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



The Old Coyote's alter ego is:

Anthony A. (Swen) Swenson

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A Coyote at the Dog Show

Monday, March 31, 2008- - -  

Pizza delivery guys are doing God's work. People who try to rob them deserve to be shot.

@1:43 PM

Beating sacred cows..
In light of the great ethanol fiasco I've discussed a couple posts down, I'm thinking some hats & T-shirts & bumperstickers might be in order:
Biodiesel! We didn't need those stinky rain forests anyway!

E85? With a billion starving people on this planet don't you think it's a little selfish to fuel your car with food?

Fill up with ethanol! Who cares about those starving children in Africa?

Biofuels = Hippies starving children to feel good about themselves!
But the best is probably the quote directly from Time:
"The grain it takes to fill an SUV tank with ethanol could feed a person for a year."

@7:40 AM

Just kick the football..
Denver is installing cameras to photograph and ticket drivers who run red lights. Other Colorado cities are expanding such programs or planning them, joining more than 300 local governments nationwide.


"There are going to be some fines, and I am glad there are," Denver City Councilman Charlie Brown said. "Of course it produces revenue, but that is not why we do it. We do it for public safety. I think law-abiding citizens will agree with that."
First rule of politics: When they say "It's not about the money", it's about the money. I guess this is what you get when you elect cartoon characters though..

@6:06 AM

Sunday, March 30, 2008- - -  
"The grain it takes to fill an SUV tank with ethanol could feed a person for a year."
Could this be the shark-jumping moment for the biofuels movement? Even Time magazine is beginning to see the problem. Do read the whole thing, it's a good one.

HT: Protein Wisdom

Update: I suppose what puzzles me the most about all this environmental and social devastation is that it's being billed as "unintended consequences". I'm sure that's true; the tree huggers never intended that their demands for "green" fuel would hasten the destruction of the rain forests and the Kumbaya folks never intended to starve children in third world countries. But, while the consequences are unintended, I'm astonished they weren't more widely foreseen. Here's what I had to say just a couple months ago:
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.
I don't intend to beat my own drum here, quite the contrary. I'm not an economist or an expert on global markets. Rain forests are okay, I guess, but all the darn trees block the view and I find them kinda soggy and depressing. All I know is that it takes land, water, and fertilizer, and a bit of sun and good weather to grow crops. Want more crops? Then you've got to plow more land, use more water, and dump on the fertilizer. All the rest follows inevitably from that simple equation.

As I noted, cellulosic ethanol is a different story. Making motor fuel from stuff we would otherwise dispose of is a great idea. I suspect we're not producing enough waste cellulose to meet more than a tiny fraction of our motor fuel demands, but it's waste. Unfortunately, as I'd suspected (but didn't really know, it's been a long while since organic chemistry) cellulosic ethanol isn't nearly ready for prime time and may not be for years. In the mean time, this push for green fuels is giving the grain to ethanol folks a big headstart (including big government subsidies). And let's not forget: Ultimately, given the choice of petroleum gasoline, grain ethanol, or cellulosic ethanol, people are going to consume the cheapest commodity. By subsidizing grain ethanol now we make it that much more difficult for cellulosic ethanol to break into the market when it does become possible. Prying Archer, Daniels, Midland's lips off the government teat isn't going to be easy.

All of this suggests that demanding biofuels before cellulosic ethanol becomes a reality is utter lunacy. The consequences may be unintended, but if I could see this coming surely all the deep thinkers in our government, industry, and environmental movement could as well. (Ps. I'm certainly not the only person who's foreseen a problem here, But I sure haven't seen anyone of any prominence getting very vocal about this prior to the Time article. I suppose beating sacred cows isn't a very popular sport.)

It's going to be interesting to see people's reactions as they learn that every time they fill up their ethanol-powered vehicle they're starving another child in Africa.

@2:28 PM

Friday, March 21, 2008- - -  
Right on cue..
A couple weeks ago I mentioned Yellowstone wolves being found in Colorado and Utah, now we're told a pack may be making Utah its permanent residence.

