December 31, 2012

Things You Might Find on the Moon

A future archaeologist's dream is waiting on the Moon.Heritage Daily lists some of the items left behind both by astronauts and unmanned spacecraft:
  • more than 70 spacecraft, including rovers, modules, and crashed orbiters
  • 5 American flags
  • 12 pairs of boots
  • TV cameras
  • film magazines
  • 96 bags of urine, feces, and vomit
  • numerous Hasselbad cameras and accessories
  • several improvised javelins
  • various hammers, tongs, rakes, and shovels
  • backpacks
  • insulating blankets
  • utility towels
  • used wet wipes
  • personal hygiene kits
  • empty packages of space food
  • a photograph of Apollo 16 astronaut Charles Duke’s family
  • a feather from Baggin, the Air Force Academy’s mascot falcon, used to conduct Apollo 15′s famous “hammer-feather drop” experiment
  • a small aluminum sculpture, a tribute to the American and Soviet “fallen astronauts” who died in the space race — left by the crew of Apollo 15
  • a patch from the never-launched Apollo 1 mission, which ended prematurely when flames engulfed the command module during a 1967 training exercise, killing three U.S. astronauts
  • a small silicon disk bearing goodwill messages from 73 world leaders, and left on the moon by the crew of Apollo 11
  • a silver pin, left by Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean
  • a medal honoring Soviet cosmonauts Vladimir Komarov and Yuri Gagarin
  • a cast golden olive branch left by the crew of Apollo 11
  • There is another object that lies on the Lunar Surface and that is an  urn containing the ashes of Eugene Shoemaker, the famed planetary geologist.  His lifelong ambition was to visit the moon.

December 30, 2012

Blog Stew with Mystery-Animal Ingredients

• Who is buying guns? Women and Democrats. The Washington Post says so, and they would not lie about it.

• A new journal of crytozoology discussed in a long post by Darren Naish, one of the contributors.

• Colorado writer Dave Petersen brings "the mule deer wars" to The Huffington Post.
In fact, the most dangerous long-term enemy of mule deer and hunting throughout the West is a growing and increasingly consumptive and nature-ignorant human population, causing habitat loss, degradation and splintering.

December 29, 2012

Bad News from Mountain Gazette

If you have been picking up free copies of  Mountain Gazette at your favorite high country coffee house, store, etc, or if like me you subscribed, those days are apparently over.

A recent letter from from MG speaks of a "pause" in publishing and a "next iteration of Mountain Gazette."

None of this sounds too encouraging.

Subscribers are being offered T-shirts and/or bumper stickers.

December 28, 2012

A Veterinary Medicine "Bubble"?

Law professor and blogger Glen Reynolds often talks about the "bubble" in legal education—new law schools opening, older ones expanding, even as few graduates find jobs in their field but leave school with their JD and a huge load of debt.

Now he suggests that something similar is going on in veterinary medicine.

The vet clinic that we use most is basically a father-and-son (and for a time, daughter) operation — plus a revolving cast of new Colorado State University graduates, especially on the small-animal side.

You go and meet with "Dr. Susie" or "Dr. Kevin," and on the next visit, it's someone else.

Dog-blogger Patrick Burns often rants about vets up-selling additional tests and services just to pad the bottom line.

Maybe there is a connection. Too many vets, not enough clients? And are "Dr. Susie" and "Dr. Kevin" underemployed and carrying their own load of debt?

December 26, 2012

Must-Watch Neanderthal Television

Watch Decoding Neanderthals Preview on PBS. See more from NOVA.
Nova's January 9 episode will be devoted to the latest research on Neanderthal people, says anthropologist John Hawks.

That's his voice on the trailer, talking about the "mother of all image problems."

Rocky Mountain PBS actually has it scheduled on that date at 8 p.m., unless they suddenly decide to replace it with Antiques Roadshow or another John Denver special.

December 24, 2012

Hunting, Hipsters, and the Truths of Conservation

Once you get past the usual cliches —
In modern culture, hunting has been dominated by a stereotype of burly men in camouflage who view the pastime mostly as a sport. [Speak for yourself, Jacki Lyden. My friends and I were writing hunting-related poetry and essays in our twenties.]
— this NPR piece is interesting. Interviewed is Lily Raff McCaulau, author of Call of the Mild: Learning How to Hunt Your Own DInner. (Her book seems to have had two different subtitles.)

McCaulau takes a state-sponsored Becoming an Outdoors Women workshop in Oregon, including a pheasant hunt, of which she says,
And there was one other woman who hadn't shot a bird. So the two of us went up kind of close to where the dog was holding the bird, and when the bird flushed, it flew up in the air. We both took a shot and killed the bird. And I was really shocked by my reaction because I was expecting to just be wracked with guilt and really confused about what had just happened. And instead, I was euphoric. I couldn't believe that I had it in me and that I'd done it. I felt empowered and proud and amazed and relieved.
Others on the program talk about women in their 20s and 30s who take up hunting. Read the transcript.

