December 30, 2008

Are Shopping Malls Finished?

Chadwick Matlin at Slate suggests that the shopping mall as a retail environment is finished. Rod Dreher agrees and has interesting reader comments.

At the Pueblo Mall, Steve & Barry's barely opened before it was closed again, another story of bankruptcy from a chain store that tried to be everywhere at once.

Writes Matlin, "At the risk of getting Gladwellian, every store that closes has an impact on the shops left behind. Walking through a half-empty mall is an unsettling experience; it feels as dreadful as Dawn of the Dead, just without the zombies."

I never heard the term "pimple-collar job" before, but it's obvious.

December 28, 2008

Field-Expedient Vehicle Recovery

Begin with a driverless Jeep Liberty with an iffy parking brake left in neutral (my fault). Add gravity, snow, oak brush, and a gully.

Then stir in
two sterling neighbors
a 4wd pickup
more snow and ice
tow chains (2)
nylon tow cables (2)
a high-capacity come-along
bow saw
hydraulic "bottle jack"
scissors jack
piece of 2x4

Let simmer for two hours.

I'll be providing their champagne for New Year's Eve, to be sure.

NYT: Home Coal-Burning on the Increase

Sign in Florence, Colorado.Here in southern Colorado, we don't need the New York Times to tell us that people burn coal at home -- it's always been that way.

This is historically a coal-mining area. When M. and first moved to South Cañon (the "wrong side of the tracks" in Cañon City) back in the 1980s, the acrid smell of coal smoke hung in the air on winter evenings. We ourselves burned a lot of cottonwood, which smells like cow shit--but it was free.

In nearby Florence, you can buy coal from Wensday through Sunday, and maybe Tuseday too by special appointment.

(If you burn wood, you can call it "biomass," which sounds better.)

State Parks Wants to Make Mountain Bikers Pay

Buried in a Colorado State Parks plan for more trails at Lake Pueblo State Park lies--surprise!--a plan to collect more fees from park visitors.

That's right, all you mountain bikers parking at the "red gate" and other access points on Colorado 96, the parks bureaucrats want some money out of you.

One official trailhead with parking, trail information signage, and a self-service pay station may be considered along Highway 96 at the area know as the “red gate”.

The parkies want to tag you too.

Day use and seasonal passes should become available to the trail user. A receipt and wire tag system similar to systems used by the Forest Service or ski areas could be used and displayed on the bicycle or horse while riding in the park. By accepting and paying the fees, the user is expected to follow trail etiquette and release the State of Colorado from liability.

Because there is nothing more important in being outdoors than liability issues.

December 25, 2008

Christmas Walk in the Mason Gulch Burn

Looking SE into the Mason Gulch Burn (July 2005).M. and I went for a walk in the Mason Gulch Burn today. It was a sort of "edge day" for weather -- a storm to the west, clear skies to the east, and us right on the boundary. Part of the time it was sunny, while at other times fingers of snow squalls reached for us, and the skies clouded over, as in this photo.
Mule deer in Babcock HoleThese mule deer does were feeding back in the shadows ... ... and so were some little dinosaurs, a/k/a wild turkeys. Me, I wonder if Santa might have a better telephoto lens left over in his bag.

Colorado fishing, small-game licenses good through March

Just a reminder: Your 2008 Colorado small-game or fishing license is good through March 31, 2009.

I like that change because it forestalls setting out the first week of the year and then remembering, "Uh-oh."

The new licensing year will be April through March.

December 23, 2008

Blog Stew with Graupel

• We drove home from Florence today in graupel. M., who grew up in the Hudson Valley, says she never saw it before she arrived in Colorado on a November day. It's falling right now on a sun crust, with actual snow forecast for this afternoon and tonight.

• Bill Schneider rips into TV hunting shows. I don't have cable (not available here) nor satellite TV, so I don't see these, but from my outdoor-writer days I am aware of the pressure to "get the story" or to impose a narrative on what is an unpredictable hunting or fishing experience -- and the abuses and falsification that can result.

