Thursday, July 31, 2008

Great Moments in Duck Sex Science

From a report on "Homosexual Necrophilia in the Mallard":

"On 5 June 1995 an adult male mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) collided with the glass fa├žade of the Natuurhistorisch Museum, Rotterdam and died. Another drake mallard raped the corpse almost continuously for 75 minutes. Then the author disturbed the scene and secured the dead duck. Dissection showed that the rape-victim indeed was of the male sex. It is concluded that the mallards were engaged in an ‘Attempted Rape Flight’ that resulted in the first described case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard." >> Read the complete article (PDF)


Four Types of Poisonous Snakes in VA and MD

Copperhead Photo by John White

Timber Rattlesnake Photo by John White

Cottonmouth Photo by John White

Canebreak Rattlesnake Photo by John White

The copperhead is the only poisonous snake found across all of Maryland and Virginia. Though its bite is rarely fatal to humans, it can easily be fatal to a terrier who is likely to be bit several times if it finds one in a hedgerow or prowling for mice near a barn.

The good news is that copperheads are not quite as common as some people believe -- most snakes believed to be copperheads are misidentified. Nonnvenomous snakes that look a bit like copper heads include eastern milk snake and the northern water snake, but these snakes have round pupils while a copperhead and other poisonous snakes have yes with vertically slitted, elliptically shaped pupils

Cottonmouths are rarely found far from water and generally only in very swampy parts. Just because you see a large black snake swimming does not mean it is a cottonmouth -- it it much more likely to be a black rat snake.

The timber rattlesnake is generally found only in the western parts of Virginia and Maryland, generally in the mountains near rocks and ledges.

The canebreak rattlesnake is quite rare, and you are not very likely to come across one. The good news is that if you do, the rattles will let you know that you have a rattlesnake and what to expect.

Sharing Death and Disease Across Species

A zoonotic disease is a disease that originates in wildlife and which has a reservoir in a wild population of animals, but which leaps the species barriers and can be transferred to humans.

Unlike diseases that reside only in humans, diseases that reside in both humans and wild animal populations are just about impossible to eradicate. The bad news is that there are a tremendous number of such diseases, and the number of them is growing every year.

Malaria -- an old zoonotic disease -- still kills 2 million people a year, while HIV/AIDS is a newer pathogen that has killed 25 million people so far, with another 55 million people (or more) infected worldwide.

The Bubonic plague is an old zoonotic disease, while a newer one is Mad Cow disease, to which can be added SARS, West Nile, and Ebola hemorrhagic fever.

When I was a kid there was no such thing as Lyme Disease in either humans or dogs, but now Lyme disease is one of the most commonly diagnosed diseases here in the Eastern United States.

Meanwhile, it seems a day cannot go by when a rabid fox or raccoon story does not appear in the press somewhere in the United States.

The total number of zoonotic diseases is unknown, but of the 1,415 known human pathogens in 2001, 62% were of zoonotic origin. A quick summary of the vectors for some of the more common zoonotic diseases:

  • Bubonic Plague is caused by a bacterium transmitted to humans from black rat fleas. A possible epidemic of bubonic plague is described in the First Book of Samuel, and the so-called Black Death which emerged in the 14th century killed approximately one third of Europe's population. The prairie dog towns of the Western U.S. became infected with the bubonic plague after Chinese immigrants brought the disease to the U.S. after 1900.

  • Rabies was described among hunting dogs in Mesopotamia as early as 2,300 BC, and accounts of the disease can be found in early Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman records. Any mammal can have rabies, but in the U.S. it is most common in feral cats, skunks, bats, fox and raccoons. That said, a groundhog was recently found in Pennsylvania with rabies.

  • West Nile Virus is a kind of encephalitis and may have been what killed Alexander the Great, as crows were reported to have died at his feet. In 1999, West Nile virus was introduced into the US, thanks to the introduction of the tiger mosquito which came to the U.S. in a load of tires from Asia. West Nile now strikes rare birds in zoos (especially perching western hemisphere birds such as parrots, eagles, hawks and cormorants) as well as bird feeder birds, horses and humans. The disease is named after a section of Uganda where it was first found.

  • Tularemia is transmitted by skin contact with an infested, diseased, or dead hare, rabbit or rodent.

  • Hantavirus is spread from rodents to humans by aerosols composed of dust from rodent scat. It is rare, but a concern in the driest parts of the American southwest, especially after wet (or relatively wet) winters and springs.

  • Salmonella is generally transmitted to humans through contaminated water reserves and can come from a wide variety of animals, but especially turtles and other reptiles and amphibians.

  • Leptospirosis ("rat catcher's jaundice") is generally transmitted to humans who drink water into which a rat has urinated. It can also be transmitted to dogs, pigs and other farm stock.

  • Rift Valley Fever is spread by mosquitoes, as is equine encephalitis, and Japanese encephalitis.

  • Leishmania is spread by sand-flies.

  • Typhimurium occurs endemically in wild birds, causing sporadic cases and small outbreaks in humans.

  • Anthrax is primarily a disease of herbivores, but it can be transmitted from wildlife to humans by contaminated meat or water, or by the spread of spores by flies, vultures, and other scavengers.

  • Lyme disease comes from ticks that feed on rodents and deer.

  • Bovine Tuberculosis can be spread from cattle to humans, and frequently finds a refuge in badgers, possums, wild boar, feral pig, and deer.

  • Echinococcosis comes from tapeworms, and moves easily from canids to humans. Fox are particularly susceptible to this parasite as small rodents are the intermediate host.

  • Monkeypox is a disease caused by a pox virus that typically occurs in Africa where the African squirrel is the natural host. The disease now occurs among prairie dogs in the United States, thanks to the importation of African rodents for the pet trade.

  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is a viral respiratory illness that is believed to have originated in palm civet cats, raccoon dogs, and rats. It has not yet shown up in wild animal populations in the U.S.

  • Influenza (the flu) has been reported in a variety of animal species, including birds, humans, pigs, horses, and sea mammals, but its main reservoir seems to be wild waterfowl, especially ducks.

  • AIDS is caused by the HIV virus, which appears to be a variety of Simian Immune-Virus (SIV) which may have spread to humans from nonhuman primates in West Africa -- perhaps due to consumption of meat, or infection from monkey blood during slaughter.

