Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Halloween Tale :: The Little White Dog

There was an old woman who lived alone, she had no family still living and her only friend was a little white dog who went everywhere with her - with one exception. The dog loved the fireplace in winter, and after the old woman went to bed he would sometimes go and lie in front of the warm coals. Usually though, the dog lay on a rug right next to the bed.

The woman wouldn't allow the dog on the bed with her, but if she became frightened or had a nightmare, she would put her hand down to her little white dog and he would lick it reassuringly.

One night she was reading the newspaper just before going to sleep. She shivered and pulled the duvet up around her as she read that a mental patient had wandered off from a nearby hospital. No one knew if the patient was dangerous or not, but he was a suspect in the murders of several women who lived alone.

The woman turned out the lights and tried to sleep, but she was frightened, and tossed and turned fitfully. Finally, she reached down to where her little white dog slept. Sure enough, a warm, wet tongue began to lick her hand. The woman felt reassured and safe, and left her hand dangling off the side of the bed. As she turned to settle in comfortably she opened her eyes for a moment and looked through the open door into the living room.

There in front of the fireplace, sat her little white dog, gazing at the coals and wagging his tail.

And down beside her bed, something was still licking her hand.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Architecture of Burrows

A repost from 2005

The list of animals that hibernate in underground burrows, live in burrows or nest in burrows is astounding: fox, badger, turtles, some owls and parrots, ground squirrels and marmots, some penguins and puffins, European rabbits, bears, wolves and dogs, otter, some wild pigs, some wild cats, many snakes and lizards, possums, wombats, frogs and toads, moles, mice and rats, nutria, crayfish, armadillos, skunks, muskrats, meerkats, some large spiders, and several types of bees.

Many of these animals spend a fair amount of time constructing, maintaining, and modifying their den systems which, in turn, are structured in response to changing external circumstances and changing internal needs.

Anatomy, behavior, and distribution of wild animals are all greatly affected by the burrow environment, with temperature, humidity, oxygen, living space, availability of food, and protection from flooding and predation all being influenced by burrow architecture.

Despite this, the burrow structure of almost all subterranean mammals is barely known, and data and descriptions of den structures as they relate to soil composition, drainage, external defenses (rock, wire fences, farm buildings), proximity to food and water sources, is almost entirely non-existent.

All of this make understanding burrow architecture as an adaptive tool a difficult task, but it nonetheless clear, among humans digging to their terriers, that burrows are designed with a reason and that certain "tricks" keep popping up. A few I have noticed in the construction of groundhog and fox dens:

  • Water and the phreatic zone: Dens of fox and groundhogs are designed to keep the animals dry, yet fox in particular like to locate their dens very near water. Shallow dens are sometimes found carved into the sides of small humps or rises in marshy areas, but these are rarely natal dens. The deeper natal dens of fox are generally found on the rises above the flood plains -- on well-drained hillsides near a creek or pond or water-filled ditch. The ideal spot for a pipe is deep enough to be dry from surface water, but not so deep as to be encountering the water table -- the so-called "phreatic zone".

  • The "plumbers pipe" opening: In these settes the pipes run down for two or three feet before rising again and then dropping again. This createa an earthen "water stop" not so very different from the plumbers p-pipe you will find under your kitchen sink. This is a common feature in many animal burrows, from rat to fox.

  • Depth is determined by soil: This is near-truth. The softer the earth and the easier it drains, the deeper the den is likely to be. One of the chief functions of a den is to keep the animal dry, and in soils that are very light, dryness tends to be achieved with some depth. You may cut through very soft stuff for three or four feet, but below that will be the harder stuff -- a layer of hard sand below the soft, or a layer of hard dry clay below much softer and friable soil. The pipe is likely to be in the softer soil just below the hard vein. The hard vein works to structurally support the pipe and to keep out the last bits of water. The one exception that I would note is where a ridge is made almost entirely of small cherts, flints or flaked slate. Here digging by a fox or groundhog is so hard, and the drainage is so rapid, that the den pipe may be very shallow since water runs through the den as fast as it falls. These shallow and breezy loose-rock dens will not be used in winter, but are likely spots in summer.

