Tuesday, 29 September 2009
- Conservation money is limited. Conservation effort is also limited.
- There are many species in need of conservation.
- The number of species in need of conservation is likely to grow.
- Some species are harder to conserve than others.
Some species are challenging to conserve for space issues - try keeping a Grey Whale in captivity for captive breeding! Others are difficult for husbandry issues, like the Shanghai soft-shell turtle where the only male in China once attacked a female instead of mating. And ask the Black Footed Ferrets what re-discovery did to their numbers - I once heard a colleague describe the worst thing that happened to the Black Footed Ferret as being "Scientists discovered they weren't extinct yet."
The idea that we should maximize our bang-for-our-buck in conservation is a very unpopular one, though one that more scientists are coming around to. Recently, this argument poked its head up in the main stream media when a prominent scientist advocated just letting the Giant Panda go extinct. MSNBC downplays his comments through a rebuttal from another scientist - and would have thought the WWF, an organization that uses a Giant Panda as their logo, would oppose it?
Monday, 28 September 2009
Andelot Cuvee Euphorique by De Proefbrouwerij
The 75cl bottle is simple - brown glass with a cork and basket. It has a simple yellow label with the name, the country of origin (Belgium), and a subscript declaring it an "Abbey Style Blond Ale." No mention of the brew or bottle date. The beer itself is perfectly clear, a pale copper-gold with moderate carbonation; you can see just how clear it is, even in the dark bottle. It pours thin, with some head which dissipates into a thin white ring. It smells of bananas, cloves, and perhaps some wheat? Very fruity, very aromatic.
Tasting it, it is sweet and simple. A bit of a carbonated bite, more than one would predict from the head. A very spicy body as it lingers in the mouth. Oddly, my mind keeps going to apples, but not enough to make me feel comfortable putting it down on paper. Others disagree with me, so I include this fact for your consideration. It's a little heavy on the pepper, and for such a mild beer (merely 6.5% ABV), it seems to leave your mouth dry like you've drank vodka.
If you let yourself drink it casually, not letting it linger on the tongue, past when it starts to impart the spices, I imagine it is like drinking thinned honey. This makes it easy to drink for extended periods, for long sessions. A good beer for dinner with chicken or mild seafood.
B+, 3.8 out of 5
Two beer journalists decided to find out which state in the US gathered the most medals in beer competitions. They plotted it out in a lovely map, which I'll repost here.
The answer to who was the best, unsurprisingly, was California. Actually, I was a little surprised, since Oregon and Washington are collectively referred to as "Beervaria" due to their large number of microbreweries. But these numbers don't take into account the fact that, say, there's many people in California, and no so many people in South Dakota. That's why Strangemaps - a neat little blog I just found - reshuffled things for medals per million people.
1. Colorado – 64.4But! cried StrangeMaps' readers. You just reshuffled! You didn't see if anyone would make the top 10. A little math later, and Alaska quickly sits on the top of the heap with 78.68 medals per million people - heads above California and nearly double Oregon.
2. Oregon – 42.5
3. Wisconsin – 38.6
4. Washington – 16.2
5. Missouri – 15
6. Pennsylvania – 13.5
7. Massachusetts – 12.6
8. California – 12.8
9. Texas – 5.6
10. New York – 5.1
What really surprised me was that Alaskan Brewing Co. is such a winning brewery. If I'm reading their numbers right, they have the most medals for someone who wouldn't be considered a macro-brew. More than Deschutes, long one of the best craft beer producers in the US.
Definitely something to drink about.
Friday, 25 September 2009
This doesn't prevent people from merely hiding microSD cards - that'd be damn hard to find, since they're smaller than a fingernail. Or just don't physically transport the data at all, and email it to yourself (or a trusted party) encrypted with a one time pad, and waltz across the border without carrying anything illicit. One Time Pads, it should be noted, can provide perfect protection if implemented correctly.
And again, it only effects people physically carrying data into the country. On their persons. Through customs. Anyone involved in data smuggling would know how to easily evade it, unless they've completely failed to do their homework.
The problem is that data is just too easily transformed, and too easily transmitted electronically. This only accomplishes making the border crossing security experience more elaborate, while returning a minimum of additional security. The most this policy will accomplish is annoying the hell out of legit citizens.
