December 30, 2006

"Never Forget"

Two enigmatic grafitti from Granville Island. Their proxmity to the Emily Carr Institute of Art + Design makes me wonder if art students are responsible.

Is this an obscure We(s)t Coast response to the Quebec license plate with its promise to remember?

December 29, 2006

Politics and hunting news

Two items that are hard to put under one heading:

First, in the United Kingdom, the Countryside Alliance triumphs de facto civil disobedieance as record numbers of riders turn out for Boxing Day (Dec. 26) foxhunts.

More than just a hunting group, the Alliance claims "through campaigning, lobbying, publicity and education [to] influence legislation and public policy that impacts on the countryside, rural people and their activities."

The political focus in the UK, however, has been on riding to hounds (hunting), as opposed to going out with bow, gun, and maybe a dog or two, depending on the game to be sought, which they would call "shooting."

To me, however, that term implies that one will find something to shoot, and the fact is that one does not do so every time. To borrow a term from Steve Bodio, some hunts are just "armed walks."

Patrick Burns explains more about what is happening in Britain.

Meanwhile, here in coastal British Columbia where I am blogging, the hunting news involves members of Indian tribes claiming that old treaties permit them to hunt deer at night--what most people call "jacklighting," a practice that is illegal almost everywhere.

The Supreme Court of Canada has announced a decision in the Natives' favor, and now the editorials are appearing--editorials that attack the practice not in the name of fairness to other huntings, not in the interest of wildlife, but taking the "safety" angle.

"In today's changed world, it is silly to allow hunters wielding guns in the woods in the dark. Even the two natives were unable to distinguish between a decoy and a deer," editorialised The Province newspaper, a reference to the original arrest that precipitated the legal case.

Pity the poor game warden who sees a spotlight or hears shots fired at night and has to make a judgment whether the users are treaty-protected Indians to be left alone or somebody else to be investigated.

December 28, 2006

On the ferry road in BC

M. and I have been away from Internet access for a few days, riding ferries and staying with some friends in British Columbia's southern Gulf Islands.

Here is a shot from Granville Island in Vancouver, which technically is not an island at all, but a sandbar that was built up with added spoil from dredging operations, and became an industrial area. Now it is an entertainment and arts district.
Looking towards English Bay from Granville Island

British Columbians have been having some extreme weather lately.

British Columbia took a beating from the weather this year, getting everything from bitter cold to destructive winds, and a record dry summer followed by a wet fall when the rain seemed endless.

But here is what a clear day looks like:

View towards mainland from Saturna Island.

It does not show in this wide view, but one could see the sun shining on the mountains across the strait, making for a pleasant day skiing at Grouse Mountain and such places.

December 22, 2006

When Mormons can't do pasta

Tonight my brother-in-law took my sister, M., and me out to dinner at The Old Spaghetti Factory in Tacoma. Quantities were generous, service was fairly prompt, it was OK.

All that was a relief, considering that M. and I had blundered into a third-rate Spaghetti Factory knock-off last Wednesday night in Ogden, Utah, after taking a random exit from Interstate 84 in the cold and dark.

The menu was pretty much a direct rip-off, and they had the eclectic decor that was so hip in the 1970s.

The noodles were soggy, there was no beer or wine (Mormons, remember), and even tea was almost beyond the young waiter's capabilities (Mormons, again--Word of Wisdom, remember). And finally when it was time to pay, the waiter discovered that the boss had gone off with the cash drawer, and he had to make change from his own wallet.

Doug's Spaghetti House. Avoid it.

December 18, 2006

I speak for Pueblo culture

A freelancer for the Denver Post went web-surfing, evidently, and found this questionnaire on Pueblo "local knowledge, which she used as a source for an article, "Melting-pot Christmas is Pueblo in a nutshell."

Fish is the traditional Italian Christmas Eve dinner. Sicilians like bacala, which is salted cod. You soak it, sauté it with some onions and olives, then sprinkle it with a mixture of wine vinegar and sugar and bake it. "People from the north use it in spaghetti sauce, or serve it on capellini or polenta," Josephine Gagliano said.