  • Rocks, roots and barbed wire at the entrance: This is so common that it is clearly a planned design feature. It is not uncommon to find dens exiting inside a stump or hollow tree, or to have a strand or two of barbed wire running along the lip. Groundhog dens frequently start on one side of a barbed wire fence and exit out another. If there is an abandoned vehicle on the edge of a farm, a groundhog will invariably makes its home under the chassis -- a nice shelter from the rain, but also from predators who will have to slow down to a crawl to avoid beaning themselves on the I-beam and suspension. Hard structures not only makes digging out more difficult, it makes a mad dash at the den hole a dangerous and maladaptive strategy for large predators. In addition to hard structures at den entrances and exits, there are "soft structures" such as thickets of multi-flora rose, bramble, poison ivy, and thick wild grape vine.

  • The hard turn after the den entrance: This is a frequent feature of groundhog den entrances and serves two purposes: 1) it makes it difficult for predators to enter, and; 2) water entering the entrance will tend to follow the straight line of gravity and soak into the ground at the end of the pipe rather than run sideways with the turn of the pipe. I have encountered some rather incredible animals that took this "hard turn at the entrance" technique to absurd levels as they never stopped turning -- they corkscrewed their dens in full circles all the way down in a spiral that went four or five feet deep.

  • The pocket room close to the entrance: This is a common feature of groundhogs dens, and I believe these serve as "loafing parlors" where the animal can tuck in out of danger between feeding forays. If you are quiet, and the dog is too, you can often bottle a groundhog in one of these little rooms before it goes deeper into the sette.

  • Right angle turns inside the den pipe: These are very frequent features of groundhog and fox dens and seems to serve two purposes. The first purpose is that they help keep the den dry, as water running down a pipe will tend to follow gravity rather than take a sudden turn to the left or right. The second purpose is clearly defensive; a groundhog or fox can take a stand at a hard corner and slash out at anything coming down the pipe, inflicting considerable damage if the corner is tight, as it invariably is. Often a sette will have several right-angle turns, each providing additional elements of security, like doors on a hallway. A human digging on a dog will often break into a pipe where the dog and quarry are at a standoff at one of these turns, at which point all hell will break loose as the animals grab each other, or else the fox or groundhog will manage to retreat to the next hard corner in the pipe system -- a kind of running battle that can be very frustrating to the digger!

  • Side pipes and stop-end branches: These are common features of both groundhog pipes and fox dens. Some of these represent unfinished den digging, but for a fox they also provide a place where one animal can scoot into in order to let another pass by, where one animal can lay up without getting overheated from the warmth of its mate and where it can get a better supply of air. Earth dens are all about keeping dry, maintaining the right temperature, keeping the air flowing, and staying secure. Side passages increase the options on all counts.

  • Field settes are generally deeper and larger than hedgerow settes, and often harder for the human to dig as a consequence: I believe this is due to a conflux of opportunity and necessity. The opportunity for larger and deeper settes is due to the lack of obstructions like roots and rocks. The necessity is that plowed fields with friable soils require deeper dens to remain dry, while larger more complex settes are an element of security, allowing a groundhog or fox to escape danger in one part of the sette by going to another -- or even bolting out of one entrance into another.

  • Large "race track" settes are fairly common in fields. These large settes circle back on themselves several times and may have several layers of pipe. More commonly they are simply four-, five-, or six-eyed settes with connecting pipes. A groundhog can run around in these large settes, shoveling dirt behind it to block the dog, and effectively preventing the dog from bottling it in a stop end. The solution I employ is to earth stop the den at two or three spots (generally at exits where the pipe goes left and right). If needed I will also allow two experienced dogs that know each other well to enter opposite sides of the settes and work the animal to the middle. This generally prevents the groundhog from digging in and gets the animal pinned against one of the newly-minted stop-ends in short order. Putting two dogs to ground should be left to people who know their dogs well and who are experienced diggers. It is better to lose quarry than a dog. Two very hard dogs to ground, or two dogs in a den occupied by a skunk, could be a disaster! Never enter two dogs on a fox -- it is simply not necessary, as the fox cannot dig away.

  • Winter "fox porches": A fox will often dig out the first three or four feet of a groundhog den and create a kind of "loafing porch" where it can tuck in out of the wind but still not be fully underground. Fox can easily overheat inside the earth, and this "porch" area allows for easy temperature regulation -- go a little deeper if it is very cold, stay right at the entrance if it is warm. The breezeway allows the fox two excellent avenues of escape if danger approaches -- into the nearby woods or thicket, or deeper underground.

