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NEWSLETTER SEPTEMBER 2009
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Coachella Valley Offers Snowbirds a Winter Haven –It’s almost wintertime in the Coachella Valley and that can only mean one thing . . .“Snowbirds”. Snowbirds is a term used for individuals who are trying to take refuge from the colder winter climates and to enjoy the warmer desert weather. You can’t really play golf or enjoy the outdoors when there is a foot of snow on the ground, so head to the desert where it’s 70 degrees, the sun is shining and the grass is green in the winter. More…
Beware: Your GPS May Get You in Serious Trouble – In this modern age, we rely on computers more and more. Google maps and other online maps give us directions. Global Positioning Systems (GPS) guide us turn by turn to our destination. How can these digital maps that look so good, lead us to make such foolish mistakes? More…
Camping in the Desert – Information about camping in developed areas, group camping, horse camping and backcountry camping. Reservations are suggested for camping in developed campgrounds and horse camps. More…
The Junipers, Classic Western Trees – Southwest locals often refer to juniper trees as “cedars.” Towns like Cedar City, Utah, Cedaridge, Colorado or Cedar Springs, Nevada reflects this localism. Where this misnomer started is unknown. Probably some early settlers mistakenly were associating the overlapping, scalelike leaves or the shredded-bark-look or the reddish wood of a juniper to that of a cedar. Maybe that or Juniper City, Utah just didn’t have the same ring. More…
Shutterbug 101: Eye of the Beholder – So many times people say “I don’t know what to shoot.” You never know what will catch your eye so you just have to get out there and be open to possibilities. More…
Shutterbug 101: Still Movement – Last time we talked about using your camera in manual mode and the relationship between aperture and shutter speed. Reiterating — aperture controls depth of field and shutter speed is important for stopping movement — or not stopping it. More…
Get the latest Colorado River Information – The rivers feeding Lake Powell are below average, but the water is still warm at this time of year. More…
DesertRoadTrippin’ – Caving and Spelunking in the Desert Areas – One of my all time favorite desert road trips was caving at the Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves In Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. There is something surreal about entering a natural cave and walking into its cool depths until you can no longer see anything. It becomes pitch black and the only way to navigate is with a head lamp or flash light. It is hard to describe the feeling of being inside a cave. If you are claustrophobic you may not like it.More…
Trip of the Month – Mesa Verde National Park – Mesa Verde, Spanish for "Green Table," offers an unparalleled opportunity to see and experience a unique cultural landscape. Visitors walk through cliff dwellings and numerous mesa top villages built by the Anasazi, ancestral pueblo people, between 600 AD and 1300 AD. This is the first national park established to preserve cultural heritage and the most famous Anaszai ruins in the world. More…
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Dinosaur Skeleton – Junior Archaeologist Dinosaur Kit
Children now have the chance to dig up their own dinosaur skeletions! Using the wood chisel and brush provided in the kit, the soft clay like material is removed revealing a dinosaur skeleton. Great fun for the kids. 8 different skeletons to choose from: Tyrannosaurus, Deinonychus, Stegosaurus, Stegoceras, Spinosaurus, Triceratops, Seismosaurus, or Dromaeosaurus.
Visual Encyclopedia of Space DVD – A Visual Feast of Space History
This action-packed program is guaranteed to be the best, most complete Space DVD available. Fully narrated, it is a virtual encyclopedia featuring nearly everything imaginable on space in the last 50 years. Planets, Deep Space, Manned Space Missions, UFOs, Space Shuttle – over 60 subjects.
BONUS DVD – This special edition includes a bonus DVD – Apollo 13: The Historical Film from NASA – No Hollywood actors here – this is the real men and the real story! Watch and listen as the astronauts and Mission Control play out a true-life drama!
|Live Giant Saguaro!!!
They are back in stock after 2 years.
Live Giant Saguaro
The saguaro is 2 to 3 inches high and about 2 inches wide. Come with pot and dirt. Just add 1 tablespoon of water every month.
Description of Giant Saguaro
The Saguaro often begins life in the shelter of a "nurse" tree or shrub which can provide a shaded, moister habitat for the germination of life. The Saguaro grows very slowly — perhaps an inch a year — but to a great height, 15 to 50 feet. The largest plants, with more than 5 arms, are estimated to be 200 years old. An average old Saguaro would have 5 arms and be about 30 feet tall.
