Thursday, January 31, 2008- - - Now painfully organized! Yep, I finally did it. I've been backing up all my work files, photos & such to CDs for the last several years and I've accumulated 300+ CDs, stored in big ring binders. Not a bad system, but dragging all those ring binders around was becoming cumbersome and I never know when I'll need a copy of a bid I wrote four years ago. But mostly, because I'm lazy, I hadn't backed up many if my work or personal files for the last year. On the work front this isn't as bad as it sounds, as most of the really critical stuff is submitted to various federal agencies, who retain hard copies. On the other hand, I've got literally thousands of personal photos I've snapped over the last couple years that hadn't been backed up. Losing them wouldn't be the end of the world, but it would be a small personal tragedy.
So yesterday the little brown Santa Claus truck brought me a new external hard disk drive. I bought the cheapest 120 Gb model, figuring I can copy my entire 40 Gb hard drive to the external three times. That ought to be plenty of room (and I'll probably find I need more room in no time flat, funny how that happens).
This morning I plugged it in, fired it up, set up a series of directories, and backed up all my files in about 3 hours. God only knows how many days it would have taken to burn the whole mess to CDs, not to mention the pile of CDs it would have created. Now I've got it all on an external drive that's only slightly larger than a deck of cards. Pretty darn handy.
Now if I were really ambitious I'd copy all the CDs I've burned over the last 8 years so I'd have a complete backup of all my files in one place. I can't work up much enthusiasm for that effort however.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008- - - "Shouldn't there be a price for being an idiot?" Well yeah. There also ought to be a price for taking advantage of idiots. And the rest of us shouldn't have to bail out either the idiots or those who preyed on them.
Everything old is new again.. My first Toshiba laptop was about the size of that Asus Eee. Let's hope the Asus has a better screen and keyboard.
Who's a journalist? Asks Fred Brown at the DenverPost:
Which brings up the other issue involving the reporting of legislative affairs: how to decide who qualifies for privileges at the Capitol that ordinary citizens don't get.
Reporters can sit at tables on the floors of the House and Senate. They may stalk the perimeters of both chambers. Ordinary citizens can't do this, unless they're invited by a member of the legislature. Lobbyists can't do it at all when the chambers are in session.
But who's a journalist? These days, many can lay claim to the title. They collect information and provide it to the general public, or to subscribers and clients. There are gobs of bloggers who do this on their own, as well as those who have someone editing their work. Some actually report, providing depth and context; some just react to what others have reported.
There simply isn't enough room for this mob. There are only eight chairs at each press table, and only so much square footage in the office space afforded the news media. And how many people can safely roam within kicking distance of the unrepentant Rep. Bruce?
It raises serious First Amendment questions if government officials decide who's a bona fide journalist and who isn't. In an effort to avoid having to do that, legislative leadership asked statehouse reporters to set criteria for credentials. This is standard practice in many government reporting venues, including Washington, but it gave pause to other Colorado journalists. They felt the statehouse clan was too restrictive in barring reporters because they might have a political or advocacy agenda.
There's no easy answer. Admission to press privileges should be as broad as possible. But any "reporter" who violates existing rules against lobbying or politicking during floor sessions should be shown the door — legitimately. Restrict the behavior, not the medium.
Of course it would never do to point out that professions -- pretty much by definition -- have certain professional standards. That rule would disqualify quite a few folks who call themselves journalists. That snark aside, asking the statehouse reporters to set the criteria by which reporters are admitted to the statehouse? Will they have a secret handshake at this club? Whatever. I'd probably be even less enthusiastic if it were the congresscritters deciding who to admit.
Brown is right, there is no easy answer. A sign-up sheet and daily or weekly lottery for admission to the press area might be one solution, particularly since there are going to be critical votes that a lot of reporters would like to cover. It might also be a good idea to set up video cameras and a viewing area big enough for everyone who wishes to watch (do they have a public gallery?). Those folks wouldn't be able to buttonhole congressmen on the floor and ask questions, but more than a few people doing that would be terribly disruptive.
Ah well, I thought it mostly interesting because Brown gives at least a grudging nod to bloggers. Not so long ago that wouldn't have happened.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008- - - Great idea, but.. The InstaPundit points to this OpEd by Robert Zubrin in the Rocky Mountain News arguing that we need a government mandate for flex-fuel cars in order to pull the teeth of OPEC. It's a great idea to cut funding to the oil sheiks, but it's also a double-edged sword. To the extent that we ramp up production of cellulosic ethanol I think it's a good idea, but it's a very bad idea to start farming our motor fuels. Not only would it drive up the price of agricultural commodities, it would put more land, thus more wildlife habitat, under the plow, and put ever greater strains on our water supplies.
This is certainly a proposal worth considering -- anything we can do to defund terrorism is worth considering -- but let's not forget that there's no such thing as a free lunch. At a time when we're making serious inroads into world hunger we might step back and think before we start encouraging people to make fuel from their limited foodstocks. We might also remember this other bit linked by the InstaPundit that suggests we'll need to do more than simply defund terrorism to get a handle on Islamic extremists.
Behold, the humble carp.. Imported from Europe as a game fish (well, they do put up quite a fight) they're now found in virtually every waterway in the US and they sneer at efforts to eradicate them. Then there's the tamarisk, native to North Africa, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East, it was imported as a decorative plant. Now it's everywhere and almost as common as government programs to stamp it out. Cheat grass, goat heads, Russian thistle, the list goes on. All have been imported with good intentions, or spread by human activity, all are totally obnoxious, and all seem impervious to our efforts to be rid of them.
Which brings us to the topic of today: The promise of genetic technology. Rebuilding or replacing damaged human organs, repairing birth defects, turning back the clock on aging, all these are wonderful things. But somehow I've a feeling that there are futurecarp and weeds worse than puncturevine waiting in the technology as well. When you mess with Ma Nature there's bound to be some pushback. Just as with the introduction of carp, some day people will look back on some of this and say "what were they thinking?"
I'm not saying we shouldn't pursue these new technologies -- I don't think we can put the genie back in the bottle -- but when we set out to change the world, we'd better be aware that we will, ya know, change the world in the process.
Monday, January 28, 2008- - - Proving they're not rocket scientists.. My wife has CNBC on this morning catching some news and I couldn't help overhear them telling us there's a US spy satellite that "may be on a collision course with the earth!"
D'oh! Were they thinking it might miss and go sailing off into space? Or hit the moon? We've been putting satellites into earth orbit since the early 1960s, you'd think by now the concept of a decaying orbit would have sunk in. It's in earth orbit. It's going nowhere but down. The only questions are where and when.
“Ideologies aren't all that important. What's important is psychology.
The Democratic constituency is just like a herd of cows. All you have to do is lay out enough silage and they come running. That's why I became an operative working with Democrats. With Democrats all you have to do is make a lot of noise, lay out the hay, and be ready to use the ole cattle prod in case a few want to bolt the herd.
Eighty percent of the people who call themselves Democrats don't have a clue as to political reality.
What amazes me is that you could take a group of people who are hard workers and convince them that they should support social programs that were the exact opposite of their own personal convictions. Put a little fear here and there and you can get people to vote any way you want.
The voter is basically dumb and lazy. The reason I became a Democratic operative instead of a Republican was because there were more Democrats that didn't have a clue than there were Republicans.
Truth is relative. Truth is what you can make the voter believe is the truth. If you're smart enough, truth is what you make the voter think it is. That's why I'm a Democrat. I can make the Democratic voters think whatever I want them to.” -- James Carville
From a comment at Captain's Quarters. No idea what the context for this is, or even if it's true.. Err, a true quote of Carville that is. Another commenter suggests that this be posted at the Kossacks just for fun..