Here's some documents from Customs and Border Protection relevant to the policy:
Here's the press release.
Here's the Factsheet for the policy. (40kb)
Here's the actual policy. (Warning, 6mb)
Here's pretty much all you need to defeat the policy.
So... we're assuming Al Quida doesn't know how to use google for anything other than learning how to dig holes?
I'm calling moose nuggets on that.
All it's proven is they can catch really, really dumb criminals. Actually, all this could possibly protect us against is really dumb criminals. Anyone who has half a brain, and is trying to smuggle information could do any of the following
- Put the information on a microSD card and hide it.
- Embed the information using stenography.
- Hide the information on a unmounted partition.
- Email the information encrypted with a one time pad.
- Deliberately corrupt the files in an easily repairable way.
- Just make your terrorist information really, really confusing to read.
Another reason to stay in AK!
Edit to add: Someone pointed out to me that this only works one way. They're just preventing you from bringing information into the country, and not out of the country, with the regulations. I.e., this will only prevent people from smugging nuclear secrets into the US, as if there's a lack of bomb making information here on home soil. If you have terrorist information, like blueprints to the White House, and Joe Biden's favourite bathtime songs, you could dance your way over the border and DHS wouldn't screen you. After all, you're leaving, not entering.
Thursday, 24 September 2009
Tuesday, 22 September 2009
Oh my god! Natives are going to get into the booze! Everyone panic!Maybe I'm reading into their coverage too much. Or not enough: ADN loves to be moralistic and patronizing.
Unrelated note, I might be a bit quiet the next few days. I'm in the processes of moving to new place. First thing I noticed is that Goldstream has much better TV reception than Farmer's Loop. I know this because my TV wasn't even slightly pixel-y as I watched last night's House M.D.
Monday, 21 September 2009
My answer is, of course, that given my knowledge of Polar Bear biology (admittedly incomplete), it seems prudent to protect Polar Bears. People will then ask me if I support subsistence harvest for Polar Bears. Which, given my knowledge of Polar Bear ecology, I do. `Ah ha!` someone will cry. `You're biased to subsistence! You wouldn't let a bunch of white guys go out and shoot a Polar Bear, but you're happy to let natives do it even when you want to protect a species!`
This is when I get out the clue-by-four and begin beating them with it until they get a clue.
So how can a species need protection, but still be available to harvest? Well, unlike many things in biology, this is actually mostly straight forward.
Let's say you have a Polar Bear.
Yes, yes you are a Polar Bear. Incidentally, if you want my art skills using paint, check out this tutorial.
Okay, let's take that Polar Bear, and put it with all her buddies.
What a wacky bunch! They should have their own prime-time sitcom.
Now, in this system, we have something that is a limiting factor, and something that will become an increasingly large limiting factor - habitat. Particularly, ice habitat. We're going to have a lot less of it. Some Polar Bears are going to have it...
But what about those who won't? Or those who get sub-optimal habitat?
I joke. It's not curtains time for them, but those bears will be much worse off. The boars probably won't get to breed, and the sow will have very low cub survival, because the sows will be in poor condition. There may be some small contribution contribution to the next generation's numbers, but the contribution will be dominated by chance (stochasticity).
It's my contention, and the contention of US gov't., that harvesting a small number of Polar Bears is entirely acceptable (albeit unsustainable). If you shoot a Polar Bear, either a) it wasn't going to make a large contribution to the demographics (especially if male) or b) it frees up the limiting factor (habitat) for another animal who will now be able to make a larger contribution to the next generation. And if you keep your hunts low, the mortality will rarely make a blip on the population magnitude radar. The story is simplified slightly, yeah. And I glossed over a few things. But on the whole, it holds water.
"Wait! You said it was unsustainable. What's with that" Well, sure. Eventually, given the trends in habitat, there will be very little habitat left to Polar Bears. Short of building Styrofoam icebergs for them, there's nothing we can do about that. Thus, it's not a sustainable situation. However, it's got less to do with hunting pressure and more to do with people running coal fired power plants. Here's some cold hard facts to throw a damper on your day: There probably won't be many Polar Bears in the future, Yup'ik Language is dying, someone will have to take a cut in their lifestyle because every country can't all have it and Africans will eventually want to start eating food too, and eventually India will kick our ass economically. Oh, and there's no Santa.
