Monday, August 29, 2016


Seeing the mess created by massive flooding in Louisiana lately, we looked into the causes and effects floods have on peoples' lives.

A flood can occur, obviously, when too much rain falls and the ground can't absorb it quickly enough. If it happens very quickly with little warning, it's called a 'flash flood.'

But flooding also happens if a dam or levee breaks, or after heavy snowfall melts.

The area where flooding has happened or is expected to happen is called the "floodplain."

We have seen flooding in Minnesota, and North and South Dakota. These have usually been associated with a river overflowing its banks. Sandbags are assembled and piled up as people try to prevent the flood from reaching their homes.

Here is the progress of flooding in Louisiana and southern states earlier this month:

Moving water has a lot of power. As it moves through whatever outlets it can find, it will erode dirt underneath buildings and trees and drag all of it along as it goes. The water may contain sewage and always contains bacteria, and can also be carrying pieces of buildings or harmful trash that can injure people trying to slog through it. Frequently, this results in contaminated drinking water.

When a home is damaged by water, the greatest damage is probably mold that will grow on surfaces that never dry out. Replacing the whole building is the only way to start over; there is nothing to rid that house and its contents of all the water and resulting mold and bacteria from forming.

Building any kind of structure on unstable ground is never a good idea. This would include roads, homes, and bridges. People continue to re-build too close to the shore of the ocean after their homes are destroyed, most often by hurricanes and the huge amounts of water that flood beyond the shores. This also holds true for building too close to a river or a lake. 

Built with bricks but probably on shifting ground.

Even in areas where you might not expect flooding, there has been a trend in home building where the builders attempt to fill in an area that is naturally wetlands with dirt in order to build on top of it. This is unwise as the wetland will always be unstable.

Here is National Geographic's information about flooding:

What careers are involved in studying floods and making structures safer?
  • Engineering
  • Geologist
  • Hydrologist
  • Meteorologist
  • Architects
  • Building trades

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

And on the Second Day

The first day, you try to choose the right outfit .
You try to remember all your papers and supplies and official stuff you may or may not need.

You wear new shoes even though they are obviously new shoes. And they hurt a little because they're new.
You get to campus, look around, and head for class.

You try to fit in.
You try to stand out.
You try your best to pay attention even when you're not really into school yet.
You look for your friends from last year. If this is your first year, you hope you find friends. You wonder if you're making the right judgment calls about other people: Is this a good one? Is that?

You start worrying about lunch by 10:00. Where is that again? Who is good to sit by? Should you sit alone?
What about the food?

You slog through the afternoon watching the clock It doesn't move.
You get home somehow.
Whether dorm or apartment or home with your parents, you're relieved.
You made it! Day One, out of the way.

But on Day 2..........

You care less about your clothes: If it's clean, good enough. If it looks clean, good enough.

You make a list of the stuff you really, really needed yesterday but didn't bring.
You toss the uncomfortable shoes in a corner and wear your old standbys.
You know where you're going (more or less) and head to your classes.
You care less about fitting in.
You become more OK with the notion of standing out: Your opinions actually matter. This is very cool.

You see people you met yesterday. You talk to them. They are interesting. You like them.
You start caring less about judging others. You realize your instincts are pretty much always right.
It doesn't matter where you sit at lunch. You can sit alone and be happy or sit with others and have a good time.

You resign yourself to the fact that the food is pretty bad. Even when you bring your own!
You start paying more attention in class because there's nothing else to do. Surprise! Some of this stuff is actually interesting.

You get home thinking about things you talked about today, people you interacted with, things you saw.
You decide you're going to have a good year.

No, a great year.
And you will.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Wind Turbines: Got Energy?

We've probably all seen the enormous wind turbines and heard that they are generating energy. But how do they work?

Basically, the wind turns the blades of the turbine, the turbine feeds that energy to a generator, and the generator makes it into electricity. There is a cable running down the center of the base of the turbine which sends it to a power plant, where the electricity can be used by whoever needs it. Construction begins with the parts, and then it's assembled on site using cranes and people brave enough to climb up and work on it.
This isn't going altogether well....

They have even been installed in the ocean:

There is evidence that windmills, the predecessor to these giant wind turbines, were being used as early as 200 BC. We always think of the picturesque windmills of Holland, but forget they were functional and not just to look pretty---the term "windmill" indicates what they did originally. They have always been used to generate energy for milling grains or for pumping water. Here's a picture of an old one in the Netherlands. Notice how it's right by a body of water, but in an area open enough to catch the wind as it passes through..