Posole goes on the table in Latino households on Christmas Eve, with tamales, of course, smothered in Pueblo's famous green chile.

"I don't know why we eat tamales at Christmas," Harding said. "It's just something that Pueblo people do."

Then you eat potica.

Contrary to her ungrounded assumption, I'm a San Luis Valley native, not a Pueblo native, but whatever: I can still judge green chile and I am already receiving emails about where to buy potica.

I am blogging on the road in Pendleton, Oregon, where I doubt that they have potica. But after traveling through Utah, it's nice to be back in the land of good coffee and free wi-fi.

December 17, 2006

No sheep jokes, please

Only Mary Scriver--ex-animal control officer, English teacher, and Unitarian minister--could write a calm yet witty post on the whole issue of b*st*ality. (There is a reason for the asterisks. It involves Google searches.)

But it’s very useful to take this hyper-dignified tone of voice if you are an animal control officer who has a complaint about the practice and must go knock on the doors of both complainant and perpetrator to see what to do about it. “Excuse me, madam, but I’m here to ask some questions about the relationship between your son and the neighbor’s dog.”

Read the whole thing. And, as she says at the conclusion,

P.S: All sheep jokes in the comments will be deleted as soon as I see them. I already know too many.

Bureaucrats and bear spray

Double-checking the Canadian customs regulations to see how much wine we could bring over the border, I came across this priceless paragraph:

Mace or pepper spray that is used for the purpose of injuring, immobilizing or otherwise incapacitating any person is considered a prohibited weapon. You cannot import it into Canada. Aerosol or similar dispensers that contain substances capable of repelling or subduing animals are not considered weapons if the label of the container specifically indicates that they are for use against animals.

Um, isn't capsaicin capsaicin? I notice that the spray in the easy-to-reach side pocket of my hiking pack says "for law enforcement use only," which is nonsense, since I bought it through a retail seller, and I am not a cop. If it had a picture of a grizzly bear rampant on the can, it would then be OK?

Maybe I could cut a picture of a bear out of Outdoor Life and glue it on the can.

Bureaucratic idiocy knows no boundaries. I think I will take my chances. It's in a hiking pack full of outdoor gear, and if anyone asks, it's "bear spray." Which it is.

Oh, and apparently 1.5 liters of wine per adult is the limit--as long as you don't plan to let a Canadian citizen drink it, thus depriving the government of tax revenue. So no gift-wrapping the good stuff from Black Mesa Winery.

December 16, 2006

'Let it burn' 'Not here!'

Back in my reporter days, I covered my first Forest Service public meeting on fire suppression and prescribed burns back in 1987. The following year brought the big Yellowstone fire complex, and "let it burn" suddenly became very out of fashion.

A couple of weeks ago, the local FS staffers held yet another public meeting about fire suppression in the Wet Mountains and the Sangre de Cristo Range.

Mike Smith, the long-time number-two on the San Carlos Ranger District, delivered the party line: a century of fire suppression is making forest fires worse.

He was followed by one of the local fire chiefs, who worried about fires jumping from the national forest onto private property (which could have happened to us in 2005 had the wind not changed).

I think that more and more of the local people support (cautiously) a sort of "let it burn" policy. And I suppose that taking twenty years to change a paradigm is about average.

December 14, 2006

'Religion of peace' attacks dogs, education, liquor, etc.

We worry about people "hoarding" too many dogs. Not in Muslim areas, where having any dog apparently makes you worth killing.

From Thailand, for instance:

Buddhist monks have been beheaded, Buddhist teachers slain, and leaflets distributed around Buddhist villages warning that raising dogs and drinking alcohol are offensive to Muslims.

That makes me a target on three counts, at least. How comforting.

December 13, 2006

You need this knife?

If, in Colorado or elsewhere, you walk alone in the outdoors, you need a knife. But maybe not this knife.

