For 100 years or more, Christmas was the scene of Christmas hunts in which hunters competed in teams to kill as many birds and animals as possible.
But by the 1900s, conservationists noticed the populations of birds were declining. That’s when ornithologist Frank M Chapman, an early organizer of the Audubon Society, proposed a new kind of hunt — a count.
The Christmas Bird Count has since spread around the world, with thousands of counters heading out between November and December to tally up the number and kinds of birds they see in their neighborhoods.
In 2005, birders counted the largest number of species ever reported in a single U.S. location, finding 250 separate species around Matagorda and Palacios, Texas.
The world record is 529 species observed Dec. 21, 2013 on the eastern shores of the Andes in Ecuador.
Bird counting is free and open to all. Counts are conducted in a count circle of 15 miles with at least 10 volunteers and a compiler.
While the counts are not an exact census, they do offer valuable insight to scientists on the health of bird populations.
Learn more and join the count at audubon.org
Seeing trouble: Our ability to recognize dangers seems to evolve
Consider new parents. When they bring their infant home, they also suddenly become aware of those many things they must do to keep their child safe.
When the child starts to crawl — a whole new vision of danger becomes clear.
That’s the way it was with smartphones. They seemed to be the answer to getting help fast or finding information when desperately needed. And they are that. But who thought walking while texting would be such a problem? Yet it is.
That’s because everyone’s ability to recognize hazards seems to evolve depending, in part, on new circumstances and, often sadly, on lessons learned.
Overconfidence is a problem with hazard recognition, according to AmericanIntegrated.com.
People who have done their jobs for years without a safety incident, tend to think it will always be that way. Problem is, they get older and their fitness changes. Tools change. Procedures change.
It’s like saying, at age 20, “I have slipped on the ice and it’s no big deal.” If you think the same way at 60+, you are in for a big surprise.
At every level, overconfidence tends to blind workers to evolving hazards.
Safe work requires procedures, and procedures evolve. Young workers are in just as much danger (or more) as veterans, if they think nothing will happen to them because it never has.
Sadly, experience usually changes that attitude, but the lesson can be costly.
In one case, reviewed by safetyquarry.com, an experienced team of maintenance workers was retrieving cable from a building that was to be demolished. They properly cordoned off the building, but failed to assess the structural integrity of the building. When the team passed over a walkway, a section collapsed and an employee fell 30 feet, breaking his leg. Luck, and a pile of dust, saved him from more severe injuries.
None of the team members will probably make that mistake again, but the lesson was far too dear.
The fact is every job is different. You can recognize hazards by:
– Reviewing safety procedures.
– Assessing the unique challenges of the current task.
– Pre-planning work.
– Getting complete instructions on the job before you do it.
– Staying focused. Avoid mental distractions of issues at home. Don’t let the camaraderie of the crew distract you from the work at hand.
– Cleaning up and keeping the workplace tidy. That will at least help to prevent trips, falls, and visual obstructions.
4 top bike trends for 2019
Whether you cycle for fun, for sport or to get from point A to point B, you’re sure to find something of interest among the latest innovations in bikes and bike accessories. Here are four trends worth noting.
1. Disc brakes
Once exclusively found on mountain bikes, disc brakes are becoming an increasingly common feature on road bikes. It’s anticipated that eventually this will become the norm.
A number of top-of-the-line bikes that came out in 2018, such as the Trek Emonda, Giant Propel Advanced and Scott Foil, came with disc brakes as a standard feature.
So why the shift?
Disc brakes offer various advantages over cantilever brakes. They provide more stopping power, better performance in wet conditions and they don’t wear out the rim.
2. Electronic shifters
For several years now, electric shifters have been making their mark and they’re only getting more common — and more technologically advanced.
While they’re most often found on road bikes, a number of mountain bikes are now being equipped with them.
Electric shifters allow for more rapid gear changes, require less maintenance and can be automatically recalibrated.
2018 was a huge year for electric bikes, with models from brands like Giant, Bianchi and Focus selling big and electric bike-share programs starting up in numerous cities.
E-bikes are an especially popular option for commuters. However, they’re also gaining in popularity among mountain bikers.
4. Indoor training technologies
Smart trainers and indoor cycling apps are making at-home training much more stimulating. The latest smart trainers (stands that support your bike at the rear wheel and that are wirelessly connected to your devices) are controlled remotely by apps on your phone, tablet or computer.
One of the most popular apps right now is Zwift, which not only allows you to cycle through virtual worlds but also to join group rides and take part in races.
