Solitude and quietness in a tranquil zone accessible only by kayak

Also:  How to disembark without acting clumsy

Lee Cuesta kayak in Catherine Creek wetlands of Lake Cassidy.

I realize it seems like a cliché to say it was a perfect day of kayaking.  But then I realized that every day kayaking IS a perfect day!  And so that’s how it was on Lake Cassidy today, the second Monday in May.  Lake Cassidy is located in Snohomish County, east of Marysville.

Recreational areas reopened in Washington state as restrictions during the co+ vid controversy (henceforth referred to as co-con) are beginning to loosen.  So first I bought our annual Discover Pass, now available again, which had previously been unavailable online because of the co-con.  When you purchase it online, you’re able to print a temporary pass, and the permanent one is delivered via USPS.

Now, the big, main point of this blog post comes at the end of our outing on Lake Cassidy.  So if you want to skip to the end, feel free.  It has to do with the device I built of PVC, which shows up randomly and occasionally in the photos in this post.  Keep reading if you want the highlights of our outing, which includes an adventure in the marshy wetlands where the lake feeds into Catherine Creek.

Lee Cuesta kayak in Lake Cassidy.

The day was sunny with high clouds.  Temperature was pleasantly warm, not a scorching heat, but rather more of a radiant warmth, perhaps enhanced because I was wearing compression sleeves, primarily as a sunblock.

We saw a very blue Great Blue Heron, flying low over the lake twice.  Not only him, but also the sky appears much more blue, thanks to the co-con restrictions, which, in turn, causes the lakes around here to be more blue.  This heron looked quite large — huge wingspan, of course — with his legs curled up beneath him.  Lake Cassidy also is home to a family of eagles.  While bicycling along the Centennial Trail, we had previously identified their nest, which today was occupied by two juveniles, while their parent was searching for their meal.  (In this not-too-clear photo, the eagles’ nest is visible to the right of center.)

We heard the juveniles calling out to the parent.  First we saw him (or her) soaring above the lake.  But then, oddly, we found him prancing on the ground on the northern shore.  To us, this seemed like unusual behavior.  We kept our distance on the lake, to not disturb him, while I tried to capture this on video.  We speculated that he had just captured his own meal, perhaps a rodent, and was consuming it.  Eventually he took off and soared away to catch the next prey that he would take home to the nest, and his hungry offspring.

There are almost no houses or buildings along the northern or eastern shores because there is essentially no solid shoreline.  Instead, it is very marshy with cattails, lilypads and other water plants.  So mostly there are modest, older houses set far back, with long docks stretching beyond the marshland to the lake.  Thus, Lake Cassidy is not overdeveloped, unlike most of the lakes around here.  Two geese flew low together across the lake; the remainder of their flock was resting on a long front lawn at one of the houses.  And I saw one lonely duck, while my paddling companion was investigating whether there were any frog eggs in the marsh along the shoreline.

Catherine Creek wetlands

Lee Cuesta kayak in Catherine Creek wetlands of Lake Cassidy.

Several birdhouses are mounted on poles along the lake’s southern shore, and they appear to be occupied.  Exploring this southern end of Lake Cassidy is the highlight of this outing.  “Fed by Little Martha Lake, Lake Cassidy drains southward to the Pilchuck River via Catherine Creek.”* My paddling companion was ahead of me, and as I headed through the water-lillies and into the tall bulrushes and coontails, I could no longer see her.  She was completely hidden.  In this wetland area where Lake Cassidy converges to form Catherine Creek, narrow channels meander through the marsh.  I paddled into a wider area among the tall reeds by myself, but soon decided I should find my companion.  It was so much fun exploring this secluded area.  We continued following the creek, noticing a slight current, until we came to a bridge crossing it.  That’s when we agreed to turn around and head back into the lake.  This adventure allowed us to discover perfect solitude and quietness in a tranquil zone with bird sounds and dragonflies, accessible only by kayak.

Lee Cuesta kayak in Catherine Creek wetlands of Lake Cassidy.

In case you were wondering, how does Lake Cassidy compare in size to one of our favorite lakes, Blackmans Lake (that’s right, no apostrophe) in Snohomish?  Well, Lake Cassidy itself is roughly twice as big, and its watershed is approximately five times bigger.  Here are the stats: 

“Blackmans Lake is located within the City of Snohomish, just east of Hwy 9. The area of the lake is 62.9 acres with an average depth of 14 feet. The watershed, or the land area that drains into the lake, covers 510.7 acres and about 50% of that land is developed.”

 “Lake Cassidy is located north of Lake Stevens and three miles east of Marysville. The lake covers 131.0 acres and has an average depth of 11 feet. The watershed, or the land area that drains into the lake, covers 2,649.6 acres and about 18% of the land is developed.”

I never realized before how shallow are some of these glacier-formed lakes.

Lee Cuesta kayak in Lake Cassidy.

How I now disembark

And now for the most important and final event of this outing!  Perhaps by this point you’re wondering how that PVC contraption works, the one you’ve noticed in the photos.  As usual, I paddled hard and fast in order to beach my kayak on the gravel launch area.  I laid my paddle aside, tethered to my kayak with a lanyard.  Then I began to remove my new PVC device from its cargo location.  Once free, I inserted it into the cabin.

The two long arms in the front, which you can see in the photos, extend inside the cabin toward the bow.  Then I take the T-shaped leg and insert it into the top of this piece.  By the way, that T-shaped leg is dual-purpose.  I also used it to push off when launching my kayak at the beginning of the outing.  Then I attach the brace between the cross-arm and the leg, forming a strong triangle structure.  (The purple piece in the photos is not part of it.  It’s only there to support it for the picture, which isn’t needed when it’s inside the kayak.)

At the current age of my current body, and after my legs have been dormant for approximately two hours, I’ve discovered that disembarking from my kayak is the most difficult chore of the outing.  So this PVC apparatus permits me to pull myself up, and then stand with stability.  Slowly (being a Tai Chi master) while holding the device for support, I lift one foot and place it outside the kayak.  Still gripping the device, I lift my other foot out, and I have successfully disembarked using my new device!

At that point, I feel super good about disembarking without being clumsy.  It really worked!  I was elated.  So of course, my new device has a patent pending, and if somebody else tries to sell you one who claims that “one size fits all,” don’t buy it. Each style of kayak is unique, and so my device must be custom built.  Of course, kayak manufacturers could make these for each of their kayak styles.  Licensing agreements are available.  Or, after this co-con is over and relegated to the inglorious section of our global history, I’ll come over to your house and build one for you.  Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.  And to all you Baby Boomers like me:  have fun again!

Lee Cuesta

Footnote:

*https://snohomishcountywa.gov/DocumentCenter/View/62592/cassidy

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Urinalphobia and The New ADD — My Top 2 Pet-Peeves

(Note from Lee Cuesta: I am offering this light-hearted guest post amid this temporary national emergency with the intention that it might bring some humor and levity to your periods of self-isolation and social-distancing. As noted at the end, you have my permission to reprint this in your publication or on your website if you’d like a short, humorous piece for your audience.)

Guest post by Don Delfeen*

My first pet-peeve:

The New ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)

People who are starved for attention; i.e., people who believe that nobody pays them enough attention: these people are classified as having Attention Deficit Disorder. They are people who suffer from an attention deficit. So what do they do? They go overboard trying to generate more attention for themselves. This is the new definition for ADD. Some examples:

⦁ well-to-do retirees in muscle cars or hot-rods. Although they want me to smile, nod and acknowledge their fancy wheels, my passive-aggressive nature forces me to look the other way.

⦁ the customer who walks into the home improvement superstore with a large tropical bird, either brightly colorful or pure white, on their shoulder. They are begging the public to admire their bird, and by extension, to notice them as well. They are starved for attention.

⦁ insecure individuals covered with tatoos, or the ones with ultraviolet hair. They are silently screaming, “Look at me!”

⦁ people who sigh heavily, expecting me to acknowledge them for this reason.

⦁ people who laugh because of something they see on their smartphone, expecting me to ask, “What are you laughing about?”

