Monday, November 30, 2015

City Turkeys

And I am not talking about politicians.

About five yards from me and 100 yards away from the University of Minnesota Medical Center (East Side).

A Good Dog's Pedigree

"Stoic the Vast"
Boston Terrier x Chihuahua

A friend has a four-month old Boston Terrier x French Bulldog mix and that let to some late night googling "Boston Terrier Mix."  Scrolling through the images and I come across an apparent doppelganger for our own Stoic.

I know very little about Boston Terriers and even less about Chihuahuas but the mix would account for the size and structure we see in him.

Ultimately the whole breed game is just that: a game.  It makes for interesting speculation but that is about it.  Stoic is an excellent rat killer.  He will make a fine therapy dog (he tests in two weeks).  In the months to come, I'll see if he can be turned on to tracking wounded game.

He is a bit barrel chested, "spannable" but just barely.  In the spring I will set up some dummy burrows to have him work through to kill mice and rats.  Given his prey drive and nose, I'm convinced he could master the go-to-ground sports but that chest might be too much for actual go-to-ground work.

My experience is pretty limited, but next summer the initial plan is to spend some time in Minnesota's public hunting grounds searching for groundhogs (groundhogs are protected in Wisconsin) and give Sparta a chance to explore and work real burrows and me a chance to see if I really can work a Deben Terrier Locator.  If circumstances allow I'll decide then to whether or not it seems safe to test him on some larger burrows.

My larger point is this, Stoic has all the promise to be a great dog, a working dog, a sporting dog, and a companion dog.  It matters a whit not the the pedigree (or not) of the bitch that whelped him or the stud that sired him.  If you're looking for a dog to do a specific thing (terrier work, tracking wounded game) it probably is a good idea to talk to a breeder who serves that kind of hunter, most of us, however, can be well served by a dog of proper skill set but unknown origin.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Walking the University of Minnesota Quad

Today we made a ten mile urban loop through some appreciating neighborhoods of Minneapolis.

Our urban walks take us by or through the University at least two dozen times a year and it is always enjoyable.  I confess I enjoy it more in the winter and more so on a Sunday morning.  Yes, there might be a little vomit in the bushes or on the sidewalk but the grounds keepers have been out and the ice has been removed.  

Besides, where else am I ever again going to hear a twenty something girl say the words, "Well, aren't you a handsome boy!"  I could care less that she is staring at the dog at my feet.

Learning is line a never ending staircase.  Sometimes, as in this case, sections of the staircase are covered in goose poop.

Cyrus Northrop Auditorium
The Cyrus Northrop Auditorium was built in 1929 and renovated in 2014.  I haven't been inside since a friend too me to hear Desmond Tutu speak in what must have been 2003. That was a good day.

The inscription reads,

The University of Minnesota
Founded in the faith that men are ennobled by understanding.
Dedicated to the advancement of learning and the search for truth.
Devoted to the instruction of youth and the welfare of the state.

Maybe the first statement is true, maybe understanding just makes us more efficient and effective bigots.  I'm agnostic on the topic.  The second two statements, however, are great values on which to build a good life or a good society.  Those are the values that did, and could again, unite a diverse nation.

I vote for a return to those values as the foundation of our education system.

Bronze doors on Walter Library.  Completed in 1923, it was the primary library of the university for many years and now houses the College of Science and Engineering Library.

The building itself is in the Roman Renaissance style that dominates the U of M quad, so much so that I first thought of them as "square and non-descript, a testament to the utilitarian values of the upper mid-west of the late 19th and 20th century."  The truth is my high school was in the Roman Renaissance style, and there is a fair chance that your's was as well.

Architecture, just one of the many everyday things we take for granted and must learn to see.

The bronze doors and metal work, as recognition to the value of what lies beyond them.  A small force armed with spears could also defend the library against a riotous mob of ideologues, if it ever came to that.
Dogs dig bronze.

Ever vigilant against ignorance.

Save the Date

Nala was on the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis helping her sapiens with their engagement photos.

Voltaire on Sunday

Friday, November 27, 2015

Either Way, I don't mind

"Woke up today and decided to kill my ego. 
It aint ever done me no good no how." 

And if you're not subscribed to NPR's Tiny Desk Concert, you're missing out.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Good Guy REI

While others are out looking for "bargains," I will be out running some tracks with the terriers.  We might make time for a walk as well.

REI: getting it right.

Happy Thanksgiving

It is a good time to remember just what it is you are thankful for.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Out with a whimper?

Raising even a portion of your own food requires a new way of looking at the world.

You begin with a lot of ideas bouncing around in your head.  Experience teaches you about reality.

The reality that insecticides and herbicides, properly used, were wonderful revolutions in horticulture.

The reality of how  there really isn't any money to be made.

