Thursday, August 31, 2006

That Rotten Old Town That Everyone Loves

Borrowing a page from the 2Blowhards playbook, here's a clip from YouTube, sent last night by my friend Jenn, formerly of St. Bernard Parish, which is just outside New Orleans.

The musician is Grayson Capps, another local who had to leave the city. I wrote up a short review of a gig we caught before the storms, here.

We saw him again last Saturday; he travels now from Tennessee, promoting his new album and new material. He sang New Orleans Waltz for us at d.b.a., the little bar on Frenchmen Street that seems now almost a portal to a lost world. A little remnant querencia.

What's gonna come of lovely New Orleans
That rotten old town that everyone loves?
Pick up your tools, let's rebuild New Orleans,
Make it all better, after the flood...

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Offline Chatter

And now for something completely different...

With puzzled but indulgent permission from Steve, Reid and Patrick, I compiled a digest of some recent exchanges we shared offline and will post them here.

It's basically a round robin on canned hunts, our collapsing culture and kids these days. For those wanting to skip this discussion, I'll cut to the conclusion: We solved nothing.

But please feel free to keep the ball rolling in Comments!

That Toodlin' Town!

Found this at the end of a story on recent security disruptions at US airports:

"A United Airlines flight out of Chicago's O'Hare International Airport was delayed because a small boy said something inappropriate, according to a government official speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information."

Jeeeesh---first goose livers and now children talking in public! What's next, Chicago?

And I wonder what's so sensitive about this story that the "government official" cited feels the need to hide his name? I ask you: Do ANY of our government employees have NAMES these days??

This just in:
"The US President, who asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of his position, declared today that goose liver and talking children are to be banned within US borders until the War On Terror is successfully concluded."

Monday, August 28, 2006

Homo floresiensis Controversy

A couple of years ago, the discovery of 18,000 year-old diminutive human bones on the Indonesian island of Flores, set off a big stir in the popular press. The discoverers characterized this as a separate species of small humans, Homo floresiensis, and they were commonly referred to as "hobbits" on television and in the papers.

Well, now another team has studied the remains, and offers a conflicting interpretation. They believe that these don't represent another species at all, merely pygmy H. sapiens, and that the one cranium found is from a microcephalic individual, throwing the original discoverers off in their analysis.

This is going to be one of those feuds that will go on for years and that will be fun to watch from the sidelines. At least, if you don't have a dog in the fight. A great place to watch and keep score is John Hawks Anthropology Weblog. Hawks is a physical anthropology professor at the University of Wisconsin who writes a very readable blog on anthropological subjects that is a regular read for me. He already has a topic thread set up for this subject.


Steve had apparently heard of these amazing creatures, but I certainly hadn't until I saw this article in the LA Times. They are likely the source of many sea-serpent sightings.

Late pics

Readers: Please check below for some "new" material from the 26th forward. Several posts have been hidden in draft mode until we got the pictures inserted.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Speaking of Symbionts..

In a gentle reminder that pigeons are not mere "sky rats", another guest post from Jake Sewall in Holland-- Steve.

Common Encounters With The [Un]Common Pigeon

It's the pigeon equivalent of "getting back to your roots." Though domestic pigeons have been bred in an almost unimaginable variety of colors and shapes, feral pigeons - the escapees, refugees, or cast offs from the domestic cornucopia - return quickly, within a generation or two, and almost universally to the mixed shades of grey, black, and blue that their wild ancestor the Rock Dove [columba livia] has worn for millennia. That is not to say they are drab, the close observer will see the fine play of color that cloaks a perfect "blue bar" pigeon, the color that racing great Alf Baker once referred to as a bag of gold dust, the pearlescent hue of the blue, the glowing purple and green of the iridescent neck feathers.

Few people, however, bother to closely observe the bird that is, rightly, known as the "common" pigeon. Ubiquitous to almost any urban setting ranging from the smallest of villages to the largest megalopolis, the common pigeon thrives on the substrate of human civilization, which provides ready access to food, shelter, and water as well as relative security from predators.

Tolerated at best, scorned and reviled more commonly, the common pigeon is low on most lists of "favorite" animals. They are, however, if we take another meaning of "common," anything but common...

Read the whole thing here!

New Dog Regs in New York

Ted Kerasote has an op ed in the NYT (registration required) about new dog regs that, if they stand up, will require all dogs in the New York City area to be on leash all the time.

When are we going to learn that perfect safety is impossible, and that attempts to acheive it destroy even minimal freedom for us and our non- human symbionts? (They may even destroy that symbiosis itself, which may be the agenda for some proponents of such regulations). I would hate to be a city dog or a city dog owner (pigeon- flyer, whatever) today.

Family News...

Peculiar and Mrs. P have returned from the wilderness, finding rain, opera, and New mexico culture. He also has some comments on Turkish music-- I have added to my wish list-- and a poster for a movie that really does look like Larissa.

Meanwhile, she laments that studying Shakespearean drama may lead to reduced circumstances. I am reminded of Hilaire Belloc's comment when asked why he wrote so much: "My children are bellowing for caviar and pearls".

Check below too-- not every aspiring actress can quote the late Jane Jacobs on the life and death of cities...

I can also second Peculiar's notes on rakhi, and not just Phillipe's!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Shortwingers, Randy Newman, and Gace de la Vigne

People who fly "short- winged hawks"-- true hawks (Accipiters), Buteos and Parabuteos-- have always gotten little respect from those who fly falcons. Falcons are "prettier" if not always more beautiful, and generally have sweeter dispositions (please, partisans, bear with me-- I know there are exceptions on both sides). They have big dark sweet spaniel eyes. True hawks have eyes and often dispositions like demons.

The nobility once flew falcons. Hawks are useful. Neither is easily forgiven.

I have no dog in this fight. I currently have a Gyr- Prairie (snooty) that I fly at hares with the help of hounds (unforgivable, low- class, suspiciously "Oriental"). My totem is the Gos (uber- shortwing) so I guess I am a hopeless shortwinger at heart.

The correct technical word for a shortwing- flyer is "austringer". The prejudices are ancient in Europe, though oddly do not exist in Asia. Here is Gace de la Vigne, writing in the Middle Ages:

"... but please do not house your graceless austringers in the falconers' room. They are cursed in scripture, for they hate company and go alone about their sport. They wear a cloak to cover up their bird, the better to deceive the bird they seek to take. When they go to hunt, you think they are behind the falconers, but instead they are ahead, beating their drum. When you hear that noise and see the birds flying in all directions, you know that there will be nothing left in the area for falconers.."

He adds:

"When one sees an ill- formed man, with great big feet and long shapeless shanks, built like a trestle.... hump- shouldered and skew- backed, and one wants to mock him, one says, 'Look, what an austringer!' I know the austringers would like to beat me for this, but there are two dozen of us falconers to one of them [!!], so I have no fear. Nevertheless, it is a wise man who keeps a Goshawk in his house, good kitchen- bird that it is!"

Apropos of which, Patrick has suggested a version of Randy Newman's "Short People" with "short- Wingers".

Or "austringers"; here's mine:

"Austringers got no reason

"Austringers got no reason

"Austringers got no reason to liiive!

"They got long shapeless shanks, great big feet,

"Run around hollerin' "Meat! Meat! Meat!"

"Don't want no austringers

"Don't want no austringers

"Don't want no austringers 'round here!"

Someting like that.

By the way, Gace de la Vigne is also author of someting I want engraved on silver:

"De chiens, d'oyseaux, d'armes, d'amours,

Pour une joye, cent doulours.

Matt, feel free to add a pic.

MATT: OK, here's a pic of one graceless austringer and his lowly hawk...

Mummies, Kurgans, Balbals

The cold dry climate of Central Asia means that it is ideal for preserving bodies and artifacts. I will write more about this subject, both here and, soon, at Registan as well.

But meanwhile, Reid sent me this story about a "new" mummy from a kurgan or burial mound in the Altai region of Mongolia.

"An international group of archaeologists has shown photos of a well-preserved 2,500-year-old mummy of a Scythian warrior found in Mongolia.

"The mummy was hailed as a "fabulous find" at a news conference in Berlin.

"It was unearthed at a height of 2,600m (8,500ft) in an intact burial mound in the Altai Mountains this summer.

"Until now remains of the Scythians - who were Iranian nomadic peoples - had only been found on the Russian side of the Altai, the scientists said.

"The mummy was found in the snow-capped mountains by the team of scientists from Germany, Russia and Mongolia."


"Skin on the warrior's upper body was virtually intact, revealing tattoos.

"The man - who the archaeologists believe was a nobleman - was dressed in a fur coat and wrapped into sheep's wool lining that was in remarkably good condition.

"Two horses with saddles and weapons and also vessels were also found in the burial mound, or kurgan."