  • The common cold is a virus that scientists now believe originated in horses.

Humans are not the only species impacted by emerging diseases leaping the species barrier.

Black-footed ferrets have been decimated by distemper that has crossed over from wild dog populations, as have seals and sea lions.

Frogs and many other amphibians around the globe have been decimated by diseases brought into new habitats -- often by scientists coming to study the creatures.

Lowland gorilla populations are being hammered by Ebola hemorrhagic fever, while elk and deer in the western U.S. are falling to chronic wasting disease very similar to Mad Cow disease.


Save money - make a plan

It generally takes a lot to change patterns of behaviour but change is happening right here in Australia, and I'm sure all around the world. I read recently that people are using their cars less, staying home more than ever and giving up extras like magazines, newspapers and their cup of coffee on the way to work. Worry is changing those behaviour patterns because many people are trying to keep

God Bless America, Land That I Love


Operation Net-Vet Harlot

From Pharmalot:

A contractor for Novartis [pharmaceuticals] was charged with running a prostitution ring from his desk at the drugmaker in suburban New Jersey, while the actual 'services' were provided at a veterinarian clinic several miles away, according to the Somerest County, New Jersey, prosecutor’s office.

David Baker, 35, was arrested following a two-month investigation dubbed “Operation Net-Vet Harlot” that began with an ad on, offering “erotic services.”

Apparently one of the hookers was a veterinary assistant, and that's where clients would go to get their "veterinary examination."

No word yet on whether a free penicillin shot or worming was part of the program of activities.

A Mile in Your Mocassins?

John McCain wants you to know he's "one of the people."

And to prove it, while on the campaign trail he wears the same shoes you do when you go to the supermarket and stand in front of the dairy case -- $520 black calfskin Ferragamo Pregiato "Moccasins" imported from Italy. Nice!

Bear Scat Identification

Click to enlarge and read sign. Hat tip to Maine Hunting Today


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Striking Fear Into the Hearts of Terrorists

From The New York Times

Americans drove 9.6 billion fewer miles in May compared with the same period last year. As Bob Ostertag over at The Huffington Post notes, this happened

Without any political leadership whatsoever. Without any increase in funding for our pathetic public transportation system. Without a national mobilization. Without a coordinated grassroots effort. Without a system for carpooling. Without employer encouragement. Without anyone patting them on them on the back and thanking them for finally thinking of their children and their children's children and their children's children's...

Gas went up to $4 a gallon and Americans cut out nearly 10 billion miles of driving in one month.

That could have happened anytime in the last 20 years.

This is real, measurable, verified data that shows that we can solve the climate crisis. No disagreement between Republicans and Democrats. No slimy attack ads. No political hacks trying to hide away the data.

How many miles do you think we could save if gas went to $5 a gallon? 20 billion miles a month? What if we had $5 a gallon gas, and a coordinated national program kick-start massive investment in public transportation, shift work schedules to support carpooling, and provide financial assistance to those hit hardest financially? How many billions of miles would we save?

It's wonderful news. Really. Just don't think too much about the fact that after 40 years of environmental activism, our biggest step forward comes from an inadvertent rise in the price of oil that our politicians on both sides of the aisle are working to avert.


My place here at home

Lions organic pure cottonMy house is untidy. I'm at home today so I'll have plenty of time to put things back in their rightful places. I remember when I was much younger, I used to look forward to my days off and I would make sure I was out most of the time. I'd be visiting friends, going to the movies, dining out and shopping. Now is a much more gentle time, now I look forward to fluffing my

Bite Club: Comparative Bite Force in Big Mammals

Log predicted canine bite force (CBS) plotted against log body mass (BoM). Regression for all extant taxa along solid black line. Individual data points are: for felids (open triangles), canids (grey filled triangles), dasyuromorphians (grey filled squares), thylacoleonids (black filled squares), hyaenids (grey filled diamonds), ursids, a mustelid and a viverrid (grey crosses), and a thylacosmilid (open squares).

Did you ever read a paper and then have a hard time finding it again? You know it's out there, but finding it again? That may take some drilling!

The good news is that I finally found a paper I was looking for. It's called "Bite club: comparative bite force in big biting mammals and the prediction of predatory behaviour in fossil taxa" (PDF)

Basically, the paper estimates bite force measurements based on the failure load of jaw bones of living mammals, i.e. when the jaw bone is used as a simple lever, at what point does it crack? This data is then regressed against weight to see trends, and then these trends are used to determine the predictive bite force values for extinct mammals.

Note that the graph uses a logarithmic scale, which is typically used when you are using comparative data sets with widely differing values (i.e the jaw strength of a 15-gram mouse versus the jaw strength of a 200-pound hyena.)

A couple of points made in the paper:

  • Body Mass Determines Most of It: The bigger the animal, the stronger the jaw and the larger its prey. Body mass alone is largely predictive of bite force potential.

  • Head shape matters: "The Mean Bite Force Quotient (BFQ) was lower in cats than canids, reflecting the smaller head size of cats relative to body mass, but relative to skull length, Canine Bite Strength (CBS) in felids was greater, possibly because of their greater skull width relative to length."

  • History Matters: Placental animals seem to have slightly weaker jaws than marsupials, and bone-crushing animals such as hyenas seem to have stronger jaws. That said, body mass largely determines bite strength.

Tools of a Terrierman

If you're serious about digging on the dogs, you need a few basics:

  1. A dog that will fit in the hole.
    Smaller is generally better, and chest size is everything. Anyone who tells you a larger dog can "eventually get there if it has the desire," is a dog dealer or an armchair theorist. A dog cannot dig through rock or a root, nor can it excavate the length of a pipe. You cannot pound a gallon of sand into a pint bottle. With teriers, chest size matters. A lot. >> To read more

  2. A locator collar.
    I prefer Deben locator collars. Other parts of the world may be able to get by with larger avalanche locators, but I have tried them and I do not recommend them as I have found them to be too larger for our needs. I still use the old Deben Mark I kit, but the new Deben LRT collars are better tech in that they are waterproof and do not need to be taped up before and outing. >> To read more

    An Ames Poney shovel and a pair of heavy-duty post hole diggers.

