. The BP Eco-Nightmare.

Addendum: In a press conference this morning, Senator Dick Durbin (D,IL), expressing frustration with the party responsible for the oil gush, said that BP should no longer stand for British Petroleum, but rather Beyond Patience. Good one, Dick.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

It Can Happen Here

I can't get the pictures of the Gulf Coast oil spill out of my mind, yet there isn't much I can do except be horrified. From what I have heard, even those down there who want to help have had their hands tied, unable to get the materials or permits they need to help. And quite frankly with the extent of the damage, how much can be done anyway?

So this morning I did the only thing I know how to do and that is to write a letter. I sent it to my local newspaper and it may or may not be printed (sure it will, they print everything). I am posting it here so others can see it, too. In case anyone asks, you saw it here first! Here it is:

The pictures and news from the Gulf Coast following the BP oil spill are horrifying. When I hear about the destruction of this valuable ecosystem, one that may never come back after this devastating event, it makes me very sad. In addition, to call it an accident, adds insult to the injury. We are now hearing how many mistakes were made in construction and operation of the oilrig and how government agencies were at fault, too.

Maybe this could not have been totally prevented, but certainly more could have been done to save both the workers who were killed and the environment. Will we use this as a lesson? I would like to think that we would see, now more than ever, how we need to be weaned off fossil fuels.

If this event does not hit close enough for you, imagine such a catastrophe right outside our own homes in Lake Michigan. We may not experience an oil spill, but other cataclysmic events could destroy our ecosystem. Think of the effects pollution, invasive species, and water diversions can have on the Great Lakes. The destruction may not occur as quickly and as visibly as that which we are now seeing in the Gulf Coast, but don’t think it can’t happen here. It can and it will unless we protect this precious water.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Evolution of a Lighthouse

Lighthouses have a following. Some think them romantic; others think of them in the context of adventure and the high seas. I am not smitten with lighthouses except for the one that says ‘home’ to me when I see it, yet when I heard about the opening of the newly restored Southport Lighthouse, I had to go see it. They have been working on its restoration for quite a while and it finally opened this weekend.

The lighthouse dates back to 1866, but it is not the first lighthouse in the Kenosha harbor. Actually, Kenosha, which used to be called Southport, has had some kind of beacon reaching out into Lake Michigan since 1837, when a 10-foot oak tree was set on fire every night during shipping season. I learned that from the museum display inside the newly restored lighthouse keeper’s house. That’s an artist's rendition of it above.

The 1866 lighthouse could house two families, one upstairs, and one downstairs. Kenosha couldn’t have been such a bad assignment for a lighthouse keeper because it was near a thriving town. I remember a few years ago visiting the lighthouse at Raspberry Island in the Apostle Islands, and the keeper there was isolated for weeks on end. Even today at that sight, in the summer an employee of the National Park Service is out there alone, except for the tourists who come during the day. I suppose it’s a great summer job for a college student who wants to spend the summer reading, writing, or just contemplating. As a full time job for a family, I’m not so sure it was.

The current lighthouse, The North Pier Lighthouse, the one I always show pictures of and means I’m back home, dates back to 1906. It wasn’t always red, but I happen to like that it is now. You can learn more about it on-line at various sites. The new museum at the 1866 Southport Lighthouse traces the history of the Kenosha Harbor, and also has some displays of different kinds of lighthouse lenses.

My husband and I have a difference of opinion when it comes to which lighthouse we like best. I like the North Pier one best – I like that it is red and how it looks against the water and sky behind it. He likes the old brick of the Southport Lighthouse. If you are in our area, you should come and see them both as well as see the exhibits at lighthouse. Then you can decide for yourself which is more romantic or adventurous. Either way, it’s worth an hour of your time.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Thoughts Clouding a Beautiful Morning

This morning, I took my first bike ride of the season on my favorite lakeshore path. It was a perfect spring morning; the grass is green, flowering trees are budding, and the tulips are in bloom. I only rode about twenty minutes each way but I enjoyed every minute of my ride.

But as I rode south from my house, and looked out over the sun dancing over the sparkling water, I could not get the Gulf Coast catastrophe out of my mind. I tried to imagine my beautiful body of water covered in oil and even the thought of it upset me. I watched the seagulls preening themselves on the remnants of old docks and imagined them covered in oil, too. I saw fishing boats and thought about the fishermen, commercial and recreational, who suffer from ecological disasters such as the one in the Gulf of Mexico.

I stopped at a favorite spot to rest. It is at the end of a dead end street near where I used to live. My children used to climb these rocks and play at the beach in the small cove here. That was almost thirty years ago and I am happy to see that the water is still crystal clear here (although the beach has been marked as Private Property and I have to wonder about that).

This morning the wind was coming from the south. As I approached Southport Park, I was reminded that the sewage treatment plant is at the west end of the park. You can’t always smell it, and this morning’s odor wasn’t as awful as it could be. People have reported that in the Gulf Coast there is a pervasive horrible oily smell. I can only imagine it, but again, another reminder of the current disaster in the Gulf interrupted my enjoyable ride.

I don’t know what kind of similar event could affect the Great Lakes so quickly and so profoundly as an oil spill, but I do know ecological disasters happen. Can they be prevented? Some, I suppose, can be like the entry of the Asian carp into the lakes or preventing sewage and toxic materials from being dumped in the water. Can the experts think of all possible scenarios and prevent them? Probably not, but it sure would be comforting to see efforts being taken to prevent the ones that we know what to do about.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

And The Beat Goes On

You may not keep track of these things but I do, so I will update you on yesterday’s Supreme Court decision about Asian Carp. Chicago and Illinois – and the Obama Administration – continue to come out ahead in this continuing contest. In the words of Great Lakes Law

The Supreme Court’s order in the Asian carp case this morning says it all: “The motion of Michigan to reopen [Wisconsin v. Illinois] and for a supplemental decree is denied. The alternative motion for leave to file a bill of complaint is denied.” This effectively ends any hope for Michigan and the other Great Lakes states to get the Asian carp case before the Supreme Court.