Guns, testosterone, and hot sauce

Recently, Knox College senior Jennifer Klinesmith and a couple of her psychology professors set out to prove what I suspect they believed all along:

•guns are inherently evil

•testosterone is bad

•cayenne pepper sauce is an instrument of torture

The result: ""Guns, testosterone, and aggression: A test of a mediational model" (PDF, 88 KB)

As a man who grew up in a house with a number of guns and a bottle of Tabasco sauce on the kitchen table, I took a certain interest in the article. Apparently, I might be the man whom professors Tim Kasser and Frank T. McAndrew are warning you against.

Their methodology was simple: "30 male college students provided a saliva sample (for testosterone assay), interacted with either a gun or a children’s toy for 15 minutes, and then provided another saliva sample."

In fact, it was not even a real firearm but a "pelletgun identical in size, shape, and feel to a Desert Eagle automatic [sic] handgun."

Apparently no one controlled for whether the students were previously familiar with guns or not! It seems to me that, for example, someone least likely to react to the airgun as "a stimulus signaling competition and a threat to status" might be the guy who packs them in the airgun-factory shipping department.

Once presumably super-charged with testosterone, the subjects were told to put some drops of Frank's Red Hot sauce in a cup of water for someone else to drink. As in most experiments, the rats monkeys human subjects were lied to, having been told that the experiment was on "taste sensitivity in males."

Did anyone think of the well-known health benefits of ingesting cayenne peppers?

The researchers believed that their assay confirmed their hypothesis, and they found a compliant journal in which to publish.

What underlies such research? It's a belief, I think, that our basic nature is somehow "wrong." I come back to the Gary Snyder quote that I referenced earlier about whether or not humans are (wild) animals:

[M]any people who have been hearing this since childhood have not absorbed the implications of it, perhaps feel remote from the nonhuman world, are not sure they are animals. They would like to feel they might be something better than animals.

Consequently, our basic state as humans, testosterone and all, is presumably something that must be "outgrown." Let us have the new Postmodern Man.

Dogs aren't wolves

In a lengthy post, Darren Naish reviews various hypotheses of canine domestication and offers this conclusion:

If domestic dogs aren’t wolves, what are they?

All of this begs the question: if domestic dogs aren’t wolves, what are they? The answer seems to be that Canis familiaris is a distinct species with its own independent history. Prior to domestication, it presumably existed as a relatively small, generalized canid that voluntarily adopted the commensal pariah niche still occupied by many dog populations today. This is supported by the morphological and molecular distinctiveness of domestic dogs, by the anatomy and behaviour of primitive domestic dog breeds, and by the archaeological and fossil record.

If this is true, then the truly wild ancestors of modern domestic dogs are extinct.

Bibliography and lengthy comments too.

'The preservation of accurate bear beliefs'

While the bears are napping, we can read about them.

A little sketchy but with some good links and a cute graphic theme.

December 12, 2006

I got The Goat

Added to the blogroll under "Southwesterners" -- The Goat, news blog of High Country News.

Based in Paonia, Colorado, HCN is really an indispensible news source for the entire Mountain West.

The irony of climate change forecasting

According to The Telegraph, a generally conservative British newspaper,

The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says there can be little doubt that humans are responsible for warming the planet, but the organisation has reduced its overall estimate of this effect by 25 per cent.

After my earlier post on the climate change issue, I was "corrected" by a couple of people near and dear to me for allegedly going over to the other side. It was suggested that I would next be hanging a photo of George "The Decider" Bush on the wall or something.

Not so fast. Here is how the issue breaks down in my mind right now:

1. Some sort of climate change is happening.

2. But is it all due to human activity, or is some due to changes in solar radiation or other factors? That, to my mind, is where the debate seems to be.

3. Even if the answer to #2 were "not all," the push towards greater conservation, less reliance on fossil fuels, etc., is generally a Good Thing, unless . . .

4. It produces suppression of dissent or some kind of horribly totalitarian society.

Never forget the Law of Unintended Consequences. For instance, non-polluting, efficient cars would probably mean more urban sprawl, as it becomes cheaper and cleaner to drive more.