So, that all said, the ban on importing Polar Bear rugs from hunts is pissing into an active volcano. Sure, it feels good, but it doesn't get anything done to Polar Bear conservation. Worse, it has the unintended consequences of cutting off the livelihood of people. And it will consume resources enforcing the ban which would be better spent doing conservation in other ways. Like, say, putting up a few few wind turbines. But if we were really serious about solving these problems, things would be different, wouldn't they?
Friday, 18 September 2009
Thursday, 17 September 2009
The ten most frequent causes of death in the USA, as believed by the BritishI couldn't resist making my own list, with the help of some people from the states.
1) Shot by Donald Rumsfeld.
2) Abducted by the saucermen, never to be seen again.
3) Cerebral haemorrhage caused by shock at the discovery there are places beyond US borders.
4) Terminated on the orders of Barack Obama’s social health ‘death committees.’
5) Scalped by injuns attacking the iron horse which runs across their territory.
6) Hunted to death by inbred, snaggle-toothed backwoodsmen.
7) Telling your buddies that you’re getting short on your tour, and showing them a picture of your best gal back home.
8) Beheaded with a machete shortly after having sex.
9) Being proven wrong in your belief that the second amendment covers artillery and chemical weapons.
10) Getting wasted in a drive-by after winning an award which should have gone to Beyonce, goddammit.
The ten most frequent causes of death in Alaska, as believed by the Lower 48
- Igloo collapse.
- Death by Polar Bear.
- In an embarrassing fashion after uttering the words, "Hey y'all, watch this."
- Bitten by a Moose.
- Starvation due to delays in the dogsled full of flour and tobacco.
- Polluted to death by a leaky pipeline.
- Boredom induced frostbite.
- Horrible dog sled crash.
- Drowning in the Bering Sea.
- Shot and field dressed by Sarah Palin.
Tuesday, 15 September 2009
Now, another group has outdone them. They've imaged individual atoms.
Who needs magic when you have this? I wonder what our kids will take for granted?
See? Our lack of plumbing in part is to protect our lungs! Well, protect them so we can ruin them in wildfires and smoggy winter days, anyhow.Showering may be bad for your health, say US scientists, who have shown that dirty shower heads can deliver a face full of harmful bacteria.Tests revealed nearly a third of devices harbour significant levels of a bug that causes lung disease.
Monday, 14 September 2009
First, while it's true that the current program really got started by Murkowski, there has been active predator control of one sort or another since pre-statehood. Poison, bounties and aerial shooting was employed by government agent until statehood. Aerial shooting continued with the public until 1972, when the federal Airborne Hunting Act was passed. This coincided with several harsh winters in the state, resulting in heavy predator depression of game populations.
In 1975, the first wolf control was authorized in game management unit 20A, which is south of the Tanana river from Fairbanks. This was conducted by only ADF&G staff. The policies were shaped over time through the 80s, and in 1992, the Board of Game (BOG) added control to three areas. Due to massive backlash from tourists, Hickel reconsider and BOG revoked their plan. In 1993, BOG authorizes additional predator control for 20A. Predator controlled continued until Knowles became Governor, and suspended all programs.
Because of the long history, I don't think it's fair to say Murkowski is responsible for predator control. It would be like saying I started the tradition of having breakfast this morning. Sure, it's technically true, because there was a gap of about 24 hours where I had no breakfast tradition, but it ignores all the breakfast I've had other days.
My next big complaint about the story has to do with mis-leading verbiage. The story implies that of all areas of predator control, a few have been successful. It then cites McGrath, and the Southern Alaska Peninsula. If we're allowed to talk about predator control as a holistic idea, a better example would be the aforementioned GMU 20A. The area currently hosts some of the largest populations of moose in the state, and very healthy populations of wolves (though not the healthiest, due to the 2003 invasion of a depeliating parasite).
