Tuesday, 30 September 2008

PETA - now with 90% more lying

In New Jersey, PETA has unveiled an ad campaign telling parents of Autistic kids that they are to blame for their child's autism (great conversation starter right there!) by... wait for it... employing cruelty to animals. Bamn! You didn't see that coming! The campaign posits that parents who give their children milk are to blame. Which would be terrible, given how big dairy is in the US, except that it's entirely not true.

PETA continues to boldly show that they won't let trifle things like facts get in the way of their goal - total animal `liberation.` And here you thought only the Anti-Vaccination disease mongers could appeal to a disease to try and push through their luddite views on health technology.

Monday, 29 September 2008

My wallet says ouch.

The stock markets are tanking, the banks are falling like stacks of cards, the politicians are pulling in a 1000 different ways at once, the Treasury Sec has revealed himself to be incompetent, the fed has made inflation a serious concern, and houses are going under faster than they went up.

Oh, and with all the babyboomers wanting to retire soon, we also have that looming social security crisis waiting for us.

So. The US. Screwed, or just doomed? Discuss.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

SNL on the Debate

Everyone's linking the Palin inverview skit by SNL, but they're missing the even better spoof from last night. :} And the fact that they only had 24 hours to write and reherse the whole shebang is more impressive!

In other news, we got snow! An inch of it, anyhow. It was so icy my neighbour couldn't get out to work in the morning without a lift (the driveway is uphill, and was a sheet of ice). It's really pretty outside, right now.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Last night's debate

Watched the debate at the Blue Loon. It was a big crowd - the place was packed to the gills. I kinda liked the format of the debate, where Lehrer tried to get the two of them to engage each-other. I am very disappointed both didn't take a chance to respond to what they'd have to cut to afford the 700bn bailout package, and I'm glad Lehrer put both their feet to the fire on that.

If you weant a 99% non-partisan (everyone has at least a tiiiiiny bit of bias), you can check out Factcheck.org's coverage of the debate. Turns out about Kissenger, they're both right, though Obama slightly moreso. Not that I think we should be listening to Kissenger at all.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Bear Safety from the Expert

I get a lot of hits on the post I wrote about Dr. Smith's paper on Alaska's use of bear spray. Most of them are google hits, which makes me wonder if there's really an interest in this stuff. Like I said in the previous post, I'm gungho on Bear Spray, and think its a real boon to lower 48 wildlife managers - it's a great less than lethal option. I'd really like to study if the deterrence value of bear spray changes over time - my guess would be that it increases with any one given bear (A sprayed bear is less likely to charge someone else) . Sadly, this stuff is hard to study for obvious reasons. IRBs tend to frown on research design that involves potentially killing the human subjects.

Anyhow, this whole ramble is here because I wanted to point to Joe Nava, who had another article about him in the Fairbanks Daily Minor News. This time, he was in it for the bear safety course he's running. There's a guy with a sense of humour, eh? I'd point out this guy, firearm expert and so forth, says he gave his daughters bear spray for when they go jogging. And I strongly doubt it's because his daughters don't shoot (given how many women he's got into shooting sports!).

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Slow Broadband

I read something recently in Cathy@Kotz's blog 'bout glacial broadband, and it felt awfully familiar. I read something recently that showed AK broadband was a) the slowest in the nation and b) not even close to priced appropriately. I can't find the article with B, but re: point a...
The Speed Matters report also ranks individual states based on median Internet download speeds. In a hurry? Log in from the five fastest states: Rhode Island (6.8 mbps), Delaware (6.7 mbps), New Jersey (5.8 mbps), Virginia (5.0 mbps) and Massachusetts (4.6 mbps).
Plan ahead in Idaho (1.3 mbps), Wyoming (1.3 mbps), Montana (1.3 mbps), North Dakota (1.2 mbps) and Alaska (0.8 mbps), which round out the bottom five.
They like to blame infrastructure, around here. It's not infrastructure. We've got some of the newest there is in great chunks of the state.

Really, we as consumers are just being taken for a ride. Since there's a derth of providers (what, two in Fairbanks, one most anywhere else?), we get squeezed into making poor decisions. And there's rarely incentive for competition (and therefore improvement) in such homogeneous markets.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Wackaloons write letters

You can't make this stuff up. PETA, everyone's favourite terrorist-supporting wackaloons, wrote an open letter to Ben and Jerry's, asking them to switch from making ice cream with cow milk to... wait for it... human milk.