The number of these kurgans in the (Altai) Aimag or province of Bayaan Olgii is hard to believe. Here is one snapped almost at random from a moving Lada. I have seen MANY more.

While many have doubtless been raided, remoteness, low population, lingering reverence, and permafrost would seem to suggest that many have not. And I have only seen them on the Mongolian side-- I know there are many, some excavated, in Altai Siberia, and I am sure they exist in eastern Kazakhstan as well, where there are also comparable petroglyphs.

They are often accompanied by "balbals". Some of these monuments are of ancient Turkic characters like this one. They are usually moustached and carry a bird (they ARE raptors-- the "spirits' museums refer to are connected to hunting birds!) or a flask-- still reasonable accoutrements today. This one stands west of the Hovds Gol river thrteen miles south of nowhere.

Others are mere pillars of stone.

Central Asia's expanses often induce thoughts of transience and melancholy. But I like that.

"An Anonymous Best"

Here is a classic and utterly anonymous Mauser rifle in the classic older Mauser caliber 7 X 57 mm-- or as the English renamed it, .275 Rigby (which used to be part of Jonathan's email address!

It was made on a military action with no maker's marks whatsoever, not even an initial. The worksmanship is remarkable; the wood looks like it grew around the metal. It has the style of a German rifle built for the English market, with an upright leaf sight and a folding one, a small cheek piece, and a barrel band sling swivel mount.

It has a Rigby cocking piece aperture sight that I have otherwise only seen on an actual Rigby, Father Anderson Bakewell's .416 "Rigby Rifle for Heavy Game".

It may be a bit light for elephants, but that old rogue Walter Dalrymple Maitland "Karamojo" Bell killed over a thousand with the caliber in the ivory days. The almost saintly Tolstoyan hunter- naturalist Jim Corbett used it on man- eating tigers in India. It could be the "one rifle" for almost everyone, as it was for many of the poorer Brits and Afrikaaners in Africa.

My gunsmith friend Frank Combs, who once had it apart, said "That's a NICE Mauser".

Jonathan had the last word. He said "What a neat idea-- an Anonymous Best Rifle"!

Mushroomers 2: The Return of the King

I love all good mushrooms but by far my favorite is the king bolete, Boletus edulis. It is good fresh, dries well, is (at least in our area) HUGE, utterly unmistakable, and when you find one you will find many.

Always before we have found it a few weeks after the monsoon began-- say, in late July and early August. I thought that if the rains began late the "crop" would skip until the next year. This year, the rains started late but never quit-- the afternoon clouds loom up as I type these words. I was skeptical, as was Simon, who thought the dry aquifer would need a year's replenishing before we had a real crop.

We were wrong.

Libby persuaded me to take "one last" trip to the mountains and here, at about 8500 feet, high up in the road cut, we found our first of the year.

Some are in more normal places.

Some are enormous.

A few can make quite a few dried mushrooms.

Into the pan!

Mushroomers #1

The last month's rains-- virtualy every afternoon and evening-- have brought out a bumper crop, of several species.

Here are our friends and fellow mycophiles Simon and Della Armijo with a few. They each have half of a "cauliflower", Sparassis crispa. It is also eaten in Tibet and Nepal. This species is especially good for stews because it is rather tough and still tastes good. And ONE gives you enough to dry.

Simon also holds a huge shaggy mane. They are delicious but you must eat them the day you pick them because otherwise, like something in an H. P. Lovecraft story, they deliquesce into a pool of black ink (which can still spread the spores). Also, best not to drink any alcohol when eating it. The effect is like that of Niacin-- flushed face, rapid heartbeat-- unpleasant.

A quick recipe, for a Chinese "red" stew with (four to six) beef short ribs:

Take an inch of thick ginger root and cut in four slices; smash. Chop six scallions into two- inch lengths. Heat oil in a wok until it sizzles. Add a tsp of brown sugar, stir. Add the ginger and scallions and five little hot dried chiles; stir fry.

Now add the ribs; brown. Add five star anise. Deglaze with a little chicken stock. Add six or more heaping tablespoons of soy sauce.

Add enough chicken stock, with water if needed, to almost submerge the ribs. Add a pound of fresh chopped cauliflower mushrooms, bite- sized. Bring just to boil, lower to low simmer. Add six more scallions whole in a bundle on top. Simmer long, until meat falls off bones. Serve with mashed potatoes with finely chopped fresh (not boiled) garlic.

AR, PC 2-- Reaction?

Restaurants in Chicago decide to serve foie gras in defiance of the ban.

"“This ban is embarrassing Chicago,” said Grant DePorter of Harry Caray’s Restaurant, which dreamed up an appetizer of pan-seared foie gras and scallops ($14.95) and a Vesuvio-style entree pairing foie gras and tenderloin ($33.95) just to buck the new ordinance. “We really don’t think the City Council should decide what Chicagoans eat. What’s next? Some other city outlaws brussels sprouts? Another outlaws chicken? Another, green beans?” "

Comments friend Tom: "How bad is it for a duck to overeat on cornmeal? Left to their own devices,I suspect ducks would eat it non-stop. This tube down the throat stuff seems more myth than reality--though snuggling between a farm maid's thighs as she strokes your throat seems to me to tend more toward lascivious fantasy. It is a fact that when the corn is stopped, and if the duck is not slaughtered, its liver returns to normal size."

That last sentence might apply to corn liquor as well...

AR, PC (sigh)

Margory Cohen sends a note about an old film (a good one, based on a novel by Charles Willeford and starring the late Warren Oates and Harry Dean Stanton) being banned from an Edinburgh film festival for CRUELTY TO ANIMALS.

"EDINBURGH, Scotland - The Edinburgh International Film Festival canceled the screening of a movie about cockfighting after being told it might be illegal to show the film.

" "Cockfighter," a critically acclaimed 1974 movie about masculinity and blood sports set in the southern United States, was to have been shown Tuesday.

"The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said screening the movie could be illegal under animal cruelty laws because the fights weren't staged.

" "They are very real and extremely brutal," said the group's spokeswoman, Natalie Smart. "Following an anonymous tip-off, we notified the EIFF that showing it in public would be illegal." "

Meanwhile, the same week, a "comedy" festival audience in that same Scotland cheered an anti- Semitic comic. The world has gone mad.

Margory notes: "Not because I'm a defender of pit sport, more because -- because --
it's like the old Cajun sheriffs used to tell the fellas going to the dog fights -- don't want no man trouble tonight."

What I am reading-- Steve

What I am actually in the middle of:

The Janissary Tree by Jason Goodwin. A novel, a historical mystery set in the early 19th Century in Istanbul, by a writer who knows the territory, with a hero who is an able and brave court eunuch! Unique and with a believable air-- the guy knows Turkey, and the details ring true.

Sons of the Conquerors by Hugh Pope, subtitled "The Rise of the Turkic World". Pope is the bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal in Istanbul, speaks the Turkic languages, and knows the ground from Istanbul to Almaty. He is sharp and sometimes funny. This looks like the one to go to for starters, though I have a lot to go before he gets to places I have actually been. More later?

Going Wild by Colin Wyatt: a forgotten gem of natural history writing from 1955-- English of course. Mr. Wyatt appears to have spent his life travelling, skiing, collecting butterflies, and climbing-- and writing well about it. (His father apparently did the same). We should all be so lucky! Earliest quoter of Nabokov on butterflies I have encountered. Worth reading alone for the tale of his father, sunbathing nude in the Alps before WWII, seeing a desired butterfly and chasing it through a party of sunbathing German women similarly non- attired...

On deck: Training the Short- Winged Hawk: an Elizabethan Perspective, edited and transcribed by Derry Argue (a 1619 book, one of the best, rendered into modern English by the Irish master setter breeder); The Prince of the Marshes (and other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq) by Rory Stewart; Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell by Susanna Clarke (dark fantasy set in the Napoleonic Wars); and Under Kilimanjaro by Ernest Hemingway: the complte text he write about his last safari, which I am studying as well as reading to do a paper on his African guns for a scholarly volume--!!

That should keep me a while alongside magazines and whatever I discover next...

I will eat anything, but...

...there may be limits. Reid sent this high "eeuuuwww factor" story from the L. A. Times.

It begins: "Health officials Thursday again warned consumers against eating raw or undercooked freshwater crabs as two Orange County restaurants were found to have served raw or live crabs and two more diners came down with a rare lung fluke infection.

"Riptide Rockin' Sushi & Teppan Grill in Mission Viejo and Chomp Rockin' Sushi & Teppan Grill in Fullerton were identified after the Health Care Agency contacted all the restaurants in Orange County serving the crab to advise them that the crabs must be fully cooked."

My reaction: "Now I have actually READ the thing. Two observations;

"Do not eat at a place when "Rockin' " is a part of the joint's name.

"Do not eat LIVE CRABS.