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Enjoy Prickly Pear Cactus, Mesquite Bean and Margarita jelly candies – Half pound box featuring three mouth-watering candy selections. Tantalize your tastebuds with flavors of the southwest from the fruits of the desert.
Desert Blush Lemonade (Makes 1/2 Gallon)
16 oz. Lemon Juice
3/4 Cup sugar
1/4 Cup Prickly Pear Cactus Syrup
48 oz. Water
Directions: Pour over ice or blend in a blender.
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Desert Survival Handbook – Survival situations can and do happen to average people, as well as adventurous explorers. You’ll have the capacity to handle these situations if you know and follow the fundamental principles of survival.
Outdoor Gizmos -Did you know that a few rocks, some sticks, a shoelace or two, a wrist watch, a dollar bill, and a drinking straw are all you need to make surprisingly accurate sun-powered and star-powered gizmos? It’s a fact: In minutes you can construct a stick and rock sundial or compass, assemble a Sky-high Scope (included) that can measure the height of a tree or determine where you are on the planet, or figure out how long until the sun sets using nothing more than your hands. Click here to read more…
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Ghost Mountain DVD the story of Marshal South and his family’s adventure of living on Ghost Mountain in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. To preview the DVD in Flash Click Here.
Anza Borrego Seasons in the Desert. This stunning DVD covers the various regions of the park, as well as indigenous flora and fauna.
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DesertUSA’s purpose is to provide a tool for discovery – a publication that entertains, educates and explores with our readers, the beauty, life and culture of the North American deserts. Visitors come to DesertUSA’s Web site every month to read articles, participate in the Desert Talk message board, shop in DesertUSA’s online store and explore the desert virtually.
DesertUSA encourages you to forward a copy of the Digital Desert Newsletter to friends, family and business associates who may be interested in receiving this newsletter on a monthly basis.
Heart Galleries of America Inc.
2009 Heart Gallery Openings
New York, Heart Gallery NYC Photo Exhibit,
Kings Plaza Mall,
July 22 – August 25, 2009, 11:00 AM,
5100 Kings Plaza,
Brooklyn, NY …more
A chalice. (Paterm / Wikimedia.com / Creative Commons)
Updated: Tuesday, 08 Sep 2009, 10:02 AM EDT
Published : Tuesday, 08 Sep 2009, 10:01 AM EDT
By FRANK CARNEVALE
Several parishes of the Church of Sweden
have begun to use fortified wines, rather than light or alcohol-free
wines, in the hopes of reducing the risk of transmitting swine flu.
Other churches around the world have stopped the practice all together.
According to The Local
, church authorities hope that fortified wine will provide better
protection against the spread of swine flu when the communion cup is
passed around. The decision is a local one and the Church of Sweden
said in a statement that they have not made any recommendations about
Over the summer, archbishops with the Church of England recommended that churches stop sharing the chalice at communion due to swine flu fears.
in the U.S. are also taking the swine flu threat seriously and putting
new safeguards in place to help reduce congregants’ risk. Newsweek
reported that Methodist churches in Texas are using individually
wrapped communion wafers and juice packets, rather than traditional
bread and wine. Some churches are also suspending the sharing of wine
as part of communion.
The Associated Press
reported that parishioners will no longer offer handshakes as a sign of
peace at a Roman Catholic Church in Cincinnati, due to concerns about
swine flu. Also communion wine will not be served.
Earlier this year TechCrunch called for the ritual of the handshake to end, calling it a "relic of an older time." And one German city has "abolished" the practice stating that "We do not give you the hand, but we give you a smile."
By Jerome Taylor, Religious Affairs Correspondent
Wednesday, 2 September 2009
British-based academic has uncovered a fragment of the world’s oldest
Bible hiding underneath the binding of an 18th-century book.
Sarris spotted a previously unseen section of the Codex Sinaiticus,
which dates from about AD350, as he was trawling through photographs of
manuscripts in the library of St Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt.
Codex, handwritten in Greek on animal skin, is the earliest known
version of the Bible. Leaves from the priceless tome are divided
between four institutions, including St Catherine’s Monastery and the
British Library, which has held the largest section of the ancient
Bible since the Soviet Union sold its collection to Britain in 1933.