  • An observation on what does not dig: Raccoons and possums do not dig earth dens -- they occupy holes made by other animals or find hollow trees, brush piles, rock crevices, hay bales, barns or crawlspaces. Neither animal is equipped to move dirt beyond a little scratching for worms and beetle grubs. Neither animal will modify a den in a significant way (though both will pull plastic bags and other debris into a den in order to improve insulation and provide bedding).

Friday, October 26, 2012

Follow the Frog

An epic little bit of online advocacy from the Rainforest Alliance. This is how you do it with style, wit, humor, realism, and grace.  Will it work?  Dunno.  But they got the first part of the pitch right, at the very least.

And yes, it's good enough to pass on.  So do that; pass it on.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Halloween Jack O'Lantern

This post recyled from October 2005.

If you are artistically-minded, get a large pumpkin and carve a nice "Jack O' Lantern" this Halloween (yes, all puns are intended).

Click >> here for a pretty large pattern to fit a good-sized pumpkin. You can enlarge the picture you see by going to the bottom right of the picture and clicking on the expanding arrows that should appear. This pattern is 800 pixels wide.

Transfer the pattern with pin pricks through the paper into the pumpkin.

Carve the yellow parts of the jack very deeply, but not so deeply as to go through the entire pumpkin. The goal is to leave a thin bit of yellow pumpkin flesh which the light will radiate through. Again, use the needle to ascertain pumpkin thickness.

If you need a larger or small pattern, simply increase or decrease the pattern size on a Xerox machine.

A Word from the Republican Leadership


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Doc Martin Learns About Ratting With Russells

Martin Clunes gets it right.  Jack Russells are simply an "enhanced wolf".  The code explodes.

A Land Out of Balance

The above video of a jack rabbit roundup near Rupert, Idaho in 1931 is a reminder of two things: 1) how wildly out-of-whack American lands got at the turn of the century, and; 2) that Ken Burns' two-part, four-hour documentary on the Dust Bowl will air November 18th and 19th.

I have written about the Dust Bowl jack rabbit roundups in some detail in the past, and even got an email from a researcher for Ken Burns when they were putting together their documentary.  The four links at the bottom of this post tell the story of how it all came to pass.

A special thank to Doug P. for sending the above video link!  The video, below, has sound, and is from Kansas in 1934.

Note that "Jack Rabbits" are not actually rabbits -- they are hares.

A Very Special Kind of Lizard

Right now, Mitt Romney is changing colors
faster than a Chameleon on LSD.

Your Map Lesson of the Day

Africa can fit all of the U.S, plus China, plus India, plus Japan, plus most of Western and Eastern Europe. And the reason you do not know that is that maps lie.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Toad on the Driveway

This little fellow met Mountain on the driveway, and gave the dog a bitter taste, as toads will do.  I scooped up the toad in a water dish and released it unharmed in the front yard.

Austin and Lucy

My son and his dog.  He's done very well with Lucy, and Lucy has done very well with him.

Friday, October 19, 2012

This Dog Should Be Named Lazarus

Wow, this is some sick stuff... and, in the end, a miracle worthy of the Bible.

The story is out of France. ABC News reports:
A Jack Russell terrier has survived after being poisoned and buried alive — and he can thank the man who saw the ground wiggle.

Ethan came back to life on his third birthday after someone tried to kill him. He had a whole chain of saviors: the man who dug him up, the firefighters who rushed him off and a veterinarian who nursed him back to life.

Sabrina Zamora, president of an animal association in Charleville-Mezieres, 200 kilometers (125 miles) northeast of Paris, said Friday the little white dog with a black ear was "flat as a pancake" when he was dug up from his grave Tuesday near a lakeside pedestrian path.

"It's extraordinary. We only see this in TV movies," said veterinarian Philippe Michon. "He came back to life and without a scratch. It's rather miraculous."

The vet said when firemen brought the dirt-covered terrier to his office "he was completely cold, he was barely breathing."

Michon used hot water bottles to warm up Ethan's seemingly lifeless body. The dog was so cold his veins had collapsed and it was hard to find one to hydrate him but within 24 hours the dog was back on his feet.