It's just cruel to milk cows. Cruel and horrendous. You should be ashamed.
But it's okay to do it to humans.

I'm curious where they got the `cows make 10 times more milk than they would naturally` figure. There is no data on cow lactation pre-domestication. Here's the reason why: they've been domesticated since, oh, 7 or 8 thousand years. Aurochs, the progenitor of cattle, went extinct about 400 years ago, and were critically endangered for at least 400-600 years before that. It could be that PETA has unearthed a repository of ancient physiology numbers.

Or, they could just be making stuff up again.

Beer notes - Obsidian Stout

Obsidian Stout by Deschutes Brewery, Bend OR. B (3.6 out of 5)
I bought a six pack of Obsidian Stout about a week ago, and I've been slowly working my way through it. I tried, I really did, to like it. Deschutes is generally such a great brewery, and I've been just flat-out impressed by their line almost each and every time. Almost, because this time, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't fall in love with this stout. It's malty odour is fine, but the taste of the hops and the burnt cocoa seem to war with each-other. each are too strong. The mouth-feel is watery like, and is acrid like a cup of coffee you left on the counter for four days. This beer is in dire need of a time-out to mellow it down just a bit, so drinking it isn't like getting beat in the face with a baseball bat.

I'm sorry, Deschutes, I really tried. It's me, not you.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Great Lakes Compact hits congress finally

It's about time the Great Lakes Compact gets taken up by the US House. It's an important measure that will prevent the Great Lakes from being diverted to other uses outside the region - a serious threat, when you consider what the lust for water is doing in some places (e.g., Colorado, Utah, Nevada, etc). There'd been serious proposals periodically to pipe it to other places, something that makes about as much sense as building a house inside an oven. This (piping or trucking this much water) seems crazy only until you're living in a chronically water-poor area that's experiencing a boom in building. What needs to be done is people need to stop building golf-courses and resorts in the middle of blasted wastelands (I'm looking at you, Las Vegas) when there's no water to support the existing residents.

It's not just an issue in the Great Lakes, either. In the Great Basin, especially around Salt Lake City, there's a problem with where water is (In the Wasatch Mountains) and where building is occurring (South Jordan, and West Valley City, which lack city-scale water resources). It's worth noting that a large chunk of Alaska's water fowl winter in that area, so the land-use policy of a state 3,000 miles away would seriously and directly impact the wildlife resources of home.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

How to make a hare-snare.

A lot of blogs have gimmics, like pictures by semi-compotent photographers, insightful commentary from brilliant minds, or daily content served up with a dwallop of good humour. But what's a blog without any of these things to do? There are many options out there for the incompotent blogger, but none as time tested as faking it. Today, as promised, I'll fake teaching you how to do a neat skill that you can fake learn, and use to fake out your friends and family! Today, we're going to learn how to make snares about the right size for snoeshoe hares.

You'll need the following:
The steel wire should be about 20 gague, and you can get it cheap from any local hardware store. I recommend you have a lot of beer on hand, because crafting skill and beer consumption is linearlly porportional. The multi-tool needs a pair of pliers, and wire cutters on them!
It also helps if you have some entertainment. This can be another person making snares with you, or you could watch documenteries on TV, like the RedGreen Show. Oh Bill, when will you learn ducttape doesn't fix the mangled bodies of your horribly injured friends! So zany!
You'll want to cut off about 21 inches. That number is subject to change without reason, really. Use a tape measure if you want them consistently the same size, or do what I do, and just base each one off the previous batch.
Now take the leatherman and bend an end around into a hook about 20mm in. This translates to a good chunk of a knuck in, or about 3/4ths an inch.
Now take the end of the loop in your channel locks. I use channel locks because I like channel locks. You could use another pair of pliers, but then you'd be some sort of freak, and no one would ever talk to you. And you wouldn't want that, would you?
Next, grasp the short end of the J with the pliers, and use them and the channel lock to twist the two strands together until you have a loop. I can't show you how to do this, because I don't have a third hand to operate a camera with. After this is a good time to have some more beer. it should look like this:Now put the straight end through the loop. If you can't accomplish this, you've had too much beer too early. Your mother would be ashamed. Otherwise, it'll look like this:
Now make another loop at the end. Start with a J:
And then using the pliers and channel locks, make another loop. The first loop shouldn't be able to slide off the strand of wire, now. It should look like this.The snare is more-or-less done, now! The second loop takes a string of parachute chord, but that doesn't go on until you're ready to put down your snares. The final, final product looks something like this...
...except it's not ready to have the anchor added. I just did that to fool you into a false sense of security. First, it needs to lose some of its scent. Some people boil their small game snares, others seal them with various concoctions. But for what I'm doing, I don't really need that. I've found that hanging them outside for two+ weeks, in a safe manner, is sufficient to naturalize (though not neutralize) the odour.