Academics from Britain, America, Egypt and Russia
collaborated to put the entire Codex online this year but new fragments
of the book are occasionally rediscovered.
Sarris, 30, chanced upon the fragment as he inspected photographs of a
series of book bindings that had been compiled by two monks at the
monastery during the 18th century.
centuries, antique parchment was often re-used by St Catherine’s monks
in book bindings because of its strength and the relative difficulty of
finding fresh parchment in such a remote corner of the world.
Greek student conservator who is studying for his PhD in Britain, Mr
Sarris had been involved in the British Library’s project to digitise
the Codex and quickly recognised the distinct Greek lettering when he
saw it poking through a section of the book binding. Speaking from the
Greek island of Patmos yesterday, Mr Sarris said: "It was a really
exciting moment. Although it is not my area of expertise, I had helped
with the online project so the Codex had been heavily imprinted in my
memory. I began checking the height of the letters and the columns and
quickly realised we were looking at an unseen part of the Codex."
Sarris later emailed Father Justin, the monastery’s librarian, to
suggest he take a closer look at the book binding. "Even if there is a
one-in-a-million possibility that it could be a Sinaiticus fragment
that has escaped our attention, I thought it would be best to say it
rather than dismiss it."
Only a quarter of the
fragment is visible through the book binding but after closer
inspection, Father Justin was able to confirm that a previously unseen
section of the Codex had indeed been found. The fragment is believed to
be the beginning of Joshua, Chapter 1, Verse 10, in which Joshua
admonishes the children of Israel as they enter the promised land.
to The Art Newspaper, Father Justin said the monastery would use
scanners to look more closely at how much of the fragment existed under
the newer book binding. "Modern technology should allow us to examine
the binding in a non-invasive manner," he said.
Sarris said his find was particularly significant because there were at
least 18 other book bindings in the monastery’s library that were
compiled by the same two monks that had re-used the Codex. "We don’t
know whether we will find more of the Codex in those books but it would
definitely be worth looking," he said.
library in St Catherine’s does not have the laboratory conditions
needed to carefully peel away the binding without damaging the
parchment underneath but the library is undergoing renovations that
might lead to the construction of a lab with the correct equipment to
The Bible: A brief history
earlier fragments of the Bible have survived the passage of time, the
Codex Sinaiticus is so significant because it is by far the most
complete. The full text that has been discovered so far contains
virtually all of the New Testament and about half of the Old Testament.
But whenever an ancient version of the holy
book is found, it often raises questions about the evolution of the
Bible and how close what we read today is to the original words of
Christ and his early followers.
Testament was written largely in Hebrew (with the odd Aramaic
exception) but it is by no means a homogenous entity. Protestant and
more recent Catholic versions of the Bible tend to use the Masoretic
Text, a variation of the Hebrew Old Testament that was copied, edited
and distributed by Jewish Masorete scholars between the 7th and 11th
centuries. Earlier Catholic translations and the Greek and Russian
Orthodox churches use the Septuagint, an ancient Greek version of the
Hebrew text that was translated between the 3rd and 1st centuries BC.
studying the early history of the New Testament, historians have about
5,650 handwritten copies in Greek on which they can draw, many of which
are distinctly different. As Christianity consolidated its power
through the first millennia, the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke
and John came to form the key elements of the New Testament.
other apocryphal writings were discarded along the way. The Shepherd of
Hermas, for instance, is a Christian literary work of the 2nd century
which appears in the Codex Sinaiticus and was considered part of the
Bible by some early Christians but was later expunged. The most
well-known apocryphal gospel is that of Thomas, a collection of 114
numbered sayings attributed to Jesus that was discovered in 1945. As it
never refers to Jesus as "Christ", "Lord" or the "Son of Man" (and
lacks any mention of the miracles attributed to Jesus in the other
gospels) it is perhaps not surprising that it never made it into later
versions of the Bible.
View this newsletter in your web browser.
By Emily Yoffe
Posted Thursday, Sept. 10, 2009, at 4:40 PM ET
Click to see how Emily’s and her daughter’s handwriting improved.
you have school-age children, you may have noticed their handwriting is
terrible. They may communicate incessantly via written word—they can
text with their heads in a paper bag—but put a pen in their hands and
they can barely write a sentence in decent cursive. It’s not going to
be easy to decipher one either, if they think cursive might as well be
My daughter is in the eighth grade, and I realized
several years ago that her rudimentary block-letter printing was
actually never going to improve because handwriting had been chopped
from the school curriculum. Children today learn basic printing in
first and second grade, then get cursory instruction in cursive in the
third grade—my daughter was given a cursive workbook and told to figure
it out herself. She dutifully filled in every page, but she never
understood how these looping letters were supposed to become her
handwriting, so they never did.
