Friday, September 29, 2006


Of the prehistoric Southwestern archaeological cultures the one that I have the least personal experience with is the Sinagua. The Sinagua were located in the Flagstaff, Arizona area from about AD 1100 - 1400, and were a sedentary agricultural people. They were located physically between the three great Southwestern cultural traditions, the Hohokam, Anasazi (Ancestral Pueblo), and Mogollon and took some material culture elements from each of these. It was originally thought the Sinagua were attracted to the area by positive effects that volcanic ash from the 1064 eruption of nearby Sunset Crater had on agriculture. More recent research seems to discount this. They abandoned the area around 1400 for unknown reasons.

Since we found ourselves in the middle of the Sinagua home territory during vacation we took a day to visit three of their better known sites. The beautiful cliff-dwelling in the picture above is Montezuma's Castle. Early Anglo settlers in the area were erroneously convinced that it must have been built by Aztecs. It is part of a settlement complex in a small valley that included another cliff-dwelling (unfortunately destroyed) and pithouse dwellings on the valley floor.

As I said earlier, the Sinagua took elements from neighboring cultures. Cliff-dwellings are an Anasazi pattern as are the surface pueblos they built elsewhere, like we saw at Tuzigoot in the nearby Verde Valley. Their utilitarian ceramics were brownwares like the Mogollon, but their decorated pottery was black-on-white like the Anasazi. The Sinagua sometimes built Mogollon-like pithouses and like the Hohokam played a variant of the Mesoamerican ball-game.

This is Montezuma's Well, about four miles away from the cliff-dwelling. It is a collapsed limestone sink-hole spring that flows 1.5 million gallons a day and was a magnet for prehistoric settlement. If you look closely on the left side of the photo you can see some masonry rooms tucked into an overhang above the spring. There was a masonry surface pueblo on the rim of the sink-hole where I took this picture.

Here's Connie cooling her tootsies in a Sinagua irrigation canal (with modern sidewalk) that captures the flow from the spring's outlet. A refreshing spot in a hot, dry location now and a thousand years ago.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Firefighters at Rest

On the way into work this morning I took this picture

........and this one of slurry bombers that the Forest Service has based at the Santa Barbara Airport. These P-3 Orions spent the early part of their lives patrolling for Soviet submarines, but have been extremely busy lately fighting the Day Fire in Ventura County that I posted on last week. As the LA Times reports, this fire has burned 159,000 acres so far and is finally reaching populated areas. Some of the first structures burned in this fire went up yesterday.

The Forest Service has set up this information display outside of what they call the Goleta Air Attack Base. The slurry carried by the bombers is based on a phosphate-rich fertilizer, which actually will help regrowth after the fire. The P-3s carry something like 2,400 gallons. I can hear them groaning down the runway with this heavy burden all day long. The left side of the display has a map of the Day Fire's extent.

The display also shows that firefighting from the air is serious business. The two pedestals with brass plaques are memorials to flight crews killed in the line of duty.

A Querencia Sunset

And the appreciative spectators

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Return to the Trail

Regular readers may recall a post I put up in June, where I told of a frightening accident my dogs and I had on a local trail. My Australian Shepherd pup Sadie, fell off of the trail nearly 20 feet down into a creek bottom but was miraculously unhurt.

Saturday afternoon I took the two dogs back for a hike on that trail (the Jesusita Trail). It was my first trip back there with the dogs since Sadie's fall. It occured to me during a conversation with Rebecca on Thursday that I'd been avoiding it, and needed to "get back up on the horse."

At the base of the section where Sadie fell, I snapped a lead on her and wanted to hustle the dogs up past there. As we went up, Sadie and Maggie (our Black Lab) walked side by side to the exact spot where Sadie went over, stopped, peered down into the creek, sniffed the air a little, and then turned and walked up the trail. When we came back down, they ignored that spot and didn't display any similar behavior anywhere else on the hike. They remembered!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

When You're in Love With a Jersey Girl

Guest contributor Jacob Sewall recounts his first experiences in the pigeon fancy (glory days?), set to the music of Bruce Springsteen:

The Jersey Girl

© Jacob Sewall, 2006

"The year it came out, my father got the Springsteen boxed set, Live 1975–1985, on LP and my lifelong (thus far) love affair with Springsteen was born. With that new technology the cassette tape recorder surpassing the old reel-to-reel from the PX in Japan, Dad put the LPs onto tape so we could listen in the car. The physical distance those tapes would travel was surpassed only by the cumulative sum of the revolutions of the tiny wheels inside the cassettes, 1975 – 1985 was the soundtrack to my travels, and much of my life, for the decades following.

Springsteen’s music, from those years at least, revolved around New York and “Jersey” – places that were so far away as to seem foreign – and I put my own context to the music as it paced my life, places, and events. All of which came crashing together when I was 15..."


Monday, September 25, 2006

A Way I Have of Driving Off the Spleen

“…Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off - then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can…”

Had Ishmael been a falconer, he might have ventured then into some High Plains cow pasture and told us quite a different story. Moby Hare, perhaps.

Hawking season's here. I know I'm writing less and being less productive generally. Except for when I'm in the field, I'm usually thinking of it.

Steve too reports a strong seasonal urge to get outside: to take the dogs hunting, see some country, visit friends and maybe knock a few hats off:

"I might be a bit slow blogging for a bit, at least on 'read this' type posts.

"I need to get out more, as sitting in this chair is killing me mentally and physically. Mentally I'm sure you can understand. Physically is a bit scarier even. I put myself to a very hard Magdalena hike because I thought I needed to improve my wind (4000 feet up and down over a six- mile course, all washed out so I was walking on boulders). My wind was fine. My arthritis was another story--bad enough in my hip and shoulder that I am picking Annie's brain on hip transplants. Couldn't sleep even with painkillers for two days. I knew it was bad but..."

I suggested we take a break from the blog, post a virtual “Gone Huntin’” sign on the shop window and come back to it in March. But Steve and Reid are both still eager to write, if maybe a little less often with the “news commentary,” now almost de rigueur in this format.

We all agreed we’d rather follow the lead of our favorite bloggers in the sidebar---most of whom leave news commentary to the talking heads and strike out on their own.

So, no closing the shop at Querencia; more like a reduction in office hours.

"I honestly don't want to shut it down--just take a breather.

...I won't be communicating any less whatsoever, and keep sending me news stories. I'm just trying to be a little less obsessive about the Internet. It's insidious. With no ability to go hawking, I just sit in the chair more and more, which makes me less physically able and more dependent on the web, and so on."

I'm guessing most of our readers understand... Hello? Anyone there?

Steve, Reid: I think they've all gone hunting.

High plains cow pasture?

Dr. Hypercube

Introducing (exposing?) John Pittman, doing-business-as "Dr. Hypercube" in various post comments here. Says Steve: "...Our frequent commenter, like Pluvi before him, has been shyly concealing a GREAT blog :"

We're adding John to the blogroll today!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Bat Blogging

A few weeks ago, Connie and I were hiking on one of our Santa Barbara urban trails during the middle of the day. We were walking through this unremarkable overpass when we noticed chirping sounds coming from expansion joints that were running the length of the bridge.

Closer examination showed these piles of bat guano under the bridge. In fact, on the trail side the guano was deposited in straight lines following the path of the expansion joints where the bats were roosting. I don't know a great deal about bats, but have always found them interesting and enjoyed watching them fly their erratic paths through the sky at dusk. My biologist colleagues tell me that these are likely Mexican Free-tailed Bats. They are generally good neighbors, eating mosquitoes and other insect pests.

It took me some days before I remembered to go back to the underpass just before dusk to watch the bats emerge to start their day. As it got darker and darker, the chirping and chittering sounds got louder and changed in pitch as the bats awoke and urged each other to get up and go catch breakfast.

I was expecting to see some bats, but was totally unprepared for the rush of hundreds of bats that came pouring out of the joints in the bridge that you can see here. I don't have the right photo equipment to do this justice, but I hope this shot gives you some idea of the volume of bats boiling out of the area. It was very impressive and really a lot of fun.

I blew this shot up some so you can see a couple of the guys zooming around under the bridge.

One other observation that surprised me. When the bats came pouring out in large numbers you could smell them. An odor somewhat like wet, dirty dogs.

Fernando Librado and Falcon 2

In 1976 as a Bicentennial Project and as a Chumash cultural revival item, a team of Chumash and anthropologists used Harrington's notes and Librado's canoe to build a replica tomol. Appropriately enough, it was named Helek, and was paddled out to the Channel Islands by a Chumash crew. The file photo above shows Helek in action in the 70s.