Finally, there are people who ask me “How are you?” solely because they expect that I am going to turn it around and ask how they are, because they have some sickness or ailment or medical procedure they want to tell me about. So I will never reciprocate with that question because I don’t want to know how they are, and I refuse to open the door for them to tell me.

As I just said, my passive-aggressive nature forces me to look the other way and ignore all those are starved for attention, who suffer with the new ADD. When you hear about this new disorder later, remember that you read it here first. Thanks. I need the attention.

#2. Urinalphobia

What’s up with the modern masculine male identity? In the restroom at the home improvement superstore, there are two urinals separated by a wall, which is one of those restroom “partitions.” Nevertheless, if I am already standing at one of the urinals, other men will inevitably go into a stall to use a toilet, even if only to urinate.

Now, there does seem to be an age factor in this characterization. In general, the older gentlemen — around my age — exhibit no inhibition while they walk up beside me and unzip their flies. On the other hand, younger guys — such as Millennials and younger — will never walk up to the urinal beside me.

It is as if they’ve been feminized and domesticated so thoroughly that they don’t even know what a urinal is. Either that, or they are so self-conscious and shy that they cannot comprehend standing next to another man with both their penises exposed. They suffer from urinalphobia, but what are they afraid of?

In the restroom of a local grocery store that is part of a regional supermarket chain, the urinal is one of those old-fashioned styles that goes all the way down into the floor, and there is no partition between them. Now that might feel intimidating to some insecure punk.

Here is the main reason why I find this urinalphobic behavior so annoying. The sit-down toilet in the stalls is an AquaVantage HET (high-efficiency toilet) by ZURN, and it consumes 1.28 GPF (gallons per flush). Plus, using motion detectors, they flush automatically every time. This is very wasteful for eliminating only liquids. So I want to photocopy this statement and post it inside the stalls, which these urinalphobes will clearly see and read as they are standing there pissing:

“If you are facing this note, then you are peeing.
Don’t be a wasteful moron.
Next time, use the urinal, and not this toilet.
This toilet wastes 1.28 gallons every time it flushes, even to simply remove your liquid pee, you moron.
The urinal uses only 0.125 gallon per flush. That’s why it is called The Pint.
So next time you pee, be a man and walk up to the urinal.”

On the other hand, at my current age, I must admit it is kind of nice not to have one or two other younger guys come and go at the urinal beside me while I’m still standing there waiting for my penis to finish its business.

* A three-minute open-mike performance featuring comedian Don Delfeen
can be seen at the leecuestalive channel on YouTube.

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Text & Artwork Copyright © 2020 by Lee Cuesta Enterprises and Associates (LCEA). Permission is granted to reprint this article in its entirety with the condition that its source (this website) and its author (Don Delfeen) are both acknowledged.

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Where are they now?

The next step in my journey brings me to a town called Tualatin, in the state of Oregon, USA. I’ve gone kayaking on the Tualatin River many times. Nearby, in the marshy ground, the partial skeleton of an ancient mastodon was unearthed in 1962.  These bones are now displayed at the Tualatin Public Library.

This mastodon became the inspiration for a beautiful sculpture that is exhibited outdoors.  This work of art was created by renowned sculptor Brian Keith. Many of his sculptures include children or youngsters, participating in a playful or fanciful moment.  The Tualatin sculpture features a boy gazing at the juvenile mastodon. And as I gazed at the boy who was gazing at the mastodon, I wondered if the time is coming when the only reminder we’ll have of elephants will be a statue like this one.  In other words, when this fictitious boy in the sculpture grows up, will his only image and memory of elephants be a statue?

I am especially concerned about the long-term survival of the Asian elephant population, and its subspecies, the Indian elephants, whose numbers have been receding, and are classified as endangered.  Now, I understand that mastodons are related to modern elephants only insofar as they both belong to the order “Proboscidea,” as follows –

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Proboscidea
After this, mastodons belong to the Family “Mammutidae” and the Genus “Mammut,” whereas Asian elephants belong to the FamilyElephantidae” and the Genus Elephas.”  In this way, the Asian elephant is more closely related to the mammoths, who likewise belonged to the FamilyElephantidae.”

But my point is this:  Once upon a time, there used to be mammals of the order “Proboscidea” on the North American continent.  Where are they now?
.

The fact that the Indian elephants face possible extinction was confirmed in a conversation I had with Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder of Wildlife SOS.  I spoke with him while conducting research for my full-length article about Gajraj that I published on my blog in August, 2017, which is available here.  Kartick told me, “So basically, if you look at the whole world, we’ve lost 98 percent of the wild population of the Asian elephants.”  I asked him, “Do you think that it depends upon this generation or the next to prevent their extinction?”

Kartick responded, “Absolutely. It is really this generation or the next that can do something if there is to be hope. Otherwise, in five years, we could have no elephants. Our children and grandchildren might have to be shown elephants on photos and videos and Youtube, and there wouldn’t be any elephants left in the world.  That is not a distant chance; it is a very real possibility if we are not careful.” He added, “It is frightening and it shows how much on the edge we are, and it’s a very fragile system and a very fragile state for this planet and for its denizens.”

I recently watched the Context talk on YouTube by Mr. Avinash Krishnan entitled, “Postcode Elephants,” in which he affirms that the final opportunity for the survival of the Indian elephant population may reside in the Brahmagiri-Niligiri-Eastern Ghats landscape, located in southern India, which includes  Bannerghatta National Park.

For this reason, I will be traveling to southern India this year to conduct firsthand interviews and investigation, probably involving volunteer work.

Although at this time I am not at liberty to divulge the content of the outline for my new book, these themes are central to it:

  • How will the Indian elephants survive and thrive in an increasingly urban landscape (the outskirts of Bangalore in increasing proximity to BNP), and in the face of habitat loss and fragmentation, which leads to human-elephant conflict (including intelligent and strategic crop raiding)?
  • How has the elephant lost its spiritual and sacred status?
  • Since mitigating HEC is elusive, how is it to be achieved?
  • What is being done by groups such as A Rocha, the Elephants and Bees Project, and the Asian Nature Conservation Foundation, in southern India (Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu)?
  • What strategies are successful (such as Beehive Fences; safe migration corridors; etc.)?
  • Why isn’t it possible for elephants to be cared for, treated and trained humanely (target training), like domestic horses are, with love and compassion?

Lee Cuesta

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Chili-Tobacco Elephant Barrier Experiment in Southern India: Ten-Year Update

By Lee Cuesta

Being the last month of 2019, I’d intended this blog post to be a ten-year update about the Chili-Tobacco Barrier (CTB) mechanism in southern India.  This refers to the Elephant Barrier Experiment that was spearheaded by A Rocha India in 2009; hence, my idea for the ten-year update. In fact, an excellent video about this was published on YouTube on June 18, 2009.  It describes the plight of farmers living close to Bannerghatta National Park whose crops are often raided by Asian elephants (Elephas maximus). These are marginal farmers with less than an acre of land for themselves.  Their principal crop is Ragi, or Finger Millet, which also is a delicacy for the elephants. Ragi is a whole grain that is gluten-free and a staple in South India.*

The Barrier Experiment was conducted in the village of Sollepuradoddi, where human-elephant conflict is at a peak.  The barrier consisted of a mixture of chili and tobacco powders in motor oil that was smeared onto a thick rope, which was suspended around the ragi fields.  For this reason, the workers with A Rocha became known as Haggadavaru (the Rope People).  Based on an elephant’s sense of smell, and thus their strong reactions to chili peppers and tobacco as an alternative, natural deterrent, this barrier mechanism was originally tested in Africa.

It proved very successful where it was implemented around Sollepuradoddi. Elephant footprints (pad marks) and dung deposited by nighttime raiders revealed that elephants would not enter fields surrounded by the CTB mechanism, whereas neighboring fields, unprotected, were ransacked, and full of elephant dung and the pad marks.

