March 28, 2011

Blog Stew on Ice

 • Texas archaeological site is another nail in the coffin of the old "Clovis first" theory of the peopling of the Americas. The Scientific American has more.

• How to walk on icy surfaces, if you accept research that extrapolates from guinea fowl to people.

• "Then he decided to just cut out the middleman and kill babies with hammers." The BBC comedic quiz show QI  profiles "the world's worst environmental villain" (YouTube, 2:59). The man would have been hailed at the time as someone who made life better. Talk about your Law of Unintended Consequences.

March 23, 2011

Blog Stew on the Skids

• Mountain Boy sled company leaves Silverton for glitzier Crested Butte, blaming local government and "tribal" network.

• I'd do it. H.P. Lovecraft action shooting.

• Something other than the usual Colorado fishing photos.

• Teddy Roosevelt: More hardcore than 50 Cent.

• The Suburban Bushwacker goes deer hunting in Sussex. The link is to the last of the series, so click to the main site and scroll down.

March 22, 2011

New Colorado Hunting and Fishing Licenses Available

Under the new system, Colorado hunting and fishing licenses expire at the end of March.

New licenses good through March 2012 are now on sale through license agents and online. If you are 16 or older, you need a fishing license.

A Backlash against 'Foodies'?

Food writer Michael Pollan interviewed on whether there is a backlash against "slow food" etc.
Michael Pollan: If the industrial food system were working so well, you would not have so many consumers abandoning it in droves. And this is an organized PR campaign to defend industrial agriculture. In America there’s a consortium of various groups that have put together about $30 million to defend industrial Ag. The Farm Bureau is kind of leading the charge in America. The farm Bureau has always fronted for agribusiness.

Ian Brown: I have spoken to people who think the current focus on cooking, and especially high-end TV cooking, has actually alienated us even more from what we eat.

Michael Pollan: It’s interesting that the media would celebrate this shallow foodie-ism [on TV] and then attack the food movement for shallow foodie-ism. But you know how the runs of the media go.
Read the whole thing.

Pollan's website includes a "today's link" page—not exactly a blog. I am adding a link to it in my  "Elsewhere" sidebar.

March 20, 2011

King Arthur & The Knights of the Tractor Shed

What you can do with a metal building, plywood, time, and a fondness for the Middle Ages. St. Charles Mesa, Pueblo, Colorado.

March 17, 2011

The Way to Keep People from 'Owning' Animals . . .

. . . is to kill the animals.
Yes, it’s time for PETA’s annual filing of the statistics from their death factory, as required by Virginia law, which for reasons pretty much passing all understanding thinks it’s a “humane society,” even though they kill virtually every animal who comes in their doors, every year, year after year.

Their 2010 statistics are here (PDF), but to give you an idea, they took in 1,553 cats and killed 1,507 of them, and 792 dogs and killed 693 of them.
 Why do people still take People for the Exterminating of The Animals seriously?

(Hat tip: Heather Houlahan.)

March 16, 2011

Dogs and Fitness

New York Times columnist Tara Parker-Pope makes what are by now the usual arguments that dog ownership — sometimes —makes people fitter.
Unlike other studies of dog ownership and walking, this one also tracked other forms of exercise, seeking to answer what the lead author, Mathew Reeves, called an obvious question: whether dog walking “adds significantly to the amount of exercise you do, or is it simply that it replaces exercise you would have done otherwise?”

The answers were encouraging, said Dr. Reeves, an associate professor of epidemiology at Michigan State. The dog walkers had higher overall levels of both moderate and vigorous physical activity than the other subjects, and they were more likely to take part in other leisure-time physical activities like sports and gardening. On average, they exercised about 30 minutes a week more than people who didn’t have dogs.
 But plenty of dogs are still just four-legged yard art:
The researchers asked owners who didn’t walk their pets to explain why. About 40 percent said their dogs ran free in a yard, so they didn’t need walks; 11 percent hired dog walkers.
 And it's not just walking. This morning, for instance, I took a long-handled shovel up to the Forest Service road to bury a skunk, dead of disease or from the infrequent traffic there, I don't know which.

I just did not want Fisher to find it and bring it home as a new chew toy.

So, researchers, you may count grave-digging as dog-related exercise too.

March 15, 2011

Blog Stew: Cleaning Out the Fridge

• I am not completely comfortable with referring to wild lives as "the resource" either. I know why the professionals do it—everything has to be quantified—but it erases a sense of interaction with the nonhuman world.

• A good job for military veterans in transition—wildland firefighting.

• A nice site on prehistoric American rock art.

• The Colorado Division of Wildlife reminds hunters about their online Elk Hunting University.

March 11, 2011

Time Flies Like an Arrow, But Bees Like Coffee

Bees in a bucket of espresso and regular coffee grounds.

I regularly pick up buckets of coffee grounds from a coffeehouse in town, because they make a great soil amendment.

Yesterday these wild bees (if that's what they are—must look more closely) discovered the coffee. They are back today.

Aren't bees naturally "buzzed" enough? They need coffee?

I know that my readership includes at least one jackleg bee researcher, so I am hoping to be enlightened.

The headline, by the way, derives from a classic example of a "garden path sentence."

March 09, 2011

Giving Knives to Children

Read an interesting comment threat at Free Range Kids on the best age at which to introduce kids to kitchen knives, pocketknives, and the like. Machetes, even.

Don't let your child or grandchild end up like K's husband:

I remember using butter knives to make PB&J from age 3 at the oldest, and sharper knives, with supervision, not long after that. My dad (the cook in our house) was sure to teach me what knife to use for what job—if you try cutting an apple with a knife that’s barely sharper than a butter knife, it’ll slide and you’re much more likely to cut yourself. A good, sharp serrated knife is actually much safer, because it goes where you want it to.

