Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Solstice Birds

Happy Winter Solstice ... the day the sun is lowest on the horizon in the northern hemisphere. Now the days will begin to lengthen once again as the sun appears higher in the sky each day.

I always wondered why birds would want to go to the arctic in the springtime. It is because the days are very long there in the summer ... the sun never sets at the height of summer. So the birds can forage for food for their new hatchlings 24 hours a day.

But in the arctic winter the sun never rises, so many birds come further south to seek food and warmth. That is why some birds can only be seen where I live in Idaho on a winter day. Yesterday I finally saw one such bird for the first time in my life.

Black Rosy-Finch

In the evening the Black Rosy-Finch seeks warmth and shelter in Cliff Swallow nests, or a cave or old mine shaft. The light was fading when they showed up to roost, but I managed to get a few photos and watched them through binoculars. I initially identified this as a Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, but there are three species of Rosy-Finches, and upon further study, I now believe this is the Black, not Gray-crowned, Rosy-Finch. I'll have to go back to see and photograph the browner Gray-crowned sometime soon!

I also saw a Prairie Falcon while out looking for Snow Buntings. I've never seen a Snow Bunting and they have been seen nearby. I didn't see any.

If you enjoy birds and the natural world, I think you should watch "The Life of Birds" hosted by David Attenborough and produced by the BBC. The Blue Planet, Planet Earth, and all of the David Attenborough shows depict nature in all of its majesty and intricate diversity.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


I enjoy watching movies of all kinds. Documentary. History. Science Fiction.

I found a website where you can rate the movies you have seen and then it matches your ratings to the other people who have assigned similar ratings to the same movies, and shows you the other movies those people liked. The idea is that the same interests and tastes will lead to recommendations of other movies you might like.

Here's the website address, in case that is something of interest to you.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Other Shoe

I read in the news recently that President Bush went to Iraq and while giving a press conference a journalist threw shoes at Bush, a form of mideastern insult.

I put forth the proposition that Iraq finally "gets it" and has realized the American dream of freedom of speech. The guy didn't agree with Bush's views or policies, and instead of killing innocent people ... instead of killing anyone ... he chose to express his opinion. Nobody was hurt in the incident, with the possible exception of the shoe-thrower, who by some reports was somewhat bloodied by the security detail.

Wouldn't it be nice if the heads of state of the US and Iraq jointly pardoned this individual, and made a point of mentioning freedom of speech?

We Americans already take off our shoes at the airport. Maybe in Iraq they will take them off at press conferences.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Hoxsey: When Healing Becomes a Crime

I'll just begin by quoting from the back jacket of the DVD I watched last night, "In 1924, Harry Hoxsey claimed a cure for cancer, herbal formulas inherited from his great-grandfather. Thousands of patients swore the treatment cured them, but the medical authorities branded Hoxsey the worst quack of the century. So began a medical war continuing to this day."

It all started when the great-grandfather's horse was diagnosed with incurable cancer. Hoxsey's great-grandfather put the horse out to pasture to die. He observed the horse eating plants not normally eaten, and when the horse's cancer disappeared, he studied the plants and their history. Native Americans and early botanists had spoken and written that some of these cured disease and cancer, thus the formula was derived.

I remember reading how chimps eat medicinal plants when ill, in Carl Sagan's book I previously reviewed in this blog. I can imagine a horse doing the same.

The documentary will go back in medical history to the time when some doctors wanted to cure the symptoms using surgery, while others wanted to heal the patient with love, hope and herbal medicines. The former's patients often died from the "cure", the latter from the "aliment". To this day, many people are frustrated by the dominant medical practices, some of which prove lethal themselves, and often lack in the kindness and compassion that makes up a quality life.

To hear Hoxsey tell it, the American Medical Association waged war on him (and the documentary tells of gunshots, court cases, numerous arrests, and the shuttering of clinics in 17 states). Hoxsey claims that after studying his formula and patient records, the AMA offered to buy his formula. Hoxsey insisted that part of the purchase contract include a provision that the treatments be available to those in need without regard for ability to pay, which the AMA refused to accept. They then branded his treatment "quackery."

Twice, juries found Hoxsey not guilty of quackery, and found that his treatment did indeed cure cancer. Today, one of the three components in his herbal formulas, a burning red salve that eats flesh is considered by the medical community to cure cancer ... just as excision or destruction by radiation would cure cancer (though the radiation treatments can actually induce new cancer at the same time it destroys the old one).

During the battles, not only was Hoxsey found innocent, he also won a libel case against the AMA Journal editor. The AMA Journal makes big bucks advertising "accepted" medicines. During the trial it was disclosed that the Journal editor had failed anatomy in school and had never seen a patient in his life. He resigned in disgrace.

There is a more in-depth book by the same name, by the filmmaker. As one botanist pointed out, "If some weeds in the back yard could cure cancer, the business of medicine wouldn't want you to know that." After all, there are more people employed in the anti-cancer profession than people with cancer. Medicine is big business, and big business does not always have a heart or soul.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Night Sky

Tonight was one of those times that the night sky presents a unique and beautiful view. The crescent moon appeared very close to the planets Jupiter and Venus at sunset. The unlit side of the moon could be clearly seen against the backdrop of the deep blue heavens. A few wisps of clouds hinted at the colorful sunset that was still fading from view as the gloaming encroached.