Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Three States, Two Rivers, Two Trails

I biked to Harpers Ferry yesterday to where the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers come together in a color difference you can see in the picture at bottom.

The tunnel through the mountain is through the escarpment known as the Maryland Heights.

The Appalachian Trail crosses here, and it was good to return to this section, which I have hiked in a previous life.

The Appalachian Trail stretches from south of Springer Mountain Georgia to Mount Katahdin, Maine — 2,000 miles. The C&O Canal Canal crosses here too, stretching from Washington, DC to Cumberland, MD, a distance of 185 miles, where it links up with the 150-mile Great Allegheny Path trail to Pittsburgh.

Three states - West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland come together here, and Pennsylvania is very close.

The Bones of Travel

A creek comes down from the mountains to join the river, passing underneath a low stone railroad trestle and, next to it, an aqueduct carrying a canal that once carried coal boats pulled by horses and mules. 

The canal and the railroad were competing economic interests and fought over every square foot of space in this narrow part of the valley.  In the end, the railroad won, and the canal went out of business as a commercial entity in 1924.


A tree next to the Canal. Most people pass it by without even seeing it. I cannot imagine that kind of oblivion

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Virginia Bluebells

There were acres and acres of Virginia Bluebells along the bike path through the woods. Mertensia virginica is a spring plant with bell-shaped sky-blue flowers native to eastern North America.

The Road Goes on Forever

Goose on Green

An Ancient Thing

"How long he stood he did not know, but there was a foolish and yet delicious sense of knowing himself as an animal come from the forest, drawn by the fire. He was a thing of brush and liquid eye, of fur and muzzle and hoof, he was a thing of horn and blood that would smell like autumn if you bled it out on the ground. He stood a long long time, listening to the warm crackel of the flames."
- Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

Monday, April 15, 2019

Notre Dame: The Fire and the Acorn

NOTRE DAME CATHEDRAL is on fire, and the wood structure inside has already been declared a total loss.

The ceiling of Notre Dame contained 13,000 oak trees cut in the 12th century; an entire forest cut and elevated into the air.

In the spirit of education and finding something good amid the ashes, let me recount a story of forests and foresight.

New College, Oxford, England is actually one of the oldest colleges in the word -- founded in 1379.

Like many colleges, it has a great dining hall with massive old-growth oak beams across the top. These beams are 45-feet long and as large as two feet square on their ends.

A century and a half ago, a building inspector went up into the roof of the dining hall with a penknife and poked at the beams and found they were full of beetle bore.

This news was reported to the College Trustees, who met the news with dismay. Beams this large were very hard, if not impossible, to come by. Where would they ever get beams of this caliber again? One of the younger Trustees suggested there might be some large oaks on distant College lands, and why not consult the College Forester to see if any were available?

And so two of the Trustees went down to see the College Forester who lived very far away and had only once set foot on the college campus himself.

After introducing themselves to the College Forester, the Trustees asked if, perhaps, there might be one or two oaks in the woods that were large enough to be used to sister two or three of the weakest beams in the hall.

The Forester clucked a bit and said, “Well sirs, we was wonderin’ when you’d be askin’.”

It turned out that when the College was founded thousands of oak trees had been planted to replace building beams when they became beetle-y, because oak beams always become beetle-y in the end.

This plan, set out in 1450, had been passed down from one College Forester to the next for over four hundred years. Each generation of Foresters would tell the next: “You don’t cut them oaks. Them there is for the College Hall.”

And so, when the inevitable attack of time and beetles did show up, an ancient stand of Oaks had already been waiting for more than 200 years.

With the fire at Notre Dame still raging, now is a good time to take stock.

What do we cherish, and what are we doing today to make sure those things continue for the next generation to come?

All of us are truly fortunate.

We stroll through parks, train stations, and libraries financed and built by others who dreamed not only big, but planned for generations to come.

On a hot day we rest in the shade of trees we did not plant.

In times of crisis we may go to a house of worship that waited 100 years or more for us to enter.

When pressed, we all recognize that we stand on the shoulders of giants.

But do we also give full weight to the fact that we also stand on the shoulders of common people who laid train tracks, planted trees, and hewed the pews on which we sit today?

Too many of us wait for a Big Win to "pay it forward," but in truth the great buildings of the world were not created in a day, but laid up one brick at a time, and paid for by common people who paid a penny on every dollar earned just to make it so.

A penny on the dollar.

It is not much.

And yet from such simple gifts flowed Notre Dame and everything we are today as a nation – and will be tomorrow.

As we approach the Easter season, think about the things you value, and make a "penny pledge" to help sustain those things, and pass them on to the next generation in the year ahead.

The absolute size of your contribution does not matter.

For some it will be small, for others massive.

Around the world, charity is not judged by size, but by percent.

If all you can afford this season is a single acorn, then plant that acorn carefully and with an open heart. Try to help the poorest of the poor and those least able to help themselves.

Not every acorn will grow to become an important beam at Oxford, or the new roof of Notre Dame, but every beam at Oxford and Notre Dame began its life as a simple acorn.

Every person at the bottom can climb a little higher with the help of a rung you help put in place.

Game of Bones

When you’re in the bedroom with your significant other and notice the very possessive dog is staring very intently at you...