I do remember slipping and cutting a finger once or twice, but nothing scarring– in either sense of the word. And now I’m a confident cook.

Contrast this with my husband’s upbringing– “Don’t come in the kitchen! You’ll burn yourself! You’ll cut yourself! Don’t touch that!” He ended up being terrified of the kitchen and having no confidence in his ability to figure anything out, and I had to teach him how to use a can opener when he was in his mid-20s.

March 08, 2011

Blog Stew at These Prices

• Snarky people like to call Boulder, Colorado, "twenty-five square miles surrounded by reality." So what do you call Aspen? "Disneyland for adults" has been suggested.

• In my corner of Colorado, my rural DNS service got a grade of D, "slower than 72% of US." (Why we do not watch streaming movies—not at download speeds of 1.29 megabytes/second. Hurray for Qwest "Heavy Duty Internet/Broadband Service.")

• You can compare your broadband-connection speed to the rest of the country too.

• On the other hand, our friend the Sun could easily make the whole question irrelevant, destroying online connectivity overnight.

• Corson County, South Dakota, sheriff has more buffalo than people in his county.

• And what's this "singing sheriff" stuff? Custer County's Fred Jobe is "the singing sheriff." Do we need a Singing Sheriff Showdown?

March 07, 2011

Western Snowpack Map for March 1, 2011

Compared to last month's map, southern Colorado and northern New Mexico are doing just a little better.

But this past weekend I twice crossed Hoosier Pass on the Continental Divide, and the contrast was startling. On the Blue River (Colorado River drainage), the snow lay four feet deep in the ski towns of Breckenridge and Frisco. But on the South Platte River drainage side, there was snow only in isolated patches below the summit ridge.

March 06, 2011

Fashionistas and Gearheads

I am returned from camping in the snows of the Gore Range with a manly group of men: military veterans, mountain climbers, entrepreneurs, backcountry skiers, schoolteachers, wildlife researchers, big-game hunters, firefighters.

What did we talk about?

Sure, there was the expected:
"If I use the 100-grain bullet in the .260, will I have ballistic stability on a 1,000-yard shot?"
"Where's the rest of the beer?"
But a lot more of,
"Where did you get that?"
"At a thrift shop!"
"Is it [this specialized fabric] or [that specialized fabric]?
"I wish I had a sewing machine."
"So-and-so has one. He can do bar tacks and everything!"
"I'd love it if it were six inches longer."
"It needs another zipper here."
"I hardly wear any other label."
"I shortened it and put the trim on myself."
"What are you making?
"Did you dehydrate it yourself?"
"What model dehydrator do you use?"
"The lime juice really helps!"
"I think I'm going to gain weight on this trip."

In my best Carrie Bradshaw voice I ask, "If there any line at all between gearheads, fashionistas, and foodies?"

Does Not Understand Dogs

Tammy Martinez  of Colorado Springs had to suffer seeing her dog shot after it attacked another dog, but she does not understand dogs too well.

"If he was aggressive, he would have went [sic] after the owner in self-defense," Martinez said.
No, Tammy, dogs are always more interested in other dogs.

March 04, 2011

Time-lapse Amanita

Time-lapse video showing changes in the cap of an  Amanita muscaria mushroom, found on Raven's Bread, the Amanita blog. Note the Abert's squirrel.

March 01, 2011

"Last seen climbing": Reading on Himalayan Mountaineering

Maurice Wilson flew a biplane to India.

"We would lie in our sleeping bags swathed in several sets of woollen underwear, wind suits, gloves and hats," George Sheldon* recalled. "At any moment we expected to be blown into nearby Tibet. We had nothing to read except the labels on food cans [and] the eternal banging and cracking of the tent made us virtually psychopathic cases."

Since learning about Maurice Wilson while researching Mount Everest in high school, I have been fascinated by the "lone lunatic" school of climbers typified by his doomed one-man expedition on Everest in 1933

See also this BBC report on E.F. Farmer of New Rochelle, N.Y., on Kanchenjunga in 1929—a similar doomed soloist.

But as the authors note, in a way Wilson and Farmer pioneered a "go fast, go light" school of mountaineering.

Such stories so often end with "last seen climbing," but then so did George Mallory and Sandy Irvine's until Mallory's body was found in 1999.

I am working my way through Professors Isserman and Weaver's book with great pleasure. It is smoothly written, almost conversational.

The authors are historians (of radical movements, labor, industrial history) first, interpreting cultural contexts. They write in the preface, "Our climbers are historical actors on and off the slopes, shaped by the world they inhabit as much as any of the statesmen, politicians, clerics, soldiers, artists, or artisans whose stories are told in the more conventional genres of political, intellectual, cultural, and social history."

So there is plenty about the paradoxical British cult of amateurism and its attendant snoberies, or the nationalistic German climbers on Nanga Parbat in the 1930s.

American climbers could be snobs too, as Paul Petzoldt learned. "The worthies of the Alpine Club in New York frankly doubted whether 'this Wyoming packer and guide' would fit in socially with the others and comport himself as required in the company of their British and Indian hosts."

It seems that even when Americans write about the British, they must include the details of who knew whom at boarding school and who married whose cousin. In that spirit, I add that Professor Isserman was a classmate of mine at Reed College, although I do not remember him from the mountaineering class (how I filled my freshman P.E. requirement). On the other hand, my memories of that year are a little . . . cloudy.

Also of interest: Testing 1920s mountaineering clothing in the lab.

*George Sheldon was a member of  a 1939 expedition to climb K2, which ended with several deaths.