  3. A good shovel.
    There is no better shovel than an Ames "Pony" sold by A.M. Leonard and other industrial tool companies. This shovel is heavy, has a good dish, and holds an edge when sharpened. Ames has been making tools in this country longer than we have been a nation. >> To read more

  4. A heavy-duty posthole digger.
    If you dig in hedgerows and rocky areas with heavy soil, you cannot do without this tool. >> To read more

  5. A digging bar.
    I do not like T-bars -- they are too hard on the hands. My bar is 3/4" hex stock, 6 feet long and straight, with a rounded point on one end, and sharp chisel point in the other. Perfect.

  6. A decent pack to carry it all.
    And by "all," I mean a snare, a long-handled trowel, a root saw, a machete, a scraper, water for you and the dogs, a small veterinary kit, extra batteries, tape, leashes, collars and tieouts. And by "decent" I mean one made of canvas and not light-weight "ripstop" nylon which cannot take the longterm abuse of tools and dirt. The pack I recommend is the Brockwood Bow/Rifle pack which fits a shovel head like it was designed for it. This pack will hold everything (and then some), wears like iron, and has good shoulder and waist straps. "Made in U.S.A. with Manufacturer Lifetime Guarantee."

If you are new to terrier work (or simply want to save money in the future), I also recommend one other investment. This little item. As Greg D. once said, "If you are serious about terrier work, nothing else will save you more time, grief and money." The JRTCA, the largest Jack Russell terrier club in the world, recommends it as "great reading for all terriermen and women." I only promise one thing: It will save you money ... and maybe your dog's life.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

This Time, Let's Give Brains a Chance ...

Hat tip to Crooks and Liars which has all the footnotes.
Footnotes? Oh right. Research. Evidence.
Something more than mere assertion.

Here's John McCain's platform: "The jobs aren't coming back, the illegal aliens are forever, and we'll be in Iraq for 100 years."

Damn. There's a political platform that clarifies your choices, doesn't it?

Any questions?

"Like a mackerel in the moonlight."

Environment Wrecker Soon on His Way to Jail

Alaska Senator Ted Stevens has been indicted on seven counts of federal corruption.

It turns out that Stevens has received more than $250,000 in gifts and services from VECO Corp., a powerful oil services contractor, and its executives in exchange for tens of millions of dollars worth of your tax dollars.

And Stevens was not alone. In a previous probe, Alaska Congressman Don Young was also nailed for taking money from this same oil services contactor.

Stevens' indictment further damages Republican prospects in the November elections, and promises to be a windfall for Democrats who have always suspected key Republican leaders are on the take from big oil. Not for nothing was Stevens named one of 2008's "Dirty Dozen" by the League of Conservation Voters. As LCV President Gene Karpinski notes, “For forty years in the Senate, Ted Stevens has stood in the way of progress. Today, he literally lives in the house that oil built.”

So far, the Veco oil investigation has resulted in seven criminal convictions, including three former state lawmakers, two former oil executives, a lobbyist, and the chief of staff of former Alaska Governor Frank Murkowski.

The Justice Department said Stevens would not be arrested and would be allowed to turn himself in. >> To read the indictment (PDF)

How to make compost

We make compost, year round, in this corner of our garden. We also have compost in the chook pen, and we have a worm farm. We used to enclose the compost on three sides but we found it was easier for us to take away some of those sides to allow easier access when turning the heap.Compost is the end result of organic matter that breaks down and decomposes. Organic matter, in this context, is

Old School Hawking With Batman


Batman explains the facts of life to Robin.

I have no idea what issue this single panel comes from, but here in Virginia, hawks and falcons used to be caught with tethered lived pigeons. In the Fall, along the barrier beach islands, folks would drive down the beach until they saw a migrating falcon, then they would leap out, bury someone in the sand and put an apple basket over their head and a live pigeon in one hand and a string attached to a bow net in the other. No doubt, others will illuminate the mechanics of what I have only heard told in story. Still, a great and odd little bit of Batman and Robin art. More research into this panel is clearly needed!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Barbed Wire Birdhouses May Save Cactus Wren

"David Olson and his colleagues will hike into Orange County's coastal sage reserves lugging 100-pound, 9-foot-tall jumbled frameworks of PVC pipe bristling with barbed wire and metal needles. Olson, director of science at the Irvine Ranch Conservancy, will look for domed nests of woven grass tucked into dense cactus patches. When he finds one, he'll place his contraption nearby. Setting an iPod to coastal cactus wren, the scientists will broadcast a series of "char, char, char" notes. If they are lucky, a brown-and-white bird will flit out of the brush and perhaps make the tangle of piping and barbed wire its home.

Olson's fake cholla are part of a last-ditch effort to save the coastal cactus
wren. It's a manmade solution to a manmade problem -- frequent wildland fires."

Read the whole thing at High Country News

Starting a vegetable garden

Gardening is one of those things that is very difficult to write a one size fits all formula for. What works for me, might not work for you because of our different climates, soil and level of experience. But what I hope to do today is to write a general guide to starting a garden and hope it encourages you enough to give it a go and in doing so develop your own skills in this important subject.

Digging on the Dogs

Mountain tries to scoot in under welded hog wire.

I always find it amazing that farms can change so much from one season to another -- they become completely different places.

Hedgerows that were thin alleys of sticks in the winter are now dense thickets of undergrowth. Fields that had been vast and lonely expanses of land four months ago, are now towering corn fields that leave me slightly claustrophobic.

The dogs and I had barely gone 40 feet when we busted out a large deer that bolted off deeper into the farm. Though this farm is heavily hunted in season, the population of wild ungulates does not seem to be curbed too much; tracks and scat are everywhere.

The first sette was under a wide stretch of welded hog wire, and though a groundhog was clearly home, there was no digging on it, as I had left my bolt cutters at home. We moved on.

The next sette was a nice shallow place, but as is so often the case with shallow settes, the ground itself was rock hard. I slammed the bar into the ground enough to loosen a little dirt, and eventually popped into the pipe right between the dog and the groundhog.

With a little more pounding with the post hole digger, I opened up the pipe and tailed out a rather skinny groundhog, otherwise unharmed.

Since this fellow was not near crops, I swung him onto a nearby tree and encouraging him to bolt upwards. This one got the hint and scampered up the trunk without any further encouragement.

With the groundhog up the tree and looking down, the dog's stayed below leaping, while I repaired the sette and gathered up the tools.