According to the veterinarian and Zamora, a man walking by just happened to see the ground moving — an apparent result of convulsions from the dog's poisoning. The man then got a shovel and dug the dog up.

Ethan was identified through a microchip that showed all this happened on his third birthday.

His owner says he had given the dog away but police are investigating, Zamora said.

"(Ethan) had an unbelievable chain of luck," Michon said. "If the ground hadn't trembled, no one would have taken a shovel to it."

Yesterday Was Moby Dick's Birthday

The “Google Doodle” of the day yesterday was a reference to Moby Dick, which was first published in England (no, it was not first published in America) this week in October of 1851.

This rainy morning I spent a half hour in Starbucks in Chinatown prior to an interview around the corner.

The Starbucks’s coffee chain is named after the First Mate on the Pequod, the boat in Moby Dick. The three guys who created Starbucks (an English teacher, a History teacher, and a writer) wanted to name their coffee house “The Pequod,” but the bank would not lend them money on that name, so “Starbucks” it was.

It occurs to me I could write a very good ad for Starbucks with a one-word substitution from the opening page of Moby Dick. Here it is:

“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 Starbucks as soon as I can.”
. . .   
― Herman Melville, Moby-Dick 
. . .      . (with a one word substitution)


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Coffee and Provocation

Coffee - I've Been Doing It Wrong:
Apparently, it's time for me to go "Mr. Wizard" with the magic beans.  Corrie Doctrow, over at Boing Boing says I need to go to cold brew and he details how to make it, complete with portable breast milk bags if I want to make a roadshow of it (not sure I do).  Corrie writes:  "I fucking love cold-brew coffee. Sorry, but strong sentiments demand strong language. Cold-brew coffee is extracted at room temperature or below, and is substantially less acidic than even the best hot coffee. The low-temperature extraction preserves the very volatile aromatic acids, and cold-brew coffee has a lot of chocolaty, caramel notes that are scrummy. Cold-brew tastes very strong, but without any bitterness, and is ferociously caffeinated. A couple glasses of cold-brew turn me into an ALL-CAPS TWEETING HYPERACTIVE SUPERHERO."  Yep, that's the medicated effect I am after.  And apparently, making cold brew is as simple as dirt too.

Tae Bo With Jack Russell:
And it's even worse with Zumba.
Please Move the Deer Crossings:
Listen to this one.  And yes, they are allowing this lady to vote in the next election, same as you.

Get some.  Nothing is sexier than gratitude.
Muffin Pan Omelettes:
A quick way to get your daily dosage of soul-satisfying cholesterol even when you are on the go and running late.  Nice.
The Great Badger Battle:
Over at Scientific American, they note: "Here are the facts. For more than a decade, bovine TB has been on the rise in Britain. To control the disease, which can spread to humans through contaminated milk, cattle are routinely screened and infected animals are destroyed. And, uncomfortable as it is for animal-lovers, killing large numbers of badgers does help to reduce levels of bovine TB."
The Most Interesting Man in the World Was a Red Shirt:
Jonathan Goldsmith, the fellow behind the Dos Equis' Most Interesting Man in the World ad, once played a Red Shirt in the Star Trek episode The Corbomite Maneuver. And guess what?  He didn't die!  Of course he didn't.  He is the Most Interesting Man in the World.  Dying as a Red Shirt has been done!
Selling New Zealand:
Thomas Edison for the 21st Century:
He's American, he's alive, and he's interesting.
Sanctions in Iran are Working:
Steve Hanke estimates that Iran’s monthly inflation rate has reached 70%.  Monthly.  In short, they are f*rked. Obama has already wiped them up.  They're dead and just don't know it yet.
Black Mamba Venom Is the New Pain Medication:
Supposedly, no side effects.  They said that about Vioxx too.  Whoops!
Send This One to Three People Today:
A true history and a great video from animator Lucas Gray who helps make The Family Guy and The SimpsonsWatch it, Facebook it, send it to a friend

Mitt Romney Style


Best Debate Ever!

Wrote a song about it!

"Please Proceed, Governor"

Got Game? 

A visual depiction of the debate last night, with Mitt Romney as groundhog.   Yes, that's blood on the dog, but no it's not the dog's blood. 

As Chris Rock put it:

President Obama just combined the epicness of the ending of Braveheart, Gladiator, and Shawshank Redemption into one act.  Obama didn't even need to hold up Bin Laden's head."

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Let's Not Talk About the Economy Says Romney

"Unemployment is at Reagan-era levels, General Motors is the most successful car company in the world, the stock market is at record levels, interest rates are down, housing starts are up, health insurance companies are mailing us checks, and we are getting out of wars not into them."

Do you know how you can tell that the U.S. economy is roaring back to life?

Do you know how you can tell that Al Qaeda is almost gone and that Medicare and Social Security are both in pretty fine shape?

Simple:  the Republicans don't want to talk about any of that.

Instead, Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney want to talk about an attack on a consulate in a city no one can find on a map or even spell. 

Economic problems?  Not so much.

The simple truth is that unemployment is at Reagan-era levels, General Motors is the most successful car company in the world, the stock market is at record levels, interest rates are down, housing starts are up, health insurance companies are mailing us checks, and we are getting out of wars not into them.

And so an attack on a consulate in a second-tier city in a God-forsaken country, where we have never had any relations at all, is all that Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan want to talk about.

They cannot talk about the 47% of Americans that they told their owners donors they were happy to throw under the bus.

They cannot talk about their push to turn Medicare into a voucher program that will give you less and cost you more.

They cannot talk about privatizing Social Security or what they would have done to our seniors during the last stock market crash.

They cannot talk about how Mitt Romney has STILL now shown us his tax records, and neither has Paul Ryan.

They cannot talk about Mitt Romney's track record of making jobs in Massachusetts or the state of the budget when he left -- none and bankrupt are the stories there.

They cannot talk about sending American jobs to China when Romney was at Bain.

They cannot talk about taxes since Romney banks in the Caymans and avoids taxes with accounts in Switzerland.

They cannot talk about religion, since Romney Jesus lives on planet Kolob.

They cannot talk about family history since Romney's is riddled with polygamy.

They cannot talk about war, since Romney was a war-monger draft-dodger during the Vietnam era.

They cannot talk about Romney's disastrous trips overseas where he insulted,  the British, the Poles, the Arabs, and the Jews.

They cannot talk about guns since Romney is a gun-grabber.

They cannot talk about dogs strapped to roofs or or dancing horses given $73,000 tax breaks.

They cannot talk about cars since Mitt Romney said he wanted Detroit to go bankrupt, even as he was building elevators in his house for his foreign car collection.

They cannot talk about the stimulus bill, since Paul Ryan sent letters to Joe Biden begging for money to be sent to his district in order to create jobs, nor can they talk about the bank bail out since that actually returned more money to the U.S. Government than was spent.

They cannot even talk about Ronald Reagan.  After all, Reagan's economic track record during his first four years in officer was no better than Obama's on almost any level. 

"During Reagan's first full month in office, February 1981, the unemployment rate stood at 7.4 percent. It then rose steadily and peaked at 10.8 percent in November 1982, before falling to 7.5 percent in August 1984, as he campaigned for re-election."

Under Barack Obama, unemployment in the U.S. topped out at 10.1, and it has been declining pretty much steadily since.

But shhhh... We can't talk about that!


Monday, October 15, 2012

Complaints About the I Phone 5?

Darwin Award, Tourism Divison

Go to Ground Gets Fancy

Go-to-ground has gotten pretty fancy since "back in the day".  At JRTCA nationals this was one of several go-to-ground set ups, complete with sign.  As you can see this was a pretty long  set up -- far longer, but also far easier to negotiate, than any natural tube you are likely to find in the real world. 
The inside dimensions of a go-to-ground tunnel are 81 square inches (9x9) and smooth, while the inside dimensions of a tight natural earth pipe are more likely to be closer to 30 square inches (a 6-inch diameter) and continually twisting.  The result is that go-to-ground actually has nothing to do with real hunting in the sense that over-large dogs can easily qualify, and the goal here is not to actually "find" a wild animal on several hundred acres or more, but to "race" to the end where no danger lies and "quarry" is guaranteed.  A dog that ran down a pipe to a fox, raccoon or groundhog at the same speed these dogs race to a caged rat, would soon lose a bit of flesh, if not an eye!  The good news is that dogs that actually hunt and also do go-to-ground seem to figure out the difference in short order.  As a training method for young dogs, some form of go-to-ground is at least 100 years old, though back in the old days it was a simple artificial earth three bricks high with a slate roof, and there were not signs or electronic timers.