Helek is long retired from sea duty, and is now hung on the wall in the Fleischman Auditorium at the Museum of Natural History, across a courtyard from the boat Librado built, as you can see in my photo here.

This last shot shows some detail of abalone shell inlay on the Helek's bow. The sewn-plank method of construction is apparent, and also the unique pattern of the paddle blades - I think they look like ginko leaves. The Chumash used double-bladed paddles, as we are familiar with from kayaks, but Harrington did not record any blade shape. This was taken from a Chumash paddle collected in the Santa Barbara area by the Vancouver Expedition in 1793, that currently resides in the British Museum.

Helek has had a number of successors. Just as we were leaving on vacation three weeks ago, I saw on the local news that a group of Chumash paddled a tomol from Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard out to Scorpion Harbor on Santa Cruz Island.

Fernando Librado and Falcon 1

I was recently reading Helen MacDonald's (familiar in these parts as Pluvialis) wonderful book Falcon (well reviewed here) when I was struck by this sentence:

"In the early twentieth century, Fernando Librado related how the crew of a Chumash sea canoe were all saved through the intercession of the captain's dreamhelper, the peregrine, during a storm." p. 54

I'm not sure of Helen's source for this, but it touched on some local matters that I am acquainted with and thought it worth expanding into this post.

Fernando Librado was a principal Chumash informant to a famous and famously eccentric anthropologist (who will get his own post later on) named John Peabody Harrington. Harrington hired Librado to build the last native built tomol, or plank sea canoe, in 1912. Librado was in his 70s then and was the last Chumash who knew how to build one. The photo above shows Librado, the white-bearded man on the right, and Harrington, the tallest figure in the group on the left, during the canoe's construction.

This canoe still exists, and is hanging on the wall of the Chumash Hall at the Santa Barbara Museumof Natural History, where I took its picture above.

Harrington took extensive notes (2,500 pages) and made some plans and photographs of the process of construction. He also gathered much information on the Chumash social group that built and operated the tomol, a pan-village organization (each village was nominally politically independant) called the "Brotherhood of the Canoe." The spirit totem for the Brotherhood was Helek or peregrine, as Helen mentioned. In almost all Chumash myths dealing with sea canoes, the boat is captained by Helek, though he is often accompanied by his two fishing buddies, He'w (pelican) and Mut (cormorant).

It is apparent I am going to have to split this into two posts to show all the photos I would like due to Blogger's content limitations.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Good Reads Elsewhere

Both Peculiar at O & P and Heidi have been producing an inordinate amount of good bloggage lately and you should really read all of it. But a few highlights: here, Peculiar writes an essay on the late Steve Irwin that is far better than my brief commemoration below, going as he does into what high risk pursuits actually are (see also splendid photos above and below this post)

And here he describes a particular ten- book "stockchen" (meme) that I am hereby tagged with, and will post soon. He gives me too much credit-- I read fast but therefore must keep a huge pile of books bedside and elsewhere-- I am notorious for taking two or three in the CAR-- to feed my raging appetite.

As for Heidi-- if you have time read it all of course. But my favorites are on Equestrian Chic and -- Demolition Derbies!

One More Religion Post

Not a subject I want to get into often here, but this essay on The New Republic's blog ( by a writer who is a secular Jew)seemed to have some small- l liberal things to say about the Pope controversy.

Money quote:

"By my human standards "No man comes unto the father but through Me" is a terrible way to run a universe; but if there is a God I have no reason to think that His rules will conform to my contingent, twenty-first-century Western liberal human standards. And so I don't expect religious believers to softpedal the exclusionary implications of their beliefs. I don't think Unitarian Universalism is somehow a better religion than Catholicism or Mormonism or Orthodox Judaism ( sorry Mary !)just because its god seems to be so nice and inclusive; indeed, my sympathies for the aesthetic and moral-psychological experience of religious belief tends to run the other way. This is a bit like the stance of many American lapsed Catholic or many Israeli secular Jews, I incline to say, "I don't believe in God, but the God in whom I don't believe is a serious one!" But I don't quite mean that. Rather, I want to say that if there is a point to religion and theology, then that point is undermined by the reluctance to draw distinctions and take them seriously."

Jolly Good!

Merrie Olde England--the one with guns and fieldsports--may be gone (or going), but a few good souls refuse to let her die. Enter The Connaught Square Squirrel Hunt. You may recall a couple previous stories we shared, wherein British citizens lampooned the Hunting Act of 2004 (which outlawed, among other things, encouraging your dog to chase rodents) by publicly encouraging their dogs to chase rodents.

Elevating this idea to nearly an art form, The Connaught Square Squirrel Hunt holds a "drag hunt" (with a lure) for a single pet terrier named Dylan (or Dillion: "he can't spell") , across a public park in London.

Drag-hunting squirrels is a true art and we're only just beginning to learn its dark secrets. This is where we are so far:

First, you must prepare your "drag". After various experiments, we discovered that doesn't need to look or smell anything like a squirrel. It just has to catch the hound's eye. So we use an old sports sock.

Next, you must find a willing Huntsman to volunteer to run from the hound pulling the "drag". This is called "laying a line", so the professionals tell us. It's a good idea to start slowly to catch the hound"s attention and then accelerate away. Usually, we ask the Huntsman to run in a curve to allow the slower followers to cut the corner!

Then comes the most important part: the release.

It's a fine balance. Release the hound too early doesn'the drag doesn't last long enough to be exciting. Release him too late and he may lose the line. This can be quite embarrassing when he's running through tourists and picnics in Hyde Park followed by dozens of panting followers....

It's the perfect foil, made an even better farce by The Hunt's "official" attire and social schedule:

The inaugural ball
7.30 Reception - Complimentary CSSH cocktails.
8.15 Dinner - Three course meal with 6 bottles of wine per table. Music by The Royal Marine Band. Wine by Jeroboam's.
10.00 Auction - Assisted by "Mystery Hunt Follower". Lots donated so far include: 2 week safari with a private plane, a Scooter, caps with several generous hunts, polo lessons, shooting lessons.
10.30 Dancing to The Royal Marine Band upstairs and to a world class DJ in the vaults. Cash bar.
1.30 Carriages

There will also be a raffle of fine items and various other amusements


Hunt Colours, White Tie or Banned Quarry
Our hunt colours are midnight blue and shocking pink; please feel free to wear them.
Orders and decorations may be worn.

And so why all this?

It is absurd that the Hunting Act prohibits you from encouraging a dog to chase a squirrel. More than that, it is frightening that your dog could be put down and you could be fined £5,000 for saying "Go on Rover, get after it!".

What is really sinister though, is that if a policeman thought you might want your dog to chase a squirrel in the future, he could raid your home and confiscate evidence.. All this without a warrant from a Magistrate: even a suspected burglar has more rights than a suspected Squirrel-Hunter!

When we realised that the innocent habits of most dog-owners were illegal, it was clear that this should be publicised as much as possible. People should be made aware of the law and how to act within it. And the more people that think the Hunting Act is an ass, the more people will support its repeal.

Hat tip to Roseann for this link!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Puppies Like to Chew

........all sorts of things, including cell phones. Here is mine (thank you, Sadie!) and believe it or not it still works. I'm sure Steve can relate.

Fire Season II

Back in June, I posted on the beginning of fire season in this region. Believe me, it is still going strong here, with a monster fire, called the Day Fire, raging east of here. The LA Times had good run-downs on it yesterday and today. It really slapped me in the face over the weekend.

I went to the USC-Nebraska football game in LA Saturday night (Lauren got me a ticket for my birthday) and driving back late that night, I was headed north on I-5. When I got to Valencia you could smell the fire and see it on the horizon. From there I headed west on SR-126 and could either see the fire on the skyline or see it reflected in the smoke above it all the way past Lake Piru. That's about 12 miles or so east-west. It's burned almost 70,000 acres so far. I passed a convoy of six LA County firetrucks headed west into Ventura County to fight it.

The Santa Ana winds are blowing straight out of the east and pushing the fire west into the town of Ojai. The smoke and ash are blowing straight into here. When I got here into Santa Barbara about 1 AM the ash was so thick it was like driving in snow flurries. And this is with the fire about 30 miles away. Here's a picture of ash on the car I took the next morning.

My office window looks out on the Santa Barbara airport and I have been watching the bomber shown in the top picture continually flying in and out over the last two days.

We are in for a tough time with this as it could be another month before it starts raining again. Like I said in June, pray for rain.

DNA Research and the Chumash

This interesting article appeared in the LA Times while I was out of town. It discusses the work Dr. John Johnson of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History and others are doing with mitochondrial DNA in living Native Americans and prehistoric remains and what it has to say about the peopling of the New World. Johnson tells me he believes his data supports the hypothesis of a coastal migration.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Steve Releases the Pigeons

In Magdalena. Plus the other pigeon loft.