And now you know! And knowing is half-the-battle. Remember, don't trap unless you have a valid license to do so. And if you trap hares for food, remember to boil them for thirty minutes, around Fairbanks, to get them good and edible. They're pretty wormy, otherwise. If you're using them for bait, obviously you don't need to!

Friday, 19 September 2008

We're famous! Not really. :p

Jen Schmidt, a researcher closely associated with my lab, made it into the newspaper just today. It was based on her presentation at the AAAS meeting. The data she presented showed that harvest levels were apparently stable. Here's the abstract, from the conference:
Moose (Alces alces) are an integral part of the boreal forest ecosystem and moose hunting within Alaska supports a subsistence lifestyle and recreation for residents and nonresidents alike. Understanding both past and current moos trends in moose hunting is vital to effective wildlife management. Moose management decisions not only moose population dynamics, but also the people who depend on moose and many facets of the ecosystem. By analysing trends in moose hunting, wildlife managers can better predict the results of moose management decisions in Alaska. Analysis of these trends increases knowledge of how harvest strategies will influence population dynamics such as sex-ratio and bull-to-cow ratio. Analysis of moose harvest tags returned to Alaska Department of Fish and Game (1990 to 2006) indicated an overall successful moose hunters travel farther than unsuccessful. There was also increase in hunts that use 3 or 4 wheelers and airboats and a decrease in the use of horse/sled dogs. We could also detect spatial changes in areas hunted and success rates. Also, transportation significantly influences success. An improved understanding of trends in moose hunting may improve the social relationship between wildlife managers and hunters by predicting where hunter education and information are needed. A cordial relationship results in higher hunter compliance and satisfaction, benefiting both sides. Overall, results presented here will allow for more proactive and adaptable wildlife management with beneficial results for moose, the boreal forest ecosystem, and those who depend on the land.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Gloom. Doom.

Parnell made me angry today.
You wouldn't like me when I'm angry.

Politicians - bugger them all.

I don't hoo, do Ya-hoo?

Division of Elections has given their initial count of the Young/Parnell Primary, and it appears to be Young by 304 votes. If you're a Parnell supporter, don't bury yourself in beer just yet (Unless it's after 12, in which case go for it!); Young won't be crowing either. This such a narrow victory, in such a sliver of the votes cast, that it's really rounding error. The recount was a given since day one - with this sort of tight election result, it behooves everyone to want a recount, because we want to make sure everyone who voted had their vote counted appropriately. The state owes no less to its citizens.

The other interesting bit of news was that Palin had her email account `hacked.` It probably wasn't actually hacked, but phished, or someone employed judicious social engineering. I don't expect technical accuracy from the media, however. Their job is to report the truth, not get it right! Funny thing is, I found out about wikileaks not but a few days before this, when I was poking at something else. It's the sort of site that is either criminal, or heroic, depending on whether it's causing trouble for someone you like or not.

Thing is, Palin is a fridiot to have a Yahoo! account for state business. Not just slightly a fridiot. A huge fridiot. And the govt's IT&S department-equivilent has some serious egg on their face for letting her use it. Not only is the security on Yahoo!, gMail, and Hotmail accounts not nearly up to snuff for anything remotely important, but it looks unprofessional, and wastes resources already allocated to government email accounts. This is the sort of stupidity I expect from Alberto Gonzales, who was only not charged with seriously mis-handling highly classified documents because he genuinely appeared too incompotent to know otherwise. Not from Palin.

Uuugh. This whole episode makes our whole executive office look stuck somewhere back in the 1970s. Anyone with even the least bit of techsavy would be fighting off a migrane. The only way it could have been worse is if her password was `password.`

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Now with 75% more yawning animals!

