January 21, 2017

When Liberals Turn Preppers

A new meme has been going around news media lately, the "liberal prepper."
The signs of change are surely in the air. Groups that cater to gun-toting bleeding hearts — such as the aptly named Liberal Gun Club — say they’ve seen a surge in paid membership since the election. Candid talk of disaster preparedness among progressives is showing up on social media. Even companies that outfit luxury “safe rooms” — which protect their wealthy owners from bombs, bullets, and chemical attacks — attribute recent boosts in business to the incoming administration.
Terrified by the so-called "Trumpapocalypse," this (presumably) Hillary voter is stocking up on guns and canned food — example: Colin Waugh of Independence, Mo., an "unapologetic liberal . . . no fan of firearms."

Read the article, watch Colin Waugh make a string of newbie mistakes, but don't be too judgmental.

And remember, we don't say "survivalist" any more; we say "prepper." 

For instance,  Waugh has been "browsing real estate listings in Gunnison County, Colorado, which he’s determined to be a 'liberal safe-haven.'"

Does he know that the average low temperature this month in Gunnison is -6° F. (-21° C)?  Does he know how short the growing season is? Or how expensive the college town/resort-area real estate is?

In the event the "Trumpapocalypse" occurs, does he plan to drive 750 miles across lawless prairies to his Secret Mountain Hideout?

He would be a lot better off staying in Missouri. I recommend Moniteau County. It's close by, has no large cities, and land is much more affordable.

To protect himself against "state-sanctioned roundups of Muslims, gays, and outspoken critics," Waugh has purchased two guns, a 9mm pistol and an unspecified shotgun.  I hope that he gets some serious instruction and practice with them. Start with the assumption that everything you see in movies and TV about guns is wrong. (People do not fly through the air when shot, for one thing.)

But here's the thing. Planning for disaster is a good thing. Sure, there is plenty of apocalypse porn out there, even "Trumpapocalypse"-porn, but you don't have to wallow it it.

Taking care of yourself and yours is a good plan. Government cannot do it — at least when disaster first strikes. Even with good resources and planning, it takes at least 48 hours for the wheels to turn, and that is a best-case scenario. 

(As a member of my county's emergency services board, I have seen plenty of planning and discussion, not to mind that I have been evacuated from my home four times in the last eleven years.)

As blogger Liz Shield writes, "Are we sure this guy isn't one of us? . . . . Welcome to the world of 'taking care of yourself and your family.'"

Anyone who is serious about self-defense, about food, and about general preparedness — "keeping your wits about you," etc. — is going to be a more effective citizen and less of a drain on public resources.

Unfortunately, bullets will not stop a Missouri ice storm.

January 18, 2017

Eat Peppers, Live Longer? Also Prehistoric Cattle and Stuff.

Portuguese Maronsa, part of the gene stock (CNN).
Some people found these boots' tracks to be offensive. The designer has been sent to a social-justice re-education camp. Or would have been, but is probably in China, where they just move on to the next knock-off and counterfeit.

¶ If I can't have mammoths in Arizona (They used to live there), I will accept aurochs in Eastern Europe. I have seen some negative comment on the Tauros Programme though, although this CNN story claims,
The animals get closer with each generation, and the team have the advantage of being able to test the offspring's DNA against the complete genome of an auroch, which was successfully sequenced at University College Dublin.
¶ "Eat Peppers, Live Longer?" Well, yes, sort of, says the New York Times. Duh.

¶ In firewood, fat is good.

January 11, 2017

How Birds Survive the Winter



Happy to see some my favorite winter birds here, like pine siskins and evening grosbeaks.

January 10, 2017

No Farms at Chaco Canyon, Off-Road Vehicles, Lynx Surprise

A "great kiva," restored but roofless, at Chaco Canyon
¶ All boats, snowmobiles, and ATV's in Colorado have to be state-registered. Proof of ownership is required, but the state is fairly flexible about documentation.

¶ Chaco Canyon in northwest New Mexico is the site of a collection of ancient "great houses," multi-room dwellings. They were not built simultaneously, and it is unclear how many people actually lived there. And apparently they did not grow their own food, so apparently it was backpacked in by the Anasazi equivalent of serfs.  Or maybe they were willing pilgrims.

¶ With typical feline nonchalance, a lynx surprises skiers at the Purgatory ski area in southwestern Colorado. 

UPDATE, Jauary 10, 2017: A sad ending to the lynx story.

January 08, 2017

Colorado Snowpack January 1, 2017

Source.