Given the current court and President Obama’s ties to Illinois, this is not a surprising decision, but we can’t just blame the current court for wanting to stay out of this, although they had a great opportunity to make a difference in the health of the Great Lakes. Aspects of this dispute date back a century. The original case of Wisconsin v. Illinois goes back to 1922 disputing the reversal of the Chicago River.

Are there other ways to stop the carp invasion besides closing the locks? Maybe. One of the FAQs on the Asian Carp Management website asks “How can the public help prevent the spread of Asian Carp?” I have to say the answers seems pretty ineffective.

So what does this mean for the Great Lakes? Will we see a feeding frenzy this summer, next year or somewhere up the road? Only time will tell, but I don’t think we will have to wait as long as a century. During that time, whatever it will be, the efforts to stop the carp invasion will continue both in the courts and in the water.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Now It's Water in Conversation

First, I wrote about water in reading, then in music. Today, it will be water in conversation because of a conversation I had today.

This conversation took place at the Kenosha Literacy Center where I volunteer in a tutoring program. In my teaching, I often use illustrations to encourage the students to speak English rather than their native language. This afternoon, I was working with two Mexican women, both in their early forties. They both women read, write and comprehend English fairly well, but their conversational skills are lacking. The only place they speak English is at the center because as one of them told me, the people in their family who do speak English outside the house have no patience to speak English to them at home.

The pictures I used today had to do with rooms in the house and what you do in those rooms. One picture of a bathroom showed a man taking a shower. Another showed a woman luxuriating in a deep bath tub. We talked about what the people were doing using words like showering, bathing, washing, soap, towel and so forth.

“Do you like to take a shower or a bath?” I asked, looking for conversation.

“No bath,” said one. The other nodded her head.

“You like a shower better?” I asked.

“Shower, yes, but not this shower. Not like this.”

I was puzzled. Did I not understand? These women were both well groomed and had impeccable hygiene, but they went on to explain in their broken English that in Mexico they do not stand under a shower. One laughed and said “with a cup” and demonstrated by tilting an imaginary cup over her head. She then searched for a word and I suggested the word she wanted was “rinse”. Yes, that was it. They rinse off from water in a cup.

They went on to tell me how in Mexico they save rainwater, including cooking water, which is then used for plants. They giggled when talking about how they save water when using when the toilet. They clearly know about water conservation better than I do. They have always been careful with water using techniques that conservationist are now trying to teach the American public.

I felt very American during that conversation and more than a little guilty. Sure I have stopped running water when I brush my teeth but as I have said many times before, I can’t stop myself from standing too long under the shower. I left my tutoring session thinking more about water than language and realizing that as so often happens, the teacher had learned something from her students.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Water in Music

Here’s a change of pace for you.

My last post was about water in words. I had not planned to write today about water in music but when I learned that it is this week’s theme one of my favorite radio programs Exploring Music , I felt the need.

Listening to Bill McGlaughlin’s program is often part of my early evening routine. I have learned so much about music from Bill and this week is no exception. The brief introduction to the topic on the WFMT website (WFMT produces the program; I listen to it on Wisconsin Public Radio) says:

In the 5th Century BC, water was classified as one of the four essential elements. Over the centuries artists, poets, philosophers and composers have returned again and again to the mysteries of water for inspiration. This week, we’ll focus on Water Music with works by Vaughan Williams, Mahler, Debussy and (of course) Handel.

Listening to water music is a very pleasant change from thinking about water shortages, bottled water, water pollution and all the other not so pleasant water-related topics. Actually, I have had a very nice day when it comes to water – I swam a half mile this morning, sat in a hot tub for a bit, and drank cool water to quench my thirst following an unusually warm spring day. And I washed the dinner dishes while listening to Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture, which was written about a cave in Scotland but hearing it always takes me to Thunder Hole in Acadia National Park in Maine.

Yes, today was a good water day for me.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

No Shortage of Water Related Reading

There maybe a water shortage, but there is no shortage of reading materials on the topic. I have been taking advantage of an empty schedule and a raw April afternoon to read the special issue of National Geographic on Water, Our Thirsty World. A few weeks ago, I downloaded a digital copy of the issue, but I am still partial to holding the volume and flipping pages. However, there are some additional features such as videos online so you can check them out if you like. I plan to later, after I spend more time with a cup of coffee and my “real” issue. Whichever way you choose to look at the magazine, there are good articles, including one by one of my favorite authors, Barbara Kingsolver, and as always fabulous photography and illustrations.

I did read some things on-line today. Great Lakes Echo reports that there has been an increase in the number of pelicans on the Illinois River. They speculate that this could be a potential solution for the Asian Carp invasion. Is that tongue in check? Or should I ask, is that fish in pouch?

Also, on WaterWired, I learned a new term – hydrophilanthropy. This website is written by “AquaDoc” AKA Michael E. Campana, whose describes himself as a hydrogeologist, hydrophilanthropist, and Professor of Geosciences at Oregon State University. Dr. Campangna defines hydrophilanthropy as the “altruistic concern for the water, sanitation, hygiene, and related needs of humankind, as manifested by donations of work, money, or resources”.

Although the website is fairly academic, it’s worth reading more – and you can also learn on it what the acronym WASH means.