"Rules for living, like Jackson and I used to make up. Like (courtesy of Richard Preston) "Don't eat bat shit in a level four hot zone".

"Easy. No lung flukes, no Marburg virus."

By the way, Peculiar and I, in his youth, once discussed getting two Jack Russells or Patterdale terriers and naming them Ebola and Marburg.

Kipling's Religion

For "Kiplingites" (see, to use a term of Kipling's, "Janeites"): John Derbyshire speculates, giving two intriguing, epigrammatic, but ultimately baffling quotes.I always thought he was a Mason.

Derb: "He described himself in 1908 (i.e. at age 42) as "A God-fearing Christian atheist."

And, in Kipling's own words: "All sensible men are of the same religion, but no sensible man ever tells."


This "Op- Ed" sounds like it could have been written by some of our more recent newcomers in Magdalena:

"I've tried being proactive. But none of the locals I've talked to about bringing in a co-op health-food grocery store have seemed excited at all. Nor have I gotten any of them to take part in my community open-house idea for hip young people to come see what this neighborhood is capable of. What did they do instead? They had a barbecue. With very loud music.

"I mean, I don't want the people here to leave. I just want them to stay inside more. Especially if they're not going to do anything to bring this community to life. But they're always out on their stoops, just playing dominoes or talking. I like talking, but I do it inside, where it was meant to be done. It makes me uncomfortable to have people watching me all the time. Not that I think they'd do anything, but I just like to be a little more private.

"Also, their dogs stay outside and bark all day. I like dogs just fine, but why can't their dogs be smaller and more nervous?

"It's getting to the point where I feel like I'm tilting at windmills. But I can't give up—I know this neighborhood would benefit from the diversity of more people like me moving in."

Form the Onion, courtesy of Steve Sailer.

Friday, August 25, 2006

What Matt's Reading

(Occasional Series Alert!)

No doubt Steve will give Reid a run for his money on the list of books he's currently reading. As usual, I'm reading just the one. This week it's Annie Dillard's wonderful memoir An American Childhood.

Herein Dillard charts the start of an arc, the life of a lucky girl from Pittsburgh in the '50s. It is a world exquisitely well-remembered, down to the dust on the library shelves and the floating motes above the reading room. It is a story of the magic of books, in part. Dillard learns to wake up to the rest of her life by examples she finds sleeping between the covers of old volumes: how to draw; how to bunt; the names of exotic rocks; about pond life, bird life, trees. Every page is quotable, but here's a paragraph that should appeal to the eclectic readers of an eclectic blog:

"Everything in the world, every baby, city, tetanus shot, tennis ball, and pebble, was an outcrop of some vast and hitherto concealed vein of knowledge, apparently, that had compelled people's emotions and engaged their minds in the minutest detail without anyone's having done with it. There must be bands of enthusiasts for everything on earth--fanatics who shared a vocabulary, a batch of technical skills and equipment, and, perhaps, a vision of some single slice of the beauty and mystery of things, of their complexity, fascination, and unexpectedness. There was no one here but us fanatics: bird-watchers, infedels, Islamic scholars, opera composers, people who studied Bali, vials of air, bats. It seemed to take all these people working full time to extract the interest from everything and articulate it for the rest of us."

"Eppur, si muove..."

Many more enjoyable posts to come soon-- this one infuriates me. Derb tipped me to the fact that Pope Benedict has apparently fired the Vatican astronomer for casting aspersions on what we here refer to as "intelligent" design.

From The Daily Mail:

"Benedict favours intelligent design, which says God directs the process of evolution, over Charles Darwin’s original theory which holds that species evolve through the random, unplanned processes of genetic mutation and the survival of the fittest.

"But Father Coyne, the director of the Vatican Observatory for 28 years, is an outspoken supporter of Darwin’s theory, arguing that it is compatible with Christianity."


" "God "is not constantly intervening, but rather allows, participates, loves," Fr Coyne wrote, adding: "Religious believers must move away from the notion of a dictator or designer God, a Newtonian God who made the universe as a watch that ticks along regularly.

" "Perhaps God should be seen more as a parent or as one who speaks encouraging and sustaining words."

"The priest later attacked intelligent design theory as a "religious movement" lacking any scientific merit.

"Speaking at a conference in Florida a year ago, Father Coyne said that "intelligent design isn't science, even if it pretends to be".

"Then in a November interview, the 73-year-old priest said the Pope should withhold judgment on the issue, saying he "doesn't have the slightest idea of what intelligent design means in the U.S."."

Hear, hear! Coyne may not be diplomatic, but he says what needs saying.

As one who was taught evolution "straight up" by nuns in the late fifties and brothers in the sixties, I know that a God who pokes in to intervene at random moments is absurd and inelegant. I have always enjoyed pointing out that a Catholic priest (Lemaitre) conceived of the Big Bang, and a Jesuit (Teilhard de Chardin) discovered Homo erectus (then called Sinanthropus, Peking man). Now, for the moment, I am embarassed for my heritage.

Truth will out. If Galileo didn't say "Nevertheless, it moves", he should have. Nobody argues with him any more.

By the way-- haven't you noticed that anybody who argues for "ID" DOESN'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT EVOLUTION??

Excuse me.

A couple of updates.First, for those with non- Catholic backgrounds: this is NOT dogma. Catholics can continue to believe in "real" evolution-- or as I called it above, evolution straight up; "evo- lite", AKA "I"D; or if they are retrograde enough, creationism. But it is a shame that so intelligent a man has so blinkered and uninformed a view of biology.

Second, re "inelegant". Scientists do use this phrase for everything from theories to equations. Consider a universe expanding from an infinitely small point, bearing endless choices unconscious and conscious, bushy trees of descent, contingencies, free will, and decisions.

Now, contrast it with one where God, like a mechanic messing with a balky and poorly- made engine, keeps poking his fingers in to tinker with the mix, fixing this, then that, leaving it to run until the next problem pops up...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Meat in Almaty

Our friend and dog-in-law Vladimir Beregovoy in Virginia had some intelligent things to say about feeding dogs, and also sent a photo his son Serge took while picking up a relative of our pups from our friends in Almaty.

"I believe in adaptation and body wisdom of a dog dealing with natural foods. I would get rather nervous, if feeding the "unknown", that can be in kibbled dry dog food. Adel is a perfect specimen of a natural dog of aboriginal origins. She cannot be killed or hurt by natural foods. Her aversion to vegetarian foods surprised me, because my Laikas like eating pankakes, pies, bread and potatoes. Adel turns her nose away, if offered these things. Kazakhstan is a country of meat eaters, all kinds of bichbarmaks, etc. Serge told me a lot about Almaty and he said that it was impossible to find a restaurant with any vegetarian dishes. With such a tradition and taste, their dogs were probably fed meats most often."

Instant nostalgia! We have stood in that very spot in the splendid Almaty "Greeen Market", and drunk fermented camel's milk 75 feet from there.

Kazakh citizens do like their meat, but a fusion of Turkic and Russian culinary traditions has many other delights (as Pluvialis may soon report). In the fall the market is full of an infinite variety of melons and apples (both originated nearby, the apples in the Tian Shan foothill visible from outside the market), plus fresh almonds that smell so strong you'd think they were marzipan, grapes, spices, slabs of sturgeon, huge catfish, pickled and smoked fish, pickled mushrooms..

And of course, fermented mare's and camel's milk and vodka...

Killer Raccoons....

... are terrorizing Olympia in Washington state, killing cats and abducting small dogs. Read and weep-- or maybe laugh, as Oscar Wilde said re the death of Little Nell.

"The problem got so bad that residents Kari Hall and Tamara Keeton even started a Raccoon Watch after having an emotional neighborhood meeting attended by about 40 people.

"It was a place for people to mourn and cry," Hall said."

As you finish, you realize not ONE PERSON, including the animal conrol people, has advocated, say, shooting the animals, or at least the well- identified "ringleader".

In PC England, that would already have been accomplished with a .22. With a legal silencer.

What is Hunting?

Patrick has a looong and -- profound, subtle, exhaustive-- post on what hunting is and isn't, prompted by the moronic nouveau country singer Troy Gentry's arrest for shooting a caged bear. It must be read by anyone-- any adult-- who cares about these things. Its title, naturally, is "Hunting and Fishing Like Adults". A few excerpts:

"The issue here is not "animal rights." The issue is fakery and debasement of a true set of skills. Shooting brain-addled pen-raised birds under the umbrella of "hunting" debases the art of true hunting. When we snap-trap a few mice in the garage, we do not talk about a "holocaust of mice" -- to do so would be to cheapen the horror of the Holocaust while dramatically inflating the status of rodents and denigrating the lives of millions of once-vital human beings.

"Language matters.

"And so it is with guaranteed bird shoots and pay-pond fishing. Angling is an art, and hunting assumes an element of field craft not evident when birds are purchased as units like Chicken McNuggets."