@6:36 AM

Sunday, March 16, 2008- - -  
Yet another method of controlling the pine beetles..
Earlier I've linked to an article about plugging and injecting select trees and one on thinning the beetles' brood trees. Here's yet another attempt, spraying the trees with insecticide. Hopefully they'll come up with some form of economical and effective control.

@8:59 AM

Saturday, March 15, 2008- - -  
Interesting wildlife news..
No, not that kind* of wildlife, although certainly worth watching. A couple of odd bits of outdoor news. First, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has reached a decision not to list the wolverine on the Endangered Species List, "saying the animal did not warrant protection as a threatened or endangered species." An interesting case. The wolverine is certainly rare, but they've probably always been rare. Are they endangered? The USFWS thinks not.

Then the Wyoming Game and Fish Department says the planned sage grouse hunting season wouldn't be harmful to sage grouse populations. Sage grouse are certainly far less rare than wolverines, but they're being considered for Endangered Species Listing. But it's okay to hunt them. Whatever. I gave up trying to make sage grouse or wolverine edible long ago.

*One man's answer to the age-old question: What would you give up your day job as Governor of New York for?

@5:49 AM

Friday, March 14, 2008- - -  
And the Gov signs it..
CHEYENNE -- Declaring that Wyoming residents have a right to defend their homes, Gov. Dave Freudenthal signed a bill Thursday that spells out in statute that citizens may use deadly force on intruders.


Wyoming joins more than 20 other states in enacting the “castle doctrine,” which has been favored by the National Rifle Association.

Wyoming's version of the bill provides immunity from civil lawsuits to anyone who uses force in defense of his or her “person, property or abode or to prevent injury to another.”

@5:58 AM

Wednesday, March 12, 2008- - -  
Things that make you say.. Wha?
In the fall of 2006, for which data were released Tuesday, 48.6 percent of professional, full-time jobs in higher education were held by faculty members."*
The administrators and hangers-on now officially outnumber the faculty? Well, we saw that one coming, didn't we?

@1:15 PM

Wyoming 'just one of many insignificant states'
In a Letter to the Editor at the Denver Post. I'll try to think of a snarky retort.

@7:35 AM

Saturday, March 08, 2008- - -  
"And We Really, Really Mean It"
CHEYENNE -- Gov. Dave Freudenthal on Friday signed into law a bill that prohibits government officials from confiscating guns from law-abiding citizens.

Sponsor Allen Jaggi, R-Lyman, has said House Bill 57 was prompted by the confiscation of guns by police in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

Freudenthal said afterward that he was pleased to sign the bill, although he didn't think it addressed any real problem.
[emphasis added]
Yep. I've noted that this adds the 'Really Mean It' clause to our 2nd amendment right to keep and bear arms, so I've got to agree with the Gov. Still, it shows that their hearts (and heads) are in the right place. Good for them.

@6:09 AM

Friday, March 07, 2008- - -  
Ya think?
The InstaPundit opines:
The GOP delegation has shown that it would rather stuff its pockets than retain the majority in Congress. It's quite likely that it would rather stuff its pockets than see the GOP take the Presidency, too.
As long as they have this attitude it's probably just as well if they're not in the majority. Although the Repubs are far from alone in stuffing their pockets, at least there's some hope they'll come to their senses. The Dems? Not so much.

@7:26 AM

More on pine beetles
Earlier I'd linked to an article which suggested that thinning trees doesn't help, but here's another article on the folks in Woodland Park, CO, who are cutting the "brood" trees that harbor the pine-beetle larvae. The forest surrounding Woodland Park is about 10% infested.

Perhaps it's a factor of how much of the forest is infested? This suggests that it's better to act now than wait until the whole forest is infested and it's too late. 'Course this sort of thing doesn't sit well with the folks who'd rather see the forest die and burn up than see a logging company touch a single tree.