The realities of how fragile life really can be.

When we first got goats I realized fairly quickly that I needed to supplement with selenium.  We'd raised rabbits with a combination of hay and store bought feed.  We'd raised chickens on a mix of grain and household scraps.

Feeding store bought feeds and human scraps, the selenium wasn't a problem.  Feeding goats on pasture, I learned that even my lush hillside was not self-sufficient, even if I kept the number of herbivore's low.  We needed to import something and that something was selenium.

Thanks to big data, researchers can now take a long look at the prevalence of minerals in the environment over the eons and one look at that data suggests that global selenium deficiency may have contributed to three of the planet's mass extinctions.

But in periods where landmasses are drifting apart – such as 200 million years ago, when the vast supercontinent Pangaea was breaking up – selenium levels can collapse.
Towards the end of the Triassic period, 205 million years ago, selenium levels were around 60 parts per million in ocean sediments. Just three million years later, that figure plummeted to less than two parts per million. Large found similar patterns at the end of the two other unexplained mass extinctions – the Ordovician (more than 440 million years ago) and the Devonian (more than 355 million years ago).
Fear not, mountains are building, there is plenty of global selenium to go around.  If you rave livestock in the red, however, your livestock will benefit if you import more.

Man Pup

Red cotton dress shirt, chomping on gum, learning to handle a bolt action .22, yep, I might be raising kids on Central Time.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

St. Hubert

St. Hubert is the patron saint of hunters and of hunting ethics.

From Wikipedia:

His wife died giving birth to their son, and Hubert retreated from the court, withdrew into the forested Ardennes, and gave himself up entirely to hunting. But a great spiritual revolution was imminent. On Good Friday morning, when the faithful were crowding the churches, Hubert sallied forth to the chase. As he was pursuing a magnificent stag or hart, the animal turned and, as the pious legend narrates, he was astounded at perceiving a crucifix standing between its antlers, while he heard a voice saying: "Hubert, unless thou turnest to the Lord, and leadest an holy life, thou shalt quickly go down into hell". Hubert dismounted, prostrated himself and said, "Lord, what wouldst Thou have me do?" He received the answer, "Go and seek Lambert, and he will instruct you." 
The story of the hart appears first in one of the later legendary hagiographies (Bibliotheca hagiographica latina, nos. 3994–4002) and has been appropriated from the legend of Saint Eustace or Placidus. It was first attributed to St. Hubert in the 15th century.
Sankt Hubertus (German) is honored among sport-hunters as the originator of ethical hunting behavior. 
During Hubert's religious vision, the Hirsch is said to have lectured Hubertus into holding animals in higher regard and having compassion for them as God's creatures with a value in their own right. For example, the hunter ought to only shoot when a humane, clean and quick kill is assured. He ought shoot only old stags past their prime breeding years and to relinquish a much anticipated shot on a trophy to instead euthanize a sick or injured animal that might appear on the scene. Further, one ought never shoot a female with young in tow to assure the young deer have a mother to guide them to food during the winter. Such is the legacy of Hubert who still today is taught and held in high regard in the extensive and rigorous German and Austrian hunter education courses.

Settled Science

A year ago a coastal judge unilaterally returned the Wisconsin wolf to endangered species list.  The logic being that because the wolf had not returned to the whole of its historic range, it was still, in need of protection.

The rejection of the ruling was not limited to predator hunters or those living "up north."  Everyone with knowledge rooted in place found the ruling nonsensical.

The historical ship has sailed.  Living in the present, the wolf is best protected if we discourage it from becoming established in all of its previous range.  We best protect the wolf by managing its numbers where it does maintain breeding populations so that the people who live there continue to believe the wolf is worth protecting under the law instead of dispatching under the three S's: shoot, shovel, shut up.

From 2014:

By now we expect absurdity and fantasy in our wolf-management programs, but last week’s federal court ruling that returned Great Lakes wolves to the Endangered Species List is likely the silliest decision yet. 
In effect, U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell in Washington, D.C., declared that although gray wolves aren’t biologically endangered in the Western Great Lakes, they remain legally endangered. In other words, she found reality illegal. 
Is nothing easy with wolves? The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service first removed the Western Great Lakes’ wolf population from the ESL in 2007, but court rulings have since forced the F&WS to restore federal protection four times. 
In this most recent dismissal of science, Judge Howell held the F&WS to its original 1978 decision to protect the gray wolf “species” in the entire Lower 48. Therefore, she found that most of the area specified as Western Great Lakes wolf range didn’t offer wolves enough protection. 
Specifically, Howell cited Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Illinois, North and South Dakota, and two-thirds of Minnesota as unsafe for wolves. No matter that those states and most of Minnesota lie outside the region’s best wolf habitat – northeastern Minnesota, northern Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula – which wolves recolonized the past 30 years. 
Basically, Judge Howell said it’s not enough that Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan have healthy wolf populations in their Northern forests. By her interpretation, the states still haven’t done enough to meet the Endangered Species Act’s legal requirements. She noted that wolves sometimes wander far from their birth range, and state laws do little to protect them. 
She also said Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan are “deficient” in addressing the possibility that disease and illegal kills could interact with each other and threaten the species.Are we really supposed to write laws to protect individual animals or entire species from every eventuality? We can’t even do that for ourselves, judging by recent protests from Ferguson to Milwaukee to New York.
There are people and organizations whose moral universe is informed by a Manichean view of the human interaction with the natural order.  Humanity, outside its original role of subsistence hunter/gatherer, is unnatural and evil.  The rest of nature is pure and good.  We have met Mordor, and he is us.