Science is awesome.
You know how sometimes you see someone yawn, and you have the near-uncontrolable urge to yawn yourself? You know what I mean! Chances are, you're holding off a yawn right now, and not just because I'm boring! ;) Well, it's called contagious yawning, and despite what Mythbusters found (their results were very weak, attributable to design), it's a very real phenomenon. And even reading about yawning can do it. NEAT. Okay, that's one thing.
But how cool is this:
This study is the first to demonstrate that human yawns are possibly contagious to domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). Twenty-nine dogs observed a human yawning or making control mouth movements. Twenty-one dogs yawned when they observed a human yawning, but control mouth movements did not elicit yawning from any of them. The presence of contagious yawning in dogs suggests that this phenomenon is not specific to primate species and may indicate that dogs possess the capacity for a rudimentary form of empathy.
Dogowners, you've probably known this for a while, but your yawns are contagious to your pooches! And now it's backed by science!

Okay, earth shaking? No. But still really neat. The authors suggest it helps dogs coordinate human-canine activities, since humans and dogs have a pretty lengthy evolutionary history with each other (despite what that flaming idiot, Caesar Milan says). That's part of why you like your dogs so much - it's also due to the fact that your dog(s) is, in fact, the best dog in the world. ;) But since yawning stimulates arousal (that's why you do it when you're groggy), this helps get the whole human-dog composite herd aroused and rearing to go chase down some dinner. That's the hypothesis, anyhow. How to test that is going to be tricky - these sorts of stories are difficult to tease apart!

Joly-Mascheroni, R.M., Senju, A., and Shepherd, A.J. 2008. Dogs Catch Human Yawns. Biology Letters, 4, pp. 446-448.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Race and research

Goodness! I meant to write something yesterday, but a long day at work (is there any other kind?) and work at home had me busy. I want to do a post on trapping, soon, since that's part of what has had me busy (Don't worry, ADF&G! Just getting ready for 1st of Nov!).

Larry Moran from Sandwalk asked about censorship in research that has racism implications. Apparently I've had something to say about this, because I wrote a page and a half easily, before realizing I never answered his question. He got the pared down version, and you all get the full!

That there's genetic correlates to race is hardly surprising - after all, there's heritable phenotypic differences between them! However, as someone who infrequently dabbles in population inference (one who's running Structure in the background even now), what I see is a disconnect between what is being posited, and what is being proven.

What I see demonstrated in the literature is that there are populations of humans who more closely resemble each-other - and frankly, if that wasn't the case, and humans existed in panmixia, I would have just been floored. The differences in allelic frequencies are robust enough that when you saddle enough loci together, you can accomplish the prodigious feats like the recent European structure paper. What is also clear is that the `classical` races (I use that loosely, as I know the definition of each race has changed over time) are composed of many of these populations, and some of which may not closely resemble others they've been lumped in with (e.g., the Finns, grouped in with the Europeans).

You could possibly do some bootstrapping to get some level cluster support - I don't know if anyone has beyond mtDNA. I suspect they have, and it would be valid. But even assuming they fall into line, you're still faced with the same question wildlife researchers are - does this cluster represent an effective management unit? Should we throw our net wider, and group others in with this clade, or should we divide it up into separate units. That something forms a natural clade with others does not mean it is especially useful to treat them the same for some or most things.

And it's a long distance from saying 'behold, a naturally forming unit!' to 'behold, a relevant unit.' Which is what is purported by most people putting forward the notion of race. When people go as far as declaring Race=Subspecies, and we've found valid races, I feel very confident in saying that although we don't have a recognized definition of subspecies, compared to some other declared subspecies in other species, human `races` don't represent the same magnitude of differences.

And there in-lies the problem. We as scientists have let things jump the shark from `we have naturally occurring populations` to `our preconceived notion of race is a) very correct and b) functionally significant.` A lot of that gets lost in the translation between the scientists (of whom I believe, or at least hope, know that there's a long distance between what we've shown, and showing that race is relevant) and the science media/consumer of information (who doesn't know that). Given the nature of how we openly conduct science, censorship won't work - reporters will pick up on articles, and run with them.

So instead of censoring our work, I think there's an ethical obligation for researchers in this field to devote a large portion of their time putting their research in the exact context. They, and other people who engage in research that has the potential to really muck up people's lives, need to make the significance and the non-signifigance of their research exactly clear.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Feh; High-Calibre greeting

Working straight through this weekend. Next person to say State Employees have it easy gets punched in the face. Hopefully I get everything done early, because I'm sort of out of stuff to prepare food with. Pilot bread and mayo is tasty, but not a meal. Oh, and dishes. Need to do them.