"Zoos routinely over-breed animals because tiger cubs and baby zebras boost attendance and generate profits. Cute baby animals quickly grow up, however, and that's a problem. It turns out that the world has more caged lions, tigers and zebras than it knows what to do with.

"What to do? Answer: canned shooting preserves in Texas. It's not an accident that at one point nine board members of the San Antonio Zoo owned hunt preserves."


"A lot of people will find some of these questions easy to answer, but will pause at others.

"The brain dead Vegan and the knuckle-dragging slob-hunter will find all of these questions easy to answer."


"Just as we have the Playboy channel and Hustler magazine selling the fantasy that every woman is a lesbian-curious nymphomaniac waiting to be unbound, so we have TV hunting shows and magazines selling the idea that every foray into the field should result in a trophy buck, a monster bear, and a bucket-mouth bass. In this sense, "Rack "Em Up" and "Antler King" feed supplements are to the game farm industry what silicone implants are to porn producers."

And finally, re famous "hunter" Ted Nugent:

"It turns out that Ted Nugent is not just a sunshine patriot, he is also a canned hunter. In fact, Ted runs his own canned hunt facility in Michigan called Sunrize Acres where, for a hefty fee, you can shoot tame buffalo that have been trucked to his 340-acre spread.

"Along with buffalo, Ted's farm is a pay-shoot for whitetail deer ($2,000 for a doe!), wild boar, “exotic ram” (that would be farm goats for you who are wondering), and Sika and Fallow deer.

"These are not wild animals -- they are trucked-in farm stock. The bison are no better than glorified farm cows, the Russian boar are no better than glorified farm pigs, the "exotic rams" are just farm goats, and the deer are corn-fed dependents."

This is a mere skim of a rich post. RTWT, and send it on.

FYI: Montana and More..

Let me start with a few links to things of interest. There will be more, on everything from mushrooms to Anonymous Best Guns..

Mary sent this unusually detailed and intelligent report from Montana on the return of the Peregrine. They do make one common error, surprisingly because the rest is so good: PEREGRINES WERE NOT IN DANGER OF EXTINCTION. This is a surprisingly widespread notion, reaching its reductio ad absurdum when local anchorcreature Carla Aragon intoned breathily that there were "only twenty- eight of these beautiful birds left in the world"-- I think that was a misreading of twenty- eight natural pairs west of the Mississippi. Or something. Peregrines were wiped out by pesticides only in North America (and even there the east was hit much worse than the west) and parts of western Europe. As they are found virtually everyplace else on the earth but Antarctica, they were not remotely in danger of "extinction"-- Tom Cade, THE expert, estimated about 28-30,000 PAIRS existed. Great that we have learned something, and great to have them back, but let us not propagate falsehoods. A pet peeve-- harrumph.

Staying with Montana: Derb just visited for the first time, with his whole family, found it good, and had some remarkably perceptive things to say about it. I'd say "for an easterner", but Derb is English- born and has lived in China, even though he now lives near NYC. Is it a natural thing for an educated Englishman to write well about every place he visits, or is it Derb's own viewpoint, interested in everything but cool and realistic? A little of both, I suspect. Also, he is a Thinking Man, as in the adage "the world is a tragedy to the Feeling Man..."

He also has some nice things to say about me. I don't think I am better- traveled than he-- but maybe have beeen in a few stranger places...

Nature and zoological (and travel) bloggery: Pluvialis is still down through her regular links, with her "Fretmarketeers" awaiting tales of Central Asia as we await a monsoon in the desert. But Reid says you can see her photos through his link below.

Darren begins to explain the babirusa, surely one of the most fascinating mammals. More, please! He also has a way of hinting about future posts that can drive one crazy-- again, more! Some fascinating material about hybridization in the comments also.

Carel Brest Van Kempen has been having a productive blog- week and you should read it all. But my favorite must be "Glorious Goatsuckers", especially his Christmas card with goats, goatsuckers, and milk snakes. Lots of good zoology too. And for some artists we both like (not counting Chuck Close) check out "Photography and the Painter Part II: The Photorealists".

Neandertals are of perpetual interest. Good new stuff here. Actully, the surprise is not that our species may (though it is by no means sure) carry a few Neandertal genes, but that we still kept our bloodlines separate. We must have lived very different lives. Hat tip Father Jim.

Glenn Reynolds has a podcast and interview with Rod Dreher of Crunchy Con and Nina Planck, author of Real Food. I haven't even had time this week to listen to it, but as a fan of both writers will recommend it anyway.

Next: what is hunting and what is not?

Aztec Cannibalism

Wire services have released this piece on a project near Calpulalpan, Mexico that has unearthed direct evidence that Aztecs sacrificed and ate a party of Spanish conquistadors, their allies and camp followers during the Spanish conquest of Mexico. Ritual sacrifice and cannibalism by the Aztecs has been pretty well attested, though lately some have tried to put this off as a myth of Spanish propaganda. This is another nail in the coffin of that position.

One thing that surprised me was this sentence:

Experts say the discovery proves some Aztecs did resist the conquistadors
led by explorer Hernan Cortes, even though history books say most welcomed
the white-skinned horsemen in the belief they were returning Aztec gods.

Well initially the Aztec did welcome the Spanish, though when they figured out their true aims they resisted them furiously. The small Spanish army joined by tens of thousands of Indian warriors revolting against their Aztec oppressors, won the war. I attribute this confusion to the wire service writer and not the archaeologists.

The description and interpretations of the remains makes chilling reading.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Pluvialis Returns

Just noticed this morning that Pluvialis has returned from her trip to Central Asia. Helen links to her trip photos that she has loaded to Flickr. We look forward to reading about her journey when she's over her jet lag.

Monday, August 21, 2006

What Reid is Reading

I just checked, and we haven't done this since May.

Before the Dawn by Nicholas Wade. Anyone interested in human evolution needs this book.

Osman's Dream:The History of the Ottoman Empire by Caroline Finkel. You must understand the Ottomans to understand today's Balkans and Middle East.

Sailing from Byzantium: How a Lost Empire Shaped the World by Colin Wells. Poor Byzantines are always short-changed.

A Rage for Falcons by Stephen Bodio. Actually a re-read as I got this copy in 1998. As the token non-falconer in these parts I have to struggle to keep up. I so associate Steve with New Mexico that it shocked me to realize this was written shortly after he moved there and most of his field stories come from New England.

Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese by Patrick Leigh Fermor. Leigh Fermor is the best, ask Steve.

More Random Beach Art

This is starting to turn into an occasional series. I saw this delightful "beach henge" on Tuesday evening. Do you think the dark glasses on top of one of the cairns is an essential part of the installation? I have no idea.

As I finished taking this photo, two middle-aged blonde ladies in flowing faux-Hindu outfits came bounding up and thanked me for building the beach henge. I admitted to only committing photography. One of them, who had put a caste-mark on her forehead with sparkley paint, said it was no matter, as it was obvious that HE had caused someone to build it just where they had planned their ceremony. They quickly set about spreading tapestries on the sand depicting their deity and arranging an array of votive candles. I returned to my chair and my perusal of the Atlantic Monthly.

They were joined by three or four friends and they were shortly energetically engaged in burning incense, drumming and dancing. In the midst of this, a sea lion stuck his head out of the water just offshore, and spent about ten minutes treading water and staring curiously at their goings-on.

Only in Southern California.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Kennewick Man and NAGPRA

The AP had this item a few days ago about a bill introduced in Congress to amend the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). You can read more about NAGPRA here at a National Park Service site. NAGPRA was enacted in 1990 to allow Native American tribes to reclaim and rebury the remains of their ancestors who have been recovered in archaeological investigations.

When the skeleton we now call Kennewick Man was discovered in Washington state in 1996, his remains were claimed by the Umatilla Tribe under NAGPRA. When Kennewick Man turned out to be 9,000 years old, and his skeletal features did not correlate with any known Native Americans, a group of scientists sued the Federal government, saying that the Umatilla could not scientifically prove any relationship with him. That turned into a nine-year legal battle that the scientists eventually won.

The amendment to NAGPRA, to be introduced by Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington, would exempt very old remains like Kennewick Man from the law, so that they can be studied in the future without the legal wrangling just concluded. It sounds like a sensible change in the law to me.

It's interesting that this came up, as Connie and I attended a lecture last week by Dr. Tom Stafford at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History. Stafford is part of the team studying the Kennewick remains, and was one of the researchers who visited the find site in 1997 before it was destroyed by the Corps of Engineers. His lecture of course was on Kennewick Man and his role in the ongoing research.

