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.