All posts by Christopher Dunagan

Amusing Monday: Floating pants foster a haunting mystery

I don’t normally think much about floating objects. But after I decided to blog about a new video showing a pair of pants floating in Puget Sound, the eerie undulating image keeps drifting back to me.

I thought I would share this story, along with a Dr. Seuss rhyme and a couple other amusing videos about pants, both in and out of the water.

The floating pants, recorded on video near Brownsville by Genavieve Scott of Bremerton, seem to be moving underwater with a certain cadence, as if striding along just beneath the waves, according to a story by reporter Christian Vosler of the Kitsap Sun.

“Oh, it absolutely looked like they were walking,” Genavieve was quoted as saying. “Just one leg in front of the other, moving through the water.”

Some obvious questions come to mind. How did someone lose his or her pants in the first place? Why do they stand upright in the water, and what makes them move this way? I can’t help but wonder if the owner’s spirit is somehow embodied in these pants, left alone to walk on and on until they are washed up somewhere, perhaps on a lonely beach.

The obvious explanation for their upright position is that the waist portion of the pants is buoyant while the legs are just heavy enough to sink. But why would this be the case if all parts are made of the same fabric? I have seen plenty of floating clothes, and they normally just bunch up in the water. Did someone intentionally stage these pants, knowing that they would raise the curiosity of people?

After Genavieve posted her video, she received an outpouring of response. She talked about the matter with Kitsap Sun reporter Josh Farley, who featured the interview in his weekly video called “Bremerton Beat Blast.” The pants segment begins at 4:57.

You wouldn’t think that a pair of wet pants would get so much attention. But I have to confess that the more I watch this video, the more I become haunted by the vision of these watery pants dancing in the waves. Dr. Seuss, the well-known children’s author, once wrote a book called “What Was I Scared Of?” It was all about a pair of floating plants that kept following the narrator of the story, who uttered these lines:

I said, “I do not fear those pants
With nobody inside them.”
I said, and said, and said those words.
I said them. But I lied them.

Then I reached inside a Snide bush
And the next thing that I knew,
I felt my hand touch someone!
And I’ll bet that you know who.

And there I was! Caught in the Snide!
And in that dreadful place
Those spooky, empty pants and I
were standing face to face!

I yelled for help. I screamed. I shrieked.
I howled. I yowled. I cried,
“OH, SAVE ME FROM THESE PALE
GREEN PANTS WITH NOBODY INSIDE!”

But then a strange thing happened.
Why, those pants began to cry!
Those pants began to tremble.
They were just as scared as I!

I never heard such whimpering
And I began to see
That I was just as strange to them
As they were strange to me!

As I searched the Internet for other stories of floating plants, I found a product that is actually named Floaty Pants. It’s like a life jacket for your crotch area. Once you put them on, you can float around the deep end of the pool hands-free and without a raft, noodle or other floatation device.

The advertising slogan: “Enjoy the party in your pants!”

Floaty Pants comes in seven styles: Ab Man, American Flag, Sexy Thong, Maui Man, Camouflage, Floaty Red and Floaty Blue.

Another fascinating story about pants comes from Minnesota, where frozen pants have become an outdoor art form. The winter of 2016 was so cold that Minnesotans were freezing their pants off, or so the story goes. One man started the fad by putting wet pants outdoors and others soon followed. You could drive through some neighborhoods and see clusters of frozen pants on people’s lawns.

In addition to the embedded video from WCCO, a CBS affiliate in Minneapolis, there is another good video from KVLY, Valley News, a CBS affiliate serving the Red River Valley area of North Dakota and Minnesota.

Earth Hour on Saturday is 60 minutes to share with people of the world

Tomorrow evening is the annual event known as Earth Hour, when people throughout the world turn off their lights as a symbolic gesture of environmental unity. See Earth Hour homepage.

Granted, turning out the lights by itself doesn’t do much to help the Earth, but I find that it is a good time to think about the environment, including climate change, and consider what each of us can do.

Most of the time, my wife and I — occasionally with family and friends — take a moment to appreciate what we have, discuss things in general or play a game. The grandkids like to play Hide and Seek in our darkened house.

Earth Hour is celebrated in 7,000 cities and 178 countries and territories, according to officials with World Wildlife Fund, which initiated the event 10 years ago in 2007. Hundreds of lighted structures, monuments and buildings go dark from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. along with millions of households. In Seattle, Earth Hour is recognized by the:

This year I’m hearing a refrain on social media about how Earth Hour is more important than ever. I know that a lot of people in the U.S. feel that the environment is coming under increased threat from President Trump’s administration, but concerns are being expressed in many other countries as well.

“The need to raise awareness about climate change, habitat and environment degradation, species loss and resource shortage has never been greater,” wrote Maria Shamim, a producer at Geo TV based in Pakistan. “According to WWF Living Planet Report 2016, species populations of vertebrate animals have decreased in abundance by 58 percent between 1970 and 2012.”

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres offers a video message about Earth Hour on Vimeo. To explore ideas about Earth Hour, visit Earth Hour’s homepage. For a list of eight things to do in the dark, check out Earth Hour’s Eight Things. For discussions, go to Earth Hour’s Facebook page, as well as Earth Hour’s Twitter page, or Twitter hashtag #earthhour2017.

Learning to create small habitats in Kitsap, Thurston, Pierce counties

Marianne Jackson, a personal trainer and yoga teacher, lives in a fairly typical residential neighborhood in Des Moines, about halfway between Seattle and Tacoma. Marianne has been interested in gardening for years. Recently, however, she decided to up her game by creating a backyard wildlife habitat.

A flowering currant in Marianne Jackson’s garden is a native plant that is good for birds. She says hummingbirds love it.
Photo: Marianne Jackson

That’s when Sarah Bruemmer, a habitat steward coordinator for the National Wildlife Federation, entered Marianne’s life. Sarah knows how to turn small outdoor spaces — or large ones, if available — into functioning habitats. She coordinates a training program that addresses issues from soils, gardening and invasive plants to birds, butterflies and water quality.

Sarah’s month-long program, which includes weekly classes with two Saturday field trips, is scheduled for April in Kitsap and Thurston counties and May in Pierce County. Only a few seats remain for the Kitsap training to be held in Silverdale.

Marianne, 56, took the course last year and came away with a much deeper knowledge of the ecosystem. She had already ripped out her grassy lawn years ago to create what became a series of connected gardens, but the classes taught her how native plant species and water features can help native birds and butterflies.

“I already had the interest,” she said. “Now I have a lot more knowledge that I can put to use. I’m planning to get my yard certified.”

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Amusing Monday: World Water Day inspires photos and videos

World Water Day, coming up on Wednesday, is an annual event first established by the United Nations in 1992 to focus on the importance of freshwater and to encourage actions to provide clean drinking water while reducing water-borne illness around the world.

This year’s theme, waste water, was formulated into a question that creates a double meaning. It can be either “Why waste water?” or “Why wastewater?” The first question emphasizes the water-supply issues associated with World Water Day. The second emphasizes the closely related health aspects of sanitation. For a serious discussion of these two questions, listen to the talk on YouTube by Guy Ryder, director general of the International Labour Organization and chairman of UN-Water.

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New videos talk about protecting the ecosystem with tribal treaty rights

Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission this week released two new videos, including one that shows how tribes are using their treaty rights to protect the environment on behalf of all Northwest residents.

The video was released under the commission’s new communications banner, “Northwest Treaty Tribes: Protecting Natural Resources for Everyone.”

The video describes the Lummi Nation’s success in getting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reject the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point near Bellingham. If approved, the shipping terminal could have been the transfer point for up to 59 million tons of Montana coal each year. The coal would be transported by train to Cherry Point and onto ships bound for China and other Pacific Rim countries.

The Corps of Engineers halted the permitting process last May, saying the project was too big to be considered de minimis, and it would violate the tribe’s treaty rights to take fish in the usual and accustomed area. See news release.

The video does a nice job of explaining the tribe’s position and the ecological value of fish, including a Cherry Point herring population that has declined so severely that it can no longer support the food web as it once did. Also described well are the cultural values of the Cherry Point site and longtime fishing practices.

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After environmental restoration, quiet has returned to Port Gamble

Twenty-five years ago, I stood and watched as a screaming buzz saw tossed clouds of sawdust into the air while slicing through thick logs of Douglas fir at the Pope & Talbot sawmill in Port Gamble.

Last week, I walked across the vacant site of the old mill, which was torn down years ago. Along the edge of Port Gamble Bay, I could hear nothing but the sound of the wind and an occasional call of a seagull.