We will soon have a European correspondent-- a Magdalenian at that.

Here is a foretaste:

"In any event, I spent the last week in Tirana, Albania. It's an interesting city, really in the early stages of becoming a completely different place I think. All the buildings are garishly painted in fresh coats of primary colors, randomly pieced together, just a huge affront, I think, to Soviet greyness. It's a very insular place, and difficult to get around in. I went on a days notice and arrived not knowing a single word. After a few days I had a few basic expressions down, but it was still a chore to communicate even simple things, and a lot of the time, when someone couldn't understand me, they would just give up, turn around and put me, apparently, completely out of their mind. It was a great experience."

Pure Fun

Another fine and funny female essayist has a piece up on-- well, a lot of things, including bottoms, bosoms, and "Things which are neither one thing or the other". Here as a taste is a swerve through (over?) vegetarians:

"Vegetarians are a pain at dinner parties, forcing decent omnivores to eat like rabbits or the host to cook extra food. They are also a pain in restaurants, which now must include vegetarian dishes at the expense of other meat dishes. Really, vegetarians should stay at home, but they don’t. London is heaving with them. While failing to make decent guests, they also fail to make a difference to animal welfare. Movements for “cruelty-free” meat, such as Compassion in World Farming, could make a difference. But the world is not going to become vegetarian and nor should it. Moreover, a vegetarian who eats dairy products condemns male calves to slaughter. And what is a vegetarian who doesn’t eat dairy products? A vegan. Vegans are whey-faced, cadaverous lunatics, but they are consistent. Sorry, veggies, you are neither one thing nor the other. Eat meat or go the whole hog and be a vegan."

MUCH more there...

NOT prissy!

Larissa-- who is as far from a "frigid, frustrated suburban biddy" as anyone I can think of, is furious with, among other things, crude come- ons:

"But when he spoke, his intentions were so unappetizingly clear—so impersonally sex-driven –that out of abashment and instinctive non-whoriness I mentally aborted those embryonic “maybe” thoughts I had harbored for him and felt my loins frosting over as I waited for the barrage of come-ons to end. So unworried was he that his baldfaced bluntness was inappropriate, unappealing, or even downright repulsive to any woman who wasn’t a slipshod floozy, that when I declined, instead of rethinking his tactic and hazarding a different one, he demanded that I explain why I wasn’t interested. As flummoxed as I was at hearing that a one night stand with the likes of him or bloody-anyone should fill my heart with giddy joy or whatever, the second shock of being challenged to justify myself left me stunned. I should have slapped him, and only later did I realize how unfortunate it really was that I hadn’t slapped him, because there was a deeper insult I hadn’t articulated to myself in the moment: He not only thought I was the kind of person (slipshod floozy) who would respond to such crassness, but he felt he could say it to my face."

If I were on the receiving end of this splendid essay, I'd join, not a monastery, but the Skopti. How's that for a Russian ref, Lulu?

Shoot the editor, too.

Tired Roza

As I mentioned in my earlier post about the tazi puppies' first time in the field, they were quite beat by the time we needed to head back to the trucks and got carried back the last little way.

Some of us had security blankets when we were little. Roza has a securty chair, that apparently served as a refuge from the rough-and-tumble puppy scrum of her siblings and cousins at the Bodio's. She immediately plopped there for a nap. When Connie and Libby stopped to pet her in the chair, she growled at them a little, afraid they were going to interrupt her rest. Larissa was racked out in the kennel to the left in this photo.

BTW, look at the size of her feet. She's going to be tall and lanky like her mother.


.. of the Pope from some unusual quarters. From the Guardian:

"Poor old Pope Benedict XVI (not a description I thought I'd ever use) seems to have inflamed some excitable sections of Muslim opinion around the world with his ruminations to scientists at Regensburg University during his trip to Germany this week."


"Benedict's offence, of course, was recklessly to quote this 600 year-old expression of the point of view of a medieval Middle Eastern potentate. He didn't endorse it, didn't say that it was his own view, attributed it in context. And is now told that he has "aroused the anger of the whole Islamic world". Most of which, probably, had never heard of Manuel II Paleologue before this morning. Perhaps the pope should be careful of bringing such subversive ancient texts to light.

"On the other hand, if you cannot, as part of a lengthy and profound academic lecture, cite a 600 year-old text for fear of stirring the aggravation of noisy politicians half way around the world, what CAN you do? We might as well all retreat into obscurantism. And keep our mouths shut, for otherwise, who knows who we might offend. And if, as a result of the outrage, some Catholics get killed or their churches burned down by offended scholars and textual exegesists it might be thought that Manuel's original point had rather been made."

A militant atheist is also pissed off. Of course, he hates everybody.

Hunting Post 9- 11

Curmudgeonly writer Dave Petzal, in his "Gun Nut" identity, reminisces about the old days. I might start filing him under "Decline and Fall":

"In the early 1970s, when I began flying to hunt, you could take a rifle on board a plane in a soft case and ask the stewardess (which is what they were called then) to give it to the pilot and have him keep it in the cockpit. Contrast this with last year, when prior to flying home from a hunt, a vigilant security employee relieved me of a 1/2-inch safety pin before I was allowed to board.

"At the Charlestown, West Virginia, airport a couple of years ago, a bunch of my fellow gun writers were forbidden (in contradiction of TSA policy) to take riflescopes with them onto the plane by a dedicated if brain-damaged TSA agent who informed them that the scopes “…could be used as clubs.” "

Read it all-- more, and worse, as an old girlfriend used to say.

In 1996 in Mongolia I was on an internal flight where a lovely, chic young woman carried a bolt- action Mauser sporter to her seat. Uncased. Far as I could see nobody even checked to see if it was loaded...

See below.

All Hunters Love to Hunt..

... whether animal or human. Carel gets philosophical with a young animal rights activist over predatory biophilia:

"In essence, Tim and his hunter target audience are both motivated by the same animal drive: an innate love and fascination with other animals, that thing that Edward O. Wilson called biophilia, a trait that's strongest in the predators: the sated leopard that watches each gazelle with keen interest, the wolves that slaughter the silly contents of a sheep corral and leave them for the magpies, and the well-fed suburbanite, an SUV hauling his camo-clad ass up the mountainside."

Nice Aplomado too. Sure wish I could afford a Carel artwork!

Wimp World

Chas sent me this article from MacLeans that documents once more what a culture of fearful wimps we are becoming.

"Ute Navidi, who heads a British children's charity called London Play, was walking along a Berlin street, on a break from an international conference, when she stopped to watch a group of primary schoolchildren in the schoolyard. She couldn't believe what she was seeing. "If this was London they would have called in search- and-rescue," says Navidi. "Or the health inspector would have come in and shut the place down." Young German kids were chopping wood with axes and mixing soups in a cauldron over an open flame. Children who looked like kindergarteners were manoeuvring kayaks on their own in a large pond while the adults chatted on the sidelines. The scene got Navidi worried -- and not for those kids. The risks the German children were learning to manage far surpassed anything schoolchildren in her city were doing.

"In Britain, as in Canada, the U.S. and elsewhere, an overwhelming concern for safety -- along with a desire to safeguard against child-injury litigation -- has completely altered the landscape of kids' activities over the past 20 years. On playgrounds, it's meant lowering jungle gyms, rubberizing play surfaces, and eliminating play areas with ponds and trees. Some districts have gone as far as banning swing sets and posting signs prohibiting running. Last summer, a father in St. John's, Nfld., was forced to dissemble his children's tree house after a neighbour complained to the city; he was told it didn't meet building codes. A pamphlet on playground safety from Halifax-based Child Safety Link sets out stringent recommendations to parents: ensure your child never jumps off a moving swing; be on the lookout for tripping hazards like tree stumps; never let your child wear a scarf, because she could choke."


"Instead, kids today spend 90 per cent of their days indoors. By some estimates, time spent in lessons and other adult-managed activities has doubled over the past two decades to five hours per week. And kids spend more time with parents -- eight hours more with their mothers and four more with fathers -- compared with 1981. The radius of play of the average nine-year-old has shrunk to one-ninth of what it was in 1970.