"Extraterrestrial beings caught on tape for the first time ever" Nope, it's not reported in the Onion, it's in Pravda. I watched the video and all I can say is "Dude. Get a tripod!" @5:49 AM
Hillary and the Cowboy..
Senator Hillary Clinton , on an airliner bound for Wyoming, finds herself seated next to a weathered older man in boots, a western snap shirt, faded jeans, and a cowboy hat.
Snickering, and thinking herself above the old cowboy, she decides to make sport of him.
"You know," she says, "I've heard these flights go much more quickly if you strike up a conversation with a fellow passenger. Let's talk."
The cowboy looks at her wryly and says, "Well I s'pose that'd be all right, m'am. What'd ya like to discuss?"
"Oh, I don't know," says Hillary with a slight hint of sarcasm. "How about Iraq?"
"Hmm," says the cowboy, sensing an attempt to perhaps belittle him. "That could be an interesting topic. But let me ask you a question first: Horses, cows, and deer all eat the same stuff...grass... yet a deer passes little pellets, a cow turns out a flat patty, and a horse makes muffins of dried poop. Why do you suppose that is?"
Dumbfounded, Clinton replies, "I haven't the slightest idea."
"So tell me, then," says the cowboy with a wry smile, "how is it that you feel qualified to discuss something as important as Iraq when you don't know shit?"
Saturday, January 26, 2008- - - But, but, BUTT.. Ya can't do that! The vehicle ashtray is where I keep the gas cap keys and tire pressure gauge, and I need the cigarette lighter to plug in the cell phone and GPS!
Academic freedom isn't free.. An interesting article in today's Casper Star. I'm all for academic freedom and for freedom of speech in general. The sorts of PC speech codes that have been appearing at universities are reprehensible, and what constitutes PC speech at the University of Wyoming may be a bit different than at some more liberal colleges. As Gov. Dave notes “The tradition has been that if you don't like their book, we call for the faculty member to be fired.” Yep, and that's rarely a good thing.
The comments came one day after the Legislature's Joint Appropriations Committee failed to endorse a portion of Freudenthal's budget earmarked for UW's Ruckelshaus Institute of Environment and Natural Resources. The governor had recommended a $500,000 funding increase for the institute.
Freudenthal said some lawmakers are still upset about a report by the Ruckelshaus Institute, an advisory board on environmental and natural resource issues, that was critical of Wyoming's coal-bed methane industry.
Ah, but there's the rub. Should the taxpayers of the state be saddled with the costs of supporting agencies they abhor? If the mission of the agency is antithetical to the beliefs and interests of the citizens, do we have a right to refuse to fund that institution?
I think it's clear that we have an interest in protecting the speech of university professors, in order to foster energetic debate. 'The proper response to objectionable speech is more speech.' But I don't believe we have an obligation to provide public funding for agencies with whom we disagree. The problem, of course, is deciding where to draw the line.
A disclaimer: I'm not so strongly libertarian that I'd cut all funding for education. Education is a public good, if for no other reason than that providing someone with a decent education is insurance against having to incarcerate them later. As it appears our options are to pay now and reap the benefits of a better educated citizenry, or pay later in the form of higher crime, and higher costs of aggressive law enforcement and a merciless criminal justice system -- which most assuredly would affect the whole of the population, not just violent criminals -- I'd choose to pay now.
Granted, we don't always get what we pay for -- the state of education, higher and lower, isn't all it could be -- nor is this the libertarian ideal. But I'm more interested in what works in practice than in theoretical ideals.
There's also something to be said for the philosophy that 'it takes two to tango'. I strongly support our state's energy industry -- they pay my bills -- but honest and constructive criticism is a good thing too. We need the energy, but we also need a clean and safe environment and a safe workplace with responsible employers. Here, I'd put the emphasis on "honest and constructive". The 'Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything' crowd -- aka the BANANAs -- aren't constructive any more than the 'US Out of Wyoming' sorts.
I really don't know anything about this Ruckelshaus Institute or their criticism of the coal-bed methane industry, so I don't know whether their criticism is, at least arguably, valid. Thus, I don't know who's in the right, the Gov or the legislature. If the Ruckelshaus folks are being constructive in their criticism I'd agree with the Gov, if they're simply going BANANAs I'd agree with the legislature. I'll look into this, but I've a feeling the truth lies in a gray area between those positions.
Friday, January 25, 2008- - - Well yeah! Clinton, McCain, Obama, or Romney as President is a scary thought. Instead of choosing the best candidate we're once again forced to choose the least worst and among the loathsome current crop I'm not sure who that would be.
Gillette isn't for little shavers! They used to sell T-shirts with that slogan, but now they're trying to "become more attractive to young people". Whatever. Given all the oilfield and mine work going on around there I'd guess Gillette has one of the youngest populations in the state. It's only right that they try to provide some night life, activities, and amenities for the younger set, particularly something that doesn't involve hangin' in the bars and drag racing on Main Street. Wouldn't want them behaving like we did at their age!
Unfortunately, if you live by the boom you die by the bust and oil & gas and mining are boom and bust businesses. Any efforts to maintain a stable population and attract young people will inevitably be undermined by the lack of jobs come the next bust. It's a difficult situation. A more broad-based economy would help and I think telecommuting is the wave of the future, but we'll see.
Who to believe.. The professional goalpost movers (aka "the usual suspects") are now demanding that the wolf population in the Greater Yellowstone area be increased a little:
Yet environmentalists contend that even if wolf numbers held at current levels, that is not enough to ensure the species' long-term survival. They say 2,000 to 5,000 wolves are needed to maintain a large enough gene pool and prevent inbreeding.
Now lets remember that the original goal was to establish a population of 300-500 wolves, so that seems a little out of line.
On the other hand, there are now roughly 1200-1500 wolves, depending on who you believe, and they're making a nuisance of themselves in some areas. I'm not so sure we can believe the state and federal officials who say they plan to kill a few dozen. They'd have to kill several hundred to get the population down to the original target and you can bet they're getting plenty of pressure to do just that.
And they're running a Friday Special at the Casper Star, two wolf articles for the price of one:
BILLINGS, Mont. -- A new federal rule would allow state game agencies to kill endangered gray wolves that prey on wildlife in the Northern Rockies.
An estimated 1,545 wolves in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana are scheduled to come off the endangered species list in coming weeks, which would allow public hunting of the predators for the first time in decades.
The rule released Thursday is a separate action that would give the three states more latitude to kill wolves even if their removal from the endangered list is delayed. It was part of a deal struck with the state of Wyoming to proceed with delisting of wolves in the three states.
Opposition to the rule, which could go into effect in late February, came within hours of Thursday's announcement. Environmental and animal rights groups characterized the federal proposal as cover for states eager to kill as many wolves as possible.
An attorney for the legal group Earthjustice, in Bozeman, Mont., pledged to file a court challenge as soon as the rule is published in the Federal Register next week.
The rule would empower state wildlife agents to kill packs of wolves if they can prove the animals are having a "major impact" on big game herds such as elk, deer or moose.
Okaaay, the wolf population is, perhaps, growing a bit faster than I'd thought, although "1,545" is pretty specious accuracy even for an estimate. I suspect they'd be lucky to put a number on them give or take a hundred.
It does look like Wyoming will get its wish to control wolf populations that are excessively preying on wildlife. A good thing, I think. But I do have reservations about this whole business. It seems dreadfully ... simpleminded? ... to introduce wolves and then kill them when they act like wolves.
Thursday, January 24, 2008- - - ... trod upon by the Great Buggernaut ... The InstaPundit points to this very interesting post and discussion of recent events at the UGa. "A student who wrote disparaging comments on an anonymous course evaluation now finds himself facing University sanctions."