Using Outdoor Electronic Technology the Right Way

In the current issue (Jan.-Feb. 2017) of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation magazine, Bugle, P. J. DelHomme talks about using electronic technology (smarphones, Google Earth, GPS gear, etc.) to draw kids into outdoor experiences.
If you have an area in mind to hunt, see if your kid would be willing to scout it for you via Google Earth. Turn it into a biology lesson. Elk need food, water, shelter, and space—lots of space. Have them pick out likely elk spots away from roads, mark them on the map, and then find a way in. You might just spark enough interest so they'll want to go with you to see if it pays off.
He also suggests geocaching, among other things, as a way to let the screen-obsessed do stuff outdoors. All good.

At the same time, however, you would want to educate those kids about "Death by GPS," the title of a recent article at Ars Technica.
What happened to the Chretiens is so common in some places that it has a name. The park rangers at Death Valley National Park in California call it “death by GPS.” It describes what happens when your GPS fails you, not by being wrong, exactly, but often by being too right. It does such a good job of computing the most direct route from Point A to Point B that it takes you down roads which barely exist, or were used at one time and abandoned, or are not suitable for your car, or which require all kinds of local knowledge that would make you aware that making that turn is bad news.
And J. R. Sullivan wonders at Outside, "Our Reliance on Technology Makes the Backcountry More Dangerous."
“One of the worst trends we’ve seen in the past 20 years is the proliferation of cell phones and technology in the backcountry,” says Tim Smith, a registered Master Maine Guide and the founder of the Jack Mountain Bushcraft School, which instructs students in brush living, guide skills, and long-term winter survival. “It gives people a false sense of security. It's the idea of, Who cares how bad of a jam I get myself into? Because if there’s cell coverage I’ll call and someone will come get me. But if you had no outside line, no way of contacting other people, you’re way less likely to take risks.”
And a neurologist suggests that using GPS instead of building mental maps affects the structure of the physical brain:
An integral component of brain organization is that it changes with experience. So yes, our modern lifestyle alters our brains. The important question, however, is not whether technology changes the brain, but whether our technology driven life damages our brain.
And did you remember to charge your phone? 

January 02, 2017

Hiking Makes You Smarter — Or at Least Less Depressed

So there is your New Year's resolution,  if you follow this line of thought:
To conduct this study, researchers compared the reported rumination of participants who hiked through either an urban or a natural environment. They found those who walked for 90 minutes in a natural environment reported lower levels of rumination and they also had reduced neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain related to mental illness. Those who walked through the urban environment, however, did not report decreased rumination.
 So there it is: 2017: The Year of Decreased Rumination

January 01, 2017

When Nature-Fakers Meet You Tube (and the Money)

Via The Mint (India). Photo by Arnab Mukherjee
"The Ugly Side of Wildlife Photography" — that title says it all. There is money-driven fakery . . .
In 2009, the image of a “jumping wolf” by photographer José Luis Rodriguez won for him the prestigious wildlife photographer of the year award conferred by the British Natural History Museum. It was later discovered that the wolf was trained for the shoot. Rodriguez was disqualified.
. . . and there is is ego-driven and money-driven fakery:
Insensitive photographers collude with greedy safari drivers and irresponsible forest guides to agitate and provoke animals for “action photography” for an award-winning shot. Conservationists opine that over time, such malpractices have altered the behaviour of large mammals, making them aggressive and stressful. This aggression is witnessed when the mammals migrate from one forest patch to the other through human-dominated landscapes.
And we're not even talking about drones here. 

EDITED TO ADD: Here is an example of the BBC manipulating video of birds to make them more attractive on the screen.

December 31, 2016

GPS Receivers versus Smart Phones

Don't expect a cell phone signal here.
Is your smartphone as accurate as a dedicated GPS unit? Some researchers at Skidmore College tried to answer that a few years ago (note reference to iPhone 4). Their conclustion: "The short analysis is that iPhones are still worse than a dedicated GPS, but not that much worse."

I am using an iPhone 5s, so not the newest, but I have noted that its GPS unit is about as good as my Garmin's . . . except that for geocaching, it is not so good, because geocaches are marked in hours/minutes/decimal minutes, and the built-in GPS reads hours/minutes/seconds.

Now there are decided geocaching apps that work fine, but they require a good cellular data feed, and when you are in a place like the Purgatory River canyon, you end up thinking, "What possesed me to leave the Garmin in the truck and bring just the phone?"

Bottom line: a dedicated GPS receiver does more stuff than a smartphone does. Using GPS sucks batteries dead, but it's a lot easier to swap in two more AA's than to carry a cell phone backup power source (although I have one of those too, solar-powered).