"It's all working to keep kids from doing what they've done since humanity began: going outside into spaces where they can jump streams, climb trees, use sticks as swords, and do unjust things to ants and flies. According to a decade's worth of largely overlooked research, this free play is key to developing physical, mental and emotional skills -- such as self-reliance, risk-taking, altruism and delayed gratification -- that help children form into competent, functioning adults. "We seem to need to get our hands dirty and our feet wet from time to time," says Richard Louv, author of last year's landmark Last Child in the Woods, which compiled the mounting evidence supporting the need to reconnect kids to the outdoors. "We don't fully understand why that's necessary to our mental and physical health, but there does seem to be something there." "


"For Ute Navidi, it's nothing less than getting parents to recognize the importance of childhood, and it's become a mission. When she asks audiences to reminisce about their childhood experiences, they recall excitedly how they climbed trees, got dirty, built forts and broke a lot of limbs. Within a couple of minutes, she says she has trouble quieting them down. But when she asks about the same risk-taking opportunities for their kids, they balk. "I wouldn't let my children do that" is the common refrain. "We don't know what the long-term effects of this downsized childhood are going to be," she says. "We can only imagine." "

Don't know how I lived to be twenty, never mind 56. Read it all.

.. and a "New" Bird

Also from Walter: a beautiful little new bird species from northeastern India, a hard place to get to. (I'd love to). Its name is Liocichla bugunorum, and it looks VERY different from the only other Liocichla in southern Asia (anywhere, I believe), which is found further east and is mostly dark brown.

"New" Wolf

Walter Hingley sent me a story by Philip Lee from the Ottawa Citizen (no link) with fascinating implications: it seems that the big, deer- eating canid of eastern Canada and New England is not a hybrid, as has been routinely claimed, but a third species of "wolf", counting the coyote (or fourth-- it may or may not be conspecific with the red wolf of the south). And as I have been arguing for years, it is the wolf of the early colonists, reclaiming its ground from Canada as the forests came back.

"For decades, biologists had been arguing that the wolves in Algonquin Park were hybrids, a combination of grey wolves and western coyotes. That theory has now been blown apart by new research that shows they are a separate species.

"After four years of pioneering scientific investigation, a team of Canadian
wildlife geneticists has rewritten the history of wolves in North America.

" "It is an eastern wolf," Mr. White says. "If it was a sub-species of grey
wolf, it should have grey wolf in it. It doesn't have grey wolf in it. That
lends support that the whole of the East Coast of North America had this
wolf and it was not a grey wolf. It was one big population." Mr. White says
researchers believe the red wolf is simply the southern remnant of this

" "Our data supports the fact that it is a real species and that this species
was in fact the dominant wolf from east of the Mississippi, the Gulf Coast
north up to the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence. That was the eastern timber
wolf that the original colonial people would have seen."

"The story of the eastern wolf begins one to two million years ago when there
was a common wolf ancestor in North America. Some of these wolves travelled
to Europe and Asia over the land bridge where they evolved independently
into the grey wolf. The wolves that remained in North America evolved into
the smaller eastern North America wolf. About 300,000 years ago, an offshoot
of this wolf evolved into the western coyote.

"Also about 300,000 years ago, the grey wolf returned to North America over
the ice bridge.

"When European settlers arrived in North America, they began clearing land,
farming and killing wolves. The wolves that survived migrated north into
Canada, a more pristine environment away from the slaughter."


"In North Carolina, the red wolf reintroduction managers are using the
Canadian laboratories to try to protect a pure genetic strain of wolf. The
wolves they have reintroduced to the wild are breeding with coyotes.
Biologists are removing hybrids and coyotes to protect the genetic purity of
their endangered wolves. Mr. White thinks such a program is a mistake and
ultimately may be doomed.

" "We're acting as God," he says. "I don't think there's such a thing as pure.
It's very hard to know what's pure and whether it has any meaning. I take a
much more functional view of the world.

" "We need top-end predators in these various ecosystems and we need them to
be suitable."

"He uses the evolution of the eastern wolves in Algonquin Park to make his
point. There, wolves have been evolving according to changes in the
ecosystem. The wolves on the southeast edge of the park have been breeding
with coyotes. Wolves in the north have been breeding with grey wolves.

" "Whether in between that is a more pure one, whatever that may mean, is
anybody's guess," Mr. White says. "We can, from the genetics, show that
there is really one large population that expands from Manitoba, Minnesota,
Wisconsin, Michigan, through Ontario and Quebec. That population is
exchanging genes among themselves. There is an evolution going on.

" "I view this as a wonderful kind of reflection of Canadian biodiversity, in
that we've got three species that have put their genes into the mix. We've
got a landscape that's been heavily impacted by humans and we're watching
how this might unfold." "


Says Matt: "How desperate we all are to pin down every thing as fact, just to have a little imagined control over it. The Big Corrections come around every once in a while and remind us how much "in charge" we really are, butwe soon forget them. Maybe that's our special talent."

"Big Corrections"-- I love it.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Back to the Truck

As Plummer is nine years old, my working title for this picture is "Three Middle-aged Guys Headed Back to the Truck."

Tazi Disposition

It's obvious from this picture of Connie bonding with the girls that tazis are vicious brutes prone to terrorizing small children and unfit for human companionship.

First Time Out

Hanging out at this blog, I have obviously been reading about and seeing pictures of tazis forever. Finally in Magdalena I got to see and interact with these fascinating dogs and see them in action. We've all been looking at pictures of the puppies, so it was a thrill to be able to go out with the two puppies Steve has kept, Larissa and Roza (formerly known as Fatty) on their first trip to the field with the pack.

Steve, Libby, Connie, me and Daniela Imre, a Bodio neighbor and fellow tazi owner/enthusiast, took the entire pack (including Lily the dachshund) out to two locations north of town for a run. And these dogs do dearly love to run. Here they are just out of the truck getting wound up to take off, with the pups doing their best to keep up.

If I remember correctly the dogs flushed two cottontails and a jackrabbit for chases but did not catch any of the three. The cottontails went down holes and the jack somehow gave them the slip. Plummer the lurcher was also a surprise to me. He is a faster accelerator than the tazis - more muscular, built like a sprinter - and was quicker off the mark with the rabbits. But in the long haul, the tazis kick into overdrive and zoom past him. So fast. After the two cottontails, the pack took a break in the shade of a juniper.

Larissa and Roza took a break, too. Actually they took two or three. They have a lot of growing and conditioning ahead of them to keep up with the adults. But they obviously loved the whole experience and showed the hunting instinct that Steve is breeding for.

The puppies ran hard, and were pretty much out of gas by the time we started back to the trucks. Libby and Daniela picked them up and carried them the last little way.

I thought it would be most effective for this post if Steve added his informed opinion of how the puppies first day in the field went.


Steve here. Not much to add-- Reid is a good observer, as we know! This is very early season, first week running really. I would have been shocked if we had caught anything, other than a clueless adolescent bunny. Wait until it is cool...

Up on Mt. Baldy

While visiting in Magdalena, Steve took us on a drive up to Mt. Baldy in the Cibola National Forest south of town. There we were treated to an amazingly spectacular view of the area to the west. I took some views with my film camera, and if any of them do justice when I get them back I will put them up here. Above, Libby, Steve and I are enjoying the view and watching about 30 ravens play in the wind currents.

As we descended the road back to town we saw a flock of a half-dozen wild turkeys on the side of the road not ten yards from the truck. I grabbed my film camera with the 28-200 zoom and sure enough, I was at the end of the roll in the camera. With no time to reload, I grabbed the digital point-and-shoot. Sure enough, the batteries were flat. Connie yelled that there were spare batteries in the glove box. By the time I could get them in and get out of the truck, this was the best shot I could get. Mr. Murphy was definitely on board that afternoon.

On the way up hill, Libby's sharp eyes noted a scattering of mushrooms along the bank of the creek that the road parallels. On the trip back down, we stopped at a pull-out and and went over to collect these angel-wings (Steve will have to provide the species name). So now there are more members in the "Querencia Club" established by Pluvialis for bloggers pictured next to edible fungi.

Here are the intrepid hunters posing with their prey.

Reid's Back

I have not been blogging the last couple of weeks as Connie and I were on vacation from September 3 until yesterday. We were on a driving tour of Arizona and New Mexico that included a visit with Steve and Libby in Magdalena. We saw lots on the trip that I will post on, but thought that I would paste in an "on the road" e-mail that I sent to Matt and others of our blog-family to sort of frame the stuff I will be putting in later.

"Have been on the road since Sunday 9-3-06 on our first real vacation in 3-4 years. We drove to Sedona, AZ that day through 100+ heat, the only exception being Rebecca's town of Banning where it clouded and rained. A friend of Connie's owns a condo in Sedona and she offered it to us for free. We vegetated there Monday, drinking beer by the pool and admiring the scenery. Condo is on a golf course - golf courses are VERY noisy with all the sprinklers and mowers and fountains in the water hazards. But free is good!

Sedona is beautiful Southwestern redrock country but the town is building out in the most hideous mix of low-end tacky tourism and high-end nueveaux-riche new-age idiocy. They were having a psychic fair and you can take energy vortex tours. As someone would say, lots of ass-hattery. Have pix of the beautiful scenery to blog.