It seems to me that when you solicit anonymous course evaluations it comes with the territory that some will be perhaps more candid and less measured than you might like and it becomes incumbent upon you to take such comments with a shovel or two of salt. Much like anonymous blog comments, it should be expected that some will take the proferred anonymity as license to say some pretty vile things.
However, when the university breached their promise of anonymity they pretty much insured that their course evaluations will be less than candid in the future. I suppose it depends on what they wanted. If they wanted to solicit candid comments in an attempt to improve their offerings to the students they've made a bad mistake. If they wanted nothing but gushing "Oh my professors here at UGa are the bestest people I've ever met" testimonials to quote in alumni fundraising letters and newsletters to the 'rents then that's what they're going to get.
As one of the commenters notes: "They taught all the kids a very valuable lesson. The government lies when it makes a promise." Sad but true.
Dissent in the ranks! The InstaPundit points to an article on disagreements vis NASA's mission. Some folks think we should go back to the moon, some think we should visit the asteroids, others think we should head straight for Mars, while yet others think manned space flight is a waste of time and resources.
Personally, I don't think it matters what NASA does* so long as they do something new and innovative. Most all our earthly benefits -- computers, microelectronics, super-high tolerance machining, etc. -- that derived from space exploration came from meeting the challenges of doing something boldly new. So I'm opposed to that faction at NASA who've gotten comfortable and want to spend another 20 years firing space shuttles into near earth orbit. That ground has been plowed too many times and it's losing its fertility.
On the other hand, if NASA sits on its hands much longer, not only will they be surpassed by the Chinese and Japanese efforts to return to the moon, mentioned in the article above, they're going to be left in the dust by commercial space endeavors. I wouldn't be at all surprised if a group of privately funded adventurers were the first to land on Mars. And Hey! they'd need an archaeologist along, right?
Ultimately, I think NASA will become an anachronism, if it hasn't already, and private endeavors will become the norm in space.**
*I'll qualify that to say that the long-term survival of the human race would be best assured if we can establish self-contained colonies on the moon and/or other planets. Or permanently in space for that matter.
**NASA wouldn't be nearly the first government agency to begin with a group of daring young turks on a mission and devolve in 30-years-time into just another entrenched bureaucracy more interested in perpetuating its existence than in actually doing anything. In fact, I'm hard-pressed to think of any government agency that hasn't followed that trajectory, although I suppose quite a few started right out as bureaucrats and went downhill from there.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008- - - And there we have it! Last year we viewed Boot Rock from above on the Pinnacles Trail. Now we've hiked up the Juniper Canyon Trail to see it from below. I had no idea how small it actually is and how close we were to it last year.
It's an optical delusion of sorts. The mountains here are quite rugged, but much smaller than the northern Rockies we're used to, which warps our perspective. Our mind's eye makes everything bigger and farther away than it really is. Pretty darn scenic regardless.
Unattended children will be eaten! Although on the Juniper Canyon trail it will be by bears, not by the lions we're warned about on the Blue Creek and Pine Canyon trails. I'm not sure why they've chosen to warn us on these particular trails, but I suspect it's due to past encounters. Oddly enough, there was no warning on the Pinnacles Trail, where we actually saw a lion.
It does seem rather rude to throw rocks at the poor bears though..
The big one that got away.. Here's a nice ammonite we found along the Hot Springs Canyon Rim trail a couple days back. That's my size 12 for comparison.
The gift that keeps on giving.. Wolves, that is. Now that it appears wolves will be removed from the federal Endangered Species list, the question becomes 'Who will pay for their management?' Various numbers have been batted about but the figure I've heard most often is about $2 million per year.
Game and Fish drafted the new rules to fulfill statutes established in House Bill 213, in the 2007 state legislative session, which require the department to designate gray wolves in the northwest part of the state as trophy game animals, and to use "aggressive" methods for managing the population.
The bill also requires the department to establish a program for compensating landowners and livestock owners for damage caused by wolves, including predation.
Once wolves are delisted, wolves living outside of the designated northwest region will be considered predators, and managed the same way coyotes and mountain lions are. People encountering wolves outside of the trophy game management area would be able to kill wolves without restrictions, as long as they report the gender, time and location of the kill to Game and Fish.
"Aggressive methods" of population control most likely means aerial gunning, which isn't cheap. Establishing and managing a hunting license system for wolves won't be cheap, and compensating landowners and livestock owners for damage won't be cheap either. Unfortunately, during the negotiations leading up to delisting, the US Fish & Wildlife has made it pretty clear that they won't be paying, which leaves it up to the Wyoming Game & Fish Department, which pretty much means the sportsmen and tax payers of Wyoming. (Thanks bunny huggers!)
Most of that isn't anything new, but the bit about managing wolves outside the northwest region "the same way coyotes and mountain lions are" is a bit different. In fact, it appears they won't be managed quite like coyotes or like lions. You've got to have a license to hunt lions, there are seasons and mortality limits, and the Game & Fish wants to examine the skull and pelt of each lion taken. On the other hand, the Game & Fish and pretty much everyone else is happy for you to shoot as many coyotes as you'd like, there's no season, and you don't have to report taking them to anyone. It sounds to me like wolves will fall somewhere in between, with no season, but with reporting required. I don't think there will be mortality limits, but I'm not so sure about that. We shall see.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008- - - Justice on trial.. Proclaims the DenverPost's editorial today on the Masters case I've posted on three times now (1, 2, 3). I agree with their hope that Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck will investigate the allegations of misconduct of those who worked to convict Masters. If they did indeed withhold exonerating evidence and, in effect, knowingly prosecuted the wrong man -- a 15-year-old boy -- they deserve to be hung out to dry.
I am still a bit puzzled that Peggy Hettrick's boyfriend is now the chief suspect, given the supposedly 'surgically precise' mutilations and the fact that she lived across the street from a surgeon who was a convicted sex offender. I suspect there's a good deal to come out yet in this case.
Update: Masters has been released pending a decision on a new trial.
What could be Masters' last day in court meant different things to the more than 100 people from all walks of life in the room — lawmakers, lawyers, scientists, relatives, professors. The need for stronger evidence laws, given Masters' fight to preserve evidence and obtain DNA testing. The need for closure — if the charges are dropped, for example, the case again turns cold.
"With Tim's apparent innocence, how can we as a state confidently say this is an isolated case," said state Rep. Cheri Jahn, who wants Masters to testify at upcoming hearings to pass laws to make it a duty for authorities to preserve evidence. "We need to do more to make sure the system is just."
And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. -- Martin Luther King, Jr.
The article from the Casper Star, linked above, reminded me to comment in agreement with Gov. Dave: We have a long way to go. Perhaps MLK dreamed that 45 years after he gave that speech we'd have a white woman and a black man running against each other for president. But he would never have dreamed they'd be running on a politics of identity that highlights race and gender while glossing over ideas and character.
Sunday, January 20, 2008- - - Fancy pickin'! Here's a nice piece by Sam Bush, advertising his signature model Gibson. I'd dearly love to try one of these, although I'm not sure that the extra .09" of neck width would be enough for my sausage fingers.
In the process she's run afoul of an IED and now she's got some masher pestering her. Hang in there, Natalie!
Saturday, January 19, 2008- - - Color me skeptical..
CasperStar -- The U.S. Forest Service is considering a massive restructuring that would remove scientists and land management planners from individual forests, affecting one in four jobs throughout the agency.
Libertarian think tanks and management consulting groups that advocate both restructuring and outsourcing of federal jobs to private business generally support the concepts of "business process re-engineering” and outsourcing, while environmentalists are highly skeptical.