December 30, 2016

Where to Eat in San Luis, First Aid, and Other Links

Where to eat in San Luis now that Emma's Hacienda is closed. And there is a new-ish coffee shop and bakery, Rosa Mystica, that I keep meaning to try.

¶ From the National Outdoor Leadership School: "27 Considerations for a Wilderness First Aid Kit." Having taken their wilderness first aid class a couple of times, I think about these things more than I used to, back when my first-aid kit was a few bandaids and a small tin of aspirin.

¶ Why your dog likes bread, oatmeal, and other grain-based foods and can digest them just fine. They learned to do it to live with Neolithic farmers, apparently. They are not wolves.

¶ Instead of just shooting a suspect bear and looking at its stomach contents to see if it ate the missing camper, the National Park Service is learning to use non-lethal DNA evidence.

December 24, 2016

How to Write a Northern Rockies Mystery Novel

After reading a lot of mystery novels by Peter Bowen and Keith McCafferty (Montana) plus Craig Johnson and C. J. Box (Wyoming), I have assembled enough ideas for a decent undergradate paper with a simple compare-and-contrast methology.

Although her novels are set in Wyoming, Margaret Coel lives in Colorado. Still, much of what I will say applies to her works too.

1. The Protagonist. The idea of the "wounded  detective" is common. Fictional dectectives are often divorced, widowed, deeply depressed (especially in Scandanavia), using or recovering from too much booze & drugs, or fired from a job in law-enforcement, among other possibilities. Coel's Catholic mission priest, John O'Malley, a recovering alcoholic, is isolated by both his clerical vocation and his location on the Wind River Reservation.

Often they are marginalized in some respect.  Bowen's Metis brand inspector-deputy sheriff, Gabriel Du Pré, is Métis, descended from the French/indigenous mixed-blood ethnic group who originated around the Great Lakes, but some of whom moved to eastern Montana in the 1860s–70s, before and after the Red River Rebellion. Father O'Malley is a white priest on the reservation, while Box's Joe Pickett is frequently in conflict with his superiors in the Wyoming Game & Fish Department.

2. The Milieu. A low population is essential. Gabriel Du Pré operates in a fictional locale somewhere north of Miles City. Johnson's Sheriff Longmire patrols the thinly populated fictional Absaroka County, somewhere in northern Wyoming, not far from the district where Box's game warden protagonist, Joe Pickett, enforced wildlife laws.

The Wind River Reservation's population exceeds 40,000, thinly spread, but you do not feel their presence in the novels. Sean Shanahan, McCafferty's artist-fishing guide amateur detective, pops into Ennis, West Yellowstone, and other towns, but spends more time on the rivers.

All seem allergic to cities. Gabriel Du Pré hates going to Bozeman, while Joe Pickett regards Cheyenne as just slightly better than Mordor

3. The "Animal Helper." Although several protagonists often have a dog riding with them, what I mean here is the old folkloric theme of the animal who establishes a special relationship with the hero — for example, the hero is a hunter pursuing a fox, but he spares the fox who then protects him or helps him to secure wealth.

