Coyote n. A small wolf (Canis latrans) native to western North America.



The Old Coyote's alter ego is:

Anthony A. (Swen) Swenson

Mild-mannered archaeologist by day..

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A Coyote at the Dog Show

Saturday, July 29, 2006- - -  
I almost feel sorry for the guy!
Poor Glenn Greenwald. He uses sock puppets to reenforce his overinflated image of himself and winds up being brutally mocked.

All things considered though, wouldn't a thigh-high leopard print sock puppet be more appropriate? It's so.. Brazillian.

Update: Did I say brutally mocked? I hadn't even seen this yet. Or this.
Eric at Classical Values suspects that Greenwald is Glenn Reynolds' sock puppet, but I think it's obvious that he's Don Surber's puppet -- notice a certain similarity in Greenwald's blog background for one. And why else would Greenwald keep throwing up weak arguments for Surber to shoot down, hmm?

Under the circumstances I would have thought our Geppetto would be whimpering in the closet about now, but No. He's trying to be serious. Everyone except him has forgotten about Iraq, don't you know? Judging from his comments, at least he's wised up enough not to name his sock puppets. "Anonymous" certainly seems to agree with everything he says though.

(HT Instapundit)

Update Dux: Piling on at the Great White Snark. And Don Surber replies that the Anchoress is actually Greenwald. In drag no doubt.. Or perhaps the other way around? Beyond mere blog backgrounds I'm afraid I don't see much similarity though.

Yet another update: I didn't realize until just now that Ollie isn't a dragon, he's an amphisbaenian*! The lack of legs and single centrally located incisor are dead giveaways.

*I'll let you google that one, some delightfully ooky photos..

@10:52 AM

Quiet so far
The Hells Angels World Run has been pretty much a non-event. A few broken bones (hey, he rides a Harley, how bad could a bull be?). The Cody businesses are rakin' it in, and the biggest complaint so far is that all the extra law enforcement brought in for the event has been mostly giving tickets to locals. For once complaining has worked though:
"On Thursday, the announcement from the police spokesman said the law enforcement presence, at the request of numerous citizens’ comments, would drop 50 percent."
It's a strange ol' world when the police are more of a problem than the bikers.

@6:39 AM

Friday, July 28, 2006- - -  
That's worse than a new vacuum cleaner!
The Friday funny from my dad:
Ed was in trouble. He forgot his wedding anniversary. His wife was really pissed.

She told him "Tomorrow morning, I expect to find a gift in the driveway that goes from 0 to 200 in 6 seconds AND IT BETTER BE THERE".

The next morning Ed got up early and left for work. When his wife woke up, she looked out the window and sure enough there was a small box gift-wrapped in the middle of the driveway. Confused, the wife put on her robe and ran out to the driveway, brought the box back in the house. She opened it and found a brand new bathroom scale.

Funeral services for Ed have been scheduled for Friday.

@2:28 PM

More of that "fair & balanced" reporting
A headline in today's Denver Post announces Israel relentless in attacks. They say that as if it were a bad thing and the photo of the wide-eyed Lebanese waif below the headline makes it clear where their sympathies lie. It is indeed unfortunate that the Lebanese people are taking a beating, but it seems a bit simplistic, even disengenuous to paint the Israelis as the bad guys. Consider the goal of the conflict as outlined by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice:
"The key is the extension of Lebanese Government authority throughout the country, the ability of the Lebanese government to control all forces, all arms in their country - there should be no militias - and that Lebanon can have the assistance of a U.N.-mandated international force," Rice said.
It's a curious sort of war when your attackers are trying to strengthen your government.

@6:32 AM

Thursday, July 27, 2006- - -  
Spinnin' the news
The Denver Post reports:
Avivim, Israel - Israeli forces suffered heavy casualties Wednesday in fierce fighting with Hezbollah guerrillas for the south Lebanon stronghold of Bint Jbail, as cities and towns in northern Israel came under renewed attack from rockets fired by the radical Lebanese Shiite Muslim group.
But here's what they consider "heavy casualties":
Israel said eight soldiers were killed and 22 wounded, three of them severely, in what the army called "close-quarter" fighting in Wednesday's battle.
Tragic yes, but "heavy" would seem to be a bit of an exaggeration.

@6:31 AM

Wednesday, July 26, 2006- - -  
This is interesting
Via PJMedia, the Telegraph reports that major shipments of 5,000lb GBU 28 laser-guided smart bombs are being shipped from America to Israel, passing though Britain. According to the Telegraph, the Israelis want the bombs "... to attack the bunkers being used by Hizbollah leaders in Lebanon."

Does this make sense? According to the Jerusalem Post:
"... IAF fighter jets destroyed 10 buildings in the Beirut neighborhood of Dahiya, home to Hizbullah command headquarters on Tuesday."
Ten buildings housed Hizbullah command headquarters in Lebanon. Where are the bunkers that need busting? In Syria and Iran perhaps?

@6:45 AM

The plot thickens
WASHINGTON -- The Portland, Ore.-based Sustainable Ecosystems Institute, hired by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to review contradictory evidence, has concluded the Preble's meadow jumping mouse is a unique subspecies, limited to parts of Colorado and Wyoming.

Biologist Rob Roy Ramey had found that the mouse was genetically identical to the more common Bear Lodge meadow jumping mouse, which isn't in danger of extinction. The study by the Sustainable Ecosystems Institute found that Ramey had mixed up DNA samples from Preble's and Bear Lodge mice.

Oops! Keeping your samples straight is Science 101. It's hard to believe that a trained scientist could be that boneheaded, so I rather expect we haven't heard the rest of this story..

@6:06 AM

Tuesday, July 25, 2006- - -  
Drive-by photography!
We went out yesterday to look at a strange little rockshelter with Dr. Danny that had gotten the interest of the Washakie County Museum. On the way back I snapped this photo. The light greenish gray stuff piled up in the photo is Bentonite, which is mined in the badlands along the west flank of the Bighorn Mountains and then hauled to plants like this one for processing and shipment.

Bentonite is a form of montmorillonite clay which has many useful properties, including the ability to absorb several times its own weight in liquids. It's that absorbent quality they're after in this case. Yes, Kitty Literati, this is where kitty litter comes from.

@6:35 PM

What to do with those left-over cap & ball Colts?
Back ca. 1871 Smith & Wesson's patent on the bored through cylinder ran out, allowing other manufacturers to start making cartridge-firing revolvers. Colt immediately started making an "open-top" cartridge revolver, the Model 1872, based on the Richards conversion of the old Model 1860 Army and 1851 & 1861 Navy cap & ball revolvers. Having tons of parts for their cap & ball revolvers left-over from the Civil War, they continued making the open-top until about 1882, even though they introduced the wildly popular Model P, the Single-action Army, in 1873.

For some reason I've always liked the looks of Colt's cap & ball revolvers, and I think the open-top cartridge conversions are just cooler 'n hell. I've seen a few custom conversions made with imported replicas, but they've been quite expensive, and the drop-in conversion units don't appeal because the cylinder must be removed to reload them and that's a nuissance with the Colt-type cap & ball revolvers because you've got to remove the barrel to get the cylinder out.

Enter the R&D Gun Shop gated conversion cylinder kits! They're available either directly from R&D or from MidwayUSA (both also sell R&D's older "drop-in" conversion kits). To install one of these you use R&D's jig and tap and die set to drill and tap two small holes in the recoil shield of the revolver and open up the loading port with a dremel tool (here's the instructional pdf). R&D will even loan you the appropriate jig. Using the gated cylinder conversion kits you can convert Colt Navies to 38 long colt and Armies to 45 colt.

There are some down-sides. Unless you sleeve the barrel to .357" (R&D will do this for you or sell you the sleeve) the barrel is going to be about .375" bore diameter, just like many of the original 38 long colts. The original solution was to use a heeled bullet like a modern .22 long rifle, with a sub-caliber heel that fit in the case and an over-sized nose to fit the .375" bore. There are two problems with this approach: The bullets are externally lubricated like a .22, which is messy and collects dirt. Also, crimping a heeled bullet is a problem for the very advanced handloader, requiring either a specially-made collet die, or a jig to roll the crimp in. Nevertheless, CH Tool & Die does make a mold to cast a .380" heeled bullet (their #380100).

Later, a bullet .358" in diameter with a deep hollow base was employed. This allowed the bullet to be internally lubricated, much less of a mess, and the hollow base, at least in theory, caused the bullet to slug up to bore diameter. Cast of a very soft alloy or pure lead this can work pretty well but I wouldn't expect target-grade accuracy. Again, CH Tool & Die makes hollow-based molds, their #358149 and #358158. Starline makes 38 long colt brass and both Lee and RCBS make dies, although those made by RCBS are just a bit spendy. 38 Special dies will also work but may size the brass down a bit more than necessary and will be too long to apply a crimp unless you grind them down. At $20 the Lee dies would seem to be the way to go.

