December 29, 2009

Farms-into-Forest Plan has Unintended Consequences?

The Secretary of Agriculture (and some agricultural lobbying groups) are "viewing with alarm" an unintended consequence of proposed environmental policy.

Would it privilege "farming" trees for the carbon-credit money over growing food crops--and thus keeping Monsanto and John Deere in business?

The latest Agriculture Department economic-impact study of the climate bill, which passed the House this summer, found that the legislation would profit farmers in the long term. But those profits would come mostly from higher crop prices as a result of the legislation's incentives to plant more forests and thus reduce the amount of land devoted to food-producing agriculture.

If I sound cynical, it is because I wonder where the secretary's complaints are when farmland is turned into shopping malls?

You have to look at this kind of alarm-raising in terms of "Who might lose money?" if it passes.

Well, Honey, the GPS Says to Go this Way

Someone else lets the gadget do their thinking for them.

A Nevada couple letting their SUV's navigation system guide them through the high desert of Eastern Oregon got stuck in snow for three days when the GPS unit sent them down a remote forest road.

This reminds me of the game of Dueling Proverbs, in which you come up with contradictory sayings. "Out of sight, out of mind" versus "Absence makes the heart grow fonder."

Another saying is "Trust your instruments." If you feel like north is off to your right, but the compass says north is straight ahead, trust the compass.

On the other hand, if the gadget (or the map) sends you down some road in the boonies in the winter, maybe you should think seriously about weather and local conditions.

Two years ago, James Kim (also in Oregon) did not--a similar case with a worse outcome.

December 27, 2009

Why Donald Duck Wore Pants

To conceal his amazing penis.

More Evidence that Franklin's Men had Lead Poisoning.

It has been speculated that the Arctic expedition of Sir John Franklin in 1845 came to grief partly through heavy reliance on lead-contaminated canned food, canning being a fairly new technology of food preservation at the time.

New tests of soup cans probably identical to those on Franklin's ships showed lead levels "off the scale."

My study is cold this morning, and it feels colder when I think of the song "Lord Franklin."
They sailed West and they sailed East
Their ship on oceans of ice did freeze
Only the Eskimo in his skin canoe
Was the only one that ever came through.
Michaél O'Domhnaill and Kevin Burke have the definitive version (YouTube). (Hat tip to Mirabilis.)


December 26, 2009

'Ice Hunter' and the Ice

The big storm that battered the Midwest skipped over us, leaving just a couple of inches of powder snow on top of the icy Forest Service road where I walk the dogs.It's slippery--Fisher comes galloping up to me and makes a sort of canine snowplow turn in order to fully stop.

M. and I took a longer walk up the same road this afternoon, eventually reaching the south-facing stretch that was not so icy.

Coming home, I was thinking of Joseph Heywood's novel Ice Hunter, which M. gave me for Christmas and which I started reading last night.

The plot and characters are sort of Nevada Barr-meets-C.J. Box. Maybe more like Box, since Heywood's protagonist is a game warden—or conservation officer, the Michigan term.

Ice Hunter was published by The Lyons Press,  usually associated in my mind with fly-fishing. Right off Heywood makes a literary link, placing protagonist Grady Service in the same Marquette, Mich., courtroom in which Jimmy Stewart, playing a fly-fishing small town bachelor lawyer, defends the accused in the noirish 1959 drama Anatomy of a Murder.

That movie was based on a novel by Michigan judge John D. Voelker, also a well-known fly-fishing writer under the pen name of Robert Traver, best known for his "testament":

I fish because I love to; because I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful and I hate the environs where crowds of people are found, which are invariably ugly; because of all the television commercials, cocktail parties, and assorted social posturing I thus escape; because, in a world where most men seem to spend their lives doing things they hate, my fishing is at once an endless source of delight and an act of small rebellion; because trout do not lie or cheat and cannot be bought or bribed or impressed by power, but respond only to quietude and humility and endless patience; because I suspect that men are going along this way for the last time, and I for one don't want to waste the trip; because only in the woods can I find solitude without loneliness; because bourbon out of an old tin cup always tastes better out there; because maybe one day I will catch a mermaid; and, finally, not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant--and not nearly so much fun.

As to Ice Hunter, I am halfway through it and enjoying it. Working any time as a copy editor, however, ruins simple reading. I keep thinking, "Shouldn't that word have been capitalized?" or upon reading that a character got "a B.S. in forestry from the University of Colorado," I want to click Microsoft Word's INSERT menu and insert a COMMENT: "The forestry school is at Colorado State University (Fort Collins), not at CU-Boulder. Suggest change."

That won't stop me from looking for more "Grady Service, woods cop" novels, however.

December 23, 2009

My Eyes! My Eyes!

Like a fool, I followed a link from Smartdogs that led me to doggie butt decorations.

Yes, you read aright.  Just the thing for people who cannot let dogs be dogs.

This is a dog. (video clip, 3 MB)

December 21, 2009

Walk Your Dog, Not Your Friends

Dogs are better walking partners than humans.

What a shock. Dogs don't make excuses (hot weather, headache, just don't feel like it...) And as some commenters note, they train us.

Fisher the hyper-Chessie expects breakfast soon after I get up. And then the morning walk must begin within 10 seconds, or he sits outside the front door, whining and crying.