Friday, April 12, 2019

What Fox Kill and Do Not Kill

This grainy video does NOT show sheep predation. It shows scavenging.

In fact, 15-25 percent of lambs dies from exposure shortly after birth

Fox in the U.K. do the job vultures do elsewhere.

As far as I know, there has NEVER been a video of a fox attack showing a killing of either lambs or sheep. I'm not saying it has never happened; just that it's so rare that it's apparently never been filmed.

Game birds? Rabbits? Mice? Rats? Chickens? Ducks?

Yes to all.

The New Models Are Very Life-like

Jack Russell Diversity

Moxie and Misto, as alike as chalk and cheese. A feature, not a problem. 
Jack Russell terriers are among the most generically diverse breed of dog in the world, with a gene variability about as high as you would find in a wild or feral dog population.

From Genetic variation analysis of the Bali street dog using microsatellites come this little note:
While some breeds do have a low HE, such as the Boxer with a HE of 0.320, breeds like the Jack Russell Terrier have a high HE of 0.713 and overall their HE is higher than that of the dingo.

The Parson Russell terrier is NOT the Jack Russell terrier -- it is a dog squeezed into a small, closed, and increasingly less diverse registry with non-work based standards of  "conformation" that will, predictably, lead to greater morphological exaggeration and increased disease.

The Kennel Club has never made a working breed; they have only ruined them.  This is not an accident. Kennel Club rules and values inevitably lead to health and work failure.

Failure is is the only thing the Kennel Club has ever reliably produced. 

Are You An Old-school Dog Trainer?

Folks have been arguing about dog training forever!

Consider this: In that classic of antiquity, "Roman Farm Management: The Treatises of Cato and Varro" we find Marcus Terentius Varro's observation that sheep dogs are often loyal to shepherds *despite* the fact that few shepherds of the era (50 A.D.) were bothering to follow the sage advice of Hostilius Saserna, given in 49 B.C.:

"Whoever wishes to be followed by a dog should throw him a cooked frog."

Click and treat ... or not?

Where Fear and Ignorance Meet

Back in 1978, Yale University behavioral scientist Stephen Kellert authored a paper entitled "Attitudes and Characteristics of Hunters and Antihunters" in which he summarized his research into the psychology and world-view of these two opposing groups of people.

Kellert breaks hunters down into three core groups:

1. Utilitarian-meat hunters;

2. Domination-sport hunters, and;

3. Naturalist-nature hunters.

Kellert notes that while the groups blur a little at the edges, these three psycho-demographic groups do exist, and represent striking differences of attitude within America's hunting population.

Utilitarian-meat hunters represent about 44 percent of all American hunters. This group tends to talk of "harvesting" game as a renewable resource and many have a "pioneer spirit" forged in self-sufficiency. As a group utilitarian-meat hunters tend to be older, more rural, and less educated, but test pretty well when it came to knowledge about wildlife. Few Americans oppose them.

The second group, the domination-hunter, comprise about 38 percent of all hunters. Most domination-hunters are urban men, have served in the military, and see hunting as a way of expressing their manly prowess. Domination hunters know very little about wildlife, and many actually fear it, having an exagerated "dangerous game" mindset of the kind we often see in pulp hunting magazines ("Mauled by a Grizzly," "When Sharks Attack", "Stalked by a Killer Moose"). Domination hunters showed little interest in wildlife in their youth, and as adults tend to see wild animals as uncontrolled and therefore as "bad" or nuisance animals. The domination hunter is the group non-hunters dislike, and which antihunters try to use to negatively portray ALL hunters.

The third group of hunters -- naturalist hunters -- represent less than 18 percent of all hunters. This group tends to be younger, more educated, and with higher levels of education and income than the other groups. This category also includes more women hunters. Nature hunters tend to backpack, bird watch and camp, as well as hunt. This group also spends more time actually hunting than either of the other two previous groups. Nature hunters have far and away the highest level of knowledge about wildlife and seek an intense involvement with wildlife and do not fear it.

Kellert also goes on to analyze anti-hunters as a group and finds, not surprisingly, that about 80 percent are women. Most are urban women living on one coast or another.

Antis had very little actual experience with wildlife and, along with domination hunters, had "among the lowest knowledge-of-animals scores of any group included in the study."

In another ironic parallel with domination hunters, "it appeared that anti-hunters manifested more fear and lack of interest in wildlife" than average Americans.

Is there a more recent version of this study? I will let others flex their Google-fu and let us know.....

Kamala Harris Is a Gun Owner

Kamala Harris a gun owner
, as she should be.

A black woman who has been a former prosecutor should not only have a gun, it should be loaded, and she should know how to hit center mass even when scared and hurried.


Because the racist, Nazis, rapists, women-bashers, homophobes, and Islamaphobes, and civil rights-denying nativists are not coming for me.

The liberal case for gun ownership has never been stronger. and neither has the case for tougher gun laws covering time, place, manner, insurance, safety inspection, and background checks.  Go to the links.  If you don't understand what is being said, please do not breed or own a gun.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

What a Room

Ella Fitzgerald singing at The Royal Roost in New York, 1948, for an audience that included Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman.