November 29, 2007

Blog Stew on the Purg

¶ In September I mentioned Michael Ome Untiedt's impressionist paintings of the SE Colorado canyon country. Some are on his site too. He also has a show opening on Wed., Dec. 5, at Ernest Fuller Fine Art in Denver and running through Jan. 25, 2008.

Timothy Smith's blog about birds and other wildlife attracted to British landfills may be found under "Elsewhere."

Pondering Pikaia is another natural history blog, this one from Alabama, and hence under "Elsewhere" too.

Tucson Weekly interviews J.P.S. Brown.

If you ask Brown who he is, he'll say "cowboy." He won't say reporter, Marine, boxer, movie wrangler, stuntman or whiskey smuggler, and he's been all those things.

If he says writer at all, it won't be first on the list. But he's a great writer, probably the best you've never heard of.

November 28, 2007

Save Wilderness: Make Cities Liveable

¶ It takes more than cappuccino-sipping "creatives" to make a city: families still matter. In Philadelphia, for instance:

Only 14% of Center City residents have children ... and roughly half its young people depart once they enter their mid-30s. "If you want to sustain the revival you have to deal with the fact that people with six year olds keep moving to the suburbs," Mr. Levy suggests. "Empty nesters and singles are not enough."

Why post about that on this blog? I have often thought that we Americans hate our cities (Thomas Jefferson did not help), but if we loved them enough to make them more pleasant, than maybe people would not be fleeing them for 35-acre ranchettes in Colorado or elsewhere.

Like Vienna, for example.

November 25, 2007

The Bear in Your Garbage Can/Garage/Playing Field

Focusing on the Canadian resort community of Whistler, BC, a New York Times piece discusses bear-human conflicts.

With less bear-hunting and more people wanting to living the woods, "user conflicts" are rising.

At the turn of the last century, if people felt the call of the wild, they’d take the train perhaps to Banff, where they’d soak in a hot spring and never venture much beyond the front canopy of the Banff Springs Hotel. Now remote canyons and mountain meadows are thick with residential and recreational use. In Whistler, even the paint-ball games for kids take place on a field that happens to be in the middle of a flood plain. As soon as the air-horn starts the competition, bears come out of the nearby woods with their great, lumbering, hip-swaying strides to graze the paint balls with a bovine indifference to the gleeful splattered children running this way and that.

It's a thoughtful piece and worth reading for going beyond the cliches.

November 23, 2007

How Newspapers Fail Their Readers

I was once a newspaper reporter--six years on two different dailies before I moved to academia. So I don't like to read that newspapers are losing readers, even though it is true.

But, I swear, sometimes the papers are their own worst enemies.

Consider today's above-the-fold headline in the Pueblo Chieftain: "Parade-goers Enjoy Balmy Weather in New York" ("Above the fold" means top of the front page--what you see in the display rack.)

Not Pueblo weather, New York City weather. Not a Pueblo parade, a New York City parade.

Not to be outdone in stupidity, the Cañon City Daily Record led with an Associated Press story on post-Thanksgiving shopping, "Stores Usher in Holiday Shopping Season" (not even localized!) packaged with an AP sidebar on a new parking garage in Grand Junction.

Dear editors, your readers have either gotten that information from TV or the Web--or they simply do not care. Grand Junction is hundreds of miles from Cañon City, and no one from Cañon shops there.

Honestly, if they headlined, "Johnson Cat Has Kittens," with the story explaining that two of the kittens born at 555 E. 5th St. were calicoes, it would get more eyeball time.

No wonder the political bloggers denigrate the "mainstream media" (MSM). Such cluelessness shows that some editors really do not care at all.

November 22, 2007

Blog Stew with Silver Iodide

Lamy Jct. railway station, 14 Nov. 07.  Photo by Chas S. CliftonABOVE: Train-watching in Lamy, New Mexico.

I am back from the land of palm trees, surf, and aircraft carriers--in other words, San Diego--so blogging can resume.

On our train trip to California M. and I did see one corner of one of the burned areas, where a fire had come right down to the coast south of San Clemente. The newspapers were full of accusations and counter-accusations over the tardy deployment of fire-fighting aircraft, as well as Thanksgiving-season human-interest pieces about residents who lost their homes.

M. and I drove in last night from the La Junta railway station through a mist of ice crystals, the air about 10 degrees F., to find a message on the answering machine from a neighbor, "A mountain lion was at my back door!" And killed a stray cat had been hanging around the house, right on the back porch.

This web tool lets you figure the exact elevation of your house (or another favorite spot) and other precise geographical information.

• It is cloud-seeding season, but does the process really work?

“You can’t make any large, robust claims about it . . . and if you do, how do you back them up?”

That’s the question weather and climate experts have been grappling with for decades.

(Hat tip: Coyote Gulch.)

November 15, 2007

Bird-Proofing Windows

Added to the blog roll: David Sibley's blog. Here he writes about bird-proofing windows.

I live in a house with lots of windows, and I like to keep lots of bird feeders. This is good for me as a birder, but often bad for the birds. Over the years I have tried various methods of making the windows either more visible or less harmful, but sometimes it just doesn't help. Birds fly very fast and at times (for example, when startled by a predator) will try to fly through things they would normally avoid. Occasionally, Cooper's and Red-tailed hawks seem to learn that they can pop around the corner of the house, cause a panic at the bird feeder, and then have easy pickings from under the window.

My little legacy at the university will probably be the peregrine falcon silhouette sticker pasted on this glass windbreak that used to claim a bird every now and then. I like to think that fewer are being killed there now, and I hope that the Physical Plant people think that someone in authority approved the sticker.