Other apps such as TrainerRoad and The Sufferfest provide training plans tailored to riders’ goals as well as real-time fitness and progress data.
As you can see, there’s a lot for you to get excited about — possibly enough to keep you busy until next spring!
Book Review: The writers of code guide modern life
In the early 1990s, the young men and women who would become known as coders reveled in systems. They wrote notes to each other in binary, the language of yes/no or 1-0. They loved the Mandarin Chinese. They were on the edge of a social revolution.
And, today? The people who are fully immersed in the technical awakening are the largely obscure–but deeply influential–army tucked into tech lands like Silicon Valley.
Who are these coders?
In his new book, “Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World,” longtime Wired.com contributor Clive Thompson attempts to answer that question.
Thompson brings to light the traits of coders and programmers, their histories and cultural criteria, their lifestyles, what motivates them and their beliefs.
By breaking down the actual work of coding, according to a New York Times review, Thompson unravels the mystery of the process and presents it for debate.
Most people have heard of algorithms that govern things such as first results on Google, acceptable topics on Facebook, or forbidden political opinions on Twitter. But these algorithms do not write themselves. They are written by the people–the coders–whose consciences match that of their companies.
Clive Thompson both likes and dislikes the coders he profiles. His book comes to some common conclusions: Coders are too white, too male, too upper class, too introverted. For these reasons, he suggests, coders can’t understand how their code will be used by actual people–a conclusion that will no doubt be both hated and loved by the coders themselves.
Coders: The Making of a New Tribe and the Remaking of the World by Clive Thompson.
Penguin Random House, March 2019.
A history of roads in Virginia: America’s First Road Law
The need for improving roads to better serve the social and economic life of the colony was among the matters facing members of the House of Burgesses as they met in Jamestown in September 1632.
Before adjournment, they had passed the first highway legislation in American history, an act providing, in the language of the day, that, “Highwayes shall be layd in such convenient places as are requisite accordinge as the Gov. and Counsell or the commissioners for the monthlie corts shall appoynt, or accordinge as the parishioners of every parish shall agree.”
The first legislation also required each man in the colony to work on the roads a given number of days each year, a custom dating at least from the feudal period of the Middle Ages in England, or to pay another to work in his place. This labor law, to remain in effect for more than 250 years, provided the main source of workers for road and bridge construction.
Twenty-five years later, probably in March 1657, the colony’s basic road law was broadened to provide “that surveyors of highwaise and maintenance for bridges be yearly kept and appointed in each countie cort respectively…”
In 1661, the surveyors were empowered to select locations for roads, choosing “the most convenient wayes to Church, to the Court, to James Towne, and from County to County.” By the end of the 17th century, many miles of primitive roads threaded throughout Tidewater Virginia. The colony’s population had reached 70,000. While horseback was the most frequent means of overland travel, horse-drawn carts became more numerous, and some carriages and coaches gradually appeared.
In 1705, the legislature passed a new road act providing for “making, clearing, and repairing the highways and for clearing the rivers and creeks… for the more convenient traveling and carriage, by land, of tobaccos merchandise, or other things within this dominion… ”
The new road act provided for further extension of the road system and required that the roads “be kept well cleared from woods and bushes, and the roots well grubbed up, at least thirty feet broad.” The new law also provided for skilled labor to erect bridges larger than could be built by the local surveyors, and when such a bridge was to cross a county line, its cost would be divided “proportionable to the number of tithables in each county.”
Other road laws came quickly in the early years of the 18th century. Owners of mill dams were required to provide a 10-foot passage on dams and spillways; it became mandatory for a county in which an iron furnace was operated to provide “good roads to be laid out and made from such works to the nearest place upon some navigable river or creek.” Establishment of public ferries was authorized by the legislature.
In 1716, Alexander Spotswood, regarded by many as perhaps the best of the colonial governors, led his “Knights of The Golden Horseshoe” up the summits of the “Great Mountains,” the Blue Ridge, and looked down in amazement at the splendor of the Shenandoah Valley. Spotswood, a former soldier, recognized that settlement of the valley could help protect eastern Virginia from hostile forces.
It was in the next quarter-century that the valley and much of the Piedmont, the rolling country between the mountains and Tidewater, were settled by pioneers moving inland and by many others who came down into the valley from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Extending north and south through the valley was a relatively good Indian path, called by various names including the Appalachian Warriors’ Path and the Shenandoah Hunting Path.