The Forest Service plan would consolidate virtually all work performed under the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA -- the basic planning law that shapes significant agency resource management actions. For national forests in Wyoming, the jobs would be consolidated into a NEPA work center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
I'm all for streamlining and more efficiency in government and my business depends on outsourcing of NEPA investigations from government agencies. There certainly is room for improvement in the NEPA process, but the problem I most often see is that the government's "experts" spend too little time in the hills and lack familiarity with the local resources. Too often now these folks rely on their psychic skills to learn what's really going on. This move will only exacerbate that problem.
The problem with psychic resource management cuts both ways. On one hand we have timid management that's afraid to allow any resource development, even the most innocuous, because they really don't have a grasp of the prospective impacts and fear the worst. On the other hand, we do occasionally have developers who run amok and get away with it because no one ever goes out there to see what they're really up to. There's only so much you can do to manage resources from the comfort of your office and I'm less than enthusiastic about making the government's managers even more desk bound.
Oh, and no, I'm not one of those loony libertarians who think the whole problem could be solved by selling off all the federal lands. First, this would likely lead to a few of the very wealthy buying up huge tracts of our land at fire sale prices. Second, a lot of the federally managed lands are federally managed because no one wanted them back when the government was trying to give them away through the various homestead acts & such. Selling off the lands and disbanding the federal land managing agencies would leave a whole lot of land simply abandoned or usher in a new age of cattle barons.
Oh, the irony.. Just yesterday I posted on National Geographic's foot-in-mouth piece about North Dakota's "emptied prairie". Today, "A survey of rural bankers in nine Midwestern and Plains states, including Colorado, indicates a continued growth in economic activity, particularly in agriculture." Apparently, a few picturesque abandoned farmsteads didn't give an accurate idea of our rural economy. Imagine that.
Curiouser and curiouser.. I've posted twice before about then 15-year-old Tim Masters, who was convicted of murdering and surgically mutilating Peggy Hettrick in Ft. Collins in 1987.
First, the prosecutors in the original court case were accused of withholding evidence and expert testimony that appeared to implicate Dr. Richard Hammond, Hettrick's neighbor, a surgeon who was also a convicted sex offender.
Then a few days later we learned that the police were being accused of misconduct for taping a conversation between Masters and his father where Masters proclaimed his innocence, and not turning over the tape to the defense.
Now we're told that new DNA evidence points to Hettrick's boyfriend, not to Masters or to Dr. Hammond. The case is developing more plot twists than a bad novel. Still waiting to hear how Hettrick's boyfriend was supposed to inflict the surgically precise mutilations..
The big surprise: Given the new DNA evidence, the district attorney is now pushing for Masters' immediate release from prison. There seems little likelihood that there will be a new trial, where before the question was whether all the misconduct and withheld evidence warranted a new trial for the poor bugger.
Friday, January 18, 2008- - - Finally! Every time we've hiked to the Mules Ears the weather has turned overcast and, while the hiking was fine, the photography hasn't been great. I've got a file of murky, dark photos of the 'Ears. But the sky was spectacular on Thursday and I think this came out pretty well..
City boys.. National Geographic recently did a rather tone deaf piece on rural North Dakota and raised a general ruckus, which I heard about on ABC's nightly news.
Yes, small towns in rural America are often declining, but that has a good deal to do with improved transportation. We don't take a horse and buggy to town to shop, so shopping centers can be farther apart. The tiny town every six miles is no longer a viable settlement pattern.
Yes, farms in rural America are fewer and farther apart, but that has a good deal to do with mechanized farming. We don't harness up the mules any more, now we fire up the Steiger and we can plow more in one morning than Grandad could in two weeks. A hundred years ago the majority of the population lived on farms. Now only one or two percent of the population live on farms. That's not unique to North Dakota, that's nation-wide.
But bottom line, you don't visit an area briefly, enjoy their hospitality, and then go home and write disparagingly about them. It's the old 'if you can't find something good to say, don't say anything' rule. I was born and raised in North Dakota and I'm offended. I think North Dakota is a fine place to be from (far from), but I've spent too many winters in North Dakota and I'm entitled to criticize. They're not.
Smarter than David Weigel? That's setting the bar pretty low. The hard political reality is, we will keep significant numbers of troops in Iraq for years to come, just as we still have troops in Europe and Korea.
Read the whole thing!
David Harsanyi -- While shilling for the Real ID Act this week, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff asked Americans a series of spectacularly irrelevant questions:
"Should banks cash checks from people who cannot prove who they are? Should parents hire babysitters they know nothing about? Should airlines let passengers on board planes without validating their identity?"
No, of course not, Mike. The problem is, you forgot to ask a more pertinent question: Should citizens hand over their sensitive information to one of the most inept organizations in the nation?
That's what Chertoff and Washington are requesting Americans do when it comes to Real ID. While hiring a babysitter or signing on with a bank is a voluntary agreement between two consenting parties, the Real ID is a government mandate that, in effect, creates a national identification card with open-ended goals and precious little guarantee of success.
And no offense, but surely there are a few thousands places better equipped to store personal information than the DMV. What recourse do Americans have when government loses information? After all, consumer satisfaction is not exactly its strong suit.
No, you don't have to wear a tinfoil hat to be a little nervous about the government's track record when it comes to securing sensitive information. In order to accomplish all the goals that have been set forth, the info would have to be disseminated far and wide, making it ever more vulnerable. And no matter how secure the ID, I'd give it about 24 hours before someone is making decent counterfeits.
Thursday, January 17, 2008- - - We're back!! Monday was our first official day of touristing at Big Bend National Park. Unfortunately, it was a bit drizzly for hiking, at least in the morning. By afternoon it had cleared up but the temperature only got up to 74 -- yes, I said 74. Bwaahahaha!
Here we're looking south toward the Chisos Mountains from the main highway through the park.
My kind of place! I have it on good authority that this is the only stop light in Brewster County, TX -- an area larger than some New England states -- and it's just decorative, all three lights really are lit at once. But we do have a mall! 'Course it's the size of your local 7-11..
Sign me up! A side-bar ad at the Rocky Mountain News for the Four Points Sheraton Hotels offers:
Enjoy half off our Best Brews Sampler plus breakfast for two and more with The Best Brews Package.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008- - - "Rational decision-making doesn't apply..
DenverPost -- Colorado, beware: An army of well connected lobbyists has persuaded Congress to adopt an ethanol policy that's as bad for the environment as it is for the Centennial State's economy.
Chances are you've heard of ethanol, an alcohol distilled from corn that can be used to run cars. Ethanol production became a policy priority in Congress because it simultaneously placated two influential special interests: agribusiness and environmentalists. Greens took to ethanol because they thought it had a smaller carbon footprint that regular gasoline. For agribusiness, a government mandate for a fuel made from crops is a no-brainer.
Recently, however, environmental scientists have turned against biofuels. New research has shown the significant ecological impact of farming more corn, a resource-intensive crop. And last September, an article in the prestigious journal Science demonstrated that global ethanol production emits two to nine times the greenhouse gas emissions "saved" by substituting it for gasoline.
NPR favorite and agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland makes an appearance. Read the whole thing! Biomass ethanol isn't cost-free either, but at least it doesn't force us to choose between fuel and food.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008- - - What a perfectly hideous idea.. Via Drudge:
Microsoft is developing Big Brother-style software capable of remotely monitoring a worker’s productivity, physical wellbeing and competence.
The Times has seen a patent application filed by the company for a computer system that links workers to their computers via wireless sensors that measure their metabolism. The system would allow managers to monitor employees’ performance by measuring their heart rate, body temperature, movement, facial expression and blood pressure. Unions said they fear that employees could be dismissed on the basis of a computer’s assessment of their physiological state.
The system could also “automatically detect frustration or stress in the user” and “offer and provide assistance accordingly”. Physical changes to an employee would be matched to an individual psychological profile based on a worker’s weight, age and health. If the system picked up an increase in heart rate or facial expressions suggestive of stress or frustration, it would tell management that he needed help.