Mungo assembles a list of bushcraft and nature blogs, including 18th-century trekking and Dynamite Skills, which is not about explosives.

• Sawtooth goes hunting and muses on being more "crunchy" than "bubba."

December 22, 2008

It's Still a Bear, Right?

Taxidermist's bear form on an antiques shop in Florence, ColoradoYou open a Western antiques shop in an old house on East Main Street in Florence, which is zoned commercial.

You think, "A bear on the roof would really draw 'em in," but you don't have a large bear sculpture, and, face it, the chainsaw bears are so last-century.

But you come across a taxidermist's form for a gigantic bear, and so you bolt it to the roof.

It's still a bear, although it lacks ears and teeth and makes the passer-by think of a prehistoric bear that has spent centuries in a glacier, losing its fur in the process.

December 18, 2008

A Tribute to George Herter

Yes, I already knew that the Virgin Mary was fond of spinach.

I learned to cook partly from George Herter, as my tattered copy of Bull Cook and Authentic Historical Recipes and Practices will attest. I think about Herter now and then.

Herter never acknowledges — not once — that his facts are any less sturdy and real than his Herter’s Famous No. 153 Saskatchewan Goose Call. No, sir: Herter facts are the finest, the most famous, specially selected and custom-made by only the oldest and most experienced craftsmen — even more factual than is necessary. No sooner do you digest his account of drinking with Hemingway in Key West (where Papa recommends a mixture of three parts light rum to one ounce of port wine as “great for dandruff”) than you come across a chapter called “Milking Scorpions Brings You $150 or More a Week.”

Thanks to Steve Bodio for the catch on this Herter review essay. Read the whole thing.

Daydreaming of the UAZ 469

Sometimes when I am bouncing over the snowy ruts of our road in my rattletrap Jeep CJ-5, wind tearing at its soft top, I think, "I need a really butch 4x4. This one's too comfortable!"

You can still get parts for an M-37. That might fit the bill.

Or what about a UAZ 469? Yeah, Russki iron!

Note the passenger's hold on his door. Does the UAZ 469 lack a Jesus bar, and is that because the USSR was an officially atheistic nation?

December 17, 2008

The Lost Realm of Night

Back in the 1970s, Newsweek ran an article about night-shift work and life as the "frontier" -- less authority, more marginal characters, fewer rules. I looked up the article once as part of a projected project on "night."

But this is the book that I would have written if I had the talent and focus: At Day's Close: Night in Times Past.

As the New York Times reviewer writes,

'At Day's Close,'' however, is less a history of night than a bizarre sort of elegy for it. In an epilogue, the author expresses deep reservations about modernity's profligate illumination. ''With darkness diminished,'' he warns, ''opportunities for privacy, intimacy and self-reflection will grow more scarce.'' While others blame television or video games for our cultural decay, Ekirch thinks we're on an apocalyptic slide into fluorescence.

The book's publication has another scholar thinking about writing. I am looking for a new long project myself, but it won't be the book about night that I saved clippings for.

December 16, 2008

Profile of a Division of Wildlife Officer

The Cañon City Daily Record profiles district wildlife manager Bob Carochi.

On poachers:

“At least 95 percent of the folks I deal with are good people to be around,” Carochi said. “But there definitely is a fair share of poaching active in the county. That’s the biggest law enforcement part of the job. There are folks who make an honest mistake, then there are guys who do stuff deliberately, see if they can get away with it.”

On the job's requirements:

Instead of falling into spring, summer, autumn and winter, his seasons divide into antelope, elk, deer and bear. Never one to punch the clock, Carochi works long hours and even longer days — sometimes, chalking up more than 300 hours in a single month. He also works many holidays.

Ken Salazar as Interior Secretary

According to the Denver Post, Senator Ken Salazar will accept the post of Secretary of the Interior.

As one-time employees (in a small way) of the DOI, M. and I are moderately happy to see him in the job. (I wonder if he will make any progress with the Indian oil-royalties quagmire.)

At least we hope that under Sec. Salazar there will be less political meddling in scientific research.