Met the new neighbours. They hadn't moved in properly yet, but were dropping off groceries. They seem all right - anyone who offers me smoked salmon seems all right - but we'll wait and see. Watch as one turns out to be a crazy psycho killer (Qu'est-ce que c'est?).

Speaking of crazies... Circle Woman starts shooting because people camp out on public land too close to her turf. I want to smack around some of the commenters on the story, and the Minor-News' site. Shooting into the air is not innocent. You shouldn't be pulling a trigger unless you intend to make something very hurt. She's lucky that people didn't start shooting back. I know I, in the past, did not stand around and ask questions when I heard gunfire coupled with people angry at me. And the fact that this was on public land?
When troopers contacted Straub and her husband, they acknowledged that the rafters were on public land, but said it had been “standard procedure” for the past 40 years for them to shoot in the air at trespassers, according to the complaint.
If they're on public land... they can't goddamn be tresspassing. That's what public land means.

Friday, 12 September 2008

In the `you couldn't make this stuff up` department...

The notion that somewhere, out there, medical students are allowed to pick and choose what they learn based on their religion blows my mind.
The BMA said it had received reports of Muslim students who did not want to learn anything about alcohol or the effects of overconsumption. "They are so opposed to the consumption of it they don't want to learn anything about it," said a spokesman.
I hope doctors are opposed to heart attacks too, but I still hope they know a few things about them. The same goes with other drug use - A doctor shouldn't have to approve of cocaine use to know how to treat an overdose. If a doctor fails to save a patient, they deprive that patient the ability to make the same moral judgement they have. It's impossible to give up drinking if you're dead.
A small number of Muslim medical students have even refused to treat patients of the opposite sex. One male student was prepared to fail his final exams rather than carry out a basic examination of a female patient.
... I'm glad he was prepared to fail. It's my hope that he did, in fact, fail.

Luckily, one commenter from Malaysia (a predominantly Muslim country) says that's not the norm in their neck of the woods. Still, their mention of sexual segregation of examination causes me a moment of concern. But otherwise, why does US and the UK play host to so much harder line individuals? It's very curious.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Need a power plant?

I doubt this person has it right. Who knows, maybe they have a three MegaWatt generator there. I'm inclined to disbelieve.
Still looking for a cheap, ~5CF freezer. Not many good deals, thus far. Looking to get one on the cheap, though.


I flipped through my normal cohort of political polling sites this morning, and stood a bit flabbergasted at the changes that happened in the last 24 hours. Rasmussen and Opinion Research both put out wide polls today for several key states, and several non-key states that I none the less have interest in.

Alaska: On the 1st we were 54/35 McCain. Now we're 64/33 McCain. All this from what used to be a statistical tie. not surprising - many of the likely to vote have rallied around Palin.

Michigan: 49/45 Obama. No one's had a commanding lead in this state, but if they were looking (either side) to widen the gap, now was the time. If it's tight now, it'll be tight to the end. This is statistically a tie.

New Mexico: 49/47 McCain. I won't say this state has been solidly Obama since May, but it's definitely leaned towards him. Now, though in a statistical Tie, McCain has the edge. Considered by some a must-win state for him.

North Dakota, Montana: 55/41; 53/42 McCain. Wait, you say. These states were ever anything but shoe-ins for McCain? Yup. Up until a week ago, they were all statistical Ties. So was South Dakota. That's right, they were actually competitive. Amazing, huh? Not so much anymore. Baring something amazing, the question is now `how much will he win them (+SD) by?`

Now, how much is this driven by short-term factors? That's the 270 electoral vote question, isn't it? Some of this is no doubt due to McCain's RNC performances, but others - I think notably MT, ND and SD - are probably driven by the choice of his running mate alone. The old axiom that we vote on the top of the ticket might not be so true this-go-round.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Weird stuff

Who keeps a grill in their fridge? How bizarre.

It's apparently cheaper to send text messages from the Hubble Telescope than it is to your friend down the street on your cell.

A boy calls 9-1-1 on his mother as she drives to him to school, drunk. That's gutsy. I feel sorry for the kid.

