HUMPDAY NEWS ROUNDUP: Carbons and Castros and Whales (Oh My)

The latest recap of the news you may have missed… we’re assuming by accident.    

OSU Prof Helps Find… Carbon 

Oregon State University professor of ocean ecology and biogeochemistry Rick Colwell was one of the researchers to find massive amounts of carbon-dependent organisms under our feet. They live there with about 15 to 23 billion tons of carbon. The research found that 70% of the total number of microorganisms on Earth live in and below the Earth’s crust, far from sunlight, moving carbon around. Researchers drilled holes, they looked through high powered microscopes, they tested for carbon. Why do they care about carbon? Because these teeny-tiny life forms breathe carbon in, expel carbon out, and their continued existence means there could reasonably be life in space that does not rely on oxygen. Pretty darn cool, huh? 

It’s All About the Masks, Folks 

Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration has been busy again. Lowe’s stores in Albany and Redmond have been fined a combined $36,000 for violating COVID-19 protocols designed to protect workers. It seems that, even though the managers knew that customers had to wear face masks to come in, they chose not to enforce it. Additionally, the Redmond store was fined for not developing and implementing a risk assessment plan to protect employees. So, basically, OSHA has decided that it’s time to really take things seriously about this disease… good to know. 

R.I.P. Castro Regime 

This week marks the resignation of Cuba’s president, Raul Castro. He talked about it in 2018, and boom three years later it happened. Many worried that Raul would bring chaos with him when he assumed the presidency from his big brother, Fidel Castro – the two men holding control of the island nation for a combined 62 years. Until this whole pandemic thing, Raul was doing pretty well including new relations with the U.S. becoming a “not unheard of” thing back when Obama was in charge. Cuba has even been a frontrunner in several homegrown vaccine trials and keeping death tolls low. However, Raul Castro leaves office with plans to reunite with the U.S. demolished by one administration and reluctancy from the current administration, and with COVID cases rising and food shortages growing. Miguel Diaz-Canel will be taking Castro’s place as the head of the nation… until one of the various Castro children decide to step up. 

Amtrak is Reopening Soon-ish 

If you still feel that need to get away, but don’t want to fly, Amtrak is coming back… on May 24. The train will be able to get you to Chicago via the Empire Builder route and Los Angeles via the Coast Starlight line. More interesting for Corvallisites, May 24 will also bring a second round trip option for the Eugene to Seattle route. Eventually, we can hope that the four-times-daily route from Portland to Seattle and the ability to train it up to Canada will return.   

R.I.P. Orville 

Tillamook – Mars: The two are practically the same. Which is good, because when the Near Space Corporation needed a place to test out the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, they tested at the Tillamook Airport. The original version of the copter was a glider nicknamed Orville, and it first went up in a balloon to simulate the less dense air on Mars. Orville did his job well, drifting back to Earth and proving that flight on Mars would be possible. Sadly, when fitted with a high-speed propeller which was meant to test if propulsion was possible, Orville disintegrated 20 miles above the ground where he was born.  

In More Mars News… 

Orville’s death above the ground wasn’t in vain. On April 19, the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter (nickname unknown) took its first flight on Mars. You can watch that flight, and others to come, on the NASA Mars website. 

So Much for Honor Codes 

In what is the biggest cheating scandal in decades, involving 72 freshmen and one sophomore, West Point has expelled eight cadets, allowed six cadets to resign, acquitted four cadets, and required 53 cadets to repeat at least six months of their time at the military academy for cheating on a Calculus test. Three of those expelled will now spend up to a year as enlisted soldiers in hopes of returning to the school. West Point will also be ending its six-year-old “willful admission process” – wherein a cadet can admit wrongdoings and not get kicked out – after 55 cadets have relied on it to stay in school. The last time the school saw cheating to this level was in 1976 when 153 upperclassmen were found guilty of cheating on an electrical engineering exam. 

Another R.I.P.  

We’ve all seen them, used them, or were frustrated by them when we need something to be a “doc” – and the guy responsible has sadly passed away at age 81Charles “Chuck” Geschke was a founder of Adobe Inc. – the company that brought us the Portable Document Format technology. Yep, that’s rights folks, we’re talking PDFs here. Adobe also gave the world Photoshop, Illustrator, and a slew of other tools that have made publishing easier and more accessible for all. Geschke and his Adobe co-founder John Warnock were awarded the National Medal of Technology by Barack Obama in 2009. Another little tid-bit is that Geschke survived a kidnapping in 1992 – the suspect was caught. 

Support Your Local Teachers 

When award winning teachers like Leah Juelke of Fargo, North Dakota are about to break, then it’s time to be worried. Juelke has won teaching awards in 2018, 2019, and 2020, and she says of teaching through COVID, “The level of stress is exponentially higher. It’s like nothing I’ve experienced before.” And she’s teaching high school English, folks – I mean, that’s a subject where most the kids have an advantage by speaking it since they were born. Teaching is one of the most stressful occupations in the U.S. comparable only to nursing, and we all know how worn out our nurses are these days. Read more about what schools are doing to help out their teaching staff here 

Did You Know Whales Use “Tools”? 

National Geographic and National Public Radio came together to present photos of whales. Over the course of three years, photographer Brian Skerry got into the water, meters away from whales pods, and captured images that are delightful and awe inspiring. Nursing mothers. Family units. A group effort to blow bubbles that confuse krill so others can swoop in and eat. Basically, Skerry was allowed to just hang out and chill with whales, which has to be the coolest job everBTW as much as we all love Herman Melvin’s classic, it turns out that few whales are actually as nefarious as Moby Dick.  

Speaking of Brian Skerry 

Skerry has photographed sharks and dolphins and manatees, turtles and squid and seals. He has given the world a treasure trove of images that we would not likely have seen without him. Check it all out here. 

May the Bard be With You 

It’s almost over! April is National Poetry Month, and here at The Advocate we’ve been sending out into the world a different poet’s work each day since April 1. But the good times will be ending soon, so we’re sharing with you today, NPR’s expression of the verse. You can tweet or TikTok your take on poetics, and you can watch others as they do the same.  Check it all out here.  

By Sally K Lehman