Released unharmed.


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Over 500,000 Visitors Since April of Last Year

A small milestone, I suppose. The actual number at this moment is 518,836, but I was not paying attention when it rolled past 500,000.

Weekend work

I am worried about Rosie, our 12 year old Airedale Terrier. She's lost a bit of weight over the last week or so and she's been vomiting. She's still eating her evening meal but won't touch the biscuits in the morning. I've been giving her a little bit of porridge during the day, which she loves. Hanno will take her to the vet today. :- |For the past few months, we've been talking about putting up

Dog Bites :: Breeds, Head Size and Bite Strength

These are three video clips comparing the relative bite strength of a Pit Bull, a Mastiff, a Belgian Malinois (the type of dog used by the U.S. Secret Service), a Dutch Shepherd, a Rottweiler, and a Wolf.

Though the Wolf did not seem to be giving it his all, his bite strength was topped only by that of the Mastiff.


Saturday, July 26, 2008

A Scar is Not a Badge of Success

I do not value head size and bite strength too much when it comes to true working terriers.

Yes, I want a dog with teeth, and it does not hurt if the dog knows when to use them, but in truth 99 percent of the work of a working terrier has nothing to do with bite strength; it has to do with nose, experience, chest size, brains, discretion and, above all else, VOICE.

Large heads are a show-ring affectation; a value embraced by theorists. Yes, you need a dog with teeth, but almost any jaw in a dog weighing 10 pounds or more will have a decent set of teeth in it.

The problem with a large head is that it tends to come with a large chest; a morphologically-linked combination because the larger chest is needed to support the larger head.

The problem with having a large chest on a working terrier is that when the dog gets underground it cannot maneuver with the speed and agility needed -- if it can get underground at all.

People who claim that a dog can "get there if it has the desire" are talking nonsense; a dog cannot excavate the 30-foot length of a den pipe, not can it dig out a narrow constriction point lined with rock and root. The true digger, unlike the ring-side theorist or once-a-year digger, knows that most dens are not made of potting soil and corn stalks!

An over-large dog will too often jam itself into a pipe like a cork in a bottle. In such a situation, the dog may be unable to move left or right, and may only be able to move backward with a great deal of difficulty. A terrier in such a situation, with formidable quarry right in front of it, is more likely to sustain unnecessary damage than if it were a smaller dog with a weaker head but a decent voice that it actually used.

Bottom line: Give me the smaller dog with ready voice and brains enough to avoid wreckage. It is an animal that can be dug to week after week.

The over-large mute dogs with the bully heads covered with scars are not flashing a "red badge of courage." Too often they are simply saying they were too big for the pipe and too mute to use any tool but teeth. Seen in that light, scars are not a mark of success, but a mark of failure.

American Genius and Rabies

From the Associated Press:

Authorities say a Levy County man accidentally shot his wife while trying to hit a fox that had attacked her. The couple told deputies they had spotted an animal in their yard Friday morning and went outside to see what it was.

The fox bit the woman on the left leg and wouldn't let go, so she told her husband to get a gun.
The man fired a .22-caliber rifle seven times, killing the animal but also hitting his wife in the lower right leg.

The woman was taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.
The dead fox will be tested for rabies, but authorities say the results won't be available until next week.

Friday, July 25, 2008

McCain Lacks Message, Money and Momentum

Karl Rove, the man often described as "Bush's brain" has a new electoral map out which shows Obama winning the election in November. Do tell!

NBC's First Read blog says that "per this map -- right now -- Obama could lose every toss-up state (Ohio, New Hampshire, Florida, Nevada) and still win the presidential election."


Choosing Eden - passing it on

Hello friends. I hope you enjoy your weekend and find time to spend with your family or those you love.I want to let you know about the book being passed on by Niki. If you would like to go into the draw for the book, visit Niki here.

Small Vet Kit for Pack

This is my small vet box that contains everything I need to fix most small problems in the field. The box itself is a dual-sided fishing box about the size of a Deben receiver.

The top bin contains superglue (cyanoacrylate), which is the same as VetBond, but with a "methyl" base rather than an "ethyl" base. Plain old superglue was used by all the surgeons in Vietnam, and VetBond was only created to create a brandable product that 3M could price-gouge the public with.

A superglue or vetbond repair of a gash holds about as well as a 4.0 stitch, is very easy to apply, results in less scarring and is less likely to get infected as well. Superglue will also stop bleeding of rips, including most pad cuts.

Five tubes of superglue cost just $1 at the local Dollar Store, as compared to $15 for a single small vial of VetBond.

The green "fougera" packet is nothing more than a little triple-antibiotic ointment -- the kind used all over, for humans as well as pets.

The white tube with the red strip on the bottom is a Mycitracin eye ointment. This is used to ward off eye infection if a cornea has been ripped, and is a good thing to use, along with cephalexen (taken orally, see below).

There is not a lot that can be done for a corneal rip other than to to let the dog rest (crating the dog is a must) and taking steps to fight off infection (oral antibiotics are a must).

The pills in the bottom compartment are Fish-Flex cephalexen -- available without a prescription from any decent on-line pet place like Revival Animal Health. A 250 mg capsule is perfect for a terrier -- give twice a day for a week in the case of a puncture wound, or a serious rip from a fox or raccoon. Ceph is also a very good idea if you have a through-the-lip rip from a groundhog.

The glue, batteries and razor blade are for actual field use -- the pills are in the box simply because they are a good place to keep them handy.

This is the other side of the same box.

The larger tray contains a couple of brand-new single height batteries for my deben locator collars.

In the top left side tray I have six clavamox (125 mg). I will break these out only if Cephelaxen (Fish-flex) is not working. So far, I have not needed them.

In the bottom right side tray I have a brand new razor blade to use if a piece of skin needs to be cut away. Below that, I have a Percocet-5. Percocet is a good anesthetic for a dog and will calm it down as well. The dosage is 0.05 mg per pound of weight, so this 5 mg tablet is enough for 10 dogs that weigh ten pounds. To use, crush it up to powder, mix it well with distilled water, and squirt the correctly-measured dose down the dog's throat. Go slow -- you can always give more, but it's very hard to take a dose back once it is inside the dog!!

