For “Summary Saturday”, News, Some New, Some Old:
10 Things You May Not Know About Groundhogs
A woodchuck, or groundhog, during the warm months of grassy abundance.
“The groundhog, also known as the woodchuck or the mouse bear (because it looks like a miniature bear when sitting upright), first won its reputation as a weather prognosticator in 1886, when the editor of western Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Spirit newspaper, one Clymer Freas, published a report that local groundhogs had not seen their shadows that day, signaling an early spring.
This story begat Punxsutawney Phil, the legendary woodchuck weather creature, which begat Ground Hog Day and the familiar idea that Phil (and his namesake successors down through the years) can predict the perpetuation of winter. It is likely that the story of Phil is based on European beliefs that badgers and hedgehogs can provide signals about the future; lacking those species in his area, old Clymer substituted the local animal that most resembles a badger or a hedgehog.
But the groundhog is much more than a weather rodent. It’s also a real animal with a real life.
Here are 10 things you may not know about this roly-poly rodent:
- Groundhogs are among the few animals that are true hibernators, fattening up in the warm seasons and snoozing for most of three months during the chill times.
- While hibernating, a woodchuck’s body temperature can drop from about 99 degrees to as low as 37 (Humans go into mild hypothermia when their body temperature drops a mere 3 degrees, lose consciousness at 82 degrees and face death below 70 degrees).
- The heart rate of a hibernating woodchuck slows from about 80 beats per minute to 5.
- Breathing slows from around 16 breaths per minute to as few as 2.
- During hibernation—150 days without eating—a woodchuck will lose no more than a fourth of its body weight thanks to all the energy saved by the lower metabolism.
- During warm seasons, a groundhog may pack in more than a pound of vegetation at one sitting, which is much like a 150-pound man scarfing down a 15-pound steak.
- To accommodate its bodacious appetite, woodchucks grow upper and lower incisors that can withstand wear and tear because they grow about a sixteenth of an inch each week.
- If properly aligned, woodchuck upper and lower incisors grind away at each other with every bite, keeping suitably short; when not in good order, they may miss one another and just keep growing until they look like the tusks on a wild boar; if too long, a woodchuck’s upper incisors can impale the lower jaw, with fatal results.
- Woodchuck burrows, which the animals dig as much as 6 feet deep, can meander underground for 20 feet or more, usually with two entrances but in some cases with nearly a dozen.
- Burrows provide groundhogs with their chief means of evading enemies, because the rotund little guys (just before hibernation, a hefty woodchuck may tip the scales at 14 pounds) are too slow to escape most predators in a dead heat: the rodents have a top speed of only 8 mph, while a hungry fox may hit 25 mph.
Bonus Fact: Although groundhogs may not be the best weather predictors, they do in fact emerge from dens in early February. This is the practice of males as they rouse themselves to wander around their 2- to 3-acre territories in search of burrows belonging to females, which the males will enter and where they may spend the night. Research suggests that no mating takes place at this time; the visits probably just let the animals get to know one another so that they can get right down to the business of breeding when they emerge for good in March. Outside of the mating season, woodchucks are solitary, except for females with young, which usually are born in early April. From: Wildlife Promise: http://blog.nwf.org/2011/01/10-things-you-may-not-know-about-groundhogs/
The Truth about Groundhog Day
Punxsutawney Phil and other woodchucks aren’t forecasting the weather when they emerge—they’re looking for love!
So what’s with the rodent sleepovers? “They’re a chance to bond,” Zervanos suggests. The February visits may serve as “getting to know you” sessions—obviating the need to spend lots of time exchanging biological details in March. As far as Zervanos knows, this speed-dating behavior is unique to groundhogs. More at: http://www.nwf.org/News-and-Magazines/National-Wildlife/Animals/Archives/2006/Groundhogs.aspx
7 New Social Security Rules for 2013
The Social Security Administration has implemented a variety of new rules and features for 2013. The two-year payroll tax cut has officially ended, and paper Social Security checks will soon cease to be printed. A growing number of Social Security services will also be online this year. Here's a look at some of the recent Social Security changes that go into effect this year: http://www.dailyfinance.com/2013/01/28/social-security-new-rules-2013/
ESCAPE FIRE is about finding a way out.
It’s about saving the health of a nation.
“ESCAPE FIRE: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare tackles one of the most pressing issues of our time: how can we save our badly broken healthcare system?
American healthcare costs are rising so rapidly that they could reach $4.2 trillion annually, roughly 20% of our gross domestic product, within ten years. We spend $300 billion a year on pharmaceutical drugs––almost as much as the rest of the world combined. We pay more, yet our health outcomes are worse. About 65% of Americans are overweight and almost 75% of healthcare costs are spent on preventable diseases that are the major causes of disability and death in our society.
WE PAY MORE, YET OUR HEALTH OUTCOMES ARE WORSE.
It’s not surprising that healthcare tops many Americans' concerns and is at the center of a political firestorm in our nation's Capitol. But the current battle over cost and access does not ultimately address the root of the problem: we have a disease-care system, not a healthcare system.