@7:03 AM

Hey! With any luck we'll get our whole 15 minutes of fame!
Which works out to 0.00175 second per person! (Or 5 minutes per Democrat, I suppose.)*

@6:53 AM

Because they're PC twits?
OMAHA, Neb.When campus police got word that a masked student had a gun at his desk during class, armed officers immediately confronted him, confiscated it and found out others on campus were carrying weapons as well.

But instead of averting a real threat, University of Nebraska authorities found a toy gun that shoots foam darts being used for what amounted to an elaborate game of tag.

Thousands of players, mostly on college campuses, have participated for years in versions of the 24/7 battle to "eliminate" all other players. But some say the game—known widely as "Assassin" or "Assassins"—is ill-suited and possibly dangerous in times when campus shootings are fresh in people's minds.
All of these foam dart guns I've ever seen were very deliberately made not to resemble real guns, so you've got to wonder what sort of idjit saw this kid's "gun" and turned him in. Seems to me there are bigger threats to worry about than kids playing a game, and it seems most universities agree, as the U of Neb is the only college that seems concerned.

@6:44 AM

No wonder the coyotes are getting aggressive!*
BILLINGS, Mont. -- A Montana biologist has withdrawn his claim in a recent study that a rabbit species has disappeared from the Yellowstone area.

Joel Berger, a senior scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society, said Thursday that he has been contacted by at least six biologists and naturalists refuting his conclusions about the white-tailed jackrabbit. He said they provided photos and anecdotal evidence the rabbit still lives in the area.


He said the study's broader point -- that the rabbit's decline may have forced predators to turn to other food sources -- remains valid.


Professional wildlife tracker Jim Halfpenny does frequent work in and around Yellowstone. He said Thursday that he has found multiple signs of the jackrabbits at the north end of the park as recently as last week.

"There's a small portion of Yellowstone in prime jackrabbit habitat," he said. "We've got plenty of jackrabbits there."
The point everyone except Jim Halfpenny seems to miss here is that most of Yellowstone and much of the surrounding area is high mountains with predominantly conifer forest overstories, not good jackrabbit habitat at all. I'd be surprised if jackrabbits ever existed in significant populations in those forested areas. Thus, it's unlikely that predators in those areas ever depended on jackrabbits for subsistence.

This article really highlights a big problem with wildlife management: The wildlife managers. Some of them are very good, experienced outdoorsmen, but all too often they're kids from Brooklyn who moved out west and got a job at a university. You certainly can study the wildlife at universities (I've done perhaps more than my share) but it's not quite the sort of wildlife we're talking about here.

And wildlife management isn't the only field inflicted with city boys. There's whole fields of theoretical archaeologists who've developed elaborate models of prehistoric hunting behavior, without being hunters or really understanding the wildlife and the outdoors. Thus we learn from "Optimal Foraging Theory" that prehistoric North Americans hunted bison but hardly ever hunted rabbits. In theory, if you have a choice between spending the day hunting rabbits or hunting bison, you're going to go for bison because your rate of return is so much higher. Makes sense, but.. you don't have to "hunt" rabbits. If you live out in the hills, you encounter rabbits every day in the course of your activities. It only takes a minute to pick up a rock and whack one when you see it. Unsurprisingly, we find a lot more rabbit bones in prehistoric hearths than we do bison bones. Rabbits were the prehistoric equivalent of fast food: You picked some up on your way to work.

@5:32 AM

Thursday, March 06, 2008- - -  
Good grief!
WASHINGTON - The charming trinket, a medallion, came from a gumball-type machine and cost Colton Burkhart's well-meaning parents only 25 cents. But it nearly cost him his life.

Colton, then 4, swallowed the trinket and became almost fatally poisoned by the lead it contained. Four years and a battery of tests, surgeries and therapy later, the Redmond, Ore., boy still has elevated levels of lead in his body.

His case, hundreds of more like it and record recalls last year of millions of Chinese-produced toys _ from Barbie doll accessories to Thomas the Tank Engine _ inspired Congress to try to overhaul the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the agency charged with ensuring that toys and other products pose no hazard.