Day-tripped out of Sedona on Tuesday to three very cool prehistoric sites: Montezuma's Castle, Montezuma's Well (both cliff-dwellings) and Tuzigoot Nat'l Monument. Lots of nice pix to blog. Then went to Jerome, an 1880's copper mining town perched on the side of a mountain. Interesting old buildings built on narrow terraces or with their butts hanging out off the mountain. Now a hippie artist colony.

Wednesday left Sedona and headed north up-hill to Flagstaff. It was 90 when we
left and due to elevation gain it was 54 and raining in Flagstaff necessitating
quick clothing change. Drove east on I-40 through a mix of light rain and dust
storms as the monsoon Steve has been describing started slowly phasing out. We were driving across the main part of the Navajo reservation (The Big Rez as people call it here) and we turned north off I-40 to town of Ganado where we visited the historic Hubbell Trading Post in operation since 1890s. Connie and I like antique Navajo rugs and these guys have a selection that just breaks your heart. Saw an 1870s "Germantown" style (will have to blog on Navajo rug styles) for $4800 that I couldn't afford. Every time I see one I kick myself again for not buying one like it 20 years ago for $500 because it was *too* expensive.

Drove from there east across the Rez (through the Navajo Nation Forest) to Window Rock, which is the admin center for the Navajo. The town was abuzz as it was the middle of the Navajo Tribal Fair and people had pitched tents in vacant lots all over town. We got a pic of the Window Rock, a cool natural arch, then left town and crossed into New Mexico where we spent the night in Gallup. Gallup is on the edge of the Big Rez and a trading center and we hit several trading posts the next morning buying a little jewelry and a Hopi pot. Then drove south of Gallup to Zuni pueblo, where I was hoping to get access to an area with lots of rock art that I blogged on months ago. The pix I have are old and incomplete and was hoping to get more pix and better coverage. Couldn't get in but was told that Zuni Tourism was negotiating access with tribal members who have the grazing lease there, as many Zuni are upset they can't get in either. Maybe later. Good news was that
many Zuni ceremonials that have been off-limits to outsiders for years (esp. Shalako katchina dance) are now open again and we will have to go. We last attended Shalako in 1981, a night-long ceremonial that is an amazing experience.

The whole country around there was amazingly green like spring, and covered with wild-flowers, due to the late monsoon. Driving into the Zuni river valley through all that and the ponderosa pine was like going to heaven. After Zuni we took a slight detour to El Morro Nat'l Monument. It is a mesa with lots of rock art and Spanish colonial inscriptions, earliest by Don Juan de Onate, el primero poblador, dated to 1605. Again lots of pix. Then drove southeast to catch US 60 at Quemado (the edge of Q country!) then straight through to Socorro, where we spent Thursdaynight.

Drove the next morning to Magdalena, where we missed connections with Steve and
Libby who were headed down the hill to Socorro to bank and run errands. Once straightened out via Connie's cell (mine didn't have coverage) we wandered around town sight-seeing and introducing ourselves to people. Eventually, the Bodios returned and tracked us down ("We were running out of places to look for you!") and we had lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon getting acquainted with their household, and visiting the legendary Golden Spur. We finally partook of the famous (and fabulous) rissott' with roast chicken at dinner. Saturday morning Libby had to work and Steve took us (along with Ataika) to a local prehistoric ruin at Goat Springs. We then picked L. up from work and went to Bosque del Apache NWR to watch birds. Despite a very wet year, they are not flooding the wetlands to attract birds (a scandal) and there wasn't as much to see as Steve had hoped. S. was very excited to see a Rough-legged Hawk down early from the arctic, though. Also visited with hawker Matt Mitchell who has a facility nearby.

Sunday morning, we took the dogs to a field just north of town, the first time the two pups had been out. They dogs put up two cottontails and a jack to get good runs, but didn't catch anything. Our first experience with tazis and would never believe dogs could run that fast. The pups loved it and showed their instincts but were so worn out we had to carry them back to the truck. Will post with lots of pix. Later in the day, we visited the nearby ghost town of Kelly and drove up to Mt. Baldy (10,000 ft) in Cibola NF. Driving down hill saw flock of wild turkeys and collected more ‘shrooms. We drove down to Socorro where we had dinner withthe Bodios, bade farewell, and then pressed on to Albuquerque to spend the night.

Monday, drove to Santa Fe, where we spent the day in galleries and at good restaurants and sight-seeing. Had supper with Libby's son Jack and his wife Nikki. Delightful people and lots of fun. Returned to Alb. where we spent the night and had a business meeting at Sandia Nat'l Laboratory the next day. We are now in Barstow, CA and on our way west toward home. Will blog with pix and more details."

More to come!

"Civil Unrest" Among the Ants

OK: Who here has ever pitted insects against each other in a jar? Even once? Or fed an ant lion? Surely... No show of hands, please; you know who you are.

Offering some proof to the suspicion that biologists are just highly-educated versions of the same people they were in grade school, here's a story about what some of them have been up to lately: Vicious Ants Made to Attack Their Own.

And a snippet:

"Getting the chemical treatment was dizzying. First, Tsutsui and his team coated the inside of a vial with the chemical. They plopped an ant into the tube and spun it in a machine for 90 seconds to make the chemical stick.

"'After all that shaking it's a little bit wobbly but usually it's still alive,' Sulc said. 'Then, we put it back into the Petri dish with ten of its friends from the same colony and then we observe how aggressive they are toward him.'

"The other ants immediately attacked, using their large mandibles, or jaws, to bite and tear off its legs, Sulc said."

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Dog- Blogging

Everyone has been asking for a "Pupdate". You will have to wait for Reid for Querencia home dog (and people) pics. But here are a few of the siblings.

Paul Domski's Zoltar (allegedly known as "Zolturd" when he has done something wrong):

Nate's Maty levitating in the steps of her lurcher "big sister" Pearl, also born at Casa Q:

John B's formally yet un- named "Striper" (does anyone out there know the Kazakh or Turkic for "tiger"? "Sherkhan" has been suggested):

Vladimir's Lara running with his son and grandson:

And "Nemruh", at Monica's east of Albuquerque but jointly owned by her and MaryBeth, who headed our "expedition" to Turkish Kurdistan last winter:

A Poet on Birds

Pluvialis has been blogging up a storm since her return from the 'Stans. See in particular the one on stars here and this one on migration.

Who but a poet could describe thrushes thus?

"Two species of thrushes visit Britain in winter. The smaller of the two is the redwing, a jaguar-like, shy, and slightly deranged thrush with devilish eyestripes and a burst of dried-blood rouge on each side. Redwings skulk in hedges and disappear with a thin seeeeep alarm call, and they slink about in the periphery of your vision when they first arrive."


" favourite arctic thrushes are fieldfares. They're big, bold, patterned and arch. Alternatively, they're grey, fierce and wolfish.They are splendid. You have to use the plural, when talking of fieldfares. They arrive in rattling flocks like gusts of spray or hail. They are noisy when they fly, and their chak-chak-chak call is like someone launching a handful of pebbles on an iced-over pond surface. Chack chack chack: echoey, dopplery, cold."

Better than Ted Hughes!

And this line:

"I love them also because they carry the arctic around them like coats."

Just the merest taste, believe me. I read her with astonished delight and a bit of envy. If I were still teaching nature writing her texts would be required reading.

ARists and Wahaabis-- separated at birth?

From Chas, this delightful tidbit:

"Saudi Arabia's religious police, normally tasked with chiding women to cover themselves and ensuring men attend mosque prayers, are turning to a new target: cats and dogs.

"The police have issued a decree banning the sale of the pets, seen as a sign of Western influence.

"The prohibition on dogs may be less of a surprise, since conservative Muslims despise dogs as unclean. But the cat ban befuddled many, since Islamic tradition holds that the Prophet Muhammad loved cats — and even let a cat drink from his ablutions water before washing himself for prayers."


""One bad habit spreading among our youths is the acquisition of dogs and showing them off in the streets and malls," wrote Aleetha al-Jihani in a letter to Al-Madina newspaper. "There's no doubt that such a matter makes one shudder."

" "Then what's the point of dragging a dog behind you?" he added. "This is blind emulation of the infidels."

"The decree has not been enforced yet, according to several pet shop owners and veterinary clinics in Jiddah. It applies only to selling dogs and cats, and there was no sign the Muttawa would confiscate pets."


You needn't RTWT unless you want to be more depressed. This is the home of the SALUKI for God's sake!