He didn't have a lot more new information than we had heard in a lecture last Spring from Doug Owsley, head of the team, that I posted on here. He did say that he had just received a new radiocarbon date of 8410 BP, which when calibrated will work out to about 9000 BP. There has been some speculation that more careful dating could push back the age of Kennewick Man, but Stafford feels this latest result puts that to rest. He did talk about some future analysis that he will be conducting on the remains: another attempt to recover DNA (earlier ones have failed) and oxygen isotope ratio analysis that will tell us about Kennewick Man's diet.

Stafford was in town because he had been working with Dr. John Johnson of the SBMNH on his research on the Arlington Woman find site, on Santa Rosa Island, just off the coast here. Arlington Woman has been dated to 13,400 years BP, making these the oldest remains found thus far in North America. I will report more on that project as I find out about it.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Struck with Consequence

I re-read Steve's essay of this name last night. It's the opening piece from On The Edge of the Wild: Passions and Pleasures of a Naturalist, and it frames out a basic distinction between the New and the Old in the world, and the kinds of people dwelling in each:

"The old people, the old cultures, knew something about consequence that the new ones don't...[They] knew in their bones that death exists, that all life eats and kills to eat, that all lives end, that energy goes on. They knew that humans are participants, not spectators."


"The new ones all want to evade death and deny it, legislate against it, transcend it. They run, bicycle, network, and pray. They stare into their screens and buy their vitamins. Here, they want the street drunks locked up, cigarettes banned, drunken driving met with more severe penalties than armed assault. They fear guns, cowboys, Muslims, pit bulls, whiskey, homosexuals, and freedom. Strong smells offend them...

"[They] disapprove of, cannot comprehend, hunting. How could anybody but a sadist cause death voluntarily, again and again? That they also do so escapes their tender consciences and consequence-free brains."

This distinction seems to me the great theme of this blog, and perhaps a good excuse for (yet another) "occasional series" here at Querencia: on the new ignorance of consequence.

This is perhaps a mild example, but it struck me. Evidently, ecologists and chemical engineers were recently surprised to find that "Roundup Ready" golf course grass (a strain created by Scott's Miracle-Grow Co. and Monsanto) has "escaped into the wild."

"Grass that was genetically engineered for golf courses is growing in the wild, posing one of the first threats of agricultural biotechnology escaping the farm in the United States, a new study says.

"Creeping bentgrass was engineered to resist the popular herbicide Roundup to allow more efficient weed control on golf courses. But the modified grass could spread that resistance to the wild, becoming a nuisance itself, scientists say."

My question is not how this breed of weed managed to jump the fence, nor even if "more efficient" weed control on golf courses is a pressing societal concern. I want to know why no one seemed to see this coming; as if "the rough" along the edges of a fairway was some impenetrable barrier between its cultured greens and "the wild." ...As if we are all not living in the wild!
"'There could be consequences,' said Steven Strauss, who heads the biotechnology issues analysis program at Oregon State. 'But they're not catastrophic because there are Roundup resistant species out there---I have them in my back yard right now,' Strauss added."

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Rain and Boletes

The last three weeks plus of daily rain have brought lush greenery to our garden and to our mountains.

We have been able to pick mushrooms for the first time in years, in quantities enough to dry a few.

These are what we refer to as "lesser boletes", mostly Suillus species. I like them better than David Arora does (the best guide by the way-- don't mycologize without it).

But they are not comparable to The King.

Maybe next year... these are from a better one.

Sensible Thoughts on Air Travel

Which means that probably no one will pay attention. From England's Samizdata (apparently and to my joy, not all in England is as bad as my last poster's experience!):

"Well, for a start, an airline could have a bunch of laptops in the aircraft and offer people the chance to use them, simply by giving them a disk which they can use to download stuff they want from their own machines and then use in a machine provided by the airline. If the overhead lockers are no longer needed for handluggage, then perhaps that free space could be filled with books, drinks, iPods, and other gadgets to help folk pass the time.

"Flying is being turned into an experience in which passengers, even though they are paying customers, are treated as near-criminals. It is no excuse for the airlines to shrug their shoulders and blame all of this on the security services. They must think of imaginative ways to make travelling as pleasant as possible in the current worrying security environment. If they do not do so, then frankly they can expect little sympathy from me if they subsequently experience financial troubles. We must not, and cannot, let the nihilist losers of radical Islam bring our lives to a halt. Remember: the best revenge is to live well".

Decline and Fall England , Part ?

Our roving correspondent Roseann, en route to Africa but spending a few days in England, writes:

"I am less and less enamored of England as it becomes weirder and more restrictive and more crowded (350,000 immigrants from Eastern Europe alone last year). Driving is truly insane - Ethiopia will be a breeze after this. They are "considering" lowering speed limits from 60 and 50 mph on A and some B roads (country lanes mind you, barely big enough for one H2) to maybe 40. I go 30 and find it quite a challenge in a car as wide as a bathtub!

"It's also an intolerable Nanny State but with really weird rules. You cannot have or use personal defense spray (CS gas they call it here), nor of course can you have handguns, but our friend Garry has a hunting license that allows him to shoot foxes and other "vermin" for farmers, as well as in his own property - even with neighbors 75 feet away. With a scoped .303 hunting rifle. Go figure.

"A side note on London,which I used to love but now I'm not so sure. Maybe it's the crowds and the fact I've grown so used to solitude as a preferred life, but I was totally creeped out after 6 hours battling shoulder to shoulder, and people here have gotten just as obese and consumer-driven as in America. The city is full of rubbish (I don't think it was this bad 10 years ago when we were here), and is insanely expensive. In fact just hit the top 2 most expensive places to live in the world. The weak dollar (.49 something is the exhange - ACK!) is killing me: cost $66 to take the train in, $24 for a pub lunch not including a pint, and $5 for 500ml of water.

"I'm off to Edinburgh tomorrow, and today I am shopping at "jumble stores" for used tupperware to pack my iPod, Powerbook, cameras, and binoculars into my checked bags and prepare for Fun at the Airport Day on the 21st. Since you aren't even allowed a book, I have no idea what to do for the long flight ...."

AR Follies Continued: "Conger Cuddling"

In a surprising place, the religious (mostly Catholic) blog "On The Square", Joseph Pearce offers good defense of foxhunting.

But that is not the best part: AR loonies are now trying to protect DEAD EELS!

"The following is a true story, though it may seem surreal enough to belong in a Monty Python sketch. A charity game, in which the people of the Dorset town of Lyme Regis attempt to knock each other over with a five-foot conger eel, has been banned because animal rights activists complained that it was “disrespectful” to the dead fish. I kid you not.

"Conger cuddling, as it is known to the locals, has been staged annually for many years in the town’s harbor (which is featured, incidentally, in Jane Austen’s novels, in the work of Beatrix Potter, in the movie The French Lieutenant’s Woman, and was a favorite holiday resort of G.K. Chesterton among others). The “cuddling,” which also has a charitable benefit since it raises funds for the Royal National Lifeboat Institute, involves teams of men standing on six-inch-high wooden blocks while other team members take turns swinging a twenty-five-pound eel at them. The team with the most people left standing at the end wins. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? But not if you’re a humorless animal rights activist. Claiming that the event was “disrespectful” to the dignity of the dead fish, they threatened to launch a national campaign against the cuddling unless it was stopped. In the event, as is often the case in our cowardly times, the threat was enough to put an end to the venerable tradition."

Long ago, in another life, I lived in the little (then) fishing village of Brant Rock in Massachusetts. In the local bar one cold winter evening I was privileged to watch two over- sixty fishermen slug it out with a pair of dead cod. I suppose ARistas would now fine them for their "disrespect".

Spy Pigeons-- the Good, the Bad, and...

Reid sent me a link to this fascinating LAT story about homing pigeons being used for remote monitoring of pollution.

"Pigeons wearing tiny backpacks and cellphones will roam the skies of Northern California this weekend as part of an unusual art project.

"Equipped with miniature smog sensors, the birds will transmit air pollution data to a "pigeon blog" website.

"Beatriz da Costa, an assistant professor of arts, computation and engineering at UC Irvine, brainstormed the idea as a playful way to get people thinking about the health hazards of smog."


"Da Costa's entry was inspired by a century-old photo of a homing pigeon wearing a "tiny spy camera". The birds have a long history of military service — and some received medals for their World War II heroics.

"Now, pigeons have entered the Digital Age. Da Costa and two graduate students spent a year developing bird-sized cellphones, GPS tracking devices and air pollution monitors. (Sorry, still no sign of a pigeon iPod.)

"The featherweight gadgetry fits inside a spandex backpack originally designed by a Colorado river-rafting company that employs pigeons to carry rolls of film back to civilization during wilderness tours."

(Steve here: I knew a guy who used to work for them. He said a message took three pigeons because of the ubiquitous Peregrines there: "One for the falcon, one for the tiercel, and one for the film".)

"Each smog-sniffing backpack weighs less than a 10th of a pigeon's body weight and costs $250, Da Costa said."

