Catron County Barbie

Peculiar has called me out on the New Mexico Barbie meme: what is Catron (Cabron, Cartoon) County Barbie like?

Catron County is a strange one in our strange state– I have good friends there (next county over from me) who would be unbelievable in fiction. It is high and cold and mountainous, contains a few thousand people in an area as large as Connecticut, and has a certain merrily lawless air– think of it as our (slightly) milder Sierra Madre. Theoretically, all households are REQUIRED to have guns.

It was formerly almost entirely dependent on cattle ranching, though now has diversified into a provider of big game hunting, real estate, and some murkier products.

There are two versions. Native CC Barbie is much like Clovis Barbie, but she has her own horses and was a barrel racer when she was a kid. Her Ken is a big game guide in order to make enough money to keep the ranch running, and spends August through January guiding fat rich guys from the flatlands after elk, hoping and praying they don’t get heart attacks from just walking around at 7500 feet.

We don’t know what “new” CC Barbie looks like because she rarely leaves the trailer house in the middle of the ten- acre dirt road “ranchette” lot that is hidden in the trees up on the Continental Divide. The trailer’s windows are covered with boards or tinfoil, and strange smells emanate from it. Her Ken is sometimes seen at the cafe in town. Like Old CC Ken, he wears camo, but over T-shirts with death metal themes. He sports a beard like a ZZ top member down to his belly, scratches a lot, and openly carries a cocked and locked 1911 .45. Do not startle him..

More Dog Control (and related misunderstandings)

Dog owners in Toronto are no longer allowed to walk bitches in heat or any unaltered males in parks, period, full stop. Canadian saluki breeder Maril Semph sent text from a friend but no link:

“Effective February 01 2008 Toronto did ban all intact male dogs and
females in season, not just from off-leash dog parks but from all
Toronto parks.
It is a nightmare!

“I would have called the CKC but in the original proposal that was
circulated last summer there was no mention of this rule. Then the
city held discussion groups about the proposed changes for all
people who were interested and in one of those groups, one single
person complained of agressive un-neutered males.

“Following that when the rules were finalised it was suddenly
included, based on the complaint of one single person, and no
ability to discuss the rule. We had a matter of days before it went
to council. I and some fellow show dog owners wrote a lot of
letters and asked for an exemption clause for certain dogs
(including show dogs) but it passed with the rule included.

“There is a LARGE fine for violators. If a dog walker is caught with
an intact male they can lose their dogwalking license (they must all
be licensed now and they have a two strikes and you are out


Matt, we might just have to post the “Harden the fuck up” video.

Meanwhile, Los Alamos NM– the county not just the town– has proposed dog and other animal regs that among other things would not allow dogs off lead for anything but work, which does not include hunting– as a matter of fact they would not allow any dog to pursue any wildlife, period. Dr. Gail Goodman sent me a PDF, which I can send to anyone interested. I wonder if Stingray and Lab Rat can add anything?

In NYC you can now be fined for feeding pigeons in your own back yard. (Incidentally, virtually all claims of pigeon- borne disease are false.) HT Margory Cohen.

An overpopulation of migrating coots offends the residents of a California subdivision. I don’t know who is more pathetic– is it the anti- control housewife who opposes killing any because “I have two small children. What if my dog got out in the yard and they mistook it for some wild animal?”

Or the developers:

“Savaikie recalled that in January, two days after she learned about the possible fate of the coots, a new sculpture was dedicated at a shopping center being built across the street from Bridgeport.

” “The Birds of Valencia” features dozens of silver birds in a celebration of the region’s annual migration.

“It will be placed in the middle of a man-made lake.”

Finally, an idiot gets called out by Luisa at Lassie Get Help:

“Jon Katz has parlayed inept stockmanship and mismanagement of his dogs into a Slate column, a movie deal, the odd radio appearance and a string of books, and there’s a website, too, but I won’t link to it…. He is a willfully ignorant, patronizing author who wants you to believe everything he tells you about dogs in general and border collies in particular even though, gosh, he’s never claimed to be an expert or anything. And besides, experts are just big old snobs, ha ha ha! He is like that man who wrote The Emigrants’ Guide to Oregon and California back in 1845 with directions to a new route he’d never actually traveled himself and when a group of settlers took his “shortcut,” they wound up struggling across the Wasatch Range and the salt flats of western Utah and were trapped in the snows in the High Sierra, where they ran out of food and resorted to cannibalism.

“On second thought, he’s much worse than that.”

Read it all!