My main veterinary kit (always with me in the car) also contains a very large hypodermic syringe to irrigate wounds, two bottles of proviodine to sterilize wounds, a canine nail cutter, a muzzle, a surgical staple gun (a new addition which I have never used), forceps, foaming wound cleaner, graunlex, an extra eye wash bottle, extra batteries, a sharpener for the machete, and an extra set of leather gloves.

For John McCain, It's Time to Snap a Jelly Pack

Poor John McCain.

The man's campaign started off slow, went into a water ditch at the first turn, and now the reeds are closing in around him. As he fumbles with the door locks, the water rises around him. It's still early yet, but so far, things are not turning out well.

How bad it it? Consider this: While Barack Obama was giving an exciting and moving speech in front of a massive and enthusiastic European crowd of more than 200,000 people assembled before the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin (crowd video here), John McCain was reduced to speaking in a near-empty supermarket aisle in front of a dairy case in Ohio.

And no, that's not a euphemism; It was a real dairy case.

But wait: it gets worse.

It turns out that the "just-an-average-consumer" that the McCain camp trotted out for the press corps to interview was actually a local Republican party operative.

Apparently the McCain campaign does not know any real people in Ohio. Ouch!

Deciding to further accentuate the contrast between competence and incompetence, Senator McCain decided to ride Obama's media coat tails by decamping to the nearest German restaurant -- "Schmidt's Sausage Hause" in Columbus, Ohio.

What's funny here is that this "Sausage Hause" appears to be a senior-citizen "Hooters" complete with an accordion player, a tuba player, and a few frauleins flashing just a little cleavage.


Poor John McCain. The romancing of Ohio, is not going well and, according to Real Clear Politics, neither is the rest of it.

McCain is behind in California, Pennsylvania, New York, Wisconsin, Virginia, Michigan, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, New Jersey, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Iowa, Washington, Connecticut, Delaware, Rhode Island, Massachusettes, and Maine ... to name just a few.

Obama is nudging out McCain in Colorado, New Mexico, New Hampshire, and Indiana.

McCain is even getting beat in Arizona fundraising by Senator Obama -- and not by a small margin either.

Meanwhile, McCain's earlier taunting of Barack Obama for having not gone to Iraq in the middle of the presidential campaign cycle, has turned around and bitten the Arizona Senator in the ass.

Partly in response to McCain's challenge, Barack did go to Iraq, where he was greeted by adoring U.S troops, made TWO consecutive 3-point jumps shots, and even had his peace plan endorsed by Iraqi President Maliki.

Just to further gild the lily, the President of Afghanistan welcomed Senator Obama warmly -- along with his proposal to send more troops to Afghanistan to kick the Taliban's ass and actually go out and find Osama Bin Laden.

Osama Bin Laden? Wow ... almost forgot about him. Hmmmm... Wonder what he's up to?

What has been John McCain's response to his free-fall through the stratosphere and into the nether-world of irrelevance?

Believe it or not, it's been to send out an email asking folks like me which of these two videos I liked the best.

And what are these videos? Nothing more than a parade of press commentators saying they are knocked out, admire, and are totally inspired by Barack Obama.

Whiskey- Tango- Foxtrot.

Apparently in the Bizzaro World of John McCain, it's a very bad thing if the press corps (a smart subset of the American people) respect you and are inspired by your words, action and policies.

Woooeeeee! There's a novel political theory! No wonder John McCain is losing! If all you are selling is resentment against the press corps, you have very little to offer.

John McCain, it's time to snap a jelly pack, because you are toast.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Being aware and developing values

Yesterday was the coldest day of the year here in our little home. It was raining and dark and just right for a day of reflection and knitting. Of course I made bread and did a few other chores - there was quark waiting to be made and a batch of soap to be stored away, but my focus yesterday was inside my own head. I need days like that because it gives me a chance to think about my life and

Need a Veterinarian? Ask My Phone!

My new cell phone is a wonder. A total wonder.

I watched Carl Pope, the head of the Sierra Club getting skewered by Steve Colbert on Comedy Central while I was in a bathroom stall in my office building, and then I read the latest web news articles on the elevator as I descended into the basement garage to pick up my car for my drive home from work.

Yes, yes, I have Comedy Central on the phone -- both live feed and and taped bits too.

Ditto for all the network news stations, VH1, E!, MTV, Discovery, CNN, Nickelodeon, Spike TV, CW, VH1, etc.

And yes, the speakers on the phone are good enough to play TV out loud without ear phones.


On the drive home last night, I played "stump the voice-activation" feature. I started with "Pizza" -- a snap -- and then tried Exxon (no problem), and "restaurant" (ditto), as well as "coffee."

The phone provided entire lists of choices for each kind of establishment, arranged from closest to me at the moment to farthest (yes, the phone has excellent GPS).

I tried to stump it by asking for specific local establishments that are not part of chains. Single stores -- no other location anywhere on earth. No problem; it knew where these places were.

I tried to get tougher. How about morally ambiguous places like a bar? No problem.

OK, I was going to show it up. Try harder. "Strip Club?" Surely that would be a problem. But it wasn't; it was in there! So too was "Massage Parlour" and "Gun Store" (though this last search also gave me lock smiths which sold gun safes). There is no moral ambiguity with this phone -- it has no morality at all. Wow.

OK, back to useful stuff. Grocery stores, pet stores, veterinarians, barbers, and WalMart. All in there. Nice!

And the amazing thing is that not only does the phone know where I am right that minute, it also knows where I want to go, and how to get there. And if I talk to it, it will talk back to me! No typing needed. The phone not only has the address and the phone number, but it also a ready map on screen, and turn-by-turn voice directions while I drive.

Yes, that's right; you speak to the phone, tell it what you want, and the phone finds it for you and then tells you how to get there. It TALKS to you!

Wow, wow, wow.

I'm thinking this phone will be a great asset for blind folks. Assistance dogs are useful but how many of them really know where the hardware store is? No problem -- this phone does, and it gives turn by turn directions while you walk!

I tried more spots.

Home Depot? WalMart? Staples? Safeway? Southern States? Tractor Supply? Book stores. Gas stations? Bicycle stores? The National Zoo? 7-Eleven? They were all in there.