Tim Gallagher gives us a link to the site.

You would think that this would be a story about something good for everyone-- scientists, kids, abatement of pollution, happy flying pigeons. You would be wrong.

"The use of bird backpacks has drawn fire from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

"In a letter to UCI Chancellor Michael V. Drake last week, PETA said the "heavy and cumbersome equipment" strapped to Da Costa's racing pigeons could cause "injury and exhaustion for the birds."

"Da Costa said she was bewildered by PETA's rebuke. "PETA is doing important work, but they should focus on people who really are abusing animals," she said. Complaints about pigeon backpacks are why the group "is not taken very seriously anymore," she said.

"Bird experts at Cornell University's Lab of Ornithology also said the protest seemed overblown. "Racing pigeons are high-performance athletes that can almost certainly sustain this additional load with no harm," lab spokeswoman Patricia Leonard said."

Poor Da Costa. Welcome to the world of AR.

Oh and-- if you want to learn more about birds and spy technology, Croatian reader Mario Profaca has rounded up quite a bit here. And Pluvialis has written about the falcon side in this book.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Book Review

American Working Terriers
By Patrick Burns
272 pages in soft cover with b/w photographs
$35.14 from

If you travel much along the back roads of the Mid-Atlantic States, along hedgerows and small farms or woodlots, you might spot a digger and his dogs. He’d be a quiet figure in workman’s clothes, walking beneath a load of tools. His little patch-colored dogs would scuttle ahead in the same direction, obviously on to something good.

Investigate: If you’re lucky, and anywhere near Arlington, Virginia, it might be Patrick Burns.

The rest of us will have to settle for American Working Terriers, Burns’s rich and entertaining treatise on the topic of digging to dogs.

“When I refer to terrier work, I am not talking about ratting or bushing rabbits or working raccoons or possums in brush piles or barns, but honest earth work in which a dog disappears underground and out of sight, and then is dug to by someone with a shovel.”

There is that and so much more: Burns manages in a few dozen wide-margined pages to tell the history of the terrier, first in England and then at home. Not satisfied with the sanctioned accounts, Burns ropes in the roles of social movements and class warfare, Darwin’s theories, battlefield etiquette, the American Revolution, rat pits, Teddy Roosevelt, animal rightists and multi-flora rose to tell the story of the terrier complete. And that’s just the opening.

The practicum starts with the size and shape of the subterranean dog. Burns blasts the modern standard that favors large dogs (fox terriers now literally too big to bolt fox) and show breeds so far removed from working stock they have to rename them. Typically utilitarian, Burns sets his own standard for a tunneling dog on the size of the tunnel.

This fact makes necessary a brief natural history of each den-dwelling species hunted by American terriers (principally the groundhog, but also fox, possum and raccoon). Again Burns pulls in interesting facts: comparative anatomy; the effects of species introductions and land management practices; the fecundity of female possums.

He covers early training and entering of dogs, and the construction of an artificial den pipe for this purpose that even I could build. Burns’s breakdown of the digger’s tools (from spade to snare to shovel to bar) has to be the best in print. His description of their proper use gets its own chapter, which opens with an admission I suspect drove the writing of this book:

“I started hunting alone, with a dog that was too big, and a laughable set of tools. I didn’t own a pole snare, barely knew how to work a Deben collar, and had only the vaguest sense of what my options were once I dug down to the quarry.

“Most of the terrier books were a wonder – not one mentioned a bar, none described how to dig a hole deeper than two feet, dispatch was never described, and locating a fox sette was a topic missed entirely…

“In the end I did what I had to do: I free-styled and made mistakes. I was pretty sure if I didn’t get it right, those mistakes would cost me the life of a dog…”

With a thorough recounting of right technique and a closing chapter on emergency aid, Burns aims not to let anyone pay his dues with the health of his dog.

American Working Terriers stands out among useful books on sport for all these reasons plus one: The writing is swift and clean, a pleasure to read. You can almost hear Burns sink the spade into the end of his sentences. He keeps you digging along side him all the way.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Cougars, Science and "Sport Hunting"

Steve and Reid could each provide good commentary here, but with their indulgence, I'll take first dibs.

Reuters carried this story earlier in the week, reporting the release of a study finding no evidence for the notion that hunting cougars reduces the incidence of cougar attacks on people or livestock. Given only that information, I might have been curious but not skeptical about the news... Assuming some cite public safety in defense of cougar hunting, I would expect some others to refute the claim: Discourse happens, as it should!

Popular notions are notoriously convenient to hold and debunking them is part of the work of science. I've debunked plenty of my own erroneous notions by simply watching and taking notes, two common sense pillars of the scientific method.

But fair inquiry requires independence from politics and pre-supposition (yet more notions!), a standard admittedly difficult to meet by mere humans. So scientists counter their innate prejudices with a complex code of ethics, calling for rigorous training, academic tenure, full disclosure, self-policing, peer review, public comment and replications of finding. Thus are private agendas tied down and forcibly contained.

This self-conscious scientific rigor is why we tend to believe reports filed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and to question press releases from the White House. It's why the energy sector has to buy its own global warming critics.

But what does this have to do with cougars? Well, crouching in the Reuters story I see signs of rogue politics, ready to spring.

First Off:

The study was conducted by a biologist on staff with The Mountain Lion Foundation of California, a private organization that by its own list of accomplishments brought about (via ballot initiative) the standing ban on hunting cougars in that state.

The study's findings are characterized by organization President Lynn Sadler in this way:
"Sport hunting is nothing more than the random shooting of mountain lions for fun. It does not reduce attacks on people or livestock, as far as we can tell...What we would like to see is that states manage them according to science, and not just some, you know, idea that you can somehow randomly shoot them for fun and cause anybody or anything to be any safer."
These seem to me statements heavy with pre-supposition. And Sadler's repeating the phrase "random shooting for fun," in reference to hunting, sounds like something political consultants would call "staying on message."

For clues to the messengers here, it might be helpful to look at the Foundation's listed "partners," which include The Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife and the Animal Protection Institute. Note also the fact that the MLF and these partner organizations share some board members.

But there is an obvious difference between the work of science and the use or interpretation of scientific findings. It might be that this study, conducted by Christopher Papouchis (a former wildlife biologist for the USGS) maintains the high standards and rigor of good science.

But it's kind of hard to tell. Have a look.

You'll see quickly that the available report doesn't follow the standard format of a scientific paper---not that this venue requires it, but part of the reason for that standard format is to give the reader a clear picture of methodology and to view enough of the raw data to evaluate the study's conclusions. In fact, it should be possible to replicate its results given the information provided.

This is simply not the case with the MLF study, which is evidently the final report and the same one cited by the Reuters news story.

I'll leave it to my much better-qualified blog partners (and please, to any readers who care to comment) to help clarify the methodology of this study as we're presented with it. I would be especially curious to know:

  • Why sport hunting and government shooting (on depredation) were not parsed out, presented separately in the figures and factored in?
  • Why attacks on humans were measured in millions per incident instead of the standard #-per 100,000 people-per year?
  • Why the extent of suitable habitat was used as a variable instead of cougar density within that habitat?
  • What the rate of cougar attacks was before the 1972 California ban versus the years afterwards, and why that wasn't an obvious question to ask regarding this issue?
  • Would a version of this study including its raw data ever be submitted to Journal of Wildlife Management or other peer reviewed field publication?
This last question I asked Mr. Papouchis directly, in response to his kind initial offer to answer any question I had.

If I receive a reply I will post it here.

UPDATE (16 Aug): I did receive a very cordial and interesting reply from Mr. Papouchis. He read this post and gave answers to my questions. I've asked him for permission to publish his response here but may not hear back from him until his return from a trip. If he allows it, I'll post it in a new blog.

Iris Pigmentation

As Carel says, a catalog devoted to the iris colors of 5620 vertebrates, with commentary, would probably not have existed without the internet. But I love it!

Carel's owl painting is worth linking to for itself.

One More Grim One..

China is massacring dogs.

Worse, if that seems possible, they may be doing the same to believers in Falun Gong and harvesting their organs.

Libby suggests that both may be as much demostrations of the omnipotence of the state as anything. Behave or else..

Writer's Fight Song

And now for something completely hilarious: a song against procrastination for writers. A few lines?



(Snip) ...........


"So have another coffee
Or have another drink (OR THREE)
And surf the web and have a smoke
And try like hell to think
And maybe write in a cavalier


Thanks to Chas.

"Natural Religion"

The ever- brilliant Fred Turner has an esay on the nature and importance of religion here. I have long admired Fred for everything from his epic poetry to his ability to reconcile supposedly opposing viewpoints.