The downsides to the 45 colt conversion of the 1860 Army also include miss-matched bullet and bore diameters, a problem that frequently plagues revolvers made to shoot the .45 colt cartridge. Cast bullets and molds are available in a range of diameters to cope with this problem, or you can use the solution long favored by Remington and Winchester, a hollow-based bullet. Again CH Tool & Die offers two molds for hollow-based .45s: #454155 and 454253.

The other problem with the 45 colt conversion unit, if it is a problem, is that it has only five chambers. Aside from offending my sensibilities -- they're six-shooters dammit!* -- I've got to wonder how well the cylinder would index, as the hand assembly was designed for the shorter rotation of a six-shot cylinder. Not having tried it I can only speculate, but this would be a good question to ask the folks at R&D before purchasing a .45 conversion unit.

Before last night I didn't even know that these things existed, but now I have a powerful hankering for a Model 1861 Colt cartridge conversion. It's not going to happen soon, as I figure close to $800 investment by the time the revolver, conversion unit, jig, drill & tap, dies, brass, bullet mold & etc are acquired. But I've got to have one!

*One word of caution. As with any colt-type single action, the gun should always be carried with an empty chamber under the hammer. This makes your six-shooter a five-shooter and makes the R&D .45 colt conversions four-shooters.

Update: It appears that I'm going about this the hard way (so what else is new?). Taylor's & Co. offers ready-made 1871 Richards-Mason conversion revolvers and 1871-1872 Open Top revolvers in a variety of calibers, including some like the .38 Special and .44 Special that weren't available back when the originals were manufactured. Their guns also have the advantages of coming with an ejector, you don't have to do any home gunsmithing and, best yet, They're considerably cheaper than converting a cap & ball revolver. I also presume that their barrels are properly sized to take standard factory ammunition.

I should also note that both Hornady and Speer make a 148 grain hollow-based wadcutter in .358" so it's not strictly necessary to purchase an expensive hollow-based mold to get the 38 long colt with over-sized barrel shooting, as long as you're satisfied with shooting wadcutters. Frankly, I rarely shoot anything other than wadcutters in my .38 Specials. They're cheap, the soft lead slugs and low velocities put little wear and tear on the guns, and they're usually very accurate.

Personally, I still lean toward converting a Model 1861 Navy (Taylor's conversions are made only on the 1851 Navy and 1860 Army). I love the looks and balance of the 1861 Navy and I'm intrigued by the use of the hollow-based and heeled bullets in an over-sized bore. It's not so much the gun itself that appeals to me as the challenge of reloading the bizarre thing. Besides, I'm pretty sure I'd be the first kid on my block -- maybe in the whole town -- to have a gun chambered in 38 long colt.

@5:53 AM

Monday, July 24, 2006- - -  
Indeed they are!
I've been meaning to write something about this for a week, but the InstaPundit beat me to it the first day back from vacation (the guy blogs more on vacation than I do in the normal course of work-avoidance). The question: Is the IRS getting better? It seems Dr. Helen had issues with her self-employment tax and the IRS forwarded a prompt refund.

At the least the IRS is getting better at scrutinizing tax returns. On the advice of a tax accountant, I claim every business expense deduction I can find including the occasional deduction that falls in one of the many gray areas of the tax code. It was my accountant's contention that the IRS will be happy to let you know if they deny any of your claimed deductions, and either ask for more documentation, or ask for more money. If I wind up owing more, the penalty and interest that's also incurred is relatively minimal (and we are talking about the many gray areas of the tax code, not intentional tax fraud, so it's an amicable settlement). On the other hand, if you're not sure about some gray area and don't claim a deduction, the IRS will never know about that expense, so they're certainly not going to find many of the errors that would be in your favor.

So.. a couple of times in the last four or five years I've gotten a notice that 'nope, sorry, we can't allow that deduction, please send us another $75 plus $6 penalty and interest'. Then this year they did something I"ve just flat never heard of before: They found an error in my math in my favor and the first I knew about it was when I received a check for a bit over $100 last week. Jaw, meet floor!

So, is the IRS getting better? Well, they're certainly going over people's returns very closely, and they are, in my not so humble opinion, being very fair. The self-employment tax still sux, although "self-employment tax" is a bit of a misnomer, it's the matching half of the Social Security taxes that the employer normally pays, not an extra tax as punishment for being self-employed. Everyone pays the tax, it's just that employers consider it overhead and employees pay it in the form of a lower gross wage, rather than as a visible deduction from their check. It's a sneaky tax in the sense that employees never see the money and most don't know they're paying it, or think the employer is paying the match out of the goodness of his heart. Trust me, employers aren't that nice.

@9:12 PM

Sunday, July 23, 2006- - -  
Brother, can you paradigm?
An interesting bit on global warming by Peggy Noonan. It's unfortunate but true that global warming has become part of the paradigm for many scientists, who skip the whole question of whether it's actually happening and go straight to the question of whether it's being caused by human activity. Some even accept humans as the root cause and attempt to link every catastrophe, whether hurricane or forest fire, to our dastardly behavior.

Considering the recent reports that the polar ice caps on Mars are melting, I think there's considerable reason to believe that the climate is currently warming throughout our solar system, even in places where the hand of man in inconveniently absent. How long will the warming trend last and how hot will it get? Who knows? What we do know is that the climate changes constantly, it always has and it always will, at least until we're technologically advanced enough to gain control of the solar thermostat. In the mean time it's all well and good to ask whether human activity might play a role, but it might be better to focus on what we can do to prepare for the inevitable.

The best long-term weather report has us in an inter-glacial period, a warm spell between episodes of continental glaciation. If you think global warming is bad, just wait until Canada is under a mile-thick sheet of ice again!

@9:30 AM

Oh, for those Good Old Days!
The DenverPost has an interesting short article about the Frontier Days train from Denver to Cheyenne, sponsored by the paper. I've always wanted to take a ride on a train pulled by a steam locomotive, just to see what it's like, but I've got to chuckle at this comment:
"I don't know if it's nostalgia from back when things were better or what, but I know we make an awful lot of people happy," said Lynn Nystrom, one of the train's engineers.
Yes, back when "things were better" people actually died of asphyxiation riding those steam trains through long tunnels. It's only a three-hour trip from Denver to Cheyenne, but back in the days of steam engines they had to stop and take on water and fuel frequently, which made it a three day trip from Worland to Cheyenne in the 1930's. Of course, it took at least six days on horseback and getting there by car took at least as long and was a major adventure over what passed for roads at the time. The train was the best way to travel, but it was none too good.

Now we can get from Worland to Cheyenne in six hours, riding in the air-conditioned comfort of our cars. As my dad recently commented on growing up during the '30s, 'it was pretty bad but they didn't know any better'. And he grew up on the farm where we had reliable water for irrigation and always had plenty of food, even if it was mostly potatoes and cabbage (Five miles uphill both ways to school! Barefoot. In the snow! Don't get him started.). No electricity, no indoor plumbing, no refrigeration, siblings who died of common childhood diseases, yep things were sure better back then.

@7:54 AM

Well, this ought to be interesting
The Hell's Angels World Run is coming to Cody this week. We've already been warned that quite a few of them will be coming through Worland at one time or another. I've got to love the advice on "... interacting with members of the infamous biker group on the streets or in shops: "Be smart. Use common sense."" Right. What's that supposed to mean? For our part it meant going to Cody last week for our monthly groceries and sundries instead of going this week. I suspect that quite a few other folks will "be smart" and stay far away from Cody this week too. Thing is, the whole point of a motorcycle rally is to ride motorcycles. I imagine there will be big packs of bikers on the roads all over the Bighorn Basin all week.

It's been my observation that most bikers are really pretty nice guys when you get to know them, I was always amused by the folks who were afraid to go into the Buckhorn in Laramie because "that's where the bikers hang out." We knew those guys and we were very glad that if trouble ever did break out they were on our side. On the other hand, anybody in a group of 300 is only a couple beers away from becoming a mob and there's always a few who feel that they have to live up to their rep. After due consideration we've decided to "be smart" and stay close to home this week.

@7:20 AM

Saturday, July 22, 2006- - -  
Them's not cows..
Cruising back from Cody on Thursday my wife spotted these strange critters standing in a pasture a couple miles north of Meeteetse. This is perhaps the first time in 20 years that my very near-sighted wife actually spotted the wildlife before I did, and it will probably be weeks before I hear the end of it.

Half a dozen cow elk with their calves, down by the Greybull River on a hot July day? It's no wonder they didn't register on me, my subconscious was probably telling me 'nah, can't be'. But it was. The herd matriarch is on the far left, giving us a very hairy eyeball. A moment later she charged back to the herd and got them up and moving away from the road.

I suspect that they must be refugees from the Little Venus fire, about 30 miles west of Meeteetse, which was putting out a nasty cloud of smoke earlier Thursday. I sure wouldn't have wanted to be one of the firefighters that got caught in the blaze and had to crawl in their "shake & bake" shelters. That's got to feel like the Thanksgiving turkey crawling into its own oven bag.

@9:55 PM

The Hell-in-a-handbasket Index
"What if someone could develop a single number that shows just how freaked out the world is at any given time of day? Behold Citigroup's Geo-Political Risk Index."
Graphing the pucker factor. Fascinating.

