Native Plants, Habitat Restoration, and Other Science Snippets from Athens, Georgia

Sunday: 23 September 2012

Yesterday and Today  -  @ 07:41:29
Last night we had to take Squit down to the Emergency Animal Clinic to ease him out of his existence. We knew this was going to happen. He'd been losing weight rapidly over the last couple of months, and the vets' thought earlier this month was that he had intestinal cancer. A couple of days ago he began to decline catastrophically. On Friday, he was able to at least move from one sunny spot to another, and even managed to navigate the back deck steps. But yesterday afternoon he could only take a step or two and then had to lie down. It was hard to see this very strong and very gentle cat fail so quickly. He was probably 16, a good old age for a cat. This morning we'll take a couple of beers down to the kat sematary and plant him.

[Update, about 20:30 Sunday: and that is in fact what we did, and we had a fine burial. I didn't go in to work tonight, either. Partly because my face was very definitely not in place, but also I didn't want to alarm the snowflakes as I broke out in tears at intervals. Or maybe I did want to alarm them, but I didn't really want to be around them. Or vice versa. Not sure which.]

I see I've actually written quite a few things about Squit over the last nearly eight years. He was a memorable cat, a dear cat, but let's see what we had to say about him back then.

From December 2004: "Big Sweet Dumb Cat"
"Squit is part siamese and part tabby. He’s not the brightest bulb in the socket, and all you have to do to know this in your gut is to look into those crossed eyes and that gives it all away. He eats too much, probably from all the anxiety he feels when the other cats have their tiffs.

Squit (aka Squitty, Squeepee, other silly things) came to us several years ago a thin throwaway. He had been around for a couple of days when I followed behind him as he walked from north of the house to well south of it. He never knew I was behind him. That he was well-domesticated became obvious - we always felt his mind had been blasted somehow. Gradually he recovered and went through another kitten phase (difficult to deal with when the cat involved is probably three years old and rather large)."

(On Friday, I'd been watching and talking to him as he lay in the sun, down at the lower pond. Late afternoon, I picked him up and carried him back to the house. It was apparent that he probably wouldn't be able to do that for himself. I realized that I had tracked the very same route in reverse that I had followed him on, when I first met him, thirteen or so years ago. But I think he had a good and comfortable day on Friday.)

From July, 2005: "Friday: Cat, Seal, or Slug?"
"How weird is Squit? Incredibly blue, crossed eyes. No hunting instinct. Butterflies land on his nose with impunity. Gets along with, no, actually seems to love everyone - all the other cats, although it must be said, most don’t like him. Hates contention. Will wander anxiously around crying if there is yelling going on, whether cat-cat, cat-human, or human-human. Probably brain-damaged, maybe by trauma before he found us. And probably the physically strongest cat I’ve ever seen."

And one more, from March, 2008. "Yesterday and Today:"
"The cats are viewing this warm weather as a time to be lazy, spending hours sleeping on the deck in the sun. This comes as a relief to them, for they have spent much time rationalizing cold weather as an excuse to spend hours napping on soft furniture in the comparatively warmer house.

But that was yesterday, and today’s today."

Silly goofy cat. I'll miss those eyes. They made me laugh every time we looked at each other.

Saturday: 22 September 2012

Happy Autumn  -  @ 10:49:00
I think I got this in just under the wire, and I'm sure a lot of folks are relieved.

Sunday: 16 September 2012

For Your Safety  -  @ 08:44:58

From Georgia's Department of Natural Resources, here are the hunting dates for the 2012-13 season. If you live outside of Georgia and venture outside of the city, you might want to check your own regulations.

I'm a little late, or rather, deer hunting started a week earlier than in the last few years. Here is a small selection that's relevant to Oglethorpe County:

Archery: Sep 8 - Oct 12.
Primitive: Oct 13-19.
Firearms: Oct 20-Jan 1.

Of course, if you live elsewhere you'll need to take a look at the regs. There are counties that have special extended archery that we here don't have, and northern and southern Georgia have different dates for hunting. And of course there are many other species to kill, each with its own dates.

Dust off those fluorescent orange vests!

Pictures of the Climate  -  @ 07:57:54

NOAA's National Climatic Data Center has some interesting graphics at their State of the Climate page, for any given month. Here, for instance, are the statewide rankings for temperatures this past calendar summer (JJA).

The numbers indicate the rank for historic temperatures - 118 means the highest temperatures in the 118 years of records, 117 means the second highest, etc.

This one is interesting for the benign white "near normals" seen for the US southeast. I'd already written about this for the Athens area. Kind of neat to see it ranked this way.

They also have the rankings for the US as a whole, regional, and divisional. There are several choices for time span. There is a set for precipitation and one for temperatures. Here's the year to date, again for temperatures:

Look at all those 118s. Quite a bit different from the top picture! When you consider that our summer was "near normal," you begin to get an idea of just how unusually warm Jan-May was for us.

You also realize how the country's midsection has been suffering all year.