Dispersed wind farms in rural areas--like those in southeastern Colorado--mean more power lines across the landscape to carry electricity to the users, who are in cities.

And I am sure there will be more.

December 11, 2006

Overheated rhetoric in December

Saturday's Rocky Mountain News headlined 'Katrina of the West'.

Apparently United States senator and noted silviculturist Ken Salazar got a little overheated in a speech in Frisco, predicting massive wildfires in stands of beetle-killed lodgepole pine.

Imagine the whole population of Summit County crowded into Denver's Pepsi Center, the toilets overflowing, the air conditioning broken, no buses to evacuate them . . . you get the picture.

There are a lot of beetle-killed trees, all right. I can see some (ponderosa pine, mostly) out the window--but since we're not as economically important as the ski/golf/condo counties of Colorado, we don't get the news coverage.

And, y'know, it's not due to climate change, I don't think. And it's not the personal fault of George W. Bush.

It's the price of a century of fire suppression.

I have known real foresters, not senators, who have struggled to deal with insect infestations for fifty years in the West, and they still do not have a handle on it.

The affected trees are often not that desirable as lumber (too small). Maybe, as the article says, some could be chipped and burned for fuel.

Many, however, will make excellent woodpecker habitat.

Did Google Maps lead the Kims astray?

After my earlier post, I was going to let the James Kim tragedy rest. But I came across two more interesting items.

A Seattle Times article asks if Google Maps led the Kim family down the wrong road. See also the Times tech-blogger, Brier Dudley, who writes,

The message is you can only put so much faith in online map services. The free services can still be pretty crude, especially when you get outside of metro areas where the services have the most customers.

What I'd like to know is whether police asked Google about the Kims' last map searches. Police checked to see when the family last made cellphone calls and used credit cards. Why couldn't they also learn from Google that the family used Google Maps to plot their ill-fated drive through the mountains? They could have checked with the handful of major map services pretty quickly

But another blogger did use mapping technology to re-create the routes.

December 10, 2006

Staying alive

The sad death of James Kim in the southern Oregon mountains has a lot of people talking about car survival kits. The Denver Post had a piece on Saturday, too.

I think Kim made the wrong choice in leaving the vehicle, but I can easily understand why he did so. After nearly a week of not being found, the mental pressure to do something must have been overwhelming.

When I read that searchers found an item of his clothing, however, I knew he was a goner, no matter that some reporters tried to interpret it as "leaving a signal for rescuers."

My indoctrination came at an early age. Some time before I was born, around 1950, I think, my father was part of a recovery team on a plane crash near Wolf Creek Pass in southwest Colorado.

He was then Forest Service district ranger at Del Norte, on the Rio Grande National Forest, so the crash site was either on his district or close by.

During the winter, two men had left Gunnison (as I recall), flying west. They failed to make it over the mountains. One was a doctor and one a businessman, I think.

Their bodies and the airplane were not located until the snow had started to melt. They had crash-landed in a snowy meadow without damaging the plane very much.

Dad had saved photos of the crash site, the plane, and the bodies. Occasionally as a kid I would take them out and look at them for the shudder of horror.

The bodies were quite well-preserved. One man, as it was reconstructed, had taken a drink of whiskey and then tried to walk for safety. He was wearing low-cut shoes, a suit, and an overcoat. He made it a mile or so. The other was found closer to the site.

Two mistakes, then: no survival gear and leaving the shelter of the airplane. I would never forget that lesson.

Oh yes, and save the whiskey for when you are warm and dry.

Addendum: For an interesting discussion on whether James Kim was a "hero" or not, go here and read the comments.

December 08, 2006

Blog stew

•I learn about the Colorado Bat Society, thanks to Colorado Bob.

•The Denver Post quotes a forecast predicting that El Niño means a dry mid-winter followed by "'copious' amounts of snow expected in late February or March."

Since M. and I will be driving to Vancouver, B.C., later this month (long story there), we are OK with the idea of the Northwest being a little dry. On the other hand, western Washington has had copious amounts of rain so far.