The Senate could vote as early as Thursday on a bill that would nearly double the agency's budget and increase its staff to nearly 500 people by 2013.
Wow! 500 whole people to test how many kazillion consumer products sold in this country every year? I feel safer already.

Perhaps this will help, but I can't see how 500 people can handle the load. Consumer protection has always rested on the assumption that no company would want to be known for selling dangerous products. Unfortunately, the good folks in China don't seem to have gotten the message. (Does this stuff ever come from anywhere else?)

I don't know about you, but we've started reading the labels and shunning anything made in China under the assumption that we don't know what they'll come up with next to poison us, so it's best to avoid it all. Rather than expanding the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which seems like a futile gesture, it might be better to require strict country-of-origin labeling on everything. Then let the consumers decide whether they want their children to play with that Chinese-made crap.

@6:00 AM

Will wonders never cease?
CHEYENNE -- Gov. Dave Freudenthal Wednesday vetoed three small parts of the $3.5 billion state budget for the coming two-year biennium before signing it into law.


The budget items vetoed by the governor were*:

* A section that added regional field offices for the Wyoming Business Council. Freudenthal said he remained unconvinced of the need for the regional field offices.

* A footnote on the allocation of $200 million to the Department of Transportation to pay for highway construction and maintenance.
Wyoming's state budget is almost twice the size it was 10 years ago. If there's any evidence of fiscal restraint it would take one of those TV forensic examiners to find it, probably with a portable electron microscope. So, in this financial free-for-all, I wondered what could still be so objectionable that the Gov would refuse to fund it.

Well, the 'footnote' thingy he's vetoed was actually a restriction on the Highway Department's spending, so that's consistent with our current spendthrift ways. 'No, no! Spend the money! I insist!!' But refusing to fund regional field offices for the Wyoming Business Council?! How could he be so cold? So cruel? Restricting the growth of a state government program that shouldn't exist in the first place? I'm shocked.

But, all sarcasm aside, I am surprised. The WBC has assiduously bribed and coerced every municipality, every county, and every legislator in the state, first to extend and then eliminate the sunset clause in their charter, and then to expand their power over economic development into all manner of grants to local government. Fail to buy into their hair-brained schemes and a municipality won't be deemed a "business ready community". There'll be no state economic funding for you and the other little hogs will shoulder you out of the grant trough.

The WBC started out with the express intention of being a state entity that operated on a business model, but they seem to have modeled themselves more along the lines of organized crime. They'll make you an offer you can't refuse. So I'm more than a little surprised that the Gov is rocking their boat.

*No, the Star Tribune hasn't been keeping up with their Monty Python, they forgot to 'proceedeth to three'. Perhaps they were as flabbergasted as I at item 1.

@4:34 AM

Tuesday, March 04, 2008- - -  
Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
CHEYENNE -- The Senate on Monday gave preliminary approval to a bill that would specify people wouldn't have to retreat before using deadly force to repel criminal attacks.


Sen. Bob Fecht, R-Cheyenne, is chief of police in that city. He said Wyoming is attracting members of hardened drug gangs who fear each other and commonly threaten one another's lives.

Under the bill, Fecht said, gang members would be justified in not retreating from each other and shooting each other on sight.

"These aren't young kids who are wearing colors. These are hard-core gang members from major cities who are moving into Wyoming and using it as a hiding place," Fecht said.
Gangsters shooting each other? Sounds like more of a feature than a bug to me. Either way, the behavior of gangsters should be irrelevant to a law affirming that law-abiding citizens have a right to self defense. It is sad though that even in Wyoming some feel we need a law affirming what ought to be well understood.

CHEYENNE -- The state Senate on Tuesday cut language from a self-defense bill that would have specified people were under no duty to retreat before using deadly force.

The Senate voted 17-12 to strip the no-retreat language from the so-called "castle doctrine" bill before passing it on second reading on Tuesday.

As the bill stands now, it specifies that people who kill others in self-defense would be immune from civil lawsuits.