Sensible Man

From James Lileks' post 9-11 column:

"If I really ran a political site I would end up disappointing everyone, since I am a mess of superficially contradictory opinions (hands off regulating cable because of adult content; stop marking slut dolls to my little girl) and old-style liberal notions, like the primacy of individuality over race. I have zero objections to homosexuality but balk at redefining marriage. I recycle and abjure waste and live light as possible and dislike Hummers but I’m unimpressed by environmental scaremongering. I believe women are the intellectual equal of men but emotionally and psychologically different. (I don’t want to outweigh the firefighter who attempts to carry me down the steps, and I don’t want a 37-year old man leading my daughter’s Girl Scout troop. No Harvard jobs for me!) I would rather hang out with Iggy Pop than Frank Sinatra. I love the 50s but, if I lived there as a 20-something I'd be the sort of person who annoys me now, railing against the very symbols of artifice I prize today. I hate the 60s, but know full well I would have been a pretentious stoner antiestablishment wannabee until the pose cost me money. I think light rail is a money pit sinkhole beloved by New Urbanists, but support public subsidies of large-scale bus systems to move inner-city people to wherever the jobs may be. I dearly love the inner city but don’t care if people move to the burbs for nice houses and good schools. (I support the public schools. I support school choice.) For that matter I support the New Urbanists, except when they get high-mindedly pissy about people’s free choices. I believe in God, but I’m not throwing away my Coop books because he had a hot time at a Black Mass. I can’t stand everything Islamicists stand for, despair of the tide that seems to swamp a religion for which I have, despite my efforts, no empathetic connection whatsoever, but I celebrate the first Muslim in space. I dislike most TV, most modern music, and most movies, but love the big messy hot throbbing blob of Western pop culture, partly because I connect with part of it like a dog biting on a live wire, and partly because the loud rude crass mess spells freedom, and that is the root word at the heart of the American experiment. We can always learn ! from others, but they’ve much to learn from us. Unless they have a 200+ year track record of expanding rights and unimaginable prosperity as well. Did I forget to mention, forget to mention Memphis? Home of Elvis and the ancient Greeks?"

(That last is a Talking Heads lyric).

Flying Primates!

No, neither bats nor Oz- ean Winged Monkeys. In a fascinating post, Darren examines Madagascar's sifakas and their-- aparently known, but not well known, (despite the fact, pointed out to me by Darren for the first time, that it is noted in standards like my '83 edition of Walker's Mammals of the World) ability to glide.

This also has implications for the evolution of flight in birds. Darren says:

"As hinted at by the fact that it’s not much mentioned in the books, the supposed gliding habits of sifakas and other primates are not as well known among mammalogists as they might be. In fact these habits have been most widely brought to attention in the literature on bird origins. Rightly or wrongly, the debate over avian origins has long been dichotomized into a ‘ground up’ school, and a ‘trees down’ school. It is absolutely wrong to argue – as some workers have – that the ‘trees down’ theory is at odds with the very robust and well supported body of evidence showing that birds are theropod dinosaurs, given that basal birds, and the theropods closest to birds, were apparently small-bodied proficient tree climbers, and not big cursorial Deinonychus-like predators as some would have it. If small, scampering scansorial predators were the ancestors of birds, I find the evidence to better support the idea that flight evolved in the trees, and I’ve argued such in some not particularly good, and much overlooked, articles (Naish 2000a, b).

"What have gliding lemurs got to do with all this, I hear you ask. Alan Feduccia, the ornithologist who should be best known for his work on Neotropical passerines but is unfortunately far better known for his various attempts to poke holes in the bird-dinosaur theory, has repeatedly used sifakas and other gliding primates as models for the early stages in the development of avian flight (Feduccia 1993, 1995, 1996, Geist & Feduccia 2000). In other words, Feduccia proposed that sifakas might serve as an analogy illustrating how feathers and flight might have evolved from leaping arboreal prototypes."

Definitely a RTWT. Incidentally, to those of us who have followed the dino- bird connections over the years, the phrase "who should be best known for his work on Neotropical passerines but is unfortunately far better known for his various attempts to poke holes in the bird-dinosaur theory" is both subtle and hilarious.

California 2-- Cruelty?

This idiotic story has a high "EEEUWW" factor, but "cruelty"?

"Santa Barbara County sheriff's deputies come across a bizarre encounter at La Purisima Mission in Lompoc.

"Around midnight they found a 69-year-old Huntington beach man naked and covered in oats.

"Deputies say the man had covered himself in olive oil, rolled around in oats and allowed the horses at the mission to lick him clean.

"He apparently told deputies this has always been a fantasy of his and drove up from the Los Angeles area to play it out.

"Alfred Thomas Steven was cited and released for trespassing, animal cruelty and sexually assaulting an animal."

(That IS the "Whole Thing").

Pluto and-- Californians

With apologies in advance to Reid, Connie, Margory-- what is it with Californians anyway??

From Anthony Dick again, the reaction of some members of the state legislature to the "downsizing" of Pluto:

"WHEREAS, The mean-spirited International Astronomical Union decided on August 24, 2006, to disrespect Pluto by stripping Pluto of its planetary status and reclassifying it as a lowly dwarf planet; and . . .

"WHEREAS, Downgrading Pluto's status will cause psychological harm to some Californians who question their place in the universe and worry about the instability of universal constants. . .

"Resolved by the Assembly of the State of California, That the Assembly hereby condemns the International Astronomical Union’s decision to strip Pluto of its planetary status for its tremendous impact on the people of California and the state’s long term fiscal health."

(Emphasis mine)

Real Food

Michael Blowhard reviews and discusses Nina Planck of "Real Food" fame, with links to books and sites like hers and Rod Dreher's. I had the book on my wish list but at a pretty low priority, as I assumed it was worthy but maybe a bit boring. That's not Michael's take:

" "Real Food" I enjoyed thoroughly as a book. I enjoyed sinking into it; I was held by it; I enjoyed hanging around for the full length of it. It has personality and depth, as well as a movingly handmade quality. What it sells as a book-experience is analogous to the rewards of the approach to food and eating that Planck advocates. That's a pretty appetizing and rewarding experience.

"As a writer, Planck is anything but a fussy aesthete -- M.F.K. Fisher she ain't. (Nothing wrong with an aesthete's rhapsodies, of course, even if that kind of thing isn't often to my liking ...) Instead, she's down-to-earth, approachable, and substantial. The daughter of hippie-gone-back-to-the-land farmers, Planck was raised around animals, plants, and the food biz. As an adult, she has set up and run a number of farmers' markets. She isn't about to be prissy or pompous about any of these topics; she's too robust, direct, and clear-eyed to disguise what she's seen and what she knows.

"She writes stirring evocations of life around growing things, good food, the pleasures of eating (and of being healthy and feeling good). The open, friendly stories, reminiscences, and confidences are plentiful and moving, and they segue smoothly into more-general information. A sweet passage describing milking the family cow morphs pleasingly into a short history of cows and milk as food."

Sounds like a Querencia book to me.


Apparently the alleged Galileo- style firing of the Vatican's astronomer for his views on evolution was a badly- researched non story. Anthony Dick has the details.

"This makes for a good story: a classic conflict between science and religion, harkening back to the good old days of Copernicus and Galileo. Unfortunately, it’s pure fiction. I e-mailed Fr. Coyne (which the Daily Mail apparently didn’t bother to do) and asked him about his being “sacked” by the Pope. He responded:

Transitions like this always seem to generate some imaginative journalism. In this case, upon my return from a vacation during which I purposely avoided the news, I hear some media reports that I have been dismissed by the Pope. This is simply not true. The work of the Vatican Observatory under my directorship has been enthusiastically supported by John Paul I, if for ever so short a reign, by John Paul II in many marvelous ways and now by Pope Benedict XVI. Pope Benedict, to my mind, has renewed his enthusiastic support for the Observatory's work…"

As Dick says: "And so another conspiracy theory unravels."

I'll continue to follow the controversy-- it's on our beat.

Death of a Good Dog

Please stop by Patrick's blog and read about the remarkable life and sudden, recent death of his good dog Sailor. Patrick, we are all sorry!

Monday, September 11, 2006

Migration Meme

As Helen harks to the sounds of migrating birds, I am still waiting for the first one to whack itself cold against the window at the Student Union. I check every morning, taking a short detour down the pedestrian ramp and parking my bike against the retaining wall at the bottom of the stair. Up two flights I go, two steps at a time, strangely excited about the possibility of seeing a dead bird, and the more beautiful the better. Common Yellowthroats, Magnolia or Hooded Warblers ---any would do. An Ovenbird would do.

All I’ve found to date are dead cicadas, wren-sized and plastic-coated, with mouths like the grilles on mid-century sedans. Evidently they bear enough weight and speed to kill themselves like birds against a pane of glass.