So too was the weather report, and not just for today, but for the entire week ahead. The short version popped up in nice clear graphics, and the longer, more detailed version (hi-low, humidity, wind, dew point, air pressure, visibility) was one touch away and in text. And yes, we have tides and marine weather forecasts as well.

Plus the phone gets doppler radar. Doppler radar. On the phone.

Case closed. This telephone is smoking.

Cost: $130 for the phone from Best Buy with a 2-year "Simply Everything" plan from Sprint which costs $99 a month and gives you unlimited data and email.

Worth it. Totally worth it. You probably have to a cellphone already; at this price you might as well get the best. And my son called from inside metro (the subway). He had a connection! Try that with AT&T or T-Mobile.

My advice: do not walk down to Best Buy to get this phone ... RUN!

There is as much difference between phone #3 and #2 as between #1 and #2.


How to Take Giant Quarry

This picture was taken to show off my critter scale, which is nothing more than a $5 fish scale picked up at K-Mart.

Which brings me to my point: Why is it that almost all of my digs are to average-sized animals? I must be doing something wrong!

Clearly, the only way to routinely score a 30-pound raccoon or fox is to leave the camera and scales at home. I must learn from the experts! How else will I ever be able to kill 1,500 rats in an afternon with nothing but three dogs and a stick?

A Bad Day in the Hayfield

"Sometime you get the hay, and sometimes you get the hay bailer."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Eggs from the backyard

This is Lulubelle, she is a really big girl and she looks angry, but she's the sweetest and most gentle of all our chooks. Lulubelle is a barred Plymouth Rock.Today I was going to write about keeping chickens in the backyard but I've just read a post I did in May last year on this same topic and there is not a lot I want to change. So instead of writing the same information in a different way,

What Kind of Bow Is That?

Our crack research team here at is trying to determine what kind of bow that is. A Parker? A Bear?

We would ask, but rumor has it that this lady is a pig hunter that keeps a jar of pickled pig testicles on her desk.

Which causes one to pause, if you know what I mean ....

The Benefits of a Slide Tag on the Collar

A ridiculous outfit will get a dog noticed, but only tags will get it home.

For a lot of dogs in America, getting lost is fatal.

The harsh truth is that many dogs are destroyed at shelters every year because their owners cannot be found -- the collar or tag comes off in the brush or is taken off by some idiot who has custody of the dog for a few minutes on a country road. "I took off the collar to read it, and then the dog just ran off into the bushes ..."

Some of us even have dogs that are cute enough to be stolen.

The chance of a working terrier getting seriously lost is much higher than for a couch-potato pup that slips out the front door and simply wanders off into the neighborhood where it is likely to be spotted relatively soon.

When out hunting, we are often far from home, and our dogs may be out of sight for stretches of time -- hopefully underground, but not necessarily. Anyone who hunts terriers a lot, will eventually have a dog slip out of a den through the back door, sight unseen. Not all settes are simple affairs in the middle of well-mowed fields!

Another problem is that, when hunting, dangle tags cannot be worn for fear they will get hung up underground.

I cannot tell you how many times I have seen terriers in the field with no tags on at all because the terrier owner has not figured out how afix permanent (and safe) identification to the locator collar. This is a huge mistake!! A tag is always the quickest, surest and easiest way for anyone to get your dog back to you -- or your locator collar if it should slip off the dog.

Compounding the potential for serious trouble in the field is the fact that hunting dogs in prey mode are likely to go off on their own if they think it will provide a dividend. If there are too many loose dogs in the field (another mistake!) it's hard to keep your eye on every dog 100% of the time, and the one out of sight most often is sure to be the one that gets lost first.

Remember that locator collars (i.e. electronic transmitters with hand-held receivers) only work for about 15 feet (the old Deben Mark I) or 40 feet (the new Deben LRT) or 180 feet (various types of modified avalanche locators such as Bellman and Flint).

Distances like this are fine if your dog is underground and you know where the dog is (more or less), but if your dog has taken off any real distance because it is chasing deer or chasing a dog in heat, you are out of luck.

The simplest way to ensure your dog is returned to you if it is lost while hunting is to put a tag on the locator collar.

Some people rivet a tag through the thin leather on their locator collars, but this effectively cuts the narrow strap in two, and means that the collar leather will fail sooner rather than later.

It also means that the ID cannot be transferred to a new collar when the old collar breaks.

A better way to put an ID on your locator collar is with a simple brass slide tag.

In many hundreds of digs, I have had no problems with slide tags getting hung up underground, as they are smaller than the locator transmitters (even the Deben Mark I), more flush to the collar than the buckle, and they slide in multiple directions. And no, your den pipes are not smaller than mine!

Deben locator collar with slide tag and electrical tape to keep the transmitter dry.

A good place to order tags from is Boomerang Tags. Order a stainless steel tag (they are scratch-resistant), and use CAPITAL letters as they are easier to read.

I include my web site URL ( as well as my home number and my cell phone number, address and email.

Boomerang Tags makes slide tags for nylon snap collars as well as flat-buckle collars.

A final small tip: Order Boomerang's smallest stainless steel slide tag for your key chain. Most people will return your keys to you if they are found. All they need is an email address or a cell phone number.

For information on microchipping your dog, tattoos, and pet ID registries >> click here

Dana Delany with GI dog tags. This is a relevan t picture because I say it is.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Answers to previous comments

Graphic from the Carl Larsen galleryI was going to write about starting off your chicken flock but there are a few loose ends from yesterday's post so I'll tidy those up and write about chooks tomorrow.First of all, welcome to the newcomers, especially those who have taken the time to say hello. The comments here are a big part of the blog so it's nice to know who has joined the community. Also

Another Undiggable Earth


Monday, July 21, 2008

The Wonder of Canine Ears

Beagles and bassets have huge ears, but it's the terriers that actually use their ears for hunting.

Underground, a dog can see nothing -- zero, zilch, nada. Past the first turn of a sette, all is black. All the dog knows for sure is that somewhere in the blackness are white teeth waiting to bite and slash if the dog gets too close.

It is the ears that tell the dog where "too close" is -- the breathing of the animal, the sound of claw and paw against dirt, even the heartbeat of the animal at the opposite end of the pipe.