Mr. Avinash Krishnan told me, “The farmer in the promo video was one of the chief advocates, as the CTB had nearly 90% efficacy in his farm (test-plots).”  Here is what this farmer says: “Before erecting this chili-tobacco barrier, elephants used to enter my crop fields.  After erecting this fence, the elephants still do come, but because of the smell of chili powder and tobacco powder, the elephants have no chance of entering, all because of the smell.  Even though they come close, they just walk alongside the chili fence and go off. They’ve never entered the crop field.”***

So I contacted A Rocha India via email with specific questions concerning the CTB mechanism and its long-term effectiveness.  However, it’s not the type of ten-year update that I expected. The following information was provided by Mr. Avinash Krishnan, currently the Sr. Research Officer at A Rocha and head of all the Science and Conservation programs.  He began his reply to me by stating: “I’m happy to know of your interest in the CTB mechanism that was piloted in Bannerghatta NP to understand its implications of HEC (human-elephant conflict) resolution.”

But then he writes:  “The project was discontinued after 2010, with a last survey done in the mid of 2009, due to the lack of funds to support the farmers of  the area where the pilot tests were conducted.”

You may be wondering why I wanted to write a ten-year update on a project that was discontinued so soon after its inception.  It is because the website, while upholding the barrier experiment as a success, makes no mention of the fact that it was abandoned soon after it was tested.  So the curious inquirer or the serious researcher assumes that the CTB mechanism is still in use.  But this is not the case.

He continues:  “Therefore the long-term efficacy of this barrier system wasn’t assessed systematically and a few farmers discontinued the barriers due to the lack of resourceful for immanence.  (There are) no data on CTB efficacy, as it was discontinued post the initial survey.

“Sollepuradoddi still remains a high conflict zone for elephant raids; however, through A Rocha’s other conflict mitigation initiatives we have been progressing, trying to resolve crop depredations, mainly reducing human deaths due to retaliation.”

I asked him to identify and explain these “other conflict mitigation initiatives,” and he replied:

“Our latest project using technology to mitigate HEC is testing the long-term efficacy of the MATAM (monitoring and trip alert mechanism) early-warning system for human-elephant conflict management in Bannerghatta NP. This is a novel initiative in Bannerghatta and is aimed at improving the existing system of breach detection. Apart from this we have been consistently assisting the forest department  in identifying conflict hotspots for erection of physical barrier systems, such as the railway fence.”

So I asked him, has HEC been mitigated?  In other words, is there greater harmony between humans and elephants?

He wrote: “There cannot be a fool proof mitigation approach to any human-wildlife conflict scenario. Harmony is very subjective, but needs continued engagement and conservation efforts to increase tolerance of people towards wildlife that causes harm to their life, crop and property.

“Our community-based conservation model ‘Bangaloreans for Bannerghatta,’ a citizen outreach initiative, is aimed at curating programs and monthly events to bring in CBC’s to the farmers of the landscape to look at alternative/supplementary livelihood options and also sensitizing them about importance of forests and wildlife through media such as art, natural history and eco awareness.”

HEC is becoming an increasingly potent issue in this region of India, especially as Bengaluru increases its proximity to Bannerghatta NP.  In fact, Krishnan states during a lecture that was recorded and posted on YouTube: “This is perhaps the only national park in the world (Bannerghatta NP) that has a wild tiger and a wild elephant so close to a metropolitan city.  Nowhere else. Nowhere else in the world will you find these two charismatic animals, that are the flagship for conservation, so close to (an urban area; i.e.,) Bangalore. So we are looking at these two species competing with eight million people; … you can imagine the kind of pressures that could exist on this important landscape, an important ecosystem.”

The CTB mechanism “has been implemented in several regions of India (Tamilnadu, Assam, Karnataka and parts of Kerala adjoining elephant habitats), but due to its limited success and long-term involvement of communities for maintenance, it has been mostly discontinued in most of the elephant conflict zones, for other ‘social’ barrier systems. (The) bee-hive fence is the most popular and sustainable method. Its implication for Bannerghatta NP is currently being explored.”  Bee-hive fences as a barrier mechanism will be the topic of a future blog post.

HEC mitigation must recognize the problems and challenges of both the humans and the Asian elephants.  That is why I will be traveling to India in 2020, for my next book: how will these barrier mechanisms contribute to the Indian elephants’ survival . . . or their extinction?  How do they interface with habitat fragmentation? Or migration corridors?

During the test period for the CTB mechanism in 2009, their source for the chili and tobacco powders was “local markets around Bangalore city.”  In order to properly maintain the rope barriers, “the deterrent mixture should be smeared on the ropes at least once a week for great efficacy as understood by our research.”  However, “We do not have any (photographic) content to show elephants near a CTB fence as camera traps where not in development around Bannerghatta NP during the time of testing.”

Have the villagers become autonomous in implementing this mechanism?

“Nope. And can never unless the costs are sustainable for maintenance.”

Therefore, A Rocha India no longer is known as Haggadavaru (the Rope People), but rather “as ‘elephant people’ in a more generic sense.”

So the ten-year update about the CTB mechanism in southern India is that it was discontinued ten years ago.  You’ll want to keep this in mind if you watch any of the videos in various venues online.

Nevertheless, A Rocha India has been “continuing to monitor and manage Asian elephants in this landscape since 2003, using science, education and outreach methods for conservation. The focus now is to expand our work into other elephant landscapes of the country.”  The primary landscape to which Krishnan is referring is called the Brahmagiri-Niligiri-Eastern Ghats landscape, per his YouTube lecture.**  He states: “This is a very important landscape.  And this is probably the only place in India that can ensure the future survival of elephants.”

(Author’s Note: The purpose of this informal blog post is to spark questions and dialogue.  I acknowledge that this post is very informal compared with my full-fledged, crafted and edited articles.  But I felt vindicated when I read this quote from the book entitled Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, likewise published in 2019: “It’s not that edited, formal writing has disappeared online [there are plenty of business and news sites that still write much like we did in print], it’s that it’s now surrounded by a vast sea of unedited, unfiltered words that once might have only been spoken.”)

Footnotes:

https://food.ndtv.com/food-drinks/benefits-of-ragi-a-wonder-grain-1400676

**https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9gHnwMq3iY

***https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3_dXOMcRqM

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Permission is granted to reprint this article in its entirety, or in part, with the condition that its source (this website) and its author (Lee Cuesta) are both acknowledged.

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Lake Roesiger: Like paddling on both a “river” and lakes in one, single outing

We finally did it!  And this is our last paddling trip for 2019.  It is the last Sunday of October, the perfect autumn day, something we experience almost every year in the Pacific Northwest:  an “Indian summer,” gorgeous summer-like days after the initial rainy autumn storms subside. There is a break in the gloomy weather, and for a week or two, the sunshine and its warmth return. You can depend on it.  Sometimes we go to a solitary beach along the Pacific Ocean.

This year, instead, we finally took our kayaks paddling on Lake Roesiger (pronounced RAW-si-gur).  What a contrast from the last time I was there! It was in January, 2017, and there was thick ice on Lake Roesiger right up to the shoreline and boat ramp, where today we are launching our kayaks. Not the entire lake was frozen over, but the southern section still had thick ice, as you can see in the video that I posted on YouTube.  Here’s the link:

Ice on Lake Roesiger

Today is just the opposite:  60 degrees, clear blue sky; fall colors: red, yellow, orange leaves against the backdrop of mostly evergreens: Douglas firs and cedars.  Because the lake is uniquely configured in three sections, connected by narrower, shallow channels, I am describing today’s outing in terms of “outbound” and “inbound,” rather than merely circling the perimeter of a lake.

OUTBOUND:

The boat launch is secluded; it is actually located on Middle Shore Road, off of S. Lake Roesiger Road, on the eastern side of Lake Roesiger’s southern tip.  This morning, as we launch, the lake is super placid; there is no breeze, and so the lake’s surface provides a bright, clear, colorful reflection. A prominent mountain peak rises in the background, to the north, which I’m not able to identify.  As we approach the northern edge of this southern section, a small house with a bright red metal roof is our landmark to head into the first slender, shallow channel, veering to the west and north.