December 14, 2008

Southern Rockies Wolf Politics Heat Up

Via Cat Urbigkit, a report on the usual conflicts over proposed wolf reintroduction in the Southern Rockies.

WildEarth Guardians recently petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a wolf recovery plan for the region. Re-establishing a population of the carnivores is crucial to bringing ecosystems back into balance, according to the group.

Not surprisingly, the Colorado Cattlemen's Association feels otherwise.

Coincidentally, M. and I were watching "Wolves in Paradise," a PBS program about livestock producers and (or versus) reintroduced wolves in an area north of Yellowstone National Park.

One rancher who spoke hopefully of "detente" and coexistence with the wolves still ended up having his employees shoot a couple -- and later calling in the federal "wildlife services" people to take out some more. The program offered no happy ending for everyone.

December 11, 2008

Ruins and Ghosts of Antarctica

A little off-topic for this blog, but I wanted to share this link about abandoned sites in Antarctica and nearby islands.

For obvious reasons, Antarctica is a very popular place to abandon.

For once, read the comments.

December 09, 2008

Haiku for Break Time

Haiku for Break Time

Bird wings whir at the feeder--
I shovel snow--
Ah! The electric coffee grinder.

December 08, 2008

Recycling Market Stalls with the Economy

The Associated Press reports that prices for recycled materials are plummeting.

Aluminum should do the best, since it is so energy-intensive to produce, but even that market has dropped:

Cardboard that sold for about $135 a ton in September is now going for $35 a ton. Plastic bottles have fallen from 25 cents to 2 cents a pound. Aluminum cans dropped nearly half to about 40 cents a pound, and scrap metal tumbled from $525 a gross ton to about $100.

Meanwhile, after thirty years of being told that "Recycling is Good," people and municipalities are still doing it. Sometimes they wind up "upside-down":

In Washington state, what was once a multimillion-dollar revenue source for the city of Seattle may become a liability next year as the city may have to start paying companies to take their materials.

Another recycler had a similar complaint for the New York Times:

“We’re warehousing it and warehousing it and warehousing it,” said Johnny Gold, senior vice president at the Newark Group, a company that has 13 recycling plants across the country. Mr. Gold said the industry had seen downturns before but not like this. “We never saw this coming.”

And when that happens, the cynics who just want to beat up on environmentalists go, "See, we told you! Nyah nyah nyah."

Municipal programs can't be switched off and on with the market, so I doubt that they will stop. As one commercial recycler said,

"It's going to be bleak for a while," he said. "We can just make our piles taller, and hopefully by spring, things will be a little better."

December 06, 2008

New Self-Defense Rules for National Parks

Under new regulations, persons with valid concealed-carry permits may now possess weapons for self-defense in national parks, under the laws of the state in which the park is located.

In other words, if I enter Mesa Verde National Park, I am still under Colorado law, not suddenly under a different, federal law.

To quote the Interior Department's announcement:

Existing regulations regarding the carrying of firearms remain otherwise unchanged, particularly limitations on poaching and target practice and prohibitions on carrying firearms in federal buildings.

Why did this issue come up? Law-blogger Eugene Volokh quotes Interior's FAQ page:

[W]e also recognize that current statistics show an alarming increase in criminal activity on federal lands managed by the Department of the Interior, especially in areas close to the border and in lands that are not readily accessible by law enforcement authorities.

In other words, the feds cannot guarantee your safety in parks along the Mexican border where drug smugglers, etc., run freely, as well as in some other parks with crime problems, e.g. Yosemite.

If national parks were crime-free, park ranger Nevada Barr's career as a mystery writer would never have taken off.

Yet the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), a nonprofit supporting the National Park Service, is treating this news like a disaster.

Simply put, concealed-carry permit holders are not the people that they have to worry about in regard to crime and poaching.

These permit holders have gone through training classes, fingerprinting, and criminal background checks in order to get their permits. They are as close to Grade A law-abiding as you can get -- yet the NCPA wants to treat them all as potential criminals.

I can see two reasons for NPCA's agitation. One is simply fear of change. The other is ignorance. Neither reflects well on the organization.