I extend the term "animal helper" to include people who are bonded to the hero somehow yet also appear to be closer to nature — even feral. (The Hollywood equivalent is the Magical Negro, another version of the Noble Savage.)
  • Gabriel Du Pré has Beneetse, an elderly Crow (?) shaman who appears and disappears mysteriously and who brings past and present together.
  • Joe Pickett's feral helper is the falconer Nate Romanowski, a mysterious ex-special operations soldier who lives in isolated places and has no visible means of support, but who pops up in the nick of time of save Joe, dropping bad guys at 800 yards offhand with a .454 Casull revolver or something similar. For a time Romanowski lives with an Arapaho woman until she is murdered.
  • Father O'Malley has Vicky Holden, the Arapaho lawyer who connects him with the reservation and its people.
  • Sheriff Walt Longmire's closest friend is Henry Standing Bear, a Cheyenne. Although Lou Diamond Phillips ably portrays Standing Bear in the TV series, in the books Standing Bear is more like Beneetse — in touch with ghosts and ancestors and also seemingly able to materialize, like Nate Romanowski, when Longmire is in desperate straits.
  • McCafferty's detective, Sean Stranahan, has no Indian helper, but possibly the fishing outfitter  Rainbow Sam, Sean's sometime employer, could fit the bill, for by comparison to the past-haunted hero, Sam is hard-drinking, pleasure-seeking, and present-oriented.
4. The Plots. Many of these are recognizable from the last thirty years' news. At least two of these authors have used each one of these.
  • The Cult. Clearly inspired by the Church Universal and Triumphant's operation north of Yellowstone Park in the 1980s, this plot has some mysterious but well-financed group building a headquarters in an isolated area. Murder usually ensues. See also "The Anti-Government Group." C. J. Box in particular  shows some degree of sympathy with small-L libertarian types, however, which leads to some plot twists.
  • The Evil Energy Company. Enough said. See also "Evil Rich People."
  • The Scheming Archaeologist. No, Tony Hillerman did not own this one. Suppose that an archaeologist had a major, career-capping find that somehow places him in conflict with the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act. . .
  • Ecoterrorists and Animal Rights Extremists. They mean well, but people get hurt and they are trying to shut down the struggling local ranchers.  
  • The Dinosaur. Inspired by the story of the T-Rex skeleton called Black Hills Sue, this one involves a spectacular fossil find with disputed ownership — various people want to profit from it. It puts the "skull" in skullduggery.
  • The Outsiders.  All these people want to ruin Wyoming or Montana, and the hero fights a rear-guard action. Peter Bowen is the strongest here, sending a message to his readers that might as well read, "You readers are a bunch of Subaru-driving, Patagonia-wearing recreationists who just ought to keep the hell out of eastern Montana. Don't come here. Don't look for a real Gabriel Du Pré. Just stay on Interstate 90 and keep going to Bozeman. Oh yeah, buy my books."
Well, there you have it. Just add more examples and analysis. A guaranteed A-.

December 17, 2016

Medical Marijuana and Firearms Purchases (2)

Last month, I speculated what might happen if hostile government agencies cross-referenced state medical marijuana cardholders with the federal Form 4473, filled out by gun buyers, which contains the question "Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?" (Answering "yes" means no sale, while lying would be a federal offense.)

Since that post, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms has strengthened its position, adding "a new warning statement reminding applicants that marijuana is still considered federally illegal despite state laws allowing medical marijuana or recreational use. In other words: The ATF doesn’t want gun sellers or buyers to mistake the increasingly common state-legal cannabis for the nonexistent federally legal marijuana."

After I wrote, I  had couple people tell me that the same thought keeps them from registering for medical marijuana, even though they have conditions that would qualify them for it.

Others agree that while such a cross-checking is not supposed to happen, it could happen. Somebody in Agency A does a favor for his buddy in Agency B — that is how the world works, especially in law enforcement.

And some other news picked up since then:

¶ President-elect Trump has picked Sen. Jeff Sessions to be attorney general, and whatever else may be said of him, good or bad, Sessions appears to be a hardcore Drug Warrior.
"We need grown-ups in charge in Washington to say marijuana is not the kind of thing that ought to be legalized. It ought not to be minimized, that it's in fact a very real danger," Sessions said during an April Senate hearing.
Trump's pick for the Dept. of Homeland Security, retired Marine General John Kelly, at least makes room for medical use.

 ¶ While 28 states and the District of Columbia now permit medical and/or recreational cannabis use, the federal government could still swing its hammer at any time and force them to comply with federal law that regards it as illegal. It's just that the political will is not there to do so. Read more about obstacles here.

¶ Even "loose" Colorado may further restrict legal home growers, based on the assumption that they are feeding the "gray market."

¶ Finally — and this is disturbing — the Obama Administration has even cracked down on cannabidiol (CBD), the product used for medical treatment that does not get you high.  The industry reacted:
"Once again, the federal government has shown that it has not caught up with modern science," says Nate Bradley, executive director of the California Cannabis Industry Association. "It's common knowledge that CBD has numerous medical uses, including curbing the effects of epilepsy and reducing muscle inflammation from injuries. To deny that shows a complete disregard for the facts."
I had just bought a bottle of CBD-infused hemp oil by mail from an organic grower in southern Colorado to put on my dry, cracked hands in the winter. But apparently that easy purchase violated "international treaties," and we can't have that. The DEA claims its new move is primarily "administrative." (Nothing to see here, move along.) It's just that shipping CBD oil is now a federal violation unless companies go through a whole new restrictive registration process, right now!

A lawyer whose practice focuses on cannabis commented, 
“The sky is not falling; however, this is a very concerning move by the DEA,” [Bob] Hoban said. “What it purports to do is give the DEA control of all cannabinoids as a controlled substance.”