This is the same kind of thinking that brings you anti-GMO nonsense, when it is not their children who will starve.  This is the same kind of thinking that brings you the anti-vaccine message, they do not believe it is their children who will suffer and die.

They want the wolf to range the same space it did prior to the Columbian contact, and they do not feel bound to make arguments to their fellow citizens.  They will use law-fare believing they can force their moral order on the rest of us.

They confuse law and culture.  From speed limits to bedroom games, people do what they think is right, and do not obey the guidelines of some far away lawgiver.  Using one ideologically driven view of the law to restrain culture without making an argument to the culture just cheapens the law.

The quickest way to undo the gains the wolf has made is to turn the residents of the northern states against the policies designed to protect the wolf.  A few will go to Madison to plead their case.  Those who stay home will be much more effective.

The Manicheans do not make an argument to convince the rest of us because they only have ideological arguments and we are not ready to be converted to their religion.  Reality, science, and any view of the Anthropocene as anything other than an aboriginal utopia, are united embracing the reality that today the wolf has recovered
A group of leading wolf scientists are urging the western Great Lakes population of gray wolves be removed from protections of the Endangered Species Act. 
The 26 scientists, including Dave Mech of the University of Minnesota and Adrian Wydeven of the Timber Wolf Alliance, argue the species has successfully recovered in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin and should be delisted. 
"It is in the best interests of gray wolf conservation and for the integrity of the Endangered Species Act for wolves to be delisted in the western Great Lakes states where biological recovery has occurred and where adequate regulatory mechanisms are in place to manage the species," wrote the scientists in a letter delivered Wednesday to Sally Jewell, Secretary of the Department of Interior, and Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 
The scientists' position supports past decisions by government agencies, which has moved three times to delist the wolf in the region, only to be overturned by lawsuits or legal challenges.

The men and women who live with wolves have abidded by the good sense legislation that has protected the wolf and allowed its return.  If that regulation becomes foolishnes, however, people will protect themselves, their livestock, and their pets with the resources they have on hand.

When we do not feel protected by the law, we begin to protect ourselves, and the wolf will lose when women and men who live with the wolf learn to disregard the protections we have extended to the wolf.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Sunbeam dreaming


Seasick Steve knocks it out of the park

If I have to acknowledge that it is my birthday, lets throw down some Seasick Steve.

DB Cooper Day

Today is my birthday but the celebration is postponed until tomorrow.  It started as a compromise but it became something a little more serious.

My bride likes to celebrate birthdays and for the first twelve years of marriage she was content to make sure that I celebrated her's, and then the children's.  No harm there, all good fun.

As the kids got a little older, it wasn't enough to celebrate four birthdays however, she tried to rope me into the whole ordeal.  It was important for the kids, she thought, to learn to give through marking my birthday.

I don't want my birthday celebrated and I have to ask you, dear reader, to trust me when I say that it is not because I have a fear of growing older or having my life slip away unawares.  It just don't like arbitrary celebrations.

Today is the anniversary of my birth and, though I am an adult, there is cake a presents.  For what?  To commemorate the fact that I have not died yet?  What if I'd spent the last year lying in bed, eating Oreo cookies, and pleasuring myself?  Would we still celebrate that?

They love me.  I get it.  Can't we all just shut off the lights when we leave the house or close your bedroom door so the rescue terrier isn't tempted to turn your stuffed animal into his chew toy?

Add Facebook to the mix and I have maybe hundreds of people, prompted by algorithm to wish me a happy born day.  People I have not seen in twenty-five years or more wishing me a happy birthday.  Yes, their intentions are innocent.  They are, each and every one of them, more generous human beings than I.

There is no problem, really, but I have as much right to my curmudgeonly ways as everyone else has to their thoughtless traditions.  I merely need to remind myself, "There is no why" and move on.

When the wife and children have conspired together, one is compelled.  How does one react when faced with a meaningless exercise when participation is outside of one's own control?  Fill it with meaning.