This outing is like kayaking on both a lake and a river because shallow channels — where it is easy to see the bottom, and the vegetation growing there — connect the three sections of the lake.  We see ducks flying, a bald eagle soaring, and a large flock of geese on somebody’s lawn and sitting on a long fallen log protruding into the water. Nice houses snuggle right up to the lake’s edge; however, the narrower, river-like channels are less densely populated.  In this constricted area, buoys mark the navigable channels and no-wake zones. Also, the lillypads here are dense, even at the end of October; so what would they be like in the summer?

We are the only kayakers on this outbound leg.  Entering the lake’s second section, we encounter a small fishing boat, with two fishermen.  Powered motorcraft are permitted on this lake. The northern part of Lake Roesiger, though, is the largest, and when get out onto this main portion of the northern section, the wind begins to kick up and I wonder two things.  First, what happened to the placid lake with no breeze? And second, are we going to make it safely to the other side? It is a challenge paddling in this wind, and the waves are formidable. I look back to make sure my companion is OK.

We cross all the way to the lake’s northern cove because I couldn’t remember exactly the contour of the lake, and so I don’t know for certain if this is the northernmost segment. There are two coves, to the west and to the north.  Entering this quiet cove, the water is tranquil, with debris such as leaves and fir needles floating on the surface. We can see now that we’ve reached the end of our outbound journey. As we rest here for a few minutes on this still water, we eat some of our protein snack with apple slices.

INBOUND:

Beginning our return trip, I am briefly disoriented at first.  I realize that for some reason, I am paddling due east when I should have headed to my right, or south.  So I wind up almost at the center of the lake. My paddling partner patiently waited for me. While I am out here, though, in the middle of the lake, the darkness of the water stuns me, and I wonder how deep it is.  One website states: “The lake has three distinct areas with the center area being shallow and the northern part of the lake being the deepest, with depths to 115 feet.”

Now I put on my sunglasses, and I feel considerably warmer as we are facing the sun on this inbound leg, headed due south.  We are passed by a couple of speed boats that are going very slowly, causing no wake. I can hear their engines rumbling, and I look back to see them approaching, only crawling.  One man greets us from his house on the shore: “It’s a beautiful day to be on the lake,” he says.

Several families are in their yards along the lake; a couple of guys stand on their deck high above, grilling and laughing.  Low sunlight comes from the south; at one point, we could make out no houses on the shore, only the trees, backlit, almost in silhouette.

Then we notice something very peculiar.  At first, in the distance on the water, I can see something large with a couple of headlights coming slowly toward us. We are nearing one of the narrow channels marked by buoys.  We paddle away from the channel to let it pass. What we are seeing is this: coming in the opposite direction, it is a floating wooden dock with a small outboard motor that’s being controlled by a guy wearing a blue sweatshirt and jeans sitting on a low beach chair with his dog.  He is towing a large flat, gray pontoon party boat with a man and woman coming through this channel in the shallow section of the lake.

We see many fish jumping; earlier it looked like one of the guys in the small fishing boat had one on his line. “The lake holds rainbows, silvers, and spiny rays including bass,” according to the same website cited earlier: Lake Roesiger details

Two women are paddling in separate kayaks on the southern section of Lake Roesiger.  As we beach our kayaks beside the boat ramp, and climb out, one of the speed boats is being pulled onto a trailer.  I realize that, except for the small, fishing boat with two men, the only other boat traffic we encountered has been on this inbound trip; it has been a tranquil, solitary day.

Approximately two miles from south to north, this has been a four to five mile round trip.  We finally did it, after anticipating it for over two years. And this was our last paddling trip for 2019.  Now our kayaks are winterized, one hanging in the garage, and three others under a tarp in the backyard. There they will stay until next spring, and family get-togethers in the summer, when we’ll visit this lake again, and explore Panther Lake for the first time.   As I mentioned earlier, I think Lake Roesiger is really fun because it feels like being both on lakes and a river in the same outing.

Lee  Cuesta

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King of the Elephants Regains His Freedom in India

By Lee Cuesta

In 1953, a baby boy was born—weighing roughly 176 pounds (80 kilograms)—in the forests of India.  Using their trunks, his mother and the other females assisted him to his feet so that he would begin nursing.  He didn’t know yet how to use his own trunk. It dangled without purpose, and sometimes he tripped over it.

A few years later, this strong, young bull was full of exuberance and imagination.  He was a free soul; he had no name because he belonged to no one.  He enjoyed the dappled sunlight through the forest canopy, and relished the soft cushion of the jungle floor.  His favorite foods were moist, tender roots and dark green leaves.  Now his trunk was a mighty tool that he could wield with precision.  His mother and “aunties” had raised him well, and in several more years he would begin his solitary life, or join together with a few other bachelors. When he was old enough, he would find a matriarchal herd in order to mate and reproduce.

Gajraj takes his first steps of freedom at the Elephant Conservation and Care Center.

But all of this abruptly changed. Suddenly one day he was captured. He heard loud explosions like he’d never heard before. The entire herd began to run in chaotic directions.  He couldn’t keep up.  His eyes expressed the terror and confusion he felt.  What was happening?  Where was his mother?  He wanted to protect her, just as she had protected him many times.

Capture and Training

Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder of Wildlife SOS in India, confirms the plausibility of this scenario. During a recent interview via Skype, he told me: “The poachers for live elephant trafficking try to target herds where there are female elephants with very young calves. If they have very young calves, they cannot move very far because the calves cannot walk long distances, and their speed is very limited.  So the herd moves very little. The aunts and the mother actually look after the calves; so they move a few kilometers, and they wait there, near a water hole or something. Their movement is rather restricted. So then, the poachers target those herds, and they try to use both firecrackers and loud sounds to drive the herd in a direction where they get separated from the calf.  The calf falls into a pit because he’s not able to keep pace with the rest of the herd. So then they can steal the calf and separate it, and harvest the calf out of that herd, and move away. Of course it leaves the complete herd distraught, highly traumatized. And the calf is also traumatized by being separated from its mother at such a young age.”

Now they gave him a name.  This strong, young bull was no longer free; he belonged to humans.  With cruel irony, they called him Gajraj.  “His name means ‘The King of the Elephants,’” according to Nikki Sharp, Executive Director of Wildlife SOS in the USA.

Kartick continued: “Then these little elephant calves are put through a very brutal, painful, and barbaric process of training.”  The owners tie them up and beat them to teach the calf who’s boss.   The trainers often use spears and sharp objects, and keep the calf chained for several months on end, on hard concrete in order to have the spirit broken, Kartick explained.  “And once the spirit is broken, then the animal is trainable and ridable.”

He added: “When people want to buy an elephant—illegally—they place an order, and then somebody causes the elephant calf to be poached from the wild. And then that elephant calf is tied up in the middle of the jungle somewhere, in a hidden location, beaten for several months, and in about a year it’s trained to do certain, basic things. Then it’s sold off. Wherever it goes, they subject it to further training, which means further cruelty and pain and suffering.”

Spiritual Significance

So Gajraj became a temple elephant.  Kartick said, “And a lot of the public who are devotees or temple visitors, who have faith in these temples, do not understand what is the background of the elephant.  They want a blessing from the elephant, but do not understand that even for the elephant to lift its trunk and give them a blessing, it’s been trained to do so through a very cruel and painful process. Everything is negative reinforcement only, and there’s only two tools that are used in the traditional methods of management in India to train Asian elephants, and that is pain and fear.”

Gajraj was sent to Ujjain, an ancient city beside the Kshipra River in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. An important Hindu pilgrimage destination, the Bade Ganesh Temple is located there, which houses a colorful statue of Ganesh (or Ganesha), the elephant-headed Hindu deity.  When I asked Kartick about the spiritual significance, or value, placed upon the elephants in India, he replied: “Ganesh is our elephant god, and he is the god of good beginnings.  He’s got a human body and an elephant’s head. He can have four, eight, and two arms—sometimes even more.  And in each of those arms he’s probably holding something, or he’s holding it in a certain position; that indicates something spiritual or religious.  Most people in India believe in Lord Ganesh, at least all the Hindus do.  And they think that the elephant itself is an embodiment of that god.”