@6:54 PM

Thursday, July 20, 2006- - -  
I suppose I should call it "Ole".
I bought Grisman & Garcia's Shady Grove a few days ago, and find that it comes with a very nice little booklet discussing the songs and how Jerry Garcia and David Grisman came to be playing old time music. Grisman notes that, growing up in New York City, he never saw a mandolin until Ralph Rinzler appeared as a guest in Grisman's tenth grade english class in 1960. He observes that at that time very few outside of hillbillies in Appalachia played that kind of music. Odd to think that I was sitting on mandolins before David Grisman ever saw one. Of course, he improved his technique, I'm still sitting on them.

This all made me curious, as we were just as far from Appalachia in North Dakota, and my dad is the only person I ever recall seeing play a mandolin (Maynard, pictured here) in person (although we did get the Grand Ol' Opry on TV once we got TV). It's funny that I learned to play Soldier's Joy on Maynard and Wildwood Flower on the guitar from my dad, probably before I started grade school, while these guys were in their late teens before they ever heard such music.

Curious to know how the old time music found it's way to NoDak, I wrote my dad and asked how he learned to play the mandolin:
There was a guy in Williston who ran a studio for making---copying--photos--named Ole Krogen---he had the mandolin , but I don't remember why I bought it---altho " we" did hear the Carter Family back then, I had a guitar--& there wasa guy named "Wilf Carter" , that "we" copied ( or tried to) my cousins, Bud & Le Roy Haug, & Lloyd Gronseth, played in bands up around Grenora--& I guess I just kind of fell into it---I bought that mandolin awayyyy back in the 40's ----( before I ever heard of your Mom---)"we" used to hear "Grand Ol' Opry " out of Nashville , & Ol' Grandpa Jones played Banjo---Lester & Earl Scroggs [sic], Roy Acuff & The Carter Family---"Mother Maybelle" played that little harp & that's probably where I heard "Wildwood Flower", but the guy that taught me most about playing the guitar---Buzz Marmon--showed me how to play that one---Wildwood Flower---altho I don't seem to be able to play it any more, I can't hear the notes, even with these new hearing aids---some days it's worse too...but anyway, I had the mandy a long time before I learned how to play it---I had a guy--Leon Rey, came up out of ? with "Bobby Jones & the PINE VALLEY FOLKS " he stayed in Williston when Bobby Jones left---whether he got kicked out of the band ? He showed me how to on the mandy---he could stick an ordinary comb in the strings & presto, he had a banjo---
I wrote back:
Didn't we get the Grand Ol' Opry on TV when I was little? I seem to recall watching old Earl Scruggs pick that banjo. He's still around you know. 82 or 83 years old and he played a concert in Wyoming last year! Sure wish we could have gotten away to see him but we were down in Colorado working.

Scruggs was with the Bluegrass Boys for years. The leader of the band was Bill Monroe, the mandolin player that everybody tries to play like. I don't remember him from back then, but I bought a set of DVDs where they interviewed him long after he retired. He could still pick that mandolin like nobody's business! The tunes he plays seem simple enough, but he plays soooo fast, it's amazing. Then the other DVD in the set is Sam Bush, a modern mandolin picker, teaching you step by step how to play like old Bill Monroe. Turns out it's not nearly as simple as it looks!

What was that other program we used to watch that had the Sons of the Pioneers?
Later he elaborated a bit more:
There were a few---Gunsmoke ? Gene Autry--Roy Rodgers was " in son's of the Pioneers", & Yes, I remember Grandpa Jones on the radio ( we had a radio operated on a 6 volt car battery, & this was back in the '30's---I wasn't too old, but that ol' Grandpa could pick that banjo ! & I remember Bill Monroe too --- & Chet Adkins ? on the guitar ? some of that stuff like " dueling banjos' ", A guitar & a banjo are NOT dueling banjos'---
Well, there's yer answer, apparently they didn't have car batteries to power their radios in New York City!

@7:29 AM

At least a week..
Straight from my dad (now you know where I get it):
My neighbor found out her dog could hardly hear, so she took it to the vet. He found that the problem was hair in its ears so he cleaned both ears and the dog could hear fine. The vet then proceeded to tell the lady that if she wanted to keep this from recurring, she should go to the store and get some "Nair" hair remover and rub it in the dog's ears once a month.

The lady goes to the drug store and gets some "Nair" hair remover. At the register, the pharmacist tells her, "If you're going to use this under your arms, don't use deodorant for a few days."

The lady says, "I'm not using it under my arms."

The pharmacist says, "If you're using it on your legs, don't shave for a couple of days."

The lady says, "I'm not using it on my legs, either. If you must know, I'm using it on my schnauzer."

The pharmacist says: "Stay off your bicycle for a week."

@7:05 AM

Wednesday, July 19, 2006- - -  
Does Glenn Greenwald have an evil twin?
"Glenn Greenwald thinks the time has come to take a closer look at “the violence-inciting rhetoric and hate-mongering which has become a staple of the right-wing blogosphere”. He cites “bloggers such as Dean Esmay, Misha, Megan McCardle (a/k/a Jane Galt), and Glenn ‘Instapundit’ Reynolds … David Horowitz” as examples."
I don't read Dean Esmay much although I should. David Horowitz -- well, recovered communists like recovered smokers can be a bit tiresome (What? Because you admit you were an idiot in your youth you want us to applaud? We were all idiots in our youth!). And I'm well aware that Emperor Misha can be a little bit more than a little bit over the top. But Megan McArdle and Glenn Reynolds violence-inciting hate-mongers? That's just bizarre. I certainly don't agree with everything that McArdle and Reynolds write (okay, I do agree with most everything) but they both strike me as good-spirited, truly decent people.

Even more bizarre, this isn't the first time I've followed a link to something at Glenn Greenwald's blog that was supposed to be a bit odd, only to find that the post had been taken down. If he's not having Sybil moments, perhaps he thinks better of these things when he sobers up? Who knows ( and who cares, I suppose).

Update: Well what do you know! Greenwald's post is back on line, so we can now examine the examples he gives to back up his claims. Here's his evidence that Glenn Reynolds is a violence-inciting hate-monger:
What type of rhetoric is one of the leaders of the pro-Bush blogosphere, Glenn Reynolds a/k/a Instapundit, a University of Tennessee law professor, promoting with his links, and himself disseminating on a regular basis?
Fascinating! I'm not going to get into a link-by-link fisking, but it appears that in Greenwald's view, even mild criticism of the press and the left wing is violence-inciting hate-mongering. And linking to someone who might have ever said something over the top? Well that's just beyond the pale, even if you link to something completely innocuous.

And then there's Megan McArdle. If Greenwald has any evidence of Megan's hate-mongering ways he doesn't provide a single link that I could see*. It looks like a very thin coat of tar applied with a very broad brush to me, but go take a look at Greenwald's post and see what you think. I think he gets his panties in a twist awfully easily. As for hate-mongering, check out the comments on Greenwald's post. I suppose it's not hate-mongering if it's directed at the Prez or anyone slightly to the right of MoveOn though.

*Yet another Update: Ah, I see. Greenwald links to Media Matters, which links to McArdles' ol' 2x4 upside the head post. I see. Here's an excerpt that puts that 2 x 4 in contect:
Diane E. has a link seeming to indicate that the scruffier element of Saturday's peace rally is planning on demonstrating for peace by, er, wreaking mayhem. Nothing says "Stop the Madness of Western Imperialism" like a white college student from Winnetka opening a can of whup-ass on some Korean vegetable stand!


I can't be mad at these little dweebs. I'm too busy laughing. And I think some in New York are going to laugh even harder when they try to unleash some civil disobedience, Lenin style, and some New Yorker who understands the horrors of war all too well picks up a two-by-four and teaches them how very effective violence can be when it's applied in a firm, pre-emptive manner.
So, suggesting that someone demonstrating "for peace" by wreaking mayhem just might get a 2 x 4 upside the head in return is a violence-inciting hate-monger? Whatever, dudes.

One more update: "Orbitron" comments on McArdle's 2 x 4:
Jane, this not the first time you have advocated physical violence against those who happen to disagree with you politically.
Megan responds:
Orbitron, this is not "violence against people who disagree wtih [sic] me". This is "violence against vandals", and I'm afraid I have a small-town, hell-yes-I-shot-the-burglar attitude about things like that. The fact that the left often can't distinguish between people who are marching for a cause and people who are terrorizing the city for it is part of the problem. No, I am not going to feel the least little bit sorry if some suburban animal decides to break up the place and gets pounded. Nor is anyone else in New York who kinda got the idea that war is serious a year and a half ago.
Any wonder I like the gal? Obviously she doesn't need me to defend her either.

@1:33 PM

Tuesday, July 18, 2006- - -  
A brief history of Israel
Via PJMedia, Carl in Jerusalem provides a fairly accurate discussion of Israel's history. He only peripherally mentions that Israel is the biblical Promised Land.