Meanwhile, Slate says that "hunting is undeniably in vogue among the bearded, bicycle-riding, locavore set."
The expansion of hunting into liberal, urban circles is the latest development in an evolving and increasingly snug coexistence between humans and beasts in North America. Jim Sterba’s new book, Nature Wars, examines the paradox of the rebound of many wild species, particularly in the densely populated East Coast of the United States. Whitetail deer, turkeys, Canada geese, black bears, and trees are all doing wonderfully in 2012, thanks to conservation measures in the past and vagaries of history and cultural change. The problem, Sterba says, is that most modern North Americans have no idea what to do with these species. We gawk and gape; we feed them doughnuts; we run into them with our cars; we are surprised and alarmed by their messy habits and occasional aggressiveness; we manage them all wrong; we want them gone from our neighborhoods, but we abhor the idea of killing them.
(Let's see . . . Beard? Check. Bicyle-riding (well, sometimes)? Check. Locavore? Check. I had no idea that I was so much in tune with the zeitgeist — or maybe the zeitgeist is now in tune with me?)

So hunting is not a red state thing. It is a red meat thing," concludes writer Emma Marris. "And, more than that, it is a necessary thing."

December 23, 2012

Drop the Smart Phone, Go Hiking, Be Smarter?

I am not sure how you measure creativity — it's not like saying how many pull-ups you can do or something like that, but if being outdoors enhanced creativity, then I will support the meme.
Earlier studies have shown that children spend only 15 to 25 minutes outdoors daily and that outdoor recreation has declined over the past 30 years. People ages 8 to 18 spent more than 7.5 hours daily watching TV or using cellphones or computers.
But I always feel a little guilty about now in writing such a blog post, because guess where I am at this very moment.

OK, tomorrow, serious hike. It's supposed to snow too.

December 21, 2012

Mountain Lions at Lunch

With the bears now out on their own, our local wildlife rehabbers were able to meet us in Nearby Town for a long lunch.

The conversation wandered around "secret" hiking trails, local water issues, and of course critter tales — specifically mountain lions.

Back when M. and I were hired by the Bureau of Land Management to census Mexican spotted owls, we were stalked by mountain lions twice that we knew of, and probably other times that we did not know of.

But these people hand-raised them. They had two lions that lived out their lives with them, because the cats had been seized from people who owned them illegally and who had had them declawed. There was no way that these cats could be released into the wild.

The lions were quite friendly, almost cuddly. But they were still cats — unpredictable.

One day one of them jumped the woman as she was leaving its pen, knocked her down, and bit into the back of her head. It sounded like a dog chewing a bone, she said.

Her husband got the cat off of her with a couple of swift kicks to the head and a squirt of pepper spray. She was half-scalped. It was a real La Brea Tar Pits moment, he says.

He himself was in a bad car wreck once and was rebuilt with pins and plates, so we figured that their skeletons would astonish archaeologists of the future.

"Look," they might say, "people in the Plastic Age were still preyed on by large carnivores. Yet this woman survived — her people took care of her."

"And the man — clearly he had many enemies, but someone rebuilt his skeleton in a primitive way."

December 18, 2012

Waldo Canyon: What Went Wrong

I was going to blog the Colorado Springs Independent's report on what happened when the Waldo Canyon Fire entered the city last June, but I have been too busy wrapping up a big project.

So here are Wildfire Today's summary and comments.
After reading the article in yesterday’s Colorado Springs Independent, I am left stunned. Regarding the management of the fire within the city of Colorado Springs, I have never heard of a wildland fire with such a huge impact that was so utterly, catastrophically mismanaged.
I, too, thought that Colorado Springs was better prepared for wildland interface fire. 

December 12, 2012

Blog Stew for Kids Who Survive

• I think of catfish as bottom-feeders, but under the right conditions, they are sharks!Say Uncle.

• Dog seat belts don't work. No, that's not a real dog.

• If you have kids on the gift list, check out the "I Survived . . . " series. They come recommended from the Free Range Kids blog, where a reader comments, 
One of my son’s favorite book series this year is the “I Survived…” 9/11 attacks, Titanic, San Fran Earthquake (from Scholastic Books).  At first, I was concerned of his interest in disasters but after reading a few of the pages, I understood why he enjoyed them. He wanted to find out what kids did to survive and not be  victims.

Orphan Bears Returned to the Forest

The formerly undersized yearling black bear heads back into the woods. (Colorado Parks & WIldlife photo)
Last winter, I wrote about how orphan bears that had spent the summer and fall at a nearby rehabilitation center were released into a special purpose-built bear den somewhere in southern Colorado.

Recently, I learned that they had not used it through the winter. Ungrateful bears! What do they think they are, wild animals?

Meanwhile, the rehabbers had two bears to care for this past summer. One was found in the spring, weighing only 12 pounds — yet he was a yearling! How had he survived the winter? A normal weight for a yearling black bear at that stage of life would be 40–50 pounds.

The other was a cub brought in after its mother and sibling were hit by a car.