ESCAPE FIRE examines the powerful forces maintaining the status quo, a medical industry designed for quick fixes rather than prevention, for profit-driven care rather than patient-driven care. After decades of resistance, a movement to bring innovative high-touch, low-cost methods of prevention and healing into our high-tech, costly system is finally gaining ground. This film follows dramatic human stories as well as leaders fighting to transform healthcare at the highest levels of medicine, industry, government, and even the US military. ESCAPE FIRE is about finding a way out. It's about saving the health of a nation.”
This Week's Amazing Fact, The Dead Sea
At 1,312 feet below sea level in Israel, the Dead Sea is one of the lowest water surfaces on earth—and one of the most unusual spots on the planet.
The sea receives more than 6 million tons of water every day from the Jordan River alone, but even though it has no outlet, the water level never rises!
Geographers used to believe there was an enormous chasm in the bottom of the Dead Sea in which its water poured down into the earth. But U.S. Navy sound tests disproved that theory.
The real answer lies in the fact that the seabed is 47 miles long and an average of 9 miles wide; therefore, evaporation in that seething desert basin exceeds the watery input, also making the sea seven times as salty as the ocean.
Because of its high mineral content, no one can sink or drown while bathing there. It is said that Vespasian, an ancient Roman commander, heard this fact and tested it by ordering bound slaves to be thrown in. The slaves floated.
This high concentration of minerals also makes the Dead Sea one of the most valuable spots on earth. Among its precious minerals is potash, which is often used in explosives and fertilizer. It has been estimated that the Dead Sea has enough potash to provide the entire world’s fertilizer needs for 2,000 years.
It also has an estimated 22 billion tons of magnesium chloride, 12 billion tons of common salt, 6 billion tons of calcium chloride, 2 billion tons of potassium chloride, 1 billion tons of magnesium bromide. The value of these chemicals comes to a staggering $1,270,000,000,000. All the goods exported from Israel are nothing compared to the enormous mineral wealth in the Dead Sea.
Who would dream that a place that is so outwardly lifeless could be so valuable? Perhaps you have also underestimated your worth before God?
Matthew 10:28-31 “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.”
On This Day:
National League of baseball is founded, Feb 2, 1876:
“On February 2, 1876, the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs, which comes to be more commonly known as the National League (NL), is formed. The American League (AL) was established in 1901 and in 1903, the first World Series was held.
In 1997, Major League Baseball introduced inter-league play, in which each NL team played a series of regular-season games against AL teams of the same division. (In 2002, the rules were changed to allow AL/NL teams from non-corresponding divisions to compete against each other.) However, one major difference between the two leagues remains: the American League’s 1973 adoption of the designated hitter rule allowed teams to substitute another hitter for the pitcher, who generally hit poorly, in the lineup. As a result, teams in the American League typically score more runs than those in the National League, making, some fans argue, for a more exciting game.
Between 1903 and 2007, AL teams were the winners in 61 of the 103 World Series played. The American League’s New York Yankees have won more World Series championships--26--than any other team in baseball.”
First Groundhog Day, Feb 2, 1887:
“On this day in 1887, Groundhog Day, featuring a rodent meteorologist, is celebrated for the first time at Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. According to tradition, if a groundhog comes out of its hole on this day and sees its shadow, there will be six more weeks of winter weather; no shadow means an early spring.”
ABSCAM operation revealed, Feb 2, 1980:
“On February 2, 1980, details of ABSCAM, an FBI operation to uncover political corruption in the government, are released to the public. Thirty-one public officials were targeted for investigation, including Representative John Murphy of New York, five other representatives, and Harrison Williams, a senator from New Jersey. In the operation, FBI agents posed as representatives of Abdul Enterprises, Ltd., a fictional business owned by an Arab sheik. Under FBI video surveillance, the agents met with the officials and offered them money or other considerations in exchange for special favors, such as the approval of government contracts for companies in which the sheik had invested.
Senator Williams, and Representatives Murphy, Michael J. Myers, Richard Kelly, and John W. Jenrette Jr., were ultimately convicted of bribery and corruption. All but Richard Kelly, who had his conviction overturned in 1982 on the basis that the FBI had unlawfully entrapped him, left Congress. John Murphy, whose term ended in 1981, was saved the fate of expulsion suffered by Williams and Myers. John Jenrette resigned in 1980.”
Having to call some government offices, I got the usual “Press One for English”, which shouldn’t be. After being on hold for ages, then I was told that department didn’t handle that, and that I had to call other government offices to straighten out my situation.
After being on hold at each stage, I was told that the trouble was that Medicare didn’t have a record of my phone number. So I called Medicare, and No, they couldn’t just add it in their computer, someone else handled that. How stupid!
Now, this was something that I had had no problem with for several years, so this didn’t sound right to me. When I called back to confirm, I found out that was not the case, and it was just a matter of the computer’s left hand hadn’t been in touch with it’s right hand, and that it should straighten out in a few days. It took speaking to five different people, what a waste of time and the people’s tax money.
Jay called me to say that his boss was clearing out a lot and trailer, and there was some roofing to be had. Misty and I went over there, but the roofing was old, and I didn’t want it. But I did get two beautiful blankets, one very plush with a vivid peacock, and one with a lovely horse. When I get them washed and disinfected, and they will look like new.
Ray went to the doctor, and they lanced his abscess again, maybe he will be on the road to recovery soon.
I’m not holding my breath, but Jay said that he would be ready to go to church today.