November 13, 2007

Black Rats, Brown Rats, and Prairie Dogs

Patrick Burns offers a long entry on bubonic plague and its history in the United States. National Park Service employees probably should not read this entry unless they are feeling strong.

I never know whether to worry more about plague or about hantavirus. Right now, those foxes might be keeping the deer mouse population low. I have trapped only half a dozen in the garage (which gives entry to the basement)this fall, a low figure compared to some year.

The foxes, meanwhile, are leaving scat all around the house, to the point where you have to look where you step when you go outdoors. They love to come at dusk, when the dogs are penned on the front porch before supper, and taunt them.

It's the price you pay for mouse control.

November 10, 2007

"Those deer are agressive. . . "

Via Steve Bodio, this side-splitting New York Times piece on anxious displaced city folks in the woods:

"Four hours east, in Estes Park [Colorado], Natalie Galyon, a photographer who lives in Dallas, was recently host of a friend’s bachelorette party at her cabin overlooking the Big Thompson River. 'When a herd of elk jammed the road, we got out of the car to take photos, but one of the girls stood by the car guarding everyone’s purses, when we were the only people in sight,' said Ms. Galyon, 32, 'and each night they would shut all the blinds, even though we were on a cliff in the middle of nowhere.'”

As soon as I learn of any purse-snatching elk, I will be the first to blog it. Read the whole thing.

This article goes into the illegal photocopied anthology for this spring's nature-writing class, for sure.

November 08, 2007

What we got here is failure to communicate

My elk-hunting license says that I can hunt this weekend, but realistically, I cannot. And it is all because Hunter Me and Professor Me were not talking to each other.

See, Hunter Me forgot that Professor Me goes to a certain academic conference every November--he will be leaving on Wednesday the 14th. Hunter Me, off lost in the Pleistocene Era somewhere, did not check the academic society's web site.

He did not realize that because Thanksgiving comes earlier this month, the conference--always the weekend before T'giving--comes earlier too.

As a result, Professor Me needs this weekend to finish grading a folder of student quizzes and commenting on two folders of student essays and magazine articles. Students should get all of their work back before Thanksgiving break.

Last weekend was just a taste--finally locating elk twice on Sunday but always being just a little too far away or too late. Seeing a group of nine in the open at about 500 yards, wanting to pull off the big stalk--but having only fifteen minutes before it was too dark for legal shooting--that was typical.

There were other good moments--the hunting coyote--or the buck mule deer who was lounging in his bed at dusk, staring at me (maybe 200 yards away) but too cool to actually get up and run off. With the unaided eye, he was just another grey shape among scattered grey granite boulders.

Just for a few hours I was There, not Here, concerned only with the direction of the wind, the angle of the sun, the warning chatter of squirrels, and if it was possible to sneak up a fir-covered ridge without stepping into any of the patches of crunchy snow.

Next year, next year.

November 07, 2007

We're Number Eight!

Pueblo makes it to number eight on "Top 101 cities with the largest differences between daily high and daily low temperatures (population 50,000+).

Several other Colorado municipalities also score high.

Since the Pueblo economic development people are always desperate for a gimmick (although chile peppers are working well), maybe they can do something with this.

Puebloans, however, as not as well-armed as people in Colorado Springs or Teller County (Woodland Park, Cripple Creek, Divide), and, contrary to local mythology, they do not even place in the top 101 on alcohol consumption.

November 06, 2007

Blog Stew with Mystery Beast

¶ I don't know anyone in Colorado who dresses for hunting like this.

¶ In England 75 years ago mass trespass helped to create a national park.

¶ Maybe I was right, and Rick Jacobs' "Pennsylvania bigfoot" was indeed a bear with mange--so says the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Blogger David Zincavage, who likes to season his conservative politics with crytozoology, points out that the recent Texas "chupacabra" was a mangy coyote.

¶ But Bigfoot sightings live on: this one, which is remarkably short on geographic detail, comes from Custer County, Colorado, which is where I live.

¶ You can keep hunters out of suburbia and exurbia, thus making things easier for poachers.

Paying for Tamarisk Removal

Western river with and without invasive tamarisk. Graphic: The Pueblo Chieftain
The fight against invasive tamarisk continues, with an emphasis on what happens if we don't.

Today, the tamarisk are consuming about 58,600 acre-feet of water - 19 billion gallons - annually, but the number will grow to nearly 130,000 acre-feet annually - one-fifth of the water in the river in an average year - when the plants completely take over and grow larger. The cost to remove the tamarisk is estimated to be $44 million to $67 million, or about $600-$1,000 per acre-foot of recovered water.

Tamarisk, the Colorado nature-blogger's friend. Graphic linked from The Pueblo Chieftain

November 03, 2007

Bishop Creek, 3 November 2007

Under the stock-pond dam
a coyote hunts mice,
pouncing like flowing water.
No elk come to drink.

November 01, 2007

"No! Not the Nazis again! They’ve already taken my bra; what more do they want?"

When I was a small boy, Dad would take me along when he went for a haircut (sometimes so that I could get one too), and I would sit and look at magazines while he was in the barber's chair.

His barber shop in Rapid City, South Dakota, always had a big selection of pulp men's magazines whose editorial offerings ran heavily to lost treasures, Nazis, or lost Nazi treasure. And sex. Possibly lost Nazi sex treasure. ("Swastika Slave Girls in Argentina’s No-Escape Brothel Camp.")

James Lileks has scanned a representative sampling.

Bing! I'm right back there: the pale green walls, the (historically ludicrous) lithograph of Custer's Last Stand, and copies of magazines like Sir!.