March 15, 2013

March 14, 2013

Erin Brckovich's Crowd-Sourced Cancer-Cluster Map

The map, covering the United States and some places in Canada, is built from individual reports. There is no information given that I can as to why a particular locale contains a "cancer cluster." Evidently, you have to research that out on your own.

Boing Boing had a piece recently on Brokovich's current environmental work and related issues, of which this map is just a piece.

March 13, 2013

Signs of Spring (1)

Two nights ago: The first scent of skunk spray. So they are up and about.

Last night: A dinner guest said that a bear had been seen in or near Cañon City.

Today: Mourning cloak butterflies in the air when M. and I went for a walk up into the national forest.

Whatever Happened to Benny Beaver?

His message was muddled, that's what, says a Forest Service history blog:
That last statement reveals the stumbling block to success that so many forest history characters trip over: they are given too many things to simultaneously to represent and it confuses the target audience. Is Benny about fire prevention? Stopping litter bugs? Wise and multiple use? Aren’t the first two really just part of the third? This problem of a muddled message is why the Forest Service later created Woodsy Owl—people were trying to use Smokey Bear to talk about litter and other issues and it diluted the power of Smokey’s message. Further complicating Benny’s path to stardom was the introduction of Cal Green and Sniff and Snuff in California the same year Benny was introduced. How’s a beaver in cut-off overalls supposed to compete against charismatic Cal and the sartorial splendor of Sniff and Snuff? As Benny might say, dam if I know.
 One way, Smokey's way, I say. Thou shalt have no other bears before me

March 12, 2013

A Silent Scream

Or, why I lasted only a year as a advertising copywriter.

This phrase popped out from an item on The Outdoor Wire: "the ultimate turkey vest is now better than ever."

So something that was "ultimate"—the last possible stage of whatever it was—has now moved beyond ultimate. Which is what, exactly? Into another dimension where time and space collapse?

The writer could have said, "a damn fine turkey vest is now even better."

Could we just have a moratorium on "ultimate" and "extreme" in sports and outdoor writing? Is that too much to ask?

Best Websites for Preppers

Collected here.
Bayou Renaissance Man.

March 11, 2013

Paleo Backlash, Special 'Pebbles'

An evolutionary biologist takes on the whole Paleo diet craze.
Recently, researchers discovered evidence that people in Europe were grinding and cooking grain (a paleo-diet bugaboo) as far back as 30,000 years ago, even if they weren’t actually cultivating it. “A strong body of evidence,” Zuk writes, “points to many changes in our genome since humans spread across the planet and developed agriculture, making it difficult at best to point to a single way of eating to which we were, and remain, best suited.”
This makes me feel better about eating several slices of M's home-baked bread today.

And for what happens twelve hours later . . .  I can see one of those bushcraft/survival school guys taking this and running with it — straight into the bush.

March 10, 2013

Because Nothing Says 'Colorado' . .

Tejon Street, downtown Colorado Springs
. . . like Smilodon.

If you like large, scary, extinct felids, they have been on a Homotherium kick at Querencia.

March 07, 2013

"Detroit" with Pine Trees?

Built in 2007. Size 4,496 square feet. Location: southern Colorado wildland-urban interface.
An article in The Atlantic speculates that the United States faces a glut of large-ish suburban homes that a younger generation does not want or cannot afford, due to their load of student loans.

As a consequence, people who believed the bullshit about their home being an "investment"  — as opposed to something to keep the rain off — might find themselves unable to liquid these assets when they need money late in life.

Meanwhile, I have been wondering when the "mountain home" craze would crash.

The craze been going on for generations. When I first saw our county seat, I think the number of real estate offices outnumbered both bars and churches. Marginal ranch land — that without irrigation or much surface water — was being subdivided heavily in the 1960s and 1970s. Construction work sustained many younger men who might otherwise have left to seek work elsewhere.

The buyers tended to be the young retirees — not the Baby Boomers, until recently, but the generations before.

Like my sixtyish parents moving to Whidbey Island, Washington — Dad totally into his new "career" as a boat-owning near-full-time recreational fisherman. 

Then something happens as this group ages. They get worried about being so far from the hospital. Or their adult kids begin a pressure campaign: "Mom, you can't live out there! What if something happens?"

Which brings us back to the real-estate market.

When M. and I purchased some land adjacent to ours that came on the market in 2011, the sellers' agent admitted that the market in the outlying areas was flatter than flat. I think that ours was the only purchase around here that year.