If we're limited to current predator control areas, then the Southern Alaskan Peninsula Caribou Herd is not great example of anything, right now. The situation is complex, and it's my studied opinion that we're not entirely in possession of all the facts in that system. While Calf Mortality is clearly a major issue with the SAPCH (<2 per 100 is a very low number indeed), I'm yet to be fully confident that there are not other, conflating factors involved in the long term population trends.
The AP left out something re: the non-resident hunter situation that I think ADF&G would have pushed strong for inclusion. That is, that non-resident hunters are a substantial economic factor, especially in small villages. In order to access the non-resident permitted areas, a guide is typically required. Further, non-resident hunting parties can spend several thousands of dollars per person, and each tag typically results in multiple hunters in a party. While the Nelchina is a complex situation, one that I swore I wouldn't touch with a 10 foot stick, game there is not so precariously positioned that those permits need to be cancelled.
One thing I wish people understood is that Predator Control is like science in general: It's really, really complex. There are no simple answers to pretty much anything; everything is wrapped up in assumptions that need met, confidence intervals, and highly situational knowledge. There should be an * beside pretty much every simple line inside these sorts of articles saying "Well, X is true 85% of the time, and the other 15% of the time, Y and Z are true." We're letting ourselves get trapped by these simple story explanations which don't even begin to cover the truth.
*Science by press release is a pejorative comment to describe non-peer reviewed science that's pushed out there by Public Offices of Agencies and Universities. the chief complaint is that science by press release is rarely accurate, and never goes through the rigour of peer review.
** This is seriously simplified, moreso than everything else here. But the nut of the matter is sound - you don't know, until it's over.
Friday, 11 September 2009
On the plus side, it'll encourage people to shop at places other than Freds and Walmarts: Small businesses are exempt from the new plastic bag tax.
Thursday, 10 September 2009
Imagine you have a bucket marbles. And these marbles can mate, and have baby marbles of similar colour. Bear with this stupid analogy for a moment.
So you start with a bucket, and the next generation inside that bucket looks a lot like the first. Things are at a balance.
This turns into that.
Now, let's pretend a new bucket opens up. That is to say, it gets set close to the other bucket, and a few random marbles get to jump into the new one and live out their little marble lives there.
I've circled the ones that get to jump onto the new bucket.
Now, in our new bucket, only the ones that got there get to make their little marble babies inside the bucket. There are no dark blue or black marbles because they never made it. Just Red, Green, and Light Blue. They are fruitful, multiply, and reach the brim of the second bucket.
The second bucket looks a lot like this.
Now a THIRD bucket is placed near the second bucket. Why do I have all these buckets? Well, I've got a lot of chores, and I need some for the sink, some for fishing, some for mixing stuff, and some for packing water. Again, only some marbles get to jump into the new bucket, mostly at random.
I've just circled one blue and two red. Green doesn't get to go to the new bucket.
Finally, we're down stream at our last bucket, and the founding marbles have little marble babies, and populate the bucket. This leaves us with three things we can compare.
... and Bucket 3
You can see that each successive colonization results in fewer and fewer colours being represented in the population. The same is true about Genes - obviously it's true, because otherwise why would I make such a dumb analogy. There are other factors at play, which I won't go into, but this is the nut of the Founder Effect. You might realize that this is a special case of a bottleneck, and you'd be right! It's the same principle, where a few number of individuals make up what ends up on the other side. But in this case, your source population is (normally) maintained.
So what you can do is look at the areas where you see animals, and measure their genetic diversity. This'll allow you to puzzle out where a group of animals had their founders. This had actually been done for humans, and it's considered heavy support for the Out of Africa hypothesis - Africa is the centre of human genetic diversity. It's frequently said that there's more genetic diversity in one village in Africa than there is in some whole countries!
But humans are boring. And right now, I'd write about moose, except I've used quite enough words for one post, so I'll postpone it until another.
Wednesday, 9 September 2009
Women might not be aware, but there's a cross cultural, trans-national set of rules regulating how men use bathrooms. I don't know much about Europe, but everywhere from St. Mary's to Maine, the rules are the same, and never spoken. It also holds true in Canada. I can't speak to Mexico, since I've never been there. The rules are as follows:
- Take the furthest urinal from the centre.
- Don't stand next to anyone.
- Don't look at anyone.
- Don't talk to anyone.
