September 30, 2006

Mummified dogs of Peru

One group of ancient Peruvians apparently mummified their beloved dogs. These dogs were carefully buried, not sacrificed.

Experts say the dogs' treatment in death indicated the belief that the animals had an afterlife.

Such a status for pets has only previously been seen in ancient Egypt.

From the BBC, via Mirabilis.

September 29, 2006

Support for hunting rises

I am going through the news releases that I receive. This one was tied to National Hunting & Fishing Day, which was a week ago.

“We have been seeing public support for hunting increase in several states over the past decade where we had data but this is the first nationwide study where we could verify that public support has increased over the past decade. In 1995, 73 percent of Americans approved of hunting while in 2006, 78 percent approved of hunting. Support for fishing nationwide, as well as in numerous states where we have conducted studies, remains very high,” says Mark Damian Duda, executive director of Responsive Management.

Sort of counter-intuitive, isn't it. I wonder if suburban "plagues" of white-tailed deer have anything to do with these findings.

September 25, 2006

A life seasoned with carrion

Our dog ShelbyShelby has been off to visit ses parfumeurs préférés.

She has come reeking of her favorite scent, Parfum de Bête Morte, from the ancient firm of Charogne et Fils.

Why is that Jack, the dog with a tight, oily, water-resistant coat, never rolls in dead things, while Shelby, with her long silky fur, revels in them? He is easy to clean, but all that I can do with her is to sponge her with Simple Green. She does not enjoy baths, and I don't want to traumatize her.

There are two questions here, readers.

1. What product best removes Parfum de Bête Morte?

2. And why do dogs love it so much? Don't tell me that they "know" it covers their natural scent and makes them better hunters, because I do not think that dogs are capable of such reasoning.

September 24, 2006

A marketing director's nightmare

As the owner of three Jeeps, I get catalogs.

Just recently, one arrived from 4WheelDrive Hardware. On the cover, a man in khaki clothing crouched, while a cartoon speech ballon said, "Crickey! Great deals on Aussie lockers & much, much more."

Anyone would recognize the parody of Steve Irwin, "the Crocodile Hunter" -- that is, the late Steve Irwin, who died just as the catalogs had been shipped.


A few days later, an email message arrived.

Because of his popularity, 4 Wheel Drive Hardware chose to parody a likeness of Steve as our spokesperson for finding “Jeeps in the Wild” on the cover of our recent Fall Jeep® Catalog.

Unfortunately, the catalogs that portrayed his likeness were mailed on Friday, September 1st, leaving no time to avoid distribution of our “Jeep Hunter” cover.

We sincerely hope that the family and fans of Steve Irwin will see this parody as a tribute to Steve and the millions of people whose lives he touched.

Really, what else could they do? But what sad, bad timing.

Of course, if you are the Guardian newspaper, you go straight to Australian writer and Second Wave feminist icon Germaine Greer to deconstruct Steve Irwin as merely a successful example of Australian machismo--and, perhaps more rightly--not enough of a fighter for habitat where animals might live outside of zoos.

The animal world has finally taken its revenge on Irwin, but probably not before a whole generation of kids in shorts seven sizes too small has learned to shout in the ears of animals with hearing 10 times more acute than theirs, determined to become millionaire animal-loving zoo-owners in their turn.

I don't buy the idea that there is an "animal world" that self-consciously "takes revenge," but you can put Greer in the negative column of the postmortem discussion on Irwin's legacy.

September 23, 2006

Gorilla Glue dangerous for dogs

Because I do use Gorilla Glue a lot for small repair jobs around the house (such as bird feeders battered by bears), this caught my eye:

A popular glue does more than just stick -- it grows when it comes in contact with liquid.

So imagine what would happen if it was swallowed. An Oak Harbor pet owner found out first hand, and her dog is lucky to be alive.

Emma the black Lab evidently knocked the glue's squeeze bottle off a kitchen counter and bit it. The Gorilla Glue web site does say to get immediate medical attention if the glue is swallowed.

