That Time of Year

One upside to the worst Baton Rouge hurricane in 60 years? Lots of free firewood.

I’ve been stocking my woodpile for a couple weekends now, tooling around in my “Suburban” and sawing up stray limbs. Granted, it’s a wee pile compared to Steve’s, but it’s enough for a few late evenings around our little boutique fire pit.

When the next cool front comes through, we’ll drag the Adirondack chairs into the driveway and put them in a circle around the fire. We’ll invite a few neighbors for a cookout, sip adult beverages and make s’mores for the kids.

It’s probably against the Homeowners Association rules. Don’t tell.

Anyone else laying in some wood?

A Few Thoughts on Politics

What is it with people this year? I never could get that passionate about electoral politics. Or dream of distorting facts to bolster my candidate.

Have you seen Naomi Wolfe on how “Evita” Palan is the stalking horse for the new fascism, how this will be the last election of our lifetime, and how she & McCain are going to bring in Iraqi troops to patrol our cities? (That if they did it would be a good thing to have an armed populace is not likely to penetrate her tinfoil hat.)

She also thinks that Cheney or Halliburton or something is opening her mail, and STEALING HER KIDS’ REPORT CARDS!

Reminds me of a time several years ago when I was having drinks with an old North Dakota cowboy in the bar. This mad German women who had come to town to see UFO’s (don’t ask) was ranting about various conspiracies against her, winding up with “..and then the Vatican sent a hit team to kill my dog!”

Rink turned to me, spit in his spit cup, and said: “Steve, that lady’s counterfeit. I don’t know what no Vatican is but it didn’t send no hit team after her dog.”

Relax, folks, it’s politics, not life.

And if the thought of either candidate winning scares you, recall the old anarchist joke: “”If God had meant us to vote, he would have given us candidates…”

But first, a few links…

… to amuse or appall…

Amuse and amaze: Annie D and a few others sent this incredible video of dolphins blowing and playing with “smoke rings” of bubbles. There are quite a few more out there on YouTube including one of belugas in Japan.

A bit of serious geekery from XKCD.

“Do not put…”

A sad note: Jim Crumley is dead. I didn’t know him well but he was the writer’s writer– every writer I know loved his stories, written and in conversation. He was also one of those rare writers who kept constant track of what you were doing and always had encouraging words. I don’t know why the movies haven’t latched on to his tales. Fittingly, the last time I talked to him was over drinks in the bar at Chico Hot Springs in Montana, “immortalized” in the cult film Rancho Deluxe. It must have been at least ten years ago… hard to believe.

Finally, two quotes to think about. The first is from Jason Wilson, from the intro to Best American Travel Writing 2002 (in which I appear):

“The travel writing one finds in magazines too often suffers from a
reluctance to transcend the topic at hand, a reluctance toward digression of
any kind. I realize that some of this is the result of space concerns, but it is
still unfortunate. Anyone who reads travel classics such Gerald Brenan’s
South from Granada or Robert Byron’s The Road to Oxiana or D. H.
Lawrence’s Sea and Sardinia or Graham Greene’s The Lawless Roads
knows that digression is a part of all great travel writing. In many ways, the
digressions are the story.

The second is courtesy of Chas:

“Ther is a saying emong hunters that he cannot be a gentleman whyche loveth not hawkyng and hunting, which I have hard old woodmen wel allow as an approved sentence among them. The like sayinge is that hee cannot be a gentleman whych loveth not a dogge.”

(Anonymous, The Institucion of a Gentleman, 1555.)

I’m going out with the dogs. See you al when I get back.


Sorry for light posting. Still haven’t found the bird. Realistically I am not sure what to expect. Of the longwings I have flown in the last 15 years or so, all but one were out at least overnight, and all but one of those eventually returned. Also, in one of the more notorious cases in the southwest, a peregrine- prairie tiercel from Arizona stayed out two years and was recaptured, and became an even better bird!

But the situation still has me a bit down. A breeder friend has offered me a similar bird but my feelings are mixed. Somehow it seems funny to try the same thing twice in a row (disloyal?!) Also these hybrids are both big- going and personable hawks, which means they are both easier to lose and it hurts more if you do. I am also considering trapping a hawk rather than a falcon– Cooper’s, redtail. They do work a lot closer. Any thoughts?