Consequently, part of my annual "spiritual" practice has been the celebration of D.B. Cooper Day.

For those of you too young or too preoccupied to remember, DB Cooper was/is a criminal.  There is no legal excuse for his actions but, speaking of morals, his error was much smaller.  We he did he accomplished with a degree of excellence that few humans can ever hope to attain in their own vocations.  Despite his crime, this is what makes him worthy of reflection every November 24th.

The brief version from Wikipedia:

D. B. Cooper is a media epithet popularly used to refer to an unidentified man who hijacked a Boeing 727 aircraft in the airspace between Portland, Oregon, and SeattleWashington, on November 24, 1971, extorted$200,000 in ransom (equivalent to $1,170,000 in 2015), and parachuted to an uncertain fate. Despite an extensive manhunt and an ongoing FBI investigation, the perpetrator has never been located or positively identified. The case remains the only unsolved air piracy in American aviation history.[1][2][3]

The suspect purchased his airline ticket using the alias Dan Cooper, but because of a [1][4] The discovery of a small cache of ransom bills in 1980 triggered renewed interest but ultimately only deepened the mystery, and the great majority of the ransom remains unrecovered.
news media miscommunication he became known in popular lore as "D. B. Cooper". Hundreds of leads have been pursued in the ensuing years, but no conclusive evidence has ever surfaced regarding Cooper's true identity or whereabouts. Numerous theories of widely varying plausibility have been proposed by experts, reporters, and amateur enthusiasts.
While FBI investigators have stated from the beginning that Cooper probably did not survive his risky jump,[5] the agency maintains an active case file—which has grown to more than 60 volumes[6]—and continues to solicit creative ideas and new leads from the public. "Maybe a hydrologist can use the latest technology to trace the $5,800 in ransom money found in 1980 to where Cooper landed upstream," suggested Special Agent Larry Carr, leader of the investigation team since 2006. "Or maybe someone just remembers that odd uncle."[5]
As for me, I hope we never see Ol' D.B. Cooper again.

Here are the important parts.
  • No one was ever put at risk except Cooper himself.  There was no real bomb.  He did not hit or abuse anyone.  He did what he felt he needed to do, and he was a gentleman about it.
  • He kept his mouth shut.  Maybe this is because he died in the jump, but I am inclined to think he lived at least a bit longer.  As coach said about sportsmanship, "Win like it happens everyday."
  • He was excellent.  His plan shows creativity and originality.  He was fit.  He was smart.  He did what he knew with professionalism and style.  He stuck it to the man without hurting a soul.

Could we all do what we believe needs to be done with such intelligence, daring, and, yes, virtue?  We should all try to be as excellent as Mr. D.B. Cooper.

Does it matter that his excellence was demonstrated through the breaking of the law?  Through stealing money from an airliner?  Through transgressing the property rights of Northwest Orient Airlines?

Not to me.  If you think you can become a better human being without transgressing some social norms, I'd wonder if you've put much critical thought into what it means to be an excellent human being and the limits of culture and civilization.  An excellent racehorse is not like every other race horse.  An excellent hunter is not like every other hunter.  An excellent homo sapiens is not just like every other homo sapiens.  Just don't put anyone else at risk in the process.

So on the 24th of every year, ,my family celebrates D.B. Cooper Day.  The month before the 24th of November is spent reflection upon what disciplines I might undertake in the next twelve months that would make me a more excellent human being, and only rarely things that I want to accomplish by those disciplines.  Embracing disciplines are within my grasp.  Knowing what will come out of them is not.  I write the goals down in a notebook, and tell no one.

The purpose of keeping my goals a secret is because it avoids the tenancy to seek praise for good intentions.  Don't praise me for committing to loose fifty pounds, but you might notice that I do not use the elevator on even numbered months, eat a simpler diet, and maybe have lost thirty.

Don't praise me for taking an aggressive stance toward improving my own mental health, but a careful observer might notice that I seem happier and more relaxed since I started journaling through Epictetus' Discourses or Marcus Aurelius' Meditations.

Being honest, no one watches a man in his mid-forties that closely so most of the goals take place in blissful secrecy.  I've yet to decide a hard rule about sharing the discipline successess or failures after the year has passed.  Perhaps with friend who knows me well enough?  I've got one or two of those.

Yes, and the wife makes a cake for D.B. Cooper Day and this year it will have 42 candles on it.  The children will "Happy Birthday" (though soon maybe we can replace that with the DB Cooper song below... maybe I should learn the chords) but at least the celebration comes with some reflection and expectations for the months to come.  If one is going to bother being alive another year, might as well make good use of that year.

    Sunday, November 22, 2015

    Feeding hay

    In ten years of keeping livestock this is the latest we've gone into the fall before feeding hay.  The weather gets a lot of the credit but so does the fact that we had fewer lambs than normal this summer and the pasture is at full health.