I was appalled that she seemed
stuck with this crude penmanship. After all, I had spent hours in Miss
Mackenzie’s fifth-grade class perfecting my Palmer-derived
hand. Surely part of being literate was having decent handwriting! But
I was hardly one to talk. As with the human body, over the decades
people’s cursive tends toward collapse. The loops become lumps and
eventually degenerate into illegibility. My script piled up on the
page, letters smashed against one another at different angles like a
series of derailments.
Miss Mackenzie is long gone, but I decided
to see if both my daughter and I could improve our handwriting. I was
hopeful for her but dubious about myself. At her age, she’s in the
neuron-growing business: Certainly she could master this basic skill.
But at my age, I assumed handwriting was one of those things that was
so fixed it couldn’t be fixed.
We went to the Maryland farmhouse home of Nan Jay Barchowsky, 79, who for almost 30 years has been a handwriting consultant with a line
of instructional materials she developed. A calligrapher and artist,
she started teaching handwriting at a local school, basing her letters
on italic script—the elegant, quick form developed in early-16th-century Italy.
sat my daughter and me at a slanted writing desk and dictated a
paragraph for us to write. She then looked at our work and tried to be
diplomatic. She noted that my loops were too big and tended to get
tangled in the lines of writing above and below, the sizes of my
letters were inconsistent, they slanted in every direction, and certain
ones—like R—were illegible while others got omitted
altogether. She asked, "Do you ever go back and find you are unable to
read your notes?" Yes, all the time!
Barchowsky said my
daughter’s handwriting would look more sophisticated, and be both
faster and more legible, if her letter size was more regular and she
learned to create joins within her words. My daughter acknowledged her
frustration. "My handwriting makes me look so young," she complained.
"Also it’s so big that on tests and reports I can’t fit in what I want
This Washington Post article
describes the national abandonment of penmanship in recent decades.
Until the 1970s it was taught as a separate subject through sixth
grade. Children in mid-20thcentury America spent two hours a
week on it. Today the teaching of it generally ceases after third
grade, and a 2003 survey found that during the years it’s taught, it’s
for 10 minutes or less a day. In a letter to the editor in response, a
Princeton University student, Michael Medeiros, wrote that it made
sense to ditch this "obsolete" subject. He reported he had "not had to
read or write cursive in seven years." Young people like him are voting
with their fingers. The SATs began requiring a written essay in 2005,
but only about 15 percent of the test takers use cursive; everyone one
Medeiros has a point. Things that we think are
eternal and necessary may just be things that happened to us. In her
recent book, Script & Scribble: The Rise and Fall of Handwriting,
Kitty Burns Florey reports that in Colonial America, literacy was
valued because it allowed people to read the Bible. Writing was
considered a separate skill, one mastered almost exclusively by men of
the elite. It wasn’t until the end of the 19th century that an elementary school education—and lessons in handwriting—became universal.
Back then handwriting instruction was simply in the cursive (the word is derived from Latin for running)
style of the day. But in the 1920s it was believed that teaching young
children to print letters would be physically easier for them to master
and that this writing would more closely resemble the typeface of
books. So the manuscript style we all learned, known as "ball and
stick," was developed. This is the cause of nearly a century of
distress, according to handwriting reformers,
because the fine motor habits required for cursive writing are a
different set from those required for printing. Children had to learn
to write twice.
The beauty of Barchowsky’s method—besides that
the writing is lovely to look at—is that it has to be taught only once.
There is no switch-over from print to cursive. Instead, after primary
grade students learn the written alphabet, they are taught to join the
letters from the start. Unlike Palmer-style cursive, in which every
letter is joined to another in a series of endless curves and loops,
italic joins only some. That makes it a far more natural way of
writing. After all, most adults eventually create their own
idiosyncratic print-cursive mashup.