Alan Furst

Enough gloom: the wonderful spy novelist Alan Furst, who has no competitors since John Le Carre turned into Michael Moore, has a new book out. He deals with the period before World War II. Think "Casablanca" (yes, he's that good, that romantic, and the dialog is also that good). Think, as Libby says, "rain at night in the city". Historically he has perfect pitch-- uncanny that a young man should have such a feel for the period, like Patrick O'Brian's for the Napoleonic wars.

Read an interview here.

Some Gloom from Mary

Prarie Mary writes with her usual elegance of being poor and no longer young, and of some problems of the west and of rural life today.

"The message is that life for humans on this planet is becoming increasingly dependent on individual prosperity. If one is old, weak, troublesome, ill, or simply not like everyone else, one had better inherit money. Otherwise, you will end up living in a cardboard box with no amenities".


"Only a hundred years ago or a little more, homesteaders thought they were finally going to get ahead when the government did an enormous land dispersal through the homestead act, allotting to white immigrants the land they had just taken from the Native Americans. Someone remarked that half those immigrants ended up leaving without proving up, defeated by the climate or by a lack of investment capital enough for animals and equipment. Many died. Just as in Europe, a few ended up owning most of the land.

"This village happily celebrates the lives of those who survived -- who are their immediate ancestors. They made it here because they came as a village, developed irrigation as a village, and pretty much continued as interlinked families without an influx of people who were different. Until now. How long will they remain a cooperating village with new people arriving who don’t share the past?"

This one is definitely a "read the whole thing".

An Interview with Bob Kane

Here, fighting AR loonies for us everywhere. Support him!

.. And One Last Note...

Again from Patrick: are "we" our own worst enemies?

This is an actual exchange from a UK hunting discussion group:


OK guys,

Thanks to some good pals on this site it looks as if yours truly is going to acquire one of the above.

I have (jointly) a pack of mink hounds, so I can flush mink to said owl.

I can use as many "dogs" as I like to do that; not just one or two, and I'll still be HA 2004 compliant.

Owlie will also be handy next winter when we reform the Valley (Rabbit) beagles. All welcome!

Problem is that I know next to nothing about looking after said owl.

What kind of place do I build for Owlie?

I have a nice dry shed at the back of the house. Does it need heating? Will Owlie object to drafts? What will he eat?

Where can I get a seriously thick gauntlet? Are any available 2nd hand?

What about transport?

Will it eat the hounds?

Will it eat the hunt terrier?

Will it eat any policemen who are surplus to requirements?

Will it eat any sabs that might arrive?

Will it kill mink ?

In other words where can I acquire an "idiot's guide" to everything I need to know aboutthe welfare and use of Owlie?


Idiot Guide, indeed.

More on the Hunting Conviction in England

I bogged here recently on the conviction of a huntsman in England. Patrick, the Terrierman, had a lot to say, both in his blog (scroll down past the plug for Matt to "a slightly troubling note") and in person. He wrote to me:

"The professional houndsmen, kennel men and terriermen are a breed apart, and quite smart and sensible as a general rule (even if they are poor and not always too well educated). The problem is that they are just two or three people in a field of 300 riders with a lot of money, power and ignorance throwing its weight about. They are pressured on all sides and trapped in the trough of history,

"On a larger scale, I have to tell you the British are idiots when it comes to game management and hunting. There is no getting around it. The British love canned hunts, putting out as many as 300 or 400 birds an acre for glorified chicken shoots. They regulate guns as if everyone is a member of the Manson Family, but have no bag limits for most small game and no season for it either. Tresspass laws are almost unheard of. They ban modern leghold traps for nuisance fox, but snares are OK, as is lamping fox over bait at night. It's OK to course rabbits and fox with greyhounds, but not hares. It's anyone's guess how the dog is supposed to know which is which.


"The police would not prosecute Wright, and so Wright is being prosecuted under an old "qui tam" law. A reverse of this conviction is pretty likely, I think. Even if it is not reversed, however, the fine is pretty insignificant and the Hunt will probably pay for it. If the conviction stands, this will be the first after more than two years of very active hunting. In truth this is the kind of law that undermines the rule of law and for that reason alone it is a threat to democracy. if government can do something this stupid, there's no telling what's next!

"The problem in the UK, of course, is that they did not have people like Teddy Roosevelt and Aldo Leopold to shape their ethos and institutions. We have some historically bent game laws in the U.S. of course (parts of the the Migratory Bird Treaty Act do not make too much sense in the 21st Century), but we are bastions of common sense and wisdom compared to the British.

"God Bless America, land that I love. I would not want to be British".

To some extent, it's coming here. Albuquerque now has the most restrictive animal laws in the nation.

But maybe not right away-- see also Patrick's comments here on comparative geography.

Flee England?

Lots of "Doom and Gloom" and "Decline and Fall" before we get to good things today..

A 64- year- old grandmother was arrested for standing up to two thugs that were tormenting her.

"After months of being taunted by a gang of yobs, grandmother Diane Bond finally stood up to them when she was abused while walking her pet dog. During a torrent of foul-mouthed abuse, the frail 64-year-old prodded the teenager ringleader gently in the stomach when he urged her to "Hit me, if you dare".

"Moments later, the 5 ft 1 inch pensioner found herself flat on her back and nursing a broken arm after the 15-year-old boy, who was 7 inches taller, pushed her to the ground. But to add insult to injury, police officers arrested her for assaulting a child after his mother moaned he had been attacked."

I won't even say "read the whole thing"-- it is all more of the same.

Gun curmudgeon Kim details the attempts of the British nanny state to evict a man who only wanted to live a life that would have suited Thoreau:

"The urge to live a life of greater simplicity is not a new one. It has become more popular as the world has become more technologically complex, and I for one don’t have a problem with it—it should be a basic societal principle that one can live one’s life at the level of simplicity of one’s own choice (with the usual caveat that no one else’s life is adversely affected by such a decision, which is clearly not an issue in this particular case).

"But no: Nanny Government has decreed that no one be allowed to live without running water, electricity, a sauna, a hot tub, and underfloor heating. After all, if there’s no electricity, how will Big Brother be able to install the telescreen?"

(Of course, we are not immune to this here. From NPR:

"Two-and-a-half years from now, in early 2009, the Census Bureau plans to send an army of 100,000 temporary workers down every street and dusty, dirt road in America. They will be armed with handheld GPS devices.

"Robert LaMacchia, head of the Census Bureau's geography division, says they'll capture the latitude and longitude of the front door of every house, apartment and improvised shelter they find.

"We will actually knock on doors and look for hidden housing units," he says. "We will find converted garages; from the outside, it may not look like anybody lives there."

"But census workers will add each dwelling, legal or not, to the Census Bureau's Master Address File.")

I'll add some more dour thoughts on life in Britain in the next post. But of course, if you don't mind being convicted for defending yourself or hunting, you can now attend a masturbation marathon in London.

As the character in Peter Matthiessen's Far Tortugas said, "modern times, mon".

Monday, August 07, 2006

Why I Can't Stop Starting Books

The title of Joe Queenan's piece in the New York Times Book Review says it all. He says he is simultaneously reading about 25 books. Steve and I both feel the same way.

Preserving Traditions

Reid sent this recent feature by Russ Parsons at L.A. Times on a California peach farmer who boasts a cult following among the foodies: "'Mas' Masumoto, a short, square 52-year-old with a quick smile and work-hardened hands, is probably the most famous fruit farmer in America."

"...Over the years, Masumoto has become a charismatic public speaker, carrying his message about family farms to groups as varied as the Culinary Institute of America and conventions of dance instructors and chamber music societies.

"The Masumotos live about 20 miles southeast of Fresno in a low-slung 1920s farmhouse surrounded by old grape vines with tight bunches of pale young fruit, and stone-fruit orchards laden with ripening nectarines and peaches. Masumoto is a third-generation farmer in the Central Valley. Indeed, his parents bought this place in 1964.

"While Mas may represent the face of the American farmer to his readers, in person he may be somewhat different than what you're expecting. The stereotype is for farmers to be grizzled and gruff, clad in grimy overalls. Masumoto is friendly and open. He comes to the door in shorts and a Hawaiian print shirt. But despite appearances, he is solidly in the statistical mainstream of California agriculture — working a mid-size family farm and struggling to find his niche in a very competitive commercial world."

Parsons recounts attending a "jam party," a homey, old-style jelly making hosted by Matsumoto in his farmhouse kitchen. It's a way for Matsumoto, who holds a Master's in Community Development, to involve his neighbors in a life quickly fading:

"I see this as sort of a throwback to the old days," Masumoto says. "It's keeping those rural ties. Oftentimes, people we invite have never made jam; it's very new to them. They'll ask me questions like: 'Why is this jar redder than that jar?' I'll tell them it's because the peaches that went into it had a little more color, and it's like that never occurred to them…. They expect everything to be standardized."