@7:08 AM

Monday, July 17, 2006- - -  
things that make you go Hmmm..
An audit of potential terrorist targets listed by the states in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security National Asset Database, included at least one ice cream parlor, a donut shop, a tackle shop, rural Georgia's Kangaroo Conservation Center, and "The Trees of Mystery" in California. "The presence of large numbers of out of place assets taints the credibility of the data," the report says.

This OpEd concludes that "States need to be more realistic in identifying terror targets and setting funding priorities." [Sigh] Yeah, right, dream on. The first priority is always to get as much funding for themselves as possible. I mean! Our grizzly bears need protection too!

@7:08 AM

Doctors and lawyers and Indian Chiefs! (Oh My!)
It seems that the big centennial celebration over the Fourth primed the pump. First we had the grand opening of the new offices for Davis & Harrington P.C. -- wine, cheese, and snacks -- the shindig was supposed to run from 5-7 pm, but it looked like people were just getting comfortable at 7 when we left to attend the first night of the BFI's pig roast.

Yes, a traditional Arapaho luau. Friday evening we watched the ceremonial stuffing of the pig and its internment in a pit-full o' coals. Saturday evening S. scrofa was exhumed and devoured with much gusto. A variety of other Native American fare was also consumed -- baked beans, potato salad, hamburgers & hot dogs, enchiladas, and a goodly quantity of beer, all accompanied by traditional music (Pantera, I believe). I'd be surprised if I was the only one clutching my head and my stomach Sunday.

@6:36 AM

I thought that was pretty silly..
And the State Troopers agree:
"... Wyoming Republican Party recently submitted a public records request for any documents concerning first lady Nancy Freudenthal's use of a state trooper and state vehicle to attend campaign activities or meetings as a private attorney.

A Highway Patrol supervisor, Capt. Perry Jones, said state law charges the patrol administrator with providing security for state agencies, employee, buildings and the first family.


"We really don't assess the nature of the events that either of those two people are involved in," he added. "We consider the governor and first lady to be in those two roles regardless of whether they are doing private business or political functions or government business."
I'm amazed that our Republicans would even consider making this an issue. If they do they'll wind up looking like asses of major proportions.

@6:24 AM

Saturday, July 15, 2006- - -  
The usually mild-mannered Michelle Malkin takes a well-deserved meat axe to David Weigel of Reason's Hit & Run. It's too bad, but it does seem that the place has gone downhill since all the adults moved on to other venues.

@2:06 PM

Friday, July 14, 2006- - -  
Good stuff, Maynard!
Browsing the archives of the Fretboard Journal Blog, I've learned about Live 365 Internet Radio (Yeah, where have I been?) and more specifically, Mandolin Radio and Mandozine Radio. All mandolin music, all the time! What makes these so much fun is the variety of music they play, everything from acoustic jazz to zydeco. Yes, there's a whole wide world of music out there beyond bluegrass, a lot of which can be attacked with a mandolin.

In just a couple hours of listening I've created a huge new wish list at Amazon and I've also heard quite a few artists you won't find for sale at Amazon (individual tracks are for sale as MP3s through Live 365 for those who don't wish to buy the whole album). Pretty darn cool. Best, Live 365 plays just fine on my low-fi Verizon EVDO card, so it should work on a dial-up as well. I've found that if I try to open two windows at once it will occasionally break up, but for the most part it plays quite nicely in the background while I surf the net.

No matter what your musical interests may be, check out Live 365. You'll probably discover music you didn't know existed!

@1:05 PM

The DenverPost reports on a Pew poll taken among latinos, to determine their feelings on immigration and discrimination.
The survey did not ask people whether they were legal residents. Of those surveyed, 49 percent said they were registered voters.

The survey shows Latinos don't speak with one voice on immigration issues.

Asked about proposals for cracking down on illegal immigration, including fences along the southern U.S. border and increased Border Patrol agents, Latinos born in the U.S. were more accepting of tougher measures than foreign-born Latinos.
The big question of the poll is whether the immigration issue will drive more latinos to the polls on election day and, if so, who they will support. Unfortunately, the silly sots didn't limit their poll to citizens who can vote, so I'm dubious, although I'm sure this will energize the 'get out the illegal vote' set.

@7:20 AM

Thursday, July 13, 2006- - -  
Writin' good groups
I picked up a copy of the June 2006 issue of Handloader magazine from the newsstand yesterday. (I quit subscribing when it became clear they'd stopped carrying Ross Seyfried. He came up with interesting and obscure stuff that I found fascinating. Now, there's only so many articles on reloading for the .30-06 that I really need to read.)

I bought this one because it has an interesting article by Brian Pearce on handloading for the Smith & Wesson Model 29 & 629, easily my favorite handgun. The detail on the various model changes and improvements was very informative, and there are a few loads I haven't gotten around to trying yet (nothing much new there). Along the way though, Pearce makes an assertion in a photo caption that he's made before: "Most Smith & Wesson .44 Magnums will stay under one inch at 25 yards with good ammunition and iron sights, while some will group into less than 3/4 inch." Okaaay. Trouble is, the accompanying photos depict three groups, one of which looks like it's around 1-1/2" and two that appear to go over 2".

Did the printers use the wrong photos? Did he not have any photos of representative groups to support his assertion? Is he using some "best three out of six" method of determining group size? Or is this one of the cases Elmer Keith used to scoff at as a gun scribe "writing good groups"?

Elsewhere in the same issue Mike Venturino wrings out several old S&W Hand Ejector .44 Specials (lord I'd love to lay my hands on one of those). As to their "legendary accuracy", he suggests they're no more nor less accurate than the same make of handgun in other calibers. Venturino shoots eight loads each through five different guns from a Ransom machine rest, yielding average group sizes of 1.88", 2.47", 2.48", 2.83", and 3.44" at 25 yards with the five guns.

That's pretty darn close to the level of accuracy I've experienced with box stock S&W revolvers of various models and calibers. You can do a bit better than 2" with some guns, and all can be improved a bit by tweaking the loads for the individual gun. Polishing the ubiquitous gouges out of the forcing cones and bushing the cylinders to reduce endplay can reduce group sizes a little too. Occasionally you get one that shoots 3"+ patterns rather than groups -- my dad's old M15 Combat Masterpiece .38 Special is a case in point, great ol' gun but it never would shoot worth a shit.

And occasionally you'll fool with one until it will come close to an inch at 25 yards, like my old M29-2. It's had the forcing cone job and bushings, and also been fire-lapped to remove the choke at the barrel threads. It's cylinder throats have been cut 0.0005" larger than bore diameter, a dimension that's fairly critical for best accuracy with cast bullets. Cylinder alignment is correct and barrel/cylinder gap is minimal at 0.002". It's also got a 6-1/2" barrel, which helps when shooting it in any fashion other than from a machine rest. I've got darn near as much tied up in gunsmithing as I paid for it and it still won't stay under 1" at 25 yards even with the best ammo I've been able to tailor for it, close, but no such luck. I've also got a Colt Python that really will stay under 3/4" all day, and I've fired many thousand rounds through my S&W .44 Magnums -- the recoil doesn't bother me, and it's highly exaggerated in any case -- so I know it isn't me.

Like old Elmer Keith, I long ago quit agonizing over the guys who write to tell me that all their guns shoot better than any of mine. 2-1/2" at 25 yards is plenty good for shooting deer at 50 yards and better than good enough for shootin' that griz that's gnawing on your leg.

@12:25 PM

An excess of partisanship
Hugh Hewitt addresses John McCain: "Senator, I have said this on the air and in print many times: You are a great American, a lousy senator, and a terrible Republican.

"You are a great American, and I will stand up in any room you enter, and applaud as long as anyone because of the service you have rendered and sacrifices you have made.


"If I am wrong and you do win the GOP nomination, I will support you and do so with enthusiasm and urge listeners do the same."
Good grief! If you think the guy is a lousy senator and a terrible Republican, what sort of president do you think he'd make? Personally, I vote for the best (or least worst) in any election and if it comes down to Hillary v. McCain, I'm afraid I'd vote for Hillary. She's certainly an avaricious ol' witch, but at least she's not batshit crazy.

@12:08 PM

An American, idle..
Corey Anderson certainly appears to have too much time on his hands to play around with Photoshop. Check out his cereal box series (just keep scrolling).

@11:43 AM

And there'll be plenty for everyone!
It will be beer for breakfast when CBS's "The Early Show" comes to Denver at 5 am on Friday. The "... Big Moment will highlight the city's reputation as the "Napa Valley of Beer." We are, after all, home to a half-dozen breweries and the Great American Beer Festival."

The Napa Valley of Beer? I suppose I knew that, where else can you park in one central location (Union Station) and walk to five brewpubs and a big league ball park? (I suppose it's actually six brewpubs if you count the Sandlot at Coors Field, but I don't. Somehow a nice thick, syrupy stout or porter isn't on the menu when I'm soakin' up the sun at the ball field. What are they thinking?)

Incidentally, I saw a big farm truck full of two-row malting barley going through town yesterday. The harvest is on and it looks to be another bumper crop, so don't worry, you don't have to start drinking at 5 am to get your share!