- For god's sake, don't even look at anyone!
Tuesday, 8 September 2009
FAIRBANKS — In Sweden, a country that is approximately one-fifth the size of Alaska, hunters kill about 80,000 moose per year, give or take a few thousand.
In Norway, which is slightly smaller than Sweden, the average annual moose harvest is 35,000.
In Alaska, hunters are lucky if they kill 7,000 moose per year.
Regular readers might remember that I wrote a short little post on this back in May. Is the News Miner hitting up blogs for their stories? ;)
That's right, I finished sealing it (I needed a sunny day that I wasn't busy on) with Urathane, after getting quite a bit on my hands! And then I let it sit over night. Let me tell you, I couldn't wait for the stuff to cure! I was up first thing in the morning, because it was time to dig out the PFD and test the boat!
I took it to a small lake in my back yard, after the duck hunters were done filling the air with shot, and checked the water temperature. Qerrupaa! Okay, so I don't want to stick around in the water, that's for sure! I got it deep in enough at the marshes that I could launch it.
All the technical stuff aside... it floats! It didn't sink! I'm so happy! I can't wait to put it on the river!
Wednesday, 2 September 2009
- Homes come in to varieties - dry, and wet. Dry places have no running water. In Fairbanks, this is not a big deal. You haul your own water in a carboy from a water seller, and campus is littered with showers for students. Please leave the showers clean, though!
- Don't go out and buy everything with the words 'Polar Fleece' on it. Instead, wait until it starts to cool off, and look at what the Locals are wearing. And then, after you've seen how Fairbanksans manage, dress like the locals. Otherwise, you'll waste a lot of money. You'll probably notice we dress in layers, and we're not too fashionable.
- Get your vehicle winterized now. Buy studded tires before the first snow. There's always a massive backlog of people at the auto shops in town who need that work done when the white stuff starts flying. You can have studded tires on your vehicle as early as September 15th. It's not a bad idea to make an appointment for the 16th, just so you're not caught off guard by snow.
- Be social! Go out, meet people. Drink at bars (if 21), attend student events. Especially around campus, there's lots to do. I'm always perplexed by people who say that Fairbanks is full of introverts. Michael Feldman said something to the effect of `There's no where else where you're around so many people who like to be with other people who don't like people.` ;)
- Develop some outdoor hobbies so the winter isn't as boring. If you're trapped inside, of course Fairbanks seems like an awful place! I would remind you that for a minimum of a year, you'll be a non-resident for hunting and fishing purposes**.
- Get ready for some stickershock, because stuff isn't as cheap as it is in the states. It runs from 25% to 33% more than it runs down below. Frozen foods are expensive in the summer. Fresh produce isn't really fresh in the the winter (and the summer, it can get pretty questionable too). If you're aware of this, things go much smoother. If, like me, you love to do confectionery stuff, be prepared to shell out big money for extracts (besides vanilla) and uncommon spices. Sometimes, I just have friends in the states send it up to me, since it's cheaper.
- Don't tell us how you did things back in [insert lower 48 state here]. People will say, "That's nice." But they'll be thinking, "What a jerk." You're not in Kansas anymore! :)
*The villages are not the middle of nowhere. The villages are the far-edge of nowhere.
**Yes, you can fish in the winter. It's as fun as fishing in the summer!
While we're on the topic of students returning to UAF, here's a comment from the article "UAF Prepares for Swine Flu Outbreak:"
Swine flu will work just like everything else at UAF. It will show up late, move excruciatingly slowly through the bureaucracy, get lots of talk but little actual help from the risk management office, hang around the Pub far too much, provoke quite a bit of dorm-room puking, and finish its two-year program about seven years from now. Then it will just hang out on campus hoping for a job.
Tuesday, 1 September 2009
Who are, of course, Short Tailed Weasels, or Ermine (Mustela erminea). Yugcetun, they're Amitatuk. I'd usually say something clever about their biology at this point, but I don't have anything clever to say. Here's a random fact about me, though: I can't say the word ermine. It always comes out wrong. When I say it, it comes out `em-er-in.`
I'm taking a short break from the skulls collection, but in the interim, here's a picture from the Salt Lake Valley in Utah: