Category Archives: nature is awesome

Muggington on Mosquitoes

The annual battle with mosquitoes is fully underway at our house. The only thing that keeps them at bay is burning mosquito coils. We have tried the recommended methods, citronella candles, citronella this and that, spraying mosquito repellent through a garden hose, an electronic contraption that is supposed to attract and suck in mosquitoes. We also remove all stagnant water to prevent breeding.

Nothing seems to work except burning a piece of plant material formed into a brittle coil, which by the way is not a very sophisticated technology. It is interesting to note that this is how we controlled mosquitoes in the 1970’s in Africa, along with an aerosol spray chillingly called “Doom”.

Our current crop of mosquitoes on Long Island is particularly devious. For some reason they are smaller and harder to see and they’ve toned down their whine so we can’t hear them coming.

There are thousands of brilliant scientists and engineers scattered over the globe and we are rapidly approaching the Singularity (hah!). Our vaunted big brains are capable of comprehending the multiverse and string theory.  Couldn’t they spare a little of their time to deal with these annoying , disease carrying flying needles?


What happens?

Have you ever watched a family walk in the park?  The young children skip, dart forward and run with exuberance and abandon.  Meanwhile the adults trail behind. Their shoulders are slumped and they plod along shouting cautions to their kids.

The family continues around the path until they reach an overhang over the pond in the park that is made up of wooden planks. When the children reach this area they immediately drop to the ground on their bellies  and they peer through the gaps in the planks and shout excitedly each time they get a glimpse of a fish. The parents sit on a bench and watch. There is no way they are going to get down on the dirty wood surface on their stomachs.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could find a way to rediscover the enthusiasm and zest for life that we had as children?

The Better Human Project

We live on a magnificent planet that provides endless opportunities. Humanity has some fatal flaws that prevent it from learning, growing and progressing as a society. The primitive violence and visceral hatred we witness today is no different than it has been for thousands of years.

Why don’t we as a culture and society make progress in the ways we treat each other? We seem to have no difficulty solving problems that require tools but those related to human emotions and thoughts remain unsolvable and inevitable despite many years of effort.

I suggest that our efforts have been sidetracked from the most important problem, learning how to live in peace with our fellow humans.

Isn’t this more important than cheaper junk food, or higher test scores?

I am going to try and use the #BetterHumanProject onTwitter to fish for suggestions and ideas that might help humans rise above our flawed history.

By the way, one of the reasons I wrote Pomroy’s World was to imagine ways in which a world could be different from ours. I refuse to believe that humanity’s long violent path is the only way.

A walk around the pond

Watch out for the goose poop. Otherwise the paved stone path is firm and pleasant to walk on. Make sure to check the red eared sliders on the fallen tree. They jostle for the limited space on the log above water. They love to stretch out their heads and limbs to gather in more of the delicious heat.

If you’re lucky you’ll see the big fat koi lurking near the mats of algae. One off-white and the other deep golden orange. The offspring of the two bright white swans has grown tremendously. It is almost as big as its parents although it still sports grey, ruffled feathers.

You have almost made it round the pond once. You should now see the sad stump of a healthy tree removed for no apparent reason.

That’s it. One completed and many more to go.

If I had one wish …

I write about our park in this blog a lot and there is a reason why.

If I had one wish that would be granted, here it is:

I would find every sad human, every politician, every criminal, every person who hated.  I would feed them their favorite meal and let them have a wonderful night’s rest.  Then I would bring them to our park.

I would ask them the sit on a bench in the sunshine and relax.  They would see the female swan on her nest and the families watching her in wonder.  They would hear children laughing and see them skipping on the path around the pond.  They would hear the squeals of delight as adults and children of all ages saw the snapping turtles and red-eared sliders basking on the fallen tree in the water.

After some time the wrinkled foreheads would smooth and smiles would appear.  They would greet each other and the couples strolling by them.  They would see fellow humans, old and young,  black, brown, white and every skin shade possible all enjoying this sunny afternoon.

They would see that this is how humans should live.  They would build more parks and make sure everyone had a good meal every day and a nice place to sleep and relax.  They would see that we don’t need to fight, steal and hate.

That is my one wish.


Imagine Earth without humans or human made structures and products.  Plants and animals would blanket the Earth.  There would be no plane crashes, no mass shootings, no bombs, no pollution, no deforestation, and no wars.

Of course animals would kill each other but it would be mostly for food and on a much lesser scale than happens through human strife.

We are the wild card.  Once we entered the scene the rules of the game changed.  The balance has been disturbed and the biosphere is roiled with chaos.

The answer is simple.  We need to uncover the rules of nature and begin to play by them.  One of the best ways to do this is to learn from nature.  There are some great people who are promoting this idea and you can find out more at the following websites:

Biomimicry 3.8

Inside the mind of a tortoise

We have two red-footed tortoises.  You might think that tortoises are not the brightest of animals but I beg to differ.  Over the years the behavior that I’ve seen indicates that they might be quite clever.

The tortoises’ home is a large aquarium.  Inside there are two stone water dishes and a stone food dish.  In addition there are two hollow log shaped wood objects.  These pieces of wood are easily movable by the tortoises.  I believe that they use these movable objects in attempt to communicate with us.

For example, I tried an early experiment where I placed a computer monitor that played video next to the aquarium.  I thought it might be entertaining to them.  What did the tortoises do?  They erected a barrier that was obviously meant to block the view of the computer.  I suspect that the computer and monitor also produced sound that might have irritated them.  As soon as I turned off the computer and monitor they took down their barrier.

There have been many other examples of the tortoises doing things that appear to be attempts to get our attention and to change our behavior.  They have ways to indicate that they want fresh water or fresh food, and that they wish to go out into the yard.  They also make a variety of sounds by moving things and using their mouths.

Sometimes at night I check on them and they are both awake and alert in the dark.  What are they thinking, sitting in the dark?  Do they have a mental life?  Can they entertain themselves?  Can they communicate with each other?

Tortoises live for many years compared to other animals.  Do they learn, develop culture, and mental skills?

I’d like to imagine that they have a rich intellectual tradition and that they are having learned discussions late at night.

Who knows, maybe tortoises could teach us a thing or two.


Loons in the pond!

This morning I struggled to come up with something to write.  I gazed out the window and saw them.  Four loons are in the pond today, hooray!  The curve of their necks and shape of their heads is so distinct.  It is a pleasure seeing them dive and then waiting and watching to see where they will pop up.

Yesterday I saw another animal that I haven’t seen for months.  At the edge of the pond a young muskrat nibbled on green shoots.  I stopped to watch and it stared at me for a few seconds and then it went back to its leafy treat, seemingly unconcerned with my presence.
This is a great time of the year to get out and soak in the sunshine.