Notice in the second picture that there are a series of little "pop-up flags" that rotate up like an ice-fishing flag, to show spectators how far the dog has gotten down the tunnel.  Go-to-ground as spectator sport!
In the third picture, you can see how the sections are joined with a wooden "lip" put on the framed box in order to keep out the light, with eye-hooks and bungee cords affixed to keep the sections held tight together. 
The last picture show a solid "critter box" to house the rats used as "quarry" (they are completely unharmed and unfazed by the experience).  Notice the two little white towers next to the hay bales, one with a short antennae off the top?  Those are electronic timers that stop the clock as an electric eye is broken by the dog approaching the critter box.   The electric eye is not for the dog -- it's to keep people from arguing with the judge!  If a ribbon is going to be given for go-to-ground, as with anything, people will start to argue and take the game a little too seriously.  The electronic clock keeps things simple and above-board.  On the upside, the dogs could care less how fast one did compared to another.  Instead, they all ask each other the same thing:  Did you smell RATS?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

With a Working Terrier, It's All About Chest Size

Spanning the JRTCA 30th Anniversary True Grit cover dog, bred by Char Smith. That's the kind of finger overlap I like to see.  Char bred my Pearl, who can be seen doing her thing here and here.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Keep Calm and Dig On

I got this new T Shirt from the Russell Rescue booth at the JRTCA National Trial. 

As I told the lady at the Russell Rescue booth, the original "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster was never produced, as it was to only be released if the Germans actually invaded the U.K. 

Since the Americans showed up with troops, tanks, guns, bombs, ships, and a nearly endless supply of airplanes, the German invasion of the U.K. never occurred.  Instead, the Americans and the Brits (with a little help from Canada, the free French, and the Australians), landed in Normandy and rewrote world history.

The video, below, tells the story of how the last sign from a war-time public relations campaign that was never lauched, surfaced more than 60 years later -- and hit the mark after the terrorist strikes following 9-11.

Coffee and Provocation

I am at least 2% Neanderthal.
Admit it.  You always suspected.
Fat no more? 
Count me in, but I still need to save money.  I found this terrific deal on a
treble set of stuff needed for gastric bypass surgery, but I need two patients to practice on before I actually do it to myself. 
Yes, you will have to sign a waiver.
The predatory Mr. Jefferson. 
No, he did not free his slaves, at least not while he was alive.  Instead, he
bred them like farm animals and counted the profits at 4% per annum even as he beat his slave children so they would produce more nails for sale.  Why, what else did you expect? 

Wait for it.... wait for it...

Subsidize PBS to the tune of $1.35 a year to produce really good shows with no ads when I could be paying $40, $80 or $120 dollars per month to see Honey Boo Boo loaded up with commercials?  Hard to decide... hard to decide.

Why my dogs do not have free access to the house.
They have the yard, the garage, dog houses inside and outside, with heat and airconditioning.  And they get let in at night and for regular ball tosses.  But am I letting them near the pillows completely unsupervised?  Not on your life.

I buy custom prescription glasses at the price of two pairs for $100, frames and lens included.  If you pay a lot more, here's how you are being screwed, and by whom. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Rat Catching in the Modern Era

I was one of three guests on the Diane Rehm Show on National Public Radio this morning. One hour on fraud against the government and the whistleblowers that help put an end to it.

For the record, over $9 billion was recovered back to the U.S. and State governments this year -- and that's just the top 30 cases under the False Claims Act.

This is rat catching in the modern era. You can hear the show here.


Saturday, October 06, 2012

Little Dog Meets the Bigs

David Cunningham. writes to say he's just gotten his first Patterdale Terrier, and she's a small genius. No surprise there -- working terriers have to be smart to survive.

To see where this dog fits into David's pack take a look at the picture at top. And that giant dog is not the only canine horse on the lot -- David's a serious big dog man who has several dogs of different breeds and types, any one of which could star in Hound of the Baskervilles. But you watch. That Patterdale will outsurvive all the others! David's going to join Terrier Nation soon enough!  

For those into horror/suspense novels, David has published his first novel, Chimera, available here.  Just $3.00 and delivered instantly to your Kindle, E-reader, or Iphone.  Check it out!