Though some people will tell you terrier's ears flop over to keep out dirt, that is pure nonsense -- every wild animal that burrows has an ear that stands upright, from rats to fox, from badger to wart hog. Terrier ears flop over, not out of necessity, but out of convention. In all of the wild animal kingdom, only the elephant has ears that flop over, and these are hinged for an entirely different reason -- ventilation.

Deafness in terriers is a very serious problem, especially in Bull Terriers and Jack Russell Terriers. For reasons that are not well understood, deafness in dogs is strongly correlated with the gene for merle coats, and shows up in a higher-than-random incidence in dogs that are mostly white and have blue or "glass" eyes.

Dog that have solid-colored coats or which have large amounts of color in them (such as Border terriers, Fell terriers, Patterdale terriers, and the beagle-colored Jack Russells) are less likely to have heriditary deafness.

All Jack Russell terriers should be BAER tested before breeding. BAER stands for "brainstem auditory evoked response" and involves placing two very small wires into the skin on the dog's scalp just above the eyes. These small wire electrodes register a response if the neural pathways work in response to sound (i.e. they dog is hearing).

Dogs that are unliateral or bilateral deaf should not be bred, nor should dogs that produce deaf offspring.

BAER testing needs to be done only once in the life of a dog, can be done on very young puppies (any time after 5 weeks of age), and costs only $40 a dog or so.

Remember that a dog is a long-term invesment of time as well as money, and a deaf dog is useless in the field, more trouble at home, and a drag on the gene pool.

If you are in the market for a puppy, especially a Jack Russell Terrier or any other breed at high-risk for deafness, demand that the puppy be BAER tested.

For more information, and a list of BAER testing sites, see >> deafness in dogs and cats.

This is what a dog can see underground when it is working, and it is why hearing is so vital to a working terrier.

Building an authentic life

There is a season for all things. I know the way Hanno and I live now will change in the future. At some point, we will grow too tired to garden as much as we do now, and there will be a time we don't have chickens. We will always live simply, there will be no change in our philosophy of living, but the way we go about our day to day lives will change according to our circumstances. That is a

The Revolution Will Be Televised On Your Phone

The family cell phone contract ran out, and so we were finally able to get new phones.

Of course, Moore's Law means everything is getting better, smaller and faster in the area of electronics, which is a nice way of saying that getting a new cell phone is now about as complicated as getting a health insurance plan.

Too. Many. Options. Not. Enough. Money.

In the end, we went with Sprint which is the only cell phone system that gets a connection in the Washington, D.C. subway system other than Verizon. And unlike Verizon, with Sprint, we are not going to be beat around the head with data charges on a true internet-ready telephone.

A family plan with unlimited text and unlimited data, and about twice as many cell phone minutes as we now actually use saved us a little money over what we were spending on plain phone and text service from Verizon, and since we intend to drop our land line completely (yes, the family is going all cell), we are pretty sure we will save money in the long run.

The new phones we got are Samsung Instincts which are, well ... AMAZING.

These are not Iphone knock-offs -- they are better than Iphones. For one thing, the Instinct gets real TV, not just Youtube donwloads. Amazing.

Of course, I have only had the phone for few hours. I will report out in a few weeks with an update when I figure out how everything actually works. Perhaps these new phones are not as good as they at first appear. Right now, however, I am just amazed.

A sampling of what my new phone can do:

  • Makes calls inside the house. This may not seem like a big deal, but I could never get a Verizon signal inside the house using my old phone. I had to stand in the middle of the front yard. In the interest of full disclosure, my reception problems may have had more to do with my old cell phone rather than Verizon coverage per se. None-the-less getting cell phone reception inside the house is a big deal as far as I am concerned.

  • Voice Mail: A pretty standard feature, but something I am still amazed comes free with a handheld device.

  • Real Internet Capabilities. I can read blogs and news and get my emails as well. I can order books from Amazon, check the latest headlines, read full newspaper and magazine articles, etc. And none of this costs me a dime beyond the "everything" cell plan I have with Sprint, which is costing me less than the simple minutes-and-text message plan I had with Verizon.

  • Television. Yes, I can watch TV. Real TV in real time, not just the stuff I download onto a memory chip. Not only can I get CNN, I can also get ABC, ABC News, Fox, NBC, Discovery, ESPN, E!, NFL Replay, MTV, Comedy Central, Spike, Disney, etc., etc.

  • Radio -- as many stations as I want.

  • MP3 player. I can download my favorite tunes into the phone just like an Ipod shuffle.

  • Camera - The phone comes with a 2 .0 megapixel regular camera plus a built in video camera. Output is directly to the computer with a connecting cord. Simple.

  • Mapping and turn-by-turn GPS. This could be very useful at times.

  • A full QWERTY key board. It's a bit small for the fingers, but because it's a touch screen it's larger than the tiny keys you get with a Blackberry. I like it. Ditto for the telephone pad which has huge numbers even I can find without my glasses.

  • Movie Updates (what's playing where and when at local theatres is a simple click).

  • Games -- I never play these, but there's a ton of them on this phone. And they are not Solitaire and Minesweeper, if you know what I mean.

  • Notes: This phone will let me type in notes to myself and even hold sketches.

  • Calculator

  • Clock

  • Calendar

  • Blue tooth connection which allows hands-free phoning in the car if I ever think I need it.

The phone cost $125, and comes with extra battery, phone charger, battery charger, earphones, and case. The new phone is a little bit bigger than the my old flip phone folded up, but it's about half the thickness of the flip phone, so it may actually have less mass. It comes with a very nice case and fits in the pocket unnoticed.

And no, I do not know how it all works yet.

That's the other end of Moore's law -- the machines get more powerful every few months, but our brains are not catching up.

Right now, however, I am pretty sure I am the coolest kid on the block. Or the biggest Geek. One of those, for sure.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Chick pea burgers and pickles

We had a lovely weekend. Hanno worked at the food and coffee stall at our local organic farmers markets on Saturday morning. Our Centre runs the stall and we make quite a pretty penny from it. Hanno gets to socialise and I get some alone time - win/win. He was home just after lunch so we sat on the front verandah with a cup of tea while he told me all the news from the markets and relaxed.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Wolves Regain Endangered-species Protections

A judge has thrown a wrench into the push to delist the gray wolf in the northern Rockies, saying two things that seem imminently sensible to me:

  1. Wildlife should me managed by science and competing interests should make their case with evidence, and ;

  2. When wolves take stock they will be shot.

In the end, the Courts may allow delisting, downlisting, or even expanded control of wolves within certain areas, but I cannot imagine that the wholesale slaughter of wolves in Idaho, as proposed by Idaho's moronic governor, Butch Otter, will stand.