Supporters say the "castle doctrine" bill is named after the English common-law principle that a person's home is his castle, and that he doesn't have to try to retreat before killing anyone who breaks into harm him.


Sen. Kit Jennings, R-Casper, sponsored the bill, HB 137, on the Senate floor. He said the amendment passed Tuesday gutted the bill.
Well yeah. A castle doctrine law without no-retreat language isn't a castle doctrine law anymore. I suppose giving immunity from civil lawsuits is worthwhile but, as an attorney friend has pointed out, you can't really restrict people's right to sue. You can argue about whether or not you have immunity during the lawsuit, but you'll still need a lawyer to make the argument.

This is one of those issues that seems to defy logic. If you're already in your home, where are you supposed to retreat to? Are you supposed to evacuate your family out the back window? Massad Ayoob advocates creating a "safe room" in your home, with a heavy wooden door the can be locked, as a last refuge when someone breaks into your home. That's not a bad idea, but it presents problems unless you're going to have all members of your family sleep in that room. Hell, given today's rash of hot burglaries you'd better just have them stay in the safe room all the time, hmm?

It's a sad comment on the times that you might be sued by a burglar if you hurt him, and even sadder that he just might win the suit.

@7:37 AM

Monday, March 03, 2008- - -  
An ethical conundrum
Here's an interesting question and answer that I first read in the Denver Post's dead tree edition. Should a doctor include information on his patient's illicit drug use in the patient's records, knowing that an insurance company may deny the patient coverage because of his risky behavior?

On one hand, the doctor certainly ought to know about any drugs being taken, legal or otherwise, in order to provide the best possible treatment. There's long been an assumption of 'doctor-patient privilege' much like the 'lawyer-client privilege', so I'm not surprised that the patient is a bit irked.

On the other hand, the patient has entered into an agreement with the insurer to provide insurance, based on the patient providing a truthful account of the his health and behavior. The patient had to sign a release before the insurance company could review his medical records. Should the doctor not disclose the patient's early-stage cancer so that the patient can go out and get insurance to cover the cost of the cancer after being diagnosed? That would hardly seem fair to the insurance company.

I can't say I much care for this part of the answer:
Everyone has a moral right to health care. Current public policy, built around private insurers, can thwart that access by denying coverage or making it prohibitively expensive for those who have a serious medical condition like HIV, for example. Under this system, it is difficult to imagine a really good course of action for a physician. Only a change in public policy can truly solve your problem.
Riight. So instead of the rest of us picking up the cost of the uninsured by way of higher health care costs and higher insurance premiums, we'll pick up the cost by way of higher taxes. Or something. It's unclear what public policy change Randy Cohen is promoting here, but it sounds like some form of universal single-payer health care. Great idea. Instead of the insurance company denying coverage we'll have the government denying treatment. At least that's how socialized medicine works in Canada and Britain. One big exception though. The patient won't be able to fly to the US and pay for their own treatment like the Brits & Canadians do, because it won't be available here anymore either.

Do we have a "moral right to health care"? Do we have a moral right to take the money from someone else, through the power of government, to pay for our health care when we haven't had the foresight to provide for our own health care? What if the treatment isn't covered by our insurance for some reason? Do we then have the moral right to demand that the government tax someone else to pay for it?

I believe we have a moral obligation to care for the less fortunate and I have no problem with doctors who feel they have a moral obligation to provide the best possible care (I'd have a big problem with a doctor who didn't feel that way!). But just because I believe I have a moral obligation to give the occasional donation to the local public health clinic and the local food bank doesn't mean that I think I have the right to force you to donate. What I believe is the morally right thing to do and what you believe is the morally right thing to do may be quite different, and I don't believe that I have the right or obligation to force my vision of morality on you (so long as you stay off my lawn!).