New Links

Blogging will continue to be a bit light as I am busy, am trying to get outside, and have Chas and Miss M coming tomorrow. But the world keeps producing the fascinating and the maddening…

Science fiction giant Arthur Clarke died this week. John Derbyshire has a good quirky remembrance of him here. I think he has Clarke down, as a writer and as a certain English “type” as well. I was a hopeless SF geek in my teens and can still read it– Derb gets that too. He is too modest to mention here that Clark once wrote him a fan letter (he showed me a copy) but it may well be here or here somewhere…

SF to science. I have mentioned all- female species like Cnemidiphorus lizards before. Their reproduction is relatively straightforward, with all females giving birth to parthenogenetic clones, whether or not this puts them at an evolutionary disadvantage. But all male species? Believe it or not, there is at least one. The pure males mate with hybrid females: “These males “essentially represent a stable all-male lineage nested within an almost all-female lineage” ” Bio geeks should RTWT. This blog, The World we Don’t Live In, is excellent– read it all. Thanks, Darren, for linking.

Darren has a new post up that combines science, speculation, raving lunacy (not his) and a 1984, tongue- in- cheek essay by John McLoughlin, who has appeared here in person so to speak. Did dinosaurs invent the atomic bomb? Who lies sleeping? Was H. P. Lovecraft a lizard? Says Darren: “John’s 1984 article describes his contemplation of a new psychiatric disorder he recognises in himself: evolutionary bioparanoia. It is ‘an acute, often immobilizing sense of dread generated by fatigue in persons interested in both the current state of world affairs and the evolutionary history of life on Earth'”. Read and laugh- or shudder.

Doom. This gun control story can make any lover of freedom shudder: in Washington DC, as the Second Amendment’s meaning is being debated before the Supreme Court, the police are going door to door through the city, asking if they may “voluntarily” search for guns . Voluntarily, right– and I suppose that anybody who doesn’t comply would NEVER go on any list. Seems like more than the Second Amendment is being violated here…

More animal related offenses and misunderstandings next post.

The Virtue of Vices?

From Dan Greenberg at the Chronicle of Higher Education‘s blog “Brainstorm: Lives of the Mind” comes a recent essay on what science ought to be discovering:

“We can all think of blockbuster discoveries that we’d like to see coming from science. Cures for terrible diseases would rank very high on the list. So would abundant supplies of cheap, reliable, and clean energy. . .

“. . . Meanwhile, as work proceeds on these prime problems, we might realistically hope for swifter solutions to far-smaller problems. Though of lesser importance and difficulty, their solution would make life a bit nicer, easier, convenient, and congenial.”

Dan’s suggestions include audible (and comprehensible!) public address systems for airports and other public places. A good one for those who must suffer air travel and would like to know where they’ll end up. Also in the realm of transportation, Dan hopes someone will build a car that’s not impossible to get into, some new method of entry more ergonomically friendly to an aging population of drivers.

He concludes with a call for a scientifically engineered end to the downsides of our favorite vices, smoking, boozing and overeating:

“Now for a troublesome research goal: Taking the harm out of sinful activities, such as cigarette smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. The quest for a ‘safe’ cigarette has so far proven futile, as have enormous efforts to deter a still-substantial number of smokers from continuing with the nasty habit. Since prohibition is politically and culturally unattainable, the solution is clear: Create a cigarette that is harmless and satisfying — a formidable objective that would require a mini-Manhattan Project. The costs, however, could be assigned to the cigarette industry, which would reap a fortune from success. While they’re at it, maybe they can clean up pipe tobacco, too. I miss my pipe.

“As for alcohol, that’s another tough problem, but, as the saying goes, if we can land a man on the moon, why can’t we — you finish it. The need is to retain the pleasure of imbibing — including the buzz — without the deleterious effects on health and morning-after clarity. Here, too, the industry that will benefit from success can foot the bill, in happy expectation of success producing a bonanza.

“Finally on my list, there’s the problem of weight control in a society glutted with fattening food, available at relatively low prices. Marketed with great ingenuity, this abundance is largely responsible for the obesity epidemic that is now a major public-health concern. The food industry has in the past tinkered with little success with “non-nutritive” food. What’s needed is a major effort to create the taste, feel, and satisfaction of popular foods, minus calories.”

I’m not sure how serious Greenberg is. But I have some problems with this premise, vaguely in orbit of C.S. Lewis’s concept of pain as a necessary regulator of human action.

Am I nuts? What could be wrong with a safe beer buzz or tasty food that doesn’t make you fat?

It just doesn’t sound right to me. What then would humanity have with which to correct itself—to remind itself of its own flaws—if not the occasional hangover, lung cancer or broken marriage?

I don’t mean to posit Querencia as a defender of the good old-fashioned vices (although that doesn’t sound too bad as I write it); I want even less so to seem in support of human suffering.

But, for example, I was never one to shine to the next generation Star Trek vision of “synthohol,” the drink of choice for starship captains who might need to be of clear mind at a moment’s notice. Future booze just must not be that good, I figure.