One house on our road was sold by a middle-aged couple to another similar—it took two years to sell. The sellers took a loss of at least ten percent and probably considered themselves lucky. (Investment? Hah.)

Another Gen X couple had to move because of a job transfer, leaving a pleasant house and garage on a small acreage with stables. It's still empty. There is a for-sale sign out front, but it is not listed on the agency's website, so the listing might have expired.

Another couple was in a similar position. Their house did not sell, so their twenty-something son lives there with a rotating cast of girlfriends, etc., as the house gradually looks seedier and seedier.

One neighbor recently died at 81. When his estate is settled, will his personal representative price the house to move, or will it just sit there too?

Finally, another neighbor, in her early 90s, has been on the receiving end of a "Mom, you have to move" campaign for years, and will probably be gone by the end of March.

The lights are going out.

So beyond the effects of the recent housing bust, I too wonder if having 35 acres and a spacious house like the one in the photo above is just losing its appeal.  It was not just a Baby Boomer thing — some of my neighbors were older than that, and some of them were younger.

Will we end up with countless 4,000–9,000 square foot houses sitting empty, sort of like Detroit with pine trees? Not necessarily a bad thing from an ecological viewpoint, but hard on local government that has gotten used to having the property-tax revenues.

March 04, 2013

Passing of Mary Crow Dog

The New York Times reports the death of Mary Ellen Moore-Richard, better known under her other name of Mary Crow Dog, which she used for her books Lakota Woman and Ohitika Woman.

An early member of the American Indian Movement (AIM), she remained a defender of its influence:
“Before AIM came, people didn’t have their long hair, people didn’t have their Indian pride,” she said. “Everybody was assimilated. These people still put AIM people down, but now they are having sun dances. Before, nobody did it because everybody was Catholic and nobody knew about the Indian ways until the AIM people came. Now they are a lot better off, but they still don’t recognize the movement.”

Stay with the Vehicle!

This man loved his little girl very much, but he made one bad decision in a blizzard-survival situation.
Mr Okada called his relatives to say his truck had become stranded in the driving snow, which was several metres deep in places. He told them he and Natsune would walk the remaining kilometre, the Yomiuri Shimbun said.
No, better to stay where you are.

March 02, 2013

Oh no, the tour bus has caught on fire at the filling station and now the high school is threatened!

A tour bus lies next to the yellow "gas station." Crumpled white paper represents smoke from burning buildings.
The idea of grown-ups pushing toy fire engines around while making siren noises is funny,  but the evening becomes more serious as it goes on.

Still re-assessing the communications snafus from the October 23, 2012, fire, the county emergency services manager has set a training exercise for the fire departments, sheriff's office, ambulance service, etc. (Models and coaching provided by Blue Cell.)

In the first scenario, a school shooting, I fill in as a state trooper. My job is to stop traffic coming into town on a two-lane highway. Not too hard.

In the second scenario—the tour bus fire—our water tender and one engine make the half-hour drive to the county seat, are temporarily forgotten in the staging area (Lesson: who is your staging manager?), and are then dispatched miles out of a town to a house fire in a small resort area.

Only it started as part of a domestic-violence incident, and the guy is running around with a shotgun! This time a new state trooper arrives and captures him! (Nice work, Ricardo.) We draft water from the nearby lake to refill the tender and the engine and continue mop-up and overhaul at the house. OK.

For the last scenario, the scene shifts to our corner of the county, where a lightning-caused fire has popped up near Something Creek Estates. "Driving" the water tender, I follow our brush truck up the narrow gravel road that provides the only access.

Since that crew has their hands full, I am on the radio more, and now I am default incident commander. So it goes with the volunteers: whoever shows up is the crew, and the chain of command is vague at first.

I call for mutual aid—other departments and the feds, since the fire is on the national forest border. Can we get an air tanker?

And then the deluge hits: Do I want to order an evacuation? What areas? Where do the evacuees go to check in? Who has keys to that building? Where are the arriving mutual-aid units supposed to stage? What about the media — there is a TV crew already near the fire house—do we ask them to move back "for safety"? Where do the roadblocks go? The evacuation order covered the wildlife rehabilitators' home—who will help rescue the bear cubs?

And two houses are already burning.

I am rapidly hitting the "Help! Make it stop!" point. 

By that point in the evening, everyone is a little tired, and attention starts to wander. We let the scenario trail off with no clear ending — so it is still bouncing around in my head when I wake up this morning.