There's an interesting discussion of the difference between negative rights and positive rights at Wikipedia that outlines my opposition to such things:
Negative rights may be used to justify political rights such as freedom of speech, property, habeas corpus, freedom from violent crime, freedom of worship, a fair trial, freedom from slavery and the right to bear arms. Positive rights may be used to justify public education, health care, social security or a minimum standard of living.
The problem is, positive rights can be taken to absurd extremes. Do you have a positive right to receive television broadcasts? Our federal government is poised to spend $1.5 billion (last I heard) to assist those who've been getting free off-air TV in transitioning to HD broadcasts. Do you have a positive right to have the government rebuild or replace your home if you're such an idiot that you live in a flood-prone area? Do you have a positive right to bread and circuses? Once you start down the road toward providing what people think they have a positive right to, you'll quickly find that people are pretty positive that they have a right to all kinds of things, so long as someone else is buying.

@5:51 AM

Run for it, Jimmah!
This article in the Denver Post on why you shouldn't buy an Easter bunny for the kids (or why you should), depicts (in the dead tree edition) Debe Bell, owner of Six Bells Farm in Arvada, holding a gigantic white rabbit. Which prompted me to google "world's largest rabbit". Here he is. Herman, a 22-pound "German giant". As the photo caption notes Look at those feet!

@5:02 AM

Dangerously close to perfection!
I've tried sangria a few times through the years, but always found it too sticky sweet for my tastes. Check out some of the recipes I found on the intertubes and you'll see why; many call for a cup of sugar. That's fine if you like to drink wine-tasting syrup, but I find it pretty gaggy.

However, we were whiling away the afternoon in Amarillo and decided to have lunch at Abuelo's, where we found the sangria quite tasty. We chatted up the bartender (people tell my wife deeply personal things they wouldn't tell their best friends, an uncanny gift for conversation) and he gave us some hints about the recipe.

A couple days ago it was downright hot here in Ft. Morgan, where we're visiting the M-I-L, and we decided to give it a shot. Here's what we stirred up:

1/2 lemon
1/2 lime
1/2 tangerine
1/2 orange
1/2 can pineapple chunks in pineapple juice (add juice as well)
12 oz Ronrico citrus rum (it was in the bargain bin)
1 bottle Charles Shaw Cabernet*
16 oz salt-free seltzer water

Cut fruit in wedges and slice thin, add pineapple, marinate in rum for 2-3 hours, then add wine and seltzer. Serve over a glassful of crushed ice. It's very refreshing and not sticky sweet. I'll try varying the recipe some -- Abuelo's uses peach brandy, and I'm betting that half a cheap bottle of champagne would make a great substitute for the seltzer water -- but this is pretty close to perfect. In fact it was so good we even stirred up another batch and drank it yesterday while we watched it snow! Yes, it's springtime in the Rockies and the weather frequently sux.

*Can you believe it? Two-buck Chuck now costs three bucks! It's still a great bargain though, and it seems a sin to use good (err, expensive) Cabernet to make sangria.

@3:02 AM

Sunday, March 02, 2008- - -  
Aren't we forgetting someone here?
The InstaPundit links to Jacob Sullum's discussion of Obama's stance on the 2nd amendment, and to Tim Cavanaugh's comment that Obama is better than Hillary on guns. Okaaay.. What about McCain? Last I checked he was also running.

Gun Owners of America says McCain? No way! giving McCain an F- in their latest rating, right down there with Clinton's F-. They don't give a rating for Obama, at least that I can find, but make it clear that he's no friend of gun owners either.

Seems that on the 2nd amendment issue there is no lesser, they're all evil.

@10:31 AM

Saturday, March 01, 2008- - -  
Well, alrighty then..
I'd wondered if there wasn't some sort of insecticide treatment that could stop the pine beetles that are eating all our conifers. Here's an article on just such efforts. Seems that insecticide spraying and thinning have proven ineffective. However, Vail Resorts is exploring the use of an injected "repellent" that will kill the beetles (not sure why it's call a repellent if it kills 'em). One wee problem: The treatment is estimated to cost $20 per tree. That means we won't be saving vast swaths of forest with this treatment.

Check out the upper photo that accompanies the article and you'll see the problem. All those brown trees are dead and dry but still standing, like a giant tinderbox. In a fire they go up like torches and take the few remaining live trees with them. Not a good situation.