From The Los Angeles Times, July 19, 2008

A Montana judge sides with environmentalists who had challenged the species' delisting.

By Tami Abdollah, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Gray wolves in the northern Rockies regained endangered-species protections Friday when a federal judge in Montana granted a preliminary injunction to environmentalists, who had challenged the wolves' delisting.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials announced in February that gray wolves would be removed from the endangered species list after what they termed a successful 20-year effort to reestablish the wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. Environmentalists sued.

The judge's ruling nullifies plans by Montana, Wyoming and Idaho to hold wolf hunts this fall.

In a strongly worded 40-page order issued late Friday, U.S. District Judge Donald W. Molloy of Missoula, Mont., called the wolves' delisting arbitrary and capricious, and said it "demonstrated a possibility of irreparable harm" to the species.

The wildlife service "provides no new evidence or research to support its change of course," Molloy wrote. "Congress does not intend agency decision-making to be fickle. When it is, the line separating rationality from arbitrariness and capriciousness is crossed."

The injunction will "ensure the species is not imperiled," reinstating endangered species protections while the case continues to be litigated, the judge wrote.

But his order also will trigger a federal rule that was modified in January to allow the wolves to be killed if they threaten "property." That allows ranchers to shoot wolves when they believe their livestock are at risk.

Wildlife officials said the rule was revised so that states or ranchers could deal with wolves that were affecting livestock if delisting was tied up in court.

That rule is also being challenged in Molloy's court.

Gray wolves once ranged from central Mexico to the Arctic. But by the 1930s, rampant hunting had virtually wiped them out across the American West. In 1974, gray wolves were listed as endangered.

Since then, the federal government has spent about $27 million to revive the wolves' population.

In 1995 and 1996, officials introduced 66 wolves to central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park, aiming to establish a stable population of at least 300 animals. When delisted earlier this year, wolves in the northern Rockies numbered 1,513, the judge wrote. Wildlife service officials say the population is increasing by about 24% a year.

"At this point in time, the court hasn't seen the administrative records, they haven't seen the briefs on the case, there is a lot of legal work to be done and a lot of information the court isn't even aware of," said federal biologist Ed Bangs, who led Fish and Wildlife's wolf-recovery effort. "So the fact that the injunction ruling went against our position is disappointing, but it's not too surprising." That information could be presented as the case progresses.

In granting the injunction, Molloy pointed to the recovery criteria cited by the wildlife service in 1994. Those criteria include "genetic exchange between subpopulations" -- crossbreeding among scattered groups of wolves -- so the species would be genetically viable in the long term.

"Genetic exchange has not taken place" and is in fact rare, the judge wrote. He cited a 2007 study commissioned by the wildlife service itself.

"Genetic exchange that has not taken place between larger subpopulations under [Endangered Species Act] protections is not likely to occur with fewer wolves under state management," Molloy wrote.

State officials expressed disappointment over the order and said they would examine legal options. Bangs said the government would consider an appeal to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Since delisting went into effect at the end of March, ranchers, state officials and others have killed more than 100 wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

"They've been killing wolves at the rate of about one a day," said Doug Honnold, an attorney with the environmental legal group Earthjustice who argued the case on behalf of 12 environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council. "That's carnage any way you look at it, and this is going to at least temporarily put a stop to the killing of wolves."


Friday, July 18, 2008

Humane Society: Continuing to Rip off the Rubes

Back in November of 2007, I wrote a piece on this blog entitled Why the Humane Society Will Never Change in which I asked:

"Would people donate [to HSUS] if they knew 70 cents out of every dollar they gave to HSUS was spent to send out more direct mail? NO. .... Would folks continue to donate to HSUS if they knew the organization did almost nothing to help fund local animal shelters? NO."

In another post
, I detailed the mechanics of the HSUS' direct mail machine in which I concluded that:

"I think, if you follow my narrative, you will see I am really quite conservative when I say 70 to 75 cents out of every dollar most folks give to HSUS will simply go to paying for more direct mail. The real figure, for the average donor to HSUS, is well over 100 percent."

Well, guess what? I was right, and the The Los Angeles Times has finally caught up with me.

They report that the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) gets a "net return" of only 11 percent on their direct mail, and that PETA gets 28 percent. When the cost of central-office management is factored in, I have no doubt the true numbers are even lower.

What this means is that 90 percent of the direct mail money folks are giving to the Humane Society of the U.S. goes down the rat hole of more direct mail, most of which is tossed out unopened, having first been chainsawed out of ancient boreal forests in Canada). About 75 percent of the money folks give to PETA goes down the rat hole of more direct mail as well.

And what of the remaining money -- the small fraction that goes to "program?" In the case of HSUS, not one dime goes to support local shelters, but quite a lot goes to support folks like Wayne Pacelle and his staff who oversee the direct mail machine.

And over at PETA, of course, they have to keep their kill shelter going -- the PETA animal shelter where 90 percent of the dogs that enter are killed using "the blue solution."

At the end of an earlier piece, I wrote:

"If Wayne Pacelle or anyone at HSUS wants to go over specific HSUS numbers with me, I am more than happy to do so, as I work right around the corner from their office in Washington, D.C., and I would be only too happy to drop by to pick up a copy of their accounting ledgers.

In fact, if Mr. Pacelle will give me a copy of their raw direct mail expense and income data (not the processed IRS-990 data, but the real numbers showing the costs of postage, printing, paper, creative consultants, cost of caging operations, etc), I will buy him lunch and we can go over the data and run a cohort analysis to figure out how long it takes for a HSUS member to 'go green' and get out of the red.

My only stipulation is that after I run the data, I can publicize it. After all, who knew truth to suffer in a free and open investigation?

If am wrong about the fact that 70-75% of all HSUS direct mail money is going out to pay for more direct mail, I will be more than happy to report my error. After all, as Charles Barkley so famously said, 'I could be wrong . . . but I doubt it.'"

And was I wrong this time?

No I was not. As I said in my original post, my numbers were conservative. And they were. It turns out that the real data is even worse.