If our migration seems behind schedule this year, not so: According to published records and my own notes, it’s too early to worry or complain about it. But I’ve already started hunting! The kids are in school. Some friends leave next week for a hawking trip in Wyoming, of all places. While they're there chasing white-tailed jacks, I'll be here, impatiently waiting for little birds to arrive.

UPDATE 12 Sept.: Female CYT beneath Union window this AM...

Common Thread?

We've said it among ourselves through pursed lips and wondered aloud about it here at the Q.: Is there something we can point to that explains most or all of the things we complain about? Urban sprawl, nanny states, gun control, leash laws, animal rightists, humanist leftists (sorry), illiteracy, virtual reality, canned hunts. . .There are probably others, though I don't wish to imply that all we do here is complain.

Complaining: That's another pet peeve.

The Culture-watchers at 2Blowhards posted one possible unifying thread in "America's embrace of adolescent values." I would have missed this post from 2004 had a recent entry not made reference to it, attempting in that case to explain the rating system for American cinema as the result of an adolescent nation. Talk about your unified theories!

To offer one possible summation, "Michael" at 2Blowhards suspects that our market-driven society has seized upon the naturally passing fancies of young people in order to sell them new merchandise, again and again; and that this scheme is so effective an economic engine we have encouraged everyone to think (and act, and buy) like teenagers.

"Quick media-world fact: ad people pursue kids and youngsters because young people can be hoodwinked and pickpocketed, er, influenced. They're buying their first cars and sofas, they're vain and insecure, and they're trying to attract mates. So they spend money on silly products, on clothes, on fashion, and on style. (Older people aren't so open to being affected by ads.) Well, how great it would be for business if the entire population could be kept in a state of perpetual anxiety, yearning, and dissatisfaction -- in a state of teenagehood?

"So, in a way, technological developments, the ever-expanding media, the opening-up of markets, liberal/PC educations and ideology, and pop culture aren't in conflict. They're all part of the same picture, and they all combine to promote adolescent values. The eternal-kids these forces help create are, essentially, effective and convenient cannon fodder for today's multicultural, media-centric, digitally-based commercial world. "

Maybe it's a stretch, but it appeals to my Wendell Berry-addled mind. At the center of Berry's polemic is the post-WWII turn of American thinking away from community production and consumption, and toward mass production and mass marketing. It just happens that most of the things we love here (hunting, growing, walking in the woods, working animals, reading and writing) were things common and useful to the older world, That Distant Land.


Friday, September 08, 2006

Working Like a Dog

Thanks to Chas for posting on this piece in Slate, a story by Jon Katz about a border collie who earns her keep and then some. It is a paean to a working pooch that ought to give Wayne Pacelle the willies---one domesticated animal whose job and joy it is to keep other domestics in line.

And possibly worst of all: "Rose is not cute," says Katz of this dog he obviously loves and depends upon.
"She is a working dog, a farm dog. She herds sheep, keeps the donkeys apart from the other animals during graining, alerts me when lambs are born, watches my back when the ram is around. She battles the donkeys, the ewes who protect their lambs, and stray dogs who approach the farm. She and I take the sheep out to graze two or three times a day. On Sundays, we sometimes march the flock down to the Presbyterian Church to hear the organ music and present ourselves through the big windows. 'Hey, Rose,' the kids sometimes shout after the service is over. With Rose, we don't need fences. As my friend Peter Hanks said, Rose is the fence."

I often wonder if the animal liberators live beneath blankets of sublimated guilt, assuming in their own way the burden of the world's sins. If so, it's an old and time-honored occupation. But rather than flagellate themselves and the rest of us, maybe they ought to be thankful instead. For owning to gross, global abuse of fossil fuels, our humane society can now afford to live without visible dependence on living animals; none needed for transport, protection, long distance communication, bearing loads or busting sod. Or, if you can call it living, for food. Presumably, Wayne Pacelle could still rely on an animal for companionship, although he doesn't; he says he travels too much to justify the keeping of a pet. Safe to say, Wayne travels by burning gasoline.

The rest of us---let's hope the most of us---still want and need the company of animals. Long live Jon Katz's working collie!

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Papal Rifle

Tam has discovered the ultimate military collectible: "..the official rifle of the Papal States from 1867 to their demise in 1870: The M1868 Remington (Pontificio)"

This is a Remington rolling block, in a very similar cartridge to the classic bufflo hunter ones also chambered in this action-- and one of the makers was Westley Richards of England! May be one of the coolest old guns I have ever heard of, for all the above reasons.

She also posts a thoughful lament for the old Brit gun culture here.


From the NYT, courtesy of Reid: manatees may have smooth brains, but that doesn't mean they have dull senses. It is a long article and you should read it all, but here is an example.

"In research over the last five years, Dr. Reep and his colleagues have shown that manatees have 2,000 facial vibrissae of varying thickness, 600 of them in the so-called oral disk, a circular region between mouth and nose that the manatee uses much like an elephant’s trunk, to grasp or explore objects. Each facial vibrissa is linked with 50 to 200 nerve fibers. An additional 3,000 vibrissae are spaced less densely over the rest of the body.


"In testing, Buffett, Hugh and other captive animals have proved just how acute a manatee’s tactile sense can be. Using the bristles on the oral disk and the upper lips, manatees can detect minute differences in the width of grooves and ridges on an underwater panel. A manatee tested by a team of researchers in Germany could distinguish differences as small as 0.05 millimeters, as well as an elephant performing the same task with its trunk, and almost as well as a human. Hugh and Buffett did even better, outperforming the elephant and, in Buffett’s case, the human.


"A sensory modality that is so important should be prominently represented in the brain. And, confirming an observation first made by a German scientist in 1912, Dr. Reep’s research team has identified large clusters of cells called Rindenkerne in sensory processing areas in the deep layers of the manatee’s cerebral cortex. These clusters, the researchers suspect, are the manatee equivalents of the cell groupings called barrels found in other whiskered species like mice and rats, regions that process sensory information from the vibrissae.

"Even more tantalizing is that, in the manatee, these clusters extend into a region of the brain believed to be centrally involved with sound perception.

“Either these things have nothing to do with the hair at all, or the more exciting possibility is that perhaps somatic sensation is so important that the specialized structure is overlapping with processing going on in auditory areas,” Dr. Reep said."

Read it all.

Good things elsewhere...

You should be keeping up with Mary's wise, prolific, and insightful posts. She continues to reflect on her experiences as an animal control officer here at Prairie Mary-- read and scroll down. The 'possum story is hilarious, but she knows darker things about human- animal relations too.

And at her writing blog, Merry Scribbler, she examines the works of Gerald Durrell as well as a good biography by Douglas Botting which I also recommend.

Patrick has a post on the tangled roots of AR and dog shows. "...the Dog Show crowd and the Animal Rights crowd spring from the same root-stock of sentiment, and in both cases the animals are the side-show, not the main event". A must- read for worried working dog people and breeders.

A "new" (to me) blog, which I highly recommend, is The Hairy Museum, a largely paleontological site run by a New Mexico museum guy. I don't know him (yet-- though I intend to contact him) ,but he and his site are also associated with the eccentric genius of fish and paleontology art, Ray Troll, whom I met a couple of times in Bozeman. We crazies have a way of finding one another. Hat tip Carel. Also see William Spears designs, which fetures among other wonderful things cloisonne' pins by Troll. I have one (among many) featuring a skull over a keyboard that says "Write hard, die free".

Posting may be sporadic here until guests are gone, but I will keep storing up tidbits.


Querencia (the book) is not one, for instance (it's a memoir) even though a reviewer implies it is ON THE DUST JACKET.

Reflection prompted by this Washington Post essay by Michael Skube on reading in which we learn that (A) students don't read, and (B) they think all books are "novels".

"...And my favorite: "Novel," as in new and as a literary form. College students nowadays call any book, fact or fiction, a novel. I have no idea why this is, but I first became acquainted with the peculiarity when a senior at one of the country's better state universities wrote a paper in which she referred to "The Prince" as "Machiavelli's novel."

As freshmen start showing up for classes this month, colleges will have a new influx of high school graduates with gilded GPAs, and it won't be long before one professor whispers to another: Did no one teach these kids basic English? The unhappy truth is that many students are hard-pressed to string together coherent sentences, to tell a pronoun from a preposition, even to distinguish between "then" and "than." Yet they got A's."


"Exit exams have become almost a necessity because the GPA is not to be trusted. In my experience, a high SAT score is far more reliable than a high GPA -- more indicative of quickness and acuity, and more reflective of familiarity with language and ideas. College admissions specialists are of a different view and are apt to label the student with high SAT scores but mediocre grades unmotivated, even lazy.