@7:08 AM

Wednesday, July 12, 2006- - -  
Are these gorgeous, or what?
Via the Fretboard Journal Blog, Fylde Guitars in England is making guitars and mandolins out of old single malt whisky barrels! I assume they're made of oak, which I wouldn't have thought would make a very good musical instrument, but they sure are pretty!

Update: Michael Simmons, Editor of the Fretboard Journal has emailed to thank me for my links to their blog and informs me that they've interviewed the folks at Fylde Guitars and will publish an article, probably in the sixth issue.

Further poking around at Fylde's website yields this description of their Single Malt mandolin:
The top is built up from sections of Oregon pine from a washback vessel from the Talisker distillery on the Isle of Skye. This vessel held hot spirit continually for around forty years before the timber came to Fylde. The back and sides are quartered oak from salvaged single malt Whisky casks, which have been soaked in maturing alcohol first in America or Spain, then in Scotland, for perhaps ten years before reaching our workshop. The neck and fingerboard are made from sections of both timbers. These timbers seem to suit mandolins remarkably well, adding a deep and mature nature to the sound.
Considering how incredibly cool these look they're also surprisingly affordable. I'll be eagerly waiting for the write-up.

@4:06 PM

Why are there so many more horse's asses than there are horses?
Washington - Troubled by vandalism and looting of archaeological sites on Western public land, some members of Congress are banding together to seek more resources to protect them.


The congressional initiative comes in the wake of a report from the National Trust for Historic Preservation that said archaeological sites on public land across the West are at risk because of shortages in federal funding and staffing.
It does seem that vandalism is on the rise, but I'm not sure that throwing money at the problem is the solution, particularly since there are tens, if not hundreds of thousands of archaeological and historic sites that could be subject to vandalism. Many of these sites have survived virtually untouched for many years despite having essentially no protection. The Legend Rock* site, a portion of which is depicted above, is a case in point. It's on state land and while the state has made sporadic attempts to 'improve' the site with an access road and restrooms, it has no on-site supervisor or anyone keeping an eye on the place from day to day. Yet it's been so far largely untouched.

I've got to suspect that at least a part of the reason why Legend Rock has survived is that very few people know about it. There are no big signs or maps in tourist pamphlets directing people to it, and there's been no attempt to publicise it. It seems that the sites that get hammered are those where someone has tried to turn them into a tourist attraction, given them special recognition by designating them as monuments, heritage sites, or whatever, and drawn the attention of the general public to them. There will always be a few jerks in every crowd and the more people you attract to these places the higher the probability that some of them will be the sort of jackass who just must scratch their name on the rock.

On the other hand, even very isolated sites and rock art panels do occasionally get vandalized, so simply keeping them a secret doesn't always work either. I'm not sure what the solution is. Education? Some folks are simply uneducatable. Enforcement? Armies of pot police couldn't stop all the vandalism and with some of these sites it only takes one nitwit to screw it up forever. I'd be in favor of drawing and quartering anyone who vandalized Legend Rock, but you've got to catch them first. I don't know what the solution is, or even if there is a solution. Careful photo documentation can at least preserve the images and I've photographed literally hundreds of petroglyph and pictograph sites over the years, but photos can never capture the setting and feeling of the place. Perhaps it's inevitable that many of these sites will eventually be destroyed. It's a sad thing.

*Would that be a great name for a rock band, or what? And these little dancing guys would be a great logo too (also from Legend Rock).

@6:50 AM

Tuesday, July 11, 2006- - -  
So much for choice
DenverPost -- Now that Colorado establishments are subject to the state's smoking ban, we urge consumers to try out that previously smoky lounge on the corner.

If you're one of those folks who said you'd go out dining and drinking more often once Colorado's indoor smoking ban cleared the air in our restaurants and taverns - well, there's no time like the present.

We got a letter recently from proprietors Gary Campbell and Kyle Jewett of Kyle's Saloon & Eatery, 3989 Ulster St., Denver, urging smoking ban advocates (like us) "to put your money where your mouth is."
First, I don't smoke and I think it's a filthy, stinky habit. We usually avoid places where the smoke gets too thick. Okay? That said, we were in Denver last month and spent a couple of afternoons eating, drinking, and being merry, cruising all of the brewpubs in the vicinity of Coors Field just before this smoking ban went into effect. Some, like Wynkoop's, didn't allow smoking even at the bar. Rock Bottom allows smoking only outside. All that we visited had well-separated smoking areas, if they allowed smoking at all. There simply was no problem with smoke at any of the establishments we visited, unless you have a problem with seeing people smoking.

I suppose a few of the priggish supporters of this ban will now venture out to el Chapultepec, which definitely didn't have a non-smoking area, but then famous blues clubs are supposed to be smoky dives, so they'll be missing a big part of the old ambiance.

@7:10 AM

I hope he used the correct thread size!
The subcaption of today's Casper Star Wyoming Briefs is "Governor taps Uinta attorney." I know what they mean -- he's going to be made a judge -- but I still chuckle at this phrase. You see, before I screw something paticularly hard I usually tap it first. It's the mental image of the Gov holding the guy down with one knee while he selects the proper bit...

Yeah, that is kind of twisted.

@6:52 AM

Monday, July 10, 2006- - -  
We ain't dead yet!
Bigwig at Silflay Hraka speculates on why the nutroots are so desperate to overthrow Joe Lieberman:
Given the horrid demographics of the Daily Kos readership (mostly elderly blue state boomers), the situation can only get worse, another reason why the effort to defeat Lieberman is so important to the LeftNet. When the most dedicated members of your power base are also the ones most likely to wake up dead tomorrow, you have to move now when it comes to grabbing a piece of the political pie. A victory in Lieberman/Lamont is crucial for the LeftNet. "Just wait till next time" is useless as a rallying cry for your base when so many of them won’t be around.
Elderly Boomers? Dude! The oldest of the boomers are what, sixty-two? Sixty-three? Not even retired yet, much less "elderly". I suppose "elderly" is relative though ya whippersnapper.

H/T: InstaPundit

@6:57 PM

I suspect that they've misunderestimated the coyote population by a factor of 10 or so.

@6:50 PM

Yes, we are a little different..
The Casper Star news briefs illustrate the point. Seems the folks in Gillette celebrated the 4th in a small way, with a contest to see who could down a pound of those teenie smoked sausages the fastest. (They found it helps to be fat. Somebody should tell that Japanese guy.)

Our fast draw experts are still shooting themselves in the leg, this time with blanks, but those can really hurt at close range. (It's one's dignity that takes the biggest hit though, how'd you like to be known as "Hopalong" by all your friends?)

When they're not shooting themselves in the leg they're shootin' at each other in staged gunfights. (Again with blanks, this isn't the Big City.. Say, maybe that's the problem, those blanks are hard to come by!)

A woodchuck stowed away in a Chevy Suburban. (And we joke about those little cars being powered by squirrels! No word on whether he saw his shadow when they evicted him.)

And somebody tried to blow up the class rock at Wheatland High School. (It broke some windows and damaged the roof, but there's no word on the condition of the rock.)

You can tell we're hurtin' for excitement.

@7:11 AM

They're still diggin'!
And this time it's no accident. Normal oil recovery -- pumping from the surface - drains the most easily recovered oil from a deposit, but there generally comes a time when so little oil remains that recovery becomes uneconomical. In some cases "secondary recovery" methods have been employed, injecting CO2, water, steam, or some other substance to force more oil out of the substrate, but eventually those methods fail to produce sufficient oil to make it worth the effort and the wells are plugged back and abandoned.

Enter Rock Well Petroleum! They've come up with an innovative method of draining the last drop from old oil fields by sinking mine shafts under the oil-bearing stratum and tapping it from below. Voila! Gravity does the rest. The Casper Star* has a good overview that provides interesting details:
On its web site,, the company says, "More oil remains in onshore U.S. oil reservoirs than is expected to be produced from Saudi Arabia and Venezuela combined. While most of the 'easy' oil has been produced from U.S. reservoirs, an unprecedented opportunity exists today to apply Rock Well's Straight-up recovery technique to profitably mobilize and produce large quantities of oil from existing domestic fields."
Great idea! Why didn't I think of that? I can think of at least one other application for this oil mining technology: Oil shale. Recently it's been discovered that drilling wells into an oil shale deposit and then heating the deposit will drive oil from the shale. The problem with this is that the wells must be fairly closely spaced. You can only extract the oil from as much of the shale as you can heat and heat dissipates fairly quickly in rock. Such closely spaced drilling would have considerable environmental consequences. Rock Well's approach would allow a vast area to be tapped with much more limited surface disturbance. That is very good news from an environmental and economic standpoint.

*Note that the article online at the Casper Star is written by Lee Lockhart, editor of the Northern Wyoming Daily News here in Worland. Can you read the article on the Daily News' web site? Heck no. And if you could it would give you the first three paragraphs of the article followed by a teaser that says if you want to read the rest you should subscribe to the dead tree edition. No archives, no links, their website is basically useless. That's really too bad as there's many times I'd like to link to a story about doings around our fine town. But you know, if people found out about Worland they might want to move here -- it is a very nice place -- and we can't have that. The minnows of our local economy are very happy being the biggest fish in a very small pond. Wouldn't want any outsiders! /rant

@6:21 AM

Sunday, July 09, 2006- - -  
Down to the tricky bits!
I've finally got everything I need together to inlay the fingerboard of my soon-to-be cittern. But, it's fairly critical that the fingerboard be perfectly flat and level; any inlays must be flush with the board. They can't stick up, they can't be sunk too deep. It would also be nice if there were no gaps around the inlays. So I've been studying a couple books on inlay work and pondering what I want to do.

The first thing that occurred to me is that I probably don't want to use inlays that are irregular in thickness, as getting them inlaid to the correct depth will be hard enough with material of uniform thickness. So, rather than using the mammoth ivory scrap that I used to create the headstock inlay, I decided to order some ivory piano keys from Boone Trading. Naturally, it took forever to get them, but this stuff isn't easy to come by.

Then, a reading of the books made it sound like doing detailed inlays was going to be way difficult, so I've been pondering just what to do that would be within my abilities and look nice, without taking a chance of screwing up a fairly expensive ebony fingerboard. Let's just say I've been dithering because I'm a little afraid I'll mess up.

I shared my misgivings with my luthier friend Friday night and he just laughed. "It's not that tough" says he, just don't pay too much attention to the books. Instead of trying to draw the outline of the inlay on the fingerboard with a pencil or cut around the inlay with an exacto knife, cut the inlay out just the way you want it with a jeweler's saw, touching it up with needle files and making sure that no part of the inlay is narrower than the finest downcut router bit you've got. Then stick it on the fingerboard exactly were you want it with double-sided cellophane tape. Then -- here's the tricky part the books didn't tell me -- take the exacto knife and stab straight down every 1/32" or so right up tight around the inlay, through the tape, all around the inlay. Remove the inlay and tape, set the mini-router to the correct depth -- just a tiny bit deeper than the thickness of the inlay to allow for glue -- and cut along the dotted line. "It'll fit perfect every time" says he. Finally, you glue the inlay in with black epoxy, so any tiny gaps you do have are invisible. (Update: If you click on the photo and blow it up as big as it'll go you can see several tiny bubbles in the epoxy around the inlay. These were filled with fine dust and weren't visible until I wiped a little fingerboard oil on the finished product. Too late now that I've applied the oil, but I should have wiped the inlay down with a little acetone to remove the dust and then filled the bubbles with another application of epoxy. This is why we practice! Another update: Actually, it's not too late, acetone will take the oil off. I'll have to touch up those bubbles next time I have some epoxy mixed up.)

Okay. I've only got one fingerboard and it's already thicknessed, scooped, and bound. Don't want to screw up at this point. So I took a bit of scrap ebony 1/8" thick and a bit of extra ivory piano key, and just for practice made a sonic suppressor with my scrawled signature inlaid in it. I figured that would be at least as complicated as anything I want to do on the fingerboard. With another matching piece of plain ebony underneath and a strip of velcro to hold the two bits together, here's what the result looks like. Cute, eh? It didn't take much longer to do than it takes to tell about it. As usual, it's all in having the tools for the job and knowing the tricks of the trade. And yes, the folks at the bank would recognize that scrawl as my (slightly abreviated) signature.

I may finish this thing yet. Then I've got to finish tooling that strap..

@2:12 PM

Speaking of almost becoming a statistic..
We drove through Lovell, up to the Medicine Wheel, and then on to Burgess Junction and back past Shell Falls, through Greybull and home on the 3rd, a beautiful roundtrip through the Bighorns. According to the sign on-site, "hydrologists estimate that 3588 gallons of water flow over Shell Falls each second"! Yes, not 3587 gallons, not 3589..

Just after we left the Medicine Wheel we were cruising down the highway across the relatively level top of the mountains when I spotted something out of the corner of my eye just in time to skid to a stop as mama moose and calf dashed across the road in front of us. Why do they run to catch you so they can run in front of you? Who knows. Baby was a cute little shit, probably about 1 month old. At that age they really are among the most unlikely-looking of all critters, mostly legs and head. He already had that peculiar high-stepping gait down and he was high-steppin' as fast as he could while mama slowed down to match his speed. had mama been by herself we probably would have hit her as we wouldn't have had time to get stopped.

They were coming up out of a patch of willows along a stream, making a dash for the woods on the other side of the road. I noticed several fishermen's vehicles parked not far from there and I suspect that the fishermen scared them up. Those guys are braver than me. I've gotten too close to baby moose on a couple of occasions when mama showed no intention of leaving, being rather intent on making me do the running. Chest waders don't make good runnin' shoes, but I've probably made some of my best times on such occasions. Now I mostly try to avoid those areas where moose hang out during calving season. You never really appreciate just how big a moose is until you meet a mad one face to face, on foot.

Doug Sundseth writes:
Most Americans don't know that what we call "Moose" (Alces alces) is what Europeans call "Elk". (Alces : Elk) I suspect there's an interesting etymological trail there. The North American Elk (Cervus elaphus), is also called the Red Deer, and also has a range in the Atlas Mountains.

(I didn't know about that last bit until just now.)
To which I responded:
Ayee! Not the dread Cervus elaphus! Years ago -- before the age of the word processor if you can believe it -- I wrote a report on an excavation I'd conducted, scribbling it out on a yellow pad. One of the artifacts we'd recovered was a fragment of worked elk antler, so I dutifully wrote about it and referred to it as worked Cervus elaphus antler. Our secretary typed it up and my boss proofed it and away it went. A few days later I got a call from one of the reviewers wanting to know what the devil I was talking about as Circus elephants don't have antlers.. And how did I know it was a Circus elephant anyway? Could it possibly be a mammoth?? (Yes, it was a bureaucrat.)

BTW, until recent DNA analyses, the North American elk was usually referred to as Cervus canadensis or Cervus elaphus canadensis, depending on whether that particular biologist thought it was a separate species from red deer (Cervus elaphus) or a subspecies of red deer. Now we know they're one and the same critter so the right of naming goes to the original namer who was european and called them Cervus elaphus.
The moral of that story is to remember to check the spelling of scientific words. Secretaries and type setters are hired for their typing ability, not for their knowledge of biology.

@10:16 AM

Musical chores
Back in Santa Fe we were wandering through one of the big box bookstores when a magazine with a glossy photo of David Grisman caught my eye. Turns out it was the very first issue of the Fretboard Journal. They describe themselves thus:

The Fretboard Journal is an archival-quality, quarterly publication celebrating the culture of fretted musical instruments. We chronicle the most innovative instruments (mandolins, banjos, ukuleles and—of course—guitars) and instrument makers of the last 150 or so years; the best players; and the most interesting tales from the world of music. In addition, each issue boasts stories from the working musician’s perspective and never-before-seen photography. Basically, we’re the nerds in the guitar store who love sharing a yarn with fellow players and this is our outlet.
It's an art magazine about the art and craft of music and luthierie printed on heavy, glossy stock and filled with great photos of fine instruments. Their interviews and stories about musicians have focused on the best musicians, rather than the most popular, a refreshing change from the usual fanzines featuring pimply-faced flashes in the pan over-indulging in their 15 minutes of fame. I've particularly enjoyed their articles on luthiers and luthierie, where they demonstrate an understanding of the craft by focusing on the picky details (I'm learning that luthierie is all about the picky details).

And speaking of picks, in their second issue Fretboard Journal does an interview with "experimental guitar wizard" Rick Bishop, who describes his favorite Wegen picks. Playing the mandolin I've discovered that, at least for me, thicker is better. I've been using D'Andrea 1.5mm big triangles from JazzMando, the thickest, slickest picks I'd found before I read about Michel Wegen's picks. Hand-made in the Netherlands, these things start where all the others leave off in thickness, going up to 5mm thick in stock styles. Since they're hand-made he'll happily make you one that's even thicker! For a guy who's used to paying $5 a dozen for picks the price of these things makes me choke, but I haven't worn out a pick yet, and I've only lost a couple (in the laundry, I think) so I ponied up my $20 and bought one of Wegen's Trimus 350's, a 3.5mm big triangle.

Now I've always believed that it's a poor craftsman who blames his tools, but this thing really is magic. It's thickness and beveled edge instantly improved my mandolin tremolo to the point where it actually sounds like tremolo, and that's saying something (yeah, I can actually do it!). I like them so much that I've since bought a Trimus 250 and one each of the rounded triangle, designed for mandolin, M250 and M350's. I can't really decide which I like best, but I'm leaning toward the Trimus 250, a 2.5mm big triangle. I've found I like the big triangle because it's big enough to get hold of with my sausage-fingers, while the rounded triangle mandolin picks tend to be a bit small for my hands. The 3.5mm thick picks also seem like a bit of overkill, but that could be due to the radical leap in thickness from the 1.5mm picks I've been used to. The jury's still out on the picks, but I've gotten my money's worth from the Fretboard Journal just in that one tip about an exotic pick I'd probably never have heard of, nor choked up the cash for otherwise.