@8:13 PM

"Extremist accused in Bhutto killing"
An extremist? You don't say. I suppose that's because moderates don't usually blow people up.

@7:06 AM

I'll get you and your little dog!
Golden police have arrested a woman accused of intentionally hitting a man and his dog with her car Thursday night.

Rebecca McKenzie was booked into Jefferson County Jail today and will face charges of attempted homicide, vehicular assault and cruelty to an animal.
Oh man, she even looks like the Wicked Witch of the West.

@6:57 AM

Banta Shut-in
The next installment in my much belated photo posting from Big Bend NP. This place doesn't look like much, but we've got a lot of sweat equity in it. It's a 16-mile roundtrip from the trailhead. The hiking book rates it as "strenuous", which I thought was odd (before we started), because there's very little elevation change. All you do is trudge down Estufa Canyon drainage and then up Tornillos Creek. Through the loose gravel of the drainage bottoms almost all the way. This tortures muscles I barely knew I had. Now I know how the French Foreign Legionaires felt after a hard day in the sands of the Sahara.

It was a moderately hot day and we needed every drop of the 6.5 liters of water "we" carried. (My wife doesn't do the mule thing so I had 5.5 liters in my pack to start off. Fortunately, the load lightens all too quickly.) I've concluded that there are some places like this that are included in the hiking guides primarily so you can cross them off the list and brag about going there, while secretly vowing never to be so stupid again.

That's not really fair, as we did see some interesting sights along the way, including these strange cherty concretions in the volcanic rock just south of the shut-in. This one is about a foot across. Neither of us knows much about volcanic rock so we have no idea what this is or how it's formed. The dark veins look like chert and the lighter material looks like tuff. It's weathering out of a black lava flow. Unfortunately, our brains also looked about like this by the time we found the things and we didn't examine them closely.

That's one of the things that's so fun about hiking in Big Bend. The terrain, the geology, the vegetation, and the wildlife are all different than what we're used to and we find something new and unusual (at least to us) every time we hike. Endlessly entertaining in a masochistic sort of way.

@6:13 AM

Simply spectacular!
I've been horribly remiss in posting photos of our adventures at Big Bend. I plead exhaustion -- we did all the easy hikes last year -- after hiking 15 miles all I want to do is take a shower, eat, and fall in bed. But I'm starting to get rested up, so I'll try to post a few pix.

Here's the South Rim of the Chisos Mountains, looking toward the west. The view is utterly spectacular from up there, well worth the hike, which is a grueling, steep 13-mile round-trip. Fortunately, we did it on a cool day so the 6.5 liters of water we were carrying was enough. Barely. Fortunately for us, part of the rim was closed because the raptors were having wild bird sex, or we could have made it a 16-mile hike. Maybe next year if I spend enough time on the StairMaster..

Here's another view from the rim looking south. (Yeah, that's my finger, I was shading the lens with my hand and haven't cropped these photos.)

We were usually down below looking up at all these mountains so it was quite different to be looking down on Elephant's Tusk and Triangulation Mountain from the highest point in the park.

It was quite hazy most all the time while we were here this year, a combination of dust, humidity, and probably a bit of smog from El Paso/Juarez. Too bad, because the mountains on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande are spectacular. I'd love to hike that area, but it's pretty darn difficult to get to without a circuitous trip south into Mexico. Not a lot of roads down there. Nor people, nor gas stations, and motels are right out. It would be easy to cross the river and have at it, but that upsets the Border Patrol. Maybe someday..

@5:39 AM

Good grief!
The more I read about the Las Vegas ricin case and all the foreign pilots still being trained the safer I feel. I mean! Our Homeland Security guys sound like they're really on the ball. A little old lady sure can't get a pair of eyebrow tweezers past them. /sarcasm

@5:30 AM

Even the bookies in Vegas wouldn't touch this one
CHEYENNE -- A bill under review by the state Senate Labor, Health and Social Services Committee would strengthen protection for doctors in medical malpractice cases.