When Barchowsky, slender and
energetic, describes traditional Palmer-style cursive, she can hardly
contain her disdain. Palmer-method penmanship was the brainchild of
A.N. Palmer, a "penman" born in 1860 who wanted to strip down the more
elaborate writing style of the day. (It was known as Spencerian, after
another American handwriting entrepreneur, Platt Rogers Spencer. His
pleasing script lives on in the Coca-Cola logo.) By the early 20th
century, Palmer’s alphabet and instruction methods went viral. When he
died in 1927, Florey writes, three-quarters of American schoolchildren
were using his method. (His company went bankrupt in 1987.)
to Barchowsky, his legacy is a kind of virus, infecting the handwriting
of generations. According to "italicists" like Barchowsky, the
mechanics of Palmer are all wrong. Printing and italic both emphasize
the downstroke of each letter, but Palmer-style handwriting emphasizes the upstroke. She says the shapes of the letters themselves are a problem. Writing e‘s like they’re the squiggles on a Hostess cupcake leads to confusion between e, l, i, and r. Lowercase h, m, n, r, u, v, and w often look alike. Palmer-style br looks like lr, and d looks like cl. Then there’s aesthetics—Barchowsky would like to rid the world of all those unnecessary, misshapen loops.
We brought home Barchowsky’s program for improving existing handwriting called Fix It … Write. Each lesson begins with warm-up exercises. These are patterns that look like vvvvv or wwwww or mmmmm,
to get our muscles familiar with the basic shapes of many letters and
give a crucial sense of rhythm. Each lesson lasts no more than 10 or 15
minutes. Barchowsky believes the long practice sessions of old-time
handwriting instruction only frustrate students.
I learned from Florey that the Egyptians used a wavelike symbol for water that the Phoenicians adapted and called mem—thus the letter M. I loved the soothing mindlessness of the exercises, particularly seeing the mmmm‘s break across the page—a tiny, rolling sea.
few letters are introduced in each lesson, followed by putting them
together in words, with the emphasis on what does and doesn’t join. The
key to Barchowsky’s italic is the built-in breaks between letters,
which vastly increases legibility. Take, for example, her practice
sentence, Tim’s mama raps a purple pan. In the word Tim the T stands alone, while the i and m are joined. Mama is completely joined, while for purple the purp is joined, and so is the le,
but there is a break between the two segments. Although it might seem
that the tiny lifts of the hand between writing some letters would slow
you down, it’s actually more instinctive than trying to control the
runaway joins of conventional cursive.
From the start, my
daughter’s workbook showed dramatic improvement in her penmanship, but
her homework lagged. It turns out she thought this new handwriting
should be saved for something special and wasn’t practical for every
day. I convinced her having everyday handwriting that looked special
was the whole point.
Each evening (OK, each evening we got to
it), my daughter and I sat side by side doing our warm-ups and writing
our practice sentences. The italic alphabet started to feel more
effortless. My grocery lists were becoming legible. When I wrote checks
I no longer worried about having to void them because of unreadability.
I even decided to make my signature more pleasing, which backfired the
day I was unable to transfer money to my Keogh account because my
signature didn’t match the one on file. But still, when my writing was
under pressure—taking notes during an interview, for example—it would
revert to my usual messy scrawl. It was a struggle to keep conscious
track of the look of my handwriting while trying to keep up with my
This project also brought up the question of whether
the Princeton student was right—that we were spending time on an
archaic skill no one cares about anymore. Besides interview notes, I
typed almost everything else I wrote. My daughter did most of her
homework on the computer. On the worksheets and tests she had to write
by hand, no teacher had complained about her sloppy penmanship.
the sliver of academia that studies handwriting, there’s a debate about
its actual value. Everyone agrees students need to learn handwriting,
and that a clear, fast legible hand is preferable to the opposite. But
Virginia Berninger, a professor of educational psychology at the
University of Washington, asserts
that handwriting has a value beyond its basic utilitarian one. She says
the physical process of making letters by hand more powerfully embeds
written-language-making skills in children’s brains than pressing keys.
Her argument has an intrinsic appeal. We mourn (and also
celebrate) every time a new technology displaces an artisan’s skill.
