Surely you’ve noticed the flatted squirrel corpses paving every road in the area. There have been lots of theories as to what’s going on (bumper crop of ignorant squirrel pups, shortage of food, squirrel migration, and nothing’s different but us talking about it, among others), and in the Daily Progress, Bryan McKenzie explains the squirrelpocalypse. Last year there were an amazing number of acorns, supporting an unusually large population of squirrels. This year, there’s a very low number of acorns, so the offspring of that large population are competing over a small number of acorns. The interesting twist is that many of these squirrels are actually trying to migrate, seeking out a new home with more food. McKenzie writes:
Meriwether Lewis reported large numbers of squirrels were swimming the Ohio River. He sent his Newfoundland dog, Seaman, into the water to harvest the rodents for dinner.
“They were fat and I thought them, when fried, a pleasant food,” he wrote to then-President Thomas Jefferson.
Massive squirrel migrations were reported across the upper Midwest, New England and into South Carolina in 1809, 1819, 1842, 1852 and 1856, according to various studies of the phenomenon.
Apparently there are just occasional confluences of factors that cause huge numbers of squirrels to wander across the countryside, and we’re having our first such event since 1968.
The Environmental Protection Agency is studying four pollutants that have leached into the soil near the airport in Earlysville, J Reynolds Hutchins writes in the Daily Progress. The Avionics Specialties plant is the source of the trouble, though the EPA has found that the toxins (including a carcinogen) are the fault of Teledyne, who ran an aerospace-related plant on the site from 1954–1992. Teledyne has refused to take responsibility, but the EPA is going to force them to. There are months of study ahead for the EPA, sure to be followed by years of cleanup.
Via Charlottesville Tomorrow, I see that the Woodbrook Neighborhood Blog has a long piece about how the neighborhood is divided over an Eagle Scout’s project to build a bench and a bridge over a county-owned lagoon as a part of a trail on public land. Blogger Dan Gould conducted a bunch of interviews, talked to county employees, took a bunch of photos, and even took an informal survey of landowners who live nearby. A lively discussion has ensued in the comments section. It’s a great piece of work about a parochial matter, the sort of thing that would surely have no place in a regional publication, but that anybody who lives in the Woodbrook area surely finds very interesting.
Some jackass strolled into the Kroger on Hydraulic carrying an AR-15 today, the Daily Progress reports, leading to at least one person wisely fleeing the store and calling 911. Police quickly arrived and detained the 22-year-old, before releasing him since, in Virginia, there’s nothing illegal about strolling around a grocery store carrying an assault weapon. Police figure this was an open carry demonstration. This is a thing, wherein people who know that it is legal to openly carry will go into crowded public places while carrying guns, on the theory that people will eventually stop being terrified and get used to this as a reasonable behavior. Basically, First Amendent : Westboro Baptist Church :: Second Amendment :: these jackasses. Anyhow, Kroger tossed the guy off their property and told him not to come back, since there’s nothing illegal about throwing a dangerous jerk off of your private property.
Charlottesville Tomorrow isn’t the only local media outlet with a new website—C-Ville Weekly has also had a total overhaul, complete with a new CMS. The weekly long had a custom CMS that had become awfully restrictive, but they’ve replaced it with a WordPress-based site (that’s what cvillenews.com has run on for many years) with Disqus-based commenting. Using a standard platform will make it easy for them to add new features, stay current with emerging technologies, and ultimately integrate it into their document workflow. (The Bangor Daily News has a famously amazing document workflow, which is entirely open sourced, that makes it a snap for their articles to flow both into their print layout tool and their WordPress-based website.) WordPress is liable to serve them well for years to come.
The one catch of the new website—and it’s a big one—is that they’ve failed to redirect their old URLs to their new URLs. That is, all of their old stories are still on the website, but every link on the web to every one of those stories is now broken. Here’s hoping that they have a plan to deal with that. There are some other bugs and oddities still to be resolved, but that’s just how it goes with a new website.