Nap Time

In my college days, decades ago, I was a regular napper. Usually in the afternoon, before dinnertime. Or if there was a break after an early-morning class following late-night socializing. My sleep patterns were more irregular and bed time—often after midnight—was generally later than now. The only consistency was sleeping until late on a Saturday or Sunday morning.

It’s good to learn that my erratic sleep habits, well, the afternoon nap anyway, were beneficial to good health. Recent research concludes that a regular afternoon nap helps mental agility, memory and verbal fluency in adults.

  • Studies show that a “power nap” of ten-to-twenty minutes is the most beneficial. This provides restorative sleep without drowsiness after waking.
  • Nap early in the afternoon. A late nap may be counterproductive, affecting your ability to sleep during the night.
  • Try to let go of stressful thoughts. Instead, reflect on why you’re napping.

Keep in mind that all these good things result from an afternoon refresher snooze of twenty minutes or so. Napping for an hour or more will likely leave one groggy for a while after awakening. So set your alarm if you need to.

Coping with sheltering-at-home or quarantine by trying to sleep the day away likely makes things worse and may result in difficulty sleeping at night. Long naps have been linked to increased susceptibilities to diabetes, heart disease and depression in older adults.

As with many things, a little is good; a lot, not so good.

View from/to Alcatraz

The first operating lighthouse on the U.S. West Coast was on Alcatraz Island. Isolated in San Francisco Bay, the storied Alcatraz is better known as the site of the infamous prison. It was a federal maximum-security facility for only twenty-nine years, from 1934 until 1963. For a century before, it had been various iterations of military fortifications and military prisons.

As a federal prison, Alcatraz was designed to hold troublemakers from other federal prisons. It became home to notorious bank robbers and murderers, including Al Capone and “Machine Gun” Kelly. Rafael Cancel Miranda, who led the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party’s armed attack on the United States Capitol building in 1954, also spent time at Alcatraz.

The panoramic view of the close-by city of San Francisco is said to have intensified the misery of being incarcerated in Alcratraz Prison. “Baghdad by the Bay” sits only a mile-and-a-half away but is an unobtainable swim through cold, swirling currents.During its time as a federal prison, Alcatraz claimed there had been no successful escapes. Thirty-six men tried in fourteen escape attempts. Twenty-three were caught; six were shot and killed; two drowned; five were listed as “missing and presumed drowned.”

In normal current times, Alcatraz is a popular tourist site, managed by the National Park Service. In these COVID lockdown days, one can intuit the reverse of a penitentiary inmate. Sheltering in place in San Francisco, you can see Alcatraz, but you can’t get there.

As this is being written, lists twenty homes for sale with views of Alcatraz Island. Asking prices range from $1.225 million (839 sq ft condo) to $25 million (7,000 sq ft house).

(Thanks to Mi Ae Lipe for the inspiration.)

Rescued Film

What to do with that old roll of undeveloped film you found in the back of a drawer. Take it to Costco or your neighborhood drug store? A few years too late for that.

Send it to Levi Bettwieser in Boise, Idaho. He will process the film and post digital copies of all discernible photos for you to download. You will not receive negatives. (Maybe you’re not old enough to know what negatives are.) There is no charge, but you do agree to relinquish all rights. (He does accept donations.)

Bettwieser started his Rescued Film Project in 2013 after developing 140 rolls of film he had accumulated over years of rummaging at garage sales. He was taken by the images that came to life. Photographs of family and friends, dogs and cats, holiday celebrations and vacations, birthday parties, including lots of pictures of cakes.

Rescued Film Project has about 16,000 images in its archive. A one-person operation, Bettwieser has a backlog of 2,000 rolls to process. It’s a labor of love; he holds down a regular job, so Rescued Film is a night and weekend project. If you send film to him, it could be months before you receive a response.

In the meantime, browse through the archives. If you recognize anyone in the photographs, Bettwieser would like to hear from you. Occasionally he is able to reunite a person with long-lost snapshots.

It’s the Water

After a couple years in the ocean, coho salmon head for home, to the fresh water where they were spawned. The trip can be thousands of miles and is fraught with danger from fishermen and orca whales.

Meanwhile… as we go about our lives on land, motoring from place to place, our tires wear down and leave tiny particles of rubber on the roads. The tires’ rubber is laced with a preservative containing the chemical antioxidant 6PPD-quinone. When we drive, our tires shed the chemical-laced rubber dust onto the roadway. Rain eventually washes it into streams and lakes along with other debris. 6PPD-quinone is one of 2,000 identified chemicals in road runoff.

Scientists estimate the forty percent of the waterways in the Puget Sound area are tainted with 6PPD-quinone. When coho salmon encounter the chemical, it’s usually fatal within a few hours, long before the fish are able to spawn. Depending on proximity to heavily-traveled roads, somewhere between fifty to ninety percent of returning salmon succumb to the chemical.

Meanwhile… to the east, the outlook for salmon is brighter. Salmon have laid eggs in the upper Columbia River for the first time since the Grand Coulee Dam blocked their return to spawning areas eighty years ago. Native American tribes and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife began working together in 2014 on a project to provide access and improved habitat.

In a test, salmon released above Grand Coulee in 2019, found their way back a year later to their spawning area, an eight-mile stretch of the Sanpoil River, a tributary of the Columbia. The next phase of the testing is to record how many of the newly-hatched fish find their way back.

Dams constructed down river on the Columbia, built after the Grand Coulee, provided fish ladders that gave salmon a route to swim past, although with great difficulty. Salmon further down the Columbia also faced the hazard of hungry sea lions who immigrated all the way from California to gorge themselves on the tasty fish.

Meanwhile… in other water news, Wall Street has begun trading in California water futures. After eight years of drought and annual wildfires ravaging the state with increasing ferocity, municipalities, farmers and, yes, hedge funds can hedge against future shortages with contracts for future delivery of water. The contracts can be bought and sold, like bonds and stocks, as the price of water fluctuates.

“Climate change, droughts, population growth, and pollution are likely to make water scarcity issues and pricing a hot topic for years to come,” said one analyst.

Trading water futures is surely safer than trading sub-prime mortgages.

Whither Portlandia?

Attorneys have filed a class-action suit on behalf of what they say are hundreds of people exposed to tear gas last summer while being held in the Multnomah County Detention Center. Federal and local law enforcement regularly unleashed the chemicals to combat the nightly demonstrations in the streets near the county jail. The suit claims that the building’s ventilation system sucked tear gas into the cells and staff did nothing to ameliorate the bad air.

Portland’s downtown changed, head-snapping quickly.

Continue reading “Whither Portlandia?”

Billions and Billions of Cockroaches

Breeding cockroaches is a flourishing business in China where the insects are a staple medical component. Roaches are used in remedies for ailments such as stomach ulcers and respiratory-tract malaise.

Some roaches, along with other insects, are increasingly finding their way into human diets.

Cockroach farms are common in China. A new operation near the city of Jinan has developed a large new sector in the cockroach industry. Shandong Qiaobin Agricultural Technology Company houses a billion cockroaches in four large hangars, each kept secure by a moat filled with roach-eating fish.

The cockroaches feast on food waste collected from restaurants in the area. Every day they consume fifty tons of kitchen debris that would otherwise generate methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas. Cockroaches live in spaces between square wooden frames lined up on racks. The environment is warm and humid, ideal for cockroach propagation.

After a lifetime already in roach heaven, deceased insects are ground into animal feed. Says a spokesperson for the project, “If we can farm cockroaches on a large scale, we can provide protein that benefits the entire ecological cycle.”