Needless to say, after picking up the first issue I've subscribed and I'm eagerly looking forward to issues 3-6! I hope they can make it, as this is obviously a labor of love and quite the opposite of the usual mass-market music magazines. It is pricy, but it's worth every penny.

Now I've learned that the Fretboard Journal has an in-house blog (I first linked to it a few days back, so I'm running behind, as usual). The blog is filled with all sorts of musically related links that expand and suppliment the magazine and I've been having a good time catching up on their archives. I highly recommend it and I've added it to my "New Stuff!" Give it a look, it will give you a taste of the content of their magazine and fill your head with all sorts of obscure musical trivia.

@7:07 AM

Saturday, July 08, 2006- - -  
Oooooh! Aaaaaah!
We went to the Big Bash on the 4th, billed as the biggest fireworks show in Wyoming and it was spectacular. Then I learned that we should have had the radio on -- KWOR did a live remote describing the fireworks blow by blow. On the radio. That had to be hilarious.

@5:07 PM

Friday, July 07, 2006- - -  
Ever wonder what goes through a bureaucrat's mind..
At 5pm on Friday? Well this just came in from one of my favorite feds. I'm afraid I know quite a few people like this.

@4:59 PM

This story gets better with repetition!
On the front page of today's Casper Star the story is titled Rising fire threat tied to global warming. Oh my! Pretty alarming stuff, but we all know how scientifically literate your average journalist is, so I went to the Science magazine Sciencexpress summary, where the article is entitled Is global warming causing more, larger wildfires? Hmm.. Seems there's now at least some question. Still sounds pretty bad though, so I figured I'd better just read the original research paper, which is entitled Warming and Earlier Spring Increases Western U.S. Forest Wildfire Activity, before deciding how much credence to put in this conclusion. The short answer is not much.

We certainly have been having a lot of big fires lately and there would seem to be four principal contributors to the problem. First, it's mighty dry out there, we've been in a drought now for at least 6-8 years and the forests are a tinderbox. But is this drought due to global warming? It helps to remember that temperature and precipitation vary independently. It can be warm and wet, warm and dry, cold and wet, or cold and dry. Temperature and precipitation don't necessarily have an inverse relationship. Nor do the researchers attempt to tie the draught to warming trends, which would certainly be an interesting avenue for further research, but I think you'd also have to consider things like the el nino current. It would get complicated. They don't even try to address the issue and I can't blame them.

Second, pine borer beetles are devastating the forests in some places. On July 3rd we drove up through Lovell to the Medicine Wheel and then back down past Shell Falls to Greybull and home, making a nice round-trip through the mountains. We were shocked by the beetle kill around Shell Falls, where I'd estimate that nearly half the timber is dead. The dead, dry trees remain standing for years if they're not thinned out, and increase fire danger immensely. That's the worst I've seen, but all of the forests around here suffer from beetle kill to some extent.

Third, one hundred years of fire suppression has allowed an enormous amount of dry, downed timber, brush, and other easily flammable materials to build up in the forests. In a natural state, small, relatively cool fires would remove much of this underbrush and dead wood, and these small fires would create natural fire breaks. However, aggressively suppressing fires has allowed a great deal of fuel to accumulate in our forests. I also note that at least around Shell Falls, there has been an effort to cut down the beetle-killed trees, presumably to reduce fire danger. However, the trees that have been cut have been left lying -- it's a fire prevention measure you see, not the dread logging. So the fire danger has been reduced somewhat, but not as much as it would if the dead trees were removed.

Our researchers address drought and fire suppression as contributors to the problem, but overlook beetle kill, something they might not even be aware of. I doubt though that this skews their data much. What they don't overlook but rather dismiss out of hand, is the possibility that forest management, other than fire suppression, might be a factor. Now here's the rub: The original research paper compares and contrasts wildfire activity between 1970-86 and 1987-2003, and one of the major differences they discover is that "The average time between discovery and control for a wildfire increased from 7.5 days in 1970-86 to 37.1 days in 1987-2003." The average fire burned for 29.6 days longer from 1987-2003. That seems a pretty darn significant change to me if you're looking for a statistic to capture the increase in severity and scope of forest fires, but the researchers don't delve into this beyond suggesting that it might have something to do with the longer fire season, due to warmer temperatures.

What they completely fail to mention, and what probably accounts for a considerable amount of that statistic about the average fire lasting 7.5 days pre-1987 and 37.1 days post-1987 -- and don't you suppose that probably accounts for the majority of the difference in size and severity of the fires that the researchers are trying to attribute to global warming -- is that it was around 1987, and definitely by 1988 that the Forest Service and Park Service instituted the "let it burn" policy. The idea was to go back to a more natural, hands-off fire management policy, allowing fires to clear away the accumulated fuel and re-create the mosaic of old growth, developing forest, and burned over areas that had provided natural fire breaks and a healthy, pre-fire suppression forest. Great idea, But..

One of the first places they tried it was in Yellowstone Park in 1988, where the Park Service decided to let several small, lightning-started fires burn. The result was a devastating fire that destroyed about 40% of the park. Dr. Bill Wattenburg describes the "let it burn" policy in less than flattering terms, calling it "criminal and stupid". Dr. Wattenburg notes that "let it burn" was still the policy as late as 1998. They've since shifted back toward more aggressive fire suppression, but it would seem that "let it burn" was the policy through much of the later period examined by our researchers. I'll submit that if you're looking for a reason why wildfires were larger and burned longer between 1987-2003 you need look no farther.

One can only wonder why the researchers did not consider a major change in fire suppression policy and the effect it might have in allowing larger, longer-burning fires. Perhaps they were simply unaware of the change in policy. However, considering the record of devastation they've compiled, perhaps it would be unseemly to lay part of the responsibility at the foot of the Forest Service, which provided partial funding for their research.

Update: I've since emailed Anthony Westerling, principal author of the research paper, asking why they didn't at least mention the "let it burn" policy, as such major change in forest management and fire suppression, coinciding with the second of their two study periods, just might have some effect on the data. Unfortunately, I didn't identify myself as a blogger so I don't feel that I should publish his response. Basically, he observes -- quite correctly -- that forest management policy is all over the map. I've long observed that every Forest Service and BLM field office, and every National Park is it's own fifedom. Policy changes every time a new director takes over the office and imprints her "management style." Thus, in a statistical analysis it would be near impossible to account for the management styles of all the players and Westerling feels that forest management hasn't had nearly the effect on wildfire that warming has.

It certainly stands to reason that we're going to see a lot more wildfires during a hot dry summer than we would during a cool, wet summer. (Homer says "D'oh!") And ultimately that's what this research proves -- in other news, water is wet and yes, fire is still hot. No one who's been in the woods lately would argue that it's not drier than a popcorn fart out there. It is. Why it's so dry is the big question. Westerling et al. make the leap from demonstrating that dry shit burns to suggesting that it's dry because of an average increase in local spring summer temperatures of 0.87 degrees, documented over two seventeen-year periods. Both sample area and sample size/duration, as they are aggregated, are much too limited to provide statistically significant results, especially when you consider that the two periods were chosen because the first was cooler and wetter and the second was warmer and dryer -- that part of the research seems a bit circular to me.

I think Westerling et al. have ably demonstrated that we see more fires during drier years, one of those things Kent Flannery referred to as a "grandmother law". Unfortunately, they don't demonstrate that the drought is due to global warming, they just assume that it is and cherry-pick some data to support their assumption. In the process they conclude that forest management has had no effect on the number and severity of fires. As I argued to them in a follow-up email, there's a big difference between being unable to statistically account for changes in forest management, and discounting forest management as a factor, as they've done.

To take this to the logical extreme, in completely discounting forest management as a factor in the number and duration of wildfires, you could argue that fire suppression, which costs a lot of money, is a complete waste of time, if not actually detrimental to the health of the forest. That was the reasoning that led to the "let it burn" policy. I'll submit that letting it burn is a really bad idea in the midst of a drought! Unfortunately, some of our forest managers are currently leaning toward 'lock the gates and leave it be' management. Close the roads, stop the logging, send an army of law enforcement rangers out to make sure no one is collecting rocks, or camping without a permit, or cutting downed timber for firewood 310 feet from the road instead of the allowed 300 feet (yes, people who voluntarily go out to remove the dead and downed timber that increases the fire hazard have gotten in big trouble), and just generally make life miserable for anyone who sets foot on the forest.

In my book that's not forest management, that's an abdication of management. Any study that appears to justify that abdication is a bad one in my book.

Yet another Update: Okay, a few more comments and I'll stop hammering on these guys. You'll note that in their research paper some of the statistics seem a bit contrived. For instance, they examine the statistics on spring snow melt and run-off, suggesting that earlier peak runoff indicates an earlier, warmer spring, which causes more wildfires, caused of course by global warming. It seems to me that if you want to determine whether you've got earlier, warmer springs it would be easier to just go straight to the temperature data, which they don't do. Earlier peak spring run-off just might be due to there being less snow up there in the first place, which could easily be determined by examining the data on winter snowpack, which they don't do. They're certainly correct to note that once the snow pack melts the ground and the vegetation begin to dry out. It's just that they don't employ the most direct of methods to demonstrate the correlation.