Even if this new code may be rooted in an administrative action to better track research and imports and exports, Hoban said the danger lies in when other federal and state agencies use the drug codes as defining factors of what’s legal and illegal. . . .
“It worries me because the definition of any marijuana-derived products, such as cannabinoids, are not unlawful substances, per se,” he said. “It seems like they’re trying to extend their authority over all cannabinoids.”
Regulators got to regulate, don't you know. Despite the Sessions nomination, it would be highly ironic if Trump's people ended up being less passive-aggressive about cannabis than the Obama Administration. But I am not holding my breath.

That said, if you are purchasing firearms, why stick your head in a noose by being a registered marijuana user, at least until the law changes to reflect public opinion?

December 05, 2016

Engine 2, Engine 4 Back in Service, 2054

When you put too many horses on your little acreage, and they eat the grass down to the dirt, at least it is easy to dig hand line around the brush fire that you started by dumping wood ashes during the driest autumn in fifty years, you dummie.

(Why did I wash my brush gear? Did I think the season was over?)

#hobbyranch

December 04, 2016

Counting Outdoor Recreation in the GDP and Other Links

(Colorado's bighorn sheep population (never large) has rebounded since the 1990s, researchers say. (The article focuses on northern Colorado).

¶ Can Jim Akenson "give the hunter/conservation paradigm a new boost" in urban-dominated Oregon?
As the first conservation director of the 10,000-member Oregon Hunters Association, Akenson has a job that few might envy, yet one in which he is called to balance the perspectives of rangers and ranchers while he advocates for the role of hunters as latter-day environmentalists.
Providers of outdoor gear and experiences are happy that their revenue will now be added to the nation's Gross National Product (GDP).
“This is a big, big deal for us because it takes us off the kids’ table and puts us at the adult table. Now we can show how much we influence the national economy. Christmas came early for the outdoor industry,” said Luis Benitez, the indefatigable head of Colorado’s Outdoor Recreation Industry Office, who earlier this year gave a speech titled “The Outdoor Recreation Industry Will Save the World.”
Calculating the GDP is complicated, as the Denver Post article suggests, and it does not say which year's GDP will reflect this change.

November 28, 2016

Living "Free" in the Real South Park

Robert Dear's stationary RV in South Park (Colorado Springs Gazette)
It was around 1970 or a little earlier that someone subdivided several square miles of South Park, the altiplano of Colorado, at the foot of Wilkerson Pass, north of US 24.

The real-estate developer cut roads across the cold, dry, and windswept pasture land east of tiny Hartsel and put up green-and-white street signs with names like "San Juan Drive."

And then no one bought most of the lots (except for some more scenic, hillier ones) because they were cold, dry, and windswept.

I used to drive by there a lot when I lived in Manitou Springs, now not so much. So I missed its transformation into a "gritty" community of "RVs, Tuff Sheds and nylon tents," as the Colorado Springs Gazette describes it. 

The area came onto the media radar a year ago because Robert Dear, who shot up a Planned Parenthood office in Colorado Springs, killing three people and wounding five, had been living there in a permanently parked motor home, "equipped with solar panels, a wood stove and a ramshackle fence encircling a storage shed, chickens and a yapping dog."
Shelters started popping up within the past five years, but the situation compounded with the so-called "green rush" after recreational marijuana was legalized in 2012, many residents say. . . .

The explosion in emergency calls is fueled by out-of-control trash fires, faulty generators and embers dumped in the woods, among other hazards, officials say.

Getting to the emergencies can be difficult, because many lack addresses.

"A lot of them are societal dropouts. They just don't want to be a part of it," [Hartsel Fire Protection District Chief Jay] Hutcheson said.
It is a harsh place to live. The Ute Indians came through only in the summers, while the early ranchers picked sites with more shelter and water. (Hartsel is on one fork of the South Platte River.) Five acres out on the flats — I would not want to live there year-around. Gardening is out of the question. The hot springs at Hartsel, developed commercially in the 1870s, have been closed for decades, so you can't even go soak off the grime.

We see this story played out elsewhere, and it's all "live free or die" until someone starts a forest fire. Or starts shooting. The "problem," if you define it as a problem — and should we? —  is not homelessness in the ordinary sense, because people can buy little acreages cheap. (No utilities.)  But then some of them turn into literal basket cases:
Two years ago, Hutcheson encountered a family of five living in a tent. While removing a woman on a stretcher, he said he "postholed in 3 ½ feet of snow" and fell backwards, fracturing a vertebra. "Surgery. Plates. Screws," he said in recounting the episode.

Other calls have brought his workers to places where people "are living in their own filth, with no sanitary precautions at all," he said.
The bureaucratic response, of course, is more regulation.

Maybe if you want to go West and re-invent yourself, all that is left are places like this.