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Little Houses Off the Grid

Which one is for you?

Big Bird Hunting Season?

Dear Department of Natural Resources:

What's the hunting season for Big Bird, and what size shell should I use?

Is my 12-gauge magnum load turkey gun going to be big enough?

Also, do I need to get a special tag to shoot Jim Lehrer?

Thanks in advance for answering!

Copperhead on the Driveway

Last night, just as the presidential debate started, the dogs started going nuts on the driveway.

I went outside and found they were baying a copperhead snake.

No obvious evidence they got bit.

I crated the dogs, and while I did that, the snake slithered up a drain in the stone wall, but not before I got a decent look at it. Definitely a copperhead.

Now it was a game of wait and see.

This morning the dogs exploded out of their crates without the slightest hitch in their giddy-up, so it looks like all is well.

Copperhead bites are over-rated for lethality, but they can cause a dog some pain.

Terrier Work, 1885

Amazing that the old working dogs look just like the new working dogs thanks to the miracle of OldPhotoPro.  It even puts period hats into the pictures!

But That Dog Has Such Good Hair!

At last night's debate Mitt Romney told us he is NOT going to raise taxes on the rich and he IS NOT going to raise taxes on the Middle Class, and he is NOT going to cut the military budget (since he has three or four wars he wants to get us into), and he IS going to balance the budget on the back of Big Bird.

That's the winning message? Right.

The people who are freaking out about the fact that Romney "won" the debate are the kind of folks who go "Oh MY GOD, that Irish Setter CAN point," and then I have to gently note that the dog is pointing on a fire hydrant in a WalMart parking lot. BUT I SAID THAT DOG CAN'T POINT, they scream. Right. But I said that dog can't HUNT. A different thing. And believe me when I say that the folks walking through the average Walmart parking lot CAN tell the difference.

Fact Checking the Dog With Good Hair:


Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Larry Morrison Over Time

Larry and the great little dog Sailor.  This was taken the first day Larry and I met, and Sailor was about 10 months old.  I have never seen a finer dog in the field.  She worked hundreds and hundreds of holes and was as solid, reliable, and useful as a good pocket knife.  She was also the love of my life.
Larry and Mountain Girl as a puppy.  Mountain was out of Key (Qui), one of Larry and Linda's little bitches.  I said if there was a small smooth, patch-eyed girl in the litter,I wanted to make a claim.  There was;  lucky me!

Larry and Mountain Girl today.  Mountain is now past 10, and still working up a storm. She loves every minute of her time in the field, and she ripples with muscle despite her age.  She has shown Gideon and many other dogs the ropes, and she can go all day in the field.  Like all my dogs, she has a maniacal love of squeaky balls.
As for Larry, he looks exactly the same.  Can you believe these pictures span 13 or 14 years?  When Larry first met me, I had hair!  What's totally unfair is that he still does!

My Election Prediction


Two months ago I predicted 320 electoral college votes for Obama. I may have been too conservative.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Dinosaur Meets Dogs

At Ripley's Odditorium in Williamsburg, Virginia (yes, it's a tourist trap), they have the skinned carcass of a 12-foot alligator killed outside of Lafayette, Louisiana in 2003.
Inside the enormous beast were 10 dog collars and one dog harness -- all pretty recent meals, by the look of the dog collars, which are now pinned along the top edge of the skin.

Monday, October 01, 2012

True Story

A woman I once met at a conference asked how I knew something.  I said anything could be know.  For some reason she took this as a challenge.

Could I find out about her?  I did not know her name, and I demurred.  I do not research friends, I said, but reiterated that anything could be known -- bank statements, medical records -- it was simply a matter of time, money and will. 

She seemed to think I was kidding or bluffing.  "Find out what you can about me," she said.  I did not know her name, but asked for a business card.  It was about 10 o'clock at night after a long day and a mandatory conference dinner to boot.

The next morning, at the same conference, I saw her in the breakfast line.  I casually told her where she went to high school and college, her grades, her thesis title and advisor, the name of her best friends, the name of her husband, her street address, the fact that father-in-law worked for the CIA, what her mother did, how long she had worked at her job, the name of her dog, noted that she was left-handed, and went on for a while longer until she started to look more than a little scared.  This was before Facebook or other "social media" existed.  I did tell her I did not crack any of her health or financial records.  Privacy, and all that.