All in all, I prefer my captains flawed. I like them haunted by personal demons and half-insane with blasphemous quests for vengeance. Don’t you?

What are we, any of us, without our demons? What would Hemingway say of a life without consequences, without risk, without regrets? I know what Captain James T. Kirk said (or perhaps will say, some centuries hence) to the prospect of such a life: “I need my pain!”

What say you?


I am not quite sure what I think about the increasing faddishness of some aspects of the local food thing.

I appreciate the effort but there are things that disturb me about this New York Times piece on the “new farmers”. Can you trust anything that begins with the (built- in ironic) lead: “The Carhartts are no longer ironic. Now they have real dirt on them.”

Will such people last longer than the hippie back- to- the landers of my generation, who mostly didn’t? Granted, there are better markets for high- quality food now.

One of the farmers profiled is a former trendie from trendy “Billyburg” (Williamsburg),and another apparently doesn’t want to stray too far from a New Yorker’s comfort zone: ” “If we can find affordable housing, which is a challenge in East Hampton,” said Mr. Piedmont, 28, who spent two years in Italy after graduation, “we’re going to have two interns this summer.” “

And what is this?– granted perhaps more a typical NYT staffer’s ignorance of life outside Manhattan: “Although publications like Small Farmer’s Journal, published since 1976, often present the life of the small farmer in a heartwarmingly “Little House on the Prairie” light, a recent article in Sheep! about the dangers of jackals and one in Backyard Poultry about preventing chickens’ drinking water from freezing, are a reminder of the old-school risks of farming.”


A lot of this reminds me of the satirical blog “Stuff White People Like.”

Whoops. It is on it.

I’d be curious what Peculiar, who has spent some time on this scene, has to say.

Oh and, re food– Mike, I’ll have more to say soon. Though I don’t use mushroom soup, I am no purist. Two things I will use but enhance: canned broth, and mac and cheese.

Food Stuff

Acouple of weeks ago there was what blogs tend to call a “kerfuffle” over English food writer Delia Smith’s calling for using canned and other not- so- natural ingerdients. Thye controversy continues. Reader and commentor R Francis directed me to this hilarious article at the Guardian where a panel of chefs eat a dinner based on her new recipes. They are not kind.

“It is time, though, to taste. Out, first, comes the steaming risotto. “This,” remarks Giles kindly, “is like having a pig piss in your throat. It tastes of freezer and plastic. I don’t understand. If you can’t cook and you can’t afford to go out, eat a cheese sandwich.” William, and most of the others, are rather kinder: “Perfectly passable,” he ventures. “It could be a little better seasoned, but I’ve eaten far worse.” The chicken and leek pies fare less well. “This is inedible,” says Sybil. “Like school dinners,” says William. “Excuse me,” says Samantha, the dinner lady. “I resent that.” Giles wonders innocently whether Delia couldn’t have specified a rather more expensive cut of rat.”

It just gets better, Giles especially– RTWT.

Elsewhere, Mike links (scroll down) to some interesting sustainable, wild, and delightfully messy food blogs. My favorites so far are this one and this one.

New Mexico Barbies

This is almost too “inside”, both bloggish and totally of New Mexico– but too funny to ignore. Stingray at Atomic Nerds has taken my challenge over at Nature Blog to add a Los Alamos Barbie to the already excellent collection of New Mexico Barbies there. Here is an excerpt.

“..Los Alamos Barbie often comes with the optional child accessory, availible in either the Nervous Wreck Overachiever, or the Chronically Unenthused Slacker variants. Los Alamos Ken looks suspiciously like Taos Ken with his birkenstocks, hiking shorts, and extremely silly hat, but is distinguishable by the addition of socks to the sandals and by wearing a dress shirt in some state of dishevelment rather than a tie-dye tshirt. Those mistaking Los Alamos Ken for Taos Ken frequently find themselves on the receiveing end of a three hour “discussion” on the non-linear equations governing meteorology, string theory, self-balancing binary tree algorithms, and of course nuclear energy no matter what his actual field is.”

Art of the Week

When Dan Gauss visited us, he remarked on how much art we have . Often, art becomes invisible through familiarity. Also, we have a lot that doesn’t even get hung- some we can’t afford to frame, others that just don’t fit on the walls of a four- room house. So I am going to start an “art of the week” feature at Q blog– not that it is likely to be that exact.

I’ll start with two pieces of Mongolian folk art. THe first is a common kind, with many figures doing all manner of things. Bawdy sex scenes, felt making, horses, even the supernatural, are all common enough. What is not common is one with the other peoples of Mongolia represented, which is why I got this– it has a Kazakh with eagle and tazi, a Tuvan shaman, and a Christian cross as well as sex, leering horses, snakes, carrion birds, and horse butchery.

Here is the Kazakh:

The other is an amusing modern caricature of a falconer on his horse.