Also on my pile of reading materials is Water by Steven Solomon. I recently heard Solomon talk about his book on the radio and thought it would be interesting. He traces the history of water and how it has shaped civilization. I started the book, but it too is fairly academic and forgive the pun, a bit dry. I am sure there is a lot to learn but on an afternoon like this, it might be a bit somnifacient. Now, there’s another good word for you.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Water, Holidays and Other Thoughts

After I wrote about bottled water the other day, I went to the grocery store. I had a lot of shopping to do in preparation for the upcoming Passover holiday, so I went to one of the larger stores in my area. As I entered, right in the front of the store were huge palettes of bottled water. Cheap bottled water. Or so it seems. Those bottles are filled with hidden costs for both the consumer and our planet.

I didn’t stop to give the store manager a piece of my mind on this issue, but I am thinking of sending him this link to a YouTube link that is a real eye opener on the topic.

The Story of Bottled Water is a short (8-minute) video, done in an entertaining cartoon style, that presents multiple arguments against bottled water. My favorite line in it says, “Carrying bottled water around is becoming as uncool as smoking while pregnant”. I hope so, and think I will tell the grocery store manager, too.

Today, I plan to spend the whole day getting ready for two Seders. I have already thought about the connection between water and Passover. If you are interested you can see an article I wrote for the Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle this month called Passover Water and Wine. It explores the symbolism of water in our Passover rituals. What I didn’t think about when I wrote that was how much water I use in preparation for the holiday. Between cleaning and cooking, I am sure my water consumption increases this week, and it’s one use of water I am not yet ready to give up. Well, on second thought, maybe I could cut back on the cleaning part.

I don’t know much about the connection between water and Easter but I am sure there is one. Water is essential for life, and that means it is also essential for the celebrations of our lives. Happy Holiday season to all.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Water: Bottled or Bubbled?

It is blustery today, typical late March weather for this part of the country. But we have had a few nice days already and so even today’s strong winds hold the promise of warmer days. With better weather comes more outdoor activities, which means more people walking around with water bottles in hand. In my neighborhood, close to walking paths and parks, unfortunately that also means more litter from plastic bottles and cans.

But trash is only one reason to be concerned about bottled water. I was reminded of others last week in an email from Noah Hall. Hall is an environmental attorney who has a blog called Great Lakes Law. Hall's emails are always relevant and timely – he doesn’t post on his website just to post.

Last week Hall announced that an article he had written was chosen as the lead story in the University of Denver’s Water Law Review. It is called “Protecting Freshwater Resources in the Era of Global Water Markets: Lessons Learned from Bottled Water

Quoting from the announcement -

The article covers a brief history of bottled water, the business of bottled water, and opposition to bottled water, along with a short summary of international trade law and federal food law as applied to the bottled water market. It then provides a detailed analysis of bottled water issues in the courts, legislatures, and politics – providing case studies of the good, the bad, and the ugly results of bottled water controversies. The article concludes with an analysis of two recent strategies for addressing bottled water – expansion of the public trust doctrine and taxing water bottlers, strategies with significant legal and political weaknesses.

Hall goes on to explain two reasons for opposing bottled water – one legal and environmental, the other social. To learn more you can read what Hall says on his website or in the article, but even if you don’t read it, I think you get the idea. If you want to pursue the topic even further you could also read Bottled and Sold by Peter H. Gleick. The subtitle of this book is The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water. I guess that tell you where the author stands on the issue right up front.

I encourage you to stop buying bottled water. If you need to carry water, buy a refillable bottle, or even better, encourage your parks to activate water fountains. It’s frustrating to see a water fountain (or what Wisconsin natives call bubblers*) and want to drink from it only to find that it doesn’t work, or that it’s gunked up with garbage. Yuk.

I have never understood the attraction of bottled water anyway. In most places, it doesn’t taste any better than tap water, and why pay for water. I realize that shows that I am not just concerned about water but also that I am frugal (a better word than cheap), but in this case it’s a good thing. Read Hall’s review if you don’t believe me.

* I told you why folks in Wisconsin call it a bubbler in a post about a year ago on Wisconsin Trivia

Monday, March 22, 2010

Clean Water for a Healthy World

March has many special days on the calendar. Maybe the best known is St Patrick’s Day, but there are others, including the ominous Ides of March. March also has a day set aside for National Pig Day (March 1), Dentist’s Day (March 6), National Napping Day (March 9) and Save the Florida Panther Day (March 21). School calendars delight in having these days for craft projects and the like.

I wonder if the schools will also acknowledge that March 22 is World Water Day, a day sponsored by the United Nations Water Group that has been set aside since 1993 to celebrate and raise awareness about water in our world. The theme of World Water Day 2010 is Clean Water for a Healthy World, and many organizations are planning events around this day. I checked to see if there were any local ones that I could attend, and I didn’t see one close by although I would have loved to attend one of the ones planned in San Diego, Sacramento, or Mexico. Check out the list of places that are having events – and maybe next year Kenosha Wisconsin will be added to the list (Yes, I understand that might mean me).

It is never my intention just to repeat here what others are saying, so I won't do a "rewrite" on this important topic either. You can read what's on line as well as I can, but the highlighted text in this post will provide links so that you will be able to learn more for yourself. I hope you will click on a few of them to better understand the importance of this day set aside to think about water. If you check out the FAQ here are a few of the questions that will be answered in a brief and informative way.
  • What defines the quality of water?
  • What is the state of water quality on our planet?
  • How does water quality affect human health?
  • How does climate change influence water quality?
  • How can water quality be sustained?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Vanished Sea

Three hundred million years ago is a long time ago. A long, long time ago. Living here in the Midwest, I don’t often have reminders that our planet has been around that long. The geological features that form my daily landscape are not that old. The Great Lakes, according to most experts, were formed about 13,000 years ago following the last Ice Age. As the ice retreated, it left the bodies of water that we know as the Great Lakes.

I was out west this past weekend, in Nevada, where the landscape is much more dramatic and reminders of the age and history of our planet are all around. I visited Valley of Fire State Park, about an hour outside of Las Vegas, where the red sandstone that gives the park its name is an amazing – and very dry - site.

As you gaze out over the landscape from the park’s Visitors Center, you are reminded that millions of years ago there was a vast inland sea here. You can imagine it. Mountains and rocks rim a valley where the shallow sea contained all kinds of ancient plant and animal life, remnants of which still remain.

I came back to my own inland sea, and gazed out at it, trying to imagine what this land will look like if the water retreats and leaves behind only the dry, flat bottom. Will that happen? I could prophesize that it will, if we don’t take care of our lakes, but the truth may be that even if we do, they will vanish in a hundred million years or so anyway. Change is constant on this planet.

Still, like the arguments about climate change, we have to ask what the effect of our modern civilization is on this change. Three hundred million years ago when the Nevada inland sea was warm and teeming with life, there were no human beings to accelerate the demise of that sea. Maybe that's why it survived as long as it did.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Water and Me

This post isn’t about invasive species, sick lakes, or the lack of drinking water in earthquake zones. It is not about the climate or the weather. It is not about how people in the Great Lakes think or talk or behave, nor about land formations in the Great Lakes Basin. Today I am not paying attention to diverted water, polluted water or the water cycle. The topic of the day is water and me.

About a year ago, I wrote about my ecosystem and reported how I watch the water near my house on a daily basis. I still do that, but recently I have added another dimension to my relationship with water. I started to swim again. Today’s thoughts about water have more to do with that immersion.

I learned to swim at summer camp when I was nine years. My greatest pleasure in the summer was that I could go swimming, either in the neighborhood pool or at Lake Erie beaches. But as I got older, I didn’t swim much, and more recently, there probably have been summers when I didn’t swim at all. Remember, Lake Michigan stays cold well into August and whereas the water doesn’t have to be Caribbean warm, I don’t like it cold, either. So swimming was relegated to brief dips in hotel pools or an occasional lake.

But our local YMCA built a new pool, and I decided to get back into the swim of things. The first time I went in, I was only able to do a quarter of a mile, but did that 17 lengths ever feel good. I felt like a kid again, and if you look at reasons that swimming is good for you, it isn’t hard to understand why. Swimming uses many muscles, but doesn’t put stress on joints and bones the way other activities do. It is good for your heart and lungs, and that it burns a fair number of calories per mile (one source I saw quoted 3cal/mile/pound of bodyweight) is a definite plus.

Here’s an odd thing. There is actually an entry in Wikipedia on swimming pools. It tells you what a swimming pool is, that a pool open to the public is called a public swimming pool and one closed to the public is called private. Imagine that! It also provides a history of the swimming pool, describes the several variations of them such as a whirlpool or infinity pool, where to find the biggest pool, and how to care for your pool. If you are interested check it out.

Me? I am more interested on how I feel after a half hour in water - a little desiccated but a lot relaxed. I feel healthier and more energetic. It doesn’t have to be the Hot Springs or Baden Baden for water to be curative. Water is restorative, whether gazing out over a body of water or immersing yourself in it. It is a joy to swim, dive, splash, or just bob up and down in it. The whirlpool that I sit in following my swim is a pleasure, too.

By the way, a Google search for “Water and Me” led me to a site with water trivia facts and a lot of other good information about water. It’s designed for kids but adults might enjoy it, too.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Another Invasive Species?

When my children were young, they used to like to go to the DuPage River and catch crayfish. My recollection is that these critters were small. The kids had a good time getting their feet wet, plucking the tiny lobster-like crawlers from the water, examining them and the throwing them right back in the river. I thought they were ugly (the crayfish, not the kids) but never really thought much of them otherwise.

Today I read in the local newspaper that a non-native species of crayfish has gotten into one of the ponds in a nearby nature preserve. The Wisconsin DNR is planning to treat the pond with a toxic bleach-like chemical, which will destroy the creepy critters as well as anything else in the water. WDNR wants to rid the pond of these invaders, which are not hazardous to people but have the potential to destroy other native plants and animals.

The newspaper article said that this small pond is one of the first places in Wisconsin that the species has been found and that it may have gotten there because someone who had it as a pet dumped it there. In southern states, they are farmed as seafood, and they are also sold as pets or for educational purposes.

I did some snooping around and learned that the invaders, officially called a red swamp crayfish, were first discovered and then confirmed here in Wisconsin last summer. They are native to the Southeastern U.S, can grow to about 8 inches long, and like to eat plants, snails, and especially the eggs and young of fish and amphibians. If they move from ponds to streams and rivers, they could then get into Lake Michigan, and although I did not find much about what that would mean, they like to eat fish eggs and young fish so it cannot be good news.

Asian carp may get all the press and be the superstars of invasive species, but they are by no means the only invasive species we have to worry about. Now in addition to various mussel species and carp, we can add crayfish to the list of horrible things that can get into the lakes. Methods to contain unwelcome visitors range from electric barriers to poisoning the waters. Which is worse – the invaders or the methods to prevent the invasions? Somebody help me out here. I don’t know the answer, and although I am not suggesting we don’t try as hard as possible to maintain the ecosystem of our freshwater, it seems like there is always some creature that is smarter than we are.

Aggressive eight-inch crayfish that like to eat fish eggs probably like to eat the toes of little children, too. Why do I think we are going to hear more about them is in the future? (I mean the crayfish, but maybe the children, too.)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Waiting for Spring

Sixteen days until spring. This morning when I was out at 9 AM walking the dog, it wasn’t hard to believe. The sun was shining; temperatures were already over 32 degrees. The skies were clear and blue; no winds were blowing off the lake. I took my hat off and let the sun warm my face. I could almost feel the Vitamin D percolating into my bones.