Needless to say, I freaked her out.  I stayed away from her for the rest of the conference -- I did not want her to think I was a stalker.

A few weeks later I was having dinner with an older woman who I knew.  She had been told by the young lady at the conference how much I had found out about her, and how quickly I was able to do it.  She asked me how I did it.

"Anything can be known," I said, shrugging my shoulders, "there's a lot of information out there.  But I do not research people I know."

"Could you find out my pin number on my bank acount," she asked?

I gave her a flat impassive look.  My mind whirred.

"Moby," I said.

She practically passed out, but really it was not hard. 

Four digits.  Her dog's name.

Roadless Forest Protection Upheld by Supremes

Thanks to Southern Rockies Nature Blog, I got a delightful piece of news over the transom a few minutes ago:

The Supreme Court has affirmed a lower court's decision in favor of the roadless rule, which prevents road construction and timber harvesting on 58.5 [some sources say 50] million acres of National Forest System lands.

I quickly sent an email to the founder of the Sierra Club's Legal Defense and Education Fund who is an occasional lunch-time companion:

We've been waiting a long time to exhale on this one.

That's an understatement.  He started in the battle 20 years before me.  I was late to the party.  I showed up eventually, however.  Back in 2000, I worked on Roadless Forest protection full time for a small organization created solely to get the Roadless Forest Protection Rule enacted into law.

 We were a tiny little team of less than half a dozen people who managed to get in more comments in support of roadless forest protection than for any another proposed rule in the history of the United States. 

I remember the snowy day when Bill Clinton signed the rule at the National Arboretum here in Washington,. D.C.  We all loaded into my station wagon, along with a few foundation officials, and with the car fishtailing like crazy on icy streets, we went to see President Bill Clinton praise an ancient Gaylord Nelson (Father of Earth Day) as the snow gently came down and coated the trees. 

It was a picture-perfect scene, and it was one of the happiest days of my life.

A year or two earlier, I had written a short case for action:

For about 95 years, the Forest Service has put the interests of the timber industry above those of hikers, hunters and fishermen. In recent years, however, the Forest Service has come to recognize that the economic value of recreation in our national forests is 30 times higher than that of timber.

Rather than keeping people out, the Forest Service is actually listening to the diverse needs and opinions of those who use our national forests for more than timber extraction.

A recent poll of America's 50 million hunters and fishermen sponsored by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Alliance a coalition that includes the Izaak Walton League of America, the Mule Deer Foundation, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and Trout Unlimited found that 86 percent of anglers and 83 percent of hunters support efforts by sportsmen and women to keep the remaining roadless areas in our national forests free of roads.

A recent survey by the Republican polling firm American Viewpoint found more than three-quarters of Americans support permanently protecting roadless areas in national forests a belief shared by 62 percent of Republicans and two-thirds of those living in the Western United States.

With more than 380,000 miles of roads in our national forests a distance eight times the length of the interstate highway system it's hard to argue that creating more roads will improve recreational access.

The Forest Service reports that less than 40 percent of current logging roads are properly maintained a sad state of disrepair that the Forest Service would like to correct, both to improve access by hikers, hunters and fishermen, but also to reduce environmental damage caused by abandoned logging roads sliding down mountains, polluting streams, and serving as dumping grounds.

The real forest debate is not about access, but about excess. When should the rapacious self-interests of the timber companies be curtailed to preserve the hunting, fishing and recreational interests of the American people?

The good news is that the Forest Service is finally turning to the American people for the answer to that question rather than the big lumber companies and their paid apologists on Capitol Hill.

When the Roadless Rule was signed into law, I thought nothing could undo it. 

But of course I was naive. George Bush took millions of dollars in payola from the timber interests, and ended up tossing out the Roadless Rule as part of an overtly political quid pro quo

Litigation followed. 

The good news, is that now it's all over.  Fifty and 150 years from now, if our children and grandchildren have wild lands and wilderness where they can hike for two or three weeks solid without seeing a car, an airplane, or an electrical line, I hope they will remember that saving these acres was not an accident, but a nearly 40-year struggle. 

As Matt J. said as we left the arboretum in 2001,

"It not everything, but it's the most ever."

Yes indeed.