In similar spirit (and with plenty inspiration from Roseann), we'd like to share a few of our own traditions with you. I'll post first; Libby will share an applesauce recipe she and Steve enjoy from the fruits of their labor; and Reid? Maybe some poached guacamole from the neighborhood tree?

Mine comes from my hawking friend and mentor Tom Coulson, whose father picked wild blackberries for jelly every summer, nearly until his last, and passed on the lore to Tom. My most recent batch used fresh local stawberries, but the method is the same. There was no written recipe to pass along, so I'll post my trial-and-error version.

Blackberry or Strawberry Jelly

2.5 (or more) quarts berries

4 cups white sugar

½ lemon

1 package “Sure Gel” or other home canning fruit pectin

6 small jars with new sealing lids (the two-part lids)

1 cup filtered water (optional)

  • Heat berries in large saucepan until soft (strawberries may benefit from adding one cup of water; blackberries don’t need it).
  • Mash well on low heat until uniform in consistency.
  • Place mash in colander and drain overnight. Filter juice through second, tighter mesh if necessary in the morning.
  • Save juice in 3.5-cup amounts for this recipe. Juice keeps well when frozen almost indefinitely.
  • Wash jars and lids, and place jars in bath of gently boiling water on stove. Let simmer while boiling juice. Place clean lids on paper towel and in a row to expedite sealing.
  • Thaw juice in adequately sized saucepan (large enough to contain boil); when liquefied and warm, stir in pectin (no less than 8-10ths of 1 package) and one half of squeezed lemon juice. Bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat and add 4 cups sugar, one at a time and stirring constantly, leaving no lumps. Skim foam from top if desired.
  • Boil until juice reaches 220 degrees, and then check regularly for gelling. This can take 2-8 minutes, depending on . . . who-knows-what?? You can use “spoon test,” (look for jelly sheeting off the spoon) and/or place a small amount of hot jelly on cold plate and pop in fridge – if mixture gells after 1-2 minutes in fridge, maybe it’s ready. Either way it’s a judgment call; I've never done it the same way twice and yet never burned the batch.
  • When ready, take mixture off heat and quickly (but carefully) pull jars from hot water with tongs, leaving no water inside the jars. Pour mixture through funnel, leaving ½ inch at top of each jar. Place 1st part of lids on jars, then screw on second piece (use hand towel for better purchase) and set jars aside on counter away from sunlight. Resist temptation to jiggle jars until morning – this may prevent gelling.
  • Place in fridge the next morning if you plan to eat jelly yourself. This will firm it further and keep it fresh after opening. Otherwise, place unopened jars in cool, dry, dark area if you are not using them. I have no idea how long they will last (probably forever), but I wouldn’t press your luck. Better to give them away and tell people to enjoy soon (and keep in fridge)!

Doom and Gloom..

NOT from Derb!-- and two other good columns from Patrick. The Doom one is Ozymandias. Traitors, Spies, and Beagles contains some mysteries. And Paving Paradise contains some non- partisan political wisdom. (Required reading for Crunchies).

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Death of Childhood?

From Derb: three English children were jailed and DNA tested for playing in a tree and breaking some branches.

"To the 12-year-old friends planning to build themselves a den, the cherry tree seemed an inviting source of material.

"But the afternoon adventure turned into a frightening ordeal for Sam Cannon, Amy Higgins and Katy Smith after they climbed into the 20ft tree - then found themselves hauled into a police station and locked in cells for up to two hours.

"Their shoes were removed and mugshots, DNA samples and mouth swabs were taken.

"Officers told the children they had been seen damaging the tree which is in a wooded area of public land near their homes.

"Questioned by police, the scared friends admitted they had broken some loose branches because they had wanted to build a tree house, but said they did not realise what they had done was wrong.

"Officers considered charging the children with criminal damage but eventually decided a reprimand - the equivalent of a caution for juveniles - was sufficient."

The children were traumatized, but the oh- so- sensitive police are unrepentant. A quote from a spokesman:

"West Midlands Police deals robustly with anti-social behaviour. By targeting what may seem relatively low-level crime we aim to prevent it developing into more serious matters."

Derb rudely wonders: "Why were these children left unsupervised? Why weren't they off at a Sensitivity Awareness camp, like normal kids? Or at home busily studying for exams? Or playing some nice game like Tug-O-Peace?"

Sigh. MEGA sigh.

What Shall We Do...

...while Pluvialis is away in Central Asia? Suggestions are being solicited in Comments. Heidi suggests beer, though vodka might be more anthropologically correct.

Bat Taxonomy

Darren has just posted a fascinating look at bat taxonomy called We Flightless Primates. Although he casts doubt on the hypothesis that bats are composed of two groups with different origins, one more closely related to primates, I can't help continuing to be intrigued by that theory. Not being anything but an amateur taxonomist, I can allow myself an infatuation with an idea until it is proved wrong.

And he promises "real" flying primates to come. Can't wait. (Though I do hope it is not one of these!)

Darren does something not many science writers can-- make the most abstruse evolutionary issues come to life.

Update: more at Microecos.

Dobe Bites King's Bear

This is just too funny: a guard dog has destroyed a bunch of Teddy bears he was "guarding", including one owned by Elvis.

" "He just went berserk," said Daniel Medley, general manager of the Wookey Hole Caves near Wells, England, where hundreds of bears were chewed up Tuesday night by the 6-year-old Doberman pinscher named Barney."

Berserk? My puppies will do that without, so to speak, breaking a sweat.

"Barney ripped the head off a brown stuffed bear once owned by the young Presley during the attack, leaving fluffy stuffing and bits of bears' limbs and heads on the museum floor. The bear, named Mabel, was made in 1909 by the German manufacturer Steiff.

"The collection, valued at more than $900,000, included a red bear made by Farnell in 1910 and a Bobby Bruin made by Merrythought in 1936."

Personally I think anyone who has spent $900,000 on stuffed toys needs... a reality check, at the very least. And who documents the provenance of Teddy bears anyway?

Thanks to Annie D and Mary S.

When Hunting is Banned...

...people like Tony Wright become outlaws.

Two things strike me about this report. First, though it is not explicitly mentioned, the p[olice are still rather unwilling to make criminals out of violators of this unjust law.

And this is because the "criminals" are people like this:

"Tony Wright followed his father Sam into hunt
service. He worked with the Heythrop in the Cotswolds and the Quorn in
Leicestershire before moving to the south-west to refine his skills under
legendary Exmoor huntsman Captain RE Wallace in 1982. Wright lives at the
kennels with wife Jill and more than 100 hounds. He says the two horses he
rides are his "best mates" and when his wife is out shares his sofa with
favoured hounds to watch racing. His house and car are owned by the hunt; heworks 60 hours for a minimum wage. But "I've got a millionaire's lifestyle
without the money."

Anne Pearse Hocker says: "I still think they should hire a Mongolian horseman with a Berkut to show them how to really hunt foxes. Might catch on..."

The hard part might be convincing the Kazakh that any kind of hunting was considered wrong. I remember (I think) Mary Jackson in the Spectator a few years ago humorously writing about how to explain a hunt ban to someone in Asia or Africa.

Also see this.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Gunblogging: French Design 2

As most readers probably know, I love French shotguns!

Perhaps even prettier than the Darne is the Manufrance Ideal (say "ee- day--ahl", not "eyedeel"). Round- actioned like the Scottish Dixons and McNaughtons which cost ten times more (though mechanically, because of their coil springs, more like the early side- lever Grants), light, strong, elegant, and ergonomic, they have some of the best lines nd handling characteristics in the world. They are sadly unappreciated here. When, a while ago, I was forced to sell a more expensive gun, I managed to get one "on the side" and still have money to pay bills, with the help of Kirby Hoyt at Vintage Doubles (a dealer whom I recommend without reservation).

It is a 16, the "ideal" ("eyedeel") gauge. See the clean lines?

It opens by squeezing an underlever-- extremely smooth and ergonomic.

And, being French, it has one innovation nobody else would think of: a sling that reels up and disappears into the stock.

Animal toys

Blame Darren for starting this thread.

I suspect many naturalists, as part of their childlike delight in the diversity of creatures (a GOOD thing) secretly or not- so- secretly collect animal toys. He has inspired us to put up a selection of our odd bunch.

From the left rear: warthog, Snowy owl, Patagonia's Penguino (Libby will soon blog the sad tale of its planned extermination-- is it the last of its kind?); Stieff dachshund, parrot -- species non- specific I think. The little bird in the middle with the long beak has been known as the woodcock, but I notice it has nostrils in the end of that beak--?? Then, in front, stag beetle, dragonfly, mopane worm (edible caterpillar I have eaten in Zimbabwe) and a mandrill with movable arms riding a manatee.

And Annie, I don't let the dogs go berserk on them...

Check out this site for some interesting toy animals. Thanks to Darren!