    The problem with small bales is getting them and, since we do not have a large barn, storing them.

    The problem with large bales is moving them and the amount of hay the animals waste.

    Good relations with the neighbors can help get the bales in place.  Over the years I have learned to place them uphill from where the sheep will be fed.  The bride and I can roll them down hill has needed.

    Every year I have tried something a little different to try to reduce the amount of waste.  Getting hay off the ground helps.  Using cattle panels with sheep sized cut outs helps a little more.  Accepting that some amount of waste is inescapable doesn't help with the problem, but it does help one's mental health.  Still every year I try something a little different based upon what I have learned in the past.  This year I am using some scrap lumber to build a large rectangular feeder.

    I am thankful for some quality hay this year.  Best hay I have ever fed.  If you're local and in the market, drop me a line.  I have a source to recommend.

    Voltaire on Sunday

    Saturday, November 21, 2015

    Personal Growth

    Rover understood Rex's desire to chase the stick, he just wasn't "there" anymore.

    Friday, November 20, 2015

    Natural Forces

    Homo sapiens is as much a product of nature as the whitetail and the wolf.  Each of us is a natural force.

    To the extent there is such a thing as human exceptionalism, it lies in the fact that human excellence is not a matter of genetics but rather it is fostered.  We're not born with it, we make movements towards it.  We can gain wisdom.  We can become courageous.  We can learn temperance.  We can become practiced in justice.

    I've know some people born with two strikes against them who went on to be models of human excellence.

    We each have the power to live according to human nature, we all have the potential to be excellent sapiens.

    If change is called for,
    • put down the Coors Lite,
    • turn off the television,
    • stop praying to be changed,
    • bid your former life goodbye.


    Home is where my hunt is,

    "Natural Forces"

    I rode across the great high plain
    Under the scorchin' sun and thru the drivin' rain
    An' when I set my sights on the mountains high
    I bid my former life goodbye.

    An' so thank you ma'am, I must decline
    For it's on my steed I will rely
    An' I've learned to need the open sky
    I'm subject to the natural forces
    Home is where my horse is.

    We loaded up in Buffalo
    Took 90 South down to Ohio
    On 80 West I'm Frisco-bound
    An' when I get there I'll turn back around

    An' so thank you ma'am, I must decline
    For it's on these eighteen wheels I ride
    An' I'm underneath the western sky
    I'm subject to the natural forces
    Home is where my horse is.

    And ev'ry year they come to town
    An' then drag em on right in the round
    And Mr Bradley calls the score
    And the cowboy there who tried for more

    So thank you ma'am, I must decline
    For it's on my three-year-old I ride
    An' I've spin an' run an' stopped an' slide [?]
    I'm subject to the natural forces
    Home is where my horse is.


    The Cherokee an' the Chickasaw
    Creek Seminole an' the old Choctaw
    "We volunteered to move!" they say
    "And we'll understand, come Judgement Day".

    An' so thank you ma'am, I must decline
    For it's on this trail of tears I ride
    An' I'm under Oklahoma skies
    Sometimes at night I hear their voices
    Home is where my horse is.

    Now as I sit here safe at home
    With a cold Coors Lite an' the TV on
    All the sacrifice and the death and woe
    Lord I pray that I'm worth fighting for

    An' so thank you ma'am, I must decline
    For it's on my RPG I ride
    Till Earth an' hell are satisfied
    I'm subject to the natural forces
    Sometimes at night I hear their voices
    Home is where my horse is.
    Home is where my horse is.

    Is it Better to be Lucky or Good?

    I love calls on Thursdays.
    I'd slept through my first night after working the night shift the previous nine.  I had things I wanted to do but as my body adjusts to the new schedule all I feel like doing is eating the kids' Halloween candy, drinking beer, and napping.

    I was about to give in to an noontime nap when the phone rang: gut shot, twenty hours before, large intestine, 75 minutes away.

    Perfect!  Suddenly I had a reason to stay out of bed.

    The hunter and his party had started to track the deer the night before.  They lost the blood trail and, as it would turn out, that was to their good fortune.

    I arrived and the hunter, an employee of his, and a nephew headed out to the stand.  While the hunter had a good idea of where the deer was when he shot it, the blood trail had been obscured by a dusting of morning snow.  Starting at the hit site, I tried to keep Sparta going slow but there was almost no way to confirm she was on the correct track.  Using GPS the hunter was able to tell me we were close but that is all.

    The spot of last blood had been marked by a piece of toilet paper.  Did I mention that there had been a dusting of snow?

    Still Sparta took to a line and I let her follow it, farther than I would have normally.  At some point I realized the hunting party had veered off in another direction.  It was at this point that I realized that in my excitement to get started, I'd left my phone in the car.