Oh, and the LHC still hasn't destroyed the earth.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Land Grab

The Fairbanks City council went and pissed me off a whole lot, yesterday, but basically flaunting everyone's concerns in exchange for money. What'd they do? They voted to annex the Airport Fred Meyer's into the city. The story sums this up properly: No one in the area wants Fred's to be annexed. No citizens do. Annexing Fred's will not improve the services it gets one whit. It will now get worse, because it'll no longer be protected by the nearby college fire station, or so on. It doesn't even rank very high on the logical additions to the city, except in one category:

It'll net the City a crapload of money in taxes.

So many people are against this that you have to think the only people for it is the city council itself. I wish I could have gone down and given them hell, except I don't live in city limits (far from it.) Now I'm going to have to pay taxes to the city for my consumables for worsening services that Fred Meyer's will be getting.

So us all can expect to start paying city sales tax soon, when this gets the final rubber-stamp approval. Like the price of food hasn't gone up fast enough these last three months.


Monday, 8 September 2008


Tuntussursugyaaqellruunga 22nd-ami taugam akwaugaq angsaqa kit'ellruuq! Kitugteschiigataqa. Angsangqerrsugtua waniku. Nuna ptuntussurvika tumaituq. Ikamrakun (truck-akun) pissurciqua (aipaagni), taugam nallutua qaku(?).

Angninritua cakneq. Igangaitua kass'acetun waniwa.

[...] I'm not goign to write in English (translate) now.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Unit 18 partial closures.

Reposted from the Village Telegraph. It bears repeating:

Reminder for Kuskokwim Moose Hunters: The Lower Kuskokwim Moose Moratorium in portions of Unit 18 remains in effect

Hunters in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta are reminded that portions of Unit 18 remain closed to moose hunting as part of the Lower Kuskokwim Moose Moratorium, which is intended to increase moose numbers in these areas.
A recent press release suggested that all of Unit 18 was open to hunting. However, the Lower Kuskokwim moratorium area remains closed to the taking of moose by all users. The two areas that remain closed under Federal regulations are the Lower Kuskokwim River drainage and the area south of and including the Kanektok River drainage to the Goodnews River drainage. For a detailed description of the closed area as well as maps and harvest limits please consult the 2008-2010 edition of the Federal Subsistence Harvest of Wildlife regulations book.

When you get a gifthorse...

When you are loaned a canoe for free, with the advice `make sure the ducttape is still holding,` check it in a pond with gear loaded in it.

Ideally, canoes should float, see.

No reason I bring this up...

Thursday, 4 September 2008

The Arctic Fox of Norway. The whole gross of them.

I just sat through a rather interesting presentation by Nina Eide, from the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, give a presentation on the state of the Arctic Fox in Fennoscandia - that is to say, Norway, Sweden and Finland. Unlike in Alaska, the Arctic fox in Norway faces a variety of unique challenges, following a radical population decline driven by over-hunting about 120 years ago. Right now, it's a critically endangered species, with an estimated 120 adult breeders left in Norway.

120 adult breeders. Read that again. There's more of those critters around a dead whale in any given place in Alaska than there are in all of Norway. That's astoundingly grim.

Dr. Eide reported multiple, non-exclusive hypothesis for what's driving the low population numbers, which included habitat fragmentation, competition with red foxes, the expatriation of large predators (thereby allowing the release of mesopredators like the red fox), climate change, and food availability. Many of these hypothesis are actually mutually supporting, especially as human induced changes that tend to disfavour the arctic fox seem to always favour the red fox. Recently, she reported, the last populations in southern Norway were extirpated entirely.

She went over their conservation methods, which include a predator control program being extended to red foxes (via bounties, and government run hunts), captive breeding, reintroduction, and den-site supplementation. In all due deference to the people at the Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, the program as stated seems on unsteady ground.

  1. Direct supplementation is intensive, and requires a continuous investment for marginal returns.
  2. The captive breeding program, as she stated it was run, is going to over-represent a few genotypes, and lead to the genetic skew of the remaining population. It doesn't seem to equalize reproductive output of individuals.
  3. The intensive predator control on red foxes does nothing to address the problems that have caused the red fox to become so prevalent.

The arctic fox in Norway might be well and truly sunk, as sad as that might be. There's one glimmer of hope, and that comes from a quip she made that the long-term viability would increase if the gulf-stream shut down, plunging Norway into a frigid cold.

Betting with Global Warming. Depressing, but maybe not a bad idea at this point.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Seen last night, over the refuge.