•The Forest Service considers more Colorado campground closures. Sheesh, I thought that most of the good ones were operated by private contractors these days.

There is a complicated story here: part of it's budgetary--spending all their money on fire-fighting. Part of it is that Smokey Bear seems to be a poor lobbyist in Congress. And part is a decrease in the "mid-range" camper? The one who is neither a backpacker nor RV-er? (Link will expire.)

•Last year M. and I noted that few Steller's jays came to our feeders. The old Gang of Twelve seemed to have shrunk to a Gang of One. We thought that there might be some connection to the adjacent 11,000 burn and a loss of food, particularly acorns.

But the Cornell ornithology lab's newsletter says, "Corvids, in general, were less common at [Southwestern] feeders during 2005-06. Steller's jays were only reported from one in four FeederWatch sites in the Southwest, the poorest showing for this species since FeederWatch began 19 years ago."

This year, we seem to have four or five hanging around the house, an improvement.

December 05, 2006

Nostalgia for Colorado motels

James Lileks, blogger and master of ironic nostalgia, offers this website of old motel postcards.

I think that I have stayed in at least two of the Colorado offerings, ate breakfast at this cafe, and this one looks familiar.

But I missed the Stepford wives of Lordsburg, New Mexico.

Of course, M. and I were staying in them in the 1980s and early 1990s, which says something about our travel budget then.

December 03, 2006

Snow dogs & the baleful Moon

Shelby in the snowRIGHT: Jack watches Shelby, who is munching a bone in the snow

The first serious snow of the winter came Wednesday, 12 inches, followed by another five inches or so on Saturday. Nights have been clear and cold, a few degrees below zero Fahrenheit.

Saturday night M. and I walked the dogs before bed, the Moon so high that we hardly cast any shadows, the moonlight so bright that you could see colors in a muted way.

I thought of a paragraph from The Deities Are Many: A Polytheistic Theology by the Canadian historian of religion Jordan Paper. He writes that while many cultures see the Sun as male and the Moon as female, but there are exceptions:

. . . particularly in the polar regions, where the sex of Sun and Moon tends to be understood as opposite to that in temperate climes. As Louis Bäckman, a Saami scholar, related to me from her own experiences, after the winter darkness, Sun first appears as golden glow on the mountains. Daily, the glow becomes more intense and beautiful. The appearance of the Sun, low on the horizon, brings joy to Arctic peoples. In contrast, during the winter darkness, Moon remains high in the sky, shining with a bright, cold light, creating a feeling of dread.

Living at about 38 degrees North, we are a long way from the Arctic. But on a clear, cold night, with the Moon nearly full, you can imagine it.

December 02, 2006

PETA: People for the Euthanasia Treatment of Animals?

Patrick Burns, who lives in Virginia, is all over the case of PETA workers taking healthy dogs from shelters, killing them, and leaving the bodies in dumpsters.

PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk says it's all a mistake. What was the line from the old Mission: Impossible TV show? "As always, should you or any of your IM force be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This tape will self-destruct in five seconds."

Deep down, I think that hardcore PETA people don't really care for animals. They find them embarassing somehow, always fighting and fucking and scavenging and refusing to live on tofu.

PETA claims that their euthanasia method is more humane, and that is their only defense. Do most PETA contributors know that they are funding such work--and the lies that go with it?

Most animal shelters have to euthanize dogs and cats. That is sad but true. Why not support your local shelter financially instead of adding another layer of nonprofit bureaucracy and giving stormtroopers Andrew Cook and Adria Hinkle jobs?

Cook and Hinkle were supposed to have gone to trial last month, but I have not seen a verdict. Anyone?

Squawk! Screech! It's calls of the wild

From Birdscope, newsletter of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology: The massive sound and video collection of the Macaulay Library is now available online.

The collection emphasizes North American species but includes samples from all around the world.

NOTE: With this post, I am moving to Blogger Beta. Wish me luck.