Friday: 14 September 2012

Letters to my Sister  -  @ 11:14:59
It seems that the most interesting stuff I write now ends up going to my sister, or to Glenn. Or both, usually; they are what I fear are the long suffering recipients of my fevered impulses. But maybe I'm wrong: they seem to enjoy the trip, and that's certainly the pleasure I get out of it.

So I may have to just start copying and pasting our text messages and emails here, because that's where my creativity seems to be going. Of course I don't want to reveal everything we talk about. Much of it is, in the southern sense, about third parties, bless their hearts, and southerners know not to go there, unless you ask us nicely.

Here's a sampling:
Glenn and I saw the very interesting lesbian chick flick "Bound" many years ago (we even have the DVD). And of course there are "The Matrix" films. We still haven't seen "V for Vendetta," and we gotta gettit. Now, the Wachowski sibs have come up with "Cloud Atlas."

All you have to make is a story where the future of the human race depends on one act of kindness made centuries before, and you've got me. I am a sucker for that sort of thing, a hopeful observer of how acts of kindness can propagate. It doesn't hurt that the story is entitled "Cloud Atlas."

The New Yorker has a fantastic article about the Wachowskis. I mean, look
at the size of Andy Wachowski's hands! They're bigger than Lana nee
Larry's head!

The New Yorker article isn't just about "Cloud Atlas," although that's the centerpiece. It's really more about a brother and sister whose minds work as one. They're fascinating sibs - I still haven't completely wrapped my mind around the very interesting idea of a brother and sister who combine their lives in this way. It must be both a precarious and an exhilarating venture.

The Wachowskis. I chuckle to read how closely they match the things I had so much fun with.

And, oh yeah, the movie, October 26: "Cloud Atlas," years in the making because Lana and Andy Wachowski worked like demons to make the complex novel come to film. They were fascinated by the ideas:

Please pardon the incredibly obnoxious 15 second ads that precede the worthwhile links:

Trailer the Short
Trailer the Long

Both well worth watching. Set your headphones on puree. These are trailers better than most full length movies.

Tuesday: 4 September 2012

The Month of August  -  @ 10:46:06
It's The Month of August, Number 79 in a series. For us, August was pretty average - maybe just a bit cooler - and fairly dry.

Here are the usual temperature anomalies products, at the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center.

The temperature anomalies were positive mostly in the West and New England, with the central US finally getting a bit of relief. We here in Georgia were among the coolest, relative to normal temperatures.

We find the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center's precipitation plots here.

Much of the US is under drought conditions this summer. August brought some relief, but drought conditions grew worse for the northwest quadrant of the US which was also experiencing the hottest weather. The green and white you see in the southeast had much to do with Hurricane Isaac as it made its way inland in the last few days of August.

For the Athens, GA area:

Here is a plot of our temperature swings in August, along with precipitation amounts as experienced in Wolfskin:

Most of August was cooler for us, with an average high temperatures of only 87.6 degF, 1.6F below normal. We had 0 days more than 1 standard deviation above normal highs (4.8 normal), and 0 days more than 1 standard deviation below normal lows (4.1 normal). We only broke one record, and that was for the low, 60F on the night of August 12, beating out 1967 for 61F.

For the first week, we had small amounts of rain almost every day. Two signficant rainfalls fell in the latter half of the month, but with stretches of dry weather in between. The 1.26" that fell August 28 was due to Isaac, as has been the additional 1.24" rainfall in the first few days of September.\

It's almost silly to put in the temperature swings plot, but just for fun, here's what a slightly below average high temperatures plot looks like, in green. Compare with red, a hot plot from last year. Blue is the historic highs for each day.

The monthly histogram shows the breakdown of high and low temperature range counts from August 1948 on. No significant difference in the high temperature ranges in August. Nighttime lows, however, were significantly higher in the mid-range events of 61-70 degF, and lower in the warmer range. Nights were significantly cooler in August.

The figure below shows the Athens precipitation data which are official for our area. As usual the green line shows our actual rainfall, the red shows the average accumulation expected. The black dots are rainfall over the last 20 years, the vast river of peach shows the standard deviation.

Our total out here was 2.70", and in Athens (shown here) it was 3.23". 3.53" is normal for August. We're back to our less than average montly rainfall.

Prognosticator stuff:

What is the neat prognosticator telling us? For northeast Georgia, it's changed somewhat since last month - cooler than average temperatures continuing for the next few weeks, then normal or slightly greater chance of warmer temperatures for Oct/Nov. Precipitation predicted to be basically normal.

ENSO stuff:

The folks at CPC have a version of PDF or HTML that is much different from their previous presentations, but at least it's there and the link isn't broken.

As of August 27, ENSO neutral conditions continue, but there's a good chance of El Niño developing and continuing into northern hemisphere winter.

As of August 28, the US Drought Monitor continues to have us in extreme to exceptional drought, depending on where you are in Georgia. Much of the US is now under at least abnormally dry or moderate drought classification, with a lot of the country in severe or extreme drought. It's possible that some of this may change once the results from TS Isaac are in.