I am not the only one waiting for spring. These pictures were taken on my walk. Godot may never come, but this morning I am confident that spring will.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Healing Our Waters

I had breakfast with a friend this morning at one of our favorite coffee shops. Common Grounds is located at the base of the Kenosha harbor and when I met my friend at 8AM this morning, we were able to get a table at the window overlooking the harbor. Although it was not sunny, the water was calm and it was a very peaceful place to sit.

In the course of conversation, my friend asked about my blogging and specifically about the Great Lakes.

“So how are things going for the lakes?” she asked. She lives a few blocks from the lake but isn’t quite as obsessed with it as I am. I wasn’t sure how to answer her.

“Well, you know about the carp situation, right?”

“I’ve heard something about,” she said. “What do you think?” she asked me.

If you have read this blog you know what I think and know what I answered. Briefly I did a recap of a few of my postings. I also told her how much I have learned in this past year or more of writing about the Great Lakes.

“One of the best things I have learned,” I said “is how many people care about the Great Lakes and are actively working to protect them.”

One of these organizations is Healing Our Waters Great Lakes Coalition, a coalition of over 100 groups who care about what I care about. There are other organizations, too, and I may tell you more about them at later time, but this one is on my mind today because I had thought about attending HOW’s Great Lakes Day in Washington D.C. The conference began yesterday with briefings on critical issues and continues today with lobbying government officials. You can read more about this at their website.

However, there are other major events going on in Washington this week, too. The President’s Health Care Summit. Congressional hearings about Toyoto. Votes on the Jobs Bill. Washington is very busy with critical issues. My concern is that the Great Lakes issues will get lost under all these others, and as they say, timing is everything. You want to lobby on a day when your Senator or Representative has nothing else to think about but your visit.

Still, Asian carp have been big news, too, so I hope the people from HOW can be effective in their lobbying. As for me, I am petitioning myself to go to the Sixth Annual Great Lakes Restoration Conference in the fall. It’s in Buffalo, NY, my hometown, so I can probably find a bed to sleep in while I am there, making it cheaper for me than a trip to D.C.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Where's the Water Crisis?

In India, where water shortages are already being felt, there were over 50 reported acts of violence over water during the month of May alone.

Experts estimate 2.5 gallons per person per day is a sustainable amount to use, the average American consumes 100 gallons per day.

Even if you don’t believe these two statistics entirely, they should still make you sit up and take notice. I saw them in an article on , a reliable website for environmental issues. Other sources state American per capita water consumption is between 60-70 gallons per day, so maybe the numbers are a bit exaggerated. They might be off as much as 50%. That would mean that in India there were 25 acts of violence about water in one month. That’s still astounding. It also might mean that Americans use 40 or 50 gallons of water a day. Also still astounding. What is clear is that Americans use a lot of water and people in India, and other countries as well, don’t have enough.

Another way to look at water usage is water footprint. A water footprint, like a carbon footprint, takes into account all the water a nations uses, including for drinking, personal use, agriculture, industry and more. The Water Footprint Network has a calculator that shows the relative footprints of many countries. The measure is in cubic meters/capita/year and it gets complicated when you look at all the components of the measurement.

Even if you don’t take the time to thoroughly understand the numbers, take a moment to look at the water footprint of a few countries. Way up at the top is the United States at 2,483. France is 1,875 and Germany is 1,545. Israel is 1,391 and India, the country where violence over water has taken, is at 980. Wow. No wonder fights are breaking out.

If this did make you sit up and notice, check out the Treehugger and the Water Footprint Network. There are some good articles about the water crisis and water usage. I will try very hard to keep these numbers in mind when I stand under my morning shower. I’ve have finally learned to turn the water off while I am brushing my teeth but I still like a long, hot shower. I’m working on making it shorter.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Barrier of a Different Kind

I have been remiss in not reporting that the White House Summit on Asian carp did take place last week. My life has not focused on carp this week, but you can read about the results of that meeting and the proposals made by the White House at the links below.

But on my Saturday afternoon walk, I did wonder if the solution to the carp problem might be as simple as showing them the ice buildup along the lake. That wall of ice could be one heck of a barrier, although the ice did not stop this father and son from visiting the lighthouse that day. I was there, too, but didn't walk all the way out as these two did.

The carp question will continue for quite a while and so I am sure I will have more to say. Public meetings were held last week in Chicago where I heard that there were over 250 people present. You can guess what side of the argument they were on. This coming week the public meeting will be held on the other side of Lake Michigan and it will probably be dominated by opinons on the other side, too. That meeting will be held in Ypsalanti, Michigan.

Monday, February 8, 2010

e-DNA: The Answer

I have an answer. Well, I don’t have the complete answer yet but that’s only because I haven’t read all the information that was sent to me by Thomas Cmar of the Natural Resources Defense Council in response to my last post. Here’s an excerpt from Thom’s email:

Probably the best source for an answer to your question is Professor David Lodge of the University of Notre Dame, the invasive species expert who has been hired by the Army Corps of Engineers to perform the e-DNA testing for Asian carp in the Chicago waterway system.

In support of the brief filed by the U.S. Solicitor General with the Supreme Court (in opposition to Michigan’s first motion for a preliminary injunction), the U.S. filed an affidavit by Dr. Lodge explaining e-DNA. I am attaching a copy of the affidavit. Although the affidavit was filed by the U.S. Government, it provides information about the reliability of e-DNA a monitoring tool that, if anything, actually supports Michigan’s arguments about the urgency of the Asian carp threat.