It has been that kind of month. I also tried to operate on an injured pigeon, an important breeder. She survived the first one well, but burst some of her stitches so I had to do her up again. Then she developed “sour crop”. I thought I cured that but went out one morning (on the way to search for the hawk) and found her dead.

Then one night, as I was nodding off from exhaustion from this and work (more below), the dogs went berserk in the back yard. I went out dressed only in my jeans to find a huge black cat in the pigeon loft. I chased it around, knocking pigeons sideways in the dark (no yard lights, just my Maglite) until it shot up vertically into the “trap”, the cage on the roof pigeons enter through. I locked it from the bottom and went back for shoes and my .410. I returned with Libby and the gun. The tazis were leaping up the walls of the loft like coonhounds on a tree– I thought that Lashyn would achieve the roof– howling and baying. Little Larissa just stood and howled like a coyote. When I climbed on the roof I opened the trap with my left hand, holding the gun with my right.

The cat slipped out and vanished like smoke, too quickly for me to even swing the gun. I guess black cats and clouded black nights mix well. Even the dogs didn’t help. I hope for everyone’s sake he doesn’t come back.


I finished two more chapters for the book I have been negotiating about since April, bringing the total wordage (without compensation of course) to 14,500. That one I actually have some hope for. The other, the one I spent most of last year on, just got rejected for being too international in scope (previous rejection? “Too American.”)


I had hoped to be hawking but just chasing a rabbit with the hounds or shooting a dove with the hammergun or even walking up to the crest of the Magdalenas will be just fine. I hope to return refreshed.

Links & More– (Mostly Bio Stuff)

Glad to know Matt weathered this storm– let’s hope they do as well in the coming one(s).

Reid is up to his ass in metaphorical alligators but is well and we hope for his return soon.I am now writing three more (long) chapters for my at- some- time- to- be- revealed project that has been consuming my time since April. I am being neurotically perfectionist about it. I must. The hawk was briefly in the air but the truck has been broken down all week which gets in the way of that. Fall and first frost feel imminent.

Stingray has new tattoos of deep- sea life. (There are also internal links to LabRat’s Neotropical wildlife.) On their main page is Stingray’s eloquent INFORMED dismantling of the Large Hadron Collector’s doomsayers.

Wildlife: Carel Brest van Kempen does a takedown of the WSJ piece I linked to earlier on Komodo dragons. Carel knows more about them than most– has been there and done the science, and some of the things they said are just flat untrue. I expect better of the WSJ. Nice pic of Carel with a dragon too!

More cheetahs.

And other cats. I thought this was satirical and would end in carnage, but it is actually rather heart- warming, though as they say don’t try this at home. The white- bearded guy is George Adamson so it is old. Remember, lions ATE his famous wife.

How to give cats (and dogs) their pills.

At the NYT, my favorite bio- journalist, Carl Zimmer, tells us how invaders may actually increase biodiversity. John Haskell— if you are out there, check in on this!

From IndigoGlyph at Chalk on Water comes this BBC radio program on New Guinea singing dogs. As I told him, this is more than relevant to my current project.

Walter Hingley gave this link to a YouTube of a robot “dog”. It is fascinating but it creeps me out too– the giant housefly sound effects and its headlessness make it more resemble an enormous alien insect. I sort of wanted a huge flyswatter.

More soon…

After Gustav

We spent the worst part of the storm in my wife’s office, which is built like a bomb shelter and might be one, for all I know. It’s old enough. We could hear nothing from the inside, despite hours of wind and a gust nearing 100 mph recorded a couple hundred yards from our location.

Through an upstairs window we watched horizontal sheets of rain and large sections of live oak and street signs and garbage cans rolling down the street below. We wondered what would become of the house.

Our neighborhood, when we first saw it, seemed pulsed in a blender. Minced foliage made a seamless green drift that blurred the borders between homes and the line between lawn and street.

In nearly every yard, huge oaks lay on their sides in beds of shredded leaves if not on a porch or rooftop. The once-familiar treeline was upended, reversed. It was a disorienting drive and entirely possible to miss turns I’ve made a thousand times. We could negotiate the clogged streets only because trees along the boulevard had already been trimmed; neighbors must have darted out into the storm to cut them back.

A week has passed. Schools and offices have been closed. Electricity is still out to half of Baton Rouge and will remain so, according to the power company, for three more weeks in even central parts of the city. We’ve had our lights since last Thursday and now face a bit of survivors’ guilt when speaking to less lucky colleagues at work.