NOAA's Monthly State of the Climate product for July is available. The summary for 2011 regionally, nationally, and globally is also available.

Saturday: 1 September 2012

A Summer to Forget  -  @ 08:42:08
In some ways this is a summer to remember: it was a perfectly average summer for us in terms of temperatures and rainfall. In other ways I'll get to, it was, on balance, a summer I'd just as soon forget.

Here is a histogram that depicts in red the average number of days (usually for highs) and nights (usually, for lows) that we experience in each temperature range. We only see 2 days 100+ per June-August summer. In blue we see that this time around we had 4 such days, but that's still within the variation as indicated by the bars.

So in the end this is a remarkably average summer. There is only one temperature range, nights below 60 degF, in which we had 9 such nights, compared to 4 on average, and that is outside of the error bar.

Now the devil is in the details, of course, and the detail is that three of those four days above 100 degF were in the realm of 107-109 degF. And we just got an extraordinary taste of what became a new world order for others.

An alternative view: the actual numbers, including rain. Just a few tenths of a degree difference in the high and low average temperature. The mean for the whole summer varied just 0.1 degF from the 1948-2012 average.

Athens got less than the average rainfall over the summer, but not too much less. We got 0.01" more than the average, which is to say, we got smack on the average. Still, the devil is in the details here too, and we went for weeks several times without rain. And again, nowhere near as extreme as others saw this summer.

How did the rest of you in the US do? Pictures!

It really looks like in most places where it was the hottest, it was also the driest. Misery compounded.

And now, a partial explanation for the blogging hiatus, and yes I know I'm burying this. I think I can see in retrospect that I spent most of August in a kind of perpetual crisis mode, an ongoing medium level anxiety attack, from which I'm more or less recovering. I think much had to do with having lost three cats during the past year, two of them this summer. Individually I can handle such losses, but I think these imposed a cumulative sense of despair that I didn't realize was mounting. It didn't help that I had to deal with some bad behavior in others during the course of the summer. There are several other more personal issues that I try to keep from getting me down, but under the circumstances I think they managed to overwhelm me.

I'm not looking for sympathy here - I'm way beyond the need for that, and others deserve sympathy more than I need it. I'm just trying to explain a couple of things as best I can.

I did write about Bart, when he died at the end of the year, last year. He was fairly old, and we knew this was going to happen. Oddly, no photos of Bart ever made it to the blog.

Memeow, our Katrina kitty, died in June. We didn't know how old she was, but since we obviously got her in 2005, she must have been at least eight years old, and probably considerably older than that. She had had hyperthyroid problems for quite a long time. We tried both dietary and medicinal means of controlling this, but she simply wasted away.

Here's Memeow, a year ago. I didn't write about Memeow in June, and I think that's a sign that I was beginning to have some trouble.

I think the big shock was Harry Pewter, who apparently suffered what in retrospect we and some vet specialists think was a heart attack. Heart attacks in cats are rare - cancer usually gets them first. Harry had been losing weight during the summer, and then one night midsummer, spent half an hour crying in pain, clearly completely out of it. He was oblivious to us during this attack, just one howl after another, every few seconds. We've never seen this happen before, and we've had 35 cats over as many years. We gave him 60 mL subq hydration, and that seemed to help. Still, he gradually stopped eating and was gone a month later, at the beginning of August. I think that's when I sort of lost it, in a very quiet sense.

Here is Harry, three years ago. I didn't write about him either, but I did have a conversation with Robin about him in comments. I think that's when I started to realize how small griefs could accumulate.

Most of the remaining seven cats are geriatric cases. Our youngest, Gene, is 8 years old. I don't like to look for trouble, especially when it comes free of charge, but I'm expecting to lose another one or two before the end of the year. Violet is 18 years old, according to our vet's records, and while she's plugging along she's lost her hearing and has become very feeble. I cheer for her each morning when she goes out through the cat door to the back deck to sleep most of the day. I get up in the middle of the night when she has the terrors, and talk to her until she's ok.

Squit is losing weight, and is now firmly in the elderly cat-egory. I'm concerned for him, and only a little less so for Maxwell, who has become thin during the summer, and subject to puzzling sores and scabbing. Maxwell is 12, and Squit is probably 15 or 16 (remember that most of our cats are strays, so we don't know their birth dates).

So some things just had to give way for awhile, and I just had no enthusiasm for blogging. As I told my sister, I just didn't want to share like I had done in the past. There were other things that I simply had to do, but I took little joy in doing them. The bad behavior people made sure of that, and I do take some pride that I didn't burn any bridges by telling them what I thought of them. Or killing them, for that matter. I learned that ignoring bad behavior people, if at all possible, can bring its own peace. I learned that I needed to do (and not do!) a few things for myself. I learned that I needed to say no to some, and to acquaint those ones with the idea of appreciating those of us who have trouble saying no. I think things are improving, and hope to get back to the blogging in a more consistent way.

Thank you for your patience!

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