On page 3 of the 25-page declaration prepared by Lodge for the Supreme Court, following Professor Lodge’s credentials is this statement:

In early 2009, we developed and tested a novel DNA-based surveillance tool for fishes, using both laboratory experiments and field observations. In early spring 2009, we first proposed to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers that this tool could be useful in their efforts to learn the locations of the invasion fronts for the silverhead and bighead carps in the Chicago are waterway. Beginning in summer 2009, the Army Corps of Engineers began to financially support our use of the environmental DNA (e-DNA) tool as potentially the best available technology to detect the presence of silver carp and bighead carp where they exist in low abundance.

Now I know what e-DNA is. I suspected that it stood for environmental but now I know for sure. I will read the rest of the affidavit to learn more. My own background is in clinical diagnostics, and I know a little about DNA based laboratory testing, so I expect to read the paper and understand it. But even if you don’t read it or understand it, it sure helps to know that the argument as presented to the Supreme Court is based on solid science.

Now my next question is what will happen today at the White House Summit. We are all waiting to hear about that later today, although in a more recent email from Thom, he wondered whether the summit would actually take place today because of the humongous snowstorm. The meeting might become what someone I know would call a “weather interrupted event”.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

What is e-DNA?

I have a question. I have not been able to find an answer so I thought I would ask my readers to see if someone knows. The question is this: What is e-DNA?

I know m-DNA and mt-DNA, which is mitochondrial DNA. I know r-DNA, which can be either ribosomal or recombinant, depending on your interpretation. I know about ss-DNA (single-stranded) and ds-DNA (double stranded), too.

There is right handed DNA and left-handed DNA, also known as A DNA and Z DNA. I think there is even a B-DNA. And there is E. coli DNA, but I cannot find any references to e-DNA, except on the discussion about the genetic material of Asian Carp being found in Lake Michigan.

Please understand that I do not doubt the urgency of the carp question, but if we are going back to the Supreme Court arguing that they didn’t know the first time around that DNA was present in Lake Michigan, the justices may ask for more of an explanation on what this new information means. How was this e-DNA detected, they might ask. I would if I were a judge.

Can someone help me on this?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

It's Better Than Nothing

I’ve had to watch my spending this year. Haven’t you? Is there anyone who hasn’t, except for those on Wall Street who still got big bonuses, but that’s a topic for another blog.

So I was not surprised to learn this morning that the $475M set aside in President Obama’s 2010 budget for Great Lakes Restoration projects has been reduced to $300M for 2011. At least the project wasn’t entirely chopped and the $300M can still go a long way to cleaning up our waters. EPA still cites invasive species including the dreaded Asian carp as a top priority for the project.

If you read the comments on some of the websites from newspapers around the Great Lakes, the responses range from those similar to mine to those who think the entire budget should have been cut and all the money put into jobs for Great Lakers. If I were out of work, I might say the same, but it seems that it should not have to be a choice between jobs and Great Lakes cleanup. Restoration projects employ workers. FDR knew that back in the 30’s. How about creating jobs and restoring the lakes?

$475M would have been nice but $300M is way better than nothing.

Friday, January 29, 2010

An Adventure: The Full Circle Tour

Shortly after the first of the year, a time when people make New Year’s resolutions, I considered making some for myself. I turned 64 at the end of December and I feel like I should do something significant in preparation for my Medicare years. I have begun a new blog, When I’m 64, which will document my thoughts as I become a woman of a “certain age”. But in one of my recent posts, I decided that I would rather present myself with a challenge rather than make resolutions I probably wouldn’t keep anyway.

I still have not come up with exactly what my challenge will be, but this morning I learned about someone else’s challenge and want to share it with you.

At the end of April, Mike Link and Kate Crowley are beginning what they are calling the Full Circle Tour around Lake Superior. They will walk the entire 1,826 miles and take five months to do it. Along the way, they will record their observations, while raising awareness of freshwater issues and conservation. Both are professional naturalists with a passion for the lake, nature, and adventure.

I could tell you more about their proposed adventure but their wonderful website says it all much better than I can. When you read it, you too will be hooked and I am sure you will want to follow their adventure. I am still going to search for my own challenge but I will closely follow Mike and Kate’s adventure when they get started. Maybe I can figure out a way to get up to at least one section of Lake Superior this summer to meet them, too. The picture and bio of Mike Link and Kate Crowley tell me that they are my age – they are retired and have grandchildren. All the more reason for me to support and follow their efforts.

Following someone else’s adventure may not qualify as a challenge for me but I am sure it will be interesting to watch, even from a distance. As for me, the only lake I have walked around recently is the 2.3 mile paved path around Lake Andrea, in nearby Pleasant Prairie, and that doesn’t qualify as a “challenge”.

I wonder if anyone has hiked around Lake Erie yet. Can I call it a challenge if I just drive?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Water for Haiti

We have all been watching the news from Haiti for days now, and although the initial shock of the crisis has passed, there is still an overwhelming need for aid. We are told that the best thing we can do is send money to a reputable organization that will then be able to purchase goods and provide services. Many of us have already done this and will continue to do so.

Last night I watched as the TV showed gallon jugs of water being unloaded from a ship that is unable to dock. People passed the jugs from one person to the other. Other photos focused on the distribution of small bottles of water – the ones so many of us carry around and think nothing of the cost of that water.

The cost of water can be identified. Sure we have all been told that bottled water costs more than oil; depending on where you shop or where you buy it, a 16 ounce bottle can be 89 cents at the grocery store or $5.00 at a rock concert. Tap water costs a whole lot less. According to the American Water Works Association, the average price of tap water is $1.50 per 1,000 gallons, which is less than a penny a gallon.

But those are all costs in the United States, where both bottled and good tap water are readily available. What are the costs of getting any water to Haiti? Given the extreme need, the extreme destruction and the extreme everything else there, I can’t even begin to calculate it. I don’t even know how to begin the research.

Clean water is needed for drinking, but it is also essential to public health, fire protection, and economic development. We may be able to calculate the cost of water, but its value is priceless.

I may never get the opportunity to stand hand in hand with George Clooney (alas) or any of the other superstars who are active raising money for Haiti, but I can support their efforts. So can you, if you haven't already. My hope is that you already have. The need is enormous.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tail 1 - Dog 0

It looks like the tail has won this time around. Today, The US Supreme Court sided with the State of Illinois, the City of Chicago, and the United States Government and US Army Corps of Engineers not to close the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal as an effort to stop Asian Carp from entering Lake Michigan.

I could repeat what is being written elsewhere in the blogosphere, but I won’t. The best summary of what happened and what might happen is at Noah Hall’s Great Lakes Law blog. I urge you to read it, including the referenced article from the Milwaukee Sentinel Journal on the political fallout of the decision for the President Obama. I have been an Obama supporter right along, but this decision does not make me happy with our present administration.

My dog has a little tail, but when he wags it, his whole body moves. If the State of Michigan is the body, I think we will see a lot more body moving to come, but as Noah Hall and others ask, will it be too late?

(If this dog reference doesn't make sense to you, just look back at my previous post.)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Is The Tail Wagging the Dog?

I heard a statistic the other day that really got me thinking. It was in a discussion on a Chicago TV station about Asian Carp (OK, so I’m obsessed). Senator Dick Durbin (D, IL) pointed out that although Illinois has only 63 miles of Great Lakes shore land, Lake Michigan is a major natural resource in the area. 63 miles? At first, I couldn’t believe it, but I checked it out on an NPS Great Lakes Shoreline Recreation Area Survey and of course, it is true. Senator Durbin did not lie or even exaggerate. Only Indiana and Pennsylvania have less coastline (46 and 51, respectively) and in fact, people often forget that those two states are actually Great Lakes States.

Michigan has a whopping 3,222 miles of shore land. Wow, they really do get to be called the Great Lakes State. But here comes the problem. You start looking at other statistics and the situation becomes complex. How many people live in the part of Illinois that borders Lake Michigan? How many live in the Detroit area? And what about Cleveland, Buffalo and Toronto; Sandusky, Marquette and Dunkirk? What is the dollar volume of shipping through Chicago to the Mississippi River? How big an industry is sport fishing on The Great Lakes? And what about the tourism and recreation dollars?

The answer to some of those questions can be found in the Great Lakes; An Environmental Atlas and Resource Book put out by US-EPA, but the latest edition from 2003 contains statistics from 1990, so its value only goes so far. And can you put a dollar amount on a healthy ecosystem, anyway?

I am not saying that Illinois’s position is wrong, but just given the basic numbers, Michigan has a very good point. Senator Durbin’s remarks brought to mind the “tail wagging the dog”. I wonder why.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Life's a Clean Beach

The sun is warm on my face and the sand soothes my feet. I set my blanket in a spot a few yards from the water’s edge, slip off my sandals, and I am ready to dip my toes into the lake, but as I approach, a green gooey mass stops me. Unless I am willing to wade through the thick algae bloom there will be no swimming for me.

Okay, so that scenario is months away. It’s frigid cold and the beach on Simmons Island where I usually swim is white with icy peaks preventing anyone, even Polar Plungers, from taking a dip. But an announcement on the website of the Alliance for the Great Lakes told me that now is the time to do something about the algae on Wisconsin beaches. Now, in January.

The Alliance is encouraging people to tell the Wisconsin DNR that you want our beaches to be considered “impaired waters”. Then they can tell the US-EPA so these beaches can included in a list of targeted for improvement under the Federal Clean Water Act. Okay, I can do that – the Alliance makes it easy by posting a direct link to the DNR on their website, although beyond just telling them, which beaches are polluted, I am not sure what they want me to do.
My local beaches at Simmons Island and Eichelman Park aren’t among the worse waters, but occasionally they do have an unpleasant algae buildup.

A few years ago, my husband and I visited the Lake Erie Islands and stayed in Port Clinton Ohio. The weather was beautiful, warm, and sunny and we thought we would go for a swim in the lake, but when we got to the beach, it was disgusting. A barrier of green gunk prevented us from going into the water, to say nothing of the foul odor. We went back and swam in the motel pool, but we were disappointed. Lake Erie, the shallowest of the Great Lakes, is particularly vulnerable to these algae blooms, technically eutrophication, but the scenario happens all over the Great Lakes.

I also learned that the EPA is making almost $10M in grants available to 37 eligible coastal and Great Lakes states to monitor beach water quality and notify the public of unsafe swimming conditions. The funds are made available under BEACH (Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health) Act of 2000. Again, I would be happy to help but I am not sure what I can do.

Keeping beaches clean and safe for swimming is a public health issue. It is also a good for recreation and tourism and just plain smart. So is dreaming about warm, summer days as a way to get through what is becoming a long winter. Tell me what I can do to make sure that life this summer will be a beach. A clean beach.

Monday, January 11, 2010

What's in a Name?

Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? Is a rose is a rose is a rose? When is an Asian carp just a fish?

I really want to get away from writing about Asian carp but it doesn’t seem that I can right now. Articles about them seem to be jumping out into my face, much the same way these huge fish jump out of the water. As a follow up to my last posting about carp in the court, I was looking for information about the Supreme Court case trying to keep the Asian carp out of the Great Lakes when I came across an article in the Chicago Tribune entitled Asian Carp: Take That and Fry it.