September 21, 2006

How house finches protect male chicks

A University of Arizona researcher shows that house finches protect their male offspring by changing the order in which eggs are laid.

When marauding mites turn up in a house finch's nest, she shelters her sons from the blood-suckers by laying male eggs later than those containing their sturdier sisters, according to new research.

September 20, 2006

My new political niche

Rod "Crunchy Con" Dreher talks about the "Party of Greed" (GOP) and the "Party of Lust" (Dems).

Uber-blogger Kim Du Toit writes of the "Evil Party" (Dems) and the "Stupid Party" (GOP). (I guess he is the guy in the "I'm with Stupid" T-shirt.)

Dad belonged both to the National Rifle Association and also to the Sierra Club, so I reckon that my tendency to hate neat little political niches is genetic.

When I walked into the Pueblo, Colorado, courthouse to register to vote, some years ago, I chose Democrat for my party affiliation mainly because (a) Richard Nixon was president and (b) in Pueblo, all the action was Democratic.

But I have no idea what is going on with the national party. All their machine-signed letters from Bill Clinton go right into the post office wastebasket. The state level is a little better: so far, I am OK with the Brothers Salazar as my congressional delegation.

Today, though, I came up with my own political niche: Feral Democrat. Formerly domesticated, I am now likely to run away from or to bite anyone who thinks that they own my political allegiance.

September 19, 2006

Women as hunters

The Battle Creek, Michigan, Enquirer offers this story on women hunters.

The anecdotes are interesting, but here is the meat of the story from the bureaucratic perspective:

The more women get involved with the outdoors, the more they get their families involved, said Susan Tabor, Women in the Outdoors regional coordinator and former state representative.

The state of Michigan is currently scrambling to recruit new hunters. Statewide hunting numbers are beginning to dip and statistics are showing that fewer and fewer children are taking part in the sport.

"What will the future hold?" Tabor asked of hunting numbers 20 years from now.

The state legislature addressed those concerns over the summer by passing two bills, later signed into law by Gov. Jennifer Granholm. The first lowered the minimum age to hunt. The second established mentor hunts, wherein a child could temporary bypass the mandatory hunters' safety program as long as they're accompanied by a guardian.

While time will be needed to determine if these bills achieve the desired goals, Tabor believes recruiting more women hunters is the better solution.

"One good reason to get the women involved is that the kids will come along too," Tabor said.

Another good reason to get the women involved, she added, it's good business.

"Retailers love us," Tabor said.

Colorado's similar program, Women Afield, has also been popular.

More women hunting means more license sales, which fund state wildlife agencies. (Wildlife agencies can only preserve their independence from political pressure by receiving most of their money from license-buyers and from federal excise taxes.)

The leading American academic writer on women as hunters is Mary Zeiss Stange, professor of women's studies and religion at Skidmore College.

Here she is in USA Today: "Guns, like abortion, are a matter of choice."

Blaze-orange hat tip: Zendo Deb.

September 18, 2006

"Call a soft, clear, whistled heh"

Taking the dogs for a quick walk up the ridge behind the house to check the "bear camera " (of which more later) . The woods are quiet except for a rabbit, who hops safely into thick brush. The temperature is just above freezing.

I am thinking of bears because the mast crop around here is pitiful. Not an acorn in sight. One year is abundant; the next is scant. It does not always seem to tie directly to moisture but just to some cycle of the Gambel oak. If moisture is the key, then the dry spring is to blame, but I think there must be some cycle of fruitfulness followed by exhaustion too.

The black bears have stripped the wild plums along Hardscrabble Creek. One day there were green plums, and I was thinking about picking some when they ripened, but almost immediately they were all gone.

From the scat in the driveway, it looks as though the bears found the neighbor's apple trees too. But what to eat when the apples are all gone? Are there acorns in a different patch of woods?

I hear one bird, a Townsend's solitaire, its regular one-note whistled call the metronome of coming winter. Molto largo, please, maestro.