    Sometimes you make your own bad luck.  I wasn't worried but I knew at some point I needed to stop Sparta and reconnect with the search party.  I'd have gone farther if I could text the hunter to let him know what I was doing.  It would turn out that it was good luck that I could not contact him.

    "If we hadn't started searching for you, we might not have found the deer."

    As I was deciding how far to let Sparta lead me on this trail before taking her back and restarting her, the hunting party was feeling the need to reconnect with me.  They'd been searching an area they thought the buck had traveled but left it to head in my direction.

    About half-way between where Sparta had taken me and where they had begun their search there was a shout of 'Deer!"  The hunter's hired man found the missing buck.  It had travel ~100 yards from last blood but in a different direction than the party expected.

    When he field dressed the deer, it was still warm.  It had been dead just a couple of hours.  In other words, if they'd had a better blood trail the night before they would have bumped him and that trail, potentially, could have grown much, much longer.

    After getting the buck back to the truck, a story in itself in those Taylor County low areas, I congratulated the hunter on finding his deer and added something about how maybe they wouldn't have needed the dog after all.  The hunter smiled, "You never know.  We might not have found it if I hadn't decided we needed to find and check on you."

    There is a saying that goes, "it is better to be lucky than good."  I guess so far as results are concerned, that much is true.  Still, for my mental health I find focusing on being good, or at least being my best, and ignoring luck the better path.  Doesn't mean I won't embrace Lady Fortune when she smiles on me.

    It was an afternoon well spent.  We met some nice people, saw some nice country, and got to be part of a deer recovery and, when the rubber hits the road, that makes for a good day.  I don't forget, however, that Lady Fortune can take away just as capriciously as she gives.

    Tadeusz Kuntze: Fortune, oil on canvas:National Museum, Warsaw

    Don't drink the Kool-Aid

    Sometimes your age creeps up on you in an odd way.

    This week marked the 37th Anniversary of the Jonestown massacre where 909 people died in the largest mass suicide in modern history.  I was a week away from my fifth birthday and the news coverage marks the first world event that I remember.

    This was before the nightly newsman warned viewers that the images to follow may not be suitable for children.  Let's face it, life is not suitable for children and this is why it is important to help them grow up before they have to face it as legal adults.

    This is also the week of the year when an annual event I attend takes me to a local Methodist church.  It is a nice country church filled with nice country kid Christians but there is a sign in the kitchen that I just can not bring myself to ignore.
    Keep it in the sanctuary!

    I can't stop looking at it from the corner of my eye.  The first time I saw it, I was dumbstruck.  Even now I can't believe it remains year after year.  I want to go around asking all the other adults about it and asking, "How can anyone be so deaf."  I cope by allowing my internal dialogue to access my dark humor but otherwise keeping silent.

    Beyond the Jonestown event, it seems to reflect a cultural deafness.  Churches, religions, ideologies, they should pretty much just steer away from any reference to Kool Aid.

    It is good to remember the victims.

    It is important to remember the lesson: know when to break away from the tribe and go your own way.

    Fundamentalism is not restricted to one religion, one ideology, or one part of the political spectrum.  It can show up among conservatives.  It can be manifest among leftists, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, or, well, you fill in the blank.

    We each need to police our own.  We all need to be ready to reject the extremes with word and deed.  There is also a time when we reach the limits of tolerance.  When grown-ups must intervene, hopefully before mothers start using syringes to get their toddlers to drink the kool-aid.

    It is all part of life in the Anthropocene.

    Too young to know the story?  Watch the PBS documentary.  Suitable for helping fragile little snowflakes become a little more prepared for adulthood.

    Thursday, November 19, 2015

    The American Red Cross

    The Red Cross is getting social media right.

    Once upon a time, donating blood felt good when you did it, but theoretical, Then there was that long bit of time between donations.

    Now, a month after I donate, just about the moment when I should make my next appointment to give, I get an email telling me where blood was sent.

    So, yep, I am motivated to sit down and open the app.  it lists all dates, times, and locations of the drives in my area.  I make an appointment.

    About the time I forget again the app reminds of the commitment I made.

    Yes, I'll make jokes about my blood being "reappropriated" by the seat of the Federal governement, but, thanks to the app, I know the last two pints went to the same hospital that I draw my forty-hour-week.

    It could very well be while I was cursing myself for forgetting to bring more French Roast to work, the blood I donated was contributing to the extension of a human life: another birthday, another anniversary, a child's life extended so they can experience love, lust, or the sound of wolves howling.

    Knowledge hits home.  Information keeps it real.  That keeps me going back.

    Yep, the smart phone is good for something other than Clash of Clans.

    Good Job Red Cross IT department

    Wednesday, November 18, 2015


    Talking to hunters I have discovered that terms like high back, brisket, or back of the shoulder can mean different things to different people.