The below-zero (F.) weather last week had no effect on him. We now say that he is "insulated by insanity."

They Must Grow 'Em Big Back East

One doe can "feed up to 200 people"?

Otherwise, a good story on hunters feeding the hungry while PETA and the "Humane" Society of the United States flail around issuing press releases.

(Hat tip: Outdoor Pressroom)

December 20, 2009

Cattle Mutilations Return? Part 4

(Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)

How do cattle die? Lots of ways. Lightning kills hundreds on the Colorado prairie every year, I learned when I was a reporter. Add in various infections, "hardware disease," rattlesnake bites on the nose—and, yes, four-footed predators.

Back then, I was exposed to all the wildly elaborate explanations of the mutilations, each one requiring more secrecy, more advanced technology, and a bigger cover-up than the last. Occam's razor was nowhere in sight.

Then one day in the early 1980s I was deer hunting in eastern Washington with my father. On our lunch break we crossed the border to visit the ranching cousins on the British Columbia side.

Somehow the conversation turned to predators. My cousin Wendell was saying how right after a cow dies of natural causes, coyotes will approach the carcass but not chew on it right away.  Dad (hunter, forest ranger) nodded in agreement.

"Aha!" I thought. How many times had I been told that it was spooky and weird how coyotes, in particular, would approach a "mutilated" (eyes, rectum gone) cow but not eat from it right away!  Yet here were Dad and Wendell treating that as normal behavior. (more after the jump)

It's Time to Ski in Style

These Finnish ski troopers c. 1939 have the cross-country skiing style as far as I am concerned. Check out the man on the left with his plaid shirt.

Did he have to buy special clothing to make himself look like a multi-colored insect? Absolutely not. (Click photo for larger version.)

You can still find the pull-on knit gaiters as worn by the troopers in the center in surplus outlets sometimes, usually ex-Swedish Army, but they are about the same.

Law professor and blogger Ann Althouse is bucking the Spandex trend. She has that Edwardian look down too.

The Impacts of Off-Road Vehicles are Worse than We Thought

Some links related to abuse of public lands by off-road vehicle riders:

• Paul Vertrees from Backcountry Hunters & Anglers explains just what the problem is:

Off-road vehicles (ORVs) had carved six-inch-deep tracks through a damp alpine meadow in the Pike National Forest southwest of Denver. Soil ripped from the ground by spinning tires washed into a nearby stream, dirtying it with sediment. A Forest Service "No Motor Vehicles" sign lay smashed on the ground next to the ugly tire ruts, scarring what would otherwise have been unspoiled backcountry.

• In related news, Colorado seeks to put ORV user-fee money towards law enforcement

• And an off-road outlaw sees the light:

When I confronted the riders, they had no clue that their raucous invasion had destroyed my outdoor experience. They didn't even think about the impacts their riding had on those who enjoy quiet recreation -- hiking, camping, hunting and horseback riding in our national forests. I knew I had to change my ways. I love ATV riding, but the truth is that my ATV and the millions like it have made severe and cumulative impacts on our public lands and wildlife. The impacts of off-road vehicles are probably even more profound and far-reaching than we think they are

• Take a non-binding poll on appropriate punishment for illegal off-road riding.

Cattle Mutilations Return? Part 3

(Part 1 here. Part 2 here.)

Let's return to Manuel Sanchez's dead calves over in the San Luis Valley. And let's think about wildlife rather than mad cultists, cow-snatching aliens, or secret government agencies.
Let's make "surgical incisions" with Occam's razor.

First, although I am not a rancher, some of my relatives are, and we have talked about how predators and scavengers deal with cattle.

Second, I grew up with big-game hunting, so I know a little big about what happens when you leave a large dead animal out in the wild—in particular, what happens to the gut pile (the internal organs, intestines, etc.).

1. Manuel Sanchez says he lost four calves, one week. Right there I would wonder about mountain lions, which typically eat a deer every week to ten days. Would a large calf be similar enough to a mulie doe as a food source?

2. "Their innards gone. Tongues sliced out. Udders carefully removed. Facial skin sliced and gone. Eyes cored away."

Watch out for those verbs: "sliced" and "cored" and the adverb "carefully." They might imply the use of tools and make you think of human perpetrators. 

Predators such as wolves (not in Colorado in any number) and mountain lions go for the underbelly when opening a carcass—no bones in the way.

3. "Not a drop of blood on the ground or even on the remaining skin."  (more after the jump).

December 19, 2009

Cattle Mutilations Return? Part 2

(Part 1 here.)

The sudden decrease in mutilation reports in the 1980s suggests that what changed was not the phenomenon but the narrative(s) that explained it. True believers like Linda Howe kept telling their stories, but the news media, at least, lost interest in a story that was rural, weird, and had no resolution.

Perhaps the nearest thing to resolution was the Rommel Report, written by former FBI agent Rommel, working as consultant to New Mexico's First Judicial District. His conclusion: "scavenger-induced damage"

The FBI has other PDFs of documents related to mutilation investigations, released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Hardcore UFO "researchers" maintained their position. Note the categorical statement in the first sentence. (more after the jump)

December 18, 2009

'Coywolves' Stalk Vermont

Since I plan to be in Vermont again next summer, I will have to watch out for these guys.

Why Did They Jump?

An animal behaviorist looks at a series of dog "suicides".