Interest in harnessing wind power is becoming more popular throughout the world. Did you know:
  • The tallest wind turbines are about 600' tall (located in Poland).
  • The more typical height we see is about 160' tall.
  • Individual homeowners can purchase and use a tall wind turbine for their energy needs. You have to live in a rural area in order to capture the most energy.
  • The blades usually rotate clockwise.

  • Computers sense the direction of the wind and turn the turbine blades towards it.
  • They have brakes in case they get going too fast.
  • The fan blades are about 50' in diameter.
  • It costs about $40,000 for one that will generate 10 kw (kilowatts) of energy.
How would you like to go to the top of one of them to fix it?

Go to for everything you could ever want to know about these turbines. Really, everything.

What other sources of power can we find that could replace gasoline, coal, or even electricity? Besides harnessing the power of the wind, solar energy has experienced a 'rebirth' so to speak from the 1970's when it was thought to be the way everyone would power their homes... but the awkward glass plates on the roofs of homes never seemed to catch on.

Biomass Energy is generated from any kind of plant life as it decays. This material can be burned to create coal. The decay naturally creates methane gas, also, which is a component of natural gas used to heat homes, for example. The U.S. doesn't use this type of energy anywhere near as much as other countries do.

Geothermal Energy-the term comes from 'geo' meaning earth and 'therm' meaning heat; this is heat generated below the surface of the earth.

Hydroelectricity-this is electricity caused by the power of water falling. It can be created inside of dams so that it can be used year-round (the water won't freeze in cold areas). Water rushes through a wheel and the wheel powers another machine.

Tidal or Wave Energy is similar to hydroelectricity, but involves waiting for the ocean tide to maximize, damming it up in ponds, and then releasing it to make a 'waterfall,' essentially, that will then move components of a machine. Hydroelectricity has its problems, though; water that is manipulated can lose nutrients that are valuable to the creatures living in the water.

Read more about wind power in Minnesota from the DNR:
Majors/Careers that are involved:
  • Computer Technology
  • Meteorology
  • Environmental science
  • Engineering
  • Geology
  • Earth Science
  • Hydrologist
  • Earth Science

Monday, August 8, 2016

It's a Steal

Breaking into cars is still a fairly common crime. Here are some of the things that get stolen:

  • GPS (hint: remove and take the device with you, also remove the suction cup holder, and if possible get a bean-bag type holder: thieves can see the round mark from the suction cup on your window and will know it's probably under the seat or in the glovebox)
  • DVD players
  • Laptop Computer-some people actually leave these in plain view on the seat of the car
  • Purses
  • Backpacks
  • Car stereos that are easy to pull out
  • Cell phones
  • Video gaming components

  • Tools
  • Newly purchased items from the back of a pickup truck (such as large screen TVs)
  • License plates and tabs
  • Vehicle title papers
  • Garage door openers
  • Thieves not only want the GPS to keep or re-sell. If you have a garage door opener clearly visible, such as on a sun visor, and a GPS or any document in your car with your address, all a thief would have to do is go to your address, use the opener, and gain access to your house. Simple.

Consider setting the 'Home' on your GPS to a nearby location rather than your actual home. Another idea: Use the local police department's address.

There's a new device thieves have to unlock cars, and it's got police stumped:

*Another suggestion, this one from a local bank: Do not have your driver's license number or phone number printed on your checks. Thieves will take your checkbook, call you and report they have found it and say they'll meet you somewhere nearby to give it to you. While you drive to get it, the thieves are at  your house breaking in. If they have a drivers license number, they might try opening a credit card in your name.  Also, consider never having the checkbook with you, but instead, leave it secured somewhere at home. How often do you write checks these days?
                              Smile!! We're taking your picture.

*Consider etching an identifying number on your items such as tools. Obviously, this would not be your Social Security Number, phone number, or anything of use to a thief. Then take pictures of the items showing the etched number. If they are stolen but are recovered, you have proof that they were yours.

*Thieves have also been known to remove wheels and tires, 3rd-row seats, and even air bags. Yes, air bags. 