But Steve Graham, professor of education at Vanderbilt University who
has worked with Berninger, says the actual evidence in favor of
handwriting is weak. He says that if we really wanted to improve
children’s language skills, we would place enough computers in
classrooms so that there was a keyboard at every desk. Sure, he says,
kids need a basic ability to handwrite letters, but for fluency with
the written word the keyboard is far superior. Children can easily
correct mistakes and move text, and when they print out their work it’s
guaranteed to look good. "It’s more motivating," says Graham.
my daughter and I found the motivation to continue Barchowsky’s
program. Slowly over the 10 weeks it took us, the improvements started
to become part of our unconscious handwriting. True, no bride would
hire us to address her wedding invitations, but by the end we were both
astonished at our progress. My daughter said, "I was embarrassed by my
old handwriting; now I’m not. I used to hate it in class if I couldn’t
use the computer because my writing was such a scribble."
longer produce a jumble that makes me cringe, but Miss Mackenzie
drilled me so well that I have found it almost impossible to completely
eradicate my loops. The letter L is the H1N1 of my handwriting; just when I think I have the loop scourge under control, a new outbreak appears.
my daughter and I agreed that to really get attractive handwriting, we
should do the Barchowsky class over again. We talk about it from time
to time. But we realize that it would take the kind of energy you find
in a quick brown fox. We’re just a couple of lazy dogs.
Emily Yoffe is the author of What the Dog Did: Tales From a Formerly Reluctant Dog Owner. You can send your Human Guinea Pig suggestions or comments to email@example.com.
Article URL: http://www.slate.com/id/2227680/
Environment for the Americas | 2840 Iliff Street | Boulder | CO | 80305
This ezine is also available online at http://home.ezezine.com/1934/1934-2009.09.07.13.09.archive.html
by Dr. H. Ross Hawkins
Founder and Executive Director
a free e-newsletter for anyone interested in hummingbirds
Date of issue September 6, 2009
Issue Number 2009-03
The Rockport/Fulton Hummer/Bird Celebration September 17-20, 2009
The biggest hummingbird festival in the US is coming up very soon! Held in Rockport/Fulton, Texas, about a half hour north of Corpus Christi, this event will draw 5,000-10,000 hummingbird lovers. You’d love it! Visual presentations, banding demonstrations, private yards open to the public to watch the incredible numbers who pass through the town a part of the migration. While some Ruby-throats fly across the Gulf in the fall, a sizeable number follow the Texas Gulf Coast and do not venture over the water. This festival is timed for the estimated peak in migrant population.
The Hummingbird Society will have a booth at the event. The Executive Director, H. Ross Hawkins, will be a presenter on the topic "HummerLove: courtship and nesting in Hummingbirds".
More information is available at www.rockporthummingbird.com.
Migration–what a feat!
Migrating hummers in Sedona, AZ;photo © Ross Hawkins
It is close to miraculous: a tiny bird only three inches long and weighing only 1/10 of an ounce manages to fly thousands of miles to reach a warmer destination in the winter. In terms of the hummers’ size, it is the longest migration of any bird in the world: 21,000,000 body lengths. For a 6-foot human, this equates to 20,000 miles. Makes me tired just thinking about it.
The Ruby-throated Hummingbird, so familiar to those who live in the eastern half of the U.S., flies up to 2,000 miles from parts of Canada to Mexico–and even further, as far as Panama. The Rufous Hummingbird, which nests as far north as parts of Alaska, flies up to 3,000 miles! Let’s do a little arithmetic: If they average 20 miles an hour, a 2,000 mile trip requires 100 hours; if the wings are beating around 50 beats per second, that works out to 18 million wing beats. No wonder the migrating hummingbirds are so hungry when they discover your feeders!
Not all hummingbirds migrate. In Central and most of South America, food is abundant year ’round, and migration is limited, mostly to changes in altitude. But our migrants have evolved to take advantage of food and nesting space in more distant locales, and historically evolution has inclined them to take the enormous risks over a journey that is so long.
I still marvel at the Ruby-throats who fly nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico! The only place they will ever get a chance to stop and rest is on a boat or a drilling platform—and they have been observed to do this. I’ve heard occasional reports of shrimp boats who put out feeders, but so far no documenting photographs. We’ve received photos from two workers on drilling platforms. Tony Chapa, a medic on one such platform, took the photo below and shows that even a homemade feeder (IV drip bag, coffee stirrers, and ear plugs!) is recognized and welcomed by migrants who stop by. (Can you see all three hummers?)