Linda Berry-Maraist, restoration manager for Pope Resources, describes the renewed shoreline along Port Gamble Bay. // Photo: Dunagan

I came back to the old mill site to see how things looked following completion of the $20-million-plus cleanup of Port Gamble Bay. Some 111,000 cubic yards of dredge material is now piled up in the middle of the site, an amount roughly equivalent to 10,000 dumptruck loads.

In addition, nearly 8,600 wooden pilings — most imbedded with creosote — were removed and shipped off for disposal, making it one of the largest piling-removal projects in state history. The final number of pilings removed far exceeded original estimates, largely because buried ones kept turning up during the removal work.

“It’s a huge relief to get this done,” said Jon Rose, vice president of Pope Resources who has overseen a decade of planning and cleanup. “It has been very hard on our staff, hard on the town, hard on our financial statements.

“I think we are on the right side of the mountain,” he added. “Look at how incredible the shore looks.”

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Amusing Monday: Eco-Comedy competition includes sharp parodies

Entries in this year’s Eco-Comedy Video Competition seem to reflect an anxiety over what will happen to the environment under President Trump’s administration — although the winning video was among a few finalists that stayed clear of an overt political message.

This is the eighth annual competition sponsored by the Center for Environmental Filmmaking and The Nature Conservancy. A total of 48 videos were submitted with this year’s theme: “Conservation and Environmental Protection.”

To qualify, the original videos, three minutes or less, must be humorous, communicate a clear message and appeal to a broad audience. A panel of five judges chose the finalists and grand prize winner, who will be honored in a ceremony next week at American University in Washington, D.C.

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Hope is alive for restoration of Puget Sound shellfish beds

Officials in Washington state’s Shellfish Program have identified a clear pathway to meet a state goal of restoring 10,800 net acres of shellfish beds to a harvestable condition by 2020.

The 10,800-acre target, established by the Puget Sound Partnership, was considered overly ambitious by many people when the goal was approved in 2011. Many still believe that the shellfish restoration effort will go down in flames, along with other goals, such as increasing chinook salmon and killer whale populations by 2020.

In reporting on the Shellfish Implementation Strategy, a document still under development, I’ve learned that the goal is within reach if enough of the ongoing recovery efforts around Puget Sound continue to make progress. Please check out my latest stories “Bringing the shellfish back” and “Closing in on the magic number in Samish Bay,” both published in the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound.

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Canadians produce mariner’s guide to whales; can U.S. follow?

If knowledge is power, officials in British Columbia have taken a strong step to protect whales by producing a booklet that can help ship captains reduce the threats to marine mammals.

The “Mariner’s Guide to Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises of Western Canada” (PDF 39.3 mb) was compiled and published by the Coastal Ocean Research Institute, a branch of the Vancouver Aquarium. Financial support came from nearby ports.

The guide is just one step in resolving conflicts between ships and whales, but it seems like a worthwhile move. If people who control the ships are willing to put scientific information into action, they could avoid cumbersome regulations along with unintended consequences that sometimes arise from political battles.

“The purpose of this guide is to help mariners reduce their risk of striking and killing, or seriously injuring a cetacean (whale, dolphin or porpoise),” writes researcher Lance Barrett-Lennard in a preface to the guide. “It includes descriptions of frequently encountered whales and dolphins, locations along the coast where cetacean densities are highest, and simple measures they can take to greatly reduce their risk of striking a whale, dolphin or porpoise.

“I have yet to meet a mariner who doesn’t feel terrible if his or her ship hits a cetacean … so I know the motivation to reduce strikes is there,” Lance continued. “The key is knowing how to do it. To that end, I hope that bridge crews on vessels transiting through B.C. coastal waters will use the information in this guide to reduce the risk of hitting a whale on their watch.”

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Amusing Monday: Bottled water is now
the king of beverages

For the first time in U.S. history, the consumption of bottled water has now surpassed that of carbonated soft drinks, according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation.

Bottled water consumption grew by 8.5 percent last year, while soft drink consumption fell by 1.7 percent, following an ongoing trend, according to the BMC’s Gary Hemphill, as quoted in Plastics News.

The statistics are based on volume consumed, not dollar value, Hemphill said. “Which is really kind of remarkable when you consider bottled water’s growth trajectory didn’t really start until the early ‘90s.”

The shift is largely attributed to growing health concerns related to drinking sugary soft drinks. But bottled water also is displacing the consumption of juice, alcoholic beverages and even tap water. See story by Hadley Malcolm in USA Today.

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