Microsoft's context-sensitive help has been singularly useless since day one. Now they're going to get in your face when you're already frustrated? And report you to your boss? They may yet surpass the talking Coke machine as the all-time most hated invention.
The truth about guitar instructional books
Pretty much true of mandolin instructional books as well!
Allow me to suggest.. Up in northeast Wyoming they're looking for waste wood for a pioneering ethanol plant. Down in Colorado the pine beetle kill has reached "epidemic proportions" (and the kill area extends at least to northwestern Wyoming, much farther than stated in this article).
Many thousands of acres of trees are standing and dead throughout the Rocky Mountain West. Meanwhile, the only way we can stop, or at least slow a pine beetle infestation -- that I know of -- is to cut the infected trees. Extremely cold temperatures will also do the trick, but that's beyond our power to control. I'm not sure why, but no one ever suggests insecticide of any kind.
The standing dead and dying trees are pretty much commercially useless and they're a horrible fire hazard. So.. what to do?
The "endless series of hobgoblins" David Harsanyi on the enviro-religion and government over reach. Simply excellent:
There is more needless meddling in the works. Nearly every presidential candidate promises "bold" initiatives in the area of energy, which should send shivers down our collective spine. Centralized planning on this scale historically offers nothing more than piecemeal solutions, counterproductive schemes, waste and corruption.
But this is about the environment. So back to my original question: Where is the line? Is there a line anymore?
If light bulb bans and government-controlled thermostats are acceptable, why not the rationing of gas? Why not "manage" the times Americans vacation abroad? Why not dictate how many miles a person can live from his or her job? Why not decree that we all use public transportation? Why not mandate that businesses use teleconferencing instead of attending those conventions in the Bahamas or Las Vegas? Why are you living in such a large house? Do you really need all that space?
Monday, January 14, 2008- - - Bioengineered ethanol! If true, this is very good news. It also makes me wish I'd filed mining claims on all the municipal landfills in the area..
It's doomed.. I watched the premier of "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles" last night and really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, it features Summer Glau, late of the Firefly series and Serenity movie, as the good 'bot. I like Summer Glau and I loved Firefly and Serenity. But it seems that every time Fox casts one of the folks who acted in Firefly and Serenity they cancel the program after six weeks, as if to prove what idiots they are. I hope I'm wrong this time..
Well, that seems pretty clear..
JERUSALEM—Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told a powerful parliamentary panel on Monday that Israel rejects "no options" to block Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, a meeting participant said.
The statement was the Israeli leader's clearest indication yet that he is willing to use military force against Iran.
"Israel clearly will not reconcile itself to a nuclear Iran," the meeting participant quoted Olmert as telling the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. "All options that prevent Iran from gaining nuclear capabilities are legitimate within the context of how to grapple with this matter."
In Jerusalem, Bush declared that Iran remained "a threat to world peace," but reasserted his commitment to trying to resolve the standoff over Iran's nuclear program diplomatically. [emphasis added]
Of course we should try to resolve the situation diplomatically. But I'm not terribly optimistic about the outlook for that approach. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking..
DenverPost -- The Weld County district attorney's office is opening a criminal investigation into alleged police misconduct behind Tim Masters' conviction for Peggy Hettrick's 1987 murder.
The Greeley prosecutors accepted the case — examining possible perjury and wiretapping by the Fort Collins police — at the request of Larimer County District Attorney Larry Abrahamson, who wants to avoid charges of conflicts of interest, Masters' attorneys confirmed Sunday.
In December, his team filed a complaint with Abrahamson's office, requesting a criminal inquiry into whether Fort Collins police investigator Jim Broderick illegally taped a conversation between Masters, then 15, and his dad, Clyde Masters, at police headquarters 20 years ago.
In the conversation, during a break in his interrogation, Masters repeatedly tells his dad he's innocent. Wymore says a recording of that conversation was made by police — without either Masters' knowledge — but never turned over to Masters' original attorneys.
Wymore also contends in the complaint that Broderick may have perjured himself when he failed to disclose during trial testimony his role in an extensive 1988 surveillance operation of Masters. Details of that police effort also were not disclosed to Masters' original attorneys, it was recently discovered. Broderick has denied any formal role in the surveillance or other improper actions related to the taping.
Well, okay, that sounds like misconduct, but the misconduct seems trivial compared to their blind idiocy in failing to tie the murder and clinical dissection of the victim to her cross-the-street neighbor, a convicted sex offender and surgeon.
And as miscarriages of justice go, all of this pales compared to the courts who, faced with all this, are currently debating whether the kid deserves a new trial.
DenverPost -- The "canary in the coal mine" on global warming when it comes to the mountains may very well be a hamster-like rodent that squeaks from among the talus above tree line.
Pushed by warmer weather to ever-higher elevations, the tiny pika is losing real estate at an alarming rate, according to scientists, and is disappearing rapidly from much of its historic territory in the West.
Yes, they know so much about the topic that they don't know pikas aren't rodents. Rodents, in the Linnaean Taxonomic System, are members of the Order Rodentia, pikas are members of the Order Lagomorpha, along with the rabbits and hares.
Also, they're fairly rare to begin with and tying their supposed demise to global warming is tenuous at best. Rabbits and hares go through radical population cycles, we might suppose that pikas do as well. Without understanding and controlling for those natural cycles I'd think it would be very difficult to say if the pika population is being affected by the minuscule temperature increase we're seeing. But it fits the narrative, doesn't it?
Ps. Besides, you know what they say: "Hare today, gone tomorrow!" @5:19 AM
Sunday, January 13, 2008- - - More strange news.. We're told that a Minuteman group is organizing in Wyoming. No, they don't want to build a fence along the Colorado border..
Things that make you say Hmmm.. Perusing the DenverPost home page this morning I couldn't help but notice the headline O. J. Simpson jailed on bail violation -- the saga continues -- but what struck me as odd is that this is in the Entertainment section. We must be hurting for entertainment in Denver. I suppose they had to put this somewhere (I mean! Is there anyone who doesn't just live for the latest news on OJ?), and it's hard to make the case that this tawdry melodrama is headline news. OJ is well past his sports days and I'd imagine most of sports would like to forget him, so perhaps tossing him in with Britney and Paris feels strangely right.
Ps. At least it's not in the Lifestyle section, although that might also be appropriate.
Friday, January 11, 2008- - - Well done! Okay, I haven't been much impressed by Reason magazine's de facto endorsement of Ron Paul. But today the InstaPundit points to a review by Matt Welch that makes it very clear that he's much less than impressed by Ron Paul's antics.
It's a long way to the elections and in politics -- like other contact sports -- the rule ought to be "no blood, no foul". Plenty of time to disassociate from the Paulines yet and Matt is doing what it takes to be a stand up guy. We all fuck up, it's how we deal with our fuck ups that's telling.
Doing the math.. The InstaPundit points to the Confederate Yankee doing the math on civilian casualties in Iraq. Yes, things are much better there now than they were under Saddam. As I pointed out back in 2003, things were better there immediately, not just now that the surge is working. Al Qaeda and the insurgents have a long way to go to be as awful as Saddam was.
Things that make you say Hmmm.. Well, the McRib is kind of like a politician, isn't it? We know they're awful* and we know they're bad for us, but we've just got to have them anyway.
*Ps. In this case it should be "offal" -- the ribs and the politicians.
"We want Rosie!" Took the words right out of my mouth -- literally -- that was my first thought. Special purpose robots to entertain the kids or vacuum the floors are a start, but only a poor one. I don't think we'll have long to wait for the first truly versatile Rosie though. When they can do what we want rather than what some geek thinks we want, and do it without being told, we'll be there.