Triogenius got to wondering which cars are stolen most often. What a surprise to learn that it isn't an expensive Porsche, Jaguar, Mercedes, or even  a loaded Corvette or Mustang. While those cars are stolen, look at what CNN gave as the most commonly stolen cars:

10. 2004 Toyota Corolla
9.   2002 Ford Explorer
8.   1994 Accura
7.   1994 Chevy Pickup
6.   2000 Dodge Van (!)
5.   2004 Dodge Pickup
4.   1997 Ford F150 Pickup
3.   1991 Toyota Camry
2.   1995 Honda Civic
and the #1 car stolen in the U.S.:
   1994 Honda Accord.             -Source: CNBC online

....because they are easy to get into quickly. With older cars, a door lock means they still have little plastic pieces by the windows that can be popped up to unlock the door. Newer cars don't have them.

                           If a pigeon can do this........

Another reason for these cars being stolen so often has to do with the fact that older cars have less anti-theft measures installed, as well as the fact that they were really popular, so it's easy to take parts off one and sell, or use them to build a 'new' car.

Keep in mind these tips to avoid car theft:

  • Do Not Leave The Keys In The Ignition. This is high on the list of how cars are stolen. Why invite a thief and make it simple for him?
  • Don't leave the keys in the car anywhere.
  • Keep the car locked at all times, even when you are in it, and even when you 'just run in' to a store or the gas station. Lock it. Always. And for heavens sake bring your children with you, no matter how quick a trip you're making in and out of a store.

  • Keep your windows up when you leave the car.
  • Don't leave items laying out on the seat of the car which may be enticing. Even a bag with unknown contents might be enough inspiration for someone to break in and take it. Put your purchases in your trunk and lock it.
  • Don't leave the keys in your car or leave it running while you 'just run in for a minute' to get something.
  • Don't leave your spare key anywhere that's easy to find.
  • Park where there is a bright light so that thieves would be visible and not hidden

Have a great week!!!

Monday, August 1, 2016

You Belong In The Zoo

Have you ever thought about working at a zoo??

The obvious career at the zoo would be a veterinarian, one who specializes in zoo animals. Sometimes a zoo vet will further specialize, working with reptiles, large cats, raptors, swimming mammals, or animals particular to a certain environment. Vet Technicians are always needed to assist these veterinarians, as well.
Veterinarian getting some digital images of a tranquilized tiger.

There are a lot of other roles to be played in a zoo. Here is a list of some of them:

  • Animal curator-this is someone who keeps track of the collections in a zoo; so this person might be a curator of mammals, reptiles, aquatic animals, birds, etc.

  • Curator of Education-Zoos usually have educational programs for students of various ages, who can come and visit and learn about animals in an 'up close and personal' way.
Here is a docent helping educate students using a skull skeleton.

  • Curator of Exhibits-This person helps to create the exhibits in such a way that is healthy for the animals but still allows the public to view them safely.

  • Conservation Biologist or Zoologist-These are scientists and biologists who assist in the management of the collection, and who also do research and concentrate on the conservation of wildlife (being aware of endangered species).

  • Zoo Keepers-these are the people responsible for the day to day care of the animals, including making sure each environment is kept clean, noting when an animal needs veterinary care, and also managing the food for the animals.

  • Registrar-This person tracks the collection and keeps an 'inventory' of every animal in the zoo.
  • Director and Assistant Director-These are the people responsible for the management of the whole zoo.
  • Directors of Research-Research is needed on which animals to obtain and what kind of environment they need.
  • Docents-These are people who volunteer to share their knowledge of animals with zoo visitors.
                         This man is a docent, talking to guests about birds.

  • Personnel and Volunteer Coordinators-These people track the records of people who work and volunteer at the zoo.
  • Operations and Maintenance-Many people are needed to keep the zoo running, which includes the power grids, utilities, security, landscaping for the grounds, keeping the buildings in working order, repairing broken fencing, and replenishing supplies.
Cleanup never ends in a zoo.

  • Special Events Manager-When the zoo hosts a special event, such as 'Zoo Boo' at Como Park Zoo, this person would be in charge of the event and would make sure it happens successfully.
  • Gift Shop Manager-Most zoos have gift shops and need people to run them.
Releasing a rehabbed eagle to the sky

As with any business, there is a need for Public Relations and Marketing; Fund-raising; Accounting and Chief Financial Officer; Membership Managers; and records management.

Check out this video of a student who had an internship at the Houston, Texas, zoo: 

We are so lucky to have two great zoos in the Metro area: The website for the Minnesota Zoo is here:
And for Como Zoo is here:

When you want fish but it's slippery

If you love the zoo, think about one of these careers!