The article describes how the fish is cooked in coconut milk with lemon grass and chili peppers to make a Vietnamese dish and that deep-fried carp has been a staple on the menu at an Omaha restaurant for decades. Apparently, many ethnic groups view the carp as a food fish, and perhaps that gefilte fish that my Bubbie made did use a variety of Asian carp, too.

Of course, as the article suggests, if Asian carp starts appearing on menus instead of Coho salmon or trout, it may have to get a name change to get out from under its bad reputation. It won’t be the first food to have an AKA. For example, did you know that canola oil is actually rapeseed? When the oil was introduced as an alternative to higher fat oils by a Canadian company it was given the designation CAN. O. L.A. and the name sounded so much better than rapeseed, it was used commercially. Mahi-mahi, another fish name change, is actually dolphin-fish but there was concern that it would not sell with that name, even though this fish is not the same as the dolphins that accompany cruise ships, entertaining passengers, and who are actually marine mammals.

I am by no means suggesting that the invasion of carp would be a good thing. These aggressive fish would destroy other fish in the Great Lakes and the entire ecosystem will change if they become permanent residents. Still, it helps to look at things in a different way.

Now I am wondering what kind of name change would be good for the Asian carp. Maybe lemon fish – for if they come to the Great Lakes we may have to make lemonade from them. Bouillabaisse, too, perhaps. What would that mean for a Door County fish boil?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Carp in the Courts

There’s a children’s book called A Carp in the Bathtub. It is a story about how Jewish women would put carp in the bathtub to keep them fresh until they were ready to make gefilte fish for holidays. The story always resonated with me because my mother used to tell the same story about her mother. The fish in the book took up temporary residency in a Brooklyn apartment bathtub. My bubbie’s fish came out of Lake Ontario and went into a bathtub in Hamilton Ontario. I don’t think it was an Asian carp, the kind getting all the publicity around the Great Lakes these days.

Perhaps the authors of the children’s should write a sequel. They could call it Carp in the Courts, because that’s where carp are these days, along with the people who are trying to prevent them from getting into the Great Lakes.

Wisconsin has joined Michigan, and other Great Lakes States in a lawsuit trying to close the locks and canals that would bring the fish into Lake Michigan and then the other lakes. The impact on the environment, to say nothing of the huge fishing industry, would be enormous. The Supreme Court is hearing the case this week.

Here on the Illinois-Wisconsin border, we hear both sides of the story. Illinois officials claim that closing the canal would endanger public safety and disrupt the flow of cargo. Shipping, I can understand. It is estimated that 14.6 million tons of commodities, including and iron and steel move through the channel every year, and it is a $1.65B industry, but I couldn’t find any data on how closing the canal would endanger public safety. If someone can explain that to me, I’d appreciate it.

Illinois is also questioning whether finding a small amount of carp DNA in the lake really means that an invasion is imminent. Not surprisingly, President Obama, previously Senator from Illinois, and the Feds oppose closing the channel.

The thing that I find so interesting is that aspects of the legal case are not new. Wisconsin and other states have taken issue with the reversal of the Chicago River for decades. That Lake Michigan is linked to the Mississippi River in an unnatural way through the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, and has been for over 100 years, is partly the reason for the current invasion of these monster fish. In 1929, several states filed complaints and the courts ruled that the reversal was illegal but nothing was ever done about it.

If you want to know more about this ongoing dispute, read The Great Lakes Water Wars by Peter Annin. I know I have mentioned this book before (February 20, 2009) but it is worth mentioning again. Chapter 5 of Annin’s book is called Reversing A River. It reads like a novel about politics in Illinois, always a fascinating topic.

Maybe I am wrong about a book on Asian Carp. Instead, perhaps someone should make a movie. It could be modeled after the movie Chinatown. Remember that one? It a classic and it is also about water and politics based in parts of real life events in what has been called the California Water Wars. Politics and water are great topics for books and movies - and blogs - these days.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Great Photos of Lake Michigan

The pictures I post on this blog are taken to help me make my story. They fill in where words are not sufficient, but they are not award winning photos. That’s okay because someone in my neighborhood is taking high quality photos of places I love. If you haven’t clicked on the link at the left that say lakemichiblog, you have been missing some great pictures. Do it now, and make sure you see the ones from the past few days, back to New Year’s Eve. Great work.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Plunging Into A New Year

I missed seeing the ball drop down in Times Square ushering in 2010. I was indulging in a different New Year’s Eve tradition. For the past few years, we have stayed at home, cooked a nice dinner, and then watched a movie in our own living room. Our selection this year was an exciting, fast-paced adventure and 11 AM Eastern Time came and went before we realized it. At midnight Central Time, I think we were already in bed.

We have another tradition for New Year’s Day. For the past few years, except for last year, we have watched the Polar Plunge in Lake Michigan. Last year the event was cancelled because the ice build up along the beach on Simmons Island was too thick. You can see pictures that I posted about the non-event on my entry from the beginning of January, 2009.

Today, in spite of temperatures in the mid-teens and winds of 20 mph or greater, making the wind-chill factor below zero, the event took place, and we were there to watch. It seemed to me that there were fewer people this year and I think those who did go in the water, stayed shorter times than in the past. The three boys at the right were the first in the water – first out, too, I think.

In order to get the Tee shirt that says you took the plunge, you have to get your head wet, so participants did and then ran out very quickly back to shore to wrap up in warm blankets and don sweat suits. The whole event took under five minutes, and I can’t say I was sorry. My feet were getting cold, but not as cold as those who left their flip-flops in the water.

After watching the plunge, I was ready to get back inside to spend the day doing not much of anything – yet another New Year’s Day tradition. I tip my ski cap to those who entered Polar Plunges everywhere today. I hope they are sitting in front of a warm fire now, sipping hot cocoa, and telling tales of their adventure. Happy New Year to them – and to all.