"I'll take that student any day. I've known such students. They may have been bored in high school but they read widely and without prodding from a parent. And they could have nominated a few favorite writers besides Dan Brown -- even if they thoroughly enjoyed "The DaVinci Code."

"I suspect they would have understood the point I tried unsuccessfully to make once when I quoted Joseph Pulitzer to my students. It is journalism's job, he said, to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Too obvious, you think? I might have thought so myself -- if the words "afflicted" and "afflict" hadn't stumped the whole class."


Comments, Mary? Heidi? I think things may be different in England, Pluvialis, but why?

Steve Irwin, 1962- 2006: RIP

Sure, he could be annoying. But in an age when cool trumps all, I can't find it in me to disapprove of enthusiasm. He may have inspired more children in the love of all of nature, including "creepy- crawlies" than anyone in his generation or even mine. My little nephews are fascinated by insects and reptiles. I'll help them with facts, but their model was the crocodile man. I'd have hated to be their mother the night his death was in the news. He was the anti- PETA, Gerald Durrell on steroids. He will be missed.

The biology blogosphere, full of people who understand mad biophilia, was full of tributes. Darren was eloquent as usual, and pointed out someting often missed when Irwin was described as a mere "showman".

"There is also no doubt whatsoever that his knowledge and experience of wildlife was considerable, and he knew the herpetofauna of Australia and other countries down to the subspecies level. He published at least some technical articles and could easily turn his hand to the dissemination of academic information: he wasn't only a populariser. Sure, he was a character, but then that's pretty much the only way of making a name for yourself on TV today it seems."

Pharyngula has another good tribute, as well as some gruesome medical details. (I do wish a few of the commenters had refrained from what amounts to politics at the funeral; apparently Irwin was some kind of a political conservative as well as a conservationist, something a few people cannot accept).

Off the "Evo- Bio" patch, Austin Bay wrote a post that generated MANY comments, from "He had a splendid life and died doing what he loved" to "He had kids so he should have commuted to a job in a cubicle". I am at #71 I think-- care to guess which side I favor?

(An aside-- some insist on comparing him to California dude/ self- deluded ninny Timothy Treadwell, eaten by bears in Alaska. One significant difference might be that Irwin understood that crocs and tiger snakes were not his "friends").

Finally, courtesy of Jonathan: formerly- sometimes- interesting Aussie feminist Germaine Greer celebrates Irwin's death as the revenge of the animals. In a story on The Age (no direct link) she is quoted at length:

"The animal world has taken revenge on self-deluded animal tormentor
Steve Irwin, according to expatriate Australian academic and writer
Germaine Greer.

"Writing in the British press following Irwin's sudden death, Greer
said she had "not much sympathy" for the naturalist if he was
grappling with the stingray that killed him on the Great Barrier Reef."


""The animal world has finally taken its revenge on Irwin, but
probably not before a whole generation of kids in shorts seven sizes
too small has learned to shout in the ears of animals with hearing
ten times more acute than theirs, determined to become millionaire
animal-loving zoo-owners in their turn." "

Yeah, that's what biophilia is about alright. I said rudely to Libby that she was more interestiing back when she was f*****g rock stars. Totally unfair, but why is it that everything I have seen from her in years has been embarassingly bitter? Is it a symptom of the disappoinment inherent in being an aging utopian whose dreams have not been realized?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Blogging From Q.

Rebecca here.

We always have such aspirations for my visits...deep writerly conversation that leads to literary masterpieces, long stimulating discussions that lead to ultimately solving the problems of the world... instead we babble on and drink. Still, I can't think of a better way to spend a weekend. The drive here was phenomenal. The monsoon has changed the landscape here into a wonderous watercolor of small ponds and wildflowers. The company is always fabulous and a couple of drinks at the Spur are enough to keep me entertained, head buzzing with local stories for months. I'm already planning to come back for duck hunting though. How could I not? The standing water and greenry promises an incredible migration through this area. ..and despite falling short of our conversational aspirations, the company here just can't be beat.

Guest Post: Dog Whispering

My friend Gregg Barrow trains championship protection dogs and has a soft spot for unwanted "hard case" hounds. A German police unit recently sent him a dog they couldn't handle, a monsterous, muscled-up, sulking giant schzauzer who savaged several handlers. Gregg has also been, in past years, a case worker and counsellor for criminal teens. He carries the big frame of a former college football player and looks a natural for tough guy roles. But Gregg's thoughtful comments and quiet demeanor defy typecasting.

I asked Gregg to comment on the recent critique of controversial "Dog Whisperer" Cesar Millan in this article forwarded by Reid. In the mean time, Patrick Burns posted on the same story with a logical defense of Millan's main premise: Dogs are not children and do respond positively to an assertive "pack leader" owner.

Gregg writes:

I thought Mark Derr's column was insightful, a tad sensational, and long overdue, but, the Buddha he's attempting to kill on this particular roadside is already going the way of Barbra Woodhouse: Our local grocery store has stacks of Dog Whisperer videos in the $1.99 bin and the companion book has already been discounted twice.

Cesar, quite simply, brought back compulsion to dog training. And in all honesty, it needed to be returned to the companion dog trainer's mental bag of techniques. Strong, willful dogs that eat up (pun intended) the food-motivated foundation training require a firmer hand when it's time to take the next step and start working for real world reliability.

This is the wall the "click and treat" crowd runs into when working with this type of dog. Unwilling to admit the shortcomings in their training programs or the limits to their experience, these purely inducive trainers quickly label the dog as "un-trainable." Unfortunately, many of these dogs end up being cast off when salvation was only a well-timed leash pop away.

Compulsion, or punishment, has its place in training; a dog trainer is hard pressed to set boundaries and consequences for misbehavior without it. But it has to be fair. It has to be the next logical step in a well-thought-out training sequence. When the pressure of correction comes, the dog must understand instantly how to escape this pressure ( i.e. obey the command.) This empowers the dog and teaches him that he is in control of his actions.

David Deleissegues, a friend of mine from California , is an international competitor in Schutzhund and has assisted as a trainer on movies such as Turner and Hooch. The dog rescue organizations are keeping David booked because, in the Land of Fruits and Nuts [no offense to Reid and Rebecca], where cookie training is king, he is one of the few trainers willing to use compulsion. And he gets results where others cannot. Dogs are being saved that would otherwise be put down and the rescue groups for the working breeds are flocking to him. David's success lies in his ability to use motivational instruction, ignoring (or extinguishing) negative behaviors in the early stages, followed by creative distractions and fair punishment. David's form of compulsion looks nothing like Caesar's. The dogs that come out of his program look nothing like the dogs I have seen roller blading with Mr. Millan [looking for that picture: Millan lording over a dozen cowed, crouching Beta dogs]. David's dogs, in contrast, "get it," and they respond enthusiastically---yes enthusiastically---when punishment is necessary.

A pastor once told me "you gave thirty years to the devil, now give the Lord equal time." The analogy is this; most behavior problems, aggression in this case, are created, fed and nurtured over a period of time. And it could take the same amount of time, if not longer, to cure them successfully. It can't be worked out during prime time minus commercial breaks.

Cesar's methods appear to include fatigue, deprivation and domination. The results are not easily transferred to the owner. And with certain dogs, these methods create the proverbial time bomb.

In all fairness to Cesar, I've only watched his program once, but he lost me when he was discourteous to the owner and rolled his eyes and smirked at the camera as if to say….."Loser".

This is a service industry. Call me old-fashioned, but there's no room for attitudes in training or when working with the public

The media has made him into a modern day Horatio Alger and his irreverent attitude toward his clients endears him to the "wink and nod" crowd. Unfortunately, he meets the needs of the quick fix microwave society in which we live and he will be quoted as gospel for some time to come.

Relationship or lordship, training or domination, companion by the hearth and in the field or slave?

Mr. Millan's message is not new; it has simply come full circle and it's just as out of balance as it was on the first, second and third go-round. The turn and crank, drill and kill instruction found in the AKC obedience class, Schutzhund field or retriever club twenty years ago has given way to motivational techniques. Dogs that would have earned perfect scores back then would be criticized for lack of drive and animation today. The problem, which Mr. Millan has capitalized upon, is that the pendulum has swung so far to the opposite extreme that today's motivational trainer is just as inadequate in the use punishment as his predecessor was in the use of positive motivation.

Training comes down to a little common sense, the ability to be introspective, a hand full of sound techniques, a simple blue-collar work ethic and patience. Unfortunately, these are qualities that appear to be lacking in a significant portion of the dog owning community today, and Cesar knows it.

If you've already paid full price for the books and video, hold on to them, like fashion and music trends, these methods will be back in style again.

---Gregg Barrow