September 17, 2006

"Two sticks on my legs"

Weather forecasters are predicting another El Niño winter.

Our last was 1997-98, when it snowed almost three feet on the day after Thanksgiving, snow that never melted until spring.

At least we could go skiing and snowshoeing right out the door.

Snow fell in the high mountains last night.

"The studies connect the currents in our area with El Niño," said Dan Zumpfe, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Grand Junction. "This is a plausible explanation of what might happen."

The studies match up to the
Old Farmer's Almanac, which predicts snowier conditions in mid-November because of the effects of El Niño.

Ian McCallum, a Hassle Free Sports ski technician, said he believes it will be an early season. "We've had quite a lot of rain, and there is already snow on the mountains," he said.

Fleece hat tip to Coyote Gulch, your one-stop source for Colorado water news.

Autumn tumbles in

M. and I came home last evening from Colorado Springs, and then we got involved with an unexpected refrigerator problem. (Temporarily fixed, but I think it is time to go shopping.) Distracted, we forgot to cover some outdoor plants.

Meanwhile, the temperature dropped: Bye-bye, yellow squash and zucchini, bye-bye to the tomato plants outside the greenhouse. Bye-bye, beans. Bye-bye, datura.

Aspens are turning yellow on the ridges, and the Gambel's oak and willows here are orange at the edges. Only a few hummingbirds remain.

Next weekend, we will welcome the new season with a hike in the golden aspen forest and a trip down to Pueblo for the chile festival.

September 13, 2006

Rattlesnake-bite blog

After being bitten by a rattlesnake while playing golf, Albuquerque lawyer Tim De Young searched the Web and found my tale.

I gave him some information on my own recovery, but he is blogging his experience.

Based on my own experience, his blog has a life expectancy of about 30 days, unless it sheds its skin and becomes something else.

The Neanderthals' last stand

A cave near the tip of Spain might be a candidate for the last surviving encampment of Neanderthal people.

Whenever I read such items, I always think back to Stan Gooch, a maverick British psychologist who advocated for the absorption of Neanderthal into Cro-Magnon people (i.e., us) through interbreeding.

The more recent DNA evidence does not seem to bear out the absorption theory, however.

Gooch offers some other interesting ideas. One was that mythological bulls were really "folk memory" of Neanderthals, who fought with bull-like rushes against their opponents, or so he claimed.

Hence Theseus slaying the bull-man Minotaur on Crete would be a folk memory of fighting Neanderthals in their caves. Likewise Mithras slaying the bull.

Physiologically, the Neanderthal was symbolized by the cerebellum (more developed in them) and Cro-Magnon by the cerebrum.

His recent book The Dream Culture of the Neanderthal argues that "direct descendents of the moon-worshiping Neanderthal are still living in Central Asia today, although they do not physically resemble their ancestors. This influence of Neanderthal occult wisdom remains strong."

Alas for mythic bulls in caves, there is that pesky DNA evidence.

German children playing with fire!

Another article on the "nation(s) of wimps" theme, this one from Maclean's.

It's all working to keep kids from doing what they've done since humanity began: going outside into spaces where they can jump streams, climb trees, use sticks as swords, and do unjust things to ants and flies. According to a decade's worth of largely overlooked research, this free play is key to developing physical, mental and emotional skills -- such as self-reliance, risk-taking, altruism and delayed gratification -- that help children form into competent, functioning adults. "We seem to need to get our hands dirty and our feet wet from time to time," says Richard Louv, author of last year's landmark Last Child in the Woods, which compiled the mounting evidence supporting the need to reconnect kids to the outdoors. "We don't fully understand why that's necessary to our mental and physical health, but there does seem to be something there."

Hat tip: Cronaca.

UPDATE: A related piece from the BBC. Have we reached meme status yet?

September 06, 2006

The greening of Wally World

Wal-Mart is so big that whatever it does affects the environment. (Yes, there is a Colorado connection here.)