I had to double check my beer. I thought to myself, gosh, that can't be right. Nope. There it was, hanging in the air! Who wants to fly a hot air balloon over a bunch of waterfowl hunters, anyhow? That doesn't strike me (hahahaha!) as very bright.
Somehow, they avoided demise.

How do you get a hot-air-balloon to work in Fairbanks in the winter? Easy, just get the air warmer than -20. :p

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Beer Notes - Dead Guy Ale

I had this after dinner, and slogging through the backlog of dishes. Some people want running water for the showers. I'd rather have running water for the dishes. Call me crazy. :)

I sat by the window watching the snowshoe hares and shrews rather than listen to the news on the radio - a fine finish to Labour Day, I hope. There's so many hares about I'll be dropping snares all over the property this winter. There's so many of them, I could probably throw rocks and hit them.

Anyhow, again, I got the bottle from Goldhill Liquor, back in the cold room. First set of shelves to the right.
Dead Guy Ale, by Rogue Ales Brewery
The pour is thin, forming a cloudy copper brown brew with a thin head that quickly dissipates. Odour lacks complexity, with a sharp, citrus element. The hops are present, but not prominent. The taste is fairly omnidirectional, with the aforementioned citrus zing, and a light bitterness to finish. The body is light, and tends not to linger on the pallet. The beer is fairly sweet, though more in a fruit sense than saccharine. It drinks easily, and with its alcohol content, refuses to be a heady beer. Overall: B-

Hucksterism in Alaska is alive and well

Articles like this worry me. They take a load of evidence-less, pseudo-scientific bilk from someone, and proceed to vomit it up on command. When we take conventional medicine, we demand it pass a level of evidence that proves, within a shadow of a doubt, that it does what it claims it does. Sure, there are occasional problems, like Vioxx, but the speed with which that was corrected demonstrates how powerfully self-correcting medicine is. When's the last time you heard of a herb was pulled from use because it wasn't effective? And believe me, it's not for an abundance of effectivity.

This one bit they let pass without even a blink.
It hasn’t always been the case. Often traditional healing was confused with shamanism and frowned upon by the Western medical world. Mala draws a clear distinction between the two, the former being a less supernatural version of healing that uses plants, spirituality, sweat baths, touch and story telling to treat people.
Emphasis my own. OH. I see, it's not supernatural, it's merely spiritual. I see the difference. If it's spiritual, it's not supernatural. That makes perfect sense. It's not dark, it's just very devoid of light.

Forgive me if I'd rather get more physicians assistants and dentists out into the bush; New York and California can keep their snake oil salesmen. These people are doing it right, helping people continue eating subsistence foods even when stricken by cancer. That's how you bridge, not hucksterism.

Could we get at least a little incredulity from the Daily Minor News? Or is that too much to ask?

Monday, 1 September 2008

Polar Bear's Last stand

I often get a tad territorial when scientists of other professions start pontificating on biology matters - especially when it's evolution, or game management. It's like when a plumber tries to much with the wiring in the house - they've brought the wrong set of tools. So when I saw Arctic Economics' post on the future of the polar bear, I was instantly leery.

Turns out, I shouldn't have been. Ben handles the issue quite properly by discussion the authors quite evenly, by giving the people who've spent years studying the system the benefit of the doubt that - hey - maybe they know something about Polar Bears, ice, and ice trends. While he does delve into some personal navel gazing, he keeps it at a minimum. This was a very good post, and I recommend you give it a skim.

To veer off course for a moment, part of the reason soap boxing annoys me is the implicit assumption that game management, population genetics, and other important bits of conservation biology are and easy enough to pick up by the laity in a weekend of reading magazine articles. Just about everyone who's ever peed in the brush thinks they know how to do it, and won't hesitate to tell you how things really are.

Anyhow. Arctic Economics. Good blog, for a free-trader's perspective on things. It's good to have some diversity in your reading diet.

Duck opener

Today is sept 1st. For most people, that means labour day. However, for some people in some game management units, it means the start of the general waterfowl season. I didn't need to look at the calendar to remember the day's date - the steady retort of shotguns since a half hour from sunrise was enough. :p

Times like this living next to a waterfowl refuge is less than ideal. In theory, they're supposed to around sundown, but in practise, there's always some person who thinks it'd be a brilliant idea to try and bag a few more birds at 2am. And when I go back in there for whatever reason, I'll need to avoid looking like a goose of any sort. :}

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