December 05, 2008

Let's Celebrate Repeal Day.

With all the talk comparing today's economy to the Great Depression, I have noticed that one other event of the early 1930s is being celebrated as well -- Repeal Day!

There is a connection between Repeal, the election of Franklin Roosevelt in 1932, and the Democratic Party's adoption of "Happy Days Are Here Again" as its official song.

The Southern Colorado Beer Examiner has the history, but let me add that Pueblo, Avondale, and St. Charles Mesa saw a lot of illegal distilling and bootlegging too back then, a legacy that lingers in some people's minds.

You can read all about that in Betty Alt and Sandra Wells' Mountain Mafia - Organized Crime in the Rockies.

December 04, 2008

On the Map in Colored Land

Last month I went to Stink Onion.

That's just one Midwestern place name that looks startling fresh in the Atlas of True Names, which you can preview at the Telegraph's web site.

Middle Earth’s evocative “Midgewater”, “Dead Marshes” and “Mount Doom” are strikingly similar in nature to Europe’s “Swirlwater”, “Darkford” or “Smoky Bay”, as revealed by the Atlas of True Names.

Names are fun to think about. My September trip to North Dakota brought me back through places I knew from childhood with their flint-hard native animist names--Spearfish, Sundance, Bear Lodge--mixed with the names of military commanders who subdued those same animists--Sturgis, Sheridan, Fort Collins.

They made a change from the baroque Catholic religiosity of New Mexico and southern Colorado place names.

I belong to what is, in effect, the Blood of Christ Shooting Sports Club. Translated, it sounds like something from Franco's Spain!

The Huerfano River at Doyle

This what a High Plains river looks like: the Huerfano River in southern Pueblo County, flowing northeast towards the Arkansas River.
Huerfano River at Doyle bridge, looking upstreamLooking upstream to the southwest.

Huerfano River at Doyle Bridge, looking NE.Looking downstream towards the northeast.

Huerfano River at Doyle bridge, looking downstream. An historical marker near the bridge where the photos above were taken. Click the photo for a more readable image.

Yes, in Colorado this stream counts as a "river." It only goes dry occasionally. In May it might be rambunctious, during the snow melt.

Some tamarisk and Russian olive removal needs to be done here, as in so many places.

December 03, 2008

Canned Soup and Other Stand-bys

If all this talk about cooking potatoes, oatmeal, and split peas is getting you down, here is an unvarnished review of many canned and prepared foods.

(Via Snowflakes in Hell.)

What East Coast Pundits Miss about Oil Shale

Have you noticed how most of the pundits touting Colorado oil shale as our energy salvation live east of the Mississippi River?

I'm talking about you, Glenn Reynolds, there in soggy Tennessee.

They just do not understand the water issues wrapped up with the shale issues. You can't just snap your fingers and create more than 300,000 acre-feet of water in the over-appropriated upper Colorado River basin, as the Colorado Independent explains.

“A dominant finding is oil shale development, along with its associated power production, could require tremendous amounts of water, up to 378,300 acre-feet annually,” concludes the Energy Development Water Needs Assessment, which was funded by grants from the Colorado Department of Natural Resources and the Colorado Water Conservation Board.

So if you take the water for shale development, which ox gets gored? Denver? Las Vegas? Los Angeles? Phoenix?

UPDATE: Welcome, View from the Porch readers. For more education on Western water issues, visit Coyote Gulch. To see what we mean by "river" in the Southwest, go here.

I am a Field Jacket

At least according to the designers at Alpha Industries.

Not cheap, either.

December 01, 2008

Cheap Gear: Swiss Fleece Sleeping Bag

I recently bought one of these ex-Swiss Army fleece sleeping bags to use as a liner in my car-camping sleeping bag, which itself is ex-Forest Service and cost under $20.

For $5.97, how can you go wrong?

It would be good for napping in a cool house or for keeping in the vehicle in case of an unexpected sleep event.

I don't think you could buy the fabric this cheap at a store, as long as you like a sort of purplish-blue.

(This post hereby begins a new blog category, cheap gear.)