It's Wall Drug del Sur! The Big Texan Steak Ranch! It's been a part of tourist culture on Route 66 since 1960. Like Wall Drug in South Dakota, there's nothing pretentious about the place, it's pure unadulterated tourist tacky. They've even got their own version of Ted Husted's Cowboys. ... I can't believe no one's posted a photo of Ted Husted's Cowboys. I'll have to dig one up. Preferably one I took as a little kid. They're 'animated' mannequins singing around a campfire. Over the top hokey, but in a delightful way.
We stopped in to have a Shiner and check the place out, simply because you can't not visit these places. It's a great example of the heyday of tourism, when it wasn't supposed to be educational or inspirational, it was just supposed to be fun, and entrepreneurs came up with all manner of zany stuff to get you to pull over and buy something. A rubber tomahawk or faux coonskin cap perhaps? I can't help thinking that life has gotten a lot less fun now that you can't feed the bears*.
Ps. Do zoom in and check out the hood ornaments on those limos. No cliche' overlooked! The limo is free, which is a good thing, as they serve beer in Texas-sized mugs.
*Update: I'm referring, of course, to the bears in Yellowstone Park. Can't feed 'em because they decided they were a hazard to the tourists and shot them all back around 1975, thousands of them. Yes, Yogi and Boo Boo too. Bastards.
Sigh!! This is not the preferred method of supporting the front end of a 5th wheel, but this is how we sat in Amarillo for a week waiting on parts and then more parts to be overnighted. UPS delivers overnight to Worland, Wyoming. To Amarillo, Texas? Not so much.
The old landing gear simply weren't sufficiently heavy duty to handle a 14,500# trailer and the worm gear broke. The new landing gear is a much more robust outfit. Unfortunately and despite all assurances, it's not geared the same as the old one, so doesn't raise and lower at the same rate. That makes jacking and leveling more than a bit ackward, but doable.
I've got another matching jack on order but we're not sitting around in Amarillo until it arrives thankyouverymuch. So we'll be crippling along for the next few weeks until we can get back to Amarillo to get the other jack installed. I'd install it myself, but I forgot the arc welder, dang it!
Very nice! Well, our trip hasn't been all fun and games, fighting the weather and mechanical problems. We've done a little serious tourism as well. Here's a very nice bronze outside the entrance of the American Quarter Horse Association's Hall of Fame and Museum in Amarillo.
I've always thought that cutting horses were particularly interesting. Horses seem to enjoy chasing and roping and jumping, and many of the other activities we do with them. Thus, it can be very easy to train them to do what seems to come naturally to them*, and "cutting" is particularly interesting in that regard.
It's impossible for the human to react to the calf and then rein the horse, and the horse to react to the reins and cut off the calf. There's just isn't enough reaction time. But the horse quickly learns the game and the rider's contribution becomes sitting on the horse, looking good, and trying not to fall off as the calf dodges and the horse reacts. It's great fun. At least until you fall on your head and the calf runs over you as it gets away. That annoys the horse because he won't run over you.
Pretty sure I wouldn't want to try it with a buffalo though. Notice that the rider is hanging on the saddle horn for dear life, which is rather poor form. You're supposed to sit there all nonchalant, centered over the horse, not flap along behind like a sack of taters. They keep cutting the film, probably to remove the more embarrassing moments. Yehaw!
*Ps. Cutting is a very pratical skill when you're working livestock and it's likely horses have been used in this fashion for thousands of years. It's hard to say how much of this is "natural" and how much is a result of millenia of breeding. Regardless, horses seem to enjoy it.
Hillary stood for adventure Ayee!
Oh, wait, they're not talking about Bill's adventures, they're talking about Sir Edmund's adventures. He was a classic, one of those delightfully eccentric Brits who devote their lives to their obsessions. Except that, instead of collecting the world's butterflys, he collected the world's mountains. The world becomes a slightly duller place with his passing.
Just don't make any deals with the devil.. Gov. Freudenthal says Wyoming is at a crossroads. Personally, I don't want any part of Wyoming to start looking like the Colorado Front Range or acting like California*. Unfortunately, I'm a bit late for that if Cheyenne and Jackson Hole are any indication.
The Gov is right to be concerned. Wyoming has escaped the worst of the craziness that's hit Colorado and, to a lesser extent, Montana, Idaho and Utah over the last 30 years, but we've been discovered now. Cheyenne is growing like a mushroom as people have discovered the lower housing prices there and the short Interstate commute back to Ft. Collins & Denver. The Californians have discovered [some] of the prettier places in the state and they're moving in, bringing all their Big Government nannyesque nonsense with them. The next 30 years are going to bring some huge changes. Unfortunately, our state government couldn't manage a pillow fight so I'm less than enthused with giving them a lead roll in managing our future.
*Then again, I don't want any part of Wyoming to start looking like Midland/Oddessa, where we are tonight, in route to Alpine, TX. Finally resolved our mechanical diffugalties (well sorta) and we're on the road again. Just a bit too far from Amarillo to Alpine to make it in one day dragging the land yacht, so a short (170 mile) trip today and then we'll relax in Alpine and reprovision over the weekend. I've got my mouth set for some of that great Edelweiss food and microbrew and my wife has a long list of football games to watch. And the weather report has Alpine in the 70s for the weekend. That just sounds like heaven right now.
Update: Here's another article from the "Building the Wyoming We Want" conference. They're right, 40-acre ranchettes are an abomination. When people try to graze half-a-dozen horses on them they quickly become an environmental disaster with nothing but bare ground and horse poop, and single-wides as far as the eye can see. Of course, our government sees it as a lack of regulation, but the problem is that subdividing smaller than 40 acres is too regulated. People want horses and a place to keep them, but they can't buy just 2 acres for a corral, shelter, and haystack, so they buy 40 acres and turn it into a giant corral, spreading the mess over an area much larger than necessary.
Congress' delay on a bill that would have allowed foreign workers to return to seasonal jobs in the United States has employers — particularly those in Colorado's hospitality industry — scrambling to fill jobs for the summer tourism season.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced last week that the federal cap on H-2B visas, which permit foreign workers to fill seasonal, nonagricultural jobs that employers can't fill domestically, was met Jan. 2.
Congress allots 66,000 H-2B visas to foreign workers each year. The visas are doled out twice a year, with 33,000 available for winter and another 33,000 for summer hires.
However, employers for several years were able to sidestep that cap because of a provision that exempted returning workers from counting toward the cap.
I've got very mixed feelings about this. On one hand, 66,000 H-2B visas per year seems absurdly, unrealistically low when we've got what.. 12 million illegals in the country? On the other, we have the rich folks in places like Jackson Hole fighting tooth and nail against building any sort of housing that can be afforded by the grocery shelf-stockers and hotel bed-changers (can't have that, it would hurt their property values!). It's not that Americans won't do those jobs, they're just less than excited about commuting over the mountains from Driggs, Idaho every day, or living 12 to an apartment. So they hire immigrants, legal and illegal, who will live 12 to a room. Just can't find anyone else to exploit to support their lavish lifestyles.
Of course, this applies a bit to all of us. Want a head of iceberg that doesn't cost $5? Then chances are it was picked by an immigrant migrant worker. Picking lettuce is a back-breaking job. Not that Americans won't do it, but there are easier ways to make more than agricultural minimum wage. With nation-wide unemployment near 5% it is darn tough to find someone to hire who wants a job and who's worth hiring. Something's got to give somewhere.
Update: Here's something else I've got mixed feelings about. Pizza Hut is bringing in students from Brazil, Peru, and Costa Rica on 3-month (student visas?) to hone their language skills. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the fact that through Cultural Homestay International "Pizza Hut can offer jobs for these students at no cost to the company."
Now I'm all for exchange programs and working at Pizza Hut never hurt as an introduction to the job world, but I'd prefer that the first English phrases a student learns aren't "would you like pepperoni on that?" and "attention Kmart shoppers!"
Longer answer: No one person, not even the President of the US, has the power to end the culture of corruption in DC. Not as long as we keep re-electing the same old thieves to Congress.
Bush predicts completion of Mideast treaty Just carrying on the long tradition. Is there any US president in the last 40 years who hasn't brokered a Mideast peace treaty? We'll see if this one lasts long enough for the ink to dry and the Palestinians to re-arm.
Because surely he's a decent fellow and wouldn't want to hurt you or see you grovel. What's truly appalling is that somewhere, someone actually thinks this might work to stop bullying.
Wednesday, January 09, 2008- - - Well, at least they're consistent.. While I strongly support the majority of the libertarian pro-freedom, small government positions, I'm continually amazed at the folks the big-L leadership choose to support in the various political races. I'm on record as noting that the Libertarians have let the lunatics run the asylum and the latest Ron Paul debacle seems pretty much par for the course. I've got to think that the timing of the good folks at Reason is impeccable, featuring a Ron Paul cover story in their upcoming February edition. With any luck at all, Paul will be slinking from the stage about the time that one hits the news stands.
Sometimes it seems like every time, every time they get the opportunity to get a little publicity and attention, and just perhaps get the pro-liberty message out, they wind up looking like our mascot here. I have never seen any group better at taking careful aim and shooting themselves in the foot.
I do fault my friends at Reason, who are much cooler than I'll ever be and who, scornful of the earnestness that takes politics seriously, apparently didn't do their homework before embracing Paul as the latest indicator of libertarian cachet. For starters, they might have asked Bob Poole about Ron Paul; I remember a board member complaining about Paul's newsletters back in the early '90s. Besides, people as cosmopolitan as Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch should be able to detect something awry in Paul's populist appeals.
Yep, it's not that they're in agreement with Ron Paul's more distasteful views, it's just that they're often not nearly so smart as they think they are. Anyone who'd watched 15 minutes of Ron Paul's speeches should have known he's a wack job who can't be taken seriously as a candidate for President of the US.
Update: Rand Simberg updates to include links to interesting reactions by Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie. Gillespie quotes Paul's rather lame response: He takes moral responsibility for not paying attention to what was being published in his name. Might as well have come right out and admitted being an idiot, but somehow I suspect he was well aware of the content of those newsletters. The guy may be vile but he's not dumb.
Yet another update: I hadn't included the link in Ms. Postrel's quote above when I first posted it because I hadn't followed it and didn't appreciate its significance. It's well worth a look, painting a picture of a group of young punks producing a political magazine who are themselves profoundly unserious about politics. To the extent that it's true, it pretty much explains the content of Reason of late. I'm feeling less and less bad about no longer contributing to their party fund.
Another reason to be annoyed with Wyoming State government In today's Casper Star we're told about the Ladder Ranch, near Savory, Wyoming. About 10 miles east of Baggs on the Colorado border in spectacularly scenic country, they're trying to develop their place into a dude ranch. Not a bad idea, tourists have more money than sheep.
Here's the annoying part:
Most difficult for [Meghan] Lally has been garnering support from Wyoming state tourism efforts, which she said are centered on Yellowstone National Park. But her place is six hours from the tourist haven, a destination in itself. She has found greater success working with Colorado tourism officials and chambers of commerce, particularly in Craig and Steamboat Springs.
Yep. These folks back every crackpot scheme that gets pitched, but they won't back an established outfit that's trying to break into the second largest industry in Wyoming, tourism, especially if the place is an easy drive from Denver. Ms. Lally thinks it's because they push Yellowstone. I think it's because they're idiots. I suspect the big problem is that the Ladder Ranch won't be employing an army of minimum wage wogs. Thus, they won't do much for the state's economic development widget count. If you got no beans the bean counters just aren't interested.
Ps. I should note that hunting is among the activities offered at the Ladder Ranch and you could certainly do worse. The biggest mule deer I've ever seen have all been in that Little Snake country.
PPs. I should expand on that last: Several of the largest mule deer anyone has ever seen have come from that country. Quite a few of them are in the record books. Think 40+ inch spreads. That's just bloody amazingly Huge. And come to think of it, I'm having a hard time finding anything I wouldn't be embarrassed to shoot where I've been hunting of late..
Signs things may not be going well.. Dr. Phil wants to interview your 'rents.
Update: Politics is like a horse race in one regard: When your horse wins it's because you know how to pick 'em. When your horse loses there had to be chicanery involved. I'm thinking the InstaPundit is only joking when he blames Diebold, but note the first comment on this thread. Of course, this is why elections have got to be sans reproach and why losers shouldn't do a Gore. It poisons the whole process.
Tuesday, January 08, 2008- - - The right to keep and bear arms.. The InstaPundit points to a very interesting post at the Volokhs'.
Isn't it better to be naive than complacent though?
WSJ -- When foreigners assail Americans for being naive, it is often on account of contrasts like these. A nation in which the poor are defined by an income level that in most countries would make them prosperous is a nation that has all but forgotten the true meaning of poverty. A nation in which obesity is largely a problem of the poor (and anorexia of the upper-middle class) does not understand the word "hunger." A nation in which the most celebrated recent cases of racism, at Duke University or in Jena, La., are wholly or mostly contrived is not a racist nation. A nation in which our "division" is defined by the vitriol of Ann Coulter or James Carville is not a truly divided one--at least while Mr. Carville is married to Republican operative Mary Matalin and Ms. Coulter is romantically linked with New York City Democrat Andrew Stein.
And so it begins.. 'How could he have won? Nobody I know voted for him!'* @3:09 AM
Monday, January 07, 2008- - - Yep, them's pimply-faced geeks.. The InstaPundit links to a piece by Gizmodo on the "non-booth babes" at the Consumer Electronics Show that goes a ways toward explaining why so many geeks live in mom's basement. Somehow, I don't quite believe the assertion that they value these women for their minds. Even the girls on the porn sites have, ya know, names.. Well sorta anyway. Then, it would appear they so love shiny new tech toys that they haven't bothered to learn about the red-eye reduction feature of digital cameras. Eye contact's not a strong suit perhaps? Unintentionally humorous in a pathetic sort of way.
Noisy buggers! RV parks are notoriously noisy. Because they take a lot of land it's cheaper to build them between the interstate and the railroad tracks, usually right next to the refinery, on relatively low-value land. So, here in Amarillo we're at the intersection of I-40 and the east 335 beltway, with the Amarillo International Airport just to the east. A bit noisy, but we're used to it. But.. for the last couple hours a pair of T-38 jet trainers have been practicing their touch & goes, taking off low and right over the top of us. Crikey what a racket. I think they've finally given it a rest, as it's been at least 15 minutes since one went over now. Ah well, they've got to practice somewhere.
It took me awhile to figure out what they were, as they're painted just like this one. Which raises an interesting question: Why would they put a camo paint job on a trainer? That threw me for awhile. The only T-38s I can think of seeing in the past were at the Air Force Academy and theirs, at least the ones I saw, were white. Being camouflaged, I was trying to make these into fighters of some sort, but couldn't find anything that looked quite right.
Focus on this! Oh okay, I don't post pix like that, it's not nice. But when did asking nosy questions become so popular? Seems everyone is in on the act now:
Casper -- You may be getting a call soon asking you how old you are.
You won't be asked to buy anything, and the caller isn't trying to steal your identity.
But, if you say you are between 44 and 62 years old, prepare yourself for 25-30 more questions.
The Casper City Council wants to know what to expect as the Baby Boomer generation ages. After hours of focus groups and more hours of research, the study officials are nearing the end.
Only a couple weeks of focus groups and 400 phone surveys remain before drawing conclusions, said Vicki Murdock, the research director and an assistant professor of social work at the University of Wyoming.
You may be asked about your income level, your long-term health plan and where you plan on living as you age.
The information is confidential and will be used only to provide a larger view of the population.
And we should trust them to keep this information confidential because..
The biggest problem I see with this sort of polling is that we have no way of knowing the caller isn't an identity thief. Thus, they're only getting answers from the people stupid enough to give out personal information to anyone who calls and asks. I don't think I'd base many long-term plans on that demographic.
Bingo can't be far behind..
got a biker bar next to the lingerie store thats got rollin stones lips up there in bright pink neon and they're right downtown where everyone can see em and they burn all night you know they burn all night they burn all night*
Bouldah -- In highly regulated cities like Boulder, Colo., you've got to take freedom where you can find it. And in the process, you may just find yourself cheering on the owner of a sleazy strip club.
Described on the Internet as "edgy, artistic, erotic gentlemen's entertainment," Boulder's newest business establishment, Nitro Club, opened just before Christmas and is raising alarm bells with city officials shocked that that club's owner, Michael Cobb, didn't first give them the opportunity to kill the project.
Didn't let them kill the project? What cheek! Let's hope they've got lips..
Sunday, January 06, 2008- - - Grrr!! Well for all two of you who are wondering whether I've dropped off the face of the earth, my idiot email system has been down for two days. I finally managed to get on and answer one email, from Fuz, and then it promptly went down again. So no, I haven't forgotten you, I'm just being held incommunicado by this infernal technology.
Someone else who agrees with my grandpa! "When people ask me what to do, I tell them to let their kids play in the dirt," says Dr. Joel Weinstock.
Sounds like the Census Bureau is a big hit! Mary Patterson writes to the DenverPost about the “American Community Survey” she's received. She feels it's much too nosy and the comments agree that she shouldn't answer it.
I don't know when the Census Bureau started asking these sorts of intrusive questions, but they do seem to be using some pretty shady methods to get the info they want. We had a young lady show up on our doorstep claiming to be from the Census Bureau. She had a computer-generated ID card on a string around her neck, but it wasn't anything I couldn't have duplicated in about 10 minutes. Didn't want to know anything about us, she was asking questions about the neighbors. Of course I told her if she wanted to know anything about the neighbors she should ask them. She was rather indignant about my "uncooperative attitude", but she went away when it became clear she wasn't going to bully any info out of me or frighten me by waving her ID card and threatening fines.
Judging from the responses to Ms. Patterson's letter, I'd guess that the responses they do get are rather skewed. As one comment notes, it's unlikely they're getting much info from the homeless or from illegals. Given how poorly the goverment has done at safeguarding the information they do have, there's probably plenty of others that either don't respond, or lie. I've also got to think that their threats of fines are pretty much empty, as gigging everyone who didn't cooperate would be a very bad PR move.
Saturday, January 05, 2008- - - Tupperware Taser Parties? There's a lot to be said for the taser in personal defense. It overcomes the irrational fear of guns held by some, so they'll buy one and keep it handy. It's also less lethal than a gun, so it's less likely that the user would hesitate at the critical moment. And if you tase (or pepper spray) someone and it doesn't stop them you've demonstrated that you went out of your way to avoid shooting them. That could be very handy in the aftermath of a self defense shooting.
On the down side, a taser is pretty much a one-shot deal. Better hope you've only got one assailant. It only works at close range and doesn't always work, especially if the assailant is heavily clothed. I don't know how well it works on someone hopped up on crank or such, but a .357 won't always work in those instances. The biggest downside is in thinking it won't kill anybody some folks are perhaps more likely to use it when they shouldn't. In my not so humble opinion a taser should be used only where you'd be justified in shooting, not as a substitute for stern words.
Just don't do what some have advocated and shoot, then tase, then hose down with pepper spray. The forensics guys can tell, and that sort of behavior will make matters worse rather than better. I don't know if this has actually ever happened. It's the sort of hypermasculine BS you hear from the Walter Mitty -- Big Mouth, no balls -- types. It's my feeling that talking shit is like putting up a "beware of dog" sign. You're admitting you're eager to shoot somebody and will mess with the scene, just like you're admitting your dog is vicious. For that reason, I think it's a really, really bad idea to put one of those "keep honking, I'm reloading" bumperstickers on your car, or any sort of 'break into my house or mess with my truck and I'll shoot you' sticker anywhere. You might think it's cute, but the prosecutor and the other guy's attorney will not.
Incidentally, I read recently somewhere someone complaining that they'd had their car keyed multiple times after putting an American flag on it. I'd suggest the humble NRA sticker. It says all that needs to be said to the anti-Americans, and to the vandals and thugs, in a way that can't be used against you later.
Update: I should note that my observations regarding bumperstickers and warning signs aren't exactly original thoughts. This is the sort of thing that Massad Ayoob warns against in his books on self defense. The last thing you want in the aftermath of a self defense shooting is a photo of your threatening bumpersticker to appear in court, as it suggests that you were a bit too eager. Likewise, talking shit on your blog is probably a very bad idea.
I've applauded the Texas legislature for passing a Castle Doctrine law, and I don't think anyone should be required to retreat if someone invades their home, but I also think it's a very good idea to retreat and avoid a confrontation if at all possible. Part of that (but not much) is a belief that human life is precious, but mostly I have no desire to go through the legal mess that would ensue after a shooting. Where's the percentage in shooting someone to save your $79 TV and then handing over everything you own to a lawyer to keep your butt out of jail?
Friday, January 04, 2008- - - You can take the trash out of the trailer.. But you can't take the trailer out of the trash. Too much fame much too soon and, dare I say, evil companions.
I guess "expert" is a relative term..
Denver -- Gun experts say it's highly unlikely that the gun a murder suspect claims he fired early New Year's Day was powerful enough to send a bullet through a wall and kill an 11-year-old girl and a woman from up to 300 yards away.
"I haven't seen a bullet from .44 Magnum (handgun) travel that far and do that kind of damage," said Ronald R. Scott, a Phoenix ballistics expert who has testified in more than 250 state and federal trials, including several in Denver. "It just doesn't fit."
Jackson said he could not comment on whether police have matched the bullet that killed Martinez and Yanez to Cortez's gun.
Paul Reynolds, a firearms trainer, said it would take a high-powered rifle to propel a bullet with enough velocity to do the damage the fatal bullet caused.
"I definitely think a hunting rifle is a strong possibility," Scott said.
The scary part here is that this Scott yahoo has "testified in more than 250 state and federal trials", yet knows so little about the capabilities of the .44 magnum. I don't have the books with me so I can't quote the drop & velocity of a .44 magnum at various ranges, but suffice it to say that, while the trajectory is somewhat rainbowish at 300 yards, a standard 240 gr .44 bullet will retain plenty of energy to penetrate a wall and kill two people at that range, and continue on out the other side of the building (perhaps why they're not commenting on bullet matches). When we're talking big bore handguns, velocity isn't everything. With the right bullet, the .44 magnum penetrates very well, one reason why it's not a very good choice for urban self defense (the others being muzzle blast that will curl your hair and recoil that makes quick follow-up shots difficult).
At the very least, Scott hasn't read the definitive works on the .44 magnum, written by Elmer Keith so long ago (and if he hasn't read Keith, he's no expert on firearms!). Keith killed wounded game at ranges considerably beyond 300 yards, although he admitted it was a stunt not to be attempted except where a wounded animal would otherwise escape. The cartridge has the power, it only takes great skill to hit something at that range because of the handgun's looping trajectory. But in this case it was apparently a wild shot.