    Our eyes can fool us, especially in low light.  We can think our arrow hit the deer in one place at a certain angle when, if fact, the recovered deer shows wounds in quite another.  Reality is hard enough, there is no need to compound the problem through unclear communication.

    I'm not sure who we owe for these nice illustrations, I got them from Mark, a tracker who lives near me.  He received it from someone else who likely had it passed on to him from yet another tracker.

    I am still not sure how to incorporate these images into my pre-track interview.  When texting with a hunter, it is easy enough to send the images and ask them to comment on where they believe they hit the deer.  Over the phone, it is a bit more complicated.  I suppose I will just print them and keep them with my tracking journal.  Then I can ask the hunter whenever we meet in person.

    Quarting Away

    Quarting toward

    True Broadside

    "Let's go Trackin'!"

    She usually curls up to go to sleep when we get in the car, unless she see's me picking up her tracking harness.

    Across the Stone Arch Bridge

    The nice thing about a nice slow rain: the riff-raff keep it on the treadmill and even the big city can give up a solitary walk.

    Tuesday, November 17, 2015

    Brunch Anyone?

    I've never been able to track my family history to their specific European roots.  Some appear to have been Huguenots who, over the course of a few generations, transited through Wales to the New World.

    Other ancestors were earlier immigrants from the German states, possibly the Palatinate.  This hint is reason enough for me to choose to believe there is some Bavarian blood running through these veins of mine.  At the least I've picked up on some cultural clues from my larger Germanic cultural environment and run with them.


    Of special note, "but does not necessarily involve food."

    From Wikipedia:
    Frühschoppen (pronounced [fʁyːʃɔpm], meaning: an alcoholic drink before midday in company) is the German and Austrian tradition to meet up at a pub, inn or tavern in the late morning (usually on Sundays). The specific customs vary from region to region.Frühschoppen is often a kind of brunch, i.e. a combined breakfast and lunch, but does not necessarily involve food. Frühschoppen is also often held at fun fairs, the most famous being Oktoberfest or Cannstatter Volksfest. 
    In Lower Bavaria and most of Upper BavariaFrühschoppen is understood to be a specific kind of brunch consisting of Weisswurst, sweet mustard, pretzels, and Weissbier (an unfiltered wheat beer). The Bavarian Frühschoppen began in rural areas and has originally taken place on Sundays in a tavern at the regulars' table (Stammtisch). During Frühschoppen, folk may discuss everyday life and politics. In the corner of the tavern or festival tent (Festzelt) there is typically a band playing Volksmusik. (Nowadays some places have pop, rock, and jazz bands.) 
    In many other regions of Germany, Frühschoppen is understood more generally to be a gathering in a pub on Sunday morning, traditionally held after church service. This usually includes the consumption of alcoholic beverages, but not necessarily that of a meal. With the decline of church attendance in Germany this tradition has become somewhat less common, but is still held up in many places, especially in rural areas.

    Training the Sapien

    This is our first year tracking in a serious way.

    Sparta is concentrating on her craft.  I am concentrating on how to read her but also how to manage the other sapiens in the field so that she can better do her job.

    Two weekends ago I let a situation spiral out of control.  She worked, but was delayed.

    The hunter had called us at the right time, as the blood trail pooped out, he pulled back and called for a dog.

    When I showed up, I was a little overwhelmed as five guys gathered around to walk out to where he shot the deer.  It is nice to have other people to keep an eye out for blood as we walk, but I had a hard time remembering which one was the hunter.

    All the camo coats looked the same to me.

    We found the blood trail and I started Sparta on it.  Taking some time to slow her down and keep her on the track we moved slow.  Approaching last blood I didn't notice the large search party gathering around.

    They were curious.  They wanted to see the dog work.  I had mixed emotions.  I have nothing to hide.  I want to show off the dog.  I'd like it if their were fewer people.  A crowd is off-putting.

    Sparta appeared to go off track, I restarted her.  She didn't want to restart.  I was feeling crowded.  I almost said something about giving the dog some room.  I didn't.  It would turn out that this was a rather significant error of omission.

    She took us in the direction of some tall marsh grass and she started to work the edge away from the search party.  As she came weaved in and out of small trees on the edge I dropped the leash, gave the command for her to "go slow" and began to walk around the thicket she was working.

    The second the leash hit the ground she jumped into a sprint.

    She didn't not respond to my recall.  She did not respond to my whistle.

    There are things that Sparta is not yet rock solid on.  This is not one of them.  It is a special whistle we use in the field and she's not failed to return to it for over a year.

    One member of the search party volunteered to join me to search for my dog.  He'd come from downstate.  My home is his "up north" and he'd lost a dog while "up north" in the past.  He was more worried than I was.  We live here.  She could take care of herself.