Particularly because so much of their thesis is dependent on their contention that the springs have become warmer, it would be nice if they actually discussed the temperature data. That they employ such a contrived method of demonstrating that springs are warmer rather than going to the temperature data that would directly demonstrate this strikes me as rather suspicious.

@2:16 PM

Much heat, little light
Earlier I noted that the Preble's meadow jumping mouse controversy has devolved into dueling geneticists, some of whom say that the mouse is a distinct and rare species worthy of protection under the Endangered Species Act, and some who disagree, saying the mouse is actually the much more common Bear Lodge meadow jumping mouse and is not in danger of extinction. Well, here's the latest:
FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- Hoping to determine whether a tiny mouse deserves federal protection, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service convened a panel of scientists Thursday who quizzed researchers embroiled in a furor over the Endangered Species Act.


At the heart of the discussion was the 3-inch mouse that uses its 6-inch tail and strong hind legs to jump a foot and a half in the air. It has become a flash point for critics of the Endangered Species Act, who argue its listing underscores the need to make sure sound science drives the process.

"You could ask the question: is the Endangered Species Act working as Congress intended?"
[biologist Rob Roy] Ramey said during break in the hearing in the student center of the Colorado State University campus. Ramey believes his research underscores the need to take a harder look at which species should be protected given limited government resources.

Ramey concluded that the Preble's mouse is the same as the more common Bear Lodge meadow jumping mouse and, therefore, not in danger of extinction.

Environmentalists and some researchers counter the debate over the mouse has been used by property-rights advocates and others, including members of Congress, to try to eviscerate the landmark law. The mouse's habitat includes prime real estate along Colorado's fast-growing Front Range of the Rockies.

"Opponents of protecting riparian areas have seized on the controversy of the genetics surrounding this mouse," said Erik Molvar, a wildlife biologist with Biodiversity Conservation Alliance in Laramie, Wyo.

Ramey's critics, meanwhile, note the fact that he is reviewing the status of other species as a consultant for the Department of Interior. He headed the zoology department at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science when he led the research on the Preble's meadow jumping mouse.

They also criticize the fact that Ramey's study was funded in part by the state of Wyoming, which joined a group of Colorado landowners, farmers and business owners in petitioning the federal government in 2003 to take the mouse off the endangered species list.

The Fish and Wildlife Service and the Denver museum also financed the work.
Not so long ago someone in the blogosphere opined that in this complicated age it is no longer necessary to muster the better argument to win a debate, rather all you need do is sew sufficient confusion. This would seem to be a perfect example of that axiom. It seems to me that there's a simple question at the heart of the matter: Is Preble's a separate species and was this conclusion reached through sound science?

Instead we have folks who want to plumb the minds of Congress -- which strikes me as a scary proposition in any event -- and a whole lot of squawking and flapping over property rights, eviceration of the Endangered Species Act, protection of riparian areas, and who funded what study with what ulterior motives. The amount of government funding available also seems pretty well irrelevant to the core issue.

It will be interesting to see whether the panel of scientists convened by the Fish & Wildlife Service fall for all this obfuscation, or focus on the science. Remarks made by members of the panel suggest that science is out the window, superceded by the desire to "... understand where the disagreements come from." I think I could answer that question. The ulterior motives of both sides have been made pretty clear. As they say, read the whole thing.

@6:37 AM

Thursday, July 06, 2006- - -  
When it's 40 below and you've time on your hands..
Via the Fretboard Journal Blog, here's a guitar made from Pierre Trudeau's canoe paddle and Wayne Gretzky's hockey stick, among other historic bits. In Canada, of course.

@9:30 PM

Pelosi: "This could be Ragnarok!*
Via Hugh Hewitt, Nancy Pelosi is getting tough on the NorKs!

@12:43 PM

Wednesday, July 05, 2006- - -  
First there was high altitude ping pong..
Then underwater basket weaving. Now we have an underwater music festival. You just can't make this stuff up.

@9:40 PM

Pardon me while I retch
It's a Stuart Smalley moment on the internet. If you're good enough, if you're smart enough, and, doggone it, if you want people to like you, you'll sign the pledge over at Online Integrity! I note that quite a few bloggers I deeply respect have signed the pledge. That's fine. Supporting civil discourse on the internet is certainly a worthy endeavor. I also observe that Charles Johnson says “Note the absence of some major players.” Elsewhere he claims this was just a simple observation and wasn't an attempt to imply that non-signatories were somehow lacking in integrity, but he never explains what he did mean to imply. As they say, you be da judge.

I can't argue with the Statement of Principles of Online Integrity, although I will argue that there's a good deal more to integrity, online and off, than respecting people's privacy, not outing people who wish to remain anonymous, and not publishing the addresses, phone numbers, employers and such of people who don't want this information made known. I generally agree with the sentiment, but it's terribly limited in scope. There's also the consideration that anonymity, moreso even than patriotism, has been the refuge of scoundrels. Frankly, if promoting decency on the net is the goal, I'd support a pledge not to link to, nor allow comments by the anonymous. That would stop the vast majority of the trolls, creeps, and cretins who hang out on the net. Also, if raising the level of discourse on the net is the goal, some of Online Integrity's proponents have a strange way of showing it.

Ultimately, I've got to agree with frankp_63 who observes: "... "Online Integrity" is something to be demonstrated in your daily actions, not something you wave around like some digital merit badge you've awarded yourself." So there I've already violated my principle of shunning anonymous commentors.

@4:46 PM

Blogger is stuck in a loop, loop, loop, loop... I tell it to publish and it flashes the 'publishing in progress' screen over and over. Cwazy contwaption!

@2:41 PM

Your slip is showing!
The folks at the Casper Star-Tribune are keenly aware of their reputation as the Pravda on the Platte and they've been trying very hard to change that perception, most recently by running full page ads that show a glass of water and tell us that 'some people would say this glass is half full, others that it's half empty. We say it's 4 oz of water in an 8 oz glass. That's fair, that's balanced' yada yada. Then about the time I start thinking that their new editor really has changed the institutional attitude at the Red Star, I open the dead tree edition this morning to see an article entitled Railroad company to begin land grab. That doesn't leave much doubt about the opinion of the author, or whoever wrote the caption. The article itself is considerably more balanced. And no, it's not an editorial, it's on the front page of the Wyoming News section.

You can tell that they know they've been bad, the on-line edition is titled Railroad nears land acquisition stage. Pass me that air brush comrade! Sigh. Buckets of ink spilled and dozens of trees killed to try to convince the readers that they're objective reporters of the news when they should have been posting that '4 oz of water' graphic over the desks of their writers and editors, some of whom appear not to have gotten the message.

Of course, this raises the question of whether it is possible for a reporter to be truly objective no matter how hard they try. Being merely human like the rest of us they all have their biases and I often think it would be better if they made those biases explicit rather than hiding behind a gauzy banner of objectivity.

Ah well, I don't write letters to the editor for publication in the Pravda any more. I got tired of having them mangled to make me look like even more of a babbling fool than I am. However, I did send a note to the editor -- not for publication -- on this one and I suspect I won't be the only one. I don't know whether we'll get a round of mea culpas (mea culpi?) or an assurance that the title was just a poor choice of words, but I suspect that the choice of response will be telling.

Update: That was fast. I just got a response from the editor on my note. I asked that my note not be published so I'll not publish the response except to say that it's the old 'copy editor is an idiot' defense. He didn't know that "land grab" had negative connotations you see. The poor editor will probably be spending a considerable part of his day today responding to the complaints. That railroad will supposedly transport 100 million tons of coal annually, that's a lot of jobs and a lot of money, so I suspect that a lot of pro-railroad and pro-mining people are pretty well pissed off.

On the other hand, one rail car hauls about 100 tons so we're talking a million car-loads of coal per year, 5000 200-car trains, or about 14 trains per day one way. That will amount to one really big hole in the ground, dug by a lot of miners from who knows where, since the labor pool in the Powder River Basin is stretched thin now. The environmental and social consequences of this railroad are considerable. I would imagine that the pro-environment and just plain anti-change folks are also a bit ticked.

Unfortunately, in our compartmentalized state and federal governments there's probably one set of agencies permitting the railroad and another set permitting the mines, while there's probably no one considering where the miners will come from or where they will live, or what effects they will have on the communities where they settle. If they remain true to form they'll also be a bit slow. While the various state and federal agencies were pondering the environmental effects of drilling the first 1000 coalbed methane wells in the Powder River Basin the guys down the hall had issued permits to drill 3000 wells. "Out of control" is a term frequently used to describe development in that neck of the woods.

I suppose that if I were a big-L libertarian I'd be happy that the government has lost control of the situation and the market prevails. Personally, I'm just happy it's not in my back yard, which is a bad attitude, I admit.

@10:55 AM

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