Kartick continued: “A lot of temples try to get an elephant into the temple, and keep it there, captive, because then it adds to the value of the temple, increases the visitation to the temple, and also increases revenue to a certain extent.”  Kartick agrees that it’s a total contradiction to view the captive elephant as the embodiment of the god, and yet treat it so cruelly and inhumanely.

Then in 1965, at the age of approximately 12 years, Gajraj was given as a wedding present to the Queen of Aundh on the day she married King Bhagwant Rao. So he was made to travel 800 kilometers from Ujjain to Satara, Maharashtra, which took almost a month and a half, according to hindustantimes.com.

As the god of good beginnings, Wikipedia states, Ganesh is honoured at the start of rites and ceremonies, and so as a wedding gift, Gajraj represented a tremendous blessing upon the marriage. Wikipedia also calls Ganesh “Obstacle Remover.” A statement from Wildlife SOS says, “Gajraj played a vital role in the celebration. Ever since, the elephant has been a star attraction at the temple of Aundh, playing an important role during annual festivities and temple processions. Temple devotees see Gajraj as an icon of worship, as explained in the words of the Queen herself.”

Gajraj in captivity at Aundh prior to his retirement.

Care During His Captivity

“Often, people offer sweets and other artificial snacks to the elephant to seek blessings. However, for Gajraj, it is no blessing but a curse, as such foods can cause intestinal complications as well,” said PETA’s India director of veterinary affairs, Dr. Manilal Valliyate. Members of PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) found Gajraj chained near popular tourist spots like the Shri Bhavani Museum and Yamai Devi temple in Aundh, Satara, according to hindustantimes.com.  “Being chained for most of his life has had a detrimental effect on Gajraj’s health. He has lost weight and has nutritional deficiencies,” said Dr. Yaduraj Khadpekar, senior veterinarian with Wildlife SOS.

During his half century in captivity, “standing on unnatural surfaces for long periods of time has led to Gajraj’s footpads wearing out, which can be exceptionally dangerous for an elephant – making him prone to developing wounds and abscesses underfoot,” states a report from Wildlife SOS.

In addition, according to a statement from Save The Elephants, “Gajraj’s tusks have been chopped over a period of time without taking any permission from the forest department under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.”  Kartick commented: “I am not sure of the details of what happened to the ivory, but I do know, I can see—it’s quite visible—that he has had his tusks chopped off.”

His chopped tusks are visible in the photos that accompany this article.  The redness that appears at the ends of his tusks is not an injury, but instead the color of vermilion, which is red paint that was applied by the villagers because he was a temple elephant.  Nikki Sharp told me that “what appears to have happened with this particular elephant is that his tusks were growing and criss-crossing; so he wasn’t able to lift his trunk up. So actually, they were doing the right thing; they shortened the tusks so he could lift up his trunk. But I’m not sure if they did it in a humane way or not.”

According to hindustantimes.com, “Gajraj developed partial blindness and a toenail abscess which could spread to the bone. He also has abscesses in the hip and his foot pads suffered severe degeneration.  In April this year, the state government-appointed veterinarians said that the elephant was suffering from weakness and untreated prolonged abscesses on his hindquarters and elbows, as well as other painful foot conditions, and that his custodian had failed to maintain basic health-care records.”

Retirement for a Geriatric Elephant

Gajraj entering the Wildlife SOS Elephant Ambulance in July.

For these reasons, Gajraj was taken to the Elephant Conservation and Care Center (ECCC) in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, near Agra.  This occurred last month (July, 2017), with permission from the royal family of Aundh.  The royal family did not protest against any of the removal operation. In fact, they bid Gajraj farewell. “I am happy that the elephant is going to the rescue centre and I am confident that he is in safe hands,” said the Queen of Aundh, Gayatri Devi Pant Pratinidhi (according to hindustantimes.com).  The ECCC is a collaborative project of Wildlife SOS and the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department.

“Gajraj was seen as a religious icon by local devotees, but his removal won’t necessarily cause disruption in the community’s cultural and religious fabric. The temple still exists and so do their religious beliefs,” stated a spokesperson from Wildlife SOS.  “Gajraj (is) suffering from severe ailments and in need of expert veterinary care. The royal family of Aundh willingly handed him over to us for lifetime care as they understood that it was in his best interest to do so. Gajraj was with the royal family for decades and he is still very precious to them; so it is unlikely that he will be replaced by another temple elephant.”  In a way, their relinquishing of Gajraj was a convenient way for the royal family to extricate themselves from an escalating liability.

“With advancing age, Gajraj was found to be suffering from several medical issues like foot and hip abscesses, severe degeneration of foot pads and partial blindness, making him a candidate for geriatric lifetime care.  The Wildlife SOS Elephant Conservation and Care Center is equipped with veterinary facilities for elephant treatment and is currently providing lifetime care for over 20 rehabilitated pachyderms.  Gajraj can now live a retired life for the rest of his life; however long his geriatric body can support him,” according to a statement from Wildlife SOS.

There is some disagreement about Gajraj’s actual age.  A press release from Save The Elephants calls Gajraj “a 63-year-old ailing elephant.”  The writer of a Hindustan Times report is confused: in the first paragraph, the reporter states that Gajraj is “a 70-year-old male elephant;” yet in the next paragraph writes that in 1965 at the age of 12, he was given as a gift to the queen at her wedding—which places the current age of Gajraj at 64 years. Kartick told me, “Our assessment of Gajraj is that he looks like he’s between 70 and 75 years old.”  Either way, this bull elephant is close to the end of his life, with lots of health concerns.

“PETA did a good job with getting the story out there and letting people know about what was happening with that elephant,” Kartick said. “So we’ve had thousands of emails and requests asking us to step in and help. So when the Forest Department finally got to us and asked us if we could help, we did.”

How hard is it to remove an elephant from a temple?  Kartick replied: “It can be excruciatingly painful and challenging, and can be extremely dangerous because contrary to what many people think, a lot of the Indian public is largely ignorant about what happens to an elephant before it becomes a temple elephant. They do not understand that every single elephant in a temple has actually been removed from the wild, separated from its herd as a little calf. And then these little elephant calves are put through a very brutal, painful, and barbaric process of training.”

Now Gajraj safely resides at the ECCC in Mathura. Baiju Raj, Director of Conservation Projects for Wildlife SOS, stated: “It is a tremendous responsibility to take care of a geriatric elephant like Gajraj. We will provide him the best of care.”  Geeta Seshamani, co-founder of Wildlife SOS, said: “Gajraj will be provided long-term medical treatment and lifetime care at the hands of our experienced team at the Elephant Care Center.”

Gajraj takes his first dust bath at the ECCC in Mathura.

Kartick added: “Within a few short minutes of stepping into the centre, we could see a marked change in the behaviour of the elephant. He immediately took to the new surroundings, gorging on fruits and taking dust baths.”  In a July 24 update, Wildlife SOS reported: “Last week we held a ceremony to remove Gajraj’s bell as a symbolic way to complete his journey to our Elephant Conservation and Care Centre (ECCC) in Mathura, ushering in his retirement and fully closing the circle on his previous life.” In a photograph, Kartick smiles for the camera after removing the bell.

Kartick smiles after removing Gajraj's bell.

Soon Gajraj will once again enjoy the dappled sunlight through the forest canopy, and relish the soft cushion of the jungle floor. Of course, it will remind him of his abbreviated childhood in the forests of India, so many years ago. According to a statement from Wildlife SOS: “After his initial period in quarantine, Gajraj will soon start going out on walks with his mahout, and get a chance to explore the sights and sounds of his new home beyond his spacious enclosure. This couldn’t come at a more perfect time, with the rains just beginning in Mathura, and the elephants’ walks covering a vast expanse of lush green vegetation, and an array of exciting flora and fauna for Gajraj to discover and investigate! While the concerns regarding the condition of his feet might keep Gajraj from going on long walks immediately, we know that when the time comes, he will take as much delight in the free space to roam and wander just as much as all our other elephants do.”

Gajraj entering his pool.

Meanwhile, Gajraj has discovered the joy of his very own, private pool in which he can lounge and relax. “Although he was initially wary about entering the water, we eventually managed to coax him in with bananas and muskmelons, and once inside, he was quick to realise just how wonderful it feels to be completely submerged in the pool – not just because the water is cool and soothing, but because of the weightlessness he probably experiences that takes the strain off his legs and extremely worn out feet,” states the Wildlife SOS website. In addition, the vermilion on the ends of his tusks has gradually washed away as a result of these baths.

It continues: “Gajraj is still getting a large amount of the staple diet he was used to in captivity – sugarcane – and we are gradually introducing other varieties of fresh green fodder crops into his diet. He also gets a delicious array of seasonal fruit including mangoes, watermelon and bananas, as well as corn and pumpkin. Gajraj has been prescribed nutritional supplements by our vets that he receives daily to complement his diet and promote his recovery.”

Furthermore, the ECCC staff is “introducing him to the safe and humane process of target training which will in the future allow us to easily treat Gajraj’s feet and carry out a host of other treatments with his happy and willing cooperation. Gajraj is an extremely smart elephant and has taken quickly to the basic stages of target training, so we’re proud to say that we can see him progressing pretty fast in his training – which will soon make it much easier for us to treat the abscesses under his feet.”

A Legacy for the Future

The retirement with the royal family’s permission of one geriatric elephant—and his relocation to a sanctuary—may seem to have little, or merely symbolic, significance.  But Gajraj represents an elephant population that faces extinction, and the young ones continue to be poached for live elephant trafficking.  “So basically, if you look at the whole world, we’ve lost 98 percent of the wild population of the Asian elephants,” Kartick stated.  I asked him, “Do you think that it depends upon this generation or the next to prevent their extinction?”

Kartick responded, “Absolutely. It is really this generation or the next that can do something if there is to be hope. Otherwise, in five years, we could have no elephants. Our children and grandchildren might have to be shown elephants on photos and videos and Youtube, and there wouldn’t be any elephants left in the world.  That is not a distant chance; it is a very real possibility if we are not careful.”  He added, “It is frightening and it shows how much on the edge we are, and it’s a very fragile system and a very fragile state for this planet and for its denizens.”

While Wildlife SOS is not in the business of collecting elephants, as Kartick says, but rather in the business of educating the public concerning conservation for multiple types of Indian wildlife, they are buying land for the sanctuary to accommodate more elephants that they rescue. “Yes, we are in the process of doing that, and it such an uphill battle,” he said.

The land will cost over 1.7 million dollars, and so far, they have raised half that amount with contributions.  I asked, do you need additional funding?  He replied, “Absolutely; it is a tall order that we have. We have to raise a lot of money in order to make this possible.  So if your blog can incorporate some of this and help us attract some investors, because this is a social investment.  If people come forward and understand that we would all live a life, and we would consume and consume and consume all our lives, reproduce, and then die, and be gone. But we will not leave anything behind if we go at this rate. So we really need people to come forward and join us in making this a legacy for the future.”

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Permission is granted to reprint this article in its entirety with the condition that its source (this website) and its author (Lee Cuesta) are both acknowledged.

(All photos are used by permission from Wildlife SOS.)
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Two Ways That Millennials Have It Right In The Workplace

I used to get really annoyed whenever I would see those of the younger generation at work doing something on their smart phones — whether texting or checking Facebook or playing some game — as well as taking frequent and prolonged breaks. But then I finally realized that I’m getting annoyed because I’m a Baby Boomer, and we have a different work ethic. In fact, I tried to fit something about “work ethic” in the title of this post, but nothing sounded good. But the point is that millennials have really figured out the correct work ethic. As a Baby Boomer, my mentality is that I go to work TO WORK. My mind is very compartmentalized. I leave family and phone calls and entertainment and hobbies outside and away from my workplace, whether it’s an office, a retail situation or a garden center, whatever. As long as I’m there, I focus on my job, and nothing else. That’s because I’m a Baby Boomer.
Millennials, on the other hand, don’t approach life with these different compartments. Their lives are blended together. That’s why, when they are on the job, they can work and send a text at the same time. And then they can receive a text and read it. Perhaps chuckle, or laugh out loud. And then reply. And check Facebook, and hopefully YouTube and Snapchat. And they can do this WHILE they are working. I just read an article about millennials on Forbes, which states: “It’s very much the phenomenon of FOMO, ‘fear of missing out.'”** Something might happen and they might miss it during the eight hours while they’re at the job. So their job and their life are not divided into multiple, separate compartments. They are blended and intertwined. They can move to the next level of the game that they’re involved with, and also do their job — at the same time! Now, rather than feeling annoyed, I admire their ability to manage multiple facets of their lives — while at work — and I am trying to emulate them.
The other way that millennials have it right in the workplace is that they have learned how to increase their hourly wages. Again, I didn’t understand this at first because of my work ethic as a Baby Boomer. But millennials have learned how to work less in order to increase their hourly rate. For example, suppose he or she gets paid 12 dollars and 50 cents an hour for eight hours. But of those eight hours, they only WORK six, it means that they are really earning 16 dollars and 67 cents an hour. So all that time they spend on their smart phones, as well as taking frequent and prolonged breaks, and walking slowly, actually increases their hourly wage by 4 dollars and 17 cents. Pure genius. And that’s only one example. Suppose a minimum wage law goes into effect. Rather than making 15 dollars an hour, they will actually earn 20 dollars an hour by working only 6 out of the 8 hours they spend at their jobs. And that’s only two of the ways that millennials have it right. I am Lee Cuesta.


Footnote:
** https://www.forbes.com/sites/sap/2017/03/10/the-one-thing-millennials-struggle-with-most-in-the-workplace/#5ab571c826f5

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Seven Viking Days and Once: Once Are Selling Briskly!

Bill, my friend and colleague, loves books, and he’s so excited about Seven Viking Days that he is the only person so far who has bought TEN copies!  Also, this is the first time that Bill has bought ten books from the same author!  He also bought a copy of Once: Once.  Both of my books sold very briskly with the Holiday discount before Christmas.  Bill made this comment about Seven Viking Days: “The icons in the book are an inspired idea.  And I think this is a book for Adults and Children: The stories are so thought provoking and the illustrations beautiful, colorful and unusual.”  I already autographed all of the books he bought.  The first, of course, was for Bill himself.  On a Thor’s Day (i.e., Thursday), here’s what Bill texted to me: “FYI, Sold a Seven Viking Days book at dentist today, 2 more will order online, and a third is having her local Viking Lodge order one.  Debbie from my dentist office called to tell me she showed the book to her husband who is chief of the Portland Viking Lodge. He thought it was great & plans to use it for their Cultural Moment at the January Lodge meeting. Debbie will take pictures & get them to me for you.”

My friend, Jorge, got a copy of Seven Viking Days for his preschool daughter, Naila, for Christmas.  I autographed the book for Naila, and she’ll enjoy listening to her papa read it while she gazes at the vibrant, full-color, 3-D illustrations.  My good friend, Lori, took the photo of Jorge with me, and both Lori and Jorge commented that they felt they could actually touch the three-dimensional (3-D) illustrations. In fact, the original illustrations ARE 3-D, which were then photographed for the book.

Lori bought two of my Seven Viking Days books: one for her personal library, and another on her grown daughter’s behalf.  And ALSO she took one to show it to her friends in her Taco Tuesday network!  She’d already told them about it, and so the people in her network wanted to see it in order to buy one.  Word-of-mouth is awesome!

Jon, Stan, and Rebecca also purchased books, which Mia and I signed.  Jon and Stan were both present when I was signing Seven Viking Days and Once: Once for Rebecca.  They were both so excited, they immediately said they wanted them. So the next day, they bought the books, and I signed them.  Stan bought only Seven Viking Days because he already owns Once: Once.  Rebecca had quite a big influence on my book sales!  Besides Stan and Jon (who, by the way, bought another copy of Once: Once), she also told Kelley about my books, and showed them to her, and so Kelley bought one of each.  Kelley was so thrilled and excited to get the books, and she expressed to me such abundant gratitude, that it was really fun to sign my books for her!  Word-of-mouth AND social media are awesome!  And here is what Rebecca wrote to me after giving Seven Viking Days and Once: Once as Christmas presents: “My parents were really excited to read your book.  My mom marveled at the illustrations and is looking forward to reading it tomorrow.”  Thank you, Rebecca!  Thank you so much for spreading the word about my books not only to your family, but also to your friends. I appreciate you!

As you can see, lately there’s been a lot of buzz about my book, Seven Viking Days.  I just got together with the illustrator, Mia Hocking.  We are selling and signing so many books right now, it’s hard to keep up!  The photo shows Mia signing her autograph. Although she is currently a member of the Sequoia Gallery in Oregon, and has her studio there, she used to have her own, called Misfit Studio. There were a number of reasons for this name.  One of them is that Mia’s passion is mixed media — recycled — visual art. She combines these misfit materials, giving them renewed purpose, and creates artwork that is layered, textured and has three-dimensional depth. The result are works of art that don’t fit easily in any category or genre, like misfits.  This is the style of art that brings Seven Viking Days to life. Here are three examples. Of course, one is Thor’s hammer, and the other two are the first and last pages of the book.  Mia gave to me the original art for these two pages, and they are hanging side-by-side on my wall at home.

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November Secrets

This week, there is a lot of buzz on the Internet about voting machine fraud and manipulation.  In my novel, titled Once: Once (or 11:11), I predicted the use of voting machine fraud to sway an election.  This was published in 2001.  Here is the excerpt:

“The referendums are already on the ballots, correct?”

“Yes, sir,” Javier replied.  “The Plan organizers in each state have seen to it.  But sir, that’s the reason I requested this meeting.  I need to explain….”

“I have no other choice.  Our so-called president is forcing me into it.  I do it for the sake of Mexico.  And you’re sure the referendums will pass in all six states?”

“Absolutely.  We reverse-engineered some state-of-the-art systems from an election management company located near me in California.  This is the kind of high-tech wizardry I love. Fancy gadgets.  You have nothing to worry about.  Our software supports the validation of voter eligibility, which allows us to manipulate it as necessary. So stuffing the electronic ballot box was never easier.  It also interfaces with voter information files and absentee balloting modules.  It permits pseudo-numbering of rural addresses, as well as street aliases. And it fully supports remote functions, such as early voting.  Everything is ready.”

“Very good.  I’ve always known that the best way to outsmart a democracy is through its own institutions.  The election process is like an Achilles heel, its vulnerable spot.  Since one single vote is so insignificant, nobody really believes that his vote helped determine the outcome of an election.  So we can report the results whichever way we want, and the population accepts it.  And our computers will back us up one hundred percent, from the voter registrations to  the ballot tabulations.”

“That’s correct, sir.”

“So then, as soon as the US government refuses to recognize it, I launch my invasion to provide military support to enforce the decision.  And each state that’s represented in the Plan has its own secret militia, already armed, while the rest of the population is restricted by more gun controls.  It’s perfect. My glory.  My son, you are sitting beside the next president of Mexico, a much larger Mexico who has regained her historic boundaries.  I’ve decided that November 11 is the official date for my invasion.”

IN  THE modern era, November 11, or 11.11, is Veterans Day.  And I’ve questioned why Veterans Day is always 11.11, regardless on which day of the week it falls, unlike most other holidays, which got moved to Mondays.  Part of this answer is the fact that Veterans Day began as Armistice Day (also known as Remembrance Day), commemorating the day on which the armistice, or peace agreement, was signed between the Allies of World War I and Germany, for the cessation of hostilities along the Western Front, which took effect at eleven o’clock in the morning — the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918.

WHY  ISN’T the election on the first Tuesday in November this year?  Simply because Congress stipulated in 1845 that the uniform election day for all states would be “the first Tuesday of November,” but this was amended to state: “the first Tuesday after the first Monday” in November.  This was established to accommodate the meeting of the Electoral College.  And in modern times, even though the Electors now meet in their respective states to cast their votes, the nation has maintained the tradition of “the first Tuesday after the first Monday.”  So this year, since the first Monday in November was the 7th, then the election couldn’t be held until the 8th.

To receive a copy of my novel, Once: Once (Or 11:11), send me an e-mail, or contact me through Facebook.  These photos are of my personal book-signing of my novel for my awesome friend, Mel, and she’s holding her new copy of the book.

An international newspaper based in Manitoba, Canada, called my book “a thrilling novel of the complexities in Mexico … Like a story lifted off the page of today’s newspaper.”

Colorado congressman Tom Tancredo wrote:  “Many thanks.  Great read!”

The novel’s synopsis:  When the independence movement in Chiapas, Mexico, is postponed and a deadly ambush restores the spectre of religious intolerance, Subcomandante Josefa chooses a journey that will enable her to unravel her true identity.  In the process, she discovers an undercover conspiracy not only to recapture territory that once belonged to Mexico, but also to oust Mexico’s current president.  More profoundly, she must face the mystical dimension of this plan, signified by a single moment in time on a digital clock.  This story of epic scale provides a rare and stunning glimpse into the elements that render neighboring cultures so incompatible.

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Is War a Replaceable Invention?

During this season of peace on earth and good will toward men, I am pleased to reprint in my “Baby Boomer Insights” category an outstanding article, with his permission, by an excellent writer who wishes to remain anonymous.
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Is War a Replaceable Invention?
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War is something that, while most people will agree that it is a terrible thing, continues to rage throughout history, fueling conquests, economies, and technological advances. However, as Margaret Mead discusses in her article “Warfare is Only an Invention — Not a Biological Necessity” (1990), war is something that cannot be boiled down to just a fact of life; no matter what humans do to prevent it, it is in their nature to fight and cause wars. Whether or not war is truly human nature or an invention built for the gain of those who start it, is still up for debate.
In Mead’s article, she begins by discussing the differences between the beliefs that war comes either from biological necessity or that it is a social inevitability. This comparison leads to the suggestion of several intermediate viewpoints that lie among the extremes. She ends this discussion by bringing up her idea that, like “universals [such] as marriage and the use of fire are inventions” (Mead, 1990, p. 415), so too is the concept of war. To back this argument, Mead immediately gives an example of the Eskimo culture where, despite the situations and temperament that would give way to war elsewhere, they have never fought with each other on such a grand scale as war. Any conflict that arises among them is kept to the affected parties only, not expanded to the need for one group to fight another. Mead then continues to discuss other cultures where they still participate in war even despite their low-level of civilization and society as a counter to the argument that war comes about as a society develops to a certain level. Next, she brings up how cultures that are not previously familiar to an invention such as war will not participate in that invention, but instead will submit to the aggressor without a fight. This leads to Mead’s final point that war is an invention created, if only for those with a certain personality, to allow those people to gain certain advantages over whomever the enemy might be, whether the advantage be technology, land, money, or power. She says that war is an invention that has only remained because there is yet to be another invention created that improves on what war does so well. Once another tactic is found that can make war obsolete, that tactic will take over and the atrocities of war will become a distant memory.
Mead uses rhetorical techniques such as comparison and syntax to help guide the reader into her angle of vision and fortify her viewpoint. She also creates a strong argument in favor of the idea that war is something that must be a human invention and not simply an element of human nature, but loses strength in her argument that war could one day be replaced, by failing to fully explore some of the long-term effects in favor of war.
To begin, Mead takes advantage of comparison throughout the paper to fortify her position by first discussing examples in favor of her view and then comparing it to an alternate explanation or argument. With this comparison, she is able to lead the reader down a path of logical deduction that ultimately ends up at the main argument of Mead’s paper. Towards the beginning of her article, Mead uses a comparison of the Eskimo to the pygmy peoples of the Andaman Islands. She begins by arguing that war is not innate in humans because despite that “[t]he Eskimo are not a mild and meek people”, they lack “[t]he idea of warfare … passions might rage but there was no war” (Mead, 1990, p. 416). Mead then considers that maybe this example is simply “because the Eskimo have such a low and undeveloped form of social organization” (p. 416). The comparison follows that this is not true since “[t]he Andamans also represent an exceedingly low level of society … But they knew about warfare” (p. 416).
With the rhetorical technique of comparison, Mead appeals to logos and helps strengthen her argument by allowing the readers to deduce her point partially on their own. The appeal to logos is a result of a logical connection between the two sides of the comparison. Mead’s argument is strengthened because she chose two cultures that have a similar social level and temperament. This convinces the reader that there is no reason for war to be innate because the only major apparent difference between the cultures is their location. Her argument is also strengthened due to the fact that as the readers go through the comparison, they are not simply reading the text, but are forced to consider the similarities and differences on their own. Mead leaves a lot of the analysis up to the reader and only presents the information in such a way that proves her point. This builds credibility in her argument and keeps the readers interested as they read through the article.
Second, Mead uses certain syntactical tricks to both keep the readers interested and allow the readers to consider her reasoning from beyond the page. Specifically, the frequent questions scattered throughout the article help engage the reader. These questions are often used in tandem with comparison to achieve a similar effect. When she asks things like “If [warfare] is a form which fits so well, is not this congruence the essential point?” and “If we know that [warfare] is not inevitable, … are we given any hope by that?” (Mead, 1990, p. 417), she opens up her argument for the reader to question. This appeals to pathos by letting the reader’s own emotions affect the reader’s judgement of the text. That appeal is important in the strength of Mead’s argument because it creates an emotional link between her argument and the reader which can make the argument more effective and powerful. She also appeals to logos with this technique through the same consideration of the question by the reader. Since the reader is allowed to question her argument, albeit through guided questions, the reader is able to see the logic in Mead’s points. This ability to consider the logic from the reader’s own point of view, rather than just as arbitrary words on a page, causes the reader to become more accepting to Mead’s argument and more likely to agree with it.
As the reader progresses through Mead’s article, Mead takes her main argument and provides points in such an order that they build on one another and ultimately end with her final, culminating statement that war is merely a human invention. One of these points is that war is not simply a fact of human nature. In “The Decline of War and Conceptions of Human Nature”, Steven Pinker talks about the role of human nature in the causation of warfare (2013). Pinker mentions how specific aspects of human nature such as “dominance”, “revenge”, “empathy”, and “reason” (p. 402) are just the surface of the actual complexity involved in describing it. Similar to how Mead mentions vastly different cultures, like the “gentle, unquarrelsome” Lepchas and the “turbulent and troublesome” Eskimo (1990, p. 415-16), this shows the issue with saying that war is simply an innate part of humans. Two cultures with opposite temperaments and neither has a concept of war. The comparison between these vastly different sides of humans appeals to logos and emphasizes the point that warfare does not simply appear as a part of human nature.
Pinker continues by stating that “[t]he actual outbreak of war thus depends on many psychological processes lining up in the right way … which are distributed in social networks connecting many other individuals” (2013, p. 403). While there are some innate processes that lead to war, the act itself is not a part of human nature. War must be something that if “a people have an idea of going to war … they will sometimes go to war” (Mead, p. 416). If war were simply an innate part of human nature, it would not require so much forethought to its beginning. Humans do not simply start a war for no reason. They must have a reason, something to gain, and others that agree with their conquest in order to fully achieve warfare; therefore the act of war must be an invention of humans.  The complexity of human nature that is shown through this argument appeals to the reader’s logos and builds credibility that human nature cannot simply be boiled down to elements such whether or not warfare is a part. This strengthens the point and makes this part of Mead’s argument more effective.
However, Mead fails to fully support her argument that war is a replaceable invention and misses the idea that maybe there is no replacement for war. There is the possibility that war is the only effective way to achieve certain long-term results. In Robin May Schott’s article, “Just War and the Problem of Evil”, she discusses some aspects of war that in the long-term prove to be constructive. One point that she makes is that “[wars] provide an occasion for the production of new interpretive systems” (Schott, 2008, p. 122). One of these new interpretations Schott mentions is that “human beings now have a greater technological capacity to realize catastrophe—with the atomic bomb and gassing, for example” (p. 123). Without the occurrences of both world wars, humans will have taken longer, if ever, to understand the catastrophic impacts of these weapons, much less how to improve them or harness the technology for good. This greater understanding of the effects of these weapons effectively counters Mead’s argument of the possibility that humans can “invent forms of behavior that make war obsolete” (1990, p. 418). Without the use of those weapons in war, it is unlikely that their destructive power could have been fully understood. Jeffrey Kovac also discusses the connection between technology and war in “Science, Ethics and War”, saying “war has often been a stimulus for advances in science and engineering” (2013, p. 449). War is an event that forces humans to rapidly understand the effects and uses of certain tools, whether it be for good or bad. Both Schott and Kovac show how this understanding is not something that can necessarily be gained through years of peaceful research, but rather is accelerated and attained by the act of warfare. Often, this effect is caused by trying to end a war. Mead skips over the long-term benefits that war can have over human development, specifically technological advancements in the case of these articles. She seemingly only cares about the negatives to war, making her argument somewhat one-sided in saying it can be replaced. This omission of information creates a hole in her argument that can weaken the point that war is a replaceable invention.
While Mead is able to effectively show that war is in fact an invention of humans, there is no evidence yet that the long-term benefits war provides can one day be replaced by any other invention. War causes advances to happen that otherwise may not yet exist in the modern day. It seems to be an invention that in the process of committing many atrocities for only the shallow gain of some organization, inadvertently lends itself to make people think in new, different ways in order to end said war. Without the catalyst that war provides, humans may not have advanced to the point they are today. War seems to be necessary to make humans try and create a better world for the future.

Annotated References
Mead. M (1990). Warfare is only an invention — not a biological necessity. In D. Hunt, The Dolphin Reader (2nd ed.) (pp. 415-421). Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Mead looks at various cultures across the world and analyzes how they view or participate in war. Using these examples, she compares them to one another to try and discover if warfare is only an invention by humans or if it is the nature of humans to go to war. She also discusses whether or not war will end and what it may take to get humans to leave behind this supposed invention called war.
Pinker, S. (2013). The decline of war and conceptions of human nature.  International Studies Review, 15(3), 400-405.
This article discusses the current trend of the decline of war and how that relates to a realistic conception of human nature. Pinker mentions historical correlations with the current decline of wars, the various components within the concept of human nature and how those components work together. He then takes these points and discusses multiple events throughout history that has led people to find other options that are better suited to their current situations than simply going to war, thus showing past declines in the number of wars fought. Used to show the complexity of human nature and how it cannot simply be boiled down to sole aspects such as warfare. There is much more that happens to cause something like that than innate instinct.
Schott, R. M. (2008). Just war and the problem of evil. Hypatia, 23(2), 122-140.
A discussion of what the idea of “just war” means and what it takes to legitimize a war. Using examples from history, such as Auschwitz in World War II, Schott talks about how each side in a war in their own view may not think that they are evil. This leads to a discussion of what the concept and perception of evil entails. Schott also talks about the positives that have come out of past wars such as an improved sense of what may lead to crisis, what can make a war justifiable, and what is not worth going to war over. This was used to show the effects war has on technological advancement and how it causes humans to see the effects of certain new technologies faster and differently than what sole research can provide.
Kovac, J. (2013). Science, ethics and war: A pacifist’s perspective. Science & Engineering Ethics, 19(2), 449-460.
Kovac looks at the ethics of war from a pacifistic perspective. This entails the ethics behind scientific research in times of war and what such research may lead into. Three views are taken into account in this argument, including realism, just war, and pacifism. He also talks about whether or not scientists working to advance technology specifically for warfare is ethical because of the almost inevitable killing of innocent people. This is used briefly to support the notion that war is a basis for many technological advancements throughout history.
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