    Half an hour later, Sparta back in hand, and myself feeling a little more humble, the search party itself had shrunk with the dog and handler appearing rather unremarkable.

    They had found blood in that same marsh grass in our absence.  I restarted Sparta and she worked steadily and slowly taking us through the grass.  Broaching the other side of the marsh I became a little less sure of her track but she took us deeper into the woods and toward a property line we did not have permission to cross.

    The hunter was confident permission would not be given.  The buck was big, but they didn't even think it was worth the effort to try to gain permission.

    Unable to follow her further, we returned to the grass which extended for a distance at a 90 degree-angle to the presumed track.  We worked through an area where she'd shown some interest but to no effect.

    We continued to fish around for scent for a while without result and the hunter decided to call the search.  We had a good conversation about Sparta, her therapy dog work, the powers and limits of working dogs, their positive interactions with Brian Schlomann who tracks with Chesapeake Bay Retrievers out of New Berlin, WI.

    I was glad I got to meet those guys.  I learned that reading and trusting my dog applies to more than just following the track.  It also relates to being more assertive with the other sapiens we encounter in the future.

    Monday, November 16, 2015


    What are the Chances?

    Growing up in Shelbyville, Illinois the closest movie theater was 45 minutes to the southeast in Effingham.  Effingham lies along I-70 and, until the "Reagan Boom" of the 1980's, was the closest source of chain restaurants, Walmart, and other conveniences of mass culture.

    Ron Slifer and his bloodhound "Dio" are based in Effingham county but track wounded game all around the area.

      Last week he had this memorable experience.
    Spent the better part of the day tracking this buck for an out of stater, a real nice fella.

    Anyhow he was upfront with me told me he was high and back on his shot, with no exit and of course no arrow. Going into this track I was thinking negative, but I've been fooled before. He had tracked it yesterday morning a couple hrs after he had shot it. Good blood for 200 yards to a railroad and he stopped there. He seen that the deer had crossed the tracks and backed out to wait for me and Dio this morning.

    We sat out on the blood on the tracks and tracked the deer into a 3 acre thick as heck brush patch finding small drops of blood all throughout and some really fresh scrapes...Uh-ho I've seen that before! 
    Anyhow we pursued and found the deer angled out of the thicket and walked right along the RR tracks in the rocks! I left Dio tied up in the thicket, because we could visibly see drops of blood and I wanted him to slow down a bit. He is usually a bit wound up on the first track of the day as this one was, I find this works. I also didn't know how he would track on the RR rocks.

    The hunter and I went nearly a 1/4 mile doing this util we couldn't find anymore. I then walked back to Dio and off we went down the rocks a lil past where we had lost blood. He stopped and came back and shot across the tracks and wouldn't you know it BLOOD on some grass! We then went in a bean field towards a finger of woods shooting out into the field (looked good to me), but no blood. 

    Tis but a scratch

    We worked hard through this woods to find nothing. When I came out the hunter was standing in the bean field. I asked him if he seen anything come out, he said no! About that time I looked out in the field and there laid a DEAD DEER. I jumped and yelled and hugged the hunter, we had put almost 4 hrs in this track already. 
    We ran over to the deer only to discover it was not his deer! What are the odds of a dead buck laying in an open field? There was no visible wounds on this dead buck, although it looked as if a battle of some sorts occurred where it laid at. Talk about a huge BUZZKILL!!!
    So on the way home from the 2 hr drive I got this pic.! I knew it he was alive! I am certain he will survive this wound. 
    The hunter was leaving for home today. He will return next week before the gun season. Hope he gets a closing to this buck. I think he stands a good chance to see him anyhow.

    If you need Ron you can contact him here. He also has a Facebook page.

    Sunday, November 15, 2015

    Voltaire on Sunday

    Walking Minneapolis

    I took a chance.

    Saturday mornings tend to be slow for tracking calls.  Sundays tend to be busy.

    If I want to be fresh for a busy Sunday, the odds of a good day sleep improve if I can get a good walk in on Saturday.  The sun was out this past weekend and the temperature at dawn was a perfect 40 degrees.  Our last best chance to have a snow-free stroll until March.

    Thank you El Nino.

    This really is my favorite spot in downtown.
    Dogs dig sculpture.

    "What exactly are these things anyway?"

    Winning: great coffee, off-street patio to tie off the dog, and a corporation that utilizes existing buildings.
    Barista: You look like the outdoorsy type.
    Daniel: You're right about two things.
    B: Two?
    D: I am the outdoorsy type.  I am also the "leave a bigger tip for the barista who looks at me close enough to guess my type" type.
    B: (blush)

    This boy needs a dog.


    Hatched too late: Chick the size of a pigeon laying on Nicollet Ave.