Photo © Tony Chapa
When a hummer migrates, its primary stimulus is the number of hours of daylight in the day—which is why hummers in Canada start moving before their cousins in more southern locations. In an interesting experiment, a scientist kept a Rufous in a cage and weighed it daily. Almost like magic, one day the weight began to increase, until it weighed 35% more, then leveled off. The bird knew it was time to migrate and had begun to prepare.
The extra weight, carried as fat just under the skin, has often been observed by banders. Think of the fat as being analogous to the wingtip fuel tanks carried by some airplanes: the flight range is extended because of the extra fuel. This gives a cushion to unexpected problems with finding food, weather disruption, etc., as they fly over land. Ruby-throats do the same, but when they arrive on the Gulf Coast, then they add up to 100% excess fat above their normal weight. These are plump hummers! When they fly across the Gulf to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, they will burn off the fat, having none left upon arrival. If 100% fat enables them to fly 600 miles, then we can reason that the 35% carried by the Rufous mentioned above can, in theory, carry it up to 200 miles with stopping to eat. Fat provides a safety cushion for a migrating bird.
Upon arrival at each stop along the way, these hummers are hungry! And while on the one hand this gives them even more reason to be feisty and territorial, the impracticality of fighting twenty other migrants at the same feeder results in a greater tranquility than one might expect (but not always!).
You can help migrants by putting out more feeders than usual, and bunching them up instead of scattering often results in less fighting (see above).
Frequent Migration Question: when to take down feeders
Starting about mid-August, the e-mails at the Society begin pouring in with the same question: when do I take down my feeders. This question arises from areas where the species migrate south for the winter. That covers about 90% of the U.S.! The concern is frequently expressed that they don’t want to keep the hummingbirds to stick around when they should be migrating. This is a compassionate question, because no one likes to imagine a hummingbird freezing to death in a winter it was not able to endure.
Well, you don’t have to worry. You couldn’t force them to stay by keeping up your feeders if you tried! And you can’t make everyone else take down their feeders, anyway, nor tell everyone to cut down flowers that might retard their journey.
So, when do you take down the feeders? Our recommendation is to leave them up until you haven’t seen a single hummer for three weeks. All your neighborhood hummingbirds may have disappeared, but you want to allow for the stragglers who, for whatever reason, did not start their migration on schedule, or perhaps were delayed. You could be a real lifesaver for these birds! Most flowers will be past their peak then, so your feeder would be a welcome sight. Conversely, taking down the feeders too early could reduce their ability to continue their migration.
About those hummingbird nests…
In the last issue of this e-letter, we talked about hummingbird nests, and I want to review the topic a bit further. If you have been fortunate enough to find a nest, keep this in mind: returning hummers next spring may use the nest wholly and repair it, or they may use it as a source of materials for a new nest. So don’t collect it. You may also be surprised to learn that as migratory birds, their nests are protected by treaty, and possession is a felony offense (yikes!).
New HB101 card
We have just reprinted our very popular "Hummingbirds 101" card, a small (4×6 inches) card jam-packed with more basic information about hummingbirds than you would think possible. The contents of the card reflects thirteen years of answering questions by mail, email, and telephone—we have a very good fix on what Inquiring Minds Want to Know About Hummingbirds. So far over 20,000 have been distributed, so we have printed another 20,000. You can download a PDF of this 2-sided card; this PDF has been enlarged 50% to make it easier to read.
These cards are free, thanks to one of our corporate sponsors, Parasol LLC (www.parasolgarden.com). Just send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to us and we’ll send it back with 1-5 cards, as you request. You can order more, if your garden or bird club or your store would like to hand them out. Just send us your request, and if you could include a little donation to cover postage, we’d appreciate it, because they are surprisingly heavy.
Special offer to prior members of the Hummingbird Society
If you have been a member of the Hummingbird Society but let your membership lapse, we have a special offer provided the membership expiration date was before 2007: We’ll renew your membership at the regular price of $30, for which you will receive four future issues of our all-color newsletter, The Hummingbird Connection, AND you will also receive the last 4 issues that you missed as well! This will keep you busy reading during your evenings for quite a while! No extra cost.
At the time of this writing, here are the latest 4 issues:
If you’re not sure of your membership status, call us at 800 529-3699, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Of course, if you’ve never joined the Society before, now would be a good time to start!
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