By the mid-18th century, it had been developed into the Great Wagon Road, which eventually led from Pennsylvania southward through the valley and on to Georgia. Toward the southern end of the valley, the Great Wagon Road separated into two branches near Big Lick, later to become Roanoke. While one branch left the valley and went due south, the other continued west and crossed Cumberland Gap through the Allegheny Mountains at what now is the junction of the Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee borders. After Daniel Boone and a band of frontiersmen cleared a path into Kentucky about 1775, the western branch became known as the Wilderness Road, and it was to become the main pioneer route along which traveled the first waves of the great migration to the West.
East of the mountains, two principal routes led from where Richmond stands todaydeep into the interior. One was a path to the settlements that were to become Lynchburg and Roanoke, a course now followed approximately by U.S. Routes 60 and 460. The other was the Three-Chopt Road or Three-Notched Road to Albemarle, where it connected with another path leading across the mountains at Afton and into the valley. Its name came from the way it was marked to guide travelers, with notches cut on the trees.
In his “Notes on the State of Virginia” in 1785, Thomas Jefferson described the approach to handling road matters. “The roads are under the government of county courts, subject to be controlled by the general court. They order new roads to be opened wherever they think them necessary. The inhabitants of the county are by them laid off into precincts, to each of which they allot a convenient portion of the public roads to be kept in repair. Such bridges as may be built without the assistance of artificers (skilled workers or craftsmen), they are to build. If the stream be such as to require a bridge of regular workmanship, the county employs workmen to build it at the expense of the whole county. If it be too great for the county, application is made to the General Assembly, who authorizes individuals to build it and to take a fixed toll from all passengers, or gives sanction to such other propositions as to them appear reasonable. Ferries are admitted only at such places as are particularly pointed out by law, and the rates of ferriage are fixed.”
Next up: Turnpike Era
Produced by the
Virginia Department of Transportation
Office of Public Affairs
1401 E. Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23219
Hummingbirds: Pretty little bullies
Yes, they are adorable. Put out a feeder with some sugar water, and you’re bound to attract hummingbirds, those little bumblebee-sized birds with needle nose beaks and amazing flight skills.
Turns out they’ve got tempers to boot. Hummingbird aggression is apparently a problem. The teeny tantrum-throwers can become big bullies.
Male hummingbirds establish territories and fight off competitors for nectar and water, a seemingly ongoing battle at times. The little creatures have a high metabolism and must feed the beast constantly, contributing to the aggression and the need for a plentiful food supply.
The females, meanwhile, not only search for food but also keep busy fending off males. They prefer their showy mates — the males have more colorful and bright plumage — keep away from the nest so as not to alert predators to the babies.
Current advice in the hummingbird fan community suggests creating multiple feeding zones, some spaced far away from others, so that a bully can’t protect all of them. Then, it’s too difficult to ward off competition and all will wind up settling in.
With persistent bullies, try to observe where they perch — usually in sight of the feeder. It might help to cut that perch to deny the bully his favorite spot.
A lot of hummingbird sound and movement can attract more hummingbirds to the feeders. So, sometimes a a bit of hummingbird fighting can make your yard more popular.
Vested: It’s not what you wear; it’s what you own
It’s a term thrown around a lot, and it sounds important: vesting. As in, being fully vested — that sounds pretty good and it is.
According to the IRS, being vested in a retirement plan means ownership. All employee contributions to a retirement plan are 100% fully vested — the employee owns everything he or she puts in.
However, employers usually provide a match of a certain percentage of employee contributions.
That equals a 9% contribution — still pretty good, especially over the long term.
They key idea, though, is that the employer sets a certain match percentage. The employer may also have rules about when their contributions are fully owned (or vested) by the employee.
The employer, along with the fund managers, decides how much of the match the employee owns and when.
Newer employees may start out at lower percentages, but they become fully vested in time.
For example, an employee may become 20% vested in the company match after two years, meaning the employee owns their personal contributions plus 20% of the company match. Many 401(k) plans work out vesting in tiers. The longer you stay with the company, the more of the company contribution you own. An employee might become fully vested in, for example, six years. Then the employee owns 100% of the matching contribution.
Sometimes 401(k)s are set up so that an employee becomes 100% vested at a specific time — say after 2 years. Then they own all the matching funds on one day.
Being fully vested
The good thing about being fully vested is that you own all the money you put in and all the money your boss matches. (Plus, you own all the money that grows over time.) That means you can take the money with you if leave the company or retire.