Both gained a lot of weight over the summer. As our friends reported,
Walmart once again provided tons of bear necessities. The bears gorged on peaches, plums, avocados, grapes, dry dog food (their least favorite), apples and assorted other fruits and vegetables that came with the bear packages. I also gave them as many natural foods as I could harvest. Chokecherry, juniper berries, wild plums and acorns were added to their diet.
This time they were just turned loose into the forest to find their own dens.

December 11, 2012

A Good Experience in the World of Outdoor-Gear Retailing

When this blog was young (2006), I wrote a post about the snobbery of some outdoor-gear shops and gun shops:
You walk through the door, and the clerk's look says, "Are you cool enough to be shopping here? Do I recognize you from Outside or Fly Fisherman magazine?"
This time, M.'s favorite Patagonia hiking shoes were dying, so Santa agreed to take her to Mountain Chalet in Colorado Springs and replace them.

But that model, the "Bly," was not on display. The saleswoman fetched a printed catalog, and M. found the shoe, somewhat redesigned but now apparently discontinued, or at least that was the story.

Still, the saleswoman praised them: "Half the women who work here bought those shoes." Or else she was shrewdly praising M's judgment, a little ego-boost for the customer — whatever. 

Then she did something that surprised us. She went to a computer, looked up the shoe, and found that Sierra Trading Post, a Wyoming-based chain that sells a lot of discontinued and closed-out outdoor gear and clothing, still had them. I had my laptop computer with me, so I went down Tejon Street to Rico's wine bar, ordered a glass of something, and dropped the shoes into my virtual shopping cart, at 40 percent off the original price.

So to give credit where it is due, she did not make a sale, but she left us with warm, fuzzy feelings about Mountain Chalet, and when M. wears out these shoes in a year or two, we will probably look there first again. When you have a brick-and-mortar (literally!) specialty store, you have to do these things.

December 09, 2012

Skiing Aspen When It Was (sort of ) Affordable

Skiers on the bus to Aspen. She brought her corkscrew.
A photo gallery of skiing and après-ski at Aspen and Snowmass in 1974, commissioned by the Environmental Protection Agency and collected at the Denver Post.

December 08, 2012

Perils of a Liberal Arts Education When Cutting Firewood

Every year it happens: I cannot swing the Monster Maul(TM) without thinking of Saying 77 of the Gospel of Thomas.

It was the topic of my first halfway good religious-studies paper, written in my sophomore year at Reed.

I even translated one theological term on the spot into German, and the professor did not blink at it, so either I put one past him or the expression actually existed in works that I had not read.

Everything is a web of textual allusions.

The tree itself I cut on Thursday, with snow in the forecast. A beetle-killed pine — the chainsaw skated through its trunk, cutting the hinge, and down it fell.

Perfectly dried, and bearing the fatal blue fungal stain, the logs go into the wood stove, as a light as an old person's limbs.

Who was there?

December 05, 2012

Blog Stew with your Fishing Buddy

• Alfred Packerov? Cannibalism suspected in Siberian survival story.

• Is she a "horse hater" or a "realist"? A Colorado member of the BLM's Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board wants to talk about the 46,000 wild horses vegetating in corrals and the $60 million the government spend annually on wild horse management. One problem is that people are not lining up to adopt them. Private "sanctuaries" are overwhelmed with unwanted horses.

• New Mexico dog rescuer accused of crossing the line into theft and abuse.
Torrance County sheriff's officials say they have had a flood of new calls since news of Swenerton's arrest broke. One woman, approached at a hamburger stand, seemed startled to hear of the case.
"My dog is missing. A lot of dogs are missing," Melissa Crozier said. She said her dog, Simba, recently disappeared from inside her home, behind an unlocked door. "I came home and he was gone. I have no idea how he could have gotten out" unless someone opened the door.

December 04, 2012

Weather: The Kid Is Not Showing Up

Morning rainbow after brief squall on November 10, 2012.
Checking around for El Niño updates—the weather condition that usually give us snowy  winters, I find this news:
With sea surface temps cooling to near average in much of the equatorial Pacific, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center has dropped an El Niño watch that’s been in effect for the past several months.
And from the same meteorologist:
We are going with a 52% chance of above average snowfall and above average temps for Denver, Salt Lake City, Colorado Springs and Provo, UT.
Which is about the same as no prediction at all. Could go either way. Flip of the coin. Et cetera. He is right about the "above-average temps" though.

Something similar about the Kid from the World Meteorological Organization.

Let's see, we had a couple of inches of snow after the fire in October, and then a quick squall on November 10th . . . and that is all.

December 03, 2012

Blog Stew with Live Ammunition

• Does Boulder, Colorado, really have "the largest population of armed vegans in America"? (Via Michael Bane.)

• Have you wondered what would happen if your — or your neighbor's — store of rifle, pistol, or shotgun ammunition was consumed by fire? This professional video sets out to answer that and other similar questions, complete with slow-motion cameras and firefighters. (I had already answered that question to my own satisfaction when I was 12 or 13, and that is all that I will say about it.)

• Still geographically limited, but some work is being done on using smartphone apps to collect data on roadkill as well as live wildlife sightings.