On its fleet of 7,200 trucks Wal-Mart determined it could save $26 million a year in fuel costs merely by installing auxiliary power units that enable the drivers to keep their cabs warm or cool during mandatory ten-hour breaks from the road. Before that, they'd let the truck engine idle all night, wasting fuel.

Yet another example: Wal-Mart installed machines called sandwich balers in its stores to recycle and sell plastic that it used to throw away. Companywide, the balers have added $28 million to the bottom line.

"Think about it," Scott said in his big speech to employees last fall. "If we throw it away, we had to buy it first. So we pay twice - once to get it, once to have it taken away. What if we reverse that? What if our suppliers send us less, and everything they send us has value as a recycled product? No waste, and we get paid instead."

That was talk any Wal-Mart executive could understand, even if few knew it came straight from the pages of
Natural Capitalism, an influential book by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and Hunter Lovins that lays out a blueprint for a new green economy in which nothing goes to waste.

Not coincidentally, Lovins and his Rocky Mountain Institute were also hired as consultants by Wal-Mart to study a radical revamp of its trucking fleet.

I heard Amory Lovins talk back in the 1980s, when he and then-wife Hunter were still a team. I thought then that he should have been put in charge of US energy policy because he could crunch numbers in a non-dogmatic way.

Will this change make me a Wal-Mart shopper? Probably not, except in extraordinary circumstances -- like the time I was in Taos, N.M., last winter, setting out on a road trip, and I realized that I had forgotten to pack any underwear. You can buy art in Taos, you can buy crafty stuff, you can buy sheepskin coats, and rugs from Central Asia--but about the only place to buy underwear is at Wal-Mart.

(Ventilated summer hat tip to Rebecca Blood.)

September 02, 2006

Dogs' lives

The loneliness of the long-distance collie: Slate writer Jon Katz profiles Rosie, a working stock dog whose performance is exemplary but who is not, well, a pet.

I think there is perhaps a price to pay for letting a working dog work: A working dog can't be a pet, at least not in the conventional sense of the term. She does the things I need, but few of the things that often please us most about dogs—snuggling, playing, tagging along, making friends with dogs and people.

Mushroom Days - 3

This probably will the last of the 2006 mushrooming posts. M. and I went back to our favorite patch of the boreal forest, at about 10,800 feet, on Friday. Mushroom-hunters who belong to clubs are apparently require to call such a trip a "foray," or everyone looks at them funny.

Similarly, god forbid you use the phrase "field trial" at a Hunting Retriever Association event, unless you are engaged in snidely putting down American Kennel Club events. Petty language rules are one reason that I don't seem to do well in clubs.

In the woods, exempt from language rules, we found a few king boletes, although some of the largest were past their picking peak. Likewise, the hawk's wing (Sarcodon imbricatus) were turning dark, and their caps were often covered with green mold.

The big crop--a new one for us--was Albatrellus confluens, which looks something like boletes (spore tubes instead of gills) but is classified as a polypore. It does not seem to have a common name--although, I suppose, if we belonged to a club, we might hear one. Anyway, big fleshy mushrooms and lots of them.

We keyed it, it looked OK, so we brought a couple of sacks-full home and checked it in other sources. Heartened, we started the process of cleaning, slicing, and loading up the dehydrator.

Interestingly, my Google image search turned up mostly European site: the image here came from the wonderfully named

Along with his mushroom guides, I inherited Dad's ulu, the crescent-shaped Eskimo knife, a souvenir of one of his Alaska trips. He did not use it much. But it makes a good mushroom-cleaning knife--the points work for scraping the caps, and the whole length of the blade slides the mushroom thin for drying. Mushrooms do not feature much in Inuit cuisine, so this was just a fortuitous discovery.

The down side is that using it makes me think of him as a young ranger loading his saddle bags with boletes in a different boreal forest, the Del Norte Ranger District of the Rio Grande National Forest, and I start to missing him.