Peculiar sent a post by Rod Dreher (the Crunchy Con), who hails from a burg just north of here. Sounds like they’re in the same boat.

Because our home was basically untouched, I’ve spent the last few days helping neighbors. The upsurge in neighborliness is something many will notice and appreciate after a general calamity. But it may be noteworthy that my aid has not not been random.

I skipped homes and people in need (there are many, even in my neighborhood) in favor of those I know and like best. I helped clear limbs, patch roofs and saw up trees with members of six families we share meals with and whose kids play with mine. I also offered help to my immediate neighbors, left and right, although our families are not especially close.

So I was reminded this week of our evident priorities in times of limited resource and great need. We take care of others according to our blood ties, warmest relations and immediate proximity. It is not a fair system. It is not a universal coverage.

But consider: We are a neighborhood of some five hundred families. Our family lent real aid to six or eight others within walking or biking distance, and we received it in kind (and otherwise) from the same few. If every family gave and received assistance on a similar scale, there would be a surplus of available aid and a fast return to something like normalcy in the neighborhood. In fact, we have that now.

The amount of work we’ve accomplished in the past week has been incredible. You can measure it in piles of stacked debris and in the swept asphalt and patched homes and trimmed shrubs along our streets.

UPDATE: Annie sends this NYT story. A little much, I think. We’re tougher than that. But it is nice someone wrote about Baton Rouge for once and not New Orleans, “the resented city downriver.”

Couldn’t have said it better

From Peculiar:

“I really don’t hope for much these days in terms of taxation, liberty, shrewd foreign policy, immigration, &c. About the acme of my fondest hopes for the next administration is a Forest Service with a reasonable budget and some BLM personnel with detectable humanity. I do think Palin has a certain amount of appeal, but the crowds chanting “Drill, baby drill!” last night were decidedly a turn-off. Likewise, while I can be sympathetic to her environmental record in the context of a vast, utilitarian, Federally-owned state like Alaska, I fear her sensibilities may be less agreeable in a West with exploding population densities. I’m definitely not anti-drilling per se, but I invite anyone pondering the putative environmentally-friendly next-generation extraction technologies to drive some BLM roads near, say, Vernal, Utah and report back. And please report back from Vernal itself, recently a qiuet, medium-small Mormon agricultural town, now covered in billboards advertising meth addiction hotlines and pre-employment drug testing, rife with pregnant Mexicans and tattooed punks ranting to themselves, property taxes soaring. If we’re going to drill, could we please see some long-term benefit to the drilling communities instead of rapid degeneracy and bust?”

RTWT. And make sure you read the comments too.

Lobster Mushrooms

One of the best, and strangest. Our fellow Mycophile Simon Armijo picked these in the White Mountains of Arizona just over the border from us. We haven’t seen them in the local ranges– maybe they need to be just a bit wetter or higher. The weirdest thing about them is that they parasitize other mushrooms, turning all their tissue to “lobster”. (Theoretically they can even do this to toxic species.)

They are as dense as flesh, harder than other edible kinds, and dry well. And they are REALLY good, as is reflected in their price in Asian markets— if you can find them at all.

Food Stuff: Omnivory

Both Peculiar and Rod Dreher have linked to “The Omnivore’s Hundred”. Im not sure posting the whole list here wouldn’t knock off too much below, but it is wonderful (not all fancy, not all weird, though plenty of both, from fugu to MacDonald’s.) I scored a respectable 79, but now I have to look for more– I don’t even know what some ARE.

Must get back to work. Meanwhile read the essay Boneless, Skinless, and Bland”, a plea for real food and real life.

“On two warm, sunny afternoons in June, I enjoyed the lowest tide in four years by wandering far from the shore on sandy stretches usually deep underwater. In tide pools, on rocks, and in lengths of sand covered with warm, shallow water, I got close-up views of all sorts of gorgeous marine life: sunstars, sea cucumbers, sea anemones, fish, geoducks, barnacles, starfish, shrimp, and more.

“There were throngs of people out exploring. Near me, a few adults had brought their children, who were whimpering with fear. I thought it was because they were frightened of the sea creatures, but as I got closer, I realized they were upset because they were getting a little dirty. And a little wet.”

RTWT , of course.