House Bill 18 would tighten an existing law called the "loss of chance doctrine." Under current law, patients' families can sue physicians in cases where the doctor could have chosen a different treatment that would have resulted in a lower than 50 percent chance of the patient's survival.

The bill would limit the loss of chance doctrine to only be applicable to cases where there was lower than 50 percent chance of living, but more than 25 percent.

Rep. Tim P. Hallinan, R-Gillette, sponsored the bill and is also a doctor. He said current statute allows patients' families to sue even if there was a 1 percent chance of living.

The committee is expected to vote on the bill next week.
Seems to me that if there's a goodly chance you're gonna die, your family shouldn't be able to sue the doctor when you do, so long as the doctor discussed all the treatment options with you and you made the decision fully informed (assuming of course that the doctor didn't simply screw up, a big assumption in itself). 'Course, I imagine most lawyers would disagree.

@5:05 AM

"unfairly influenced by political agendas"?
No! Not the US Fish & Wildlife Service!

Of course, these folks didn't complain when the USFWS was pressured into reintroducing wolves in Yellowstone. Nobody on the coasts complained when they disregarded science and introduced foreign wolves into an area that already had a small wolf population of unknown origin. Those wolves may have been* a native subspecies, which would have made them exceedingly rare and certainly endangered. But they're gone now, their bloodlines inextricably mixed with that of the foreign wolves introduced by the USFWS. The USFWS knew those wolves were there but, under political pressure and with a big chunk of cash for a reintroduction effort dangling in front of their snouts, they introduced the foreign wolves without any visible attempt to determine the nature of the wolves that were already there.

So the question isn't whether the USFWS has disregarded the best available science or been swayed by political pressure. They have disregarded science and they are swayed by political pressure. No doubt about that. The only question that remains is whose political pressure they're going to bow to this time.

*Those wolves may also have been naturally reintroducing themselves from populations to the north in northern Montana and Canada -- fairly likely considering that Yellowstone wolves have been found in Colorado and Utah, they get around -- or they may have been clandestinely introduced by someone too impatient to wait for the federal reintroduction effort. Bottom line, we'll never know now, unless the USFWS actually does know and isn't talking. Interestingly, they do have at least one wolf that was shot just outside Yellowstone before the reintroduction. Last I heard the studies of that wolf were 'inconclusive'. It would be interesting to have a neutral party do another round of DNA testing on that varmint. Hell, give me the bones, a set of calipers, and a few hours with the comparative collections and I could probably tell you with a fair degree of certainty whether the critter was raised in captivity. Being raised in captivity stunts their growth and causes distinctively bowed legs.

@4:07 AM

Hey! My hometown's in the news!
(Yes, I'm a Williston Coyote. "Winning ugly"? Jeez, even I'm not that bad. Am I?)
WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) -- Williston State College President Joe McCann, who has applied for the presidencies of two Wyoming colleges, was the subject of a recent no-confidence vote by faculty who do not believe he is a good fit for the northwestern North Dakota school.

The Jan. 14 vote was taken by secret ballot. Twenty-five of the 26 voting members of the school's Faculty Council, which represents all faculty, said they did not have confidence in McCann's performance as president.
"Williston State College"? Before they put on airs they used to be "UND Williston", a votek school. I took courses in diesel mechanics and welding there. Whatever. Why is it that everyone else's rejects always move to Wyoming?


Oh, wait, I moved to Wyoming from North Dakota. Nevermind then.

@2:56 AM

Critical Idiom Shortage
WASHINGTONA crippling idiom shortage that has left millions of Americans struggling to express themselves spread like tugboat hens throughout the U.S. mainland Tuesday in an unparalleled lingual crisis that now has the entire country six winks short of an icicle.
They should try recycling. That's what I do with cliches.

@2:47 AM

Now why didn't I think of this?
Someone else is always coming up with the next great idea. Oh well, I'm getting these for all my friends this Christmas.

@2:33 AM

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